|Mr. Melvin Roark in all his wonderful glory.|
My friend Melvin Roark invited me to meet a most interesting man the other day. His name is Lowell Herrington and he’s 97 years young this past Valentine’s Day. Afterward he told Melvin that I was his birthday present. I got a good laugh out of that and replied that he must like cheap dates.
Lowell is a wealth of information about Baytown, as he moved to Pelly in 1929, if I remember correctly. For those readers who don’t know, Pelly, Goose Creek, and Baytown consolidated in 1948, as the city of Baytown. The old city hall of Pelly still stands on West Main Street and the old Goose Creek jail is north of there on North Main.
He talked about Hog Island and how one fellow would swim out into the ship channel and stay out there, only coming in when a ship came by, There was a huge pavilion on Evergreen Road that I never heard of that was very active. He told me how much everyone walked back during the Depression and how scarce food was, except for the veggies everyone grew.
He remembers Reno’s barber shop on SH-146 and Marshall’s bait and tackle. Reno was my father-in-law and his real name was Willard Reneau. He was a humble fiddle-playing man and called himself Reno, because he thought people would have trouble pronouncing his name. Imagine that, these days. He asked me if Reno had worked for a barber named Broome and I said he did.
Lowell’s mind is as sharp as a younger man and he told me his family all smoked and drank a bit of alcohol, but he never took a hankering to it and he looks like a man of 70 and well preserved at that.
He remembered the German soldiers interned out on SH-146 close to the Pinehurst subdivision somewhere and I had heard this numerous times through other people. His beautiful bride Barbara made us coffee and served delicious pastries and we chatted for a couple of hours. I asked him if he remembered the hundreds of oil derricks and all those that were way up on Goose Creek and he sure did. I don’t think most Baytownians know that there at one time they stood everywhere on the creek. By 1975 when I photographed the expansion of SH-146 at Tabb’s Bay, most of them in the bay were already gone also.
The same goes for the Tabbs Bay Causeway. I bet one out a 500 people here would get a blank look if you asked them about it. It’s gone now too, like the almost 40 people who have passed away on Lowell’s street. Again and again, he mentioned how much the city has changed since 1929 and how he helped a man catch a runaway horse and then ride it across the town, which then was mostly dirt.
Lowell told us about quarter horse races on Morrell Street and I couldn’t get a mental picture of how that could be. He said it was a big attraction. We talked about the Baytown Historic Café and he knew all about the building and the ones that are no longer there. He said they really need better lighting so people could study the photos. The café building was named after the owner. It was the same name as one of two brothers who would swim out in the ship channel. I should have taken notes, but we were just chatting and drinking coffee.
Lowell still does yard work, unless his son sneaks over and does it while they are at church and his place is neat as a pin. He has a Hispanic neighbor family who barbecues quite often and they always bring down a couple of plates. He and his bride seem a perfect fit and they are happy. I think they’ve been married about 35 years and both lost their first spouse. He used to repair small motors and maybe still does and he informed me that it was just a hobby and although he often times had a back-log, he never charged for labor. Again, imagine that these days.
I have known another fellow since I was a mid-teen, named Alan Dempsey. Alan is a Pentecostal preacher’s kid and back in high school, a real ladies man and fist-fighter – but he is also one of the nicest kindest people I’ve ever met. His favorite saying for years has been, “What’s more fun than people?” Meeting this 97 year old man and his bride prove Alan’s point.
Lowell and his mate are rare jewels and folks should take note of the example they have set. I know they left an indelible mark on me.