Those Places Thursday: “A Look At Fourth Ward Houston”

“A Look at Fourth Ward Houston, Texas” by Roxanne Quezada Chartouni

I want to take this time to CONGRATULATE photographer, Roxanne Quezada Chartouni, for her exquisite photography in – “A Look At Fourth Ward” that was published in the Houston History Magazine on April 8, 2020!

I also want to send virtual (((hugs))) to my awesome and wonderful cousin Cecelia Cook Drew who is gracefully captured in one of the photos waving a white hanky in the wind. Her efforts to keep cool in Houston’s brutal heat is futile. But she is definitely – as the caption reads, “looking beautifully cool,” — through it all!

The culture, history, and true feeling of freedom for all Freedmen who settled in Houston’s Fourth Ward after emancipation is literally being swallowed up today by gentrification. My connection, and Cecelia’s connection, to this community comes from our Chapple/Chappel ancestors who lived and loved hard, worked hard, and played hard right here at the turn of the 20th century. So THANK YOU Roxanne for capturing a community that is near and dear to our hearts and our family’s history before it’s gone from view forever!

Check out Roxanne’s article and photography at the link below —
https://houstonhistorymagazine.org/2020/04/a-look-at-fourth-ward-houston-texas/

Be sure to visit & “Like” Houston A Look At 4th Ward – 1987 Facebook Page for more great photos as past and present community members of 4th Ward interact with Roxanne and assist with the identification of the photos for publication – https://www.facebook.com/Houstonalookat4thward/

Those Places Thursdays: Maxwell House Coffee – Good to the last drop!

Familiar with the old Maxwell House Coffee slogan  — Good to the last drop!? I’m sure you are! Well that slogan and the Maxwell House Coffee brand has been a major part of my paternal grandfather’s life the minute he began working at the coffee factory in Houston at age 21 in 1930!

Paternal Grandfather, Willie Taylor

My grandfather’s employee photo above, taken on 8 October 1968, is one of my favorites of him. By now he has been working for General Foods Maxwell House for 38 years and he’s only 59 years young!

Maxwell Houston Factory in Eastwood area of Houston, Texas

The Maxwell House building featured above with its giant neon cup of coffee, has been a major landmark visible from three of the major freeways – US 59, I-10, and I-45 – of this city for many years! I recently came upon a very interesting history lesson about the Maxwell House Coffee Factory where my grandfather worked on the popular Houston Architecture Info Forum (HAIF). According to one of the forum members, [1]

From the Houston Press, 8/5/46, p. 1 – General Foods Maxwell House Coffee buys the old Ford plant @ 3900 Harrisburg, will move from their current facility at 2107 Preston. Press says the plant was built by Ford ’25 years ago,’ ‘abandoned by Ford before the war.’ It was used as an assembly plant for aircraft parts during the war and briefly as a warehouse by Pepsi after the war. GF moved in the following spring.”

For starters, I never knew the Ford Company even had an assembly plant in Houston, and that the Maxwell House coffee factory you see in the picture above was that plant! But that’s not all!

In the 40s and 50s, most Fords on the road in Texas sported an oval sticker (the shape of the Ford logo) in the rear window or on the rear bumper or trunk lid which proclaimed ‘Made in Texas by Texans.'”

I tell you I learn something new and amazing about my family’s history and this city I’ve called home for over 50 years all the time!

Willie Taylor (left) working in the service area of Maxwell House Coffee Factory in Houston, Texas in 1968

Back in the day, you could ask anyone who lived in this town what was one of the best smells in Houston and their answer would be immediate — Maxwell House coffee factory of course!

If you have my paternal grandfather, Willie Taylor, who worked for Maxwell House Coffee in Houston, TX in your family research, let me hear from you because . . .
I’m claiming kin!

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Source Citation:

1. Williamson, B. (2008, October 6). Maxwell House History [Maxwell House History: post #9]. Retrieved August 8, 2013, from http://www.houstonarchitecture.com/haif/topic/17811-maxwell-house-history/?p=282573

Those Places Thursday: Record Snowfall in Houston, February 1960

Today is “Those Places Thursday” and this blogging prompt gives me a chance to reminiscence about how and where my family lived and to write about “those places” via stories and/or photos. Ask anyone what is the first word that comes to mind when they hear the words Houston, Texas and I guarantee the word “snow” isn’t one of them. Well believe it or not, it does snow in Houston, Texas (record snowfall in fact) from time to time and I have proof — LOL!

According to the Examiner.com’s December 4, 2009 article by Marie Brannon, “Some historic snowfalls in Houston, Texas,” on Valentine’s Day in 1895, “a whopping twenty-inches of snow” covered the city of Houston making it the “all time” highest amount of snow to fall upon the Bayou city. [1]

The next heaviest snowfall recorded for Houston came 65 years later when 4.5 inches of snow fell on February 12, 1960! I was just 5 months old and missed out on all the fun when this special winter-wonderland blanketed the city. But some of my favorite photos of my brothers are of them enjoying this rare winter treat!

Snowfall, February 1960

Jon (left) and Elgin (right) are seeing snow for the very first time outside of our home at 4314 Stonewall Street, Greater 5th Ward, Houston, TX.

Playing in the Snow, February 1960

Elgin (left) and Jon (right) trying to keep warm as they figure out what they’ll do next in the snow!

Snowman, February 1960

So what did they do next? They did what all kids do when they have that much snow all around — build a snowman and placed a snazzy chapeau upon his head!

Snowball Fight, February 1960

A snowball fight with neighborhood friends (Carrie Ann Flakes and her friend) was a perfect ending to a wonderful day in the snow!

Winter Wonderland, February 1960

Mr. Snowman is left to stand watch as the evening sun goes down on a wonderful day of fun in Houston’s rare snow!

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Source Citation:

1. Brannon, M. (2009, December 09). Some historic snowfall in Houston, Texas. Examiner.com. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from http://www.examiner.com/article/some-historic-snowfalls-houston-texas

Those Places Thursday: Pelham, Texas

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2012, as well as, “Those Places Thursday!” This blogging prompt gives me a chance to reminiscence about how and where my ancestors lived and to write about “those places” via stories and/or photos.

This past Sunday I came upon this wonderful news story on DallasNews.com about Pelham, Texas, a small Freedman community that’s fighting hard to preserve its legacy for future generations. As far as I know, I don’t have any ancestors who lived in Pelham. But I have had ancestors who lived in similar communities like the historic Houston’s Fourth Ward, the site of Freedmen’s Town, which was a post-U.S. Civil War community of African-Americans, that no longer exist today due to gentrification.

So I’m very thankful that this community’s story is being told and I share it with you on this national day of thanksgiving. Enjoy!

Pelham, Texas
Darlene Holloway arrives for a church service in Pelham, one of the state’s dwindling number of freedmen’s communities. The residents of the town just outside Corsicana have collected artifacts and memories so the town won’t fade away.(Louis DeLuca – Staff Photographer)

Those Places Thursday: What was Life Like in Texas in 1940?

It is “Those Places Thursday” and this blogging prompt allows me a chance to reminiscence about how and where their ancestors lived and to write about “those places” via stories or photos. Today, I’m reminiscent about what life was like for my Texas ancestors in 1940. What really got me thinking about this particular decade in our country’s history was the new Texas infographic I saw online last week at Ancestry.com’s Blog.

Check out the infographic below and tell me if you remember any, or all, of these 1940 events from Texas’ past!

Texas in the 1940s

Click to Enlarge

The 1940 Texas highlights according to this infographic were:

  1. ‘Corny” dogs arrive as Neil and Carl Fletcher serve their first at the Texas State Fair
  2. Tote’ms become 7-11s
  3. First beers sold with the Lone Star name
  4. 6,281,537 head of cattle means almost as many cows as people in Texas
  5. 1940 Population  – 6, 414, 824

Even though this decade was ten years before my time, there were some events from this decade that carried over to the next that I’m very familiar with. The first one is the Tote’m, or U-Totem, convenience stores that later became 7-Elevens, and then Circle K stores before leaving the Houston area completely. I sure miss those Big Gulps, don’t you? And I may not have been around when corny dogs were introduced to everyone at the State Fair of Texas, but that’s a food item I’ve enjoyed as a kid and still enjoy today!

Infographics like this one and the one I posted last year (Online Family History Trends at Archives.com) are all the RAVE with the Internet community. I must admit I like them too and love sharing those relevant to genealogy with everyone via email, social media networks, and on this blog! Those of you wondering what are infographics, Wikipedia offers a great explanation:

Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics present complex information quickly and clearly such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education.”

Once Ancestry.com completed indexing the 1940 Census, they created an infographic for every state highlighting what life was like in that state in 1940. Visit the Ancestry.com Blog to see all the interesting facts and images for each state. While you’re there you might as well download your state’s infographic and share it on your blog, website, or social media profile too!

Do you remember any life events in Texas during the 1940’s that this infographic didn’t capture? If you do, share that/those event(s) in the comment section below!