Tales from the Little Town That Almost Was, The Nicholson Story, Part II

Business, Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history

To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Texas Shoreline News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition will feature the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  You won’t want to miss any of these amazing stories.

     When John Orval Nicholson, Sr. (Daddy John) left New Mexico and followed his son, John Orval II (Nick), to Corpus Christi after the war, he bought a drug store at Six Points.  “That was his first venture in Corpus Christi,” said Daddy John’s grandson, John Orval III (Johno).  Nick owned a radio shop at Six Points.

     “Daddy John bought a house at 3544 Santa Fe in the beginning,” said Johno, “Then, he got wind of the causeway going in, and he bought a tourist court on this property we’re on right now.  After he bought it, he renamed it Nicholson’s Courts.”

     According to a Corpus Christi Caller-Times article from March 9, 1938, S. C. Ohlhausen of the Ohlhausen Dredging Co. at Galveston “made application with the War Department for a permit to dredge and construct an estimated half-million-dollar causeway from Flour Bluff across the Laguna Madre to the Gulf of Mexico on the south side of Corpus Christi Pass.”  Ohlhausen was hopeful that the project would be completed by August of 1939, but that didn’t happen. Not until 1947 would talk of the causeway start up again with a special meeting held by the County Commissioners Court to discuss construction of the causeway.  This time, it seemed the project would come to fruition.

     At that time, South Padre Island Drive was a rural route, dirt road that came to an end at the Laguna Madre.  Businesses and homes started to dot the short stretch of road in anticipation of the building of the causeway that would cross the Laguna Madre and allow motorists access to Padre Island.  Nicholson’s Grocery was born in 1948 in front of the tourist court.  Opening day for the little store was uneventful according to Daddy John’s grandson.

     “There wasn’t much of a community out here,” Johno said.  “The causeway wouldn’t open for almost another two years, but they did enough business to get by.  A lot of the property along Davis Drive had been purchased but not developed,” he added, listing A&H Sporting Goods, Dairy Queen, Sportsman’s Bait and Tackle, Buck’s Sporting Goods, Ed’s Bait and Tackle, and Byrd’s Café as some of the original businesses that would change their addresses many times over the years from Davis Drive to Island Drive and finally to South Padre Island Drive.

(Photo courtesy of John Nicholson III, ca. 1963)

     Johno and the new causeway were born in 1950.  “I was born at Spohn Hospital, and they brought me home to this property.  I’ve been here ever since,” he said.

     Motorists lined up to pay the $1.00 toll to cross the North Padre Island Causeway (later renamed the JFK Causeway).  Business was good, and Flour Bluff continued to grow.  Daddy John took an active role in making the community better – and not just for the businesses or tourists passing through.  The area was experiencing an extreme drought, which caused great concern for the people on the Encinal Peninsula.  A water line had been laid for Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, which also served other customers south of Corpus Christi, but not Flour Bluff.

     “In 1950, everybody out here – except for the base – was on water wells,” said Johno.  “We had a windmill, but it was difficult to provide water for the motel and the store.  Daddy John got together with some other Flour Bluff folks, including the Lion’s Club, to bring city water to Flour Bluff.”  According to a September 8, 1950, Caller-Times piece, Daddy John was elected president of the board, S. F. Hawley served as secretary, and W. F. Cutler, Jr., James E. Johnson, and V. K. Warlick served as directors.

     On May 8, 1960, the Caller-Times gave a brief history of how the water district that included Flour  Bluff and the part of Padre Island which is in Nueces County came to be.  The following is from that article:

     “In 1950, when the Padre Island Causeway came into being and triggered development on the island, Flour Bluff still was relying on wells for water.  In the summer of 1950, the wells nearly ran dry.  The Flour Bluff Lions Club spearheaded petitioning of the State Board of Water Engineers for creation of a water district which would buy water from the City of Corpus Christi and pipe it to customers at Flour Bluff and on the island.  This move, although heavily favored, had its dissenters and there was campaigning to be done – before the board of water engineers and in two elections at Flour Bluff.  One was on the ratification of the district’s creation, the other on a $700,000 bond issue to put the district in business.  The bond issue passed 153 to 19.”

     Bids from 15 companies arrived at the office of the Nueces County Water Control and Improvement District No. 2, located at 102 Davis Drive.  John Nicholson, Sr. told the Caller-Times, “We think it may take four to six months to complete the project and want the water supply available here by next summer.”

     “Daddy John added a twenty-foot by fifty-foot section to this building for a water office,” said Johno.  “He wanted to have a place for people to come pay bills and just to manage the water system.  The powers that be decided not to use it after he built it.  They used the building that sits at the end of Lakeside, what is now the cleaners.”

(Caller-Times photo)

     Sooner than Daddy John predicted, the first water pipe in the new Flour Bluff water system was laid. The pipe was delivered in February to the Center Addition just off Lexington Boulevard and was installed on March 28, 1951.  The whole project should have been finished by May, but according to an April 6, 1951, Caller-Times article, Daddy John reported a shortage of the 10-inch pipe as the reason for delay.  By July 1951, the water line tied Flour Bluff citizens to the city’s water supply.

     By June of 1953, a water tank had to be installed to increase the water supply for use by residents. The Caller-Times reported that on the morning of June 16, 1953, that only five pounds of pressure was coming out of the city line. “The Naval Air Station, with an underground reservoir situated between Flour Bluff and Corpus Christi, naturally cuts down the pressure,” said M.C. Jarrell, then head of the Water Control District.  He assured everyone he was not complaining about the use of water by the Navy but that he was concerned about fire danger in the area with such low water pressure.

     In his words, the Flour Bluff residents were “sitting ducks.”  Many people in the Humble Camp reported that they had been using well water again. In an effort to resolve the Flour Bluff water issues, Jarrell told the Caller-Times that a second water tank at Flour Bluff would be installed, with a booster pump added for use in emergencies.  This tower sat on the north side of Davis Drive (now Padre Island Drive) between Lakeside Drive and the Laguna Madre.  It saw its demise when the causeway bond was paid off and the county turned the roadway over to the state.  A new, multi-lane, wide highway went in, and the tank was in the way.  A new tower would later be built on Flour Bluff Drive.

(Caller-Times photo of second water tower in Flour Bluff, which is still in use today, ca. 1971)

     Though bringing water to Flour Bluff was perhaps the best thing Daddy John did for Flour Bluff, he was always concerned about education of the youth.  “He was an educator his entire life,” said Johno.   “It just seemed natural for him to serve as the president of the Nueces County School Board.” But, when the county schools became independent school districts, like Flour Bluff Independent School District did, Daddy John pushed to end the county board.  “He just didn’t think they were doing any good any more, so he voted to abolish it.”

     “The post office substation became available sometime in the fifties, and he added it to the store,” said Johno.  “Daddy John ran it first.  Then my daddy ran it for a while.  My mother, Cleta, took it after we hired a butcher for the grocery store.  Until then, she had been the butcher.  We kept it quite a few years until Mother died; then it moved to A&H.  At first, it was near the front of the store, but we moved it to the back thinking that somebody might buy something if they walked through the store.  I think they did more shoplifting than buying,” Johno said with a chuckle.

     “It wasn’t lucrative,” Johno said about running the post office.  “We made about $400 a month, and it was a lot of responsibility.  We had to buy a safe to put the stamps and money in at night when we’d close up.  We kept our money in there, also.  One time the auditors came in and found the extra money in the safe, and they were going to take it.  They said if our money was mixed in with theirs that it became theirs.  My daddy set them straight about that.”

     The business at 338 Davis Drive would continue as a grocery store for many more years.  Daddy John was around off and on.  His son Nick and daughter-in-law Cleta took over the running of the businesses until they passed 1967 and 1973 respectively. However, it was his grandson, Johno, who had spent his life learning the family business, who would be the one to fight the battle of saving the property.  The Nicholson entrepreneurial spirit would be his main weapon in that battle.

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Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read stories from other longtime residents of Flour Bluff.  To share these stories about Flour Bluff history with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

 

Tales from the Little Town That Almost Was: The Nicholson Story, Part I

Business, Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history

To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Texas Shoreline News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition will feature the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  You won’t want to miss any of these amazing stories.  This article first appeared in the Texas Shoreline News, August 3, 2018.  To read more about Flour Bluff history, visit TSN.

Nicholson’s Grocery when it was first built, September 1948 (Photo courtesy of John Nicholson)

     In 1947, when John Orval Nicholson, called “Daddy John” by many, got wind of a new causeway going in that would connect the Encinal Peninsula to Padre Island, he bought a piece of property on what was then a dirt road, a dirt road that would eventually become a major highway.  A two-story house, built by a man from Kansas in the late 1930s, sat on the property and first carried the address of Route 4, Box 191, then 338 Davis Drive after 1950, followed by 338 Island Drive, and finally 10618 South Padre Island Drive. This address saw many changes along the way and is now the home to Barton Street Pub, which is owned by Nicholson’s grandson, John Orval Nicholson III.

     Around the house were small cottages that made up what was called a “tourist court.”  The house served as a home and as the office for the motel. According to John O. Nicholson III (Johno), the structures were substandard when his grandfather bought them.  “He remodeled all of it built units 1 and 2, which are now my workshop, and 10 and 11, which are now rentals.  They’re on slabs,” said Johno.  Daddy John sold that piece of the property in 1952, but his grandson bought it back in 1984.

     Unbelievably, the Kansas man who built the original buildings also built a storm cellar behind the house, something quite peculiar for a Flour Bluff residence. “The underground part of it is still there,” said Johno.  “The old man who owned the car wash bought that piece of the property, knocked the top off of it and just put dirt over it.  I still hit something every time I mow because it’s still sticking up.”

     “Daddy John lived in town, and the day he drove out here to look at the property, he got stuck in the sand,” his grandson said, chuckling.  Still, he did not let that deter him.  Daddy John knew that a causeway would bring lots of visitors with lots of money to spend, and he wanted to get ahead of the curve, so he built Nicholson’s Grocery in front of the two-story house in 1948, two years before the completion of the causeway. Several property owners along this rural route did the same because they, like Daddy John, could see that Flour Bluff would be the gateway to Padre Island.

The blue arrow indicates where Nicholson’s Grocery was located (Photo courtesy of John Nicholson)

     “This whole strip was developing,” said Johno.  “A&H Sporting Goods, Dairy Queen, Ed’s Sporting Goods, Buck’s Sporting Goods.”  The Dairy Queen property, owned by the O’Donavitch family, sat on the west corner of Lakeside and Davis Drive.  Their house was on the east corner.  On the corner of what became Laguna Shores Road, Bernie Davis and her son Jim Coffman built A&H; it is now Wind and Wave.  Buck’s became the Plaza Motel. Ed’s sat where the vacant lot and driveway into HEB are today. All businesses along the dirt road thrived once the road was paved and became the primary entrance to North Padre Island.  Tourism became a major source of revenue for many of the people of Flour Bluff.

Island-bound cars in front of Nicholson’s Grocery wait in line to pay the $1.00 toll to cross over to the island, ca. 1955 (Photo courtesy of John Nicholson)

     “My daddy had a radio shop in town.  He was a radio technician before there was tv,” said Johno.  “Daddy John enticed him to come out here after he married Mother and had my older sister, Sally.  He wanted my dad to run the store because he wanted to go do something else.  He built the store when he was 68.  When he turned 72, he moved to Benton, Arkansas, and bought a small farm/ranch to give him something to do.  My daddy took over the store.”

     Daddy John returned to Flour Bluff two years later in 1954 and built a home behind the store.  “He lived there, and Mama and Daddy continued to run the store,” recalls Johno.  “Then, he decided to go back to Arkansas.  He was 79.”

John Orval Nicholson, or Daddy John (Photo courtesy of John Nicholson)

     This man, who did not seem to let age get in the way of what he wanted to do, bought a trailer in 1959 from Red Morrow, a man who lived on Laguna Shores.  “Daddy John moved it next to the grocery store and started working on it,” said Johno, explaining that Morrow was building a house, which is why he sold the trailer to Daddy John.

     “Red went to the Flour Bluff lumber company, which was called Selby-Lankford then, to order the lumber,” said Johno.  (According to the Caller-Times, Selby-Lankford Lumber opened in 1951 on Lexington in Flour Bluff.  Later, John Pearson bought the company and re-named it Flour Bluff Lumber Company.)

     “The guys at the lumber company loaded the truck and headed out.  He (Morrow) followed them to the house in his 1954 Mercury.  A 2 X 12 came loose and went through the window and got him.  It took his eye out.  Of course, it knocked him out, and he veered off the road and hit a house. They took us to see the aftermath.  It was very tragic, but he lived.  He just lived with a glass eye after that.”

     “Daddy John fixed the trailer up and had it hauled to Arkansas.  He had bought 40 acres in Kirby,” recalls Johno, who was nine-years old at the time. “I went with him to follow the trailer up there.  The property had nothing on it except a few old-growth pine trees.  The next year, after school was out, I went up to visit, and he had a home built.”

     “At that time, the forest service offered to populate your property with pine trees if you signed an agreement not to cut them down for 20 years,” Johno said.  “He had 20,000 little pine trees planted in straight rows.  My job for the summer was to mow between the pines.  He kept the property for 9 years and lived there a month then down here a month. He drove with my grandmother, Daisy, sitting next to him.  She didn’t like all of that, but he did.  He told me, ‘I’ve got itchy feet.’ “

     The man with “itchy feet” didn’t always live in Flour Bluff.  “Daddy John was born in Indiana,” Johno said, “and he got his teaching certificate when he was 17.  He taught first grade up through twelfth in a one-room school house.  He said it didn’t pay very well, so he got a job as a mailman on a motorcycle.”

     Daddy John’s first wife, Nettie Tompkins, got sick and died in 1921, leaving him with a son, John Orval Nicholson II. At that time, Oklahoma and New Mexico had just become states, so he loaded up his son and headed for Oklahoma. “He started building houses and churches to help get the state going,” said Johno.  “He met and married Daisy in 1923 and moved on to New Mexico, where he started building homes and selling them,” Johno said.  “People would buy a home and pay him on time.  He was doing pretty well.”

     Daisy, Daddy John’s second wife and the grandmother Johno knew, was born in Santa Anna, Texas, a town named for the twin mountains located just north of the community, which were in turn named for Santa Anna, a Comanche chief, according to the Texas State Historical Association.  It was here that Daisy became a teacher.  She moved from Santa Anna to New Mexico where she homesteaded some land.  “She became fairly wealthy in terms of the time period,” said Johno.  “She and Daddy John built a home in New Mexico.  They were both pretty old by then.”

     John Orval II moved to Texas City, Texas, to work for a refinery.   “Somehow he ended up in Corpus Christi,” said Johno.  “He had taken a correspondence course to learn how to work on radios, and Daddy John followed him.  That’s how we wound up here.”

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Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read stories from other longtime residents of Flour Bluff.  To share these stories about Flour Bluff history with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town that Almost Was: Don Crofton Part II

Flour Bluff, History

To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Texas Shoreline News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition will feature the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  You won’t want to miss any of these amazing stories.

Don Crofton (Photo courtesy of Donald Crofton)

     Don Crofton, who moved to Flour Bluff with his family in 1946, has fond memories of his life on the Encinal Peninsula.  Don grew up on Flour Bluff Drive at a time when it was a sand road.  At that time, the Flour Bluff community still had some farms and ranches, oil and gas wells, commercial fishermen, the Naval Air Station, a school that had recently become independent, a few small businesses, but no causeway to Padre Island.  There were only two easy ways into Flour Bluff, crossing the Oso Bridge or Mud Bridge.  One might have come across Ward Island through the Naval base, which often happened, or a brave soul might try to come across the King Ranch, which rarely occurred. Flour Bluff was not yet the Gateway to Padre Island and was still wild in so many ways.

Flour Bluff Drive, ca. 1940s (Photo courtesy of NAS Corpus Christi)

      “I was dating Nadine Robinson. I had taken her home one evening and leaned over to give her a kiss.  That’s when I saw a black mountain lion standing as close as from here to that lamp,” Crofton said pointing to a place in the room about eight feet away.  “And being the smart guy I thought I was, I ran for my car as if it couldn’t outrun me!  I got away, but I went back the next morning and saw where it had jumped through the fence and tore its hair off.”

     Crofton said, “When we lived at our house on Flour Bluff Drive, we kept two guns by the back door, one with rock salt and the other with shells.  We had a lot of mountain lions that would come in and tear up the rabbit cages and kill the rabbits.  We knew they were coming off of King Ranch.”  Every now and then, there are still reports of the mountain lions coming from King Ranch into Flour Bluff to do a little easy hunting.  Just a few months ago, one was seen dragging a dog across Yorktown Boulevard.  In some ways, the geographical location of Flour Bluff has kept it wilder than Corpus Christi proper.

     Guns were essential tools for a Flour Bluff boy.  Don, like many others who lived in the area, hunted behind their own houses.  “My brother and I were hunting with .22s one day, and we saw a bald eagle near the Oso.  It was something.”  When asked if he ever slipped over to King Ranch to hunt, he said, “Now there’s a place people didn’t go when I was a kid.  If you went on the King Ranch, you probably wouldn’t come back off there.  They shot first and asked questions later.”

     Crofton’s family raised chickens for eggs and meat.  “We had chicken coops on skids – or runners.  We would move the coops from place to place and plant watermelons where the chickens had been.  We had the biggest watermelons around!” he said laughing.  This method was one that Butch Roper recalls his grandfather using when they had a truck farm.

     “I even rode a horse to school for a while,” said Crofton.  “There was a hitching post out front of the school.”  This practice was quite common in the early days of Flour Bluff, but a bit rarer in Crofton’s time.

      Even school was little wild.  “We had Sadie Hawkins Day and donkey basketball,” Crofton said, “in addition to the stuff other kids did, like band.  I was in the band and played the trombone.  Back then, they even took fifth-grade kids in the band.  If you were big enough to carry a horn, you could be in the band.  The school was small, so Mr. Yarborough, the band director, took everybody her could get.  He made us march up Waldron, which was a concrete road, all the way to Yorktown and back.  When I was in high school Mr. Odom was my band director.”

Donkey basketball (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

Flour Bluff Stage Band, 1957 (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

    Talking about Waldron and Yorktown made Crofton think about a pond.  “It was on the left side of Waldron just before you got to Yorktown.  It was our local swimming hole,” he laughed.  “My brother and I used to swim at a pond on the Dunn place.  This was where they dipped the cattle, so there were chemicals – pesecticides – in the water.  Today people would never do that!  But, we all survived it.”

     “Speaking of cattle,” continued Crofton, “the band traveled with the football team down to Mirando City.  The game was held in a rodeo arena.  When the band marched, we were dancing around the cow patties!”

     “Kids just kind of took care of themselves back then,” Crofton said.  “School let our early one time, and my brother, Johnny who was in kindergarten, decided not to go straight home.  Instead, he stopped by Tom Graham’s place where we used to go slop hogs.  That day he went into the barn where they kept Nelly, a big ol’ mare.  He slapped her on the rump, and she hauled off and kicked him and peeled his scalp off!  He survived it and has a scar that just grew into his hairline.  Ol’ Nelly made a Texan out of him!”

     Over the years, Crofton met many people and worked in lots of Flour Bluff businesses. “My first paying job was at Pick-a-Rib.  I worked for Ralph Krause from 5 o’clock in the afternoon until 2 o’clock in the morning for 50 cents an hour.  I walked home, and there weren’t any houses along the way.”

     Other places of employment included Doughfit’s and a Texaco station owned by friend. He even ran errands for his mom’s dry-cleaning store. Crofton also worked for Eddie’s Bluff Saveway, a local grocery store owned by Eddie Buhider.  There, Crofton painted signs for the store regularly.  One day, Jerry Foy, who owned a business at the Y on NAS Drive, approached Crofton to paint a sign for the Flour Bluff Business Association, one that would stand for many years at the entrance of the little community.  It welcomed those on their way to the Island and invited them to stop in.  It even let everyone know about Laguna Little Misses Kickball League, a sport that originated in Flour Bluff in 1970.

Crofton painted this sign in parts on the ground because he was afraid of heights.  (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

     Crofton’s last job was at Flour Bluff High School where he taught electronics.  There he worked with a man named Ralph Boughton.  “If there was anyone on earth I’d like to be like, it’s Mr. Boughton,” said Crofton.  “He helped more kids than anyone I ever knew.  He taught mechanics at Flour Bluff, and he’d teach those kids right from wrong and tell them exactly the it was lovingly.”

Crofton with electronics students (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

     According to Boughton’s obituary, Crofton was not the only person who thought highly of this man. “Retired as a decorated war veteran, Ralph served his country in the United States Marine Corps for more than 20 years.  He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1948 and served in both the Vietnam and Korean wars. Ralph was infantry man in the 2nd Marine division. He also was an optometrist, a game warden, and in a flame-throwing unit. He retired from the military in as a First Sergeant in 1968.  Among his many decorations, Ralph received two bronze stars, and a purple heart for saving a man from a burning plane at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He loved serving his country and stood proud as a Marine, but Ralph’s greatest passion was teaching. “Mr. B” taught Auto Mechanics at Flour Bluff High School, where he met and influenced every person that walked through his shop doors. He praised and kept in touch with his students like they were his own kids until the very end.  He was an intelligent man who loved to give. He was selfless and kind. He was an endless book of knowledge, and his love of reading was no secret, with stacks of books scattered throughout his house.”

Ralph Boughton, 1930-2011 (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

     Crofton’s tales of growing up can make a person shiver at one moment and belly laugh the next, but in those stories, we find the real history of Flour Bluff. In them, we are reminded of people like Ralph Boughton. Though Flour Bluff has changed in some ways, it remains the same in others.  The Encinal Peninsula is still the same size and shape.  The population has increased, and the school has grown.  New businesses have replaced old ones, and we are no longer considered the Gateway to Padre Island.  But, people still have livestock of all kinds, and the community is still close.  Many who live in Flour Bluff see the community as its own town, but that is another story for another day.

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Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read more about the days gone by in Flour Bluff.  To share these stories about Flour Bluff history with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was: Don Crofton, Part I

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history, Personal History

To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Texas Shoreline News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition will feature the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  You won’t want to miss any of these amazing stories.

Don Crofton (Photo courtesy of Donald Crofton)

     Born in 1939, Don Crofton moved to Flour Bluff from Corpus Christi in 1946 because his dad, James Albinus Crofton, wanted to live in the country.  Don’s father was a former B-26 bomber crew chief in the army air corps who had taken a job at Dow Chemical, which is what brought him to Texas from Shreveport, Louisiana.  However, it was his job as a draftsman at NAS Corpus Christi that brought led him to Flour Bluff and introduced him to J.B. Duncan, a man whose family had helped settle the Encinal Peninsula. Duncan sold James Crofton an acre of land with a house on it on a sandy road called Flour Bluff Drive.  There, he moved his wife Louise and four of his ten children. The lot where the Crofton house stood is where the small gas plant near Murphy’s gas station is located today, just at the edge of what was then the Burton Dunn Ranch.

     In those days, people didn’t waste materials.  When the base dumped its left-over wood of all kinds – many times at Graham’s dump on Flour Bluff Drive – the civilian workers and the locals salvaged the materials and built their homes.  Such was the case with the Crofton home, which was built by Duncan using quarter-inch plywood from shipping crates off the base.  This attitude of making something out of nothing still exists in the Flour Bluff culture.  People on the Encinal Peninsula understood the concept of reduce, reuse, and recycle long before it became a popular thing to say and do.  They did it out of necessity.

     “We didn’t realize we were poor,” said Crofton, the seventh of the ten kids.  “Our family took care of us and loved us.  What else could we want?”

     The house had no running water, so a shallow well was dug by hand.  “We hit water at 16 feet.  It was a reddish-brown color, and it tasted really bad,” recalls Crofton.  “My mom would ask people if they wanted some tea. To this day, I don’t drink water except out of fountains.”

Johnny Crofton stands looking at the Crofton house with the Tex-Mex railroad tracks and Flour Bluff Drive behind him.  (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

     Crofton recalls much about the property where he grew up.  “Our property was lower than the railroad tracks, so it flooded a lot.  We got a lot of rain back then,” said Crofton.  “We had trouble with rattlesnakes, too.  In one day we killed 26 of them, and one of them was in a mixing bowl in my mother’s kitchen!”

     When asked how he and his siblings and friends spent their days at home, Crofton said, “We played football, hunted a lot, chased javelina.  When we moved there, everything was brush except where our house, the chicken coop, and the well sat. Daddy had me, Tootsie, and George clearing the property.  It was so slow cutting that brush.”

One Thanksgiving, just after dinner when Don’s father lay down for his nap, the kids had the idea to burn the brush.  This was at a time when there was no fire department of any kind in Flour Bluff.  “We got it out and saved the cat, but George lost his shoes,” said Crofton, “Boy, was our dad mad!”

