Remembering A Father's Hard Life And RichesWhen James Lacy was growing up, his father prospered by running a general store in rural Texas. But the merchant lost everything in the economic collapse of 1929. Though his dad spent decades paying off debts, Lacy says, he was rich in other ways.
When James Lacy was growing up in the 1920s, his father ran a general store in Sidney, Texas, a crossroads in Comanche County. Lacy says he was his father's little helper. "I used to just 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 6 years old," Lacy says.
One time, one of the local farmers came into the store and said, "Jim, I met your truck going down the street a little while ago and there wasn't a soul in it. I couldn't see nobody," Lacy says.
"Dad laughed and he said, 'Oh, that's just James. He's going out to the farm.' "
Lacy's father, James B. Lacy, prospered until the economic crash of 1929.
"His downfall was that he extended credit to the people around him, but he didn't pay his suppliers promptly as he should," Lacy says. "So when the 1929 bust came along, they moved in on him, repossessed everything he had."
Some of his father's friends tried to persuade him to file for bankruptcy, Lacy says. "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.
"My dad ... was loved and respected by everybody in his community," Lacy says. The editor of the local paper called him in one day and said, "Jim, I just wanted to tell you that I know that you 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, you're the richest man I know in Comanche because of the offspring that you've left us."
James B. Lacy lived to be 90. "I was fortunate enough to be holding his hands when he died," Lacy says. "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. 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.' "
"He was something else. He was a man to the last."
James B. Lacy died in 1968. His son, James Lacy, is a retired postal worker and the father of five children.
Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.