Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Howsley Building Theatre in Throckmorton

 W. D. Howsley of Throckmorton
...came to Texas as a teamster and cowboy for the Reynolds Brothers and helped form the Ranger Cattle Company with the Reynolds and Matthews families. (Texas Tech University Special Collections Library)
Howsley married into the Matthews family (of the Matthews family of Fort Griffin/Albany that included Watt Matthews) and opened a hardware store in Throckmorton in 1907.  The archives collection indicates W. D. and his son, Louis A., were joint owners of the hardware store.  The February 4, 1927 Albany News included an article about W. D. Howsley from Throckmorton, describing him--in what may well be the longest run on sentence I have seen in a while, as
...one of the old time citizens on his way to Dallas to negotiate for the building of that new railroad to his town...Now W. D. is very enthusiastic about the railroad project for Throckmorton, and it now looks like the thing is going to happen, understand that the Texas and Pacific are behind the proposition, and in that event, why the city of Throckmorton will soon have rail connection to the outside world, and we do hope that they will, this town and county by all means should have a railroad, and we will rejoice with the Throckmorton folks in this particular.
The train came through the following year and operated from 1928-1942, primarily to take cattle to market.  It was constructed by the Cisco and Northeastern Railroad, and ran from Breckenridge up to Throckmorton.
 Louis opened several theaters, including the Texan in 1927 (Abilene Reporter News, June 1958).

 I asked mother when I was home last week about the building and she recalled going to movies there--Mom was born in 1927.  She said if the girls came in with their parents, they got in for the child prices, but if they had a date, they had to pay adult cost.
The theatre was recently restored, with the restoration planning initiated in 2010, and represents one of several efforts toward economic and cultural development in Throckmorton.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Restoration of the Throckmorton County, Texas Courthouse

Imagine if your county courthouse looked like this when you built it in 1890-91.  And then, in 1939 in an ill-fated renovation, it turned into this:
Apparently, no one knows why the original cupola was removed, but it was sometime during the 1930s.  While home this past week, I read in the local paper that the original tower had been replaced finally, and restoration was underway.
The 28-foot cupola was replaced on the courthouse on June 13, 2014, 75 years after its removal for unknown reasons.  I asked mother if she remembered the original, and when it was removed, but she did not.  She would have been 12 at the time, but she said as a child, they did not go to Throckmorton other than when Papa went on business by himself.  She attended high school there, and it was not until those years that she had occasion to visit.  Early photographs of the courthouse can be seen at the courthouse Facebook page.
The grant, provided by the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Project of the Texas Historical Commission required that the rear annex added in 1938-39 be removed in order to fund the courthouse to its original state (Kirk, 2012, Abilene Reporter News).
Thank goodness for historic preservation guidelines attached to funding.  You can clearly see that the removal of the 28 foot tower and addition of the wing to the rear significantly altered the aesthetics  of the building.
 The Texas courthouse restoration program was established in 1999 by then-Governor George W. Bush.  Texas has 235 historic courthouses, more than any other state (VanVleet, 2014, Giving new life to old Texas courthouses, Washington Times).
 Texas is home to the largest historical program ever initiated by a state, according to Sharon Fleming, the program director of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Project at the Texas Historical Commission.
The county was required to raise $400,000 matching funds to secure the $3 million grant.  A big shout out to the Throckmorton First National Bank for providing half of that $400K!  Now that is some community investment.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The New Deal Legacy of Roadside Parks in Texas

 Hundreds of roadside parks were built in Texas by the National Youth Administration during the years of the New Deal Administration. The above markers commemorate the site of a former roadside park in Newcastle, Texas, next to the Newcastle Lake.  As a child, I had many a picnic at the site, which was constructed of locally quarried stone--simple tables and benches with a concrete slab top.  Of course, then I had no idea of the significance of those parks, which were a common feature along the highways of Texas.  I have no idea how many times my family and I stopped and used them, nor how many I might have stopped at as an adult.  I do not recall the exact year the Newcastle park was demolished, but I do remember the pang in my heart the first time I drove by and saw the tables gone.

Unfortunately, that was the outcome of all but 41 of the 674 roadside parks built by the NYA.  Nine of the remaining 41 are in Jeff Davis county, near Ft. Davis in far west Texas.  Lyndon Baines Johnson was the first director of the Texas branch of the NYA from 1935-37, during which time the first 200 of the parks were constructed in anticipation of the tourists to Texas for the 1936 Centennial Celebration.
 The original purpose of the parks was
...to provide cool shade alongside tortuous highways navigated by Depression-era cars without air conditioning. (Barnes, 2011)
While "tortuous highways" seems a bit of an exaggeration, certainly there were parts of Texas that did have long stretches of highway and in the hot summers, a roadside park was a welcome pit stop for a bit of shade and rest.  During the Depression, as well as later, travelers would pack picnic lunches and cool drinks in an ice chest for those rest stops.  Many had stiles to allow a traveler to cross the fence for a literal "pit stop" in a neighboring field or pasture.  While that might seem odd now, there were no convenience stores, McDonald's, or other readily available alternatives for either food or restroom options.  Many of the few stations available prohibited non-paying customers from using restrooms, and they were certainly not present along rural stretches of road.
 The NYA worked in cooperation with the Texas Highway Department and THD planner Jac Gubbels to construct the parks (Cushman, 2000).  Gubbels was a landscape architect, born in the Netherlands, but who traveled to the US and subsequently, to Texas, seeking work.
The Texas Highway Department constructed the first 200 parks for the Centennial commemoration in 1936, and marked those parks with a granite monument emblazoned with the Texas star.  These were placed in parks that were developed near significant historic sites, such as forts, stagecoach routes, and other places of interest tourists might visit.
The Newcastle park was constructed near Fort Belknap, which was also reconstructed and repaired with funds from the New Deal administration programs.

Sources: A Guide to Depression Era Roadside Parks in Texas. (June 1999). Environmental Affairs Division, Texas Department of Transportation.
Barnes, M. (April 17, 2011). The state's first roadside park awaits a mantle of flowers. Austin-American Statesman. Digital edition at statesman.com
Cushman, G. T. (2000). Environmental therapy for soil and social erosion: Landscape architecture and Depression-era highway construction in Texas.  In Michel Conan (ed.) Environmentalism in Landscape Architecture, Volume 22. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks.
Hendrickson, Jr., K. E. National Youth Administration. Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association.
Steely, J. W. (1999). Parks for Texas: Enduring landscapes of the New Deal. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Williams, J. (2011). State's historic roadside parks, rest areas still serve a purpose. Temple Daily Telegram. Retrieved from Milam County Historical Commission at  http://www.milamcountyhistoricalcommission.org/newspaper_087.php

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Traveling home from Texas

After a week at home, I left for Mississippi this morning at 7:30.  Rio was still in the pasture and did not come when I whistled, so I finally had to give him up and load and leave.  Maybe he is like me, and just did not want to deal with goodbyes this morning.  It was hard to get in the car and go.  Just before 7, while I was out watering and getting feed, the weekend caregiver called in sick.  Sis had hoped to be able to go to her own house today, do some laundry, and rest, because she will be back over there tomorrow night.

See that smile on her face?  It's real.  She spent 3 years caring for her husband after he was diagnosed with cancer and the final year was very hard.  Of course she got tired...she is human.  But she cheerfully and lovingly cared for him when it was bad, and took him traveling when it was good.  My bro-by-marriage loved to travel and loved his family, and when he could, they traveled.

When it became clear that she would need to spend a lot of time at Mom and Dad's from now on, she planted flowers among other things.  She wanted to enjoy the things here that she will not be able to enjoy at her own house for a while.  Like me, she has a second set of everything at their house now, along with a few "spares" just in case.  Last night, my last night there until I go back in two weeks, we sat out on that deck and talked about what the future holds, however long that future is, embracing it and the opportunities it will bring.  (Come on, what other option is there?  We are not Pollyannas, but to be in the opportunity instead of the circumstances is such a gift.)

My auntie G had been there earlier, but she drove up again, with a freshly baked banana pudding--the kind you make from scratch.  She is an awesome cook, and she knows Dad loves banana pudding.
 But, leave I did, because as Sis says, "You do still have a job."  I decided to take the north route for a change, using I-30 through Texarkana and Little Rock.  I decided to turn off and go through Helena rather than Memphis due to construction, and because I have never gone the Helena/northwest Mississippi route.  It seemed like a good choice since the traffic at Hope was a dead standstill.
 It was a bit confusing to figure out how to navigate through Helena.  I had originally intended to take some photographs of an historical church there, but the day was winding down, my body and brain were really winding down, and I decided after a quick pit stop to just save those pictures and head towards my Mississippi home.  I was happy to see that bridge over the Mississippi River looming.
I love the old bridges, and often wonder how much longer one will be with us.  When we first moved here, the old New Deal built bridge still spanned the Mississippi at Greenville and I never got a picture before they dismantled it and built the new one.  You gotta love an iPhone that you can hold and balance on the steering wheel while never taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel.  Then, some day, when they replace this bridge, I will have this little memento...assuming we still have iPhones, computers, etc., or that I even care by then.

I have a few photos and stories from the trip, and have not forgotten the follow up story about Mr. Dent.  All in good time over the next few weeks...all in good time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Celebrating number 89

 Dad was 89 today.  It was a good day.  Dad was awake most of the day, had a pretty good check-up at the doctor (I mean, really, who has to go to the doctor on his birthday?), and we had a wonderful evening.  Our friend Boogie grilled steaks and asparagus for us, and we had ice cream and cake with Dad's granddaughter who lives here in town.  We laughed...and laughed...and laughed...at everything and anything.
 Boogie fired up the grill, with real mesquite wood.  It was hot, of course, letting the fire burn down, but the smell reminded me of my childhood and how Dad always cooked on mesquite coals.  We did not know there was any other way to do it!
 Mom used to make a fudge cake that we all loved, and Daddy would sometimes say "I am getting ready for a Betty fudge cake" so I decided I would make one for his birthday.  Here's the deal on the plan, though:

  • couldn't find mom's cake pans, so used two bundt pans--tip for ya'll: don't do it
  • out of chocolate, so used cocoa--tip for ya'll: don't do it
  • no shortening, so used butter--tip for ya'll: don't do it
  • recipe calls for baking powder and baking soda; no baking soda so added a smidgeon more baking powder--tip for ya'll: don't do it
Sis took it out of the oven for me while I went to the store to get the steaks.  I said it was pretty squatty looking.  She said it tasted fine.

I think we know that was not the case.  Good thing she had bought a cake for back-up.  But, one more time today, we laughed and laughed.  It was a good day.  As dad said, "you just don't turn 89 very often."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tinka on Watch Duty

Today would be a good day for "Wordless Wednesday" as some folks do.  It has been a slow couple of days, which is a good thing around here now.  I have pretty much heard all of "Willie's Roadhouse" that I will need for a long long time.  Must be time to go to the grocery store and get the mail--the highlights of my day, after feeding Rio and Jenny, that is.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cloudy in the West

 That was the name of one of Elmer Kelton's books.  Mr. Kelton wrote of a simpler time, and while my two favorite books he wrote were The Day the Cowboys Quit and The Time it Never Rained, I enjoyed all of his books--and there were many.  This post isn't about Elmer Kelton, or his books, but when I went out to feed Rio and Jenny Sunday night, I noted the teasing clouds that are common in West Texas.  It doesn't mean rain.
 Yep, I am back in Texas for a few days, unexpectedly, but grateful for the opportunity.  This is my first trip home since I was here Christmas.  Things just kept going wrong in May and early June when I intended to come, but sometimes, things have a way of righting themselves and demanding that nothing else matters.  Dad is not doing well right now, and Sis had to be out of town for a couple of days.  I am here to tote and fetch, feed my boy, and drink coffee with Dad in the mornings.
I cleaned out Rio's water trough Sunday morning, so he was pretty happy when he came in for supper and saw my handiwork.  I sneaked down tonight after supper to give him an extra handful of feed when I decided I needed a short break and exercise.  He'll be watching for me in the morning, waiting at the gate when I go out. Some things, you just never get tired of.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

"He has no clue where he was born..."

Several weeks ago, I read an article about California Chrome, the "miracle horse" who has defied expectations to go on to become a favorite in horse racing.  What struck me most in the story was the comment of one of his co-owners, when asked how a horse bred in California could compete with the lineage of the Kentucky bluebloods of horse racing.
He has no clue where he was born.  All he knows is he loves to run, and that's all it takes is a heart of a horse that loves to run...
What resonated with me was how true that is of our children.  They have no clue where they were born in the early years of their lives.  They don't initially know they have privilege...or lack it.  All they know is they love to run...
What is their gift?  Perhaps, a child who loves to paint and draw, one who loves to read or act out stories, one who loves math or music.  Children love to do all kinds of things in their early years, and it is not until later that the crushing burden of inequality begins to teach them that loving to run may not be enough to beat the odds of winning the Kentucky Derby of life.
In a world that clearly sets out rules and winners and losers, sometimes, the heart of a horse who loves to run is not enough.  And frankly, that's just wrong.  It's sad, and it's infuriating, and it's wrong.  Because it robs all of us.

Not only does California Chrome have no clue where he was born--a blue-collar working class background, he also has no idea what the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness or the Triple Crown is--nor does he care.  He just loves to run, and he does what he loves to do.

But people are not like that.  When things happen that thwart what we love to do, it can be the kind of burden that plays out in so many damaging ways that hurt not only that individual person, but systemically wounds all of us.  Even when we don't see it or know it, the effects are there, just like the ripples of the butterfly wings in Argentina magnifying across time and space to ultimately end up in the eye of the Louisiana hurricane.
We shrink from it much of the time.  It seems too big, too daunting, too hopeless, even for those who are engaged in the work on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis.
I think about it all the time, and ain't nothing I can do about it.  It ain't going to get no better.
Those are the words of James Dent.  Next up, we will explore what he meant, and why.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Do these pearls make me look like June Cleaver?

I fear I am becoming domesticated...and might be liking it.  Although the first two days and nights last week following R's shoulder surgery were extremely difficult for both of us, it has eased into a little routine of its own by now.

Yesterday morning, after I took him his juice and medication, I asked what he wanted for breakfast.  "Two scrambled eggs and toast with strawberry jelly."  You see, he is getting quite specific now that he is improving.  The first morning, it was a whiny "I don't know.  Oatmeal....I guess."  I cheerfully set about making his breakfast thinking of women who used to do that sort of thing routinely.  I was buttering his toast, remembering my introduction to the wonders of real butter...the kind that comes in a stick, made from cream from a cow, not the fake kind made with oil and chemicals by corporations.  Gigi and I were staying at her Grandmom's in New Jersey and taking the train into Philadelphia for a conference, and Grandmom insisted on making breakfast every morning, setting out real butter for the toast.  I have eaten it ever since, and we are talking nearly 20 years.

I have become quite the caregiver, putting on compression stockings to prevent DVT, washing said compression stockings and drying them with a hairdryer, fluffing pillows and arranging them to make it more comfortable to sleep whilst wearing a sling that straps his arm to his side and prevents mobility, filling endless ice bags for the every hour icing required, helping him bathe and dress, and driving him to physical therapy.  Now that the pain has subsided for the most part, he is gaining in self-sufficiency.  He poured his own granola and mixed with yogurt this morning--I was taking too long feeding the dogs, cats, and birds and taking my own medication.

Last evening, I was sitting outside watching the birds at the feeders when he came out to discuss my need for a new computer and the options he saw.  We commented on how it had been pretty nice not going to work, just taking it easy around the house, not having to get up early, no pressure of deadlines for the most part.  That will all come to an end next Monday when he goes back to work...and I will have to be the one to drive him there by 8 AM. 

June Cleaver goes back into the closet for a while.