One of his first experiences with the Texas and Pacific Railway was when, as a teenager, he with several friends decided to “ride blind” to Terrell, catching a free ride on the train. They apparently boarded the train close to the engine or baggage car, and were seen by the Negro porter who got on the coal tender and threw big pieces of coal at them. They fell off the train! Fortunately, no one was hurt!
His two older brothers, Walter P. Gibson, and Willard Gibson were Agents/Telegraphers for the T&P and Fred studied telegraphy with his brother Walter for one year. He was then hired by the T&P and started to work June 30, 1898 at age 17.
He was sent to the Dallas Yard Office and on his second night, be was told to phone and ask when the cars would be ready. The only phone be had ever seen was the phone in the depot. This phone had no crank, He sat around until someone used the phone and he could see how it worked.
From his memories:
It was a mile from my work in the Yard Office to the General Office, a six-stoly building down town. One night the operator there asked me to come down when I got off at midnight. I went. The elevator was open unattended on the ground floor. I entered--waited-- nothing happened. Finally I saw the stairs and up them I went. It was my first experience with an elevator. Country boy in a city.
As an employee of the T&P Railway, I was given a season pass to the Dallas Fair. I went out one day with a boyl had met. Both of us were broke. We planned to get in by me going in first and meeting him some distance away from the entrance and poking the pass through a crack in the fence. He presented it at the gate while I stood 100 feet away. I saw the gatekeeper put the pass in his pocket and wave the boy back. I knew the fat was in the fire, so I went to the gatekeeper and confessed. He rudely told me he would keep the pass and that I would be reported to the railroad officials. I pleaded with him not to report me and promised never to do such a low down thing again. Finally he said, “O.K., but you have lost your pass. I was upset over this and slept very little before going to work at midnight. About 5 the next morning, I went to sleep while typing a train order and was awakened by the dispatcher calling AS-AS-AS (my office call). I promptly confessed that I had fallen asleep in the middle of the order. Being young, I was forgiven.
After some six months in the Yard Office, I was promoted to a relay telegraph job in Mineola. It was a heavy job but I had no trouble and six months later I was notified to report for duty in “G.O. telegraph office, the General Office in Dallas. These jobs were tops on the railroad and paid $75.00 per month while the road jobs paid but $55.00. I made good at G.O. There were three other operators in the office but one got sick and I doubled for him, working 16 hours a day, for about a month. I was so worn out that I asked for a transfer to Fort Worth which was granted some time later.
I was transferred to Fort Worth in 1902 and worked there for about 6 or 8 months, when the Superintendent, F. W. Campbell of Marshall, told me he would give me a station if I would “come out on the line.” (The Fort Worth office was not under his jurisdiction.) I did this and worked at various places for short periods until late in 1902 or 03 when I was assigned the agency at Gladewater. Here I bought 3 lots and built a 4 room house. The house cost $400.00. Lumber was $8.00 per M. at the mill right in town.<a href="?img=3db4e600a295b"><img alt="" src="thumbs.cfm?img=3db4e600a295b.png" align="left" /></a>
In 1904, I gave up the Gladewater Station and went back to Grand Saline as operator and to be with my brother whom I all but worshiped. It was there I met the girl of my dreams. It happened at Mrs. Wilkes’ boarding house. I had been away for a week or two relieving some agent and when I returned and went to the table the first time, she was seated opposite me. I’ll never forget the freshness of her youth. Her modest demeanor--the appeal to me of her eyes and the radiance of her purity. I knew than I had found my soul's mate. (Fred married his soul mate, Alma Lucille Hunter, in November of 1905.)
His next assignment was as Station Agent in Atlanta, Texas where he was working when he and Alma Hunter married. Their first child, Freda, was born during this time. In 1908, Fred decided to “go west”. He worked for 30 days in Pecos, while the agent was away and then was assigned as Station Agent in Van Horn, Texas. Alma recalls in her memoirs, “At that time and for several years the Railroad Company furnished the town peoples with coal and water and the Agent had to handle this business in addition to his regular duties. Two children were born during the time in Van Horn, Ruth and Billy. The Gibsons also “homesteaded land” while living in Van Horn. Alma, with her children, lived on the claim 31 miles north of town for the required number of days each year, while Fred remained in town fulfilling his duties as Station Agent.
Sometime in 1909, shortly after a new operator had arrived to work at the Station, an incident occurred which frightened him so badly he was not sure he wanted to remain in “the wild west.” Alma Gibson recalls: “The cowboys from the ranches all around only came to town every two or three months when cattle were brought in or supplies were needed on the ranches, but when they did come in, they always made themselves very conspicuous by drinking and having a good time, which meant to them riding their horses pell-mell down the streets whooping and yelling at the top of their voices and shooting off their guns from time to time. This time they rode into the waiting room of the depot on their horses, firing several shots into the ceiling of the depot.”
During this time as Railway Agent, Fred took on some additional work keeping books for Beach Mercantile Store, and in the spring of 1920, he decided to quit the railroad and become manager of the store. Again, from Alma’s memories: “In the fall of 1913, the Superintendent of the Railroad came out to see Fred one day to try to get him to go back to work for the Railroad again. He said they bad not had a satisfactory agent at Van Horn since Fred quit and that none of them every stayed more than a few months at a time. Fred declined, however as he had lost his seniority and would probably be put on the “extly board” and be doing relief work. The Superintendent agreed, however, that if Fred would go back to work, he would re-instate his seniority. However, before this could happen, the superintendent was fired.
