Barbara Helen Isaacson Andrews has had three loves in her life ... music, math and most importantly, her husband “J.L.”
“He was just a part of me,” she said. “He loved the things I loved.”
Born in El Campo Jan. 6, 1919, the youngest of Alvin and Barbara Helen (Eales) Isaacson, Andrews will be a century old tomorrow. She had one sibling, brother James, who was 11 years older than her.
“401 Ave. A ... that is where I was born. It’s still there, right across from where the Coles used to live,” she said. “The Dusons used to live across the street, too.”
Her father, who was of Swedish descent, met her mother while he was attending Bethany College, a Swedish educational institution in Lindsborg, Kan.
“My dad was full blooded Swede. Mom was from Kansas and she didn’t know a bit of Swede,” Andrews said. “They married and came to El Campo.”
Andrews believes her father’s family are some of the earliest settlers to make El Campo their home.
“The Isaacsons came to El Campo when my dad was 11 years old,” she said. “They lived out in the country.”
Her father, and later her father and brother, owned Isaacson’s Grocery. Her grandfather and two of her uncles owned Isaacson’s Cotton Gin.
Andrews attended first grade at Southside Elementary, now known as the Blessing Cup Storehouse. The next year she attended Northside Elementary because “it was in the Northside School District,” she said. Andrews graduated with honors from El Campo High School.
“I happen to have been valedictorian, which doesn’t make a bit of difference,” she said. “I graduated in 1935.”
After high school, she had plans to attend Bethany College, same as her father, but that all changed when her mother died.
“It was a good thing I did not go to school,” she said. “It was in the middle of the Great Depression and we couldn’t afford it. If I had gone to school I would not have been home when she died. You know the Lord looks over you.”
Her mother had a tumor that required surgery. Doctors performed a hysterectomy, which she said was successful. “But a blood clot went to her heart,” she said.
Andrews’ parents were married close to 31 years when her mom passed. Her dad later married again and they were married for about 30 years when he passed.
It was also the “year the grocery store went broke,” she said. “My brother was just married and the depression hit El Campo.”
Even though times were hard, her father urged her to go to college.
“My dad insisted I go to college anyway,” she said. “I had scholarships and I got a job in the library at the university.”
Andrews chose the teaching profession, frankly because she wasn’t cut out to be a secretary.
“I took a course in high school ... tried to write shorthand but that didn’t take. That wasn’t for me,” she said with a chuckle.
Her specialty was math.
“I loved math,” she said. “I like math because there is always an answer. In math you are either right or wrong and that appealed to me.”
She graduated in four years with a math degree and took her first teaching position at the high school in Port Lavaca where she taught for a year.
“I made $800 a year, then I went to Edna and got a raise of $100. I made $900 there,” she said. “In the meantime, World War II had started.”
Because many of the men were being shipped off to war, Victoria had an opening for a high school math teacher, which she took with a considerable raise from her position in Edna. “I made $1,200 a year.”
She stayed there for a year, then returned to her hometown of El Campo to teach for a year.
Wartime jobs for women opened up an opportunity for Andrews, who said all of her “friends were in the Army. I got a chance to work at the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center as a service club director. I was junior hostess in charge of entertainment in working with Army people,” she said.
She didn’t live on the base, however.
“I lived in town and rode the bus there. No one had a car,” she said. “We walked or used buses to get around.”
Her job entailed organizing different entertainment opportunities, such as swim parties and dances.
“We had weekly dances,” she said. “Women in town formed groups of girls and they brought them out in buses.”
She worked there 31 months. “Then the war was over,” she said.
After this, she enrolled at the University of Nebraska.
“I worked part time and got a master’s degree in math in 1949,” she said. “I taught a year at the university. They hired me to take some of the classes the big professors didn’t want.”
Andrews then moved back to San Antonio to teach math then to El Campo again. That’s when she became re-acquainted with her future husband. He was enlisted in the Army during the World War II and had returned to teach physics at ECHS. He was also an older brother of her best friend.
“J.L., Joseph Leander Andrews ... I grew up with his sister who was my bosom sister. He was three years older ... I had always known of him but really didn’t know him.”
And after moving back to El Campo, Agnes tried to play match-maker.
“His sister Agnes was worried about me ... she would invite me over for supper when I was teaching here in El Campo,” she said. “I guess J.L. maybe was one of the ones.”
Andrews, however, couldn’t recall when they fell in love.
“I am trying to remember when I realized he was the one I wanted to spend my life with,” she said. “He loved music ... sang in the choir with me. We had such common interests. We both enjoyed playing games. We played 42 together with a couple for 25 years.”
They were married in 1951 and settled down in San Antonio, both securing teaching positions at different high schools. She taught math until she retired at age 60.
Andrews and J.L., who weren’t able to have children, were involved in activities at their respective campuses.
“We had to attend all the football games at both schools,” she said. “We liked football ... we kept up because we knew all the players since we taught them.”
Her husband died in 1998. In his later years, she said his memory wasn’t the same.
“I don’t like to remember unpleasant things,” she said. “His mind was not working right. But he still knew me at the end.”
Remembering her days growing up in El Campo, Andrews recalls one of her favorite memories that led to a lifetime love of music.
“I think one of the best things was Mrs. Stewart in El Campo ... she had taught voice lessons and she didn’t have a big enough room in her house to teach. So my mother offered her use of our piano in our living room to teach lessons,” she said. “And for that I got free lessons. She taught me voice.”
Mrs. Stewart was also the choir director at the Presbyterian church in El Campo.
Andrews minored in voice while at Bethany College and one of the highlights was singing in a special program.
“I got to sing in the Messiah production every year,” she said. “We performed it two times ... Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. There were 400 voices in the choir.”
She continued singing in the Presbyterian church choir in San Antonio and then at First Presbyterian in El Campo after moving here in 2005. She was 85 when she no longer could hold a tune.
Today, Andrews resides at Meridian Assisted Living where she will be celebrating her birthday with a party tomorrow.
If you would like to send birthday wishes to here, you may do so by mailing a card to: Barbara Andrews, 3515 W. Loop, El Campo, TX 77437.