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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Roscoe in Years Gone By: "Blind Walt" Part 2

"Blind Walt" with a King Edward cigar.
In Part 1, which appeared in last week’s blog post, the setting is Roscoe in the 1920s, and two boys, the author and his friend Bood, are friends with a blind man, Walter Lewis, who makes his rounds downtown with a cane every day.  One day Walter complains of the difficulty of doing so, and Bood says it couldn’t be that hard and that he and the author could make the whole route blindfolded in fifteen minutes. “Blind Walt” disagrees. 

Check Farmer, a town barber who overhears the dispute, decides there’s only one way to find out, and blindfolds the boys, spins them around and sets them off.  Almost immediately, they fall off the curb, but Bood objects because "nobody ever spun Walter 'round and round."  Everyone agrees that the spinning wasn’t fair, and the boys get another chance to see if they can make the journey.  However, Walter gives them some advice before they set off.
 

In this concluding episode, the author deftly portrays downtown Roscoe as it was back then, describing not only the layout of the shops and stores, but also the sights, sounds, and smells encountered there.

OUR BLIND MAN - PART 2
THE ASSAULT ON WALTER'S ROUTE
by John Beryl Witherspoon

Walter raised his head toward the ceiling and rolled his King Edward cigar around in his mouth and said, “Now, if you even hope to be successful in traversing my route, you must listen closely to what I have to say.”

Russell’s Tailor Shop was getting pretty crowded by then, and everybody moved a little closer so that they would be sure to hear every word that Walter said.

“To begin with,” he said, “you must depend on your other senses since you won’t be able to see.  You must use your nose especially because every store smells different, and you must concentrate and remember the last store you just passed so that you can keep them all in sequence as you go down the street, and you will always know where you are.  But if you relax for a minute, you will be lost.”

Bood and I were eagerly listening to every word he said.

“Check didn’t realize the seriousness of your claim to make the route as I do.  He thought it was something like ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’ or something like that.  But now, he has said that he is sorry for what happened a few minutes ago, and he has agreed to follow you all the way and volunteer to help you across the streets as people in town here do for me.”

“When you go out that door there, you are walking on Highway 80, and it goes all the way from Savannah, Georgia, to San Diego and Los Angeles, California.  So keep your ears open for unusual noises.  If you hear a dog growl, stop and quietly move next to the building, and just stand there, and don’t move.  After Check has blindfolded you again, go out the front door, and turn to your right.  From then on, you will be on your own, and, remember, you will be on the south side of the street and you are going east.”

I have decided to do something that I have never done before.  I am going to let you take my cane, and I’ll sit right here until you come back, and I don’t think that will be very long because I don’t think you can do it.”


The south side of downtown Broadway in the late 1920s.  (Click photo for a larger view.)
“Now, remember, you are going east.  You walk right down the street until you come to a ‘step-up’ that is about six inches high, and there is nothing beyond that except Jack Ward’s hamburger joint, and you can smell his delicious hamburgers from there because you are directly in front of Elbert Martin’s Tailor Shop.  Now, turn to your left and you will be facing the street which is US Highway 80.  Use your cane and edge carefully to the curb, and Check will come up and volunteer to walk you across the street.”

“When you get across the street, you will smell coffee from a coffee-grinder and other spices, and you will know that you are in front of ‘Tote’ Jones’s grocery store.  Now turn left again and you will be headed west.  Start walking and you will smell chili and hamburgers again and you are in front of J. O. Casey’s hamburger joint.  Continue on down the street and you will hear pool hall noises, and you will know exactly where you are.  Go right on until you get to Graham’s Drug Store, and you will smell all those mixed flavors from the soda fountain."


"Next will be Altman’s Dry Goods, then the Hardware Store.  Use your cane because sometimes they put merchandise on the sidewalk, and if your cane hits a metal object, move closer to the curb, and as you continue, you will smell coffee and spices again and you are in front of Edd Dodds’ Grocery.  Remember, you are going west.  Go ahead to the curb and Check will again take you across the street, and you will be in front of the Roscoe State Bank.” 

Now you make another left turn.  Every turn you make is left except one, and that one is in front of the First National Bank.  Now you are going south.  Check will take you across the street to the G. H. Johnson building where Will and Loftie Adams have their furniture store.  Next will be Mrs. Copeland’s Millinery Shoppe, then the Worthy Brothers’ Dry Goods Store where Will and Ben Worthy sell dry goods.  Go right on down the street, and you will pass the Majestic Theater, where Cos and Rosie have their theater.  Next will be Bill Shields’ Grocery, and you can smell the coffee and spices again.  Then you will smell tanned leather.  That will be where Mr. McCarty and his son Joe have a harness shop, and right on down the street you will come to Abe Nemir’s Dry Good Store, then on to the Post Office.  You will know that by all the people that are there.  Turn left and walk to the curb.” 

“Check will then take you across the street.  There is no building there, but you must be very careful and turn left when you get to the sidewalk.  Now remember you are going north now.  The first building you come to will be the Masonic Hall.  It is a wooden building and easily recognized because of that.  The next one you come to is a brick building, which is the RS&P Office.  After passing there, you will come to an alley.  Cross the alley, and you will be at the rear of the First National Bank.  The first door you come to will be A. J. Parker’s office.  He is the Mayor.  The next will be W. A. Sloan’s office, who is a Realtor.  Now, continue right on down to the corner, and here is where you make your first right turn in front of the First National Bank.”

“Make your turn and you will smell food cooking.  Then you will smell hair tonic.  That means you are in front of the Barber Shop where Thurman Smith, Merritt Graham, and others are cutting hair.  Then the food smell becomes stronger and you are in front of Jim Pratt’s Café.  As you walk away, you can smell the sweet smells of a soda fountain, and you are in front of Barna Haney’s Drug Store.  Always know where you are.  Now, right on down the street to Medlock’s Drug Store, then to Cliffie Hodges’ Barber Shop and you can smell the hair tonic and you will know you are next to the City Tailor Shop.”

Well, Walter just about covered everything, I thought, and I guess everybody around us did, too.

Bood was getting anxious and he said, “Let’s go!” and everybody said, “Yes, come on.  Let’s all go.”

Check raised his hand and everybody got quiet, and he said, “Now, let’s not make a parade or some kind of circus out of this.  Nobody follows Walter down the street.  Everybody stay here until we get back, and you can see the final outcome as we walk down the street.”

With that, he proceeded to blindfold us again.  He took us out on the street, and we locked arms and followed Walter’s instructions precisely.  We went east until the “rise” in the sidewalk bumped Bood’s cane, and Check took us across the street and we made our left turn and all the way down to the Roscoe State Bank.  We made another left turn and went all the way to the Post Office.

Check took us across the street, and we turned left again and started north up the street.  After we had passed the Masonic Hall, the RS&P Office, and the alley, we knew that we were in the back of the First National Bank.  We still had our arms locked and we became jubilant.  We started laughing and giggling for we could smell success.  Bood was banging Walter’s cane upon the side of the building, and the happier we got, the faster we walked.  Bood said, “We’re almost to the corner and here it is.  Now turn right.”

Then, disaster struck!!!

We ran head on into Mrs. Cardwell.  Check said her hat went straight up in the air and she dropped her purse on the sidewalk and let out a blood-curdling scream, and people began coming out of the stores to see what the commotion was.

We jerked our blindfolds off, and while Bood was retrieving her purse, I was going for her hat.  We handed them to her and began apologizing to her.  She was very frightened and suddenly her fright changed into anger.  Her face became flushed and she started breathing deeply.  She took a deep breath, held her lips tightly together and exhaled through her nose with some force, and she went streaking across the street to the Millinery Shoppe with her hat in one hand and her purse in the other.

Check could see our dilemma as we stood there dejected with our blindfolds dangling around our necks, and he said, “Come on, let’s go.”

Bood walked up and reluctantly handed Walter his cane, and after Check explained what had happened, it became deathly quiet in there.

“I am the one who is remiss,” said Walter.  “I thought I had covered everything when I gave them instructions, but I neglected to tell them about those right turns.  They are hazardous for a blind person.  When you get to a corner to make a right turn, you should always stop and stick your nose around the corner and sniff.  If you smell any kind of toiletries or perfume, you should stand still because a lady is coming down the street.”

“So, you see, I am the one who is to blame, and I wish to compliment these boys because they went farther than I ever thought they could do.”

That is why we loved Our Blind Man.  We didn’t know it at the time, but we really and truly did love Our Blind Man.

