THE MEMOIRS OF MRS. ANNIE MARIE (PETERSON, WATTS) McLAIN
(Recorded on Tape During Interview With W. D. Quick on Feb. 28, 1990)
My name is Annie Marie McLain, and I reside at 1143 Dixie Blvd. in the Hollywood Addition of Nederland. My father, Jens H. Peterson, Sr., moved his family here in 1917. Mr. Peterson had been in business in Beaumont before he bought land and moved his family across the highway (347) from the Sun Oil Company gate, one mile north of Nederland. He married my mother, Annie Mary Kelly, in Galveston. In 1900 my father lived in Galveston with his parents, when he was sixteen years old. My grandparents and one of Dad's sisters were drowned during the horrible storm of September 8, 1900, which destroyed Galveston, but another aunt and my father were saved, the latter because he was at work inside the Galveston court house and took refuge there when the storm began.
I had four brothers, Mike, William, Henry, and Clarence, but no sisters. Clarence was a soldier killed in France in December, 1944, and he is buried over there. There were hardly any homes all around Sun Station whenever we moved here in 1917, only the Price and Beard homes - that's Carrie Beard - and the Nourse family.
My first school was the old Langham school, now torn down. My father always took me to school. Father was a sheet metal worker, and he opened a sheet metal shop on the highway, with a little store and a filling (service) station in front of it on Highway 347, just a little bit south of the Sun Oil gate. I don't know who he bought that land from.
My family was of the Catholic faith. I recall well when Father (Fred) Hardy organized the St. Charles Catholic Church here on the second floor of the old McNeill building on (1154) Boston in 1923. The next year it was moved to a wooden building on the corner of Ninth and Chicago. When I was a child, we had no mail delivery, and only well or cistern water. My Dad got the electricity and gas lines extended to Hollywood Addition during the 1920s. There were not many children in that area for me to play with when I was small. I used to make "mud pies" with Hazel Price.
Both of the "Peterson tanks" were already on the land when my father bought it. There was a "run around" (fire levee) encircling each tank, with water inside of the "run around," and a bridge to each tank. Both tanks had clear water, and the front tank had blue water in it. People used to swim there, and J. D. Neely downed there on Memorial Day of 1956, and he is buried in San Augustine. The other drowning was much earlier. (Ed.'s Note: An old clay excavation of a former brick kiln near Sulphur, Louisiana, once had blue water in it and was called "Blue Lake." Evidently, the coloring originated with the type of clay there. The editor is uncertain about the origin of the "Peterson tanks." The Littell Brothers--L. A. Spencer families operated a brick kiln in that immediate area between 1895-1900 and may have excavated their clay there. Most anywhere in that vicinity, there is a good, yellow clay of brick quality a short distance under the top soil. Beginning in 1902, Sun Oil Company built several underground oil storage tanks for storing its Spindletop crude oil, and the editor certainly believes that the underground storage tanks there were built on the site of the former Littell clay pits. At one time about 1950, Pure Oil Company was pumping waste oil into one of the pits. After two drownings on the site, they decided to bulldoze the levees, fill in the pits with dirt, and thus destroyed the old tanks. As the editor can best recall, the "Peterson tanks" were located midway between Canal and Spring Streets, about 200 feet west of Peterson Street. There may still be abandoned pipe lines in that immediate area-W. T. Block)
My first husband, Jack Watts, died in 1953. We always rode the Interurban trolley to Beaumont in those days - got off and on at the Spurlock Road or Sun Station terminal. My brother, Mike Peterson, and his bride rode the Interurban home, getting off also at Spurlock Road. Spurlock Road then was a dirt road that deadended at the old Spurlock place which still stands where it was originally, and maybe one of the Price homes as well. It was about 1/2 mile from our house to the station. I don't recall the size of the building - it was just a waiting room to protect passengers from the weather, very small. I do recall the Interurban Station in Nederland (near the present-day Windmill), behind the old Johnson home, in days when Main (Boston) Street deadended at Fifteenth. It was a little larger. You had to watch out for the trolley about the time it was due, or signal it at night with a torch light. You could not hear it coming because it's electric engine made no noise.
My father's first car was a Model-T touring car with a rain-proofed cloth overhead, and side curtains that "buttoned" down and that had 'isenglass' windows that would crack in extreme cold temperatures (made of a transparent, plastic-like material). I spent a lot of time with the Price girls at Sun.
