Page 6


bk New Bunyanesque Type On Teaching Literacy In A Jail In Mexico take off their hats and face Beaumont. Spindletop was the first well brought in at the big Beaumont field at the turn of the century, and the well which started it all. Only in recent years, however, has the Texas oil millionaire been projected on the American scene as one of the standard figures of fact and fiction in our national life, along with the Yankee horse trader. the Western Pioneer, the robber baron and all the others. So much has been written about him in the last few years that he, and the stories built around him, have become part of the folklore. Like all folklore, there is a lot of pure hyperbole therein, but there is also enough truth to make it good in the telling. One of the favorite stories down here concerns the extremely nearsighted oil millionaire who had the windshield of his cadillac ground to his eyeglass prescription. Ridiculous, yes, but then we come up against another story, which Houstonians swear is true. It concerns the oil millionaire who sent his Cadillac to Europe to have a custom-built foreign body put on it. He sent word along to just throw the old body away. It’s no wonder they joke about how, when the ash tray of a Texas oil man’s Cadillac gets full he McKay Views Politics Pappy’s demise from the political scene by simply reporting the facts what O’Daniel did, what he said. It is much the same in this volume; only it encompasses everything and everyone in these recent years. He sets us in pergpective with a short, introductory forenote; then launches into his project in a style that is both thoroughgoing and lively; There is a Texas trying to re-adjust after the war years, and the old Texas Regulars pushing haid for power. There is the story of Dr. Homer Rainey, his troubles with the Republican-controlled University of Texas Board of Regents \(appointed by O’Daniel and Coke Stevsal and candidacy for governor. There are the others of that 1946 campaign, too: Beauford Jester, at the time a little-known Railroad Commissioner; Jerry Sadler, just back from the wars; John Lee Smith \(who recently missed out on a cushy bit of Republican patronMarch. The bitter 1946 campaign is reported thoroughly. \(You might have forgotten that in the runoff Dan Moody supported Jester and Sadler and James Allred endorsed In that same year there is the story of a young Army major and former state senator named Allan Shivers winning easily as lieutenant governor. And there was Pat Neff Jr., considered at first a cinch for attorney general, but then being upset by a fast-rising young man named Price Daniel. There are the other elections the disputed contest between Stevenson and Lyndon , Johnson is covered thoroughly, for instanceon up to Eisenhower’s landslide and Ralph Yarborough’s first try for governor in 1952. There are not only the campaigns. There are the legislative sessions, the conventions, the intricacies of government and behind-the-scenes intrigue; the’ key figures and the shadowy ones as well. This is non-partisan reporting at its best, and the only regret here is that another appraisal isn’t imme el n c,1 fnrflinnrn in cr \(A series of articles on Texas oil millionaires appeared recently in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Written from afar with detachment and grace, the articles offer original insight into the natures of these men. With the permission of the Post-Dispatch, We By DICKSON TERRY Staff Correspondent St. Louis Post-Dispatch HOUSTON There are said to be a thousand millionaires here in Houston, but that’s just a convenient figure for bragging purposes and like nearly everything else in Texas, somewhat exaggerated. As a matter of fact, we were told by a Houston newspaper man who investigated the matter, there are only 791. Not all of these, of course, are oil millionaires. Some of them, like Jesse Jones, who owns a large share of downtown Houston, made it in real estate and other avenues. And some are just small-timers who only have from $1,000,000 to $15,000,000 and to whom nobody pays much heed. In fact, they tell you about one man down here who died and left $25,000,000 and made the front page only because everybody expected him to leave a lot more. They distinguish here between the merely rich and what they call the Big Rich, who got that way from Texas oil. Just where the dividing line comes is a matter of debate, but most people seem to agree that being Big Rich starts at about $40,000,000 to $50,000,000. The Texas oil millionaire has been around for some time now. In fact, ever since Spindletop, a word which makes most Texas oil men * * * Perhaps no man has done more to focus attention on the Texas oil man than Glenn McCarthy, known as King of the Wildcatters. He is the sort of man people often think of when Texas, oil, and