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.

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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.

The Snow Woman and the Sled

Front Page, Personal History

The recent snows in Corpus Christi found children and adults alike busy building snow people all over the city.  This story by Janice Sautter tells of a very unusual snow woman built in 1940s Oklahoma.  It is sure to make you smile.

Picture by Shirley Thornton, December 8, 2017

     It was wintertime in Oklahoma.  I didn’t really like winter.  If it snowed, it was not quite as bad.  At least I could play in the snow.  But, Oklahoma has a lot of sleet.  It gets so cold in the winter.  The wind blows real hard, and I just freeze to death.

     Our house was old, and the wind blew in around the windows.  Mother hung blankets on the north windows to keep some of the wind out. We had butane gas and just a small gas-burning stove in the living room.  Mother kept the oven on and opened the door to keep it a little bit warmer.  But, when we went to bed, all the heat was turned off.  She said it was too dangerous to leave it on.  Then it got bitterly cold!

     We had big quilts on the beds to keep us warm.  Granny and my mother made them.  Some of them were very warm because they were stuffed with feathers.  I was thankful we had the quilts, or I would have frozen to death for sure.  We had just four rooms in our house: the living room, the bedroom, which had one full-size bed for Margie and me, and a twin bed for my brother, a bedroom for my parents, and the kitchen.  We had a big screened-in back porch, too.

     I remember when I was little, I would wake up at night and be scared.  I could see all kinds of things in the dark that scared me.  In the winter when the wind was blowing real hard, I heard noises no one could believe.  I would call out to my mother and ask her if I could sleep with her and Daddy.

     “Mothe,r can I come sleep with you?”

     “No, Ruthie.  Go back to sleep.”

     “But I can’t. I’m scared.”

     “Nothing to be scared of.”

     “Yes, there is, too,” I would say.

     Daddy said, “Come on, Ruthie.”

      I knew Daddy would give in if he thought I was scared.  Mother would get mad at him for giving in to me.  I would jump out of bed real fast and run to their bed.  It was cold, and I was scared that something would grab me in the dark.  Daddy would pick me up and put me in between him and Mother.  It felt so good to be in their bed.  I was warm and safe.

     “You be still now,” my Mother said.

     “I will.”

     “And don’t be kicking me either.”

     “I won’t.  I promise.”

     “If you do, I will make you go back to your bed.”

     “I will be real still.”

     “My baby Ruthie,” Daddy would say.

     I loved when he called me his baby Ruthie.  I wouldn’t let anyone else call me baby.  But it was all right for Daddy to call me that.  He was always on my side no matter what I did. He saved me quite a few times when Mother was going to spank me.  He would stand right up to her and tell her “No, you are not going to spank her.”

     “What she did is not bad enough to get a spanking,” Daddy said.

     “That’s what you always say,” Mother replied.

     “Well, I guess it must be true then.”

     “No, it’s not true.  You just protect her all the time.”

     “That’s right.  That’s my job to protect her.”

     It was the same words every time . I knew them by heart.  If she had really wanted to spank me though, she would have done it, no matter what Daddy said.  My mother was the boss in our house, especially when it was about us kids.  She thought she always knew best about us.

     It was a long way to walk to school in the winter.  Margie and I always wore leggings under our coats to keep our legs warm.  They had suspenders to keep them up.  We had wool caps to keep our heads warm.  We had galoshes to wear over our shoes to keep them dry.  When we had all that stuff on, it was hard to walk.  And, if we fell down, it was hard to get up.

     One day when we got home from school, my sister Ola’s husband, Jim, was there.  He had built a big sled that a whole lot of people could sit on.  He was going to hook it up to the car and pull us on it.  I thought it was great.  We lived on dirt roads, and there was hardly any traffic. He thought it was safe.  Daddy was there, and he thought it was all right, too.

     Jim and Daddy tied these big ropes to the sled and then to the bumper of the car.  He had boards on the front of the sled to keep it from going under the car when he stopped.  The snow was real deep.  It had been snowing for a couple of days. About five or six of us kids piled on it.  Daddy got on to make sure everything was all right.  Jim started the car, and we started moving.

We went all the way around the block and were almost back to the house.  It was so much fun!  We all wanted to go again, but that was not going to happen.  Mother pulled up in a taxicab.  She was just getting home from work.  She paid the driver and got out.  She motioned with her hand for Jim to come to where she was.

     He drove to the driveway, and she looked at him real mean and said, “What do you think you are doing?”

     “Giving the kids a ride on the sled,” said Jim.

     “Are you crazy?” she asked.

     “I don’t think so, Ellen.”

     “Well, I do think so.”

     “What if this thing slides under the car?  What if that rope breaks?  Get off that thing right now!” she told us.

     “And you, too, Elmer.”

     We all started getting off slowly, hoping she would change her mind.  She was pretty mad though, so I didn’t really see that happening.

     Jim said, “I’m sorry, Ellen.  I just thought it would be fun for them.”

     “Getting killed or hurt is not fun.  I can’t believe that you helped with this, Elmer,” she said.

     Needless to say, the sled ride was over for good. Jim and Daddy got in trouble, and we missed out on a lot of fun all because Mother thought we would be hurt or killed.  Jim and Daddy would not let us get hurt or killed, at least not on purpose.

     A couple of days later, we had another big snowfall.  We had school that day, so we had just got home and were trying to get warm.  Daddy was home, too.  He worked in construction, and when the weather was bad, he couldn’t work.  He helped Mother out around the house when he was not working.  He cleaned and started supper so she wouldn’t have so much to do when she got home from work.

Jim was not working that day either because he worked outside, too.  I looked out the window, and I could see him in the front yard.  It looked like he was building a snowman.

     “Daddy, what is Jim doing in the front yard?”

     “I don’t know, Ruthie,” he said.

     “It looks like he is building a snowman,” I said.

     “Well, maybe he is.  I hope it’s not something to make your mother mad again.”

     “Daddy, can I go outside and watch him?”

     “I guess so, but put your coat and leggings on.”

     I got my coat and leggings on as fast as I could.  I put on my sock hat and went out the door.

     “What are you doing, Jim?”  I asked.

     “Building a snow woman, Ruthie.”

     “I never heard of a snow woman.”

     “Well, take a look at her.”

     I walked off the porch to look, and boy, was I surprised!  The snow woman looked just like a lady.  She had long straw for hair and eyes that looked real.  She had red lips and rouge on her cheeks. She had a red scarf tied around her neck, but that was all she had on.  She was a snow woman with no clothes on!  I mean she looked like a grown-up woman!

     “Jim, I think Mother is gonna be mad.”

     “Mad about what, Ruthie?”

     “Your snow woman.”

     “Well, she looks pretty good to me.”

