Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bank Architecture

John Troesser did a delightful piece on Texas Banks architecture, and showcased a considerable number of pictures of those bank buildings.  Among other things, he said
...they occupied the most prominent corners of the town square...architecture rivaled the county courthouse and many were designed by the same architects...with marble counters and bronze teller's cages, small town banks had the interior prestige of post offices.
After the Great Depression the architectural prestige of the bank was tarnished...all across Texas these once noble buildings were left vacant or became Mexican restaurants and antique stores. 
 I knew there was some reason I have always loved old bank buildings in small towns...it was the architecture!  (Actually, it really was--I loved the ornateness of the bank buildings I saw--and yes, many were defunct, but many more were still thriving businesses, operating in the "old" buildings and not those "new mid-century designs."  The first bank building I recall with clarity was the old First National Bank in Newcastle, though it was never a bank during the time I knew it.  Already turned into a "domino parlor" with a snack bar, I would go in with my Grandma to fetch Grandpa from the back where he and his cronies were shuffling the "ivories."  Aunt Zenobia ran the lunch counter, and could make the best hamburgers--or at least thought a young middle-schooler.
 Back in early January and a visit home, my sister indulged me in a trip over to Olney and a few photographs of "downtown."  (For those folks not versed in rural small town Texas, "downtown" was the center of everything.  First time I went to New York City, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of uptown, midtown, and downtown as distinct parts of the city...and then there was that whole South Africa thing and "middedorp" which means mid-town.)
City National Bank in Olney had its beginnings as Campbell Banking Company, established in 1908 (Young County TXGenWeb).  In 1922, it became known as City National Bank.  They merged with First National Bank of Olney in 1935--no doubt related to the aftermath of the Depression and bank losses or failure.  It still looks pretty grand to me.

And just to honor some of the outstanding bank architecture (in Mississippi as well as Texas), here are a few of my favorites:


New Albany

Blue Mountain

Mound Bayou

Holly Springs



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lauderdale Courts: Elvis and the New Deal

A few weeks ago, I began working with the Living New Deal project, University of California-Berkeley.  It's an impressive project to document every example of New Deal projects ever completed, in all communities.  Many books and journal articles and magazine articles and even a few websites have been published about particular projects, states, or regions.  Living New Deal is the first to attempt to map them all in one place, easily accessible to people.  

In addition to that laudable goal, the second objective is to demonstrate how we are benefitting every single day from the results of a 12 year investment by our government in our nation's infrastructure.  And, while I knew it was a massive project when it was developed in response to the extensive unemployment that resulted with the Great Depression, I had no idea of just how big it was until I began working on this.  Now, I never pass the opportunity to find out what New Deal projects are in the communities in which I find myself.

Thursday had me in Memphis on business, and while waiting, a search of the Internet turned up several projects.  I knew I only had time for one, so just started with the first on the list: Lauderdale Courts, one of the first public housing projects in the US.  I plugged the address into the GPS, and truthfully, in the blinding rain driving into downtown Memphis at noon, I was having some second thoughts.  I persevered, and was rewarded.
 Lauderdale Courts is one of the few New Deal housing developments still standing (Lauderdalecourts.com).  It was built in 1938 in the Colonial Revival style, and was "designed to promote a sense of community" with its centralized mall and courtyard.  It is in that courtyard that a young Elvis Presley gave his first "concerts" to his neighbors.  The Presley family lived there from 1949-1953, when a temporary increase in wages left them ineligible.
 The buildings were scheduled for demolition in the mid-90s, but Elvis fans rallied.  Through the efforts of locals (including fans, developers, and preservationists), the buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and renovated for rehabitation.

The original 19th century Market Square "slums" were demolished to build the Lauderdale Courts.  Other projects were Dixie Homes, Lamar Terrace, William H. Foote, and LeMoyne Gardens, all of which displaced individuals who were living in the area--albeit in substandard housing with no plumbing or electricity and in a swamp.

