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.
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FBBA Honors Eddie Savoy with Spotlight Award

Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history, Personal History
Eddie Savoy receives FBBA Spotlight Award on August 9, 2017

 

     Jennifer Welp, Flour Bluff Business Association President, presented Eddie Savoy, owner of Savoy Homes, the Keep It in the Bluff Spotlight Award at the regular FBBA meeting held August 9, 2017, at noon in the Raceway Cafe’ at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  Savoy has been a member of the association since 1968.  The FBBA has been in existence since 1951.

     Savoy’s family moved to Flour Bluff in 1927 and settled on a 2-acre tract of land on Laguna Shores.  It was on this property that Savoy built his first development in 1968.  Starting out at Corpus Christi Shell Company and working off and on as a tugboat captain since 1958 when he wasn’t building, Savoy went on to grow his business by providing housing for a community that has shown steady growth since the coming of NAS Corpus Christi in 1940.  In 1969, Savoy built the first zoned mobile home subdivision in Corpus Christi on the north side of Flour Bluff. In 1971, he built Padre Palms RV Park at the end of Skipper Lane near the what was then known as the Boat Hole Marina.  He went back to work on the tugs while his wife Leona ran the RV park.  Savoy continued working offshore until 1983 when OPEC deliveries to Egypt slowed down, and he returned home.  It was at this time that he decided to build stilt houses on three lots just down the street from the RV park. These were the first of many.

     In between working on the tugs, building houses, and developing subdivisions, Savoy stayed involved in the Flour Bluff community.  He served twelve years on the Flour Bluff School Board, was an active member of the FBBA, and was even a member of the Flour Bluff Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as president.  Savoy said he left the volunteers after he responded to a fire on Yorktown where he had to dodge bullets.  “The owner was a gun collector,” said Savoy, “and his ammunition kept going off.  That ended my firefighter career.” Savoy laughed and said, “I guess you can say I went out with a bang!”

     Savoy is often found at the Ethel Eyerly Senior Center in Flour Bluff where he continues to serve his community.  When asked if he had considered retirement, he said, “I tried once for a couple of years, but I had to get back to it.” It turns out that he is still building elevated homes and just recently finished two, one on Knickerbocker and another on Laguna Shores Road.

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:

Memoirs of Addie Mae Ritter Miller, Part 3

Flour Bluff, History, Local history, Personal History

This article contains the third 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 will appear in later articles.

     For fun, the grownup would have dances at their homes.  All of the furniture in the living room would be moved, and we would all dance. We danced to music played on the phonograph.  Later on, we would all meet at the schoolhouse for dances.  There would be a small band playing–with a guitar and violin.  It was so much fun!  The last few weddings in the family have reminded me of those days–everyone, especially the children, dancing and having a good time.

     Mama and Daddy also play dominoes (Forty-two) a lot.  Their closest friends and neighbors, the Robertsons, were usually partners.  They rented a farm next to us on the bay, and then we all moved to Flour Bluff.  uncle Ben married a Robertson, our Aunt Opal.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Orrell

     I attended school in Flour Bluff until I was 12 years old.  I like school and did very well.  We either walked to school or rode with the Roberson kids in an old jalopy.  I don’t have many memories of school except that I continued to love reading.  The farm in Flour Bluff had a row of chinaberry trees.  I’d pick one and be lost for the day.

     Incarnate Word Academy was located in downtown Corpus.  I went to town to attend IWA until I graduated in 1933 at the age of 14!  I boarded there.  Aunt Jo was a novice and a teacher there.  The first year I lived with a friend of Mama’s, Mrs. McAllister.  She lived about 10 blocks away from the school.  It was called Ms. Mac’s house.  I went home on the weekends.  I’m sure I was homesick.  The second year I lived at the convent.  The third floor was our dormitory.  There was one big room, and each boarder had a bed with a curtain around it and a stand for personal items.  Our clothes were kept separately.  I had two special friends from Kingsville–Bernice and Laura.

 

     We didn’t go to church on a regular basis when I was growing up.  Alice and I were seven and nine when we made our First Communion. We were baptized right before that.  Grandma Ritter planned the whole thing.  Uncle Ben would take us to town for instructions.  There was one church downtown for whites, St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Sacred Heart was the Mexican church, and there was another for the colored people. Grandma had a niece, Daisy, who lived in town and had a rooming house.  On Saturday night, Grandma would take me and Alice to Cousin Daisy’s to spend the night.  We would all go to confession and then get up on Sunday morning and go to church.  We only did this occasionally since it was too far too hard to get there.  That was the basis for my religious beliefs today.

Photo from Diocese of Corpus Christi website, ca. 1924

     We celebrated birthdays at home with a cake and a little family party.  Christmas was always a big deal though.  We would go out in the brush a day or two before Christmas and cut our tree; it was a Sweet Bay tree because they stayed green in the winter.  It was decorated with ornaments and tinsel.  Small candle holders were clipped on the tree branches to hold the candles to light the tree.  That must have been dangerous.  We opened our presents on Christmas Eve.  Mama and Daddy always saw to it that we had nice presents.  On Christmas Day, we would have duck and stuffing.  Mama would bake for days and make lots of goodies for the holidays.  We always had dinner with relatives, either at their house or ours.

     I learned to sew when I was 4 years old and have been at it ever since.   I made a cap for my baby brother; I can’t imagine what it must have looked like.  Mama was a good teacher, and she instilled in me a love for sewing.  I have made many, many things over the years.  After my retirement, I took up quilting and have enjoyed many years of doing that.

