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

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Bobbie Kimbrell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest, Personal History



Lacy Smith, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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




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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: