Thursday, December 7, 2017

GROWING UP IN THE SMALL TOWN, YOAKUM. A MEMOIR OF THE 1950'S

                                             
  
   I awoke this morning and decided to give a tea party. I want to invite three of 

my childhood girlfriends, Judy, Elaine, and Faye.  They all live in Yoakum and I only 

live ten miles away in the country. We were all blessed to have a safe, memorable 

time growing up in the fifties in our hometown of Yoakum. We lived close to each 

other and were within walking distances to almost everywhere we wanted to go. 

And I’m proud we’ve been quite successful, despite our small town background.  

    I was a skinny little girl, who moved with my mom and sister to my grandmother’s 

house when I was in the fourth grade. Mom left my father in Oklahoma, not long 

after “the war” ( World War II). His partying and drinking left too many unpaid bills

and crying nights. So mom bravely decided to start a new life and move to her 

mother’s in Yoakum, a state away. My grandmother said she would help.

    Elaine and I walked to school together in the fifth grade to West Side Elementary.

Elaine was a cute little girl, who always complained about her freckles.  Her family 

moved to Yoakum from California, near the time we did and her father became a

manager of Tex Tan, the major industry, which manufactured an array of leather 

goods. In high school, students took leather classes and were able to slip right into 

the Tex Tan factory and work there the rest of their lives. Leather goods were in 

such demand, years later, Elaine’s family built their own leather company and 

named it Torel. It marketed goods all over the world.

    Elaine and I married young as many did in the fifties. And each of us had three 

children. Later when our children were older, we returned to school and finished 

college. She bought a boutique in Yoakum and she also helped manage her family’s 

leather company.

   I became a Liberal Arts major, teaching in high schools and junior 

colleges for thirty years. The last twenty years I taught college courses at a state

prison and met some of the most interesting people I have known. 

        Judy and I were good friends early in elementary school, as well. When I lived at 

my grandmother’s she biked over to greet me and we rode bikes together. I 

remember her having the first portable radio I had seen. She placed it in her bike 

basket and we would have music wherever we rode.  

    When we were in junior high mother remarried and we moved across the street 

from Judy and her parents.  In high school we walked to school together every 

morning. But that was only after I waited for her to practice Bach and Mozart for 

thirty minutes to an hour on her piano. Then we started on our trek two 

blocks away to school. I learned to love Bach and Mozart.

    Judy married her childhood sweetheart, Charles. He moved to our small town in 

the fifth grade. When we started having girl boy parties in each others homes we 

played spin the bottle. Each of us had a turn and whomever the bottle pointed to we 

would have to walk around the block with them, holding hands. When Charles spun 

the bottle it always pointed to Judy, for he declared his love early for her. We all 

knew it was a match made in heaven because Charles, as a very young child, aspired 

to be an architect and build houses.  Judy’s dad owned a lumber yard and 

building houses was what he did. Judy and Charles went off to college, married, and 

returned to Yoakum. Charles worked with Judy’s father and eventually took over the 

business. Judy taught school and was a very supportive wife for Charles. They, too 

had three children. And Judy became a most successful and popular hooker in 

central Texas. She hooked all sizes of rugs and all colors. Many asked her to teach 

them her skills.

    Recently, Charles died and Judy and her family gave Charles a memorial at the 

Lutheran church,  in Yoakum. The church overflowed with people of all ages because 

Charles built many houses and friendships in his life. With his giving personality and 

constant smile. Hugs were his specialty. After the memorial the family served lunch 

and I saw Judy, Elaine, and Faye. That was when I thought about our getting 

together.

            While the rest of us moved away for a while and returned close by, Faye stayed

closer to home. She married her high school sweetheart, as well. But, success did 

find her. A fast growing new cable company that stretched into the rural towns of 

south Texas was quick to hire Faye.  She climbed fast in the company when they saw 

her bright intelligence and and electric personality. She traveled around the country 

in her management positions. On one flight we accidently ran into each other.

    I met and became more acquainted with my friends when I was asked to join the 

Polly Pigtail Club There were about six of us in the fifth and sixth grades who met 

every Saturday.  I don’t know about the club’s early history or how and why it was 

organized. We met every Saturday at the Grand Theatre for the Saturday matinee.

We saw other friends at the shows, except for those who sat upstairs. We didn’t 

know them. They went to separate schools and drank from different water fountains 

that were identified by “Color Only." Their rest rooms were identified similarly. 

    
    We watched movies starring Gene Autrey and Dale Evans  on the big 

Screen. Sometimes there were movies with children, such as Margaret O’Brian, 

Natalie Wood, and Our Gang shows with a gang of kids that roamed around town 

causing trouble. Sometimes,  we were able to see adult movies during the week 

or in the evening with Betty Grable, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck, 

Van Johnson. They were about beautiful people falling in love, marrying and living 

happily ever after.

    After the movies we met alternately at each other’s homes. Most all of us lived 

walking distance from the Grande. After short walks, our mothers prepared cookies 

and punch and sometimes tuna sandwiches served with tea in hand painted tea 

cups. If we had seen western movies we went out side to play cowboy and Indians, 

hiding in lush gardens planted with magnolia trees, china berry trees, oleanders, 

rose  and zinnia beds and thick green carpet grass all around. One girl, 

was fortunate to have an old wash shed behind her house where laundry was done in 

the past generation. That is where we prepared the most beautiful mud pies with 

saw dust sprinkled on the tops for coconut. Other times, we played office inside the 

house where our mothers set up card tables, paper and pens.  They gave us receipt

books and ledgers. We wanted to be like the lady secretaries we saw at the movie.

Or we played school and pretended to be screaming and grouchy 

teachers  with misbehaved children. We didn’t have many role models in those days.

 We didn’t have lady astronauts. We never even knew of them unless we read Buck

Rogers comic books.

    When we moved onto junior high and high school our attention turned to other 

events and Polly Pigtails was soon forgotten. Early in junior high a band director 

visited school with all kinds of instruments and told us to choose what we would 

like to play. Mother bought me a clarinet and I became part of the Junior high 

marching band at the Friday and Saturday night football games. That was our new 

adventure. Our Bulldog stadium was where Yoakum’s HEB is today. That is where

 we first got to cheer and strut our stuff.  

   The summer in junior high I attended twirling school in Huntsville and by the 

time eighth grade began I helped lead the band down the field as I twirled my baton 

and tossed it in the air from time to time. Elaine was a twirler, as well.

    When we attended high school I continued twirling school and twirled at varsity games.

Faye was varsity cheerleader and voted football sweetheart four years in a row. Judy and

Charles were the UIL state winners for the One Act Play and Charles was a fierce football

 player who helped his team go to state play offs.

    The second summer of high school Yoakum celebrated its yearly tomato festival, 

called the Tom Tom. Elaine rode a horse around a rodeo arena, dressed in a dazzling 

leather outfit that made Dale Evans look dowdy. She was crowned Yoakum’s Rodeo 

queen for 1955.  I entered Miss Yoakum’s bathing beauty contest, at my mother’s

insistence. In a black stretched suit with a wide yellow satin ribbon that bore

letters spelling Rotary Club I was instructed to walk all around  the swimming 

pool by my self and twist in a circle at the judges stand as I winked at them, while 

attempting to be as graceful as a 16 year old could be and hoping to not pee down my 

legs in front of god and everyone. I was chosen the runner up Miss Yoakum bathing beauty.

    After these events college, marriage and babies followed. We sometimes met 

in the summers at Tom Tom celebrations. We took our children to the parades

we once marched in and rode floats in other small town celebrations. Those who 

live close enough still follow the Yoakum Bulldogs at the Friday night games.

Now if we’re lucky we get to see each other to celebrate the lives of those who move 

on, as we did at Charles’s memorial, recently.

    The other morning I had a problem standing on my left leg as I arose from bed. 

Dang it, I thought, I kicked too high when I was a majorette. I knew that knee was

giving out like the right knee did a few years ago. The squeak it made as I moved it

sounded like my clarinet when I first started practicing on it, many years ago.

    As I thought of all this in the early dawn I decided to turn over in my bed and go 

back to sleep for a quick nap before I arose.  I wanted to remember all the names in 

Polly Pigtails and think about my Tea Party. And my friends I will invite.

    I wondered if I still have my taffeta tablecloth for my round table. I know I

still have my beautiful wedding china, the hand painted tea cups and silver

teaspoons.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

THEY CUT OFF HIS HEAD BECAUSE HE REFUSED TO LIE




Recently, I found a yellow, wrinkled piece of notebook paper. The three folds of the paper were pulling apart at the seams and barely held together. It looks very old. And so it is, because I wrote excerpts of verses from Epictetus on it about forty-five years ago. I recorded the verses from a tiny book with gold binding I found several years before. I was so impressed with what the verses revealed of a man who wrote them many centuries ago. It was really my first encounter with a philosopher with whom I could relate, Epictetus.