Don Patricio Causeway Bait Stand, 1935 (Photo courtesy of Kathy Orrell)

     After graduating high school, I stayed in town and boarded with Alice and Mary Roper.  I worked at Weil Brothers as a bookkeeper. We had a small apartment.  Alice was attending IWA at that time.  I worked to pay her $5 monthly tuition.  My total salary was about $16.  Mary was a beauty operator.  I also tried that occupation, but it wasn’t that lucrative.  We lived in town for a few years and then moved home. I started working at a bait stand on the Causeway in Flour Bluff where I met a handsome man named Herbert Miller.  He was quite a bit older that me, but I became very interested in him.  He was a fisherman along with his brothers, Clyde and Howard.  At some point, I had boarded with the Millers while working at Weil Brothers.

Weil Brothers Grocery Corpus Christi Caller advertisement, March 24, 1920

Related stories: Read Part 1.

Read Part 2.

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:

A Visitor Named Celia

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history, Personal History
Celia Track
National Weather Service Map

In the summer of 1970, Marcella Campbell McEnulty Slough faced Celia, a horrific and most unwelcome visitor and the last major hurricane to make landfall on the middle Texas Coast. This is Marcella’s story – in her own words – of how she, her husband Ira, and their four children (Loretta, Terry, Jackie, and Joe) fared in the days leading up to and following Celia’s arrival.  She wrote this story and mailed it to all of her family and friends who wanted to know how everyone was doing after the storm. Mrs. Slough has lived in Flour Bluff since January 1969.

     On Friday, July 31, 1970, we were informed, via our friendly TV weatherman, that tropical depression #4 was 220 miles SSE of Cuba.  At that time, we hardly gave it any notice.  Saturday’s noon news announced it had intensified into a tropical storm.  We spent a normal Saturday with everyone going about their normal duties, and by the 10 p.m. news, she was a full-fledged hurricane named Celia with winds of 115 MPH, heading NNW towards the northern Texas Coast.  We were all saying, “It will never come our way.”  You know — it always happens to someone else, right?

     Ira had the duty at the Naval Hospital Pharmacy Sunday, so he took the car at 7:30 a.m. and went to work. We’d been to the Sunday obligation Mass on Saturday evening, so the rest of us slept late. Sunday was spent as any other except we pulled out our hurricane map and began to track the storm with a new position given every 2 hours on TV. Loretta worked on a rock picture in her room; Joe went next door to play pool with a friend, Terry and Jackie were busy trying to find out how to get registered with the Flour Bluff Recreation Center, while I spent the afternoon and evening trying to get caught up with correspondence. Channel 3 put out a hurricane watch Sunday afternoon, and we were told if Celia continued its present course, it would it the northern coast of Texas, and we would be on the backside of some of the wind and rain, so it was advisable to pick up all the loose items outside. I called Ira, and we agreed that it should be done right away.  Joe brought the trash barrels, tether ball pole, hoses, and anything else he could find loose into the garage. The youngest girls turned in at 9 p.m. with visions of a bowling trip, tour of the Navy Base, and a trip to the San Antonio Zoo with the Recreation Group on their minds. Loretta had a babysitting job until 10:30, and Joe and I watched the late movie.

Photo courtesy of Marcella Slough

     At 1 a.m. Monday, August 3rd, TV 3 announced a change in direction to WNW of our infamous lady “Celia” putting us under a hurricane warning and that they would continue to be on the air 24 hours a day for the next couple of days.  Little did they know that they would be off the air in 14 hours.  Ira was still on duty, so Loretta, Joe, and I watched the late show #2, #3, and #4, and by 7 a.m. we were all sure Celia was going to pay us an unwelcome visit.  We all began to busy ourselves taking care of the items on our hurricane check list.  Every jar, pitcher, water jug, container, and even the bathtub were filled with water because of the fear of water pollution.  We got out our portable radios and checked all the batteries and then made sure each of us had a working flashlight.  Loretta found all our candles, candle holders, and finally the Christ Candle.  We then took a short break and lit the Christ Candle with each of us asking God in our own way for help, courage, and safety.  Then we got back to our check list with Joe going to the end of the street to get a bucket of sand to use in case of fire.  Mr. Robertson, a neighbor, took out a few boards of our back fence to keep it from blowing down.  Ira got off work at noon and stopped to buy non-perishable food and ice and will the car tank with gasoline.  He brought home masking tape and taped our windows, and we opened the ones on the south side of the house to keep our house from becoming a vacuum.  These were all checkpoints on our list.

     Ira, Robbie, and Mr. VanPelt talked, and we all decided to ride out the storm in our homes while several of our neighbors had already packed and left for San Antonio.  The wind and rain began about 1?30 p.m. from the north.  Loretta put a plastic bag over our movie camera and took some pictures of our blowing palm tree.  By 2: 15 the aluminum stripping around my flower beds was beginning to pull out at the ends and wave around in the air like a snake, so Ira ran out and pulled it into the garage and secured the garage doors.  By 3 p.m. hurricane force winds were clocked at the Naval Air Station. Jackie Harlin called Loretta (he lives behind us), and she told him we were sending him our fence via the North Wind, and he said, “I’ll send it back later by way of the South Wind.” Our phone then went out.

     We all went from room to room checking on windows, etc.  Water began to pour in around all the windows and the front door.  We used all our towels, blankets, throw rugs, and bedspreads to try to soak it up before it got to our furniture.  As the wind at our house began to shift towards the west, it intensified, and we heard on the radio that it was clocked at the airport as sustained 120 MPH winds with gusts every 15 seconds as high as 161 MPH.  One of our storm rules was to listen to our radios or TV for advisories on safety precautions.  As the wind came around to the WSW at 3:40 p.m., we lost all electrical power, and so did all the radio, TV stations, and even police radios.  We were virtually cut off from any kind of communication.  Believe me, we were scared!  Then we saw our fence blow down and pieces of trees, wood, and our neighbors fiberglass green house go flying around the neighborhood. We tried to find any kind of radio station, and finally KINE from Kingsville, Tx., came through with Citizen Band operators from Corpus Christi telling them the furor that was happening everywhere.  This was one hurricane that touched everyone in some way — some only slightly and some losing all they had.

(Radio report from Eddie Truesdell, formerly of KSIX radio in Corpus Christi, TX.

     Corpus Christi had been prepared for a hurricane like Beulah or Carla had been, but Celia was quite unpredictable.  By 7 p.m. the winds had begun to die down here, and even though it was still raining, we all went outside to see the damage.  Two of our neighbors’ roofs were laying in their yards, so all got busy to mop up the water in their homes.  As our local newspaper wrote later, “A spirit of neighborly cooperation draped the city like Christmas tinsel.”  When darkness fell, and I do mean darkness, with no electricity in our entire city and no cars on the streets because of the curfew, we all knelt once more around our Christ Candle, which was our only light, and said prayers of thanks because we were all alive.  Then miraculously the phone rang, and it was my mother.  With so many lines down and long distance lines tied up everywhere — she had gotten through and it was so good to be able to tell someone we were all fine.  Finally, being completely exhausted, we all slept.

     Tuesday morning was a bright sunny one — but also hot and muggy.  We hardly had any water pressure.  There was no water pollution, but we were only getting a trickle of water so we used the water in the pitchers.  We still had no phone or electricity and still only KINE on the radio. Gasoline pumps run on electricity, so there weren’t any gas stations open.We were glad our car tank was full. Ira went to work. Everyone in the block was busy hanging out wet towels, blankets, rugs, putting out wet mattresses, and cleaning up debris. We cleaned out the girls’ room and put their rug on the driveway to dry.  The mosquitoes were out in full force. We were told by radio that it could be 2 weeks before we got electrical power, and I began to wish for a kerosene lamp and a good, old-fashioned wash board.

     Ira got off early, and we took a ride to see some of the damage and take a few pictures.  We passed 2 trailer courts where only one or two looked livable.  Mobile homes were upside down, and some had just exploded from pressure.  If I’d had any doubt about the destruction of Celia, one look at the new housing at the Naval Air Station stopped it.  Three hundred families were left homeless as over half of the $6 million development was demolished, and the rest was heavily damaged.  I said a small prayer of thanks once more that we hadn’t gotten base housing.  Every neighborhood from Flour Bluff to Calallen had shattered buildings, broken or uprooted trees, tall palms that were just snapped off, homes without roofs from small frame houses to $100,000 homes on the Bay Front.  The downtown streets, as the newspaper put it, looked as if there had been a snow storm from broken and shattered glass everywhere, sailboats and fishing boats were piled on top of each other, and our beautiful city in a shambles.  Even with all this destruction, there was an air of humor as people put up handwritten signs such as “Open House”, “Rummage Sale”, and one woman tacked a “Garage Sale” sign on her garage door — there was no house.  Also, there were flags flying from anything homeowners could fasten them to, which was very heartwarming.  Curfew was 7:30 p.m., so we came home, ate leftovers from our barely cool refrigerator, and turned in to try to sleep in a very hot, damp, and humid house.

Trailer park in Flour Bluff after Celia, photo by Marcella Slough
New housing on NAS after Celia, photo by Marcella Slough

     We arose Wednesday morning to find we had water pressure, and until then, we didn’t realize how great it was to take a long leisure shower. Other small things that we take for granted, such as an ice cube, were becoming quite important. KRYS was now broadcasting with a gasoline powered generator, and as soon as ice was brought into the city and the location was announced, hundreds of people were lined up to get a small block.  Comments were made that this was more like a war disaster than a hurricane. TV 3 was back on the air, but no one had any electrical power to watch.  No one really seemed to miss TV — the soap operas, cartoons, etc.– we had our ears tuned to radio listening to all announcements about how our town was being put back together.  We were advised to empty our refrigerators of all frozen food, so Loretta took our meat next door and cooked it, and what we couldn’t save we threw away. It seemed such a shame, but everyone around here had the same problem we had.  Families were eating better than they had in months as steaks and roasts were used up. Barbecue pits were fired up as several families in one block got together to share what they had.

     Thursday was spent very much like the day before.  Ira pulled duty, so being alone we got in one of those neighborhood get-togethers that seemed to be happening all over the city.  If you look long enough, you can find something good can come from a hurricane, such as bringing people together.  There just never seems time to get friendly with neighbors as long as there is TV and an air-conditioned house.

     Friday, August 7th, we regained our electricity.  We were very lucky because as I write this story (This is August 15th), some 40% of the city is still without power or phones.  The girls got their room back to normal pace, but as citizens of Corpus Christi, the Sparkling City by the Sea, it will be a long time before we see our city sparkle.  If Celia thought she had destroyed our city completely, she had forgotten one element — people.  Corpus Christi will be all right — it has people.

Marcella, Ira, and family

P.S.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who called to express their concern about us…those calls were really appreciated.  We were so cut off from the outside, and hearing a familiar voice certainly showed us that we were in a lot of people’s thoughts.  Thanks again!!!

 

From the editor:  This personal account reveals the heart and spirit of human beings, especially when they are under extreme circumstances.Through this telling, we are told how to prepare, how to treat one another, and how to make the best of a bad situation.  For those too young to remember or who did not live through Celia, the video below about the days following Celia’s visit will give credence to Mrs. Slough’s story.

This video was made by Central Power and Light, now AEP, after Celia came to visit.

The Hugo Ritter family who lived along Laguna Shores in 1919 rescued a boy who washed up during the 1919 storm.  Sadly, the boy died before he could give his name or his place of origin.  The following YouTube video posted by Ronald Jorgenson tells similar stories about another hurricane that devastated Corpus Christi.  You will recognize some much younger but familiar faces.

