Junior’s Shotgun

Personal History

            I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine why my daddy would buy my brother a gun.  But, he did.  Junior was not a hunter, so that was not the reason.  He gave it to him for Christmas when he was about sixteen.  It was a shotgun.  I did not know what kind it was then, but later I learned it was a sixteen gauge.  I do remember he was very happy that Christmas when he got the gun.  My Mother was not happy.

            “Why in the world would you buy him a gun, Elmer?” she asked my daddy.

            “He is old enough to have a gun.”

            “But, what does he need it for?”

            “I wanted to get it for him, Ellen.”

            “That’s not a very good reason.”

            They argued for days about the gun.  My mother was always the boss around our house, so I figured Junior would not get to keep the gun.  I think Daddy wanted to do something for Junior that was just between the two of them.  They were never very close because of my Mother.  She always told Junior what he could and could not do.

            I think my daddy wanted a relationship with his son, but my mother prevented that for some reason. As I said before, he was never punished for acting up.  He could do anything and get away with it.  More than once, Daddy was going to spank him when he did something wrong, but she would not allow it.

            She treated Junior like royalty, and I never knew why.  If there was anything he wanted, she tried to get it for him.  But, the gun was something he wanted, and Daddy got it for him. I believe that was the whole thing.  If she had bought it for him, it would have been all right.  I could be wrong though, but I don’t think so.

            Mother was insisting that Daddy return the gun, but he would not give in to her on this one.

            “I want you to take that gun back, Elmer.”

            “I am not taking the gun back, Ellen.”

            “He doesn’t need a gun.”

            “You might as well hush.  I’m not taking it back.”

            “Somebody could get hurt with that thing.”

            “Nobody will get hurt.  It’s locked up.”

            On and on they went.  For days, they argued about the gun.  I was getting real tired of hearing it.  My daddy was not a person who liked to argue.  When she would start talking about it, he would just go outside.  Mother would not give up though, and Daddy would not give in to her.

            Daddy was in the back yard one day, and I went out to talk to him.  Sometimes we would just sit and talk while Daddy drank his Progress beer.

            “Maybe she would stop arguing with you if you took the gun back, Daddy.”

            “No, Ruthie, I can’t do that.”

            “Why not?”

            “Because I will not let her win this one.”

            “Is it worth all this, Daddy?”

            “Yes, it is, Ruthie.  I wanted to do something for my son.”

            “Is that why?”

            “Yes, it is Ruthie.  Junior and me are not very close.”

            “And you think the gun will change that, Daddy?”

            “I don’t know, but I am hoping it will.”

            “I hope you’re right.  Junior is pretty spoiled.”

            “Yeah, he is.  Your mother is easy on him.”

            “I wish she was easy on me.”
“So do I, little girl.  So do I.”

            Things kind of quieted down for a while.  The gun was locked up most of the time, so I guess it was out of sight, out of mind.  I know my mother though.  Once she has her mind set on something, it is hard to change it.  Maybe that is where I got it.  I am the same way.  When I had something on my mind, I was going to do it or die trying.

            However, this was different.  Or, at least I thought it was.  This was my daddy trying to do something for his son, his only son.  I felt so bad for him.  He wanted to be friends with Junior so bad.  Why couldn’t my mother see that?

            One day when Mother and Daddy were at work, I walked into the bedroom, and Junior was sitting on the bed with the gun in his hands.

            “What are you doing, Junior?’

            “Just messing with my gun.”

            “I thought it was locked up unless Daddy was here.”

            “I know where the key is, and it’s my gun.”

            “I know it is, but you might get in trouble for having it out when Daddy is not home.”

            “No, I won’t get in trouble. I think I will try to load it by myself.”

            “That’s not a good idea.”

            “How would you know, brat?”

            He had a box of shells sitting on the bed, and he opened the gun to put a shell in it.  I moved away to the other side of the room.  I was scared that he didn’t know how to load it.  He put the shell in and closed the gun.

             I was just about to say, “Take your finger off the trigger,” but it was too late.

            The noise it made almost deafened me when it went off.  Thank God, he had pointed the gun at the ceiling!  Paint, plaster, and wood chips covered the bed, the floor, and us.  Junior looked scared to death.  He dropped the gun on the floor.  Margie came running into the room.

            “What was that?” she asked.

            “The gun went off by accident.”  I said.

            We all looked up at the ceiling at the same time.  There was a big hole there.  I don’t know how bad it was, but it did not look good.

            “I didn’t mean to do it,” Junior said.

            “I know you didn’t,” I said.

            “Will you tell Mother and Daddy what happened, Ruthie?  It was an accident.”

            “I will, Junior, but I think you better lock the gun up.”
He picked the gun up off the floor, put it in the cabinet, and put the lock on it.  He still had such a scared look on his face.  I was scared, too.  My ears were still ringing from the shot.  This was really a mess!

            “I think we better clean this room up before Mother and Daddy get home from work.”

            “Not me.  I didn’t do anything,” Margie said.

            “I’ll help you, Junior.  I gotta get the broom.”

            I went to get the broom, and I told him to shake the covers on the bed to get all the pieces of the ceiling off them.

            “I got the broom and the dust pan,” I said.

            “I shook all the stuff off the beds.  It is just all over the floor now.”

            “No, it’s on the dresser top and the chest of drawers, too.  I’ll go get a rag to dust it off.”

            Junior was sweeping when I came back.  Margie was doing nothing, just watching us work.  I started dusting, and that’s when I knew just how much dust was on everything.  It was a mess.  We cleaned almost all afternoon until it looked like Mother had cleaned it.  Well, maybe not that good, but it looked pretty good.

            There was only one problem left, the big hole in the ceiling.  There was nothing we could do about that.  We couldn’t hide it anyway.  We had to tell them.  It’s not like we could hide a hole in the ceiling from our parents.  Junior was going to have to tell them.  He fired the gun, so I thought he was mostly to blame.  I just stood there and watched him.

            “You have to tell them, Junior.”

            “Yeah, I know.  I will.  You didn’t do anything, Ruthie.  You just helped me clean it up.”

            “I’m sorry, Junior.  I don’t want you to be in trouble.”

            “That’s okay; I’m not a kid anymore.  I can take it.”
“She never spanks you anyway.  She will just yell at you.”

            “I’m probably gonna lose my gun now.  I feel bad after Dad fought her for me to keep it.”

            “Well, maybe not.  Just wait and see.”

            Our parents got home at the regular time.  Mother got there first, and Daddy came in just a few minutes later.  I didn’t say a word, but Margie the little snitch ran in the kitchen and said, “Guess what?  Junior shot a hole in the bedroom ceiling with his gun.”

            “It was an accident.  He didn’t mean to,” I said.

            “It’s alright, Ruthie.  I had to tell them anyhow.”

            “What has been going on here?”  Mother asked.

            “I was messing around with my gun, and it went off and put a hole in the ceiling.  I’m sorry, Dad.  It was just an accident.”

            They both went in the bedroom to look at the ceiling.  They were just standing there looking up when my mother just went crazy.  She began to scream at Daddy for buying the gun.  Then she was screaming at Junior because he could have killed one of us.  I had never seen her so mad.

