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

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

WWII Era documents (Butch Roper collection)

 

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

 

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

Simeon Roper (Butch Roper collection)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original drawing by Butch Roper

____________________________________________________________________________

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Flour Bluff Sun photo (1980s edition)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Humble Camp men (Photo courtesy of Butch Roper)

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of first baseball team (Bernie Arnold collection)

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

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

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

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

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

Butch’s catch  (Photo from Butch Roper collection)

Be sure to pick up the next edition of The Texas Shoreline News to read Part II of Butch Roper’s story.  To share his story with others online, visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.

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

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

Please follow and like us:

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

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Bobbie Kimbrell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

Please follow and like us:

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

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rachel Krane, Constable Senior Clerk

 

Jewell Ross

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

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

Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo, ca. 1961

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

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

John R. Haynes

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

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

Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo, February 1969

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

Ronnie Polston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jerry Boucher

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Mitchell Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please follow and like us:

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

Flour Bluff, Human Interest, Local history

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

Bobbie Kimbrell, December 2017

 

Life and Times of Bobbie Kimbrell, Part I

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

Please follow and like us:

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)

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

Please follow and like us:

Flour Bluff: Odds and Ends

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history

As I dig through old records, faded news clippings, yearbooks, scrapbooks, and assorted secondary sources in search of any Flour Bluff history I can find, I sometimes stumble across odds and ends that evoke laughter, gasp, or shake my head.  I thought I’d share some of these little gems with all of you who love Flour Bluff.

  • John V. Singer, brother to Isaac Merrit Singer who developed the sewing machine by the same name, lived with his wife and seven Texas-born children on Padre Island.  He arrived in 1847, bought the old Santa Cruz Ranch from the Padre Jose’ Nicolas Balli’ estate.  When the Civil War broke out in 1865, the Singers were ordered to leave the island because of their Union sympathies.  They buried their collected treasure and lived for a time in Flour Bluff.  They did not, however, stay long enough to be considered the first true settlers of Flour Bluff.  That honor seems to go to the Hugo Ritter family arriving in 1890 and starting the first school in 1892.  (That makes Flour Bluff School 125 years old!)

  • On Wednesday, April 27, 1864, the Quad-City Times, a newspaper in Davenport, Iowa, ran a story by a man who, under the command of Captains Gray and Doolittle of the 20th Union Regiment, had landed on “Flour Bluffs, a point on the western side of the bay, and 12 miles distant from the town of Corpus Christi.  He describes what he saw on the night march:  “For the first three or four miles our road took us over succession of sand hills which were unrelieved by any green thing, except an occasional clump of cactus.  Leaving this barren waste, we crossed a tract of land still sandy, but covered with dwarf oaks that never grow more than three feet high, are very thick and difficult to walk through.”  (This sounds just like the brush I played in as a child!)

  • On Sunday, July 23, 1882, The Galveston Daily News ran a piece on the Kenedy Pasture.  The reporter wrote of how he saw six schooners off Flour Bluff Point loaded with fence posts for the ranch and described the Laguna Madre on that day:  “On the morning of the 5th, we hoisted sail and for three days we did not make more than three miles.  There was only about eighteen inches of water on the flats for a distance of six miles.”  He went on to report what it was like to wade through the shallow waters: “These flats, from Flour Bluff south for about sixteen miles, are covered with a thick coat of grass that grows under the water.  In many places it is ten to fifteen inches long and feels under foot as soft as velvet.  This grass, when torn out by the boats dragging over it, will sink to the bottom and there remain until it dies; then it will rise and float on the water until carried ashore, where it emits a very disagreeable odor–fully as offensive as that that arises from a slaughter-pen.  It is not considered unhealthy by the citizens along the coast.  These grass flats are a great feeding place for fish.”  (Ah, the smell you’ll never forget!)

Laguna Madre (Photo by SevenTwelve Photography)

  • On Monday, March 19, 1894, The Brownsville Herald, reported that Sea Island cotton could be ginned by the ordinary cotton gin, and that Mr. H. H. Page planted only a small patch of it at Flour Bluff as an experiment.  It yielded well, producing about 500 pounds from his crop.  (I have tried to grow a great many things in this Flour Bluff sand, but never did I ever consider growing cotton!)
  • On Thursday, June 27, 1895, The Galveston Daily News reported that 129 scholars attended the Flour Bluff and Laureles schools.  (Today, Flour Bluff ISD has over 5300 students!)

  • Evidently the Flour Bluff residents were very patriotic in 1896 and loved a good celebration, one that could have included the Ritter, Johnson, Roscher, Jeletich, Self, Graham, Roper, Stevens, and Watson families, if indeed they had settled in the area by then.  According to The Galveston Daily News, “The residents of the Flour Bluff neighborhood are making arrangements for a big barbecue to be given on the Fourth of July,”  (I wouldn’t mind seeing this happen again, perhaps at Parker Memorial Park where Flour Fest was held last weekend!)
  • On July 4, 1896, The Galveston Daily News ran an article out of Corpus Christi about “the immense vineyard at Flour Bluff.”  The Laguna Madre Horticultural Association “has attached widespread attention in this section, owing to its immense yield of grapes, and additional large sums of money would willingly be invested in the grape industry in that section if a more convenient means were afforded of getting the produce to market.”  This “more convenient means” meant the building of a road from Aberdeen to Flour Bluff “a distance of about ten miles, at a cost of $15,000.”  (Gee, if we could only build a road in Flour Bluff for that price today!)
  • In a January 15, 1899, a Houston Post correspondent learned “from a resident of the Flour Bluff neighborhood that a drove of about twenty wild javelinas attacked the house of Mr. C. L. Barnes of that neighborhood a couple of days since.  Mr. Barnes was absent from home at the time and the family seeing the brutes entering the yard, closed the house none too soon.  The watch dog, which was tied to a tree outside, was vanquished by the javelinas and badly ‘knocked out.’  The animals remained on the premises about an hour, when they disappeared in the chaparral and no trace has since been seen of them.”  (I saw their cousins just last week on my walk to the Oso by the water tower!)
  • In 1903, The Brownsville Herald reported on a pineapple farm in Flour Bluff owned by George G. Clough, an experiment that “should prove the success confidently anticipated.”  The Herald also reported on a suit brought against the federal government by a Mrs. Shaw for “damages for property taken by the federal troops during the Civil War, about forty years ago; the troops, it is claimed, taking down and carrying away to Flour Bluff a five-room house on the beach belonging to Mrs. Shaw.”  (Trying to grow something in this sand and the first of many battles between Flour Bluff residents and the government over personal property?  It sounds as if not much has changed.)
Photo courtesy of Carnivoraforum.com
  • On Friday, July 10, 1908, The Houston Post reported on yet another javelina attack in Flour Bluff.  It seems that John Finnegan, M. M. Dodson, and a party of eight friends “were hunting in a thicket near the mud bridge in the vicinity of Flour Bluff.”  They evidently came upon “a veritable nest containing about 500 javelinas (wild hogs) which took after them.  All the hunters emptied both barrels of their guns into the bunch of javelinas, which seemed to come from every direction, and killed about fifteen of the animals, and they made for the hunters, who fled to the nearest trees.”  Then, as the story was told, Mr. Finnegan crawled up a mesquite tree, dragging his gun after him.  The weapon was discharged, “tearing the thumb and part of the wrist of his left hand almost off, while twenty-eight of the shot lodged in the left side of his face.”  They had encountered and killed a Mexican lion the morning before.  The reporter ended the story with “It seems that wild game is plentiful in the vicinity of Flour Bluff.”  (We still see all kinds of wildlife on the Encinal Peninsula.  The coyotes have really been singing lately!)
  • The San Antonio Gazette ran an ad on October 17, 1908, for “The Real Estate Man” (aka Frank Allen) who was selling 20 to 40-acre tracts of land “down at Flour Bluff” stating “It is the most suitable and advantageously located land in the United States for the culture of citrus fruits and it is the earth for oranges, lemons, onion, cabbage, potatoes, cucumbers, beans, melons, and other vegetables.  Fine fishing and hunting and an ideal place for a home.”  (Flour Bluff is still an ideal place for a home.)
Bingham’s Drug Store on People’s Street
  • To end this little post on Halloween night, I’ll leave you with a rather gruesome story printed in The Houston Post on February 12, 1909.  “While walking along the beach near Flour Bluff, on the southern shores of Corpus Christi Bay last Sunday, O. K. Haas, a well-known farmer, saw something peculiar protruding from the ground near the water’s edge, and on investigation found it was the head of a human skeleton.  He attempted to pick the head up, and in doing so discovered that the entire skeleton was there.  The head part was solid, with the exception of a crack in the skull; the lower part of the face was covered with barnacles and the teeth were as good as though the man had died the day before.  The entire skeleton was in a fine state of preservation.  The head and some of the bones were brought to this city and are now on exhibition at the Bingham drug store.  Some believe that the skeleton is that of a man who was killed many years ago on the bay shore (judging from the cracked skull) and has been where it fell all these years.  Others believe the man died on the beach.  When found, the left hand was grown to the breast bone.”

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

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Lou Diamond Phillips to Appear at Voices of South Texas Kick-Off Event in Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history, Military
Photo by Shirley Thornton

Corpus Christi, Texas- The past and the present will collide at the Voices of South Texas event that kicks off on Friday, November 3, 2017 at Heritage Park.

The event festivities will kick off at 6:00 p.m. at Heritage Park (1581 N. Chaparral St.) Friday, November 3, 2017, with a special guest appearance by Corpus Christi native and actor Lou Diamond Phillips. Phillips is best known for his role of Ritchie Valens in the drama film La Bamba and his role in the Academy-Award nominated movie Stand and Deliver.

Lou Diamond Phillips, graduate of Flour Bluff High School and renowned film star (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

     Over 30 storytellers, re-enactors and experts on local history will tell the story of many who were laid to rest at Old Bayview Cemetery. The cemetery will feature walking tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 4, 2017. The walking tours chronicle the history of the region. The cemetery includes veterans from the War of 1812 through the Spanish American War.

     “The Voices of South Texas events are an excellent way for us to celebrate our history here in Corpus Christi,” said Jay Ellington, Director of the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department. “I hope our community and visitors alike will take advantage of this wonderful celebration of our past.”

    Old Bayview Cemetery was created by Colonel Hitchcock during the occupation of Zachary Taylor’s forces in 1845 and the first U.S. military cemetery in Texas. It is located at Ramirez Street and Padre (IH-37) next to Coles High School.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

     La Retama Library will showcase lectures from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 4, where guest lecturers will provide a history of the Coastal Bend.

     Voices of South Texas is sponsored by Humanities Texas, Friends of Old Bayview Cemetery, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department, Corpus Christi Public Libraries, and the City of Corpus Christi. Humanities Texas is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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

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Memoirs of Addie Mae Ritter Miller, Part 4

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

This article contains the final part of the memoirs of Addie Mae Ritter Miller, as told to her daughter, Rosanne Miller Redman in 2003. Addie Mae was the granddaughter of George Hugo Ritter, the man who settled Flour Bluff in 1890.  Addie Mae, who died  November 25, 2009, paints a personal picture of a time gone by in Flour Bluff and nearby areas in her memoirs.  It was her desire to leave the story of her life in early Flour Bluff and Corpus Christi to her descendants.   The rest of Addie Mae’s memories appear in earlier articles on this website.  

 

     Herbert and I were married on October 2, 1936, in the rectory of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  He was not a Catholic, so we couldn’t marry in the church.  Mama and Daddy were there, and Alice and Mickey stood up for us.  It was supposed to be a small affair with only Alice and Mickey there, but Mama had to be there, and she unknowingly invited a few other guests.  I always regretted not having the Millers there.  Mama also planned a small reception.  When Herbert got there, I thought he was going to leave me at the altar, but he didn’t.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Miller Orrell

 

     Alice and Mickey married in 1937 at the same place.  She was working at Weil Brothers and then became pregnant and had to quit.  I took over her job (which had been my job first).  Herbert and I lived in town for a short while until I finished working there.  We then moved to Flour Bluff so Herbert could fish.  We lived in a small house that used to be Ben and Opal’s.  They had lived in it for years until they built their house on Don Patricio Road.  When it became empty, I asked Grandma Ritter if I could have it, and she said yes (Remember, I was a favorite of hers).  That probably caused some strife in the Ritter clan.  Herbert had a job driving the school bus for Flour Bluff School District. He was the first driver for the school.  They furnished him with a small car, also.  That job and fishing kept food on the table.

 

     We spent our time playing bridge and dominoes and going to dances.  A lot of time was spent with Alice and Mickey.  I have many happy memories of those times.  They had started their family, and we enjoyed their children, Deana, Butch, and Cheryl, so much!  We were late in starting our family, so I guess they filled a void for us.

Photo courtesy of Butch Roper

     We always had good friends and lots of family around – Aunt Opal and Uncle Ben and their family, Aunt Alice and uncle Harry and their family, Cattie and Lewis and their family, and Annie.  Aunt Jo always had a special place in our hearts.  Then there was Velma and JW and their five kids.  They always came to Corpus in the summer, and we enjoyed going to the beach and having meals with them.  They were our big city relatives.  Melba and Jim Porter were always there to help us out when needed.  Herbert used to drop me, Kathy, and Karen off at their house on Saturdays for lunch.  Clyde and Howard were there also.  They were the fishermen of the family and kept us supplied with fresh fish.  We shared holiday meals with Alice and family and Melba, Jim, Clyde, and Howard.  We continued many traditions started by our own parents.  Thanksgiving was usually spent with Herbert’s family.  Christmas Eve was always spent with Alice and her family.  We exchanged gifts and at Mexican food and finger food.  A big turkey meal was served on Christmas Day with Herbert’s family again.

     My mother died in 1955 of liver problems.  I missed her terribly.  Life was not the same without her.  She only got to spend a short time with her grandchildren.  My father died in 1964 of a heart attack.  I also missed him terribly.

Myrtle Watson Ritter, right  (Picture courtesy of Kathy Miller Orrell)

     Our family was finally started with the birth of our first daughter, Mary Kathryn, on October 28, 1945, at Spohn Hospital.  (Miss Lena was gone.)  She was named for Grandma Ritter.  Karen Elizabeth – named for Grandma Miller – arrived on December 25, 1946.  We were having Christmas dinner at the Miller’s when I decided I hat to go to the hospital.  The doctor kept saying to me, “You are not going to have this baby on Christmas, are you?”  Well, I surprised him and the whole family!  Our family was complete with the birth of Rosanne Louise – named after Mama – on August 14, 1956.

    I suffered some ill health after Rosanne’s birth.  Kathy and Karen were only 10 and 9, but they had to help out a lot around the house.  I was always puny during those years, but I got better.

Miller family (Photo courtesy of Rosanne Miller Redman)

     Herbert stared working as a carpenter after being a bus driver.  We never had a lot of money, but we always managed to squeeze by.  We lived in the same house all those years.  Before I had the girls, I would work at Weil Brothers when they needed me.  I had to ride a bus to town.  As a carpenter, Herbert worked on building the Naval Air Station.  He also worked on the Harbor Bridge.  He continued with odd jobs until his retirement.  I started working at Flour Bluff Schools in 1962.  At first, I worked in the Primary Library and then moved to the curriculum building.  At some point, the curriculum building closed, and I was moved to the new Primary School until my retirement in 1982.

Herbert Miller, right (Photo courtesy of Kathy Miller Orrell)

     Herbert died on November 30, 1974, of lung cancer.  I would describe my relationship with him as stormy, but we did love each other, and I felt a great emptiness when he was gone.  The rest of my life has been spent enjoying retirement.  I got to travel because of Rosie; until then, I had never left the state of Texas.  I traveled to Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.  I made my first quilt while staying with her for the birth of Nathan.  I made many more quilts after that, and I am still making quilts to this day, although I have slowed down a bit.  With the impending birth of two great granddaughters, I just completed two more baby quilts.  I’m sure I am not done because there are more great grandchildren expected.

Addie Mae did the blocks when she was just 6 years old and then finished the quilt in 1980 when she began quilting again. (Photo and story about quilt courtesy of Rosanne Miller Redman)

     I lived in Flour Bluff for 80 years before moving in with Karen and Mike.  Since 1997, we have lived in New Braunfels, Seguin, and now Schertz.  I continue to share their home.  I am the last one left in my generation.  I have lost my parents and both my sister and brother. Aunt Opal and Melba are still with us, and I have a few cousins left.  I do enjoy getting together with them and talking about old times.  I wanted to share my stories with all of you in hopes our family legacy will continue.  It is good to know where you come from.  I pray that my parents can look down upon all of you and see what a wonderful family they helped create.  They would be proud!

 

Kathy married Kenneth Nelson, and they had one daughter, Kimberly Janean.  Kenny was killed in 1973, and Kathy then married Douglas Orrell.  They have one son, Eric Douglas.  Kim married Troy Perkins, and they have two children, Kathryn Victoria and Collin Andrew.