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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Why Flour Bluff?

Business, Flour Bluff, Local history, Personal History

“What brought you to Flour Bluff in the first place?” I asked Price Anderson.  His answer – which really involved his partner – surprised and intrigued me.  Below is the rest of the story surrounding the proposed RV park on Caribbean and the reason that Kris Hawkins and Price Anderson chose Flour Bluff in the first place over 13 years ago.  (All photos courtesy of Kris Hawkins)

To Whom It May Concern:

     My name is Kris Hawkins, and I am the developer of Bluff’s Landing Resort & Marina.  I am also working on a new project at the end of Caribbean Drive that has stirred up some valid concerns in the neighborhood.  Although I do not live in Flour Bluff, I wanted to share some of the backstory about Bluff’s Landing with you.

     My dad, Wally Hawkins, started taking me to Red’s Fishing Camp in Flour Bluff when I was five years old.  We would wade out into the water with cane pools and catch the famous Laguna Madre trout.  My dad was simply continuing a tradition he grew up with.  His parents, who farmed a small 30-acre tract outside of San Antonio, would bring him and his nine brothers and sisters every year to fish out of that same spot!

     My brother and I continued to fish at Red’s Fishing camp every year with my dad for 10 years until he received a foreign program grant from Texas A&M (his alma mater) to move to the Dominican Republic to start a small agricultural school on behalf of the United States.

    After we moved overseas, I lost track of the area until years later when I returned to the site with Spence Collins who had begun the process of acquiring some of the neighboring land.  After a year or so, I took my Dad to the site to show him the project I had been working on.  It wasn’t until then that he recognized the site as the old home of Red’s Fishing Camp.   He was visibly shaken by how the place had deteriorated.  As we drove around the area, and he saw all the trash, open drug dealing, and run-down shanties, he couldn’t believe how much one of his favorite places ever had turned into a dangerous den of drugs and thieves.

     We went back to the hotel and talked about the project, and my memories of fishing came flooding back as I realized that this dilapidated bay was the same place my dad and I had learned to fish in our childhood.

     It was from that point forward I made it one of my life goals to clean up a small portion of the Texas coast and preserve the place for future generations to enjoy the same way my dad and brother did.  I wanted to restore the land so that my son and his sons could re-live the experiences of my memories.  I am now proud to say Bluff’s Landing is the realization of that goal.  I believe the facility is improved each year, I know it has attracted thousands of new visitors to Flour Bluff and generated over a million dollars in tax revenue.

BEFORE PHOTOS

Photo: Future Bait Shop Site

 

 

Photo: Bait Shop & Trash  

                               

 

Photo: Future Hotel Site

 

 

 

CURRENT PHOTOS

Photo: Bluff’s Landing Resort Hotel

Photo: Bluff’s Landing Resort Marina

     Now that is a long explanation of a project that is already in existence, but I only explain all this to show that we are not outsiders looking to make a quick buck.  We have been investing time and money in Flour Bluff for 15 years and continue to do so.  My goal is to create places where families can enjoy themselves while also contributing to the local community.  This is something we also have done in Austin, Texas, if you ever get the chance to visit Graceland Grocery / Graceland Oaks Event Center on Hwy 290W.

     That is our same goal with the Luxury RV Park at the end of Caribbean Drive.  We want to build a high-end facility for families and their recreational vehicles.

Gulf Waters RV Resort

     I know there are concerns that the project will be more of a trailer park or will deteriorate over time, but I assure you that is NOT the case.  We have hired Urban Engineering to design the facility for two reasons.  First, they have an excellent reputation in the community and second they designed Gulf Water RV Resort in Port Aransas.  The Gulf Waters project is exactly the style we are going to achieve.  We are putting in a pool, irrigated landscaping, and will strictly limit who and what can come to the facility.  For example, no vehicles over 10 years old, no soft sided RVs or tents, and no renting out to tenants.

     If we fail to maintain the facility in the same or better condition than when it is built we will not be able to recover our investment.   We are committing millions of dollars to guarantee the facility stays nice and benefits the community.  The best example of how we do this is Bluff’s Landing Resort.  If you have any concerns that we will allow the project to fall apart, please go see what we have done over the last 13 years just down the road.

Kris

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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Tropic Isles, a Resort Community in Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was (#7)

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history

     In light of the recent concerns by Flour Bluff residents over a proposed RV park on the edge of the Tropic Isles subdivision, it seems appropriate to address an area of Flour Bluff that helped change the way outsiders saw the little fishing village.  Currently, a company out of Austin is attempting to have a piece of property at the end of Caribbean along the Laguna Madre rezoned to accommodate the creation of a 60 unit RV park and marina. Many of the property owners near the almost 8-acre peninsula are concerned about what it might bring to their neighborhood.  Tropic Isles has had an active HOA since 1971 and a building committee since 1956, started to ensure that which was set up to assure that there would be no sub-standard building in the development when the subdivision was created.  However, the property in question is not controlled by the Tropic Isles HOA, at least not according to the association’s map pictured below.

Tropic Isles HOA Photo

     On April 16, 1956, Tropic Isles in Flour Bluff made the Corpus Christi Caller-Times for the first time.  According to the article, this new, multi-million dollar housing project would provide a boat landing for each of 400 residential lots.  The development, fashioned after the street-channels of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was the work of the W. L. Bates Co. and the Edwin Flato Co. and had one main boat channel, tying in with the Intracoastal Canal and other main waterways (Humble and Arkansas fuel channels) in the Laguna Madre, and 10 access channels running off the main one, giving each lot access water access.  Lots sold from $1995 to $5000.  Potential buyers could put $15 down and pay $30 a month to own waterfront property in this Venice on the Laguna Madre.  525,000 yards of dirt were dug out of the channels at a cost of around a half-million dollars. Lot owners built their own homes in accordance with the guidelines established by the building committee.  Tropic Isles formally opened on December 9, 1956, and the little peninsula that might soon be lined with tiny homes for winter Texans was to be the site of the Tropic Isles Yacht Club.