            “I knew this would happen, Elmer.  He could have shot himself or Ruthie.”

            ‘Not Margie.  She wasn’t in here.  She just told on us,” I said.

            “Ruthie didn’t do anything.  She just happened to be in here,” Junior said.

            “Well, he didn’t shoot anybody.  Thank God.  I can fix the ceiling,” Daddy said.

            He was trying to get her off the subject of the gun by saying he would fix the ceiling.  I knew my daddy.  He was smart.  But, it didn’t work this time.

            “That gun is leaving this house,” Mother said.

            “Now, Ellen,” he started to say.

            “Don’t you ‘Now, Ellen’ me.  One of these kids could be hurt or dead right now.”

            “Okay, the gun will go.  I’ll try to sell it.”
Junior didn’t say anything.  I think he was glad the gun was going because it had caused a lot of arguments.  I think he knew what she said was true.  One of us could have been shot that day.

            “It’s okay, Dad.  I took the gun out, and I shouldn’t have.  Don’t feel bad about selling it.”

            The next day, Daddy did sell the gun to a guy he worked with.  He gave Junior the money out of the gun because it was his gun.  Mother got mad about that.  She didn’t think Junior should get the money because of what he did, but Daddy gave it to him anyhow.

            Junior and Daddy became a little bit closer after all that happened.  I was happy about that.  I was really mad at Margie for sticking her nose in where it wasn’t needed.  I told her I was going to beat her up for what she did to Junior.  I didn’t do it, but I sure wanted to.  I knew I would get a spanking if I did.  She was always like that when we were growing up.  I don’t know why.  I never told on anybody just to get them in trouble like she did.

            But, she was Mother’s favorite. She was frail and sickly my mother would regularly remind us.  I didn’t believe that for a minute.  She was just a little snot nosed, spoiled brat.  Well, this is another story in the life of little Ruthie, and believe it or not, I am still alive.

On Comparing an Ocean to a Teardrop

Front Page, Human Interest, Outdoors, Travel
Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

 

     For those interested in folklore and mythology, there are volumes of material surrounding the occurrence of solar eclipses. When viewed through the spectacles of modern science, the mythology and folklore appear quaint or even laughable.  For example, who would believe that a giant wolf took a bite out of the sun?  In Norse culture, an evil enchanter, Loki, was put into chains by the gods. Loki got revenge by creating wolf-like giants, one of which swallowed the Sun and caused a solar eclipse.

     In India and Armenia, a dragon swallowed the sun, while Chippewa people shot flaming arrows into the air trying to reignite the sun. In Siberia, China, and Mongolia, it was believed that beheaded mythical characters chased and swallowed the sun.  In Columbia, natives shouted to the heavens and promised to mend their ways, apparently believing their bad behavior caused the solar eclipse. In Transylvania, an angry sun turned away and covered herself with darkness because of the bad behavior of men.  However, other cultures took a different view of solar eclipses and found them to be romantic.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     In a Tahitian myth, the moon and sun are lovers who joined up and caused an eclipse. The West Africans believed when the sun and moon got together, they turned off the light for privacy.  In German mythology, the sun and moon were married.  Seeking companionship, the moon was drawn to his bride, and they came together creating a solar eclipse.  To the Australian Aborigines, the sun was seen as a woman who carries a torch. The moon, was regarded as a man.  A solar eclipse was interpreted as the moon uniting with the sun.  Certainly, the romantic view comes closer to the truth in describing a solar eclipse.  It definitely is the relationship between the sun and the moon, and ancient astronomers and astrologers have been studying and predicting the event for eons.

     Ancient observations of solar eclipses can be traced back to at least 2500 BC in China and Babylon.  By 2300 BC, ancient Chinese astrologers believed a total solar eclipse was a major element of forecasting the future health and successes of the emperor.  Similar records can be found for the early Greeks.  Unfortunately, ancient Egyptian records have been destroyed as well as ancient Mayan records, but other evidence such as the Mayan calendar suggests they had an informed knowledge of solar eclipses.  Given the frequency of solar eclipses, which occur 75 out of 100 years, it understandable that they have been the subject of interest and study for ages, and the interest continues to this day.

Photo by Dan Thornton, 2012

     Our most recent solar eclipse occurred on August 21, 2017, and could be seen across the entire United States. It was widely reported in the news, and eclipse viewing glasses were being sold at Lowe’s, Walmart, and other retailers including Amazon.  On Wednesday before the big event, I began looking for eclipse viewing glasses.  I went to Lowe’s, but they were sold out.  However, I found solar viewing glasses in Walmart’s optical department.  I bought several pair and returned home.  I tested my glasses by looking into the sun; they worked well.  Pleased at my purchase, I sat outside on the patio to contemplate the event.  I had seen a partial eclipse five years earlier, and I had taken several photos that were good enough but not great.  As I anticipated photographing the current eclipse, the lyrics to You’re So Vain” kept running through my head, particularly the line, “Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.” Carly Simon’s line would not go away, and I began to think about the possibility of seeing the total eclipse, not the partial eclipse I had seen before.

     I went to bed thinking I would not have to fly to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse. I could drive to Kansas or Kentucky and witness it firsthand. “It is not that far,” I thought. “I can drive it easily.”  After a restless night, the thought of a total solar eclipse grew larger in my mind and plagued my thoughts at every turn. I did not like the idea of photographing a partial eclipse, but I decided to buy a solar filter for my camera lens, so that I could. To my surprise, no online vendor had the filter I needed. Frustrated, I settled for a neutral density filter that I knew was not dark enough, but it might get me by in a pinch. Also, I thought if I could only see the total eclipse, I would not need a filter. The darkened sun does not require a filter to photograph it, and the darkened sun can be safely viewed with the naked eye. As Carly Simon sang softly in my ear, I imagined what it would be like. Twilight, then darkness, then twilight again, and it would happen in a matter of minutes. It would be fascinating – a thing to remember for a lifetime, and it was all going to happen within driving distance.

     It is a fine thing to allow your imagination to run wild, but at some point you have to face practical matters, and from a practical viewpoint driving 1,000 miles, more or less, to watch the sun for two minutes and thirty seconds seemed a bit impractical even to me. Also, there would be a long 1,000 mile, more or less, drive home. For the rest of the day, I toyed with the idea off and on – imagining the exhilaration and dreading the drive. Honestly, I thought my idea was a bit over the top, and I had not mentioned it to anyone. In a way, I feared the response I was sure to get, but it really is a fine thing to allow your imagination to run wild.

