Sunday, May 31, 2009

Got Rid Of Those Little Suckers...

Those southeast Texas mosquitoes do not like me and that is all right because I do not care for them either. When a mosquito alights on my arm, it stays for a second or two then flies away. I have not experienced a mosquito bite in more than fifty years. I wonder why but I do have a theory. Allow me to explain.

When I was a teenager growing up in Beaumont, my buddies and I often would drive over to Galveston for a day at the beach. Generally we stayed in Galveston late enough to eat supper at one of those fabulous seafood restaurants. Then after supper we enjoyed riding on the Bolivar ferry. In fact we enjoyed the ferry so much that usually we rode it back and forth several times. Since the ferry ride one way between Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula lasted about thirty minutes, we on occasion spent 2 to 3 hours riding the boat.

Now back to the mosquitoes and why I think that they do not like me. Since we guys spent so much time on those return trips riding the ferryboat, we would not arrive back to the intra-coastal canal bridge till around 11:00 P.M. And at a rule, the bridge would be open allowing tugs and barges to pass.

On this one particular evening, Jimmy Cassady and I were driving back to Beaumont from Galveston. Sure enough, when we reached the bridge, it had opened for some canal traffic. I decided that rather than wait in the car I would walk down to the water’s edge to get a better view of the transiting vessels. I always was fascinated by boats, ships and the like.

No sooner had I stationed myself at the canal’s bank than a humongous swarm of mosquitoes selected me for their late-evening snack. They covered both of my arms. I could see well enough from lights on the bridge that my arms were covered black with blankets of the buzzing invaders.

I slapped and slapped both arms with both hands. I brushed off the smashed little blood suckers and for a moment my arms appeared white. But then immediately they turned black again with a fresh wave of the vermin. Again I would slap and slap then rake off the mortally wounded.

This went on for a good 5 to 6 minutes. There is no telling how many hundreds of mosquitoes I slaughtered. But I grew weary of this game and returned to the car. Jimmy and I had to sit there for another 15 minutes for the vessels to pass and for the bridge to close so the automobile traffic could proceed.

When I arrived home that night and went into the bathroom to wash up, I saw a most startling sight. My arms were purple; not red but purple from literally hundreds of mosquito bites. I became alarmed and awakened my mother to show her my plight. She rubbed my arms with calamine lotion. She told me that the lotion would help to “tone things down.” I slept fitfully that night and the next day I felt all ragged out.

This experience as shared with you is the basis for my theory as to why mosquitoes have not bitten me in more than 50 years. Do you think it is feasible that the scent of destroyed ancestors still may be embedded in my flesh? If so, then this is why no sensible mosquito is going to bite me and run the risk of demise.

If you can come up with a better explanation, then let me hear from you.

Who knows? One of these nights, I may just “buzz off.”

Winston Hamby

Friday, May 15, 2009

Beautiful Is She Who Graces My Home...

OK, I confess. She did it. Yes my wife married an older man. Before you jump to any shaky conclusions, allow me to state that she married me and yes, I am older than she is. Ten years older, to be exact.

Mardell and I married in 1963 and moved into the married apartments at Lamar University in Beaumont. Mardell was in school at Lamar and I was working in my dad’s accounting firm. That first year in the Lamar apartments was exciting. There never was a dull moment living in the same building with 100 other couples. Our one-room apartment was on the first floor which was convenient. Only problem was that we had our very own peeping Tom. We reported the guy on several occasions only to be told, “Aw that’s just ‘Jake,’ and he is harmless. Don’t worry about him.”

Soon we moved over to Cheek Street where we rented a bedroom from P.D. and Joyce Brown. They lived in a large two-story house. That was interesting in that all four of us shared the same bathroom.

In 1965, we bought a two-bedroom house at 1065 Harriot Street in South Park about one block from Daniel’s Bakery. Talk about sweet smelling savor. We didn’t have to worry about odors sifting over from Magnolia Refinery as the bakery provided plenty of aromas with their doughnuts, cakes and pies.

One day a book salesman knocked and Mardell answered the door. The man asked, “Is your mother here?” Mardell was quick to reply, “No, my mother lives in Italy.” Then the bungling saleman asked, “Well, then is the lady of the house in?” Again Mardell explained, “I am the lady of the house.”

