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


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