OurBaytown.com - Baytown's Historical Resource

Reader submissions to OurBaytown - Baytown, Texas

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5-23-06  Bert, it is all in the eye of the beholder I guess. And the old eyes, like mine, see through those glasses of yesteryear. Not having lived there in many years, most thing look a lot smaller than they once did. But I can remember the drive between Wooster and old Baytown over the old Market Street Road ... changed to Bayway Drive when the city fathers, I suppose, felt the need for something more 'uptown.' Yet few probably realize today what history the old Market Street Road had -- and a way to get to market in Houston.
Leaving old Baytown, passing by the docks and where the old Humble Community Building once stood, along the way it passed through the then-prestigious Bay Villas homes area and through the main part of the little town of Wooster - that once had its own post office. Two stores on either side of Wooster Street and on the bay side of Market Street the homes stood high on a bluff.
It was wonderful to visit my Uncle Bert Brown and sit on his front porch and look out across the bay and see the San Jacinto Monument. No matter if it was the sun by day or the moon by night, the glistening water of the bay was peaceful. We had to walk down a steep bank of steps to get to the by and the pier where you could throw your line in. The last time I was in Wooster I cried! I vowed I could not go home again - and no need, really, since my mother had died. But the refinery had encroached so badly that decay was there for the once pristine little homes and well manicured yards. The few houses left - my grandmother's included - looked so sad my heart broke.

Looking to the left the eye could almost see the neat David G. Burnet Elementary School where I entered first grade. A large expanse of property where the drive made a circle around the flag pole. How well I remember the posting of the colors and singing the national anthem. I remember when Pappy O'Daniel visited the school. I remember when we learned all the songs of our fighting forces and bought savings stamps to fill the books that were later turned in to buy U.S. Savings Bonds.
Across the gully and up the hill, you could take a left out onto the Brownwood Peninsular - all of that was my great-grandfather Q.A. Wooster's land - land on which I was born in a little frame white house. Land where the Wooster Family Cemetery was until time and tide took it.

Stay on old Market Street Road and I can see my Uncle Johnny's Exxon filling station there in the bend, and just a little further Eddie Cox's Yellow Jacket Inn. Oh, my! What talk those carhops created! You passed through Wooster Heights where I grew up and on to the four-corners to make a choice on which road to travel. Cross the San Jacinto River and straight into Houston, or left to ride the Lynchburg Ferry, or perhaps to the right through Highlands and into Crosby.
History all around, and I can't help but wonder just how much of it the school children of today know about it! I thank you, Bert, and your OurBaytown Internet site for keeping some of it alive and well! Trevia Wooster Beverly Houston, Texas

Published in the Baytown Sun June 20, 2017 and used with authors permission.

2-5-06  THE SATURDAY PICTURE SHOW  By Jackie Taylor Switzer
Going to a movie was a real treat for me during my childhood. Going to the “Kiddy Show” was Saturday morning event I anticipated all week. Attending with friends was a lot more fun than going alone but if no one else were available, I would take my sister.

The Saturday picture show was not just a movie, it was a whole morning’s entertainment for the enormous sum of 25 cents, wages from one hour of babysitting. All the screen action started 9 a.m. but everyone tried to arrive early for visiting and getting the most desirable seats. I went with a set of rules, of course, instilled by my mother, but the controlled chaos always kept me in such awe that any infraction would not have been noticeable. The theater was filled with kids of every age, laughing, talking, throwing spitballs or popcorn, in essence, letting all their friends know they were there. Since the event was not over until after lunch, we took snacks, sandwiches, and drinks. Cartoons filled the first part of the morning. Actually, I didn’t like even the cartoon characters being hit, run over, or blown up. I never thought violence was funny.

I did enjoy the serial westerns. Hopalong Cassidy, Gabby Hayes, the Lone Ranger, Tonto, and Roy Rogers’ pursuit of Dale Evans were worth every penny of my 25-cent admission fee. The good guys always wore white hats and the bad guys wore black. Guns always had an inexhaustible supply of bullets, which ricocheted with a resounding “zing” as my heroes ducked around the corner when they saw the bullets coming. The bad guys always lost and were led away with their heads bowed in shame. The hero always got the girl but never acknowledged it. He sang a song for her, kissed his horse, and rode away, leaving a smile, a silver bullet, or a view of his horse kicking up dust.

Tempting ads for popcorn, drinks, and other treats available at the theater snack bar heralded intermission, and we pulled out our paper bags. Lack of screen action prompted action in the theater by kids whose parents would have been appalled by their children’s behavior. A talent show was inserted into this time, and we watched as groups and individuals displayed their supposed talents on the stage. I always wanted to try it but never had the nerve, or the talent. Many were jeered and booed off the stage. I never heard of anyone who made it to the “big time.”

My favorite part of the morning was the audience participation singing. We were not only invited to sing by the animated program, a bouncing ball deftly noted the words on the giant screen. The theater reverberated with sound! There was not always money or time for my Saturday morning adventure, but I made up for it. My first real job was at Brunson’s Theater in Baytown. I got into all the movies free.

10-7-05  Wow, thanks for the website and all those great pictures. Too many memories to list in such a short paragraph. My Grandfather was T.H. 'Hub' Bounds the first Fire Marshall of the Tri-Cites. And you can bet there are a few Bounds still left around Baytown. What to remember, the drag down Texas Avenue, teeny root beer mugs at Vel Mar Drive Inn (I had an aunt that was a car hop there before my time LOL!), My other Aunt worked with Eddie Cleveland down in Pelly, so I grew up knowing EC and his wife. (Yes I grew up a Pelly Rat), we then moved to Cedar Bayou before Carla. I attended James Bowie, Cedar Bayou, and Sterling the first four years it was opened. I can remember doctor's visits to Dr. Felknor was always soothed by a vanilla crème soda or malt at the Drug store in Pelly. And the only way to get to Galveston was the Causeway and the Hog Island Ferry. It always scared the bejeezers outta us driving over the causeway, because there was only a slight curb or you would take a dip in the water. I actually remember a couple of cares going over the edge and being stuck in the mud.

Let's see, Saturday mornings at Brunson Theatre (sneaking up to the balcony), the old pool hall at the other end, Culpepper's Furniture and San Jacinto Methodist where my mother worked as an accountant/bookkeeper, Dad worked across the channel at DuPont. Spending some Saturdays down at the old Firehouse in town listening to stores of the firemen, and watching them play dominoes, Santa Claus coming in on the helicopter to Sear's and Western Auto, The turn around of the drag at Brown's Chicken Shack heading back down Texas Avenue to the traffic circle. Those foil wrapped Steak sandwiches at Someburger! Dating a Brigadier when I went to Sterling, :)) Water Skiing down Cedar Bayou when Lord knows what was floating in the water back then. And let's not forget the submarine races out on Evergreen road on Friday's and Saturday nights, skeeters included, and double dating at the Decker Drive-In, when the movie wasn't what was on our mind and the PIC was smoldering on the dash! Roller skating at Bay Way and also down at Sally's roller rink off Alexander drive. Trick or Treating ALL over town. That meant from Old Baytown all the way across town to Cedar Bayou, scoring loads of candy. Hopefully you all share the same great memories that I did, I really only scratched the surface. And to all my friends that I grew up with there, and we grew apart, I have missed you and the memories we shared all those years. ... Paul Bounds  P.S. I slide down the fire escape at the school too!

6-23-05 HERE'S SOMETHING FOR YOU GOOSE CREEK OLD TIMERS. These hot days bring to mind the paving of streets on the East side of Goose Creek in the 1930's. At that time the common practice was to top the street with material from the "Coke Pile" at the Humble Refinery. The material was a mixture of coke removed from units, oil saturated filter clay from the Dorr-Oliver filters, and a general mixture of unknowns. When the temperature climbed above 90 the oil would boil to the surface of the topped street. It was always an experience to cross the street barefooted - almost none of the youngsters bothered with shoes in the summer time. You would pause to locate a shady spot across the street, hopefully one with grass, run across the street and try to rub off the hot oil before it blistered your foot. It remains without saying that you were careful to get the oil off before entering your home. For some reason the mothers were greatly against the tracking of oil into the home. Claude McClelland, Georgetown, TX - Resident of Baytown 1929 - 1993   claude_mc (at) msn.com 

