Saturday, September 29, 2007

We Three Cousins

Bynum Nelson was one of my first cousins. He lived in Nederland. Houston Hamby (we called him “Buddy”) was another of my first cousins. He lived in Port Arthur. And I lived in Beaumont. Bynum, Buddy and I were the same age. However, living in separate towns hindered our being able to visit very often.

One day during the late 1940s, we had a get-together of sorts. I guess you could call it a “mini” family reunion. The Nelsons lived in Nederland on the Koelemay Road next to the interurban. Next door to them were the Parkers. Nora Parker was my mother’s sister.

The families decided to meet at the Parkers for an afternoon of visiting. Mary Ann Parker and Wanda Hamby, another two of my first cousins were the same age as my sister, Ann. The three girl cousins went into one of the rooms to play. We three guy cousins ended up in another room to bide our time. The adults sat in the living room catching up on family stories that had occurred since the last time we all had visited.

The Parkers did not have any boys so that meant they didn’t have any boy toys. They only had stuff for Mary Ann. We male cousins really were not interested in playing paper dolls. Mary Ann loaned us her Jacks game. We began playing Jacks. That didn’t last long. There just wasn’t much excitement to bouncing a rubber ball on the floor and scooping up things off of the floor. Besides that we were not very good at it.

So we got to talking as boys are apt to do. The question arose, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” Actually we worded that question this way, “What are you going to do when you get big?” You see, “getting big,” and “growing up,” were synonymous terms. Bynum said he wanted to work with electronics. He had a flair for that. He could fix malfunctioning radios when he was only eleven years old. Sure enough, Bynum grew up and had a career with Houston Power and Light. I never knew what he did there but I do know he was in a field he loved.

Buddy stated that he wanted to become a medical doctor. And wouldn’t you know it? He became a doctor and still practices full-time in the Port Neches/Nederland area.

Me? I wanted to become a pilot and fly those fascinating airplanes. Eventually I did obtain my pilot’s license and flew some of those planes. However, the new wore off. I discovered that the only part I enjoyed was taking off and landing. Flying cross-country actually was boring. You really couldn’t see much and sometimes it took a long time to get to where you were going.

Well, after all these years I look at the Three Cousins. Where are we today? Well, unfortunately Bynum died when only in his fifties due to failing health. Buddy is still practicing medicine stating that he just does not want to retire. I ended up in four careers: Accounting, Banking, Church Ministry and Human Resource. I still am working full-time at age 71. I tried to retire back in 2002. That lasted about six months. Retirement was so boring that I went back to working and I reckon there is no time left for a fifth career. However, what I do have is a lifetime of beautiful and exciting memories.

Bynum, Buddy, and I all learned that “getting big” while living in Port Arthur, Beauxart Gardens, Nederland and Beaumont, certainly was no boring existence.

In fact, I am sure that we three cousins would do it all over again.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Laugh, Chuckle, or at least. Smile ...

Have you ever composed a little joke or a pun that you thought was pretty cute and funny? I mean a clean cute little joke or pun? Have you ever told your brand new joke or pun to a friend only to have them just look at you? I have. Here’s one I made up and told with pride. No one laughed. See what you think:

“Why did the chicken decide not to cross the road?” “Why?” “The chicken decided not to cross the road because he was standing on one end of the road. To get to the other end he would have to walk 2200 miles and he was too chicken to walk that far.”

I still kind of chuckle when I think of that joke. But no one else has ever laughed. So I conclude that either the joke is not funny or that it is too deep to be understood. I can’t believe that no one gets it. Is it “unfunny?” I don’t know. What do you think?

Ok, here’s another one I wrote. I think it’s pretty cute. No one has ever laughed at it. They just kind of stare at me with a blank expression. See what you think:

“Why do moms-to-be go to a special room in the hospital to give birth?” “Why?” “Moms-to-be go to a special room in the hospital to give birth because of the Child Labor Law.”

Now isn’t that funny just a little bit? Don’t you really want to laugh but choose to hold it in to make me think that you don’t think it’s funny? It’s OK to chuckle. Go ahead. Let it out.

Now here’s one I wrote that I don’t think is funny. But I’ll share it just to show you what a really “unfunny” joke is:

“Why did the chicken refuse to cross the road?” “Why?” “The chicken refused to cross the road because he was perfectly content with the side of the road he was already on.” Evidently the chicken thought to himself, “Why does everyone want me to cross the road? Don’t they realize that if you’ve seen one roadside, you’ve seen them all?”

