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PECOS, Feb. 18, 1997 - A brief acquaintance with Jack Ruby, finance
partner of a pet shop destined to fail because the rival store was run
by the San Francisco Mafia and currently coping with the West Texas
summers, Maria Morrison has a story to tell.
Sitting in a living room strewn with Australian Aborigine artwork, New
Guinea sculptures and antique furniture that she has collected over the
years, Morrison said each piece tells a story.
Born to a Spanish mother, from the Barcelona province of Catalonia, and
a French/German father, in Paris, France, Morrison grew up in a German
occupied France during the World War II era.
The 75-year-old woman said she learned to speak English by watching
"two, three or four American movies a week," because she wanted to learn.
"A teacher would go to my house," she said, one hour a week for four
years and, "She taught me the verbs and vocabulary."
"My father was a playboy at the races," she said, raising horses that
never won, and her mother an industrious individual, as most Catalonians
are, according to Morrison.
Her father was also an executive for Universal Studios in Europe and
France, a job, exclaimed Morrison, he lost to his secretary after
spending so much time at the race tracks.
Her parents later separated and she describes her mother as a brave
woman for supporting her sister during the war years, "She sold
pastries...did what she had to do."
At the same time, Morrison was just beginning to familiarize herself
with American life during a brief stay with an aunt and uncle, who lived
in Long Island, NY, where she wound up after crossing the ocean with her
She met her husband at a USO dance and explained, "I should have broken
my leg," she said before involving herself with the man she simply
describes as a "tall Texan," from Colorado City.
While serving his draft term, Morrison said she stayed with and became
attached to her husband's family in Dallas.
"After the war he wanted to go to New York," she continued. "He was a
good manager and a buyer," which landed him work in the furniture
business and later they travelled to Ohio, said the nostalgic individual.
In the mid-1950s, "He (Morrison's husband) decided he did not want to be
married anymore," she said, "I moved back to Dallas," where she, her son
and daughter, were welcomed by her ex-husband's family.
Her ex-brother-in-law purchased a home for her in the prosperous
Highland Park area of Dallas, where Morrison exclaimed she was the only
one without a car. "But I got along well through the buses," she said.
Morrison said she already had a job at the Dallas Times Herald and after
some eight years in the advertising art department she moved on to the
Dallas Morning News.
It was here she said that most of the DMN staff got to know Jack Ruby,
who was later tried and sentenced for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald,
who was accused of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
"He was always in there (DMN building) raising hell about us giving the
other guy (a rival bar owner) more attention," she said.
She recalls a relationship between a woman, Marion Parrish, who worked
at the newspaper with one of Ruby's bartender's, Spanky.
"She was a handsome woman, very good looking," said Morrison, "but not
very bright. Spanky was a sot and a drunkard," according to his
employer, she said.
According to the storyteller Ruby was concerned about the couple's plans
to marry. One evening as she and Ruby were getting into an elevator and
headed towards the club where Spanky worked, Morrison said Ruby lifted
two fisted palms in the air and pronounced, "we're going to save her
Later, after Oswald's assassination, Morrison said Ruby's explanation
for killing Kennedy's alleged assassin was, "because he didn't want
Jackie (Kennedy) to go through that hell...depositions, questioning."
The now 2½-year Pecos resident said she believed Ruby's rationalization
after considering the elevator incident. "I saw a side of him," she
said, "that no one else has."
"I don't believe he had anything to do with Kennedy's assassination,"
"He (Ruby) was a pale man," Morrison stated, "he drove with two
Daschund's in his back seat. "He drove me home a couple of times."
She recalled the day of Kennedy's assasination, "we were supposed to run
a cut throat article about Jackie Kennedy," but the piece was held
following the day's events.
"I stopped the presses twice in my life," said the now retired newspaper
employee, who said she drew, "furniture, dresses...all kinds of stuff,"
Her first efforts came when an ad she worked on that advertised
checkered stretch pants began printing with the phrase, "stretched cheek
She contacted the pressroom again she said when she spotted a mistake in
an article on Princess Margaret's marriage that incorrectly stated the
marriage, "curtailed her (the Princess') pubic duties," instead of, "her
After putting in over 20 years at the DMN, Morrison said she retired,
sold her home for almost a 1200 percent profit and used her earnings to
buy her son an apartment house in San Francisco, Calif. and help finance
her daughter's pet store in Pacifica, a suburb of San Francisco.
Her daughter, who is now studying to become a licensed nurse, is an
excellent pet care provider and manager, but because the rival store was
owned by the San Francisco Mafia, the store, "went kerplunk."
Morrison said she worked at a natural food store for a female minister
who was also a nurse and "a whiz with herbs."
"The same herbs that work for humans can work for dogs," said Morrison,
a notion she practices with her 14-year-old canine friend, Melvin.
But with rents increasing and her daughter's failed business, the
retiree said she decided to move to Pecos, where her cousin, Ingrid
Armstrong, found her a home.
She stills reminisces about her short stay in California, "I love San
Francisco," she said, "but I don't like the body piercing," which she
claimed she saw a lot of on the streets of the notorious city.
Fonder memories are shared about a senior citizen center where Morrison
recalled the elderly Filipino visitors. "They are very gregarious
people," she said, always being the first on the dance floor.
"It (the senior citizen center) was very nice," said Morrison,
reminiscing about the $1.25 price for three meals she described as,
Although not too fond of West Texas summers and the lack of a good
variety of food choices, Morrison said she does enjoy the company. "The
people are lovely here," she said. "My granddaughter loves it here," she
added, "and because she likes it, I guess I'm glad I'm here too."
As a member of the STEP, Seniors for Texas Education, program Morrison
said she teaches migrant Hispanic women how to speak English.
"I've never done this before," she said, and added, "but it's rewarding.
I'm doing what I can."
"I think work is good for me," she said and the minimum wage income
She currently has six students and a waiting list and dedicates one hour
to each student three days a week.
"Sometimes they come and sometimes they don't," but either way she is
there for them, she continued.
"Those verbs are the ones to start on," she explained about her
curriculum, remembering times past when she began acquainting herself
with the English language as a young girl in France.
"I tell the ladies I had to pay (to see an American movie)," she said,
and remind them, "all they have to do is go home and push a button," to
watch an English news broadcast or picture show on their television set
"Some do (what I ask) and some don't," she said, "but I do what I can."
She added that she integrated books on the basics into her lesson plan.
The stories these women tell are heartbreaking, said the English
language teacher. "Some were pulled out of school to go work on the
fields," and described other hardships they suffer aside from struggling
with their language barriers.
"But they are better off here," she said recalling accounts of life in
An interesting subject indeed and even more interesting, Morrison can
describe her tale in English, Spanish and Catalonian Spanish.
She said when asked that, "silly question," regarding one's wishes to
return to earth after they die, "I'd like to come back as a cow in
Hope you there are doing well health-wise. Friends tell me of much
sickness there as is the case here. Each of us at this house has made a
trip to the doctor in the past two weeks. We have been a sad looking
bunch. Maybe some cold and wet weather will be beneficial in combating
Besides feeling so bad it was extra disturbing to have to miss the
luncheon meetings for the two senior groups which I have joined. The
Columbia Senior Friends at Brownwood Hospital is gradually extending its
plans for activities but it will be awhile before the program gets as
adequate as that at the Pecos Senior Center. Pecos has been fortunate to
have had good leadership and management at the Center. Something else
good about the Pecos Center is the van service for people who need help
in transportation. Such a service would be good in Brownwood.
Hope we quit coughing and are able to attend the Community Concerts
program this weekend. The Black Mountain Male Chorus of Wales is
scheduled for an evening performance. The ice storm prevented our
attending the January concert.
It is somewhat late to comment on the Pecos Chamber of Commerce annual
banquet but it certainly was good to read the paper reports and see
pictures of the people who were honored. Congratulations go to each
person considered for the various awards. It is great when people
receive recognition for their jobs and volunteer service.
Hearing that Russell Jones earned a place on the team and as an
individual competitor for the international Taekwon Do exhibition in
Russia next July was exciting. Having known Russell a great part of his
life, I have been interested in his progress.
Watching youngsters "grow up" is quite interesting, and often
gratifying, to see their abilities and special talents emerge. So we
wish for Russell much success and joy in this very special time in his
News and pictures of youngsters are always appreciated - I was thinking
of second generation but it is really a third generation. My son
enrolled in the eight grade when we moved to Pecos and I watched his
peers reach adulthood - now he is a grandfather. That is a lot of
watching - many of you can say the same and hasn't it been grand?
If I were still in Pecos I would have had to locate another place to
buy gasoline because Eddy Street Service Station closed. For many years
it was the place to go to get excellent service for gasoline or careful
attention about any needs for the car.
Johnny Diehl was always so courteous and helpful. He never failed to
come to my aid anytime there was a flat tire or any other problem.
Closing of the station at the corner of Seventh and Eddy is another
proof of what I have preached so often - change is not always good. A
belated "Thanks to Johnny and Cindy and their helpers."
Here in Brownwood - Plans are well underway for the restoration of the
Railway Depot, according to a report from the Brownwood Clinic
Improvement Foundation. This group was organized in 1991 to oversee
community restoration projects such as the depot. Money is being raised
locally to match the original grant awarded to BCIF, administered by the
Texas Department of Transportation which is funded by the federal
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.
The BCIF is close to meeting the $250,000 of the original grant. Another
fund has to be raised for the renovation of the Harvey House and for the
installation of an elevator because these items were not eligible under
the original grant. The new application will be submitted next month and
TxDOT promises a contractor on board in April.
The local BCIF group has secured adjoining property for parking space
and a plaza. We have been by the area of the depot which belonged to the
South Orient Railroad. The finished project will be a nice addition to
community activities as it will provide facilities for exhibits and
A shop in downtown, The Copper Bowl, has mailed their brochure for
spring events. Featuring all the needs for culinary expertise, the shop
serves "Flavor of the Day" Coffee each shopping day and serves lunch on
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The house specialty, quiche, is
served on Thursdays with the extra feature of informal modeling
presented by other local shops. This is a delightful place. Another
special luncheon place is The Sonshine Shoppe which I had mentioned in
On March 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the Copper Bowl Culinary Center will
host a Bridal Fair with twelve stores participating. This sounds like an
Looking out the window this morning to see if there was snow I was
reminded of the winter of 1936. We had moved back into town at Post from
the country school where John was teaching when he was hired by the Post
First National Bank. Our neighbor to the west, Mrs. Dent, kept us to
date on the day and the weather.
Come rain or shine she always washed the family clothes on Mondays and
hung them on the backyard clothes line. If the sheets, towels and such
were moving we knew we would have a windy day and if the wire held stiff
as board articles, we knew it was winter. Funny the things one
remembers. Most people washed clothes at home by various means. There
were laundry and cleaning shops in town.
I read somewhere that the first "Washateria" in Texas was opened in 1934
in Fort Worth. Laundromats seems to be the proper name now. I went to
the washateria in Post until we got our first washing machine, a
gas-powered model converted to an electric motor - quite an event, maybe
even better than the first electric refrigerator. Back on track - we
have no snow here this morning.
This being President's month, I got to thinking of how we remember some
presidents more than others. How many of us can name all the U.S.
Presidents? From a bit of researching, I believe Abraham Lincoln must
have the most places which serve as memorial sites. Should one wish, a
heritage trail can be followed from Hodgenville, Kentucky where the 16th
president was born on February 12, 1809.
The birthplace log cabin is in a granite and marble temple at Abraham
Lincoln National Historic Site. Leading up to this building are 56
steps, one for each year of Lincoln's life. A film, entitled "Lincoln,
the Kentucky Years" is shown hourly. The land was known as Sinking
Spring Farm when it was acquired in 1808 by Thomas Lincoln, father of
Abraham. There are several hiking trails and picnic areas in this park.
Less than three years later Thomas moved the family to a farm at Knob
Creek, some ten miles away. At this site now is a reproduction of the
cabin where young Abe lived until he was almost eight years old. Here he
saw slave dealers on horseback, with whips in hand, driving slaves to
market. On the square in downtown Hodgenville is the Lincoln Museum
where a dozen scenes form his life can be seen. There is also a film, an
art collection and Civil War memorabilia.
The Lincoln Heritage House, built in part by Thomas Lincoln, is in
Freeman Lake State Park in Elizabethtown. Also there is another cabin
which is a replica of the home of Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln who became
Abe's stepmother when he was ten years old. At Lincoln Homestead Park in
Springfield, Kentucky is the actual home of Nancy Hanks, his real
mother. In Lexington a major attraction is the Mary Todd Lincoln House,
the First Lady's girlhood home.
Through the years until he was 21, Abe Lincoln lived in the hills of
southern Indiana. In Lincoln City is the Boyhood National Memorial, a
200-acre park which includes a reconstructed home, the burial site of
his mother and an operating 1880s farm. In Lincoln State Park is an
amphitheater where the outdoors drama "Young Abe Lincoln" is presented
in the summertime. In northern Indiana, the new museum in Fort Wayne
claims the world's largest private collection of Lincoln items.
Just last week an exhibition of more than 200 pieces was closed after
being on display at the Chicago Historical Society. Among this
collection was the Gettysburg stovepipe hat and a photograph of his body
lying in state. A permanent exhibition here, "A House Divided: America
in the Age of Lincoln" can be seen. In this exhibit is the bed on which
he died and the table where he drafted the Emancipation Proclamation.