In 1916, the Gibsons left Van Horn, going for a short time to Dallas, then to Floydada to open and manage a "Nickel Store." While living there, Fred acted as city secretary and served on the Draft Board during World War I. Another child, Katie, was born to the Gibsons during this time. In 1919 the family moved back to Grand Saline for a period of time, but Fred decided that he wanted to move back to West Texas, and in December he contacted the Superintendent of the Western Division of the T&P at Big Spring asking him if he could work as an "extry" operator after Christmas. The superintendent replied asking Fred to come at once as they were always needing good men. Fred left on December 22 to go to Big Spring. When he was finally able to get a house for his family, they joined him in February of 1920.
In November of 1920, the Monahans station became open and Fred bid for and won the Agency there since it paid much more than the Big Spring position, and the family moved to Monahans in December. “At that time Monahans had only 35 houses and 165 people. The one furnished by the railroad for the Agent was right on the right of way as near the tract as the depot itself. The house was old having been build in 1887. It had originally been a two room house and then another room was added later. Then someone who was living in it built on a shed room for a kitchen, then someone enlarged it and then someone else built on a little room for a bath or store room, so it was--all in all--not much of a house.” (Alma Gibson)
When we moved to Monahans, the stock pens were located just across the tracks in front of our house and every time they loaded cattle, which was pretty often in the fall, we would have to close every window and door in our house if it were warm, and we always left home if it were at all possible. The dust from the stock pens would be so awful you could hardly get your breath. (Alma Gibson)
Sometime in 1921, Billy, the son of the Gibsons, wanting to earn some money bad his first business experience. The train stopped right in front of the gate of the agent’s house every day. Alma was making delicious hot rolls all the time, so they arranged for Billy to “go into business.” She made “sandwiches” of the rolls, putting small wieners in each roll with mustard and pickles and onions, and put them on a tray with a nice clean napkin over them. Fred put an iron bar on the limb of the China tree and Billy sat on the fence tapping the iron bar to attract attention of the passengers. One of the first days, the Porter of the train was the first one to come. He said, “Boy what you got there?” Billy told him. “Are they good?” Billy told him they sure were, so the porter bought one and started back to the train. After the porter took his first bite, he began to wave to passengers getting off the train saying, “Come and get ‘em, they sure is good!” Billy had told him that the price was 10 cents, which the porter thought was high until after he had tasted them! Billy emptied the tray every day when the train came through and sometimes made as much as $3.00 or $3.50 a day. Finally the News Butch took it up witb the Superintendent as he thought his rights were being encroached upon, so the Superintendent told Fred he would have to stop as the News Butch had the concession on the right of way.
By 1927, with the oil exploration and production, Monahans began to grow as more and more people moved into the area.. The following is taken from WARD COUNTY, 1887-1997: “In 1925 oil was discovered in Ward County and a period of almost phenomenal growth began. A sleepy little village was transformed into a bustling oil center. In 1927 the town was incorporated and Fred Gibson ran for mayor. The WARD COUNTY NEWS said, in part, Mr. Gibson needs no introduction to the people of Monahans, having been a resident here for the past eight years. During this time he has established a reputation for fair dealing and integrity which has won for him the esteem of the entire community.... He is known as a man of broad vision and of splendid executive ability and having had previous experience in city administration work may be expected to discharge his duties in a manner that will be of benefit to Monahans.
After his election as the first mayor Monahans, the WARD COUNTY NEWS wrote: His Honor, Mayor Fred P. Gibson, won the election without one dissenting vote. Two ballots had his name erased from them, but no other name written in, and it is strongly suspected that these votes represent the fine modesty of Mr. & Mrs. Gibson's balloting.
With the influx of so many more people and the activity of the oil fields, there was need for expanded railway services as well as additional railroad personnel. The Texas and Pacific ran a subsidiary line from Monahans into New Mexico. It was called the T&NM and Mr. Gibson was named vice-president of this short line railroad. In addition, other operators were added to the staff at the depot, as well as trainmen to “ride the rails. During 1927, the fifth and last child, Anne, was born to the Gibsons.
Mr. Gibson remained as Station Agent in Monahans until August of 1936, when because of the tremendous work load, his health began to fail. He then bid in a small station at Allamore, Texas, 11 miles west of Van Horn where he moved and served the remainder of his working years.
Although having planned to retire in 1941, when World War II broke out, Mr. Gibson felt that he could not retire at that time since the railroads were so essential to the war effort and personnel was so badly needed. During this time two additional operators were added at the little Allamore station keeping the station open 24 hours a day in order to service the numerous trains carrying military equipment and personnel.
Finally, in April of 1944, when Mr. Gibson's health would no longer allow him to continue working, he retired, moving to Alpine, Texas where he lived until his death in 1966. After his death, Alma Gibson received a letter from M. E. Parks, Vice President of Personnel for the T&P, which stated, “Please accept my deepest sympathy in your recent loss. Mr. Gibson devoted many years of his life to the service of our railroad and we too share in the sadness of his death."