The Little Town That Almost Was: The Nicholson Story, Part III

Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Human Interest, Local history

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

Lisa and John Nicholson, 2018 (Photo by Shirley Thornton)

     Cleta and John Orval Nicholson II took their baby boy home from Spohn Hospital on Shoreline to 338 Davis Drive in 1950 to live in the two-story house behind Nicholson’s Grocery with big sister Sally.  This little guy would take the name of his father and his grandfather, but he would come to be known simply as “Johno” to all.  He would later inherit the family business, which he saw as a blessing and a curse. Times were often hard, but with his work experience, a solid education from Flour Bluff School and Del Mar College, the mentorship of his grandfather and other small business owners, this enterprising young man and Lisa, his wife and business partner, took what had become a failing grocery store and turned it into the thriving, local landmark, Barton Street Pub.

Two-story house behind grocery store, ca. 1980s (Photo courtesy of John Nicholson)

     Johno attended Flour Bluff School from first through twelfth grade.  “My sister Sally and I were somewhat well-known because of the store,” said Johno.  “Anybody who owned a business was well-known because the families traded with them, but I was a shy kid.”

     Johno remembers his first days in Flour Bluff School.  “There was a surge of kids at the beginning of my first-grade year, and the school was not ready for them,” he said.  “I started out in the old 1939 building with Mrs. Grace Malinowski, but within a few days, they shifted us all around, and I ended up in the newer wing of the building with Mrs. Clark.”

Mrs. Clark gives John Nicholson clay during class. (1957 Hornet Yearbook photo)

 

     One of his favorite teachers was Miss Willis.  “Everyone called her Miss Eunice,” he said.  “She was a country girl who taught second grade.  In her class, we churned butter and grew things, and she taught us to write cursive.  I was acting up one day in her class.  She came over to my chair and got me and led me back to her desk, which was behind us.  She put me on her lap and popped me one time.  Then, she made me stay on her lap while she kept teaching.  I was so embarrassed that I never acted up the rest of the year.  She was a treasure.  Everybody loved her.”

This is Miss Eunice Willis and her 2nd -grade class. John Nicholson is second from the right, front row, but who are the others?  Contact the editor if you can identify any of them. (1957 Hornet Yearbook photo)

 

     Miss Willis, like many Flour Bluff teachers, lived in the teacherages that Mr. Wranosky, school superintendent, had built for them.  “There were many others who lived in the houses on the school circle, too,” said Johno.  “Miss Arnold, Mr. Odom, B.J. Howard, the Wranoskys, and other teachers lived on school grounds.”

     “Mr. Wranosky was a good man,” said Johno.  “He cared about every kid in that school.  He made special arrangements for all the special education students.  He was a true educator and knew every kid by name.  When kids went to the cafeteria without any money, the cashier wrote their names down and sent them on to get their food, but the school never collected.  We had a lot of poor kids in Flour Bluff back then, and Mr. Wranosky made sure they got to eat.”

E. J. Wranosky, Superintendent of Flour Bluff Schools, ca. 1959 (1959 Hornet Yearbook photo)

     In 1967-68, his senior year, Johno was able to use the skills he acquired from working the family business and his education when Mr. Wranosky gave him a job as part of the Distributive Education (DE) Program. He went to school from 8:00 a.m. to noon and worked at Central Office from noon to 4:00 p.m. In the summertime, he worked six to eight hours each day. He started at 90 cents an hour but quickly earned a 35-cent raise.  “That was a lot of money to start and quite an honor to get a raise like that,” said Johno.

     “They started me in the print shop in the back,” he said.  “They liked me and the way I worked, so they moved me up to the front desk to help Mrs. Harris.  I answered the phone and transferred all calls. I received and distributed the mail.  I greeted all people who came in. I handled all the accounts payable, so I wrote the checks for the board members to sign.  I also wrote checks for the transportation department.  Once Jason Wranosky ordered a brand-new bus.  He came in from looking it over, handed me the bill, and told me to write a check for $10,000!  I had never written a check for that much, and I was shaking when I took it into Miss Arnold to sign!”

     When Johno’s father died in 1967, his mother took over the running of the grocery store.  “I worked at the school but still worked weekends helping my mother,” said Johno.  “The grocery business for us was not good at that time.  There were too many stores in Flour Bluff, and HEB opened up in 1964.  That took its toll on many of the smaller grocery stores. Frank Buhider, who owned Frank’s Foodland, was the first to close.”

Daddy John Nicholson stands in front of store in 1971 (Photo courtesy of Johno Nicholson)

     Nicholson’s Grocery would remain in business for a few more years.  During that time, Johno’s sister Sally married her high school sweetheart, moved away, and started her own life.  Johno attended Del Mar College where he studied computer programming.  “They taught us how they worked.  I took typing and keypunch, and I took accounting, which was very difficult.  They were preparing us to go out into the corporate world.  The principles and the concepts were valuable for the day-to-day running of any business,” said Johno.

     Nicholson’s Grocery was barely holding on when Lisa Proctor was hired to work there.  “Lisa came in 1972.  My mother passed away in 1973, and I took over the store full time,” said Johno.  “Before she passed, we were having a hard time, but it really went downhill after she died.  A lot of our customers owed us money from unpaid tabs, and we were borrowing money to keep it open.  Daddy John and I had to send letters letting people know that we could no longer extend them credit.  It was hard to cut folks off, but we couldn’t pay our own bills.  The grocery would come in, and we didn’t have the money to pay for them.  I was writing hot checks, and girl down at 1st National Bank would call me almost every morning for me to bring cash to cover the checks.  It cost me two dollars on each one.  That went on for a long time, and finally I just couldn’t cover them.  We didn’t re-stock the store.  We just started selling everything out that we had.”

     Johno went to work for other small business owners in Flour Bluff while Lisa and Daddy John continued to run the store.  “I went to work for Doug Turner as a welder’s helper.  I did the grinding, the painting, and the cutting to set him up to weld.  I took the money I earned with Doug and put it into the store to keep the doors open,” he said.

     In 1975, Johno heard about a lease available on Padre Island at the Nueces-Kleberg county line.  “It was 21 acres on the beach,” he said.  “Mrs. Oshaski had rented it and had a little store out there.  She had abandoned the store, so I called the Cadwallader Development Company in San Antonio; they owned the property.  They were tickled to give me the lease because at that time landowners were trying to establish ownership above the state on beach frontage.  Both were claiming ownership.  By leasing to me, they were kind of using me as a way to prove ownership.  I paid $120 a month.  I bought a portable building for $350 from Mr. McManus, and I bought Mrs. Oshaski’s building for $50.  He let me pay it out because I didn’t have any money.  We had it hauled over here to fix it up then borrowed Doug Turner’s wrecker truck to pull out to the beach and hooked up the electricity.  We even had a phone out there.”

     Johno and Lisa named the store Johno’s, got their beer license, and started selling beer, ice, soft drinks, cigarettes, and snacks.  “We were doing pretty well when a guy from the state contacted us and said we had to go to Austin.  That’s when they told us we were on their property.  I showed them my lease, but they didn’t care,” said Johno.  “They wanted us to move the building back 50 feet.  They said if we did that we could stay there until we died or blew away. So, we moved both buildings back.  We had the store in our building, and we leased the Oshaski building to a hippie who wanted to open a shell shop.  That didn’t work out, so we just kept it as a place to stay while we were out there.”

John Nicholson holds personalized car tag with name of beach store. (Photo by Shirley Thornton)

     The sand was soft in front of the store at its new location.  Johno decided he needed to wet it down to keep the customers from getting stuck.  “I had heard that there was water just a few feet down,” Johno said.  “So, I bought a well point with a fine screen on it to drive into the ground.  I put it down seven feet and attached a little pump to it.  It was an endless supply of the sweetest water you’d ever want to drink, and I had plenty of water to sprinkle the sand to keep folks from getting stuck.”

