Commentary and Reportage from the Texas Gulf Coast. Editor-in-Chief: BANJO JONES. Assistant to the Chief: SCOOTER APPLETON
Friday, July 13, 2001
About 4 or 5 years ago, a friend in Missouri called to say he was headed to Texas at the request of his older daughter, who was around 13 at the time.
His family, he said, was embarking on a Selena Tour.
This was somewhat of a surprise as I had never known my friend or his family to be particularly enamored with Tejano music. All I ever saw was rock ‘n roll, r&b and a smattering of rap around their house when they lived in Texas.
But they rented a van and came through Lake Jackson because the older daughter wanted to see 104 Caladium, the home where Selena grew up as a kid.
We drove over there and took pictures.
Nobody came outside to give us a brief oral history of Selena’s early years, but somebody pulled out a paperback bio of Selena for easy reference.
I felt like a tourist, but it made my friend's daughter Sydney happy, so it was OK with me. After that, I took them by the building where Selena's family operated a restaurant. I think it's a day care center now. We took more pictures.
They all slept on the floor of my apartment that night, then got up the next morning and headed to Corpus Christi, where Selena and her family moved after they left Lake Jackson.
I never thought much of 104 Caladium again until recently, when I heard word that a Brazosport entrepeneur had bought the residence and is thinking of raffling it off.
I don't have any other details, and am wondering if there might be legal obstacles to such an event, but it's an interesting development nonetheless.
The cult of celebrity always increases ten fold after death. Consider Elvis and Graceland.
Could Selena's childhood abode become the Selenaland of Lake Jackson? Now THAT would be an interesting zoning variance discussion down at City Hall.
Thousands descend on Corpus Christi every year to mark the anniversary of Selena's March 31, 1995, murder by her own fan club director.
They come from all over, including overseas, to leave notes and flowers at the statue and the grave of the singer and listen to her music at a park.
If it makes them feel better, more power to them.
I wasn't an Elvis fan, so when I visited Graceland while passing through Tennessee, it was more of a goof than anything else, but I was moved by the visit I made to Strawberry Field in New York's Central Park, a spot dedicated to John Lennon not far from where he was murdered.
I don't know what could be done with Selena's house.
Doing anything with it may prove diffiicult if past history is any indication.
The Lake Jackson Historical Museum attempted to get permission from Selena’s father to create a display about her, but their request was denied, apparently because a Selena museum is being planned in Corpus.
Consequently, the LJ historical museum tells you everything you might ever want to know about the Dow Chemical Co., the Karankawa Indians and the production of sugar in the 1800s, and nothing about a young woman who grew up here and became known worldwide.
It’s a shame there’s nothing to commemorate her time here.
Selena 's music, a combination of the Latin American cumbia and American dance music, transcended language barriers.
She put Tejano music on the world map.
Her death remains a source of pain for many. She had begun working on her first English-language album when she was murdered.
Remembering her in the town where she started performing is an idea worth pursuing even if previous efforts have been rebuffed.
(Copyright, Brazosport News. Please credit The Brazosport News. Thanks in advance. )
To our readers:
Scooter and I are going on "special assignment" with our daughter Lil' Bit. Check back with us in a week or so. Thanks for reading.
posted by Banjo Jones
Tuesday, July 10, 2001
Scooter and the Green Dress
A lady in Pearland has been picketing the school district’s administration building all by her lonesome the last week or so.
Not over the quality of education or gang violence or lazy teachers.
It’s all about the new dress code. Yep, she feels that strong about it.
Background: The kids this year can only wear red, white, blue, green or pink shirts.
Pants only in khaki, navy blue or black. No jeans.
I don’t have a kid there. I don’t really care.
But the no jeans policy seems a bit extreme. Jiminy Christmas, Texas is all about wearing jeans. If the kids are wearing cotton Dockers instead of Levis, is the learning environment going to be significantly better?
The dress code argument is well known: It will blur the distinction between the haves and have-nots. It will discourage gangs from wearing their favored-apparel-of-the-moment.
Standardized dress codes are the coming thing, but they grate on my Libertarian/First Amendment tendencies. Plus, don’t forget the cost incurred by having to buy a bunch of new clothes.
“I’m for dress codes,” Scooter said.
Since she’s not only my assistant but my Wife, I knew what was coming. The St. Patrick’s Day Dress Story.
It’s worth hearing, and it may give you a better perspective if you’ve never been poor.
Scooter grew up in humble circumstances.
The worst years were in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the Dust Bowl of the Golden State.
