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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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.
Please follow and like us:

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.
Please follow and like us:

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.
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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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Stories of Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was(#5)

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history
This picture was published in the Brazosport Facts on June 6, 1976.

 

     “Make a loose fist of your hand.  Imagine that the fingers and palm are the major part of Corpus Christi.  The space between them and the thumb corresponds roughly to Cayo del Oso.  The thumb is Flour Bluff,”wrote Bill Duncan in a Corpus Christi Caller-Times article from 1963.  He, like many others, agree that the geographical location of the Encinal Peninsula greatly affected the historical – and even current – events of the area.  Though settlement of the area did not occur until the turn of the 19th century, this sandy “digit” attracted some human activity.

     With the discovery of several burial sites of the Karankawa Indians (Carancquacas) on the shores of the Oso, one could logically conclude that these nomadic people would travel across the shallow Oso waters onto the great “thumb” seeking fish, shellfish, and turtles.  These were staple foods for the pre-historic people called “dog-lovers” or “dog-raisers”, who, according to Carol Lipscomb, writer for the Texas Handbook Online, “kept dogs that were described as a fox-like or coyote-like breed.” The name Karankawa was a general designation of several bands of Indians who shared a common, though limited language, including the Capoques, Kohanis, and Kopanes.  According to one source, the Karankawa word for “dog” translates to “kiss.”  In addition to their limited vocabulary, they communicated with whistles, sighs, and guttural grunts.

Courtesy of Brazosport Facts, June 6, 1976

     Many theories exist about how the Karankawa came to the Gulf Coast of Texas.  This thoroughly coastal oriented tribe left an impression on all who encountered them.  According to a May 24, 2016, Corpus Christi Caller-Times article by local historian Murphy Givens, “The men were over six feet tall and carried long bows of red cedar.  Women wore deerskin skirts and smeared their bodies with alligator grease.  The men’s hair was braided with rattlesnake rattles, which made a dry rustling sound when they walked.”  Linscomb wrote that the bows “reached from the eye or chin level to the foot of the bearer” and that the men were tall and muscular and wore deerskin breechclouts or nothing at all.  She goes on to relate how they painted and tattooed their bodies, and pierced the nipples of each breast and the lower lip with small pieces of cane.  It seems that even the women tattooed their bodies and wore “skirts of Spanish moss or animal skin that reached to the knees.”

     Most accounts of this extension of Paleo-American man claim that the Karankawa tended to travel in groups of 30 or 40 and broke into smaller “family” units to facilitate foraging.   They could be hostile and warlike – even in their “play.”  Givens relates in his article that Cabeza de Vaca was kept as their prisoner for years after he was shipwrecked on a barrier island in 1528.  Twenty years later, all but two of a group of 300 survivors of a shipwrecked Spanish fleet were attacked and killed by a Karankawa band.  Linscomb tells us, “Karankawas also participated in competitive games demonstrating weapons skills or physical prowess. Wrestling was so popular among Karankawas that neighboring tribes referred to them as the ‘Wrestlers.’ Warfare was a fact of life for the Karankawas, and evidence indicates that the tribe practiced a ceremonial cannibalism that involved eating the flesh of their traditional enemies. That custom, widespread among Texas tribes, involved consuming bits and pieces of the flesh of dead or dying enemies as the ultimate revenge or as a magical means of capturing the enemy’s courage.”  Frequent encounters between the Karankawa and the European explorers, missionaries, and settlers led to many deaths from combat – and from epidemic diseases brought to the coastal areas by the invaders.

