Sunday, February 24, 2008

Not Forgotten But Gone For Now ...

I’ll be back after a bit. My editor rejected this column saying he wanted me to stick around. So, I will but will be out a few weeks. E-mail me at


Wow, what a trip. Every mile has been most enjoyable for me and I trust, for you. And I want to say “thank you” for your e-mails, snail mail and phone calls. What a joy it has been to share my early Beaumont/Jefferson County memories with you.

Mr. Thomas Taschinger, Opinions editor has been terrific granting me the column space to share with you. Thank you Tom. Also, a big thank you to Julian Galiano, who designed my area as well as the page. Look down to the fine print in the center of the Opinions page and you will see his name. Julian, thank you for keeping my sentences from running off the sides of the pages.

In September of 2004, my daughter Deana Nall said, “Dad, you’re such a story teller. You should send some to the Enterprise.” Finally, I took her advice and sent Mr. Taschinger my story of working at the Jefferson Theater. Tom liked my homespun style and asked me for more stories. So for more than three years, you have seen these stories showing up, at first on Wednesdays, later changed to Saturdays.

The editors have been wonderful to me. Out of some 200 columns, I have had only three rejects. A reject is when a column is not accepted for print for one reason or another.

My first reject had to do with Hoop Snakes. It was a pile of baloney and imagination. Mr. Taschinger politely infomed me that Hoop Snakes was not up to my standard. And he was so right.

My second reject was on politics and was a campaign speech that I wrote had I been a politician. My platform was, “If elected, I promise to take office.” Tom told me that perhaps the timing was too heated for such a topic. You know, I respected that

The only sneaky one I ever pulled on Mr. Taschinger was when he rejected my column on “sense of humor.” Two years later, I changed the name on it and resubmitted. He printed it without hesitation.

However, that column was not without comment from a reader. Retired Lamar University Professor David G. Taylor wrote and said, “Winston, don’t ever give up your day job for a career in humor.” That note rolled me on the floor. Professor Taylor and so many of you have been such great encouragement.

My wife, Mardell was my strongest critic. She was tougher than the editors. She did not like my term, “Pipkin Street Gang.” However, in the old days a gang was simply a group of neighborhood kids who were friends and never did worse than throw mud at passing cars. I thank her for her patience and understanding.

Dear readers. You have been great. Growing up in Beaumont and knowing so much about many of you have provided me with a fantastic file of memories in my head. I want to thank you. Without you I would have no stories to tell.

Always remember and never forget. Your actions from day to day result in your life. And your life is a lifetime of memories.

I would not trade my childhood for anything. I thank my parents and even my big sister. Thank you teachers for caring. And thank you, Church, for instilling the meanings of life here and later.

600 words is not a lot of space to cover much information so as beloved comedian, Bob Hope used to say, “Thanks for the memories.”

Until we meet again may the Lord bless you and keep you.

Wow, what a trip …

Winston Hamby

Older Than Dirt And Still Growing ...

Have you ever heard the expression, “older than dirt?” I know you have if you’re out of my generation. That statement means that something or someone is very old. You see, dirt is pretty old having been created at the beginning of time. For additional information on the origin of dirt, read from the Holy Bible in Genesis, Chapter One.

Anyway, I was thinking of this “older than dirt” phrase which caused me to think of my brother-in-law, Sidney A. King. Do you realize that he is older, much older than Ann King, my big sister who is pretty old in her own right?

Born in 1926 (can you believe it?) Sid attended school in Geneva, Texas. His family moved to Beaumont in 1942 and Sid became a Greenie as a junior at South Park High School graduating from there in 1944.

Following his high school graduation, Sid enlisted in the United States Army Air Force Cadet Program. He ended up being a tail gunner on a B-29 Bomber. You know, I can think of safer ways to spend a Saturday afternoon but this is what Sid chose to do. He was discharged honorably in 1946. At least Sid tells me that his discharge was honorable. I really have no way of verifying this fact so we’ll leave it at that.

Ok, I first met Sid when he began dating my sister. Ann dated hundreds of guys for years, or so it seemed to this little brother. She dated pilots, horsemen, beachcombers and at one time was “going steady” with five boys. She had a little chain around her neck with five rings attached. I always wondered how she managed that. I still don’t know.

Anyway, having met so many exciting individuals over the years, I was kind of surprised when Ann brought Sid home to meet the family. We lived on Pipkin Street in South Park. Sid would drive over to our house in his 1938 Ford. One night while Sid was inside our living room meeting Ann for a date, I slipped out the back door and taped a “Just Married” sign to the rear end of his car. They soon drove off to see a movie at the Jefferson Theater never realizing the information that was being displayed on the sign. I never heard anything about that so I guess the sign fell off or perhaps Sid just chose to ignore it. He was good at ignoring things, especially little brothers.

Ann moved to Abilene to attend college. When Sid left the military he enrolled at Lamar College and later completed his law degree at Baylor University. Sid entered a bar in 1951. I guess that’s OK. He told me he was admitted to the Texas Bar.

Sid and Ann were married in 1952 at the South Park Church of Christ. I served as an usher as did Sid’s brother, Hubert King. At the time I was an usher at the Jefferson Theater so I had lots of experience showing people to a seat.

They and their two children moved over near Plant Road in north Beaumont and began attending the Ridgewood Church of Christ. Sid became a Sunday School teacher and served as an Elder there for 27 years.

Sid has been in law practice for 300 years, or so it seems. He still works and specializes in Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, Land, Oil & Gas, and general practice. Also, he taught Real Estate Law at Lamar University for a number of years.

You know, after all is said and done, I’m glad that my big sister ended up marrying Sid.

Even if he is older than dirt.

Winston Hamby

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Legend In His Own Time ...

Recently while cleaning out our garage I discovered several boxes of older books that we stored years ago. Opening the boxes was fascinating and one of the books especially captivated my interest. This story shares a little bit about that book and its author.

The book is a “Greenie” color and the title is, “The South Park Story, 1891-1971 and The Founding of Lamar University, 1923-1941.” The lower portion of the front cover states, “by Ray Asbury.” The book was copyrighted in 1972 with the following statement, “This is a special limited edition published in the public interest.” The book was published by the South Park Historical Committee, Beaumont, Texas and was printed by Evans Press, Inc. – Fort Worth, Texas.

My family moved from Nederland to Beaumont in 1940. My dad bought a house in the 1300 block of Pipkin Street in South Park. The Ray Asbury family lived one block north of us on the 1300 block of Church Street. Across from the Asbury home to the north was the back campus of J. L. Giles Elementary School.

All I really knew about Ray Asbury at the time was that he worked for South Park School. Also he had several really neat tallow trees in his back yard. I loved going over and climbing those trees. There was this one particular tallow that had four limbs branching from the trunk about twenty feet above the ground. My favorite sport was to climb up that tree and sit in the cradle formed by those four branches. I could actually lean back and close my eyes. The soft breezes gently swayed the tree. I relaxed there and thought of the song by an unknown author, “Rock-a-bye baby in a treetop, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock.” I hesitated to finish the song where the bough breaks and down comes the cradle, baby and all.

Mr. Asbury’s son, Gordon Ray, was one of my playmates. He was somewhat younger than I but he enjoyed the trees. It seemed a wise idea to befriend Gordon Ray in spite of his younger age. After all, his dad owned my favorite climbing tree.

I used to walk to school when I attended Giles Elementary. Many times I would cross Pipkin Street from my house and cut through the Collier’s back yard, pass under the tallow trees and walk up the Asbury’s driveway to Church Street then over to the school. I felt safer taking this path. My mother would not let me walk down Avenue A because of the traffic and there was no sidewalk. I preferred not to walk the other way down Chaison Street because the Viguet’s German Shepherd took great sport in scaring the living daylights out of me. But Mom cautioned me not to walk through the Asbury’s yard because that was private property. Such was the life of this first grader trying to get a decent education.

Anyway, back to this book I found in the garage. I think I bought it in Beaumont years ago at a garage sale but cannot recall for certain. I may have purchased it from a used book store. At any rate there is a fascinating inscription inside the front cover which reads, “To Mrs. Lo Brennan, December 27, 1972.” This inscription is signed by the author, “Ray Asbury.”

I value the signature of Ray Asbury. With this book, Mr. Asbury accomplished a scholarly and highly documented volume spanning eighty years of history involving South Park High School and Lamar University

I do not know who Mrs. Lo Brennan is or was. If anyone knows her identity please consider sharing that information with me.

You know, cleaning out your garage can be very interesting.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise