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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stories of Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was (#2)

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History, Local history, Military
Waldron was built as a satellite airfield in 1943 for nearby Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. (National Archives Photograph, 1943)

     After posting the first article in this series, I received an email message and a 1968 Caller-Times article from Lacey Al Masri regarding Waldron Field.  “I was just reading your article on The Paper Trail about Flour Bluff and saw that you are looking for other historic/old stories for Flour Bluff,” wrote Al Masri. “I have an article from the Caller Times, 1968 that is about my grandfather and the prison farm that he ran out in the Bluff.  My family has been in the area a long time, before Corpus was even here.  My great, great, great, great uncle was James McGloin, the impresario of San Patricio.” I couldn’t imagine it!  A farm prison right here in Flour Bluff?  This information got my research juices flowing, and I was amazed at what I found.  I may have even stumbled upon the real story behind the shape of the 1948 Flour Bluff High School.  I will leave it to the readers to set me straight.

      The article certainly verified Al Masri’s claim that a farm prison once existed where the kids play baseball, softball, kickball, soccer, and youth football today.  This information prompted me to dig a little deeper into the history of Waldron Field.  What I found involved multiple uses of the 640-acre plot of land owned by the U.S. Government that is bordered by Waldron Road on the east and Flour Bluff Drive on the west –   According to the website Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields,  Waldron Field (named for LCDR John C. Waldron* who heroically lost his life in the WWII Battle at Midway) was built as a satellite airfield in 1943 for nearby Corpus Christi Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.  By 1947, Waldron Field closed, but it did not stay unoccupied.

     This large tract of land soon drew the attention of the Nueces County Commissioners.  John Stallings, reporter for the Caller-Times, reported on December 21, 1947, that County Judge George Prowse was making plans to spend 60 to 80 thousand dollars to convert existing buildings at Waldron Field to expand the Hilltop Sanitorium, where the county could only isolate 21 patients with tuberculosis at a time.  The proposed Waldron Field sanitorium would provide rooms for approximately 100 patients.  The plans were drawn; then, something happened.  Evidently, Judge Prowse’s negotiations with the Navy failed because the hospital never materialized – at least not at Waldron Field.  It was eventually built on Highway 9 and opened in 1953.  Once again, the Waldron Field property sat unused.   

Original plans for Waldron Field Sanitorium

     Enter Judge Prowse once again.  This time, he had a plan for a county prison farm at the Waldron Field location.  It was to be operated as a rehabilitation center for prisoners who had committed misdemeanors and was fashioned after a similar farm in Louisville, Kentucky.  The property was leased from the Navy for $1 a year.  Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Timon (grandparents of Lacey Al Masri mentioned earlier) lived at the farm with their children while Mr. Timon served as the superintendent.  Jim Davis, Caller-Times journalist interviewed Timon nearly 20 years after the farm closed, in an article entitled “Prison Farm Superintendent Thinks System Then Was Good,” published March 10, 1968.  

     In the article, Dudley Timon reminisced about the “good old days” when he served as superintendent of Nueces County’s first and only county work farm from 1947 to 1950.  The farm was an attempt to give some persons jailed on misdemeanor charges a chance to do something useful rather than just sit in their cells in the county jail.  Timon saw it as a success and told Davis that the inmates usually did not give him much trouble.  The article states, “Most of them were not hardened criminals, but rather men who could not hold their liquor or could not keep from writing a bad check every now and then.”  

Dudley Timon with scrapbook of old Waldron Field Prison Farm (Caller-Times photo, 1968)

     Timon was the only guard on the farm.  However, when he had to work 40 or so men in separate groups, he sometimes called in “an extra guard or two.”  He even used unarmed “trusties.”  Another Caller-Times reporter, Hoyt Hager, wrote six months into the start of the program that Judge Prowse saw this use of  “trusties” doing maintenance work at Waldron Field as the “guinea pig group” that could develop into a modern prison farm.  

     Timon told Davis in the 1968 interview, “The prisoners cleaned up the park areas at Padre Island and performed minor road and building repair work.  Work a the farm itself included caring for the animals – two milk cows, two horses, 40 goats, and dozens of chickens – and the garden.  The men also repaired furniture in a workshop.  Timon drew some criticism as farm superintendent because he let some of the men go fishing in the nearby Cayo del Oso. ‘That’s no lie,” Timon said of the fishing charge. ‘We worked Monday through Friday, and if men worked without trouble, they go permission to go fishing.’  He said the fishermen provided fish for the farm’s dinner table and often caught enough to send extras to Hilltop Tuberculosis Hospital and the county jail.”

     According to the article, the prisoners lived in the firehouse at Waldron Field.  Timon, his wife, and two daughters lived in the old officers club with no separate fence around their living quarters.  The superintendent’s house was off limits to all prisoners unless they were invited.  Mrs. Timon recalled how the men would stand at the curb if they needed something and call until someone in the house heard them.  One such call for help came when one of the prisoners had been bitten by a snake.  Mrs. Timon “wrapped tape around the bite area to prevent the poison from spreading and then made a ‘wild ride’ to the hospital with her daughters in the front seat and the moaning prisoner in the back seat.”
     
     Timon did not carry a gun at the farm except when he went hunting rabbits. “The men loved to eat those rabbits,” he said.  He said most of his “boys” were not really bad and he thought the work farm was a big help to them. They could do useful work rather than just sitting in jail and feeling sorry for themselves, he said.  In fact, Timon is proud of several of his former prisoners. “Two became preachers after they got out,” he said.Timon also said the farm saved the county money because the prisoners not only performed valuable work but also lived cheaper at the farm than they could at the county jail. 
    In 1950, County Commissioner Horace Caldwell disagreed with Timon’s and Judge Prowse’s evaluations of the success of the farm and its cost effectiveness. Calvin Ramfield, county auditor, presented a cost analysis of expenses of maintaining prisoners at Waldron and at the county jail and pointed out that the cost for care per day per prisoner was $1.36 at the jail and $1.33 at the farm.  Caldwell asked if the cost of going after runaways from the farm.  Ramfield said that this amount was included in the gas and oil item of the expense account.
     As related in a September 11, 1950, Caller-Times piece, Caldwell complained that he didn’t want to take responsibility for prisoners “that run off to fish, get into the King Ranch land, and do other things” he had heard about.  This complaint along with a few jabs traded between Caldwell and Prowse on who wanted what and why led to a vote of 4-1 that day to close the farm and revert the property back to the Navy.  
 
     Like the fabled Phoenix, Waldron Field would rise again.  Sometime after 1959, Laguna Little League moved in and created a ball park for the youth in the area. Not since 1953 had the athletes of Flour Bluff had a place to play baseball and softball.  In 1971, Little Misses Kickball found a home at Waldron Field.  Since then the property, still owned by the Navy, has been a place for soccer and youth football leagues to practice and play games.  For many Flour Bluff drivers education students, the roads on the property served as a place to learn to turn around, back up, and pull out of a skid.  
 
     In writing this piece, I spent hours piecing together the stories related to Waldron Field – and looking at aerial photos.  That’s when it hit me.  The 1948 Flour Bluff High School building that some remembered as having a lighthouse-like structure on the top while others remembered as being designed to look like a plane with the glass “top” serving as the “cockpit.”  I may be absolutely wrong about this – and I hope someone will correct me if I have erred in my thinking – but the shape of the building looks a great deal like the two ramps leading to the air traffic control tower at Waldron Field. Or, is it just a coincidence?  Whatever the case may be, there is more history to be discovered about Flour Bluff, the little town that almost was.
Air traffic control tower at Waldron Field, located at point of two “ramps” next to each hangar

NOTE: * It should be mentioned that Waldron Field and Waldron Road were indeed named for LCDR John C. Waldron.  However, the mascot for Flour Bluff ISD was not named for the USS Hornet, the carrier from which Waldron launched his final mission.  The FBISD museum has a school newspaper from 1938 that details how the Hornet was chosen.  This pre-dates the construction and commission of the carrier.

Corrections and additional information are welcomed and encouraged.  Please send stories to shirley.thornton3@sbcglobal.net.

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

Living la Vida Bluff Style!

Arts, Business, Education, Flour Bluff, Food and Drink, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial, Outdoors, Religion, Sports, Travel
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Sunset on Cayo del Oso in Flour Bluff

     I guess taking part in my 40th class reunion made me a bit nostalgic concerning my hometown, Flour Bluff.  It is a little community of about 20,000 fiercely independent people that sits on the Encinal Peninsula between Cayo del Oso and Laguna Madre.  On Aug. 5, 1961, the City of Corpus Christi, Texas, voted to annex Flour Bluff while Flour Bluff voted to incorporate as a separate city.  The Corpus Christi City Council passed an annexation ordinance, and city police began patrolling in Flour Bluff.  Suits filed by Flour Bluff residents to block annexation were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in the matter.  Even though Flour Bluff officially became part of Corpus Christi, the people don’t really seem to know it.  That’s why most Flour Bluffians say they are “going to town,” when in actuality they are simply crossing one of the two Oso bridges into Corpus Christi proper.

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     Once known as the “Gateway to Padre Island,” Flour Bluff is home to the award-winning Flour Bluff Independent School District and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, the two largest employers in the community.  These two entities have supported each other since World War II when the Navy commissioned the base in 1941.  Flour Bluff, like many Texas towns, was influenced by ranching and oil and gas.  Add to that tourism, highlighted by fishing, boating, birding, and water sports, the diverse nature of the community starts to take shape.

An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941, seventy-two years ago today. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
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The first school was opened in 1892 in the community of Brighton, later to become Flour Bluff.
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Kite surfing, boating, fishing, and great meals at Laguna Reef in Flour Bluff
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Flour Bluff is home to countless species of birds.

    It is possible to live and work in Flour Bluff and never leave except to visit a major hospital, which is just five minutes away.  Flour Bluff has its very own HEB Plus and Super Walmart along with a host of unique shops and businesses that meet the everyday needs of the people.  It has an active business association, three fire stations (federal, county, and city), a police substation, various banking institutions, eateries of all types, and even a brewery!  Add to this three quick-care clinics, local dentists, a vet clinic serving large animals and small pets, accommodations for out-of-town guests, a twenty-four hour gym, multiple auto mechanic shops, storage facilities, car washes, insurance companies, attorneys-at-law, and a host of other businesses that offer the citizens of Flour Bluff basic amenities of life. Of course, churches of all denominations and community organizations enrich the lives of the people, too. If a person wants something more, indoor and outdoor malls are within a ten-minute drive east while the Gulf of Mexico is ten minutes the other direction. Padre Island sports the longest stretch of undeveloped, drivable beach in America (60 miles).  Del Mar College, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and the Craft Training Center provide educational opportunities beyond high school and are all under a 20-minute drive from Flour Bluff.

    

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     Living in Flour Bluff comes in all shapes and sizes.  The community offers many housing choices – including affordable housing, and multiple realtors in the area are available to assist newcomers in finding the perfect home.  Some residents in Flour Bluff enjoy the rancher’s life and own large pieces of property with room for horses and cows.  Others love living on the water.  Waterfront properties are available along Oso Bay, Laguna Madre, and parts in between where ponds and canals exist.  Many people prefer little or no yard maintenance and live in single or multi-level apartments or condominiums.  Flour Bluff welcomes its friends from the colder parts of the country in the many RV parks in the community.  Most residents, however, live in quiet neighborhoods filled with the whir of lawnmowers and the laughter of children.  Yes, there is indeed something for everyone!

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     Flour Bluff offers many outlets for family fun.  The community has a public and school pool, little league softball, baseball, and kickball fields, youth football organizations, activities at Flour Bluff Schools (i.e. basketball, football, volleyball, softball, academics, arts, music, NJROTC), a skateboard park, a disc golf park, multiple playgrounds, and other facilities for activities such as martial arts, soccer, tennis, rugby, and horseback riding.