You see, when we married I was 27 and Mardell was 18. She looked every bit of 15. Several times this caused a bit of confusion if not embarrassment.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Well, Mardell just had a birthday and I was thinking of her and…well, here you have it.

In 1971, Mardell and I decided to enter into church ministry full time and so we moved to Lovington, New Mexico. For several years we served churches in eastern New Mexico and west Texas.

Finally in 1983, we moved back to Beaumont where I served as Youth and Family Minister with the Ridgewood Church of Christ. Mardell taught first grade and later she served as elementary principal of Christian Schools of Beaumont.

In 1994, we moved to Houston. Mardell was called there to serve as principal of Westbury Christian Elementary School. I became a Family Service Counselor with a large funeral home company.

What I am trying to convey, while realizing that 45 years of happy married life is difficult at best to condense into a 600 word column, is that I am so blessed to have Mardell as my wife. She has been by my side and supported me totally in every way.

Proverbs 31, beginning with verse 10 in the Old Testament of the Bible reads, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Later in that same chapter verse 28 reads, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her…” That Proverb so describes Mardell.

And truly I concur with the analogy stated in the New Testament in Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

I will do anything for Mardell and I know that she, as she has proved continuously for 45 years, will do anything for me.

It’s called love.

Happy birthday, my Love.

Winston --

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise
May 15, 2009

Friday, May 01, 2009

Jefferson Theater...For The Living and the Dead...?

I never met them nor did I ever see them although I did feel them. At least I sensed their being or sensed their having been. Are you as confused as I may be? Read on…

In 1952 when I was employed as an usher at the Jefferson Theater in downtown Beaumont, I was ushered into a wonderland of days gone by. So vivid and so plentiful are my memories of that grand old vaudeville/road show opera house that I do not know where to begin. So I’ll start at the beginning of my employment with that establishment.

The first thing my manager showed me was the dressing room area. These rooms were located on the second floor backstage. This is where I went to change from my street clothes to my usher’s uniform.

In my dressing room, mirrors behind makeup counters lined the walls. There were light sockets surrounding the mirrors. The bulbs were missing but one easily could see how the room must have looked back in the 1920s and 1930s when things were in full swing. Road shows and vaudeville acts performed regularly at the Jefferson. By the way, The Jefferson got its name from Beaumont’s being the Jefferson County Seat.

Old wooden straight-back chairs still lined the makeup counter. Many times I sat in one of those chairs and looked at myself in the mirror. I sensed the presence of those performers who in the past sat in that same chair looking in that same mirror. The feeling was uncanny. Never before had I experienced such sensations as making contact with those generations who preceded me in that room.

I mentioned this to other ushers. They too had experienced the same sensations. Some even went as far as to say they believed the spirits of the old vaudeville performers still frequented those dressing rooms. I cannot dispute their opinions. I only know what I felt.

One day I needed a coat hanger to hang up my street shirt while working my shift. I could not find one. Just as I turned away from the closet to drape my shirt across one of the chairs, a coat hanger hit the floor behind me and bounded my way. I picked up the hanger and said, “thank you” not knowing for sure if I was speaking to anyone or not. If there are spirits in that dressing area, they seem friendly and willing to help out.

Thus springs a question, “Are those dressing rooms in the Jefferson Theater haunted?” Certainly I am not one to suggest anything bordering on the supernatural.

But wait. Here’s more. There was an old marquee mounted on the front of the building. In fact it’s still there. The marquee was composed of three sections. The front main section faced Fannin Street. Then there were two smaller side sections. One of these faced Orleans Street and the other faced Pearl Street.

One of my assignments was to change out that marquee every time the movie changed. One movie ran from Friday through Monday. Another one ran from Tuesday through Thursday. This meant that I changed the marquee on Monday and Thursday nights of each week.

Dragging out that 16-foot step ladder was an experience in itself. Every time I climbed that rickety old ladder and inserted those old letters into those old marquee slots, I sensed the spirits of those who in years gone by had climbed that same ladder and handled those same old letters. Once again, the feelings were uncanny.

Spirits or no spirits, working at the Jefferson was an experience that I treasure. Yes, I never met them nor did I ever see them.

But I surely enjoyed working with them.

Winston Hamby