Interviewer Mike Vance sat down with Ann Malone, the past president of the La Porte Heritage Society and the co-author of a book called Around La Porte that chronicles the history of the La Porte area of Houston through photographs, on February 13, 2007 and asked her to share her stories about growing up in Houston as part of the Neighbor to Neighbor oral histories project. Press the play button to stream the interview recording and read along with the transcript below.
Vance: Okay. You prefer Mary Ann or just Ann?
Malone: Ann. Yeah.
Vance: Ann Malone. Mike Vance doing the interview. It is February the 13th, 2007. And we’re at the La Porte Depot Museum. Now, just to explain, you’re the President of the La Porte Historical—Heritage Society.
Malone: Yeah, Heritage Society. Yeah.
Vance: But you grew up in Houston.
Malone: Grew up—born in Houston.
Vance: And where were you born? Let’s start with that.
Malone: Out in Denver Harbor, right off Lyons Avenue, on Gazin Street.
Malone: The house I believe is still there. The neighborhood’s bad. I have been wanting to go by and take a picture, but I want to bring somebody with me that’s got muscle, just in case somebody says, “What are you taking our picture for?”
Malone: But it’s still there.
Vance: You were born at home?
Malone: Yeah. Uh‑hunh (affirmative). Yeah. By Dr. Reggie Collins when he used to make house calls. And he’s—he was downtown in the Medical Arts Building, which is no longer there.
Vance: On Walker.
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). Yeah. And that’s where I used to go to see him when I was able to go down there. When I was really sick, he would come to the house still. So that was a fun memory.
Vance: Now, just before we turned this on, you said that your great‑grandparents—
Malone: Oh, yeah, my great‑grandparents were from here in Houston. Great‑grandmother’s story goes, she was shipwrecked in Galveston. These were my aunt’s fantasies. And she married a guy down there, had a daughter, moved to Lynchburg, which is right over here, met my great‑grandfather, I don’t know where, but she was nine months pregnant when they got married. And she was running a boarding house on Washington Avenue in Houston.
Vance: And what was her name?
Malone: Her name was Eliza Moodyman, M‑O‑O‑D‑Y‑M‑A‑N. Her maiden name was Saulter, S‑A‑U‑L‑T‑E‑R. From England. Still searching, trying to find the boat she came over on and all of this good stuff. My great‑grandfather, also from England, had come in—early on—and settled here because of the—a lot of brick work and so forth—and he was doing that at the time.
Vance: And what was his name?
Malone: His name was Charles Alonso Moodyman, lived on Washington Avenue, and they had my grandmother. He already had three children, so I’m not sure what happened to that wife, but and Eliza had my grandmother, my aunt Mattie, and two other boys. I can’t think of their names right now. And my grandmother and grandfather—he was from Germany. He spoke no English. And I said, “How in the heck did they get together?” Come to find out, she ran the boarding house on Washington Avenue. Right down about two miles or maybe a mile was the Texas and Central Railroad Station. Well, that was their workhouse. Grandpa worked for the railroad. I said, “Oh. Evidently he was her roomer.” Because grandmother was fourteen and grandpa was like nineteen when they got married.
Vance: Do you know where on Washington exactly the boarding house was?
Malone: Oh, very close to the cemetery—the Washington Cemetery—in that general area.
Vance: Okay. Okay.
Malone: Yeah. We used to visit over there on 00:03:43 (s/l Whiprich). My—it’s right—it crosses Washington about maybe three—three blocks west of the cemetery. And that was—my great‑grandmother’s first child lived there. We called her Aunt Molly. Of course it took me forever to figure out how we were kin, but anyway I’m a native.
Vance: Do you have any memory of that boarding house, or was it gone before you came around?
Malone: The boarding house was gone, but I do remember Aunt Molly’s house and she had—and at that time there was—a lot of black people were beginning to move into the area. So she had a lot of black neighbors, but she had a nice fence around her little house. And it was typical of all the old houses that I used to go into when I was quite small, very plain, very simple, and everything.
Vance: How many rooms?
Malone: You know, I don’t remember exactly. It wasn’t a very large house, and it was just one story.
Vance: Just a little cottage kind of—
Malone: Yeah, kind of cottage, yeah.
Vance: Now, you at the time were living in Denver Harbor.
Malone: Right. That’s where I was born.
Vance: Tell me about your memories of Denver Harbor.
Malone: Okay. Well, Denver Harbor was a very close community, bounded on all four sides by railroad tracks. Okay, we had Wallisville Road—all the train tracks. There was a big train yard up there. We had down Harbor, there was trains. To the south of us was Buffalo Bayou and the trains. So there was just trains everywhere. So we were like in an island in the middle of trains. It was a middle class neighborhood, and the street was paved—some of the streets—the main street, Lyons Avenue, was paved. And it had—when I was little, they had the Interurban that ran down there, so I remember that. And it ran down to Beaumont Highway. You could catch the train from there down to Galveston, no problem. And the other streets were like gravel. We had ditches. And we went to Eliot Elementary School.
Vance: What year did you start Eliot?
Malone: Oh, golly, I graduated in ’49, so back it up—let’s see—about 1937.
Malone: And I remember thinking how big it was, but of course when I went back later, I’d go, “Oh, it’s so small, so small.” And my older sister, she had started there three years before. My husband finally moved into—my husband to be—had moved into the neighborhood and started there when he was in the fifth grade.
Vance: Did you know him in elementary school?
Malone: No. I knew of him because he had a bad reputation. (laughter) Undeserved. Undeserved. He was our paperboy, too. Yeah.
Vance: Now, tell me what you remember about Eliot. What was the building like?
Malone: The building, as I remember, was brick, and it was kind of like all buildings in those days. It was red brick and very plain. It had the big windows that you had to open. It was built in a U‑shape, like all where—you would go in the front door. The principal’s office and the nurse’s office were—was to the left. The cafeteria was right in the middle to the right as you went across the hall. The lower grades were to the right. The first grade—Ms. Egg was my teacher—had a huge room, absolutely—it was big. They gave us room for everything. Then further down the L there was second, third, and then when you got in fourth, you went over to the other side of the building. You were growing up then.
Vance: Was there kindergarten?
Malone: No, we didn’t do kindergarten in those days.
Vance: Other than the regular classes, what kind of other activities did they have?
Malone: Oh, we always had our May Fete, always had our May Fete. Could hardly wait to get old enough to be in it and maybe get chosen to wind the maypole. That happened when I was in the fifth grade, because fifth graders got to wind the maypole. And Ms. Haslin was there. I was in her class. And I remember we wore red and white checkered dresses and blue and white checkered dresses, so you wouldn’t get your red and blue ribbons mixed up. Of course, we had safety patrol at school. These were the older guys that wore their little—like a—kind of like the belt and the—
Vance: Oh, a little sash?
Malone: Sash, and it went over your shoulder. And of course we loved that because they would come down in the morning and take care of the play school down at the elementary end and keep order. Yeah.
Vance: Safety patrol—just let me back up there, and then we’ll get back to the May Fete thing—did you walk to school? Most everybody walked to school?
Malone: Oh, yeah, right. Yeah. Walked—oh, walked to school all the time. I lived about probably eight blocks from school. If the weather was bad, mother would take us, because we did have a car. And she did drive. A lot of the other women in the neighborhood did not drive. And on bad afternoons, if it was really, really bad, she would pick me up. But occasionally I got caught in sleet storms, rain, and walking home. And of course the little boys that would harass you on the way home and call you names and so forth.
Vance: Let’s talk more about the May Fete. How did—first of all, describe a little bit—because they don’t do that anymore—exactly what that was.
Malone: Oh, I know. Well, we had the maypole. It was a nice big, tall maypole and with—they had all the streamers out, and they had them in opposite colors like I said, so you wouldn’t get mixed up as you were going over and under each other. We had a dance. We did a little folk dance before that. And I can’t remember what the music was to ours. And I’m thinking it probably was something to do with farms, because our little dresses were checks, and the boys I think wore overalls, but they didn’t get to wind. They just were our dance partners, and then the girls got to wind the maypole. And it was a fun day. It was a big day. It’s kind of like what you’d have at Halloween carnivals now. We didn’t do those in those days. We had May Fetes, and we’d have food and everything like that.
Vance: Would the parents come to watch?
Malone: Oh, yeah. Yeah. That was a big deal—a big deal. Yeah. It was—and it was a lot of fun. It was just one of those things you always wanted to be part of as you grew up.
Vance: Did all the moms make the dresses for—?
Malone: Yes, yes, yes. They all sewed, because you couldn’t get by without sewing in those days. Yeah. So, yeah, and I wore that dress for a long time afterwards ‘til I outgrew it.
Vance: Recess. What did—any particular things—?
Malone: Yeah, recess was fun, too. We played—the teacher would take us out, and we would play dodgeball. We would play kickball. It was—you would kick the ball, and there were like ten pins on each base. And if you knocked a ten pin over, you got—it was like a home run. But you kicked the ball and then ran. And whatever—I don’t remember the exact plays and everything. But we did that. And we did a lot of—a lot of times they would just let us out and run around. We didn’t have anything to climb on or anything like that at our school. And I always thought, well, why don’t we have those things? Because I’d go visit my cousins in other cities and out in the country, and they always had those—like a jungle gym to climb on and the thing that went around where they—
Vance: Oh, yeah.
Malone: They’d pull you and you would go around in circles. And I thought, well, hmm. Why didn’t we have that? But we didn’t.
Vance: Did other HISD schools have that, or did you feel deprived?
Malone: Well, you know, I didn’t know I was deprived, because everybody was deprived in those days. And today, all the kids I went to school with there, we have a neighborhood reunion. We have over 200 people that come every year. And these people are from late 60s to mid‑80s. And it was because we lost track of each other. From junior high, we had to go to different schools. High school, same thing happened. We didn’t get to feed into the school that our sisters and brothers did. We just dispersed all over Houston.
