Christine Franks memories as recounted by her son, Michael Franks
Mother last taught school around 1962, she stopped teaching when my brother was born to raise us 3 kids. I’m the youngest.
A few years ago, after mother’s memory started to fade and her "long goodbye" journey began, I got out one of these braille books, as I had never really seen her try to read Braille, and after all these decades had gone by, and as her memory was gone, she could still read it by feel, and not by sight. I was amazed.
We do not now, as its lost to time now, who it was, but mother had said after she left Austin, she went to Lubbock to be the personal live in teacher, for some wealthy Doctor’s blind daughter. I do remember mother saying, that they had contacted the State School about hiring one of the teachers. So that’s how and why mother left Austin and your school. I know mother stayed in touch and was friends with a few teachers at your school as well for a lifetime. One was the Wills, who lived in San Marcos. While in college there myself from 88-92 I met and got to know them. Both he and his wife taught at the State School for the Blind. When mother came up for a visit to see me in college, they got together for a visit, not having seen each other in person in decades. They told many stories and spoke of their time in Austin.
I'm not sure if the school has employment records from back then, so not sure how long or what years mother taught there, but was from 47 or 48 till 52 probably. Then she got a position with the Wharton ISD where she was through the rest of the 50s until 58, when she got on with Houston ISD, and taught at 3 schools there, still teaching the blind. I have pictures of her and her students in the class room in HISD.
Would be unusual now for a normal public elementary school to have a class and hire a teacher to teach a class of blind students. So also goes to show the evolution of how special education is done in the public schools. Contacted one of the school principles of an HISD school where mother taught, as I had pictures to share with them, and the principle was blown away that there ever even was such a thing as a
class in their school specifically for blind children, and hiring of a teacher. They are sitting at desk with Braille type writers. So it’s also, a bit of the history, of public education. I just "schooled" this current principa that had never heard of such a thing.
Christine Virginia Franks passed into the presence of Jesus Oct. 14, 2017. She was born Dec. 26, 1924 at the Crouch home place in Chireno. The fifth of six children to parents Claude Nero Crouch and Sarah Catherine Williams Crouch, she was known as “Chris” to friends and family.
Christine was a direct descendant of the founders of Texas. Her ancestors, David Mouser and Isaac Best, came to Texas with Stephen F. Austin in the “Old 300.” She is a true granddaughter of the Republic of Texas, her grandfather Albert Gallitan Crouch was six when the Alamo fell in 1836, he ran the Crouch/Curl Plantation and served Texas as a CSA soldier. Her great-great-grandfather was Jacob Garrett, from San Augustine and Nacogdoches counties, an Alcolde and delegate to the Conventions of 1832 and 1833 in Texas history. Garrett was author of the last peace proposal to Mexico City and Santa Anna to the General Council of 1835.
As a child, it was recognized she could not see well and was legally blind. Her impaired vision of 20/200 did not slow her down, becoming an avid reader always wanting to learn, graduating valedictorian of her 1943 class at Chireno High School. She went on to attend Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches graduating in 1947 with a degree in education. While at SFA, she was active on campus, in church and the Baptist Student Union where she sang in the choir. She never drove a car in her life, but never let her eyesight be an impairment from going, doing and living life, always ready to go and travel, having taken the bus as a single woman in the 1940s-50s across Texas.
She grew up on the family farm, which overlooked the historic Old Spanish/Kings Highway. Their house sat at the highest elevation in Nacogdoches County known as Crouch Hill. Along with her brother and three sisters, they worked in the fields, picking cotton and various tasks that life on a farm brings. One of her specific duties was to churn the butter. The family sold butter, canned goods, tomatoes and other vegetables they grew to the community in Chireno and Nacogdoches County. Her father, Claude, being 52 when she was born, still did things as if in the 1800s. Their house had no running water nor electricity, she read by oil lamp light and her father still plowed with a mule. She told stories of using her grandfather’s Civil War sword in the farm fields. They did not have electricity until older brother Neulon came home from WWII and wired the house.
