Working In Freeport:
My Father believed in work and more work. I remember when I was going into my first year in high school I asked my Father if I could play football . He said I sure could ( I could not believe what I was hearing!). Then, he asked how I was going to work after school and practice football. My heart sank because this meant I could not play football. But,guess what ? The coach let me suit up and play one play at one of the games even though I never practiced! You ask if I ever played high school football-I can truthfully say “yes”!
My first job was shining shoes on the streets in downtown Freeport- 5 cents for a really great shine! I was about 7 or 8 at this time. I still have my shoe-shine box and still use it . I built it myself out of an apple box. Fruit boxes back then were built of wood that was useful for many projects—birdhouses, sling shots, model boats, etc. later I added another business enterprise- delivering The Freeport Facts, the precursor to The Brazosport Facts. I would stand out on the street in downtown Freeport and sell the papers. I would sell a paper and shine your shoes. Later I expanded my paper business by walking down the residential streets hollering “Freeport Facts”. People would come out of their houses to buy my papers. Every day after school, I would walk to town and wait at the Fact`s printing machine as the papers came off the press. I would pay for my papers on the spot. I think I paid 3 cents a paper and sold them for 5 cents. When I got home at night my hands would be totally black from the printing ink.
When I was 11 or 12, I started delivering newspapers from my bicycle. I would throw them into the yards and driveways like it is done today, except an automobile is normally used today. Over a period of years I delivered the Houston Chronicle, Houston Post, and Houston Press. I remember delivering the Chronicle and Post on the same day. I delivered the Post in the morning before school and the Chronicle after school. I don’t remember exactly how the Press fit in. I also know there was a distributor for the papers and I think he just dropped a bundle of papers each day at my house. I would roll each paper by hand, run a piece of string through my lips to get it wet, and then sling it around the paper. The momentum of the string would usually give two or three wraps around the paper. I would then slide my hand down the paper to tangle the string. We did not use rubber bands or plastics covers like today.
The part I didn’t like was collecting payment from my customers each month. I learned a lot about people then. Most of my customers were just wonderful people, but some were always trying to cheat me. Daddy was pretty demanding about me working, but he couldn’t stand grown men cheating me. He helped me collect from the crooks and we always got paid . He even caught one running out the back door one time trying to avoid paying. Needless to say, Daddy collected!
In addition to delivering papers, at about 12 years old I started mowing lawns. I used a heavy cast iron reel-type mower with Timken bearings. No motor- you pushed it. It first belonged to my Grandfather, then my Father, and then me. I still have it. Back then, people didn’t get their lawns mowed until the grass was pretty high! To mow with a push mower in tall grass, you had to back up about ten feet and get a running start. You could cut about a two foot length with each run. I used a shovel to edge
( yes you can! ). For an average yard like on W. 8th, I charged $3 and $5 for a larger yard like those on W. Broad. I saved my money and finally bought a reel mower with a gasoline engine for $138. What a change in my work life—it was nearly fun after using a push mower! I will never forget what I paid for it! That was a lot of money! A pair of Levi jeans cost $3.65, as I recall, in comparison. Many handymen during those days converted their hand-push mowers to power mowers by installing electric motors with a long cord, but my gas-powered engine worked much better.
Starting to work at a young age taught me how to work to please my customers and how to control spending my money. I still remember on Saturdays having to decide spending a nickel to go to a movie or buy a tube of BB`s for my BB gun. I could not do both if I wanted to save money for such things as school clothes.
Hi! My name is Lesa Girouard and I love to decorate, especially with one-of-a kind, unique items. Did you know that Girouard's General Store is a treasure trove of decorating inspiration? Well, it is! You can find all kinds of unique items for your home at Girouard's. You just gotta think outside the box. Anyone can have a regular, boring, ordinary endtable in their home, right? But what about a galvanized table instead? You might call it "Urban Chic" - the industrial look is very "in" right now...just go to Round Top and you'll see!
A galvanized water trough turned upside down makes a very interesting and unique table! It would look great inside your home or on your patio and there are many different sizes and shapes to choose from.
If Girouard's doesn't stock the size you need, ask them and they can order the perfect size and shape for you. It only takes a few days.
These troughs make great planters and ice chests too. Think different! Think "Urban Chic"! Think Girouard's!