Vance: Now, ’37—the depression was still—
Malone: Just barely getting over it, yeah.
Vance: What memories do you have? I’m going to sneeze here. I apologize. Just getting over a cold.
Malone: Yeah. The depression. I remember that daddy work for Hughes Tool. Okay. And he got down to one day a week but never completely without a job. He was a tool—tool person over there—I forgot—but he made different kinds of tools for Howard Hughes—that belonged to Howard Hughes. And he worked and that was—he thought he was going to get laid off. And they got him down to one day a week. So we did have money—enough money—to get by on. And let’s see, were we—yeah, we were in our house.
Vance: Own or renting?
Malone: On Lyons Avenue.
Vance: Did you own it or rent it?
Malone: We owned it.
Vance: Oh, that’s helpful.
Malone: Yeah, we rented first on Gazin, where I was born. And then when I was three, we had the house built on Lyons Avenue, and we moved in there.
Vance: Lyons and what?
Malone: Lyons and Lathrop.
Malone: And it was a very nice house, very nice—like everybody else’s house there—two bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen.
Vance: And you had how many siblings? Just one?
Malone: One. One sister, so we shared.
Vance: Shared a bedroom?
Malone: Bedroom. Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: Did you ever go over to Hughes Tool to see where your dad worked?
Malone: Yeah. We used to go over there to take him to work because he worked evenings always. And we’d get in the car and drive over and take him to work. He worked the 2:00 to 10:00 shift, and we’d drop him off. Then we’d go—play. Mother was really good about taking us to movies. We went to the East End. We did the Boulevard, went to the Navway. Those were all over in the Harrisburg area. And we loved to go to movies. We did our shopping. There was a Weingarten’s on Dumble that we went to. And we visited a lot of friends. Some of them were in the Heights. We had relatives in the Heights that we’d go see. And I thought that—it took me a long time to figure out that most women didn’t drive cars. My mother was—had started driving when she was—oh, I think about fourteen. And daddy on occasion would ride with someone else to work, but mostly we took him and went to pick him up at night.
Vance: Never took—he never took the street car to work or—?
Malone: Where we lived, you couldn’t.
Vance: You mentioned the Navway.
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: That was on Navigation?
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: What’s your memory of that theater?
Malone: Oh, I went there all the time. I was like seven, eight. They’d drop me off. They’d go down the street to visit my Aunt Kate who lived right off Wayside and Navigation, and they’d visit and drop me off at the movie because I loved movies, still do to this day. And they’d come pick me up. And one time I went and the lights were out. They’d had a big rain storm, and there was no electricity. And I thought, oh, dear—this was before daddy died. He died when I was nine years old. And I thought, goodness, hmm. I guess I better walk down to Aunt Kate’s house. So I—it was about three blocks, and I walked down, walked across the big Wayside Boulevard, and went to my Aunt Kate’s house. And they said, “Why are you here?” I said, “The lights were out. We had no electricity. So I couldn’t watch the movie.” So.
Vance: And the other ones you mentioned, the Boulevard?
Malone: Boulevard. Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: That was on Harrisburg?
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: And the Eastwood?
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). It was over on—
Malone: East End—
Malone: Leeland, yeah. Right. It was uptown. It was really a nice one.
Vance: That was a nice one?
Malone: Really nice.
Vance: What made it better than the other ones?
Malone: Oh, the marquis was beautiful. Inside was beautiful. I think it—it was like the movies downtown that had the murals on the inside—just the whole thing. The Navray was very plain, very—and the Boulevard was even worse because I think it was one of the first movies in Houston. And Mr. Pappas had a hamburger joint right next to the Boulevard Theater. We used to go in there all the time. It was about—maybe ten feet wide, thirty feet long—and we’d have chili hamburgers. And I—he’s probably the daddy of all the Pappases.
Vance: You don’t know if it’s the same family?
Malone: I don’t know if it—I saw him downtown at his fruit store where I used to catch my bus when I was going to high school. And I said, “Oh, there’s Mr. Pappas.” He was running a fruit stand down—oh, it was one block off Main, right across the street from the old Joske’s.
Vance: Let’s move on and get back to the schools while I’m thinking about it.
Vance: From Eliot, you went to Edison?
Malone: Well, at first I went to John Marshall.
Vance: Oh, okay.
Malone: I went to John Marshall because, when we got ready to go to junior high school, the war was winding down. We had a lot of servicemen coming back. They were all moving to the big city, you know? How are you going to keep them down on the farm? And they were all getting married, and there—there was just people from—going into schools that—and Houston was just burdened. They didn’t know what to do with us. So they said, okay, we’re going to send this group to John Marshall, because they really didn’t know where we were going. And we stayed in a self‑contained classroom. And all the other kids there made a lot of fun because they got to change classes. And they would come by and go, “Eh, babies, babies, babies, you can’t change classrooms.” So we went there, and our teacher from elementary went with us. We had our teacher.
