A Letter from Mark W. Stolley, Republican Candidate for the 148th District Court

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Government and Politics

Greetings,

On August 14, 2017, I announced my intent to run as a Republican candidate for the 148th District Court.

I am a lifelong resident of Nueces County, Texas, married 19 years, and have three children.  I attended local public schools, local universities (Del Mar College/Corpus Christi State University), graduated from the University of Houston Law Center in 1995, and passed the Texas State Bar exam that same year.

From 1996-1998, I worked at the Nueces County Attorney’s Office as an assistant county attorney, prosecuting misdemeanor cases and handling mental commitments.  From 1998-2001, I worked at the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney, prosecuting serious felony cases, including appellate work.

From 2001 to the present, as a sole practitioner, I work in counties throughout the Coastal Bend region. My practice focuses on criminal defense, juvenile, Ad Litem for children and adults in Department of Family and Protective Services cases, Ad Litem for children in family and civil cases, Ad Litem for probate, guardianship, and tax cases, mental commitment cases both as Ad Litem for the proposed patient and court master, child support enforcement, and special prosecution for the State of Texas.

The 148th District Court is in need of a judge with stability, experience, and proper judicial temperament.  No matter the type of case, if elected, I pledge to be fair to all parties and attorneys who come before the Court.  Also, I promise to follow the laws as written and apply reasonable trial court discretion.

As a trial court, the 148th District Court needs a judge with courtroom experience. With over 20 years of trial court experience, trying various types of cases both to the bench and to a jury, I have the experience necessary to fairly and effectively run the 148th District Court.  I respectfully ask for your support.

I thank you in advance for your help, and together we can bring back integrity to the 148th District Court.

Sincerely,

Mark W. Stolley

Candidate for the 148th District Court

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town that Almost Was: Life and Times of Bobbie Kimbrell, Part II

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history

To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff in print, 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.

Bobbie Kimbrell still lives in Flour Bluff (Photo by Shirley Thornton)

     “It was a mass of oil wells back then,” Bobbie Kimbrell said, speaking of Flour Bluff in the late thirties and early forties.  “Right where SPID crosses Waldron.  That’s where most of the oil derricks were.  I was surprised HEB built where it did,” he said.

     “One of the wells right at the causeway blew out and burned for a long time.  When I was living on North Beach in 1941, it was still burning, and I could see the flare from all the way over there,” Kimbrell said.  He explained that the Navy had to help put it out because it was affecting the training of the pilots.  “The student pilots flew from Corpus Christi to San Antonio and back.  They didn’t even need their compass or anything.  They could see the light all the way from San Antonio.  It was killing their flying with instruments, so the Navy had the fire put out.”

      Bobbie Kimbrell is one of six children, four girls (Carmelita, twins Annette and Jeanette, and Virginia) and two boys (Acie and Bobbie), most of whom are gone. He speaks with a great deal of pride when talking about his younger sister Virginia, now 84, who worked for the Corpus Christi Fire Department under Chief John Carlisle.  “She did everything.  She served as dispatcher, made out the payroll, took care of insurance, and handled grievances.  The chief didn’t even have to be there,” he chuckled.

     After graduating Flour Bluff High School in 1947, Kimbrell continued his work as a commercial fisherman.  He even did some roughnecking.  In 1949, he went into the United States Army during the Korean Conflict.  Though he spent about 6 months in Okinawa, most of his training took place at Ft. Hood.  In 1951, he got out of the army and returned to fishing.  He met and married Helen Garcia in 1960.  “She was from San Benito, Texas, and was Rachel Krause’s aunt.  She was her aunt but was at least 20 years younger.  Rachel was married to Ralph Krause, who owned Pick-a-Rib in Flour Bluff,” said Kimbrell.

     Bobbie and Helen had three daughters, Rosemary Kimbrell Leatherwood, Edith Ella Kimbrell Stephenson, and Laura Lee Kimbrell Trueblood.  “I have lots of grandkids and even a few great grandkids,” said Kimbrell.  “All my girls still live in Corpus Christi.”  One has to wonder if Bobbie’s daughters knew just how tough their dad’s life had been trying to make a living as a commercial fisherman, something he did until 1999 when he was nearly 70 years old.

Photo courtesy of Bobbie Kimbrell

The following is a story written by Bobbie Kimbrell about a memory he has of fishing with his dad:

     It was the summer of 1944.  My dad and I lived in a little camp on the shoreline of the lagoon where Glenoak runs into Laguna Shores.  We would go rod and reel fishing nearly every morning.  We got up about an hour before the crack of dawn, had coffee, and ate breakfast.  Then we got in the 16-foot skiff and tried to make it to the Humble Channel before the sun came up.

     The night before we had used a minnow seine to catch about fifty shrimp, using the Coleman lantern for light.  As I rowed the boat, Dad stood in the stern and helped me along with the push pole.  We had a 50-hook trotline set out on a sand bar beside the channel, and we noticed in one section the main line was under water.  Dad picked it up, and there was a 5-foot alligator gar on it! We decided to leave it on until we finished fishing because it would have taken a long time to tie it down and release it. 

     We tied up to the 4 X 4 channel marker just as the sun was about an inch over the horizon of Padre Island.  We were on the east side of the channel so that our backs would be toward the sun.  After the sun was completely up, it was bright and red as blood with orange streaks above.  Dad said, “Turn around and look at the sun.  It’s going to be a hot one today.”

     We put a handful of the shrimp in a little bucket of water so that we wouldn’t have to get one out of the wooden bait box we had tied alongside.  Dad caught a nice trout on his first cast. It was about a 3-pounder.  While I strung it up on the stringer, Dad had already caught another trout and then started catching one nearly every cast.  It kept me busy just stringing them up.  Most of the trout were about 12 to 14 inches long.  Dad didn’t catch anything the next couple of casts, so he told me to start fishing and see if I could catch one.  One of the shrimp was nearly dead, so instead of hooking it through the head, I just wormed it on, threw it out, and caught one the first cast.

     The fishing had slowed down, but both of us would catch one every once in a while.  About that time, a wade fisherman waded out from the shore.  At that time, a lot of fishermen waded down beside the channel.  When the wade fisherman saw the trotline, he went over and picked up the main line.  When that alligator gar started flushing around, it scared the man so bad that he hollered for my dad to come and get him.  Dad told the man that the gar was hooked, so he didn’t have to worry about it, but the man was still scared and took off for the shoreline.  He got in his car and left.

     By that time, we had run out of shrimp, having caught about 30 trout.  So, Dad put on a small Dixie silver spoon and would catch one every once in a while.  I asked if I could put on a spoon, but he said, “No, your line is pretty weak, and if you hook one, you might lose the spoon.”  After a while, he said, “Go ahead and put that big No. 7 Johnson spoon on because I don’t ever use it anyway.”