Caller-Times ad, c. 1956

     This subdivision was peddled to veterans and active military or civil service who worked at NAS Corpus Christi.  When Bob Flato presented the plat to the Nueces County Commissioners Court in 1956, he assured them, according to an April 27 Caller-Times article “that adequate paved streets would be built, a bridge would be built where proposed boat channels would cut county roads, would provide adequate building restrictions, and would provide for cooperative maintenance of the boat channels by persons who buy the subdivision lots.”  On the day Tropic Isles opened, W. L. Bates, who developed the tract for Edwin Flato Co., described it as “a new concept for living in South Texas” as he invited the public to visit the area.  “We urge you to come and see the real resort living which will be available to a buyer of this property,” said Bates.  They went on to list the features of the area, which included:

  • boating and fishing done from the backyard of a home;
  • duck hunting in the Laguna Madre;
  • horseback riding at riding stables already in operation nearby;
  • swimming and other activities at the proposed Tropic Isles Yacht Club; and
  • visiting the nearby Padre Island and Mustang Island beaches.

     “All of this will be available only 20 or 25 minutes from downtown Corpus Christi by car,” pointed out Bates as he described the layout of the development on Laguna Shores Road, two and a half miles from the Padre Island Causeway.  Jon Held, Flour Bluff resident and local home builder, had two model houses already under construction for all to see that day.  There were no restrictions on the price of a home, but certain exterior appearance requirements were enforced by the architectural committee.  All the streets were named with a “tropical flavor”, and 780 palm trees were planted in the area.  The utilities available included water, natural gas, electricity, and telephone service. Furthermore, it was pointed out, the “taxes will be noticeably lower” since Tropic Isles was outside of the Corpus Christi city limits.  The local developers knew if they built it, the people would come.

Caller-Times ad, c. 1956

     There was nothing else like it in Corpus Christi or the surrounding areas, so come they did.  For a while, the new homeowners adhered to the building regulations set by the committee, at least until May of 1969.  Then, seventeen Tropic Isles residents filed suit opposing the building of a house they considered substandard.  Rufus Thomas and Donald Carbonneau had moved the house onto a lot and started working on it without permission from the development committee, which set a few folks on edge.  It appeared that trouble had come to Paradise.

     Then, in 1974, a squabble broke out over a fence blocking a canal walkway.  According to the January 23 Caller-Times article, Robert Stromstedt and Benjamin Inman who lived on Caribbean had built the fences to protect their boats tied up along the bulkhead.  Michael Padrezas, the director of the Tropic Isles Association, objected to the fences, claiming they were illegally erected, blocked the walkway, created a problem for firefighters to get to a boat if it was on fire, and posed a hazard to children who played along the walkway.  In a show of authority, he climbed around one and walked along the bulkhead, which prompted Stromstedt and Inman to file trespassing charges against Padrezas. This landed the case in Mrs. Hawley’s Pct. 8 court in Flour Bluff.  Another Tropic Isles resident, Terry Cornell, evidently accompanied Padrezas on the walk along the bulkhead, but he was not named in the complaint.  Mrs. Hawley said she could not act until proof of ownership of the walkway could be determined, which was not determined until August 30, 1976. The Court of Civil Appeals of Texas, Corpus Christi, records state:  “The trial court rendered judgment that the property in question was part of a public easement granted to the public and that defendants are therefore perpetually enjoined and restrained from obstructing or interfering in any manner the free passage and use by the public on said property. The trial court ordered appellant Inman to remove the fences or any obstruction then erected on the property.”

     Even as recently as 2008, the property where the RV park is planned came into question.  According to the TIHOA, “On Sunday, June 8, 2008, Tropic Isles Association received verbal notification that the open access to the boat ramp at Caribbean will be discontinued, and it will be blocked off. After speaking with Roger Viar at that time, the Manager for the owner of the properties, they closed access to the ramp and area due to their liability concerns. In lieu of the use of the boat ramp at Caribbean, they provided access to Tropic Isles Association Members to launch boats at Bluff’s Landing Marina & Lodge for a period of time, but it has since been discontinued. Members will now have to pay for their launches or use the free ramps on the island.”

     This same piece of property will come before the Corpus Christi Planning Commission on August 9, 2017, as the new owners seek to have it rezoned for an RV park.  Some residents believe it will create an eyesore and a hindrance to the homeowners who live near it.  Others feel if the owners show they are responsible by controlling the clientele, performing regular maintenance and upkeep, and working to add to the fishing village ambiance that exists in the area, then it can be a welcome addition to Tropic Isles and to Flour Bluff, the little town that almost was.

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

Community Organizations, Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history
Dan McGinn of the Corpus Christi Planning and ESI Department,  addresses Flour Bluff Citizens Council, July 17, 2017

     Citizens of Flour Bluff were educated on area development plans (ADPs) at the July Flour Bluff Citizens Council general meeting where Dan McGinn, Director of Planning and Environmental Strategic Initiatives, defined what area development plans are, how they are connected to Plan CC, the city’s comprehensive plan, and plans for re-writing the nine area development plans, including the Flour Bluff ADP, which has not been revised since 1993 even though the 1987 Comprehensive Plan stated that all plans would be reviewed and revised every five years. Those in attendance were encouraged to look around the Flour Bluff community and take note of improvements, enhancements, or changes needed or wanted in the community in order to be prepared for future FBADP meetings when the real planning begins.  They were asked to look to the future and envision Flour Bluff in 20 years, a daunting task to say the least.

Flour Bluff, 1863

 

     Flour Bluff encompasses an area of about 18 square miles and is home to 22,876 (according to the 2014 counts), which is about 7% of the total population of Corpus Christi, according to a presentation given by McGinn to the Corpus Christi City Council the day after the FBCC meeting.  Until the Ropes Boom around 1890, Flour Bluff was for the most part inaccessible except by boat.  Flour Bluff Point, where NAS CC sits today, was identified by the 40-foot dunes that graced the landscape.  This area attracted activity (i.e. fishing, packing plants, trade routes) on the perimeter of the Encinal Peninsula, but actual long-term settlements did not take root until the Ropes Boom around 1890. It was then that the few families who moved into the area began building houses (which they moved frequently); fishing; farming;  raising dairy cattle;  establishing a post office;  starting a school;  and building bridges across the Oso and eventually across the Laguna Madre to Padre Island.  They were seeing Flour Bluff as a land of many uses, but without the tethers of local government.

     All was quiet for a while until oil was discovered, which brought many new families to the area, followed by the biggest growth in population with the building of NAS Corpus Christi. With the Navy base came a water line that would bring a source of water more reliable than the individual wells that had at times gone dry.  Electricity, phone service, an independent school district, thriving businesses, a county building with a constable, and other community elements such as churches, sports teams, and civic groups had Flour Bluff functioning as a town, but not officially.  By 1950, the talk of incorporation had begun.  The people of Flour Bluff, a fiercely independent group, wanted to be in control of what happened on their little piece of the planet, something that has not changed.  If they can’t turn back the hands of time and become a town of their own, then they certainly want to have as much influence as possible on what happens in their own back yards.  But, who else will have a say-so in the writing of the plan?

     According to the City of Corpus Christi’s website, “The Planning Division is responsible for developing and updating of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Area Development Plans, Neighborhood Plans, and assisting with Utility and Infrastructure Master Plans.  The Comprehensive Plan contains the city’s policies for growth and development for the land within the corporate limits and the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city. The Comprehensive Plan is mandated by City Charter, Article V, and includes future land use, annexation, transportation, economic development and public services and facilities, and capital improvements.  The plan may also include any other element the City Council may deem necessary.  The Comprehensive Plan is a series of stand-alone documents, referred to as elements of the Comprehensive Plan.”  It should be noted that these plans are not law and can be changed.  Plan CC states:

“The comprehensive plan contains broadly stated goals and policies that can
be implemented in several different ways, whether by adopting or amending
ordinances, policies or programs. The comprehensive plan’s goals and policies
themselves are ideas to work towards rather than law. While the City’s charter
requires that all city improvements, ordinances and regulations be consistent
with the comprehensive plan, the comprehensive plan alone is not an enforceable
regulation. It does not justify the denial of a plat or the development of land. The
comprehensive plan does not obligate the City to provide any program or regulate
any activity. While the comprehensive plan is consulted when making decisions
about rezonings, it does not establish zoning district boundaries or create zoning
regulations, which would require an independent public hearing process. The
comprehensive plan does not restrict the City from preparing plans, policies,
or strategies. It does not restrict the right of the City to adopt any ordinance not
related to the development of land. It does not create any cause of action against
the City or any City official, employee, or agent. It does not constitute a defense to
the prosecution of any crime. Finally, the comprehensive plan does not supersede
Federal or State requirements.”

 

 

     McGinn explained that other key players would be involved.  The Navy still has a great deal of influence over the area, as does the State of Texas, the EPA, and TCEQ.  Add to that outside developers, utility companies, and the tourist industry, and the influence of the local citizenry on the plan seems to lose impact.  One member of the FBCC said that the plan may be necessary as part of the City Charter, but the people must be vigilant before, during, and after the document is written.  “How many people actually read those little rezoning signs that pop up here and there? We should make a point of not only stopping and reading them but calling the number to see what is about to happen.”  He went on to suggest that the City could add a link to the web page that lists every proposed zoning change so that the citizens can easily attain the rezoning information.  This, he thought, would be the most effective way of controlling what happens in Flour Bluff since it is apparent that the area development plans are easily overridden by these zoning changes that go unnoticed unless someone is watching. Melanie Hambrick, Chairperson of the FBCC Committee on the FBADP, has taken on the task of gathering knowledgeable and willing Flour Bluff citizens to take part in the process, but it is the responsibility of every citizen to pay attention to what is going on in their own neighborhoods.

     Flour Bluff (and Padre Island) is unlike the other areas of the city because it has distinct geographical boundaries created by the Cayo del Oso, the Laguna Madre, Corpus Christi Bay, and King Ranch.  The FBADP is also one of the oldest on the list.  The map below shows the boundaries of each ADP, while the chart offers the timeline for development of each plan.  A group of Padre Island residents recently wrote their own ADP, which was accepted by the City Council in January of this year.  McGinn indicated that even this plan would need to be revised with the assistance of Texas-based city planning consultants.  The city planning department currently has two full-time employees to take on the task of re-writing the plans.

     The FBCC meeting was the first of many to come.  The FBCC encourages all those who live, own property, or have businesses in Flour Bluff to stay abreast of this issue and consider taking an active role in the planning process.  The FBCC will post information about upcoming meetings on its website and Facebook page.  In the meantime, it might be a good idea to watch the city council meetings on television or in person, take note of zoning changes in the Flour Bluff area, and stay connected with the community so that the citizens can work together to preserve what is great about this little community while improving the areas that are in need of upgrades.

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 2

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history, Personal History

Addie Mae Ritter Miller, ca. 2003

This article contains the second 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 will appear in later articles.

     Mama was a housewife.  In those days, women didn’t work outside of the home much.  She worked hard though.  She canned produce for family use, raised chickens, collected eggs, made all of our clothes on a pedal machine, did all of the wash by hand, and cooked three meals a day – all of the things farm wives did in those days.  We had no running water and relied on a cistern that collected rainwater for our use.When that was low, Daddy had to drive to town to get water.  Can you imagine going to town to get water?  I can remember Daddy killing a chicken on Sunday morning and Mama having to pluck, clean and cook it.  I am sure you can’t imagine doing that either!

Myrtle Watson Ritter, right

     Mama was a good cook and spent long hours baking pies, cookies, and cakes for Sunday dinner.  Aunt Kate and Uncle Hugo were regular guests on Sundays.  They were close to my parents (Uncle Hugo was Daddy’s brother).  I loved playing with my cousins, Annie, Cattie (they were twins), Joe, and Benny. They moved to Clarkwood, and we would visit them often.  I still enjoy getting together with Cattie and Annie when I go to Corpus to visit.  I grew up with many cousins and have a lot of fond memories of them.

Russell Watson, Jr., Addie Ritter, Annie Ritter, Cattie Ritter

     One of my most vivid memories of the house on the bay was when Junior was two years old.  We didn’t have electricity and got our light from kerosene lamps.  One time Junior pulled down the scarf with the lamp on it, and the lamp fell and hit him in the face.  He had cuts and glass all over his face and was bleeding badly.  Mama sent me to get Daddy.  I can still remember running as fast as I could across the field to get him.  We took him to the doctor in town, and he fixed Junior up, but he still had a piece of glass near his eye that always bothered him.

     Another vivid memory I have is of our ghost in the house in Flour Bluff.  Some of you know this story.  We lived in an old two story house that originally belonged to the Ritters.  One room opened into the attic, and we thought a ghost lived there.  We all shared a room at the top of the stairs.  Junior and Alice slept in a double bed, and I slept on a cot by the window.  Alice said that something always stood in the doorway at night.  Of course, I didn’t believe her!  Well, one night we had a storm, and I woke up.  There in the doorway was a white figure. It moved and kind of vanished into the white railing of the staircase.  I ran and jumped into bed with Alice and Junior!  We were then too scared to sleep in that room, so Mama and Daddy moved us downstairs near them.  We didn’t see the ghost anymore, but every night at supper time, we could hear what sounded like someone walking up and down the stairs.  They knew we were scared and always made joke about it, but I guess they didn’t really have an explanation for the noise.  The Grims later moved into that house and heard the same unexplained noise.

     I attended one year of school at Aberdeen and then went to Flour Bluff.  We were getting ready to move back to Flour Bluff when I was seven. Since school was starting before we moved, I was sent to live with the Ritters.  I love it there.  I was the first granddaughter of 27 grandchildren and was treated very special.  This was also very memorable for me.  Most of my aunts still lived there – Aunt Katie, Aunt Alice, Aunt Jo, and also Uncle Ben.  Aunt Katie was a teacher, and another teacher boarded there, also.  I had the best time because I love being around the grown ups.  Uncle Ben was a young man and would tell me about his dates.  I thought I was really somebody.  It was only for a month, but I had a great time and still remember it to this day.

Eric Ritter, Junior Ritter, Alice Ritter, Addie Ritter at Duncan place on the Oso

     Daddy was a farmer, and a very good one in those days.  He farmed cotton on the bay and then moved to Flour Bluff to farm cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelons, tomatoes, etc.  He had a good reputation in town.  He would load up his produce and go to town to sell to the stores there.  When his grandchildren were older, he would take them along with him.  I am sure that was a treat to get to ride with him in the truck to deliver produce.

Related stories:

“Memoirs of Addie Mae Ritter Miller, Part 1”

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:

Stories of Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was (#6)

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history

“The Universal Geography”; by Élisée Reclus, Edited by A.H. Keane, Published by J.S. Virtue & Co., London [/USA/], printed 1885

     In 1871, after a series of wars, Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) brought about the union of the German states (with the exception of Austria) into the Second Empire, or Reich. Germany quickly became the strongest military, industrial, and economic power in Europe. While Bismarck governed, an elaborate system of alliances (unions among groups for a special purpose) with other European powers was created. Because of the political changes, between 1871 and 1885 a million and a half Germans emigrated overseas–nearly 3 1/2 percent of the population. Of those whose destination was known, 95 percent went to the United States.   George Hugo Ritter, the man who would be the first to settle Flour Bluff, was one of these immigrants.

Red Star Line, SS Pennland

     Born in Germany in 1866, George Hugo, who went by his middle name, left his native country to avoid conscription.  This nineteen-year-old, blue-eyed “Prussian” arrived in New York aboard the SS Pennland in 1885 and entered the United States through Ellis Island. After spending an unknown amount of time in New York, Hugo eventually booked passage on a steamer to Galveston where he was met by his older brother Robert, who had emigrated several years before and settled in Corpus Christi.  Robert gave Hugo a job at his general store, Ritter’s Racket Store, on Mesquite Street and soon made him his partner.

     The brothers had a falling out over the business, which resulted in Hugo venturing out on his own to become a farmer.  His daughter, Marie Josephine Ritter Werner wrote this about her father:

“Now let me tell you about Papa.  I do not know if I can do justice to describing such a complex personality.  At times his severity was almost frightening, and then again there would be an almost tenderness as he reached out for the good things in his wonderful America.  His avid taste for reading built for him a library of history, the classics, medical books, and those on agriculture and animal husbandry.  The Rural New Yorker, his favorite newspaper, taught him much about the United States farming, dairy farming, and current events.  His life was almost a paradox:  a city boy immigrant to become a farmer in America, overcoming the language barrier to speak, read and write English fluently.  Yet he seemed to strive for something better in life. His perfectionist attitude that things must be done the right way made him appear a severe task master.”

