Saturday, August 06, 2011


I was seven years old in 1942, and living in Beaumont. That same year, my dad celebrated his 35th birthday. This made a significant impression on me. I thought Dad was ancient. There was just no way could one of my parents be that old.

Fast-forward to August 2, 2011. The headlines could have read, “BEAUMONT TEEN TURNS 40.” My daughter, Deana Hamby Nall celebrated her 40th birthday. Again this made a significant impression on me. How was it that my daughter could seem so young at age 40 when my dad was so ancient at 35? After all, I am only 75 and my wife, Mardell is only 66. What has changed since 1942? Don’t answer that.

Deana, who lived much of her younger years in Beaumont, agreed to sit down with me and answer a few questions:

Winston: What are your impressions of reaching 40 years of age?

Deana: When I was approaching 30, I wrote a column for the Beaumont Enterprise in which I reflected on the sadness that I was “too young not to be young anymore.” I don’t feel that way now. I still feel young and don’t think I’m too old to feel that way.

W: What is your first memory?

D: Lying in my crib on my tummy (no one knew that was dangerous back then) and Mom rubbing my back. I had to have been pretty small because I remember noticing her hand and my back were about the same size.

W: What did you think that day we visited Bottomless Lakes State Park in New Mexico? You were only five years old.

D: Like I told you and Mom that day when you asked me what I thought of that beautiful lake of green water, “God sure did do a good job.”

W: I have always wondered when it was that you became aware of boys being more than just boys?

D: Earlier than you probably think. By 4th grade, I wanted to marry Bo and Luke and Duke plus all the teenage boys at church. Boys my age, however, were just boys.

W: What have been your impressions of God and the spiritual warfare in your life?

D: I grew up with a very black and white faith and had answers to all the question. Now, the black and white have swirled into gray and I have more questions than answers. Which I think is healthier than the former.

W: How many times did you see “Back To The Future?”

D: Eleven times before it came out on video.

W: Are there any books you have read more than twice?

D: I’ve read To Kill a Mocking Bird many times since I first read it for English class at Beaumont Christian High School. I’ve read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series more times than I can count. I still read those books.

W: Since I was a youth minister during all those years of your growing up, how did you cope with being a PK (preacher’s kid)?

D: That was truly a blessing in many ways. It really only bothered me when the “glass house” syndrome would surface—when I couldn’t do something that was really OK, but it might reflect poorly on our family because of certain people’s beliefs. Like the way I had to beg and plead to go to West Brook High School’s homecoming dance with my then-boyfriend because our church frowned upon dancing. You didn’t think dancing would send me to hell, but you did worry about church people finding out and how they would react. You finally let me go when I promised not to dance. My boyfriend and I did dance to Bon Jovi’s “Never Say Goodbye” that night, and it’s still one of my sweetest high school memories. Sorry about that.

W: Out of all the houses where we lived in New Mexico and Texas, which one was your favorite?

D: Probably our Beaumont house (4060 Redwood Drive). We moved in when I was an awkward 11-year-old and I moved out after I got married at 22. I really feel like I grew up in that house.

W: We lived in five different towns during my 28 years of church ministry. Which of those towns was your favorite?

D: We didn’t move to Beaumont until I was 11, but it was home to me long before then. It was a great town for spending summers with my grandparents, who lived there. I remember my Meemaw taking me shopping at Gemco, Parkdale Mall and swimming at the tiny wading pool at Combest Park in Minglewood. And Beaumont was a fun place to be a teenager in the ‘80s. I used up untold gallons of gas by driving up and down Dowlen Road on weekend nights. I wouldn’t have wanted to come of age anywhere else.

W: Out of all those you dated in Beaumont and surrounding area, you ended up marrying Chad Nall. Comment on that decision.

D: Growing up in Beaumont, I never dreamed I would marry a guy from Alaska. I married very, very well. Chad’s the man of my dreams.

W: Give some thoughts regarding your two beautiful girls (our granddaughters).

D: They are Julia and Jenna, and Julia is now the age I was when we moved to Beaumont. It’s interesting to see them growing into the women they will someday be. Ten years ago, we had a high school reunion at Rogers Park on Dowlen Road. Julia was two. She kept getting away from me and I had to chase her down in the parking lot—the same parking lot where I used to hang out as a too-cool teenager on weekend nights. That was a surreal thought. I like taking them back to Beaumont and showing them where I lived and where I used to hang out, because Beaumont is such a big part of who I am now.

W: Describe your professional interests.

D: I’m a freelance writer for a number of publications. I work from home, which is a pretty sweet deal. I first became interested in writing as a kid, and I took a journalism class for teens at Lamar one summer. I don’t remember the teacher’s name, but he was the journalism teacher at French High School at the time. It was only a one-week class, but helped me realize writing might be for me. We toured the Beaumont Enterprise that week and I thought, “Wow, I want to be a part of this!” There’s just so much power in writing—so many ways to bring good into the world. Then I was on Belinda Graves’ yearbook staff my senior year at Beaumont Christian High School. That was also a great experience, and four years later, I was editor of my college yearbook at Abilene Christian University.

W: You mentioned publications. Which ones have you written for?

D: SUCCESS magazine, Success for Women, Success from Home, Your Business at Home, Empowering Women, ACU Today (alumni magazine for Abilene Christian University), Arkansas and Arkansas Life (lifestyle magazine based in Little Rock), and the Baytown Sun (newspaper in Baytown, where we lived for six years before moving to Arkansas).

W: What are your further educational pursuits, if any?

D: I’m working on my master’s in professional writing at University of Arkansas at Little Rock right now. I just wanted to learn more and be back in the academic environment. I’ve thought about a Ph.D. but we have two girls to get through college.

W: Deana, thank you for sharing your life and congratulations upon reaching 40 years of age. You are a wonderful daughter and Mom and I are so proud of you.

Note: Deana has a professional web site, and you will enjoy reading her blog at

Isn’t it ironic how little girls grow up to be 40 years old?

Winston Hamby


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