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May 20, 1997
Hamilton recalls long-ago tornadoes
By ROSIE FLORES
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Tornadoes in the Saragosa area are nothing new to one long-time
resident, who can recall devastation they brought even before the most
tragic twister of all struck 10 years ago.
Wynn Hamilton, Jr. experienced two in the little community, though he
was not in the area for the third one that struck on May 22, 1987,
killing 30 people.
"The first one that I know of that hit Saragosa was in 1938 and then
another hit in 1964," said Hamilton.
Hamilton lost all his farming equipment in the 1964 tornado.
"I was young when the first one hit in 1938, but I saw it all," said
The tornado hit the area and destroyed three barns, belonging to his
father, Wynn Hamilton, Sr., but nobody in the family was injured.
"Our daddy made us get into the box car that he had purchased for us,"
The tornado destroyed everything else in its path including their home,
but never did any damage to the boxcar, made of solid steel.
"After that tornado, my daddy decided that since nothing happened to
that boxcar he would build a new home around it," said Hamilton.
The Hamilton residence, a two-story stucco house, is located across the
road to the east of the general store.
The home was designed around the boxcar, with the original windows left
"That boxcar is the kitchen/dining area of the home he built back then,
which is still in Saragosa," said Hamilton.
Hamilton has donated items from the store, family memorabilia and loaned
the original map of the town to the West of the Pecos Museum.
Hamilton's father was "a jack of all trades", a farmer/rancher he raised
alfalfa and had a bunch of cattle.
The older Hamilton also ran a movie theater where he showed silent
"The movies were silent, but there was a lady that played a piano in the
backgroud," said Hamilton.
Hamilton's heritage in the area begins with his grandparents, Sallie and
Jim Wright who came to Pecos in 1883. Sallie died in Saragosa in 1972.
His parents Wynn and Annie Hamilton settled in the Saragosa area.
A room at the West of the Pecos Museum is full of items which once
belonged to the Wrights and the older Hamiltons.
"My dad was a banker, president of two different banks before coming to
West Texas, one in Big Spring and one in San Angelo," said Hamilton.
A friend of the older Hamilton, asked him to come to Pecos to try to
salvage the bank in Balmorhea.
He later owned a store from 1926-1929, became an agent of the railroad
and a postmaster in Saragosa for 32 years.
"My mother was born and raised here in Pecos until she got married in
1922," said Hamilton.
The couple spent their honeymoon night at the West of the Pecos Museum,
when it was the Orient Hotel.
"My dad was involved in a lot of things, from ranching to running the
post office," said Hamilton.
"In its heydey, Saragosa probably had no more than 60 residents," said
Besides the bank, it had an alfalfa association and warehouses, a gin,
hotel, garage, three grocery stores, lumber yard and a Wells Fargo
Hamilton has also been a ranch and cattle owner, but his most
illustrious career was as a stunt man in Hollywood.
"I got to meet a lot of interesting people while I was out there," he
Hamilton had the opportunity to meet John Wayne, Burt Reynolds, Ronald
Reagan, Lucille Ball, James Arness, Glen Strange and Amanda Blake.
He also met James Best, who portrayed sheriff Rosco Coldtrain on the
"Dukes of Hazard" and Ken Curtis who portrayd "Festus" on "Gunsmoke."
"Amanda was sure a beautiful woman, inside and out," said Hamilton. "She
was a good friend of mine," he said.
Hamilton was a stunt man for eight years, before he returned to Pecos.
"I got hurt, and had to quit," said Hamilton.
Hamilton was recruited into the stunt business by Steve Cockran.
"He said he was going to make me an actor and I would probably be acting
right now if he hadn't died," said Hamilton. "He gave me a screen test,
but he died shortly after that at the age of 43," he said.
Hamilton got hurt during one of his stunt acts.
"I was riding a horse, fell of a cliff, fell into some water, which
scared the horse and he kicked me in the neck," said Hamilton.
"But I sure got to meet a lot of interesting people," said Hamilton.
The Texas Country Reporter recently did a documentary on Hamilton and
his life, which portrayed him as a rancher, landowner and longtime
"There's a lot of history in Saragosa," said Hamilton.
People first moved to Saragosa because they thought there was gold
there, according to Hamilton.Vantage Point
By BONNIE CEARLEY
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Time for another chapter of this and that to send to those who care
enough to read Golden Years. Have just returned from a Seniors luncheon
and seeing two van loads of them off on a trip to Bransom, Missouri. A
few of them are making the trip for the third time.
I was invited to go but decided I was not able to keep up with the
schedule that they had planned. I really wanted to go - think I am one
of a few people that have not been to the Missouri Music City.
For some reason, since my birthday last month, I really am about to
decide that time is catching up with me - I really must be a "little old
lady". My family surprised me with a great celebration. Son and
daughter-in-law, Butch and Janie, invited me to their house so we "could
see the wild flowers - prettier this year than for several years."
Marthana and Coy said "Yes, we could go." We did see some beautiful
fields of wild flowers but more exciting when we arrived at the Liberty
Hill destination was the freeting that awaited us. Grandchildren,
great-grands, nieces, nephews, sister and brother-in-law had arrived to
wish a Happy Birthday. More fun was provided as the Hudson twins and
Whitney Cheryl Hudson had birthday on April 8 and April 11.
There was lots of singing, gift paper to tear and cake to eat. I had
sort of thought my granddaughter and her family would be there but had
not dreamed that the Oklahoma kin would come. Others were there from San
Antonio, Austin, Corsicana, Junction, Post and Lubbock - just about the
same ones who are left for a family reunion. It was truly a wonderful
Helping us to realize how time is passing - graduation announcements
have been arriving in the mail. The Howard Payne University graduates
had their commencement ceremonies last week. Public schools finish the
year at about the same time everywhere. Various activities are being
held here just as they are there - we just do not know anyone here yet.
Next fall football fans should be pleased. According to the local paper,
improvements are to be made this summer to the stadium and lights
system. One would think that sports facilities would be in good shape
considering the long time of high school football dominance of Brownwood
The stadium is on the far side of town and certainly is not an imposing
site - very ordinary looking. The parking area is sort of a disaster
palce - in now way as good as the high school area there in Pecos.
Some of you there will remember Keith Taylor who was school principal at
Barstow before he and his family moved to Early. He has been principal
of the Elementary School here but resigned that position earlier this
year. He will continue in the EISD as a fourth grade teacher. The more I
hear of school issues that more I admire teachers - surely they must be
truly dedicated to stand the pressure.
Some new friends have come into my life during recent weeks, two of them
are cousins whose maiden names were Cearley. They have offered to
consider me a "cousin by marriage." One of them lives out by Lake
Brownwood where she and her husband moved after his retirement. The
other one is the daughter of the Mrs. Cearley who lives at the CARE
Retirement Center here with whom I have visited by telephone.
Other new acquaintances are women meeting each week to learn the
intricate rules of playing bridge. The classes are a result of
activities planned by the Senior Friends Chapter at Columbia Brownwood
Regional Medical Center. What I have learned about each of them is very
interesting. One is a writer, of prose for various publications and of
poetry with two books to her credit. She gave me some copies of columns
and poems and I enjoyed them. Another lady is an antiques appraiser. She
had a dealers shop for about thirty years in the Arlington area.
Several of the groups are retired from secretary and acountant jobs.
There is no lack of conversational subjects, in addition to bridge facts.
The weather continues to be capricious - quite a storm one night last
week. The oak trees are sensitive to wind, shedding small branches and
lots of leaves so lots of yard work is necessary. Lots of real trees
were uprooted around town. Out at the lake a large warehouse was blown
off its foundation along with other damage to roofs and smaller
I was invited to a recent meeting of the Brownwood Woman's Club which
was in one of the rooms at Mabee Center on the HPU campus. That is a
large building with various rooms to accommodate different groups. The
Woman's Club has ninety members - about sixty were there that day. They
meet for lunch and then have their business session and program. They
are involved in civic projects and community volunteer work.
The Welcome W. Chandler Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic hosted
their annual quest day recently. Marthana and I attended this meeting,
also held in the Mabee Center. Then while I was gone to Waco. Marthana
went to a luncheon with members of the Daughters of the American
Revolution (DAR). The speaker was very good and there was a large crowd
These three events were held in the same room at Mabee Center. Excellent
food was enjoyed at each by the Marriott Good Service which does the
meals for Howard Payne University. For each occasion the hostess members
provided beautiful table decorations.
The Chamber of Commerce Banquet was held on April 24. About 400 persons
heard Mamie McCollough in an exciting address which covered progress
into the 21st Century with emphasis on the effectiveness of people
working together for a common goal. In her career she has worked with
nationally known Zig Ziglar for ten years as a motivational speaker.
An evening of wonderful music was enjoyed recently. The Jazz
Ambassadors, a component of the United States Army Field Band, presented
a concert in the Coliseum. A large and very appreciative crowd attended.
This musical group travels thousands of miles each year and perform for
public concerts, school assemblies, clinics, music festivals, radio and
television appearances. They have played in all fifty states, Canada,
Mexico, Europe, Japan and the Republic of India.
Notable appearances include participations in the inaugurations of
Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. They also played a jazz
festivals in France, the North Sea in Netherlands, the Montreaux in
Switzerland, in New Orleans and the Newport in Rhode Island.
Many of the members are also composers and arrangers whose writings help
to create the band's unique sound. The repertoire includes big band
swing, popular tunes, both dixieland and contemporary jazz, bebop and
marches. A talented and versatile soloist, Staff Sergeant Dana Rogers,
appears on each program.
She sang for this program two Cole Porter songs, "Night and Day" and
"It's All Right With Me" and a thrilling rendition of "America the
Beautiful". Some of the other tunes readily recognized were the Dorsey
Medley, a Visit to New Orleans, and partiotic numbers. A rousing
rendition of John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever"
concluded the concert.
Directors of the Jazz Ambassadors since July of 1993, chief Warrant
Officer Freddie Vinson Jr. is native of Vivian, Louisiana who graduated
from Grambling College. In 1975 he enlisted in the Army as a trumpet
player and soon attended the Band - Master School of Music. After
graduation, his first duty was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma as Commander of
the 77th Army Band at Fort Clayton, Panama. In 1990 he was assigned as
Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division Band at Fort Hood, Texas. While
with this unit he served with both Operation Desert Shield and Desert
It was such a privilege to hear this program. It is not often one gets
the opportunity to hear such wonderful musicians. While on the subject
of music, the schedule for the 1997-98 Community Concerts season has
been announced and we have ordered tickets. The series of promised
concerts sounds very exciting, no vocal soloists this time. Banjomania
is due in October - four musicians who present a mix of music, comedy
and American traditions.
The Epic Brass quintet also has a varied repertouire. Aram Basmadjian is
an organ recitalist. To close the season will be the Russ Morgan
Orchestra for the Big Band Sound.
Attending the Centennial Convention of the Texas Feration of Women's
Clubs in Waco was a real treat. Emily Delle Munn and Shirley Kennedy
from San Angelo came by for me. It was such a joy to see many long time
friends. There are three other 1978-80 district presidents who served
when I did that are still active. Ellene Johnson of Texarkana, Margaret
Kriegel of Gidding and Jewel Bailey of Ozona shared some recalling
Barbara Sounders of Marfa, Western District President, and eleven of the
other 13 districts were honored along with ten TFWC past presidents and
Masine S. Scarbro of West Virgina, the President-Elect of the General
Federation of Women's Club.
Sessions were held in Hilton Hotel Town Square Rooms and the McLennan
Room of the Convention Center. To mark the 100th year TFWC special
programs included the portrayal of all the past state president by
members who were dressed in the mode of their times. Ten past presidents
who are still active recalled high lights of their terms.
This was both entertaining and informational. Musical entertainment
featrued students in the Baylor University music Department directed by
Professor (and Dr.) Leta Horan. Impromptu group singing was led by past
presidents Lennie Sims and Carol Silvers. In her keynote address Mrs.
Scarbro said Texas is the only state to report an increase in
membership, with both new and re-activated clubs.
Many years ago John and I toured the campus and we saw the cage where
two bears lived - the live mascots for the Baylor Bears. This trip I
looked but no cage to be seen anywhere. The area around the University
has really changed and the campus is very pretty. I asked a Waco lady
the next day about the bears.
They now live in a home outside the city where they have room to roam
between their special appearances. Just about four years ago we visited
Waco - that time we saw the Texas Ranger Museum. There are some neat
places to visit now including the Dr. Pepper Musuem and historical
homes, all being worth a trip to the famous town by the Brazos River.
Trivia fact: In 1874 Levi Strauss copper-riveted blue jeans were
marketed at $13.50 per dozen - can you believe 123 years ago today?!!
Also, the block buster movie Star Wars was released 20 years ago on May
Before another visit time there will be Memorial Day and Father's Day.
Hope you celebrate both safely and happily.
Bye for now and remember - Love one Another!
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Copyright 1997 by Pecos Enterprise
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