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Monday, January 25, 2016

News & Updates

I regret to say that I have nothing but bad news to report.  Lou Payton (SLHS '46) passed away recently.  Click here to view an obituary article in the Fort Bend Herald

I attended his funeral a couple of weeks ago.  Here are scans of the service program.

I also regret that Earl Tise, Jr. (SLHS '43) died recently, too.  Here is an obituary.

Earl Tise, Jr. on the right with Ralph McCord and Sammy Norvic in front of the Sugar Land drug store in 1942.
My sincerest condolences go to the Paytons and Tises at the loss of their loved ones.

More People of Old Sugar Land

I've selected some images of Imperial employees who worked in the Packing Department.  If you look at the 1928 map of Sugar Land included in this same collection of blog posts, you'll see where the Packing Department was located.  It's labeled as the 'old warehouse' near Notation #2.

(Click on image to view album.)

I've also prepared an album of photos from The Log, Sugar Land Junior High's yearbook published in 1961.  The Vavrecka family donated it to the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation recently.  (Thank you, Janice Hartman.)

I'll post more of this yearbook in the future.  This time I've focused on the Dulles Class of '65, who were 8th graders back in '61.

I also want to point out the two photos at the end of the album.  The first shows a magnification of a building on the campus. (The one at the far right of the photo.)  Coach John Allen taught me 7th grade science in that building.  It was in use for quite a while.

My brother has suggested it was the two-room school house at Wood and 2nd St., which preceded the Lakeview campus constructed in 1918.  I think he may be right.  A few windows may have been added in later years, but the general appearance is the same IMO.


I found the following image of Curly Fox and Texas Ruby with their band at KPRC's television studio in the 1950s.  It was posted to the KPRC History page on Facebook, which is well worth a look if you're interested in the history of Houston television.  Obviously, Texas Ruby is the woman standing on the left.  Curly Fox is in the man standing on the far right.

My good friend and DHS classmate, Frank Lampson gave me a card on my recent birthday.  (It was my 66th BTW.)  It included a booklet with interesting facts about that important year.
(Click on the image to view album.)

Sugar Land in 1928

The Sugar Land Heritage Foundation has a remarkably good collection of old maps.  I've looked at a few recently, including this one showing the town as it was on August 8, 1925.  At least, that's the date on the map.

An aside: I'm not at all happy with the way Google handles large images.  I've wasted time trying to find an alternative, but have had no luck so far.  So, I'll just work with what I've got until I can find something better.  (On the positive side, Google's tools are free, but maybe you get what you pay for.)

The first image shows the old map in its entirety.  Unfortunately, Google doesn't provide a suitable method for showing it in high resolution, so the second image shows the areas where I've magnified portions of it.

The next image shows a Google Earthview of the same general location today with annotations of the magnified areas.
Here is the first magnified zone.  It shows the western edge of the town in 1928. Notation #1 shows Sugar Land's dairy, which included a barn and a 'milk house.'  Notation #2 indicates a 'hay barn,' which I assume was part of the dairy.  If you look closely you can see a bridge over Oyster Creek, not far from the one for modern Imperial Blvd.  The dairy's cows walked over that bridge to graze in the pasture that is now home to Constellation Field and the new Imperial subdivision.  Notation #3 shows the bulk fuel station.  I never knew it was in operation as early as 1928.
Notation #4 shows the lumberyard.  (I recently posted a photo of Hugh Charleton standing in front of that building at the time of his retirement in the 1960s.)  Notation #5 is labeled 'work shop,' but I always heard it referred to as the 'labor office.'  I didn't know till much later that there was an apartment in the 2nd floor of that building.  Nation #6 shows the cotton gin, and as you can see from Notation #7, Visco (eventually Nalco) didn't exist in 1928.  According to company history in began in the early 1930s.  I've seen a photo of the original shed where it all begin.  I wonder if it was the one labeled 'cake house.'  The one labeled 'potato house' is too large.

The next magnified zone shows the refinery complex, but the first thing to note (#1) is the building labeled 'new sugar house & cane mill.'  It shows Imperial's last raw sugar mill, which closed in 1928.  Although it is 'new' per this map, I think it was actually built by Edward Cunningham in the 1880s or '90s.  I believe the building labeled 'wash plant & melter' (near # 5) was an older sugar mill (later repurposed for other uses), but Leon Anhaiser (and others) may have more certain info on this question.

The image immediately below shows the last cane crop processed at this mill in 1928.  The camera was pointed east at the spot where I've put Notation #1.  Annotation #2 shows the 3-Bay Warehouse which still stands and will be part of Imperial Market.  The structure labeled 'old warehouse' was actually the Packing Department (I think).  That building and everything to the east of it has been demolished, as you can see in the Google Earthview.  Notice #3 indicating the 'feed mill.'  I always thought it was near the cotton gin, but this map shows it was located where the Distribution Warehouse stood, which was recently demolished but still visible in the Google Earthview image.  Notation #4 shows the 'cooperage,' or barrel-making/repair shop.  I assume Imperial still shipped sugar in wooden barrels in 1928.  It certainly did in the very early years.

Annotation #5 identifies the Char House (constructed in 1925) and W. T. Eldridge's old home beside it.  Eldridge moved to his last home on Lakeview in 1928 - it is labeled as a 'restaurant' on this map.  Notice at #5 that the back of the Mercantile Store housed the railroad office.  The bakery had a separate oven, as shown at #6, and the barbershop was in the same building as the bakery.

The 'meat market,' 'tailor shop,' and 'shoe repair' are near #7, as is the depot.  Across Highway 90A (which is labeled Highway No. 3) at #9 is the service station and mule shed.  

As #8 indicates, the Sealy Mattress Factory was gone and the building housed a 'fig factory.'  The fig business was a serious disaster for Sugarland Industries not too many years later.

The east side of town appears in the last magnified image.  Notation #1 shows the Salvage Building, which housed multiple departments, but notice the 'printing plant.'  It printed the Texas Commercial News, Sugar Land's local paper which I've mentioned frequently.  The area around #2 shows a 'hemp plant,' which I assume made bags, and two other buildings for servicing trucks (I think.)  The old John Deere maintenance building hadn't been built in 1928.

One last item: notice the erasure just north of the Salvage Building.  I think someone removed traces of the old Sugar Land Railway yard: the maintenance shed, roundhouse, and sidings.

We have numerous photos that supplement this map.  I'll post some of them in the future and use this map to orient what they show of Sugar Land's past.

Part 4: Ginning Cotton

This is the last in my series of posts about cotton, which is still a major crop in Fort Bend County, but not so much in its eastern half.  Until roughly 40 or 45 years ago, raising cotton was a significant part of Sugarland Industries, but once its land was sold off and the corporation dissolved, cotton was no longer part of our community.

Someone will have to help me with this, but the cotton gin (see images below) was shut down several years before the Industries dissolved.  I don't have a clue about the precise date.

The following article appeared in the August 15, 1925 issue of the Texas Commercial News, Sugar Land's local paper at the time.  The article goes into detail about the crop, the gin, and the condition of the '25 harvest.
Sugar Land's gin was located where the east end of Nalco's plant stands today (where Ulrich St. meets the railroad tracks).

The first two photos are blow ups from the third, which shows the gin in the 1920s. Note the mules and wagons.  I assume the large sacks are filled with seed.  (See the article above about processing cotton seed.)

The next photo was taken a few years later, I think.  (There are no dates on any of these photographs.)  As best I can tell, the hexagonal building on the right with the cupola doesn't appear in the earlier photo.

I've posted the next image before, but I've used it again to give an additional perspective of the gin.  (This image is also undated, but it's probably a scene before the '20s.)  The wagons in the foreground are parked in front of old The Red Barn Cafe's location a few decades later.  I've magnified the photo for close inspection, and I can't see any indication of a crossing where Ulrich St. should be.  If you looked closely at the previous post showing the 1928 map of Sugar Land, you saw Ulrich St. clearly marked, so this photo must be earlier than 1928.
This last photo is obviously modern, and it shows the gin in Crosbyton, east of Lubbock.  I've included it because it contrasts a modern gin with the one shown in the images below.  Those are cotton modules, which I've discussed in earlier posts, lined up beside the gin.  They may be hard to see, but in the distance on the right you can see two module haulers.  They look like boxcars.  One is tilted upward.  They are the modern version of the wagons you see in the image immediately above.
A friend found this short slide show which shows a gin in operation in Alabama.  Click this link to view the video.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

News & Updates

First, some sad news for members of the Class of '68 at Dulles High School.  Our classmate and class president, Henry DeLeon died on December 29th.  Click here to view an obituary.   I think Henry was a life-long resident of Arcola, although I'm not absolutely certain if he lived elsewhere in his later year.  Henry was a good guy, and my condolences go to his family.

On a brighter note, I want to report some info on Mr. Billie Wright.  My thanks to Jon Pitts (DHS '61) for informing that Mr. Wright was taken prisoner in the Philippines and became one of the 'Battling Bastards of Bataan.'  Like Buster Court, he survived the Death March.  Jon told me he had shrapnel wound on his right leg and sometime showed them to his class.  [David Wickersham (DHS '63) mentioned Mr. Wright's extraordinary experiences in WWII, but I didn't realize they included Bataan.]

I've tried to research him on WWII POW lists, but I haven't had much luck.  Apparently, records for the Bataan prisoners are spotty because many of them escaped and hid for extended periods of time.

I thought the following story from Travis Gandy (DHS '64) was hilarious.  Here's what Travis said:

Hey Chuck,
Boy, do I remember Mr. Wright. My rear end felt that board many times in shop class. I remember when you got in trouble with Mr. Wright, he would take that board to you (and you probably deserved it), but he would also line up the "whole cheese" (that is what he called the entire class), and they got licks also. I remember when I was in the Air Force and came home on leave, I went to school to visit in my uniform, and I went to Mr. Wright's class. He lined up the "whole cheese" just because I came to see him, and I got a lick for old time sake.

Sugar Land Elementary Photos

There's a Facebook group devoted to Lakeview Elementary.  I've stretched their scope a bit to show photos of elementary schools preceding Lakeview.  

The first photo shows the school that existed before the Lakeview campus was created in 1918.  This one-room school was located at the northwest corner of Wood and 2nd St. Old timers know the house now on that lot as the M. R. Wood home.


The next photo shows the Sugar Land Elementary School's first grade class in 1925 1931. My father, C. E. Kelly, Jr., is the boy standing at the far left on the back row. 

1925 1931 first graders.

School buses looked a lot like armored cars in the old days.
An undated photo (probably 1930s or '40s) of a Sugar Land school bus.

The next photo shows the Hispanic School located on Ulrich St., just north of the new bridge over Oyster Creek.  I don't know the exact dates when the school operated, but I think it was still in operation into the 1950s.  My understanding is that it was bi-lingual and encompassed the first through fourth grades.

This building also served as headquarters for the Freeman Post of the American Legion before the current building was constructed in the late 1960s.
An undated of the Hispanic School in Mayfield Park.

The next image is of the Lakeview cafeteria when construction was completed in 1953.


The next photo comes from the Fort Bend Mirror and takes the biggest stretch. Although these boys aren't shown at Lakeview Elementary, I'm certain most, if not all, of them were students there.

More Dulles '71

I've selected a few photos from the 1971 Dulles Viking yearbook.  As you can see from the image below, I found a photo of Mr. Billie Wright with a cigar in his mouth.

The other photos show award winners in Distributive Education, Music, Cosmetology, Agriculture, and Literary/Debate/Creative Writing.  (BTW, nerds rule!) 

More People of Old Sugar Land

The photo was taken in 1961.  I'm fairly certain this man's last name is Shelton, but I'm having trouble determining his first name.  As you can see, he maintained the area at the plant entrance beside the Char House. (Maybe someone can provide his name.)

The next photo shows Hugh Charleton at the time of his retirement in 1965.  I'll have to research this, but I think he was a foreman for Sugarland Industries.  Note that he's standing in front of the old lumber yard on Imperial Blvd., roughly where the east end of the Nalco Plant is now located.

This next photo shows summer hires, Ollie Scott, Jr., Richard Sister, and Jack Nygren as they earn their pay in the Char House.  I think this photo was taken in 1963.

More Images of Imperial Sugar

This album contains more photos of Imperial Sugar.  (All come from the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation's collection.)

The first five show the Distribution Warehouse when it was constructed in 1969.  Those of you who've visited the Farmer's Market recently know the warehouse has been demolished in preparation for Imperial Market development.

The next 4 photos show the 'new' Machine Shop completed in 1965.  It is also gone.

The remaining photos show activity in the Shipping Department.  You see how refined products were stacked and loaded into train cars and truck trailers in the old days before the Distribution Warehouse was completed.  It had automated palletizers which meant  finished products would be stored and transported with minimized manual labor.

Note the last 3 photos.  The first is a very early photo of a shipping laborer stacking product in the 1920s.  The next shows the automated palletizers in the Distribution Warehouse.  The last photo shows the 10,000th carload of sugar just before transport.  I'm not sure of the date, but I think it was in the late 1960s or early 1970s.  (I should be able to determine the date from the SLHF's copies of The Crown.)

Click on the image below to view the album.

Historic Photos of the US

I want to thank several readers who sent me this album of very high quality photographs scenes in the US more than 100-years ago.  I'm not an expert on the history of photographic technology, but I think these photos are astoundingly crisp because photographers in those days used large box camera, which employed very large negatives.  Essentially, there was a lot of space on the negative to store a lot of pixels, to use modern vernacular.

I also want to point out that whoever collected these photos took some from Shorpy's a very, very good Web site for old photos.  I recommend it highly if you are interested in this kind of stuff.  Click here to go to the Shorpy Web site.

Click on the image below to see the album. Just a lot about Google Photos.  I put captions on the photos giving their dates and locations.  Just click on the 'i' icon to display them.