Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fire at the school

Houston (Central) High School burned March 18, 1919. As firefighters worked to put out the blaze, scores of Houstonians gathered to watch them battle the blaze. Hours later, about 900 students gathered near the building to check out the damage.

"As a matter of fact, not many expressions of regret were heard," the Chronicle reported.

Losses were estimated at $167,000 ($2,053,979 in today's dollars). Ten thousand dollars worth of textbooks were also destroyed ($122,992 today).

The paper said electrical problems may have led to the blaze. The school had been considered a fire trap for years.

"About the time the fire department began arriving on the scene, gases in the building exploded and the southwest corner of the structure was blown out," the paper reported.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

USS Houston

Rather than retell the history of the WWII-era ships named after the city, I wanted to share some items from the ships' history.

First, there were two ships named Houston during WWII. One, a heavy cruiser, was sunk during the Battle of the Java Sea on Feb. 28, 1942. Of the original crew of 1,061, 368 survived. For its efforts, the ship was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, a copy of which is available at my Web site in a PDF file.

A second USS Houston, a light cruiser, soon followed. This ship also saw considerable action in the Pacific, as seen by the picture below. Long after the war ended, she was scrapped.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

43 years ago today

I highly suggest checking out Grady McAllister's Houston Radio History Web site. Scroll down a bit on that page, and you'll find an MP3 of KILT's breaking news coverage of the Kennedy assassination. It's a fascinating peek into what Houstonians were listening to as news poured out of Dallas that day.

The MP3 is about 30 mins long.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Two photos, two cities

Because I haven't mentioned churches that often, here are two from 1907. First Presbyterian, I believe, was located at Main and McKinney, but someone correct me if I'm wrong. Annunciation Catholic Church, across from Minute Maid Park, was built in 1871 and underwent expansion and reconstruction 13 years later.

I'm almost certain this is a picture looking west down Ball Street toward 21st Street in Galveston.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

When Houston had six TV stations

It's Friday and it's another look at what was on local TV in the days before cable television. This schedule is from Aug. 9, 1974.

Some items of interest:

  • "The New Price is Right" aired at 2 p.m. on KHOU. It was only 30 minutes long.

  • Houstonians had three chances to catch "Electric Company" on KUHT.

  • KRIV-26 was known as KVRL back then.

  • The 1958 film "Satan's Satellites" aired on KHOU at 12:30 a.m.

Here's a look at what was on local TV in 1964.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Suicide on Fulton Street

"Mother, I've taken something -- goodbye."

"You haven't!" the mother replied.

"Yes -- I've taken poison."

That's what 24-year-old Charles Miller reportedly told his mother when she checked on him the morning of Nov. 19, 1915. He died before medical help could arrive.

The man, who was engaged to be married, took carbolic acid (phenol), according to the coroner. Even though relations with his fiancee were described as "cordial," the man occasionally threatened to kill himself, according to what relatives told the coroner. Family members thought the remarks were made in jest.

In the end, it appears no motive was ever determined in Miller's death.

This all-too-common story -- headlined "Charles Miller Kills Himself" -- shared the Chronicle's front page with the story of the Liberty Bell's late arrival into Houston.

The events unfolded at a house in the 1800 block of Fulton Street. The newspaper article mentions the exact address, and according to Google Maps, it appears a house is still on that property. The exact address isn't listed here because I would rather not call attention to a residence that might still exist.

Still, a front-page article about a suicide inside one's own home isn't something you'd find in most American newspapers today. It wasn't the first time the subject of suicide involving a Houstonian made the newspapers then.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Tardy bell

Thousands of Houstonians crowded the Grand Central Depot at Washington Avenue the night of Nov. 18, 1915, to get a glimpse of the Liberty Bell, which was on tour at the time.

The bell was scheduled to arrive in Houston by 10 p.m. But larger-than-expected crowds in Dallas delayed the bell’s arrival in Houston by a few hours.

Apparently, the bell was carried on a rail car through Dallas streets. But one sharp curve was encountered and the car left the track, the Houston Chronicle reported. The bell was already late reaching Dallas, and that mishap increased the delay by another two hours.

So Houstonians waited. By midnight, the crowd began to disperse.

They didn’t stay away for long.

“It seemed as if hundreds had set alarm clocks to arouse them out of their slumber about 3 o’clock. Fifteen minutes later a veritable parade of automobiles and taxicabs, at times three blocks long, pulled up in front of the Grand Central Depot. The occupants made a dash for the gates and the crowds kept coming and going the whole time the bell was on exhibition,” the Chronicle reported.

Ceremonies to honor the bell’s arrival were scrapped. H.F. MacGregor, Texas delegate to the Republican National Convention, was to meet Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Boies Penrose, but the senator was sound asleep on the train carrying the Liberty Bell.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Muddy day in Houston

Main Street, looking south from Franklin Avenue, circa 1907

(Sorry for the delay in posting. I've been on vacation this week!)

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One picture, two buildings

The Horne Sanatorium -- located in the Heights -- was named after Dr. J. Alvin Horne. It didn't last long under his management. The building, which later became the Texas Christian Sanitarium, apparently burned in 1915, according to this Web site.

Both pictures were taken around 1907. St. Agnes Academy was founded in 1905, so it wasn't around for very long in this picture. A brief history on St. Agnes Academy can be found on its Web site.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tek Ram calls you!

This 1899 advertisement appeared in the Houston Daily Post. Basically, a meeting was called to organize efforts to celebrate the first-ever No-Tsu-Oh carnival.

Resembling something like New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebrations (without the nudity, I assume), the carnival was “designed to stimulate commerce by bringing people to the city,” according to the Handbook of Texas. Parades, balls and even a football game between UT and Texas A&M usually filled about a week’s worth of festivities in November.

By the first week of Nov. 1915, festivalgoers were treated to a game between Texas and Sewanee (University of the South).

But 1915 was also the last year of the festival. No clear definition of its demise was given other than to say WWI may have contributed.

Not helping matters was a Nov. 18, 1915, Houston Chronicle editorial titled, “Let it be our last ‘Carnival.’”

“It is high time that Houston, metropolis of the Southwest, railroad center for this great and growing section of the country, should offer something by way of an annual exhibition other than the tin-horn parades and garrulous horseplay,” the Chronicle opined.

“Houston is getting too big, and its machinery is too nicely regulated to the lives and necessities of its 150,000 inhabitants, to have such an upheaval planted periodically right in the midst of its commercial district without permanent benefit and with temporary feelings of disgust and disappointment on the part of both home folks and visitors.

“This is no longer the center of a small slow growing rural district where the privilege of throwing balls at an African dodger or spinning a wheel for cigars constitutes the acme of pleasure.”

The Chronicle called for an “appropriate annual celebration.”

“Above all else, we want sobriety, decency and respectability emphasized above other qualities because only in this way can the city’s higher purposes be expressed.”

Some photos on No-Tsu-Oh can be found here and here.

(On a somewhat similar note, the downtown hangout No Tsu Oh has reopened.)

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Paulhan postscript

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