In Springfield, Illinois one can see the only home Lincoln ever owned.
In Petersburg, about 20 miles northwest is the New Salem State Historic
Site which is a re-created log cabin village that includes the store
where Lincoln was a clerk. A new amphitheater presents musical
entertainment and dramas of that era.
The Land of Lincoln tour can be ended in Springfields Oak Ridge Cemetery
where Lincoln's Tomb is a white grante monument topped with an obelisk.
Inscribed on the crypt wall next to the red marble tombstone are these
words "Now he belongs to the Ages" said by Secretary of War Edwin M.
Probably the most visited site about Lincoln is Ford's Theater in
Washington, D.C. which has been beautifully restored. The basement
houses a small museum which has the actual gun that John Wikles Booth
used to shoot the president in the Theatre on April 14, 1865.
Right how many people are observing Lent after Mardi Gras time - Easter
will be early this year - on March 30 - time flits by while seemingly
Other dates trivia - in 1930 on this date the planet Pluto is
discovered; Thursday it will be 35 years since John Glenn became the
first American to orbit the Earth; on February 28, 1983 the final
episode of MASH was watched by 125 million people (wonder how many
people are still watching re-runs?); Dr. Seuss was born on March 2,
1904; in 1930 on March 6, the first package of Birdseye individually
packaged frozen food was sold in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Albert Einstein was
born March 18, 1879 in Ulm, Germany.
A TFWC club home has not been found yet, but I have two district jobs
which have to be reported. I have started writing autobiographically so
maybe some real progress will be evidenced. For now - so long - and
remember Love One Another!
INGLESIDE, Texas - Frances Nichols didn't laugh along with the family
when her 2-year-old grandson pretended to shoot his daddy using his hand
as a gun.
She went to Wal-Mart.
Buying five toy guns, Ms. Nichols embarked on a project that would earn
her a reputation as one of the toughest grannies in the West. Mustering
support from area businesses and armed with pen and ink, she drew.
She drew 22 pages, to be exact.
And she called it ``Straight Shootin'' - a coloring book aimed at
teaching children that they should be careful in handling toy guns, or
what they think are toys.
She has donated the coloring books to police departments, whose officers
use the books to teach gun safety to children in schools.
More than a year ago, Ms. Nichols bought five toy guns at Wal-Mart to
use as models for her artwork, borrowed real guns from a neighbor and
researched at the library on the topic of children and gun safety.
When parents laugh at how cute it is when a child pretends to shoot
somebody, that sends the wrong message, said Ms. Nichols, a retired
teacher. And television programs send a harmful message when a character
is shot and killed but pops up alive the next day in a different show,
It made her think that children should understand the dangers of guns
because they may not know the difference between pretend guns and real
``It looks like play now, but the consequences of their play-acting can
carry over into how they would play with a real gun, if they found it,''
Ms. Nichols said.
Ms. Nichols said she is not anti-gun, but she would prefer children not
playing with toy guns at all.
``If they do, I want them to be aware they should use targets, such as
bull's eyes or trees,'' she said.
With her ideas and the research, she started planning a book, the idea
of which evolved into a coloring book upon the suggestion of her son A
the one who had laughed when his son pretended to shoot him. Ms.
Nichols' son, Kirk, a Drug Abuse Resistance Education police officer in
Haltom City near Fort Worth, saw the error in his ways and supported his
mother's efforts. Using his DARE background, he suggested that she turn
her project into a coloring book.
``He said, `The more (time) they spend on every single page, the more
they'll think about it.' And I said, `You're absolutely right,' '' Ms.
He also suggested that his mother ask area businesses to pay for the
printing costs by buying advertising in the back of the book.
A few businesses declined, saying it was the responsibility of parents
to teach children gun safety, she said.
``I said, `You're absolutely right. But what are you going to do when
your child or your grandchild is playing in the home of parents who have
never taught their child about gun safety?' '' she said.
That argument changed two business owners' minds, she said.
Ms. Nichols sold 18 ads, ranging in price from $100 to $250, and had
4,000 copies printed.
Ms. Nichols donated the books to the Ingleside Public Library and the
Aransas Pass, Ingleside and Portland police departments. A second
edition, with ads from Rockport and nearby towns, was donated to the
Rockport Police Department.
The book tells a story about a boy named Jason, who is dressed like a
cowboy. Simple captions encourage Jason and friends to play but not to
point toy guns at others, including a bird, Jason's dog and a cowboy.