Bood and I learned a lot that day.  We learned of the complexities of being blind and the difficulties that face them every day of their lives.
 

That was Roscoe as we knew it so long ago.

--o--

PLOWGIRLS FALL TO HIGHLAND, BEAT ABILENE HAWKS

Highland's Sierra Allen (22) makes two from the paint. She was the game's high scorer with 17.
No one was really surprised to see Highland overpower the Plowgirls in Roscoe Friday evening 54-19.  After all, the Lady Hornets are now 22-2 on the season, undefeated in district, and ranked sixth in the state in Class 1A-2 by the TGCA (Texas Girls Coaches Association).  They clinched the 13-1A title with the win.  The loss puts the Plowgirls at 12-13 for the year and 6-3 in district, which should be good enough to get them into the playoffs

Highland jumped out to a 9-4 first-quarter lead and were ahead at halftime 21-8.  At the end of three the score was 42-15.  Shelby Brown led the Plowgirls with 6 points followed by Sam Ortega with 5, Sunshine Saddler 4, Eva Aguayo 2, and Danielle Dean 2.  Sierra Allen led the Lady Hornets with 17 points; Moseley had 10, Richburg 7, Helbert 6, Kimbrell 6, H. Allen 5, and Martin 3.


Then last night in a non-district game, the Plowgirls beat the Abilene Hawks 44-22.  Sam Ortega led the Plowgirls with 13 points, and Selena Perez made 10.  Whitney Williams had 8, Shelby Brown 5, Danielle Dean 3, Eva Aguayo 2, Mia Herrera 2, and Ashton Payne 1.

The Plowgirls are playing Paint Rock at Robert Lee High School next Tuesday, February 11, at 7:30 pm for the bi-district championship game. 

--o--

PLOWBOYS LOSE TO HIGHLAND, BEAT LORAINE


Cutter Davila makes a long three against Highland.
The Plowboys, who were tied for second place with Highland in the district race, were defeated by the Hornets at home Friday night 36-33, and will now need help to make the playoffs.  Although the game went down to the final buzzer, the Hornets led most of the game, and it was a case of too little too late.

Roscoe led at the end of one 8-6, but the Hornets had a big second quarter and at halftime were ahead 21-16.  The Plowboys closed the gap to 28-24 at the end of three, but were unable to catch Highland in the fourth, and Leanos’ long shot for three in the final seconds fell short, putting Highland in control of the second spot, next to undefeated Ira.

Cutter Davila led the Plowboys with 11 points, followed by Javier Leanos with 9 and Jesus Leanos with 8.  Anthony Ortegon and Luis Villa both had 2 and Shelton Toliver 1.


--o--

WEATHER REPORT

Sunday morning's snowfall.

It’s been another week of crazy weather—warm, then freezing, then warm again, then freezing again, and so on.  And when it’s been cold, it’s often been very cold with low temperatures in the mid-teens or lower along with brisk breezes.  And more cold is on the way. 
 

The only good news in that regard is that Bee Caves Bob, the armadillo in Austin who looks for his shadow every February 2, didn’t see it this year, and if he’d been in Roscoe, he wouldn’t have seen it here, either.  That means—at least I sincerely hope it does—that we’ve got only two more weeks of winter to go.  Come on, spring!
 

Last Thursday was nice with a high of 67°F, and Friday was even warmer as it got up to 76°.  But another cold front moved through, and Saturday’s high was only 46° with a low of 29°.  Sunday morning it started snowing big flakes, and it appeared at first that we might get six or eight inches.  But it suddenly stopped, leaving about two or three inches on the ground.  It was the first moisture of the year, and while it was certainly welcome, it didn’t amount to much.  Roscoe weatherman Kenny Landfried recorded .32” of moisture from the snow.  Sunday’s high was only 35° with gusts up to 31mph, and Monday followed suit with a high of 32° and a low of 18°.  Then yesterday, after a fog so thick that the area was under a fog advisory all morning, the sun finally came out and warmed everything up again.  Within a couple of hours, almost all the snow was melted, and my afternoon walk in 52° weather was a pleasure after being inside as much as possible the preceding days.
 

