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.

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.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

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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.

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.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

Please follow and like us:

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…

A citizen of the United States of America, a Texan and a resident of Flour Bluff, Dan Thornton, values enlightened reason and freedom. Dan is a lifelong student of history and philosophy, and a writer of poetry and song. The hallmark of his pursuit is a quest for universal truth. By admission, the answer is illusive, but he is undaunted, and the quest continues.

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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.

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.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

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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…

A citizen of the United States of America, a Texan and a resident of Flour Bluff, Dan Thornton, values enlightened reason and freedom. Dan is a lifelong student of history and philosophy, and a writer of poetry and song. The hallmark of his pursuit is a quest for universal truth. By admission, the answer is illusive, but he is undaunted, and the quest continues.

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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.

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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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

____________________________________________________________________________

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.

 

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.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

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

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

The Life and Times of James “Butch” Roper:  Part I

To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Paper Trail 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.  These stories can be found in print in The Texas Shoreline News.

 

     James “Butch” Roper, born October 16, 1940, is a direct descendent of George Hugo Ritter, a German immigrant who settled Flour Bluff at the start of the Ropes Boom in 1890.  Ritter’s son, Erich George, born in 1893, married Myrtle Mae Watson, whose family was one of the first families in Flour Bluff, as well.  They had three children, one of whom was Alice Ritter, Butch’s mother. Alice married James “Mickey” Roper and had three children:  Deanna, Butch, and Cheryl.  Butch spent his boyhood days helping his grandfather, Erich George, with the chickens, the crops, and the cattle while his father worked for Humble Oil at the refinery on Graham Road.  Butch Roper thoroughly enjoys entertaining people with his memories of what it was like growing up in Flour Bluff.

The Roper children, ca. 1940s (Photo from Butch Roper collection)

     Butch’s earliest memory is of a ghost in his grandparents’ house that sat on Red Lake just south of Graham Road and west of Laguna Shores Road.

     “I was coming out of the field with my grandfather.  I fell out of the truck and broke my collarbone,” recalls Roper.  “Back then, they strapped you in a harness for a broken collarbone.  They put me in the upstairs room of that old two-story house.  I was scared to death!  The story was that there was a ghost in that house and that she walked the stairs at night.  There I was, a little kid strapped in that harness in a big old spooky house,” said Roper.

     “To make it even scarier, it was when they used to make everybody in Flour Bluff turn all their lights out at night so the German submarines wouldn’t see where we were,” he said.  “Every time those old stairs would creak, I’d think that ghost was coming to get me!” Roper laughed.

Flour Bluff Sun photo (1980s edition)

     “By the time I came along, the house was old and run down.  Originally, it was a really nice house, painted and everything.  It was built by a lady named Mrs. Shade, and she sold it to my grandfather.  Before that, they lived out where the Navy base is.  It was called the Grass Place,” said Roper.  “It had giant sand dunes and lots of grass.  When the Navy came in, they ran all those people out of there.  They said they were squatters and that they didn’t own the land they had been working all those years.”

     According to an October 22, 1941, Caller-Times article, Roper’s memory is correct.  The whole eviction process was a complicated matter, that sent the whole case to Judge James Allred’s court multiple times to decide who actually owned property and who didn’t.  The article states, “The sum of $229,402 remains on deposit in the registry of Federal Court here awaiting payment to land owners at Flour Bluff who were evicted when the government took over 2,050 acres in July 1940, for construction of the Naval Air Station.”

     Roper told of how most people in Flour Bluff at that time either lived at the Grass Place or far down Laguna Shores where the Vannoy family lived.  “Everything else was mostly brush except where people had cleared to build their houses,” said Roper.  “The Ritters owned everything from Laguna Shores to Waldron Road and from Graham to Don Patricio, which included Red Lake.  That lake was so salty that ducks never came to it.”  This includes the property where the “little refinery” sits on Graham Road.

      “They had a long-term lease with Humble Oil.  Since then, the lease has changed hands two or three times,” said Roper.

     “My dad worked at that refinery for 32 years.  First, we lived in the two-story Ritter home; then we moved over to the house that sat next to this one,” said Roper pointing over his shoulder.  “The pilings and the well are still there.  The house came from Sandia, where we had a dairy farm.  They moved it all the way out here and put it on Waldron Road.  At that time, Waldron was just a dirt trail until the Navy came in and improved the road and named it Waldron.”