     After a while, I hooked a sure ‘nough good one!  Its head came clear out of the water trying to throw the spoon loose.  With the sun shining into its open mouth, it was a brilliant, golden color.  It went back down and made a run for it as I burnt both thumbs a little trying to thumb it down since my reel didn’t have a drag on it.  After a while, I got it coming back toward the boat with Dad standing by with the dip net.  Just as Dad stooped over to net it, it just threw the hook and swam off right before our eyes.

     “Damn it!” Dad said.  “I bet that sow would have weighed 10 pounds!” 

     Later I got to thinking that at least I hadn’t lost the spoon, and I didn’t know if Dad would have lived it down if I had caught the biggest fish.  About that time where the channel ended into shallow water, the water started whirling up, and the fish whole end of the channel turned muddy.  Dad said, “Jerk those fish on the stringer back into the boat.  That might be a shark.”

     Whatever it was, we could see part of its back as it was nearing the boat.  I asked Dad if I should stomp on the bottom of the boat and scare it off.  Dad said, “Hell, no!  It might turn over the boat.” Anyway, it swam on off, much to our satisfaction.  We both got to thinking later on that it was a manatee because we saw no fins on it, and it was known that sometimes manatees come up the channels. 

     By then the wind had got up a little from the southeast, so we untied and hoisted the sail.  I steered as Dad gutted and gilled the trout.  We put the fish in a No. 2 washtub, took them up to the Nelson fish pick up station at the old Don Patricio Causeway and sold them.  We had 40 pounds at 15 cents per pound.

     Tom Nelson, the fish dealer, said, “Thanks for the fish.  Try to catch more tomorrow if you can because the housewives are buying all of them as soon as they come in.”  It was during WWII, and meat was rationed, so the housewives were substituting fish for meat. 

     I forgot to mention that we released the gar, and it swam off.  There was no other fish on the trotline that we had baited with 1-inch squares of baby crib rubber sheeting.

     When asked who the best fisherman was the he ever met, he did not say it was his dad. Kimbrell thought about it a bit and then answered.  “Talking through the years, it had to be Wally Grabowske.  He always caught the most.  Alvin Barta and Lacy Smith were right behind him though,” said Kimbrell.

     “Dad quit fishing and opened the Red Dot Bait Stand with Sherm Hawley. He made better money at the bait stand than he did fishing.  He sold it later to Freddy Edgeman, who had a promoter from San Antonio,” said Kimbrell.  He remembered the first bait stand being on the Intracoastal near where Snoopy’s sits today.  “The city demolished it, but I never knew why,” he said.  “Then it was moved to Humble Channel.  Edgeman ran it until he died.”

     Kimbrell recalled other bits of information about Flour Bluff and its people.

  • Gas wells were dug on Pita Island to power the Barney Davis plant.
  • The Curriers were the first Hispanic family he can remember in Flour Bluff. Their dad was the swing bridge operator, and they lived on Lakeside near the causeway.
  • Nicholson’s Grocery store was owned by John Nicholson and sat where Barton Street Pub is today.
  • Killian’s Grocery Store was on Waldron, north of what is now South Padre Island Drive. Constable Jewell Ross had a liquor store next to Killian’s.  (Note:  According to John Nicholson, grandson of the Nicholson Grocery owner and current owner of Barton Street Pub, “The constable’s office was located in the old building that now houses The Alibi lounge at 948 Waldron. Jewel Ross was the constable. There was a liquor store on the left side and the constable’s office on the right side. When not doing constable business, or when a liquor customer drove up, he was selling and operating Ross’s liquor store. If you look at the building, you can tell it was two units. This was in the 50’s.”)
  • Dunn’s Crossing was the shallow crossing of the lagoon where Yorktown runs into Laguna Shores. “I always thought there should be a historical marker there,” said Kimbrell.

     Bobbie Kimbrell still lives in Flour Bluff and can often be seen with his friends having coffee in Whataburger talking about the good ol’ days.  “I’ve been through some pretty scary fishing times.  If a storm blew in or an unexpected Norther hit, I sometimes thought I wouldn’t make it.”

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read some of Bobbie Kimbrell’s articles about the history of Flour Bluff.  Past articles can be accessed at the website, as well.

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.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

Nueces County Pct. 2 Wall of Honor a “Labor of Love”

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history

 

Top: Mitchell Clark; Bottom L to R: Jerry Bouchér, Ronnie Polston, John R. Haynes, Jewell Ross (Photo by Shirley Thornton)

     On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, Nueces County Pct. 2 Constable Mitchell Clark unveiled the Wall of Honor, dedicated to all those elected to the office since the precincts inception in 1953.  It was an emotional day for many of the family members present at the ceremony for Jewell W. Ross (1953-1960), John R. Haynes (1961-1980), Ronnie Polston (1981-2001), Jerry Bouchér (2001-2016), and Mitchell Clark (2016-present).  Family members present included Kathy Ross Hooge, Janet Ross Trammell, Fran Polston, Michael and Anny Parks, Jodie and Joe Alley, Billy and Mary Polston, and Janie (Bouchér) Stobbs.  Constable Clark, who initiated the project, said, “The cost of this project was paid for through donations and didn’t cost the taxpayer one cent.”

Left to right:  Janet Ross Trammell, Rep. Todd Hunter, Ronnie Polston, Commissioner Jack Gonzales, Constable Mitchell Clark, Commissioners Mike Pusley and Brent Chesney, Janie (Bouchér) Stobbs, and Kathy Ross Hooge

Michael Parks, Mary Polston, Anny Parks, Ronnie Polston, Fran Polston, Jodie Alley, Billie Polston

     Seven months ago, Rachel Krane, Constable Senior Clerk, was charged with the task of doing the research for the project.  During that time, she made numerous trips to the library, searched newspaper articles, dug through county archives, and worked with local historians to get the information needed.  She was surprised to learn that better records had not been kept for elected officials.  Still, she persevered.  Krane’s work was instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.

 

Rachel Krane, Constable Senior Clerk

 

Jewell Ross

     In 1952, the Nueces County Commissioners Court shifted Pct. 8 from Driscoll to the area that extended south from Everhart Road, including the University of Corpus Christi on Ward Island, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, and all of Padre Island in Nueces County.  Jewell W. Ross was elected constable in November of 1952 and took office as the first constable of the new precinct on January 1, 1953.  His opponents were Joseph Henry, Fred Rhome, John O. Winters, William M. Bennett, and Walter Rogers.