     “But, all the neighbors can see her.”

     “That’s why I built her. To look at.”

     I had a real bad feeling about this.  I went back in the house, and I told Daddy what Jim was building in the front yard.  He looked like I had hit him with a ball bat.  He grabbed his coat and hat and out he went. He got out there just as Mother was getting out of the taxicab from work.  I didn’t go outside.  I just watched out the window.

     She walked over to the snow woman with this real mad look on her face.  She said something to Jim and then to Daddy.  Then she raised her foot up and kicked the snow woman down.  She said something else to Jim, and he started laughing.  Daddy was not laughing.

     So that took care of the snow woman.  Mother came in the house, and she was talking to herself she was so mad.  She just took her coat off and went to the kitchen to start supper.

     “You kids stay in this house.  Do not go outside.”

     “Yes, ma’am,” we all said.

     She never knew that I had been outside and got to see the snow woman, or she would have had a fit.  Daddy never told her either.  Jim got in his car and left.  He was just laughing.  He really liked to tease my mother.  He knew what she would do when she saw his snow woman.  I liked Jim. I thought he was funny, and he sure knew how to get a rise out of my mother.

     Now this was not a typical day in the life of little Ruthie.

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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.

The Sociopath, the Psychopath and the Wrong Path

Front Page, Health, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial, Science

First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs (San Antonio Current Photo, 2017)

 

 

     Shots ring out, 14 are left dead, 29 are wounded and the shooter is dead at the scene from an apparent suicide. The motive is not known, but an investigation is underway.  Stop.  Does this sound familiar?

     It sounds familiar because it is. Five of the deadliest shootings in the United States occurred in the last ten years.  In 2007, 32 were killed at Virginia Tech.  In 2012, we had the Sandy Hook massacre and 27 were killed.  In 2016, there was the Orlando night club shooting where 49 died.  In 2017, we have had the Vegas attack and the Sutherland Springs attack with a combined total of 84 dead.  Since 2007, there have been 54 mass shootings.  In the ten year period, from  1997 to 2007, there were 23 mass shootings, and from 1987 to 1997, there were 17 mass shootings.  Based on the statistics available from Mother Jones, it appears that mass shootings are on the rise, but why?

     The easy answer and indeed what appears to be the only answer is guns. Nearly every article written about mass shootings concludes that guns and assault weapons in particular are the problem.  Without guns, there would be no mass shooting; the reasoning goes, but that is like saying, “Without cars, there would be no auto accidents.  Both statements are of course true, but neither statement addresses the cause.  Cars do not cause accidents.  Careless drivers, distracted drivers, sleepy drivers, drunk drivers, and even texting drivers cause accidents, and guns do not cause mass shootings; psychopaths do.

     Most articles on mass shootings eventually get around to the psychopath behind the gun, but it is done with great reluctance, and only after guns have been sufficiently blamed. The reluctance to label a mass murderer a psychopath is somewhat understandable.  Typically a mass murderer has not been clinically diagnosed as a psychopath, and in fact, the term psychopath has fallen out of favor for a more politically correct term.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM IV) used by psychologists and psychiatrists contains a category called “antisocial personality disorder” (APD) which covers both the psychopath and the sociopath.  While it is true,  mass murderers exhibit antisocial behavior.  It seems to me that referring to their mental condition as an antisocial personality disorder is inadequate to describe the morally depraved mind of a mass murderer.  For that reason, I will use the more descriptive term psychopath.  With that said, I will attempt to shed light on  the question, why is the frequency of mass murder on the rise?

     To be accurate both the frequency and the magnitude of mass murder is increasing. The impact of advertising, the moral decay of society and drugs are perhaps three of the contributing factors.  Radio, television, and other media coverage of mass murder functions as advertising and encourages other psychopaths to act out at some future time.  Often sensational headlines glorify the killing which inspires more killings.  Headlines can also offer a challenge.  Consider this headline from CBS News, “Two of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history come just 35 days apart.” I can imagine some psychopath reading that headline and saying to himself, wait until they get a load of what I can do.  Perhaps a better headline would have been written like this, “Two low-life psychopaths dead at the scene just 35 days apart.”  Sometimes headlines convey sympathy for the psychopath like this one, “He was the loneliest kid I’d ever met.”  That was the headline for a 14-year-old that killed his algebra teacher and two classmates.  The headline might have read, “Deranged 14-year-old murders his teacher and two classmates.” Certainly news coverage of mass murder is necessary, but the media should be careful not to glorify or sympathize with the psychopath and cover mass murder with an awareness that coverage can advertise.

     Acting out in our contemporary society appears to be the norm. It matters not whether you are taking a knee during the National Anthem, creating riots in the streets, or merely changing your gender.  Acting out is trendy and cool and is usually encouraged in the media.  However, being trendy and cool is merely symptomatic of changing values or moral decay in society.  As values change, actions that were once forbidden by society are now permitted.  The more values change, the more permissive society becomes until you reach the point that psychopaths feel it is okay to act out their macabre fantasies.  It is my belief that as values continue to be eroded, mass murders will continue to rise as they have in recent years.

     This notion is borne out by the immanent Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung.  In Carl Jung’s The Undiscovered Self, Jung mentions an  element of latent sociopathy and psychopathy within any given culture.  Perhaps 10 percent of a society is composed of latent sociopaths and psychopaths, and 1 percent or less represents actual sociopaths/psychopaths. Most of the latent people will never become dangerous if they are living within a culture that is healthy and morally balanced.  In fact, those with inherent psychopathic traits can become very high functioning members of society who excel at careers in business, government, and the arts.  However, in the event values continue to erode, latent sociopaths/psychopaths have the potential to become active sociopaths/psychopaths and act out as they see fit.  It is a disturbing prospect to consider that the mentally disturbed 1 percent could evolve into 10 percent.

Website Graphs - Violence
Note: The FDA estimates that less than 1% of all serious events are ever reported to it, so the actual number of side effects occurring are most certainly higher. (CCHR International Mental Health Watchdog)

     If the prospect of a growing number of psychopaths is not disturbing enough, then consider that the problem is compounded by the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Most readers will have seen more than one commercial for a drug with side effects including suicide and violent behavior.  If you doubt the truth of this, then pay attention to the next Chantix commercial you see.  Chantix is administered to smokers to help curb cigarette cravings, but it is 18 times more likely to be linked to violent behavior than other drugs. Even more interesting is the unadvertised psychotropic drugs administered to children.  Today more than 10 million children are prescribed addictive psychotropic drugs with the warning the drugs can cause suicide in children and adolescents.  In fact, according to the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System, the following drugs are linked to violence:  Pristiq, Effexor, Luvox, Halcion, Strattera, Lariam, Paxil, Prozac and Chantix.  Most of the drugs are antidepressants and are often prescribed for the treatment of ADHD in children.  It is probably just me, but it seems we are taking the wrong path when we give children with mental problems a drug that will increase the likelihood of suicide and violence.  I am not aware of any studies that link pharmaceutical drugs to mass murder, but it is interesting to note that Stephen Paddock, Devin Patrick Kelley, and Dylann Roof all had mind altering prescription drugs prior to their killing spree.  Perhaps we are no nearer to answering the question, which came first the drugs or the psychopath?  But should we deny the connection?