     After that, Crofton’s parents hired two old bachelors who drove the area in a Model T boom truck.  “They had two mules that they used to plow and harrow it.  We made a big pile of the roots and burned them,” said Crofton.  “These guys worked all over Flour Bluff clearing brush land.”

     “I heard tell of a place called Welcome Inn, a restaurant on the west side of Flour Bluff Drive at Graham Road, but I never saw it.  J.B. Duncan lived down by the Oso on Graham Road,” said Crofton.  “South of Graham was Tom Graham’s place.  He had a dump and a slaughter house on his property.  Far back on that property was the Hatley house where Charles Hatley grew up.”

     Bobby Kimbrell, long-time Flour Bluff resident, also recalls the Welcome Inn.  “It was owned by a fellow named De Gashe.  He was kin to the Buhiders,” said Kimbrell.  “Don is right about its location.  It sat on Graham Road and Flour Bluff Drive.”

     

The Crofton house located at 1406 Flour Bluff Drive well after Louise Crofton sold it: “Our daddy would have had a fit if he had seen our house looking like this,” said Crofton.  (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

 

     Crofton also remembers a house fire that took a house near his when he was about ten years old.  It was the home of Laura Dunn Burton, aunt of Greg Smith, current District 4 Councilman for Corpus Christi.  “They evidently had silver platters and pitchers and such on shelves above the windows.  The fire was so hot that it melted them.  I will never forget the melted silver running down the windows.”

     Smith said the house sat on the Burton Dunn Ranch, 52 acres near Don Crofton’s home.  “It was bought by Burton Dunn in 1919 to hold the cattle that came off of Padre Island,” said Smith.  He couldn’t recall how the house caught fire but said the long concrete porch was the only thing that remained after the fire.  “The cowboys who lived on the ranch tried to put it out but couldn’t.”

     Crofton, like so many Flour Bluff residents who lived on the peninsula in 1961, remembers what would become known as the most controversial election in Flour Bluff history.  It was the day that Flour Bluff residents voted to incorporate on the same day that the City of Corpus Christi voted to annex the area.

     “My father used to ask why we didn’t just incorporate the area from our house to Mud Bridge where there weren’t any streets, only houses. He said we didn’t really need to go into the city for anything anyway.  ‘We could call it Plum Nelly – plum outta Corpus and Nelly in Flour Bluff,’ Crofton recalled his father saying.  According to Don, the Flour Bluff sign was much farther inside the peninsula then.

     Don started school at North Beach Elementary and then went to David Hirsch Elementary before enrolling in Flour Bluff when he was in third grade.  On the first day of school in Flour Bluff, George, Johnny, Tootsie, and Don went to school on the bus.  “We used to walk to school and back every day, which was about two miles.  But, on our first day at Flour Bluff, we caught the bus.  Flour Bluff had two bus drivers then, Mr. Meeks and Don Barr,” said Crofton.  When the bus arrived at the school, George asked Don if it was the right place.  Don didn’t know so he asked the bus driver where they were.  When the bus driver told them it was grammar school, a term the boys had never heard, Don looked at George and said, “Oh, no, George, we’re in the wrong place.  Let’s go!”  That was just the start of Don’s days at Flour Bluff School where he excelled.

Charles B. Meeks (left) and Don G. Barr (right) were the “Hive Keepers” of Flour Bluff School, according to the 1947 Hornet yearbook.  (Photo from 1947 Hornet Yearbook)

     Ms. Carter was his teacher. “If you acted up, she’d grab your desk and shake it,” said Don.  “Of course, she used a ruler on our hands, too.  We never wrote in print either; everything had to be in cursive.  I remember that she had a picture of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod above the chalk board.”

Don is in the front row, third from the right.  The teacher pictured is Dorothy Arnold, though Miss Carter was his teacher in third grade.  (Photo courtesy of Don Crofton)

Second Grade page from 1946-47 Junior Hornet Yearbook, proof that the students were writing cursive well in second grade at Flour Bluff School.

     Flour Bluff School was not very big when started there, but it was a place he liked.  “We had Sticker Burr Stadium and Doty’s Beans,” Crofton said.  “We ate in a little wooden building next to the school.  Miss Doty cooked a pot of beans every day for the kids who didn’t have lunch or money for lunch.  We called them Doty’s Beans.  We also got a big spoon of peanut butter and a big spoon of black molasses with every meal.”

     Don would remain in Flour Bluff School until 1957 when he graduated second in his class behind Nora Jean Wright, the valedictorian.  Crofton received the title of salutatorian, which earned him a scholarship from the school. Jim Duncan, who came in at a very close third, received a duplicate scholarship.  Don would find himself back at the school many years later, this time on the other side of the teacher’s desk.

 

Clipping from Corpus Christi Caller Times

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Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read more about the days gone by in Flour Bluff.  To share these stories about Flour Bluff history with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

Tales from the Little Town That Almost Was: The Life and Times of Ralph and Rachel Krause (Part 2)

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history, Personal History

 

     To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Texas Shoreline News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition will feature the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  You won’t want to miss any of these amazing stories.

Ralph and Rachel Krause

     Though Ralph Krause passed away on February 23, 2011, leaving behind his wife Rachel, five grown children (Carol, Ralph, Charles, David, and Deborah), and numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren, talking to his wife Rachel is like talking to Ralph.  She knows Ralph’s story perhaps even better than he did.  Working alongside her husband for nearly 30 years, the two of them built a place that most people of old Flour Bluff still remember fondly.  Pick-a-Rib and its owners were an integral part of Flour Bluff serving coffee, pastries, and barbecue sandwiches unique to the restaurant.  But, it didn’t start that way.

     When Ralph Krause opened Pick-a-Rib in Flour Bluff in 1949, the little community, not yet part of Corpus Christi and not incorporated, was growing quickly.  It was no longer the tiny rural community of the 1890s with a few families that farmed, raised dairy cattle, and fished.  The discovery of natural gas on the Incinal Peninsula in the thirties brought many oilfield workers and their families to the Humble Camp that sat where Marina Village Mobile Home Park is today.  Then, in 1940, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi was built bringing the largest population boom the sleepy little village would experience.  That’s when Ralph showed up.  Shortly after, the new causeway opened to Padre Island, and it changed everything in Flour Bluff.

     “Before the causeway opened in 1950,” Ralph told a Flour Bluff Sun reporter, “there was just a dirt road, just sand, from the corner where Lexington Boulevard went to the Navy base.  It led to nowhere.  Nicholson’s Grocery was down there for years, and that was about as far as it went.  And then they opened up the causeway and put a toll gate there.”

     “Davis Drive was a sand road until the causeway was built in 1950,” said John Nicholson, grandson of the original owner of Nicholson’s Grocery. “Our address at the store was 338 Davis Drive and was changed to Island Drive in 1964, then to SPID in 1967 or so.”  The road to the island would change Flour Bluff drastically, and businesses had to be ready for the flood of traffic that would soon pack the two-lane road.

(Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo, ca. 1940s)

       According to Rachel, the day of the opening of the causeway (July 4, 1950), Ralph made dozens of sandwiches and stood along the road out front of his restaurant, which sat on the north side of what is now South Padre Island Drive and tried to sell them.  “He didn’t sell a single one that he could remember,” she said laughing. “No one wanted to get out of that line of traffic to get a sandwich.”  Still that didn’t stop Ralph.  He kept building and developing over the next 30 years, creating a gathering place for the tired, the hungry, the lonely, and the gregarious.  Pick-a-Rib was the café where people of all walks of life came together to talk about the news of the day, catch up on the local sports and politics, and just spend time together.

     “When we started out, we didn’t have any money, so we got a small loan and went to a marble machine operator.  He handled marble machines – that’s what they called pinball machines back then – and juke boxes and through him, we were able to get our start,” Ralph was quoted as saying.  “Marble machines paid off then.  We got a percentage of the take, and this is what helped us get our business going.  If it hadn’t been for marble machines and the jukeboxes, the cigarette machines, and the draft beer, I don’t know if we would have made it or not.”

Pick-a-Rib, ca. 1970s (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)

     Pick-a-Rib was the place that Congressman John Young frequented, as well as other state and local officials.   Luther Jones, before he became mayor of Corpus Christi regularly stopped in for a bite, as did Judge Bob Barnes, Justice of the Peace Johnny Roberts and Flour Bluff’s first constable, Jewell Ross.  And, it is said that Luther Jones ate there before he became the mayor of Corpus Christi.