She was in the 4th grade and her family was suffering through hard times. I won’t go into great detail about the reasons, but suffice it to say, her dad Wild Bill was on “a long leave of absence” from gainful employment.
Her mom worked intermittently, mostly at odd jobs at places like the local seatbelt factory and a donut shop. There were six kids at home. They were on welfare and ate government beans, government cheese, government-anything, and they were glad to get it.
As a consequence, Scooter’s wardrobe consisted of one dress and a pair of cut off blue jean shorts. She couldn’t wear the shorts to school so her classroom attire was limited to the dress.
It was a plaid green affair, made of cotton. Obtained from the local church basement, it was about 2 sizes too big. She was a tomboy but it was all she had to wear.
It was ugly, too, but Scooter didn’t think so -- until she wore it on the first day of school. Some of the kids started making fun of her.
“Scooter thinks it’s St. Patrick’s Day,” they said.
A few of the other kids joined in.
“Scooter thinks it’s St. Patrick’s Day.”
The offenders were punished. Not by the teacher. By Scooter. Whether they were boys or girls it did not matter, they got slugged.
Of course, that didn’t stop the taunts.
“Scooter thinks it’s St. Patrick’s Day! Scooter thinks it’s St. Patrick’s Day!”
Over and over.
“Scooter thinks it’s St. Patrick’s Day.”
It went on FOR THE WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR.
It became a chant that echoed through the hallways. It became a song when the teacher left the room. It was horrible and it turned Scooter into a very angry young girl.
She’d pummeled the offenders in the bathroom and on the playground, but of course that didn’t stop the verbal assault.
She’d get sent to the principal’s office and Wild Bill would be summoned to take her home.
“She’s been fighting again,” the office would tell him.
The first thing Wild Bill said when he’d pick her up was, “Did ya win?”
“Let’s go get an ice cream cone.”
And off they’d go.
Scooter sometimes would try to wear her younger brothers’ pants so she wouldn’t have to wear the ugly green dress. Girls weren’t supposed to wear pants but the school authorities sometimes would look the other way.
When they didn’t look the other way and asked her why she wasn’t wearing a dress, Scooter would tell the most outlandish lies.
It caught fire, she said.
Or, it’s in my dad’s car and he’s out of town.
Even when she got away with wearing pants, she always knew she’d have to put the dress back on in a day or two.
Other than her siblings, nobody would sit with her on the school bus.
But then a quiet little girl named Lavona Jones plopped down beside her one morning without a word and smiled.
Nearly as poor as Scooter, Lavona’s mother required that she wear the same dress three days in a row before she could wear a different one.
The kids teased her about it, giving Lavona an appreciation of Scooter’s torment.
But Lavona was a Quaker. She even used words like thee and thou. Because of her religion, she wouldn’t fight the kids who made fun of her. Scooter took care of that.
Meek as a lamb, Lavona would simply smile when Scooter would go to war for her. She never said a thing about it, but she stuck by Scooter’s side the rest of the school year.
Each morning on the school bus, the pair would sit and stare in amazement at Elaine Rossiter as she got on the bus and walked primly to her seat.
She wore a different starched dress every day, along with a hair ribbon that matched her socks.
As they stared in open-mouthed amazement, Scooter and Lavona both daydreamed about being Elaine Rossiter, knowing that was impossible.
Still, they made it through fourth grade. Scooter did the fighting and Lavona lent her unspoken moral support.
“It makes me happy just to think about her,” Scooter told me.
The way I see it, her story goes a long way toward explaining why a standardized dress code may not be such a bad thing.
As she puts it: “It’s bad enough to be poor, but it’s even worse to look poor --’cause then everybody knows you’re poor.”
After school let out that 4th grade year, Scooter burned the plaid green dress in the family barbecue pit. She collected pop bottles all summer to save up enough money to buy a new (used) dress she found in the church basement.
“I got a really cute one, too,” she said.
By the time 5th grade started, she had grown enough to fit into a dress that belonged to her sister, doubling her wardrobe from the previous year.
Things were looking up, she told herself.
And indeed they were.
posted by Banjo Jones
Saturday, July 07, 2001
The Hip Hop Shake Your Booty Show Your Cleavage Culture has claimed another victim.
The Robert E. Lee High School Brigadiers, the all-girl drum and bugle corps that marched at football game halftimes for the last 76 years, are being deposited into the dustbin of history.
We figure most of you don’t care.
But if you went to Lee High School in Baytown, like I did, the demise of the Brigadiers entails more than the death of a high school organization. It’s about the demise of a tradition and what might be replacing that tradition.
Residents of the Brazosport Area might remember the Brigadiers from the days the Baytown Lee Ganders played the Exporters in some titanic gridiron struggles. I recall a 2-0 game in the 1960s at Lee’s Memorial Stadium. Kids my age would watch the game from the cinder track that encircled the fenced-off football field, moving back and forth with the ball as each team slugged it out.
At halftime, the Brigadiers -- dressed in long-sleeve, buttoned-down, military-style uniforms with skirts about knee cap high, Civil War style caps and black boots -- took the field to march in military formations. They carried flags, banged drums, blew bugles. The officers carried sabers and wore plumes in their hats.
There wasn’t anything quite like them.
And they were all girls! As many as 300 of them covering practically the whole football field.
To join the organization, they had to go through a tryout. There was a waiting list. It was an honor to be selected.
Now it’s all over.
The superintendent who just left the Baytown school district (official name: Goose Creek Consolidated Indepedent School District) ordered the Brigadiers disbanded just before he left for a new job. He figured he’d save the new superintendent, Dr. Barbara Sultis, herself a former Brigadier, the political fallout of making the decision.
There will be a reunion in September of former Briadiers to say good-bye.
It’s really quite sad.
They say there just hasn’t been enough participation in the Brigadiers for it to continue.
I’m not sure why this is the case, but in 76 years around 8,000 girls passed through the organization.
Of course, the girls of today have many more options open to them than they did in the past. This undoubtedly is a good thing.
Still, a friend of mine, a former Brigadier (snare drum, class of ‘70) who has kids of her own, was telling me the other day that the drum and bugle corps were about much more than marching up and down a football field in formation.
She told me it allowed her and her friends to learn about and demonstrate leadership skills, community service, school spirit and personal pride.
It allowed them to make connections with other generations of women, she said.
And, significantly, it had a code of conduct.
“That gave lots of us a big excuse to avoid naughty activities we weren't ready for (smoking, alcohol, sex) that would have cost us our membership had we been caught,” she explained.
Maybe that’s old fashioned.
Maybe the Brigadier’s style is old fashioned.
They didn’t dress in skimpy outfits, do cartwheels to Brittney Spears tunes or shake their fannies at the crowd.
It’s OK, I guess, that many girls drill teams of today do that sort of thing. It’s a free country. But you wonder what else those girls may be getting out of it. I hope it’s a positive experience and that it teaches them something other than how to bust a dance move.
On the other hand, at what age do we want our young girls to be learning how to shimmy like Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and the Laker Girls? The age at which that indoctrination occurs seems to be getting younger and younger. Can’t they wait til’ college?
It seems not.
So, it looks like it’s time to say farewell to the Brigadiers. Thanks for the memories. We salute you and will never forget you.
posted by Banjo Jones
Wednesday, July 04, 2001
Born on the 4th of July
Every 4th of July brings back memories for Scooter.
She was the quintessential Daddy’s girl. He adored her and she adored him.
Her Daddy, affectionately and sometimes not so affectionately known as “Wild Bill” to his tribe of six kids, was born on the 4th of July.
As she grew up, first in Texas and later in California, Scooter took it as gospel that the fireworks on July 4th were in honor of her father’s birthday.
No one told her differently, certainly not her dad, who more than likely started the story to begin with.
Wild Bill wanted his daughter to love him as much as he loved her, so he saw no harm in the story.
By the time she hit the third grade, though, something had to give.
The topic of July 4th came up in class. Something was said about fireworks and Scooter, an outspoken sort as a young girl and no different today, volunteered the observation that the explosions in the sky were in honor of daddy’s birthday.
Her teacher gently corrected her mistake, telling her the fireworks were in celebration of the country’s Independence Day.
Scooter, being a willful child, told the teacher that she was wrong, the fireworks were for her dad. It happened every year on his birthday, she explained. "The kids get candles on their birthdays and Daddy gets fireworks."
No, the teacher said, a bit firmer now, the fireworks were for Independence Day.
“No, YOU’RE wrong,” Scooter argued.
“No, you’re wrong,” the teacher argued back.
In tears and furious, Scooter stormed out of class and walked home.
That night, she sought the counsel of her dad.
Wild Bill listened to his daughter’s tearful story of how the teacher was attempting to perpetrate the preposterous story about fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Her dad listened thoughtfully, seeing how upset his beloved daughter was.
Then he told her that both the teacher AND Scooter were right.
