INTERVIEW: WENDELL CATHEY
[Note: Q indicates interviewer(s).]
Interview date: February 19, 2016
Interview location: City Hall Annex, Elgin, Texas
Q: Check the levels before we get started, to make sure that it’s going to be loud enough for everyone to hear.
Q: And so there are just some introductory question that I’m going to ask you. So what is your name?
WENDELL CATHEY: My name is Wendell Cathey.
Q: What is your gender?
WENDELL CATHEY: I’m a man.
Q: Where were you born?
WENDELL CATHEY: Austin, Texas.
Q: What is your birthdate?
WENDELL CATHEY: June 23, 1982.
Q: Where do you live now and how long have you lived here? Or there.
WENDELL CATHEY: I’ve been living here, in Elgin, it’s been 13 years, now, at the current house. But I’m a longtime resident of Elgin.
Q: OK. Well, so talk to us about your food experiences growing up.
WENDELL CATHEY: Growing up, it was always home-cooked meals. My grandma — there were a few times when, if she had to work late, we would order fast food, but most of the time it was a home-cooked meal. I have to say, my favorite was red beans and cornbread.
Q: Nice. What other kinds of things did you eat? Like on a typical day? (laughter)
WENDELL CATHEY: On a typical day, it was school food. Like, any school day I’m eating breakfast and lunch there. And then, when I get home, it’d be whatever my grandma cooked. But typically, breakfast I had to have a doughnut. There was always a doughnut. (laughter) A doughnut and either — some sort of sandwich. Some sort of breakfast sandwich, either sausage or bacon, one of the two.
WENDELL CATHEY: I had to have it. That was my morning routine. And a piece of fruit.
WENDELL CATHEY: Either a banana or an orange were my favorites. Bananas and oranges. Lunch, once I got to high school, pretty much had my –we had the — it’s like a — it was kind of like a fast food section, you know. I graduated in 2000 so we didn’t really have too much like schools have now, with different pizza and all that in the school. Like, wow.
Q: Yeah, that’s a lot. (laughter)
WENDELL CATHEY: Yeah. So we had — it was just like a fast food line. Cheese sticks and pizza, that was — that was my lunch, cheese sticks and pizza.
Q: OK. What about food during the holidays with your family?
WENDELL CATHEY: Which holiday?
Q: Pick your favorite. (laughter)
WENDELL CATHEY: (laughter) Well, Thanksgiving, of course.
WENDELL CATHEY: Turkey and dressing. Then there’s ham. There’s pea casserole. There’s potato salad. Oh, man. And what do we — and banana pudding. Oh, my favorite, banana pudding. Everything. Pea salad, potato salad. There’s dressing, ham, turkey. Sometimes there’s chicken, maybe with sausage. Green bean casserole, too. I mean, they — it is so much food, it’s like an overdose of food. (laughter) And leftovers for weeks after.
Q: What about the Fourth of July?
WENDELL CATHEY: Fourth of July barbeque. That’s all — there’s always a barbeque [then?]. Sausage, pork steaks, chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, and stuff like that. Oh, yeah.
Q: (laughter) That’s nice. So what about now? What is your favorite place to get food? Like…
WENDELL CATHEY: If I had to pick a favorite, I would say there’s a shop down here, Luther’s. They’re only open Thursday through Sunday, though.
WENDELL CATHEY: But they have nice ham– I like their hamburgers.
WENDELL CATHEY: I’d have to say they’re my favorite.
Q: What about grocery shopping and things like that?
WENDELL CATHEY: I do not grocery shop.
Q: You do not grocery shop?
WENDELL CATHEY: I do not grocery shop. (laughter) Like, it’s — so it’s basically whatever groceries [sic] in there, then I’ll — I can make something out of that. But me, personally, I do not — I cannot grocery shop.
Q: OK. (laughter)
WENDELL CATHEY: I will come back with all snacks. (laughter)
Q: (laughter) What about gardening and farming, from your personal experience? What are your thoughts about gardening and farming?
