Saturday, June 29, 2013

“It has been so cool the last few days we could not sit on the porch.”

That was a resort in the Berkshires,  July 4, 1904. Mike and Tom were spending the summer there, with Ima.
         Mike wrote a dutiful letter to their father, who was spending the summer at  the family’s country home, “the Varner,” in Columbia, Texas,  on this summer holiday.

July 4, 1904

Dear Papa:—
Tom received your letter today. This being the fourth everybody up here are shooting fire crackers. Tom and I are not participating. We had a golf tournament here today. I came out fourth I came second in one we had last Saturday. I have not played the game over ten times in my life. I am not going crazy over it.
I have just finished the Marble Faun by Scott and am now beginning Waverly by the same author. I am studying algebra for next year.
Sister got a letter from brother in which he asked every possible question about Tom and myself. We sent him twelve pictures of sister Tom & myself. They were never taken at the right time and consequently look foolish.
From your description of the dogs they must be great. As for Patseys colt that is between Caesar & Nap. I think Caesar. You know he is of fine blood himself. I certainly would like to be down on the farm myself right now although this country up here is very beautiful.
It has been so cool the last few days that we could not sit on the porch. You can see the vapor come out of your mouth.
There are a great many wood chucks up here. Their holes are about the right size for a foxterrier to roll into.
I have written you two letters recently and you don’t seem to have received either. You have the advantage over me for you have a greater source of material. I will close hoping you are well and will write me or us another long letter.
Your Son
Mike Hogg

Happy 4th of July to all!

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 21, 1913: Happy 100th Birthday, Houston Symphony!

         As the twentieth century gained momentum, Houston grew from a city of 50,000 in 1900 to one of 100,000 by 1910. Even then, it had a traffic problem: streets downtown were clogged with new-fangled automobiles, buses, trucks--all sharing lanes with horses and buggies and mule-drawn wagons. There were no traffic lights, but there were other amenities. By 1911 there were 7 movie houses, 4 theaters, 6 dance halls, 36 pool halls--and 311 saloons. But Houston had no opera, no ballet--and no symphony orchestra. New York’s Philharmonic had been around since 1842, and the Philadelphia Orchestra was founded in 1900.
         Enter one young socialite (she danced at a ball until the wee hours on at least one occasion) who decided that Houston needed some culture. She had studied music abroad; she had heard the great orchestras of Europe, and in 1913 she set about making an orchestra for Houston. (She always downplayed her pivotal role, but as a friend remembered, she was the prime mover.) She persuaded local musicians to do a trial concert, and she found a place. The Majestic Theater agreed to allow a performance sandwiched between its matinee and evening vaudeville shows on June 21, 1913, at 5 p.m.         
         On that hot afternoon, with windows open and wall fans stirring the air (and, no doubt, music fans fanning themselves), an orchestra of 35 musicians played a concert that began with Mozart’s Symphony in E Flat--and ended with Dan Emmett’s “Dixie.” Then and there, the Houston Symphony Orchestra was born.
         Thank you, Ima Hogg!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"I still keep my dress suit. . . ."

  In answer to a letter from Ima, J. S. Hogg sent his own ruminations about the Inaugural Ball:
                                                                        Feby. 7th, 1903
Dear Ima:
         I was very much amused at your play on the “Bell of the Ball.” You know that Willie had always treated my social pretensions as a joke. Nothing amuses him more than to see me “gear up” in my “Ball Harness.” Indeed he is always ready to put it on for me, and will go to more trouble at this than at any other small accommodation for me. Well, I enjoy the “rig” and the joke myself. Some of the family must keep up with the fashions, and I guess you and I will have to do it. Will abhors the pastime and I fear now that Mike and Tom will follow his example. So let’s agree that no amount of fun made of my shape shall deter us from the past time and the pleasure of dressing fashionably and well at all times wherever we may go. . . .
          Social life of elegance and graceful simplicity has always been very attractive and pleasant to me. It is true I have indulged in it but little for two reasons: 1. That when I was young, and otherwise equipped for it, I was too busy in my work for professional and political success to take the time and spare the expense for it. 2. That since I have succeeded politically and professionally and would not mind the time or expense necessary to enjoy it, I find it very awkward for the lack of some one to go with me and by reason of approaching old age, to indulge in the pleasure. But I still keep my dress suit, like the one Will admired so at the Inaugural Ball, and am ready, willing and waiting –for you! Yes, for you to get out of school, and go out with me – at least once in a while; that is, at such times as it may be convenient to you. But thereon hang my “heavy hopes” – on a delicate thread: When convenient to you! I know my rivals to go with you will be much younger, more handsome and- and – well they cannot be more willing, nor at any time prouder of the honor. You have so conducted yourself at all times; been so thoughtful of your brothers; so kind to me and have devoted your time so faithfully and successfully to your music and other studies, that I am proud of you at all times. Yes I shall proudly take you anywhere, everywhere, that you may wish to go. Socially you and I will start out together when you quit school and there yet remains plenty of time for us to get all there is in it.
                                             Lovingly, Your Father,
                                                               J. S. Hogg

