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.”

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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.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

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Nueces County Pct. 2 Wall of Honor a “Labor of Love”

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history

 

Top: Mitchell Clark; Bottom L to R: Jerry Bouchér, Ronnie Polston, John R. Haynes, Jewell Ross (Photo by Shirley Thornton)

     On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, Nueces County Pct. 2 Constable Mitchell Clark unveiled the Wall of Honor, dedicated to all those elected to the office since the precincts inception in 1953.  It was an emotional day for many of the family members present at the ceremony for Jewell W. Ross (1953-1960), John R. Haynes (1961-1980), Ronnie Polston (1981-2001), Jerry Bouchér (2001-2016), and Mitchell Clark (2016-present).  Family members present included Kathy Ross Hooge, Janet Ross Trammell, Fran Polston, Michael and Anny Parks, Jodie and Joe Alley, Billy and Mary Polston, and Janie (Bouchér) Stobbs.  Constable Clark, who initiated the project, said, “The cost of this project was paid for through donations and didn’t cost the taxpayer one cent.”

Left to right:  Janet Ross Trammell, Rep. Todd Hunter, Ronnie Polston, Commissioner Jack Gonzales, Constable Mitchell Clark, Commissioners Mike Pusley and Brent Chesney, Janie (Bouchér) Stobbs, and Kathy Ross Hooge

Michael Parks, Mary Polston, Anny Parks, Ronnie Polston, Fran Polston, Jodie Alley, Billie Polston

     Seven months ago, Rachel Krane, Constable Senior Clerk, was charged with the task of doing the research for the project.  During that time, she made numerous trips to the library, searched newspaper articles, dug through county archives, and worked with local historians to get the information needed.  She was surprised to learn that better records had not been kept for elected officials.  Still, she persevered.  Krane’s work was instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.

 

Rachel Krane, Constable Senior Clerk

 

Jewell Ross

     In 1952, the Nueces County Commissioners Court shifted Pct. 8 from Driscoll to the area that extended south from Everhart Road, including the University of Corpus Christi on Ward Island, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, and all of Padre Island in Nueces County.  Jewell W. Ross was elected constable in November of 1952 and took office as the first constable of the new precinct on January 1, 1953.  His opponents were Joseph Henry, Fred Rhome, John O. Winters, William M. Bennett, and Walter Rogers.

     Ross quickly went to work building the department.  According to an August 19, 1053, Caller-Times article by Mary Gene Kelly, Ross started with a $4000 budget.  Soon after, he sought a salary of $3600 for himself and $6000 for his deputies along with a $100 a month car allowance.  He also requested office equipment that cost about $435.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo, ca. 1961

     In 1954, Ross and his deputies moved into the new $35,000 county building dedicated by County Judge John Young at a ceremony held on June 19, 1954.  Flour Bluff School Superintendent E. J. Wranosky served as the master of ceremonies.  The Rev. E. McCoy Bynum of Trinity Baptist Church gave the invocation.  In attendance were County Commissioners William McKenzie, Horace Caldwell, William J. Bryan, and John J. Sablatura.  The Spanish-style structure, located at the entrance of the Padre Island Causeway, housed offices of the justice of the peace and constable of Pct. 8.  It also had a courtroom, a two-cell jail, a large waiting room, janitor’s supply room, restrooms, and a parking area for 40 to 45 cars.  Along with the building, came a new patrol car and two full-time deputies.  Ross would serve as constable of Precinct 8 until his retirement in 1960.

Pct. 8 County Courthouse, ca. 1960s (Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo)

John R. Haynes

     The next election pitted A. Z. McIver against John R. Haynes.  McIver, who spent eight years with the Corpus Christi Police Department, resigned and began managing White Enterprises.  This Baltimore native came to Corpus Christi in 1950 after serving six years in the Navy in WWII.  Haynes, also a WWII veteran, was 38 at the time and operated Haynes Bonded Guard Service, serving the Port of Corpus Christi for ten years.  Haynes won the election and took office in January of 1961.  He would win against McIver again in 1964.

     In 1967, he was forced into battle against the county commissioners.  Commissioner Robert N. Barnes who led the charge to dissolve the Pct. 7 (Port Aransas) and Pct. 8 (Flour Bluff) constables’ offices.  Barnes knew he could not abolish the offices created by the Constitution of the State of Texas, so he moved to simply eliminate their salaries.  “Persons still could run for the constables’ offices,” Barnes told a Caller-Times reporter, “but they wouldn’t be paid anything.”