Map of 1853 Encinal Peninsula with names of the impresarios who were granted land on the Encinal Peninsula by the Mexican government

     Though the Karankawa managed to survive 300 years of European contact, 1821 brought a different challenge for the indigenous group.  Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, and the new government invited Anglo-Americans to the province of Texas.  Over the next 15 years, the Karankawa would battle not only with the Anglo-Texans, but also with the hostile Tonkawas and Comanches.  By 1836, the number of “dog-lovers” had diminished to the point that they were no longer considered a threat.  It is believed that the few who remained moved into Tamaulipas, Mexico, where they suffered attacks from the Mexican authorities and were eventually pushed back into Texas, perhaps back to the shores of the Cayo del Oso (El Grullo), where they slowly disappeared into history.

    By 1850, Texas and Mexico were attempting to untangle the land ownership of the El Rincon del Grullo, “The Corner of the Grey.”  According to Duncan, “It eventually went to Leonardo Longoria de la Garza of Tamaulipas by order of Texas Governor O. M. Roberts. Still there was no great rush to settle the area. One of the first surveys of the area, which appeared in the map, ‘The Public Roads of the Nueces County,’ and was adopted by the Commissioners Court in February, 1879, lists the entire tract from the Oso to Laguna Madre to Alazan Bay as ‘M. (Miflin) Kenedy’s Pasture.'”  The land speculation of the 1800s by a Union colonel, Elihu H. Ropes and others, was responsible for the first breaking up of the large parcel and the arrival of the first settlers.  Ropes filed a survey plat May 6, 1891, of the “Laguna Madre Farm and Garden Tracts”, which covered all of present Flour Bluff. It turns out that Ropes actually listed the 18-square mile plat (11,520 acres) as “Flower Bluff (sic) Farm and Garden Tracts”, some say to make the land seem more desirable.   There seems to be some question as to whether Ropes ever actually owned land in Flour Bluff.  Duncan writes, “More likely is it that the promoter made a deal with owners to survey the land and sell off portions under a ‘lot lease clause’ deal.” Sue Harwood, staff writer for the Caller-Times in 1959 wrote that Ropes did indeed buy the Flour Bluff land at $8 an acre.  Regardless, this idea – like the ones that got him run out of town – fizzled.

       By 1890, the Texas Land Development Co. of San Antonio bought what was left of the peninsula after Kenedy bought much of the original grant from heirs of the Mexican grant.  They started selling land between 1890 and 1900.  Some of the first to buy this property have descendants living in Flour Bluff today.  Mrs. Louisa Singer, G. H. Ritter, and E. Roscher were three who became some of the first settlers on the peninsula.  At about the same time, Mrs. Henrietta M. King, who had acquired much of “Kenedy’s Pasture” in a partition of their lands, sold off by 1907, creating the southern boundary of Flour Bluff that joins the King Ranch.  There, on the “thumb” between the Oso and the Laguna Madre, families started to take root in Flour Bluff, the little town that almost was.

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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Stories of Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was (#4)

Flour Bluff, Human Interest, Local history

     Three weeks ago the Blue Angels blew into the Bluff like a band of barnstormers.  In the days prior to the big event, they roared through the skies leaving jet streams to alert all of us on the ground that they had arrived and that the air show had come to town.  Oh, how those Angels made everyone jump as they appeared out of nowhere, dropped us to our knees, and zipped across the sky in their shiny F/A 18 Hornets.  Then, the day before the event, these rock star pilots swept into Veterans Memorial High School where they wowed the crowd, signed autographs, and left the children knowing that they, too, would one day be Blue Angel pilots, at least in their dreams. But, this story is not really about the Blue Angels.  It’s about a woman named Bernie, born September 2, 1899, in Bowie, Texas, to J.M. and Minnie Lee Harlan, who roared into Flour Bluff in 1950.  To understand this woman known as Bernie Arnold to the Flour Bluff community, it is important to take a peek into her early years.

     Coming of age in the Roaring Twenties seemed to shape Bernie.  Growing up in a town with the name of an Alamo hero who helped carve out the West, Bernie started carving out a life for herself in a male-dominated world.  As a little girl, she watched as automobiles replaced horses and buggies. She saw how the airplane brought the possibility of leaving the earth.  Bernie evolved just like the world – fast and furiously.  She was a self-liberated woman who never let anything hold her down, not even gravity.

Tarrant Street, Bowie, Texas early 1900s
Bowie, Texas, early 1900s

Mason Street, Bowie, Texas 1920s
Bowie, Texas, 1920

    Bernie, like a handful of adventure seekers (mostly male) took up flying in 1927, just 24 years after the famous Kitty Hawk flight.  She married young, the first time to Sam Coffman, an aviator and inventor.  Coffman designed, built, and produced the Coffman Monoplane, a three-passenger cabin plane that sold for a few hundred dollars.  He even tested a glider in 1930, which resulted in a broken leg, a broken ankle, and two broken wrists. The Coffmans were an aviation family, teaching their two sons, Sam and Jim, to fly at very young ages while big Sam continued to make a living giving lessons, building and selling planes, and creating a very successful business.  Bernie later divorced Coffman and married Ross Arnold, her flight instructor.  He was a barnstormer who took part in cross-country flights, so Bernie naturally turned to the life of a flying circus performer, going from town to town to show off her skills in loops and dives.  This life introduced her to the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart, and even Howard Hughes when her husband Ross signed on as a pilot for Hughes’s film Hell’s Angels.

     A barnstorming beauty, Bernie was the first female pilot to take off from Meacham Field in Fort Worth, Texas. She spent the succeeding years flying around the country and into the lower Yucatan jungles where she and Ross Arnold frequently flew across the Gulf of Mexico, hauling chicle’ from Yucatan to railroad terminals in Mexico.  The gum business ended after three months of operation in 1927 when the natives became unexpectedly hostile to them. The duo then took their air show to the most remote points of the United States. Recalling her barnstorming adventures, Bernie said, “First we’d fly over a small town and buzz it soundly so that all the people would be attracted.  Then with all the town’s eyes on us, we’d land in a pasture nearby for the crowd to flock around. In order to make enough money to buy gasoline, we’d take up passengers.”  Arnold lost his life in July 1929 while on an endurance flight in Des Moines, sponsored by the Des Moines Register newspaper.  Miraculously, a reporter riding with Arnold escaped serious injury. This event brought Bernie’s barnstorming days to an end.

     This grounded Bernie for a short while, but she continued to have an interest in aviation.  She became one of the few ticket agents in the country and went on to manage an air travel bureau for four pioneering airlines out of Ft. Worth, Texas, just 68 miles from her hometown of Bowie.  With the coming of WWII, Bernie took to the skies again.  Both of her sons became military pilots.  Lt. Sam Coffman was a flying instructor who died in a plane crash in Pecos, Texas, while on a training mission.  Jim Coffman served as an Air Transport Command pilot out of Palm Springs, California. Bernie, with a desire to help the war effort coupled with her love for flying, volunteered for duty with the Air Transport Command, where she served until 1945.  Bernie’s service to her country did not go unnoticed as she received an identification card on December 10, 1945, from Colonel R. J. Pugh that would grant her entry into any Air Force Station.

Left to right: Sam H. Coffman, Bernie Coffman Arnold, Jim J. Coffman

     At the end of the war, Bernie hung up her wings and moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, at the invitation of her friend and fellow pilot, O. L. Holden.  She and Holden went into business together, opening a sporting goods store on Water Street in Corpus Christi.  They simply named it A & H Sporting Goods.  “We were open 24 hours a day,” said Bernie.  “We had to be.  We didn’t have a door on the place.”  Soon, she got wind of an effort to build a causeway across the Laguna Madre to Padre Island. Bernie’s spirit of adventure and keen eye for business prompted her to buy land at the corner of Laguna Shores Road and what is now South Padre Island Drive.  The new causeway opened in 1950, and her new sporting goods store sat in the perfect place.  Thousands of visitors to Padre Island stopped in at A & H Sporting Goods, owned and operated by Bernie and her son Jim Coffman.  Bernie’s arrival in Flour Bluff, Texas, would lead her to new heights in business, local politics, and community service. Bernie would become a key player in Flour Bluff, the little town that almost was.

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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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.

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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County Commissioners Show Support for the FBBA and Flour Bluff Community

Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page

 

 

     The Flour Bluff Business Association held its regular monthly meeting at noon on March 8, 2017, at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  A crowd of about 40 small business owners and government officials listened as Pct. 4 Nueces County Commissioner Brent Chesney updated the group on issues at the county level.  In closing, Chesney and Pct. 1 County Commissioner Mike Pusley awarded the association a total of $4500 as part of a program that allows each commissioner to distribute funds for community development as they see fit.  Chesney contributed $2500, Pusley $1000, and County Judge Loyd Neal $1000.

     “I was so impressed with how this seed money was used for Flour Fest last year.  It was a huge success.  There were lots of people in attendance even though it was really hot!”  said Chesney.  He went on to thank the FBBA for doing such a great job on the event.  “I certainly hope they do this again.  What a great first year!  It was a lot of fun for everyone.  The food and music were great.  The events were fun.  It was just a huge success.  Those are the kinds of things that I, as a county commissioner, can get involved with personally.”

     Commissioner Chesney, keynote speaker at the event, expressed how much he appreciates all that the FBBA does for the Flour Bluff community and how much he enjoys being a part of what is going on in all areas of his precinct and “not just being around at election time.”  Chesney, elected in 2014, was sworn in as Nueces County Commissioner, Precinct 4 on January 1, 2015.  “In Flour Bluff, there’s not a lot that the county can directly do because everything out here is in the city limits,” said Chesney. “However, there are many ways that we indirectly impact your community.”

     Chesney opened his talk by recognizing the various entities in Flour Bluff that help the community thrive.  He was especially complimentary of the students, staff, and programs of Flour Bluff Independent School District, saying, “There’s none finer than FBISD.”  He went on to describe how proud he was of Coach James McMinn, his friend and former high school teammate, and the FB girls basketball team for winning their way to the final 4 of the State Girls Basketball Championship.  Chesney said it was thrilling to attend the game in San Antonio.  “It was fun to be there.  And, what a great student body!  Those kids were so well behaved and so fired up.  You should be very proud of the Flour Bluff School District; they really do a great job.”  He was especially happy to announce that the county health fair held at FBISD was a success and something he hopes to continue in the future.

     Chesney handed out other accolades, as well.  He complimented Melanie Hambrick for her efforts in cleaning up Redhead Pond on Laguna Shores Road with Friends of Redhead Pond saying, “This is a project that is special to me and that I’ve been involved in, but Melanie is the one who really got this thing going and is doing what Melanie does, just going after full force.”  He thanked the Flour Bluff Citizens Council, a local advocacy group formed in October 2016, for keeping the people of Flour Bluff people informed and pointed out that he became a lifetime member to show his support for the group.  Chesney thanked Monette Bright for her work with Operation Graduation, a program he personally supports through contributions. He also thanked Jeff Craft of The Flour Bluff Messenger for allowing him to write a column to keep people apprised of what the county is doing with taxpayers’ dollars.

     Turning to County business, Chesney reviewed what has been happening and how the commissioners are working to be “a business friendly county.”  He first recognized Constable Mitchell Clark who was in the audience.  Constable Clark took over as the Pct. 2 constable following the death of longtime constable Jerry Boucher.  “Jerry was a great man.  He was a mentor of Mitchell’s, and we all miss him,” said Chesney.  “But, at the same time we are very excited about Constable Clark because he is who Jerry wanted in that job.  Jerry would only want someone out here who would be a great asset to the area.  Get to know him.  He’s a great guy who’s going to work really hard for Flour Bluff.  You’re also very fortunate to have Judge Thelma Rodriguez out here who works so well with the school in handling truancy cases, a task she took on herself.  We just have a lot of great county officials out here, and she’s one of them.”

Pct. 2 Constable Mitchell Clark

     Chesney told the group that coastal parks in Nueces County are now on the short list for millions of dollars in grants from the BP oil spill and that Padre Balli Park and I.B. Magee Park in Port Aransas are expected to receive $7.5 million in funds from the Restore Bucket 1 grant program.  “These dollars will be used to increase and improve the coastal parks, which will help you.”  Chesney pointed out that the coastal park is one of the few revenue-generating areas of the county and that the $7.5 million will give the county a ten-year jump-start on their master plan. “Mr. Pusley and I are always looking for ways to generate revenue for county projects that benefit everyone in the county – without increasing taxes,” which Chesney pointed out is one of the most effective ways the County can serve the people of Flour Bluff.

Pct. 1 County Commissioner Mike Pusley

     Chesney talked about how much he really enjoys being a county commissioner.  “Things are going well in the county.  We don’t always agree, but we have civil discourse, shake hands, and walk away knowing that we will probably agree on the next ten issues.  That’s how it’s supposed to work in government.”

     Chesney and Pusley addressed the ongoing issues with ADA compliance at all county buildings. “It’s important that we make our facilities accessible to all.  We just want to see some flexibility if – let’s say – a ramp shifts a quarter inch, and it’s no longer in compliance,” said Pusley.

Pct. 4 County Commissioner Brent Chesney receives Certificate of Appreciation from FBBA President Jennifer Welp, March 8, 2017.

Other Announcements from the FBBA

April Spotlight of the Month:  Bob Westrup, owner of Papa Murphy’s in Flour Bluff

New members:  Julie Armstrong of Cubit Contracting and Neal Ekstrom of NCE Waste Environmental Services were accepted as General Members; and Misty Svoboda of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Real Estate Center was accepted as an Associate Member.

April 1, 2017:  Coastal Bend Troop Support Crawfish Boil and Military Tribute, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Briscoe King Pavilion, 15820 SPID, Corpus Christi, TX  (Contact them to donate items by visiting coastalbendtroopsupport.com)

April 8, 2017:  Special Olympics (Contact Lori Eureste, President FB Special Olympics Booster Club at 361-658-9701 or lage1988@yahoo.com.)

April 17, 2017: Flour Bluff Citizens Council General Meeting, 6:00 p.m., at Grace Community Church on Flour Bluff Drive (Visit the website https://www.flourbluffcc.org/ for more information.)

April 22, 2017: Earth Day Community Clean-up with HEB

April 22, 2017:  First day of Litter Critter Program in Flour Bluff  (Check the FBCC and FBBA websites for more details.)

NEXT MEETING:  Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at noon at Funtrackers  (The speaker will be Pct. 2 Constable Mitchell Clark.)

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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Sand, Smugglers, and Santa Anna Helped Name Flour Bluff

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history
Texas GLO 1839 map of Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays

     In 1839, an unnamed cartographer sketched a map of areas surrounding Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays.  This map (depicted above) is in the hands of the Texas General Land Office.  The area circled in red indicates the first printed use of the name Flour Bluffs, an area at the tip of what is now called the Encinal Peninsula.  According to Bill Duncan in a Caller-Times article from 1963 on the subject of Flour Bluff, “In 1835, Mexico parceled out most of South Texas in grants to its citizens, a vast tract stretching from the Oso (then called El Grullo, the Grey) to Baffin and Alazan Bays” to families who probably never even saw the property because it was far off the beaten paths.  The Encinal Peninsula, like the rest of South Texas, became part of the Republic of Texas in 1836.  Two years later, the remoteness of this land, Duncan suggests, is what attracted smugglers to the area during the Pastry War.

      According to Christopher Klein, writer for History.com, the 3-month war was actually a military conflict sparked in part by an unpaid debt to a French pastry chef.