The Epictetus readings became helpful in my second semester english class at Del Mar College.  My instructor creatively taught his classes in a manner in which  Freshman students could relate. One of his favorite characters in literature was  Sir Thomas More, a 16th century chancellor and advisor  to King Henry VIII.  He assigned the play, A Man of All Seasons, written by Robert Bolt and was a featured film in 1966. It was one of our readings for the class. The play is based on the true story of More who wouldn't give into the demands of King Henry VIII.  I used one of the verses from my little book, Epictetus, as a reference when I wrote my essay about  the story. My literature instructor was quite impressed with my knowledge of this stoic philosophy by Epictetus.

More was a man with high academic skills as well as high moral ideals.  In 1534 More refused the oath which pledged him to approve  the king's marriage to Anne Boleyn after divorcing his wife. Because of More's convictions against the King's unlawful actions that defied church law and custom he was imprisoned in the tower and later beheaded. His head was exhibited on London Bridge. More sacrificed an accomplished life and lost his head all because he failed to acknowledge the king's divorce and remarriage. In my essay I quoted Epictetus, "Consider man at what price you sell your freedom of choice-if for no other reason that you not sell it for a trifle". Epictetus was a Greek slave hundreds of years before and apparently dwelt on such matters often. I professed that in addition to More's faithfulness to the pope and the church he could likely have been a student of Epictetus's
philosophy of Stoicism. And he may have viewed his role as one not worthy of retaining, just for a lie. Or the acceptance of the king's marital position too trifle to forfeit his principles and values.

My English teacher was philosophical in his advice.  During the semester he suggested that as we read, we might find it enlightening to write down significant quotes from the literature. And reflect upon them from time to time. That is how I came to collect and record some of Epictetus's verses. I carried them around in my wallet and read them at times of boredom or at places I had spare time to wait. Eventually, as I changed wallets and purses the wrinkled paper was lost in a file or drawer, but definitely saved for my reflections. In my next post I will tell you about the other Epictetus verses I like to reflect upon and some I find relevant today.

***
Today, I think it is quite interesting that reading back to the time of King Henry VIII's reign in England,  he was purportedly responsible for the beheading of thousands of people, including two wives. Not to mention he is the one credited with founding The Church Of England that evolved as a result of the separation from Rome. During my Family research I also found that one of my favorite lines in my genealogy, the Edwards, my ancestor, Richard Edwards is linked as an illegitimate son of King Henry VIII's. One must be careful of whom he/she criticizes in history.



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Deja vu Sighting At An Historical Church in the Country


                       A Deja vu Sighting At An Historical Church in the Country



We had an interesting drive through the country today. We had an unplanned visit to a couple of painted churches in central Texas, built in the nineteenth century. One was at High Hill, outside of Schulenburg, Texas. The church from the outside "does not clue you in on what is in the inside". http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/st-marys-church-high-hill-schulenburg?select=rg3nPfMmnBl1ddqyTqQZ_A It has hand painted art all over the walls and ceiling, hence, to which all the painted churches in Fayette county are referred. The alter, cabinets, and wood work are beautifully carved and constructed at the St. Mary's Church at High Hill. http://www.texasescapes.com/CentralTexasTownsSouth/HighHillTexas/High-Hill-Texas-St-Marys-Catholic-Church.htm

The churches were created by 19th century immigrants from Austria and Germany. But the art is said to have been painted by itinerant artists later around the turn of the century, who advertised in the San Antonio paper.  The other beautifully painted church, St. Mary of the Assumption, we visited is at Praha, outside of Flatonia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Mary%27s_Church_of_the_Assumption_(Praha,_Texas)

 It was Deja vu when I spotted a rock grotto, https://www.tripadvisor.co.il/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g56640-d2460464-i141062937-Painted_Churches_Tour-Schulenburg_Texas.html,  https://www.tripadvisor.co.il/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g56640-on the grounds, outside the Praha church.  St. Mary of  the Assumption's rock grotto that's on the left of the church in front, is a replica of one I sketched out on my canvass, to paint next. The grotto, I'm going to paint is to be next to the sketch of the oldest church in U.S.,San Miguel. It's in Taos, New Mexico, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecKXVHwkFJs The grotto outside the painted church is positioned in the same place, as the one in my sketch. I was just trying to fill in some space(an artist privilege) on my canvass. It was spooky because I had never seen it or planned it that way. I use the image of San Miguel church to fit my Hispanic southwest themes. The Taos church will serve as a background to other images in my painting. I am most attracted to the Spanish Colonial history and its art.