Corpus Christi Caller-Times photo, February 1969

     Haynes responded in the same article, “I’m going to take this as high as I can to hold my office.  The people out here gave me a vote of confidence that I was doing a good job.  They re-elected me with a good majority.  I don’t see how the commissioners court can cut an elected man’s salary off.”  Haynes would go on to serve the people of Pct. 8 until 1980, sometimes without any deputies, funding, or even an office.

Ronnie Polston

     In 1980, Jerry Bouchér, a young opponent who had served as Haynes’s deputy, defeated him in the Democratic primary.  However, Boucher would lose the bid for Pct. 8 constable to Republican Ronnie H. Polston, a Vietnam War veteran who was stationed at NAS CC in 1962.  Polston finished out his career in Corpus Christi in 1976 when he retired.  He went to work for the County Sheriff’s Department, working his way up from jailer to dispatch to patrol and finally to the Criminal Investigation Department.  Polston went on to become a sergeant in charge of the Civil Section.  It was at this time that he made the decision to run for constable.

Ronnie Polston outside old building on S. Padre Island Drive, early 1980s (Photo courtesy of Ronnie Polston)

     Polston had his work cut out for him when he took office.  He was faced with an aging building that needed lots of cleaning, repair, and painting.  The department vehicles were also in dire need of maintenance.  However, this did not keep Polston from focusing on the job he was elected to do, enforcing the law and tending to the requests of Judge John Cox, the justice of the peace.  “My goal was to improve everything at every level,” said Polston.  “Money was always an issue, and I just didn’t get everything done that I wanted to get done.”  Polston spoke of how difficult it was to get the commissioners to understand that the needs of the Pct. 8 constable were different from those of other precincts.  “I needed a vehicle for the island.  I couldn’t get one because the commissioners thought they needed to be fair and give all the constables additional vehicles, which they couldn’t afford.”

     Polston has fond memories of his days as constable.  “I was always available to the public – even if I was at home.  My staff and I had a good relationship with the community,” Polston said.  He reminisced about how his deputies would volunteer to work the intersection at the school and how they dressed up at Halloween to do it.  “Oh, the kids and the parents loved it!” he said.  “We really enjoyed going to the schools and talking to the kids.  I’d show them things, give them books and stickers, and such, and I’d teach them what a constable does.”

Ronnie Polston on the job as constable, early 1980s (Photo courtesy of Ronnie Polston)

     “I never expected the building to be named for me,” said Polston of the new county building where the Wall of Honor is located, “but I was very honored.  I loved the Bluff and the job.  I thank them for all those wonderful years.  It was the highlight of my life.”

Jerry Bouchér stands next to Constable Ronnie Polston in this Pct. 8 photo provided by Janie Stobbs.

 Jerry Boucher

The next man to hold the office was Polston’s Chief Deputy, Jerry Boucher.  He graduated Flour Bluff High School in 1970 and went to work as a reserve deputy that same year.  “Jerry’s dad was a reserve officer for John Haynes, too” said Janie Stobbs, mother of Boucher.  “He couldn’t wait to go to work there.  He knew everybody.”

Jerry Bouchér, top row far right, stands behind John R. Haynes kneeling.  Bouchér’s father, Charles is front row second from left (Photo courtesy of Janie Stobbs)

     “On his own time and with his own money, he took every course at Del Mar on law enforcement and got every kind of training available to him.  He even taught classes there himself later in his career,” Stobbs said proudly of her son who passed away in 2016.  “He has five letters of recognition and appreciation from five different governors.”  Boucher served at Pct. 1 with Johnny Alaniz as Chief.

Stobbs’s collection of Bouchér’s training certificates and commendations fill two folders.  Boucher even held a ministerial license.  (Photo courtesy of Janie Stobbs)

     Bouchér, who also studied marine biology and geology at Del Mar, served the Flour Bluff community as the President of the Flour Bluff Civic League.  According to a Flour Bluff Sun article, Boucher also served on the Nueces County Employees Credit Union Board of Directors and served as a Red Cross instructor.  For a while, he even served as the justice of the peace.  Though he was a busy man who was connected to his community in many ways, Boucher believed that the constable should be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a philosophy he shared with his predecessor.

Bouchér with mother, Janie Stobbs at swearing in ceremony with Judge Janice Stoner (Photo courtesy of Janie Stobbs)

 

     “If his men were working, he had them watching out for the kids at Flour Bluff School.  He and his men provided traffic control for the Flour Bluff homecoming parades.  Jerry even rode in the parade even though he hated being at the center of attention,” said Boucher’s mother.  “He always loved Flour Bluff and taking care of the people there.”

     Constable Jerry Charles Bouchér, born in Brownsville, in 1952, passed away on Thursday, October 13, 2016. “His heart was in the constable office,” said Stobbs.  “We always knew where he was headed and what he wanted.”

The Ronnie H. Polston County Building, as it looked after Bouchér’s passing.  The building bears the geographical location of Flour Bluff, Texas.

Mitchell Clark

     When Boucher passed away, his friend of 40 years, Mitchell Clark, was the next man to assume the role of Pct. 2 Constable.  Clark ran unopposed in the November 8, 2016, election and was to be sworn in January 1, 2017.  However, Boucher’s death in October prompted Judge Loyd Neal to appoint Clark to Bouchér’s remaining term.

     A graduate of King High School in Corpus Christi, Constable Clark went on to join the United States Marine Corps.  After receiving an honorable discharge, Clark returned to Corpus Christi where he enrolled in college and began his career as a deputy constable. He went to school full time and worked full time as a police officer in the Nueces County Constable operations serving in Precincts, 1, 2, and 8.  After graduating Law School and receiving his law license, Constable Clark began a long career as a trial attorney, working on cases across the United States but never forgetting his first love, law enforcement. Constable Clark remained working in the Constable operations on a non-paid basis while practicing law.

Constable Mitchell Clark in front of Ronnie H. Polston County Building in Flour Bluff

     According to the Nueces County website, “Constable Clark is committed to providing the citizens of Precinct 2 a safe environment in which to work and live by using technology, equipment and his highly trained officers and administrative staff.” Clark started “Walk with the Constable”, where he meets with the citizens in their neighborhoods, and “Talk with the Constable”, where the Constable uses various social media sights to communicate directly with the citizens in Precinct 2. These programs allow citizens to share concerns with the constable and discuss solutions to problems.  Clark is responsible for initiating the Wall of Honor to pay tribute to those who came before him.  He told a local television reporter that the Wall of Honor was “a labor of love.”

NOTE:  Be sure to visit Texas Shoreline News for more Flour Bluff history and current events.

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.

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Oh, How I Miss a Hometown Newspaper!

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, North Padre Island, Opinion/Editorial
Coffee and News © Shirley Thornton

     As I dig through old news clippings from the Flour Bluff Sun to research our local history, I am reminded of how much I loved that little paper.  Marie Speer, owner and publisher, gave us something to anticipate every Friday.  Whose picture would make the cover?  What tidbit of Flour Bluff history would she include?  Who made the all-star team?  What community events were coming up?  What new business opened in the Bluff?  Who was born or married?  Who died?  What battle would surface in the letters to the editor?  Not until Marie’s staff rolled each paper, bound it with a rubber band, and tossed it onto the lawn would these questions be answered.  When we lost the Flour Bluff Sun, we not only lost the news of the day, we lost a print record of our community’s history.  I am still in search of past editions of the Sun and of an earlier newspaper called The Flour Bluff Reporter, which was owned and published by Bill Smith.

Flour Bluff Sun, published by Marie Speer beginning in 1976

     Jeff Craft, owner and publisher of the Flour Bluff Messenger, tried to revive the old spirit of truly local news, but sadly he had to give it up.  I am grateful for his efforts and for the opportunity to submit articles to it.  I am especially grateful to have hard copies in hand.  There is nothing like sipping a cup of coffee while reading a real hometown newspaper on real newsprint.  This is always done with a pair of scissors nearby in case I need to clip something out of the paper, articles or pictures that I will post on the fridge, share with a friend or family member, or tuck away in a box or book for safekeeping.  Maybe one day one of my great grandchildren will stumble across a news article I saved about his mom or dad or the community in which they lived.  Yes, print newspapers are not a thing of the past; they are evidence of the past.

Jeff Craft’s publication kept the Flour Bluff informed for two years.

     Once again, residents of Flour Bluff, Padre Island, NAS-CC, and parts of South Side will have the chance to keep a piece of history for future generations.  Ron Henne, who owns and publishes The Saltwater Angler Magazine, and a few of his friends have taken on the task of creating a print newspaper for the folks in our community, one that merges the old with the new but highlights what matters to all of us.  The first edition will be available December 1, 2017.  I have done a little writing and editing for this new publication, too, and I pray it will make it because I really miss having a hometown newspaper.

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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.

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