Her father, also a carpenter by trade having built the old Bethel School House, and was on the local school board, built the new family home with his two hands. It was an inviting place where numerous family members and visiting preachers would stay. Her mother, Catherine, took in several of her younger Williams family brothers and sisters at various times. Someone was always staying or living with them in a massive hallway of that dog trot built home. Their home was full of love and happy memories. Sadly, subsequent owners of the grand old Crouch home allowed it to fall into disrepair, and was torn down in recent years. Thankfully, pieces of the home were used to restore the historic Stagecoach Inn in Chireno.
Both of her great, great uncles historical homes, the Milton Garrett and William Garrett House still stands on the Old Spanish road in San Augustine Co.
After college graduation, she moved to Austin to teach at the Texas State School for the Blind, while continuing her own post graduate education taking classes at the University of Texas. There, she taught the blind how to read and write in braille. She made close lifetime friends from her college and early teaching years in Austin. For a brief period, she lived in Lubbock to be the personal teacher of a wealthy doctor’s blind daughter. Christine accepted a job in Wharton, teaching at Abel Street school throughout the 1950s in Wharton County, which is where she would live out the next 55 plus years of her life. In the summers she went back to Lufkin to live with her parents in the home her and her sister, Maurine Crouch McKinney, bought for their parents on Atkinson Dr. after their elderly father could no longer farm and sold the Crouch home place. While in Wharton, she lived with Mrs. Webber and at the Vineyard Apartments along with her roommate Rose Marie Dominy (Mrs. Lloyd Rust.)
A mutual friend, Bobbi King of Iago, set her and her soon-to-be-husband Fred Wise Franks, a jeweler who worked at Boyd’s Jewelry store on the downtown square in Wharton, on their first date. Both in their late 20s to early 30s and never married, dated for four years. She would joke that it took Fred long enough for the two to finally get married in June of 1958. They were married in her parents’ home in Lufkin. Her older brother, Neulon Crouch, gave her away, as their father Claude had just passed away on Christmas Day 1957.
They started their married life living in Houston, owning Fred Franks Jewelers on main street. She also taught school in HISD at Barrick, Poe and MacGregor Elementary schools, teaching the blind children. Their first year of marriage daughter Carol Annette was born. In the 60s, they left Houston for Newgulf where Fred began work at the Texas Gulf Sulphur mines where his father, grandfather and uncles had worked. Son, Fred Steven, was born and six years later at the age of 43 her youngest, Michael Andrew was born. After leaving Houston, Christine did not return to teaching, staying home to raise her three children.
Her husband Fred died at age 58 in 1983 leaving her a widow. With older children, Carol married and away from home, and Steven serving in the U.S. Marine Corp, 15-year-old son Michael got a hardship license to drive her around. After her youngest went off to college, Christine left Newgulf and moved to Wharton in December 1986, just down the street from where she first lived and taught school 30 years prior.
She was a devoted wife and loving mother, who lived a clean simple Godly life and was a Christian example. Her sweet kind disposition and happy spirit was known by all who knew her. She saw all three of her children saved and baptized in Newgulf Baptist Church. She would read her large print Bible every week, with her magnifying glass if she had to. She loved family and always wanted to be with and stay in touch with her family. In her last years, while other memories started to fade, Christine had the songs of God in her heart and would sing complete hymns of her faith from memory, a moving testimony to all who saw.
In later years, with age and health failing, her youngest Michael, giving up much became her champion and hero dedicating years of his life to see to her proper care and wellbeing. Special care was also given by her daughter-in-law Stacy Franks, who went above and beyond.
Christine was preceded in death by both parents; her husband, Fred Wise Franks; brother, Neulon Crouch; sisters, Maurine Crouch McKinney and M.L Crouch Eagan; brother, Erron T. Crouch, who died in infancy; grandson, Aaron Barrett Thompson and seven grandchildren, who were not allowed to be born in this life, but she is seeing and embracing for the first time in Heaven.
She is survived by her daughter, Carol and husband Jim Thompson of Wharton; son, Fred Steven Franks and wife Marie of Lompoc, Calif., son Michael Franks and wife Stacy of Katy and a sister, Essie Faye Crouch Jackson of Valrico, Fla. Also, grandchildren, Mary Ann Franks Eubanks of California and Joni and Kelly Thompson of Texas; step-grandson, Morgan Cook of Kansas, who also helped care and look after her, and a great-granddaughter, Claudia Eubanks of California, and seven nieces and nephews.
From Phil Hatlen
Ann B. Silverrain is a hero to many blind and deafblind persons in this state. They remember her with love and respect as their teacher, their mentor, and their friend, sometimes at a time when only she seemed to care deeply about them.
Ann received her BA and Med degrees as an honors student at the UT. She earned her teaching certificates in elementary education, learning disabilities, and visually impaired. In 1974, Ann accepted a position at the Texas School for the Blind as a teacher of deafblind students. At the time, Texas, along with the entire country, had experienced a literal epidemic of babies born with deafness and blindness due to rubella. Educational programs were desperate for skilled, creative teachers for this particularly challenging group of children. Ann Silverrain responded, and in a few short years became a legend at the Texas School for the Blind for her creative and effective methods of teaching deafblind children.
Ann then went on to become the coordinator of braille production at ESC #20 in San Antonio. TEA had decided to equip two service centers, #s 4 and 20, with high-tech braille production equipment, with the hope of being able to deliver high quality braille textbooks in a timely manner throughout the State. Ann’s capability in braille, as a leader of a team, and as a quick learner about technology, soon resulted in the establishment of Region #20 as one of the outstanding braille production programs in the U.S. Her staff were completely dedicated to Ann, and they shared her pride as one textbook after another was produced and placed in the hands of blind students.
This was when I became personally acquainted with Ann. I shared her passion for braille as a reading and writing medium, and we worked together on many projects. After the legislature passed what has become known as the braille bill in 1991, Ann emerged as a leader in implementing the bill. I was appointed the Chair of the Commission on Braille Textbook Production, and Ann was one of its most active members. I often called upon Ann to help me in working with textbook publishers, with ways in which to assure timely delivery of braille, and with TEA in order to assure a smooth process from commercial textbook producer to braille production to the student. Ann Silverrain was truly an inspired leader in utilizing high tech methods for the production of error-free braille.
When Ann was first diagnosed with cancer, she requested, and was granted, permission to step down from the position of coordinator of braille production. Region 20 re-assigned her to a role as a consultant in the education of blind and visually impaired students. She excelled in this new responsibility for a very short time.
Ann Silverrain died far too young of cancer. The Board of Trustees and the staff of TSBVI request that we honor this special person who cared so much for children with disabilities by naming a building on our campus the Ann B. Silverrain Building.
Frieda Dittrich Gest, Housekeeper and Cook –
“I worked at the Blind School from 1928 to 1937 in the kitchen and dining rooms. I met my first husband there – Babe Dittrich. He worked there from 1929 to 1933 in building maintenance. We helped supervise the students to wash their own dishes, make up their beds, clean their rooms, groom themselves. Most students couldn’t go home on holidays so all the employees helped with the students. The girls all wore different colored plaid dresses made by the same pattern by miss Gussie and Miss Pauline in the sewing rooms. In May each year, there was a special program where the students showed the things they had made (brooms, sewing projects, knit and crochet things) and had learned gymnastics, music, band). A 10pm curfew was for everybody, even the staff (11pm on Saturday). The night watchman always knew. We got paid $1.00 per day and room and board.” The Gests lived at 1509 W. 40th St.
The Museum of My Memories by Mary Sue Welch, former TSBVI Board member
As I wander down the corridor of the museum of my memories, I pause before a door marked T.S.B.(Texas School for the Blind). I have been asked to revisit this time of my life, to share with you my thoughts, feelings and memories. Before we open this door and step back into those days, let me introduce you to the little girl of ten years who first went to that school. I am the youngest of three girls. My mom and two sisters never treated me as though I could not see. The word blind was never used to refer to me or my lack of seeing. I ran, played hide and seek, climbed trees, chased cows and in every way tried to be like my two older sisters. I only tell you this to help you better understand the little girl that found herself that September day in Austin.
My first memory is of the sound of my mothers footsteps walking away, my days at T.S.B. had began. Within the first two weeks of school I was made to stay in my room after supper, that was punishment at least five times. The banisters were just too tempting to slide down, the couches too soft to not stand on your head. Oh yes, and I was told I was a very naughty little girl for telling the one who was to be my lookout for the house parent that it was her fault I was caught, for not telling me the old woman was coming and being blind was no excuse.
Bells, bells rang all the time, and not just any bell, a large brass cow bell woke us up, announced meals, sent us to school and put us to bed. The sound and smell of the radiator even now I recall. You must realize even when I was attending T.S.B. the buildings were fifty years old. Us girls were not allowed to wear shorts outside and this was not lifted until I was in highschool. It’s funny how the sound of the giant stride handle clanging on the metal pole still is so clear. Grackles, those ugly black birds I still remember. So many names of the girls I grew up with flash through my mind. Ms. Louis Hancock, my favorite teacher, who came to my rescue so many times was the first who called me Sunshine. Now that I have started, I believe a book could be written of my days at T.S.B. but I will share only one more thing. The first weeks I was at school I would not stay in my seat. Every time one of the students dropped their paper, tablet or stylus I was down on the floor finding it for them. Mrs. Winn our teacher told me repeatedly to stay in my seat. Time after time I was across the room finding the objects dropped. Finally, one day in desperation she asked me why I would not stay in my chair, “Don’t you understand, I have to help these blind kids.” A visit to the Principal was next and she told him what I had said, “Where are you Sylvia he asked” “In Austin” I replied, “No I mean what is the name of the school?” “Texas School for the Blind” I smiled. ‘And do you think that might apply to you he asked and I promptly answered “no.” It took him at least thirty minutes to convince me I was blind. Walking down the hall returning to class I could hardly believe such a thing was true! That week my mom received a letter from me saying “Mom I hardly know how to tell you this but, do you know I’m blind???”
I have been and will always be extremely grateful for the sacrifice my mom made that day when she left her little girl in Austin. The pain and loneliness I felt were not to be compared to her pain I know. For the teachers who saw past the mischievous little student and kept me in line I owe a debt of gratitude. My years at T.S.B. gave me foundation of determination and independence that have served me well on this journey called life.
Carol Franke, Student
“My parents moved here (4706 Ramsey) from Houston in 1946 so I could attend the Blind School. I was six years old. At first there was some questions if I would be allowed since I was the first multiple handicapped student. [Carol also has cerebral palsy which affects her left side.] I was a day student; my mother took me in the morning and picked me up in the afternoon. Most students lived on campus.
“I had math, reading, writing, geography, history, English, the usual, and later Spanish and music. We were taught math using a number frame. Now kids use the abacus or talking calculators. In reading, we were first taught the Braille symbols for letters and words. Braille is based on a six dot system. The dots are arranged in different ways for each letter or sign. You feel the dots with your fingers, usually the index fingers of both hands, but because of the cerebral palsy, I can use only one. Then we learned how the letters made words and sentences. In writing class, we started with tablet and a stylus. The stylus would punch holes in the paper so we learned to write by punching the Braille signs. In the 8th grade, we started using typewriters. Somewhere my mother got a one-handed typing instruction book for me to use. In geography the maps all had raised boundaries and Brailled words. Our tests were taken with paper and stylus.
“I was later in the chorus and the band (I played the Trumpet) and also took piano. We had a lot of opportunities to perform for the Rotary and Lions clubs and churches. Now students learn to use a cane for walking but we had to learn a route by memory. I learned where every post and driveway was and remembered it. I couldn’t count steps because my steps are so uneven. I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Ella Correll, telling us if you eat oatmeal, you’ll get perfect papers. She meant a good meal gave you a good start. But I took it literally and had my mother fixing oatmeal nearly every morning. I graduated in 1959.”