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          Seasonal events give everyone something to anticipate.  Whether it’s the Navy hosting the Blue Angels, the Flour Bluff Homecoming Parade, the Flour Bluff Business Association Community Christmas, the Flour Bluff Fire Department Santa float, or the Flour Bluff 8th-Grade trip to HEB Camp in the Hill Country, those who know Flour Bluff, know it has a host of unique offerings for the community.  Maybe it’s a school that’s excels in everything.  Maybe it’s the year-round great weather conducive to outdoor activities like fishing, boating, swimming, and surfing.  Maybe it’s the tight-knit community that welcomes people from all over the world to be a part of what is happening here.  Maybe it’s the rich history or unique geographical location. Maybe it’s the class reunions, Friday-night football, or visiting with old friends in the grocery line. Whatever it is, Flour Bluff is a great place to live, visit, play, raise a family, and take part in a community that is like no other.

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Santa float

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     Spending the weekend with childhood friends (Flour Bluff Class of ’76), driving the Bluff in search of what is new or changed, writing this article, and gathering pictures for it takes me to the heart of a place I have called home for nearly 50 years.  Even those who have moved away still feel her tugging at their heartstrings. She definitely leaves an impression.  Flour Bluff, like every little “town”, has its problems, but that which is good outweighs them all.  I just wish more people could experience living la vida Bluff style!

 

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

Captain Steve Banta Talks about NASCC 75th Anniversary at March FBBA Meeting

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page
Capt. Steve Banta and Melanie Hambrick
Capt. Steve Banta and Melanie Hambrick
Beck
Lt. Scott Beck
Fifi Kieschnick NAS PAC FBBA
Fifi Kieschnick

     Captain Steve Banta shared a slide presentation of 75th Anniversary Celebration of NAS CC with those in attendance at the March FBBA meeting.  He first recognized Lt. Scott Beck, the coordinator for the event, and Fifi Kieschnick, NAS CC Public Affairs Officer, for doing hours of research through the CC Public Libraries, the Navy archives, the Caller-Times archives, and any other place they could locate material to create the slide show.  Captain Banta, who went through flight school at NAS CC in 1994, returned as the commanding officer June 26, 2014.

    “The theme of the event is the successful cooperation between the military and the community,” said Captain Banta.  “Although we really enjoy how Texas and South Texas love the military, Corpus Christi is unique and better in that area.  Flour Bluff is the area of Corpus Christi that directly supports the base.  There will always be a strong bond here, and it’s something I really appreciate.”

     Directing his comments to Cdr. Armando Solis, FB NJROTC instructor, Banta said, “The school is amazing.  As far as you folks are concerned, Armando, there is no doubt about that, as is evidenced through the history of your success with those kids.  The only way anybody else has gotten close to you or even gotten a little better than you is because they copied what you did.  There’s no doubt about it.  They’re amazing!  We’re really lucky because they’re going to perform for us at the 75th.”

NJROTC 2
Flour Bluff NJROTC

      Captain Banta described the area of Flour Bluff prior to the base being built.  “Flour Bluff in 1939 had kids going to school on horseback and people playing in the sand dunes.  These sand dunes are where the base is now.  They were 40-foot sand dunes.  This area was a place where people would vacation or take their families for the day to go to the beach.  The didn’t have to go all the way to the island.  This was an area that was ripe for development.  In 1940, Congress passed an appropriations bill to fund twelve military installations around the country, the largest of which would be built right here in Corpus Christi.  It ended up being – at the time – the largest aviation training complex in the world.  That was 1940.  The funds were made available in the summer of 1940, and by March of the next year, the base was 70% complete.  In just nine months, the base was dedicated.  Some of the buildings are still standing.  It was incredible.”

NAS FB Before 1938
Flour Bluff 1939

NAS CC sand dunes leveled
The Navy settled on a site at Flour Bluff bounded by the Cayo del Oso, Corpus Christi Bay and the Laguna Madre.

Fence line at the construction site of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, July 1940, Lexington Road and Flour Bluff Drive Source: National Naval Aviation Museum
Fence line at the construction site of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, July 1940, Lexington Road and Flour Bluff Drive Source: National Naval Aviation Museum
An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941, seventy-two years ago today. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
NAS CC South Gate 1949
NAS CC South Gate 1949

     Captain Banta continued, “On the 12th of March in 1941, at 11:00 a.m. on the steps of Building 1, where the admiral and the CO had their offices, the dedication took place.  Representative Lyndon B. Johnson was present.  The CO at the time, Captain Alva Bernhard, dubbed this base the ‘University of the Air.’  He wanted to make sure everyone knew that premier aviation training was going to happen at this base.  The theme of Secretary Knox‘s speech was ‘Cooperation with the Local Community’.”

Secretary Knox gives speech while Captain Alva Bernhard looks on
Secretary Knox gives speech while Captain Alva Bernhard (right)  looks on.
NAS 1941-ceremony pao platform
NAS 1941 Dedication Ceremony

     “20,000 civilians were on board doing construction on the base making sure we could get mission capable.  Today, when everybody’s on board – military, civilian, family, contractors – we might get up to 12,000 total,” said Banta.  He shared pictures of the various types of aircraft use at NAS CC in the last 75 years.  “The purpose of this base – Naval Air Station Corpus Christi – is as a Navy aviation training base.  It is the reason the base was built.  In 1940, there was a lot of tension going on in the world.  We were not yet at war.  We needed to make sure we were prepared for any eventuality.  Pensacola could not handle all the aviation training that was needed, so this base was built.  Kingsville, Cabaniss, Waldron Field, Rodd Field, Cuddihy Field, and Chase Field were all outlying fields for this base.”

NAS CC 1940 Planes
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NAS CC 1941 Flight Training NAS CC PBY

 

     Captain Banta said, “During WWII, over 35,000 aviators graduated from this base.  Shortly after the base was dedicated, flight school and ground school started.  Pearl Harbor was bombed in December of 1941.  The first group of aviators graduated in November 1941.  After that, there were two graduations every week with up to 90 students in each class.  In 1943, one of the classes had over 100 students.  Today, we have winging ceremonies twice each month, and there are probably 16-18 aviators graduating with multi-engine training.  There is absolutely no doubt that the support of this community letting this base function helped win the war.  And there’s no doubt that all the aviators turned out by this base in its 75-year history are making a difference in the world, executing the mission for national security of this country.”

     The captain spoke of how Rear Admiral Dell Bull is a huge supporter of this community.  He said, “The admiral tells a story about how a few years back, Isis targeted Baghdad, and we answered the call for assistance.  Over half of the first group of aviators who were part of that assistance were trained right here in Corpus Christi.  What you do here supporting the military makes a difference, and I want to personally thank you for that.”

     Captain Banta let everyone know about the NAS CC 75th Anniversary celebration that has several events leading up to a culminating event on March 12, which will include an official ceremony, flyover, static displays, tours, a concert, and fireworks.  A golf tournament is scheduled for Friday morning, March 11. Also, the South Texas Navy Historical Committee is planning a 1940s-themed gala Friday event at the American Bank Center (Contact Fifi Kieschnick at nascc-pao@navy.mil to RSVP for this event). The official ceremony will be held Saturday morning, March 12, beginning at 11 a.m. — 75 years to the minute that the commissioning ceremony was held.  Sunday morning, March 13, a non-denominational church service will be held at the Protestant Chapel, followed by breakfast at the Catalina Club.  All events are free to the public.

     Reminders:

  • Saturday, March 12, the Main (South) Gate to NAS Corpus Christi will open at 10 a.m. to the general public.
  • Driving on the installation, visitors must have a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Visitors will be directed to parking adjacent to the ceremony site.
  • All are reminded that they may not bring: coolers; backpacks, large bags, tents and large umbrellas; animals, unless they are service animals; weapons of any kind; alcoholic beverages; cooking equipment; skateboards, bikes, and roller blades; illegal drugs or paraphernalia; fireworks; and kites, balloons and radio-controlled devices.

     NASCC 75

Recognitions and Other FBBA Announcements:

     FBBA President Melanie Hambrick recognized Mark Thomas, owner of Jack and Jill of Many Trades, as winner of the Spotlight Award for the month of March.  Thomas thanked the association and talked a little about his business that specializes in lawn service, tree service and tractor mowing. “We do commercial, industrial and residential. Our service area is the Corpus Christi Coastal Bend, especially Flour Bluff, Padre Island and Port Aransas, but we are available for Aransas Pass, Portland, Ingleside, etc.”  Thomas has been in business in Flour Bluff since 1986.  He also lends a helping hand to Bill Barton, who is working to get Parker Pool open by Memorial Day weekend.

Spotlight Award recipient, Mark Thomas of Jack and Jill of Many Trades
Spotlight Award recipient, Mark Thomas of Jack and Jill of ManyTrades
Solis at FBBA
Cdr. Armando Solis
Joe Kelley FBBA
Joe Kelley

      FBISD Superintendent Joe Kelley recognized Cdr. Armando Solis for leading the FB NJROTC to a second-place win at the state competition.  “Commander has led us to 22 first-place wins at the the state competition.  We just got back from the 23rd contest where we lost by just 33 points.  We are sure proud of his work and the work of the kids.”

 

 

 

 

     Hannah Chipman from Brent Chesney’s office announced the first annual Sand Castle Run/Walk on the beach and encouraged everyone to join in on the fun May 7, 2016, at 8:00 a.m. at Bob Hall Pier on Padre Island.  All proceeds will go to Camp Sandcastle America, a program of the American Diabetes Association established over 20 years ago to broaden the opportunity of Coastal Bend children with diabetes to experience summer camp.  See more at: http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/diabetes-camp/camps/sandcastle.html#sthash.pWUvDRZZ.dpuf

     Packet pickup is on May 5, 2016, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Mikel Mays on Bob Hall Pier.  Then, everyone is encouraged to stick around for the Cinco de Mayo party.  Packets may also be picked up the morning of the run starting at 7:00 a.m.  For more information, Chipman can be contacted at hannah.chipman@nuecesco.com or 361-888-0268.

Hannah Chipman FBBA

 

 

 

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

Flour Bluff Schools: A Notable History

Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page

The Beginning: 1892

The Flour Bluff Independent School District was created by the convergence of three very divergent entities: oil and gas, ranching, and the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Through the use of student labor, frugality, and a visionary superintendent, it became a unique campus catering to a community with strong bonds.

The first school was opened in 1892 in the community of Brighton, later to become Flour Bluff. Precariously located next to the Laguna Madre, it served twenty-five students for a six-month term. In 1900, Miss Florence Savoy instructed twelve students for a total of four months. In 1916, the school board voted to replace the Brighton school; however, before it was completed, the hurricane of 1916 destroyed the building. Utilizing student labor once again, the school was rebuilt slightly inland where the Flour Bluff Early Childhood Center now sits.

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1916 Flour Bluff School Building

Influence of Ranching

The schools that cropped up were scattered throughout the Flour Bluff region to accommodate the ranching families located in the area. 1920 saw the opening of Flour Bluff No. 2 at the north end of present-day Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. A third school, Flour Bluff No. 3, opened in 1926 and served the Flour Bluff students for two years. It was located at the Hannah Roscher home near Oso Creek, one mile north of King Ranch. Thirteen students attended at this location. In 1928 both Flour Bluff No. 2 and No. 3 were dissolved, and all students attended what became known as Flour Bluff No. 1, located once again at the 1916 site on Waldron Road. In 1932, the school board purchased a car to transport the students to Flour Bluff No. 1. Soon another industry would change the community’s idea of public education.

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School “Bus” for Flour Bluff in 1930s

Role of Oil and Gas

In the 1930’s, oil and gas exploration came to the Flour Bluff area. In the midst of economic uncertainty throughout the United States, workers were drilling in Flour Bluff, and they were bringing their families. In 1937, a new brick building was constructed with the economic backing of Humble Oil. It was built adjacent to the Flour Bluff No. 1 at the Waldron Road and Purdue Street intersection. Although the community was increasingly becoming an oil and gas economy, the district was still very much a ranching area, and a fence had to be constructed around the school to prevent the intrusion of roaming cattle from the area ranches. World-wide events would soon reach the small community of Flour Bluff with yet another influence on education.

