Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The House in Rockport Again

Earlier today I said I wouldn't play in this edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, because I hadn't had enough time to come up with something given all the effort we put into the African-American Military History series just concluded. Well, I changed my mind, in part due to Jasia's enthusiasm and determination not to miss out on the Carnival. Like her, I also felt challenged in this category.

The topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy will be: Shelter from the storm, stories of the home and hearth. Is there a haunted house in your family? Did one of your ancestors live on a boat? Did you research your grandparents' home and find that someone famous once lived there? Did your family share a hunting cabin or cottage at the lake? What have you learned about Aunt Millie's house from census records? Was a family member's home destroyed by fire, flood, tornado, or a hurricane? It's time to tell all about your family's abode!

I lived the greatest portion of my childhood in what I have previously described as "the ultimate gated community," an obscure, semi-secret atomic weapons research installation nestled against the Sandia Mountains on the southeast edge of Albuquerque, New Mexico. There we lived in "Capehart housing," cookie-cutter houses built in the 1950's on military bases across the country. [The name is that of Homer Capehart, a key figure in building the jukebox industry, who later served 18 years in the U.S. Senate representing Indiana. One of his important legislative accomplishments was to alleviate the critical shortage of family housing on military bases.] Capehart housing, while adequate, was nothing to write home [or a blog post] about. It's all been torn down and replaced now. Patrolled by military police, the community was quiet and safe. We walked to school, to the theater, to the library, or rode our bikes to our friends' house, even at night, without trepidation. There were only two significant crimes committed there while we lived there: our cat was stolen (but later recovered), and one afternoon, Mrs. Baker killed her husband (a federal grand jury declined to indict her--but that's a whole 'nother story).

Several years before we went to New Mexico, we lived at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri--my father's first Army assignment after college. Recognizing the afore-mentioned critical shortage of family housing in the post-war era, the Army had purchased a number of double-wide trailers to be used at Fort Leonard Wood. The trailers were given to senior NCOs and their families. The wooden boxes that the trailers came in--yes, the wooden shipping crates-- were made into little houses for junior officers (like my 2nd Lt father) and their families!

When I was born, my parents were living in an apartment above a Lincoln University student hangout known as the Blue Tiger at 109-1/2 East Atchison Street in Jefferson City, Missouri. It's a parking lot today.

I considered writing about the houses that my grandmother and aunts lived in in the 2400 block of Chestnut in Kansas City, Missouri. But frankly, I don't remember that much about them.

Then I thought about the house that my great-grandfather Richard William Gines occupied in Shreveport, Louisiana. But I've never been there, although I do know the address on Ashton Street. Richard and Sylvia Gines lived here from at least the 1880's. In the Google Map image
here, Ashton is the horizontal street, and I believe that 1540 was or is the house on the left.

Having never been there, though, I cannot tell its tales.

So I decided to reprise "A House in Rockport," which appeared in this space on Tuesday, September 12, 2006. The house depicted belong to my great-grandmother, Hattie Bryant. In the 1920's and 1930's, she lived there with several of her children, including my grandmother, Jessie Bowie. I didn't mention in the September post that my father was born in this house.The house may have been built in the 1880's. It had no running water, no indoor toilet, and no street address. Of course, Rockport was such a small town that street address weren't particularly necessary. Once, my father showed me a telegram received by my grandmother at that house in the 1940s. I remarked that it had no street address. Dad said, "Look again." Then he pointed out the "street address." The entire address read, "Mrs. Jessie Givan [one of her married names], Colored." That is the street address, Dad said.

A House in Rockport

Everybody knew where the colored people lived and all the colored people knew where each of them lived, he observed.

In 1962, Nana (my grandmother Jessie Bowie) took me and my sister Cheryl on a trip to Texas. For us, Rockport was a mythic place we had heard about from our father. Frankly, it was a place about which he had mixed feelings. We saw and in fact stayed in that house. Nana owned it, but it was cared for by her aunt Ida Bryant, wife of her late uncle Sam Bryant. It looked much like it looks in this photograph. What an experience for a couple of kids from "the ultimate gated community."

My father sold the house in the late 1980s. By then, there was even a traffic light in Rockport.


Apple said...

Your description of the Capehart home is great. It may mot have been large or fancy but for you it was memorable. I would love to see a picture of the house made out of a box. I hope it was better than it sounds! The Rockport house sounds like it has a long family history and hopefully by now a proper address.

Miriam said...

I enjoyed reading about the house in Rockport, Craig. My paternal grandparents lived there for years, where they attended Salt Lake Baptist Churc; they then moved to Fulton, where my widowed grandmother continues to live. You can read about my grandfather, including his years in Texas, here.