Friday, April 11, 2014

“He told me I was heartless.”

           On January 4, 1908, a mysterious young man paid Ima a visit. She wrote about him in her diary:
           “In the afternoon Ariel came to see me, making himself miserable again--I hoped he had understood after what I told him last summer. I acted like a cold blooded vampire--he told me I was heartless, but often I seemed to be sympathizing with him, it didn’t do at all--! Well, I was upset anyhow. He’s off for Heidelberg in the morning.”
         The reference to “last summer” means that she had met him soon after her arrival in Europe in July 1907. Where? What had she told him then? What was their relationship? Did she see him again?
         No one knows.
         In Berlin Ima met another young man, a violinist named Arthur Hartmann, who was just a year older than she. Like her, he was musically talented at a young age, playing his first concert at age 6. He had done an American tour in 1906-7. Did the two young musicians meet in New York while Ima was there?
         Ima kept a postcard card from Hartmann. a photo, signed “To Miss Hogg, Cordially, Arthur Hartmann, Berlin 1908.” He was young and gifted and handsome, with intense dark eyes and flowing black hair. . . .
         Who knows?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

4/5 Hours of piano practice--but what else?

        In one of the first entries of the diary that Ima began while she was living in Germany in 1908, she wrote, “I was most anxious to learn to speak German—more than to play music—really.” She already had some knowledge of that language, from her mother’s German maid in Austin. But now she wanted to become fluent.

         She also wanted to become a concert pianist. She had a Bechstein piano to practice on, and she took private lessons from a distinguished musician, Professor Franz Xaver Scharwenka at his house. He was a renowned concert pianist, and the founder and director of a music school of his own in Berlin.

         Ima worked diligently at her music, and scolded herself when she slept in and did not rise early to practice. 
Jan. 1 “Among my resolutions are to rise at half past seven.”

         But hours  of piano practice did not take all of her time.

         What else did she do?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A fragment of a diary, 1908

         What did a pretty, talented, young woman do for fourteen months in Europe? Here is where the mystery begins.
         In the Hogg papers in Austin are three folders of picture postcards Ima Hogg bought in cities all over Europe on her travels in 1907. She did not mail them, but kept them as a record of the sights she saw. She visited England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Germany. It was there, in December 1907, that she took up residence with a German family who lived in Charlottenberg, a suburb of Berlin, and began to study piano. At that time, she hoped to become a concert pianist.

         There is a fragment of a diary she kept there, in the winter of 1908. She was twenty-six years old.
         The diary is a small leather-bound volume with a lock. Ima wrote faithfully in it from Jan 1 to Feb. 29, 1908--and there the diary ends. Why did she stop writing?

         After all these years, no one really knows Ima’s story. She kept much of it with her until her death in 1975.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Depression, and then, “a livelier frame of mind.”

In the days after her father’s death, Ima Hogg, age 23, slipped into what we today would call a depression. She found some solace in taking rides with her beloved Arabian horse, Napoleon, almost every day. (Houston in those days was still a horse-friendly city.)
         In late March Will wrote to a friend that Ima was “improving, but still almost sick.” He was heartened by her desire to resume her music studies in New York. Will wrote, ‘She says she can more quickly find herself in that way than she can by stayng in Houston, Austin, or elsewhere.“ But four months passed, and she did not go. Will wrote to their grandfather Stinson that Ima had not “been at all well since father’s death,” and that she was “still quite nervous and restless, especially of nights.”
         In December 1906 Will took Ima and her brother Tom to New York, and she decided to immerse herself again in her music. Soon, according to Will, she was “in a livelier frame of mind.”

          In July 1907 Ima sailed for Europe to travel and study.
         She did not come home until October 1908.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Could not understand a word you said."

EX-GOV. HOGG DIES SUDDENLY IN TEXAS --The New York Times, March 4, 1906

James Stephen Hogg’s death made headlines far and wide.
The Times sub-headlines read:

         Had Been Ill for a Year; but the End Was Not Expected.


Trust Fighter a Picturesque Campaigner Whose Ejaculation “By Gatlins” Swept the State.

         And in Houston, sorrow swept over Ima Hogg. Among her many messages of sympathy was a telephone call from Willis B. Reeve, but her friend W.G. Harris wrote a note to Ima after that call: “Renn told me that he rang you up but could not understand a word you said.”
         Whether that was because of a bad connection (telephones were few, and long-distance  calls were still a new-fangled notion) or because of Ima Hogg’s grief-stricken state, is not clear. But that is the last record we have so far of Willis B. Reeve. Who knows?

But Ima Hogg was paralyzed by grief, and her brothers worried about her.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Devastation, March 3, 1906

Jim Hogg’s health seemed to be health seemed to be improving, but Ima and Will convinced him that in the near future he should visit the famous Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. Its founders were Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother, Will Keith Kellogg. They also founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, turning out the first batch of a historic cereal in 1906.
In early March of that year, Jim Hogg, who declared he was feeling much better, agreed to set out for Battle Creek. With Ima and Will, he left his beloved Varner Plantation and boarded the train to Houston, stopping to spend the night at the home of Frank Jones, his law partner. The Joneses lived in a handsome mansion at 2116 Travis, and the guests spent a pleasant evening on March 2. Hogg was his usual jovial self. He happened to remark that when he died he wanted no monuments at his grave, but a pecan tree and a walnut tree, with the nuts given to the “plain people” of Texas. Ima scolded him for talking of his death, but he assured her that he would be around for “many years.”

He died that night. On the morning of March 3, 1906, twenty-one days before his fifty-fifth birthday, James Stephen Hogg was found dead in his bed at the Jones residence. He had died of a heart attack in his sleep. It was Ima who found him. At age thirteen, she had watched her mother die. Now, at age twenty-three, she found her father dead.
As the Houston Chronicle reported, Ima was “stricken by the burden of her grief” and was “under the care of a physician.”
Seldom had the bonds between a father and a daughter been so close.
Note: Bayou Bend, Ima Hogg’s home for many years, is among the highlights on Houston’s Azalea Trail, March 7-9 this year. Worth a visit.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"It isn't my time yet to jump into the briar patch."

In the summer of 1905, Jim Hogg's health was not improving. A trip to Colorado did not help. Despite the cooler weather there, the altitude of 6,500 feet evidently taxed his heart. Later in September his weakened condition worried Ima, and father and daughter took the train back to Texas. They stopped at San Antonio to visit his friend Tom Campbell, and went then on to Mineral Wells for what they hoped would be a recuperative stay.
Jim Hogg was ill, but not too ill to keep up with politics. He had accepted a speaking engagement at a Dallas banquet in November, and he aimed to be there. He had been invited to speak in the presence of four candidates for Texas governor, and he was determined to keep his engagement. But on the train to Dallas he became too weak to continue and had to stop in Fort Worth, where He and Ima went to the Worth Hotel. There the resourceful Ima contrived to have her father make an Edison phonograph recording of his speech from his hotel room. She sent this new-fangled bit of technology to Dallas, where an amazed banquet audience listened to Hogg’s voice. He and Ima settled in at the Worth Hotel, where they stayed for a month.
Hogg, ever optimistic, remained cheerful about his condition. “By Gatlins,” he said a score of times to visitors, “It isn’t my time yet to jump into the briar patch.”

For the moment, he was right.