Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Memories of home ... in jail

Back in the day, many jailers in small Texas towns actually lived in the jail with their families. The Wichita Falls Times Record News has a feature about a Clay County Justice of the Peace whose family was the last to live in the jail when he was a Clay County deputy in 1971 ("Justice recalls life in 1890 jail home," Dec. 1):
[Jim] Humphrey joined the [Clay County Sheriff's] department in October 1969 as one of only two deputies under Sheriff Thomas Covington. Humphrey patrolled the south half of Clay County and operated the jail, while Deputy Coy Jordan covered the north end. “We were out quite a bit,” said Humphrey.

Humphrey had also worked in communications for the Wichita Falls Police Department, but had little experience in law enforcement otherwise. His time with the Clay County department served as on-the-job training.

“(Covington) handed me the keys to a car and the jail and said, ‘Get after it,’ ” Humphrey said.

Newly married, Jim and wife Paula moved into the facility’s living quarters and worked as a team to care for the prisoners. The county provided $1.50 per prisoner per day for food. While that wouldn’t be enough today, Humphrey said it wasn’t much then either. Paula cooked two meals a day, lunch and supper, for the prisoners and if Jim happened to be on patrol at night, was in charge of operating the two-way police radio conveniently located in their bedroom.

“It was an experience, especially for a young couple just starting out,” Humphrey said.

By the time the Humphreys moved in, what had once been a state-of-the-art facility serving all of North and West Texas had lost much of its Victorian grandeur.

Jim and Paula lived in the first floor of the living quarters in an area not much larger than an efficiency apartment because the three upstairs bedrooms had fallen into disrepair.

The building was drafty and cold in the winter. To keep warm Jim kept the front foyer and parlor closed off — otherwise, the heat would funnel up the stairwell to the second story. The living room became the bedroom and the dining room also served as the living room. The kitchen was not original to the structure, and has since been removed.

The Humphreys used a heavy-gauge steel door that separates the living quarters from the jail foyer as the main entry to their home.

Some nights, Jim and Paula would wake up to the sound of rocks tumbling from the walls of the foundation and into the basement.

The couple repaired parts of the building out of their own pockets, refinishing the floors and re-tiling the downstairs bathroom. ...

Jim and Paula lived in the jail until 1971, when Arthur Peevey took over operations. Peevey lived in the building until it closed in 1973, following the completion of a modern 14-person jail which now serves as Henrietta’s city hall. Humphrey continued to serve as deputy in the new jail, and later as justice of the peace.

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