Saturday, February 28, 2009

Curtis Garner

Livingston is the capital of Polk County and the home of some of my ancestors. One of the more interesting citizens was Curtis Garner, the owner of the local motel. Curtis was a well known practical joker. One time I was called to testify in a Polk County case. It was not popular and I received some threats. The case was continued overnight and I managed to share a motel room with the Texas Ranger assigned to the case. We went to bed and about midnight I heard a noise and turned on the light. Fast as I was the Texas Ranger was even faster. When the light came on I found Garner holding an alligator in both hands with the Ranger's pistol at his forehead. The Ranger had jumped out of bed and put the gun to his head. Garner had intended to turn the alligator loose in our bedroom. It was a small alligator. After I explained that Garner was a practical joker the Ranger turned him loose but stipulated he had to take the gator with him. We went back to sleep and I slept soundly knowing that I was in safe hands.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Texas Southern University

Later on, George Washington Jr. returned to Houston to teach law at Texas Southern University. By that time the social atmosphere had changed. George had helped put together a program at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio which featured 26 different cultures in the development of Texas. However, while he was still at the Institute there was a development which should be reported. It was announced that a California hustler named Bulthius was coming to Texas to talk to the Institute about Hemisfair. This young man, who drove a sports car, had turned over on a Los Angeles Freeway and was in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, George had found a dummy which looked like this young man, the same one who had called him an Uncle Tom. George put this dummy on display and stuck a couple of pins in it. By coincidence, the pins in the leg and forehead were in the same place where Bulthius was injured in the California car crash. When Bulthius was wheeled into the Institute lobby the dummy and pins were still on display. When Bulthius saw the exhibit he went into a frenzy and had to be rolled away. He left town immediately.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

California Journey

The California hustlers met us in Los Angeles and set about giving us a snow job. They were helped in this by George Washington Jr., who agreed with everything they proposed. I realized that George was taking a pill every morning which made the world seem rosy. Then Boss Shuffler called and said it was time for us to cancel the Southern California group's contract. I knew that George would have to play a key part in this. So I got up early one morning and stole his pill bottle and threw it down the fire escape. George woke up and began looking for it, but when I asked him what was the matter, he replied nothing. By the time we got to our meeting with the California group George was sharp and business like. I opened the meeting by telling the group that the contract was cancelled. Then I called on George. He told them that under the laws of Texas that they did not have any rights at all. One of the hustlers asked him about recourse and he told them to contact the Attorney General of Texas. Then another one called him an "uncle Tom." I told George if he would punch this man in the face that I would post his bond. This hustler left the room. Then I told the group goodbye and went out to the front desk and called for a taxi. As we started downtown George began breathing heavily and I worried that he might be having a heart attack. The taxicab driver became nervous and I needed to do something. So I asked the driver to go to the nearest bar so we could get a drink. We went inside and the driver and I had a highball and I ordered a double shot for George. After another double shot George calmed down and we returned to our hotel room. I felt guilty about throwing the pill bottle away but in the long run it restored George. We returned to Texas and went on with our program.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More About George

Henderson Shuffler hired me to work at the Institute of Texan Cultures and I began to research the American Indians, the Spanish, the Mexican interests and other groups. I realized that I needed help with the African Americans and I told Shuffler that I would like to hire George Washington Jr. He agreed. I flew to Dallas where George had taken refuge after his effort to save the Freedom Riders had resulted in costly litigation. Emma Lois told me not to do it "Because George will kill himself." I told her that to waste the talent that George possessed would be bad and he might be better off dead. George agreed to go to work in our program. George began to assemble the bourgeois blacks and we produced some sketches of Blacks like Barbara Jordan, who was the first black in the Texas Legislature and now was headed for Congress, and various black athletes, such as the first one in baseball in the major league. George prospered. Then we ran into a problem with the California public relations people who had been hired to promote the forthcoming Hemisphere. Shuffler told me to go to Los Angeles and take George with me and cancel the arrangement with these hustlers. Next I will tell you about the California trip.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

George Washington Jr.

While I was covering the court house for the Houston Post I ran into a black attorney named George Washington Jr. George had graduated from the University of Texas law school, in fact, he was the second black man to graduate there in the Sixties. George was a remarkable scholar, but he still had some hangups about race. He married a black school teacher named Emma Lois and they had three children, all boys. George was doing well, drawing wills and filing probate, but he got mixed up in the turmoil of the Sixties. He decided to defend the Freedom Riders, a mixed group of black and white students from the University of California who rode a train from Los Angeles to Houston to protest segregation. These students were arrested at Union Station in Houston. Moderate black business men posted bond for the students and they were housed in black homes in the Third Ward awaiting trial in the County Court at Law. This aroused more emotion than I can describe becaused Houston was still filled with residents with East Texas attitudes. The result was that the students were convicted of violation of the laws which defined racism. Once again the business men posted bond and the students were free on this bail. The case eventually was overturned in the higher courts. However, George collapsed during this time and had a nervous breakdown. He had received threatening telephone calls and sometimes he got a call at his office that his wife had been killed. Finally, George gave up and moved to Dallas, where he got a job selling real estate. I will tell you more about George before long.

Monday, February 23, 2009

FDR takes charge

Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Hoover, and immediately closed all the banks. Those who reopened had to pass a test and be insured by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. However, it was several years before FDR was able to restore the nation's economy. By that time we were on the verge of war. The Japanese pecepitated our decision by attacking Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This led to our declaring war on both Japan and Germany. When I entered the Army I was issued a uniform which dated back to World War I and a rifle which also dated back. In other words we were not prepared to go to war. It took two years to gear up factory production so that we were ready to bomb Germany into compliance. It looked like it would take several years to subdue Japan and then HarryTruman dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. By that time I had been to England, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and a few side trips and had been overseas for two years. I was back in the United States, at Victorville Air Force Base in Southern California when the Bomb was dropped. It was a while before we understood what an Atomic Bomb was and how it had been developed. Ever since then we have been confronted with the possibility that some other nation will develop an 'Atomic Bomb,' and there have been reports that this has happened in NorthKorea and Iran. The world changed with the Bomb.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Great Depression

Daddy was killed in a car crash on the highway. He always drove too fast. Our world changed substancially as a result. We lost the automobile agency and our house, including the grand piano which mother never forgot. We moved into a smaller house. Mother took a job as a clerk which did not pay very much. I worked after school for peanuts. We were not the only ones hurt by the economy. The Great Depression was on in the 1930s. Millions of people were out of work. One of those who prospered was Andrew Mellon, the secretary of the treasury under Herbert Hoover. A populist from Texas who was serving in the U.S. House, Wright Patman, sued Mellon and forced him out of office. He went to England where he wore kneebritches as ambassador to Great Britain, appointed by Hoover. Nowadays he is regarded as a philanthropist because of the museum he left behind in Washington, D.C. I always thought of him as a Tory. I really did not get my head on straight until I served in the Army during World War II. I came home to be a journalist. Mother was upset because she wanted me to do something that would make money. She finally became reconciled.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Permian Basin

We ended up in Big Lake, a frontier town, which was a semi arid neighborhood with few trees. The attraction was that the discovery well of the Permian Basin had been drilled about three miles from downtown. Now there was excitement about the oil boom. At Best, about five miles away, which once had about three residents, now there were about 3,000 residents living in tents. Soon Best reached a population exceeding 30,000 and had a number of bars and brothels and a violent group of people with murders occurring every week. The Permian Basin eventually extended for several hundred miles into New Mexico. Daddy sold automobiles as fast as the factory could ship them. He was making a lot of money. I hated Big Lake because I compared it to California, which was a beautful land. My Daddy did not have time to worry about me because he was selling automobiles in all directions. Even the Big Lake was dry. On westward where the drilling was taking place, McCamey which once had maybe 10 residents now had 50,000. This was the late 1920s and it looked like prosperity would last forever.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Riding the Southern Pacific

Daddy started coming home with a severe headache. He went to see a doctor. This was in the early days in California and some of the doctors were incompetent. His doctor gave him a strong narcotic which caused him to hallucinate. I was standing at the foot of the bed when Daddy refused to get in it. "There are ants all over the bed," he said. I could not see any ants and neither could my mother. She was a proud woman but finally she swallowed her pride and called Grandpa Sam Moore in Dallas. "Hell, Omega, bring him to Dallas. We have the best doctors in the world," he told her. Grandpa Sam owned some valuable property in Dallas and was on the board of the hospital. We got on the Southern Pacific and went to Texas. Grandpa Sam met us at the station and took Daddy to the hospital. The doctors said it was a tumor and they would have to have a signed release before they would operate. It was located between his eyes and in the middle of his forehead. When Daddy was younger he played baseball with a minor league team in San Angelo. In those days baseball was played in the afternoon. He was playing center field when the sun got in his eyes and a baseball hit him in the forehead, knocking him cold. Later he seemed to have recovered. But this was the origin of the tumor. The doctors removed the tumor and it was benign. Within a few days Daddy was his old self. Grandpa Sam gave him $25,000 and he used the money to establish an automobile agency at Big Lake, 75 miles west of San Angelo.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Daddy Moore

My father was a restless man. When I was five years old we left San Angelo in a Model T Ford and set out for California. There were no major highways and we traveled across the country on dirt roads. There were no motels, so we slept in bedrolls. At night in New Mexico and Arizona we could hear the coyotes howl. Finally we arrived in Southern California and my daddy went to work for an automobile company. The climate was great, since it never froze, and we slept with screen doors. When Christmas came I was worried because we did not have a chimney for Santa Claus to come down. My Daddy told me we would leave the back door unlocked so Santa could come into the house. This part of California had fruit and vegetables. It was a delightful place to live. Why did we leave there? I will explain in the next article.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Farewell to the Balinese Room

During its heyday the Balinese Room was the most glamorous night club in Texas. But Will Wilson, the attorney general, did not go to night clubs and he wanted the prestige of closing it.
He sent the Texas Rangers. Christie Mitchell, the Galveston publicity man, took an Associated Press writer to the Balinese Room and told him how when the Rangers arrived the front desk set off a buzzer which alerted the game room. When they arrived at the game room they found men playing billiards. The gaming equipment had been dumped in the Gulf. The AP man wrote a story about the red-faced Rangers and this caused a flurry in Austin. The chief of the Rangers sent an undercover man into the club. When the buzzer went off the undercover man fired a shot into the ceiling and arrested everyone and then the other Rangers made it into the gambling room and took them away in handcuffs. This slowed down the B-Room, but eventually the game room reopened. However, finally all the gamblers moved to Las Vegas and the B-Room ws shuttered. Then a wealthy Houston man opened it for dining only. But the final blow occurred a couple of years ago when a Hurricane blew the B-Room away. It is sad to drive by and see a vacant spot on Seawall Boulevard where the B-Room presided for so many years.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Galveston before the Texas Legislature

A couple of Texas representatives who wanted to be governor saw an opportunity to score by calling the key government officials before the House Investigating Committee. They called Sam Serio, who was one of the key Mafia figures. He pleaded the Fifth Amendment. They called Mayor Herbert Cartwright. He told them that people do not come to Galveston to go to church. They called Sheriff Frank Biaggne and he told them he went to investigate the Balinese Room but they would not let him in because he was not a member. The hearing became a circus. I wrote an article making fun of Biaggne and he became angry at me. He called me up and told me to kiss his ass. I went down to his office at the Galveston Court House and he refused to talk to me and then left the court house. Nothing happened as a result of the investigation but the publicity reflected on the Texas Rangers. The man who was head of the Rangers decided that he would send an undercover agent into Galveston. In a few days I will tell you what happened.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Salt Grass Trail

Reese Lockett agreed to organize the Salt Grass Trail ride to publicize the Houston Fat Stock Show. He drafted E.H. Marks who lived near Houston and who furnished a covered wagon. A total of 7 riders made the first ride. The next year it grew to about 30 riders and 2 wagons. We slept on the ground, using bedrolls. It was a nice interlude. After that the Salt Grass Trail grew out of control. At its peak, riders got hurt, one woman got raped, and thousands of riders showed up. The climax occurred when someone threw an empty beer can into the front yard of a Baptist preacher near Hempstead. That was the year that more than 2,000 riders were counted, and an elderly rider was shoved into a barbed wire post, creating a gash that required nine stitches. At an emergency meeting it was ruled that riders must be assigned to a wagon, that the Harris County Sheriff's posse would provide law and order, and that large campgrounds would be provided. A total of 40 wagons showed up, and the trail ride became organized. The popularity of a three day ride from Brenham to Houston appealed to a lot of riders who had a horse but were not in great shape for riding. Politicians showed up, enticed by the publicity. The ride struck a chord in people's hearts. One year a couple got married on the trail.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Reese Lockett