 Now, I'm beginning to think I better paint another picture of the church at Praha to have an authentic image of the Grotto and what I saw today. I don't want to get into trouble with any ghosts who may have been hanging around the Grottos that I saw today.  And I'm looking forward to visiting the other painted churches in Fayette County on other day trips. http://www.texasescapes.com/CentralTexasTownsSouth/PaintedChurchesTour.htm

Yes, it was a beautiful day.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

MANY CHRISTMAS EVES AGO



Many Christmas Eves ago, I remember going to the Koether farm for presents, food, and firework display. My what a celebration it was. This afternoon as I was mixing my easy microwave fudge recipe, I thought of all the goodies Aunt Willie Mae and Grandma cooked for us. It was a mammoth table full of all kinds of candies, cakes, sandwiches, dips, potato salad and seasonal meats. They must have had to start getting ready weeks in advance. Their fudge was not instant like mine. And their divinity was devine. The Koether family was most generous with numerous gifts for all their children and grandchildren. When the night become dark, we gathered outside to watch the outburst of color from the tons of fireworks our uncles, Bill and El set off to the excitement of us all. Afterwards, we returned to our home to collapse in bed with visions of sugar plums dancing through our heads and tummies. Oh what a Christmas eve those were.

Monday, March 30, 2015

THE MAESTRO PROFESSOR-JOSEPH LOPREATO JULY, 1928-MARCH 2015


    THE MAESTRO PROFESSOR -JOSEPH LOPREATO, SOCIOBIOLOGIST,  
                                                 JULY, 1928- MARCH,2015



It was January, 1977 when the heavy classroom door banged open and shut. I glanced to my left and first spotted our professor, a short man with black hair slicked back on his head, wearing horn rimmed glasses with a show of intellect and social savvy. He pranced down the aisle toward the podium. He had a happy, but somewhat cocky grin on his face, as he glanced toward us students, the small group to his right. The professor showed a flamboyant style of confidence in a manner of vitality that a conductor of a small symphony attacks an often and repeated performance with much love and gusto.

As he settled his notes on the tall stand with the sun shining brightly through the windows behind, I expected to see at any moment a baton with symphony music mysteriously appearing from somewhere in the room. I realized I was observing a maestro that was preparing to give us a “Great Performance” and he surely did as the semester evolved.

 The Maestro Professor greeted us in his deep melodic voice with an Italian accent
and  vocabulary I had never experienced in all my years.  I immediately knew I was totally unprepared, as a student from rural south Texas. But in his European voice he assured us we were in for a flight to which he would expose our minds to the greatest thinkers of sociological theory, Vilfredo Pareto, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, etc.  And if we opened our minds, listened and studied with him it would be worth it. He would teach us logic through these great scientists that would bring enrichment and much meaning to our lives.      


And so he did. My mind was indeed open and grasped so much that has carried me through years of teaching and observing human behavior. I will always be grateful for the education I received from my wonderful professors in sociology, and especially from Professor Joseph Lopreato. Yes, he will be sorely missed, but his spirit will live in the minds of many through generations of his students.  I can still hear his voice point out the teachings of Pareto’s logic and nonlogic of human behavior.  Then I better understand the world around me. THANK YOU PROFESSOR LOPREATO.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

THE PRAYER SERVICE IN THE MALL PARKING LOT

I enjoy people watching. It's part of my sociology training. Especially interesting is watching culturally different people in the San Marcos Outlet Mall. During this time of year I've seen many Mexican Nationals shopping and interacting with their families. Today, I waited in the car while my husband ran in a shop to exchange a purchase he made before Christmas. I looked around the parking lot and saw two cars drive up close to where we parked. One man jumped out of a car and directed the driver of the other to back up several feet so the two cars had about eight feet between the hoods of their cars. They were facing each other. This small amount space provided an isolated location protected from traffic. It's where I observed their interaction.