     Ross quickly went to work building the department.  According to an August 19, 1053, Caller-Times article by Mary Gene Kelly, Ross started with a $4000 budget.  Soon after, he sought a salary of $3600 for himself and $6000 for his deputies along with a $100 a month car allowance.  He also requested office equipment that cost about $435.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo, ca. 1961

     In 1954, Ross and his deputies moved into the new $35,000 county building dedicated by County Judge John Young at a ceremony held on June 19, 1954.  Flour Bluff School Superintendent E. J. Wranosky served as the master of ceremonies.  The Rev. E. McCoy Bynum of Trinity Baptist Church gave the invocation.  In attendance were County Commissioners William McKenzie, Horace Caldwell, William J. Bryan, and John J. Sablatura.  The Spanish-style structure, located at the entrance of the Padre Island Causeway, housed offices of the justice of the peace and constable of Pct. 8.  It also had a courtroom, a two-cell jail, a large waiting room, janitor’s supply room, restrooms, and a parking area for 40 to 45 cars.  Along with the building, came a new patrol car and two full-time deputies.  Ross would serve as constable of Precinct 8 until his retirement in 1960.

Pct. 8 County Courthouse, ca. 1960s (Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo)

John R. Haynes

     The next election pitted A. Z. McIver against John R. Haynes.  McIver, who spent eight years with the Corpus Christi Police Department, resigned and began managing White Enterprises.  This Baltimore native came to Corpus Christi in 1950 after serving six years in the Navy in WWII.  Haynes, also a WWII veteran, was 38 at the time and operated Haynes Bonded Guard Service, serving the Port of Corpus Christi for ten years.  Haynes won the election and took office in January of 1961.  He would win against McIver again in 1964.

     In 1967, he was forced into battle against the county commissioners.  Commissioner Robert N. Barnes who led the charge to dissolve the Pct. 7 (Port Aransas) and Pct. 8 (Flour Bluff) constables’ offices.  Barnes knew he could not abolish the offices created by the Constitution of the State of Texas, so he moved to simply eliminate their salaries.  “Persons still could run for the constables’ offices,” Barnes told a Caller-Times reporter, “but they wouldn’t be paid anything.”

Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo, February 1969

     Haynes responded in the same article, “I’m going to take this as high as I can to hold my office.  The people out here gave me a vote of confidence that I was doing a good job.  They re-elected me with a good majority.  I don’t see how the commissioners court can cut an elected man’s salary off.”  Haynes would go on to serve the people of Pct. 8 until 1980, sometimes without any deputies, funding, or even an office.

Ronnie Polston

     In 1980, Jerry Bouchér, a young opponent who had served as Haynes’s deputy, defeated him in the Democratic primary.  However, Boucher would lose the bid for Pct. 8 constable to Republican Ronnie H. Polston, a Vietnam War veteran who was stationed at NAS CC in 1962.  Polston finished out his career in Corpus Christi in 1976 when he retired.  He went to work for the County Sheriff’s Department, working his way up from jailer to dispatch to patrol and finally to the Criminal Investigation Department.  Polston went on to become a sergeant in charge of the Civil Section.  It was at this time that he made the decision to run for constable.

Ronnie Polston outside old building on S. Padre Island Drive, early 1980s (Photo courtesy of Ronnie Polston)

     Polston had his work cut out for him when he took office.  He was faced with an aging building that needed lots of cleaning, repair, and painting.  The department vehicles were also in dire need of maintenance.  However, this did not keep Polston from focusing on the job he was elected to do, enforcing the law and tending to the requests of Judge John Cox, the justice of the peace.  “My goal was to improve everything at every level,” said Polston.  “Money was always an issue, and I just didn’t get everything done that I wanted to get done.”  Polston spoke of how difficult it was to get the commissioners to understand that the needs of the Pct. 8 constable were different from those of other precincts.  “I needed a vehicle for the island.  I couldn’t get one because the commissioners thought they needed to be fair and give all the constables additional vehicles, which they couldn’t afford.”

     Polston has fond memories of his days as constable.  “I was always available to the public – even if I was at home.  My staff and I had a good relationship with the community,” Polston said.  He reminisced about how his deputies would volunteer to work the intersection at the school and how they dressed up at Halloween to do it.  “Oh, the kids and the parents loved it!” he said.  “We really enjoyed going to the schools and talking to the kids.  I’d show them things, give them books and stickers, and such, and I’d teach them what a constable does.”

Ronnie Polston on the job as constable, early 1980s (Photo courtesy of Ronnie Polston)

     “I never expected the building to be named for me,” said Polston of the new county building where the Wall of Honor is located, “but I was very honored.  I loved the Bluff and the job.  I thank them for all those wonderful years.  It was the highlight of my life.”

Jerry Bouchér stands next to Constable Ronnie Polston in this Pct. 8 photo provided by Janie Stobbs.

 Jerry Boucher

The next man to hold the office was Polston’s Chief Deputy, Jerry Boucher.  He graduated Flour Bluff High School in 1970 and went to work as a reserve deputy that same year.  “Jerry’s dad was a reserve officer for John Haynes, too” said Janie Stobbs, mother of Boucher.  “He couldn’t wait to go to work there.  He knew everybody.”

Jerry Bouchér, top row far right, stands behind John R. Haynes kneeling.  Bouchér’s father, Charles is front row second from left (Photo courtesy of Janie Stobbs)

     “On his own time and with his own money, he took every course at Del Mar on law enforcement and got every kind of training available to him.  He even taught classes there himself later in his career,” Stobbs said proudly of her son who passed away in 2016.  “He has five letters of recognition and appreciation from five different governors.”  Boucher served at Pct. 1 with Johnny Alaniz as Chief.

Stobbs’s collection of Bouchér’s training certificates and commendations fill two folders.  Boucher even held a ministerial license.  (Photo courtesy of Janie Stobbs)

     Bouchér, who also studied marine biology and geology at Del Mar, served the Flour Bluff community as the President of the Flour Bluff Civic League.  According to a Flour Bluff Sun article, Boucher also served on the Nueces County Employees Credit Union Board of Directors and served as a Red Cross instructor.  For a while, he even served as the justice of the peace.  Though he was a busy man who was connected to his community in many ways, Boucher believed that the constable should be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a philosophy he shared with his predecessor.

Bouchér with mother, Janie Stobbs at swearing in ceremony with Judge Janice Stoner (Photo courtesy of Janie Stobbs)

 

     “If his men were working, he had them watching out for the kids at Flour Bluff School.  He and his men provided traffic control for the Flour Bluff homecoming parades.  Jerry even rode in the parade even though he hated being at the center of attention,” said Boucher’s mother.  “He always loved Flour Bluff and taking care of the people there.”

     Constable Jerry Charles Bouchér, born in Brownsville, in 1952, passed away on Thursday, October 13, 2016. “His heart was in the constable office,” said Stobbs.  “We always knew where he was headed and what he wanted.”

The Ronnie H. Polston County Building, as it looked after Bouchér’s passing.  The building bears the geographical location of Flour Bluff, Texas.

Mitchell Clark

     When Boucher passed away, his friend of 40 years, Mitchell Clark, was the next man to assume the role of Pct. 2 Constable.  Clark ran unopposed in the November 8, 2016, election and was to be sworn in January 1, 2017.  However, Boucher’s death in October prompted Judge Loyd Neal to appoint Clark to Bouchér’s remaining term.

     A graduate of King High School in Corpus Christi, Constable Clark went on to join the United States Marine Corps.  After receiving an honorable discharge, Clark returned to Corpus Christi where he enrolled in college and began his career as a deputy constable. He went to school full time and worked full time as a police officer in the Nueces County Constable operations serving in Precincts, 1, 2, and 8.  After graduating Law School and receiving his law license, Constable Clark began a long career as a trial attorney, working on cases across the United States but never forgetting his first love, law enforcement. Constable Clark remained working in the Constable operations on a non-paid basis while practicing law.

Constable Mitchell Clark in front of Ronnie H. Polston County Building in Flour Bluff

     According to the Nueces County website, “Constable Clark is committed to providing the citizens of Precinct 2 a safe environment in which to work and live by using technology, equipment and his highly trained officers and administrative staff.” Clark started “Walk with the Constable”, where he meets with the citizens in their neighborhoods, and “Talk with the Constable”, where the Constable uses various social media sights to communicate directly with the citizens in Precinct 2. These programs allow citizens to share concerns with the constable and discuss solutions to problems.  Clark is responsible for initiating the Wall of Honor to pay tribute to those who came before him.  He told a local television reporter that the Wall of Honor was “a labor of love.”

NOTE:  Be sure to visit Texas Shoreline News for more Flour Bluff history and current events.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was: Life and Times of Bobbie Kimbrell, Part I

Flour Bluff, Human Interest, 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.

Bobbie Kimbrell, December 2017

 

Life and Times of Bobbie Kimbrell, Part I

     Bobbie (not Robert) Kimbrell came to Flour Bluff in 1944.  Born July 11, 1930, in Clarksville, Texas, and later moving to Aransas Pass with his mother, he then joined his father in Flour Bluff to become a commercial fisherman, eking out a living in the Laguna Madre and surrounding waters until 1999 when he checked his trotlines for the last time.

     Bobbie’s father, Samuel Acie (Ace) Kimbrell as everyone called him, was a cement man.  “Ninth grade was the highest you could go in Comanche County then,” Bobbie said referring to his father’s shortened education. “In the early thirties, he met a surveyor who was passing through.  He taught my dad how to survey.  He started working for contractors who built culverts and small cement bridges.  That was when they first started building paved roads through Texas.” Bobbie explained that when a new job would come up, his dad would go out with the contractors and survey and find out what the job would cost.

 

Ace Kimbrell, ca. 1970s (Caller-Times photo)

     “If the contractor won the bid, my dad would work as a sub-contractor and use the tools and machinery of the contractor.  Then, he’d hire one or two of his brothers, and just two or three people would do the whole job,” said Bobbie.  Kimbrell said his dad hired two men of Mexican descent to do the cement finishing. “They could do whatever finish was needed on the cement and were known all over Texas as the best there was,” he added.

     At one point, Ace was doing work for Brown and Bellows, which became Brown and Root.  “They were doing construction on the base.  That’s how he got down here,” said Bobbie.  “After they finished the base, he went to work building landing craft boats in Rockport.  He built some crash boats, too, for sea planes.  About a year before the end of the war, they had built all the boats the Navy needed for the invasion.  There was no more work, so my dad started fishing. He spent most of his time off fishing with a rod and reel just about anywhere there was some water, but he didn’t know anything about commercial fishing.  He nearly starved to death to start with,” said Bobbie with a chuckle. “The other fisherman helped him make a go of it.”

     “Fishermen are the best people there are,” Ace once told Cliff Avery, Caller-Times reporter.  “And we get the cream of the crop,” he said of those who frequented the Red Dot Bait Stand.

     Bobbie agrees that most fishermen were very generous and would give a person the shirts off their backs and would even help them learn how to catch fish, but they would hardly ever tell where they made their catch, at least not the exact locations.  In an article he wrote for the Island Moon, Bobbie translated the language of the local fishermen in their references to their fishing spots:

  • Up toward the bulkheads (where Corpus Christi Bay meets the Laguna Madre)
  • Down below (south of Pita Island
  • Lower End (south of Baffin Bay or before Nine Mile Hole)
  • Graveyard (Nine Mile Hole, a place where fish suffocated in the hot, salty water in the summertime when the tide got so low the fish were trapped in the hold)
  • Fishing in the flats (in shallow water)
  • Fishing in the deep or on the Padre side (east side)
  • King Ranch side (west side or west shore)

     Bobbie describes Flour Bluff as a place where “there weren’t any roads really,” but there were “a lot of scrub oak with a few houses scattered around.”  He lived with his dad in a little camp at the edge of the water where Glenoak meets Laguna Shores today.  “We lived in a Model T van, like the ones the gypsies lived in that you saw in the circus,” recalled Bobbie.  “We didn’t have any electricity or running water.  We used a Coleman lantern and a Coleman stove.  We got our water from the school.  Somebody would fill a barrel and haul it to us in the back of a truck.  After we’d been living there about a year, a storm came and blew everything away.”

 

The Model T “van” pictured above in this Creative Commons photo was often called a “house car” or “camper,” a forerunner to motor homes and RVs, a common site in Flour Bluff today.

 

     Years later, after going through many storms and having Celia rip the roof of the Red Dot Bait Stand, Bobbie’s dad told a reporter, “You work for the hurricanes out here.  ‘Bout the time you get one paid off, another comes along.”

     When the Kimbrells were left homeless by the storm, one of the Duncans who lived a little south of Glenoak let the father and son move onto his land.  Bobbie remembers how then school superintendent and local businessman Sherm Hawley talked the officials at the base into giving them a pre-fab, 20’ x 20’ plywood building to use as a house.  “It had a wood floor, plywood sides, and a roof.  At that time, there were at least 4 or 5 of them on NAS Drive that some of the workers lived in.”

     Bobbie helped his dad fish while he was attending Flour Bluff School.  “Dad taught me to fish, but I only fished on weekends when I was going to school.  He wanted me to go to school and sometimes even made my games,” said Bobbie.  “He was trotline fishing in the daytime then and could make the games in the evenings.”

This Flour Bluff Hornet Yearbook has the picture right but dropped the ball on Bobbie’s name.

 

     “I played football for two years for Flour Bluff.  That was the second year we had a 12-man team,” said Bobbie.  “A guy named Meixner was our coach.  He was the only coach for the whole school.  I liked him.  Looking back, I don’t think he was a very good football coach, but he was one of the best basketball coaches Flour Bluff ever had.  His team usually won every tournament they played.”