     I was sitting on the patio with my wife as the sun set, and without hesitation, I suggested we should go see the total eclipse ourselves. After all, it is a chance of a lifetime I argued, and it is not that far. We could drive it easily in a day I said to her. And I went on with whatever I thought might be a selling point. When I finally quit talking, she asked, “How far is it? How long will it take? Where will we stay?” I did not have all the answers, but she had not said no, so I continued with the chance-of-a-lifetime argument. “Kind of like seeing Haley’s comet,” I said, which we had seen several years before and found it to be a disappointment. “Can you imagine it turning dark in the middle of the day? Will roosters really crow? Will it be noticeably cooler?” I questioned? Finally she said we could go, but we needed a plan. After studying the map I suggested Kentucky because it had the longest viewing time and was about the same distance as Kansas. She immediately began to look for rooms for Sunday night, but none was available near Hopkinsville, our intended destination. Finally, she found a room in Dyersburg, Kentucky; we booked it. I was elated, but the planning had just begun.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     I intended to leave Sunday morning and drive straight to Kentucky, but that plan needed approval which was not forthcoming. Instead, I compromised and left Saturday afternoon. This was not my idea of a good plan, but we were going, and that is all that mattered. We spent the night in Texarkana and arrived in Dyersburg early Sunday. Dyersburg is a small agricultural community where cotton is still king, and it is about a two hour drive to Hopkinsville. By the time we reached Dyersburg, we had decided that Hopkinsville was not our destination. The enterprising residents of Hopkinsville were renting 64 square feet of their lawns to eclipse viewers, and people from all over the world were descending on Hopkinsville. There were estimates of 75,000 visitors and upwards in a town of around 31,000 inhabitants. It was not that appealing, so we decided to view the eclipse from the Walmart parking lot in Benton, Kentucky. It was a pretty good plan.  When we got on the road to Benton Monday morning, there was very little traffic, so we decided to go even closer to Hopkinsville. We would go to Eddyville and view the eclipse from the Walmart parking lot in Eddyville. While in route, my wife noticed a state park on the map just outside of Eddyville, so we decided to investigate the park. When we arrived at the park, we found a large parking lot at the visitor center, but it was filling up fast. We found a vacant spot and parked. This was our destination!  It was about 10:00 a.m., and we had arrived.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     I unpacked the lawn chairs and the ice chest and set up the umbrella. It was about 98 degrees with clear skies. It was a perfect day for an eclipse, and eager eclipse viewers in the park were trying out their glasses and staring at the sun. Some were holding glasses in front of their cell phones and taking pictures. A quick glance around the parking lot revealed the license plates, and they were from all over the country. The atmosphere was festive and friendly with people sharing stories of their travels. One person I met from Annapolis, Maryland, had first gone to St. Louis to view the eclipse but decided there were too many clouds in St. Louis and had just driven to Kentucky this morning. Others had planned their travel months in advance and purposely selected the state park we were in. I did not bother to tell them that we had stopped on our way to Walmart. We were in Land Between the Lakes Park on the Kentucky side. The park is shared by Kentucky and Tennessee and can be entered from either state.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     The eclipse had started, but the total eclipse would not occur until 1:30 pm. Periodically I put on my glasses to monitor the progress. I am happy to report that a giant wolf was indeed biting off huge chunks of the sun. It was disappearing in steady increments, and I took a few photos of the progress. It was blinding looking through a telephoto camera lens at the sun – even with my darkest neutral density filter. I would only glimpse at the sun and release the shutter blindly. The twilight had begun, and it produced an eerie, greenish light. I tried to photograph the twilight, but the photos are a poor representation of reality, as is often the case with photography. The camera lacks the nuanced sophistication of the human eye.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017
Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     The park was now almost silent as onlookers anticipated the coming event. As a small cloud approached the sun and threatened to block our view, the silence was broken by sighs of disappointment. The silence returned as the cloud passed from view. Only moments before the total eclipse, yet another cloud passed in front of the sun and the sighs were louder, but it too quickly passed away, and applause replaced the sighs. It was now dark, and stars twinkled in the sky. The total eclipse had arrived, and the corona was readily visible at the edge of the darkened sun. Cameras were snapping away rapidly, and dogs began to bark and howl. The cameras were being triggered by humans, but only Heaven knows what triggered the dogs. In two minutes and thirty seconds the sun was returning, and twilight was reversing. The temperature now hovered at 83 degrees, and it was over. In my life’s history, I have no other frame of reference for comparison. It is perhaps as Wendy Mass has said, “Comparing what you see during an eclipse to the darkness at night is like comparing an ocean to a teardrop.” To me, it was simply euphoric.

 

Until next time…

Jim Moloney Gives FBBA History Lesson

Business, Corpus Christi, Local history

   James “Jim” Moloney, businessman and local historian, took the members of the Flour Bluff Business Association on an entertaining trip back in time through the books that he either co-authored or co-edited with Caller-Times columnist, Murphy Givens, at the FBBA’s regular monthly meeting on August 9, 2017.  Moloney, who moved to Corpus Christi in 1981, has the largest collection of local postcards of the area, numbering over 7000.  He also collects ephemera from the area.

   The crowd enjoyed their lunch at Funtracker’s Speedway Cafe’ as they listened to stories of Corpus Christi and surrounding areas.  Moloney told of how Corpus Christi was the “real West” since this is where cattle ranching began.  He spoke of local heroes, rustlers, and bad challenging the good guys, saying, “Some of those tales are the same tales you ended up watching as kids on television and in the movies.”

   The first book, Corpus Christi-A History, documents the stories of the people who strove to make South Texas their home. Adventurers, outlaws, settlers, cowboys, ranchers and entrepreneurs from the United States, Europe, and Mexico all came to the Coastal Bend of Texas, struggling against nature and their fellow man to make their homes and livelihoods. In this book, readers can also find some history on Flour Bluff.

    This book can be purchased by visiting the Nueces Press website.  The other history books available include:

  • Columns, Columns II, and Columns III, collections of articles written by Murphy Givens for the Caller-Times,
  • Perilous Tales of Texas  by J. B. (Red) Dunn gives us a unique perspective of the lawless 1870s in the Nueces Strip,
  • Recollections of Other Days, a compilation of memoirs of early settlers of Corpus Christi and the Nueces Valley of South Texas,
  • Great Tales From the History of South Texas, stories of the Old West by Murphy Givens, and
  • A Soldier’s Life, memoirs of Daniel P. Whiting, a loyal officer in the U.S. Army for three decades during the middle of the 19th century, now in print after 150 years.

Other FBBA News:

     City Councilman Greg Smith informed the group that completion of Laguna Shores Road all the way to the Barney Davis Plant is definitely part of Bond 2018.  “To me, it was the most important road.  I told people that I’d fall on my sword if they didn’t approve this.”  Smith also talked about the budget.  “Healthcare for the city is up $10 million.  Ad valorem taxes are up only $4 million.  “So, just right there we’ve got a $6 million hole.”  He also discussed the push for more public safety, which he said could not happen without an increase in revenue.  “And, we all know where revenue comes from,” he added.  “Public safety comes at a cost.”

     FBBA President Jennifer Welp told the members that the organization is looking at funding scholarships again.  “It has been done in the past, and we want to do it again,” said Welp.  “We want to invest in the future.”

     Welp thanked Brent Chesney and other county officials for donations to the FBBA.  A special thank you was given to Michael Morgan of State Farm, Roshan Bhakta of Candlewood Suites, and Dr. Mohamad Hassan of the Corpus Christi Children’s Center for being Level 1 sponsors of Flour Fest, a community festival that will take place on Saturday, October 28, at Parker Park in Flour Bluff.  She encouraged everyone to get involved in some manner (i.e. sponsorship, vendor booth, running an event).  Cost to vendors is $25 for FBBA members and $50 for non-members.