George Hugo Ritter died April 21, 1921. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Orrell)

     About the time of the falling out between the brothers, Hugo met Katherine Birkmeyer Staufert, also a German immigrant, through mutual German-speaking families. Katherine’s first husband, Jacob Staufert (whom she married March 16, 1887) was a sheep rancher in the area near Alice, Texas, in what was then called Collins, Texas. On January 19, 1888, Staufert took several horses into town to sell but was shot and killed on his way home for the money he had in his bag. Katherine was left a widow with a little girl, Katherine “Katie” Marie, whom Hugo gave the name Ritter and raised as his own. According to an affidavit signed by Katherine Ritter on February 17, 1925, she and Hugo married on May 28, 1889. Born unto them were eight children:  Arthur Hugo (Feb. 6, 1891), Clara Ellen (May 15, 1892), Erich George (Aug. 18, 1893), Barbara Millie (Oct. 18, 1896), Anna Edith (Jan. 28, 1899), Johanna Alicia (May 16, 1901), Karl Robert Bernard (Jan. 8, 1903), and Marie Josephine (Mar. 15, 1907).

Hugo and Katherine Ritter (Photo courtesy of Kathy Orrell)

     The Ritters established and worked a farm near Ocean Drive just outside Corpus Christi, then purchased land for about $8.00 an acre at the “grass place” which is within a few hundred yards of what is now the south gate of  Naval Air Station Corpus Christi near Flour Bluff Point. They raised cows, hogs, chickens, vegetables, cotton, and corn.  They were truck farmers working a 40-acre farm and delivering produce twice a week by horse-drawn carriage to Corpus Christi to sell.  Three weeks after the birth of Karl Bernard (Ben), they moved to a new location on the Encinal Peninsula, an area called Flour Bluff.

Flour Bluff Sun photo, 1987

     According to an interview with Ben in the Flour Bluff Sun in 1987, the new homestead was “quite close to the Laguna Madre.  At that time Laguna Shores Road was only a sandy trail.  Hugo bought an unfinished, large frame house next to a large pond from Mrs. Shade.  It sat on 214 acres, of which 100 were farmed.  In addition to finishing the lower floors of the house and running the farm, Hugo Ritter landed a contract for the construction of some Flour Bluff roads to be built of clay and sand.”  Hugo was known to be a hard-working, well-read man of many talents, something that would lead him to take on many different roles in the Flour Bluff community.

The Ritter home that sat on Laguna Shores between Graham and Lola Johnson Roads can be seen in the background. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Orrell)

     Hugo’s farm later became known as the Brighton Beach Farms Dairy.  He sold directly to the customer, which brought him a greater profit.  Such a business method required that the family take on the job of deliveries.  His oldest son, Arthur, handled the route with butter, milk, and cream, making his deliveries in a horse-drawn wagon.  The dairy business required a way to keep the products cold at the dairy and while en route.  Arthur also had the job of driving the team to Corpus Christi twice each week to pick up blocks of ice.  The Ritters had a wet cloth cooler at the farm where the ice was surrounded by wet cloths to keep the temperature down.  In 1914, the Ritter family acquired something that made delivery much faster and easier; they bought a car.  The Flour Bluff community had a Model-T Ford just six years after they rolled off the assembly line in Detroit.  During World War I, Hugo  supplied dairy products to the men stationed at Camp Scurry, which was located where Spohn Hospital and the Del Mar neighborhood are today.

George Hugo in his new Model T, 1914  (Photo courtesy of Kathy Orrell)

     It was during this time that Hugo Ritter received a contract to open a U.S. post office in Brighton.  According to a 1997 document entitled “Handling the Mails at Corpus Christi” by Rex H. Steven, Ella Barnes, daughter of Clarence Barnes, the first postmaster, said that her father wanted to name the post office Flour Bluff, but the Post Office Department told him that it had to be a one-word name.  Barnes chose Brighton after his hometown, Brighton, Tennessee.  Clarence Barnes was appointed on April 27, 1893, as the first postmaster of Brighton. George Hugo Ritter was appointed postmaster on August 28, 1906, and Katheryn M. Ritter on May 13, 1914.  Early post offices in small communities were generally located at the residence or business of the postmaster.  So, the post office opened by Barnes was relocated when Hugo Ritter took over.

     He turned the front hall of the Ritter home into a post office that would serve the twelve families that lived in the community. Hugo, with the help of his sons, Arthur and Ben, built a counter across the hall, added pigeon hole boxes behind it, and a glass front to enclose it. There they collected letters, sorted the mail, and sold one- and two-cent stamps to the tiny community.  To receive mail from outside the Encinal Peninsula, a member of the Ritter family would meet the regular postman on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at the Yorktown Oso Bridge (Mud Bridge).  The tiny post office discontinued service on March 31, 1920.

Brighton Postcard, 1909 (Butch Roper collection)  Note the 31 mm, 4-bar black cancellation, which was used from August 1906 to March 1920.

     The Ritters, along with other pioneer families of Flour Bluff, settled the Encinal Peninsula, farmed, ranched, opened businesses, started schools and gave birth to what grew into the Flour Bluff, a community which now has over 23,000 residents.  Their independent, do-it-yourself spirit opened the door for others like them to shape the little town that almost was. 

 

Sources:  Flour Bluff Sun interviews with Ben Ritter, interviews conducted by Cassandra Self-Houston, personal interviews with members of the Ritter family (Butch Roper, Kathy Orrell, Deanna Myers, Cheryl Beauregard), Corpus Christi Caller-Times articles

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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