The chief architect was J. Frazer Smith, assisted by Anker Hansen, Walk C. Jones, Sr., and Edwin B. Phillips; Engineers were Gardner & Howe, and Harry B. Hunter; landscape architect John F. Highberger; mechanical engineer Robert M. Hoshall (Judith Johnson, The Art of Architecture: Modernism in Memphis 1890-1950, memphisheritage.org).  The one, two, and three story group homes contained 66 buildings, 449 units, and had two, three, four, and five bedroom apartments.
For $250 a night, you can stay in Elvis' old apartment, renovated and restored to period accuracy.  If you listen, you might even hear him, sitting on his windowsill, replicating the blues sounds he heard when he slipped down to Beale street to listen to the black musicians who were inventing a new sound the world would come to love.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hamilton Hospital and Hamilton Hotel

 Hamilton Hospital was first established in 1908 by Dr. George B. Hamilton, who joined the practice of Dr. Joe Daniels (Anita Palmer, with Glenn & Kathrine Atchley, Hamilton Hospital Foundation).  The first hospital was in the Cathey House.  Dr. Hamilton provided the funds to build the red brick two-story hospital at the present location in 1927.  It had 17 patient rooms, and among other 'state of the art' amenities, a surgery suite.  I recovered from my tonsillectomy (I was somewhere around 12 or 13) in the room at the corner, facing onto the front lawn.
 The painted-over large window on the second floor housed the operating room.  In that surgery suite, my mother, father, brother, sister, and I all had surgeries.  It was not unusual at times to see patients housed in the hallways, with a screen around the bed, when there were no beds available in the rooms. In 1945, a hospital annex was added behind the building, made from an old Army barracks.  It added 10 beds.  Other beds were added as the hospital continued to grow to meet the needs of the region, and while patient rooms and medical services have not been provided in this building for many years, a one-story hospital is adjacent to the original building.
 The Hamilton Hotel was located on Main Street, and the Rexall Drug Store was operated from the first floor front of the building.  The entrance to the hotel was on the side.  Letterhead from 1926 described the hotel as
Hamilton European Hotel - New and Modern. 50 rooms. Steam Heat. Private Baths and Showers.
We patronized Cub Drug, located a couple of stores to the left of the Rexall, but sometimes Grandma would take us into the Rexall.  Ah, the smell a pharmacy had back in those days, and all with a requisite soda fountain and a few booths in which you could enjoy your Coke float or malted.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Horany's Department Store

 While attempting to discover something about the former Horany's Department Store in Olney, Texas, I uncovered a more interesting story about assumptions folks make.  I know that should not surprise me.  Mr. Horany owned the department store in which we did a lot of shopping during my early years.  Sadly, the front of the building has been "updated" and the beautiful showcases on either side of the wooden entrance doors are no longer there.  Frankly, the flat glass and metal front was so disappointing that I could only bear to take a picture of the sign proclaiming Horany's, and the parapet--all that remains of a once intriguing building.
I had been thinking about the name "Horany" (pronounced hoe-rainy), and the fact that in the early part of the 20th century, many of the businesses in small towns in the south were established by Jewish families.  I asked Mother when I was home if Mr. Horany was Jewish.  "Oh, good Lord yes," she responded.  Turns out, no, he wasn't.

Shukri "Sam K" Hourani was a Lebanese immigrant who arrived through Ellis Island at the turn of the century.  His great-granddaughter, Stacy, a reporter at the Wichita Times Record News, shared a story of the family's saga into the new country (Horany's Store, 2007).  She described Sam K as a "devout Christian."  He opened a store first in Schidler, Oklahoma, and after it burned, moved to Archer City, Texas to establish Horany's.  Obviously along the way, he Americanized the spelling of his name--not at all uncommon in early immigrants, whether from some desire to seem more American, or to make the pronunciation of a name uncommon to the locals a bit easier to say, or even that Americans changed it for them.

Mitchell opened a store in Megargel, Ray in Olney in the 1920s.  In 1947, Fred and John bought the Olney store.  At least some of the family were members of the First Methodist Church, and Mitchell's wife was Catholic.  After Mitchell's death, Margaret continued to operate the store.  The store closed in the 1990s.

An amazing number of obituaries for area women (in their 80s or 90s) listed work as a clerk at Horany's for 18-20 years.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Trying to get back to normal...whatever that is

Ever since I got home from Texas, things seem to be simultaneously moving at warp speed and running slow as cold molasses in a January ice storm.  I seem to be in a place of both currentness, and stuck in the past, both looking forward and thankful for the blessings and learning of the last few weeks, and not able to move back into my normal routine.
 The first morning I was home, I did not have time to mess with coffee, as we had to be at the hospital more than an hour away before 8 AM.  However, Friday morning, I put the coffee on as soon as I got back in from feeding the horse and mule, and turned on the oven to make breakfast...and warm up the kitchen.  Now let's be honest here--when is the last time you made coffee in a percolator that works on the range top?  Or, have you ever done so?  While I confess to having not done so in a long, long, long time (using either my Mr. Coffee or my Starbuck's Coffee Press), this is how my dad still makes coffee.
 Tinka is usually curled up under her blanket next to Dad, and as she was missing him, she and I sat in his chair the morning following his surgery.  I sent it to my sis to show Dad, thinking it would cheer him a bit as he was having a pretty rough day.
 Tink stayed in his chair under her blanket even when I was not able to sit with her.  She always goes to feed with Dad, and every time I took her out to potty, she would immediately head to the shop and wait at the door.  I would patiently explain that "not yet" as she thought Dad was in there.  When I shared that with dad when we talked on the phone the morning after his surgery, he said, "yes, she is pretty fond of the old gentleman."
Although Tinka goes out in the yard with Dad all the time, I always put her on leash before we went out, afraid in the change of routine that she might not recall for me, and as I explained to Dad, I would just have to keep on walking down the road if something happened to her on my watch.
 One evening, I was walking through the house looking at the family pictures.  I made this collage for my folks one year, using the photos of their courtship and early marriage years.  Dad was in the Army in WWII, and Mom was in college at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, where I would later come to teach.  They grew up in small towns only a few miles from each other, and my dad tells of being smitten with Mom the first time he ever saw her.
 This is me on the left, my younger brother in the middle, and my older sister on the right.  Russ was under a year old, and since I was only 10 months ahead of him, I would have been less than 2, and Jane between 3 and 4.  There is a family photo of Mom, Dad, me, and Jane, and Dad is holding Mom around the waist.  She looks unhappy--and she was.  She said she had just found out she was pregnant with my brother, and I was only six weeks old, she was worried about how they would make it, and his holding her around the waist made her look "fat" to her.  While I can understand she would not have been thrilled to be expecting with a new baby and a toddler, they did make it.  While we were poor, I never realized that as a child.  We were fortunate to always have a warm and safe place to live, food, clothing, and to be able to go to the doctor when we were sick.  While we were not poor in my adolescent years, it was a sacrifice for my parents to send the three of us to college.  However, it was never a question, but a definitive assertion: you will go to college, and we will send you.
 A couple of years ago, my niece took this photo of Dad out in the pasture one spring day.  It is one of my favorites, and I have a copy of it on my wall as well.
 It hangs on the wall next to the one I took of Grandpa many years ago, when he was about the same age as Dad is now.  We were all out in the back yard at their house, and I was walking around taking pictures.  I just happened to take this one while he was not looking.  Randy had his dark room set up at the time (days of film and negatives) and had developed the roll and made the enlargement.  I recall my uncle saying, "I don't care what it costs, I want a copy of this."  True, in our impoverished state at the time, developing chemicals and paper were pretty pricey for us with our own newborn and Rand without a job, but nonetheless, we made him a copy at no charge.  After all, this is family. :)
And then, one night as I sat in a chair next to the TV, I picked up the photo of my brother.  He was a young father in this picture, with a baby daughter who was about 3 at the time, and she was in casts on both of her legs from hip to toe.  We were at a family reunion, in the grape arbor of the historic Fort Belknap.  As I looked at the photograph, I was so thankful for his help those past few days during and following Dad's surgery, and was just reminded of how important family is to me, and to my family as a whole.  I don't recall the circumstances, but I do remember when I was in college and home for something, and my Dad saying to me, "your family will stick by you when no one else will."

Now it has been my experience over the years that I have some friends who will stick by me, too, but, yes, when the chips are down, my family is always there.  And, I hope they think that of me as well.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine Day from Abby

Abby sent me a Happy Valentine Day wish--thank you for a warm bed in your house, letting me get on the furniture, the chance to sit in your lap, bones to chew, food and fresh water, and a big back yard in which to play.  I know I am not a perfect doggie, and I am sorry for running across your knee last night and making you scream, Mom, but just know it is because I love you and want to be with you.  And that, my friends, is love.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

LaSalle's Quest for the Mississippi

Remember that post a few weeks ago about lying on the floor of the Rayville Post Office, trying to take a photograph of the mural?  Well, here it is, without looking at it through the crack in the door or the glass.
Image used with permission of the United States Postal Service

Elsie Driggs painted LaSalle's Quest for the Mississippi and it was installed in the Rayville, Louisiana post office in 1939 as part of the New Deal projects.  Commissioned by the U. S. Treasury, Driggs' work
...depicts the story of LaSalle's travels just before he discovered the mouth of the Mississippi. (Kimmerle, 2008, p. 37)
The 1936 watercolor on paper "study" was the preliminary sketch of the mural, and has recently been acquired by the Mobile Museum of Art.  Driggs was a Precisionist, but adjusted her style for the mural (Fine Lines: Mobile Museum of Art Members Quarterly, 2009).  Driggs felt she needed to make her style more "suitable" for public art, and thus chose a "more narrative composition" (p. 9) for her painting.