     Welp welcomed new FBBA members Adam Hollier of C’est Bon (It’s Good), Kim Pendergraft of A&A Insurance on the island, and Harvey Conol with Lord of Life Lutheran Church Child Development Center.

     Next Board Meeting:  Tuesday, September 5, 2017

 Next General Meeting:  Wednesday, September 13, 2017, at Funtracker’s Raceway Cafe’

  • Speaker:  Brian Schuss, Superintendent of Flour Bluff ISD
  • Note:  The Raceway Cafe’ will not be open for lunch, but Funtracker’s has graciously allowed everyone to bring their own food with them.

Stop It Right Now!

Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial, Religion

     In one week, the local school children will be headed back to school, and not a minute too soon according to many moms, especially moms who have two or more children at home.  The start of summer is usually great!  The kids play with each other, attend camps, go on vacation, and spend quality time together.  Those family photos from early summer show happy children frolicking in the sun and enjoying just being together without the responsibility of school.  Moms are able to sit back and read a book or sip iced tea while the kids play together joyfully. Ah, it is a wonderful time!

     Then, about mid-July, when the kids are forced inside by the extreme heat, things change. It’s too hot to play outside where there’s room to run and play and stay out of each other’s way. The camps are over. Vacation is just a memory.  The boredom sets in. What’s a kid to do for a little excitement? Aggravating a sibling by touching him or his “stuff” will certainly get the party started. So, one taps the elbow of the other who is about to put a spoonful of cereal and milk in his mouth, spilling it on the table and – if lucky – in his companion’s lap.

     “Quit it!” the victim screams.

     “You deserved it!” responds the offender.

     “What’d I do?” says the other.

     “Remember that time you took my headphones?”

     “That was last summer!  Who cares?”

     “I care.  I’m still mad at you.”

     “That’s stupid!”

     “No, you’re stupid!”

     “No, you are!”

     “No, you are!”

     “No…

     Now, this is where timing is crucial.  As soon as it becomes apparent that a fight is about to begin, the good mom quickly speaks in a loud and scary voice, “Stop it right now!”  For most kids, the “tone” comes through loud and clear.  They know that taking the conflict to the next level will most certainly result in something painful to their allowances, their free time, or their backsides.  Most won’t chance it, at least not immediately. As good moms know, it is during these times of unrest that they must be the most vigilant, watching and waiting for one child or the other to fan the flame and reignite the war.  She must be ready to douse the flame, being careful not to take a side. She must point out the wrongs that each child has committed to make them think about all the ways that either one could have been the better person and nipped the growing “war” in the bud. The good mom is not afraid to call them out and even inflict a swift and appropriate punishment on both.

     What a good mom knows – and must teach her children – is that dredging up old offenses never rights a wrong, but it can certainly create new ones.  She must be the voice of reason and – more importantly – the voice of  God’s wisdom, giving her children the words and thoughts they need to be able to live among other people.  She must speak as Paul spoke and let her children know that the past cannot and should not be forgotten.  She must teach them to remember their failures and learn what to avoid in the future.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  These words echo God’s words spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ““Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

     Most importantly, a good mom must teach the Golden Rule in the manner in which it was intended. In an article entitled “What Is the Golden Rule?” found at GotQuestions.org, it is explained this way:

“The English Standard Version translates the Golden Rule like this: ‘Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.’ Jesus brilliantly condenses the entire Old Testament into this single principle, taken from Leviticus 19:18: ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.’ Again, we see the implication that people are naturally lovers of self, and the command uses that human flaw as a place to start in how to treat others.”

     Judging by the behavior of some young rioters who are emerging in this country, it is possible that their moms failed to pass on these important words of wisdom or that they simply failed to listen.  Whatever the case may be, this childish behavior can lead to dire consequences – and has.  Whether a person believes in God or not does not mean that he can’t come to understand His teachings for living a complete life.  Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, put it this way:

     To all the moms who take the time to step in, step up, and speak words of wisdom words of wisdom, may God continue to bless your good works. For those who have somehow “missed the mark” (Strong’s Greek: hamartanó – to miss the mark, do wrong, sin), it is never too late to start righting wrongs.  It should not be done through rioting and killing and teaching hate but through telling the children (even the adult ones) to “Stop it right now!” Then, follow up with a lesson on what good, decent behavior is and how important it is to treat others with respect and kindness, especially when they make us angry.  More importantly, the moms (and the dads) must model the behavior they wish to see in their children.  When we choose to spread true wisdom, the kind that builds up instead of tears down, that forgives instead of condemns, that joins instead of separates, that loves instead of hates, we can start moving toward a perfect world, the one God intended for us.

The Constable’s Corner:  Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville

Front Page, History, Law Enforcement

Hello everyone!  We have had a busy first half of 2017 here at Pct. 2, from uniform changes (going back to Stetson hats), policy changes, continuing peace officer education classes, upgrades to our technology systems, new web site, new Facebook page, the day-to day services my department provides, our community policing programs, and our hugely successful “Pray for Police” wristband giveaway. All of these successes were not possible without the dedication of my officers, administrative staff, and the ever-growing support I receive each day from the citizens of Pct. 2.  Thank you from all of us at NCCO Pct. 2.

The Constable’s Corner

Yes, it has been a while since my last publication.  This month’s focus is on the Texas State Prison at Huntsville, Texas.

       A few months ago, I attended Constable’s School at Sam Houston State University.  During that week, which was crammed full of lectures and training, I got a tour by a Captain of the Guards of the prison.  The University is located right next to the prison and right in the heart of town.  I got to see the Walls Unit, Death Row, Educational Unit, Recreational Unit, and the Leather Shop.  Most interesting to me was the stories – the old stories – which is where I begin in this month’s Corner.

     The prison is officially the Huntsville Unit.  The prison’s red brick walls led to the nickname “Walls Unit”. The prison’s first inmates arrived in October 1849.  Originally, women in the Texas Prison System were housed in the Huntsville Unit.  Beginning in 1883, women were housed in the Johnson Farm, a privately owned cotton plantation near Huntsville.  The Huntsville Penitentiary was the only prison in the eleven Confederate states still standing at the end of the Civil War, at which time it entered a dramatic period of its history. The increase in lawlessness that accompanied the end of the war resulted in more persons being sentenced to prison.

Famous Escape Attempts from the Walls Unit 

       In January 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow hid guns in the field for their friends, Joe Palmer and Ray Hamilton.  These guns led to the death of J. Crowson, the first correctional officer killed in the line of duty.  The prisoners who were caught received the death penalty for the killing of Officer Crowson.  For Bonnie and Clyde, this was the last straw for them.  This eventually resulted in their deaths in a hail of automatic gunfire in a Louisiana ambush.

Old Sparky (Photo provided by Mitchell Clark)

     Whitey Walker was the leader of probably the most successful bank robber in Texas during the 1930’s, the Whitey Walker Gang.  They were much better than Bonnie and Clyde because Whitey subscribed to the John Dillinger school on robbing banks……..plan, plan, and plan.  The Barrow Gang had no planning, no escapes routes planned.  They just walked in, robbed the bank, and left.  The problem was that most of the time the banks they robbed had no money due to the Great Depression.