     “His wife liked to eat lunch there, too,” recalled Rachel.  “There was even an article in Texas Monthly once that said, ‘If you want a good meal, go to Pick-a-Rib’.”

     Of course, the food was a major draw, too.  Krause started with a simple barbecue sandwich with onion, pickles, and jalapenos.  Then, they added to the menu and offered a full Mexican dinner on Wednesdays and a fish dinner on Fridays, each for the very reasonable price of $1.99 a plate.  “Those guys off the base would fill the place up for those specials,” said Rachel.

     

Ralph Krause, the beekeeper  (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)

      Though Ralph was quite the busy entrepreneur, he made time for his family, his community, and even his hobbies.  Perhaps longtime friend John R. Meadows said it best in a letter he wrote to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times after Ralph passed away.

     “Recently an icon of Flour Bluff and Corpus Christi passed away.  It was my privilege to have known him and to have had a close friendship with Ralph Krause.  Ralph and his wife Rachel were the longtime owners and operators of the Pick-a-Rib restaurant in Flour Bluff.

     “Ralph spent many years offering his help to the community in many ways.  He had served on several boards and committees downtown, in Flour Bluff, as well as several years on the Flour Bluff ISD board.  He was a World War II disabled Army veteran.  He raised cattle in the San Patricio area, enjoyed painting and creating things with his hands, such as driftwood figures.  He also spent many years as a beekeeper, taught by Mr. Reid, another Flour Bluff icon.

     “Although having strong beliefs in many areas, his was always the voice of reason.  I believe that this was his greatest asset to the community.  When he and I had long discussions, he could always bring us back to the point of the discussion with sage advice and a vast amount of historical facts in the area under discussion.  Ralph was a humble, gracious gentleman.”

Painting by Ralph Krause  (Photo by Shirley Thornton)

     Ralph Krause, a man of many interests and talents was seen as a candle of hope by many in his community, by his friends and family, and especially by his wife Rachel, his loving and loyal partner in work and life.  He taught his employees to be the best they could be by holding them accountable.  He set the example for others in the community about meeting the needs of the people.  Yes, Ralph Krause was a man who indeed could serve up a great meal or mouth-watering cinnamon roll, with some good advice on the side, but he will always be remembered as the man who owned Pick-a-Rib, the place where people came together to start their days and solve the problems of the day.

Ralph Krause, 2004  (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)

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Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read more about the days gone by in Flour Bluff.  To share these stories about Flour Bluff history with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

News to Amuse

Front Page

 

Image result for swamp monster

     Finally, the Democrats and Republicans are working together, and as a result we got the $1.3 trillion spending bill, or what some laughingly call the “swamp monster.” Just knowing that Congress was working together, gave me the warm fuzzy feeling I got when they passed Obamacare, and the similarities are striking.  Both bills have the distinction of being more than two thousand pages long, and neither bill was read by our actual congressmen before they approved it.  Like congress, I do not know much about what is in the bill, but it must be good because it has Nancy Pelosi grinning like a monkey eating persimmons.  Eventually the news media will find the time to dissect the bill and will tell us everything we need to know.

     What I do not need to know is anything more about Stormy Daniels. I have heard the same story repeatedly, and I have begun to feel that I am trapped in purgatory.  It would be different if they had some startling new facts, but they do not.  My understanding is that she had a consensual relationship with Donald Trump several years ago.  The key word is consensual.  It is not like there are several women accusing him of rape.  Maybe they are keeping her on the news because she has a new movie coming out, and they are trying to help her out with some free air time.  Maybe they just like the way she fills up a wide screen television, but for those people who actually want to see more of Stormy Daniels, they should just buy her ironically named movie, “Dirt.”  Speaking of dirt, Mueller’s investigation is out of control and has been expanded to include activities related to Stormy Daniels.  Fire Mueller and end the charade.

     For those people not interested in Stormy, perhaps the movie Chappaquiddick will be of interest. The movie about Ted Kennedy is being billed as his darkest hour, but I would suggest it was a bit darker for Mary Jo Kopechne.  It is the fifty-year-old story of an accident that claimed the life of Mary Jo Kopechne who apparently suffocated while waiting for help.  Ted Kennedy, a strong swimmer, drove his car off a bridge and managed to escape out the passenger window but could not rescue his passenger Mary Jo.  He did not notify the authorities for hours, and the story he finally told did not have the ring of truth.  Apparently, there was little investigation, but plenty of cover up.  The only apparent consequence was that Ted Kennedy was sentenced to a two-month suspended jail sentence and was reelected to the senate from Massachusetts, and the incident gave rise to the popular mixed drink called Chappaquiddick (scotch and murky water).  Like in many of the tragic events involving politicians, what we do know is what we do not know.

     Speaking of things we do not know, six months after the mass murder in Las Vegas, we do not know the shooter’s motive.  We do not know why two windows were broken out of his hotel room; we do not know why ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting, or why the shooter wired $100 thousand to his girlfriend in the Philippines days before the shooting. A lack of answers always gives rise to speculation, and mass shootings always provide oxygen for the echo chamber that offers gun control as a solution to murder.  It is tempting to accept such a simplistic solution, but it is equally naive.  In every murder there is evidence of mental depravity, whether it is merely rage, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or the deranged mind of a terrorist.  Gun control will not solve the murder problem, so give it a rest, David Hogg.

     England outlawed guns many years ago, yet the murder rate in London is higher than in New York City for 2018. The weapon of choice is knives.  There has been a significant increase in knife crimes, rape crimes, and gun crimes in the London over prior years.  It should also be noted that acid attacks have become a popular form of entertainment in merry old England, making London the acid attack capital of the world.  And yet, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, claims, “London is one of the safest global cities in the world.”  Parliament plans to take up new knife control, but perhaps it is time for Great Britain to rethink their gun control laws, their immigration laws and to resurrect Sherlock Holmes.  Unlike the current mayor of London, Sherlock Holmes understood that London was, “the great cesspool in which all of the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.”

Until next time…

Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was: Life and Times of Ralph and Rachel Krause, Part I

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Human Interest

     To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Texas Shoreline News, runs historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition features the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days.  The Paper Trail News is making the stories available to its readers so that you won’t miss any of these amazing stories.

 

     Ralph and Rachel Krause, owners of Pick-a-Rib, a very popular eatery in Flour Bluff from 1949 to 1980, offered more to the community than those famous fruit bars and barbecue beef sandwiches. The restaurant sat on Lexington Boulevard, where Packard Tire is today. According to Ralph Krause in a 1987 Flour Bluff Sun interview, “Before the building was destroyed, it was the oldest building on South Padre Island Drive. That building withstood all the hurricanes, and the man who tore it down said it was kind of stubborn when they tried to push it down.” This building and the two people who turned it into perhaps the most memorable eating establishment in the history of Flour Bluff were of the same spirit.

Pick-a-Rib located at 1510 Lexington Blvd. (now 9935 SPID) in 1949 (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)

      In the same interview, Ralph told the reporter, “When we went into the business, there wasn’t any development west, north, or south of Menger School at Six Points. From there out there wasn’t anything. There were cotton and onion patches from there on out to the Naval Air Station. There was only one service station out there.”

      Rachel added, “We didn’t have a bank out here. We had to go all the way to First State Bank at Six Points.”

     Ralph Krause passed away in 2011, but his wife Rachel still resides in the home just a block from where the restaurant once stood. She recalls how hard but how rewarding the work of a restaurateur could be. “When Ralph started the Pick-a-Rib, he didn’t know anything about running a restaurant. When he was working at NAS as an electrician’s helper with his father-in-law, he heard about the swing bridge going in to Padre Island. He got the idea that he would buy land on Lexington and put in a barbecue stand,” said Rachel. And, that’s what he did.

     “I didn’t even know how to cook a hamburger!” Ralph told the Flour Bluff Sun reporter. However, that did not stop Krause from becoming a successful businessman who gave back to his community at every turn. This native Pennsylvanian had a keen understanding of what it meant to serve others and work hard, characteristics of his generation. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 to serve his country. Then, he went to work for Knolle Dairy Farm and Corpus Christi Army Depot. While working hard to offer great food and excellent service to his customers at Pick-a-Rib, Ralph somehow found the time and energy to serve people on the base at his Sandy Cove Café and on the beach with his ice cream truck. During this time, Ralph also served on the Flour Bluff School Board and City Board of Adjustments, as a Goodwill Ambassador to Mexico and Mason Shriner 32nd degree, and even as President of South Texas Bee Keeper Association. Having a wife who also had a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn the business certainly must have helped him as he strove to make Flour Bluff a better place for all who came after him.