Unfortunately,  another norther moved in last night, and the 29° we had at midnight will go down as the high for the day since the high this afternoon will be more like 24° with a low tonight of about 16° with wind chills down to around 10° or so.  There’s also a 20% chance of snow tonight and tomorrow.  Tomorrow's high will be about 25° and tomorrow night’s low will be around 20°, but then Friday will bring south winds and another warming trend with temperatures climbing back into the mid-forties. And Saturday will be similar with a high in the low fifties.
 

After all these cold spells we’ve been having this winter, I’m hoping things will balance out with a warm, wet spring.

--o--

† ROBERT GORDON NEMIR


Robert Gordon Nemir, 77, of Sweetwater passed away on Sunday, February 2, at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital. Funeral services will be this morning at 11:00am at First Presbyterian Church with Reverend Kary Fry and Jack Aycock officiating. Interment will be at the Roscoe Cemetery. 


Robert was born on July 10, 1936, in Roscoe to Ernest Roy and Lucile Ellen Nemir. He was a 1954 graduate of Roscoe High School and furthered his studies at Texas Tech and North Texas Universities. On June 22, 1974, he married Patricia (Boo) Fox. They had two children, Ernest Gordon and Hilary Clair. He spent fifty-seven years in automotive sales, beginning with the Joe White Lincoln-Mercury Dealership in Odessa, then moving back to Sweetwater to work for Carroll Buick and Cadillac while working in his ranching business. Later, he branched out into the auto sales business on his own for many years. He enjoyed ranching, hunting and fishing with his family. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Sweetwater, where he served as a Ruling Elder. 


He is survived by his wife Boo Nemir of Sweetwater; son Gordon Nemir of Sweetwater; daughter Hilary Brennan and husband Donnie of Sweetwater; four grandchildren: Samuel Gordon Nemir of San Angelo and Roscoe, Robert Nicholas Nemir of Canyon and Roscoe, Maxwell Harrison Nemir of Roscoe, and Caroline Clair Brennan of Sweetwater; daughter-in-law Marina Wilcox of Roscoe; brother Billy Don Nemir and wife Jacque of Haskell; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents Ernest in 1961, Lucile in 1984, and  brother Jack in 1947. 


Pallbearers will be Christopher Chorn, Will Worley, Ryan Worley, Sam Nemir, Nick Nemir and Max Nemir. Honorary pallbearer will be Caroline Brennan. 


Memorials may be made to the First Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 956, Sweetwater, Texas 79556. 


--o--

✡ SYLVIA R. SHELAN

A graveside service will be held at 2:00pm on Sunday, February 9, at Congregation Sherath Israel Cemetery on Dolphin Road in Dallas for Sylvia Shelan (née Krawitz), 90, who passed away February 4 in Santa Rosa, CA from natural causes.  


She was born in Oakmulgee, OK on September 22, 1923, to Nathan and Nana Krawitz and raised in Tulsa, where she graduated from Central High School. She then moved to Houston to seek work and met her future husband of 69 years, Bernard Shelan(sky).

The couple moved to Roscoe, TX in 1948, where they assumed ownership of her father-in-law’s store, Shelansky’s Dry Goods.  In the ensuing 31 years, they worked, lived, and raised three boys, Ronald, Charles, and Evan. Sylvia worked with her husband in the store often seven days a week during the busy season. For 31 years, she bought merchandise, guessing correctly on next season’s styles, sold and hemmed clothing to fit two generations of customers who become friends in their small West Texas town.

She and her husband retired to Abilene in 1979, where they were longtime members of Temple Mizpah, and eventually settled in Longview in 1993, where they became active members of Temple Emanu-El.

Sylvia was dedicated to her husband of 69 years, supporting him in business and social life. As a child of the Depression, she was rarely satisfied with the status quo and always encouraged her family to do better through education and hard work.

She was preceded in death by her mother, Nana Wallach Krawitz Boxer; father, Nathan Krawitz; sisters, Ruth Yusen and Idelle Berman; and husband, Bernard.


--o--


4 comments:

  1. I notice that the Roscoe Times office isn't on the list of buildings in the 1920's. When exactly was it established?

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Roscoe Times in those days was on Broadway on the west end of the same building that housed the Roscoe State Bank (or the Museum now). It moved there in 1911 when the Bank built the building that is still there now. Before that (1906-11) it was a little further west in a wood building about where the Turk Hotel used to be.

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