RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
It's time now for StoryCorps, where everyday people sit down to interview one another and StoryCorps records these conversations. On Fridays, we listen in to some of them on this program. Today, a story from another time of economic hardship in this country. We'll hear from James Lacy, who came to StoryCorps with his daughter Jamie Breed. James Lacy is 90 years old and originally from Sidney, Texas, a crossroads in Comanche County. While he was growing up there in the 1920s, his father ran a general store in town. Here, Lacy remembers working with his dad.
Mr. JAMES LACY: My dad, he made me his little helper, I guess, 'cause I used just to follow him. Wherever he went, I was there. He had an old Ford truck, and he let me drive for the first time when I was six years old. And one time, one of the old farmers came into the store and said, Jim, I met your truck going down the street there a while ago, and there wasn't a soul in it. I couldn't see nobody. Dad laughed and he said, oh, that's just James. He's going out to the farm.
And Dad had a good business. He prospered real well until 1929, and his downfall was that he extended the credit to the people around him, but he didn't pay his suppliers as promptly as he should. So when the 1929 bust came along, they moved in on him, repossessed everything he had. Some of his friends tried to get him to take bankruptcy. And he said, no. I made these debts, and I'll pay them. And he spent 20 years paying off the last bit of those debts.
And my dad was - he was loved and respected by everybody in his community. The editor of the paper there called him in one day and said, Jim, said, I just want to tell you that I know that you've had a hard life due to the bust when you lost everything and you've had a hard time raising eight kids, but I want to tell you that you're the richest man I know in Comanche because of the offspring that you've left us.
My dad lived to be 90, and I was fortunate enough to be holding his hands when he died. We thought he was gone. He was laying there and just barely breathing, and two of my brothers were sitting there and we were talking. And we said something about something, and dad opened his eyes and he said, no, that's not right. I'll tell you how it happened. And he was something else. He was a man to the last.
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MONTAGNE: James Lacy at StoryCorps in Abilene, Texas. The interview will be archived with all StoryCorps interviews at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. Subscribe to the project's podcast at npr.org.