     Tom Hale, who owned Ira’s at the entrance to Bob Hall Pier, set it up for Johno to get shark caught by the fishermen.  “We put in a tall pole with a wench on it, and we would hang the shark to attract people to come to see it with the hopes that they’d buy something, too.  All we had to do was give Tom the jaws from the shark,” said Johno.  “We kept water running on the shark the whole time because they didn’t last long.  When they got too stinky, we’d take them down and drag them to the shark burial grounds behind the bath house close to the pier.  The county would come along and cover the shark up with sand.”

Tourist posing with hammerhead shark hanging in front of Johno’s, ca. 1977 (Photo courtesy of John Nicholson)

     Johno and Lisa managed to keep Nicholson’s Grocery open for a little bit longer.  “Lisa and I were dating, and we decided to convert the store into a bar.  We walled off what was left of the store and built a 1000 square foot bar on the other side.  Nicholson’s Grocery closed on December 5, 1975.  That was the day we got our beer license and opened our first bar, the Barnstormer.”

     “We did pretty well at the island store until the water came in really high in 1977,” said Johno.  “It destroyed our building, and that ended that.”

Next edition:  Read the final installment of the history of the Nicholson family to learn about this family of entrepreneurs who forged a path to success with some very unusual ventures.

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

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

Please follow and like us:

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.

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.

Please follow and like us:

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.

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

Flour Bluff, Human Interest, Local history

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

Bobbie Kimbrell, December 2017

 

Life and Times of Bobbie Kimbrell, Part I

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

Please follow and like us:

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.

Cutting Jeanie Lou’s Hair

Human Interest, Personal History

     Jeanie Lou lived down the street from us. She and my older sister Margie were about the same age.  We played together when her mother would let her.  I don’t know where her daddy was.  I never did see him at her house, and I never did ask her.  I was afraid to ask because I thought he might be dead, and I didn’t want to make her feel bad if he was dead.

     I asked my mother a couple of times if she knew where he was, but she just told me to mind my own business.  I tried to mind my own business, but that was a hard thing to do. There were lots things going on in the neighborhood, and I wanted to keep up with the latest news.

     “Ruthie, you are a very nosy little girl,” Mother said.

     “No, I’m not nosy.  I just want to know.”

     “That’s the same thing, Ruthie.”

     “Well, sometimes you listen when I am telling stories about the neighborhood.”

     “I do not. Only if it’s about someone I know.”

     “Well, you know everyone on the block, Mother.”

     “Don’t get smart with me, young lady.”

     “Yes, ma’am.  I will try to be nice. But who will tell you if anything good happens?”

     “Oh, my gosh, Ruthie!  You are just impossible sometimes.”

     I could see she was getting put out with me, so I thought maybe I better let it go at that.  I knew she would listen if I found out something good. Daddy would not listen though.

     “Ruthie, if you don’t have something good to say about people, then don’t say anything,” he said to me when I was spreading a little gossip.  Then, he would get up and go outside.  He just wouldn’t listen if it was gossip. I don’t think I ever heard my daddy say bad things about anyone.  He just wouldn’t do it. That was a rule he lived by. He was an honorable man. His word was his bond.

     I decided that morning when I got up that after school I would try to go down to Jeanie Lou’s house to play.  When we were eating our oatmeal, I mentioned it to Mother.

     “Can I go play with Jeanie Lou after school?”

     “Why do you want to go down there?” Mother asked.

     “Just to play,” I said.

     “I guess you can for a little while. And you better be good.”

     “Why do you always tell me that? I’ll be good.”

     “I know you, Ruthie.  That’s why I always tell you that.”

     “Okay, I guess I have to always promise to be good.”

     “Just don’t do anything to get you a spanking.”

     I got ready to go to school and started walking.  Margie was with me. It was a little bit chilly, but not really cold. We saw Jeanie Lou on the way to school, and I told her that I could play after school.

     “Will it be all right with your mother if I come over to play?’

     “Yeah. I already asked her, and she said it was all right.  She said don’t mess the house up though.”

     “We won’t mess the house up.”

     “Can I go, too?”  Margie asked.

     “No, you can’t.  Mother said just me.”

     It was a long day in school, as usual.  I wondered if I would ever like school. I really didn’t think I would. If I hadn’t been locked up there on that day, I could have found a lot better things to do.  I knew that for sure.  They said I had to go to school, and I had to do what they said.  But, someday I would be old enough to tell myself what to do.  That sure did seem like a long way off.

     The day was finally over. The last bell rang, and I tried to see how fast I could get out of that place.  I didn’t run though because I could get in trouble for running in school.  You are not allowed to do anything fun in school. You can only do boring things in school.

     I ran straight home and changed clothes. I was not allowed to play in my school clothes.  As soon as I was dressed, I left to go to Jeanie Lou’s house.  When I got there, I knocked on the door and Jeanie Lou let me in.

     “What do you want to do?” I asked her.

     “Let’s color for a while.”

     “That’s fine. I like to color. What books do you have?”

     “I’ll get them out of my room.”

     She went to her room and got the color books.  I couldn’t believe she had her own room. Boy, that would be nice!  I shared a room with Margie and Junior.  She came back with the books, and we sat down on the floor to color.  We did that for about twenty minutes until we got bored.

     “What do you want to do now?” she asked.

     “I don’t know. We could just talk I guess.”

     “That’s a good idea. What do you want to talk about?”

     “Do you like school?” I asked.

     “It’s all right, I guess.  I’m not crazy about it,” she said.

     “I hate school.  There is nothing fun to do there.”

     “I know. I want to be a beauty operator when I am old enough,” Jeanie Lou said.

     “What exactly do they do?”  I asked.

     “You know; they cut ladies’ hair, and they give permanents.”

     Jeanie Lou had real pretty hair.  It was real long and wavy. It looked like shiny silk. I had wished a lot of times that my hair looked like hers.  She told me one time that she brushed it one hundred times every night. That seemed like a lot of wasted time to me.

     “You want to play beauty shop?” she asked.

     “Sure. That sounds like fun,” I said.

     “Let’s go into my room.”

     “Okay.  Let’s go!”  I really wanted to see her room.

     We went into her room, and it was real pretty.  She had a dresser all her own with a mirror on it.  I have to say I was a little bit jealous. I wished I had a room like hers.

     “I will be first.  You can do my hair, and then I will do yours,” she said.

     “That sounds good to me. How do you want your hair done, ma’am?”  I asked.

     “I’m not sure yet.  I think I would like a haircut and a permanent,” she said.

     “You really want a haircut?”  I asked.

     “I really do.  I would like to try short hair.  You cut mine, and then I will cut yours,” she said matter-of-factly.

     “You really mean it?  You want me to cut your hair?”  I asked again, not believing she meant it.

     She opened the dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors.  I was thinking I could get in real trouble for cutting her hair and for letting her cut mine.  This could lead to a spanking. Then I thought, “Oh, well, if she really wants it cut, then let’s get started!”

     “How do you want it cut?”  I asked.

     She took one long braid in her hand, held her fingers like scissors, and showed me where to cut it.  She wanted it cut about to her shoulders.  So, I just did what she told me to do.  I snipped it right off. She looked at it and began to cry.

     “I don’t like it like this!” she said.

     “I don’t think we can put it back on,” I told her.

     Then all of a sudden, I heard someone say, “What are you doing?”

     It was her mother.  She looked at me like she was really mad at me.

     “I just did what Jeanie Lou told me to do. She wanted her hair cut.”

     “No, I didn’t, Mother.  She just cut it,” Jeanie Lou lied.

     “She told me to.  She showed me how to cut it,” I said.

     “You get out of this house right now.  I will be coming to see your mother.”

     I was scared by then, so I ran out the door and went home.  I knew I was going to be in trouble over that little incident.  I just knew it. Why did Jeanie Lou lie to her mother?  She knew she told me to cut her hair. She didn’t want to get in trouble; that’s why.

     I ran in the front door.  I found Mother and Daddy in the kitchen cooking supper. There was nothing else to do, so I just blurted the whole story out.  I watched my mother’s mouth fall open.  My daddy just smiled like it was not a big deal.

     “Ruthie, I told you to be nice and not get in trouble,” Mother said.

     “She asked me to cut it, Mother.  I promise she did.”

     “Why would she do that?”

     “Because we were playing beauty shop.”

     “What did she say to you?”

     “She showed me on her braid where to cut her hair;  then she gave me the scissors. And I cut it.”

     Daddy just broke out laughing.  Mother shot him a look that he better shut up. So he did, but he put his head down and was smiling.

     “Her mother is coming to our house to talk to you.”

     “That is just what I needed tonight, Ruthie.”

     Just then, someone knocked on the front door.  I knew who it was. Mother went to the door and opened it. Jeanie Lou was with her.

     “I want you to look at what your child did to my daughter’s hair!”

     “Ruthie said she told her to cut her hair.”

     “She is a little liar. She just took the scissors and cut it.”

     “Don’t you dare call my child a liar. When Ruthie does something wrong, she tells the truth. She said Jeanie Lou told her to cut her hair.”

     “I told the truth, Mother. I would have taken the spanking if I did something wrong. But she told me to,” I said.

     “I know you told the truth,” Mother said to me.  Then turning to Jeanie Lou’s mother, she said,  “I think you need to take your daughter home and try to fix her hair.”

     Mother slammed the door in her face and went back to the kitchen.  Daddy was still almost laughing, but he knew better.  I followed her back to the kitchen.  I thought that the time had come for me to get it.  I sat down at the table and waited for Mother to say something.  I just wanted to know if I was going to get a spanking or not.  If I was, then I wanted to get it over with.

    “Am I gonna get a spanking, Mother?”

    “Ruthie, I know you knew better than to cut her hair.”

     “I wasn’t really gonna cut it, but she told me to. I asked her twice before I cut the braid off.  We were just playing, Mother.  I’m not lying.”

     “I know you are not lying. I can tell when you lie. Plus, you came home and told us before she got here. You have always been good about admitting it if you did something bad.”

     “I’ll take the spanking, Mother, but I just did what she told me to do.”

     “You’re not going to get a spanking, but no movie for you this Saturday.’

     “I would rather take the spanking. I’ll miss this week’s episode of the Lone Ranger.”

     “I know all that, and that is why you don’t get to go to the movie this Saturday.”

     Daddy looked at me as if he wanted to help me, but I guess he knew she was right.  I missed the movie on Saturday, but Margie told me what happened.  I don’t think I ever played with Jeanie Lou again. I saw her at school, and her hair was cut short – both sides.  I think they moved not long after that happened. Daddy said I ran them out of town. Then he laughed. I was sorry that I cut her hair, but if you don’t really want me to do something, then you better tell me.  She told me to cut, so I cut.  And that was another fine mess 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.

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

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest, Personal History

 

 

Lacy Smith, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

NASCC Fire Department Adopts Local Preschool for Christmas

Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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.

Flour Bluff Athletic Hall of Fame Announces 2017 Inductees

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest

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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.

On Comparing an Ocean to a Teardrop

Front Page, Human Interest, Outdoors, Travel
Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

 

     For those interested in folklore and mythology, there are volumes of material surrounding the occurrence of solar eclipses. When viewed through the spectacles of modern science, the mythology and folklore appear quaint or even laughable.  For example, who would believe that a giant wolf took a bite out of the sun?  In Norse culture, an evil enchanter, Loki, was put into chains by the gods. Loki got revenge by creating wolf-like giants, one of which swallowed the Sun and caused a solar eclipse.

     In India and Armenia, a dragon swallowed the sun, while Chippewa people shot flaming arrows into the air trying to reignite the sun. In Siberia, China, and Mongolia, it was believed that beheaded mythical characters chased and swallowed the sun.  In Columbia, natives shouted to the heavens and promised to mend their ways, apparently believing their bad behavior caused the solar eclipse. In Transylvania, an angry sun turned away and covered herself with darkness because of the bad behavior of men.  However, other cultures took a different view of solar eclipses and found them to be romantic.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     In a Tahitian myth, the moon and sun are lovers who joined up and caused an eclipse. The West Africans believed when the sun and moon got together, they turned off the light for privacy.  In German mythology, the sun and moon were married.  Seeking companionship, the moon was drawn to his bride, and they came together creating a solar eclipse.  To the Australian Aborigines, the sun was seen as a woman who carries a torch. The moon, was regarded as a man.  A solar eclipse was interpreted as the moon uniting with the sun.  Certainly, the romantic view comes closer to the truth in describing a solar eclipse.  It definitely is the relationship between the sun and the moon, and ancient astronomers and astrologers have been studying and predicting the event for eons.

     Ancient observations of solar eclipses can be traced back to at least 2500 BC in China and Babylon.  By 2300 BC, ancient Chinese astrologers believed a total solar eclipse was a major element of forecasting the future health and successes of the emperor.  Similar records can be found for the early Greeks.  Unfortunately, ancient Egyptian records have been destroyed as well as ancient Mayan records, but other evidence such as the Mayan calendar suggests they had an informed knowledge of solar eclipses.  Given the frequency of solar eclipses, which occur 75 out of 100 years, it understandable that they have been the subject of interest and study for ages, and the interest continues to this day.

Photo by Dan Thornton, 2012

     Our most recent solar eclipse occurred on August 21, 2017, and could be seen across the entire United States. It was widely reported in the news, and eclipse viewing glasses were being sold at Lowe’s, Walmart, and other retailers including Amazon.  On Wednesday before the big event, I began looking for eclipse viewing glasses.  I went to Lowe’s, but they were sold out.  However, I found solar viewing glasses in Walmart’s optical department.  I bought several pair and returned home.  I tested my glasses by looking into the sun; they worked well.  Pleased at my purchase, I sat outside on the patio to contemplate the event.  I had seen a partial eclipse five years earlier, and I had taken several photos that were good enough but not great.  As I anticipated photographing the current eclipse, the lyrics to You’re So Vain” kept running through my head, particularly the line, “Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.” Carly Simon’s line would not go away, and I began to think about the possibility of seeing the total eclipse, not the partial eclipse I had seen before.

     I went to bed thinking I would not have to fly to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse. I could drive to Kansas or Kentucky and witness it firsthand. “It is not that far,” I thought. “I can drive it easily.”  After a restless night, the thought of a total solar eclipse grew larger in my mind and plagued my thoughts at every turn. I did not like the idea of photographing a partial eclipse, but I decided to buy a solar filter for my camera lens, so that I could. To my surprise, no online vendor had the filter I needed. Frustrated, I settled for a neutral density filter that I knew was not dark enough, but it might get me by in a pinch. Also, I thought if I could only see the total eclipse, I would not need a filter. The darkened sun does not require a filter to photograph it, and the darkened sun can be safely viewed with the naked eye. As Carly Simon sang softly in my ear, I imagined what it would be like. Twilight, then darkness, then twilight again, and it would happen in a matter of minutes. It would be fascinating – a thing to remember for a lifetime, and it was all going to happen within driving distance.

     It is a fine thing to allow your imagination to run wild, but at some point you have to face practical matters, and from a practical viewpoint driving 1,000 miles, more or less, to watch the sun for two minutes and thirty seconds seemed a bit impractical even to me. Also, there would be a long 1,000 mile, more or less, drive home. For the rest of the day, I toyed with the idea off and on – imagining the exhilaration and dreading the drive. Honestly, I thought my idea was a bit over the top, and I had not mentioned it to anyone. In a way, I feared the response I was sure to get, but it really is a fine thing to allow your imagination to run wild.

     I was sitting on the patio with my wife as the sun set, and without hesitation, I suggested we should go see the total eclipse ourselves. After all, it is a chance of a lifetime I argued, and it is not that far. We could drive it easily in a day I said to her. And I went on with whatever I thought might be a selling point. When I finally quit talking, she asked, “How far is it? How long will it take? Where will we stay?” I did not have all the answers, but she had not said no, so I continued with the chance-of-a-lifetime argument. “Kind of like seeing Haley’s comet,” I said, which we had seen several years before and found it to be a disappointment. “Can you imagine it turning dark in the middle of the day? Will roosters really crow? Will it be noticeably cooler?” I questioned? Finally she said we could go, but we needed a plan. After studying the map I suggested Kentucky because it had the longest viewing time and was about the same distance as Kansas. She immediately began to look for rooms for Sunday night, but none was available near Hopkinsville, our intended destination. Finally, she found a room in Dyersburg, Kentucky; we booked it. I was elated, but the planning had just begun.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     I intended to leave Sunday morning and drive straight to Kentucky, but that plan needed approval which was not forthcoming. Instead, I compromised and left Saturday afternoon. This was not my idea of a good plan, but we were going, and that is all that mattered. We spent the night in Texarkana and arrived in Dyersburg early Sunday. Dyersburg is a small agricultural community where cotton is still king, and it is about a two hour drive to Hopkinsville. By the time we reached Dyersburg, we had decided that Hopkinsville was not our destination. The enterprising residents of Hopkinsville were renting 64 square feet of their lawns to eclipse viewers, and people from all over the world were descending on Hopkinsville. There were estimates of 75,000 visitors and upwards in a town of around 31,000 inhabitants. It was not that appealing, so we decided to view the eclipse from the Walmart parking lot in Benton, Kentucky. It was a pretty good plan.  When we got on the road to Benton Monday morning, there was very little traffic, so we decided to go even closer to Hopkinsville. We would go to Eddyville and view the eclipse from the Walmart parking lot in Eddyville. While in route, my wife noticed a state park on the map just outside of Eddyville, so we decided to investigate the park. When we arrived at the park, we found a large parking lot at the visitor center, but it was filling up fast. We found a vacant spot and parked. This was our destination!  It was about 10:00 a.m., and we had arrived.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     I unpacked the lawn chairs and the ice chest and set up the umbrella. It was about 98 degrees with clear skies. It was a perfect day for an eclipse, and eager eclipse viewers in the park were trying out their glasses and staring at the sun. Some were holding glasses in front of their cell phones and taking pictures. A quick glance around the parking lot revealed the license plates, and they were from all over the country. The atmosphere was festive and friendly with people sharing stories of their travels. One person I met from Annapolis, Maryland, had first gone to St. Louis to view the eclipse but decided there were too many clouds in St. Louis and had just driven to Kentucky this morning. Others had planned their travel months in advance and purposely selected the state park we were in. I did not bother to tell them that we had stopped on our way to Walmart. We were in Land Between the Lakes Park on the Kentucky side. The park is shared by Kentucky and Tennessee and can be entered from either state.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     The eclipse had started, but the total eclipse would not occur until 1:30 pm. Periodically I put on my glasses to monitor the progress. I am happy to report that a giant wolf was indeed biting off huge chunks of the sun. It was disappearing in steady increments, and I took a few photos of the progress. It was blinding looking through a telephoto camera lens at the sun – even with my darkest neutral density filter. I would only glimpse at the sun and release the shutter blindly. The twilight had begun, and it produced an eerie, greenish light. I tried to photograph the twilight, but the photos are a poor representation of reality, as is often the case with photography. The camera lacks the nuanced sophistication of the human eye.

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017
Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

Photo by Dan Thornton, August 21, 2017

     The park was now almost silent as onlookers anticipated the coming event. As a small cloud approached the sun and threatened to block our view, the silence was broken by sighs of disappointment. The silence returned as the cloud passed from view. Only moments before the total eclipse, yet another cloud passed in front of the sun and the sighs were louder, but it too quickly passed away, and applause replaced the sighs. It was now dark, and stars twinkled in the sky. The total eclipse had arrived, and the corona was readily visible at the edge of the darkened sun. Cameras were snapping away rapidly, and dogs began to bark and howl. The cameras were being triggered by humans, but only Heaven knows what triggered the dogs. In two minutes and thirty seconds the sun was returning, and twilight was reversing. The temperature now hovered at 83 degrees, and it was over. In my life’s history, I have no other frame of reference for comparison. It is perhaps as Wendy Mass has said, “Comparing what you see during an eclipse to the darkness at night is like comparing an ocean to a teardrop.” To me, it was simply euphoric.

 

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.

In Pursuit of Perfection

Flour Bluff, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial

     In a recent episode of 60 Minutes, I sat in awe of a young, Japanese baseball player named Shohei Otani.  He is quickly becoming “the man” in the baseball world with his ability to pitch and hit better than – well – just about anybody.  At the young age of 22, he is one of those people who shows us where a strong work ethic can lead.

     “I’m not perfect!” is often the expression of the disappointed child – or adult – who fails at something in life.  To say these words is not the sin; to live them is.  If this utterance pushes a person to overcome the failure, then all is not lost.  If it is offered as an excuse, then the game is over.  The results of failing to pursue perfection are devastating to the individual and ultimately to the whole of mankind.

     Jesus boldly said to a group of imperfect, downtrodden people, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  In days gone by, even people who rarely attended church had a few tidbits of biblical wisdom to toss out when faced with the challenge of instilling a strong work ethic into a child. Jesus speaks these words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, what E. Stanley Jones, a 20th-century Methodist Christian missionary and theologian, wrote is not a sermon at all.  “It is a portrait of Jesus himself, and of the Father and of the man-to-be,” he explains in the opening paragraph of The Christ of the Mount:  A Working Philosophy of Life.  He tells the reader that Jesus is defining perfection as God defines perfection and that seeking perfection should be at the heart of all we do.

     On October 26, 1967, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared this same philosophy for living a perfect life with a group of junior high students in a speech he entitled, “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?”:

     “And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.  If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.”

Seated Nancy Busby, c. 1971
Coach Nancy Busby, third from left on second row, c. 1980

    “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work,” said Aristotle.  Coach Vince Lombardi said that when we chase perfection, we catch excellence.  People who passionately pursue perfection show us what it means to live an excellent life.  These people, whose lives inspire greatness in others, are not always world-renowned.  However, they do have certain qualities that are worth noting and emulating, as is the case with a Flour Bluff Junior High coach, Nancy Busby, who recently retired after coaching girls basketball, volleyball, and track for 43 years.  Those who know her, have worked with her, and have been coached by her will say that she, like Otani, has chosen to use the gifts and talents that lie within her.   Imagine how the world would look if everyone possessed the qualities that really made Coach Busby great.  People such as she…

  • Know their work matters and see it as a form of worship to the One who blessed them with their special abilities;
  • Make what they do look so easy that the rest of us are certain we can do it, too;
  • Exude childlike joy when they are working and consider service to others the highest of honors;
  • Always take their work home – in mind, body, or spirit – because it is an integral part of who they are;
  • Face their failures and use them to hone their skills;
  • Identify problems then set out to solve them by respectfully tapping into the experience and wisdom of masters in their field;
  • Take the time to mentor newcomers, teaching what they know and applauding the efforts of the apprentice along the way;
  • Hold themselves – and others – to a higher expectation;
  • Despise the words: “That’s not my job”, “That’s good enough”, or “That’s close enough;”
  • Take up their swords of knowledge and experience to fight courageously against mediocrity – every day;
  • Have a “heaven on earth” attitude, seeking perfection in all that they do;
  • Never retire from their calling. They simply expand their service area, using their gifts and talents in other arenas;
  • Are not forgotten because their good works are forever intertwined in the history of the workplace and in the hearts of those they have served along the way.

     We should always be thankful for those who set the “gold standard” and become examples of excellence.  God has blessed our world with them, and they have honored God by answering His call and using the gifts and talents with which they have been blessed, something we should all do. When human beings strive for perfection, we experience a little heaven right here on earth.

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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.