1-16-05  I really enjoy seeing the sites of Baytown, I grew up in LaPorte, across the bay from Baytown. In the early 50’s, we took the ferry over to Hog Island. Then the tunnel was built and it wasn’t as much fun, but we got to granny and grandpa’s house faster. They lived on Park Street and my aunt and uncle lived on Francis Street. We would go past Henke and Pilot store on the “Circle” drive around and come up the old part of Baytown close to Fayle street and over to get to Park St. We would climb in the old china berry tree behind our grandma’s house and get into trouble for throwing the berries at each other. It was a big no-no. My mother had her right eye put out when she was 5 years old. Mary Frances Leslie attended Robert E. Lee high school and graduated in 1946. My other grandmother, Grace Wright, used to run an old hardware store in old Baytown called Texas Hardware. You could buy dishes, fishing lures, nails, you name it, we sold it. Down on the corner by Tx Hardware was a great little hamburger place that served delicious little burgers. I really liked going to “work with grandma” on those Saturdays. My grandmother Florence Leslie attended The Peace Tabernacle Church close to her house on Park St. It is still there according to the pictures. Sister Harvey was the pastor of the church and she was outstanding in her field. It wasn’t very common in those days to be a lady pastor. My little brother was born in Gulfcoast Hospital and my older brother was born in San Jacinto hospital. There are lots of memories, also the hanging tree in town where the road splits and the old theatre downtown. When I was a little girl, they even flew Santa Claus in by helicopter to the Western Auto! Thanks for the website. Great times!  Frances Brandes

1-12-05 1. Baytown is one of the ugliest places on the planet. It smells nasty, too. Local waters are as murky as coffee--yet the area abounds with such names as Crystal Bay, Clear Creek and Clear Lake. 2. Citizens of Baytown like to claim well-known people who left town as natives--but nobody can name a single famous person who will admit that they ever even heard of the place. 3. Baytown seethes with ignorance, anger, racism and homophobia. Those few Baytownians who recognize the names of Emmett Till and Matthew Shepherd think both of them got what they deserved. 4. It's significant that the only major films ever made in and around Baytown ("Hellfighters," "Urban Cowboy," "Robocop" and "Silkwood") used the town as a backdrop because of its industrial wasteland ambience. 5. A big-screen television set tuned to a football game represents the pinnacle of culture in Baytown. 6. Baytown is heaven for mosquitoes, fire ants, snakes and roaches.  Tom Horn

1-11-05 In 1952, the famous Robert E. Lee H.S. band played for the Sons of Confederate Veterans reunion held in Jackson, MS. The stirring music brought tears to the old vets eyes. In 1953, the REL band was one of five bands to play at the Cotton Bowl game on New Year's day. Street dances were also held on Nazro street in Pelly and were well attended. I was a Pelly Rat and knew that although it was not a term of endearment, it was unique. Pauline D. Brumfield

1-3-05  I was born, at home on Michigan Street in old Baytown, in January 1934---I forget the house number, but a tiny little place three houses from the Baytown Jr. High property. I remember the dense woods there in front of the school...Mr. Ashworth (maybe Ashwood) home delivering ice with his horse-drawn wagon...the milkman delivering glass quart bottles of milk to the door---half of it cream floating on the top...Brunson's Drug Store where malteds were fifteen cents---there was a squirrel in the backyard of the store in a cage...the Arcadia theater...Harbor Street with its brothels..."Harvey's" hardware store---kinda like a tiny Wal-Mart...The Humble Oil Hospital, VIP employee housing and the "Community Building"...watching the "House of David" (semi-pro baseball team) play the team from the refinery at the ballpark. We moved to Highlands in 1939...there wasn't any Decker Drive (road or drive-in movie)---you went old Market Street all the way to Four Corners and went north. I have crossed Cedar Bayou on the old rope-drawn ferry...I have seen George Walmsley run for a touchdown at Elms Field...been to movies at the "Texan" in Goose Creek and the "Palace" in Pelly. I saw Dr. Water's 2-story hospital burn down in Highlands as the ether cans exploded like roman-candles. I could on for another hour or two---thanks for this opportunity. Hilary Jones

12-21-04  I was born at Gulf Coast Hospital in Baytown in 1963. We moved to the Corpus Christi area shortly after I turned 5. I have a few memories of my early childhood in Baytown. For a while we lived in a trailer park on Alexander (near a convenience store, I believe). I remember moving into our brand new house on Crowell Lane (just across from the football stadium that was built about the time we moved away) on New Year's Day 1968. There are a few businesses which I recall--- I doubt they are still there today. One was a grocery store called Hathaway's, which had a wooden floor. I remember getting haircuts at Mac's Barber Shop and going to a movie at the Brunson theatre. I also remember the tunnel, which i always thought was cool, except that i always remember the radio going out as we went through it. I've been back a couple of times over the years, the last time was in Nov. 2003 to see my nephew play for Kingwood against Lee. The first time I had ever been to Stallworth Stadium. We made it a point to drive by the old house as we were leaving. I only spent a short part of my life in Baytown, but I'll always be a Baytownian at heart. Thanks for letting me share these memories, few as they may be. Craig Smith Port Isabel, TX