Vance: And this was sixth or seventh grade?
Malone: It was sixth grade.
Malone: And then when they said, okay, the next six weeks—so that was how our school was divided for grade—you’re going to be going to Edison Junior High School. And everybody said, “Where’s Edison Junior High School?” “East End,” we’d go. Okay, so, our teacher, again, went with us, which was very nice. And again, we were self‑contained. We were not allowed to change classes until the next year because they really—they couldn’t fit us in somehow.
Malone: And so they did get us a bus to come over to Denver Harbor and go down Lyons Avenue and pick up all the kids on Lyons, go back up to Harbor Drive, and then down Wayside to Edison Junior High School.
Vance: Did Eliot have just one class per grade level? Or were they doing the high—the early high—?
Malone: High and low, yeah. I—you know, I’m thinking—there weren’t many classrooms there. They might have had two grade per year, because I’m thinking—because as I think, I think of only one teacher as being the fourth grade teacher.
Malone: And Ms. Fink was the fifth grade teacher. And Ms. Hascom was the fourth grade teacher. And she got married, and she was Ms. Johnson, then she was Ms. Hascom. My third grade teacher was Ms. Hudson. And Ms. Hesse was my second grade teacher. Ms. Egg was my first grade teacher. And I don’t remember—there might have been one more first grade class, one more second grade class.
Vance: What are your memories of Edison? What was that like when you finally got out of your self‑containment?
Malone: Yeah. It was big time, because we changed classes like we were supposed to, met a lot of different kids from the East End that—we were introduced to more—as you do, when you go through school—you—we had always gone to school with some Mexicans. And in East End, it was like—it’s ninety percent Mexican now. It was—still had quite a few Hispanics there. And so I got to know a different culture, which I thought was really interesting. And the—we had the swimming pool, like I told you, which very few schools have—junior high especially—have swimming pools. I think in Houston, when they first started building junior highs, they built that swimming pool. Marshall had one and Edison, which—and probably all the others did, too, that were built during that era.
Vance: Where was the swimming pool physically in the building?
Malone: Okay. In the back. You had to go outside under some walkways, and not very far, but it was like almost connected to the—and it was quite large. It was really a large swimming pool. The gym that we played in was very—it was really good size, too. It was almost as big as the one—when I went to Sam Houston, we used the Y down there, because we—that facility didn’t have a gymnasium.
Vance: And we’re talking an indoor pool here just for—
Malone: Yeah. Yes. Indoor.
Vance: Now, you mentioned that they made you wear a certain uniform when—
Malone: Right. Yeah, they had—we had showers. And we had to have a bathing cap. We wore school‑issued woolen bathing suits that were gray, one piece, and when they got wet, they would stretch. And they would just kind of slide off your bod. So we always—after the first swimming, we got things to tie our straps together or big safety pins to pin them together. Yeah. But that was where I learned to swim.
Vance: And you said the boys didn’t—
Malone: The boys didn’t wear anything because that’s what they—that’s what my husband always said—because then when he went to Marshall, he said, “No, we didn’t wear anything.” I said, “Oh! Okay.” Because they didn’t wear anything when they went swimming in the bayou either.
Malone: Buffalo Bayou. Yeah.
Vance: Now, you didn’t know how to swim until you got to Edison?
Malone: Uh‑hunh (negative). Uh‑hunh (negative).
Vance: So when you say all the boys would go out to the bayou and go swimming, that was not something the girls did?
Malone: No, no, no, no. But the boys would slip off, because it was like wilderness around Buffalo Bayou at that time. And they would go down and climb the magnolia trees and pick the big blooms and go swimming. But they always went swimming with no clothes on so they wouldn’t be wet. They’d get out and dry off and put their clothes on.
Vance: Whereabouts are you talking about when—?
Malone: Over probably Wayside Drive, as you head into East End. East End is divided from Denver Harbor by the bayou that runs through there. So it was in the big 69th Street bridge—big? I used to think it was big. You know, the 69th Street bridge, and you could see the magnolia trees hanging over the bayou—when you went across the bridge—and you had to go through the woods to get to the—and I’m trying to think. I think there was a place they called Turkey Bend because it was kind of a secluded place that they would go to.
Vance: Now that’s all industrial.
Malone: Oh, I know.
Vance: What was the ship channel—I mean, obviously it was there—
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: But nothing like what it is now.
Vance: What are you memories of what the ship channel and all that oilfield was like there?
Malone: Well, daddy used to take me—my father would always take me to places to learn something. Okay. And he used to bring me fishing at Morgan’s Point. And then he would take me down to the turning basin. At that time, you could just park your car and walk out there and talk to the guys and watch them load and unload. And he would tell me that these ships are coming from all over the world. And I’d go, “Okay. That sounds good to me.” But it was an adventure. And we would go down—what was the street? Drawing a blank. But it’s still there. I went down it not too long ago and thought, oh, my goodness, this street is old.
Vance: I’ll get back to that. Let’s go on to high school.
