My father, Cecil Murphy, was elected the County Clerk of San Augustine County in 1937. I was born the year before, so I was a two-year old boy when my father began his political career.
During my school years I usually walked to town after classes and visited my Dad in the County Clerks’ office until the quitting hour of 5:00 pm. I learned to type on the old Royal and Underwood typewriters located in his office. Later on, I learned to type deeds and other official documents to be filed in the permanent records of his office.
Perhaps the most exciting and important task that Dad gave me was on election night. As I remember, back in the early days all elections were held in August, and run-off races held in October. Election nights were very exciting. My Dad was responsible for collecting all the official ballots as they were brought by the election officials of all voting places over the county.
I recall that a very large board was erected out on the square in a strategic location and a gentleman wrote in chalk all the candidates with little boxes for all the reporting stations. I am not sure just why, but Dad decided that I could handle a special item for him as the voting results were reported.
I recall that dad would take the numbers furnished to him and write them all on a sheet of paper. He would hand the paper to me and say, “Go take this to the man tallying the chalk board outside. These are the latest return totals.”
Feeling very important, I ran out side to the tallyman who was writing the latest vote count beside each candidate’s name. I had information that no one else knew, but who was waiting breathlessly for it to be posted. My
uncle, Ed Buckalew, who owned and operated the Edgewood Drive in Theater on Highway 96 south, wanted me to call him the election results so he could announce it to the movie goers. So, I would call him several times during the evening to keep him posted with the latest election results.
This lasted for several years, my delivering the official election numbers to be posted. I felt like an important “tallyman” during those years. As I grew older I decided I should be elsewhere that evening, doing something more exciting, like having a date with a pretty girl.
I note that the county still uses the outside tally board to keep the people informed. Today one can sit home and watch the latest returns on television. Thus the election night crowd has dwindled to just a few people, mostly the candidates and their families. Thus, the election night excitement along with a young boy serving as a tallyman is over. Another memory lost to the changing times. But, it was fun while it lasted.
Once I asked my dad why he retired early in the middle of his term of office. He told me that he sat down and calculated his income and discovered that between his County retirement, plus his Social Security, it was costing him $50.00 per month to work. It is difficult to argue with those statistics.
My Dad died at age 84, and I truly believe that there will never be a county clerk as good as he was.
By Neal Murphy
P.O. Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972-0511