wild spending are mentioned. He made the headlines for years, sometimes because of new oil discoveries, sometimes because of the way he spent money and sometimes because of brawls, both barroom and courtroom. But he has color and he is a living legend in Texas. Time magazine once described him this way: “He looks like nothing so much as a Hollywood version of a Mississippi river gambler, a moody and monolithic man with a dark, Civil War mustache, a cold acquisitive eye and a brawler’s shoulder-swinging walk.” …. McCarthy got rich, wasn’t satisfied, over-expanded, and wound up some $4,000,000 in debt. But he started all over again. He got a syndicate to back him, drilled in what was considered an extremely unlikely spot, and hit again. One success led to another, and by the time he was 40 years old he was president and owner of 18 corporations, valued at more than $100,000,000. Then over-expansion got him again. The fabulous Shamrock Hotel, which cost him $21,000,000 to build, was taken over by the Equitable Life Insurance Co. which, with Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. had loaned McCarthy $55,000,000 on sold to Conrad Hilton. Gone is a $15,000,000 chemical plant, a string of newspapers and many other things in which McCarthy invested. He still owns oil wells in Texas, California and Wyoming, and he has a lot of real estate, a radio station, and other holdings. But his biggest asset today, other oil men say, is a 970,000 acre oil concession in Bolivia, which he is now working. McCarthy, Texas oil men say, will make it again. You can’t keep him down. What has been McCarthy’s contribution to Houston? Well, a lot of people think it is considerable, even if it is a little hard to define. There is the Shamrock Hotel, of course, which is nationally famous and which stands for both Houston and Glenn McCarthy. “But I think the main thing Glenn did for Houston,” said an oil man who knows him well, “is that he made it one of the cosmopolitan cities of the world, right along with New York, Hollywood, London, and Paris. He gave Houston something we never had before. I guess you could call it Cafe Society.” By BRUCE CUTLER Written for The Texas Observer The first day I was there, the trusty neglected to open that foot-thick oak door to let me out and made the kind of joke that is always much funnier to the prisoners \(in anyone else. It was what people sometimes call humor in its universal sense. I’m sure it seems more universal outside that door than inside. The prison in which I worked was pretty typical of those in the rural areas of one of our closer, Latin American nation-neighbors: from the outside, the tourist would be sure to spot it as an impressive, fort-like building in the presidio tradition. Inside the street door, which was open in the daytime and closed at night with a key the size of a man’s forearm and older than Austin, a squad of the 143rd Infantry had set up an informal and coeducational living arrangement. Behind them was the second door, the one the trusty was sometimes slow to open. Behind that door, around a corner, was the prison yard. It was open and cobblestoned One large room served as a dormitory where the men slept on straw mats if they had them, or on straw, or on the stones. They cooked on the dormitory floor. Above them was a loft where the shrine was. We also held our literacy classes there and when the smoke was not too thick we sometimes ran a wire for a movie projector in. Our state, like most, forbade capital punishment. At the same time, it made no provision for the feeding of its prisoners. A man serving eight days, or eight years , to shift for himself on two cents a day, or else ask friends or relatives to bring him food. Around election time the population of the jail swelled considerably. Shortly afterward it diminished. Riding on top of the political vicissitudes, the prisoners’ most avid interest was neither politics nor crime but, understandably, women, and more tangibly, sports. Some reconnaisance around town produced a battered volleyball and a rope which served as a net. The games were spiced by two things: 50-man teams \(which left almost no Bruce Cutler spent four years Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica in public health and education work projects sponsored by the governments of Mexico and Salvador. He taught in rural schools, worked in a housing and agricultural self-help co-op and assisted in rural sanitation \(“You also worked, for a while, in a prison, and this sketch on prison. life is the result. More stories will follow. Originally from Chian open latrine-trench ich ran along two sides of the courtyard wall. Personal feuds found a natural and happy outlet when the end-men worked around on those sides. As the honored guest I was not permitted to play on the ends. Eliseo was about my age. He was never quite sure why he had been sentenced. He was one of the few prisoners with a skill which he could use to supplement his diet. He made sweaters by a process that looked like something between knitting and a game of handball. The guards bought the materials Eliseo eked along. Most of the men were peasants and not that lucky. The mayor was quite interested in improving conditions in the prison. That was why I had been asked to teach literacy. The day after the elections were over, our mayor-triumphant expressed his secret wish and brought in all the unused election posters from his office. We cut them up and used the backs for paper for our classes. This, he confided in me, was the best use to which the posters had ever been put. Eliseo made himself a kind of major-domo and supervised the class materials. Soon -the mayor came up with a few books for the prisoners to read. The paper, books, and nubs of charcoal we burned out for pencils in the cooking-fires were the jealous domain of Eliseo and his Committee of 103. Although in constant use, the materials were always there, clean and ready for the classes. Page 6 February 28, 1955 THE TEXAS OBSERVER The Texas Mind TEXAS AND THE FAIR DEAL, 1945-1952, By Seth Sheppard McKay, The Naylor Company, San Antonio, $5. If you’ve despaired in recent years because turbulent and tempestuous Texas has no historian ‘to record the facts and fancies and foibles of its politics, then you may put your mind at ease. We have onea good onein ‘eth Shepperd McKay, and his latest volume is probably the most complete work you can find to bring back the days that time and too many campaigns have dimmed. McKay, a professor of history at Texas Tech, has resurrected and dusted off the political history of Texas from just after the war to Eisenhower’s sweep in 1952. In a way, it connects with an earlier book by McKay, “W. Lee O’Daniel and Texas Politics,” published in 1944. There are a few war years missing, but they were quiet ones compared with those preceding and immediately following hostilities. Readers of his earlier book will know that he gave O’Daniel a good going-over without ever veering from his objectivity. He hastened Dismissed School Head Says Politics To Blame IRVING, TEXAS A dismissed school superintendent has charged here that the controversy which resulted in his removal stemmed from the support f a political candidate by teachers the Irving school. Dr. John I. Beard, formerly supntendent of the school, said that group in Irving protested last imer when a group of the teach took part in precinct conven t on behalf of Ralph Yarbor for Governor. ard said that a member of the ?sting group called the school l president and said there :1 be “trouble” because of the ers’ political activities. mwhile, 752 Irving citizens signed petitions asking the board here to re-instate doesn’t empty ithe just trades the car in an a new one. At last count there were approximately 5000 airconditioned Cadillacs on the streets of Houston, and I saw one secondhand car lot which dealt only in Cadillacs. Hundreds of them. * * * And it’s also true that an oil man and a promoter met in the lobby of the Rice Hotel here one afternoon and made a $330,000,000 deal in 20 minutes. As a result of these and dozens of similar stories, not to mention magazine articles a n d novels, like Edna Ferber’s “Giant” and George Fuermann’s “Land of the Big Rich,” the Texas oil tycoon has been evolving into a Bunyanesque figure whose features are not yet very clearly drawn, but whose characteristics any American child would recognize. Not the least among them is supposed to be a gauche and somewhat childlike wonderment at being in possession of vast sums of money which he doesn’t quite know how to spend: and a tendency to look upon Texas and everything connected therewith as slightly detached from the rest of the country and not subject to the general rules pertaining thereto. This makes a lot of people, including some Texas oil millionaires sad. Because with a few notable exceptions, real-life oil tycoons do not adhere very closely to the picture and about the only thing they really have in common with the legend is a lot of money . . . . The public health men came one day for a delousing campaign. Despite its help in letting you sleep easily at night, there is something violative in the way in which they squirt their DDT into the various recesses of the human body. However, the men were appreciative and made the doctor a present of the victims of the campaign, all piled neatly in a glass jar. Finally, I was transferred out of town. The news came as a surprise to all the prisoners. We decided to have a particularly good volleyball game and afterwards approached a can of boiling water into which one man was putting a few grains of