Stories of Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was (#3)

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history, Military
Waldron Field, 1943

 

     Since the posting of article #2 in this series, more information regarding the 1943 Flour Bluff High School that was later converted to the junior high has come to light.  On April 1, 1943, Waldron Field, one of the two auxiliary air fields in Corpus Christi still in use, was commissioned. Today, young Navy pilots use it to practice landings, with the southeast corner dedicated in the early 1970s to little league fields for the children of the Flour Bluff community.  The partnership between the United States naval base that sits on the northern part of the Encinal Peninsula and the Flour Bluff School that sits on the southern part is one that changed Flour Bluff forever.

The building in the bottom left corner is the school built by the federal government in 1943, the same year that Waldron Field was built.

    The arrival of military personnel in 1941 often brought families, too. County School No. 22, aka Flour Bluff School, boomed like so many schools in the area with the influx of new residents to the area, attracted to the Naval Air Station.  In response to the need for additional classrooms, the Public Buildings Administration of the Federal Works Agency awarded a contract for construction of a junior-senior high school at Flour Bluff to Chamberlain & Strain, Corpus Christi and San Antonio contractors, for $150,872 in April of 1942.  The school pictured above was not completed by the start of the fall of 1942, but it was ready to house the additional students by the 1943-1944 school year.

   In 1948, under the leadership of Superintendent E. J. Wranosky, Flour Bluff residents voted to become an independent school district.  Still the relationship between the base and the school continued to strengthen.  John Wranosky (son of E. J. Wranosky who graduated Flour Bluff in 1964 and went on to work in the Maintenance and Transportation Department of the school for many years) said that the high school remained the property of the federal government until 1953 when they sold it to FBISD for $1.00.  He also answered the questions about the unusual shape of the building.

     “The building was designed to look like a naval facility.  It had a glass enclosure at the top of the office that represented a lighthouse,”  said Wranosky.  This is consistent with the story Don Crofton relates about the structure, and it validates the theory that it was made to look like the ramps and tower at Waldron Field.  “The main part of the building even had circular windows like those found on a ship,” added Wranosky.  “After the school took ownership of the building, we added two more wings, creating a patio off the backside of the gym.”

Blueprint showing wings to be added in 1954 (Thanks to Clayton Pocius, FBISD Director of Maintenance & Transportation, for providing this blueprint)
Aerial view of original 1943 high school with wings added in 1954

     When I attended that school, I remember buying snacks at a concession stand that was attached to the back of the gym and faced into the patio/courtyard area.  I also recall many a naughty boy receiving swats in the middle of that patio.  Our teachers would not allow us to look as the punishment was meted out, but the sound of the paddle echoing off the walls that surrounded the patio was deterrent enough – at least for most of us.  This is not a criticism of school personnel “licks” to students; it’s just a memory of a time gone by.  At least, now we have the rest of the story surrounding the old high school and a bit more information on the active role the Navy took in helping Flour Bluff, the little town that almost was.

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

Stories of Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was

Flour Bluff, History, Human Interest, Local history, Personal History
Flour Bluff School, 1939

     In the past few weeks, I have been inundated with all kinds of stories about Flour Bluff and Flour Bluff Schools.  One of my favorites came from Don Crofton, Flour Bluff resident since 1946. His story is attached to the wooden building just to the right of the main school building in the picture above.  It was a pier-and-beam building that was used as the cafeteria.  As Don tells it, many of the children who attended the school sometimes forgot their lunches, or the family had nothing to send for them.  To fix that problem, the lady who ran the cafeteria, Mrs. Dody, always had a pot of beans ready to serve anyone who had no lunch.  This filling meal became known as “Dody’s Beans.”  She had a free lunch program going even then to take care of the children she served.

Flour Bluff School, 1948

     Crofton also told me that he remembered a “lighthouse-type” structure at the top of the high school building. He said it was lighted by the sun but did not actually send out a beam of light. This really peaked my interest, so I started asking what others recalled.

     Greg Smith, lifetime resident of Flour Bluff, local historian, and current District 4 councilman, told me that he remembers a story about the shape of the building being made to resemble a plane, which would make the “lighthouse” the “cockpit.” Though he admits the story makes good sense considering how much influence NAS Corpus Christi had in Flour Bluff in the forties, but he could not validate the story as the absolute truth.

     Mike Johnson, a member of one of the original families of Flour Bluff said, “There was a dome above the front entrance and offices. All I ever saw up there was sweaty athletic uniforms.”

     Crofton added, “Yes, there were a lot of smelly football uniforms!”

Flour Bluff Football Field, 1956

 

     Another story came to me from John Stanley via Facebook.  Stanley moved to Flour Bluff in 1946 and recalls playing football on the sandy, sticker-covered field near the high school that is pictured.  “I moved to Flour Bluff in 1946. There was a dome on the high school, but I never saw any outside light like a lighthouse. There was a big room up there with various old equipment. When I was in the 6th grade we were taken up there to pick a football helmet. Those helmets were not like anything I have ever seen. They probably came from Navy Surplus, having large, hinged ear flaps. We wore those for the junior high games and played on the field which was located just north of the high school. One end of the field was full of grass burs. We played bare footed, with blue jeans and the helmet…no shirts. Most competitive teams were a little better dressed. On one occasion, the other team complained that our bare bones were injuring their players. We put on tee shirts and continued the game.”

     Joyce Dilley Pfannenstein spoke well of the education she received at Flour Bluff Schools under the leadership of Superintendent E. J. Wranosky.   “I was fortunate to have attended Flour Bluff all 12 years of school. I had the experience in my career of teaching in a parochial school, and I can say that we learned more values and how to treat others as well as the academics under Mr. Wranosky’s leadership. My class’s senior trip was the first time I had ever been outside Texas. I will always appreciate the education and opportunities that school provided. That was way before air-conditioned classrooms. We thought we were fortunate to have electric fans!”

     If you have a story to tell about the history of Flour Bluff, please send it to shirley.thornton3@sbcglobal.net.  My goal is to gather the stories and share them so that they don’t get lost over time.  Together we should be able to piece together the history of Flour Bluff, the little town that almost was.

Note:  All add-ons and corrections to existing stories are welcomed and encouraged.  We want to be as accurate as possible.

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