3-4-04  While talking to Charles Tallant and Dub Bolding the other day, they told me a couple of funny stories about this gulf coast area that I want to pass on.  Slap-Out Gully was so named because by the time you got that far from town, you were "slap-out" of it. § In Alvin, Texas, there was a Bison that was corralled behind a bar and it would drink beer from the bottle.  If anyone could out-drink it, their beer was free. §  Hardin also had a Bull behind a bar that would drink bottled beer.  §  'Catfish' Jack Randolph and his wife told me personally that at one time years ago, they had a friend who had a pet Javelina and it went everywhere the man went.  The really odd thing is, it smoked cigarettes and the man would light up one for himself and one for the 'pig'.  They both swore this to be the truth.  Baytown Bert

01-13-03  Can you or someone else come across information about the radio stations of Baytown? I remember a station on the side of Kilgore road at the curve at the end of James. It almost looked like the back door of the station would open into Cedar Bayou. In my mind the call letters were KRCT 650Am. Sometime before 1960 the station moved to Pasadena and became KIKK. Have you came across any information about the station. Another station was KREL. KREL played Rhythm and Blues(Rock and Roll) and KRCT was Hillbilly music. KREL became KWBA (1360on the am dial). KWBA became KBUK KBUK became KWWJ. These were at Decker(spur 330) and Wade Rd. KRCT was started in 1949? I was listing to that station until the mid to late 50's.  Thank you Leon Murphy

9-4-02  I am delighted to see Baytown has a website of its own. As I was born and raised in Baytown and my family came here in 1906. I found some things you probably missed.  1) Your information on Civil War vets is missing the Magnolia cemetery off of 3rd Street and Fayle Street. My father was the president of the Magnolia Cemetery association for a number of years. In doing investigations for the court proceeding to get Magnolia Cemetery designated as a cemetery he was able to identify at least 4 veterans of the Civil War as being bury within the boundary of that cemetery. If anyone is interested I might be able to find his paperwork on the names of all people buried in Magnolia Cemetery.  2) Someone by the name of Dawson asked about Cedar Bayou bricks he has found. My grandmother told me many stories of the two brickyard built along Cedar Bayou. The “old brickyard” as built just south of Roseland Park between the part and the railroad trestle. I believe it is now cover by the sludge pit. The “new brickyard” was built just north of Cedar Crest Cemetery. If I remember correctly the concrete enclosures were on the site of the city dump (which was also the site of the “new brickyard”) a number of years ago. I haven’t been there in 25 or 30 years so I do not know what it looks like now.  3) My grandmother worked for the Mr. Gaillard for many years and my mother went to school with their kids and she says it is spelled GAILLARD. The street in Baytown named after that family is also spelled GAILLARD. The city map also has it spelled GAILLARD. You need to verify the spelling of the name of the cemetery as well as the street named after that family. I believe you have it wrong on your website. P.S. My mother was born in Baytown (she will not let me tell the year!) but suffice it to say it she has many stories to tell about early Baytown, Goose Creek, and Pelly.  Charles Swick

A LATE NIGHT SWIM     By Jackie Bond Griesmer

From the late thirties until the early fifties you had to take a Ferry across Tabb’s Bay to get from La Porte to Baytown, Texas. One summer, years ago, when the World's Fair was going on in Chicago (1934), my boy friend decided to hitchhike there, leaving me behind. I was rather put out about it, but not be-ing one to let someone else hamper my fun, I invited my friend, Helen, to come and visit me. After a week at my house at a little summer resort town on the bayshore, then called Clifton by the Sea, between La Porte and Texas City, my older sister, Grace, and her husband, came to take us for a visit at their home in Goose Creek. On the way, while crossing the ship channel by the Ferry as we had to do in those days, we discussed a recent accident in which a car had plunged off the ferry landing into the channel. Miraculously, the people inside the car had gotten out safely, but I said that if it ever happened to me I would never come out alive because it would scare me to death. In response, my brother-in-law impressed it upon our minds that if such a thing ever did happen we should remember not to panic, to keep calm and think. As it turned out, that remark saved my life.

As we returned from our visit the next week end, there were five of us in a 1929 Chevy. My brother Lewis, another sister, Hazel Robertson, and a friend of the family had come to get us. The friend, who was not familiar with the road, was driving, my sister was sitting next to him, I sat on my friend Helen's lap, and Lewis sat in the back in the "turtle hull," or trunk. Fortunately for us, though we didn't know it yet, that model coup had large windows and they were all open. It was about twelve or one o’clock at night, Friday, June 8, and Helen and I were talking up a storm, telling about all the exciting things we had done during our visit. I told them that I was going to take a late night swim when we got home. My sister said that since a little cool spell was blowing in, it would be too cold for a swim. Even though every one else in the car agreed with her, I said that I didn't care, I was going swimming anyway. And I did. In fact, we all did, about five minutes after that.

Intent upon our chatter and forgetting that the driver was unfamiliar with the road, we suddenly rounded a bend and found that we were right upon the Ferry landing. He tried to stop but the breaks wouldn't hold, so he turned the wheel toward the side of the landing. I could see that there were old broken piers and posts there, so I yelled, "If you're going in, go in straight." I was al-ways good at giving orders in an emergency, though I usually couldn't move to help and I could just picture the car turning over and us being trapped inside.

He quickly whipped the car back and we broke through the guard rail, which
came through the windshield and hit me in the mouth, as we plunged into twenty feet of water. Not a soul moved until we settled to the bottom, ex-cept for Lewis, that is. When he saw that the brakes weren't going to hold, he jumped out of the “turtle hull” and grabbed hold of the bumper to try to stop the car. But when he realized that he couldn't hold it, he jumped back on and went in with us. We laughed about that later, because he was the worst swimmer of the bunch.

As the car settled to the bottom, I know that Helen must have been wish-ing that I wasn't on her lap and wondering if I would ever move. I was thinking that my boyfriend would sure be sorry, when he returned and heard that I had drowned. Then I thought, "I've always had a horror of drowning and now it's about to happen, the best thing to do, might be to just take a long breath and get it over with." But then I also remembered the conversation that we had as we crossed on the Ferry on our way to Goose Creek the week before and I de-cided that I should at least try to get out.

So I went out the window, climbed up onto the top of the car and gave myself a good push, up toward the surface. When I began to feel that I'd about had it, my head broke through the water and I could breathe again. I was the first to reach the top and as I looked around, I saw that we were right in the middle of the spot where the Ferry would be landing. I could see the Ferry’s lights where it was starting back across the channel from the opposite shore.

I knew that I was already too tired to swim around the pilings to the shore and I couldn't see a place to climb up. But then I heard Lewis yell at me. He had found an opening between two pilings and was in a sitting position, be-tween them, with his back against one and his knees pushing against the other one. I immediately swam to him and climbed up onto his lap and sat down.
By that time the others had surfaced and were swimming toward us. The men found that we could get between the pilings where Lewis was bracing himself and climb up to the road.

With a growing sense of urgency about the approaching Ferry, we scram-bled up the bank. If not warned soon, it would crash into our car hidden be-neath the water. But when we reached the road, we found that another car had arrived and the driver had a lantern. The men quickly lit it and signaled the Ferry, just in time to prevent another accident.

There had been a Fireman's Ball earlier that night in La Porte and the boat was loaded with people returning to Goose Creek. Because of our accident, they all had to return home that night by going back to La Porte and around the coast, through Houston.
There was a reporter on board the Ferry from one of the Houston papers who somehow got over to us to get our story. I kept complaining about having lost one of my shoes. When we read the paper the next morning, one of the headlines read,
"FIVE NARROWLY ESCAPE DEATH AS CAR PLUNGES INTOCHANNEL" and the writer also said, "Jackie lost her shoe."
As it turned out, I did get to take a late night swim that evening and the rest of them took it with me. They said that I would do anything to get my way. Luckily, all we lost was one of my shoes. Perhaps the conversation on the first trip over was more than luck. It was providential.

Submitted by Martha (Griesmer) Mitchell. My mother would be thrilled to know it will be read. She died in 1993. Her name was Jackie Bond Griesmer.


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