of Virginia Hall Irby
Chapter 4, 1946 - 1957
First Draft Copy
& Sleep Shop
122 N. Highway B-288
Clute, Brazoria County
Lynch, Reding, Irby 3 Savanna Blue -
C. L. Reding Two Rivers Poetry -
G. M. Irby published poetry -
M. Hunter Long Shadows -
Five-year-old Virginia, 1923
1946, March 03
Keith Odell Irby was born in the Greenville Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina. Back in those days mothers stayed for a full week after the baby came. She was sent home in an ambulance and into the house on a stretcher.
We drove to Texas to visit my folks in Clute and ended up moving to Texas.
While we were visiting my folks, Irby checked around and found that working for Dow Chemical would be better than selling insurance in Greenville, South Carolina. We decided to move to Clute so we returned to Greenville to collect our things and returned to Texas about a week later. We rented a house on Main Street that was only 20' x 24' and we lived there for ten years. The bathroom was on the back porch, there were no closets in the house and no kitchen cabinets. Grampa built some closets; we bought cabinets, we wall papered the house and laid down tile floors. It made it livable while we were there. We even had to buy front steps. It was one-half a block from where we rented a building to begin our furniture business the next month.
Soon after we came to Clute we met the Lee Cobb family, mostly girls; Thelma, Willie Mae, Sammaye, and Sissy, Sonny was the only boy. Thinking back, I believe another girl had died. They had one of the few telephones in the Clute community and they arranged for us to call my parents on their phone. This phone was on a "party line." If there is a two-party line there would be one ring of the squeaky bell for one to "answer the phone." Two rings of the squeaky bell signals the other party. And if its a four-party line they get three and four squeaky bells.
(I read in my 1955 World Book Encyclopedia that the first automatic telephone
dialing service was installed in Englewood, New Jersey in 1951. And that
“the system is being expanded to cover the U.S.")
* * *
My mother was a Christian lady. She wasn't a leader but she was ready to defend her ground when it was necessary. She had two small signs in her front yard. One said "Notary." The other said, "Income Tax." She also had a real estate license and sold Avon Products, cosmetics, and costume jewelry.
From a lady named Gertrude, mother bought land on the new Lake Jackson Road at the east end of Plantation Road. Gertrude was a black lady who had fenced a specific section of land for seven continuous years and had therefore, under Texas law, legally laid claim to it's ownership.
It was that land on which daddy built his Hall's Cabinet Shop. Later mother wanted us to build our furniture store on the lots next to the shop. But we chose the new Highway 288 location instead.
My father, ("G.P.") had encouraged us to start a business here and grow with the community. We considered starting an office supply company or a furniture store. One Sunday, G.P. went to a Baptist Singing Convention in Danbury, Texas. In that little community he found a furniture store. The next day mother and I went to Danbury to see the store, and we walked through the three showrooms and didn't see anyone in the building.
We went next door and asked a neighbor, "Who keeps this furniture store?"
"He's gone to have lunch with a friend. It's OK for you to look 'til he gets back." We continued looking. It was stacked from the floor, hanging from the ceiling, disordered and dusty. Some was fine furniture, some cheap furniture, some with broken parts. A quilt hung across a doorway, so we looked behind the quilt and saw what seemed to be a living quarters. The single bed and kitchen area were clean. There was a big rolltop desk, a swivel chair, a chest, a couple of big chairs, and a linoleum rug on the floor. Used furniture was stacked in the corners.
Mother said, "Let's get out of here!! He might be strange!" So we sat on a bench under a shade tree outside. We would size up each man that came up the road. As one man came forward he said, "I didn't know I had company or I would have come sooner." He looked like Santa Clause. His cheeks were pink and he wore "Charlie Weaver" glasses. His hair was gray and it curled softly above his collar. He wore a neat khaki shirt and pants with a western belt and cowboy boots.
"Hi, I'm Otto Yauch," he said. After that he kept us entertained until 6:30 telling about his colorful life in Danbury selling cars, gas refrigerators, and furniture.