FBHS Principal James Gibson and Ralph Krause, U.S. Ambassadors to Mexico on band trip to Veracruz, Mexico, in 1981 (El Dictamen photo, March 11, 1981)


Rachel, like many women in the 1950s, married young and became a true helpmate to her husband and a devoted mother to their children, Charles, David, and Deborah. Within a few weeks after they married, Rachel went to visit Ralph at the restaurant. He was cooking, and there was a problem; the dishwasher had walked out. “Why don’t you put on an apron and help me out?” he asked his young bride.

David, Deborah, and Charles Krause (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)

“I was there from then on,” said Rachel. “I started in the sink. I bused tables and waited tables. Ralph taught me to cook, and he even talked me into baking when I was expecting. I learned to run the register and handle the money. He taught me how to do it all.” Having a wife as capable as Rachel was a true asset since Ralph was called to be active in his community, and someone needed to know what he knew about the business. Ralph worked the day shift, and Rachel took nights.

The famous Budweiser Clydesdales stop in at Pick a Rib, early 1950s (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)

     Rachel interrupted the interview to ask her son, Charles, to sharpen a shovel for her. When he asked why, she simply said, “Well, I use it a lot.” This is not a woman who is afraid to do manual labor. Rachel went on to talk about the day her husband wanted her to learn to bake. “Ralph had just gotten the contract to run the Sandy Cove Cafeteria on NAS, and he told me that I was going to have to take over the baking. I did not want to bake. I was used to working the night shift,” said Rachel. “He told me that the first thing I had to do was be at Pick-a-Rib at 4:30 in the morning! I fought it the whole way!”

     However, Ralph told her she would have to do it so that he could run the Sandy Cove, so she did it. “You see that big bowl down there?” Rachel asked pointing at a large stainless-steel mixing bowl. “He gave me that bowl and a recipe for the donuts. It called for so much flour, so much sugar, and all, but then it said to ‘stir till warm.’ So, I took that whisk, and I was stirring and stirring and stirring trying to stir till warm, and I was making him so mad,” Rachel said with a laugh. “He said, ‘Put the blankety blank bowl on the stove!’ I was probably twenty or a little older, but I did what he said. That was my first day as the baker.”

     Tasty donuts and giant cinnamon rolls that covered a plate were known far and wide, but it was the famous fruit bars that so many people remember even today. “John Meadows came by the house recently, and I gave him some of the fruit bars to be nice. He held on to them like dear life. He told me he was hiding them from his wife,” Rachel said with a smile. “My son has tried to get me to bake them and sell them again, but it costs too much to make them with the price of natural gas.”

Rachel Krause is still baking those famous Pick-a-Rib fruit bars. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Krause)


Pick-a-Rib was the place where the men gathered for coffee and some of those wonderful baked goods each morning before heading to work. Both military and civilian personnel frequented the restaurant, as well. “Sailors used to come in and say, ‘Look at the bottom of the glass! There’s sand!’” said Rachel. “It’s because we were using well water in those days. But, they always said it was the best water. We were on well water until the city finally brought water to Flour Bluff in the early sixties, I think. There was a humongous tank near where the Stripes store is at Flour Bluff Drive and SPID. We paid the water bill here in the Bluff.”

The sailors were just some of the customers who loved dropping in at Pick-a-Rib. “Mr. Harris came into the Pick-a-Rib every morning for a cup of coffee,” said Rachel. “Now, I had been bugging Ralph to take me and a couple of the waitresses to Big Shell to go beach combing. One morning when Mr. Harris was having his coffee, Ralph asked him what he’d charge to take me about 50 miles down the beach. Mr. Harris looked up, got a serious look on his face, and asked, ‘You mean leave her there?’ Everybody started laughing!” she said chuckling at the memory.

     That was the way it was for the Krause’s. They created a place where people came together to visit, poke a little fun, and learn about what was going on in each other’s lives. It was a place for friends and families and community groups. But, Ralph, a man who could make three businesses work at once and who eventually became a master beekeeper and avid cattleman, did something that might have been missed by average person who dropped in for a barbecue sandwich or a fruit bar or a home-cooked meal. Just as he taught his wife Rachel how to do everything in the business, he also taught his employees a few invaluable lessons.

Rachel told of a day when a new dishwasher showed up late to work. Ralph didn’t get angry though. When the fellow arrived and started to go to work, Ralph said, “No, go on home, and we’ll try this again tomorrow.” The man looked at him and left.

     “Ralph washed all those dishes himself that day,” said Rachel.

     The next day, the man showed up late again. Ralph looked at him and said, “No, go on home, and we’ll try this again tomorrow.”
On the third day the man arrived on time, and Ralph put him to work. “Ralph taught all his workers something,” said Rachel. “Sometimes it was how to cook or clean. Sometimes it was how to be a good employee.”

 

Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read Part II of Rachel Krause’s story. To share her story with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.
The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past. Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

Would You Like to Super-Size That?

Front Page

     Image result for gun

     When I was fourteen, I got my driver’s license, and at that time, nearly every teenager I knew got their license as well. It was the age that the State of Texas believed I had the maturity and discipline to be set free on the open road.  Unfortunately for me, I did not own a car, and my parents were not going to loan me the family car, so my freedom was greatly limited.  Nevertheless, I had my freedom.  Much has changed since that time, and the State of Texas has since decided teenagers need to be sixteen years of age, complete a driver’s education course, and watch the Impact Texas Teens video before being allowed to drive a car.  A good decision I think, and based on my limited research, a decision that teenagers do not object to.

     When I have the opportunity, I ask teenagers who are not yet driving, “When are you going to get your driver’s license?” Generally, they tell me “In couple of years”, as though they are not thinking much about it.  I then goad them with the statement that I got mine when I was fourteen, and I think they should get theirs, too.  This often draws sideways looks from their parents, but the teenagers seem not to care much about it one way or another, and they do not express any disappointment at not being able to driver at an earlier age.  So, according to my research, they merely accept the limits imposed on them.

     I purchased my first gun at Ed’s Bait Stand before I got my driver’s license. I was between the age of twelve and fourteen, but I am not certain of the age.  I paid $18 for a nine-shot, 22 caliber revolver.  Although second-hand, it was a great target pistol.  As I recall, there was no background check or paperwork. At that time, the State of Texas believed I had the maturity and discipline to purchase a firearm.  However, time has changed things, particularly regarding the maturity and the discipline level of teenagers.  While there are many intelligent young people, there are many that are lacking in emotional maturity and discipline, and all are lacking in wisdom that comes from life experience.  Why else would Bernie Sanders have legions of young followers?  Why else would a thirty-something year old be crying because of a loss at the Winter Olympics if not a lack of discipline and emotional maturity? Time has changed things, and laws have changed, too.

     Currently, in Texas, you must be eighteen years old and pass a background check to purchase a firearm, and you must be twenty-one to purchase a pistol. There are other restrictions as well.  If you are a convicted felon, you cannot purchase a gun; however, five years after the sentence is completed, convicted felons can purchase guns.  Additionally, if a person is under indictment for an offense with a penalty in excess of one year in jail, that person cannot purchase a firearm. Also, those who are deemed “mentally unfit” by the state are prohibited from owning a gun, so the laws have changed since my childhood. The question remains, are the changes adequate? Do contemporary eighteen-year-olds have the maturity and discipline needed to purchase a gun? Should a convicted felon ever be allowed to own a gun? Perhaps the most complicated of all, what mental condition is used to determine who is “mentally unfit”, and is that determination adequate? Moreover, are the laws enforceable and are they enforced?

     Certainly, these are good questions, and just as certainly I do not have the answers. However, based on my observations, I would suggest raising the age to purchase a firearm may be in order. I could not help but notice over the last week that students across the country were demanding changes to gun laws. Also, as I mentioned previously, teenagers do not object to driving restrictions, so they are likely not going to object to additional age restrictions on purchasing a firearm. Raising the age to twenty-one to purchase firearms, with an exemption for military service personnel, should not be difficult to agree to. Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods are now requiring all purchasers of guns to be twenty-on years old.

     I know this idea will be bothersome to some, but I challenge you to do the following. The next time you are asked if you want to super-size your order by a young person at a fast-food restaurant, ask yourself if this person should be purchasing firearms. Or, when the person with the cell phone in the faded rear pocket is bagging your groceries, ask yourself if this person should be allowed to purchase a firearm. I think if you are honest with yourself, you too may question the current age restriction. After all, age is not a guarantor of maturity, but it is a guarantor of immaturity. The question is, what age?

