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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dulles Band Reunion, 2009

Former members of the Dulles Band had a reunion last weekend to celebrate the school's 50th anniversary. Bill Duggan (4th band director in Dulles history) organized the event. It was a big success. There was a dinner Friday night in the Dulles cafeteria (yes, that one) to honor the 5 directors who have led the Viking Band. The old-timers marched onto the field at Mercer Stadium the next afternoon and played the fight song at half-time during the Dulles-Elkins game. (Some played - others pretended to play.)

Here are some items relating to the reunion.

Memorabilia Collected For The Reunion

Band Videos

(Can anyone identify the cymbal player in the 1961 video?)

PTA Follies

A few months ago I posted a program from the Sugar Land PTA Follies staged at the Auditorium in 1964. (Scotty Hightower Bass sent it to me.) Several years ago I got a video of the dress rehearsal. It came from Bill Little although I'm not sure he actually did the filming. Al Bartolo may have done it. Regardless, it's a real treasure. (I had to search high-and-low in my archives to find it. That's the reason it's taken so long to get it on this blog.)

I'm reposting the program so you can determine who's who as you watch it. (As with most images on this blog, click on them to see an enlarged version.)

If anyone can determine the exact date, please send it to me, so I can post it.

There are some repeated scenes. The entire video was too large to post to YouTube, so my brother Bruce clipped it into two pieces.

Part One

Part Two

There Were No Dry Eyes ...

Former members of the Dulles Viking Band held a reunion last weekend to celebrate the school's 50th anniversary. It was a lot of fun. I saw several members of the Class of '64 afterward, and we talked about the State AA Championship Game in 1963. I mentioned Sam Carver's article in The Mirror, and no one remembered it. Here it is, plus other articles and photos that appeared in The Mirror regarding the big game. (Some of the images aren't the best, but my copy of The Mirror is now more than 45-years old.)

Refined Sugar

The following photo shows the group of women who met at the home of Bob & Scotty Hightower Bass to discuss old Sugar Land. (Scotty sent it to me.) I've posted several of their stories - there are plenty more.

Front row l-to-r: Nancy Shelton Pruitt, Mary Norton Shelton, Dorothy Brock Harrington, Dorothy Brock Gandy, Margie Rozelle & Betty Jenkins. Back row l-to-r: Rita Drabek, Dot Hightower, Maxene Gary & Sally Rachuig Kelly. I don't recall the exact date of the luncheon, but it was some time around 2002.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Life in A Company Town and Other Things

Here is a conversation from the luncheon in which several women who've lived in Sugar Land for quite a while got together and told tales. I posted some of their stories about Dr. Slaughter earlier. In this entry they talk about the ins-and-outs of living in company housing plus other funny stuff.


Nancy Pruitt: "Mrs. Gary taught me first grade. I remember getting up during class ..."

Maxene Gary: "And I told you to sit down ..." (Laughter)

Nancy Pruitt: "No! Mrs. Brown was in the classroom - remember her? She taught phonetics ..."

Maxene Gary: "And used a ruler on the kids ... " (makes a gesture of hitting her hand with a ruler to lots of general laughter)

Nancy Pruitt: "Right ... Well, I finished what I was doing and went back to my seat. Wayne Gandy (looks over at Dot Gandy) sat right beside me. As I was sitting down he stuck his pencil under me (gestures holding a pencil with the point facing upward) and I sat on it ... (Laughter) ... I guess it was a case of the 'good' sitting next to the 'bad'.

Dorothy Gandy laughing with everyone else: "Whatever it was it didn't work - at least on Wayne." (More laughter)

Dorothy Harrington: "I graduated from high school here in 1934. There were 25 in my class. That was the biggest graduating class they had up to that time. Of course, everybody went to the same school.

"I met my husband ... he had come from Navasota. We were two country kids who'd come to town. So, we kind of liked each other ... Had something in common ... (Laugher)

"We got married in 1937 and moved back to Sugar Land. At that time you put your name down for a house ..."

Maxene Gary: "And you fought for them." (Laughter)

Dorothy Harrington: "You hoped someone would move out of town or die. (Laughter)

"And when that would happen about half the town would move because someone wanted this house, someone wanted that house and so forth.

"Well, my husband had been working for the company for about a year so we were low man on the totem pole.

"We moved in with the Halls in a little brick house on Brooks Street. Kenneth was just 2 years old.

"There were 4 rooms - we had two and they had two. There was one bathroom."

Maxene Gary: "Did you share the kitchen?"

Dorothy Harrington: "No - I didn't get the kitchen. Imogene had the kitchen. (Laughter)

"We had to buy a cabinet and little three burner stove. I had to wash dishes in a pan ... We lived there for 3 years.

"Eventually, our family was about to grow, so we needed a bigger place. Fortunately, my husband's parents lived in a big house on 2nd Street, so we moved in with them.

"In the end we bought a lot in Belknap for $2000. I believe my husband's mother eventually bought that house on 2nd Street for $3000."

Another Conversation About Housing in A Company Town

Here's another piece of the luncheon conversation about housing in Sugar Land and other travails of life.

Rita Drabek: "I came to Sugar Land in 1955 right after Johnny and I got married. We moved into a house on 4th Street. I think the rent was $14 per month. You had to pay your electricity and your utilities - water - yeah. It was very inexpensive living in those days ... Sugar Land is home to me ... much more than where I grew up in East Texas."

Mary Shelton: "I came to Sugar Land because of my sister. She had just graduated from university and this was her first job ... They wouldn't let married teachers teach in those days ... Anyway, she wasn't married, and didn't have a place to live - the Teacherage was full. They told her if her mother and two sisters came with her (my father had already died) they would allow us rent a house ... That's what we did - we rented a house on 4th Street."

Dorothy Harrington: "When was that?"

Mary Shelton: "That was in '34."

Dorothy Harrington: "Which house on 4th Street was that?

Mary Shelton: "It was 2 houses down from the Hightowers - toward the Methodist Church."

Sally Kelly: "That was the McGowan house."

Mary Shelton: "That's right, but it wasn't the McGowan house then. Oh ... the Baines had just moved out of it ... They had planted verbenas up and down the front driveway ... They were so beautiful. Back in those days Sugar Land was lined with ... what do you call those things?"

Dorothy Hightower: "Oleanders ... No - crepe myrtles." (Words and gestures of assent)

Mary Shelton: "Right - crepe myrtles. Sugar Land was so beautiful. We had just come from dry San Antonio and Sugar Land looked like a garden - to me. Of course, I was young then.

"My sister got married in '39, and I graduated from high school in '39. That meant we would have to give up the house. Well, the teachers in the Teacherage asked Mr. Ulrich if he would get Mama to come and cook for them.

"He asked and she said yes, so we (me, my sister, and Mother) moved into one room of the Teacherage. It had a big dining room table ... She cooked breakfast and supper and Sunday dinner.

"She worked there till 1944. Then she gave it up. I had married. I don't know who moved in there after that ... Well, Annie Albritton ... maybe she did. I think she did."

Maxene Gary: "Was that before she had the boarding house?"

Mary Shelton: "No - she always had that. She lived in the Teacherage. I'm not sure if she cooked for the teachers or not. I was married and had Steve - I thought I had the whole world on my shoulders." (Laughter)

Dorothy Gandy: "That first baby'll do it to you." (Laughter)

Mary Shelton: "Of course, my husband didn't work for the Company. He worked for Exxon - or Humble back then. We moved away. We eventually lived in Houston.

"When they began selling land to outsiders ... We didn't wait ... We went for it.

"Mr. James took my husband in to see Mr. Kempner. He said, 'Well, how much do you need to build that house?' He said, 'One hundred feet.' They went out and walked it off and we bought it. We still live there, and we've been so happy in Sugar Land."

Some Sugar Land Stories

Here are some more luncheon stories about life in old Sugar Land.

[At one point they talked about everyone knowing everyone else's business.]

Dot Hightower: "One day Dugan got a call from Sweat Pea Gandy. He said, 'I was driving through town this afternoon, and I passed Tuta and several girls in your car. Now either your car was on fire, or those girls were smoking. I thought you'd want to know'" (General laughter)

[Conversation turned to the old stores and my mother told this story. My father graduated from A&M in 1950. When my mother refers to the dry goods store, she's talking about the General Merchandise Store that stood in front of the refinery.]

Sally Kelly: "Can I tell you a funny story? (Assent from others) My husband always waited till the last minute to do things. Just before he was going to graduate from A&M I kept telling him he needed a new pair of shoes. He'd say, 'Yeah, I know,' but he wouldn't do anything. We didn't have any money, so his mother said she'd buy him a pair if he'd just go to Houston and get them. Well, he didn't do that either, so on the day before he was to graduate he had to run down to the old dry goods store (General Merchandise Store) to get a pair of shoes.

"When he got back from the store, he told me he knew he was in trouble because Ted Harman had to blow dust off the box of shoes he sold him. (Laughter) It gets worse.

"They had just one pair that would fit him - and they were ORANGE! They must have had them for 30 years. I was furious. (General laughter) He said, 'I can't help it. It's too late to do anything else.'

"Anyway, the day of his graduation was rainy - there were puddles of water standing in the parking lot. We went our way, and he went off to where the graduates were gathering.

"When it came time for him to walk across the stage to get his diploma, we noticed something was wrong. As he walked across the stage there was a sort of kerflopity-flop-kerflopity-flop sound. (Riotous laughter)

"What had happened was that he had walked through water and the soles of his shoes had separated from the uppers. He said he found some rubber bands to put around his shoes to hold them together, but one of them broke as he walked to the podium. (Uproarious laughter)

"I was so mad I said, 'It serves you right.' (Laughter)

"You know, they had nice things in the dry goods store, but they kept items until they sold them. I guess he had only himself to blame."

[They talked about everything. One story would lead to another. The topic of prison escapes triggered the next one, which then led to the last one.]

Betty Jenkins: "I remember one time Leslie and Maxine Wheeler and another couple went to a Rice football game. They went to Charlie White's restaurant before the game. Dr. Wheeler left his car in the parking lot with the keys in it - I guess he thought it was safe.

"Well, they walked across Main Street to the stadium. When they came back after the game their car was missing. A convict who'd escaped in Sugar Land stole their car. You talk about a coincidence!" (General laughter)

Dorothy Hightower: "I remember going to a Rice-Arkansas game with the Bonos. After the game we saw an Arkansas fan looking for his car. He'd got to the game early and parked his car without thinking. After the game the lot was filled with cars, so he was out there yelling, "Heeeerrrrreeeee car! Soooooeeeeeyyyyy car! Car-car-car! (Lots of laughter)

"Joe Bono always had an answer for everything. He went up to the man and said, "You just wait here. Eventually all the other cars will be gone and you'll see yours." (Laughter)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Correction to Previous Entry About The Sugar Land Telephone Company

I reread the message B.I. Webb sent me and realized I'd made a mistake in the previous post (below). I'm not sure where the very first telephone office was - it may have been in the Imperial Company offices since there were just two phones in town: one in W.T. Eldridge's residence and the other inside the refinery.

I now realize that the telephone office before the one in the red-brick building at the Main Gate was in the same building that housed the Sugar Land Drug Store, the doctors' offices, and the dentist's office. Here is a picture of the exterior of that building. It comes from the Jane McMeans photo collection.

(Update) Beverly Friend Wappler sent me a note that contained this comment about the telephone office shown in the picture below:
"These (pictures) really bring back old memories. Yes, I remember when the phone office was above the drug store..........as a matter of fact, I had been up there to see my mother and fell down those stairs from the second stair at the top! I was probably 9 or 10 as I recollect. It skinned me up a bit, but my main concern when I hit bottom was if anyone had seen me fall!! I was embarrassed!"

Just to confuse you even more, I thought I'd post a picture of the interior of the telephone office on Highway 90A, now Windstream's office. (You can see an exterior shot of the building in the next entry.) The people in this picture are Robert Hill (left), Tom James (standing next to him), and Mildred Rozelle sitting at the desk. You can see Etna Schindler sitting at the long-distance switchboard behind the glass wall. Jackie James allowed me to use this photo, which comes from her family collection.

Sugar Land Telephone Company

My grandmother Kelly worked as a telephone operator for the Sugar Land Telephone Company from 1942 till 1969. Naturally, I've wanted to post some old photos of the Telephone Company.

All the photos I've posted here came from Margret Albritton Hill, wife of Robert Hill, President of the Sugar Land Telephone Company.

The first telephone office was in the Imperial Office Building located at the main gate into the refinery. It was torn down in 1952. A couple of years later (I'm not exactly sure of the date), Imperial built the red-brick building (which I remember) on the same site. It housed the Imperial Personnel Office, Main Gate Watchman's Office, Engineering Offices, and Laboratory. There may have been more, but that's what I remember. The building also housed the telephone company until they moved to the location on Highway 90A (where Windstream's offices now sit).

The next two photos were taken sometime in the 1950s at the office in the red-brick building by the Main Gate into the refinery. I can identify all but one woman in the first photo. (Maybe someone can refresh my memory.) The woman standing at the back is Mildred Rozelle. The woman in front of her is Etna Schindler. I can't remember the woman to Etna's left, but the woman in front is my grandmother, Vic Kelly. (My grandmother's name was Mary Victoria Salter Kelly, but she never wanted to be called Mary. My grandfather and her siblings always called her Vic.)

(Update) B.I. Webb sent me a note saying the unidentified woman is his aunt, Nola Hughes. She was the twin sister of Buddy Blair's mother. I could tell she had some connection with the Blairs. She could have been Buddy's mother, based on facial features.

