East Texans recall New Year's gone by

Published on Sunday, 29 December 2013 19:49 - Written by KELLY GOOCH kgooch@tylerpaper.com

For East Texans, New Year’s has long been a time of celebration and tradition.

Mary Jane McNamara, with the Smith County Historical Society, said many Tyler residents had New Year’s Eve parties at their homes and welcomed the New Year.

“There weren’t as many public entertainment places to go to or restaurants with good capacity,” she said, so they had get-togethers at home.

People also welcomed the New Year with family, attended mass on Jan. 1 and shot fireworks, Ms. McNamara said.

“People did celebrate. Most people celebrated,” she said.

“People enjoyed New Year’s. It just wasn’t a community affair,” she said.

In Jacksonville, John Childs recalled that fireworks used to be sold downtown and that it was common for people to have black-eyed peas on Jan. 1. He also recalled attending parties at a local country club and Watch Night services.

Childs, 81, said as a college student, he would go back to Jacksonville and get to celebrate New Year’s with friends at the country club party.

And while in high school, he said he attended Watch Night services on New Year’s Eve, which was an opportunity to “watch the New Year come in in a Christian environment.” Childs said the night would begin with a potluck dinner, which was followed by entertainment.

“As a kid, I provided lots of entertainment,” he said. 

Childs said the event was fun and turned more solemn when it got close to midnight.

Rosine “Rose” Coughran, who turned 100 years old earlier this year, has witnessed Bullard evolve.

She said she and her husband would go to Mattie’s Ballroom in the Kilgore area on New Year’s Eve.

“It was a big deal. It was a big thing at that time,” she said.

And Shelley Cleaver, with the Cherokee County Historical Commission, said his family had their own traditions.

He said they always had cabbage and black-eyed peas, and the children would shoot off fireworks.

Additionally, he said, his family would make New Year’s resolutions.

“We’d make them here together. We’d catch one breaking one they said they were going to do. We’d always get a laugh out of it,” he said.