     By way of disclaimer I should say that I have owned several guns throughout my life, and they have all exhibited a high degree of maturity and discipline. Not once have my guns slipped out under the cover of darkness and gone on a shooting spree, injured an innocent bystander, or killed a police officer.  It is just this level of maturity, discipline and responsibility that is requisite to gun ownership. After all, in his first address to Congress, George Washington said, “A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined.”

Until next time…

The Railroad Track and the Drunk

Front Page, Personal History

     It was summer.  My sister Margie, our cousin Rosie, and I were at my granny’s house in Healdton, Oklahoma.  I had promised my mother that I would be good and not give Granny any trouble.  I just hated making that promise because it was really hard to keep.  What if something good came up?  What if it was something I knew I would have to do no matter what or who I had promised?  This could be a very hard promise to keep.

     Granny had promised us that we could go to a late night preview at the theater uptown.  I was amazed that she said we could go because it didn’t start until 10:00 p.m.  We had to get all of our chores done before we could go though.  We were all excited about it, and I just knew that she was going to change her mind.  Margie and Rosie had been saying all day that I was too little, and I should not get to go.  Margie was twelve, and Rosie was eleven.  Big deal!

     I knew they each had a boyfriend.  That was really why they didn’t want me to go because they weren’t allowed to have boyfriends at their ages.  I knew who they were, too, the Gray brothers, Richard and Robert.  Yuck!  They were both tall and very skinny, and they had pimples all over their faces.  It made me sick to look at them.  They knew I would tell Granny if they kissed their boyfriends.  Yep, I sure would do whatever it took to get them in trouble.

     We had finished all our work, and Granny fixed cornbread and buttermilk for supper.  It was really good.  We had this a lot in the summer. Granny said it was too hot to cook anything else, and the buttermilk was good and cold.  I wished we could have had it at home more often. We lived in Oklahoma City, and I never saw anyone eat cornbread and buttermilk except my daddy and me.  Margie and Rosie didn’t like it too much, but then hey didn’t like much of anything.

     After supper, Granny said we had to wash up before we could go anywhere.  We had to heat water on the kitchen stove for baths.  Granny poured boiling water in a big, round tub; then she put cold water in to cool it off a little.  We all bathed in the same water.  It was too much work to boil more water and waste more gas for each person.  And guess what?  We went by age, so prissy pants Margie got to be first.  Rosie went next, and you can guess who had to go last.  That would be me.  Granny used Ivory Soap, and it smelled good.  I wish I was older and got to be first sometime.

     We were finally ready to go.  Granny was going to walk us to town, but we said she didn’t have to.  She walked us to town anyway, all the way up the tracks and right to the front of the theater.  It didn’t matter to me, but Margie and Rosie were pretty upset because their boyfriends saw us.  It was great for me!  A couple of dozen kids were there and waiting in line.  Granny left, and we got in line.

     It was quite a while before we finally got into the theater.  We made it though, and we stopped at the concession stand to get cokes and popcorn.  In those days, there were short cokes and tall cokes.  Short was a nickel and tall was a dime.  Candy bars were a nickel.  Popcorn was a dime.  You could go to the movies with a dollar, pay a dime to get in, and you still had ninety cents to eat and get sick on.

     We found a seat and waited for the movie to start.  Every kid in town was there, probably a hundred kids.  It got loud with all the talking, screaming, and fighting.  It was great!  The movie finally began.  It was a western, and Gene Autry was there, not the real Gene Autry, but a kid who thought he was Gene Autry.  I guess he was what we call mentally challenged these days.  He was really a nice kid unless someone called him by his real name instead of Gene Autry.  Then he would get real mad, and his face would get bright red.  When that happened, it was time to make your exit!

     We are just sitting there watching the movie when I heard this familiar voice.  It was Granny. She was coming down the aisle calling out our names, and the next thing I knew she was at the end of our row of seats.  She was saying it was time to go.  Of course, all the other kids were laughing.  What else could we do?  We got up and followed her out of the theater.

     When we got outside, I asked, “Why do we have to go?  The movie’s not over.”

     She said, “It’s time for you to go.”

     I asked, “But what did we do?”

     She said, “Who ever heard of a movie lasting this long?”

    I said, “But, Granny, they are an hour and a half long, and it was not over.  We missed the end.”         Margie and Rosie were not saying anything.  I guess they didn’t want to get smacked.  I guess I did because she smacked me good on my arm.

     I decided to shut up; she wouldn’t change her mind, and it was too late by then.  Boy, was I mad!  I was so mad I was about to blow up!  Why did she do that?  What was wrong with her?  I promised myself I would never go back to her house in the summer.  But, I did.

     Soon we were on the tracks walking home.  Granny had the flashlight on so we could see.  I saw something on the track ahead of us, but I couldn’t make out what it was.  We got closer, and I could see it was a man.  He was asleep on the tracks.

     I said to Granny, “We better wake him up, or he might get run over by a train.”

     Granny said, “He is drunk.  If he gets run over, he will deserve it.”

     I was stunned to hear her say that.  My own daddy was a drinker, and this could happen to him.  I tried to tell her that we should help him, but she wouldn’t listen.  We just kept walking as she pulled me along by the hand.

     I begged, “Please, Granny, let’s go back and help him.”

     She said nothing.  She just kept walking.  Margie and Rosie didn’t say anything either.  They knew it would do no good.  Granny could be so mean sometimes.

     When we got home, we washed our faces and hands because we weren’t allowed in Granny’s bed with dirty faces and hands.  We had to wash our feet, too, in a little bucket in the kitchen.  We all crawled into Granny’s bed and began whispering about the man on the tracks.

     Granny said, “Be quiet and go to sleep.”

     I waited for a long time until I thought Granny was asleep.  Then, I woke up Margie and Rosie.       “I am going to sneak out the back door and go pull the man off the tracks,” I whispered.

     They said, “No, you will get in real trouble with Granny if you do.”

     I begged them to go with me, and I knew I could not move him alone.  Besides, I was a little bit scared he would wake up.

     They finally agreed, and we got out of bed one at a time, trying to be real quiet so Granny would not hear us.  Once we were out of the front gate, we took off running as fast as we could.  We ran as fast as we could to the end of the road and up the hill to the tracks.  We slowed down as we got close to the man because I think we got scared he would wake up.  He was still asleep and snoring.  We all three got behind him and gave him a big push.  He was not very heavy, so it was easy to push him off the tracks and down the hill to the ditch.  He sort of  rolled down the hill without our help.

     We just stood there looking down at him when Margie said, “We better get home before Granny knows we are gone.”

     We started running back down the tracks and down the hill when we came to the front gate.  Then, we tiptoed around the house and to the back porch, went in the back screen door, and got into bed.  We were so tired we didn’t even talk about it.  We just fell asleep.

     We talked about it the next day, and we ran up there to find the man gone.  I felt good about what we did, and I think Margie and Rosie did, too.  I asked Granny if she thought the man got run over by the train.

     “No, and I wouldn’t worry about him anyway.  He’s just an old drunk.”

     I thought that was a mean thing to say.  We never talked about it again.  So there you have it.  Another day in the life of little Ruthie.

Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was: Life and Times of Butch Roper, Part II

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history

 

     When Butch Roper was growing up in Flour Bluff, life was simpler in some ways and more difficult in others.  He recalls what it was like playing football in what the local kids called “Grass Bur Stadium,” the field where the boys went to battle in the name of their school.

     “In junior high, we had a really good team.  Our coach was Johnny Johnson, and he would take us to games in his car,” said Butch.  “Some of our guys were fast, real fast.  When other teams would ask us why we were so fast, we’d tell them it was because we lived in grass bur country and played barefoot, so we had to run fast to keep those burs from sticking in our feet,” Butch said with a grin.

     “I was the only person with shoes, but I didn’t have them long.  My daddy bought me a pair, and I tried to wear them in a game, but I just could not wear those things.  So, I took them off and put them on the sidelines and went back to playing barefoot.  When I went back to get them after the game, somebody had stolen the damned things!”

    At home, Butch was like lots of kids in the 1950s.  “We didn’t have a tv.  My grandparents had a Victrola that played those big heavy records, and we crank it and listen to that.  The first television I remember seeing was in the Humble Camp.  One or two of the families had one.  It was mostly just snow and static, but we thought that was the coolest thing.  There was only one station, but I don’t remember what we watched,” he said.  “Back then we just listened to the radio mostly.  My favorite radio show was ‘Lone Ranger.’  I listened to it all the time.  It was great!  There was a scary program called ‘Inner Sanctum.’  When it came on there was a creaking door, and it really scared me, but I listened to it anyway,” said Butch.

     Butch’s memories of his school days took him down many paths.  “I was in the first group of kids who went to HEB Camp in 1954.  I was fourteen.  We boys rolled a boulder down the hill that the camp wrote HEB on.  I went back again in high school as a counselor.  I was a fun counselor!” Butch said with a grin.

     Then Butch took on a serious look.  “I remember a boy named James McCutcheon coming to Flour Bluff. He came to school on a blue Navy bus, like all the kids from the base. It was 1957, and he was the first black kid in the school.  That poor guy caught it.  His dad was in the service, and he had to go to an all-white school with a bunch of country kids and fishermen’s kids who weren’t kind to him,” said Butch.  “And, he wasn’t like the rest of us who started in first grade and went all the way to twelfth grade together.  I felt bad for him.”

     Racial tensions ran high across the nation in those days, and they sometimes found their way into Flour Bluff and onto the basketball court.  “About a year after James came to the Bluff, we were playing West Oso, an all-black team, at our gym.  Back then a tie-ball meant a jump ball.  I had to jump against one of the West Oso kids, and he hit me right in the nose with his fist.  It bloodied my nose, and things started getting out of hand,” said Butch.  “Then, a little guy from West Oso went up for a layup, and one of the Bluff boys grabbed him and rammed him right into the stage.  The ref called the game over and sent everybody home.  It’s just the way it was then.”

Butch, like most kids, spent his days outdoors.  “We didn’t have air conditioning like today.  We had indoor plumbing in our new house, but baths were cold unless we heated water to pour in the tub,” said Butch.   “The Ritter house had a well, and it’s still right out back.  At one time there was a windmill, but it’s been gone a long time.  I can still hit water about thirty feet down when I drop a line into the well, but we don’t use it anymore.”

     Butch talked about the old two-story house where his grandparents lived and in which they had a post office.  “It wasn’t too far from where I lived.  All the Ritters lived near each other on Ritter land. Uncle Ben and Aunt Opal, Fred and Ellen Gallagher, and Harry and Alice Grim lived on the land.  Alice and Ellen are Ritters, and they ran the bait stand on the old Don Patricio Causeway before.  Uncle Ben Ritter helped build it,” said Butch.

Ritter girls at Don Patricio Causeway bait stand (Photo from Kathy Orrell collection)

     “By the time I was about 18, no one lived in the old house any longer.  One night my brother-in-law and I sneaked over there and went in the old place after it was moved to the end of Don Patricio Road,” he said.  “Somebody had broken into it and thrown all the old books and post cards all over, so we gathered up all we could carry and took them home.  If we had not gotten what we did, we’d have nothing from the place.  It wasn’t too long after that when someone got in there, started a fire, and burned it down.  I wish I had gone upstairs, but I was still too scared of that ghost!”

     The efforts of the two young men provided a glimpse into the past because of the books and memorabilia they saved.  Butch Roper has rare post cards with the Brighton postmark, a hat brought from Prussia by his great grandfather George Hugo Ritter, dozens of English and German books from the mid-1800s, family documents regarding personal and real property, and even a few textbooks from Flour Bluff Schools.  “I know some people call all this stuff junk, but I think it’s pretty neat,” said Butch.

 

Prussian hat worn by George Hugo Ritter, ca. 1845 (Butch Roper collection)

 

WWII Era documents (Butch Roper collection)

 

Flour Bluff Schools textbooks, early 1920s, with names of Nola Adams, Jessie Duncan, and Howard Duncan (Butch Roper collection)

 

     Butch has memories of the Roper side of his family, too.  “They were also in the dairy business.  My grandpa Simeon Ray Canfield Roper was a real cowboy.  I heard that they came from somewhere in West Texas and settled in Flour Bluff near the Ritters when they all lived where the base is now,” said Butch.  “At some point, he started his dairy business in Sandia, next to Knolle Farms.  I loved going to that general store to get candy.  At one time, Sandia – which means ‘watermelon’ – was a hopping little place.  The railroad went through it, and they shipped a lot of watermelon out of there.  But, he came back to Flour Bluff.”

Simeon Roper (Butch Roper collection)

 

     When Butch graduated from Flour Bluff, he didn’t have a car.  “We had a family car.  I didn’t get a car until my freshman year at the University of Corpus Christi.  My dad told me I could go to school or quit and go to work to get a car.  I quit and got a new car,” said Butch.  “I went to work at American Smelting and Refining Company on Up River Road.  We made zinc blocks that were shipped out by train.  I didn’t like that job because you had to mess with acid.  You could shake your clothes out, and they’d just fall apart.  I decided I wanted to go back to college, so I went to Del Mar for two years.  All I wanted to do was play basketball.  I didn’t want to study.  I played city league, AAU.  I even played for CP&L one year and Sun Tide another year.”

     Butch remembered another job for a completely different reason.  “When I was working for J. I. Haley Oil Field Services, they sent us down to Riviera.  We were putting in pipeline when we heard about John F. Kennedy getting killed.  Everybody was so upset.”

     Butch sometimes took part time work with his brother-in-law Bob Beauregard who was married to his younger sister Cheryl.  “I never commercial fished, but I fished for my brother-in-law, Bob,” said Butch.  “He had a whole fleet of shrimp boats.  One of them had a real tall mast on it.  That’s the one we took out when we heard that they were catching a lot of shrimp in Nueces Bay.  It’s really shallow and had a lot of oyster reefs.”

     “On these shrimp boats, there as a small net called a try-net.  It was dropped over the side to test the waters.  It you pulled it up, and it had quite a few shrimp, then that’s where you’d drop the big net.  It kept you from dragging around a big and wasting time when they’re weren’t any shrimp,” he said.

     “On that day in particular, the try-net got a crab trap caught in it.  I was the deckhand – as usual – so I was the one who had to untangle the net from the trap.  That’s what I was doing when BOOM! Something blew by my ear and into the water, making a little atomic bomb looking cloud,” Butch said.

 “I jumped and yelled at Bob, ‘What in the heck happened?’ Bob explained that he didn’t know what happened, but his marine radio was out and the mast was gone!” he said.

     “Then we saw it.  The mast of the boat had hit the power line that led to Portland,” said Butch.  “That’s when Bob got the bright idea to call CP&L and demand they pay for his marine radio.  So, when we got back, he got them on the phone.  When he told them what happened, the guy on the other end told him that they had been looking for the guy who knocked out all the power in Portland.  That’s when Bob hung up.”

     “It all happened so fast that we never got the chance to be scared, but looking back, we realized we were lucky to be alive.  All that electricity went down into the motor and burned everything up and then kicked the hatch up in the air.  I guess the fiberglass hull saved us from being electrocuted,” said Butch.  “This wasn’t long after Harry Grabowske got electrocuted pulling his boat down Laguna Shores.  He touched a power line, and it killed him.”

     Living in Flour Bluff has left Butch with many memories, some good, some not so good, and some just humorous.  He has fond memories of going to HEB Camp in Leakey just up the road from Garner State Park where the Humble Camp families went on vacation.  He is still in awe of going to Ouray, Colorado, on school buses with kids he’d spent his life with playing along the Laguna Madre and going to battle on the fields and in the gyms of South Texas.  And, like so many along the Coastal Bend, he remembers the hurricanes that came to visit.  “I wasn’t alive for the hurricanes of 1916, 1919, and 1933, but I remember my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents talking about them.  They didn’t even name them at that time,” said Butch.  “I do remember Carla in 1961, Beulah in 1967, Celia in 1970, Allen in 1980, and Harvey in 2017.  And, we’ve always bounced back.”

     In his later years, Butch has kept the past alive through his collection of memorabilia and his telling of stories.  When his body that had served him so well as a young man gave out, he took up art.  Just like his people who came before him, Butch is a survivor who still finds joy in living and in spending time with his wife Marge, his family, and his friends and in giving those who know him a tale to remember.

Original drawing by Butch Roper

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Be sure to pick up the next edition of Texas Shoreline News to read the story of Ralph and Rachel Krause, owners of Pick-a-Rib.  To share Butch’s story with others online or read other articles about Flour Bluff history, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past.  Please contact the editor at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.