         J. S. Hogg always had fun.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Inaugural Ball, 1903: "A great jam. . . ."

         Ima’s father had hoped that she would stay in Texas long enough to go with him to the Inaugural Ball. In January 1903 Governor Samuel W. T. Lanham, a close friend of Hogg’s and a devoted fan of Ima’s, celebrated his inauguration as Governor of Texas. Ima, however, did not attend the ceremonies or the ball. She was apparently eager to board the train to New York, for reasons that remain mysterious. But Will and J. S. Hogg did go to the ball, and  Will wrote this letter to Ima afterward:

         The Inaugural Ball was a great jam--About five thousand perspiring, sorry-we-came, people lined up for the grand march, which opened the still-waltz tableau, in a lock-step crawl for a share in the programs which gave out before the tail of the procession got in ear-shot of the music. I waited as a looker-on until I saw the ugliest man and homeliest woman in my whole life and then sang “Sailor Pull for the Shore.” Thirty minutes there made me glad I was not a fool in every respect.
         There were a number of very pretty girls and worlds of spoiled silk-and-lace. Dress-suits from bottom-drawers which made the wearers smile before they got inside--and saw every body had one except me and the door police. Near three before the crowd cleared sufficiently for the dances to begin. I left at 11:30, had to fight my way through the corridors. Of course J. Stephen was there and had more fun than anybody. He was very much perturbed until late in the afternoon for fear that his dress suit was not going to reach him in time. It came, however, and he was glad. Fact is I was in a state of disquietude myself on that account for I really like to see him in dress.
         He left last Wednesday night for Beaumont but probably will return in a week. Aunt Francis is at the farm (Columbia) The boys are well but they don’t communicate.
                                                      Write to me –
         Will Hogg was 28 years old. He ought to have had more fun.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Holidays at Varner Plantation, 1902

Ima did come to the Varner for the holidays, but she did not stay long. And the old plantation was not easy to get to:
         Transportation was extremely primitive. The old 'Tap' Railroad from Houston to East Columbia was antiquated and ran only a few times a week. The railway was on the other side of the Brazos River from East Columbia, and there was no bridge over the river. Many times the roads were impassible, the Brazos River overflowing suddenly without warning. The marshes beyond East Columbia were a jungle into dense woods.

         But Varner was worth the trip, according to Aunt Fannie, who came for Christmas, and wrote rhapsodically to a niece:
        Oh, the beauty of it all! My room is across a hall, all latticed doors clear across at both ends, and, like the windows, fold back (from James’ room) – great Southern home rooms. The house is a massive pile of brick without a crack inside or out, three stories, with the kitchen, dining-room and closets on the first floor of a house that nearly form an “L” but misses about the width of a large room. The upper story of this is used by the gardener and overseer. Is it all furnished? Well, I should say so: just elegantly – parlor and all; wardrobes, beds, dressers--full sets of everything, even an organ. . . .

         There are twenty-five negroes at work here and James gives them and their families dinner Christmas also a barn-dance. Look at the crop of vegetables. 140,000 [bushels] of them which will fill 25 cars when shipped. English peas for Christmas – galore, expect strawberries for Christmas. 250 goat,s 50 fine cattle, 15 mules, geese, chickens, turkeys, and a horse, saddle and bridle for each member of the family. 4171 acres in the whole place, 1000 in cultivation, and the woodland tangled with blackberries (vines of course.) Good Lord! And all paid for.

         And a good time was had by all. Jim Hogg had his country home at last.

And the Varner Hogg Plantation site in West Columbia, is well worth a visit.