My college sweetheart Rick and I were married in a double-ring ceremony in 1969 at Irwindell Methodist Church in Oak Cliff. Honor Attendants were Saranne, my maid of honor and good friend since seventh grade, and best man Carl, Rick’s good friend from Texas Tech.
I made my wedding dress using a Vogue sewing pattern. It was made of bonded white crepe, which I modified slightly by lengthening the back and replacing the short sleeves with long slightly belled sleeves of white lace. In place of a veil, I made a hood with the same white lace as on the sleeves of the dress, tied with a satin ribbon. It was a beautiful dress, and I did a very stupid thing when I got rid of it after Rick and I divorced.
My colors were blue and yellow pastels. My maid of honor made her dress from the same original short-sleeved pattern as my dress but in baby blue, and she held a yellow bouquet of flowers. The flower girl was my precious four-year-old niece Denise (we called her Neesy). I made her dress, too, which was a yellow A-lined dress with a yellow lace overlay. It was a tad too small for her, but I don’t think anyone noticed. My dad’s brother Gordon was my “official” photographer.
Rick and I purchased our wedding rings from Everts Jewelers, a prominent jewelry store in downtown Dallas. I think Daddy knew the owner or manager. As a wedding gift, one of Rick’s uncles generously contributed toward the purchase of the rings. My white gold ring set included a small but nearly perfect one-fifth carat brilliant cut diamond solitaire engagement ring with a matching thin band. Rick’s plain polished band was also white gold.
Something old – my grandmother’s opal and garnet ring, its band worn thin from wear on the underside
Something new – my dress
Something borrowed – a mother-of-pearl Bible borrowed from a friend (a white orchid held on top by a white satin ribbon)
Something blue – a blue garter under my dress
Not following tradition:
Something metallic – braces on my teeth, which I had been wearing for almost three years.
A reception followed the wedding ceremony at the church. As it was about to begin, Daddy stood up on a chair and announced there would be a slight delay while someone ran home to retrieve the guest book which we had forgotten. We had wedding cake, punch, and coffee, but no champagne. After the reception, I changed into my home-made “going-away” clothes – a gold brocade vest worn over a plain beige dress with peasant-style sleeves and neckline.
We made haste for our honeymoon destination – Six Flags Over Texas! We spent a day at the park and a couple of nights in a very small room at the Spanish Inn motel near the park. We then returned to Oak Cliff to see my parents for a few days, then moved to San Angelo where Rick and I planned to attend college.
It was a plain and simple no-frills wedding. Expenses were minimal but probably still a lot for my family at the time. I was the last of three daughters for Daddy to give away, which must have been sad for him and Mother but a relief for them at some level.
My mother’s best friend Mary Beth lived across the street from us on Mt. Pleasant St. in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas. Our families were good friends, and I played often with their son Andy when I was a little girl. Andy and his family eventually moved away from Mt. Pleasant; and later in 1962 we did, also. Both families still lived in Oak Cliff; but, except for occasionally bumping into Andy at school ball games, I had very little contact with him for several years. Our moms, on the other hand, spoke to each other and saw each other regularly.
Andy was a member of the Westminster Youth Choir at Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church. One day he called me to talk about the choir. He invited me to visit one of their rehearsals and asked me to consider joining. I accepted his invitation to visit and quickly became a member of this warm and inviting group of teens.
The choir’s beloved director was William C. Everitt, a.k.a. “Mr. E.” We sang regularly for the congregation at the church and occasionally on the radio, and we recorded long-playing albums. Each summer the group also made an annual two-week tour around the U.S. and Canada. It took three Greyhound buses to accommodate our group of approximately 70 teens and its sponsors/chaperones. The choir raised money for tour expenses by holding paper drives. Then each traveling member contributed toward the amount that was still needed to cover remaining expenses. Normally, while I was a member in 1966-68, each tour participant paid about $70 a trip, some of which was returned to us a few dollars at a time for miscellaneous expenses.
Each traveling member chose or was assigned a tour partner. Carolyn, who was a current member when I joined, asked me to be hers. She and I went to different high schools and did not know each other before I joined. I said yes, and we were tour buddies until we graduated from high school.
Through at least 1968, the same three bus drivers drove us around the country: Charlie, Smitty, and Shorty. They were virtually one and were very kind and patient with all of us loud and rambunctious teens. We were good kids, though, as far as I know.
During my three summers with the choir, we traveled across the United States and into Canada. Some of the places we were privileged to see were: Niagara Falls, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Washington’s Mt. Vernon plantation home, the Washington Monument, Pikes Peak, Yellowstone National Park, Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, the Expo ’67 World’s Fair, and more.
At Expo ’67 World’s Fair in Montreal, I remember a 360° cinema exhibit called “Canada 67.” Spectators walked into a large round room and stood in the middle surrounded by projection or TV screens. I watched as horses galloped toward me and around me, then disappeared behind me. It was much like an Omni Theater experience today but a marvel in 1967.
The choir only stayed in hotels when necessary. In cities where we performed, we stayed with church members in their homes. I believe it was in Montreal where Carolyn and I stayed with a family in an old three-story brick row house. The home and neighborhood fascinated me, and the huge ranch style breakfast they served was memorable – cereal, fruit, biscuits, toast, bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, waffles, pancakes, freshly squeezed orange juice…you name it! This is where I discovered how scrumptious real cream on cereal was! I had never tasted anything so divine. Also, I never forgot the old bathtub on the top floor. As I eased back in the bathtub that night, I saw the starry night sky through a large clear skylight high above the tub. A skylight directly over the bathtub was something new to me, and I was a little uncomfortable.