Reese Lockett was the owner of a clothing store in Brenham. He also was the mayor of Brenham and the boss of the Salt Grass Trail, a ride to publicize the Houston Fat Stock Show. Lockett was tall but walked with a limp because of a horseback accident. He refused to allow the leg to be amputated, and it was stretched tight. This gave him a peculiar walk. In his youth Lockett had been involved in rodeo, and once rode on the circuit, and also in London, England. He also had developed a demanding personality, and had been known to call me and tell me to meet him in Brenham at 8 o'clock the next morning. He still kept horses at a stable on the outskirts of his city. If I drove him anywhere he would stretch out on the back seat so that he could rest his leg. I would say that Lockett was the prototype of a native Texan in the days when Texas still had a distinct personality. It was Lockett who developed the Salt Grass Trail, a movement which I joined and was actively involved with for eight years. The other character involved in the Salt Grass Trail was E. H. Marks, who raised cattle, including longhorns, on his ranch west of Houston. These two men were opposite in personality, but together they represented the basic spirit of Texas.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Foreman Brothers

I was at Lufkin and it was time to go home but I decided to go by the Trinity County Court House where Percy Foreman and his brother Zimmie were defending a man who was a client of both of them. When I drove into the court house parking lot there was Zimmie. He came up to me and said: "Are you by any chance going to Livingston?" That was his home office. I replied: "I can do that, but first I want to know about the verdict in your case." At that point Percy came out of the court house and grabbed his brother. These were big men, tall and heavy. The only difference was that Zimmie had an artificial leg. Percy grabbed Zimmie and spun him around. "We came over here together and I am going to drive us home together," he said. With that he dragged Zimmie off to his car and they drove off. I went in the court house and talked to one of the clerks. It seems that Percy had dominated the presentation of their case and that his vociferous style had offended Zimmie. Nevertheless, the client had been exonerated. Zimmie had stalked out of the court house but Percy followed and took him back to their home town. The moral of this story is do not get between two brothers. However, that was the only time they joined forces in court.

The Foreman Brothers

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Foreman Brothers

Percy Foreman was a dynamic character, a voluble defense attorney who could charm a jury. He had a brother in their home town of Livingston who was named Zimmie. He was older than Percy but also was a lawyer, and never lost a case in his part of East Texas. Zimmie did not deal in grandiose deliveries, but he knew his juries. Both the Foreman brothers were over six feet tall, and were imposing in person. The big difference in appearance was that Zimmie had an artificial leg. This was the result of a riot at Camp Logan in Houston during World War I. Zimmie was in the Military Police unit of the U.S. Army and he drove a Model T Ford which was the forerunner of the Jeep. Camp Logan was on the outskirts of Houston and to leave this outpost and go to the Negro section of Houston, which was referred to as the "colored" section, you had to go through the best neighborhoods in the city. During this old war the black soldiers at Camp Logan were forbidden to pass through the affluent white neighborhoods. Many of them had girl friends and relatives in the "colored" section. This led to a riot at Camp Logan and it was during this unrest that Zimmie drove into a violent part of the outpost and a black soldier threw a grenade at his vehicle. Zimmie was in the hospital for a long time and ended up with an artificial leg. In spite of that he graduated from law school, but he chose to practice in his home town where he was widely respected. Zimmie had his clients and Percy had a different bunch of clients, and they only joined together to represent a client one time in their existence. Next I will tell you about this case and the outcome of their representation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More About Buckshot Lane

As you leave Houston and go down Highway 59 you eventually will enter Wharton County. Once that county was the headquarters of T.W. (Buckshot) Lane, who was the colorful sheriff of Whartpn County. Early in his career he had a problem on Highway 59. This was a narrow bridge which stacked traffic up for miles and generally caused at least one wreck a day. Sheriff Lane called the highway department and wanted a new bridge but nothing happened. One day this ancient bridge caught on fire and was completely destroyed. The Texas Highway Department had no choice but to build a new bridge, which it did, a beautful two lane concrete affair which solved one of Buck"s traffic problems. When you asked Buck about this fire he always laughed. There was a strong suspicion that he had set the fire.

Monday, February 2, 2009

More Buckshot Lane

herOne of the most interesting characters whom I met in Texas was Buckshot Lane, the sheriff of Wharton County. One time a longtime resident of Wharton called Buck and told him that he had a problem. His niece, who had been living in Galveston, was living with him and his wife for their protection. She had been singled out by a Mafia character who wanted her and was stalking her. Buck said to leave it to him. He had the man pick him up and he laid down in the back seat and went to the house. He had a shotgun with him. Then he told the man and his wife to leave thie niece there and drive away. They did and not long after they left the phone rang. Buck told her to answer it. She did and she told the man to leave her alone. He told her she belonged to him. She hung up, in tears. Then Buck told her when the man came to the door to open it and let him in. Buck said he would be behind the door with his shotgun. Time went by and nothing happened. Finally, Buck decided the man had given up and gone back to Galveston. How the man found out that Buck was waiting for him remained a mystery.