     “In the years following Mexico’s 1821 independence from Spain, rioting, looting and street fighting between government forces and rebels plagued the country and damaged property, including the ransacking of a bakery near Mexico City owned by a French-born pastry chef named Remontel. Rebuffed by the Mexican government in his attempt at compensation for the damage caused by looting Mexican officers, Remontel took his case directly to his native country and French King Louis-Philippe.

     “The pastry chef found a welcome ear in Paris. The French government was already angered over unpaid Mexican debts that had been incurred during the Texas Revolution of 1836, and it demanded compensation of 600,000 pesos, including an astronomical 60,000 pesos for Remontel’s pastry shop, which had been valued at less than 1,000 pesos. When the Mexican Congress rejected the ultimatum, the French navy in the spring of 1838 began a blockade of key seaports along the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Rio Grande. The United States, which had a contentious relationship with Mexico, sent a schooner to assist in the blockade,” Klein reports.

     This action, according to Bill Duncan, made the price of many staples jump in price, including the price of wheat. “Smuggling,” writes Duncan, “became a highly profitable, though precarious occupation.  Corpus Christi Bay was a natural landing spot.  The new Republic of Texas, seeking French recognition, took a dim view of the smuggling and in the late summer of 1838, Texas militiamen spotted a group of Mexicans unloading cargo on the beach east of El Grullo.  They approached and the Mexicans fled.  The principal item left behind was 100 barrels of flour.”

     But, flour was only part of the story.  It turns out that giant, white sand dunes graced the shores of Flour Bluff Point where the smuggling occurred.  According to those who leveled the sandy giants in 1940 to build NAS Corpus Christi, they stood 40 feet high.  Sand naturally collected in this area, according to R.A. Morton and J.G.Paine who studied the area and wrote about it in the 1984 publication, Historical Shoreline Changes in Corpus Christi, Oso, and Nueces Bays, Texas Gulf Coast.   Evidently, this was apparent to the cartographers in 1845. because the Texas GLO map below shows the area with a second name, the Poso, which means “deposits” or “sediments” in English.  This sandy peninsula with giant white sand dunes and 100 barrels of flour naturally led to the name Flour Bluffs, now simply referred to as Flour Bluff.

Texas GLO map showing Flour Bluffs or the Poso, 1845  (Poso translated into English means “deposits” or “sediments.”)

    Santa Anna’s connection to the naming of Flour Bluff may have been ever so slight, but the story of his involvement in the Pastry War adds a little seasoning to the tale. Matthew Thornton, Texas history teacher and historian, tells of Santa Anna’s role in the Pastry Wars:

“In 1838, Santa Anna seized an opportunity for redemption while fending off a French invasion of Mexico. He once again led Mexican troops in what became another major Mexican military loss, but negotiations between France and the Mexican government eventually settled the dispute and brought end to the invasion. Though he had notched his belt with another difficult loss on the battlefield, Santa Anna was met with renewed support from the Mexican people for his will and ability to quickly rally troops and come to the defense of the country. For his troubles during the conflict, Santa Anna managed to lose his leg to cannon fire, an incident for which he chose to hold a formal burial with full military honors for his sacrificed limb. He famously donned a wooden prosthetic after the leg was successfully amputated.”  (Read the full story about Santa Anna here.)

     All in all, the grey, muddy waters of the Oso have long separated Flour Bluff from the rest of Corpus Christi and Texas.  This geographical separation has created a difference in the land.  Corpus Christi proper is black gumbo.  Flour Bluff is sand.  It has also created a difference in attitude, an attitude that the people of the Bluff understand and defend.  Social media pages such as “I Grew Up in Flour Bluff,” “It’s a Bluff Thing,” and the like keep the current citizens attached to each other.  This writer’s goal is to attach them to their history so that all can appreciate being separate but also see how they are tied to those beyond the Oso and the Laguna Madre.

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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