Our trip through Virginia and Washington D.C. in 1966 took us to Arlington National Cemetery and John F. Kennedy’s gravesite. This was my first visit there, and I was a bit overwhelmed. I was in Dealey Plaza in Dallas in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated just a few years earlier, but it felt like decades ago at the time.
We passed through Las Vegas in 1968 and spent one night at the Sands, I believe. Mr. E allowed choir members to break up into small groups that evening and walk around unchaperoned until our 10 p.m. curfew. My group started our night of excitement by going to the hotel café where each of us dared to order a soft drink garnished with an umbrella! Next, we tried to get a peek into a small showroom in one of the hotels, but the doorman closed the dark curtains and shooed us away every time we giggling troublemakers walked by. We had an early curfew that night and an early departure the next morning. To get to our rooms from the front of the hotel, we walked through an area right next to and open to poker tables in the smoke-filled casino. When we left the next morning around 7:00 a.m., the same guys were still dealing and smoking at the same table. I didn’t know people did that!
At the time, I was not able to appreciate how much work went into planning and executing a trip like these choir tours for 70 teenagers. We kids just showed up with our suitcases, ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the bus (or in my case, jelly sandwiches), went where we were told to go when we were told to, and sang and prayed our merry way across the continent. What fun it was for us and what a huge undertaking and responsibility for all of the adults who planned and/or participated in these trips.
I am guessing that Andy was an innocent accomplice to a plan hatched by our mothers to coax me out of my comfort zone, and I am grateful he made that phone call to me that day. As a member of the Westminster Youth Choir I got to see breathtaking sights, meet many wonderful people across the U.S., and sing in beautiful and historic churches. Again, I find myself wishing I had taken more photographs and kept travel logs.
Being part of the Westminster Youth Choir changed my life forever. I made many good friends and had many rich, rewarding, and spiritual experiences. Our performances were conversations with God.
In 1962 we moved from Mt. Pleasant St. to our house on Ovid, which was in a very new neighborhood farther south in Oak Cliff. Westcliff Mall was my favorite hangout. It was an easy walk from our house, and I could get there on my own. Per the Oak Cliff Advocate article by Gayla Brooks dated October 27, 2014, mall construction began in 1963. Oak Cliff’s first indoor mall was located on the northeast corner of Ledbetter/Loop 12 and South Hampton Rd. intersection, about one-half mile south of our house.
Mother made almost daily trips to the Kroger grocery store at Westcliff Mall. If not there, she went to the A&P on Kiest Blvd., which was only slightly farther from our house. I often walked to the mall with one of my two best friends Saranne or Gay. I loved browsing through the cosmetic section of the drug store. Lipsticks, eye shadows, and powder compacts were my favorites. My parents didn’t particularly like the idea of my hanging out in the drug store, and they lectured/cautioned me at least once about shoplifting – if a product went missing in the store, I could be accused of taking it just by being there. I was very careful not to do anything that might lead anyone to think I was shoplifting.
After I graduated from high school in 1968, I used money I earned from my summer job at LTV to shop at Margo’s La Mode for a few clothing items to take with me to Texas Tech in the fall. I don’t remember what else I bought, but I vividly remember purchasing a very stylish 60s style lime green suede and black leather coat with three-quarter length sleeves, which I wore with three-quarter length black leather gloves. I loved that coat. It was “groovy.” I wish I had kept it, but I still have the gloves and wore them with other things until maybe only a decade ago. Mother seemed to approve of my purchases. I think the coat cost about $50, and I wore it a lot. I don’t have a picture of it, but I drew a rough likeness of the coat on the computer just for fun.
There was an apartment complex on the east side of the mall. A very visible alley ran between the apartments and Loop 12 to the south. One day Mother let me have the car to run to the grocery store for her. While I was out, I took the car for an unapproved spin around the block and ended up going down the alley, where I got a flat tire. When I began driving, Daddy showed me how to change a flat tire, but then he told me never to change a tire myself, unless absolutely necessary. So, like a good daughter, I called home, and he came to change the tire for me. I don’t remember how I explained to him why I was in the alley. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe he didn’t ask. He was a good father.
While I was still in elementary school, my dad said I could get my teeth straightened, but only if I decided on my own that I wanted to correct my overbite – the decision was mine to make. At first, I said no; but I thought about it for years and became more and more self-conscious of my teeth, so I finally decided in tenth grade to do it. I remember when I first thought seriously about it: the school held a “hillbilly day,” and for some reason I thought I would wear red lipstick with my costume. I quickly discovered that dark red lips made my overbite/buck teeth even more prominent. I wore braces for three years. My orthodontist Dr. Robert Stringfellow officed in the Westcliff Mall office building. He didn’t promise, but he said I might not have to wear headgear if I followed his instructions. He also said overbites like mine often needed headgear to correct. So I followed his instructions to a T, my teeth did exactly what he said they should do, and I never had to wear headgear. Dr. Stringfellow removed my braces a few months after I was married in 1969. He liked to take credit for my “finding” a husband. I only recently quit having bad dreams about my teeth hurting or falling out or losing my retainer. I recently Googled Dr. Stringfellow’s name and discovered that he passed away in 2017. May he rest in peace.
Westcliff Mall was entirely demolished in 1997 and replaced with a new shopping center.
I don’t remember much about Patsy while she was still living at home. She is ten years older than I, and she married and left home when I was almost ten. Swimming with her is one of her and my favorite memories. She earned her Red Cross lifeguard certification and taught swimming for the YWCA to small groups and individuals. She taught me to swim, although I don’t actually recall learning, because I was so young and (excuse the double negative) I don’t remember not knowing how to swim.
Patsy said one of her fondest memories of her baby sister is treading water under the low diving board and waiting for me to jump into her arms and swim to the side. I was probably younger than five. We swam often at Weiss Park in Oak Cliff. One time the lifeguard blew the whistle at me and told me I couldn’t be in the deep end of the pool unless I could swim across the deep end unaided, so I showed him how to do it. Patsy swam with me, without making any contact, in case I got into trouble. I was so proud of myself, and my family was proud, too – not to mention the look of surprise on the lifeguard’s face. I remember having quite an audience, and it really was quite a feat. I had not an ounce of fat on my body; so when I quit swimming, I sank like a rock – not like now.
Patsy told me that Mother and Daddy let her drive the car by herself for a couple of years before she legally obtained her driver’s license. They probably did that so she could help chauffeur me and my sister Nancy around and run other errands for Mama. Patsy remembers driving to Weiss Park to swim and to Mereck’s grocery store on Gilpin near Ft. Worth Highway (U. S. Hwy. 80). She reminded me of a time when she was driving, and I was in the back seat right behind her having trouble with my whirligig, which I was holding out the window. It was just the two of us, and we were only a block from home going down Frances St. I remember this fairly well and vaguely remember that a telephone pole was involved somehow. Patsy writes,
The wind was too much, and the whirligig wouldn’t turn, so I just turned around to help you. Your little voice still rings in my ears. “Watch out Patsy. You’re gonna hit the house.” I turned around and discovered we had gone up the drive into the alley and crossed over into someone’s yard and was headed right for the back of the house. I quickly turned the steering wheel, slammed on the brakes, and jumped the curb back down into the street….I remember it so clearly. It was summer time and hot, and we were in the little white Ford (model?). You were sitting on the little box in the back seat with only your underpants on. I don’t know where we were going.
My mother’s brother Fred, his wife Thelma, and their daughter Phyllis lived in Hawaii in 1958. Fred worked for the FBI. That year, a year before Hawaii received statehood, they invited Patsy to visit them in Hawaii for the summer. It was a high school graduation gift for Patsy from Mom and Dad and from Fred, Thelma, and Phyllis. Patsy so loved the ocean and the islands and has dreamy memories of that summer. Thanks to our cousin Phyllis and her parents, my sister was able to see Hawaii under the very best of circumstances – as a local and before it became a state and so commercialized. Patsy had a high fidelity long-playing record album of tropical island style music called “Taboo” by Arthur Lyman. I still have the 33 1/3 album. She brought me a grass skirt when she returned from Hawaii that summer, and I played that album and danced tirelessly around my room for years to come. I listened to that music on YouTube while writing this chapter…minus the grass skirt and the hula dancing, which was tempting. Have a listen to “Taboo.”
In January 1960 Patsy married Bob, her handsome Air Force veteran boyfriend. I was almost ten. Bob was a student at The University of Texas in Austin, where he obtained his degree in electrical engineering. Before they were married, Bob drove his Triumph motorcycle from Austin to Dallas to see Patsy. At least once he took me for a ride around the block on his bike. The family drove to Austin to visit the newlyweds during the summer of 1960. Bob was nice enough to invite his ten-year-old sister-in-law to play tennis at a nearby tennis court, where he taught me the basic rules of the game. They lived in a garage apartment on Enfield Road, and before we left to walk down the hill with our tennis gear, I went into the bathroom to take care of some business. There, on the wall right in front of me, was a magazine rack; and as I began browsing through the eclectic assortment of magazines, I found a Playboy. I had never seen anything like that before. I was mesmerized and completely lost track of time. I’m not sure how long I stayed in the “reading room,” but apparently long enough to be missed. Bob and the whole family began looking for me, and I could hear Mother calling my name. I felt very guilty when I walked out of the bathroom, but I tried desperately to act normal. I thought things were going OK until, instead of asking who had the tennis balls, I blurted out, “Where’s the Playboy?” Everyone laughed, except me. I erupted in a bright red-hot blush of embarrassment like no other time before or probably since – another memorable moment that Mother loved to repeat.
While Patsy and Bob still lived in Austin, my other sister Nancy had major back surgery in Houston. This was the summer of 1962 after Nancy’s high school graduation. I was twelve. I will say more about Nancy and her back surgery in a subsequent post, but she was in the hospital in Houston for two weeks. During that time, I stayed in Austin with Pat, Bob, and their toddler Michael. They lived in the Deep Eddy Apartments, which was campus housing for The University of Texas but was originally built as military housing for the nearby army base. The two-story apartments were made of wood and built on stilts. I believe they were painted white with dark green trim. Steps led up to the front door which opened onto the interior stairs and into the living room. The living room opened to the kitchen, where there was another door that opened outside to the back. The kitchen had a double sink, one of which was deep enough in which to bathe Michael. Their apartment had two small bedrooms and a bath upstairs. Bob built a desk in the very narrow hallway between the two bedrooms upstairs, and he stayed up late at night studying in his dark makeshift but adequate study. He must have been thrilled to have his chatty 12-year-old sister-in-law around for two weeks to help him study.
Aside from all of the beautiful Highland Lakes in and near Austin, there are some other interesting and scenic places to swim. While Pat and Bob were living in Austin, they introduced me to the frigid waters of Barton Springs, a picturesque natural spring pool which is open all year. We also frequented Deep Eddy Pool, which is another natural spring pool surrounded by huge old oak trees and was walking distance from the Deep Eddy apartments. About 25 miles from Austin is Hamilton Pool, which was and still is also natural and is now designated a nature preserve. During the summer, reservations are now required at Hamilton Pool Preserve due to the high volume of visitors. In the 1960s, reservations were not required, but I think there was still a small entrance fee. It was and still is a spectacular place to visit. A 50 foot waterfall flows into a collapsed grotto pool below that is so deep the old rumor was that it was bottomless. It isn’t, of course, but it is very deep, about 30 feet. One time Daddy and Mother let me swim above the falls, which is not permitted now. The beautiful clear stream flowed through a series of small pools formed in limestone riddled with holes. I had the best time exploring the limestone nooks and crannies. When I emerged from the water hours later, I discovered my fingertips were all bleeding, rubbed raw from holding onto the rocks. Aside from swimming, Hamilton Pool Preserve is a great place for nature hikes, but I recommend not going in the heat of the summer, as there is not much of a breeze down toward the pool. My sisters and I made that mistake a few years ago, and it was a struggle for us to get back up the hill in the heat.
