(We continue with more tid-bits served up by our favorite RGV historian Rene Torres in part 2 of "Bites from Brownsville History")
The following information was taken from the Brownsville Herald Archives researched and compiled by Rene Torres.
Did you know that:
· In January 1913, Brownsville Herald invited local boys to participate in a paper subscription drive contest. A subtitle read as follows: “A chance for every boy to go to Washington and see Woodrow Wilson Inaugurated ---The First Democratic President in 20 years.” This followed with one major rule, that only WHITE boys should apply.
· One of the Valley’s singular armed services record for active participation on the battlefields of World War II is held by the Walter Blanchard family of Brownsville. The Blanchard’s lived at 744 Ringgold Street when all six sons joined the war effort— Fred, Basil, Frank, Robert, Lester and Walter.
· In the 1945 Charros Days a new feature took the stage with a bang. The bombing of “Tokyo” took place at the high school football field with a firework display prior to the bombing activities. The Tokyo set went up in flames as miniature airplanes gilded over their target and unloaded a barrage of bombs.
· The Brownsville Junior High football team of 1927 played a brilliant game from the upset, defeating Palestine in a thriller. The victory gave the city team a state title as the stadium was filled with of the largest crowds ever assembled for a football game in Brownsville. Herald headlines read: “Victors Annex Texas Title by 13-0.” (Future column)
· An incident in Brownsville in 1929, according to some who lived near Washington Plaza—sparked the idea that the world was coming to an end. While a congregation near to the park was deep in prayer, flashes of colored lights penetrated through the open windows. This followed with a holler, “Repent ye, sinners; the world is coming to an end. Well! It just happened that they were testing the light-play of the Washington Park fountain, which was confused for a life ending event. A lot of belief in magic clung to the Washington Park fountain over the years. Curanderas and other little old ladies would go to the fountain at night and fill small bottles full of the magic water. By the next day, they’d vent their disgust when they noticed the magic water had turned colorless. “Another one of those gringo tricks,” they’d mumble bitterly.
· A new Brownsville youth center is born—the “El Aguila.” It was 1945, when the club opened to Brownsville High School, Saint Joseph Academy and Junior College students. The center was in the Masonic Temple, the lower floor and grounds being furnished free of charge. The purpose of the El Aguila was to furnish a place for teen age boys and girls to “have fun.” The club room consisted of a game and reading room, ping-pong room, soft drink bar and dance hall with juke box. Outdoor diversion was furnished by miniature golf, badminton and horse-shoe pitching. All made possible by the Junior Service League, in cooperation and financial support of Brownsville organizations, civic Clubs and individuals. This was an era when we all got along.
· Play Hour Arranged for “Under-privileged” youngsters in Brownsville made its debut in 1927. Play was important then--- as it is now, but today, it’s not “in to be out.” Regulated playground activities along with team sports was made possible by J.W. Irvine, athletic director of all Brownsville schools. Every child in the city was invited to come out to the high stadium every Saturday morning from 9 until noon. No child was left behind, as the director declared, “It matters not if you do not attend school.
· In 1850, according to the census, it showed that there were 53 slaves owned by 20 families in Cameron County. Most of the slaves were house servants of long-standing with the families. By 1860, There were only six owners of slaves. Total number of slaves seven, one of whom was a fugitive from a Louisiana owner.
· Who’s Who-ers of Brownsville High of 1964: Roy Zepeda, Eddie Vaughan, Donna McCabe, Laura Tobin, Judy Pate, John Marin, Kathryn Harrison, Jane Autz, Karen Brittain, Linda Davis, Scott Etchison and Rosie Garcia.
· “The sound of the radio,” it was December of 1927 that the Valley’s newest radio station hit the airways—the tower was located on top of the El Jardin Hotel in Brownsville. It was not five minutes into the Christmas program that a telegram from San Antonio was received saying that the station was coming clear and strong from there. A long string of calls from throughout the Valley following. Just imagine hearing the voice of Santa Claus on the airways, yes, he was there—he came in with bang to the accomplishment of sleigh-bells and a stamping of a reindeer.
· Riding the rails on a car—In 1937, the shuttle car automobile train which was operated by the Port Isabel and Rio Grande Railway Co. made daily trips between Brownsville and Port Isabel. The old piece of railroad equipment, serving as passenger and mail carrier, was a standard car, equipped with rigid steering and flanged railroad wheels.
· Have a coke! In 1925, Thomas H. Sweeney, proprietor of the Coca Cola Plant invited the public to visit his new bottling plant. The facility was located where it still stands today, at Washington and Tenth St. The product at the time, was to be known as “Sweeney’s Soda Water,” and was placed in the market as such. This writer remembers walking by the plant and listening to the sound of glass bottles moving through a conveyor. The building with open doors and with plenty of windows invited you to see an hear the bottling process —a distinct sound you could hear from blocks away.
1942 Coca Cola building E Washington and 10th St.
· In 1930, Valley law enforcement were advised to be in the lookout for Detroit and Chicago gangsters in the area. The mission of these bad men was to kidnap prominent valley men for ransom. One of these proposed victims, was C.P. Barreda, one of the best-known business men in the RGV, and one the largest land-owners in this section. The other target for ransom was Juan Cross of Matamoros, possessor of a larger fortune.
Barreda home E Washington and 6th (Google image)
additional newsclips and pics arranged by Brownsville Station