Monday, 1 August 2011

Probably Mentioned Before, but...

Other things remembered  from the drought conditions of the 1950s in South Texas:

     My mother was co-chairman of the Democrats for Eisenhower, Hidalgo County, Texas during the 1952 elections.   My godmother, Lucille Hendricks, was also co-chairman.    The offices for the campaign was on South Broadway Street in downtown McAllen, Texas, where Broadway intersected with Dallas Street.  Broadway runs north and South, while Dallas runs east and west.    This was during the Summer run up to the elections....with the first televised National party conventions....and a lot of electricity about Robert Taft for the Republicans and the huge unpopularity of Harry Truman whose approval stats finished much lower than George W. Bush in spite of what the mainstream media says.
      Truman decided to retire from the run for re-election after decisively losing a primary vote in New Hampshire to Estes Kefauver, US Senator from Tennesee...but this was not the real issue in Texas.   Kefauver finally lost the Democrat nomination to Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson.
   Conservative Democrats in Texas finally decided after Taft's Republican convention defeat that they would go along with Eisenhower, even if he was backed up by Yankee "moderates".     Eisenhower was still better than the Democrat Stevenson, who would not side with Texas on the Tidelands Issue.
      Beuford Jester, Governor of Texas, had died in office, leaving the seat to Allan Shivers.    Shivers had begun a campaign during the Democrat Primary of 1952, outflanking the crook, Lyndon Johnson, by saying that he would fight for Texas's right to Supreme Authourity over "The Tidelands".   "Landslide Lyndon" Johnson stayed in the US Senate seat he had stolen in the primary of 1948, by beating Coke Stevenson by 83 votes...the last ones delivered about two weeks late.   Johnson and his lackey Lloyd Bentsen  had wanted kick-back money, favours, and other considerations from the oil companies, while Shivers just wanted the principal of "States Rights" to be enforced.   It was a cheap date for oil and gas interests big and small.    Shivers ran in the primary with little or no real opposition.     His opponent was a firebrand liberal named Ralph Yarborough.   Ralph would do better two years later, but still lose.  He finally won a US Senate seat in a 1957 special election for an un-expired term.

     The "Tidelands"  was the area (depending upon historical reference point and specific resource issue) from the coast out to 3 miles, and then 3 leagues (10.5 miles, plus or minus), to in some cases affecting Texas up to  60 miles, over which the Republic of Texas disputed authority against a foreign invader,  the government of the United States of America.   Texas had had an uneasy relation with the neighbouring country's government for many years, exacerbated by the fact that it had had to endure Reconstruction Occupation until 1876....the longest term of the post-Bellum period of the War Between the States.   Old scars, wounds, suspicions, and angers melt away slowly in Texas, even to this day.  It is truly a friendly and open place, but real Texans are apt to say, "Forgive and Remember".
       Texas had a claim by treaty and other agreements declaring exclusive rights to commercial assets pertaining to those off-shore waters known as the Tidelands and the regulation of the exploitation of those assets.   The Tidelands of Texas and Louisiana were, are, and forever will be stuffed full of good oil and sweet natural gas, not to mention shrimp, oysters, and fish. The Texian and Yankee oil people would prefer to deal with a Texas approach to recovery and processing of oil and gas by oil and gas people.   The common Texan in the street, sober or inebriate, also had more faith in their cads and cigar chewing politicians than in a bunch of people who had  managed to let communists into the State and War Departments of the neigbouring country.
       So, the Democrats had nominated Allan Shivers in the May Primaries to be their candidate for Governor.  The Republicans nominated him as well.  All issues of political office in Texas, local or statewide, were settled in the Democrat Primary from 1876 until the middle of the 1980s.    Now they are substantially settled in the Republican Primary, save for a narrow zone along the Rio Grande where the majority of the population lives on 8 different streams of welfare and public assistance.

Robert Allan Shivers
Governor of Texas
1951 - 1957

      The ratio of votes in the Democrat Primary to Republican Primary in the Republic of Texas in 1952 was 15,000 to 1.   Literally.    But, all 4,000 registered Republicans in Texas decided to nominate Allan Shivers based upon his reputation as a good conservative, anti-communist, and defender of the inaliency of Texas's Dominion over the Tidelands.
       All of this was what found the Old Gringo hanging around in the offices of Democrats for Eisenhower.....because in those days "child care" meant hanging around with your mother.   Across the street was the Republican Party's office supporting their candidates....Let's Clean House with Ike and Dick....buttons with brooms...all that .   But only three or four people would come and go there during the day.    Our offices would have a hundred or more.   We even had a Coke machine, telephones, and something called a "television".
       The Old Gringo remembers being called to perform....remember that he was five years old at the time....and his mother would yield to calls from various of the blue-haired old ladies, who smelled like heavy perfume and moth-balls,  to have him spell rewohnesiE frontwards (Eisenhower backwards), which always resulted in great applause and a nickle.    The meeting where this performance took place were normally short and well attended by 40 or more women...and a few old huffing and puffing old geezer men of high repute in the Conservative wing of the Democrat Party.   Colonel So and So, Judge Hack and Sploot, someday the Old Gringo will paint this canvas with a bit more detail.
       Also profoundly remembered was our coming into town in the morning during those late Summer, early Autumn days and crunching, squnching, and splattering millions and billions of dead and dieing black crickets.   They were all over, but especially in downtown....perhaps they were more noticable there.    They filled the streets, the gutters...sometimes overflowing deep onto the sidewalks.    The doorways would be blocked with a foot...and up to two feet of dead crickets piled against the doors and outer walls.    This would be in addition to the piles of drifting dust during windy periods....especially with early northers.      Something caused them to die by the seemed to go on forever....and it was associated with the drought.   That is what the Old Gringo remembers.
This map shows in brown the counties carried by Stevenson,
and in blue, those carried by Eisenhower.   Texas, Florida,
Tennessee, and Virginia were the Confederate States
that voted for Eisenhower.  Please note that Hidalgo the tip of South Texas, voted for Eisenhower.

      Eisenhower kept his word concerning the tidelands.    Shivers and the conservative Democrats could reasonably strut around with the facts demonstrated that they could "...cipher a good Yankee from a bad one....or even a good Republican from a bad one."    Eisenhower would carry Texas and the United States for a second term by an even wider margin in 1956.   Shivers would be re-elected two more times, (two year terms back then), serving a total of over seven years as Governmor.   That, in terms of continuous service, was the longest stretch until the arrival of another Democrat...but one that became an official Republican...named Rick Perry.
     Folks might be surprized to see that the South voted Democrat, in the main, for a liberal Democrat, instead of for a War Hero.   Negroes in the South voted for Eisenhower, about 5 to 1, but , of course, there were very few who voted.  My mother's father....never really did quite get over the idea that his daughter could or would actively campaign for a Republican...of any stripe.    He did not speak to her directly, face to face, for three years afterwards.   He would direct his comments through my grandmother Mamie.
       My mother would grump about this saying, "How stupid is it to vote for a Yankee pinko who thinks he is smarter than all us hillbillies....that's how he sees us....instead of for a General who was born in Texas, who comes from a farm, and who beat Hitler?  Daddy just has to think about that."    The Old Gringo, even at that age, decided that it would be more effective and efficient both, to just be a Republican.    My other grandparents had been Republicans, although my grandmother on that side was more of a "progressive" type who even believed in public education.   Ghastly.  Women voting....???  That solved all the problems.   Prohibition!   That solved all the problems, forever....again.
     The Southern grandfather was a teetotaler, but did not support Prohibition, which he referred to as a "Yankee employment project, and a backdoor re-institution of The Reconstruction by way of an invasion of Revenuers."

       Allen Shivers married the Shary girl (Marialice, pronounced "Mary Alice) from Sharyland, princess of one of the most important families in the Lower Rio Grande Valley at the time.   He went on to be the most beloved and respected Governor in the lifetime of this Texan. He despised Lyndon Baines there is no way he could have been all bad.
    He did put me on the tail of his chartered airplane one time in 1954 and pronounce to my mother and godmother, that "This little man here will grow up to be a good Democrat" I guess everyone has the right to be wrong every now and then....or perhaps being a good Democrat, then means being a good Republican, now.

THE DUST WAS SO BAD, during the first four years of the 1950s that we would waste water to dampen the gravel road that ran east and west in front of our house, to "keep the dust down".   It did little good against the dry "northers" that would blow in on 30 to 50 mile an hour winds.   At times the dust drifts from the plow fields would come up against our north wall, one to three feet snow.    Our front porch, normally an elegant place to relax in the shade (a long rectangle of about 400 square feet), on at least one occasion that I remember, managed to yield a complete 55 gallon drum full of dust, swept up by the family during a long morning.     And that dust came in through a well and tightly-screened exterior!!!

There are scores of other weather and drought stories that are equally boring, and perhaps some of them might appear here in coming episodes.

That was one of the ways it was in the 1951 through 1955 period.
Thanks for wading through this addendum.
El Gringo Viejo....