Various devices used to restrain inmates over the years (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Clark)

     While in the Walls Unit, Whitey Walker wanted his dear friend, Blackie Thompson, to be saved from the electric chair.  This also included death row inmates Joe Palmer and Raymond Hamilton of Bonnie and Clyde fame.  Walker had guns smuggled into the prison with the help of a guard.  A huge gunfight ensued between the guards, and the convicts as the prisoners were climbing a ladder trying to get over the wall.  Walker was killed by Guard Roberts.  The three prisoners made it over the Wall to an awaiting getaway vehicle. 

     In 1974, the prison was the site of an eleven-day siege, one of the longest hostage-taking sieges in United States history. Three armed inmates (Fred Carrasco, Ignacio Cuevas, and Rudy Dominguez) held several hostages in the education department. The ring leader, Carrasco, had been a porter in the chapel. Cuevas usually worked in the inmate dining hall. Ten hostages were employees of the prison system; two were educators, and one was a guard.  Even the prison chaplain, Catholic priest Joseph O’Brien and four prisoners were taken hostage. On the final day, the inmates tried to escape using chalkboards and hostages as shields.  Dominquez was killed in the attempt. Carrasco killed Elizabeth Beseda, a teacher, then shot himself.  Julia Standley, the librarian, was also killed that day. Ignacio Cuevas was executed on May 23, 1991, for Standley’s murder. I am told by jailers from the Sheriff Johnny Mitchell days that Carrasco was a prisoner at the Nueces County jail and was transferred from Corpus Christi to Huntsville.

     One of my favorite stories is that of Dr. B.W. Jones. Dr. Jones was an intellect, a professor of psychology with an I.Q. higher than the sun and a true photographic memory. In 1955, Dr. Jones so impressed the warden with his background and intellect, he was immediately hired as a lieutenant of the guard, rose to captain, and eventually became Assistant Warden.  Captain Jones set out to change the way prisoners were treated, instituting a rewards for good behavior system, sensitivity training, and treating prisoners in a way they were not used to.  Capt. Jones was a big guy, six feet and 300 pounds, and he would get in any inmate’s face – even when threatened with violence – and calm the situation.  The convicts couldn’t figure him out, and his guards thought he was either very brave or crazy.

     Then a funny thing happened.  A prisoner was reading in Life Magazine about a man named Ferdinand Waldo Demara.  He showed the picture to the guard and said, “Doesn’t this guy look just like Cap’n.   Jones?”  The Warden confronted Jones about the picture.  He denied it, went into a tirade, gathered his belongings, left, and was never to be seen in Texas again.

Ferdinand Waldo Demara (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

     Demara was one of the biggest impostors the world had ever known.  He could speak nine languages and could read and remember 5 books a night.  He impersonated a surgeon (doing actual surgery), a monk, psychologist, lawyer, teacher, minister, dean at college, engineer, zoologist and – yes – a warden in the Texas Prison at Huntsville.

Other Notable Huntsville Inmates

John Wesley Hardin:  One of the most notorious outlaws and killers in Texas; said to have killed 42 men;  sent to Huntsville in 1877 for 25 years but was released in 1894 and was subsequently gunned down by the Constable in El Paso in 1896.

Duane “Dog” Chapman:   Served 18 months for a murder in 1976; well known for his top hit reality show, “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

David Crosby:   Sentenced to 5 years for drugs and weapons in 1983; began serving in 1986 and was paroled 5 months later; famed lead singer for rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Semper Fi,

Constable Mitchell Clark

Learn all about your constable by going to his new web site: ConstableMitchellClark.net and FaceBook @ Nueces County Constable Precinct 2

 

References:

Time Magazine, 1974

Wikipedia, “Huntsville”

The Wall, Patrick McDonnan

Texas Prison Museum

FBBA Honors Eddie Savoy with Spotlight Award

Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history, Personal History
Eddie Savoy receives FBBA Spotlight Award on August 9, 2017

 

     Jennifer Welp, Flour Bluff Business Association President, presented Eddie Savoy, owner of Savoy Homes, the Keep It in the Bluff Spotlight Award at the regular FBBA meeting held August 9, 2017, at noon in the Raceway Cafe’ at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  Savoy has been a member of the association since 1968.  The FBBA has been in existence since 1951.

     Savoy’s family moved to Flour Bluff in 1927 and settled on a 2-acre tract of land on Laguna Shores.  It was on this property that Savoy built his first development in 1968.  Starting out at Corpus Christi Shell Company and working off and on as a tugboat captain since 1958 when he wasn’t building, Savoy went on to grow his business by providing housing for a community that has shown steady growth since the coming of NAS Corpus Christi in 1940.  In 1969, Savoy built the first zoned mobile home subdivision in Corpus Christi on the north side of Flour Bluff. In 1971, he built Padre Palms RV Park at the end of Skipper Lane near the what was then known as the Boat Hole Marina.  He went back to work on the tugs while his wife Leona ran the RV park.  Savoy continued working offshore until 1983 when OPEC deliveries to Egypt slowed down, and he returned home.  It was at this time that he decided to build stilt houses on three lots just down the street from the RV park. These were the first of many.

     In between working on the tugs, building houses, and developing subdivisions, Savoy stayed involved in the Flour Bluff community.  He served twelve years on the Flour Bluff School Board, was an active member of the FBBA, and was even a member of the Flour Bluff Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as president.  Savoy said he left the volunteers after he responded to a fire on Yorktown where he had to dodge bullets.  “The owner was a gun collector,” said Savoy, “and his ammunition kept going off.  That ended my firefighter career.” Savoy laughed and said, “I guess you can say I went out with a bang!”

     Savoy is often can be found at the Ethel Eyerly Senior Center in Flour Bluff where he continues to serve his community.  When asked if he had considered retirement, he said, “I tried once for a couple of years, but I had to get back to it.” It turns out that he is still building elevated homes and just recently finished two, one on Knickerbocker and another on Laguna Shores Road.

Memoirs of Addie Mae Ritter Miller, Part 3

Flour Bluff, History, Local history, Personal History

This article contains the third part of the memoirs of Addie Mae Ritter Miller, as told to her daughter, Roseanne Miller Redman in 2003. Addie Mae was the granddaughter of George Hugo Ritter, the man who settled Flour Bluff in 1890.  Addie Mae, who died  November 25, 2009, paints a personal picture of a time gone by in Flour Bluff and nearby areas in her memoirs.  It was her desire to leave the story of her life in early Flour Bluff and Corpus Christi to her descendants.   The rest of Addie Mae’s memories will appear in later articles.

     For fun, the grownup would have dances at their homes.  All of the furniture in the living room would be moved, and we would all dance. We danced to music played on the phonograph.  Later on, we would all meet at the schoolhouse for dances.  There would be a small band playing–with a guitar and violin.  It was so much fun!  The last few weddings in the family have reminded me of those days–everyone, especially the children, dancing and having a good time.

     Mama and Daddy also play dominoes (Forty-two) a lot.  Their closest friends and neighbors, the Robertsons, were usually partners.  They rented a farm next to us on the bay, and then we all moved to Flour Bluff.  uncle Ben married a Robertson, our Aunt Opal.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Orrell

     I attended school in Flour Bluff until I was 12 years old.  I like school and did very well.  We either walked to school or rode with the Roberson kids in an old jalopy.  I don’t have many memories of school except that I continued to love reading.  The farm in Flour Bluff had a row of chinaberry trees.  I’d pick one and be lost for the day.

     Incarnate Word Academy was located in downtown Corpus.  I went to town to attend IWA until I graduated in 1933 at the age of 14!  I boarded there.  Aunt Jo was a novice and a teacher there.  The first year I lived with a friend of Mama’s, Mrs. McAllister.  She lived about 10 blocks away from the school.  It was called Ms. Mac’s house.  I went home on the weekends.  I’m sure I was homesick.  The second year I lived at the convent.  The third floor was our dormitory.  There was one big room, and each boarder had a bed with a curtain around it and a stand for personal items.  Our clothes were kept separately.  I had two special friends from Kingsville–Bernice and Laura.

 

     We didn’t go to church on a regular basis when I was growing up.  Alice and I were seven and nine when we made our First Communion. We were baptized right before that.  Grandma Ritter planned the whole thing.  Uncle Ben would take us to town for instructions.  There was one church downtown for whites, St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Sacred Heart was the Mexican church, and there was another for the colored people. Grandma had a niece, Daisy, who lived in town and had a rooming house.  On Saturday night, Grandma would take me and Alice to Cousin Daisy’s to spend the night.  We would all go to confession and then get up on Sunday morning and go to church.  We only did this occasionally since it was too far too hard to get there.  That was the basis for my religious beliefs today.

Photo from Diocese of Corpus Christi website, ca. 1924

     We celebrated birthdays at home with a cake and a little family party.  Christmas was always a big deal though.  We would go out in the brush a day or two before Christmas and cut our tree; it was a Sweet Bay tree because they stayed green in the winter.  It was decorated with ornaments and tinsel.  Small candle holders were clipped on the tree branches to hold the candles to light the tree.  That must have been dangerous.  We opened our presents on Christmas Eve.  Mama and Daddy always saw to it that we had nice presents.  On Christmas Day, we would have duck and stuffing.  Mama would bake for days and make lots of goodies for the holidays.  We always had dinner with relatives, either at their house or ours.

     I learned to sew when I was 4 years old and have been at it ever since.   I made a cap for my baby brother; I can’t imagine what it must have looked like.  Mama was a good teacher, and she instilled in me a love for sewing.  I have made many, many things over the years.  After my retirement, I took up quilting and have enjoyed many years of doing that.

Don Patricio Causeway Bait Stand, 1935 (Photo courtesy of Kathy Orrell)

     After graduating high school, I stayed in town and boarded with Alice and Mary Roper.  I worked at Weil Brothers as a bookkeeper. We had a small apartment.  Alice was attending IWA at that time.  I worked to pay her $5 monthly tuition.  My total salary was about $16.  Mary was a beauty operator.  I also tried that occupation, but it wasn’t that lucrative.  We lived in town for a few years and then moved home. I started working at a bait stand on the Causeway in Flour Bluff where I met a handsome man named Herbert Miller.  He was quite a bit older that me, but I became very interested in him.  He was a fisherman along with his brothers, Clyde and Howard.  At some point, I had boarded with the Millers while working at Weil Brothers.

Weil Brothers Grocery Corpus Christi Caller advertisement, March 24, 1920

Related stories: Read Part 1.

Read Part 2.

Playing Baseball in the Neighborhood

Front Page

          Playing baseball was one of my favorite things to do. There was an empty lot behind our house where at least ten of us kids from the neighborhood would get together to play. We usually played late in the evening when it got cooler.

            Usually Margie and I were there, and Junior played sometimes. Then there was Annie along with Jeanie Lou and the boys cross the street from us, LeRoy and Lindell. Then there was Novelene and Charles who lived on the corner. Most of the time there were about ten of us, but if we didn’t have enough for a game, we would just take turns hitting flies to see who caught the most.

            One day we were playing jacks on the front porch and just talking when I said, “Let’s try to get some kids to play baseball later on.”

            Annie said, “That’s a good idea.”

            “Yeah, let’s do that,” Margie said.

            “I don’t know if I can,” said Jeanie Lou.

            “Why not?

            “You know my mother; she wants me to play girl games.”

            “We will go with you to ask,” I said.

            We did that all the time. If one of us thought any of the mothers would say no, then we would go together to ask permission for that one. I guess we thought we were stronger in numbers. Sometimes it worked, and other times it didn’t.

            About five o’clock all of us girls went to Jeanie Lou’s house to beg her mother to let her play baseball. She had just come home from work. Jeanie Lou had no daddy. I never knew where he was, and she never said.

            I walked over to her and said, “Ma’am, do you think Jeanie Lou could play baseball with us this evening?”

            She said, “I don’t think so. Not tonight. She has other things to do.”

            “Please, ma’am, we really need her to play third base for us,” I said.

            “She is our best third baseman, ma’am,” Annie said.

            “Well, I guess she can, but she has to eat first,” she said.

            “Thank you, Mama, for letting me play,” said Jeanie Lou.

            “It worked!” we all said as we were leaving.

            I told Jeanie Lou to hurry and eat supper, and we went back to our house. All of us had to eat supper before we could play, so we agreed that we would meet in the field at six o’clock.

            While Mother was cooking, I was telling her to hurry because we had a ballgame to play.

            She said, “Don’t you rush my cooking, young lady, or you won’t be playing ball.”

            “Yes, ma’am, I said.

            Finally we were finished with supper, and we helped clear the table.

            “Do we have to wash dishes?” I asked.

            “No, you don’t. I will do them tonight. Your daddy can help me.”

            “Oh, thank you, Mother. Thank you so much,” I said.

            We were ready to go. All three of us ran out the back door. The field was right behind our house, so we were there real quick. Novelene and Charlie were there already. The five of us sat down to wait for the others. It wasn’t long before Jeanie Lou and Annie came. We were waiting for LeRoy and Lindell. I didn’t really like LeRoy and Lindell, but we needed them to play. They were both mean, and I was kind of scared of LeRoy because he hit me in the head once with a garden hoe for no reason. Junior said LeRoy wouldn’t hurt me though, not while he was there. This was another nice moment with my brother. He actually said he would protect me. I loved him for that.

            “Okay, let’s play ball!” Junior yelled.

            Junior was the pitcher. I was the catcher. LeRoy played first base, and Lindell was on second. Jeanie Lou was on third. Novelene and Annie were outfielders. Charlie got to bat first. We didn’t have enough kids to play the right way, but we made do. We still had Margie to bat, too. We just kind of played it by ear as to who got to bat next.

            Charlie got a good hit and ran to first base. Margie was up next.

            I said, “All right now, Marge, let’s get a good hit.”

            She said, “I will.”

            Junior threw the ball; Margie swung and missed. I ran to get the ball and throw it back to the pitcher. Junior wound up to throw again. I guess I must have stepped in too close to the batter’s box because Margie swung the bat and hit me square in the forehead! That stopped the game, and Margie ran to the house to get Mother and Daddy. Margie ran in the house crying and screaming, “Mother, I killed Ruthie with the bat!”

            It scared my parents half to death. They ran to the ball field as fast as they could. I was just starting to wake up when I saw Junior beside me.

