Sunday, June 26, 2011

"It Matters Not How You Play The Game..."

Today would be Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias’ 100th birthday were she still living. Actually, she died at John Sealey Hospital, in Galveston, Texas, on September 27, 1956, at the very young age of 45. My lot is to write the story in 600 words…hang on…

First, let’s get this name thing down. Mildred Ella Didrikson was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on June 26, 1911, to Ole and Hannah Didricksen, immigrants from Norway. She later changed the spelling of her surname to Didrikson. She claimed to have acquired the nickname “Babe” (after Babe Ruth, Sultan of Swat) upon hitting five home runs in a childhood baseball game. The rest of her name(s) came from her marriage to professional wrestler, George Zaharias, in 1938.

Babe graduated from Beaumont High School in 1929, but did not attend college. Instead, she took her singing ability and harmonica talent on tour and ended up recording several well-known songs on the Mercury Records label. Her best seller was “I Felt a Little Teardrop.”

Babe was an avid winner in Track and Field. Her track team won the 1932 AAU Championships in spite of the fact that she was the only one on the team. Following her winning ways in the Olympics, Babe performed on the vaudeville circuit with her Babe Didrikson’s All-Americans basketball team and the bearded House of David (commune) team.

By 1935, Babe began to play golf. She may have been most famous for her prowess in this sport. In 1946-47, she won both the United States Women’s Amateur Golf Championship as well as the British Ladies’ Amateur Golf Championship. She turned pro in late 1947 and was involved with others in founding the LPGA. Her serious illness (colon cancer) ended her career in the mid-1950s. Babe won her last major tournament, the U. S. Women’s Open championship, one month after undergoing cancer surgery. She died in 1956 and is buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Beaumont. She has a beautiful burial estate there and the attendants will be more than happy to give you that viewing tour. And be sure to visit the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum in Beaumont. This edifice also houses the chamber of commerce welcoming center.

Enter side stage: Me. I was four years old when my family moved to Beaumont in 1941. Our new FHA house was located at 1375 Pipkin St. in South Park. Within two years, I had several playmates. A few were David Matthews, Jackie Garretson, Sonny Collier, and Mike Grimes. We were the beginning of the Pipkin Street Gang (kids on that same block).

The Grimes family lived two doors from me. His mother was named Mrs. Grimes and his father was known to this five-year-old as Mr. Grimes. Mrs Grimes would not let Mike participate in our mud wars. She would not let him climb trees and jump from them like the commandos we had begun seeing at the picture shows as WW II began to unfold.

I learned later that Mrs. Grimes’ first name was Lilly and that she was Babe Zaharias’ sister. So that meant that Mike was Babe’s nephew.

I remember seeing the Grimes almost everyday. I saw Babe’s husband, George Zaharias, a few times. He was a huge man thus easy to understand his being a professional wrestler.

Although I never saw Babe, I was proud to know some of her family members. It is a shame that such a great person died so young.

The Associated Press named Babe the Greatest Woman Athlete of the first fifty years of the twentieth century. In 1999, the AP also named her the Greatest Woman Athlete of the twentieth century.

That is a great testimony for someone who lived only 45 years.

God rest her soul.

Winston Hamby

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stormy Weather...

Hurricane season is upon us and this begs the question, “When is a hurricane not a hurricane? But wait. I am far ahead of the story. Allow me to start anew…

The term “hurricane” goes back to Maya mythology. This includes the pre-Columbian Maya civilization’s extreme polytheistic religious beliefs meaning they had many gods. One was named Huracan, the god of storm and fire. The Spanish language picked up the word “huracan” to define and describe strong wind storms. Thus from the Spanish language, we have our word “hurricane.”

When I lived in Nederland, Texas, at age 4, I ran into my first hurricane. Rather, it ran into me. That storm was listed as Atlantic Hurricane #2, in 1940. They did not name them in those days but merely assigned a number and let them blow by.

Fast forward past several hurricanes to Katrina that devastated New Orleans in August, 2005. She caused more than 1,800 fatalities with damages totaling over 81 billion dollars. Katrina has the distinction of being one of the top natural disasters in American history. By this time, I had moved my family to Houston. The Astrodome was filled to capacity with those who left New Orleans, having lost everything. I remember Oprah Winfrey coming to Houston and contributing much-needed aid to thousands of stricken families.

A month or so following Katrina, hurricane Rita came churning ashore near the Sabine River. She made landfall boasting of wind gusts up to 225 miles per hour. This caused chaos in Texas and Louisiana. Most of you in Beaumont will recall the Rita saga.

I snapped a photo from my front yard in Houston while facing Beaumont. I saw the dark clouds over Beaumont although I was 85 miles to the west under blue skies. I named this picture “The Edge of Rita.”