Then there are the little one-liners that pop-up in your head from time to time. The following have popped-up in my head at one time or another. But my friends do not seem to think they are very funny:

Would it be considered a “shady deal” to purchase an Elm tree for half-price? What if two people could not come to an agreement yesterday? Would that make it “no-terday?” If you purchased a soiled cement truck at a reduced price, would you drive a hard bargain? If you fed some lemons to your cat would you have a “sour puss?”
What if you get paid to tell jokes? I guess you have a “Cents of humor.” If your jokes stink then you have a, “scents of humor.” If your jokes are just plain “unfunny” then you have a “senseless humor.”

What makes a joke funny the first time you hear it? Why isn’t it funny the fourth time you hear it? Does it turn “unfunny?” Maybe that’s why people say, “Stop me if you’ve heard this one.” A punch line can only be funny once. After that, it loses its punch. So is it the “punch” that makes you laugh more so than the joke itself?

Send me your original one-liners and/ or short jokes. I’ll muster up a column if I receive enough material. And let me know if I can use your name. And of course, keep the puns clean …

And always remember … it’s Ok to laugh …

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Saturday, September 15, 2007

When The Stick Breaks, The Kite Will Surely Fall

The wind was blowing really hard that Saturday. The year was 1947 and I was 11 years old. We lived on Pipkin Street in the South Park area of Beaumont. J. L. Giles Elementary School was only one block away.

The wind plus the expanse of that school campus plus lots of 11-year-old energy made it a perfect time and place to go fly a kite.

However there was a problem. I was bored with the regular small kites like you bought at the store. I had learned in the Cub Scouts how to make kites and had been making most of my own kites for nearly two years. But this time, I wanted a really big kite.

My dad was working in town. My mother and sister had gone shopping. This left me at home to make my own decisions. Since the local stores did not sell large kites, I decided to make one.

The ingredients for making a kite call for string, sticks, paper and glue (paste). I already had on hand the string and glue but I didn’t have any paper or sticks. I considered gluing several sheets of the Beaumont Enterprise together. There were plenty of old newspapers around the house. However I feared that the glue job would not hold up in the strong wind. I looked around the house for some paper suitable for a large kite. None could be found.

Then there it was, staring at me as though to say, “Make a kite out of me.” The window shade on our living room window was the solution. This was a wide window, which meant that the shade was good and wide. The window shade would make an excellent large kite. But I needed two sticks. There was one stick in the living room shade. It seemed perfectly logical to borrow a stick from one of our other window shades. So I borrowed a stick from the window shade in my sister’s bedroom. I planned to put everything back together later.

Hastily I removed the living room window shade from its holder and unrolled it. Did you know that window shades are stapled to their rollers? The staples were too strong to remove. So I kind of had to tear the shade off of the roller. I wasn’t sure just how I was going to fix that but decided to worry about it later.

I proceeded to run kite string around the ends of the two sticks, which I had formed into a cross. After fitting and gluing the window shade around the stringed frame I ended up with a nice really big kite. I borrowed an old bed sheet from my mother’s linen closet and tore strips for a tail.

The wind was so strong and gusty I feared that regular kite string might break. So, I procured my dad’s rod and reel, which was decked out with nice strong nylon string.

My playmate, Jackie Garretson, helped me to carry the kite over to the school campus. He held the kite up and I ran. The kite went up. It was flying. A beautiful creation. Oops, one of the sticks broke. The kite came down really fast and crashed breaking the other stick.

I took the remains of the kite home hoping to replace everything before anyone got home. I didn’t remember tearing the shade but there was a big rip jutting right across the middle. And the broken sticks were beyond repair.

When dad got home, he aired out my backside. And what lesson did I learn? Never try to make a kite out of a window shade. That idea just won’t fly.

Winston Hamby

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hard-Headed Howard ...

Does anyone know the whereabouts of Howard Crockett? I’ve tried and tried to locate him and bombed out every time. I used to refer to Howard as the “concussion kid” because he had a way of having accidents and reaping concussions.

Howard and I played trombones in the South Park High School band in Beaumont. We became good friends. One night during the halftime show at a home football game, I was assigned the embarrassing task of marching straight ahead while the rest of the band turned. The drum major, Patricia Halfin, halted the band and ordered me to get back into formation. Once more we began marching. The band turned and I marched straight ahead. Patricia halted the band, came over to where I was standing and shot me. Well, she was using a “starter’s pistol.” It fired blanks and I was thankful for that.

I think Patricia sort of enjoyed shooting me with that pistol even though it only fired blanks. I had been in love with her since the fifth grade and she was tired of my pining, I suspect. Anyway, she smiled when she pulled the trigger.