Mr. Otto Yauch was trying to get out of the furniture business and we were trying to get into the furniture business, having just opened a store in Clute. He made a deal with us before we left. We could be open with a larger inventory than we had, we could choose anything he had and bring it into our store to sell. Mr. Yauch would tell us what he paid for it and we'd split the profit. We'd not pay anything until we sold it. We trusted him for what he paid and he trusted us for what we sold it for. When he made deliveries into this part of the county, he would load the extra truck space with furniture for our store. He would have dinner with us and we'd get another dose of his sharpness. It took five months of this until we sold him out and filled a gap we had in getting into the business.
We rented a building down the street from our house to start a home furniture business. The building was Mrs. Susie Farrar's new 40' x 40' wood building between Farrar's Grocery Store and Wood's Barber Shop and directly across the street from Shorty's Beer Joint — Spelled B-E-E-R J-O-I-N-T. Although it was not designed to sell furniture, at the time it was the only one that could be rented.
There were wooden steps that led into the showroom. At the front, two windowless double doors greeted you. The two glass windows (4' wide x 4' high) beside the doors were set too high and were too small to show furniture. The floor was unfinished pine; no sub-floor and no floor covering. The lighting was six small, cheapest made, porcelain ceiling fixtures with incandescent bulbs and pull chain switches. There were no wall plugs. We provided fluorescent lights and wall plugs. The walls and the eight foot high ceilings were cheap fiberboards. Most commercial buildings that size have ten or twelve foot ceilings.
We wallpapered part of the showroom and painted the rest. We cooled the store with fans and heated it with gas burning space heaters. There was no restroom in or out of the store. We made an arrangement with Ward's gasoline service station across the corner to use their restroom facilities.
There was no outside lighting. All the deliveries to and from the store were made through the front door. There were no screens. We bought a screen for the back door and Mrs. Farrar, for some reason, didn't allow us to install it.
There was no driveway at the back of the store. The back door opened to a yard full of chickens and occasionally they would invite themselves into the store ... and so did a goat!
While at the Farrar Building in downtown Clute, the four-place parking area in front of the store had to be shared with Wood's Barber Shop. It was covered with oyster shells and it kicked up more dust than you can imagine. When Clute put in the traffic light at the corner it got to be a MAJOR MAJOR problem.
With cars and trucks both parking and un-parking out of Farrar's Grocery, Irby's, Wood's Barber Shop, and the B-E-E-R J-O-I-N-T, all being close to the corner, and with the Dow Chemical turning a shift ... and the school down the street letting out after a school day: IT WAS HAZARDOUS! Most people would have quit before we ever got started. We paid Mrs. Farrar $75 per month for the showroom. Other landlords doubled their charges several times, but she didn't.
When we started the business we thought we would possibly be in Texas for ten years to make enough money to be comfortable back in the mountains of North Carolina. But it took longer than that to get money in the bank. Both Texas and North Carolina were progressing, but in North Carolina we would have to compete with furniture stores that were already established.
1946 - 1950
Irby worked at the Dow Chemical company in the Inventory Control Department for several years after we first started the furniture business. His permanent shift was from 3:00 P.M. - 11:30 P.M. He worked at Irby's in the mornings and until 2:30, then dashed off to Dow. It was midnight before he got home — a tight schedule!
Other people that worked with him at Dow were Raymond Gantt, now ranching in east Texas, Mr. Richards (now deceased), Johnny Hynds (now deceased), S. T. McKnight (now deceased).
For the first ten years after we moved to Clute the dairy companies delivered milk and butter to neighborhood homes twice a week. Supermarkets began to show up and that became a more satisfactory way to buy dairy products.
Ice companies delivered ice six days a week. We would use cards hung out on the door at night to indicate to the iceman early the next morning what was needed for that day. Cloverleaf shaped cards were left on the front door with the appropriate letters pointed up: 25 lbs, 50 lbs, 75 lbs, 100 lbs. The delivery man would enter the home with a block of ice and place it inside an ice chest. The homeowner's purchase money would be left on the top of the ice box. Ice pans would have to be emptied or the bucket would run over on the floor. Sometimes they bored a hole in the floor to receive melted ice. The ice was not clean enough to drink.
Not long after the war, new homes nationwide were being built offering a new space in the house — the FAMILY ROOM.
1947, March 02
Edna and Jim Scott moved from Asheville, North Carolina to Austin, Texas. They had owned Scott Apartments where we lived during my second year at Lee Edwards High School. They worked with groups of concert musicians. They scheduled concerts to be presented to schools and colleges, living in a nice Streamline Trailer as they traveled.
One time they left the trailer at our house while they went to Corpus Christi to give a performance. Before they returned a freezing sleet hit Brazosport and the Texas coast. We stepped out of our house into a crystal world of transparent sleet that became clear ice on every blade of grass, every bush, tree, and electric line. Stolactites hung from the eaves of houses. Our voices bounced off the ice like echoes in the wind. It was beautiful. I believe it was March 2, 1947. Edna and Jim waited for the ice to melt before they reclaimed their trailer.
1947, April 16
While at the store alone with Keith (one year old) our building was rocked from an explosion that occurred in Texas City, later known as the "Texas City Explosion." Many people were killed when two ocean freighters loading fertilizer at the docks detonated, forty-five miles from here, between Houston and Galveston. Films were being made at the time of the explosion and are still shown on television every year at the anniversary of the disaster.
1948, June - August
I was alone and asleep in our house on Main Street. Irby was on the night shift at Dow. There was no air conditioner and the windows were open. I was suddenly awakened when I heard a man's low voice saying, "... you hold her and I'll tie her!"
I was frozen with fear until I realized it was two local young men trying to catch a horse that got away and was in our back yard. The two men were Jack Glidden and Bob Smith, both of Clute.
I was president of the Clute Garden Club. I learned to be more at ease when I talked to a small group and therefore I could speak to a large group because it was nothing more than a small group "enlarged." It helped me to learn that!
* * *
Irby, four year old Keith, my dad and mother (Grandpa and Grandma) and I were traveling toward North Carolina in a 1935 Chevrolet four door car. We were crossing the very long Atchtaphallaya Swamp bridge that was low over the water, through the swamp cypress trees, and at least thirty five miles long.
Keith began to dance around in the car like he needed to go to the restroom. We could not stop on the long bridge so Grampa had the good idea to use a Coke bottle for Keith to pee in. Midway through the operation Irby hit a bump with the car and suddenly it was like holding your thumb over the end of a water hose. It sprayed all over the car.
* * *
Daddy and Irby built a wooden building on Plantation Drive in Clute to be the home of Hall's Cabinet Works. My mother said that daddy made every cabinet as if he was making a grand piano. He was a perfectionist.
1950, March 12
We joined the First Presbyterian Church of Freeport, Texas. Irby was on the Building Committee when the church moved to the new sanctuary at 1402 West Broad Street with the slogan "New Bricks for '56."
Over the years Irby was deacon and then elder. Keith sang in the choir. Glynn was a deacon. I was a deacon, joined the choir and the Night Circle. We headed the Fellowship Committee for several years and sponsored the Youth Fellowship every Sunday night for thirteen years.
Reverend Lawrence Malloy was the minister at the time we joined. He later moved to Marshall, Texas and began writing short devotionals that were syndicated in newspapers nationwide.
On one of our trips into Houston we drove through the River Oaks area and Keith saw one of the great houses that was covered with English ivy. Keith looked out, wide eyed, and said: "Look! There's a house made out of grass!"
1950, September 28
Glynn Monroe Irby was born in the Herman Hospital in Houston, Texas. Upon learning that his brother Glynn would soon be born, Keith described his real thoughts;
"I'd rather have a rabbit!"
Ray Farrar had the first television in Clute. He would set the black-and-white television in an opened window and neighbors would come over, sit in the yard, and watch "live" boxing matches.
When Glynn was less than a year old, my daddy had to have surgery in the Turner Urological Clinic on Carolyn Street in Houston, Texas. My mother was not strong enough to see daddy through the surgery but she thought she could keep our kids and let us see to daddy's needs. Which we did!
Half way through the surgery the doctors ruptured daddy's bladder. He took all of the anesthetic they could allow. Daddy kept asking for me to come into the operating room, but I would have fainted. When he returned to his room he slept for a full day, but when he opened his eyes, he had IVs, a tube to drain the kidney, and blood transfusion apparatus attached to him. He looked up at me, then slowly said, "I look more like a distillery than a man!" From that statement we knew he was better.
