Shots ring out, 14 are left dead, 29 are wounded and the shooter is dead at the scene from an apparent suicide. The motive is not known, but an investigation is underway. Stop. Does this sound familiar?
It sounds familiar because it is. Five of the deadliest shootings in the United States occurred in the last ten years. In 2007, 32 were killed at Virginia Tech. In 2012, we had the Sandy Hook massacre and 27 were killed. In 2016, there was the Orlando night club shooting where 49 died. In 2017, we have had the Vegas attack and the Sutherland Springs attack with a combined total of 84 dead. Since 2007, there have been 54 mass shootings. In the ten year period, from 1997 to 2007, there were 23 mass shootings, and from 1987 to 1997, there were 17 mass shootings. Based on the statistics available from Mother Jones, it appears that mass shootings are on the rise, but why?
The easy answer and indeed what appears to be the only answer is guns. Nearly every article written about mass shootings concludes that guns and assault weapons in particular are the problem. Without guns, there would be no mass shooting; the reasoning goes, but that is like saying, “Without cars, there would be no auto accidents. Both statements are of course true, but neither statement addresses the cause. Cars do not cause accidents. Careless drivers, distracted drivers, sleepy drivers, drunk drivers, and even texting drivers cause accidents, and guns do not cause mass shootings; psychopaths do.
Most articles on mass shootings eventually get around to the psychopath behind the gun, but it is done with great reluctance, and only after guns have been sufficiently blamed. The reluctance to label a mass murderer a psychopath is somewhat understandable. Typically a mass murderer has not been clinically diagnosed as a psychopath, and in fact, the term psychopath has fallen out of favor for a more politically correct term. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM IV) used by psychologists and psychiatrists contains a category called “antisocial personality disorder” (APD) which covers both the psychopath and the sociopath. While it is true, mass murderers exhibit antisocial behavior. It seems to me that referring to their mental condition as an antisocial personality disorder is inadequate to describe the morally depraved mind of a mass murderer. For that reason, I will use the more descriptive term psychopath. With that said, I will attempt to shed light on the question, why is the frequency of mass murder on the rise?
To be accurate both the frequency and the magnitude of mass murder is increasing. The impact of advertising, the moral decay of society and drugs are perhaps three of the contributing factors. Radio, television, and other media coverage of mass murder functions as advertising and encourages other psychopaths to act out at some future time. Often sensational headlines glorify the killing which inspires more killings. Headlines can also offer a challenge. Consider this headline from CBS News, “Two of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history come just 35 days apart.” I can imagine some psychopath reading that headline and saying to himself, wait until they get a load of what I can do. Perhaps a better headline would have been written like this, “Two low-life psychopaths dead at the scene just 35 days apart.” Sometimes headlines convey sympathy for the psychopath like this one, “He was the loneliest kid I’d ever met.” That was the headline for a 14-year-old that killed his algebra teacher and two classmates. The headline might have read, “Deranged 14-year-old murders his teacher and two classmates.” Certainly news coverage of mass murder is necessary, but the media should be careful not to glorify or sympathize with the psychopath and cover mass murder with an awareness that coverage can advertise.
Acting out in our contemporary society appears to be the norm. It matters not whether you are taking a knee during the National Anthem, creating riots in the streets, or merely changing your gender. Acting out is trendy and cool and is usually encouraged in the media. However, being trendy and cool is merely symptomatic of changing values or moral decay in society. As values change, actions that were once forbidden by society are now permitted. The more values change, the more permissive society becomes until you reach the point that psychopaths feel it is okay to act out their macabre fantasies. It is my belief that as values continue to be eroded, mass murders will continue to rise as they have in recent years.
This notion is borne out by the immanent Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. In Carl Jung’s The Undiscovered Self, Jung mentions an element of latent sociopathy and psychopathy within any given culture. Perhaps 10 percent of a society is composed of latent sociopaths and psychopaths, and 1 percent or less represents actual sociopaths/psychopaths. Most of the latent people will never become dangerous if they are living within a culture that is healthy and morally balanced. In fact, those with inherent psychopathic traits can become very high functioning members of society who excel at careers in business, government, and the arts. However, in the event values continue to erode, latent sociopaths/psychopaths have the potential to become active sociopaths/psychopaths and act out as they see fit. It is a disturbing prospect to consider that the mentally disturbed 1 percent could evolve into 10 percent.
If the prospect of a growing number of psychopaths is not disturbing enough, then consider that the problem is compounded by the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Most readers will have seen more than one commercial for a drug with side effects including suicide and violent behavior. If you doubt the truth of this, then pay attention to the next Chantix commercial you see. Chantix is administered to smokers to help curb cigarette cravings, but it is 18 times more likely to be linked to violent behavior than other drugs. Even more interesting is the unadvertised psychotropic drugs administered to children. Today more than 10 million children are prescribed addictive psychotropic drugs with the warning the drugs can cause suicide in children and adolescents. In fact, according to the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System, the following drugs are linked to violence: Pristiq, Effexor, Luvox, Halcion, Strattera, Lariam, Paxil, Prozac and Chantix. Most of the drugs are antidepressants and are often prescribed for the treatment of ADHD in children. It is probably just me, but it seems we are taking the wrong path when we give children with mental problems a drug that will increase the likelihood of suicide and violence. I am not aware of any studies that link pharmaceutical drugs to mass murder, but it is interesting to note that Stephen Paddock, Devin Patrick Kelley, and Dylann Roof all had mind altering prescription drugs prior to their killing spree. Perhaps we are no nearer to answering the question, which came first the drugs or the psychopath? But should we deny the connection?
We can continue to blame guns for mass shootings because it is easy, and it fits a political agenda. However, if we want to know the cause of mass shootings we need to look elsewhere. After all, “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions,” according to Claude Levi-Strauss.
On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at the regular monthly meeting of the Flour Bluff Business Association, District 4 Councilman Greg Smith shared what has been happening at the city level. The citizens elected Smith their council member last November. “I am a Flour Bluffian, Class of 1970, and the first person who actually grew up in Flour Bluff to be elected to city council,” said Smith.
Smith started his presentation by discussing the effects of Harvey on Flour Bluff. “We really got a pass on this one. We had mostly roof and fence damage, and overall it was not too bad,” said Smith. “That said, the condos and hotels on Mustang Island within the city limits were severely damaged. About 20%, our HOT (Hotel Occupancy Tax) funds come from there. None of those condominiums today are operating. The water was about 10 feet above sea level on Mustang Island. It came out of Corpus Christi Bay, pushed up against those dunes, and really caused severe flooding.”
The councilman went on to explain the issue with the brush and debris pickup, something that Judge Loyd Neal criticized publicly just last month. “For all of us in the Bluff and on the island, don’t put any more out. The city’s not picking it up. If you do, you will get a $75 bill,” said Smith. “In 45 days, the city hauled more brush than they do in two years. Corpus Christi is about 100 times the size of Port Aransas, which has more debris coming out of it than all of Corpus Christi.”
Smith cautioned people about thinking we would not have another storm for many years. He reminded everyone of the 1916 and 1919 storms of Carla, Beulah, and Celia that came within the same 9 years. “We need to take what we learned from all these storms and apply it to the future. The odds are we are going to have a storm much sooner than 47 years,” he said referring to the August 3, 1970, Celia that hit Corpus Christi directly.
“I am going to be pushing for several things. One is our roofs and the composition shingles. Right now we’re required to have a 120 mph shingle that sells for $65 a square. For $75 a square, you can buy a 150 mph shingle. And, it will last nearly twice as long. Instead of a 30-year shingle, you’ll get a 50-year shingle,” said Smith.
“Flour Bluff – like Port Aransas – floods. If the conditions are right, we could see the flooding here that Mustang Island saw. If we increase the BFE (base flood elevation) to one foot above, everybody in Corpus Christi who is paying flood insurance will see a 5% reduction. Anybody who builds at that standard will save money on their flood policy,” said Smith. “Both of these things can save us money in the long run.”
Smith spoke of how some of the local haulers had upped their prices after Harvey but took the time to point out the Matt Eckstrom of Killian Calderon Disposal, was not one of them. “I want to give a shout-out to Matt,” said Smith. “He is a good local citizen who didn’t take advantage of his customers.” Smith encouraged those in attendance to call on Eckstrom if they have need for his services.
Smith then talked about various aspects of city government, beginning with the budget that went into effect October 1, 2017. “Most of us on the council are new to the process, so it’s been a learning year. We basically received a staff budget,” Smith said. Mayor Joe McComb and Smith asked that staff cut 1% across the board so that there would be money to put into streets. When Council was told that there was no way to do that, Smith said, “When they told me they could not save one cent on the dollar, I had trouble with that. We did get a half-cent on there, which was $3.4 million to go to our residential streets, not our arterials and collectors.”
“Thirty years ago, all of our ad valorem taxes went to support our public safety, police and fire. Our sales tax went to the other areas. Today, all of our ad valorem goes to support police, and all of our sales tax goes to support fire. I’m not saying these are dedicated funds. We get $77 million in ad valorem, and our police budget is $77 million. Our fire budget is $52 million, and we get around $54 million in sales tax. Monies that were going elsewhere historically have gradually been shifted over to public safety. I think our fire and police have excellent people there, and we are understaffed, more so in the police than fire. We do have issues right now,” said Smith.
Smith explained that increased evaluations did bring in extra ad valorem dollars. “That money went to satisfy our contractual obligations to our police and fire departments. We didn’t have anything left over at the end of the day. We received an increase of $4 million in ad valorem increases, but we had $4 million obligated to raises to police and fire.” He said that they are looking at different ways to address the issue. “To put one more officer on the force, it costs the taxpayers $125,000 for each officer.” If they increase by eight officers, it will cost $1 million. “Right now we have about 400 officers,” said Smith.
“We have way too much debt, and we’re not in favor of that. This council, with five new members, is a much more questioning council than our last councils have been,” said Smith. “We’ve got to do better as a city, and we’ve got to bring our services in cheaper. For example, we have a wall behind the museum that needs to be re-built, and I agree with that. The estimate came in at $10,000 a linear foot for the 200-foot wall. That’s $2 million dollars. When we build the Packery Channel bridge and the approaches to it, it will cost $4,000 a linear foot, and I asked why we would do this. These are the kinds of things we’re addressing.
The councilman addressed wastewater next. “It’s kind of a silent thing. We don’t often think about that, except maybe a couple of times a day,” Smith said, which was followed by a chuckle from the crowd. He addressed the consolidation of the treatment plans that has been debated for months, an expensive fix that Smith did not deem necessary. “All we have to do is repair and maintain what we have.” This direction will allow the system made up of six plants to work and meet regulatory standards without costing the rate payer $220 million dollars more than repairing the existing plants. “That comes out of our pockets, and there’s no reason for it,” said Smith. “We have instructed staff to move forward and fix the plants we have to make them fully operational and efficient.” This drew a round of applause from the audience members.
Smith then addressed the water system. “Our peak year in water usage as 1989,” he said. “We are using about 30% less water today, and we’ve added two sources of supply. We have plenty of water. We are trying to make everyone aware of that, particularly industry.” Smith said that industry is a big consumer of water but there is still plenty. “We are moving forward on desalination even though we have water. We just authorized permitting for a desalination plant,” Smith said. “One thing this council will not do is build that plant until we have the demand. “However, we want to be ready in case we get a lot of industry come in, and we need the water.” Smith sees Corpus Christi as a frontrunner in desalination, which will make the city known to industry both nationally and internationally.
Smith explained that the state loaned the $2.75 million for desalination, which must be paid back at no interest in eight years. “We will be adding a little to the industry rate since they’re the ones who really want this. We’re not going to put this on the ordinary rate payer,” Smith said.
Smith then moved to the topic of streets. “The big one is streets, which is strictly a money issue. For residential streets, we have a program in place, and it’s funded to maintain the good streets,” said Smith. He explained that all streets in the city have been rated according to the PCI (Pavement Condition Index), a rating system of 1 to 100. “Any street with a PCI of 55 or above is on a funded maintenance program,” he said in reference to the SPMP (Street Preventative Maintenance Program) started in January 2014 and funded by the SMF (Street Maintenance Fund) to pay most of the construction costs. Streets that meet the 55+ requirement are eligible for maintenance work through either a seal coat or overlay every seven years. According to the 2017 SPMP Work Plan, Waldron Road, which has a PCI of 57 from Caribbean to Yorktown, will receive an overlay in 2017.
