By Leslie Scott
It’s a typical weekday morning at the Cotton Gin with breakfast crowds gathering and in a crowd of people, there are two ladies there that are as much a part of Prosper as the business itself. Betty Stewart and Betty Hughes have known each other most of their lives. Friends since they were young, these two have a friendship, not just of longevity, but of depth as well.
As we sat down to breakfast, immediately these two ladies began talking about the pictures and books Betty Hughes brought to show. Affectionately called an Annual by both, we began our visit by talking about their high school years and how they met and developed such a long friendship. Betty Hughes has a twinkle in her eye when she begins, “Betty [Stewart] was three grades ahead and I knew her and she was a majorette. She’d already graduated and then I was a majorette my senior year. I wasn’t really that good, she could twirl, but I couldn’t twirl. But back then they didn’t care. Just as long as you had long legs!” Betty Stewart disputes this by saying, “I didn’t have long legs.” Not to be deterred, Betty Hughes continues, “but anyway- we stayed in touch. When we moved to Prosper we just hung out. Cousins through marriage – so we are just kind of backdoor relatives – we just all call each other cousins.”
Carrying on a conversation with these two is almost like talking to a set of siblings, in particular a set of twins. When asked of their favorite memories together, it’s a swinging pendulum of answers. Both immediately say their most recent favorite memories are with the late Jim Hughes and late Bill Hays. Betty Hughes says, “We went to Branson the spring before Jim died” and Betty Stewart finished with, “we went to Swenson’s lodge together for a weekend. We both went to the same school for 12 years, both go to the Methodist church, historical society together, there’s so many memories we have together.”
When asked what attributes they appreciate in the other, Stewart says of Hughes, “She’s more like a sister to me, because I’ve never had any sisters. And if I need anything, I feel like I can call her – we’re just good friends.” And Hughes says, “She’s always been there for me and if I need something, I just call Betty. When she doesn’t have a broken arm or broken leg!” Laughing ensues and Stewart replies, “Lately I’ve been more broken than anything. I played basketball and volleyball and tennis and rode horses and barrel raced and never had a broken bone. And after I got into my late 70s and early 80s, I’ve had broken bones. It’s catching up to me, but I’ve been lucky all these years and really blessed.”
These two both hesitated and thought for a bit when questioned on any guilty pleasures. Stewart says “I love to travel.” Hughes says, “She likes to travel but I don’t, I’m a homebody – home and a good book, but I know I need to get out for socialization.” There were no hesitations when asked of their proudest achievement or accomplishment, as Hughes said, “Our kids,” and Stewart answered, “Kids and grandkids.” Family is important to both of these women. Betty Stewart is the mother of an only daughter, “We didn’t plan it that way, it just so happened we only had one. Doctor didn’t know if they could save me or the baby, so decided that meant only one. I have two grandkids and three great-grandkids – three boys. Our daughter didn’t like to be an only child and said she would have more – and she had a girl and a boy.” Hughes adds, “I have a son and a step-daughter – but 6 grandchildren!” These two also had accomplished careers as well as raising families. Betty Stewart worked for TXU Energy for 37½ years and Betty Hughes began her teaching career in 1959 and had various teaching and administration positions.
A lively volley of back and forth ensues between them when asked about their upbringing and siblings. Stewart begins, “I just had two brothers and always wished for a sister.” And Hughes joyfully adds, “I did too. People asked what do you think of him [her baby brother] and I said I want to send him back and get a girl. You always wish for the opposite.”
As we gloss through the pages of their school Annual books, they are continuously complimentary to each other. Betty Hughes takes the lead flying through the pages going back in time. There’s a photo of Betty Stewart, “there she is, look at her long pretty hair!” Stewart glances and the photo and says, “That’s just the way it does – it used to just flip like that and I didn’t do anything to it.” When asked if they wore much makeup Stewart says, “not very much, maybe a little lipstick. I can’t remember putting makeup on.” Hughes points out a picture of herself and Stewart says, “Oh that’s a good one of you too!” The word Favorite is at the top of the pages these ladies are on in several books which is the equivalent to today’s prom queen. They both look amazing and when asked if they still have those dresses Hughes laughs, “Yeah, sure – no, I hold on to a lot of things but not that. I don’t even know or remember how we afforded to have those dresses.”
Their Annuals are full of photos and accomplishments of each of them:
Betty Jackson: Basketball 4 years, Basketball Co-captain ’53, Sophomore Favorite , High School Favorite ’51, District Journalism Contest ’51-52, Best Athlete ’52-53, Nominee for the DAR ’53, Pep Squad: Majorette ’51-52, Head Majorette ’52-53, Business manager of the “Eagle” ’52-53, FHA Club 3 years, Librarian 1 year, Journalism Club, Typist of the Static, Delegate to State Journalism Contest, Austin ’51-52, Choral Club, FHA Officer 3 years, Freshman Class President.
Betty Hodges: FHA Reporter ’52-53, FHA Treasurer ’54-55, FHA 4 years, Pep squad 4 years, Majorette ’55-56, Class Favorite ’53-54, Princess of Royal Court ’55-56, Annual Staff 2 years, Static Staff 2 years.
The ladies gloss through the pages stopping here and there to explain junior / senior banquettes, the low number of students in each class, pausing at a photo of Ann Hays, Bill Hays’ wife who Stewart says was “like a sister to me,” and they jump forward to who their classmates became and where they live. They both say they remember where the photos were taken, the memories being made, and what they were doing at the time. Hughes says “My class still meets every month, but hers has a reunion every once in a while.” There are moments while going through the book that are not so happy. Stewart says, “Bill was my travelling partner and now I don’t really have anyone to travel with. Most people are working, or they don’t like to travel. I’m sure if Bill was alive we would be travelling.” And Hughes says, “I know we’re eventually all going to go, but losing our friends and loved ones, that’s hard.”
These ladies have seen many changes through the years and seem to embrace them. Hughes says about technology, “I like it, I still have my flip phone, but I like it. And I like my computer except when it breaks down.” Stewart is an optimist, “I think everything has changed for the good. And I do love all the building in Prosper. I know it’s a lot of traffic, but just think when all those stores go in we don’t have to drive very far, that’s a blessing there.” Hughes followed with, “you know the Mayor said some people don’t want many drive-through places, but I like them. If I don’t have her [Betty], or someone to do something with, I can just go grab food and go home and get my book and eat while I’m doing that. I know some people like places they want to sit together as a family too, but I like drive up places to eat.”
Both Betty’s have observed Prosper growing and evolving throughout their lives. Stewart points out, “there were 250 people here when we were growing up.” Hughes gets that twinkle in her eye again when she says, “I wish I had that sign, the population sign.” Stewart says wistfully, “I never thought Prosper would grow like it has, you know Prosper is a wonderful town.”
Betty Stewart and Betty Hughes have always seemed to be destined to be lifelong friends. Whether related through marriage, neighbors that lived across the street from each other at one time, travel companions, or best friends, they seem to be more sisters than not. These two have experienced great joy, sorrow, humor, and the everyday details of life together. When told that they just can’t seem to get away from each other, Stewart immediately responds with a chuckle, “and we don’t want to!”