            He was crying and saying, “Ruthie, please wake up.”

            Then I saw Mother and Daddy.

            “Daddy said; let’s get her to the house.”

            “I’m okay, Daddy,” I managed to say.

            He carried me to the house, and all the kids were following. I guess they wanted to see if I was dying. Daddy laid me on the bed, and Mother got a wet towel and put it on my forehead.

            Mother said, “She really has a goose egg on her forehead.”

            “I have an egg on my head?” I asked.

            “Not a real egg,” Daddy said and laughed at what I said.

            “Can I go back out to play ball now?” I asked.

            “No, ma’am, you cannot play any more ball tonight,” Mother said.

            Margie asked, “Is she gonna die, Mother?”

            “Of course, not. She will be fine. Just need to keep her awake for a while and keep this cold

            towel on her forehead.”

            I was pretty upset about not being able to play, but my forehead was hurting a little bit, too.

Mother gave me an aspirin for my headache. The game was over for the night. Margie and Junior went out to tell the kids we couldn’t play anymore, and all of them went home. Mother heated the bath water and got me and Margie ready to take a bath. We had a new tub. It was a long one, long enough for me and Margie both.

            When the water was hot, she poured it in the tub; then she put cold water in to cool it off. She picked me up and carried me to the tub then set me down in it. She took her time giving us a bath. I think she was trying to keep me awake. I was feeling sleepy, but she kept me awake.

            Margie said, “I’m sorry, Ruthie. I didn’t mean to hit you.”

            “I know you didn’t. It’s all right.”

            I loved playing baseball, and we spent many hours playing in that field. After that, I was more careful about getting too close to the batter’s box. It seems like I was always getting hurt. I was starting to think I was accident prone. I really hoped it was just another day in the life of little Ruthie.

A Message from FBISD Superintendent Brian Schuss

Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page
Image result for brian schuss
Brian Schuss, Superintendent of Flour Bluff Schools, Photo courtesy of FBISD

     Last Thursday, I had a great visit with State Representative Todd Hunter in his Austin office during the special legislative session.  This was a continuation of our meetings during the regular session.  Representative Hunter, a staunch supporter of our community and especially Flour Bluff ISD, and I mainly discussed school finance.  This topic has dominated the special session, just as it did in the regular session. Unfortunately, in the last ten to twelve years, school finance has been addressed with band-aid after band-aid, which has complicated it to the point that it desperately needs an overhaul.  I have made this message very clear, and Representative Hunter agrees.

     Although school finance will not get the overhaul it needs this session, HB 21 by Chairman Huberty, is a start.  HB 21 removes several allotments that the state has passed down over the years and puts this money into our general allotment from the state.  This does reduce some of the complication, but it only provides a small amount of new funding for our school district.  The House passed HB21 the day following my meeting with Representative Hunter. Now, the Senate must pass it before it becomes law.  There seems to be some concern over whether or not it will make it through the Senate.  I fear that the discussion will become more political in nature and the bargaining will begin. When the discussion gets political, it hurts the children of our great state.

     Local taxpayers are increasingly funding more of our school district each and every year.  Property values go up; the local taxpayer pays more; and the state figures that we do not need as much from them to survive.  Yet, we still have all of the mandates from the state that go along with that decreasing pot of money.  The current special session is almost over, and we may not get any improvement in the way of school finance reform.  If this happens, I pray that over the next two years the House and Senate can work together on reforming school finance.  Representative Hunter agrees that this needs to be done, and I greatly appreciate all of his help this session.  I have offered my assistance if there is any way I can help.  Our children, staff, and community deserve it.

A Visitor Named Celia

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history, Personal History
Celia Track
National Weather Service Map

In the summer of 1970, Marcella Campbell McEnulty Slough faced Celia, a horrific and most unwelcome visitor and the last major hurricane to make landfall on the middle Texas Coast. This is Marcella’s story – in her own words – of how she, her husband Ira, and their four children (Loretta, Terry, Jackie, and Joe) fared in the days leading up to and following Celia’s arrival.  She wrote this story and mailed it to all of her family and friends who wanted to know how everyone was doing after the storm. Mrs. Slough has lived in Flour Bluff since January 1969.

     On Friday, July 31, 1970, we were informed, via our friendly TV weatherman, that tropical depression #4 was 220 miles SSE of Cuba.  At that time, we hardly gave it any notice.  Saturday’s noon news announced it had intensified into a tropical storm.  We spent a normal Saturday with everyone going about their normal duties, and by the 10 p.m. news, she was a full-fledged hurricane named Celia with winds of 115 MPH, heading NNW towards the northern Texas Coast.  We were all saying, “It will never come our way.”  You know — it always happens to someone else, right?

     Ira had the duty at the Naval Hospital Pharmacy Sunday, so he took the car at 7:30 a.m. and went to work. We’d been to the Sunday obligation Mass on Saturday evening, so the rest of us slept late. Sunday was spent as any other except we pulled out our hurricane map and began to track the storm with a new position given every 2 hours on TV. Loretta worked on a rock picture in her room; Joe went next door to play pool with a friend, Terry and Jackie were busy trying to find out how to get registered with the Flour Bluff Recreation Center, while I spent the afternoon and evening trying to get caught up with correspondence. Channel 3 put out a hurricane watch Sunday afternoon, and we were told if Celia continued its present course, it would it the northern coast of Texas, and we would be on the backside of some of the wind and rain, so it was advisable to pick up all the loose items outside. I called Ira, and we agreed that it should be done right away.  Joe brought the trash barrels, tether ball pole, hoses, and anything else he could find loose into the garage. The youngest girls turned in at 9 p.m. with visions of a bowling trip, tour of the Navy Base, and a trip to the San Antonio Zoo with the Recreation Group on their minds. Loretta had a babysitting job until 10:30, and Joe and I watched the late movie.

Photo courtesy of Marcella Slough

     At 1 a.m. Monday, August 3rd, TV 3 announced a change in direction to WNW of our infamous lady “Celia” putting us under a hurricane warning and that they would continue to be on the air 24 hours a day for the next couple of days.  Little did they know that they would be off the air in 14 hours.  Ira was still on duty, so Loretta, Joe, and I watched the late show #2, #3, and #4, and by 7 a.m. we were all sure Celia was going to pay us an unwelcome visit.  We all began to busy ourselves taking care of the items on our hurricane check list.  Every jar, pitcher, water jug, container, and even the bathtub were filled with water because of the fear of water pollution.  We got out our portable radios and checked all the batteries and then made sure each of us had a working flashlight.  Loretta found all our candles, candle holders, and finally the Christ Candle.  We then took a short break and lit the Christ Candle with each of us asking God in our own way for help, courage, and safety.  Then we got back to our check list with Joe going to the end of the street to get a bucket of sand to use in case of fire.  Mr. Robertson, a neighbor, took out a few boards of our back fence to keep it from blowing down.  Ira got off work at noon and stopped to buy non-perishable food and ice and will the car tank with gasoline.  He brought home masking tape and taped our windows, and we opened the ones on the south side of the house to keep our house from becoming a vacuum.  These were all checkpoints on our list.

