Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Be Safe and Be Happy...

This essay is not a history of Halloween dating back to the Pagan/Celt’s era. Rather this is a review especially for kids (and parents) to have a safe time tonight as you chase goblins around the neighborhood. This is otherwise known as trick-or-treating. By following a few simple rules, your night of drifting through your cemetery (neighborhood) should be a much safer experience.

When trick-or-treating:

• Children always should have an adult to accompany them.

• If you are an older kid, never go treat or treating alone. Have two or three buddies with you, even if they do look like monsters.

• Never enter a stranger’s house even if the occupants do not look like monsters.

• Visit only houses with porch lights burning. Unlit houses are a no-no.

• Always walk. Do not run. Eventually you’ll get to where you want to go.

• Never eat candy until you get home and your parents can inspect the goodies. Besides, they will want their share before you dig in.

• Do not walk in the street. Use sidewalks. That’s why they are there.

• Be sure that your costume is flame retardant and never stand too close to a lit jack-o-lantern or for that matter, a lit anything.

• Always use common sense. Generally this is an uncommon trait, but you can do it.

• Oh, by the way, nice goblins and monsters always say, “thank you” for their treats. Even a few ghosts have been known to express their appreciation.

• Parents, some neighborhood organizations and churches provide safer alternatives to trick-or-treating by hosting indoor parties or parking lot trunk-or- treat events.

Kids, any pranks that you may pull on Halloween night should observe the following rules:

• Do not endanger yourself or others. Otherwise stated, do not harm anyone in any manner.

• Do not vandalize or damage property. This is naughty and could cost you a Merry Christmas.

One Halloween night, Jimmy Cassady and I were walking down a sidewalk bordering Highland Ave. in the South Park area of Beaumont. We had in hand a ball made up of paper cups and napkins leftover from Cokes recently purchased and consumed at a convenience store. On a whim, I threw the paper ball at a passing car, hitting it on the back window. The glass did not break but it did make a pretty loud “whomp” sound. Jimmy and I laughed thinking we had pulled off a really cute stunt. In a couple of minutes, that same car having made the block pulled up to the curb where we were walking. The driver identified himself as Detective “Somebody.” It seems that we had selected an off-duty police officer’s car to swat with that ball. He proceeded to chew us out including threats of taking us downtown to the Main Street jail. My knees were shaking all the way from my feet to my ears and my heart began beating in reverse. Anyway, Jimmy and I headed home forever grateful for our narrow escape from the hands of judicial processes.

The following Halloween, James Ward and I decided to hide my neighbor’s lawn furniture. The time was 10:00 p.m. The Tommy Heartfield family lived next door. Their house was all dark. James and I ventured to their front porch and lifted a white wrought iron table and took about two steps. A voice spoke from the darkness of the porch window, “Ok boys, put the table back where you found it.” We did and I was so embarrassed because I was certain Mr. Heartfield must have recognized me.

The rules listed herein were formulated from personal experience. And that is how I learned to be safe and to respect other peoples’ property.

Winston Hamby

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Age Is Beneficial When You Least Expect...

Something is going too fast around here. I suspect we all know what it is but just this week it nearly slammed me to the floor. You see, “time” is speeding all over the place. And to top it all off, it is just about time. But wait. I am getting ahead of myself.

Seems like just a couple of months ago I was fifteen. I remember going down to the Jefferson County courthouse to take my driver’s license test. I passed the written portion of the exam. Then a Beaumont police officer went riding with me in my 1939 Buick Special. That was one more long black car with a straight-eight engine. The hood was so long that on a foggy day, I would forget what the hood ornament looked like.

Perhaps that last sentence was enhanced somewhat but that’s how my mind works, or doesn’t work depending upon your point of view. Anyway, the only real concern I had was the parallel parking. The old Buick seemed to be almost as long as the parking space where I was required to park.

After some back and forth with the steering wheel along with several first and reverse gears, I parked that old aircraft carrier. The policeman opened his door and looked down at the curb. Then he looked toward the front tire and then the rear tire. He closed the door and said, “Guess if this was real life, I could take a taxi to the curb.” I thought he was trying to be cute but I didn’t laugh in case he was serious.

As I mentioned, seems like this and other memories happened just two months ago. But that was in 1950. Here it is 2010. This means that I received my driver’s license sixty years ago.