Frank Spillers, Aug 22, 2011
Vacations in our family were equivalent to an Olympic marathon: we took off, usually headed west towards the hottest part of the country, in a non air- conditioned car with us three kids in the back seat with no way to release our megatons of energy! To appreciate a 16 hour ride without air conditioning, just take a five minute ride around the block with your ac off, in August! All we had to do to entertain ourselves was to fight and pick on each other. It was me, my younger brother, and even younger sister. Mother was in charge of us kids while Daddy drove. We knew if mother gave up and Daddy threatened to stop the car to punish us, the fun was over and we would sit quietly for a few miles before restarting action.
Usually, it takes out some of the boredom if you have something to anticipate, like stopping at some nice place to eat. Not on our trips! My Daddy`s theory was to look for a cafe with a lot of work trucks in the parking lot. He once drove a dump truck and he knew this was a good sign that the place served a large volume, cheaply. Taste was never part of the criteria! I don`t think Daddy had taste buds!
One thing we did look forward to were Burma-Shave signs. These signs were along roads all across the U.S. advertising Burma Shave shaving soap. There would be a series of about six little signs nailed to fence posts spaced about 100 feet apart. They would be rhymes about highway safety, public good, or some other subject. The last sign only had BURMA SHAVE written on it. An example would be:
Burma Shave signs were a part of Americana from about 1920 to the 50’s.
Vacations were like anything else Daddy did- it was full-out, gut-it out until you finished the chore! Everyday of the trip had a purpose and that was to make miles! Forget about taking that 25 mile long side road to see the “biggest rattlesnake in the world” or two headed lizard. We had to make miles before stopping for the night, or what was left of it! Sometimes we would get up about 3 a.m. and burn miles until about 10 p.m
My dad was tight with money, I believe he still had the first nickel he ever earned! This frugalness carried over into our vacations. We always wanted to stay at a motel with a swimming pool, but of course this would never happen. We stayed at the cheapest motel and went to the city pool for a nickel. What a great idea! Even better, he would save the nickel if there was a near-by lake, river, mud puddle, or whatever.
The other thing you learned on these trips was to hold on until the next restroom! It was always “just another mile or two”. A translation of this was, “when the car`s tank is empty, you can empty yours.” When vacation was finally over, bladders were stretched to about five gallons or so!
The best part of our vacation was when we saw the sign that said WELCOME TO FREEPORT! We knew we had another year to heal before the next marathon trip!
Once we got home, we would all collapse and Daddy would go on to Girouards to restock our milk and bread. It didn’t bother Daddy though- he liked to go to Girouards to visit friends and see the latest tools and hardware- milk and bread was just a good excuse to visit and brag on how many miles he drove each day of our vacation.
When I was about fifteen, I developed car fever and the only way to cure it was to get a car, but there was one problem- I did not have enough money. Well guess what, one night while suffering with this fever, my uncle from Dallas called. He owned an automobile repair shop on Beckley Avenue in Dallas. He called and said he had a car for me if I wanted it! Sure I wanted it and I could just picture this beautiful car sitting there in his shop all gleaming with a fresh wax job! The next day I filled a bag with my clothes, tooth brush, and hairwax and took off for Dallas. No, my daddy did not drive me to Dallas. I have already told you, in a previous blog, that my recreation was not his problem. I walked about a mile out to the highway and hitchhiked to Dallas! When I got there, I was let out about two miles from my uncle’s shop. It was pouring down rain and I had to walk the two miles. It didn’t matter though because I was getting ever closer to that “gleaming Jewel”!
My heart was just pounding when I finally got to the shop! I made a quick scan of the shop but did not see that little jewel. My uncle ran over to welcome me. I asked him where my car was and he walked me over to a side window. As I looked out the window he said “there it is” while pointing to this old broken down 1936 Ford sedan, buried up to it’s axle in the mud! My heart sank and I felt like I just took a hard blow to the belly. Of course, I could not let my disappointment show. After all, it was a free car. My uncle got his wrecker and we drug it into the shop. Here set my pile of wet, muddy, junk!
I stayed with my uncle for two weeks while we got my car running, cleaned up, painted, and installed a new headliner and seat covers. It looked pretty good and I only owed my uncle $36, which he let me pay back over a few months. We only needed one thing- tires! The tires were bald with worn-through spots. To solve this problem, we split an inter-tube for each tire and put the good inter-tube inside this split tube. Essentially what we had was a tire with the thickness of an intertube between me and the road! Guess what? I got home without having a blow out! If I had lost a tire I would have been in a fix, being without a spare tire. There may have been one micron of rubber left when I got home!
