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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Roger 'The Rocket' Clemens on the mound at Constellation Park

My thanks go to Randy Edwards (DHS '67) for taking me to the Skeeters game last Saturday night when Roger Clemens took the mound for the Skeeters.  (He has season tickets behind the Skeeters dugout about 10 rows up.) I took a video camera.  Here's a 12-minute video of Roger's 3-1/3 innings.  (Actually, I didn't get video of the 1st inning.)

It was an exciting evening for local baseball fans, the Skeeters, and Sugar Land. I'm hoping the Skeeters will be a big success, so I enjoyed the buzz.

I got a note tonight from Terrell Smith (DHS '78) telling me that's his brother Gregg in the picture below.  I saw this picture all over the Internet, but didn't know Gregg is his brother.

Photo by Tom B. Shea/Getty Images

Monday, August 27, 2012


I've just finished reading Norfleet.  It's the true and amazing story of Frank Norfleet, a West Texas rancher who was the victim of a stock-swindling racket in 1919.  This 388-page book details his 5-year hunt for the swindlers.  Apparently, he didn't recover his money, but he did hand the thieves over to the authorities.  It was quite a feat of tenacity and endurance.  

This book's connection with Sugar Land is through Sugarland Industries.  Imperial Press, located in the old Salvage Building,  published it in 1927.  W. T. Eldridge, Sr. tried to sell the story to Hollywood, but never succeeded.

The book is surprisingly good.  It's a dramatic story, but the ghostwriter, Gordon Hines, never makes it melodramatic.

I want to thank Shirley Laird for letting me read her copy before giving it to the Sugar Land Museum.

Charlie Kamp & SLHS Basketball in 1958

I posted this quite a while ago, but I thought I'd bring it back since Charlie Kamp is seen in this video.  It shows a Gator basketball game in the winter of '58.  The location is the gym on Lakeview.  I don't know who the opposing team is.  

Coach Diz and Coach Lucky make brief appearances. Charlie Kamp was a sophomore that season.

Click on the photo below to view the video.

Two More Photos of Kids on The Hill

I have two more photos of children who lived on The Hill in the 1950s.  If anyone can help with identification of these kids, I'd appreciate the help.

Is that Mary Lee Brodecky Sebesta on the far right?

Is this Edward Martin eating watermelon? AND, Johnny Mutina has confirmed he's the little guy in the middle of the table enjoying his watermelon.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kamp, Pausewang, & Pence Obituaries

I'm very sorry to say several old timers have died recently.  Charlie Kamp (DHS '60) passed away last week of a sudden heart attack.  Here's a link to Charlie's obituary.

Annie Borowski Pausewang (SLHS '41) died on August 14th.  Link to Annie Borowski Pausewang's obituary.

Hurleigh Pence passed away on August 18th. Link to Hurleigh Pence's obituary.

6th Street Kids, 1950s

Here are a couple of pictures of kids who lived on 6th Street in the 1950s.  My thanks go to Dorothy Syblik and her mother who helped identify them.  You'll see there are a couple who aren't identified.  I'd appreciate any help anyone can provide.

We think these pictures come from the Krachala family.

(Update) I got a note from G. W. Melton recently.  He said the boy behind Barbara Bartosh is Michael Tucker.

6th Street neighborhood kids.

Susan Maynard's birthday party.

"The Oil Field Camp" by James Winfrey

 The following excerpt comes from Between the Cracks of History: Essays on Teaching and Illustrating Folklore, edited by Francis Edward Abernethy. A set of back issues is available at the University of North Texas Library's Web site: http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38308/.  

James Winfrey's article, "The Oil Field Camp," appeared in the 55th edition published in 1997 and covers his experience living in oil camps. What interested me in particular was his time at the camp in Thompson, Texas during the 1930s.  (Last week I posted a picture from that oil field, which was known as Rabb's Ridge.)  Here's a link to Winfrey's complete article, if you're interested.

The camp in the Thompson's field where we lived in the late 1930s was located on Rabb's Ridge, in the Brazos bottoms, seventeen miles down a rough gravel road below Richmond. While it was fairly remote, it was a beautiful site, among ancient liveoak trees.  We were three miles from Thompson's Switch, where there was a small railroad station on the sulfur line of the Santa Fe and a post office in Hample's general store.  There was a two-room, two-teacher county school in the camp for first through sixth grades.  Older children were bussed to Richmond, as were the Boy Scouts for their weekly meetings.

As in all other camps, there was an office with the warehouse attached, along with the usual pipe racks, machine shop, and domestic water, gas, and sewer systems.  There was a tennis court and a recreation hall which was used primarily for monthly safety meetings and company training courses for employees.  There were also parties, covered dish suppers, and children's programs.

The typical company recreation hall was provided with several heavy square tables made by the company carpenter for use by domino players, which was the most popular game for the working men.  

The company encouraged employees to raise vegetables by providing garden space and a completely equipped canning kitchen attached to the recreation hall.  It included pots and pans, pressure cookers, and a machine for sealing tin cans.

The company houses for key personnel were prefabricated and all looked alike.  They were erected on creosoted wooden blocks, three feet above ground, had weather boarded siding, sheetrock interior, and asbestos shingle roofs. The design made for quick and efficient erection and dismantling.

Our house at Thompson's, which was typical of the time had four rooms and one small bathroom.  There was a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms.  Our breakfast table was in the kitchen.  This house also had a six-by-twelve-foot front porch and a small screened back porch.  We lived reasonably comfortably, although without insulation, air conditioning, or central heat, we were hot in summer and cold in winter.

One of the best things about living in a company house was the rent, which was three dollars per month per room.  Rent included gas (which was odorized for safety), water, and electricity.

Our backyard clothes washing equipment included two number-two wash tubs on a wooden bench, a wash board, and an old-fashioned cast iron wash pot, heated with a gas jet.  We had an excellent solar-powered dryer, that is, clothes lines strung between welded-pipe tee posts.  Fortunately, after our first child came, my wife had a black woman to help her for three dollars per week.

We disposed of garbage in a burning pit which had a continuously burning gas jet.

The hourly-paid people, who generally did not rate a company house, were provided with a large lot in an area separate but near the company houses.  They were allowed to build a house any way they chose, and were connected with water, electricity, and sewer service, the same as company houses.  Some of their homes were better than the company house where we lived.  Most had large gardens and some had a fenced lot for a cow or horse.

A big event at Thompson's was the squirrel barbecue during the fall squirrel hunting season.  Hunters were asked to save their kills for a week and bring them to the picnic grounds by a small lake in the field.  I was not much of a hunter, but I carried a .410 gauge shotgun around in my company car.  We would have seventy-five to a hundred squirrels ready to be cooked.  There was also a fish fry with buffalo and catfish from the Brazos, cooked in our cast-iron wash pot which was also used to boil our babies' diapers.

During the World War II years, we lived in the company camp in the Tomball field ...[the] environment was much different from Thompson's.  While all of the company camps were basically the same, each had its unique character, somewhat reflecting the ideas of the District Superintendent.

While the men rarely got together outside of the job except for safety meetings, a little dominoes, and a Christmas party, the women with their small children visited every morning over coffee, both at Thompson's and Tomball.

At Thompson's they met in one of the homes at 10 am after having set the table, so they could rush home and have the meal ready at twelve noon when their husbands came for lunch.

Kelly Brothers Visit Their Grandmother at the Telephone Office

I want to put in a shameless plug for the Fort Bend Herald.  They have begun a monthly column on local history.  It's called The History Folks: The Fort Bend County Historical Commission. The Commission will provide them articles on various topics in the future.

The first article appeared in the issue published on Sunday, August 12th.  Bruce and I are featured, as you'll see below. They included the Photoshopped picture, which shows us 'time-traveling' back to 1956 to visit our grandmother at the Sugar Land Telephone Company where she worked as an operator.  The photo is currently hanging in the Sugar Land Museum at the Imperial Sugar Refinery site.

Here's a link to the paper's Web site.  I'll post alerts as they publish future articles.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Frank J. "Tex" Schlueter

Anyone with a sharp eye will have noticed that a man named Schlueter took numerous photos of early Sugar Land.  I've found some information on him.  His name was Frank J. "Tex" Schlueter. He grew up in Flatonia. Here's an early photo of him with one of his cameras. (He used a panoramic camera, too.)

Here's a later photo of him with his car.  I'm sure he put a lot of miles on it.  (I believe the label says he's on Texas Avenue in Houston.  I'm pretty sure that's the Rice Hotel in the background.  It's the tallest building.)

Here's a photo of his studio in Houston.  Unfortunately, I haven't determine the address, yet.

(Update) I've found annotated photos that suggest Schlueter's studio was located at 3617 Main Street in Houston.  This may, or may not be that address.

I looked through a selection of photographs available online (the Houston Area Digital Archive at the Houston Public Library) and found this series of dated photos. He took them all on the same day, November 21, 1935.  Check the annotations. He probably took many more photos at other locations that day, but they weren't included in the online selection.

Here are two photos annotated "Sugar Land Oil Field."  I'm certain they show the Humble Camp field on the east bank of the Brazos River below Sugar Land.

He took the next photo on the same day on the other side of the River. 

I know there was a ferry in that area that was discontinued sometime in the '30s.  I presume it was still in operation.  If not, he drove up to Richmond and crossed there, then drove down Thompsons Highway to get to the Thompson field on the west bank of the River.  This photo is annotated as Rabbs Ridge. I'm not sure exactly where the well would have been, but Schlueter was definitely covering both sides of the River that day.

Grand Central

Several people have asked me recently about Grand Central.  It was the hub of farm and ranch operations for Sugarland Industries.  I'm pretty sure they had similar sites on other properties they farmed and ranched, but this was the main one, I think.  It had a blacksmith shop, storage & repair facilities for equipment, and other operations.  (I can't recall if the hay-dryer was there or another location.)

I've updated the 1940 US Census map to indicate it's location.  See the annotations in green. I've highlighted two building complexes that appear on the map.  I think most people thought of both complexes as Grand Central -- maybe an old timer can confirm or refute my assumption.  

Bruce has suggested Grand Central was the original location of the Thatcher Plantation. Many people have said it was located in that general area. The antebellum Thatcher home was moved into Sugar Land sometime in the early 20th century and run as a boarding house & restaurant under the name of The Imperial Inn.  It sat on the east bank of Oyster Creek near the intersection of Bayview and Highway-90A.  It burned in 1947 and was razed soon afterward.  

An undated photo of The Imperial Inn.

I don't know if the following photos were taken at Grand Central, but I have strong suspicions they may have been.


An Update on the 1920s Aerial Photo of Mayfield Park

Bettye Anhaiser and my brother have given me some interesting details on the Mayfield Park aerial photo I posted a few months ago.  

Bettye identified the prisoners' quarters which housed convict labor used by Imperial Sugar and the Sugarland Industries before the practice was outlawed around 1915.  (The State of Texas contracted convicts to various enterprises who paid the State a daily labor rate.  These enterprises provided room and board for the prisoners.) I've marked the 6 barracks-like buildings which were still standing in the 1920s -- no doubt they still served as employee housing.

Bruce said several people identified the old Hispanic school located in the Quarters (Mayfield Park). I understand that it served as a bi-lingual school to help children prepare for classes at the school campus on Lakeview.  It's the two-story building I've marked in the photo.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Matlages

Mr. W. T. Matlage, Sr. was born in Rosenberg in 1890.  He came to Sugar Land early in the 20th century as a chemist/lab technician for Imperial Sugar.  Before long, he became the town's druggist.  

I've posted several items in the past about Mr. Matlage, but I looked through some old photos recently and found a collection contributed by Tracey Matlage Calvert, the Matlages' granddaughter.  My thanks go to her for providing these scans to my brother. 

I like these particularly because Mrs. Matlage appears in them.  All the kids in our neighborhood loved Mrs. Matlage -- she often had cookies or other treats for us.

I found this in the album, too.  It's a patch for the civilian women's observer corps.  These were volunteers who watched the skies during WWII.  My paternal grandmother was also a member, although we don't have her patch.

The Sugar Land group met at the small building that served as a community center just off Highway-90A.  It stood roughly where the city park is now located, behind the Shell station where Bayview intersects the Highway.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More on Early Roads, Bridges & Ferries in Fort Bend County

After last week's post about the condition of Fort Bend County's roads during the early 20th century, I wanted to research the bridges crossing the Brazos at Richmond.  

I know a railroad bridge has spanned the River since the mid-1850s when the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado Railroad extended through Richmond to Columbus.  As far as I can determine, Richmond's railroad bridges served that purpose only.  They were never used for other traffic (wagons, horses, buggies) although people probably crossed by foot when they thought it was safe.

I've read there was a wooden bridge built in 1888, but it collapsed in a flood and was replaced with a more substantial, iron bridge in 1894.  I presume this bridge was suitable for wagons, buggies and lighter vehicles because the following pictures show a ferry transferring automobiles in the 1920s.  This makes sense to me because bridge design and in 1894 probably didn't consider the weight and frequency of automobile traffic which boomed in the 1920s.  (All photos come from The Portal to Texas History.)





Undated photo, but that may be the automobile bridge under construction in the late '20s on the left.

I assume the 1894 bridge still existed in the 1920s although it doesn't appear in any of these pictures.  It may have been taken down and replaced with the first automobile bridge erected when Highway-90A was paved in the late 1920s.

Take a good look at the first picture.  I think it shows the ferry headed for the east bank -- there's nothing but a dirt path running up from the crossing point.  No doubt an enterprising farmer hung around that location with his mule team on rainy days.

An Update on Mrs. Sadie Lorfing of Missouri City

I'm sorry to report that shortly after celebrating her 100th birthday in late June Mrs. Lorfing, long-time resident of Missouri City, passed away.  

My sincerest condolences go to Carlton and Faye at the loss of their mother.  Here's an obituary.

James Reginald Dorsett, 1930-2012

My thanks go to Larry Gilbert sending this obituary and to Judy Harrington Diamond (SLHS '59) for forwarding it to me.  I never knew Coach Dorsett, but I knew of him.  Here's Larry's preface plus the obit that appeared in The Austin American Statesman.

James Reginald Dorsett, Bill Lucky, Dugan Hightower & Coach Diz
Those of us who played football and ran track at SLHS in 1958-59, or took "general science" will remember Coach Dorsett. As I recall, he did not move on to Dulles HS when we consolidated.  I last saw him at a regional track meet in 1961, when he coached at Edcouch-Elsa in deep South Texas.  This notice appeared in The Austin American Statesman July 25, 2012.  We were never informed of his great career as a HS athlete.   Larry Gilbert, Austin TX

James Reginald Dorsett passed away on the 21st day of July 2012. He was born the 3rd day of December 1930, in Mexia, Texas to Herman and Cara Dorsett. James held All-State and All American titles in track and football during high school at Alice, Texas. In 1949 he was named to the All-State Football team and selected to play in the annual Texas High School Coaches Association All Star Game. His senior year he posted the fastest time in the nation in the 200 low hurdles, and Look Magazine named him to its All-American High School Track Team. He ran track and played college football for Del Mar College, Texas A&I and the University of Texas at Austin. For his accomplishments, he was named to the first round induction of the Alice Coyote Athletic Hall of Honor.

James taught for 31 years and coached around the state. He was a deacon at the Eternal Faith Baptist Church in Manor. His favorite past times were fishing, cooking briskets for youth fund raisers, and telling true-tall tales. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Louise Dorsett. He is also survived by daughters-Shirley Wilson and husband James; Jamye Rushing and husband Tommy; 4 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers please donate to your favorite charity . We hope the fish in heaven are as big as your heart. Family and friends are invited to a visitation to be held on Friday, July 27, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., with funeral services beginning at 11:00 a.m. in the Mausoleum Chapel of Cook-Walden/Capital Parks Cemetery. The service will be officiated by Rev. John Lawrence of Mount Calm, TX and Pastor Gene Smith of Eternal Faith Baptist Church, Manor, TX. To share memories with the family, please visit www.cookwaldencapitalparks.com.

Rice Football, 1957

Some of you know that Bobby Williams (Missouri City High School '53) played on Rice University's last Cotton Bowl team.  Alas, they lost to Navy 20 - 7 in 1958.

I've brought this up because I follow a blog dedicated to Rice University history, and the historian who writes it is doing a series of articles on Rice's '57 football season.  She's found a scrapbook one of the Rice cheerleaders kept as a record of the Owls' triumphal season.  Since I'm a Rice grad and interested in sports history, it's all great stuff to me.

Here's an item that may have some local interest.  Carolyn McCord Williams (SLHS '54) and Bobby were married before the '57 season started.  The Houston Press ran this undated photo of women married to players on the Rice team.  Note Carolyn in the upper left of the photo.

There are more items relating to Bobby Williams.  I'll post them during football season.