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Monday, March 27, 2017

News & Updates

Unfortunately, I have several deaths to report. The first is Symbol Ordeneaux, mother of Roddy (DHS '63), Greg (DHS '68), and Paula (DHS '72). Click here to view an obituary. Roddy predeceased his mother, but my condolences go to Mr. Elmo Ordeneaux, Greg, Paula, and the extended Ordeneaux family.

I do not know the Kocich family, but someone alerted me to Martha's death a couple of months ago. As you'll see from her obituary, the whole family has close ties to Sugar Land. Click here to read an obituary. My prayers and best wishes to the Kocich family.

Gayle Alaminsky Maresh

I didn't learn of Gayle Alaminsky Maresh's (DHS '71) death until weeks after it happened. I hope the extended Alaminsky-Maresh family is coping well with this loss. Click here to read an obituary.

LaWanna Pamplin Hemphil (from the '71 Viking yearbook)

More recently, LaWanna Pamplin Hemphill (DHS '73) passed away. Some of you may know here from her connection to Lakeview Elementary. She worked in the school office for many years. Others will remember the Pamplin family as long-time residents of The Hill. Click here to read an obituary. My prayers go out to the Hemphill-Pamplin family.

Bill Gremillion

Last, my classmate, Bill Gremillion (DHS '68) passed away a few days ago. My prayers and best wishes go to his extended family. I know they will have a memorial services at River Pointe Church on Friday, March 31 at 1 o'clock at the River Pointe Church. The address is 5000 Ransom Road, Richmond, 77469. Click here for an obituary. My sincerest condolences to the Gremillion family.

I have some good news to report, too. Fort Bend ISD recently named a new school after James Patterson. He and I go back far enough that I'll always think of him as 'Coach Patterson.' Congratulations, Coach. Click here for a look at the school's Web site, which shows photos of the school now being constructed.

The Fort Bend County Historical Commission will dedicate a state marker commemorating the Randon-Pennington League on Wednesday, March 29th at 10:00 am near Fulshear. See the notice below for details.

I have one more news item relating to Fulshear. The second annual Fulshear Farm & Vineyard Faire will happen on the afternoon of Sunday, April 30th. Beneficiary of this year's event are the Friends of the Fort Bend County Historical Commission. Join us if you can; it's a good cause. Click the image below for more details.

Jamie Farrell Wood (DHS '66) plus a few other people helped me with ids in the following photograph. That's not Carl Batten, but John Dullahan on the far left. She said the photo was taken at a Christmas or New Year's Eve Party at her parents' home (Verna & J. T.) on Oyster Creek Drive. Thanks to everyone for the help. 

Here is the caption I put on the photo originally: Jamie Farrell Wood posted this on Facebook last year.  I recognize most people in this photo, so I'll take a stab at identifying them starting on the left: Carl Batten, Joy Bartolo, Al Bartolo, & Tuggie Krehmeier. I'm not sure about the next couple - are they the Louvieres? Then there's Gloria Hall, Linda Appelt and Barbara Batten on the right. Kneeling are Bill Krehmeier, Ken Hall, and Bill Appelt.  Not sure when or where this was taken.

Pam Helmcamp Clark (DHS '60) told me the painting below by Blondie Moses hung in the Helmcamp deer cabin for years. I mistakenly guessed it may have hung in her father's office. Thanks, Pam.

Last but not lease, I want everyone to know I submitted 150 reels of 16mm film, 39 reels of Super 8mm film, 34 VHS cassettes, and 2 Umatic cassettes to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) last week. They held a Round Up event here in Fort Bend County, which I've mentioned in the past. All of these films were donated to the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation (SLHF).

TAMI will digitize them free of charge as long as they receive a copy for their collection of Texan moving images. It is a very good deal, and I can't wait to see the hidden treasures on  those spools of film. TAMI will need several months to complete the process, but once they do, we'll begin looking at what we've got.

Thank you to all the people who donated film to the SLHF. I will contact you to see if you want digitized copies of the film you donated.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

More People of Old Sugar Land

I don't have a precise date for the first photo, but it shows Sugar Land's first city council and mayor watching as Fire Chief Soapy Borowski gives Albert Grohman his Assistant Fire Chief's cap. This must have happened in early 1961. I think the location may be the old fire house between the Char House and Oyster Creek.

I found the first two photos on Facebook and wanted to post it. I recognize some, but not all of the people shown, who were receiving Junior Achievement awards. They are all members of the Class of '71 at Dulles High School, I think.

The next photo comes from Facebook, too.  It's a clipping from The Fort Bend Mirror, showing class favorites in the sophomore year (1969) of Class of '71.

I found the final item in an issue of the Mirror published in December 1959. It shows Miss Louise Short, who was featured in the faculty profile column of the Viking Shield page of the paper.

Carolyn Earnest Watson posted on Facebook the following photo of an early 6th St. gang. The poses are terrific.  

Here's what Carolyn said:

"This was in our back yard in Sugar Land. Red Binford, Archie Milam, and Charles Greggs are also in the picture, plus my brother Billy standing behind Charles."

BJ Binford Pitts is the damsel in distress with her hands up.