     Ira, Robbie, and Mr. VanPelt talked, and we all decided to ride out the storm in our homes while several of our neighbors had already packed and left for San Antonio.  The wind and rain began about 1?30 p.m. from the north.  Loretta put a plastic bag over our movie camera and took some pictures of our blowing palm tree.  By 2: 15 the aluminum stripping around my flower beds was beginning to pull out at the ends and wave around in the air like a snake, so Ira ran out and pulled it into the garage and secured the garage doors.  By 3 p.m. hurricane force winds were clocked at the Naval Air Station. Jackie Harlin called Loretta (he lives behind us), and she told him we were sending him our fence via the North Wind, and he said, “I’ll send it back later by way of the South Wind.” Our phone then went out.

     We all went from room to room checking on windows, etc.  Water began to pour in around all the windows and the front door.  We used all our towels, blankets, throw rugs, and bedspreads to try to soak it up before it got to our furniture.  As the wind at our house began to shift towards the west, it intensified, and we heard on the radio that it was clocked at the airport as sustained 120 MPH winds with gusts every 15 seconds as high as 161 MPH.  One of our storm rules was to listen to our radios or TV for advisories on safety precautions.  As the wind came around to the WSW at 3:40 p.m., we lost all electrical power, and so did all the radio, TV stations, and even police radios.  We were virtually cut off from any kind of communication.  Believe me, we were scared!  Then we saw our fence blow down and pieces of trees, wood, and our neighbors fiberglass green house go flying around the neighborhood. We tried to find any kind of radio station, and finally KINE from Kingsville, Tx., came through with Citizen Band operators from Corpus Christi telling them the furor that was happening everywhere.  This was one hurricane that touched everyone in some way — some only slightly and some losing all they had.

(Radio report from Eddie Truesdell, formerly of KSIX radio in Corpus Christi, TX.

     Corpus Christi had been prepared for a hurricane like Beulah or Carla had been, but Celia was quite unpredictable.  By 7 p.m. the winds had begun to die down here, and even though it was still raining, we all went outside to see the damage.  Two of our neighbors’ roofs were laying in their yards, so all got busy to mop up the water in their homes.  As our local newspaper wrote later, “A spirit of neighborly cooperation draped the city like Christmas tinsel.”  When darkness fell, and I do mean darkness, with no electricity in our entire city and no cars on the streets because of the curfew, we all knelt once more around our Christ Candle, which was our only light, and said prayers of thanks because we were all alive.  Then miraculously the phone rang, and it was my mother.  With so many lines down and long distance lines tied up everywhere — she had gotten through and it was so good to be able to tell someone we were all fine.  Finally, being completely exhausted, we all slept.

     Tuesday morning was a bright sunny one — but also hot and muggy.  We hardly had any water pressure.  There was no water pollution, but we were only getting a trickle of water so we used the water in the pitchers.  We still had no phone or electricity and still only KINE on the radio. Gasoline pumps run on electricity, so there weren’t any gas stations open.We were glad our car tank was full. Ira went to work. Everyone in the block was busy hanging out wet towels, blankets, rugs, putting out wet mattresses, and cleaning up debris. We cleaned out the girls’ room and put their rug on the driveway to dry.  The mosquitoes were out in full force. We were told by radio that it could be 2 weeks before we got electrical power, and I began to wish for a kerosene lamp and a good, old-fashioned wash board.

     Ira got off early, and we took a ride to see some of the damage and take a few pictures.  We passed 2 trailer courts where only one or two looked livable.  Mobile homes were upside down, and some had just exploded from pressure.  If I’d had any doubt about the destruction of Celia, one look at the new housing at the Naval Air Station stopped it.  Three hundred families were left homeless as over half of the $6 million development was demolished, and the rest was heavily damaged.  I said a small prayer of thanks once more that we hadn’t gotten base housing.  Every neighborhood from Flour Bluff to Calallen had shattered buildings, broken or uprooted trees, tall palms that were just snapped off, homes without roofs from small frame houses to $100,000 homes on the Bay Front.  The downtown streets, as the newspaper put it, looked as if there had been a snow storm from broken and shattered glass everywhere, sailboats and fishing boats were piled on top of each other, and our beautiful city in a shambles.  Even with all this destruction, there was an air of humor as people put up handwritten signs such as “Open House”, “Rummage Sale”, and one woman tacked a “Garage Sale” sign on her garage door — there was no house.  Also, there were flags flying from anything homeowners could fasten them to, which was very heartwarming.  Curfew was 7:30 p.m., so we came home, ate leftovers from our barely cool refrigerator, and turned in to try to sleep in a very hot, damp, and humid house.

Trailer park in Flour Bluff after Celia, photo by Marcella Slough
New housing on NAS after Celia, photo by Marcella Slough

     We arose Wednesday morning to find we had water pressure, and until then, we didn’t realize how great it was to take a long leisure shower. Other small things that we take for granted, such as an ice cube, were becoming quite important. KRYS was now broadcasting with a gasoline powered generator, and as soon as ice was brought into the city and the location was announced, hundreds of people were lined up to get a small block.  Comments were made that this was more like a war disaster than a hurricane. TV 3 was back on the air, but no one had any electrical power to watch.  No one really seemed to miss TV — the soap operas, cartoons, etc.– we had our ears tuned to radio listening to all announcements about how our town was being put back together.  We were advised to empty our refrigerators of all frozen food, so Loretta took our meat next door and cooked it, and what we couldn’t save we threw away. It seemed such a shame, but everyone around here had the same problem we had.  Families were eating better than they had in months as steaks and roasts were used up. Barbecue pits were fired up as several families in one block got together to share what they had.

     Thursday was spent very much like the day before.  Ira pulled duty, so being alone we got in one of those neighborhood get-togethers that seemed to be happening all over the city.  If you look long enough, you can find something good can come from a hurricane, such as bringing people together.  There just never seems time to get friendly with neighbors as long as there is TV and an air-conditioned house.

     Friday, August 7th, we regained our electricity.  We were very lucky because as I write this story (This is August 15th), some 40% of the city is still without power or phones.  The girls got their room back to normal pace, but as citizens of Corpus Christi, the Sparkling City by the Sea, it will be a long time before we see our city sparkle.  If Celia thought she had destroyed our city completely, she had forgotten one element — people.  Corpus Christi will be all right — it has people.

Marcella, Ira, and family

P.S.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who called to express their concern about us…those calls were really appreciated.  We were so cut off from the outside, and hearing a familiar voice certainly showed us that we were in a lot of people’s thoughts.  Thanks again!!!

 

From the editor:  This personal account reveals the heart and spirit of human beings, especially when they are under extreme circumstances.Through this telling, we are told how to prepare, how to treat one another, and how to make the best of a bad situation.  For those too young to remember or who did not live through Celia, the video below about the days following Celia’s visit will give credence to Mrs. Slough’s story.

This video was made by Central Power and Light, now AEP, after Celia came to visit.

The Hugo Ritter family who lived along Laguna Shores in 1919 rescued a boy who washed up during the 1919 storm.  Sadly, the boy died before he could give his name or his place of origin.  The following YouTube video posted by Ronald Jorgenson tells similar stories about another hurricane that devastated Corpus Christi.  You will recognize some much younger but familiar faces.