     We can continue to blame guns for mass shootings because it is easy, and it fits a political agenda. However, if we want to know the cause of mass shootings we need to look elsewhere. After all, “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions,”  according to Claude Levi-Strauss.

Until next time…

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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.

Councilman Smith Talks City Business at FBBA General Meeting

Business, Community Organizations, Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page
District 4 Corpus Christi City Councilman Greg Smith addresses FBBA (PaperTrail photo)

 

     On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at the regular monthly meeting of the Flour Bluff Business Association, District 4 Councilman Greg Smith shared what has been happening at the city level.  The citizens elected Smith their council member last November.  “I am a Flour Bluffian, Class of 1970, and the first person who actually grew up in Flour Bluff to be elected to city council,” said Smith.

Harvey Update

     Smith started his presentation by discussing the effects of Harvey on Flour Bluff.  “We really got a pass on this one.  We had mostly roof and fence damage, and overall it was not too bad,” said Smith.  “That said, the condos and hotels on Mustang Island within the city limits were severely damaged.  About 20%, our HOT (Hotel Occupancy Tax) funds come from there.  None of those condominiums today are operating. The water was about 10 feet above sea level on Mustang Island.  It came out of Corpus Christi Bay, pushed up against those dunes, and really caused severe flooding.”

     The councilman went on to explain the issue with the brush and debris pickup, something that Judge Loyd Neal criticized publicly just last month. “For all of us in the Bluff and on the island, don’t put any more out.  The city’s not picking it up.  If you do, you will get a $75 bill,” said Smith.  “In 45 days, the city hauled more brush than they do in two years.  Corpus Christi is about 100 times the size of Port Aransas, which has more debris coming out of it than all of Corpus Christi.”

     Smith cautioned people about thinking we would not have another storm for many years.  He reminded everyone of the 1916 and 1919 storms of Carla, Beulah, and Celia that came within the same 9 years.  “We need to take what we learned from all these storms and apply it to the future.  The odds are we are going to have a storm much sooner than 47 years,” he said referring to the August 3, 1970, Celia that hit Corpus Christi directly.

Creative Commons Photo

     “I am going to be pushing for several things.  One is our roofs and the composition shingles.  Right now we’re required to have a 120 mph shingle that sells for $65 a square.  For $75 a square, you can buy a 150 mph shingle.  And, it will last nearly twice as long.  Instead of a 30-year shingle, you’ll get a 50-year shingle,” said Smith.

     “Flour Bluff – like Port Aransas – floods.  If the conditions are right, we could see the flooding here that Mustang Island saw.  If we increase the BFE (base flood elevation) to one foot above, everybody in Corpus Christi who is paying flood insurance will see a 5% reduction.  Anybody who builds at that standard will save money on their flood policy,” said Smith. “Both of these things can save us money in the long run.”

     Smith spoke of how some of the local haulers had upped their prices after Harvey but took the time to point out the Matt Eckstrom of Killian Calderon Disposal, was not one of them.  “I want to give a shout-out to Matt,” said Smith.  “He is a good local citizen who didn’t take advantage of his customers.”  Smith encouraged those in attendance to call on Eckstrom if they have need for his services.

City Budget

     Smith then talked about various aspects of city government, beginning with the budget that went into effect October 1, 2017.  “Most of us on the council are new to the process, so it’s been a learning year.  We basically received a staff budget,” Smith said.  Mayor Joe McComb and Smith asked that staff cut 1% across the board so that there would be money to put into streets.  When Council was told that there was no way to do that, Smith said, “When they told me they could not save one cent on the dollar, I had trouble with that.  We did get a half-cent on there, which was $3.4 million to go to our residential streets, not our arterials and collectors.”

     “Thirty years ago, all of our ad valorem taxes went to support our public safety, police and fire.  Our sales tax went to the other areas.  Today, all of our ad valorem goes to support police, and all of our sales tax goes to support fire.  I’m not saying these are dedicated funds.  We get $77 million in ad valorem, and our police budget is $77 million.  Our fire budget is $52 million, and we get around $54 million in sales tax.  Monies that were going elsewhere historically have gradually been shifted over to public safety.  I think our fire and police have excellent people there, and we are understaffed, more so in the police than fire.  We do have issues right now,” said Smith.

     Smith explained that increased evaluations did bring in extra ad valorem dollars.  “That money went to satisfy our contractual obligations to our police and fire departments.  We didn’t have anything left over at the end of the day.  We received an increase of $4 million in ad valorem increases, but we had $4 million obligated to raises to police and fire.”  He said that they are looking at different ways to address the issue.  “To put one more officer on the force, it costs the taxpayers $125,000 for each officer.”  If they increase by eight officers, it will cost $1 million.  “Right now we have about 400 officers,” said Smith.

     “We have way too much debt, and we’re not in favor of that.  This council, with five new members, is a much more questioning council than our last councils have been,” said Smith.  “We’ve got to do better as a city, and we’ve got to bring our services in cheaper.  For example, we have a wall behind the museum that needs to be re-built, and I agree with that.  The estimate came in at $10,000 a linear foot for the 200-foot wall.  That’s $2 million dollars.  When we build the Packery Channel bridge and the approaches to it, it will cost $4,000 a linear foot, and I asked why we would do this.  These are the kinds of things we’re addressing.

Wastewater

     The councilman addressed wastewater next.  “It’s kind of a silent thing.  We don’t often think about that, except maybe a couple of times a day,” Smith said, which was followed by a chuckle from the crowd.  He addressed the consolidation of the treatment plans that has been debated for months, an expensive fix that Smith did not deem necessary.  “All we have to do is repair and maintain what we have.”  This direction will allow the system made up of six plants to work and meet regulatory standards without costing the  rate payer $220 million dollars more than repairing the existing plants. “That comes out of our pockets, and there’s no reason for it,” said Smith.  “We have instructed staff to move forward and fix the plants we have to make them fully operational and efficient.”  This drew a round of applause from the audience members.

Water

     Smith then addressed the water system.  “Our peak year in water usage as 1989,” he said.  “We are using about 30% less water today, and we’ve added two sources of supply.  We have plenty of water.  We are trying to make everyone aware of that, particularly industry.”  Smith said that industry is a big consumer of water but there is still plenty.  “We are moving forward on desalination even though we have water.  We just authorized permitting for a desalination plant,” Smith said.  “One thing this council will not do is build that plant until we have the demand.  “However, we want to be ready in case we get a lot of industry come in, and we need the water.”  Smith sees Corpus Christi as a frontrunner in desalination, which will make the city known to industry both nationally and internationally.

     Smith explained that the state loaned the $2.75 million for desalination, which must be paid back at no interest in eight years.  “We will be adding a little to the industry rate since they’re the ones who really want this.  We’re not going to put this on the ordinary rate payer,” Smith said.

Streets

     Smith then moved to the topic of streets.  “The big one is streets, which is strictly a money issue.  For residential streets, we have a program in place, and it’s funded to maintain the good streets,” said Smith.  He explained that all streets in the city have been rated according to the PCI (Pavement Condition Index), a rating system of 1 to 100.  “Any street with a PCI of 55 or above is on a funded maintenance program,” he said in reference to the SPMP (Street Preventative Maintenance Program) started in January 2014 and funded by the SMF (Street Maintenance Fund) to pay most of the construction costs.  Streets that meet the 55+ requirement are eligible for maintenance work through either a seal coat or overlay every seven years.  According to the 2017 SPMP Work Plan, Waldron Road, which has a PCI of 57 from Caribbean to Yorktown, will receive an overlay in 2017.

     “The next classification of streets, which a lot of the Bluff streets are, is PCI 35-55.  We just approved $8 million dollars on addressing these streets,” said Smith.  He explained that this program is based strictly on PCI rating and has nothing to do with amount of tax dollars collected from a particular area.  Only one Bluff street will fall under this program.  “I was disappointed to see that, but it takes a million dollars a mile.  The City of Corpus Christi is going to recondition eight miles of streets city-wide,” said Smith.

Don Patricio Road, 2016 (SevenTwelve Photography)

 

     “The last tier is a PCI of 35 and below.  It costs $4 million a mile to fix those streets.  With over 400 miles of bad streets, that’s $1.6 billion.  We don’t have  $1.6 billion.  We don’t have anywhere near that amount,” Smith said.  He said that only two streets in the city with this rating are targeted for reconstruction, Ralston and Rogerson, neither of which is a Bluff street.  “It’s going to be a long, long time before we can get to the other streets.  Again, it boils down to money.”

     Smith later talked about the way that street repair is done currently.  “We are repairing streets today the same we did 75 years ago,” he said adding that it is not the most efficient way of getting the job done.  He said the city is testing a machine called an asphalt zipper that uses less labor, takes less time, and may do a better job than what the city street crews do now. “This machine does it all and has the proper tamping required to keep the asphalt in place,” Smith said.

     Part of the issue with streets is that developers, though required to do so, may not actually build a 30-year street.  “I asked how many streets have problems that are one- or two-year streets.  Currently, we have eleven streets that are supposedly 30-year streets that are now owned by the taxpayers that are already having to be patched.  Carolyn Vaughn and I want to require a two-year warranty instead of a one-year warranty on those streets,” Smith said.  “If they’re truly building 30-year streets, we should be able to get a two-year warranty.”

     Monette Bright, local businesswoman, asked, “Why are utilities not put in for an entire subdivision when it goes in?  Why are they allowed to put in gas and water taps after the street has already gone in?  Doesn’t digging into the pavement destroy the integrity of the street?”

     “That has definitely been the case in the past.  With the newer subdivisions, the taps are now put in place before the paving begins.

Homelessness

     “This is something that affects us all, especially in the Bluff.  The Flour Bluff Citizens Council and the Flour Bluff Business Association have done great work.  I think if the city had done that, it would be terrific,” said Smith in reference to an FBCC Town Hall meeting on October 16, 2017, where the citizens were educated on the state of homelessness in Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff.  “We are looking for a way to know where these folks are,” said Smith, referring to the proposed Coordinated Entry plan for the city, which helps keep track of the homeless as they move in and around the area.  Smith said that the city is looking at helping reunite individuals with their families.  Two other proposals include a work program and a housing program.

     “Personally, I think I have a lot of support on council with this.  We have to be compassionate.  People have issues that we have to help take care of.  We have to take care of the people who need and want help,” said Smith.  He added that in doing so that we be careful not want to create an environment where Corpus Christi becomes a destination spot for homeless.  “It’s a balancing act.  Citizens in Flour Bluff are concerned about safety and sanitary issues when they go to Parker Park,” said Smith, something that he said is a concern in most parks in the city.  Smith went on to describe a homeless person becoming physical with a woman who was serving attendees at a local function.

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Homeless camp (PaperTrail photo)

     “From a policing standpoint, currently our department’s attitude is that we cannot solve homelessness.  However, when we have someone who is physically aggressive, as a city, we need to strengthen that,” said Smith.

     Dan Hogan addressed petty theft around the neighborhood and its relationship to homelessness.  “I call this a revolving door problem.  We have these homeless people who get on drugs and become a nuisance to themselves and our community.  When they get arrested, they get put right back out on the street,” said Hogan.  “There has to be a solution in some city somewhere.  Let’s figure out what to do about this,” said Hogan.  “Let’s find out where those bus tickets are coming from and buy return tickets.”  This drew many comments of agreement from the audience.

Election Year Coming

     Smith reminded everyone that we are coming upon an election year in 2018.  “Council members are elected for two year terms,” said Smith.  He cautioned everyone to be aware of candidates making promises that they cannot keep in order to get votes.  “Usually, you get votes by spending money.  When you cut, you lose a lot of votes.  Commissioner Chesney is like I am.  He stands firm on the budget.  We have to make the hard decisions.  It irritates people when you cut programs out, but sometimes these cuts are necessary.  I will continue to ask those hard questions and make cuts where necessary,” said Smith.

Audience Concerns

     Joe Lynch, resident and local businessman, voiced a safety concern about the Laguna Shores SPID intersection.  “Even a small vehicle has difficulty making that right-hand turn onto Laguna Shores without swinging out into the lane that goes up on the freeway,” Lynch said.  “Sometimes the driver comes to a complete stop to let the Laguna Shores traffic go, which is dangerous for the driver pulling onto SPID because he doesn’t have a clear view.”  Lynch suggested that the right turn lane on Laguna Shores be moved more toward the Laguna Madre to allow for the necessary space for safe turning.  Lynch was concerned that someone was preparing to build on that property, which might prevent the movement of the lane.

     Smith thanked Lynch for his comments and said that Laguna Shores improvements will be on the 2018 Bond that will go to the voters next November.  “That’s the kind of thing we need to catch before the design.  You’re right.  It is a problem,” responded Smith.

     Jennifer Welp asked about what seems to be a new fee implemented by the City Solid Waste Department right after Harvey.  “It severely affects roofers and remodelers who have to haul debris or building materials,” said Welp.

     “You’re referring to the MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) fee.  It’s been in effect since 2001.  If a hauler like Matt, let’s say, is called by a roofer to haul the material, and he takes it to the city landfill, he pays the fee, a fee that is for street maintenance.  If the roofer takes it himself to a private landfill, the fee doesn’t get paid.  If Matt takes it to a private landfill, it was already in his bill, and the fee gets paid.  Again, it was started in 2001, and the city staff picked right after Harvey to implement it, so it looks terrible.  We’ve had a lot of complaints from the roofers who are paying about $200 when they ought to pay about $20.  Staff is now going back and looking at what was charged and bringing those charges in line to what they ought to be,” said Smith.

     Matt Eckstrom asked, “When you enact that MSW fee on the roofers, are they going to do that through the building permits that they pull?”

     “Yes, it has been switched to the building permits from the landfill bill.  They were supposed to be paying that at that time.  We’ve heard a lot of justified concerns about it,” responded Smith.

     Another business owner asked, “Do those fees go into a street maintenance fund, or do they just go wherever?”  Smith said that the 400-page budget has 66 different funds, which makes it very difficult to track where those dollars go.  “It’s like the convention center.  The taxpayers spend $10 million a year on it, but there are so many funds that the money comes out of that nobody knows what the actual number is.  So, with this fund, it’s supposed to go to the streets, but it goes a little here and a little there.  When the mayor asked that question about what adds up to around $300,000 a year, staff said the money was being spent on multiple city programs.  We are watching that.”

     FBBA President Jennifer Welp thanked the councilman for addressing the FBBA and awarded him with a Keep It in the Bluff Certificate of Appreciation.

Other FBBA Business

  • FBBA elections were held at the November general meeting. Jonathan Vela of Dani’s Lock and Key, Javier Wiley with HEB Plus, and Roshan Bhakta of Candlewood Suites are candidates for the three open positions.  Tom Hollingsworth and Cliff Zarbock will be stepping down from the board.  President Jennifer Welp thanked them for their service and gave each one a certificate of appreciation.
Jennifer Welp and Dr. Tom Hollingsworth DC (PaperTrail photo)
Cliff Zarbock of Premier Realty (PaperTrail Photo)
  • President Jennifer Welp welcomed three local businesses to the FBBA: Matt Eckstrom of Killian Calderon Disposal, Susan Chandler of SCC Jewelry, and Vandana Andrews of Andrews Flowers.
Vandana Andrews, Jennifer Welp, and Matt Eckstrom (PaperTrail Photo)
  • Tire Recycling Program Recap: The FBBA partnered with Nueces County Commissioner Brent Chesney and DEGOLA Resource Conservation and Development District to offer a free tire recycling event on November 4, 2017, from 9 to 5.  Lots of tires were collected, which really made an impact on the Flour Bluff community.  The FBBA would like to thank Wes Womack and his 4-wheel-drive club for helping with collection of dumped tires.  Another free tire-recycling event is planned for early next year.
  • The FBBA Membership Drive is still going on. The FBBA thanked all who are members.  All local business owners are encouraged to join in the last quarter of the year.  The annual dues is $65.00, which can be paid online at https://www.flourbluffbusinessassociation.com/application .

 

C’est Bon Mixes It Up with FBBA Members December 13

     On Wednesday, December 13, 2017, the Flour Bluff Business Association will have their December Mixer at C’est Bon Seafood located at 10210 S. Padre Island Dr, Corpus Christi, Texas, from noon to 1:00 p.m.  Come join us as we introduce the newly-elected FBBA board members and enjoy some good seafood while mixing and mingling with other Flour Bluff business owners.  If you or your business would like to sponsor our mixer next month, please let us know.

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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.

Mary Ann’s Coastal Hair Salon Earns FBBA Spotlight Award

Front Page
Mary Ann Escamilla receives award from FBBA president, Jennifer Welp (PaperTrail photo)

     At the regular Flour Bluff Business Association meeting held Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff, President Jennifer Welp awarded Mary Ann Escamilla, owner of the Coastal Hair Salon, the Keep It in the Bluff Spotlight Award.  Escamilla had her grand opening August 1, 2016, at her shop located at 820 Waldron Road, in the building at the Y.  To celebrate the first anniversary of the shop, she held drawings for hair products and gift certificates of $10, $15, $30, and $50.

     “Business has been great!” said Escamilla.  “My husband has been amazing helping me get everything together.  I have two girls who work there with me to serve an established clientele.  For that we are really blessed.”

    “We are a family-friendly salon,” said Escamilla, “that offers a variety of services.”  Men, women, and children can get haircuts.  Other services include color (including color correction), highlights, lowlights, roller sets, up-dos, waxing, and perms.  They will open early or stay late by appointment.

     Escamilla, a Flour Bluff graduate, reaches out to the community in many ways.  For example, she makes house calls for hospitalized or homebound patients.  She also makes hair donations to the CWHL (Children with Hair Loss), a non-profit organization that provides human hair replacements to children and young adults with medically-related hair loss.  She also gave free back-to-school haircuts to Harvey victims and free hair washes to first responders and elderly people who did not have warm water at home after the storm.

     Escamilla, who has over twenty years of experience as a hair stylist, is not the only experienced stylist at the salon.  “Holly Havens is a Flour Bluff graduate, as well, and has worked in the Bluff as a hair stylist for many years.  Sandy Baraja has worked in Flour Bluff for many years and owned a salon in Turtle Cove from 1998 to 2006.  She is also a part-time instructor at a beauty school.  We employ a barber who works part time by appointment.  She does flat tops and all men’s fades,” said Escamilla.  “Our combined experience is over 100 years.”

     Escamilla encourages everyone to try her shop.  Appointments can be made by calling 361-353-4854 or contacting her through the shop’s Facebook page (MaryAnn’s Coastal Hair Salon) where samples of her work can be viewed.

     Mary Ann Escamilla and staff say, “We want to spread and share the love.”

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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.

Santa Arrives December 8 in Flour Bluff for Community Christmas!

Business, Community Organizations, Flour Bluff, Front Page
(Photo by SevenTwelve Photography, 2016)

    The Flour Bluff Business Association would like you to join us on Friday, December 8, 2017, in welcoming Santa and his elves to Funtrackers Family Fun Center located at 9605 S. Padre Island Dr, Corpus Christi, TX 78418.  Santa is scheduled to arrive at 6:00 p.m., and he is coming with gifts!  Every kid will get a chance to meet Santa for a picture and a present.  We will have entertainment throughout the evening including a Cake Walk sponsored by the Children’s Center, face painting, a community sing-along, and much more!

A junior elf speaks with the little children as they wait in the line,  to see Santa, 2016 (SevenTwelve Photography photo)

     “We love this community where we live, and we want to give back by giving to the children who are here.  We are so happy to announce that HEB Plus will be donating $1500 toward the purchase of toys for the kids.  We hope all business owners will consider setting out a toy box at your place of business to collect toys for the kids or will join us on the 8th to help with the event,” said FBBA President Jennifer Welp.

Santa’s lead elf assists with the gift-giving process, 2016 (SevenTwelve Photography photo)

     Since the announcement, others have donated to the toy drive.  Grace Community Church gave $1000.  County Commissioner Brent Chesney made a personal donation of $500, and  Commissioner Mike Pusley donated $250.  Funtrackers is not only co-hosting the event, but they are donating lots of toys for the little ones.

Braving the cold for time with Santa, 2016 (SevenTwelve Photography)

     For anyone who would like to make a toy donation, FBBA toy boxes are located at Colonia del Rey on Waldron Road, Edward Jones on Waldron next to Papa Murphy’s, the Children’s Center on SPID, Navy/Army at SPID and Flour Bluff Drive, Maybelle’s Market at Turtle Cove Shopping Center, and Funtrackers on Flour Bluff Drive.  The FBBA wants to thank all who have generously given time, talent, or donations to make this fun-filled, community event possible.

The magic of Santa (SevenTwelve Photography)
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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.

Oh, How I Miss a Hometown Newspaper!

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, North Padre Island, Opinion/Editorial
Coffee and News © Shirley Thornton

     As I dig through old news clippings from the Flour Bluff Sun to research our local history, I am reminded of how much I loved that little paper.  Marie Speer, owner and publisher, gave us something to anticipate every Friday.  Whose picture would make the cover?  What tidbit of Flour Bluff history would she include?  Who made the all-star team?  What community events were coming up?  What new business opened in the Bluff?  Who was born or married?  Who died?  What battle would surface in the letters to the editor?  Not until Marie’s staff rolled each paper, bound it with a rubber band, and tossed it onto the lawn would these questions be answered.  When we lost the Flour Bluff Sun, we not only lost the news of the day, we lost a print record of our community’s history.  I am still in search of past editions of the Sun and of an earlier newspaper called The Flour Bluff Reporter, which was owned and published by Bill Smith.

Flour Bluff Sun, published by Marie Speer beginning in 1976

     Jeff Craft, owner and publisher of the Flour Bluff Messenger, tried to revive the old spirit of truly local news, but sadly he had to give it up.  I am grateful for his efforts and for the opportunity to submit articles to it.  I am especially grateful to have hard copies in hand.  There is nothing like sipping a cup of coffee while reading a real hometown newspaper on real newsprint.  This is always done with a pair of scissors nearby in case I need to clip something out of the paper, articles or pictures that I will post on the fridge, share with a friend or family member, or tuck away in a box or book for safekeeping.  Maybe one day one of my great grandchildren will stumble across a news article I saved about his mom or dad or the community in which they lived.  Yes, print newspapers are not a thing of the past; they are evidence of the past.

Jeff Craft’s publication kept the Flour Bluff informed for two years.

     Once again, residents of Flour Bluff, Padre Island, NAS-CC, and parts of South Side will have the chance to keep a piece of history for future generations.  Ron Henne, who owns and publishes The Saltwater Angler Magazine, and a few of his friends have taken on the task of creating a print newspaper for the folks in our community, one that merges the old with the new but highlights what matters to all of us.  The first edition will be available December 1, 2017.  I have done a little writing and editing for this new publication, too, and I pray it will make it because I really miss having a hometown newspaper.

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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.

To Sprinkle – Or Not To Sprinkle (A Glimpse into Corpus Christi’s Past)

Corpus Christi, Front Page, History, Local history
First State Bank, Corpus Christi, Texas, corner of Mesquite and Schatzel,           ca. 1900 (Source: TexGenWeb Project)

     When a citizen of Corpus Christi is asked about nagging problems in the city, it is almost guaranteed that street maintenance will come up.  They hold the Street Operations Department to its mission, which states it is “to manage, maintain, and develop the City’s street system. This is accomplished by maintaining street pavement; operating and maintaining traffic signals, signs and markings; and planning and developing the street system.”  At least it is clear that the City is responsible for upkeep of city thoroughfares.  However, in 1898, just 52 years after the incorporation of Corpus Christi, the mayor and city council were at odds about whether or not the city should take an active role in tending to the streets.

People’s Street, Corpus Christi, Texas, ca. 1900 (Source: TexGenWeb Project)

      The following article from the January 28, 1959, Corpus Christi Caller-Times relates the kinds of issues facing the Mayor Oscar C. Lovenskiold and the City Council of 1898.

“In 1898 dust was a serious problem in a Corpus Christi that had no pavements.  In May a special meeting of the City Council was called to devise ways and means of sprinkling streets.

“Captain C. C. Heath of the Board of Trade, fore-runner of the Chamber of Commerce, advocated street sprinkling.  The water company agreed to furnish the water free.  Citizens offered to provide a sprinkling wagon if the city would permit its two horses to be used and provide a driver.  An ordinance was passed putting this arrangement into effect.  But the mayor vetoed the ordinance.

“He raised many objections.  He said street sprinkling was not one of the purposes for which the city was chartered; that it would be unfair because all streets could not be sprinkled equally; that the city couldn’t afford street sprinkling; and that it was an unnecessary luxury.  

“The city council passed the ordinance over the mayor’s veto.”

     It seems that our problem is not a new one, nor is it one that city councils of the past and present have failed to discuss.  If we couldn’t get it under control in the early days when only a few dirt roads existed…

Don Patricio Road, Flour Bluff, ca. 2014 (Picture by SevenTwelve Photography)
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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.

Tom’s Grocery Store

Front Page, Personal History

            I was about nine years old that summer.  My brother still thought he was the boss of Margie and me.  He always took care of us in the summer while Mother worked.  That was the summer he got us into another fine mess with one if his hair-brained ideas.  Why did I let him talk me into those things?

            Mother had a charge account at this little neighborhood grocery store.  She would make us a list if we needed something for lunch before she went to work.  We were not allowed to add anything to the list.  Most of the time, the list consisted of things like bread, lunchmeat, mayonnaise, and things like that.  Sometimes she would let us get a candy bar for each of us.

            Tom’s Grocery was the name on the front of the store.  Tom was an old man with gray hair.  He was a nice man, and I liked him.  He would always talk to me when I went in the store.

            “Are you having a good summer?” he would ask.

            “I guess so,” I would say.

            “What have you been doing?”

            “Not too much,” I would reply.

            “How are your folks doing?” he always asked.

            “They are fine, I guess.”

            We just talked about nothing really.  We were just being polite.  My daddy said that being polite to your elders is very important, so I tried to be polite.  I loved my daddy more than anyone, so I tried to do what he told me.  I didn’t do this so much with other people, like my brother.  Why would I want to be polite to him?  He was never polite to me, so I figured you get what you give.  So, I tried to give him just what I thought he had coming, which was as much trouble as I could think up.  I wanted him to do his job as the person in charge.  I would not refer to him as a babysitter because I was not a baby. He would tell us sometimes that he was our babysitter just to get me mad.  Margie didn’t care.  She liked being a baby because that was her way of getting what she wanted from Mother.

            One day Margie and I were getting ready to go to Tom’s store to buy what Mother said we could have for that day.  Junior never went; he was too lazy to walk that far.  He said it was too hot.  I guess he thought Margie and I didn’t get hot.  I liked being outside, even when it was hot, so I didn’t care, and I got away from Junior for a while.

            We were all three sitting at the kitchen table and looking at the list.  Then Junior said, “We are going to get some other stuff today.”

            I asked, “What other stuff?”

            “We’re going to get some candy and cokes,” he said.

            “But that is not on the list,” I said.

            “She will never know about it.”

            “Yes, she will, and we will be in big trouble,” I said.

            “No, I can write just like Mother.  I will just add a few things to her list.  She will never know, and old Tom will not figure it out either. I have been practicing to write like her,” he said.

            “Junior, if she finds out, she will beat us half to death.”

            Margie said, “I don’t want to get a spanking.  Let’s not do it, Ruthie.”

            “Were gonna do it,” Junior said.  “I’m in charge, so you two have to do what I say.”

            Margie and I finally gave in, but we were both against it.  It seemed wrong to me to spend money that my parents might not have.  The extra things he added looked just like my mother’s writing.  I couldn’t believe it!  He added three cokes, three candy bars, and three ice cream bars.  That really sounded good, but I still didn’t feel right about it; neither did Margie.  We went along with it because the big boss said so.  I just hoped and prayed we wouldn’t get caught.

            We finally agreed on what we were going to do, and Margie and I left to walk to the store.  Both of us were scared all the way to the store.  Everything inside me was saying not to do this.  It was wrong.  I felt like a thief, like I was stealing from my own family.  I think Margie did, too.  We didn’t talk much all the way to the store.

            Finally, we are in front of Tom’s store.  We looked at each other, opened the door, and went in.  We started looking around the store and getting the things Mother had put on the list.  What we were allowed to get was bread, bologna, and a quart of milk.  We had to get Tom to cut the bologna on the meat slicer.  We were to get one half pound.  He gave us the bologna, and we went to get the three cokes, three candy bars, and three ice cream bars.

            We put everything on the counter so he could ring it up.  To my surprise, he pulled out this little tablet, put a carbon paper between two pages, and he wrote down everything we got in that little tablet.  Then, he added it all up and pushed the book over for us to sign it.

            Mr. Tom said, “Who wants to sign today?”

            We looked at each other not knowing what to say.  Finally, I said, “I guess I can sign today.”

            “Good,” he said.

            I picked up the pencil and wrote Ruthie on the paper.

            Mr. Tom put all the groceries in a paper bag and handed it to us.

            He said, “Thank you, girls.  Have a nice day and be good.”

             I said, “Yes, sir, we will.”

            We had done the my brother’s dirty deed, and I was not feeling good at all.  I looked at the copy he gave us of the items we bought.

            I said, “Margie, look at this.”

            “What’s wrong with it?” she asked.

            I said, “We have to give this to Mother, and she will see what is on it.  That is what’s wrong with it.  We are gonna get caught.  We can thank Junior for this.  Our goose is cooked!  We better get ready for a spanking because we are gonna get it.”

            I hated my dumb brother.  He was so stupid!  Why did I listen to him?  I am stupid to for doing what he said.  I know who is in the big trouble.  It is me because Junior is her little boy, and Margie is always faking an earache.  That leaves me.  Not to mention I signed the grocery ticket.  I am so mad at myself.

            We got home, and the big dummy was waiting for us.

            He asked, “How did it go?”

            I just threw the grocery ticket at him.  “This is how it went.  We have to show this to Mother, and she will know what we did, mister smarty-pants.  This is all your fault.  I knew I shouldn’t have listened to you.  I always get in trouble when I listen to you.”

            He said, “This is no problem; we just tell her we lost it.”

            I said, “You really are stupid.  Mr. Tom has a copy of this ticket, you big dope. When she pays the bill on Friday, she will see it.”

            “Don’t worry,” he said.  “I have everything under control.”

            I said, “You are a big fat liar!  You have nothing under control.  I’m just gonna get ready for the spanking and admit to what we did.”

            It was just Wednesday, so we had until  Friday evening to worry about it. I was trying to get my mind off of it, but I felt so guilty I couldn’t forget about it.  I do believe I was having nightmares about it.  I ate the ice cream and candy that day, and I drank the coke.  I was already in danger of going to hell for liking to dance, and now I was a thief.  What was worse, I stole from my own family.  We spent money that Mother probably didn’t have, and I felt really bad about that. I was feeling bad about eating the candy and ice cream and drinking the coke.

            On Thursday, I told Junior and Margie that I was going to tell Mother what we did.

            “You better not!”  he yelled at me.

            I said, “Yes, I am.  What we did was wrong.”

            Margie started to cry and said, “I don’t want a spanking.”

            “We will get it anyhow on Friday; we might as well get it today when she gets home.”

            Junior said, “You better not tell, or you will be sorry tomorrow when she goes to work.”

           I didn’t say another word.  I knew they would never agree to help me tell her.  I decided to wait until Daddy got home, too.  Maybe he would help me out a little.  I worried all day Thursday.  I practiced what I would say.  I didn’t want Margie to get a hard spanking.  She was frail like Mother said.  I was stronger than she was, and I could take it.  I knew at that moment that I really did love my sister very much.

            When Mother got home Thursday night, I was so scared. Junior left and went to his friend’s house. His name was Kenny Jones.  Margie and I were there by ourselves.  Daddy came in soon after, and I told Margie it was time to tell them.

            Mother was cooking dinner, and Daddy was sitting at the table drinking a beer. They were just talking.

            I said, “Mother, we have something to tell you.”

            She turned and looked at us.  I sat down at the table by Daddy, and Margie sat down in the same chair with me.

            I said, “Mother, we did something this week that was wrong, and we need to tell you and Daddy about it.”