More Images of Old Sugar Land

I have posted the following image before, but I enjoy studying it because it shows the 'Flats' in 1955. This is the neighborhood where my family lived, and this is the way I Sugar Land appears in my earliest memories.

This next photo shows houses on the west side of Brooks St. just after completion in the early 1920s. If you compare it to the preceding photo, you'll see that trees and shrubbery between the sidewalk and the street have grown considerably in the intervening 30 years.

The next two photos show a cafe near the northern boundary of the refinery in the early 1960s. I've seen references that call it Mamie Bell's or Mattie Pipe's Restaurant. You can see the Melt House tower in the background. These photos were taken because the building would be razed for northward expansion of the refinery.

We have this photo of Mayfield Park from the 1920s. It shows the same general area where the restaurant was located. It could be either of the two buildings I have noted.

Imperial Crown, June 1985

A couple of months ago, I read a blog that referred to Sandy Kempner's death in Vietnam in 1966. (He was the son of Harris & Ruth Kempner and grandson of I. H. Kempner, Sr.) The blog included a link to his letters home, which were fascinating for a variety of reasons.

I remembered an article about Lt. Kempner in the June 1985 issue of The Imperial Crown and thought it was well worth posting here. 

Click the image below to view the Crown and article.

White House Renovations 1950/51

The 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, moved into the White House in 1945. To his surprise and dismay, the house had serious problems. Not only was it drafty and creaky, it was downright unsafe. Chandeliers in the house were observed swaying for no apparent reason, and floors moved underneath people’s feet when stepped on.

All of the above resulted in a structural investigation of the building, revealing haphazard retrofitting, fire hazards, and a second floor that was on the verge of collapsing. What's more is that the White House's foundations were sinking, walls were peeling away and disused water and gas pipes were weighing down the building and making it unsustainable. 
The situation was so bad that, in June 1948, one of the legs of First Daughter Margaret Truman’s piano fell right through a floorboard of her second-floor sitting room.  This event, along with others, made the Presidential family and its aides realize that serious measures were required to save the historic building.

In 1949, Congress approved a $5.4 million project to gut the building in its entirety, replacing its interior while retaining its historic facade. Architects, engineers, and workers toiled for the next 22 months, trying to figure out how to remove unstable structural elements while somehow ensuring the exterior of the building remained intact. 
All of the construction equipment used on the site had to be carried inside in pieces, then re-assembled before being used in order to prevent exterior damage. The first and second floors were replaced, while several expansions and basement levels were added, including a bomb shelter that was capable of withstanding a nuclear attack. 

President Truman and his family returned to reside in the White House in 1952, with a small ceremony marking the occasion. The First Family received a gold key to its newly-refurbished residence.

Click the image below to view the photo album. (All images are copy written by the Library.)
 1950 White House Renovation

Friday, March 10, 2017

News & Updates

I have been busy over the past few months and haven't had time to update the blog regularly. I hope to get back on schedule.  Several items in my backlog, which I'll get to in a week or so. 

I want to mention just one thing because it's coming up soon.  You have a chance to have your home movies digitized free of charge by The Texas Archive of the Moving Image. They will be in various locations in Fort Bend County (including Sugar Land) from March 16 to 26. This is a terrific opportunity if you have film and VCR video you want digitized.

Click the image to view a newspaper article with more details.

Model of Old Sugar Land

One of my colleagues on the county historical commission, Bruce Grethen, sent me photos of a model of old Sugar Land that has been on display at the Rosenberg Railroad Museum off-and-on for a few years.  Russell Straw was its creator.  I saw it at a Railfest celebration a few years ago and forgot how good it was until I saw the photos Bruce sent.

Click the image to view the album of photos.

Fort Bend ISD 1997

My thanks to Terry Bates for giving a copy of Inside, a monthly publication from Fort Bend ISD. This copy came out in April 1997, almost 20 years ago exactly. It's very interesting reading. 

I've selected a few things for now.  First is a summary time line of the history of FBISD up to 1997. Second is a page of teaching awards. Last is a photo of my DHS classmate, Janice Jenkins Girard. She was a spring chicken back then.

Click the image to view the clippings.

Sugar Land Tenant Farms

Several months ago I had a wonderful visit with Mr. Tom B. McDade (SLHS Class of 1940). We talked about a wide range of topics, but among other things he donated a collection of Sugarland Industries tenant farm records from 1929 to 1942 to the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation. His father was the clerk/bookkeeper for the Industries tenant farm operations and had saved these records long after he retired. Tom found them and wanted to give them to the SLHF.

These records are unique historical evidence of a forgotten part of old Sugar Land, but I haven't had enough time to give them proper attention.  I still haven't looked at them closely, but I wanted to post a brief selection now.  I chose the packet of records for 1929.

Here are some quick, summary points about what they contain:

1) The records cover cotton and corn crops, but cotton predominates by a large margin.

2) The Sugarland Industries Gin processed cotton from outside sources, as well as Industries farmers.  You'll see a separate list for these outside customers, showing the farmer and the farm owner, plus number of bales and total pounds.