As the book closes, one picture shows the three lying on their backs in
a house - the dog and bird with their feet in the air, and the cowboy
with his hat on his chest. Outside, seen through a window, is a
``Real guns are deadly. Real guns KILL animals and people,'' the caption
The next page shows two revolvers for children to color, and the
message: ``Toy guns do not KILL. But many times you cannot see the
difference between toy guns and real guns, until it's too late.''
``The message is very straight-forward and not one that many parents
like to talk about,'' Ms. Nichols said. ``It's not very pleasant for
people to talk about death. But it's much more unpleasant to see a 2- or
3-year-old shot and die.''
Ms. Nichols has seen the effects of an accidental shooting of a child.
Fourteen years ago, one of Ms. Nichols' friends lost her 13-year-old son
because he was playing with a gun.
``I would like to make people aware of the real dangers of a child
finding a loaded gun and playing with it as if it were a toy gun,'' Ms.
Nichols said. ``The life of their child can be ended in a moment.
However, the resulting tragedy for the parents will last a lifetime A an
accident preventable through education of gun safety.''
Randy Ward, a detective with the Portland Police Department, said the
book has worked as an educational tool on a topic that isn't addressed
``That's something I'd thought about before, but I didn't really know
what was the best approach, and this made it easier,'' Ward said.
Ward remembers one boy who approached him and showed him that he had
drawn a red circle with a slash through the gun, to show he couldn't
tell if it was real or not.
Ms. Nichols keeps a scrapbook that contains several children's thank-you
notes, including one from a boy who said, ``I learned never to point a
gun at anyone not even my dog. I only point my gun at deer.''
Another note from a girl in second grade shows a gray gun.
``If you didn't write this book we would not learn about guns,'' the
And most of those clocks are ticking because Ledford worked his magic on
them. Customers bring their timepieces to Ledford when they stop ticking
(the clocks, that is; not the customers). He puts his 22 years of clock
repair experience to work, replacing some parts and manufacturing
others, giving new life to decades-old machinery.
Ledford became interested in clock repair as a 6-year-old when he was
living with his grandparents. His grandfather was a clock maker.
``I grew up at his knee, watching him do clock repair,'' Ledford said on
a recent afternoon at his shop.
Years later, when Ledford was in the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany,
he became reacquainted with the practice.
``The first German person I met was a master clock maker,'' he said. ``I
had been in Germany only a matter of days and purchased a wall clock
from him. I told him about my grandfather and said I wish I could learn,
and he said, `I will teach you.' ''
Ledford tinkered with clocks for the next several years, even after he
retired from the military and began working as a materials manager at
Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center.
``Before, it was a very serious hobby. But the clock business took up
too much time,'' when he was working another job, ``so now I repair
clocks for a living.''
``I spend 10 to 12 hours a day here'' in the shop, Ledford said. Some
nights, Ledford gets so wrapped up in his work that his wife, Easter,
has to come to the shop and tell him it's bedtime.
After the German clock maker taught him the basics of repair, Ledford
began buying old, non-working clocks and restoring them.
``I did that for years and years before I started to do work for the
public. That's how I learned clock repair,'' he said.
Now Ledford is able to work on all types of clocks. On this afternoon,
he had several German-made clocks lining the walls, some in various
states of repair, others ready to be taken home by customers.
On his workbench sat a German clock built in 1927, a three-weight
grandfather clock owned by a customer from Temple.
If a customer just describes a problem a clock is having, Ledford said
he usually can pinpoint the diagnosis. Not many people can do that
``Clock making is a dying profession,'' he said. ``There's not enough
demand in one location'' for clock-making schools any longer.
Two qualities needed for clock repair are patience and an ability to
picture things in the mind, Ledford said.
``I'm very, very, very patient,'' he said. ``You need infinite patience
to do this and good analytical skills. If you can have a vision in your
mind and rotate it and still know where all the parts are, you can
repair a clock.''
Ledford still buys, restores and sells old clocks. He recently began
selling a piece of nostalgia: cat clocks with rolling eyes and a
swinging tail. The pieces, reproductions of the original clocks from a
half-century ago, come with a quartz movement, which is safer than the
electric motors in the older version.
``They have the same dial, the same eyes, the same features,'' Ledford
said of today's Kit-Cat Klock. ``But they're a safer product. Kids love
these clocks, and so do some of us older kids.
``Some clocks ought to be fun. People who have them, love them. When
(the older ones) finally quit, they want another one. And restoration of
the old ones are almost impossible.''
Ledford said he is banking on bringing back the past when he sells the
``I'm not selling a plastic clock. I'm selling a memory.''
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