     “My great grandfather had the contract to build roads in Flour Bluff.  They built them out of clay and oyster shell,” Butch recalls.  “Flour Bluff Drive was not a main road.  It was the road where we’d take our girlfriends to go parking because nobody else drove it.  The Roschers lived off that road back where the windmill still stands on Roscher Road and Caribbean.  They owned all that property.  I used to go with my grandfather to get-togethers at the Roscher place.  They were German, and he was German, so they visited all the time, but I don’t remember them speaking German to each other.”

     “My grandfather was pretty smart man,” said Roper as he explained how his grandfather was able to grow lots of vegetables in the poor Flour Bluff soil.  “He raised chickens to sell.  When he built the chicken pens, he made the floors out of wire.  When the chickens did their business, it would fall through the wire.  Then, we’d shovel up the droppings, put it in a little wagon, and take it out to the field to fertilize the crops.  It must have worked because he was a successful truck farmer.”

     Roper’s grandfather also ran cattle on the Encinal Peninsula.  “He leased land from people all over Flour Bluff for his cattle, the way Calvin Self does today,” Roper said.  “We’d take them to auction in Robstown to sell them.”

     Roper recalled how much he enjoyed being part of the Humble Camp when his dad worked at the refinery.  “My family spent a lot of time with the Humble Camp people.  It was kind of like a big family.  They had barbecues and square dances on the weekends.  The adults played Canasta or domino games like 42 and 84.  That was a grown-up thing.  The kids just played and got into a little mischief when the parents weren’t watching,” Roper said with a smile.

 

Humble Camp men (Photo courtesy of Butch Roper)

     “When we lived at Humble Camp down by the South Gate of NAS, we’d go to Hawley’s Drug Store.  It sat right outside the gate,” said Roper.  “When I was older, in the 1960s, a plane crashed right next to his place.  I was working part time for Moore Service on the base then fueling planes, and I had just filled that plane up.  It went up and straight back down, killing everybody in the plane when it burned up.”

Caller-Times photo, South Gate (ca. 1950s)

      Butch started school at Flour Bluff when he was seven.  “I went to school at the old school on Waldron and Purdue.  It was just a long hall with a gym,” recalls Butch.  “We started sports in that old gym.  Back then it was just reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Mr. Wranosky was the superintendent.  He was a task master.  He had the look about him that you didn’t want to mess with him,” he remembers.

Flour Bluff Superintendent Ernest J. Wranosky (FBHS Yearbook Photo)

     “Every year he went hunting in Colorado, and that’s when we started going to Ouray for our senior trip.  That was a big deal for a little flat-lander kid,” said Butch with a grin.  “I was friends with his son, Bud.  We played baseball together on the first baseball team Flour Bluff ever had. My best friend, Eddie Farrias, whose dad Lee worked the causeway toll booth, was our coach.   Jim Coffman and his mom Bernie Arnold, who owned A & H Sporting Goods sponsored our team.  I remember rolling into the little surrounding towns in their company truck.  On the side it said, ‘Another load of fresh bait.’  That got us a few laughs,” Butch said.  “If we played in Flour Bluff, we played on the field that was on Waldron where Whataburger sits now.”

Photo of first baseball team (Bernie Arnold collection)

     Butch remembers a great deal about school, especially sports.  He played all the sports, but really enjoyed basketball.  “We played basketball all the time.  Sometimes we played in the Humble Camp.  Sometimes we’d sneak into the gym at school.  Mr. Wranosky finally gave us a key because he said he was tired of us breaking into the gym,” Butch said.  “That’s how we got so good.  We were short, so we had to be good shooters.”

     According to a Caller-Times article when Butch was in high school, he averaged 15 to 16 points a game.  Coach Bud Gray was three inches taller than his tallest player.  Butch and his best friend Eddie were regular starters.  Reporter Jim McKone, author of the article, “Flour Bluff ‘Shorties’ Beat 14 of 19 Taller Foes,” wrote: “Short but fast, the Flour Bluff Hornets have several dangerous scorers.  They average three or four inches below six feet.  But 5-10 Butch Roper and 5-4 Eddie Farrias are accomplished shooters.”  All those times sneaking into the Flour Bluff gym evidently paid off.

     “There wasn’t much to do in Flour Bluff for a kid other than play sports.  We had a wreck hall in the Humble Camp where we had gatherings with our families.  Sometimes we went to the show on the base.  It was a dime to get in.  We hunted and fished, too,” Butch said.

     “We duck hunted all the time.  Granny would fix duck.  I didn’t like duck, but she had a way of cooking it to make it taste better,” said Butch.  “When we went duck hunting, we’d take our row boat and put in at the Humble docks.  Then, we’d row out into the water and build a blind out of Sweet Bay bush trees right on the boat, and we’d hunt out of the boat.  It worked great!”

     “I fished all the time with a fishing pole and usually fished with my grandfather.  We spent lots of time together – and caught lots of fish,” Butch said proudly.

Butch’s catch  (Photo from Butch Roper collection)

Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read Part II of Butch Roper’s story.  To share his 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.

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.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

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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.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

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Replacing Blake Farenthold

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial

   

Photo design by Dan Thornton

     Campaign signs are springing up along the roadways which is a clear indication that an election is coming soon. In fact, the Texas primary election will be held on March 6th. One of the most important local races will be the Republican primary to replace Blake Farenthold. Blake Farenthold is not running for re-election, and I recently suggested to a friend that Blake was not running due to a guilty conscience, but my friend quipped lawyers don’t have a conscience. That is something to think about, but in the meantime, I am thinking about the five candidates in the Republican primary. They are Michael Cloud, Christopher Mapp, Jerry Hall, John Grunwald and Bech Bruun.

     In a report for KRIS TV, The “Out-of Towners Running for Farenthold’s Old  Seat,” it was reported that three of the five candidates do not actually live in the 27th District. Bech Bruun has a vacation home in Rockport, but his permanent residence is in Austin. KRIS TV reported that Bruun has been living in his vacation home since December. John Grunwald did have a trailer in Wharton County which is in the district, but it got destroyed by a hurricane, and currently he is living in Houston. Jerry Hall has property and legal records that tie him to Florida; however, he has rented an apartment in Corpus Christi. Residing in the district is not a constitutional requirement, but it certainly is desirable.  Why else would a candidate rent an apartment or relocate to a vacation home in order to claim residency just prior to an election?

District 27 map

     There are two candidates who have permanent residences in the district. Michael Cloud owns a home and a business in Victoria, and Christopher Mapp owns a home in Port O’Connor. If the election came down to residency, the candidates would be Michael Cloud and Christopher Mapp, but that is not the case. Elections often come down to money, and the attorney Bech Bruun has attracted both money and endorsements. It now appears the election is shaping up to be a contest between Michael Cloud and Bech Bruun even though Bruun’s permanent residence is in Austin. Since the election is not going to be determined based on residency, it is important to know where the candidates stand on the issues.

     I reviewed Bech Bruun’s website looking for issue statements, but I found none. I did find endorsements on two different pages, and I found one page about the candidate. All that I was able to learn from the website was that he claims to be a conservative Republican, he is a lawyer, he has a wife and three beautiful children, and that he has worked for water development and Get-Out-the-Vote at a state level.   However, I could not determine his position on any of the key issues of our time, so I have to wonder whether he is a conservative or not. Honestly, I have to wonder, should we send yet another lawyer to Washington? Is he trying to deceive me by claiming his vacation home is his residence? Do lawyers have a conscience?

     In reviewing Michael Cloud’s website, I found that he too has a wife and three beautiful children. I also found a page of position statements that did cover the major issues of our time. I would encourage you to go to his website and read his position statements for yourself. What follows are some highlights from his website:

  • Commitment to responsible spending cuts
  • Cutting back federal regulations
  • Ensuring the military has the resources necessary to combat terrorism
  • Protecting your right to keep and bear arms
  • Repealing Obamacare
  • Providing parents greater input in educational choices for their children
  • Reforming immigration, beginning with securing the border and upholding the rule of law
  • Ensuring veterans have access to quality health care and education
  • Controlling  the EPA or other government agencies
  • Continuing to pursue energy independence
  • Standing against government attempts to discriminate against people of faith
  • Working to enact policies that recognize parental rights, respect marriage, and protect life

     Based on the information that is readily available, I would suggest that Michael Cloud is a conservative. I would encourage you to research the candidates for yourself.  You can meet Michael Cloud at the Padre Island Candidate Forum to be held at Schlitterbahn February 21st at 6:00 p.m.  Remember the election is being held on March 6th.  If you cannot do as Al Capone encouraged, “Vote early and vote often,” at least vote.

Until next time…

A citizen of the United States of America, a Texan and a resident of Flour Bluff, Dan Thornton, values enlightened reason and freedom. Dan is a lifelong student of history and philosophy, and a writer of poetry and song. The hallmark of his pursuit is a quest for universal truth. By admission, the answer is illusive, but he is undaunted, and the quest continues.

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