Requiem For A Champion
A Tribute to Palacios and Its Citizens....
(Ed. Note: The following was written by a former Palacian, who grew up here, but resided in Littleton, Colorado at the time of Hurricane Carla. Her "Requiem For a Champion" was published in the Nov. 2, 1961 edition of the Palacios Beacon. Edited portions of the tribute are published as follows.)
BY JEAN CALLAWAY NEELY
The great heart that is South Texas skipped a beat when God's mighty breath blew the sturdy form of the City of Palacios to the four winds! Oh yes...it's true there are some people left, doggedly working from daylight to dusk digging themselves out of the debris--hoping to dig their lives out of the rubble...for what is Life in America?
Isn't it really, when you come right down to it--wedding silver, baby's first shoes in bronze on the end table, the collection of report cards from a slow middle child--who is now leader-of-men? Isn't it the picture of her, in her first formal, her cap and gown, her wedding dress, and then the picture of the first born showing his or her first tooth--smiling down from the mantel?
Some people call this "corny"...but didn't "Our Town" become a classic...because it was written about us, whether we came from a small village or from a penthouse in the East. Didn't we all read some of our lives into the lines of that playwright?
Palacios was such a town! It could have furnished the local color for the combined novels of all the great writers in America. It had a City Park, a bandstand, a dance pavilion over the water, a church for every creed.
It had a group of women who brought alive the names that bespeak love of fellowman, charity, Americanism and Citizenship in Our Land. Athena Club, League of Women Voters, Federation of Women's Clubs, various guilds and missionary societies...and always unified loyalty for War Bonds, Community Chest, and any special emergency that might arise.
It was the birthplace of the T-Patch Texans who fought their way to Hell and back in World War II. It was just a little town...but it absorbed, sometimes rather grudgingly, but always loyally, some thirty thousands of soldiers and their families. It fought it keep its morale and its morals...high during those difficult years.
The pocket book of this town didn't get any thicker when peace was declared--it was much thinner by the time the last soldier and his family had returned to their homes in Kansas, New Jersey...and other parts of Texas. It had to regroup its forces after the War and take in its belt....the founding fathers all got together at the Rotary Club, the churches and the PTA meetings and worked a new program of survival to take up the slack the War had left.
Some people in big cities to the North always wondered why Harry James, the Dorsey Brothers and all the "big name bands" would want to come and play their music in a wide-spot-in-the-road, like Palacios! Those who were skeptical, of course, had never spent a summer night in that little town, and watched the moon rise over Tres Palacios Bay. They had never danced 'til dawn in that open air pavilion and felt the soft Gulf breezes caress them....they had never taken a sail boat ride, in the month of June, or watched the shrimp fleet coming in at dusk--with the hulls low at the water line, laden with their catch....
These skeptics never got up at dawn and watched the orange and pink of the sunrise, and sat out on the T-head, or drifted along in an old skiff--with a piece of string and a bacon end, waiting for one of those big pink crabs to take a bite....They never took a flashlight and put on a pair of their Daddy's rubber boots (6 sizes too big) and home-made gig (a nail on the end of a broomstick) and watch those, seemingly fluorescent, flounder try to hide under the seaweed!
If anyone had any doubt that the heart of this great Lady, Palacios, had any subversive thoughts, then they should have been there on the Fourth of July, or I should say several days before, when the Firemen and the City Fathers dug pits, hauled oak logs and prepared the succulent Texas beef for barbecue! Then gone on to a neighboring Ranch...to the Rodeo. No, there never was a star like Roy Rogers, or Jim Shoulders, who competed in those rodeos--but the Traylors, the Cornelius, the Slones, the Tanners and the Sartwells--and many, many others, both young and old rode like champions...and their wives were as beautiful, and as great riders, as Dale Evans ever was. Palacios was as American, as Apple Pie!
Palacios was great for swimming and for dodging white caps, for 'just lookin', for boating, for fishing, and just plain restin'. Tourists (we called them visitors) used to come all the way from the North. When they were about 30 miles away, that warm sea breeze would hit them, and that fresh tangy salt air would fill their nostrils...and they would see their first sea gull in the marsh grass--then, they would start relaxing, and that would set the pace for their vacation-by-the-sea. There never was a night club in Palacios...for excitement, there used to be a wild and dad-burit game of croquet right in the middle of town...but that has long since gone out of style!
Palacios always had a lot of Heart! I remember when I was quite young, one of the town's favorite teenagers (they didn't call them that in those days) became very ill...and that was the days when the only wonder drug that people had was--Prayer! There was no complaints from the merchants or shoppers when an entire City Block--right in the middle of town--was roped off for a whole week, so that the noise wouldn't disturb this critically ill girl.
For God's own reasons, even that failed to save her life...but I can remember that there was still a "hush" down that street long, long, after she had been laid to rest.
There were lots of wonderful things about Palacios. But people of all religions will tell you that the nicest thing they ever happened to Her...was the Church Encampment every summer. You might not have been a Baptist...or a Methodist...or you might have ever been a Christian...but if you ever walked beside that bayshore in the cool of summer evening and heard fifteen hundred voices singing "Beulah Land"...you couldn't have been an Atheist after that!
They used to have a big water cooler right inside the gates of the Encampment Grounds...it was as big as a small silo, and it had the most delicious water that you've ever tasted in your life! When I was a child, we were waiting 10 deep in line to get a drink out of one of those tin cups...and later on, Gulf Oil gave us paper cups, and we took one home and drank out of it for a week!
The Encampment was a great place for a swim. Long before there a fancy seawall or a city pier, they had one...and it seemed five miles long--that pier--but the long walk was rewarding, for right on the left, there were showers...and I can feel, now, that warm, soft water...and my red wool bathing suit sticking like needles to my skin!
I don't suppose Palacios ever had any one person that the world would look upon as Famous! Some people thought Doc Wagner was famous...but those were the ones whose lives he had saved. Some people complained because his doorman, official greeter and office-assistant was a very selective and particular Scotty dog, named Angus! Perhaps Angus knew the patients who hadn't bother to pay Doc...in thirty years! But, there was one thing about Doc Wagner that everyone loved--and that was his smile. For it was like Christmas morning...and it was the most precious sight in the world when you were abed with chicken pox and he came in and patted you on the head!
There were a few people in Palacios with "bad blood" and many, many more with bad habits. But no one who was ever "born and raised" there was ever hunted by the FBI. So far as I know there was never any great crime committed there--until Carla, with her homicidal ruthlessness, ravished the lovely form we knew so well.
Some of us could send a dollar and some of us might send a hundred--but it's the Faith of Our Town--this little wide-spot-in-the-road, that we want to send and if we were not so very far, far away--we would use our very hands to rebuild the form of Palacios!
This is my tribute to a Champion...Palacios-By-The-Sea!
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