Coach Meixner is top left; Bobbie Kimbrell is next to the end on the bottom row. (1945-1946 Hornet Yearbook photo)

     “Another teacher who was really good was Mr. Duncan.  He taught shop and mechanical drawing,” said Bobbie as he thought about his school.  “Mr. Wranosky took Mr. Hawley’s place as superintendent when I was in twelfth grade.  I liked him because he wasn’t overly strict,” he recalls.  “One time we were playing Ingleside in football, and I played end.  I made a real good block, and we got a touchdown.  Mr. Wranosky gave me fifty cents.  I guess you could say I was a paid player.”

_________________________________________________________________________________

Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to learn more about Bobbie Kimbrell’s life as a commercial fisherman and life in Flour Bluff.  Read through back editions for other Flour Bluff history articles.

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.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was: Life and Times of Lacy Smith, Part 2

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Padre Island
Lacy Smith, 2017

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.

The Life and Times of Lacy Smith:  Part II

     Lacy Lee Smith recalls how he got his unique first name.  “My mama was going to name me Travis, but she had a friend who had just had a baby and had named him Travis.  So, she named me Lacy, after an uncle, I think.” Birth records for the United States indicate that only 5,1154 boys have been named Lacy since 1880.  Like his name, Lacy Smith is a rarity.

     Lacy’s mother, Rady Elizabeth (Jones) Smith, was born on September 11, 1909, in Marquez, Texas.  His father, Rupert Allen Smith, was born on May 11, 1889, In Belton, Texas.  Rady and Rupert, married on January 16, 1923, had five children:  Ruby Fay in 1925, Joseph Allen in 1927, Johnny Wesley Neal in 1929, Lacy Lee Smith in 1932, and David Kent Smith in 1934.  Their marriage ended in divorce, which is part of the reason for Lacy finding his way to Flour Bluff in 1936, shortly after the oil and gas boom in the area. During the Great Depression, the family fished and even worked as migrant farm workers.

     “We’d travel West Texas to pick cotton and down to the valley to pick onions and potatoes.  In those days, you could only sell a perfect onion or potato.  We would pick black-eyed peas, too, and we lived on the culls that were left in the fields.  Whatever there was to do, that’s what we’d do,” said Lacy.  “Sometimes we’d pick crab meat. We’d walk along the beach in Port Isabel and dip up crabs with a net.  Then, we’d build a fire and boil them and get the meat.  We got a dollar a pound for crab meat because it was handpicked.”

     Lacy tells of a different Flour Bluff than the one everyone knows today.  “When we first moved to Flour Bluff, none of the roads were paved.  They didn’t even have oyster shell on them; they were just dirt,” he recalls.  “There were a few cars, mostly Model A’s, with some Chevrolets and Chryslers.  We had a 1938 Ford pickup.”

     At the time that, Lacy said the main way into Flour Bluff was across Ward Island.  “We drove across Ward Island on an oyster shell road that went on down toward Dimmit’s Island. There were a couple of bridges on that road.  Mud Bridge was out on what became Yorktown Boulevard, which didn’t go all the way to the Laguna Madre then.  There were very few roads in Flour Bluff,” Lacy explained.  “It wasn’t until nearly 1940 that they upgraded the roads with oyster shell.  Later, they brought in caliche and gravel from Mathis.  That was because of Humble Oil and then the base.”  (See information below on how to read the entire story.)

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

To read this story in its entirety, please click on the Texas Shoreline News link.  This will take you to the online version of the print newspaper.  There you can finish reading Part II of Lacy’s story and several other articles pertaining to Flour Bluff and Padre Island.  We hope you will give this new print newspaper a look.  The paper comes out every 1st and 3rd Friday.  

Be sure to pick up the next edition of the Texas Shoreline News to learn about Lacy Smith’s good friend and fellow Flour Bluff commercial fisherman, Bobbie Kimbrell. Print newspapers are available at all Southside Corpus Christi   To read Part I of this story and access back issues of the Texas Shoreline News 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 us at Shirley@texasshorelinenews.com to submit or suggest a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to learn about Lacy Smith’s good friend and fellow Flour Bluff commercial fisherman, Bobbie Kimbrell.  The story will appear in The Paper Trail News in early February.

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.

 

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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Laguna Little League President Is Ready to “Play Ball!”

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Sports

It’s that time again!  The Laguna Little League season is upon us.  The league’s president, Tony Keith, is “on the ball” rallying the volunteers, preparing the fields, and calling all who want to play the great game of baseball.  In this letter, he hopes “to bat a thousand” with community members who want to help in some way.  Tony always “goes to bat” for the children who love playing this sport, and he won’t “throw you a curve ball” in his efforts to make much-needed repairs at the fields located at the end of Waldron Road.  So, “touch base” with Tony if you have a child who wants to take part in this great game or if you want to help as a volunteer or make a donation of your time or money to the league.  “Play ball!”

A Message from Laguna Little League President

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thanks in advance for your time. Included in this letter is a brief history on Laguna Little League, and sponsorship options in our quest to obtain scoreboards for our fields.

Laguna Little League was established in 1959, and is part of the largest youth sports program in the world.  Little League serves more than 2.5 million boys and girls in the United States and 83 other countries. Locally Laguna Little League serves the Flour Bluff, Naval Station Corpus Christi and Padre Island areas. Unfortunately, there is no funding that comes from Little League International. Unlike other leagues, our fields are on leased, Navy/Government land. Nueces County and the City of Corpus Christi use this as a basis for not being able to provide financial support to our league. There is no funding for improvements, utilities, lighting, equipment or maintenance. Everything you see at the fields is completed by volunteers and sponsors.

Laguna Little League has been a mainstay for both the community and our youth. It is a non-profit organization, staffed and administered by volunteers. At Laguna we teach the merits and benefits of teamwork, competition, and sport to kids each year. The kids range in age from 4 to 17 and live throughout our community. While we do have a slight operating budget funded through fundraisers and registration fees; it is simply not enough to create an environment that we feel benefits our players as much as it could.

Our Complex consists of 5 fields, 1 tee ball, 1 minor, 1 major, 1 senior and 1 softball field. Unfortunately, the last 2 seasons have been played with most of the teams not having a functioning scoreboard during their game.  Little league scoreboards have a big impact on the game, the teams playing, and the fans watching.

While we understand times are tough economically for everyone, we truly feel that the intangible benefits our youth receive through participating in Little League cannot be tracked with a price tag. The life skills they achieve by participating are invaluable to them as they enter and move through their childhood into adulthood.

As I mentioned, I am seeking support to keep our program alive and active. I have attached a proposal for a scoreboard which we feel will enhance our players’ and our fans’ experience. There are a couple of support options.

  • Sole Sponsorship $ 6,000.00 – Your logo will be placed on both logo sections of the scoreboard.
  • Partnering Sponsor – $3,000.00 – Your Logo will be placed on one of the logo sections of the scoreboard

 We understand that such donation decisions need to be a two-way street, so we are always ready, willing, and able to help our generous donors receive the recognition they deserve. In return for the sponsorship, the scoreboards will have a place for your logo which will be displayed throughout the year for a minimum of 5 Years. We will also add your logo with a hyperlink to our website to encourage our players and families to support our supporters; this too will be maintained on our website for a minimum of 5 years.

I also want this letter to serve as an open invitation to attend our games and events. Our schedules can be found on our website at www.lagunabaseball.org.

I want to thank you in advance for your time, and I also want to say, on behalf of our players, we hope to see you at some of our games and thank you for being a member of our supportive community.

Sincerely,

Tony Keith, President Laguna Little League

361-249-2305

 

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

Tales from Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was: Lacy Smith, Part I

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest, Personal History

 

 

Lacy Smith, 2017

In a little shack at the end of a cotton field outside of Weslaco, Texas, on March 19, 1932, Lacy Smith was born to Rady Elizabeth and Ruppert Allen Smith with the help of a midwife.  Soon after, Lacy’s family moved to Loyola Beach near Riviera, Texas.  There he started his career as a commercial fisherman.  Evenwhen the Texas State Legislature banned commercial fishermen from catching redfish in 1981, he found a way to continue in the business until 2009 when he suffered a stroke.

Lacy was never afraid of the water because he was raised on it.  “I used to carry the bait bucket while my mother and father seined for bait.  I’d go out in the boat with my mother.  She’d row out into the bay, and I’d go with her and catch fish to sell.  I was two years old then,” he recalls.

“Nothing about it scared me.  I grew up on the water,” he said, saying that he “learned to swim in Baffin Bay when the water was so salty you couldn’t stay under.”  Lacy remembered what should have been a scary moment in his life but wasn’t.  “One time I fell off my shrimp boat in the Gulf.  I was by myself, and I got back on board.  Most of the time I worked by myself.  You couldn’t get anybody to help you.  I had a policy; if I couldn’t do it myself, I didn’t even start it,” said Lacy, a philosophy that guided him through life and made a successful commercial fisherman out of him.

In a 1988 interview conducted by Nathan Wilkey, Lacy described himself as a “gypsy, moving up and down the Texas coast to follow his livelihood, commercial fishing, as a child and as a father of four.”  As a child Lacy attempted school in three places:  Port Isabel, Loyola Beach, and Flour Bluff.  When he arrived in Flour Bluff ready to start the fourth grade, his teacher saw that he was far ahead of the other students and moved him to fifth grade.  Lacy remained in Flour Bluff Schools until the first day of his sophomore year when Coach Meixner asked him if he really wanted to be there.  When Lacy said, “Not really,” the coach suggested he go on home and focus on his fishing, which he did.

“I sustained my family as a commercial fisherman,” said Lacy.

According to his wife, Lilia, he made a “very good living” as a commercial fisherman.

 

 

 

Lacy Smith and Ricky Allen caught this shark at the mouth of the Bernard River near Freeport, Texas, in the early 1980s.  The fins were sold to Japanese markets in California and the body was sold to other markets.  The fishermen were trying to overcome the ban on redfish by creating new markets for their catch, according to Smith.

 

 

 

Lacy, like many people in those days, worked hard to survive.  In the Wilkey interview, he tells of how his family acquired the necessities of life.  “Lacy spoke of his early childhood days when the family would go to town by wagon.  They would tie up the horses on the outskirts of town, a meeting place for the families who lived outside of town, and walk into town to buy supplies.”

When Lacy moved to Flour Bluff with his mother and stepfather, Lester “Wild Bill” Wyman, he lived along Laguna Shores in a one-room house that sat between Knickerbocker and what was then Davis Drive (South Padre Island Drive).  “They built a bunkhouse for the boys to sleep out back.  Later they built lean-tos until it was four or five rooms.  They built them one at a time.  It would start as a porch; then, we’d turn it into a room,” said Lacy.

“People in Flour Bluff collected rain water in cisterns, usually off their roofs when it would rain.  It rained a lot back then.  Some people got their water from wells they dug by hand.  My mother never had running water while she was alive.  She sometimes hauled water in barrels from the school house,” Lacy said.

Lacy’s mother continued to fish and shrimp, but Lacy does not remember eating much of her catch.  “She used to shrimp for Red Dot Bait Stand and sell shrimp for a penny a piece.  She’d go over there at night and dip up shrimp with a dip net and sell them to Ace Kimbrell.  We didn’t eat a lot of fish and shrimp.  Our diet was mostly potatoes and beans.  We didn’t have meat unless we killed something.  We had no means of refrigeration.  We killed ducks, geese, rabbits, whatever we could find,” he said.

When asked if they hunted deer, Lacy said, “I don’t remember any deer in Flour Bluff when I was a kid.  The pioneer families who lived here had hunted them out.”

Lacy spoke with great respect about his parents.  “Mom never forsook us or left us or abandoned us.  She always took care of us and was the best at taking care of money.  Everybody back in that day did.  My daddy kept a ledger.  He knew how much he made each day and how much he spent.  He could go back thirty years and tell you what he’d done that day.”

Lacy’s stepfather, Wild Bill Wyman, was a machinist from Detroit.  “People called him Wild Bill because he showed up in a boat that had that name painted on it.  All of us kids used the name Wyman when we attended Flour Bluff Schools.”

“I left home at 14 years old.  Sidney Herndon down at the L-Heads put out big boats on percentages.  I got a 40-foot boat by myself.  It was named The Lee.  Trout was 25 cents a pound.  I had 285 pounds the first time I went out.  I caught them on rods and reels in the Bird Island area,” said Lacy.  ““I had a 14-foot skiff with a 7 ½ hp outboard motor and a rod and reel at the start.  Later, I ran lines, used gill nets, line seines, dynamite.  I fished every way there was to fish.”

NOTE:  This article was first published in The Texas Shoreline News, a local print paper that serves the Flour Bluff, Padre Island, and South Side areas of Corpus Christi.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

From the Desk of the Constable

Flour Bluff, Front Page

Hello, everyone!

It’s January 2018 and time to hear from your constable, Mitchell Clark.  This publication from me to you on behalf of the Texas Shoreline News will be published every quarter unless something needs to be reported.  For current news from your constable or to learn more about me and my office, you can visit us on Facebook at Nueces County Constable Precinct 2 and at my website, constablemitchellclark.net.  This site has many informative features to it such as “Listen to the Constable” and my publications on various topics.

I thought this might a good time for a year-end report.  During the holidays, I reflected on how much we accomplished in 2017.  I remembered all the things we have done for the constable’s office that will help us serve you better.  We upgraded our computer system, met the State-mandated continuing education for all peace officers and firearms qualifications, purchased new equipment for my officers which helps keep them safe, bought new uniforms and bulletproof vests, and launched my two new programs:  Talk with the Constable and Walk with the Constable.