The next priority was to get a good set of tires, but I had no money and it was no use asking my daddy for help- it just wasn’t his problem. There are ways to get by without money and one of my tricks was to go to the city dump to get tires. You could always find four tires with a little tread left- enough to last about three or four weeks. Then I would go back for another set. I learned to change a set out as fast as an Indy 500 pit crew! Later I got a 39 Ford coupe and used the same “supplier” for tires. After a few years of this someone got smart and started cutting the steel cord which rendered them useless.
The city dump was only about a mile from my house so it was easy to go “shopping”. It was located between the levee road and the new river. It was about due west of the Sonic near Brazosport High
Frank Spillers` Blog
“Dumb and Dangerous”
I grew up in Freeport and was fortunate to have parents that didn’t seem to worry much about my recreation; they could not care less. As a kid, my “job” was to play. Theirs was to earn a living and take care of the home. We did not have any organized playtime like Little League, soccer, etc. How fortunate could a young kid be to use his imagination, build things, have pickup ballgames, do dangerous experiments!? Tell me what a young guy today learns, outside of school, compared to what I learned. They learn how to hit, kick, and catch a ball. I learned how to build rockets, develop a chemical concoction to treat the mange on my dog, build a fort, build a real boat, work on cars, get acid out of my dad`s car battery to burn off warts, build a device to transmit sound over a flashlight beam to a receiver, how to catch snakes to scare the girls, and build an extremely bright carbon-arc light. Now, don`t get me wrong, my life was not all fun and games! My father really believed in WORK, and that principle was not far removed from my daily existence.
One of my many science projects was to investigate the burning of magnesium powder. I don`t know where I got it, but I remember having maybe a quarter pound of powder. I was probably about twelve years old at the time. My mother thought I was a child genius since I went to the Freeport City Library about once a week. I was actually going to see what interesting stuff I could find to build or blowup! This is where I first found out about mag powder and the very similar chemical mixture called thermite. You should keep in mind that a twelve year old boy`s brain is not totally wired and has very little thought about the consequences of his actions! I remember the day of ignition like it was yesterday! I was with my good friend Gene Beck when we decided to run our first magnesium ignition experiment. We were at Gene`s home so I ran home (only two blocks away) and got the magnesium powder. Gene`s mother was not home, so we were ready to go with the burn. I had a few of those big kitchen matches to use to light the mag. There was just one big problem – which one of us was going to have the great honor to light the pile of powder we had stacked on the sidewalk? Being boys, there was only one way to decide and that was to have a wrestling match. I was so upset that Gene won the match and had the most wonderful honor to fire off a pile of magnesium powder with a kitchen match! For all of the chemists reading, you know that what was to follow was not a great honor for Gene! I can still see Gene squatting down over the top of the pile of powder. He struck the match, touched it to the powder and there was an immediate blinding white-hot flash and mushroom cloud of smoke! Gene jumped up screaming his head off! He had a totally black face and much of the front portion of his hair burned off. He started running around in circles, falling down and running into the side of the house several times. I had never seen anyone act like this! I thought he had actually gone crazy! After I determined he was sane, I took him in the house and put him to bed at 2 in the afternoon and covered his head up with a sheet. His mother returned home and asked why Gene was in bed. I told hear he was taking a nap. Needless to say things went downhill with Gene`s mother and I left. Let’s just say that Gene recovered without permanent blindness and his hair grew back. Even though this experiment only narrowly avoided becoming a crisis, it was more of a speed bump than a stop sign on my road of experiments.
Frank Spillers` Blog, 2 Aug 11
My family moved to Freeport in the early forties so my dad could work for Dow chemical. I was about five at the time.
My father went to work in Dow`s Magnesium Dept and started work at Dow on the next day after startup of the plant. He eventually became General Foreman of magnesium production and some years later became a senior instrument technician which continued until he retired in the early seventies. I was a young guy, but I still remember how proud he was to help produce magnesium which was of vital importance to the war effort. With the plant very close to the gulf, they knew they were a target for enemy submarines. In one of my future blogs, I will tell you about my teenage experiments with magnesium powder! As a teaser, just let me say magnesium burns with a white-hot flash and will instantly remove hair and skin! I may even tell you about producing rocket fuel in my mother`s kitchen when she was not at home- this is truly a miracle that I am still alive!