You see, he said, the fireworks originally were to honor the country’s independence and then, after he was born, they also honored his birth.
Scooter was satisfied. She wasn’t wrong, after all, and her tears quickly vanished.
She can’t remember what happened immediately after that.
“He probably took me out for a nickel ice cream cone,” she said. “That’s what he usually did after a traumatic event in my life.”
But she can’t remember for sure.
Wild Bill died in 1986, but to this day, everytime she sees fireworks on the Fourth, she quietly says, “Happy birthday, Daddy, wherever you are.”
(copyright Brazosport News, all rights reserved.)
posted by Banjo Jones
Tuesday, July 03, 2001
Can we get a mop up on Aisle 4?
We got a good laugh out of The Facts on Sunday when it reported on the maiden voyage of the Surfside Princess gambling boat.
The story illustrates the dilemma faced by copy editors who have to write headlines on stories that present a mixed bag of information.
“Royal Bet Pays Off,” said the headline.
Sounds like everything went great.
Three color pictures graced the front page: somebody holding a C note, some happy people sitting at the roulette table and a lady in shorts happily depositing quarters in a slot machine.
The story’s first sentence (what they call the “lead” in the news biz) reported that the ship got “good reviews” from many of its passengers.
But then we turned to Page 5A to see a picture of two people lying on the floor, apparently near death. They were seasick. The reporter, to his credit, went to the trouble to count the fallen. There were 35.
So is the headline writer gonna say “Royal Bet Pays Off”? or is the headline writer gonna say “Royal Bet Hurls Cookies”?
It’s an interesting dilemma, and we’re not surprised the headline writer took the high road.
But it looks like that wasn’t good enough for Surfside Princess Pit Boss Jerry Bass.
Boss Bass is ticked off at the Facts even though the headline writer bent over backwards to play nice.
What’s more, in today’s paper, he carps about not only the Facts but the Chronicle. Apparently he didn’t like the papers’s write ups about the ship’s nonexistent liquor license.
We’re sure Jerry would like the papers only to report about what a great thing it is to have a gambling ship grace our shores.
And, gosh, wouldn’t it be a better world if there were no wars or disease? Maybe if we never read about wars and disease, they’ll go away.
But the world ain’t like that, Jer’.
When we buy our papers, we like to see the whole story. So if war breaks out in Timbuktu, we want to read about it. And if 35 people urp on your carpet, we wanna know that too.
It’s kinda like the suckers who were playing that roulette wheel. Some of them won, but most of them lost. We realize, Jerry, that you would like us to think that most of them won, but we’re not that stupid.
posted by Banjo Jones
Saturday, June 30, 2001
Brother, can you spare a life preserver?
I went down to the Surfside Jetty last night to get a look at the Surfside Princess as she set sail with her first load of suckers.
I didn't arrive 'til 7:30 and thought I might have missed her, but when I saw a couple dozen people staring vacantly up the Freeport Channel, I knew I'd be among the select few to see the mighty ship head south.
A mighty ship she is not, I must report.
From afar, as she made the bend in the channel, I immediately thought of the rust bucket in the old Bogart-Hepburn movie The African Queen.
As she came closer, the Surfside Princess looked more like a water-borne Winnebago.
All right, I exaggerate. But I tell you this, she will not strike any reasonable person as a majestic plyer of the high seas.
That thing is top heavy!
I swear, it looks like a 12- to 15-foot swell could easily lap over that tub's low-slung sides, which resemble one of those shoal water fishing boats popular with bay fishermen.
I'm no sailor, so I made a cursory survey of my fellow gawkers, just to make sure I wasn't jumping to hasty conclusions. They had arrived at the same verdict.
"I wouldn't get on that thing for $10,000," laughed one woman as the Surfside Princess chugged south.
She and her husband had worked on the last gambling ship that operated out of Freeport (and absconded owing the port $100,000), so their appraisal carried more weight with me than even my own considered opinion.
The husband agreed that the Surfside Princess didn't look like much of a match for a Perfect Storm, much less a medium-sized Gulf squall.
I approached a third gentleman, who said he came for a look-see to decide whether he would give the Princess a try. One look and he was convinced.
"I think I'd rather go to Coushatta (one of the Lose-e-anna casinos)."
The ship, scheduled to leave the dock at 7, slid past us about 7:45, which would put it in international waters, where gambling is legal, around 8:45.
I guess everybody on board had a jolly time. As they floated by us, some of them hooped and hollered, and a few of my fellow landlubbers returned the favor, but with decidedly less enthusiasm.
The Princess, I'm afraid, is going to need A LOT of good luck to make it -- especially when a competing gambling cruise outfit sets up shop sometime in the near future.
Already, the Surfside Princess Einsteins made themselves look like nincompoops by picking Surfside as its operations base without checking to see if it was safe. They moved to Freeport, leaving Surfside in the lurch. (See our June 3 posting)
Then they failed to get a liquor license, ensuring that the 90 minute journey to international waters will be a very dry one for the drinkers on board.
And, we may be wrong, but from what we've seen of the Houston media, their marketing campaign hasn't exactly caught the attention of Southeast Texas.
But who knows. There may be enough people out there who have less common sense than those who brought us the Surfside Princess. Now that I think about it, that's probably exactly what the gambling purveyors are banking on. In fact, now that I think even more deeply about it, that's what the entire "industry" of gambling is based on.
Like Mark Twain wrote, "Let us be thankful for fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed."
posted by Banjo Jones
Friday, June 29, 2001
Flashback: April 27, 1999
Two years have passed since 14 students at Brazosport High School were frisked, handcuffed and taken away by officers of the Freeport Police Department.
That’s enough time for some sober reflection.
And for that sober reflection, we turn to U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent, who has penned an 11-page opinion in connection with a lawsuit that was filed over the arrests.
When looking back at this unfortunate occurrence, keep in mind that the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, committed by two sociopathic students, had occurred three days before the B’port 14 were taken in for questioning.
. The reason for the Brazosport students being shanghaied downtown, so to speak, was the discovery of a threatening letter found in a computer room.
The deductive process that was used to corral all 14 students for the letter is still a little murky.
But, the teen-agers were NOT roughed up, incarcerated or charged with a crime. They were, however, detained several hours, which is an unpleasant occurrence whether you’re a teen-ager or adult.
If you believe the students’ version of events, the police directed profane language at them and threatened them with lengthy prison terms if they didn’t cooperate.
The kids were allowed to call their parents and were not put in any cells. They sweated out their detention in the municipal courtroom, where eventually they received a lecture from the police and B’port Principal Doug Boone.
Then they were allowed to go home.
The only student to be directly questioned by the police, Jeremy Douglas Hill, purportedly was informed by an officer that the authorities knew he did nothing wrong and that the entire brouhaha was designed to show students they were being “monitored by the authorities,” writes Judge Kent.
If true, this was an abuse of authority. Could this message not have been achieved with a series of stern one-on-one discussions with whomever the school authorities considered dangerous? We certainly think so.
The day after the police came to school, as Judge Kent writes, Principal Boone called a school assembly and “pronounced the school free of terrorists...”
Needless to say, the principal’s pronouncement didn’t remove the sting still felt by the 14 students who had been arrested.
A lawsuit eventually was filed on behalf of Jeremy Hill, Lucas Gallagher and Courtney Cours, who were sophomores in 1999.
The petition alleged violations of their constitutional rights to be free from illegal searches and seizures.
Judge Kent, in his opinion, states that less intrusive, dramatic measures could have been taken to address the threatening letter, but he notes that a school always has great latitude in addressing such concerns.
The constitutional rights asserted by the students don’t outweigh the school’s “compelling interests in maintaining a safe place of learning,” says Judge Kent.
“Taken as true the allegations demonstrate, at best, insensitive, heavy-handed actions, and at worst, bumbling hysteria on the part of both the school and the police officers. In other words, what occurred at the school was, at most, an extraordinary overreaction. However, in the aftermath of the Columbine High violence, some period of hypersensitivity among schools officials was called for and indeed should be lauded.”
Kent writes he is “hardly amused” at how the situation was handled but will not second guess the decision making of the school and police.
We won’t quibble with Kent’s legal reasoning. Finding that a school system and police department violated the Constitution is a serious matter. Since their actions occurred three days after Columbine,we can understand the overreaction.
Still, we suggest that officials who run our public schools shouldn’t call out the police simply as a show of force or to reinforce to our teen-agers who’s in charge. The police have better things to do. Since there’s no reason to believe that school violence and idle threats of school violence will soon end, our public schools can’t resort to calling out the riot squad at the drop of a hat. We don’t want our school administrators to cry wolf. We want them to let our children know who’s in charge, but we think they can do that without the police.
(To send an email to the Brazosport News, click on our editor-in-chief’s name in green. We will not publish email correspondence or the names of readers who write us, but reserve the right to allude to email correspondence for discussion purposes.)
posted by Banjo Jones