When I fell to the ground with my trombone in hand, two medical personnel ran out to me with a stretcher. They checked me over then placed my trombone on their stretcher and ran off the field leaving me for dead. So now the band was short by one trombonist. Mr. Stumpf, our band director, had a substitute on the sidelines. It was Howard Crockett. Howard began running toward the band from the sideline. He had an old beat-up trombone salvaged from the band’s instrument supply room. We had it rigged to fall apart at every joint. Howard ran onto the field, “tripped” and fell, throwing that old trombone high into the air. When it hit the ground it flew into about six or seven pieces. The crowd in the stands loved this grand production.

But what about Howard and his concussions? Well, one day Howard showed up at school with a Triumph motorcycle. It was a beautiful machine and Howard was very proud. As time went along, Howard became more daring with his motorcycle. He learned a trick where he could ride down Highland Ave. and stand up on the rear luggage carrier and hold his hands out to either side like a bird soaring in flight.

But one morning, right in front of the high school building, Howard was cruising down Highland Ave., standing on his luggage carrier. The bike did an unexpected wheelie. Howard ended up hitting his head on Highland Ave. Now, Highland Ave. was a hard paved street. Howard sustained a concussion.

On another occasion, Howard was playing on the slide fire escapes that are attached to the rear of the high school building. He climbed up one of the slides to the third floor then proceeded to slide down while standing upright on a sheet of wax paper. He did a pretty good job of balancing all the way down. But when he got to the bottom, he cart wheeled several times, banging his head on the ground every time he somersaulted. That maneuver earned Howard another concussion.

When I think of Howard, I think about our days in the South Park band and how much fun we had. But I think also of those concussions he suffered as a result of his motorcycle stunts and those fire escape routines. By the way, Howard received Detention Hall for a week as his punishment for playing on the fire escapes. That was a school “no-no.” Anyway, I’ll close as I began:

Does anyone know the whereabouts of Howard Crockett?

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Charming But Awful Night ...

There was quite a charming Friday evening in Beaumont for this sixteen-year-old kid back in 1952. The occasion was special because I had a date with a fine teenage girl. I really wanted to impress her. Rather than drive my old 1939 Buick, I asked Dad if he would loan me his fabulous 1950 Oldsmobile 88. He agreed reluctantly.

He had wrecked the Olds back in 1950 when the car was brand new. That’s when we got the old Buick. He needed something to drive to work while awaiting repairs on the Oldsmobile. When my dad retrieved his car from the body shop, he decided to keep the Buick for my mother and me to drive. Especially he didn’t want me to take the Olds out and get it torn up again.

Anyway, he relented and permitted me to drive the Olds on this particular date. My date’s name was Joyce Perdue. She lived over on Threadneedle Street in South Park, not far from Highland Avenue. My family lived on the Voth Road (now Concord Road) near the Village Shopping Center. That meant I had to drive all the way across Beaumont to Joyce’s house.

As I was driving through the south part of downtown on Park Street I saw three of my band buddies on the side of the road hitchhiking. In those days, hitchhiking was a common way to get to town. I did not know what they were doing in town but they wanted a ride out to South Park. I stopped and picked them up. I cannot recall the names of the two friends who sat in the back seat but Gayle Crysel sat next to me in the front seat.

We were cruising south on Park Street at about 40 mph. I had the right of way. All of the cross streets had stop signs. Then the charming part of the evening began. One of the guys in the back seat had a package of Charms. You know, the little square candies similar to Life Savers except they did not have a hole in the middle. He opened up the Charms and offered one to everyone in the car. Just as I reached for my Charm a black 1936 Ford ran the stop sign and plowed into the right front end of my dad’s 1950 Olds. The impact knocked us up onto the curb. I don’t know the name of that cross street but on the corner was a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Dealership. We stopped short of crashing into the showroom and shaking hands with some those bikes.

Gayle cut his hand on the front side car window. No one else in the car was hurt other than the shock that comes from nearly being forced to enter a motorcycle showroom.

When I got out of the car I saw a police cruiser and a Carroll-Wallace ambulance already at the scene. This caused me to think that perhaps I had been unconscious for a few minutes. How else could the police and an ambulance already be present? It turned out the other driver was intoxicated. He had already run his car into the ambulance. The ambulance driver had radioed the police. So both the police and the ambulance were chasing the drunk driver, which is why he ran the stop sign in the first place.

The next day, my dad and I drove out to the wrecking yard to see what shape the Olds was in. It was pretty well dented up. But what I noticed most of all is that there were candy Charms scattered all over the interior of the car.

Needless to say, my dad was not charmed …

Winston Hamby