He was four and his sister Glenna was two when his family moved to “the old Pickard place,” just south of Duncanville and outside the Duncanville city limits. It took a while for the adults to make the house livable. The old farmhouse into which they moved was built in the late 1800s and had no water, electricity, or plumbing. The wind blew so hard through the cracks in the wooden-plank walls that it blew the newly installed wallpaper off the walls before it could stick. Bryant remembers sitting under a big pecan tree watching the well being dug and eating a boiled egg. That big pecan tree and old well are still there, on Main Street across from the Fire Station.
There were fewer than 1000 people living in Duncanville in 1950, and farms were more common than not. Bryant would go with his father to the Duncanville Feed Store, where I.T. Cawthon would sit and talk with old man Will Daniels by the potbellied stove, drinking coffee, before conducting their business. Although Duncanville had a post office in the middle of downtown, it did not deliver outside of the Duncanville city limits, so the Cawthons received their mail on a rural route out of the Cedar Hill Post Office.
They lived up on a hill overlooking South Main Street. Local boys would race between the two bridges on South Main Street at night, because the bridges were just about a quarter-mile apart. The Blue Hole was between the Cawthon land and the Giles land; part of Ten Mile Creek, it was shale and rock, with many ledges under which pyrite could be found. Boys would go there and skinny dip; when the Cawthon family went as a group, I.T. would go ahead of them and run the boys off.
I.T.’s “real job” was working for Western Electric, which handled phone equipment. In 1960, The Company (based in New York City) sent a writer and photographer from New York to the Cawthon Farm for a Company Magazine article on him entitled “The Smallest Ranch in Texas.”
Bryant started first grade in 1953 at Central Elementary, in one of the last years in which all 12 grades were housed there. The school playground backed up to the Duncanville Air Force Base, and sometimes a ball would get kicked over the fence; the boys then had to go all the way around the base to the entrance (on Main Street) and ask armed MP guards for permission to retrieve the ball. Bryant was part of the last class (1965) to graduate from the Old Duncanville High School (now Reed).
In 1962, the Cawthons sold the farm to a close friend and local developer, Larry Ground. He sold the Old Pickard House and it was relocated to another place in Duncanville, where it is still a residence today. The farm was developed into Dannybrook Estates, named after Larry’s oldest son, Danny. The streets were named for his other children: Linda, Sharon, Larry and Timothy. I.T. Cawthon kept 3 acres at South Main and Danieldale, and built a house at 1443 South Main for his family. Several years later this house became Hanging Gardens, which was demolished (by court order) in January.
I.T. Cawthon served as the Duncanville Mayor from 1966 to 1969 and was a City Councilman from 1962 to 1965.