There was no one at the front window when I entered the post office, but in a short while, a postal worker came out and asked if she could help me.  I explained the Living New Deal Project and that I was photographing the mural for the project.  She replied, "I don't know who put that there."  I explained it was part of the New Deal Projects by Roosevelt's administration during the Great Depression, and that it had been commissioned by the Treasury Department of the Federal government.  She asked, "Is this the only one?"  Oh, my no.  They are in post offices all over the United States, as well as in some other Federal Buildings.  I confess to being a little astonished that she did not know that.  She appeared to be in her 40s or even 50s, so I would think she would have heard of the New Deal and its work programs, but frankly, she would not be the first student to go through our school systems and not be knowledgable of the history of the nation.

Just in case you missed the first post, here is the post office in which Driggs' mural is housed.  The post office was built in 1937.

On the Road Home

I never actually entertained the thought of spending a night in Monroe, Louisiana, but last night, the Holiday Inn Express looked pretty darned good.  After 2 weeks of caregiving in Graham, and then stopping off in Abilene to see my father-in-law who is in the hospital there, and 10 hours on the road in the wind and rain, I knew I could not make those last 5 hours home.  While I am mentally rested this morning, there is just about no place on me that does not hurt!  I am having some coffee, courtesy of the bottled water left in my room by the hotel staff (apparently, the chemical smell that permeates the air of Monroe also permeates the water and makes it a lovely rusted brown color--kind of like being in Greenville, Mississippi), and watching the wind and rain outside my window in the early morning semi-light.  Looks like another gray day of rain driving.
 My sister sent me a message right after she fed last night that Rio missed me.  I doubt he has had time to get all that enamored of me in 2 weeks, but I did miss him.
 Dad's mule is very skittish, including of him.  Normally, she would not get close to her feed bin until I walked away, but I started talking to her in my mule whisperer voice the first day, and by the time I left, she would eat from the bin while I stood there talking to her.  Her name is Jenny (my dad says he is not very creative when it comes to naming his animals--the last one was Mule) but I started calling her Jennybelle.  She would cock her head to the side and study me intently, and then slowly walk toward me.  She and Rio both have their winter coats on, and while Rio still looks pretty, Jennybelle is a mighty scruffy looking thing at the moment.
In Abilene, I stayed in the gorgeous new home of our long time friend and adopted family member.  He is so good to go see Chet when he is in the hospital, and many's the time he has gone to see my dad when he was in the hospital in a town 2 hours away.  Our group of friends got together for dinner Friday night before I headed out the next morning, and we called our Unalaska friend.  I was in chef heaven cooking dinner on W's new Viking range, in his beautiful kitchen with its granite counters.

This has been a good trip, and while I will be really happy to be home later today, it is another good memory and a reminder of the importance of relationships.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Opportunities Cleverly Disguised as Problems

We have all heard life described as a series of ups and downs, mountains and valleys, bowl of cherries or just the pits, and even a big ole roller coaster. This past week has been all of that and more. I suppose it is only normal after a life-threatening crisis that there are ups and downs, given that it is normal in the day-to-day also. Let's just say that the highs and lows have been a bit more intense the past few days, but I hope we have turned a corner.

Dad walked to the barn with me yesterday morning to feed, and then out to the hay barn. Although I have managed to get the hay out and into the trough adequately enough for the past few days, he thought I needed additional pitchfork lessons, so I obliged: "you mean like this? Oh, okay, thanks." Unfortunately, the next lesson was in mucking out the stall. While I understand the concept, and have even done it as a child, it is more difficult as a "seasoned" adult. :)

I had to fill the water trough this morning, which I was in process of doing when he walked out on the deck. I guess he was satisfied, as he just watched. I gave him a verbal hay status and asked if he wanted to walk out and check later or what? He walked to the edge of the deck, looked, and said we would check it later.

Something I have noted over the past week of early rising and beginning and ending my days with farm chores, and a whole lot of other physical labor in between, is that there is a certain pleasure in it that is healing and rewarding, and I have no difficulty going to sleep each night and awakening ready to arise each morning.