Malone: Yeah. Okay.
Vance: From Edison, you went to Sam Houston downtown.
Malone: Right. Right. Right. And I chose downtown because at the time, where I lived in Denver Harbor, you were supposed to go to John Marshall and then feed into Jeff Davis.
Malone: Everybody who had gone before us got to do that. And so when you’re growing up, you can hardly wait to get to Jeff Davis. I would go to functions with my sister and so forth over there. So when it came time for us to go to junior high, we thought, hmm, something’s happening here. We had to go to John Marshall, and then they shipped us over to East End. When we got ready to go to high school, they said if you lived on the west side of Lathrop, which is my corner, and Lyons Avenue, that part can go to Jeff Davis. Everybody else has the choice of going to any other high school in Houston as long as you can get there.
Vance: So Jeff Davis was just full?
Malone: Yeah—oh, they would not let us go. Right. Yeah. Because that was a very—that was THE part of town where people lived, and they all fed into there. And Lamar—only rich people went to Lamar, so we were—I was—you know. And we didn’t want Austin because they were snooty. You know how you—they all get these labels—still do, still do.
Vance: Sure. You’re protected, yeah, absolutely.
Malone: Yeah, and Milby—toughs. Tough people live over there. And San Jacinto—snooty, snooty. And Lamar—snooty, snooty. And we just—and so, what was left? There was about forty of us that chose to go to old Sam Houston downtown. And this is where I lost all of my friends after junior high school. They all went to different—different high schools. And you’re going, where’d everybody go? And so you had this little nucleus that went to your school, and that is the nucleus that we started our neighborhood reunion from. But it has gotten larger.
Vance: So some of your friends from that neighborhood decided to go to Lamar.
Malone: Oh, yeah, I had friends that went to Lamar. Nobody could go to Reagan. That was—it was in the Jeff Davis school. I had a lot of friends that went to Austin, a lot of friends that went to Milby, two or three that went to San Jack—San Jacinto High School—and I think I had one or two that went to Lamar.
Vance: Tell me about your first impression—you went downtown—how did you get there, by the way?
Malone: Oh, we rode the city bus.
Vance: Okay. How long did that take?
Malone: Oh, let’s see—well, I lived in Denver Harbor—um, about twenty, twenty‑five minutes.
Vance: Did you get a student fare or did—?
Malone: Yeah, we had a bus card. And in those days, it was a little white card, and you’d buy it for—oh, gosh, I can’t remember—six or seven dollars. And the bus driver would punch it. And that would last you so long. Of course, you’d always—occasionally—go, oh, dear, I don’t have any punches left. I don’t have any money. And you’d have to say to your friend, “Can you punch your card for me?” And some of the bus drivers would let you on for free. They’d go, “Ah,” you know, but you had to have your bus card.
Vance: Was it a direct route down there or—?
Malone: Yes. Yes, we had a direct route. We just went—and we started getting off down on Congress because we could walk over to our school without going all the way to the—three or four blocks out of the way and then coming back three or four blocks and then going down—if you got out on Congress, it was a straight shot over to school. But also there was a lot of street people even in those days. Very exciting sometimes to get to school. (laughs)
Vance: I want to get back to that, but let’s go on with the school itself.
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: What was that building like?
Malone: Well, it was kind of a yellow brick, about the color of that clock there—
Malone: In my brain. And very plain, very old. It had a back entrance and a front entrance. And when you came in the front, you—the principal’s office was to your left, and you came up like five or six steps. And then—we didn’t have, like I said, a gymnasium or anything—we had a courtyard. So the school, again, was built in an L, just like my elementary school. And just pretty much like Edison, you built an L, but this L had a courtyard. And across the street was the YWCA where we used to go for our PE. And it was two stories—or three stories—I’m thinking it was three—it was three stories. Yeah, so had to get used to climbing steps. And all the—it was the smallest high school in the city because it was so old, was so hard to get to, and as I later discovered, everybody that got kicked out of all the other schools for infractions wound up at Sam Houston.
Vance: How big was the school enrollment‑wise would you guess?
Malone: Well, my graduating class was only 350.
Malone: Okay, like if you went to San Jack or those others, your graduating class was in the thousands.
Malone: Yeah. I mean, they were big, even then.
Malone: Yeah, because I remember San Jacinto—we’d play them—and their drill team had their teddy bears and their golden gauchos—they stretched from goal post to goal post, shoulder to shoulder. And we’d have our Black Battalion out there—all three of us. (laughs)
Vance: Now that was—you were the Tigers?
Vance: And was San Jack your big rival?
Malone: No. Everybody was because we were so bad. We had such a poor choice to pick from. I mean, the guys tried, but the only thing they excelled in one year was basketball. They won state.
Vance: Do you remember any of the players off that team?
Malone: Did I what?
Vance: Any of the players off that team that—?
Malone: Oh, well, yeah, I knew all of them, and they were—a lot of them were in my homeroom. Mr.—Coach Neely was my homeroom teacher.
Vance: Okay. Who were some of the guys that played on that team that went to state?
Malone: Oh, let me think. Raymond 00:33:22 (s/l Carpon), Merle Dry was the water boy and played some, too—oh, golly—Johnny Gunn, and Thompson—Carl Thompson—I think. I can see their faces, can’t bring up all their names.
Vance: Now, that—Sam Houston High, from time to time, was called Central High School.
Malone: Right. It was called Central before it was called Sam Houston, yeah. Back in the—18‑something, when you were talking about—when it was first—I think it was called Central High School.
Vance: So did they officially change the name and said we’re going to be—?
Malone: Yes, and I don’t remember what year that was. It was Sam Houston when I went to it, but they always were talking about Central High—that we used to be called Central High.
Vance: Now you mentioned walking through some of the street people. What was that whole thing like? I’ve heard stories of little shanty towns that were—
Malone: Well, where we walked, it was in pretty good shape except there was a lot of weird people. You know, it’s like any big city, only it wasn’t that big then. But there were flashers and drunks, and they would sometimes drift through the school even.
Vance: Like walk inside?
Malone: Yeah—oh, look, a door, and it looks like it might open. And so they had to be on guard for that, even in the ‘40s.
Vance: Was Congress Avenue—a lot of bars along Congress?
Malone: Oh, yes, it’s always been—yeah. It was—when you said Congress, you thought of prostitution, bars, and the courthouse. That was the area. It’s always been bad, as far as I can remember.
Vance: From the courthouse east?
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: Or from the courthouse both ways?
Malone: Mainly east and south. That general area. Yeah, east and south, that went along kind of all the way over to the school. That whole area has always been—you had to think about where you were walking and where you were going, yeah.
Vance: Other than going to ball games—where did they play the football games, by the way?
Malone: Oh, at the high school stadium, which—
Vance: At the U of H?
Malone: No—yeah. Jepp—
Malone: Yeah, I didn’t know it had a name.
Malone: Because it was the only one in town and it was the high school stadium. And then—where?—in the ‘70s, they started calling it by name? I said, “Where is that stadium?” And they said, “It’s the old—.” I didn’t know it had a name.
Vance: It was just—
Vance: Public school—
Malone: It was our high school stadium.
Vance: Other than that, what was the social life like?
Malone: Oh, we had—we had our societies within the school, honor society and all this kind of stuff. And we—a lot of the kids used to go dancing at some of the—Ripley House—it was a neighborhood type thing where they tried to keep kids off the streets, even in those days, and so they would have dances at different facilities that belonged to Harris County—I think—around town. And a lot of the kids would go there. We would go to Playland Park because that was a big deal. And then, when I was dating my husband, they had a place called Lake Island, which was right next to Playland Park, kind of a beer joint/dance place. We danced at the Plantation. We used to come out to the monument—that was a good date thing. And just parties, but not real rowdy parties like they have now—some rowdy but not real rowdy.
Vance: Let’s take those one by one. Talk about Playland Park.
Malone: I loved Playland Park. I didn’t go a whole lot, but when I did go, I enjoyed it. And my husband—he wasn’t my husband yet—when he was dating another girl early on, they got caught in the loop‑the‑loop. And he had an earring at the time because he was—he was in the Navy and they had earrings. He had a little anchor. And it got caught in her long hair and liked to pull his ear off.
Vance: This was still back during the war?
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). Yeah. And so he took that—he took it out and never wore it again. He said, “That hurt.”
Vance: Was that a popular thing to do—get—?
Malone: It was. It really was. During—before the war years, right in the ‘30s, ‘40s, right in that era, he did that. And he had a Mohawk haircut. That was real popular back in those days.
Vance: Excellent. What do you remember about Playland Park? What all did they—?
Malone: Oh, they had the dodge cars, and they had the big Farris wheel, and they had the loop‑the‑loop things that turns you upside down. They would fasten you in. It was just a fun place to go. That was when I decided I don’t like to be jerked around and turned upside down, because one of the things got caught upside down with me, and I thought, I’m upside down on my head. This is not fun. This is not fun.
Vance: How much did it cost to go to Playland Park?
Malone: Golly, I don’t remember. Couldn’t have been very much. And I don’t remember—I think we—you bought individual rides. You didn’t have to buy a pass. Like if you wanted to ride the Farris wheel, you bought a ticket for the Farris wheel.
Vance: A big place?
Vance: Was it a big place?
Malone: We thought it was, but not in comparison to other things that you see.
Vance: And did you ever go to the stock car track out behind it?
Malone: No, I never did that one. I went to the rodeo.
Vance: Lake Island—that’s a new one to me.
Malone: Really? Well, it was fairly close to Playland Park—and the Plantation—they were all—the Plantation was a dance place.
Vance: Also on Main?
Malone: Yeah, in that same general area. And Lake Island was there for—it came about probably when I was about eighteen, seventeen—and it was mostly a beer joint type thing, but a lot of younger people went there.
Vance: And they had dancing also?
Malone: Yeah, dancing, uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: The Plantation—
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). It was really nice. And they had a lot of dances—big bands. Big name bands that would float through town and play there once in a while. Not so big, but became big.
Vance: How big a place was that?
Malone: It was a good size. It was a really nice size. My brain is thinking—it probably held two or three hundred people—maybe—not quite as big as the Pavilion over here.
Vance: And that was—Plantation had full supper and—?
Malone: Yeah, it was—it was really nice, yeah.
Vance: Now, drinking age was twenty‑one.
Malone: I think so, something good like that.
Vance: How was there—was that ever an issue back then?
Malone: Oh, a lot of people drank a lot. It just—just like it is now.
Vance: But I mean, did they really check IDs, and were they as much of a stickler as they might be today?
Malone: No. No. They weren’t. They figured—you know, it’s like now you get arrested for everything. In those days, they’d go, “You were speeding. Slow down. Be on your way. I don’t want to catch you here again.” And that—I mean, that happened to my husband. That happened to all of his friends. They’d do all these stupid kid things, and nobody would say, “We’re going to haul you off to jail,” because—and he did some—well, not—questionable things that I remember. And I went, “He hit that police—?” And you’re thinking, they shouldn’t—I don’t know. Now, everybody’s a suspect.
Vance: Where else did y’all—after you got married—where else did y’all go out?
Malone: Oh, we didn’t go out much because we didn’t have a lot of money, but we went to—I went to movies a lot. And we did go dancing, not a lot, but quite a bit. And there was place over in East End—the Ringside Club that—they did have fights there also. And we went there a couple of times. And a couple of—we used to have a couple of—my husband went to the Joy and the—the theater downtown.
Vance: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Malone: And they always had a show in between the movies, sort of risqué, but I think that’s why he liked to go. “They always had comedians,” he said, and I said, “Well, my mother wouldn’t let me go to the Joy because it was low class.”
Vance: Where was that located? Do you remember?
Malone: Off of Main—the Metropolitan—
Vance: And Loew’s were together—
Malone: Loew’s, yeah. Okay, around the corner was the Majestic. Back up on Texas Avenue was the Texan and the Uptown. Right west of there on—I don’t know what street it was—was the Joy and another movie—and I cannot think of the name of the other one. But they were—my mother said, “You can’t go there.” Now, I could go anywhere else, but I could not go to the Joy.
Vance: Where was the Ringside Club?
Malone: It was in East End, off Harrisburg, maybe Leeland or Dumble or one of those streets that cut through that way.
Vance: Now, there was no liquor by the drink back then, so if you wanted a mixed drink, you brought own?
Malone: Brought your bottle. Right. You brought your bottle for years and years and—I thought that wouldn’t—they finally got drinks. I said, “Oh, that’s nice. You don’t have to lug a bottle everywhere you go.”
Vance: So they would have beer for you.
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: You could buy that.
Malone: Yeah, you could buy beer, but you couldn’t buy mixed drinks. Yeah, you walked in with your—everybody took their—and they got real fancy carrying cases, too, because you had to carry it. And you didn’t want to carry just an old bottle in a—
Vance: In a sack.
Malone: Paper sack, so they had really nice carrying cases where you could carry your liquor in, and you’d get a setup.
Vance: What about restaurants? Where there any restaurants you remember?
Malone: Oh, yeah, and—there was the Ye Old College Inn. My husband and I were going to go there.
Vance: That was right across from Rice?
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). Very nice. Very nice. And we went in, and we sat down. And we were dressed like we were supposed to be. And we looked at the menu. And I looked at him, and he looked at me. And I said, “We can’t afford this.” He said, “I know.” I said, “Shall we go?” And we did. We got up and left.
Vance: What kind of prices were we talking about?
Malone: Well, it was probably six or seven dollars for an entrée, but that’s not what we’d pay. We’d pay like three and four. You know, it was like twice, and I said, “Let’s go somewhere else.” And so we did. But we used to go—all the places on South Main—we went to practically all of them. Right now my brain is gone completely to mush. I can’t remember. But I can see the buildings. I can’t remember the names.
Vance: So, South Main, was that THE place?
Malone: Oh, that was THE place.
Vance: Where everything was?
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). For nice—I mean, you started a little south of downtown and right on out. Everything was really nice out there. Yeah.
Vance: One last thing.
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: And then we’ll—I may talk—I may talk to you again. I may want to get your husband in on it.
Malone: He’s passed away.
Vance: Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.
Malone: Yeah. I know most of his stories, though.
Vance: Well, you’re doing good on those. The war. What was—how did life change with—?
Malone: Oh, tremendously.
Vance: Tell me—
Malone: Well, when I was—we had gone to—I have to preface this story—to visit my daddy’s kinfolk that lived in Walnut Springs, which was north of Waco. Okay, and this was in April of ’41. He had a heart attack and died up there. So we—mother and my sister and I—had to pack it up and come home. We buried daddy up there because we couldn’t transport—we didn’t have that kind of money. So we did that, and we came back home. We had a hurricane that summer. We—mother had a rent house built. I mean, she had a little money, so she had a rent house built. And we were—we didn’t know what to do. Mother couldn’t work because she had never worked. We were trying to get some Social Security. We were trying to get any kind of money to live on. We had no money. And so we started renting out our rooms. And then the war started in December. So it was like, well, what else can happen? So here we are. Mother, my sister, and I—Dell had quit school and she was working for the telephone company downtown. And I was home, and I would do all the shopping. And mother went to work in the school cafeteria because she could make just so much money and get our little bit of Social Security. And so—and then she worked Saturday downtown at Montgomery Ward. And that way, we kind of ooched by. And then we rented out the front room and we got money from that. So we just were existing. And then we had the—where you had to give them your stamp—
Vance: Oh, the rationing stamps?
Malone: Yes. And I did a lot of grocery shopping. Mother let me do it because I was dependable and so forth. So the grocery store guys became my very best friends. I’d go over and they’d say, “You want a Hershey bar?” I’d go, “Yes!” “Don’t let anybody see this,” because they kept all of that under the counter. And you had one—five pounds of sugar, you had to buy one pair of shoes, you had so many gallons of gas, if you were not one of these people that needed more gas, and we weren’t. And so it was just—your whole life just became—ha! And we had blackouts. And soldiers and sailors everywhere. Every girl that could walk got a date. It just changed your—the whole way you looked at everything.
Vance: What were the soldiers and sailors doing in Houston? I mean, I know Ellington was here, but—
Malone: Yeah—looking for girls.
Vance: So they were on leave?
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). Uh‑hunh (affirmative). Yeah, I mean, you’d look down and you’d go, “What are those sailors doing over here?” And I’m—we lived not in Houston, but in a neighborhood, and there were always soldiers and sailors.
Vance: Just wandering around.
Malone: Wandering around and into the beer joints—where I lived a lot of beer joints had grown up. I lived right on Lyons. They had built a movie across the street, the Globe Theater. A liquor store—well, it had turned from a service station into a liquor store. And there were beer joints all up and down the street, because it was a busy street. It was a thoroughfare. And so you got used to—you had to figure out how to get to the bus stop without being accosted.
Vance: What was the—ration‑wise—what was the hardest thing to get?
Malone: You know, I think—well, we did pretty good because there was just the three of us, mother, my sister, and I, and I think it was sugar. That was—because mother loved to bake and you couldn’t. So it was very—you had to plan. You really had to plan what you were going to eat and so forth. You couldn’t just go, “Oh, I’m going to bake a cake.” You’d go, “Do I have enough sugar to bake that cake? Do I have enough—?” Everything just got such a short supply. And then we had a roomer that lived with us, and he drove a truck among other things. And he would bring things home and said, “Oh, this fell off the truck.” As we later learned, he stole it off the truck. It was—I mean, I thought, he brought home this twenty‑pound box of bacon, and he said, “Oh, it fell off the truck. Turned the corner, fell off the truck.” And I just—this wasn’t damaged. I don’t think it—it was just stuff like that.
Vance: Good luck for that.
Vance: I said this was going to be the last thing, but one other thing I want to talk about.
Vance: Not necessarily during the war but before the war, where did you go clothes shopping? Was that downtown?
Malone: Mainly. Mainly downtown. Yeah, we—because we didn’t have—Sears was over on Harrisburg—Harrisburg and Wayside. We would go over there.
Vance: That was a pretty new store at that time?
Malone: Oh, yeah. Right.
Vance: Was there a Sears downtown?
Malone: Not downtown. The one out on Main was built late—
Vance: About ’42.
Malone: I think so. There was one over on White Oak Drive, out that way, that daddy took me to when I was little and bought me a locket. But the one that we were real happy with, the one over on Wayside, we’d go there. But basically it was downtown.
Vance: What stores did you like?
Malone: Of course Foley’s. That was big. Lord’s was a ladies’ store. Joske’s, after it came. But mainly, we did a lot of Sears. The White House used to be downtown. Penney’s. And Foley Brothers—that’s where those bathing suits came from.
Vance: Oh, really?
Malone: Yeah. They were furnished even in ’24.
Vance: Oh, I know what we didn’t talk about.
Malone: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).
Vance: And this is my last question.
Vance: Your high school prom you said was at the Rice.
Malone: Yes. Yes.
Vance: Tell me about what the Rice was like.
Malone: Oh, the Rice was very, very nice. It was one of the premiere places to have dances and so forth. And being that we were downtown anyway, we—they got us a place at the Rice. It wasn’t the roof. It was the—the one with the balcony up on about the third floor I think—a nice, nice, beautiful room and a bandstand with the balcony and so forth. So it was really, really nice, yeah. I enjoyed that.
Vance: That was a live band?
Vance: Do you remember who it was?
Malone: I really don’t know. I cannot remember.
Vance: Excellent. Well, we’re going to stop here.
Transcribed by Adept Word Management