Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 2, 2014

Drumming it up!

Member of 49ers having fun after 100 years

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Gladys Forrester can’t remember back over the whole century of her life, but she can come pretty close, covering about 95 years.

“I remember the end of World War I.” Forrester said. “My daddy had smallpox and was recovering from it, so he didn’t go to war. We lived five miles from town, and heard it from a neighbor who had gone to town and heard the roo-ha. We celebrated in the little town of Alba, Texas.”

Forrester lives in Seven Points where she can still be found at the Rainbow Fashions on State Highway 274, across from David’s Grocery. 

“Ever since I was 62, I have worked almost daily at my shop, and am still open for business.”

Gladys began her education in a one-room school house in Gunter in Grayson County, but the family soon moved east to Wood County and settled in Alba.

“My daddy was a bricklayer, and he had just built a brick school in Alba,” Forrester said. “He had also built the Ford house, where they sold Fords, and a movie theater.”

When Forrester visited Alba last summer, she was pleased to find that all three buildings were still standing.

“It was as big a town then as it is now,” Forrester said.

When Forrester was in the fourth grade, the family moved again, this time to Dallas. She graduated from Forest Avenue High School and attended Southern Methodist University school of business, taking classes at night. That led to a series of jobs in the Dallas area.

“I worked for a sewing factory for many years,” Forrest said. “I loved to sew and got a job at Neimen Marcus.”

At age 62, Forrest retired and moved to Seven Points. Her late husband, James Lester Forrest, prepared a place for her business that soon became popular to customers around the lake area.  But it hasn’t been all work for Forrester, who played a big role in founding the 49ers Club. Forrester played for 11 years in a band at a place called the 49ers. The band idea grew out of a meeting between Gladys and two of her friends, who have since passed away.

“We had a breakfast one day and discussed that people our age need a place to go that is decent (no smoking, no drinking, no rowzie wowzies),” Forrester said. “We formed a little club called the 49ers.”

Dances were held at the club on Thursday nights. Forrester pounded out the rhythm on her drums, while other friends filled out the sound. Forrester recalls that the band had several instruments, including piano, guitars, steel guitars and an organ.

“No pay, but we had a good band,” Forrester said. “The 49ers had about 500 members at its peak and still attracts about 150.”

Another pastime for Forrester is the domino games at the Senior Citizens Center on Walnut Street in Mabank.

“We play 42,” Forrester said. “It’s an old-fashioned game, but it’s a lot of fun. On Wednesdays, we have a tournament, and we do play to win. Sometimes I do.”

Forrester enjoys life, but doesn’t hesitate to say she’s prepared for the next life, as well.

“The good Lord knows where I am, and when he calls me, I’m ready.”