The four men were similar in age, dress, and bearded dark faces. Their stocking caps fit closely on their heads. Three of them wore rubber like shoes without socks and one wore socks with his shoes. They were laughing and seemed to have an objective,  parking where they did. First, they pulled out 4 rugs, around 2'x4' in size. The style was not your typical type or the Mexican colorful design I have in my house. I decided the rugs were  more of an Asian influence. With my guessing, I began to suspect they were definitely not people I was used to seeing at the Mall interacting in this manner.

 One of the men picked up a bottle of water and poured it on his hands and arms. He repeated this action several times. Then he picked up his stocking feet and poured water on them  and rubbed them.  The other men who were without stockings poured the bottled water on their bare feet. They repeated this several times, as well. My husband returned to the car and I told him to drive around the cars so I could watch what they were doing. Of course he was not going to have anything to do with my being so nosy. But as we began to drive away, I looked over to the four men who were kneeling between the two cars on their individual rugs. In unison, they kneeled over and touched their heads to the ground at exactly the same time. At this point I realized I was probably observing Muslim men praying together.

This was a different experience for me to observe, since I live in a small south central Texas town and never have seen a  ritual, such as this.  But this is central Texas which has the fastest growing population in the country, according to Demographers and Census people. The site I saw demonstrates how different cultures are emerging and becoming more visible in our state.    

I researched some of the actions I observed of the Muslim interactions. First of all I found that today, January 3rd, 2015 is the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. And although there are different ways to demonstrate the followers' veneration of their Prophet,  prayer is important.  Moreover, the washing of parts of the body before prayers is a form of cleansing and making followers more worthy. This explained the washing of the men's bodies. .http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/articles/92744/obligatory-and-optional-aspects-of-ablution

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to see those of another culture perform a most important ritual on the Prophet's birthday. Now I understand better what the Muslims were doing. And it was so remarkable that they would exhibit their devotion in a public parking lot for anyone to see.








Friday, December 26, 2014

SHE SAVED ANOTHER LIFE

She is a quiet, composed, beautiful lady. She is intelligent, bright and doesn't miss anything that crosses her path. She speaks softly and loves deeply. Her husband is the love of her life and her children and grandchildren are the center of her universe. Her accomplishments in her career speak for themselves. She seems to always stretch her self and go beyond what common mortals  do. She taught herself computer programs and mathematical problems that were necessary in her line of work. And carried on the engineering goals, from her Father Reuben's genes and daily influence. She has been handsomely rewarded for the work ethic she diligently pursued and was demonstrated  by her role model, grandmother Nell,  since the age of fourteen,  when she worked in our grandmother's shop. My baby sister, Laurie,  recently retired from her career. She wanted to spend more time with her husband and family, but she didn't retire from her spirit of giving and her knack for observing what goes on around her.


A few years ago, my sister saved her husband's life when he had a massive heart attack at  home. She
performed CPR on him and later the EMS took him to the hospital and he recovered after he was packed in ice and brought out of an induced coma. https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2134402539885653021#editor/target=post;postID=8462564081228885629;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=31;src=postname


Laurie and I were visiting about Christmas the other day and before we hung up our phones, she said, "I want to tell you what happened yesterday when Kenny and I were at Dillard's shopping for Christmas."

She continued, "A small older lady started screaming, 'Please help me'. As Kenny and I were walking toward her we saw a man lying on the floor with his eyes closed. People were standing around staring and not making any moves to aid the lady in distress. I screamed,  Call 911. Hurray." Laurie continued and said the lady was pushing on her husband's chest. But it didn't seem correct so Laurie gently pushed the lady's hand away and took over until the EMS arrived. She said it was interesting how the man's eyes began to open and then rolled around in his head when he began to take a breath.
She said she remembered how she compressed her husband's chest a few years before.

Laurie said the man began to sit up and his wife was going to help him stand to walk away. Laurie told them not to move and stay put until the EMS arrived to check him out. Shortly, they did arrive and she and Kenny bid their ado and began to leave the scene. She said the woman didn't ask her for her name or anything. So she didn't know how things turned out. The woman had revealed that her husband had been having trouble with high blood pressure recently. When she arrived home and told her son what happened he said, "Mother, do you realize you saved another life?"

Do you know you could save a life as she did? Look at this video and you can see, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSUC0wTFAjU>

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSUC0wTFAjU> Please be observant of what goes on around you. At least call 911 and attempt to do what Laurie did. You might give someone a new life in this New Year. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES.