Saturday, January 24, 2015

Did Jim Hogg really blow up an ostrich?

       Newspapers could not leave ex-governor Jim Hogg alone. In 1900 a Kansas newspaper carried the following story:
       Ex-Gov. James Stephen Hogg went from Austin to San Antonio, Tex., with the Texas university students to see the fair. The big ex-governor said he went over to have some fun at the expense of the pickpockets who, as he had heard, were infesting the fair.
       He had a mild infernal machine arranged inside of a watch case, and with what seemed to be a $400 chronometer in his vest pocket he strolled about the grounds in the thickest crowds, and with feelings akin to those of a man who carries a chip on his shoulder.
       While he was looking at a menagerie of animals, an ostrich spied the bulging pocket, and deftly lifted the timepiece. A ten-foot string attached to the watch, on pulling taut, was to set off the machine.
       “By Gatlings, light out, boys!” roared the big ex-governor, as the ostrich gulped down the timepiece. There was an explosion and a stampede on the midway. The manager of the show put on his armor and buckler and hunted the fair grounds many times over for the man who he thought has fed a dynamite cap to his star bird. But ex-Gov Hogg of Texas was then well on his way to the city to keep a pressing engagement with his friend and colleague, Senator Horace Chilton.
--The Chanute [Kansas] Times, January 26, 1900.

       Poor ostrich! The irony was that Jim Hogg had a pair of ostriches named Jack and Jill as pets at home in Austin. As Ima recalled, “Father always fed these ostriches with his own hands. They were always rather wild but came to him whenever he called.” 
       Not this one.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

So there, Rick Perry: Jim Hogg had his enemies, too.

        Longtime Texas Governor Rick Perry might like to think of another ex-governor: After he left office in 1895, James Stephen Hogg’s political enemies would not leave him alone.
        In florid prose, a Galveston newspaper quoted a New York paper in 1896:

" 'It was the Hon. James Stephen Hogg, then governor of Texas, who prophesied that the sky-abrading towers of Chicago would be besprent with the livers and lights of plutocrats if these persons kept on in their plutocratic career,' observes the New York Sun. Yet, in the last campaign, he spoke a kind word for the plutocrats.
He is rapidly becoming a plutocrat himself, and now he knows how much circumstances alter cases."
--The Galveston Daily News, Nov. 29, 1896

     But a Houston paper gave Hogg a pat on the back, praising him for “the wonderful hold he has upon the favor and affections of the people, a hold that no abuse or assaults from his enemies can shake.”

--The Houston Daily Post, Aug. 22, 1897

Saturday, January 10, 2015

River Oaks 1925: Houses for $7,000---and up.

     You bought your lot, but you could not build just any kind of house on it. There were regulations and restrictions. First, your house had to cost at least $7,000 (in today’s dollars, that would come to over $90,000). A panel of architects and citizens had to approve its design. If you built on Kirby Drive your house could be only English Tudor or American Colonial, and it had better be grand. (Drive down Kirby Drive today, and look at the results.)
      Elsewhere on other streets in River Oaks, there were homes of other styles. There were modest Cape Cod cottages, and massive mansions, Regency, Spanish Colonial, Georgian. There were Mediterranean-style villas. There were Olympic-sized swimming pools (one paved with imported Italian mosaic tiles), there was a Lalique crystal stair rail with a matching chandelier, and other such high-end touches.
       On the largest of the lots in River Oaks, fourteen and a half acres, the Hoggs built their own house in 1927.
       Ima called it “Bayou Bend.”

Saturday, January 3, 2015

“An intelligent, refined, and chivalrous society”

       That was what the promotional brochure said about Houston’s River Oaks, Houston's new residential area. The first house built there in 1925, at 3376 Inwood Drive, became the home of William Lockhart. Clayton, who, with his brother-in-law, Monroe Dunaway Anderson (think M.D. Anderson) founded the largest cotton-trading company in the world.
        Eventually River Oaks would be home to the legendry oil tycoon, Jim “Silver Dollar” West, business wizard Hugh Roy Cullen, and other founders of Houston fortunes. These were the big rich, but there were also the famous: Hollywood star Gene Tierney, astronaut Alan Shepherd, heart surgeon Denton Cooley, political headliners like John Connally and Oveta Culp Hobby, and a roster of other celebrated names.
       And last, but not least, were the Hoggs. By the 1920s, their oil fields were making them independently wealthy.
       They, too, would make River Oaks their home.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Happy Holidays--and an Ima Audio!

Happy Holidays! And a fine 2015!

Ima was born 133 years ago this coming July.

I hope she would  be pleased that she's now on an Audible Book, just out in December.
Get it on Amazon, Audible Books, or iTunes.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

River Oaks: “A veritable wildlife sanctuary”

      On January 23, 1925, an advertisement in the Houston Chronicle promised that River Oaks, Houston’s newest residential development, would be a fine place for wildlife, “one that will not be polluted with gasoline fumes and the furry and feathered creatures will not be frightened by the roar of motor cars.”
       This was a reasonable hope in 1924, when live oaks and loblolly pines were the only residents of River Oaks. Jungles of underbrush furnished homes for snakes. Wild violets shared the land with oceans of mud. When the first lots were offered for sale, the developers ordered two truckloads of rubber boots so that prospective buyers could tramp around in the muck.
       Individual lots at 64 by 100 feet went for $2,000. For that, in the 1920s, you could live in River Oaks.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A dirt road across a prairie: River Oaks Blvd. 1924.

       “Country Club Estates,” they called it. A 1,100-acre piece of land three miles west of Houston’s downtown. The Hogg brothers and Hugh Potter saw a planned residential park, a haven for affluent homeowners in a city of 250,000 people where zoning was a pie-in-the-sky idea.
       A model of urban planning, the new community would have wide, winding streets intersected by only three cross-streets. There would be parks and cul-de-sacs, and all the utility wires would be laid underground. That was in 1924!
       In July, ground was broken on River Oaks Boulevard, the first street in the new subdivision. At the north end was, and still is--the River Oaks Country Club. At the other end, across Westheimer, Lamar High School was built in 1937. Jokesters were fond of saying that River Oaks Boulevard was the only street anywhere with two country clubs--one at each end!
       River Oaks, once just a muddy road, would become Houston’s premier residential neighborhood, home of the rich and famous.
       But in 1924, property on that dirt road on the outskirts of the city was a hard sell.