Another incident at the Turner Clinic was when a bed pan was accidentally knocked off the window ledge from an upper story window. It fell onto the fire escape slides and corkscrew and slid all the way down to the street level, then skated out across Caroline Street to the sidewalk on the other side of the street.
Earl Richard Hall graduated from the Freeport High School in Freeport, Texas. He then entered Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas on two scholarships. He received the four year scholarship from Dow Chemical as well as another that I can't remember. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Engineering from Texas A & M in 1956.
It was also at A & M that he received his first military commission through the ROTC program.
1951, September 20
I was one of the judges for the Lake Jackson contest for Christmas home decorating.
One day at the store, one of our customers came in with her baby daughter. The "tyke" was let loose while I was showing the mother bedroom furniture. She crawled across beds, rocked in the rocking chairs, climbed into bunk beds, played music boxes in the gift department. The next day another customer noted, "Someone has already used that little toilet training chair." I saw it was true and I was flabbergasted!
Another time during that same year I was demonstrating a new SpeedQueen ringer washer to a customer. I hooked it up to show how quiet the agitator was and how safe the wringers were. I put my hand in the wringer to show that when you drop your hand on the safety bar just below the wringer it disengages the rotating mechanism. I had done this many times and there had never been a problem. BUT THIS TIME WAS DIFFERENT. The wringer kept pulling my hand and arm. The customer was quick to pull the electrical plug and backed me out of the wringer. I was not injured.
* * *
Camping at the Beach
At least once every summer we camped on the beach. It took us a good three hours to load up the gear we needed. Here are some of the things we couldn't live without:
- queen size bed in the camper,
- five folding cots
- pallets for those sleeping on the ground
- four folding chairs
- a chest full of ice
- four gallons of water
- first aid kit
- snake bite kit
- forks for roasting hot-dogs and marshmallows
- a can opener
- beach towels
- paper towels
- two folding card tables to keep food off the sand
- a stew pan and frying pan
- long spoons
- knives, forks, paper plates, cups
- guide book for bird identification
- guide book for shell identification
- pencil and paper for listing birds and shells
- coffee pot
- mosquito spray
- food: hot-dogs, buns, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise, potato chips, cokes,
cookies, bacon and eggs for breakfast, fruit.
It was like moving away from home for just one day. We would arrive at the beach at about 11:00 A.M. and come home about noon the next day.
We always had someone with us. Over time, some of the people were: the Kenneth Darbys, Mrs. Bertha Prather, Pat and Reba with Grandpa and Mabel, Raymond Gandt, Tiny, Mack, and Jimmy Cornett, Jean Hall, Patrick Mitchell.
One time, Earl Hall and two of his friends from A & M saw how logged-out Keith was sleeping, so they eased his cot, with him sleeping in it, about 300 yards down the beach from our campsite. They slipped away and left him asleep. It was a while before he woke up. Talk about a person being turned around — he was! He started in the wrong direction, then he saw us and turned back and said, "THE TIDE CAME UP AND WET MY COT!" His was the only cot that got wet from the tides, though — but he was certain that the tide had done it.
Uncle Mac took our family fox hunting one night when Glynn was only two and a half years old and Keith was seven years old. They scrambled over the rough terrain like troopers, and they BOTH still remember the experience to this day!
We went to the new Hobby Airport in Houston to see the new building and to show Keith and Glynn the airplanes coming in and taking off. While we were there we had dinner in the beautiful new restaurant overlooking the runway. During the meal Keith noted that some people at the other tables were drinking beers. (This being unusual because beers were not served at cafes that we normally patronized.)
The next day, Bill Billingsley, the owner and editor of the Brazorian News newspaper, came into the store to talk about an advertisement that we were going to run in his paper. I asked Keith to tell Mr. Billingsley where he had been the previous night. Keith looked at Mr. Billingsley, then loudly and proudly called out:
"My mommy took me to a beer joint last night!!
Later that year that phrase showed up in an article in the newspaper as a child's description of the renowned Hobby International Airport.
* * *
Our original furniture store location was near the Clute Elementary School. Once, we had delivered sixteen barstools to a local restaurant, and therefore had sixteen empty boxes stacked in front of the store. When the elementary school was let out many children walked past the front of the store. Some of the children asked if they could have the empty boxes. I explained that they could have them if they didn't scatter them around the community. They immediately cut arm holes on the left and right sides and slits at the front for eyeholes. Then they put their arms out each side and their heads so they could look out the eyeholes and they began an impromptu Box Parade of Children down Main Street.
* * *
The first TV dinners became available at grocery stores.
* * *
Our children called my mother "Grannybug." I shortened it to "GB," and "GP" for "Grampa."
* * *
The people that received polio vaccine in 1954 were called "Polio Pioneers." It was January 1961 before they saturated the market. Keith and Glynn stood in line for it — it was not a shot. It was an oral vaccine — a tasteless wafer. Polio cases dropped sharply after that.
* * *
Mrs. Holmes, a 60 year old lady in the neighborhood brought us some of the yummiest food I ever tasted. Earlier she had baked and won the Pillsberry's $2,500 Cake Recipe. The next week it was "Gold Medal's New Cinnamon Rolls" recipe. There were pies, cookies, and new ways to cook everything. When I finally saw her house I was humbled to see the stove this master cook was using. All of her gourmet, prize winning foods were cooked on a two-burner gas hot plate with a portable oven.
Mrs. Holmes nursed me through a case of pneumonia. She cooked dinners and kept them fired up enough to cure it.
1954, September - October
Clute was getting its first Junior High School Band. They spent a few days locating the notes and "tooting" in the band hall. Soon they were marching on the school ground. Glynn was not old enough to be in school yet, but he found a coat-hanger, held it as he would a wind instrument, and marched around beside the band as if he were playing a trumpet.
1955, Early December
Soon after we moved our home to 824 Elm Street in Clute, we traded a sofa and two tables for a piano. Both of our boys learned it well. (A mother whose child plays "chop sticks" thinks she has a genius!) We bought a new Baldwin Acrosonic piano about three years later. As soon as Keith slid off the piano stool, Glynn slid on. They played duets both classic and popular, as well as all kinds of other music.
Glynn got into a stomping rage with Keith because of something he said to Glynn. He was in hot pursuit and chased Keith as he ran into the bathroom. In just the nick of time, Keith slammed and locked the bathroom door, while Glynn plunged broad-side from the hallway into the closed door, giving the door a swift, healthy kick.
He damaged the lower panel by splintering the inside from the kick. It was approaching Christmas time and we told Glynn his Christmas would be a new door for the bathroom.
We made a believer out of him. On Christmas morning he opened all of his presents but he ignored the big box in the living room. After breakfast when we started to clean out the packaging litter from presents, he toppled the big box over and peeped inside. Was he ever surprised!? There was a brand new bicycle in the box.
The door was repaired. But to this very day it still shows the wooden wounds of Glynn's stomping rage!
1955 - 1956
Irby was on the Brazosport Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for two years.
While at Bertha Salmon's Freeport Flower Shop Glynn stole a ceramic frog. When returning to Clute I discovered what he had done and we immediately returned to the Flower Shop where Glynn tearfully apologized and returned the frog.
* * *
Glynn visited the Herman Park Zoo with his first grade school class. After Glynn ’s trip to the zoo, the teacher asked all the kids to draw pictures of the animals they found most interesting. His lingering thoughts were S-N-A-K-E-S and turtles. His drawings were excellent but his spelling was free form:
MOXSONS for water moccasins
DIMON RATTE for diamond back rattler
KOPERHED for copperhead
TRITTLE for turtle
1956, June 26
I was the only lady that spoke at a political rally for incorporating the community of Clute. The name Clute City was sneaked onto the ballot and it passed. Later we had another election to remove the "City" part of the name. Now it is referred to as either "Clute" or "City of Clute." The community has remained the same anyway.
Glynn was at the doctor's office for school shots. While in Dr. Stewart's waiting room he saw another child coming out crying loudly after receiving his shots. Then the nurse looked down at Glynn and said "What is your name?
His frightened response was; "I forgot to ask my Momma."
* * *
Once Nell Meyers spanked Glynn at her house because he misbehaved. Glynn, along with two of her boys, Ricky and Randy, were trying to go from one side of the house to the other without touching the floor, by walking on the furniture, climbing on china cabinets and tables, swinging on light fixtures, and hanging from planters. All three of them, Ricky, Randy, and Glynn were caught and spanked on the spot.
1956, October 13
Earl Richard Hall and Mary Carman Whiteker married at the First Baptist Church in Lake Jackson, Texas. Miss Phyllis Jean Pratt (now Castleberry) was the maid of honor and Dayton Conover was the best man. Rev. John H. Beard officiated the ceremony. Mrs. Raymond Kelly sang "O Promise Me," "Because," and "The Lord's Prayer."
Carman's parents: Mr. & Mrs. Bosque (Bill) Monroe Whiteker, and sister Janis Ann Whiteker; Earl's parents; Mr. & Mrs. Emless R. Hall.
Carman, born 19 December 1932, had graduated from the Freeport High School in 1950 and attended the University of Texas before her employment at Dow Chemical.
Earl was to go on a military assignment three days after the wedding. They confided in us that they would go to Galveston. We suggested that we lend them our house for their honeymoon. We could stay with my parents in Clute and they could hide out for two nights. We promised that nobody would ever dream they were there. They decided to take us up on that deal.
The night before the wedding Earl hid the "get-away" car in Clarence and Flo Pool's garage — so that the guys couldn't entangle it with tin cans and graffiti. At the signal at the end of the reception Clarence drove the car next to the curb at the church while the couple were getting showered with rice. As soon as Carman was seated in the car, Earl took the wheel. Clarence got into his own car and blocked the intersection so that other cars couldn't get through. The bride and groom were successful in evading a another "chaser car," but later they said they felt deprived!
We had put the house in shipshape condition. We placed flowers and candles all around. In the refrigerator we left chicken salad, ham, fruit salads, desserts, and other tidbits.
Nobody came around during the night. But we hid six alarm clocks, each set to go off at odd times during the night, and all after midnight and before dawn.
1957, January 09
My mother, Ottie Loretta Hunter Hall, passed away with an heart condition while in the Community Hospital in Freeport, Texas. She was born April 02, 1893 in Mars Hill, Madison County, North Carolina. She was 64 years, 9 months, and 7 days old at the time of her death.
The funeral was held at the First Baptist Church in Clute, and she was buried at the Lakewood Cemetery.
Officiating at the funeral was Rev. O.T. Vanmeter of the First Baptist Church in Clute, with a prayer by Rev. Lawrence Malloy of the First Presbyterian Church of Freeport. She had married Emless Richard Hall on 21 December 1917. Her father was Hardy Hunter, her mother was Martha Bradley Hunter, both of Mars Hill, North Carolina.
Her brothers were: Dr. H. Tyrum Hunter, of Cullowhee, North Carolina;
Oscar Hunter, Biltmore, North Carolina; Kelly Hunter, Mars Hill, North Carolina;
Lattie Hunter (youngest), Bennetsville, South Carolina.
Her sisters were; Zenora Hunter-Philips (N.B.) of East Flat Rock, North Carolina;
Vivian Hunter-Edwards (oldest), from (formerly) Charlotte Courthouse, Virginia.
Glynn came creaking into the furniture store one day after school. His face reflected SHOCK!
I said, "What's wrong?"
He couldn't speak. He swallowed several times.
"Did Keith upset you?"
He shook his head, "No."
"Has Keith been hurt?"
He swallowed again and finally, between sobs, said ...
"THE ... RABBITS ... ARE DEAD!!
Earlier, a neighborhood man gave Glynn two rabbits and a bag of rabbit chow. Glynn brightened up at the thought of raising rabbits. Keith built an elevated cage with a roof over it. We reminded Glynn daily that he would have to water and feed the rabbits. But then the rabbits died.
They went into a pet burial plot under a tree in the back yard along with a deceased frog, a cat named "Silver," and a painted "trittle."
1957, November 18
Bryan Monroe Hall was born to Carman and Earl Richard Hall.
“I was suddenly
I heard a man’s voice saying
‘You hold her
and I’ll tie her!’”
& Sleep Shop
122 N. Highway B-288
Clute, Brazoria County
Lynch, Reding, Irby 3 Savanna Blue -
C. L. Reding Two Rivers Poetry -
G. M. Irby published poetry -
M. Hunter Long Shadows -