Saturday, February 23, 2013

"She rode a white horse..."

Ima Hogg loved horses all her life. She was an accomplished horsewoman. Sometimes she rode a white horse named “Joe,” a gift to J.  S. Hogg from the governor of Tennessee. Joe was “a gaited horse, a plantation horse, always beautifully groomed so he was a picture under a saddle.” Ima’s brothers were not allowed to ride this horse. Sometimes Ima would ride horseback from the 19th-Street house all the way out to Mount Bonnell, on the outskirts of Austin. That was a ride of about eight miles, there and back.
A University of Texas classmate remembered Ima riding her horse across the campus in  “a black close fitting riding-habit that only a woman of superb physique could carry off to perfection, the shining beaver [hat] with its fluttering veil, the gauntlets, the riding-crop, the long sweep of the robe over the feet, the erect and of necessity a bit unnatural carriage in the side saddle. Ima Hogg, unapproachable as she appeared seen atop the gallant steed, was in reality a charming freshman ”                                    
Vacationing in Colorado in 1900, Ima found a pair of horses she wanted to buy, and she wrote to ask her father. He wrote back immediately:
Find out what is the least price that will purchase them delivered at Austin. Are they stylish and good matches? About what will they weigh each? How do they hold their heads? What are their gaits? Do they work single or double? How many times have they run away? What are their ages? How many and what kinds of brands are on them? Have they been scarred, crippled, wind-galled, spavined or stove-up? Have they had the “swiny,” fistula or big-shoulder? Are they poor or fat? Have they long or short tails and manes? Have they a pedigree and if so what is it? From your intimation I infer that you would like to have them, and doubtless you will take an interest in them sufficient to find out the answers to these questions and let me know them. I rather inclined to tell you to buy the horses if you want them on your own judgment and that I will pay for them but upon reconsideration I concluded that it would be best for you to first furnish me with the desired information about them, so that I can pass upon the question of purchase myself.

J. S. Hogg loved his daughter, but he was a shrewd horse-trader.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"When a lady goes with a gentleman...."

When Ima began to go out with young men, her father was ready with advice. He wrote to her from New York in February 1900:
         When a lady goes with a gentleman she is safe in fact and also against suspicion and criticism. A gentleman is known by his general reputation in the community where he lives or by his acts or language when he is a girl’s escort. If his reputation is bad the lady who permits him to accompany her must share it with him. If his reputation is good, yet his language or conduct is bad while an escort or at other times, the woman who finds this out must take notice and avoid his attentions in the future. While alone a couple must act and talk with more circumspection than while in the presence of others. – I do not feel that it is at all necessary to say this much to you, for I have all along known you to be sensible, prudent, and well-poised. It cannot be amiss however to present these general suggestions for your own reflection in the light of the well known axiom that a woman’s character is her capital. When it is bad she is poor indeed. Yours is a fine one. I know you will always prudently guard it and from that source draw many of the genuine pleasures of life.
         A few years later, one of Ima’s suitors wrote her a letter, remminiscing the good times they had in Austin in their university days--especially sitting on the high stone steps of St. Mary’s Seminary in the “richest, mellowest moonlight,” when he and Ima “talked and talked of things and things. . . .”
         Ima may not have told her father everything.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Two joyous years"

When 17-year-old Ima vacationed in Colorado her father had cautioned her to “let buggy rides alone” except with her cousin Pearl. But the next year she was a freshman at the University of Texas, and young men began to call at the 19th-Street house in the evenings. Ima’s father established a routine:
Promptly at ten o’clock he went up to his bedroom when I was old enough to have young men callers. At ten o’clock a heavy dropping of shoes would be a signal for the caller’s departure.        
         Some of those suitors took Ima to dances:
         Every Saturday night we went to a German [a cotillion with elaborate dance steps] or hop, held usually over one of the fire-stations. The Driskill was reserved for the commencement balls. Sometimes there were hops on weeknights. –-Nobody drank alcoholic beverages at a dance—nor did a boy smoke without asking the girl’s permission.
         The dance halls were crowded and there was competition for a boy to get his name on the dance card, consequently there were more extras signed up for each dance sometimes, breaking in as much as three times.
         It was an unwritten law that no one drank at a dance. My escort one night didn’t appear at once for his second dance so my extra on the card was entitled to break in. But I preferred to wait a little. When my date did appear I smelled liquor on his breath and I was not allowed to dance with him. I went home with another of his fraternity brothers. The following Sunday afternoon his whole fraternity called with him to apologize.
         The second year ended with some five or six balls—fraternity balls—and then the big final ball at the Driskill. There had to be a different dress for each ball. Dancing didn’t begin until around ten o’clock p.m. and it lasted until the wee hours. Some dancers even went to a restaurant for breakfast. I usually arrived home near daylight ready for a nap. . . .
As she wrote of her university days,“Those were two joyous years.”

Ima Hogg was no wallflower.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The New House: "There was nothing elegant about it."

After the term at the Coronal Institute ended in the spring of 1896, Ima, Mike, and Tom were once again back in Austin in the clutches of the redoubtable Aunt Fannie. But they were in a new house: Jim Hogg had bought a two-and-a-half story house on a large lot on the northeast corner of Rio Grande and West 19th Street (now Rio Grande and Martin Luther King Boulevard). As Ima remembered this house, "There was nothing elegant about it, but [it was] in an excellent neighborhood and plenty of ground for a small orchard, a barn for horses and cows and chickens and ducks and a flower garden." Across the street the Hoggs could watch the construction of an impressive Classic Revival mansion, completed in 1899, by Dr. Goodall Wooten, the brother of their family physician Dr. Thomas Wooten. (The Hoggs’ house site is now an apartment complex, but the Wooten house is now The Mansion at Judges Hill, an Austin boutique hotel.)
Streets around the house were still unpaved, but a trolley car ran past it on Rio Grande Street. Just up the hill from the University of Texas campus, the house was a prime Austin location. As Ima wrote years later: “Father was so busy at his office downtown on Congress Avenue [that] he knew little of what was going on in the house.” To get to his office from his new house on 19th and Rio Grande, the ex-Governor took Joe, the Tennessee walking horse, and the buggy, or he used the streetcar which ran on Rio Grande Street and made a circuit South and North going over to Lavaca. The younger Hogg children did not often ride the streetcar, as Ima recalled, because it was “a tedious trip” and they “had rather use the car fare for chili or tamales after school.”
Now that they had a home in Austin again, Ima, Mike, and Tom began attending school there in the fall of 1896. Will was a student at the University of Texas, just down the hill.
As for Aunt Fannie, as Ima recalled, she “did her best to keep house—but that was not her forte." She moved in with "a number of canary birds to sing for her" and she "looked after them religiously."
She also taught Ima to sew, and to make her own clothes.  As Ima remembered: The only compensation for that was, I was free to select my own materials. Mother’s example had given me a taste for pretty fabrics. I can’t speak for my creations, but I studied the pictures on the old “Bon Ton” fashion magazines and did the best I could until I was ready to graduate from Miss Carrington’s school. Then I protested . . . . I went to Father and asked him if I could have my simple white dress made by a good dressmaker for my graduation. Of course I could, so that ended my own dressmaking.

Jim Hogg could not deny his only daughter anything.