Two things I have never forgotten about my stay in Austin were the grackles (noisy, black, crow-like birds with yellow eyes) and the GIANT beetles in the trees around Deep Eddy Apartments. I had never before seen anything like the cottonwood borer beetle. I remember these beetles as being nearly as big as my hand, but they are actually closer to two inches long. Occasionally, one of those monsters made its way into the apartment. It was too big to swat, so I always called for reinforcements, if I saw it first. I’m not sure how Patsy took care of the problem, I was just glad I didn’t have to. There must have been an infestation at the time, because I have lived in the Austin area since 2003, and I have yet to see one.
While staying with Patsy and family during the summer of 1962, my parents enrolled me in a horseback riding day camp to keep me entertained. Patsy shuttled me back and forth and made me a sack lunch every day. I was in horse heaven. I already knew how to ride pretty well, but I also learned to care for the animal – from cleaning hooves, grooming, putting on the reins and saddle, etc. I learned from experience that it wasn’t easy for this skinny twelve-year-old girl to saddle a big horse and cinch it tightly. My enormous horse Mr. Walker mastered the trick of bloating up his stomach while I tightened the cinch; and as soon as I was sitting proudly in the saddle, he relaxed, and the saddle and I slipped over. I was paired with Mr. Walker for the entire two weeks, and we got along fine after we got acquainted. That was the summer when I learned how much horses love to roll in the mud after a rain, even if someone is in the saddle. Maybe I should say, especially if someone is in the saddle. The following winter, I took my parents to meet Mr. Walker for the first time. I certainly must have known better, but I walked right up to him to give him a warm greeting. As I approached, he stretched out his long neck and bit me on my chest – hard. It hurt, and I was badly bruised, but it didn‘t break the skin because it was cold and I was wearing a heavy corduroy coat. It certainly would have been much worse had I not been wearing that overcoat. Mother was afraid this wound, which covered the entire left side of my chest, would cause a problem for me when I began to develop. She took me to see Dr. Graham, our family physician, when we got back home to Dallas; but he said there was nothing he could do to help it heal. The area was swollen, sore, and very black and blue for a quite a while, but I had no serious long-term problems.
I have many happy memories of my early childhood with my sister Patsy. After she left home, our lives diverged for a while, and we didn’t have a lot in common to talk about. However, after I married and began having children, we became close again. Mother said that would happen. Mother was right.
Football season is here, and my being a Dallasite and a Dallas Cowboys fan brings me to this anecdote:
From the early 1970s to the early 1980s, my former husband Rick was a banker. Sometime during the latter part of his banking career, he and I were on bank-sponsored day trip to a picnic/bar-b-cue being held at a ranch on a hilltop southeast of Dallas on the road to Kaufman. It was a beautiful place with a panoramic view. Our group included at least two busloads of people who were with or associated with the bank, along with a few honored guests. One of the special guests was Tex Schramm, original president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys and host of a talk show at the time about the Cowboys and the NFL. He was on the same bus with Rick and me, and Rick did not miss this opportunity to rub elbows with him. At some point on the bus ride to our BBQ destination, I mentioned to Rick on the side that I thought “Aztec” was a odd name for someone. Rick looked at me quizzically and asked what prompted my remark. I answered, “Because his show is called the ‘Aztec Schramm Show.'” (Most people reading this probably know that the show was actually called the “Ask Tex Schramm Show.”) Rick howled with laughter, promptly turned to where Tex Schramm was seated and told him and everyone within earshot (the whole bus) what I had just said. Mr. Schramm, being a gentleman, accepted this in fun and didn’t seem offended. I’m pretty sure, however, that I turned every shade of red.
One fall day when I was about fourteen years old, I was riding in the car with my parents on our way to Sunday dinner after church. I suddenly mentioned that I would like to have a puppy. Neither of my sisters lived at home any longer. It was just me, Mom, and Dad now, and I “needed” a puppy.
Mother commented to Daddy that I was the only one of the three daughters who had never had a puppy. We had a dog when I was younger, but I barely remember it. Daddy replied that he thought he and Mother had agreed – no more dogs. I must have made some convincing promises to take good care of it and to train it to do all kinds of tricks. Daddy wondered out loud if Mother and I had conspired against him. We talked more about it at lunch and decided to stop at the animal shelter on the way home, which I believe was on the edge of downtown Dallas.
We walked into the shelter. Cages lined the walls, and it was crowded with people. I walked directly to a cage on the far side of the room with eight puppies, opened it, and picked up the first puppy I saw when I walked in – a sweet-smelling half-Bassett/half-Beagle male. Daddy encouraged me to look at some of the others, so I put the puppy down and stood across the room watching him. Daddy noticed a young man who was also watching my puppy and told me to go pick him back up before someone else did. Decision made. We paid $15 for our precious fur ball and took Charlie to his new home.
Charlie was very smart, and I was able to house-train him very quickly. He didn’t cry much. Puppy Charlie slept in my room at night in a box beside my bed. Daddy said he and Mother couldn’t figure out why they never heard him cry at night, so one night Daddy came into my room to check on us. I was asleep on the edge of my bed with my arm hanging over the edge into Charlie’s box. Charlie was also fast asleep with his head in my hand. When he got older, he slept with Mom and Dad in their bed. I taught him to speak, whisper, shake hands with both paws, sit up, and roll over. We never quite mastered the “shhhh” command, especially at meal time, when he parked himself under the table and whispered non-stop for morsels to be handed down to him. I blame Daddy for that.
Daddy taught Charlie to fetch the newspaper every morning. Charlie was very pleased with himself, and one morning Daddy looked down onto the back patio and saw that Charlie had fetched five newspapers from nearby neighbors. Then, as we all stood and laughed about it, he came trotting around the corner with another one! We didn’t have much luck “untraining” him to fetch newspapers, so Daddy told our neighbors to let us know if they were ever missing one, and we would return it to them. There was one neighbor Charlie didn’t like, and on one occasion my brother-in-law Larry spoke to the man and figured out why. Allegedly, Charlie had gone onto their back porch and pooped in the man’s special flower box. Daddy said he was probably getting even with the man for throwing rocks at him.
There was a time when Charlie nearly killed our parakeet Mimi. We often allowed the bird out of her cage to fly freely around the house. One of these times, she had been flying for a while, and she got tired and didn’t make it to the curtain rod, a safe distance above Charlie’s head. She landed on the floor, and before anyone could blink an eye, Charlie was on her. He grabbed her into his mouth, and all I could see were green tail feathers sticking out. I screamed, chased him down, pried open his jaws, and pulled her out of his mouth. She was pencil thin and wet, but she was OK. I placed her gently back in her cage where she ruffled her feathers to dry off and soon recovered from the shock. She then perched perfectly still in her cage for a long time. Mimi liked to fly, and Charlie liked to chase things. He was just doing what came naturally.
The Towner family took frequent walks in the woods of Lower Kiest Park, which was just a block or two from our home. Charlie loved to run full speed down the woodsy path with his ears flapping in the wind. He was nearly always off-leash, even at home and on the many Towner vacations and rock hunts he went on. Our backyard was unfenced, but the only time he ventured out of the yard was to steal newspapers and once to chase away a few of my “guy-friends” when they threw pebbles at my window in the middle of the night. When Charlie got hot playing outside or after a long walk in the summertime, he often cooled off by climbing onto the concrete bird bath that Daddy made.
Charlie was my dog to begin with, and I loved him so much; but he stayed with Mom and Dad and continued his travels with them after I left home. Daddy loved to tell of Charlie’s rock hunting abilities and how Charlie once found some “Balmorhea Blue” agate on a rock hunt in west Texas. Daddy loved Charlie even more than I did, and Charlie was my parents’ constant companion until he died of old age. He was the best dog a family could have.
Daddy and Charlie, Enchanted Rock, Texas, 1965 (Sadly, I could find only one photograph in my files of Daddy and Charlie. I guess that is because Daddy was always behind the camera. I must have taken this one.)
Me holding Charlie, at home on Ovid, mid 1960s
A walk in Kiest Park; F to B: Charlie with friend Gay, my nephew Mike, me, my sister Nancy, my sister Patsy, and Patsy’s husband Bob; mid 1960s
Charlie “cooling it” in birdbath (backyard of house on Ovid), mid 1960s
Charlie begging for my breakfast, at home on Ovid, abt 1967 (Yes, I did often sit that way at the table.)
Mama with Charlie about 1975
My nephew Chuck with Charlie, 1970
Charlie asleep on my parents’ bed. I sneaked into their room in the dark to take this photo! mid 1960s
I was raised in the sixties, but I’m happy to say I never came close to being the flower-child-hippie-type. I’m not sure how I got through those years without even a close encounter with that counterculture. I was never even inclined to smoke. My friends in high school who smoked never did so in front of me, and I don’t remember ever being offered a cigarette. I believe there were a lot of people like me, especially in Texas, but it might seem otherwise, considering all of the attention over the years given to Haight-Ashbury, Summer of Love, Woodstock, free love, hippie communes, etc. I am still discovering previously unrecognized references to all of this in some of the music that I loved from that era.
I was a skinny child, which prompted occasional comments from a couple of my friends suggesting I should be a model. Twiggy was popular in the 1960s, and thin was in. I guess I heard it enough to think it was a possibility; so one summer when a downtown department store advertised teen modeling tryouts, I asked Mother if I could audition, and she drove me downtown to sign up. Swimming in a sea of nervous and pretty young girls, I completed the entry form and waited for my turn to walk the elevated runway in the middle of the cavernous hall. I was a fish out of water – completely out of my element, and I can only imagine that it showed. I knew nothing at all about modeling, and I was not just thin – I was skinny, awkward, and gawky. Compared to the hundreds of other beautiful, lithe, and graceful teen competitors, I didn’t come close to being model material; but I went through with the tryouts and wasn’t disappointed much when I didn’t get chosen. Thinking back on this experience, I am proud that I had the nerve to try out, and I am glad I didn’t make the cut.
Many of my friends called me Bird Legs starting in elementary school, but I acquired another nickname in high school. One morning I was sitting in Home Room right in front of a friend named Gary who called me names and teased me mercilessly (but affectionately, I like to believe). I liked Gary, and I guess I actually liked the attention a little, but the name-calling must have been particularly bad on that particular morning. After his usual barrage of names, I turned back to him and boldly (for me) asked him to quit calling me ugly names and would he please call me something nice (which, in retrospect, should have defeated his purpose in name-calling). He thought for maybe as long as two seconds and abruptly dubbed me “Tweeter.” Then he laughed, and I smiled skeptically but nodded in semi-acceptance. I never learned how he chose that name, but it stuck. Maybe it was because of my bird legs or maybe there was some less benign meaning which I was too naïve to understand. All of his friends and many of mine began calling me Tweet or Tweeter, evidenced by many of my high school yearbook signings. I couldn’t help but laugh a few years ago when Twitter erupted and the word “tweet” gained a global presence.
I had very few dates in high school, and I did not have any boyfriends. I mostly went out with a group of friends or had them over to the house. It was probably when I was a senior in high school when a girlfriend and I went on a double blind date. I don’t remember who set us up, but the story we were given was that a couple of guys on break from MIT were visiting a friend. I came away from the evening thinking MIT students should have seemed smarter. I don’t remember anything else about them or where we went that night, but I fell for the likely charade and didn’tactually figure it out until (I am sorry to say) it dawned on me while writing this post.
I didn’t get lectured much by my parents. They were too subtle for that. I do, however, remember a stern lecture Daddy gave me in high school as I was about to venture out on a double-date with my friend Ann to a Sadie Hawkins dance. Daddy let me drive his shiny white pickup that he used for his construction business with “Towner Construction” emblazoned on both doors. I was thrilled to drive the truck, which I didn’t get to do very often, and I didn’t mind the Towner name on the side. Ann and I were very excited about the dance, and together we must have been over-the-top giddy. Daddy took note, and before we left, he called me into his upstairs “rock” room, where he was busy faceting a stone. He privately lectured me about staying calm and made me take a few deep calming breaths. He said I could not get behind the wheel until I had settled down. I can feel a calm come over me just remembering his voice and reliving that moment. The dance was unimpressive; the prelude was memorable.
I learned a lot about proper etiquette by listening to Mother and Dad interact with my big sister Nancy about things going on in her life, but they never had “the talk” with me about the birds and bees. What I learned about the facts of life came from a reference book which my parents just happened to keep on the top bookshelf in our den on Ovid. This book on anatomy included a rather vague explanation of the facts of life, accompanied by drawings. I thought I was being sneaky by reading it, but I eventually realized the method in their madness. The loosely defined “facts” in that book collided head on with reality when I got married in 1969.
I attended eighth and ninth grades at T. W. Browne Junior High and tenth through twelfth grades at Justin F. Kimball High School, both in Oak Cliff. The schools were next to each other on the same campus located a few miles west of our house. I began carpooling to school with neighborhood schoolmates – our mothers at the wheel. I vividly recall sitting in the back seat of a car loaded with girls and listening to “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison on the radio. I also remember sitting in the car in front of Kimball H.S. waiting for all of the riders to come out for a ride home. Mother was driving. I referred to some guy walking by as a “stud.” Mother was very unhappy with my language and said, “That’s a terrible thing to say. You shouldn’t talk like that about someone.” I felt terrible. Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s as bad as it got today?
In junior high, I began taking Spanish, which I continued into high school. I tried out for the Troyanns drill team in eighth grade and made the team for my ninth grade year.
Me in Troyann uniform, taken in backyard on Ovid by Daddy, 1964
Official Troyann photo, T. W. Browne, 1964
Spanish Club banquet at (I think) Tupinamba, abt 1964
I was in the eighth grade in November 1963 when my parents and I were eyewitness photographers at the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In November 2012, I self-published a short book about my experience, Tina Towner, My Story as the youngest photographer at the Kennedy assassination, available on Amazon.com. I also posted a four-part blog entry about it on this site in November 2016. ‘Teen magazine contacted me to write a first person article about my Kennedy experience, which was published in June 1968. The magazine sent a photographer to the house to take pictures of me for the article, which they originally wanted to do at school, but the school would not allow it.
I entered high school in the fall of 1965. My favorite school subjects were biology, physics, and math. I took honors math, English literature, Texas history, world history, social studies, civics, and (beginning in junior high) three years of Spanish. Some of my senior year classes were college level courses. I wish I had taken more government related classes in high school and college. It might have been useful today.
Much wasn’t offered to girls in the way of sports at that time. Girls played tennis but were not included in any other sports that I can think of– at least not at Kimball. We had a natatorium, but I never saw the inside of that building, and I’m fairly certain there was not a girls swim team. Things began to change in that regard soon after I graduated.
I was a member of the Kimball High School concert choir, the National Honor Society, the Spanish Club, and the Troubadears drill team. I did not make the cut for the high school drill team when I first tried out but made alternate instead and was terribly upset about it. However, Ms. Mac (as we called Ms. McClintock, sponsor of the T. W. Browne Troyanns), put in a good word for me, and I was soon moved up to become an active member. The associated expenses of being in the drill team were an issue for me, but I fit into the captain’s original red uniform that she wore before she became captain, and I was able to purchase it at a discount. Drill teams today don’t seem to be the same as they were in the 1960s. Team members must now be good dancers, not just good marchers. It’s a safe bet that I would never have made the team by today’s standards.
Posing in Troubadear uniform in front of our fireplace; photographed by Daddy at home on Ovid, 1967-68
Posing in Troubadear uniform; photographed by Daddy at home, 1967-68
Concert choir was a good thing for me. I can’t sing well but well enough to sing in the chorus. We performed at some school events (including senior prom) and at high school musical productions, such as “Bye Bye, Birdie.” It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. I spent many hours of rehearsal for this after school and sometimes late into the evening. One of the props issued to each person in “The Telephone Hour” song was an old black telephone. I had a lot of things to load into the car to take to rehearsal one night, and I placed the telephone on top of the car. I forgot to put the phone in the car and drove away with it on roof of the car. Someone waved at me along the way to school yelling, “You have a telephone on top of your car!”
I made a lot of my own clothes in high school, but I was excited to find out that I was going to buy some new clothes for graduation! Mother’s good friend Marie, a former neighbor from our Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, worked at the Apparel Mart. The Apparel Mart was not a public place, but Marie invited Mother and me to shop there one day as a graduation gift. It was (and still is, I guess) an enormous facility near downtown Dallas on Stemmons Freeway at Oak Lawn. Mother bought me a couple of dresses. One was a coral, empire waist, sleeveless dress which I wore with new a new navy blue hat and gloves. The other dress was a yellow flower print skirt and jacket with a yellow ruffled blouse. I also bought a two-piece bathing suit (one piece bathing suits didn’t fit me), and a beautiful white rabbit car coat that I loved and wore for many years. That day of shopping was so much fun! I had never had a shopping day like that before, and I haven’t had one since.
Mom, Dad, and I in front of house, 1968 High School graduation day, 1968
In front of my house on high school graduation day, 1968
I did not attend senior prom, but the concert choir performed briefly at that event, so I went for that purpose and then left. Especially for that event, I made a long straight yellow dress with a turtle neck, cutout shoulders, and a yellow daisy chain belt. I guess it bothered me a little during the evening that I didn’t attend prom, but after that night, I really didn’t care.
I attended the all-night party with a group of friends, which was held in a hall on the Southern Methodist University campus in north Dallas. I enjoyed the event – friends, music, billiards, food, and drink (non-alcoholic, of course). I’m not sure if I was up “all night,” but I was at least up late.
Our actual high school graduation commencement ceremony was held at Memorial Auditorium in downtown Dallas. My class had over 600 graduates, and it was a long ceremony. For some reason, my avid photographer Daddy, did not get any photos of me in my cap and gown.
[Another meaningful and important part of my late teen years was my three years in the Westminster Youth Choir of Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church, which deserves a post dedicated to the subject.]
Our house on Mt. Pleasant was very near the intersection of West Jefferson Blvd. and Westmoreland Ave. Go east on Jefferson from the Jefferson/West Moreland intersection, toward the Trinity River, and you are in the heart of Oak Cliff. In my early years, street cars ran from Oak Cliff to downtown Dallas. I remember the street cars, but according to Advocate Oak Cliff, they stopped running on January 14, 1956. I don’t think I ever rode one back then, but if we drove up beside one with our car windows down, Mother or Dad issued adamant demands for me not to stick my hands out of the window and try to touch one or I would get electrocuted. I wasn’t going to try to find out.
Our family physician Dr. James F. Graham (an intimidating figure to me) shared an office on West Jefferson Blvd. with our dentist Dr. Mulholland. My sister Patsy says she remembers going to Dr. Mulholland. I remember Dr. Graham but not Dr. Mulholland (just his name). I got very quiet and held my breath every time we drove down Jefferson past Dr. Graham’s office, fearing Mother would remember that she needed to take me to see him for a shot or something. Dr. Graham’s red brick office is vividly etched in my mind. The entire waiting room was furnished in heavy brown or burgundy leather sofas and chairs trimmed with brass nail heads. I can still smell the leather and heavy cigarette smoke as I stepped inside, and I can hear the squeaking of the leather cushions when someone moved on the furniture. Those couches and chairs were way too big and slippery for me to sit comfortably in. The waiting room was put to good use, because we nearly always had to wait an hour or two to see the doctor. The examination room (or rooms) was pure 1950s, including freestanding glass and metal medical supply cases, which I think were painted white.
A tornado blasted through Dallas on April 2, 1957, killing and injuring many people and damaging a lot of property. The tornado barreled through Oak Cliff first. Mother and I were at Dr. Graham’s office at the time; and while we were there, the doctor’s office began getting phone calls and hearing radio reports about a tornado headed our way. So, what did Mother do? Along with Dr. Graham, his staff, and others in the waiting room, she marched outside to look for it. Mother told me to stay inside (by myself, I suppose). She came back inside visibly upset by what she had seen. She said they all stood and watched as the tornado approached on the ground, lifted and skipped right over their heads, then set back down on the other side of the street. A sight Mother never forgot and one I will forever be glad I missed.
West Jefferson Blvd.’s main shopping area was a bustling place in the 1950s and early 60s: furniture stores, restaurants, movie theaters, shoe stores, clothing stores, and a myriad of other businesses. Sunset High School, where both of my sisters attended, is on Jefferson. Both the Vogue Theater and the famous Texas Theater were on West Jefferson Blvd. (I don’t like to call it “infamous.”) I often went to the movies at these theaters, as did most kids in that area at the time. In the 1960s Mother dropped me and a my girlfriend Gay off in front of the theater, and we spent the afternoon watching movies. On special occasions, Daddy drove the family into downtown Dallas to see movies at the Majestic, the Tower, or the Palace theaters. These theaters were where the big movies played, such as “How the West Was Won,” “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “Ben Hur,” and “The Ten Commandments.” I still have the charm bracelet and the book my parents bought me at “The Ten Commandments.” After one particular billed movie presentation at one of the downtown theaters, the theater showed a sneak preview of Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock.” We stayed to see what it was about, but apparently it wasn‘t deemed good family entertainment by Daddy, because he marched us out during the first song when Elvis began shaking his hips. I don’t think we were alone. Oak Cliff also had a drive-in movie theater named Chalk Hill, which we went to occasionally.
The Wynnewood Village shopping center was located at West Illinois and South Zang Blvd. very near I-35E. It was an outdoor mall with close-in parking. The stores I best remember in Wynnewood Village were Volks clothing store and Goff’s hamburgers; and there was the Wynnewood Theater, which I went to occasionally. Volks had an entrance in front and in back, and I believe it was the back entrance that had a glass cage window which exhibited live monkeys. How bizarre.
Wynnewood Village and its nearby residential neighborhoods were a very popular place to live and shop at the time, and it has an interesting history.
Occasionally, my good friend Saranne and her mother invited me to go with them to Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas while Saranne’s mother shopped. We ate lunch there as part of the outing. This was the only time I ever stepped foot in Neiman Marcus when I was growing up, and I did not at the time fully appreciate the opportunity to do this with them. This must have been in the mid 1960s. I don’t know what I wore for these special outings, but I am sure Saranne and her mother both dressed up. Saranne and I spent our time giggling through the store and probably touching everything. I remember the old elevator with the cage bar doors (brass?) and the elevator operators. Her mother was so sweet to invite me along on these outings, and it was truly a special occasion for me. What fun! I hope I behaved myself.
I was twelve years old in 1962 when we moved from our house on Mt. Pleasant in Oak Cliff to a brand new two-story house on Ovid Ave. We were still in Oak Cliff, but farther south near Westcliff Mall and the intersection of Hampton Road and Loop 12. The new house had four bedrooms, two baths, two living areas, a dishwasher, several big closets, and a two-car garage.
My sister Nancy told me years ago that the reason for the move was actually to pay for her major back surgery planned for the summer of 1962 after she graduated from high school. I plan to discuss her surgery in more detail in a subsequent post; but for the purposes of this post, Daddy and Mother needed the money from the sale of the house on Mt. Pleasant to pay for the surgery that insurance declined to cover. He used part of the money to purchase the house on Ovid. The doctor would not allow Nancy to sit, stand, or walk for several months after her surgery, so a bigger house with room for a king size bed offered a more comfortable place for her long recovery. Mom and Dad let Nancy use the downstairs master bedroom during her recovery.
Except for the old oak kitchen table, the oak bunk beds, and Daddy’s favorite vinyl easy chair, most of the furniture in our new house was purchased for the move. Most, if not all of it was from Rick’s Furniture on Jefferson Blvd. I loved that store, with what I remember as its expansive crowded showroom floors on two levels, very tall stairs, and many nooks and crannies. It was a fun place to explore. Mom and Dad bought new furniture for the master bedroom, including a king size bed for Nancy to roll around on until she recovered. I also got new bedroom furniture, which included a full size bed, dresser, and small student desk. I am sure Mother and Dad hoped I would do all of my studying at my desk, but I spent more time sitting cross-legged on my bed or on the floor than I did sitting at my desk. I think my back is repaying me for that today.
Our new house was one and a half stories with two large picture windows on the front – one in the living room and one in the master bedroom. Two dormer upstairs windows faced the street. The double front door opened into a small entryway where a staircase ascended straight up just a couple of footsteps from the door. Upon entering, a hallway between the living room on the left and the stairs on the right led to the kitchen and the den at the back of the house. The long narrow kitchen/breakfast combination was between the front living room and the back den. The master bedroom and its very small bathroom were on the right of the stairs as you walk in the front door. An alley accessed the two-car garage in the back of the house where Daddy put his rock saw and rock grinding equipment. He built a rock garden next to the uncovered concrete pad of a back porch, where he and Mother frequently sat and enjoyed the fairly decent view from our small unfenced backyard.
Mother and Daddy enjoying a cup of coffee on the back porch. Rock garden behind Daddy. I wonder if he took this photo himself.
Daddy and my sister Nancy riding bikes in alley behind our house; after Nancy’s back surgery, late 1962
Daddy cleaning my upstairs bedroom window. A pretty good picture of him, and a not-so-good idea of what the view was like from my window 1962-3
The three upstairs bedrooms had big closets and shared one huge bathroom, which had a floor-to-ceiling wall of cabinets on one wall. It also had at least 30 square feet of unused floor space. I never understood the purpose for all of that wasted space. The bathtub/shower in this bathroom was right next to one of the front-facing upstairs windows, so a 90 degree curved shower curtain was necessary in the tub for privacy. Our house was on top of a hill and had no houses next door when we moved in, so from my north-facing bedroom window, I could see forever. Later a house was built on that side of the house, and the family who bought it had a son a year or two older than I. His and my windows were directly opposite each other, which prompted my parents to relocate me to the front middle bedroom vacated by my sister Nancy when she went to college.
We had a pool table for a while, and at one point it was upstairs. I had a group of guy friends in high school that came by fairly regularly. Daddy always welcomed them in, and they went straight to the pool table. It didn’t matter if I were home or not. I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror once when the pool table was upstairs, and Mother walked by while one of the guys was standing in the bathroom door holding his pool cue and talking to me. A mini-lecture on proper etiquette followed soon after. My parents moved the pool table downstairs into the den after that, and it just occurred to me why.
I had some other guy friends who occasionally came by in the middle of the night just to throw rocks at my upstairs window, which at the time was directly over my Mother’s and Dad’s room. Our basset beagle Charlie heard them one night and tore through the house barking. Mom and Dad were asleep in bed, of course; but Daddy woke up, went to the back, opened the sliding glass door into our unfenced back yard, and told Charlie to “sic ‘em.” The guys took off, with Charlie had their heels. I could hear the friendly perps laughing all the way as they disappeared into the dark around the corner of the house. Charlie knew who they were and would not have hurt them. The guys probably weren’t even scared; but they quit coming over in the middle of the night.
We always flew the Stars and Stripes on patriotic holidays, and Mother usually helped Daddy “raise the flag.” One memorable morning he asked her to hold the flag a minute while he went to the garage to get something. There she stood…“in the dawn’s early light”…on the front porch…in rollers and a nightgown…practically at attention…holding the flag…. Daddy thought she was so cute that he took his time coming back. I smile when I think of this scene. It was such a “Towner moment.”
The house on Ovid was a very nice house – a huge improvement over the small house on Mt. Pleasant, but I loved Mt. Pleasant, too, and it was the only world I knew until we moved. I turned 13 after we moved into the house on Ovid, at which time my world became a lot bigger and busier. I have many fond memories of both homes.