Taylor Sparks: How has Decatur changed over the years?
Ethelyn Brewer: Oh my goodness! Well, it’s lost its population and it’s lost its businesses because of that. It changed when the bridge was built in the ’50s. My husband quit school to help build the bridge. It has changed totally. Main Street used to be three stores, five filling stations, a drug store, a dentist, a doctor, a good hardware store, a gambling store, and restaurants that you could buy fifteen cent hamburgers from!
What do you think caused the loss of population in Decatur?
Lack of business for the young people to stay in the earlier years and our school being consolidated of a necessity. But the population for our young people went down to less than half, so we’re more of a bedroom town. You have to drive away to have an occupation. After the young people were educated, the jobs they were looking for weren’t available in small, midwestern towns like Decatur. We had no railroad, we had very limited river travel, also we were boxed in by the reservation which is just a few miles away. Consequently, it limited what our young people could come back to.
How was your generation different than my generation?
Well let’s see, we were raised without electronics of all kinds. We were thrilled to death to have the first televisions. I can remember watching the first televisions, it was like magic! But now it’s so common, it’s way at the bottom of the electronic lists. You’re being raised with conveyances. We were tickled to death if we got to use our parent’s car for a Saturday night and we pooled our money to put a dollar’s worth of gas in it. When I was in high school, I worked at the show building that we had. I made the whole sum of fifty cents a week, and I worked for three nights!
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I’m probably what I wanted to be. I wanted to be married, I wanted to have a family, and I wanted to be involved in the community. So, I have been included in the community in many factions of the music industry part of the need for this. My mother had me playing and singing for funerals when I was thirteen in the eighth grade.
What are some of the most important lessons you feel you have learned over the course of your life?
Important lessons… This makes me cry! To be loving. To be sharing. To be kind to my fellow man. To try to understand my fellow man when I don’t always agree.
What advice would you give a senior in high school?
First and foremost, get an education. In this day and age, life is very simple without an education. Without it you’re stymied; you’re kind of left in the backwoods. You need some kind of training to continue in life.