WENDELL CATHEY: Well, actually, when I was younger, my grandma had a — actually had a garden and she grew tomatoes, peppers. She had greens. What else? We had a fig tree. There was a pear tree. Pecan tree. I mean, we had plenty of [05:00] vegetables. Matter of fact, the whole — I can’t describe how big my — well, maybe about from the dumpster this way —
WENDELL CATHEY: — that’s probably how long her garden, like the area where she gardened. Yeah, it was a pretty nice sized garden.
Q: What kind of things did she grow?
WENDELL CATHEY: She grew — it was mostly vegetables. It was — she had tomatoes, greens — collard greens — collard greens and mustard greens, matter of fact. Then she had jalapenos. Then she had a watermelon patch is where — oh, man. What else? Some kind of — it was — I can’t remember what kind of berry it was, but she would actually make — she would grow the berries and then she would make jelly, as well — she would make wine, too, out of the berries, so. I can’t remember what kind of berry tree it was. That one was pretty nice. What kind of other plants? I really can’t think of any other vegetables that she may have had. Squash. Squash. She had squash and okra. And okra, too. I think that’s… She had watermelon and cantaloupe. I think that’s it. I can’t… I can’t see anything else that she grew.
Q: And so the food from the garden was a lot of what you guys ate growing up, then?
WENDELL CATHEY: Oh, yeah. When — any vegetables that she made, she grew.
WENDELL CATHEY: So that was from — that was nice.
Q: Do you garden now?
WENDELL CATHEY: Now, I don’t.
Q: No? Do you connect with local growers in any way here, in Elgin?
WENDELL CATHEY: I don’t. I really — I really don’t know of the local growers, like, who they are. But if I had the opportunity to meet them, that would be nice.
Q: Yeah, definitely. So have you seen the Elgin area change since the time that you’ve lived here and, like, how has it changed?
WENDELL CATHEY: It has grew [sic] — it has actually doubled in my lifetime, since — yeah, [that is it has?] doubled in my lifetime. And a lot of it, like the highway, it used to just be highway. And there were maybe two stores. Like, all of that where HEB and all of that? We didn’t have an HEB. None of that was there. That was all just grass. I remember when, like, and all of that and the new high school, all that, used to be all just land out there. Elgin has really grown, I mean. And then the houses, that’s [really?], too. Like, there’s three up on there on [County Line?] about — matter of fact, all of that where the new high school is? All that — those housing divisions, that used to be all grass. And that just used to be all land. Like, that would be the back roads we would go just to hang out. But now, it’s all people are everywhere. It’s like the growth is crazy. Like, I would — if you had told me that Elgin would be this big now, maybe even 10 years ago, I wouldn’t believe you. (laughter) Like, no. (inaudible) Maybe, but not this soon, not as fast as it did.
Q: OK. Has the growth at all, like, kind of changed your experiences with food since living here?
WENDELL CATHEY: I would say yeah, there is more of a variety now. Because I remember when we did — when we had two food places that stayed open after 10, if they stayed open after 10, and that would be on a Friday.
Q: What were those like?
WENDELL CATHEY: It was one of those where, if you didn’t get anything fast food by 11, then you were on your own. (laughter) Like, good luck. Because we didn’t even — I don’t think we even had a store that would stay open past midnight, if it stayed open that late. So if you didn’t get what you needed by midnight, then you had [to wait?] to the next day.
Q: Were they smaller stores, or…?
WENDELL CATHEY: Right.
Q: OK. What kind of things did they have?
WENDELL CATHEY: We had Super S Grocery.
WENDELL CATHEY: I remember Super S Grocery. Then there was — well, matter of fact, right here, this used to be a grocery store, too. It’s now a Dollar General, but that used to be a grocery store. That was a little bit [10:00] before my time, though. But wow, Elgin really has grown.
Q: (laughter) So is there anything more that you want to talk about with your food experiences growing up and your family?
WENDELL CATHEY: The big thing here, barbeque. If you get barbeque anywhere in Texas, I don’t think it’ll taste as good as Elgin.
WENDELL CATHEY: And I’m only saying that because I’m from Elgin. (laughter) But I really haven’t tried outside of Elgin. I’ve tried Lockhart but it doesn’t compare to Elgin barbeque.
Q: What do you think makes Elgin barbeque so special?
WENDELL CATHEY: I’m still trying to find out. It’s just, I guess, how they cook it, I’m guessing. Because it’s just — the flavor it, it’s just — it’s different.
Q: Like, kind of describe the flavor, if you can?
WENDELL CATHEY: I really… It’s like — cause Lockhart sausage, it’s like theirs tastes like they put maybe more garlic in it or something, I’m not sure. But Elgin’s flavor is just right. And the barbeque sauce, I think, their home– they make their own barbeque sauce. So that’s — I think that kind of puts a taste to it, too.
Q: Are there multiple places in Elgin where you would get barbeque?
WENDELL CATHEY: There’s [Meyer’s?], then there’s Southside. Yeah, Meyer’s and Southside. But there — we did have one that was downtown here, [Lay-ren’s?]. His barbeque was the best. It could — that was like one of those mom-and-pop shops? And he made his fresh. Well, I’m sure that they all do it fresh —
Q: Yeah, of course.
WENDELL CATHEY: — but his, it was, I don’t know. It was like he put his all into it. Like, it was real — it was good.
Q: What happened to it?
WENDELL CATHEY: It actually — once he died, the family didn’t — they sold it off and now, I think, it’s — it might be a bar, I think, now. But yeah, they were the best.
Q: OK, and so during the Fourth of July, when there’s all the barbeque, what do you think are your favorite pieces of meat?
WENDELL CATHEY: Pork steak.
Q: Pork steak.
WENDELL CATHEY: Why, I’ve got to have a piece of pork steak. Pork steak and sausage. (laughter) Love it. Got to have it.
Q: I don’t think I’ve ever had pork steak.
WENDELL CATHEY: You are — you have been sheltered. (laughter) If you have not tried — and you’re in Elgin, too? You have to try. You go to one of the barbeque places, either Meyer’s or Southside. Try one of them. It don’t matter which one. I — me, personally, Meyer’s, I like their barbeque sauce better, so try Meyer’s and get you a pork steak.
Q: (laughter) What do you think the difference is between the barbeque sauce at Meyer’s and Southside?
WENDELL CATHEY: The taste, the flavors. The one at Meyer’s is a little bit sweeter. And the one on — and Southside is a tad — it has a little spiciness to it. Like not much, but it’s a tad bit, [there?].
Q: OK. Is there anything else?
WENDELL CATHEY: Not that I can think of. I wish I had more for you, you know what I mean. (laughter) But Elgin really isn’t that big. (laughter) We’re growing, though.
Q: Yeah. So what do you think the growth is going to look like?
WENDELL CATHEY: Oh, man. I think they’re going to run out of space. I mean, because there really isn’t too much country they have left. Man, I mean, and even the high school, as big as it is, it’s getting crowded. So I see Elgin growing like, if not doubling, then pretty close to it within the next 10 years.
Q: Wow. What kind of things would you like to see come to Elgin?
WENDELL CATHEY: A really and truly center, like a youth center, a rec center, something, just to… Because as far as — like, then we have different parks but it’s out in the open. So if it’s raining or something, then kids are just sitting at home playing video games. I’d rather have them have a rec center or something so they can get out and — at least get out of the house, do something.
WENDELL CATHEY: That would be nice.
WENDELL CATHEY: And a Whataburger. (laughter) Whataburger would be good.
Q: A Whataburger would be good. Well, thank you for sharing your stories and your experiences.
WENDELL CATHEY: No problem. [15:00]
[END OF INTERVIEW]