            She said, “Well, let’s hear it.  Surely it is not that bad.”

            I said, “Yes, it is that bad.  Junior was in on it, too, but he left because we were gonna tell what we did.”

            I explained to her that Junior could write like her and explained what he added to the grocery list.  I was starting to cry, and so was Margie, but I went on with the story.  I told her I knew we would get caught because Mr. Tom had it all written down in his little book.  I told her that Junior threw her copy away and said we lost it.  I told them that we were sorry that we stole from them and that we spent money we didn’t have.

            When I finished, I said, “We are ready for the spankings, but Margie doesn’t feel good, so I will take hers.”

            They just sat there and looked at us.  Then they looked at each other.  They both began to laugh.  I thought they had gone crazy!

           Mother looked at us and said, “If you had not told us the truth tonight, you would be getting a spanking tomorrow when I found out what you did.  Mr. Tom called me the day you did this.  I have known about it all this time, but you came to us and told us the truth, so no spankings for you tonight. Ruthie, you were even going to take your sister’s  spanking.  What you did was wrong, but your brother talked you into this.  He is in a lot of trouble when he gets home.”

            I was so happy that we told the truth.  Maybe God would forgive me for stealing, too, and I wouldn’t burn in hell for it.  I still had the problem of liking to dance though.  I learned a lesson that night.  I don’t know if they ever punished Junior or not.  He didn’t come home that night, so they were probably so glad to see him when he did come home that they just forgot about it. This had been a very interesting week in the life of little Ruthie.

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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.

Flour Fest Draws over 1200 to Parker Memorial Park

Community Organizations, Entertainment, Flour Bluff, Food and Drink, Front Page
FBHS NJROTC Color Guard preparing for opening of Flour Fest

     On Saturday, October 28, 2017, over 1200 people showed up at Parker Memorial Park between the hours of noon and 8:00 p.m. to take part in the family fun at Flour Fest, a community event put on by the Flour Bluff Business Association and sponsored by County Commissioners Brent Chesney and Mike Pusley, Michael Morgan of State Farm, Javier Wiley of HEB, Roshan Bhakta of Candlewood Suites Flour Bluff/NAS, and Dr. Mohamed Hassan of Children’s Center Flour Bluff.  The award-winning, nationally renowned Flour Bluff NJROTC Color Guard provided cadets for the opening ceremonies, parking detail, and clean-up detail as part of their service duties.  The Pct. 2 Constable’s office provided security for the event through its reserve officers along with several Corpus Christi Police Department officers.

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The event featured:

  • Live music by Michael Burtts, Jimmy Spacek, Cathouse, and Timeline Journey Tribute Band;
  • Dance show by FBHS Stingline;
  • Raffle for a Yeti cooler, which was won by Luis Diaz; all proceeds go to FBBA Scholarships for FBISD students;
  • Singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Dr. Tom Hollingsworth;
  • Kids Zone fun sponsored by the Flour Bluff Citizens Council, including sack races, three-legged races, egg in spoon races, corn hole, and 4-way tug o’ war; volunteers for this event included the Pastor Brandon Cunningham and the Youth Group of Grace Community Church;Pastry Wars Pie-eating Contest sponsored by Walmart #490, Cliff Zarbock of Premier Realty,  and John and Lisa Nicholson of Barton Street Pub; Cliff and John are Flour Bluff graduates; volunteers for this event included Hannah Chipman of Brent Chesney’s office and Jeff Rank, local attorney and Flour Bluff graduate; Bounce House by Space Walk of Corpus Christi;
  • Fur Fest Kid-and-Dog Costume Contest sponsored by Flour Bluff Citizens Council and Robert and Shirley Thornton of Thornton Rental Properties; volunteers for this event were local attorney Mark Stolley, Flour Bluff graduate and local attorney running for Judge of the 148th District Court;
  • Fire safety demonstrations by Chief Dale Scott and firemen from Nueces County ESD#2;
  • Corpus Christi Police Department Police Museum on wheels; coordinated by Arlene Madali Cordell;
  • Local vendors and community organizations, including Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Fleece Blankets, Weight Watchers, Welp LLC/Danny, Katy Beseda of SevenTwelve Photography, C’est Bon Seafood, Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation, Red Cactus, Funk and Junk, Boy Scouts/St. Peter’s UMC, Center for Independent Living, Flour Bluff Stingline/PTA/Booster Club, Andrew’s Flowers, SCC Jewelry, and Mark Stolley for Judge 148th District Court; Harold Carter of Starry Shooting Range, Gun Safety for Kids;
  • Food trucks, including Divine Treats, Gino’s Burgers and More, Ray’s Street Eats, Full Speed Ahead BBQ, and Kona Ice;
  • Beer and wine catering by CC Liquor Catering, owners Megan (Dulak) and John Gordon.

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     Flour Fest 2017 was the brainchild of Jonathan Vela, FBBA Event Coordinator and owner of Dani’s Lock and Key.  “The first annual Flour Fest wasn’t my idea,” said Vela. “I wasn’t completely happy with it, so I asked to lead the second one. That being said I also helped plan the first one. I don’t think we could’ve done anything different for the time and budget we had. I just thought we rushed it. I started planning 10 months prior to 2nd Annual Flour Fest.”

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     Vela envisioned something different when he thought of Flour Fest.  “Our first annual Flour Fest was at Funtrackers. I enjoyed the event, but I wasn’t happy with the location and other things tied to the location. When I think festival, I don’t picture arcades and go karts. I picture what it was this year, open air,  stage in a field, trees, and open grass areas.”  Another FBBA board member suggested Parker Park, a decision Vela liked.

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     Planning the event started 10 months before it came to be.  “I feel the hardest part was the weeks leading into the event making sure everything was in place,” said Vela.  “Seeing all our hard work pay off, seeing all the people have an amazing time, seeing something we worked so hard on come together,” Vela added in response to what he liked best about the event. “All the bands this year were amazing, and I wouldn’t mind bringing them back every year. Next year I would even like to hire a national touring band to close out the night.”  He also said he would like to see the event go two hours longer next year.

Live music by Timeline Journey Tribute Ban at Flour Fest 2017 (Photo by Jonathan Vela)

     When asked what he sees for the future of Flour Fest, Vela said, “In 10 years, I see this turning into 2 to 3 day event with multiple stages showcasing all different genres of music that our community and city enjoy. I see Parker Park filled with thousands of people at a time. I hope I am around to see it happen.”

     The FBBA would also like to thank Little Caesar’s, Dominoes, and Funtrackers for donations of coupons or food for the event and to all the vendors and community organizations that provided fun, candy, and prizes for the children.  They especially want to thank all who came to the festival and partook in the fun and helped make the event worthwhile for everyone.

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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.