On April 15, 2014 Kerry Shawell sent me the following note: "Lamar Texans - No more Indians." I didn't know whether this was just Kerry's suggestion. Then Sally Mills Watkins shared with your lazy correspondent (me, and of course you, too via this update) a link to the Houston Chronicle report. As indicated in the article, the Houston Independent School District announced Tuesday, the 15th of April, that the Lamar High School mascot will henceforth be the Texans. (Two other Houston high schools and one middle school had their "culturally insensitive" mascot names changed, too.) Dare we hope that this settles the issue?
My husband and I are fine except for a tree through our roof, but no flooding. We are on the edge of the badly destroyed areas and can drive 40 miles away for food, gas, air conditioning, computer, etc. So we are majorly inconvenienced, though much better off than most, so can't really complain. It will take awhile for power to be restored even in the non-flooded areas because most of the poles are snapped off.
We are all pulling for the victims of Katrina. I've offered my plane for transport needs for disaster workers and forwarded donations to the Salvation Army, Red Cross, and Rice University, which has offered all Tulane students full fall classes and housing until Tulane can resume. I'm proud of all these groups, if not of our government's response.
My daughter, Jennifer, and her family (husband, John, and two daughters - one an infant , one a toddler) from New Orleans are staying with us in Beaumont. Their home is in the Garden District, a block off St. Charles Avenue. From what info we can gather, it appears that their house had no rising water. We don't know about glass breakage from wind or damage from fallen trees. Their home is a beautiful old nineteenth-century structure which they totally remodeled and expanded in size two years ago.
We sheltered two families of their friends at our beach house on the Bolivar Peninsula last week. One is Jennifer's OB-GYN who delivered our grandchildren and who is expecting her second child in a month. She and her family live in Old Metaire and believe their house is dry, as well. They are all worried about the looting of their properties, fires and their safety in returning to their homes. They all want to get back and start rebuilding New Orleans!
John's classmate, Harry Connick, Jr. (New Orleans' Jesuit High School, Class of '85) has already been on the scene at the Superdome and Convention Center, trying to spread encouragement. We believe he will be an important catalyst in the efforts to bring New Orleans back!
I just read your message and was surprised to see my name, but you are correct. The southern half of Slidell no longer exists, however our house near I-12 has only tree and landscaping damage. We evacuated on Saturday when it became obvious Katrina was growing into a monster. Presently there is no electricity in Slidell.
Joan and I believe the lifestyle we enjoyed in that area for 30 years may never return and have already bought a house here in The Woodlands near our daughter. We have finally returned to our beloved Houston once again.
News Flash from Hattiesburg, Mississippi - known as the Pine Belt - where the wind and rain hit us horizontally with Katrina at Category 2 for 2-3 hours straight causing a 2 ton tree to fall on our garage, and an entire forest on our 34 acres to be leveled. There are 37 trees on our driveway alone. We managed to clear the delivery road at the fence line which only had about 6 trees on it. What once was a deep shade old forest of pine and tall oaks, trees that were 80-100 feet tall and over 70 years old is now leveled to a few spindly young trees and lots of short magnolias that we never saw before. It has taken 40 pickup loads of debris just to clear our immediate yard. It took cranes and cherry pickers and professional tree experts to hoist the tree off of the garage. Gratefully the living portion of our house was undamaged. The wind was a constant moan during the height of the storm and it was truly awe inspiring and jaw dropping to see giant pines and oaks simply fall over roots and all like a house of cards. We were in the northeast quadrant of the eye of Katrina. We had no power for two weeks and we just got our phone back Sunday night as well. In the beginning, we could not even communicate by cell phone as many of the towers in the area had been snapped off. But having been a Girl Scout in my Houston and Lamar High School days, the old primitive camping skills and know how kicked in. We had been prepared. Then like an answer to prayer, one of my best friends from Lamar and my whole life, Sara Ince Hamilton and her husband, contacted my son-in-law in town and said they would come from Boerne, Texas and help clean up. They arrived the Friday after the storm with gasoline, chainsaw, non-perishable foods and work clothes. They had to take the northerly route from San Antonio and head toward I-20 and then drive south on US 49 from Jackson, Mississippi since I-10 was closed all the way from border to border. That was a moment when a friend is a treasure beyond measure. They came knowing that the situation might be rugged and hot and primitive. As we had a small black and white TV hooked up to a car battery borrowed from one of our cars currently not in use, we were able to see the devastation wrought upon the coast and New Orleans. All in all we seemed truly blessed and rather luxurious in light of what others were suffering. So we got to work clearing and piling, raking and resting when the heat got too high in the middle of the day. We stayed hydrated and hung laundry on the magnolia trees to dry. I felt like a scene from Gone with the Wind. Sara and Tom stayed a week! And got poison ivy for their troubles!
Gratefully Mother Nature has not rained on us since the storm. We live about 5 miles out from town. All the homes in town also lost numbers of trees and suffered tremendous loss of crushed bedrooms, dens, living rooms, etc. The streets are still not fully passable because debris is in piles 8-10 feet high or more and sometimes only one lane wide. Power and telephone is still being restored in some places where power lines and poles fell. We are still under a boil water directive out in the county. Many people lost their jobs when businesses and homes were destroyed on the coast, but businesses that do roofing, tree removal, flooring, dry wall, construction, landscaping, or interior design are booming. Even the company where my husband is newly employed, Howard Industries in Laurel, just received an order for 1 million transformers. Loggers are now looking for large poles for telephone poles. So hopefully we can have a timber expert check on our property, both here and the 140 acres of pines in the next county, sometime this week to see if maybe we can recoup some of the losses we have in timber. And we are just a microcosm of what has hit the state of Mississippi. The further south, the greater the damage.
The number of volunteers that have come from neighboring as well as distant states to help at all the various churches and community centers, helping people clear immense piles of debris and put temporary blue tarps on gaps in roofs, has been an amazing thing to witness. Hattiesburg is a city of houses with blue tarps now. Home Depot and the like are doing a booming business. The university where I work, Southern Miss, is back in class this week despite the loss of trees and inaccessible areas. Traffic lights are out for long stretches of road , but people are patient and grateful that Katrina was not any worse than it was. I am unaware of any loss of life in our community due directly to Katrina which speaks highly of people's preparedness and perhaps our good fortune. And we are gaining many new residents for at least a while - real estate is being snatched up right and left by coastal residents who lost everything and may choose to live elsewhere while they rebuild. Many might just stay - particularly those who are well-to-do retired not tied to any business. Or businesses may relocate here. Only time will tell the full impact that such a storm has on the demographics of an area. But meanwhile, the past two weeks have given time for contemplation of what matters most in life. It is the people - the family, the friends, the neighbor, the community, life itself - that matter deeply. Houses can be replaced or rebuilt, but life is a precious commodity. We can never repay all the kindnesses that have been done in this city, in this state. All we can do is answer the call when we see someone else in need elsewhere and pay it forward.
Hooray for the class of '58. Hi to you all.
We are in San Antonio on our way back home, having left Tuesday a week ago for west Texas. We spent 2 days in Kerrville, one in Fort Stockton, and 4 days in Marfa. I had spent the summer of 1946 in Marfa at the Hotel Paisano with my family...getting away from the polio in Houston, seeing the sights, and accompanying my dad on business. We decided it would be a good time to check out all the art, etc. going on there now, avoiding the storm at the same time. The hotel has been renovated; but it still has the same friendly, comfortable feel...and the streets are now paved! According to our neighbors; everything is okay with our house...only lost power for minutes at a time...and now we only have to haul the patio furniture and heavy potted plants back outside when we get home. Bonjour, Katherine
and best wishes back from Austin. Jan and i got out of Clute before Rrita hit like they told us to. we boarded up the beach house at surfside and took some stuff, then basically said goodbye to it. then we did the same at our house in Clute, and again, said what we figured was goodbye. we didn’t bother with the house we have lived in so long and not yet sold in Houston, let it fend for itself as we figured a major storm hitting it would do about 10000 worth of improvements.
So we trekked here to Austin, and hunkered down or, had hurricane parties and eating contests.. it only took us 6 hours to get here but when our daughter and family left the next morning from about a mile from us, it took them 19 hours to travel the same distance. same for our other friends. some 25 hours from Houston area to San Antonio etc. there were no hotel rooms but we had been invited to stay with friends in Roundrock, he works for dell. not to be tacky but the water in his swimming pool was a little warm, and i prefer a different brand of scotch but we made do. lol. That’s bad, considering the fate so many had on the road to hell and back.
they have told us not to come back too soon so we will probably wait until sometime in October, have to be home for the Neil Diamond concert on the 11th. we may somehow wear out our welcome before that.
the news was good. our neighbor in Clute stood in our yard on the phone with me today and told me that the 17 pecan trees were erect and not on our house. the creek was only rippling. at our beach house, no wind damage and no water inside, according to another friend who was there to check his rental houses, even more wonderful news. as for the improvements to the house in Houston that will have to wait ‘til we return to ascertain. not a problem. we may be the last back but that is ok.
just wanted you to know what actually went on during an evacuation from the coast. oh, the stories we could actually tell. God was on our side this time, for sure.
Carol Stevens Mattingly writes on October 27
Life is returning to "some" normalcy in the area that was targeted by the eye of Rita - Sabine Pass, Port Arthur, Beaumont, Orange. Am I the only member of the Class of '58 who lives in the "Golden Triangle"? There is extensive damage all over - roofs blown off or caved in, tens of thousands of trees down, many of them into structures. In my block and one down, two houses were sliced through the middle by fallen trees. Our neighborhood is called "The Oaks Historic District" and proudly boasts of some of the oldest and tallest trees in Beaumont - oaks and pines. Now many of them lie along the sides of the streets, already cut into huge pieces and waiting to be hauled off by the large number of specialty crews brought into Beaumont to help with the task.
Much reporting was done from my street, Louisiana Avenue, by both Fox and MSNBC. Journalists were staying at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital close by, and they were in our neighborhood immediately following the passing of the storm. Our sixty-five-year-old house is okay, but many are not. The news media came and went rather quickly, diverting their attention to other stories.
The storm hit on September 24. Our family followed mandatory evacuation orders and left on the 22nd. With us was our daughter and her family who had come to Beaumont as evacuees from New Orleans the month before. We drove to a friend's home in Monroe, LA, after hearing of the extremely long delays on the roads leading up into East Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We were right to do so. It took us only13 hours compared to the 24 - 30+ that friends and family experienced going elsewhere.
The water was potable here after about 2 weeks and the electricity to our home was restored after 2 1/2 weeks. Phone service and cable TV took 4 weeks. The next block down from me still doesn't have SBC phone service; and, according to the phone company repairman from Houston with whom I spoke this past weekend, my neighbors probably won't have service for a month. And we live in the heart of the city of Beaumont!
The wedding of a daughter of close friends is scheduled for Nov. 12. The site of the reception has been changed to the church parish hall since the roof of the Beaumont Country Club caved in. A new caterer has had to be hired. The parents of the bride, who live on the west end of Beaumont, have extensive damage to their home after a fallen tree opened up their roof over three rooms. I am having the bridesmaids' luncheon at my house and have offered to display the gifts here.
Numerous businesses are still not operational - Target is closed until Dec. 1 and Michael's Crafts, right here at Halloween time, is not open. I'm sure there are many others, but I haven't been out shopping much since returning on Oct. 17.
Communities north of Beaumont, such as the Jasper area, were also hard-hit by Rita, and it's taking even longer to restore that Big Thicket region to functional status.
There are still great numbers of outside help in the city of Beaumont. All of the hotel rooms are occupied by crews who have come from all over the country to service this entire area.
Since Houston residents escaped the wrath of Rita, I wanted to offer a scenario of what the neighbors not far to the east experienced! My grandparents, Julia and Julius Stevens, survived the 1900 storm in Galveston, but lost their four little boys - Leo, Frank, Gerald and Edwin (my dad's older siblings). Daddy was born in 1912 in Houston and, of course, never knew his brothers. The stories that have been handed down through my family of that terrible disaster are a lesson to me - evacuation is the best choice.
May all of your days be sunny!
Carole Stevens Mattingly
Ruth Denney, legendary Texas theater director, died March 26, 2007 at age 93. Denney began her career in the 1950s in Houston, where she taught at Lamar High School. While she was there, her students won six state championships in the University Interscholastic League's one-act play contest. Tune was one of her students. "High school theater was extremely important for me in helping to shape my later career," Tommy Tune told the Houston Chronicle in 2003. After more than a dozen years in the classroom, Denney took an administrative job with the Houston Independent School District and began to scheme about creating a high school for the arts.
In 1971, she founded and became the first principal of Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, only the third such fine arts magnet school in the nation when it opened. Skeptics doubted the school would give students a solid education, and the school wasn't even accredited its first year. In recognition of her contribution to its success, the Houston performing arts high school named its theatre the Denney Theatre.
In 1976, Denney became a professor of drama education at the University of Texas. She taught at UT until 1988. At retirement she was named professor emeritus and many of her former students and colleagues helped establish a scholarship in her honor. The Ruth Denney Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Theatre helps benefit theater arts students.
After her retirement, Denney was key in lobbying Austin Independent School District officials to establish the McCallum Fine Arts Academy at McCallum High School.
Denney's contribution to the arts has been honored many times by organizations including the American Association of Theatre Education, Theatre Under the Stars and the Texas Education Theatre Association. In 1987, she was selected to receive the Houston Mayor's Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts for her role in creating a strong arts community in Houston. In 2002 she was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame.
Obituary information from AMERICAN-STATESMAN ARTS WRITER, March 27, 2007
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