“The next classification of streets, which a lot of the Bluff streets are, is PCI 35-55. We just approved $8 million dollars on addressing these streets,” said Smith. He explained that this program is based strictly on PCI rating and has nothing to do with amount of tax dollars collected from a particular area. Only one Bluff street will fall under this program. “I was disappointed to see that, but it takes a million dollars a mile. The City of Corpus Christi is going to recondition eight miles of streets city-wide,” said Smith.
“The last tier is a PCI of 35 and below. It costs $4 million a mile to fix those streets. With over 400 miles of bad streets, that’s $1.6 billion. We don’t have $1.6 billion. We don’t have anywhere near that amount,” Smith said. He said that only two streets in the city with this rating are targeted for reconstruction, Ralston and Rogerson, neither of which is a Bluff street. “It’s going to be a long, long time before we can get to the other streets. Again, it boils down to money.”
Smith later talked about the way that street repair is done currently. “We are repairing streets today the same we did 75 years ago,” he said adding that it is not the most efficient way of getting the job done. He said the city is testing a machine called an asphalt zipper that uses less labor, takes less time, and may do a better job than what the city street crews do now. “This machine does it all and has the proper tamping required to keep the asphalt in place,” Smith said.
Part of the issue with streets is that developers, though required to do so, may not actually build a 30-year street. “I asked how many streets have problems that are one- or two-year streets. Currently, we have eleven streets that are supposedly 30-year streets that are now owned by the taxpayers that are already having to be patched. Carolyn Vaughn and I want to require a two-year warranty instead of a one-year warranty on those streets,” Smith said. “If they’re truly building 30-year streets, we should be able to get a two-year warranty.”
Monette Bright, local businesswoman, asked, “Why are utilities not put in for an entire subdivision when it goes in? Why are they allowed to put in gas and water taps after the street has already gone in? Doesn’t digging into the pavement destroy the integrity of the street?”
“That has definitely been the case in the past. With the newer subdivisions, the taps are now put in place before the paving begins.
“This is something that affects us all, especially in the Bluff. The Flour Bluff Citizens Council and the Flour Bluff Business Association have done great work. I think if the city had done that, it would be terrific,” said Smith in reference to an FBCC Town Hall meeting on October 16, 2017, where the citizens were educated on the state of homelessness in Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff. “We are looking for a way to know where these folks are,” said Smith, referring to the proposed Coordinated Entry plan for the city, which helps keep track of the homeless as they move in and around the area. Smith said that the city is looking at helping reunite individuals with their families. Two other proposals include a work program and a housing program.
“Personally, I think I have a lot of support on council with this. We have to be compassionate. People have issues that we have to help take care of. We have to take care of the people who need and want help,” said Smith. He added that in doing so that we be careful not want to create an environment where Corpus Christi becomes a destination spot for homeless. “It’s a balancing act. Citizens in Flour Bluff are concerned about safety and sanitary issues when they go to Parker Park,” said Smith, something that he said is a concern in most parks in the city. Smith went on to describe a homeless person becoming physical with a woman who was serving attendees at a local function.
“From a policing standpoint, currently our department’s attitude is that we cannot solve homelessness. However, when we have someone who is physically aggressive, as a city, we need to strengthen that,” said Smith.
Dan Hogan addressed petty theft around the neighborhood and its relationship to homelessness. “I call this a revolving door problem. We have these homeless people who get on drugs and become a nuisance to themselves and our community. When they get arrested, they get put right back out on the street,” said Hogan. “There has to be a solution in some city somewhere. Let’s figure out what to do about this,” said Hogan. “Let’s find out where those bus tickets are coming from and buy return tickets.” This drew many comments of agreement from the audience.
Election Year Coming
Smith reminded everyone that we are coming upon an election year in 2018. “Council members are elected for two year terms,” said Smith. He cautioned everyone to be aware of candidates making promises that they cannot keep in order to get votes. “Usually, you get votes by spending money. When you cut, you lose a lot of votes. Commissioner Chesney is like I am. He stands firm on the budget. We have to make the hard decisions. It irritates people when you cut programs out, but sometimes these cuts are necessary. I will continue to ask those hard questions and make cuts where necessary,” said Smith.
Joe Lynch, resident and local businessman, voiced a safety concern about the Laguna Shores SPID intersection. “Even a small vehicle has difficulty making that right-hand turn onto Laguna Shores without swinging out into the lane that goes up on the freeway,” Lynch said. “Sometimes the driver comes to a complete stop to let the Laguna Shores traffic go, which is dangerous for the driver pulling onto SPID because he doesn’t have a clear view.” Lynch suggested that the right turn lane on Laguna Shores be moved more toward the Laguna Madre to allow for the necessary space for safe turning. Lynch was concerned that someone was preparing to build on that property, which might prevent the movement of the lane.
Smith thanked Lynch for his comments and said that Laguna Shores improvements will be on the 2018 Bond that will go to the voters next November. “That’s the kind of thing we need to catch before the design. You’re right. It is a problem,” responded Smith.
Jennifer Welp asked about what seems to be a new fee implemented by the City Solid Waste Department right after Harvey. “It severely affects roofers and remodelers who have to haul debris or building materials,” said Welp.
“You’re referring to the MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) fee. It’s been in effect since 2001. If a hauler like Matt, let’s say, is called by a roofer to haul the material, and he takes it to the city landfill, he pays the fee, a fee that is for street maintenance. If the roofer takes it himself to a private landfill, the fee doesn’t get paid. If Matt takes it to a private landfill, it was already in his bill, and the fee gets paid. Again, it was started in 2001, and the city staff picked right after Harvey to implement it, so it looks terrible. We’ve had a lot of complaints from the roofers who are paying about $200 when they ought to pay about $20. Staff is now going back and looking at what was charged and bringing those charges in line to what they ought to be,” said Smith.
Matt Eckstrom asked, “When you enact that MSW fee on the roofers, are they going to do that through the building permits that they pull?”
“Yes, it has been switched to the building permits from the landfill bill. They were supposed to be paying that at that time. We’ve heard a lot of justified concerns about it,” responded Smith.
Another business owner asked, “Do those fees go into a street maintenance fund, or do they just go wherever?” Smith said that the 400-page budget has 66 different funds, which makes it very difficult to track where those dollars go. “It’s like the convention center. The taxpayers spend $10 million a year on it, but there are so many funds that the money comes out of that nobody knows what the actual number is. So, with this fund, it’s supposed to go to the streets, but it goes a little here and a little there. When the mayor asked that question about what adds up to around $300,000 a year, staff said the money was being spent on multiple city programs. We are watching that.”
FBBA President Jennifer Welp thanked the councilman for addressing the FBBA and awarded him with a Keep It in the Bluff Certificate of Appreciation.
Other FBBA Business
FBBA elections were held at the November general meeting. Jonathan Vela of Dani’s Lock and Key, Javier Wiley with HEB Plus, and Roshan Bhakta of Candlewood Suites are candidates for the three open positions. Tom Hollingsworth and Cliff Zarbock will be stepping down from the board. President Jennifer Welp thanked them for their service and gave each one a certificate of appreciation.
President Jennifer Welp welcomed three local businesses to the FBBA: Matt Eckstrom of Killian Calderon Disposal, Susan Chandler of SCC Jewelry, and Vandana Andrews of Andrews Flowers.
Tire Recycling Program Recap: The FBBA partnered with Nueces County Commissioner Brent Chesney and DEGOLA Resource Conservation and Development District to offer a free tire recycling event on November 4, 2017, from 9 to 5. Lots of tires were collected, which really made an impact on the Flour Bluff community. The FBBA would like to thank Wes Womack and his 4-wheel-drive club for helping with collection of dumped tires. Another free tire-recycling event is planned for early next year.
C’est Bon Mixes It Up with FBBA Members December 13
On Wednesday, December 13, 2017, the Flour Bluff Business Association will have their December Mixer at C’est Bon Seafood located at 10210 S. Padre Island Dr, Corpus Christi, Texas, from noon to 1:00 p.m. Come join us as we introduce the newly-elected FBBA board members and enjoy some good seafood while mixing and mingling with other Flour Bluff business owners. If you or your business would like to sponsor our mixer next month, please let us know.
At the regular Flour Bluff Business Association meeting held Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff, President Jennifer Welp awarded Mary Ann Escamilla, owner of the Coastal Hair Salon, the Keep It in the Bluff Spotlight Award. Escamilla had her grand opening August 1, 2016, at her shop located at 820 Waldron Road, in the building at the Y. To celebrate the first anniversary of the shop, she held drawings for hair products and gift certificates of $10, $15, $30, and $50.
“Business has been great!” said Escamilla. “My husband has been amazing helping me get everything together. I have two girls who work there with me to serve an established clientele. For that we are really blessed.”
“We are a family-friendly salon,” said Escamilla, “that offers a variety of services.” Men, women, and children can get haircuts. Other services include color (including color correction), highlights, lowlights, roller sets, up-dos, waxing, and perms. They will open early or stay late by appointment.
Escamilla, a Flour Bluff graduate, reaches out to the community in many ways. For example, she makes house calls for hospitalized or homebound patients. She also makes hair donations to the CWHL (Children with Hair Loss), a non-profit organization that provides human hair replacements to children and young adults with medically-related hair loss. She also gave free back-to-school haircuts to Harvey victims and free hair washes to first responders and elderly people who did not have warm water at home after the storm.
Escamilla, who has over twenty years of experience as a hair stylist, is not the only experienced stylist at the salon. “Holly Havens is a Flour Bluff graduate, as well, and has worked in the Bluff as a hair stylist for many years. Sandy Baraja has worked in Flour Bluff for many years and owned a salon in Turtle Cove from 1998 to 2006. She is also a part-time instructor at a beauty school. We employ a barber who works part time by appointment. She does flat tops and all men’s fades,” said Escamilla. “Our combined experience is over 100 years.”
Escamilla encourages everyone to try her shop. Appointments can be made by calling 361-353-4854 or contacting her through the shop’s Facebook page (MaryAnn’s Coastal Hair Salon) where samples of her work can be viewed.
Mary Ann Escamilla and staff say, “We want to spread and share the love.”
The Flour Bluff Business Association would like you to join us on Friday, December 8, 2017, in welcoming Santa and his elves to Funtrackers Family Fun Center located at 9605 S. Padre Island Dr, Corpus Christi, TX 78418. Santa is scheduled to arrive at 6:00 p.m., and he is coming with gifts! Every kid will get a chance to meet Santa for a picture and a present. We will have entertainment throughout the evening including a Cake Walk sponsored by the Children’s Center, face painting, a community sing-along, and much more!
“We love this community where we live, and we want to give back by giving to the children who are here. We are so happy to announce that HEB Plus will be donating $1500 toward the purchase of toys for the kids. We hope all business owners will consider setting out a toy box at your place of business to collect toys for the kids or will join us on the 8th to help with the event,” said FBBA President Jennifer Welp.
Since the announcement, others have donated to the toy drive. Grace Community Church gave $1000. County Commissioner Brent Chesney made a personal donation of $500, and Commissioner Mike Pusley donated $250. Funtrackers is not only co-hosting the event, but they are donating lots of toys for the little ones.
For anyone who would like to make a toy donation, FBBA toy boxes are located at Colonia del Rey on Waldron Road, Edward Jones on Waldron next to Papa Murphy’s, the Children’s Center on SPID, Navy/Army at SPID and Flour Bluff Drive, Maybelle’s Market at Turtle Cove Shopping Center, and Funtrackers on Flour Bluff Drive. The FBBA wants to thank all who have generously given time, talent, or donations to make this fun-filled, community event possible.
As I dig through old news clippings from the Flour Bluff Sun to research our local history, I am reminded of how much I loved that little paper. Marie Speer, owner and publisher, gave us something to anticipate every Friday. Whose picture would make the cover? What tidbit of Flour Bluff history would she include? Who made the all-star team? What community events were coming up? What new business opened in the Bluff? Who was born or married? Who died? What battle would surface in the letters to the editor? Not until Marie’s staff rolled each paper, bound it with a rubber band, and tossed it onto the lawn would these questions be answered. When we lost the Flour Bluff Sun, we not only lost the news of the day, we lost a print record of our community’s history. I am still in search of past editions of the Sun and of an earlier newspaper called The Flour Bluff Reporter, which was owned and published by Bill Smith.
Jeff Craft, owner and publisher of the Flour Bluff Messenger, tried to revive the old spirit of truly local news, but sadly he had to give it up. I am grateful for his efforts and for the opportunity to submit articles to it. I am especially grateful to have hard copies in hand. There is nothing like sipping a cup of coffee while reading a real hometown newspaper on real newsprint. This is always done with a pair of scissors nearby in case I need to clip something out of the paper, articles or pictures that I will post on the fridge, share with a friend or family member, or tuck away in a box or book for safekeeping. Maybe one day one of my great grandchildren will stumble across a news article I saved about his mom or dad or the community in which they lived. Yes, print newspapers are not a thing of the past; they are evidence of the past.
Once again, residents of Flour Bluff, Padre Island, NAS-CC, and parts of South Side will have the chance to keep a piece of history for future generations. Ron Henne, who owns and publishes The Saltwater Angler Magazine, and a few of his friends have taken on the task of creating a print newspaper for the folks in our community, one that merges the old with the new but highlights what matters to all of us. The first edition will be available December 1, 2017. I have done a little writing and editing for this new publication, too, and I pray it will make it because I really miss having a hometown newspaper.
When a citizen of Corpus Christi is asked about nagging problems in the city, it is almost guaranteed that street maintenance will come up. They hold the Street Operations Department to its mission, which states it is “to manage, maintain, and develop the City’s street system. This is accomplished by maintaining street pavement; operating and maintaining traffic signals, signs and markings; and planning and developing the street system.” At least it is clear that the City is responsible for upkeep of city thoroughfares. However, in 1898, just 52 years after the incorporation of Corpus Christi, the mayor and city council were at odds about whether or not the city should take an active role in tending to the streets.
The following article from the January 28, 1959, Corpus Christi Caller-Times relates the kinds of issues facing the Mayor Oscar C. Lovenskiold and the City Council of 1898.
“In 1898 dust was a serious problem in a Corpus Christi that had no pavements. In May a special meeting of the City Council was called to devise ways and means of sprinkling streets.
“Captain C. C. Heath of the Board of Trade, fore-runner of the Chamber of Commerce, advocated street sprinkling. The water company agreed to furnish the water free. Citizens offered to provide a sprinkling wagon if the city would permit its two horses to be used and provide a driver. An ordinance was passed putting this arrangement into effect. But the mayor vetoed the ordinance.
“He raised many objections. He said street sprinkling was not one of the purposes for which the city was chartered; that it would be unfair because all streets could not be sprinkled equally; that the city couldn’t afford street sprinkling; and that it was an unnecessary luxury.
“The city council passed the ordinance over the mayor’s veto.”
It seems that our problem is not a new one, nor is it one that city councils of the past and present have failed to discuss. If we couldn’t get it under control in the early days when only a few dirt roads existed…
I was about nine years old that summer. My brother still thought he was the boss of Margie and me. He always took care of us in the summer while Mother worked. That was the summer he got us into another fine mess with one if his hair-brained ideas. Why did I let him talk me into those things?
Mother had a charge account at this little neighborhood grocery store. She would make us a list if we needed something for lunch before she went to work. We were not allowed to add anything to the list. Most of the time, the list consisted of things like bread, lunchmeat, mayonnaise, and things like that. Sometimes she would let us get a candy bar for each of us.
Tom’s Grocery was the name on the front of the store. Tom was an old man with gray hair. He was a nice man, and I liked him. He would always talk to me when I went in the store.
“Are you having a good summer?” he would ask.
“I guess so,” I would say.
“What have you been doing?”
“Not too much,” I would reply.
“How are your folks doing?” he always asked.
“They are fine, I guess.”
We just talked about nothing really. We were just being polite. My daddy said that being polite to your elders is very important, so I tried to be polite. I loved my daddy more than anyone, so I tried to do what he told me. I didn’t do this so much with other people, like my brother. Why would I want to be polite to him? He was never polite to me, so I figured you get what you give. So, I tried to give him just what I thought he had coming, which was as much trouble as I could think up. I wanted him to do his job as the person in charge. I would not refer to him as a babysitter because I was not a baby. He would tell us sometimes that he was our babysitter just to get me mad. Margie didn’t care. She liked being a baby because that was her way of getting what she wanted from Mother.
One day Margie and I were getting ready to go to Tom’s store to buy what Mother said we could have for that day. Junior never went; he was too lazy to walk that far. He said it was too hot. I guess he thought Margie and I didn’t get hot. I liked being outside, even when it was hot, so I didn’t care, and I got away from Junior for a while.
We were all three sitting at the kitchen table and looking at the list. Then Junior said, “We are going to get some other stuff today.”
I asked, “What other stuff?”
“We’re going to get some candy and cokes,” he said.
“But that is not on the list,” I said.
“She will never know about it.”
“Yes, she will, and we will be in big trouble,” I said.
“No, I can write just like Mother. I will just add a few things to her list. She will never know, and old Tom will not figure it out either. I have been practicing to write like her,” he said.
“Junior, if she finds out, she will beat us half to death.”
Margie said, “I don’t want to get a spanking. Let’s not do it, Ruthie.”
“Were gonna do it,” Junior said. “I’m in charge, so you two have to do what I say.”
Margie and I finally gave in, but we were both against it. It seemed wrong to me to spend money that my parents might not have. The extra things he added looked just like my mother’s writing. I couldn’t believe it! He added three cokes, three candy bars, and three ice cream bars. That really sounded good, but I still didn’t feel right about it; neither did Margie. We went along with it because the big boss said so. I just hoped and prayed we wouldn’t get caught.
We finally agreed on what we were going to do, and Margie and I left to walk to the store. Both of us were scared all the way to the store. Everything inside me was saying not to do this. It was wrong. I felt like a thief, like I was stealing from my own family. I think Margie did, too. We didn’t talk much all the way to the store.
Finally, we are in front of Tom’s store. We looked at each other, opened the door, and went in. We started looking around the store and getting the things Mother had put on the list. What we were allowed to get was bread, bologna, and a quart of milk. We had to get Tom to cut the bologna on the meat slicer. We were to get one half pound. He gave us the bologna, and we went to get the three cokes, three candy bars, and three ice cream bars.
We put everything on the counter so he could ring it up. To my surprise, he pulled out this little tablet, put a carbon paper between two pages, and he wrote down everything we got in that little tablet. Then, he added it all up and pushed the book over for us to sign it.
Mr. Tom said, “Who wants to sign today?”
We looked at each other not knowing what to say. Finally, I said, “I guess I can sign today.”
“Good,” he said.
I picked up the pencil and wrote Ruthie on the paper.
Mr. Tom put all the groceries in a paper bag and handed it to us.
He said, “Thank you, girls. Have a nice day and be good.”
I said, “Yes, sir, we will.”
We had done the my brother’s dirty deed, and I was not feeling good at all. I looked at the copy he gave us of the items we bought.
I said, “Margie, look at this.”
“What’s wrong with it?” she asked.
I said, “We have to give this to Mother, and she will see what is on it. That is what’s wrong with it. We are gonna get caught. We can thank Junior for this. Our goose is cooked! We better get ready for a spanking because we are gonna get it.”
I hated my dumb brother. He was so stupid! Why did I listen to him? I am stupid to for doing what he said. I know who is in the big trouble. It is me because Junior is her little boy, and Margie is always faking an earache. That leaves me. Not to mention I signed the grocery ticket. I am so mad at myself.
We got home, and the big dummy was waiting for us.
He asked, “How did it go?”
I just threw the grocery ticket at him. “This is how it went. We have to show this to Mother, and she will know what we did, mister smarty-pants. This is all your fault. I knew I shouldn’t have listened to you. I always get in trouble when I listen to you.”
He said, “This is no problem; we just tell her we lost it.”
I said, “You really are stupid. Mr. Tom has a copy of this ticket, you big dope. When she pays the bill on Friday, she will see it.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I have everything under control.”
I said, “You are a big fat liar! You have nothing under control. I’m just gonna get ready for the spanking and admit to what we did.”
It was just Wednesday, so we had until Friday evening to worry about it. I was trying to get my mind off of it, but I felt so guilty I couldn’t forget about it. I do believe I was having nightmares about it. I ate the ice cream and candy that day, and I drank the coke. I was already in danger of going to hell for liking to dance, and now I was a thief. What was worse, I stole from my own family. We spent money that Mother probably didn’t have, and I felt really bad about that. I was feeling bad about eating the candy and ice cream and drinking the coke.
On Thursday, I told Junior and Margie that I was going to tell Mother what we did.
“You better not!” he yelled at me.
I said, “Yes, I am. What we did was wrong.”
Margie started to cry and said, “I don’t want a spanking.”
“We will get it anyhow on Friday; we might as well get it today when she gets home.”
Junior said, “You better not tell, or you will be sorry tomorrow when she goes to work.”
I didn’t say another word. I knew they would never agree to help me tell her. I decided to wait until Daddy got home, too. Maybe he would help me out a little. I worried all day Thursday. I practiced what I would say. I didn’t want Margie to get a hard spanking. She was frail like Mother said. I was stronger than she was, and I could take it. I knew at that moment that I really did love my sister very much.
When Mother got home Thursday night, I was so scared. Junior left and went to his friend’s house. His name was Kenny Jones. Margie and I were there by ourselves. Daddy came in soon after, and I told Margie it was time to tell them.
Mother was cooking dinner, and Daddy was sitting at the table drinking a beer. They were just talking.
I said, “Mother, we have something to tell you.”
She turned and looked at us. I sat down at the table by Daddy, and Margie sat down in the same chair with me.
I said, “Mother, we did something this week that was wrong, and we need to tell you and Daddy about it.”
She said, “Well, let’s hear it. Surely it is not that bad.”
I said, “Yes, it is that bad. Junior was in on it, too, but he left because we were gonna tell what we did.”
I explained to her that Junior could write like her and explained what he added to the grocery list. I was starting to cry, and so was Margie, but I went on with the story. I told her I knew we would get caught because Mr. Tom had it all written down in his little book. I told her that Junior threw her copy away and said we lost it. I told them that we were sorry that we stole from them and that we spent money we didn’t have.
When I finished, I said, “We are ready for the spankings, but Margie doesn’t feel good, so I will take hers.”
They just sat there and looked at us. Then they looked at each other. They both began to laugh. I thought they had gone crazy!
Mother looked at us and said, “If you had not told us the truth tonight, you would be getting a spanking tomorrow when I found out what you did. Mr. Tom called me the day you did this. I have known about it all this time, but you came to us and told us the truth, so no spankings for you tonight. Ruthie, you were even going to take your sister’s spanking. What you did was wrong, but your brother talked you into this. He is in a lot of trouble when he gets home.”
I was so happy that we told the truth. Maybe God would forgive me for stealing, too, and I wouldn’t burn in hell for it. I still had the problem of liking to dance though. I learned a lesson that night. I don’t know if they ever punished Junior or not. He didn’t come home that night, so they were probably so glad to see him when he did come home that they just forgot about it. This had been a very interesting week in the life of little Ruthie.
On Saturday, October 28, 2017, over 1200 people showed up at Parker Memorial Park between the hours of noon and 8:00 p.m. to take part in the family fun at Flour Fest, a community event put on by the Flour Bluff Business Association and sponsored by County Commissioners Brent Chesney and Mike Pusley, Michael Morgan of State Farm, Javier Wiley of HEB, Roshan Bhakta of Candlewood Suites Flour Bluff/NAS, and Dr. Mohamed Hassan of Children’s Center Flour Bluff. The award-winning, nationally renowned Flour Bluff NJROTC Color Guard provided cadets for the opening ceremonies, parking detail, and clean-up detail as part of their service duties. The Pct. 2 Constable’s office provided security for the event through its reserve officers along with several Corpus Christi Police Department officers.
The event featured:
Live music by Michael Burtts, Jimmy Spacek, Cathouse, and Timeline Journey Tribute Band;
Dance show by FBHS Stingline;
Raffle for a Yeti cooler, which was won by Luis Diaz; all proceeds go to FBBA Scholarships for FBISD students;
Singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Dr. Tom Hollingsworth;
Kids Zone fun sponsored by the Flour Bluff Citizens Council, including sack races, three-legged races, egg in spoon races, corn hole, and 4-way tug o’ war; volunteers for this event included the Pastor Brandon Cunningham and the Youth Group of Grace Community Church;Pastry Wars Pie-eating Contest sponsored by Walmart #490, Cliff Zarbock of Premier Realty, and John and Lisa Nicholson of Barton Street Pub; Cliff and John are Flour Bluff graduates; volunteers for this event included Hannah Chipman of Brent Chesney’s office and Jeff Rank, local attorney and Flour Bluff graduate; Bounce House by Space Walk of Corpus Christi;
Fur Fest Kid-and-Dog Costume Contest sponsored by Flour Bluff Citizens Council and Robert and Shirley Thornton of Thornton Rental Properties; volunteers for this event were local attorney Mark Stolley, Flour Bluff graduate and local attorney running for Judge of the 148th District Court;
Fire safety demonstrations by Chief Dale Scott and firemen from Nueces County ESD#2;
Corpus Christi Police Department Police Museum on wheels; coordinated by Arlene Madali Cordell;
Local vendors and community organizations, including Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Fleece Blankets, Weight Watchers, Welp LLC/Danny, Katy Beseda of SevenTwelve Photography, C’est Bon Seafood, Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation, Red Cactus, Funk and Junk, Boy Scouts/St. Peter’s UMC, Center for Independent Living, Flour Bluff Stingline/PTA/Booster Club, Andrew’s Flowers, SCC Jewelry, and Mark Stolley for Judge 148th District Court; Harold Carter of Starry Shooting Range, Gun Safety for Kids;
Food trucks, including Divine Treats, Gino’s Burgers and More, Ray’s Street Eats, Full Speed Ahead BBQ, and Kona Ice;
Beer and wine catering by CC Liquor Catering, owners Megan (Dulak) and John Gordon.
Flour Fest 2017 was the brainchild of Jonathan Vela, FBBA Event Coordinator and owner of Dani’s Lock and Key. “The first annual Flour Fest wasn’t my idea,” said Vela. “I wasn’t completely happy with it, so I asked to lead the second one. That being said I also helped plan the first one. I don’t think we could’ve done anything different for the time and budget we had. I just thought we rushed it. I started planning 10 months prior to 2nd Annual Flour Fest.”
Vela envisioned something different when he thought of Flour Fest. “Our first annual Flour Fest was at Funtrackers. I enjoyed the event, but I wasn’t happy with the location and other things tied to the location. When I think festival, I don’t picture arcades and go karts. I picture what it was this year, open air, stage in a field, trees, and open grass areas.” Another FBBA board member suggested Parker Park, a decision Vela liked.
Planning the event started 10 months before it came to be. “I feel the hardest part was the weeks leading into the event making sure everything was in place,” said Vela. “Seeing all our hard work pay off, seeing all the people have an amazing time, seeing something we worked so hard on come together,” Vela added in response to what he liked best about the event. “All the bands this year were amazing, and I wouldn’t mind bringing them back every year. Next year I would even like to hire a national touring band to close out the night.” He also said he would like to see the event go two hours longer next year.
When asked what he sees for the future of Flour Fest, Vela said, “In 10 years, I see this turning into 2 to 3 day event with multiple stages showcasing all different genres of music that our community and city enjoy. I see Parker Park filled with thousands of people at a time. I hope I am around to see it happen.”
The FBBA would also like to thank Little Caesar’s, Dominoes, and Funtrackers for donations of coupons or food for the event and to all the vendors and community organizations that provided fun, candy, and prizes for the children. They especially want to thank all who came to the festival and partook in the fun and helped make the event worthwhile for everyone.
As I dig through old records, faded news clippings, yearbooks, scrapbooks, and assorted secondary sources in search of any Flour Bluff history I can find, I sometimes stumble across odds and ends that evoke laughter, gasp, or shake my head. I thought I’d share some of these little gems with all of you who love Flour Bluff.
John V. Singer, brother to Isaac Merrit Singer who developed the sewing machine by the same name, lived with his wife and seven Texas-born children on Padre Island. He arrived in 1847, bought the old Santa Cruz Ranch from the Padre Jose’ Nicolas Balli’ estate. When the Civil War broke out in 1865, the Singers were ordered to leave the island because of their Union sympathies. They buried their collected treasure and lived for a time in Flour Bluff. They did not, however, stay long enough to be considered the first true settlers of Flour Bluff. That honor seems to go to the Hugo Ritter family arriving in 1890 and starting the first school in 1892. (That makes Flour Bluff School 125 years old!)
On Wednesday, April 27, 1864, the Quad-City Times, a newspaper in Davenport, Iowa, ran a story by a man who, under the command of Captains Gray and Doolittle of the 20th Union Regiment, had landed on “Flour Bluffs, a point on the western side of the bay, and 12 miles distant from the town of Corpus Christi. He describes what he saw on the night march: “For the first three or four miles our road took us over succession of sand hills which were unrelieved by any green thing, except an occasional clump of cactus. Leaving this barren waste, we crossed a tract of land still sandy, but covered with dwarf oaks that never grow more than three feet high, are very thick and difficult to walk through.” (This sounds just like the brush I played in as a child!)
On Sunday, July 23, 1882, The Galveston Daily News ran a piece on the Kenedy Pasture. The reporter wrote of how he saw six schooners off Flour Bluff Point loaded with fence posts for the ranch and described the Laguna Madre on that day: “On the morning of the 5th, we hoisted sail and for three days we did not make more than three miles. There was only about eighteen inches of water on the flats for a distance of six miles.” He went on to report what it was like to wade through the shallow waters: “These flats, from Flour Bluff south for about sixteen miles, are covered with a thick coat of grass that grows under the water. In many places it is ten to fifteen inches long and feels under foot as soft as velvet. This grass, when torn out by the boats dragging over it, will sink to the bottom and there remain until it dies; then it will rise and float on the water until carried ashore, where it emits a very disagreeable odor–fully as offensive as that that arises from a slaughter-pen. It is not considered unhealthy by the citizens along the coast. These grass flats are a great feeding place for fish.” (Ah, the smell you’ll never forget!)
Laguna Madre (Photo by SevenTwelve Photography)
On Monday, March 19, 1894, The Brownsville Herald, reported that Sea Island cotton could be ginned by the ordinary cotton gin, and that Mr. H. H. Page planted only a small patch of it at Flour Bluff as an experiment. It yielded well, producing about 500 pounds from his crop. (I have tried to grow a great many things in this Flour Bluff sand, but never did I ever consider growing cotton!)
On Thursday, June 27, 1895, The Galveston Daily News reported that 129 scholars attended the Flour Bluff and Laureles schools. (Today, Flour Bluff ISD has over 5300 students!)
Evidently the Flour Bluff residents were very patriotic in 1896 and loved a good celebration, one that could have included the Ritter, Johnson, Roscher, Jeletich, Self, Graham, Roper, Stevens, and Watson families, if indeed they had settled in the area by then. According to The Galveston Daily News, “The residents of the Flour Bluff neighborhood are making arrangements for a big barbecue to be given on the Fourth of July,” (I wouldn’t mind seeing this happen again, perhaps at Parker Memorial Park where Flour Fest was held last weekend!)
On July 4, 1896, The Galveston Daily News ran an article out of Corpus Christi about “the immense vineyard at Flour Bluff.” The Laguna Madre Horticultural Association “has attached widespread attention in this section, owing to its immense yield of grapes, and additional large sums of money would willingly be invested in the grape industry in that section if a more convenient means were afforded of getting the produce to market.” This “more convenient means” meant the building of a road from Aberdeen to Flour Bluff “a distance of about ten miles, at a cost of $15,000.” (Gee, if we could only build a road in Flour Bluff for that price today!)
In a January 15, 1899, a Houston Post correspondent learned “from a resident of the Flour Bluff neighborhood that a drove of about twenty wild javelinas attacked the house of Mr. C. L. Barnes of that neighborhood a couple of days since. Mr. Barnes was absent from home at the time and the family seeing the brutes entering the yard, closed the house none too soon. The watch dog, which was tied to a tree outside, was vanquished by the javelinas and badly ‘knocked out.’ The animals remained on the premises about an hour, when they disappeared in the chaparral and no trace has since been seen of them.” (I saw their cousins just last week on my walk to the Oso by the water tower!)
In 1903, The Brownsville Herald reported on a pineapple farm in Flour Bluff owned by George G. Clough, an experiment that “should prove the success confidently anticipated.” The Herald also reported on a suit brought against the federal government by a Mrs. Shaw for “damages for property taken by the federal troops during the Civil War, about forty years ago; the troops, it is claimed, taking down and carrying away to Flour Bluff a five-room house on the beach belonging to Mrs. Shaw.” (Trying to grow something in this sand and the first of many battles between Flour Bluff residents and the government over personal property? It sounds as if not much has changed.)
On Friday, July 10, 1908, The Houston Post reported on yet another javelina attack in Flour Bluff. It seems that John Finnegan, M. M. Dodson, and a party of eight friends “were hunting in a thicket near the mud bridge in the vicinity of Flour Bluff.” They evidently came upon “a veritable nest containing about 500 javelinas (wild hogs) which took after them. All the hunters emptied both barrels of their guns into the bunch of javelinas, which seemed to come from every direction, and killed about fifteen of the animals, and they made for the hunters, who fled to the nearest trees.” Then, as the story was told, Mr. Finnegan crawled up a mesquite tree, dragging his gun after him. The weapon was discharged, “tearing the thumb and part of the wrist of his left hand almost off, while twenty-eight of the shot lodged in the left side of his face.” They had encountered and killed a Mexican lion the morning before. The reporter ended the story with “It seems that wild game is plentiful in the vicinity of Flour Bluff.” (We still see all kinds of wildlife on the Encinal Peninsula. The coyotes have really been singing lately!)
The San Antonio Gazette ran an ad on October 17, 1908, for “The Real Estate Man” (aka Frank Allen) who was selling 20 to 40-acre tracts of land “down at Flour Bluff” stating “It is the most suitable and advantageously located land in the United States for the culture of citrus fruits and it is the earth for oranges, lemons, onion, cabbage, potatoes, cucumbers, beans, melons, and other vegetables. Fine fishing and hunting and an ideal place for a home.” (Flour Bluff is still an ideal place for a home.)
To end this little post on Halloween night, I’ll leave you with a rather gruesome story printed in The Houston Post on February 12, 1909. “While walking along the beach near Flour Bluff, on the southern shores of Corpus Christi Bay last Sunday, O. K. Haas, a well-known farmer, saw something peculiar protruding from the ground near the water’s edge, and on investigation found it was the head of a human skeleton. He attempted to pick the head up, and in doing so discovered that the entire skeleton was there. The head part was solid, with the exception of a crack in the skull; the lower part of the face was covered with barnacles and the teeth were as good as though the man had died the day before. The entire skeleton was in a fine state of preservation. The head and some of the bones were brought to this city and are now on exhibition at the Bingham drug store. Some believe that the skeleton is that of a man who was killed many years ago on the bay shore (judging from the cracked skull) and has been where it fell all these years. Others believe the man died on the beach. When found, the left hand was grown to the breast bone.”
Corpus Christi, Texas- The past and the present will collide at the Voices of South Texas event that kicks off on Friday, November 3, 2017 at Heritage Park.
The event festivities will kick off at 6:00 p.m. at Heritage Park (1581 N. Chaparral St.) Friday, November 3, 2017, with a special guest appearance by Corpus Christi native and actor Lou Diamond Phillips. Phillips is best known for his role of Ritchie Valens in the drama film La Bamba and his role in the Academy-Award nominated movie Stand and Deliver.
Over 30 storytellers, re-enactors and experts on local history will tell the story of many who were laid to rest at Old Bayview Cemetery. The cemetery will feature walking tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 4, 2017. The walking tours chronicle the history of the region. The cemetery includes veterans from the War of 1812 through the Spanish American War.
“The Voices of South Texas events are an excellent way for us to celebrate our history here in Corpus Christi,” said Jay Ellington, Director of the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department. “I hope our community and visitors alike will take advantage of this wonderful celebration of our past.”
Old Bayview Cemetery was created by Colonel Hitchcock during the occupation of Zachary Taylor’s forces in 1845 and the first U.S. military cemetery in Texas. It is located at Ramirez Street and Padre (IH-37) next to Coles High School.
La Retama Library will showcase lectures from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 4, where guest lecturers will provide a history of the Coastal Bend.
Voices of South Texas is sponsored by Humanities Texas, Friends of Old Bayview Cemetery, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department, Corpus Christi Public Libraries, and the City of Corpus Christi. Humanities Texas is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.