SOME OLD stories are too good not to re-tell and put in print.
In the mid-1950s, Sam Houston State Teachers College was a small school. It’s now Sam Houston State University and has several times the enrollment that it did in the fall of 1955, my freshman year, when the student body numbered 1900 and the freshman class accounted for 900 of that enrollment.
I mistakenly signed up to live in a dormitory that was mostly for freshman boys (no co-ed dorms in those strait-laced days of imposed morals and naivete’).
Before the end of the first semester, I’d found a private home across the street from the campus with rooms to rent. I had a journalism scholarship that paid books, tuition and fees and I had a job to pay other expenses. I was a short order cook at the Club Café, down the street from my ultimate home for three semesters, in the home of Elmo and Falvey Welch, a delightful couple in their late 70s.
A HALLWAY divided their frame home. They lived on the right side. There were three rooms and a bath on the left side. There were no kitchen privileges. No alcohol and no girls allowed.
A covered porch spread across the front of the house. On the left were chairs, set aside for college boy roomers. The right side was reserved for Elmo and Falvey. However, if Elmo took a liking to you, he’d join you on the left and “help you watch” coeds passing by.
Elmo was a retired prison guard and was almost completely recuperated from a stroke suffered several months earlier.
WHEN SITTING with me watching the girls go by, he’d say, just loud enough for Falvey to hear: “Hi honey.” Then, he’d look at Falvey and say, “I was talking to you.” She’d just laugh and go “Humph.”
Elmo like to pitch washers. Folks today, unless they grew up in the country dirt poor, don’t know about that game. All you need is some big washers that are used to pad big bolt heads. Then, you dig two holes (about 2.5 inches in diameter by 2 inches deep) side by side, and 15 feet away duplicate that. Two players stand side by side at one pair of holes and take turns tossing the washers at the other set.
The most points go for putting a washer in the hole. However, your opponent can cover you and negate your points. Closest washers to the hole otherwise gain single points, as opposed to the five for a “ringer.”
Today’s youth think they invented “trash-talking but they didn’t have anything on Elmo.
In his wry way, he’d lay that talk on you when you scored big points and while you were preparing to pitch again from the other end. Elmo didn’t talk as you poised to pitch, but he was constant when you were just getting ready.
Of course, Elmo didn’t swear. His “cuss” words were the names of politicians he thought were corrupt.
And, in the 1950s, there was a political scandal during the time Allan Shivers was Texas governor. He’d appointed one of his political aides as Land Commissioner. One of the programs under his direction provided low cost financing to help Texas military veterans purchase land for agricultural purposes.
Shivers’ appointee, Bascom Giles, oversaw the program. Irregularities were discovered, Giles was charged and went to prison in Huntsville. Many thought Shivers profited as well but no charges were ever brought.
ELMO DESPISED Shivers so the governor’s name was a swear word as far as he was concerned.
When he and I pitched washers and I hit a ringer, he’d look at me in mock amazement and say, “You Allan Shivers outfit.” Of course, my response was to call him a “Bascom Giles outfit.”
We laughed a lot.
It was an absolute joy to live with Elmo and Falvey and to match wits with that great old man.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.