And then there was Ike in September, 2008. Ike came ashore in the Galveston area causing damages from Louisiana to Corpus Christi exceeding 30 billion dollars. There were more than 112 fatalities. At this writing (2011) there are 23 listed as missing from that storm. Everyone evacuated from the Houston area. Well, not everyone. Thousands could not evacuate because of the traffic jams. My wife and I were two of these. We decided to head west through Rosenberg, intending to turn north just east of San Antonio.

The only problem was that everyone else had the same idea. We found ourselves on Highway 59 heading to Rosenberg at about one mile per hour. We never reached Rosenberg. It took us four hours to travel 10 miles. We turned around and rode out the storm at home.

In 2009, my wife and I decided to move to the Little Rock area (Benton, Arkansas) to be near our grandchildren and to remove ourselves from hurricanes.

Enter side stage: Tornado Alley! Yes, we moved into the center of a region known as Tornado Alley. We have lived in Benton for less than two years and have experienced numerous tornadoes. Several have passed within a mile or less of our home. When the sirens sound, my wife and I get into the bathtub and our cat gets in the towel closet. In fact the cat gets into the closet before the sirens sound. He senses the approaching storm. So when the cat heads for that closet, we prepare the bathtub with cushions and a mattress awaiting the sirens.

There is one difference not often noted between a hurricane and a tornado. There is several days notice when a hurricane emerges. But with a tornado, we are fortunate to have ten minutes warning, if that much.

So as far as I am concerned, when is a hurricane not a hurricane?

When it is a tornado.

Winston Hamby

Sunday, June 05, 2011

MacArthur Junior High School in Beaumont, in 1947-1948, was my first school loyalty. I cannot recall the school colors (I think they were red and blue) but I played trombone in the band and orchestra. The band was directed by Mr. Louis F. Stumpf and Ms. Edna Brooks directed the orchestra. Also the school chorus was led by Mr. Joseph Truncale. We were known as the MacArthur Eagles and we were proud.

I entered South Park High School located in Beaumont in 1949 and graduated in 1953. During those four years, I was a South Park Greenie with unsurpassed loyalty. Our school colors were green and white. All Greenies experienced the fierce rivalry between South Park and the Beaumont High School Royal Purples. Their colors were purple and white.

I had many friends who attended Beaumont High, French High, and several who attended Hebert High School. One of my Hebert High acquaintances was Jerry Levias, who went on to S.M.U. and later played professional football. Run your favorite search engine for “Jerry Levias” for additional fascinating information on this unique individual.

After high school, I enrolled in Abilene (TX) Christian College. I transitioned from being a Greenie to being a Wildcat. And my school colors changed from green and white to purple and white. This fell into the category of being ironic.

Easily you can see that my loyalty in college had to adjust to the purple and white colors after having been a foe to those colors in high school. I made that adjustment to purple and white although my Greenie Spirit green and white was very much alive and well within my heart and soul.

Now fast forward to my son completing his undergraduate degree at Lamar University, in music composition and my wife completing her master’s degree in school administration. Since my son and wife attended Lamar and since my hometown is Beaumont, I’ve always had a bit of Cardinal blood in my veins. However I have no T-shirt or baseball cap from Lamar.

Later, my son enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin to work on his master’s degree in music composition. I became a loyal Longhorn fan and we had a lot of orange and white around the house.

Then my daughter married and her husband enrolled at Texas A&M, to work on his masters in genetics. So I became a loyal Aggie. Whew! Are you getting the drift?

Also, I worked on my master’s degree in biblical studies at Eastern New Mexico State University, Portales, NM. Even though I was a Greyhound for a couple of years, I have no T-shirt to show.

All of those years passed and in 2009, my wife and I moved to Benton, Arkansas, near Little Rock, to be near our grandchildren. My daughter, who lives in Bryant, Arkansas, about five miles from Benton, presented me with an Arkansas Razorback T-shirt. Then she enrolled at The University of Arkansas to pursue her master’s in professional writing. It dawned on me that I was destined to become a Hog.

Now, at age 75, I can tell you about school loyalties. It goes like this: I am part Eagle, part Wildcat, part Longhorn, part Aggie, part Cardinal, part Greyhound, and someday, part Razorback. I say, “Part Razorback” because I am still working on that one. Can you imagine what it must be like for a Texas Longhorn and a Texas Aggie to convert over to being an Arkansas Hog?

But there is no loyalty that can hold a torch to my loyalty for South Park High School and the Greenie Spirit. My blood runs green and white. I am proud to be a Greenie.

Greenie fight never dies and Greenie Spirit lives on…

Winston Hamby