I am proud that the new equipment, uniforms, and vests did not cost the taxpayers a penny.  I secured this money from grants and from donations to my department.  Most importantly, none of this would have happened without the hard work of my officers and administrative staff.

One of the changes I made in 2017 was to engage in community policing.  As an example, to the extent possible, my officers spend time in the neighborhoods patrolling your homes to help keep you safe.  After the hurricane, I suspended paper service and focused my officers in your neighborhoods and businesses to keep an extra eye on you and your property. And yes, even the “ole Constable” was out on the streets on patrol.  (Some say that “cop” actually means “constable on patrol.”)

Finally, I have designed and completed the Pct. 2 Wall of Honor.  This is a dedication to all the elected Constables who have served this district from its very beginnings in 1952 through today.  It will be officially dedicated January 23, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. at my offices located at 10110 Compton Road in Flour Bluff.  Come on by and take a look at history or come to the dedication.  The cost of this project was paid for through donations and didn’t cost the taxpayers one cent.

Happy New Year to all, and I look forward to serving as your Constable in 2018.

Always there for you!

Constable Mitchell Clark

Constable Clark is the duly elected official for the Pct. 2 Constable’s Office. He has been involved in the Nueces County Constable operations since 1981 and holds a Masters Peace Officers license from the State of Texas. He is a licensed attorney in Texas and Tennessee and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a former Marine with assignments as a military policeman with a specialty in corrections and as highly prestigious Marine Corps Drill Instructor @ MCRD San Diego. Constable Clark knows the law.

Constable Clark is the duly elected official for the Pct. 2 Constable’s Office. He has been involved in the Nueces County Constable operations since 1981 and holds a Masters Peace Officers license from the State of Texas. He is a licensed attorney in Texas and Tennessee and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a former Marine with assignments as a military policeman with a specialty in corrections and as highly prestigious Marine Corps Drill Instructor @ MCRD San Diego. Constable Clark knows the law.

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NASCC Fire Department Adopts Local Preschool for Christmas

Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest

     At 9:30 a.m., on December 12, 2017, the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi firetruck arrived at the Flour Bluff Head Start preschool on Glenoak Drive.  Several firefighters quickly exited the big red engine as the children standing on the patio of the Head Start building screamed and waved.  These brave men (Captain Weston Beseda, Firefighter Phil Lala, Firefighter Shawn Kotal, Firefighter Eric Santillon, and Fire Inspector Otis Terrell), however, were not responding to a fire.  They were delivering Christmas presents to the waiting children.

     For several years now, the NASCC Fire Department has put smiles on the faces of the children enrolled in the Head Start preschool program in Flour Bluff. This program services families whose income falls below the federal poverty line by allowing the children to be in a preschool setting where their teachers prepare them for grade school. Many of these children’s parents often struggle with having enough money to give their children gifts for Christmas. That’s why the NASCC Fire Department decided to adopt – not just 1 or 2 of the children at Head Start -but all the children enrolled in the program. This year, there were four classes with almost 70 students in all.

 

     Early each December, a representative from NASCC FD picks up a name card for each child. This card includes the age of each child and a list of items each needs or wants. Often clothing sizes are included because the children may need new clothing. Once these cards are in the hands of the Fire Department, they are disbursed among the firefighters who wish to participate and buy a present or two for a child in need. Presents are then wrapped, sorted, and prepared for delivery. In years past, Santa has helped in the delivery of the presents to the classrooms.  This year he relied completely on the five firefighters to get the job done. They unloaded the firetruck and headed inside with presents galore.

 

     There they greeted the children and began passing out the presents. They called each child’s name, and one-by-one, each went forward to receive beautifully wrapped packages. Once all the children were sitting down with their wrapped presents, Captain Beseda counted down for the children to tear open their gifts, “5…4…3…2…1…Go!” At the sound of “Go!” the wrapping paper began flying as the children ripped open their presents, bringing ear-to-ear smiles to every face.

 

     Some say that giving is the reason for the season, and this community project taken on by the NASCC Fire Department proves just that. Not only do these guys take pride in serving our community, they also take pleasure in giving towards community projects such as this. The fire fighters of NASCC Fire Department look forward to continuing placing smiles on the faces of those less fortunate for years to come.

Katy is a paralegal, wife, and mother of two boys, both of whom ride BMX. Even Katy has been known to race a moto or two! She is also a freelance photographer in her spare time – SevenTwelve Photography.

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Christmas with No Gifts

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Personal History

We hope you enjoy this Christmas story about a family who discovers the spirit of giving even though they are too poor to buy gifts for each other.  This is another true story from the life of Janice Sautter (J. R. Carter) who grew up in Oklahoma and has lived in Flour Bluff since 1968.

Christmas card, ca. 1940

     We never did have a really big Christmas like some people do, but what we had was enough. My daddy worked in construction, and when the weather was bad, the money was just not there.  And in Oklahoma the weather could get real nasty in the winter. My mother worked, too, but her paycheck would only go so far.  Women did not earn very much in those days.

     All of us kids knew that when the weather was bad, we just didn’t have money for extra things.  We were used to it, so we were never upset about it.  That was just the way life was.  I know our folks felt bad about it, but we kids were fine with it.  We just tried to improvise.

     Daddy had bought a small tree at the feed store a few days before and had it in a bucket of water to keep it fresh.  We started looking for things to make our own gifts, and we certainly came up with some pretty good ideas at times.  Mother had already told us that there would be no gifts this year, so we were already getting prepared to get creative.  The most important was a gift for our parents.  That is what we always started with.

     “What are we going to come up with this year, Margie?”

     “I don’t know. I thought you would have some ideas.’

     “Well, we don’t have much to work with.”

     “Let’s look around the house and see what we can find first,” Margie said.

     Margie was very creative.  She could usually come up with something. She suggested that we look outside for plants that die in the winter.  We could still find some that looked pretty and put them in a vase for the table.

     “That would be called a fall arrangement,” Margie told me.

     Of course I had to be the one to go outside to look. Margie got earaches, so she had to stay in when the weather was bad.  I put on my coat and all the other stuff I had to wear out in the snow so I wouldn’t freeze, and out I went.  Daddy was home, and he warned me not to stay out too long.  It was really cold, and the wind was blowing really hard.  I went across the road to a vacant lot and started looking for something that would look good in a vase. I had a paper bag and some scissors that Margie told me to take.  The snow was very light, so I could see things pretty well.  I found quite a few weeds that looked somewhat pretty, and I stuck them in the bag.  Believe it or not, some weeds are pretty even though they are dead and dried up.  I found what I thought would be enough and ran back to the house. I was really getting cold. I went in the house, and I told Margie I had a bag full.