Again, it is just about time, but I will wait before getting into that.

When I was a lad growing up in Beaumont in the early forties, people would say, “You are a fine boy. You’ve got a great future ahead of you.”

Later, as a young teenager, people would say, “You are a fine teenaged man. You’ve got a great future ahead of you.”

Even later, as a college graduate and working in Beaumont, people would say, “You’re a fine young man. You’ve got a great future ahead of you.”

Then at middle age, people would say, “You’re a fine man. You’ve got a great future ahead of you.”

But now do you know what? People are not saying that anymore. I am wondering where my future went? Certainly it is not ahead of me. It must be behind me. These thoughts are circulating around in my head because on Thursday of this week, October 21, 2010, I will “celebrate” my 75th birthday.

Seventy-five years is three-quarters of a century. How could all that time transpire in two months? It is unreal. The New Testament contains an interesting concept in James 4:14, “…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes…”(NIV)

Again in the New Testament, Acts. 2:17, “…your young men will see visions; your old men will dream dreams.” (NIV). I take this slightly out of context but the principle remains. The younger generations will build on new ideas (visions). The older generation with no earthly future will have a lifetime of memories (dreams).

Since my future is behind me, I enjoy writing memory columns of growing up in southeast Texas. I dream dreams.

So on Thursday of this week when I turn seventy-five, I will know it is time? What do I mean?

I mean that it will be time for this old kid to grow up.

Winston Hamby

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Saga of the Ringing Bell...

I left the field of accounting in 1963 and embarked upon a career in banking.

My new work home was First Security National Bank, in downtown Beaumont. Jack Darling, a close friend of mine used to proclaim, “The bank with enough difference to make a difference.”

Earl Jones taught me to count currency with accuracy and speed. Then I was transferred to the Collections and Exchange Department managed by Emil Weaver. I was trained in that department by Paul Cain and G. A. Wimberley, Jr. The job description for that department was far too long to include within this space. I’ll just say that Emil was an outstanding manager and it was a pleasure working with him.

After two years with Emil, I transferred to the auditing department located on the third floor. I had thought that I might be going to the trust department to work with Guinn Busbee. Anyway I was glad to work with Bob Finley who was manager of the auditing department. Never were there two days alike. Most of the time, I enjoyed not knowing what to expect next. Kept me from getting bored. My co-workers in auditing included Tommy Leicht, Rex Taylor, Mary Jane Boyette, and in the proof department, Murrie Morgan.

An unusual event transpired during my first week in auditing. I was at my desk dutifully reconciling our bank’s accounts with other banks. Suddenly there was the soft floating tone of a bell. Not a series of rings but just one soft “Boinnng.” I looked up and saw nothing unusual. Everyone else was busy with their tasks at hand. I dismissed the occasion and went on with my reconcilements.

Ten minutes later another soft tone said, “Boinnng.” Again I looked up and saw nothing. I asked the lady sitting next to me if she had just heard a tone. She did not know what I was talking about. This puzzled me because the bell seemed to be coming from nowhere. This bell thing happened occasionally but not consistently.

Another event took place a few days later. I was in the men’s room washing my hands. I just happened to notice the restroom door ease open and a hand slide in and turn off the light switch. There I stood in the dark. Did I mention that I was washing my hands? If you believe that then I want to sell you a lease to hunt whales in Oklahoma.

Anyway I recognized the coat sleeve of the hand that turned off the light as belonging to Tommy Leicht. It was at that moment I came to know that Tommy was full of mischief.

Later that afternoon I told everyone in the department that I planned to work late and get caught up on some busy work. What I really had in mind was locating the source of that tone. Tommy had tipped his hand by turning off the restroom light. Once everyone left, I went over and sat at Tommy’s desk. I was convinced that he had something to do with the soft tone that had begun occurring on a more regular basis. I began touching stuff on his desk. I knew that he always was sitting at his desk when the event happened. I crawled under his desk looking for anything that might make a tone such as “Boinnng.”

Then I discovered that toward the bottom of his chair there was a little rim of metal. I sat back in the chair and pushed my foot against that rim. “Boinnng.” I had solved the Saga of the Ringing Chair.

You have just read a story about Tommy and his Leicht Brigade. Allow me to assure you that there are hundreds more just waiting to be shared.

Winston Hamby