A clerk's big
By Hershel Frazier
When my wife and I moved to our new home on North Perkins street in DeQuincy, J.K. Crawford and his wife Mae were our neighbors. I had known J.K. since I was a small boy, though he was about fifteen years my senior. We had only been there a few years when Mae passed away. After her death, J.K. was no doubt quite lonely and he would come over and visit quite often in the late evening. Over refreshments, he would tell us of things that happened in his life. These stories were always very interesting, and we loved his company. One story in particular was so interesting, I want to share in with others. I verified this story with the help of Tammy Upchurch Louviere, a niece of Mr. Jewell Upchurch with whom J.K. worked and with J.K.'s nephew, Abe Abdalla.
Mr. Jewell Upchurch was a very prominent citizen in the town of DeQuincy. He owned and operated a general store on the corner of Division Street and Highway 12 where the parking lot of Upchurch's Discount Tobacco is located. The property has been in the Upchurch family for over eighty years. The store sold staples and hardware as was needed in that day in time.
Mr. Jewell had a young lad working for him by the name of J.K. Crawford; this was about 1929. J.K. did what modern store baggers do, but a whole lot more. He would load purchases in wagons, autos, and even on horseback. Mr. Jewell also sold gasoline, lube and coal oil. The gasoline structure was located in front of the store over a large tank in the ground as the fuel from the structure was gravity flow. On the side of the structure was a handle about three feet high that activated the pump when worked back and forth. The gasoline was pumped into a large glass dome at the top of the structure. In the dome was a scale that showed the amount of gallons. The structure itself was about eight feet tall. As a kid, I used to like to see the gasoline being pumped into the glass dome. The lube or motor oil tank was located at the side of the store and was four feet square, made of steel. It also had a hand pump. J.K. had to fill quart jars with a spout made like a funnel. The oil was kept in a slotted box next to the gasoline pump. The box held six quarts. The coal oil tank was the size of the oil tank and was located beside it. It also had a hand pump that went round and round and when it stopped it had to be unwound and started over. The coal oil or kerosene cost a dime a gallon, and was used for oil-fired cook stoves, lamps, and to start fires in wood burning stoves and heaters. Nearly all boys went barefooted in that day in time until they were about fourteen years old. If a lad cut his foot or stuck a nail in it, the coal oil can was brought and the oil was poured on the wound to take the soreness out, and it really worked as I had it used on me many times.
J.K. pumped gasoline, oil, carried groceries, sacks of feed, and even delivered orders to the elderly who lived close to the store when a note was sent by a child. If it was a small order, the child easily got a ride in the red delivery wagon pulled by J.K.
So much for a little background history. Now for the real story. One beautiful spring morning a shiny Ford roadster pulled up to the store. A very well dressed man and woman got out and went into the store. Mr. Jewell came out and told J.K. to service the car. J.K. filled the gas tank, check the oil and water and tires. J.K. hated to see an auto or wagon come in with a low tire so he or the owner, or sometimes both, would have to inflate the tire with a hand pump. As J.K. finished the service check, Mr. Jewell called to him and told him to go with these folks to Starks and locate a certain man's house that lived on Old River Road. J.K. knew of the man and had no trouble locating his place. The man did not have what they were looking for, or was afraid to do business with a well-dressed couple in a shiny Ford car. He told them to go to Bancroft and gave them a man's name and directions on how to get there. They found the place without any trouble. The place was located near the Sabine River on the edge of the river bottom swamp. Just back of the house the land fell away to deep canyons. Then the swamp started. While the couple did business and talked, J.K. played with the children. After business was taken care of and coffee was drunk, they headed back to DeQuincy by way of Fields. When they got to the east side of Bearhead Creek, the man stopped the car, and he and the woman got out of the car with two pistols and began to take target practice. J.K. stayed in the car. They emptied their revolvers, reloaded, took a few more swigs from the jug, got back in and drover back to the store. As J.K. put more gasoline into the gas tank, the man asked Mr. Jewell how much he paid J.K. a day. Mr. Jewell told him fifty cents. The man reached into his pocket and flipped J.K. a four-but piece. They talked to Mr. Jewell a few minutes, got back into the car and drove off.
J.K. looked up at Mr. Jewell and asked him who those people were. Mr. Jewell told him the woman's name was Bonnie Parker and the man was Clyde Barrow.
Hershel Frazier is at P.O. Box 779, DeQuincy, LA 70633.