     “Let me look at what you got,” she said.

    “Well, it better be good enough because I’m too cold to go back out,” I told her.

    “You’re not going back out, Ruthie.  It’s too cold,” Daddy said.

     “Good, ‘cause I don’t want to.”

     Margie was looking at all the stuff I brought back.  Some she put in one pile; some she threw in the trash.

     “What’s wrong with that stuff?”  I asked.

     “It’s just not right, Ruthie.”  Margie kept picking over my finds.

     “I got real cold looking for that,” I reminded her.

     “It just won’t work,” she said.

     “Just won’t work?”  I thought.  “Why not?  It all looks like weeds.”

     She took what she was going to keep and laid them on the kitchen table.  I noticed she had found some pretty ribbon that was Mother’s. She also had some of that paper ribbon that she could make curls out of with scissors.  She had used some of that silk fabric left over from our capes to decorate the vase. Mother had a bag with leftover sewing things that came in very handy.  She had even found some of the gold braid that Mother used on the capes.

     I don’t have any idea how Margie did it, but in an hour or so, I went back into the kitchen and found she had made the most beautiful thing I ever saw for Mother.

     “How did you do that, Margie?”

     “I don’t know. I just started working on it, and this is what I ended up with,” she said, putting the final touches on the ribbon.

     “Mother will love it.  We have to find a place to hide it,” I said.

     “I have a place in the closet to hide it,” Margie replied.

     “I wish I could make things like you do,” I said.

     “You can, Ruthie.  Just picture it in your mind and put it together.”

     “I’ll never be able to do what you can do. You are like Mother. You can make anything, and it always looks so pretty.”

     “Now what about Daddy?”  I whispered, so he couldn’t hear me.

     “I found this box that we can decorate.  We will make him a tobacco box,” Margie said.

     “What is that?”  I asked.

     “Well, sometimes he rolls his own cigarettes; he could use a box to keep the tobacco in so it will stay fresh.”

     “Where do you get all these ideas, Margie?”

     “They are just in my head, Ruthie.  And when I need them, they just come out.”

     “I can’t do that. The ideas I get in my head always seem to get me a spanking.”

     “Yes, you can.  I will show you how.  First, stop thinking about the things that get you in trouble.”

     She got all the things that she had found in the house and put them on the table.  She had a cigar box, a button, and a piece of ribbon.  The best item was the red, plaid fabric; it looked like Christmas!

     “I can’t do this, Margie.  You do it, and I’ll just watch.”

     “Are you sure?”

     “Yeah, I am sure.  I will mix up the flour and water for the paste.”

     I watched her and was amazed at what she could do.  She covered the box with the fabric first. Then she trimmed it around the edges with the gold braid. She punched a hole in the front of the box and pushed the shaft of a gold button through and tied it on the inside with string. Then she glued a little loop to the top of the box; that was to slip over the button to keep the box shut.  I just sat there and watched her work her magic. She never changed.  All of her life she made beautiful things.  She was so talented.

     “I think it is done,” she said.

     “It is so pretty. Daddy will love it!”  I squealed.

     “I hope so,” she said, turning the box to see it from all sides.

     We took it to the closet and hid it with Mother’s gift.  Margie and I had made Christmas cards for Mother and Daddy and Junior, too.  Thanks to Margie, it was all finished in one day and just a couple of days before Christmas.

     It was Christmas Eve, and Mother had promised we could put up the tree after supper. We knew we would have fun stringing popcorn and making paper chains out of newspaper for the tree. Then, on Christmas day, we would have a good dinner.

     She came home from work in a taxi that day because it was so cold.  Daddy had already started supper. It smelled good in the house. My daddy was a good cook, too, just like Mother.  He made the best fried potatoes with onions. Margie and I had set the table, so we were about ready to eat.  Mother had to change clothes of course.  She never wore her good clothes around the house, and we were not allowed to do that either.  We had to change clothes as soon as we got home from school.  I had a couple of spankings for breaking that rule.

     We finished our supper and washed the dishes.  Then, we were ready to trim the tree. We had been waiting all day for that moment.  Mother popped the popcorn and got the needles and thread for all of us to string it for the tree. We also had to cut the strips of paper to make the chains. Junior was doing that. We had one string of bulbs for the tree and an angel that Mother had made a long time ago. She got out a white sheet for the tree skirt.

1940s Christmas card

     I poked my finger with that needle a bunch of times. I even bled a couple of times. I think we all did that a few times. Mother made paste out of flour and water to make the chains. It was fun making the chains, mainly because there was no needle to poke my finger.  When we had finished making all the popcorn strings and the paper chains, we strung them around the tree.  We had the one string of lights and some icicles left from the year before.  When we had it all finished, it looked so pretty.

     “We did a good job on that tree,” Mother said.

     “I think it is really pretty,” I said.

     “It is beautiful,” Margie agreed.

     It was getting late, and we were all tired.  Mother said it was time for bed for all of us. So, we got into our pajamas and went to bed.  As soon as we were in bed, I started to wonder how we would get our parents’ gifts under the tree.

     “Margie, how do we get the gifts under the tree?”

     “We have to wait until we think they are asleep,” she said.

     “But what if we go to sleep before they do?”

     “I won’t. Don’t worry about it,” she promised.

     “I’ll try to stay awake.”

     I tried hard to stay awake, but I got so sleepy.  When I woke up, it was morning.  Margie was still asleep. I woke her up to ask her if she put their gifts under the tree.

     “Did you stay awake? Did you get them under the tree?”

     “Yes, I did, Ruthie.  Go back to sleep.”

     “No.  I am getting up. I want to see what they think about their gifts.”

     “Okay.  Let’s get up.”

     Junior was still asleep, but he wouldn’t get up.  Margie and I got up and went into the living room.  Mother and Daddy were in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking.  We went into the kitchen, and Mother had her gift sitting in the middle of the table.  It looked real pretty.

     “It looks like Santa came to see me and your Daddy last night.”

     “He did come to see you both,” Margie said.

     “But Margie helped him make your gifts,” I said.

     “Do you like your tobacco box, Daddy?”  I asked.

     “I do like it. It is real nice.”

     “We are sorry that you didn’t get a gift this year. There was just no money for Christmas.”

     “That’s all right.  We don’t mind,” Margie said.

     “It’s okay, Mother.  We have a tree, and we will have a big dinner today.”

     We really didn’t mind because we knew there was not enough money.  That was the only year that we got no gifts for Christmas.  We still had a good Christmas though.  Ola, Jim, and the three boys came for dinner.  Ola brought us paper dolls for Christmas. That was good. We liked paper dolls. They didn’t have much for Christmas that year either. Well, we all survived it, and we had a good dinner that Mother cooked.  What could be better than that?  That was a happy Christmas in the life of little Ruthie.

Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.

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