3) You'll see lists for Share Farm (I assume these are Industries farms), Senior Farm, Prairie Farm, and Blakeley Farm. I'm not sure of the precise location of these farms (although I can make good guesses), or who actually owned them. I think the Industries probably owned the Prairie and Blakeley Farms, but I'll have to confirm that.

4) There are no dollar values, so I can't tell how much money was made on the crops. I'll try to find a cotton price for 1929 and make some rough calculations.

5) I assume some of these farmers worked part time at other jobs.  (Tenant farming may not have been their sole source of income.) Furthermore, I'm not sure about their contract with the Industries. I assume that in some cases the Industries supplied mules, seed, and other equipment and materials, which would mean some of these farmers were actually share croppers (using technical definitions of these occupations).

These records need a lot more analysis to uncover exactly what they tell us. Thank you, Mr. McDade for this interesting evidence from a little-know aspect of old Sugar Land.

Click the image below to view the records.

People of Old Sugar Land

A few more people of old Sugar Land. I have found many of these on Facebook. Thank you to everyone who has posted them there.  

Click the image to view the photos.

Fort Bend County

I want to plug Fort Bend County for a moment. I am chairman of the Fort Bend County Historical Commission, and over the past 3 years I have become aware of the myriad things our county does to preserve local history.

The first thing to highlight is the archeological work our Cemetery Committee does. The committee has more than 25 members who do all sorts of things to preserve the county's subterranean historical assets. The recent issue of The Medallion (from the Texas Historical Commission) included an article titled Super Stewards

Look closely at the accompanying photo and you'll see two of our Cemetery Committee members, Bob Crosser and Bruce Grethen. Bryan McAuley (also in the photo) is a Fort Bend County Historical Commissioner, as well as site manager at San Felipe de Austin. Sandy Rogers and John Rich (also appearing in the photo) are good friends of the Fort Bend Historical Commission even though they aren't members.

The article explains the thoroughly professional work these volunteers perform to preserve local history.

Click the photo to view the article.
Houston Suburbs
Super Stewards at San Felipe de Austin. (Photo courtesy of The Medallion.)

Some of you may be aware that the County is planning to restore the old Missouri City Gym. The historical commission is assisting the county government with this project.

Click the photo below to read an article about this renovation project.
Missouri City Gym
Missouri City Gym in 1937. (Photo courtesy of Lee Elkins LeGrand.)

The historical commission's Historic Preservation Committee has launch an ambitious, long-term project to survey the historic structures across Fort Bend County. The last survey was performed in 1980, well before the 'computer age,' so the end result will be an electronic version of the data collected.

The project began just a few months ago, but data collection is well underway. Here is an example collected by Bradley Stavinoha. It's the Horak Gin in Needville. (See the photos below.) 

I won't go in to a lot of detail, but here's what Bradley sent me in a brief email message:

"Original building constructed after WWI.  Victor Horak original owner. The 1929 Hurricane destroyed the building.  It was rebuilt and remodeled as ginning technology has changed through the years.

Ignac Horak operated it after Victor. Then Rodney Horak and now the brothers Kevin and Dustin Horak operate the gin.  Continuous operation at same location with same family for over 98 years.  One of the oldest in Fort Bend County."
(I'll bet most of you didn't realize there was a cotton gin still operating in Fort Bend County.)
Undated photo.

My cousin, Becky Bass Gallimore, sent me this article she found in a 1940 issue of The Rosenberg Herald. It is an announcement that the Sartartia Plantation (located in today's New Territories subdivision) planned to open a milk depot in Rosenberg. I assume this was a storage facility for home delivery of dairy products in Rosenberg and the surrounding area. It may have included a shop and ice cream parlor. (They operated retail stores in other location.)

One last item: The Fort Bend Museum is showing an exhibit of historic local maps through June. If you're a map fanatic (like I am), you might give it a try.  The article below is not directly related to the exhibit, but it explains the 'tools of the trade' in early map-making. Click the image to read the magazine article.
Early Surveying Equipment
(Photo courtesy of Fort Bend Life Style and Homes.)


I saw the following photo on Facebook and thought it was interesting due to the distant background. I think it shows an aerial view of the Astrodome area looking southwest in 1965. Loop 610 is under construction.  (The feeders are the double lanes across the upper third of the frame.) Kirby is the street next to the parking lot, and South Main angles off into the upper right side of the frame.

The pilot flying the helicopter, Frank Pasket, submitted it to the Facebook Page, Traces of Texas.

(Photo courtesy of Frank Pasket and Traces of Texas Facebook Page.)

Donna Christopher Baker sent me the following link to an article in The Houston Chronicle. It explains how many of Houston's suburbs got their names. Click the photo below to view the article.

Houston Suburbs
(Photo courtesy of The Houston Chroncle.)

Texas & Beyond

People have recently sent me a couple of items about topics beyond Sugar Land and Fort Bend County.  I thought I'd pass them on.

My aunt, Mayme Rachuig Hause, sent the first one to me.  It's about the lone surviving Republic of Texas boundary marker in East Texas, indicating the border between the US and the ROT.  How unique can you get?  Click here to read the article.

The second item came from John Frierson. It's a series of postcards, showing Ford Motor Company's River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michgan in 1927, I think.