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Flour Bluff School 1939

World War II Brings the Navy

World War II brought the Navy to Flour Bluff, and with it came progress and innovation. In 1941, a new nineteen-room junior and senior high school was built next to the 1937 building. The high school required 18.5 accredited units, which was 2.5 more than what was required for college entrance at that time. The “Laboratory of Industry” was created as a vocational center for boys. It was the product of Principal A.L. Smith at the request of the federal government to train men to work at the Naval Station Training station plant. Families in the northern area of Flour Bluff would be moved out to make way for training station. Throughout the early 1940’s, NAS Corpus Christi made a tremendous impact on Flour Bluff. However, when World War II ended, the school saw a reduction of students from NAS and developed a new need to keep the schools motivated and financially independent.

Flour Bluff Junior High
Flour Bluff Junior High (old high school)

Ernest J. Wranosky’s Vision

The residents of Flour Bluff voted to become an independent school in April 1948. Superintendent Ernest J. Wranosky expanded the boundaries of the district to 56 square miles of land surface and 100 square miles of water surface. Every year, the district committed to a construction project which utilized government surplus along with local and student labor. One such project consisted of dismantling a hangar at Fort Point at Point Bolivar, Galveston, Texas, by using district equipment acquired from the Texas Surplus Property Agency and manual labor provided by the Flour Bluff students. The surplus hangar was trucked and then floated to Flour Bluff where it became the new gymnasium for the school district. When asked how many seats the new gym could accommodate, Wranosky commented, “I hope none. We are building this for students to use, not sit.” This building, which was later appropriately named Wranosky Gymnasium, is located on Waldron Road and continues to serve students of all grade levels.

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1948

Flour Bluff’s purpose of all instruction and activities can be summed up with Wranosky’s philosophy which was to “advance and equalize, as far as possible, the opportunities of all students regardless of their mental abilities and social economic status.” This meant lots of student participation, which even included supervising and managing activities of the school. The philosophy also included an appreciation of all creeds and institutions and a desire for students to earn status in society, industry, politics, and professions “through fair and honest dealings, hard work and persistence.” Patriotism was ever present in this philosophy as Wranosky wanted students to acquire “a knowledge of and an appreciation for the great size and value of this great country, its resources, its surface features, and the relative opportunities of its sections.” The ideas also included an appreciation for the Creator, new fields in science, industry, and social progress. Not until 1963 would that social progress come to Flour Bluff ISD with the end of segregation. Black elementary students living in the Flour Bluff district had been previously bused to Booker T. Washington Elementary in the Corpus Christi Independent School District. The changing climate concerning segregation coupled with encouragement from the U.S. Department of Navy moved Flour Bluff ISD toward desegregation.

Ernest J Wranosky
Ernest J Wranosky 1973

The twenty-nine years of leadership of Superintendent Wranosky saw changes in curriculum to set expectations above the state mandate. It also included a wide range of additional curricular studies, including auto mechanics, building trades, cosmetology, and hospitality. Students who successfully completed four years of cosmetology were taken by bus to Austin, Texas, for the State Board Exam in order to complete their educations with state licensing.

In cooperation with the Corpus Christi Museum, Flour Bluff ISD owned and operated a museum on campus. The museum was housed in one of the surplus properties and was operated by students who received their instruction from their teacher. The Corpus Christi Museum curator at that time offered his expertise, as well. Many of the specimen in the museum came from findings of the district’s oceanography class and from the annual field trip to the H.E .Butt Foundation Camp in Leakey,Texas.

Open-Air School and Outdoor Education

Beginning in 1956, the first year the camp was opened, Flour Bluff students in grades three through eight made the annual trek to the H.E. Butt Foundation where they studied real-world science, social studies, math, and language arts. They were also given responsibilities in cabin maintenance and kitchen duties. “If students are to learn responsibility, they must be given responsibility,” said Wranosky. Currently, the eighth-grade students are the only ones who still make this trip to the H.E.Butt Foundation camp as Flour Bluff continues to foster this community partnership with the H.E.B. Foundation.

HEB Camp

Effects of the Cold War on the School

Another important community partnership evolved with the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. The Navy’s involvement in the school district was a natural one since the children of base personnel attended Flour Bluff schools and made up a large part of the student body. This involvement influenced the school in many ways. For example, a curriculum was provided for military training, which included the “Laboratory of Industry,” and the push for the end to segregation created a whole new school environment. Even the day-to-day activities at the school were affected. The Cold War and the possibility of a hydrogen bomb attack had the Navy initiate an evacuation program for the entire district. Students and teachers practiced drills where they would load over 1300 students, teachers, and other personnel on to buses in eleven minutes. These buses then carried them fifty-one miles to the Knolle Dairy farm where everyone had an assigned duty. Some high school students erected a portable kitchen and an emergency hospital tent while others helped to organize and supervise younger children. During this time period, teachers were required to be in a state of readiness by keeping the gas tanks of their personal vehicles full at all times.

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Flour Bluff Building Trades Students Build Homes 1958

Pride of the Community

Flour Bluff ISD is indeed unique, a true product of its ever-changing community. Created out of necessity by a rural population, the district has experienced tremendous growth over the past 111 years. The influx of the oil and gas industry, the growth of ranching, the building of the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, and the determination of its citizens, students, teachers, and superintendents made it a model of efficiency, innovation, and collaboration that is the pride of the community today.

Flour Bluff
Google Map of Flour Bluff ISD today

Sources:
“100 Years of Educational Excellence,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 1.
Marston, Opal Roscher. “Tales of Early Flour Bluff Schools,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 3.
Warner, C. A. Texas Oil and Gas Since 1543. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company, 1939. p. 298, 300, and 307.
Rouse, Thelma Darby. “Brighton’s One-Room Schoolhouse,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 7.
Order Authorizing the Issuance of Bonds. Nueces County Commissioner’s Court Record. 1 July 1937:
Vol. Q, pp. 465-468.
“100 Years of Educational Excellence,” Flour Bluff Sun, October 16, 1992: p. 6.Corpus Christi Caller-Times, July 7, 1940.
Hearn, Roxie. “Flour Bluff History Unique and Colorful,” Flour Bluff Sun, July 1, 1976: p. 2.
Ball, Jeffrey. “School Door Opened in Flour Bluff a Century Ago,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, October 17, 1992: 2B.
Field Notes: Flour Bluff Independent School District, pp. 1-3.
Arnold, Dorothy. “Thirty Years in Retrospect 1946-1976,” The Sun, July 15, 1976: p. 6.
Flour Bluff Public Schools: System-wide Report of Evaluation Committee, May 1958, pp. 1-2.
Pearson, Spencer. “Segregation May Bring NAS School,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, January 4, 1963:B1.
“Vocational Training,” Emphasis on Education, March 1969: p. 3.
“New Concepts in Learning Are Now Being Demonstrated,” Focus on Education, March 4, 1968: p. 3.
“Open Air Classroom Program,” Emphasis on Education, March 1969: p. 4.
“The History of Flour Bluff Schools,” Focus on Education, March 4, 1968: p. 2.
“The History of Flour Bluff Schools,” p. 2.
Russell, Cliff. “Ready for H-Bomb Attack,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, January 22, 1958: B12.

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Karen has lived in Corpus Christi all of her life. She graduated from King HS and Corpus Christi State University and taught 8th-grade American history for 30 years at Flour Bluff ISD. She has been a member of the Nueces County Historical Commission since 2005 and currently serves as its vice-president. She wrote the Texas historical marker for Flour Bluff ISD, organized the Voices of South Texas-Old Bayview Cemetery Comes Alive, volunteers for Welder Wildlife Foundation, Nueces Delta Preserve, Flour Bluff ISD, and Corpus Christi ISD. She is also a member and past president of the Texas Outdoor Education Association.