Karen married Michael Mosel, and they have two children, Michael Kreg and Kelly Marie.  Michael married Cindy Jones.  They are expecting a daughter in January. Kelly married Robert Talavera.

Rosanne married Michael Redman, and they have three children, Jennifer Michelle, Stephanie Nicole, and Nathan William.  Jennifer married Michael Robertson, and they have one son, Michael Grady, and are expecting a daughter in December.  Stephanie married David Flowers.

The family tree continues to grow….

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

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Jim Moloney Gives FBBA History Lesson

Business, Corpus Christi, Local history

   James “Jim” Moloney, businessman and local historian, took the members of the Flour Bluff Business Association on an entertaining trip back in time through the books that he either co-authored or co-edited with Caller-Times columnist, Murphy Givens, at the FBBA’s regular monthly meeting on August 9, 2017.  Moloney, who moved to Corpus Christi in 1981, has the largest collection of local postcards of the area, numbering over 7000.  He also collects ephemera from the area.

   The crowd enjoyed their lunch at Funtracker’s Speedway Cafe’ as they listened to stories of Corpus Christi and surrounding areas.  Moloney told of how Corpus Christi was the “real West” since this is where cattle ranching began.  He spoke of local heroes, rustlers, and bad challenging the good guys, saying, “Some of those tales are the same tales you ended up watching as kids on television and in the movies.”

   The first book, Corpus Christi-A History, documents the stories of the people who strove to make South Texas their home. Adventurers, outlaws, settlers, cowboys, ranchers and entrepreneurs from the United States, Europe, and Mexico all came to the Coastal Bend of Texas, struggling against nature and their fellow man to make their homes and livelihoods. In this book, readers can also find some history on Flour Bluff.

    This book can be purchased by visiting the Nueces Press website.  The other history books available include:

  • Columns, Columns II, and Columns III, collections of articles written by Murphy Givens for the Caller-Times,
  • Perilous Tales of Texas  by J. B. (Red) Dunn gives us a unique perspective of the lawless 1870s in the Nueces Strip,
  • Recollections of Other Days, a compilation of memoirs of early settlers of Corpus Christi and the Nueces Valley of South Texas,
  • Great Tales From the History of South Texas, stories of the Old West by Murphy Givens, and
  • A Soldier’s Life, memoirs of Daniel P. Whiting, a loyal officer in the U.S. Army for three decades during the middle of the 19th century, now in print after 150 years.

Other FBBA News:

     City Councilman Greg Smith informed the group that completion of Laguna Shores Road all the way to the Barney Davis Plant is definitely part of Bond 2018.  “To me, it was the most important road.  I told people that I’d fall on my sword if they didn’t approve this.”  Smith also talked about the budget.  “Healthcare for the city is up $10 million.  Ad valorem taxes are up only $4 million.  “So, just right there we’ve got a $6 million hole.”  He also discussed the push for more public safety, which he said could not happen without an increase in revenue.  “And, we all know where revenue comes from,” he added.  “Public safety comes at a cost.”

     FBBA President Jennifer Welp told the members that the organization is looking at funding scholarships again.  “It has been done in the past, and we want to do it again,” said Welp.  “We want to invest in the future.”

     Welp thanked Brent Chesney and other county officials for donations to the FBBA.  A special thank you was given to Michael Morgan of State Farm, Roshan Bhakta of Candlewood Suites, and Dr. Mohamad Hassan of the Corpus Christi Children’s Center for being Level 1 sponsors of Flour Fest, a community festival that will take place on Saturday, October 28, at Parker Park in Flour Bluff.  She encouraged everyone to get involved in some manner (i.e. sponsorship, vendor booth, running an event).  Cost to vendors is $25 for FBBA members and $50 for non-members.

     Welp welcomed new FBBA members Adam Hollier of C’est Bon (It’s Good), Kim Pendergraft of A&A Insurance on the island, and Harvey Conol with Lord of Life Lutheran Church Child Development Center.

     Next Board Meeting:  Tuesday, September 5, 2017

 Next General Meeting:  Wednesday, September 13, 2017, at Funtracker’s Raceway Cafe’

  • Speaker:  Brian Schuss, Superintendent of Flour Bluff ISD
  • Note:  The Raceway Cafe’ will not be open for lunch, but Funtracker’s has graciously allowed everyone to bring their own food with them.

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

Please follow and like us: