Saturday, June 19, 2021

2021 Brownsville Texas Award Recipient


Not to brag but I finally won this year's Texas Bullshitter Award (Brownsville recipient) which came as a surprise because I was up against politicians, lawyers, city and county workers, used car salespeople, friendly neighbors and barflies.

This much coveted award was created in the 1980s in Austin, Texas by a secret committee based in Dallas-Ft Worth.  As you know, no one can pile bullshit higher than a Texan so just about anyone born and living in Texas qualifies.  Bullshitter chapters in 70 cities across Texas each year select and vote on who they will choose to receive the tri-gold-plated belt buckle valued at $478.52.

Recipients can only receive the prize by diving in and sifting through a ton of cow manure which is delivered to their driveway (or as close to their doorstep as possible).  I used a snow shovel to make quick work of it.  If you're wondering what a Texan would need with a snow shovel but if I stated why you would just think it's bullshit so why bother explaining?

Friday, May 14, 2021

1980s Texas Southmost College Collages

 I have been visiting the Brownsville Public Library ~ Central Branch to scan through a few Texas Southmost College yearbooks to post on the Brownsville Station Facebook page.  The response has been very active.  We recently reached the 19,000 member/followers most of them have probably missed seeing all of these.  The advantage here is that these can be downloaded and for the very  adventurous, reproduced as poster sized prints.  The 1980s Padre Island Spring Break collages include Eddie Money but there were many other performers of the era including Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, rock goddesses Vixen, The Outfield, Jefferson Starship, Triumph, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and other entertainers of the era.  

c1986 Stevie Ray Vaughn at South Padre Island photo by Hector Cano

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Bob's / Rafa's Coney Island Hotdog Stand on E 13th/14th St

by Javier Garcia with Joe Von Hatten and Alfredo Zamora 

A 1964 Chevy Impala which collided with a mid 1960s International Harvester Travellall 5-door full-sized wagon in service for the Joe A. Besteiro funeral business will not be the subject of this revised Bronsbil Estacion blogpost though admittedly there is quite a bit more that could be gleaned from this photo.  That might make an interesting discussion for another time.  Instead, we're going to take a look back at Bob's Coney Island hotdog stand which was serving chili dogs on the corner of E Adams and 13th when this accident incident photo was taken in 1966 by Brownsville Police Department photographer Ruben Garcia (who later became a Captain).

A conglomerate of internet-borrowed images of Nathan's Coney Island Hotdog stand in Brooklyn, New York.

When someone hears "Coney Island" they might automatically associate it with the amusement park and when you throw in hot dogs it connects it to the hot dog of the same name that probably originated there.  We'll let the reader Google whatever knowledge about that they hunger for and stick to the point which is in Brownsville, Texas.  

"Burglars hit Bob’s Coney Island hot dog stand again, this time for a dollar in change."  Brownsville Herald Newspaper Archives June 22, 1979 Page 2

Recently, new information surfaced when this image was posted on the Vintage Brownsville, Texas and History Facebook page about "Bob," the original owner of the hotdog stand.  According to U.S. Army Sergeant Alfredo Zamora, Bob Cohen was from New York city who left after his ex-wife divorced him and took him to the cleaners.  Zamora worked at the hotdog stand during the summers of 76-78 to earn enough money to pay for his school clothes.  By this time Cohen had been established on the corner of E Adams and 13th St for a bit more than a decade and was a heavy chain smoker probably in his 60's as Alfredo can recall.  

The two met because they were neighbors living on the outskirts of town on Zena Dr and 5th Avenue (off E 14th a.k.a. South Padre Island Hwy).

Cohen embraced south Texas culture and frequented his favorite places across the border in Matamoros.  Cohen's nickname for Zamora was "Little Chingaso" (which roughly translates to "little slugger') for his ornery disposition.  Most interestingly is how Bob Cohen decided to land in Brownsville, Texas after leaving New York to start a new life.  As Mr Zamora tells it:

"I asked him once how he came to Brownsville.  He said 'I opened up a map of the USA, closed my eyes and pointed to one place and that place was Brownsville!'   He [Cohen] loved the people down here."

c2004 The stand on E 14th between E Washington and Adams, a block away from the corner where it was Bob's Coney Island 

Alfredo Zamors thinks Rafael was working at the stand about two years before he came along in the summer of '76.  Rafael had a sister named "Letty" who helped out on the weekends.  The house on the corner had been rented to the Escobedo family who used it as a second hand store; selling preworn clothing.  There was also a cab stand nearby.  Bob Cohen use to tell Alfredo that his chain smoking would eventually be the end of him and he was probably right about that.  The business went to Rafael who was the last owner.  Zamora had been long gone from the business so he wouldnt know the date when Cohen met his demise.

I can't recall exactly when but imagine it was in the 1990s that I first pulled up a red-painted metal stool at the hotdog stand while I was a student at the nearby college.  Traveling on foot either to or from the B.U.S., as I did back then, it was the alluring aroma of grilled onions that attracted me to the place.  Inside there was a stocky man who stood about 5'5" wearing "Coke-bottle" glasses  hovering over the sound of sizzling onions coming from a small flat-top grill.  "Rafael" served up a simple Mexican-style hot dog with grilled onions, diced tomatoes and jalapenos from this spot on E 14th and Washington St.  There was more on his menu such as chili dogs, burritos, nachos, papas fritas ... and I did try one of his hamburguesas  after he strongly recommended that I try something else beside the usual every time I stopped by. He had been on that same spot for approximately 13-15 years when I met him at the turn of the century.  

When the street was closed to begin construction on the new bus station business died down and Rafael probably had to sell his dogs in Matamoros or some other means to make a living.  

There are not many other places to eat other than Rafa's that take me back to my first experiences downtown.  While there are still a variety of places to eat on the cheap and new upscale wine and food restaurants in more fanciful air-conditioned historical building surroundings, it'll never be the same as eating from a paper tray on a narrow counter while sitting with my toes and ankles balanced on a lower ring of one of Rafa's red metal stools out in the hot summer heat with the sounds of a busy downtown all around me. 

Revised March 3, 2021 -- originally posted Sep 14, 2015

Friday, February 26, 2021

1979 Hanna High School "B"

 Sandra Tamez


I have often seen photos of the Hanna “B” from 1979 with a group of people surrounding it… but my father, George Tamez, always seems to be cut out of the photo on the bottom right side of the “B.”

So as the proud daughter that I am… I thought I would upload the full photo with my father’s origin story for the “B” located outside Homer Hanna High School in Brownsville, Texas.

You see my father, George Tamez, has some insight as to how the “B” came about because he was a Counselor for the Hanna High School Class of 1979 and he had approached Sylvia Perez, the Senior Principal, with the idea of having the senior class leave a gift to Hanna High School in the form a “B” statue—similar to the letter which athletes receive for lettering in a sport.

After my father got the okay from Sylvia Perez, he says he presented the idea to the senior class. My father says, at first, some of the senior students wanted an “H” instead of a “B” because the school was called Homer Hanna High School at the time. But my father says that he then explained to the seniors that the school was called “Brownsville” High School previously and then only later it became Homer Hanna High School… so he suggested that they go with a “B” instead and the seniors agreed.

After getting the green light from the senior class for the “B,” my father states they began the project and he went to Vicente Gonzalez, the Commercial Drafting Teacher, to have his seniors draw up the blueprints for the “B.”

Then, my father states that he approached Roberto Castañon, Sr., the Auto Body Teacher, to see if his class could build the “B.” But according to my father, Mr. Castañon Sr. had a better idea. Mr. Castañon Sr. told my father that several of his students’ fathers were welders who could possibly help out with the project. So Mr. Castañon got some of the students’ fathers who were welders to come on board to build the “B.”

The next step was for my father and Sylvia Perez to buy the materials needed for the project. And the “B” was then constructed at Mr. Castañon’s Kollision King Body Shop in Brownsville--Kollision King - Brownsville

My father states he remembers that the following people were the welders who made the “B”:
Roberto “Bob” Castañon, Sr.
Bernardino Gonzalez
J. Guadalupe Gonzalez
Ruben Ruiz Lara
Alfredo Romero
Carlos Romero
Oscar Torres
Nicolas Torres
Jesus J. Valenzuela

The next step was to create the pedestal base for the “B” to rest on. For that part, my father states that Sylvia Perez convinced Larry Herrera, the Maintenance Department Administrator, to construct the pedestal base.

Then in the Summer of 1979, the “B” was placed on the pedestal and installed in front of Homer Hanna High School were it still remains to this day!


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

1957 Grande Barbers fast-pitch softball team

 by Mike Vargas and Bronsbil Estacion

The Grande Theater on E Washington had a barber shop in the front of it that sponsored a local baseball team called the Grande Barbers. In 1956-57 season they won the Rio Grande Valley and state championships for fast-pitch softball. Guzman was named the team's top pitcher, Armendariz was named most valuable player after leading team in home runs and RBI's, and Zamudio was voted team manager of the year. (source info: Brownsville Herald) Thanks to Mike Vargas for sharing this small part of his family history
Team photo in front of the Grande Theater Entrance.  Mariano Gonzalez is again at top left while Raul Vargas is top row, second from far right, next to barber Jesus "Chuy" Gonzalez
1950s postcard photo showing Grande sign and Teatro Mexico on corner of E Washington and 11th Sts.
Brothers Raul and Roberto on A&H team.  Like his father,  Macario (see newsclip below) Raul was also a long-time employee of Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) and Brownsville Public Utitilites Board (PUB) named a street after Roberto Vargas for his many years of service and dedication.
1948 ~ Here's a bit of recognition and appreciation for BISD janitor Macario Vargas who got his photo in the newspaper and could have probably told more about our local history than most so-called local historians of our generation ~ Of his eight children, Raul and Roberto were his sons and Mike Vargas is his great-grandson. 
1948 0815 BHerald - Janitor Macario Vargas courtesy Mike  Vargas

Macario Vargas (thanks Roberto Vargas)

Sunday, December 6, 2020

1940 Gladys Andreas of Brownsville, Texas looked colorful in black & white

If you're from Brownsville, Texas...'ve heard of Gladys Porter but have you ever heard of Gladys Andreas? Around 1940 this pretty young lady got her photograph taken during the Charro Days celebration and also appeared on a postcard. She may not be known anymore(unless there's someone out there who can tell us?) but we'll remember her today with these images compiled while browsing through the Brownsville Station digital archives. A special "thank you" goes out to Jose Cazares (where you at Joe?) who sent two 8x10 copies long ago while mining for historical gems.

This fabulous photo appeared in the Brownsville Herald 
Brownsville Herald-Jan-30-1940-p-32

233 E St Charles was where Gladys lived with her family

Saturday, December 5, 2020

2020 Muscovy Ducks in Brownsville, Texas Resacas

 Here's a post to introduce you to a flock of free roaming ducks I've taken a liking to.  I seldom post anything about anything anymore even though I have plenty of historic material and time but maybe we'll get back to that later.  For now, it's Muskovy Time:

Band of Brothers 

I cant tell them apart and the main attraction, I call him "Blondie," isn't in here but he's my favorite.

Last year, around Thanksgiving, I lost my pet Chihuahua "Coqueta" which I had cared for a number of years.  I had never liked chihuahuas before.  I found them to be too noisy, antisocial rat-faced bat eared and ugly but she was sort of adopted when her owner, who married my nephew, decided she didn't want a vicious critter to be near her first born child.  Long story short, I loved that dog and she loved to chase away the pesky ducks that would loiter in the backyard beneath the bird feeder hoping to scrape up some bird seed that fell to the ground.  

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
"Blondie" has a winning personality and is a drake in flock of about 15 Muscovy ducks

With my nephew's family grown to three children there was a reason to feed the ducks in the backyard -- because kids like any activity when it comes to feeding animals.  We fed them bits of staling bread which we now know isn't good for them so please do not feed them bread.  I'll throw a fews bits at them as a snack once in a while  but not too much.  More about feeding later....
This is "Blondie," so named for the Clint Eastwood character with no-name in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of which he possesses all three characteristics and because of the blondish feathers between the caruncles on his forehead.  If it wasn't for him I might not have ever developed in interest in spending time with this so-called invasive species from South America.   Covid19 also decided how  time would be spent for a while so I decided to start feeding the flock birdseed every day.
Blondie and his pompadour.  The ducks do this when they feel threatened or a bit apprehensive or probably when attracting a mate.  For the time spent with them I can share a few observations but there is plenty of information about them you can search online.  What follows is an introduction to other members of the flock.  Not all their names are as imaginative as Blondie's.  

Part of the Tribe
This is "Junior" who has become another favorite because (hopefully) I'll get to see him mature into a full grown male.  He is one of three that survived hatching by May 2020.  There were originally five when I first noticed them.  Junior had me worried for a while.  His foot was in bad shape and he could barely walk.  Maybe he was bitten by a turtle or afflicted by some other ailment but he survived so far.  
This is Junior's Mom - "Mommas"  She was very protective of her ducklings when they were very young.  Never being seen with the flock, she stayed safe on the resaca's edge hidden in bushes safe from hawks or other predators.  Oftentimes I would feed her and the babies separate from the flock because the other ducks bully the young or weak ducks.  If other ducks from another flock tried to insinuate themselves she ran them off.  
"Blanca" is another female and was one of two red-faced / white headed ducks that often visited.  I think the other died recently.  It was sad to watch.  I noticed one day that her counterpart was sitting a distance from the others during snack time.  I threw some chopped corn tortilla bits her way and the other ducks crowded her and started picking (or pecking?) at her.  Her feet looked malformed and she couldn't walk.  Unfortunately, it seems, that if a duck is hurt or disabled for some reason, the other ducks will help bring about its demise in a cruel way.  They tried to prevent Junior from eating when he his foot was hurt but I was able to protect him.  
"El Negro" is also one of two.  I can't always tell them apart.  He is the disciplinarian of the flock.  Oftentimes they crowd me during feeding time or come on the back porch and leave droppings.  He knows I will withdraw and prolong feeding time if they leave a mess on the porch so he helps me keep them disciplined.  These ducks are intelligent and possess qualities (personalities) all their own.
"Droopy" is a pretty-mellow fellow now but he was banished for a while from the flock -- I'm not sure why but I think he was becoming to aggressive with the others.  These ducks seem to maintain a social order among themselves.  Sometimes they have a leader or in this case, three (or four) brothers share leadership and dominance of the other group members.  
The core members of the flock coming on to shore for a snack or what they associate with a snack when they see me.  I tend to feed them infrequently so they don't expect me like clockwork.  If I dont have food with me they will follow me, linger for a while and either feed off grass or look elsewhere for excitement or food.  Sometimes they just lounge on the grass and chill with me.  I never imagined I would enjoy their simple company but the loss of a pet and Covid19 pandemic do wonders for the soul I guess....
I always hear Wagner's "Flight of the Valkries" when I see them approach to see if I have food for them.

Feeding Time
Loitering under the bird feeder like they always do when they're not doing other duck stuff.
On any given day there's about fifteen to nineteen ducks.  Once in a while other ducks join in for a free meal but I try to discourage them by running them off.  The less dominant ducks also discourage intruders while the drakes make sure they take their place at the 'head of the table' (front of feeding area).  They eat birdseed.  The cheap $8 for a 20lb bag at H-E-B is good enough.  For a while I had to go to Lowe's when there was a shortage and pay more for less quality of the same weight.  They also like peas and chopped vegetables.  They can be picky but with this many ducks the ones that aren't picky will eat better.  In summer I gave them watermelon shavings.  As a treat I chop corn tortillas into long spaghetti-like strips or chop them into little bits and feed them that.  They love it and are always hungry but dont spoil them.  Also, if you don't feed them for a while dont worry, they'll survive just fine.  There's plenty of fodder for them in or near the resacas.
Bullying is a problem at times and I used to tolerate it but now I discourage it.  If a duck is too aggressive with the others I run him off as a warning.  These are not domesticated but they're trainable and change behavior if they realize they will miss out on free food if they dont behave.  
When I first met Blondie he was not shy at all.  He took food straight from my hand and he is the only duck that jumps for his food -- sometimes as high as four feet.  Other ducks try to imitate his behavior but if he's around he takes front and center.  At first he used to peck my knees while I tried to spread the feed around but I got tired of that so he doesn't do it anymore.  

Duck Droppings
If there is anything you need to know about feeding these ducks is that they adopt you and expect you to feed them each day at the same time.  I dont do that.  I am not consistent with feeding time but one thing I had to do was train them not to wait on the back porch where they would leave droppings if I didn't feed them early enough.  I put a stop to that.  Whenever I'd get ready to feed them IF I saw droppings I'd withold feeding them by grabbing the garden hose and hosing away their mess all while cursing them and their next generation with expletives I dont need to repeat here but you can make up your own if you have this problem.  It's all in the tone of the words you choose anyway.  Then I would go back in the house and feed them maybe an hour later.  After a while they learn to wait on the grass or feeding area like the photo above but you can expect them to push their luck again and then you'll have to bring out the hose.  I also have an old broom handle nearby to discourage them from coming too close to cement edge of porch.
Flying by again
Make sure sound is one when you watch this duck fly by!

Aqua sex 
Blondie y El Negro showing off plumage
Blondie sunset silhouette on Resaca de la Guerra 
Coqueta doing what she loved and and making me laugh.  I miss that ol' girl