This second picture highlights the switchboard. I can remember visiting this telephone office when I was very young.

I really need help identifying the women in these next pictures. I can tell this is a (retirement?) party held in the back dining room at the restaurant next to The Palms Theater. I'm assuming it was called McGinnes's Cafe by this time. (I don't know the exact date of these pictures.) I assume the woman in the first picture is the honoree, but I can't identify her.

(Update) Karen Laird Boone helped identify the honoree in the next picture. She said it was Esther Gross, and I'm pretty sure she's correct. Mrs. Gross was the mother of Cynthia Gross (DHS '69) and a younger son whose name I can't recall.

I know the woman on the right in the next picture is Etna Schindler.

That's Ruby Nichols on the left. My grandmother is the second from the right. Maybe that's Helen Friend on the far right?

(Update) I got a note from Beverly Friend Wappler confirming that is her mother in the picture below. (She also made a comment about the old telephone office which I've posted in the entry above.)

Mildred Rozelle is on the left. Is that Charlene Lancaster in the middle? That's Deana, Gayla, and Carla Daniels's mother on the right. I'm not sure of the spelling of her name, but it was Veala Reister, I think.

(Update) I received a note from Annette Kay Lancaster Bramlett. She confirmed that is her mother Charlene in the picture. She said her mother passed away on July 14, 2008. She was 90 years old.

(Update) I received a message from Carla Daniels Meuth confirming that's her mother, Velah Rister Daniels, in the picture below. She went on to say, "She worked the 11:00 pm - 7:00 am shift most of our childhood. We grew up sleeping many naps on the little couch bed they had in the snack room. I remember playing operator on that switchboard. We used to pick pecans till our fingers hurt out the side door of that place. Memories ..."

This last picture shows the office on Highway 90A. It's had many additions and renovations over the years and is now the Windstream office. I know that's Etna Schindler's Chevrolet on the left, and I'm ABSOLUTELY sure that's Mildred Rozelle's mid-50s Chevrolet beside it. That's my grandparents' black and white Pontiac on the far-right.

Marvin Zindler's 50s Radio Program, "The Roving Mike"

I've posted links to some interesting Web sites in the left-hand column of this blog. One of the best is "Bayou City History" by J. R. Gonzalez. (His blog appears in The Houston Chronicle.) Back in September he ran a series on a radio program Marvin Zindler hosted for KATL in the early 1950s.

I'm almost certain you won't believe what you hear. Marvin gives taped reports from crime scenes. He interviews a man who's lying on a sidewalk after being stabbed in the neck, a semi-conscious man lying on the side of the road after a car wreck, policemen as they try to corral a domestic dispute, drunks who've been rolled for the money they were carrying, etc. It's amazing. Marvin was often on the scene before the Houston police arrived.

Here's a link to the blog entries for September. (All the Zindler clips were posted in September. You may want to go to the bottom and move up, so you'll read the entries in chronological order.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Playland Park on South Main

I've searched YouTube and found some home movies of Playland Park. There's a surprising number of videos. This first one is a 27 second clip of the roller-coaster shot in 1955. The cameraman was obviously sitting in the stands at the race track and decided to shoot the roller-coaster as it went by.

Here's another clip (3 minutes 17 seconds) that a young Hispanic couple shot in 1963 of their two toddler-aged daughters as they rode the rides at the park.

Here's clip (4 minutes 39 seconds) shot at the races in 1952. As I said there are several clips of races at Playland Park. I chose this one because the poster put music to it. (I'm not sure if the Beach Boys are really appropriate for 1952, but I enjoyed the video.)

I never made it to Playland Park, so this is as close as I'll get. My brother and I hounded our parents to stop at Kiddie Wonderland on trips into Houston. Kiddie Wonderland was located on South Main between Kirby and South Braeswood. My parents always tried to distract us when we passed that stretch of South Main, but it never worked. We knew where the pony rides were located and never forgot. If my mother had been smart, she would have carried some throw-down cookies in her purse. When we got near Kiddie Wonderland, she should have tossed them on the back-seat floor boards. We would have dived for the cookies and forgot about the ponies. Well, maybe not.

There are video clips of races at Meyer Speedway on YouTube if you're interested.

Missouri City Elementary School, Early 60s

Some readers of this blog grew up in Missouri City. I don't have a lot of material from our sister city, but I do have a few things. Here's one of them. It was published in The Mirror in the early 1960s. (I'm too lazy to dig out the original newspaper and find the exact date it appeared.) The caption identifies the people.