Father farmed some, and one time the government made him plow under his cotton crop because our field had boll weevils in it. We raised chickens too and had baby chicks in incubators. Mother milked cows and made butter. We kept it in an old-fashioned "ice box." In days before the Iiams ice plant was built next door, we would sometimes buy a 50 pound block of ice in Beaumont, and half of it would be melted by the time we got home. A Model-T car could only go about 25, maybe 30, miles an hour. Highway 347 in those days was a narrow, two-lane paved road, concreted in 1921. I don't remember any airplanes in those days, but I know there must have been some around.
Of the old families around Sun Station in those days, I can remember the Moutons, Perrymans, Beards, Prices and Winters (families). Some of the old Nederland merchants of that period were (Coryell) Freeman, (J. H.) McNeill, and of course Nederland Pharmacy, owned by Mr. (F. A.) Roach. Dr. (J. H.) Haizlip made house calls in those days, and sometimes he stayed all night until the patient got better. I remember Dr. Tribble (office at 1112 Boston, died 1931 or 1932), Dr. (J. C.) Hines (who replaced Tribble, 1933), and Dr. (B. H.) Hall (arrived with Dr. Hines, 1933).
My father built Peterson Street, and he was a good friend of Mr. R. L. Vernor (superintendent, Pure Oil Refinery). Mrs. Rube Wrinkle is the one who changed the name to Peterson Street. Daddy built all the buildings. It was vacant land whenever we moved there.
Iiams delivered ice. (Ed's Note: E. S. Iiams (Ice Co.) installed a 20-ton ice-making plant next door to the Peterson Sheet Metal plant about 1930. Next door to Iiams was a cafe, and north of the metal shop was the Hollywood Inn, a tavern owned by "Slim" Perryman. Iiams sold ice to businesses and door-to-door except during WWII when gasoline was rationed. During the 1950s, when Highway 347 was widened, the state bought up a lot of property there to build the present railroad underpass, and they took all the Iiams, Peterson, and Perryman land. Iiams, his wife, and only son, with no other heirs, soon died in middle 1950s, unaware that land they owned north of Port Arthur was a gas field that would earn them $6 million dollars after their deaths--W. T. Block). Ice became hard to get during the (WWII) war. There were always long lines waiting for ice at the Iiams plant.
I never rode the train to Nederland. I rode the Interurban mostly to Beaumont. We bought groceries in both Beaumont and Nederland. Father built his second home after Humphrey (Ed.'s Note: Mrs. McLain meant Pure Oil Co., which began in 1923 as Humphrey Oil Co., and bought Peterson's vacant acreage, including the "Peterson tanks") bought our property. Weldon Davis wanted to buy Dad's second home, but Dad wouldn't sell. So Davis bought the old (J. H.) McNeill (Sr.) home (at 12th and Detroit) for his new funeral home. Our farm and old home were on Fairbanks Street. We built the second home on the highway (that the state later bought), and the City of Nederland bought it and moved it to Ninth and Boston and fixed it up for the new City Hall.
I worked a long time for the school tax office. While Dad was in the hospital once, I had to go pay his Nederland traffic ticket in the same building that was once our old home. I told the judge, but he made me pay the ticket anyway. I worked fifteen years for the tax office. The first office was built in a small wooden building on old Langham school property, built next door to the old Pete Stehle home, which is next door on the north side of Davis Funeral Home. They built the new tax office (administration) building at 17th and Boston, and then they moved our old building next door to the Windmill, where today it is used as a storage place.
Norine Barras, Johnny Bourque, and I were all of the staff of the old tax office. I remember when E. W. Jackson was the school superintendent (Ca. 1922-23, see p. 51, "Nederland Diamond Jubilee"). My teacher, Miss Poage, married Bill McNeill. (Ed's Note: Mrs. McLain errs. A Langham teacher named Miss Lois McIlhenny married Judge W. T. "Bill" McNeill in March, 1914, but surely that must predate Mrs. McLain's arrival here. Later, in 1918-1920, a Miss Alberta Poage taught in Nederland, and later her younger sister, Miss Margaret Poage taught here too and married W. O. "Bill" Haizlip, the postmaster, who was "Bill" McNeill's first cousin--W. T. Block)
We had an old "tattle-tale" clock in our home. When my brother Henry would stay out late, it would start ringing whenever he would shut the front door, waking Mama up.
In those days, Highway 347 was very narrow, with even narrower shelled edges a foot or so wide, and beyond, very deep ditches. A person saw a lot of cars that ran into the ditches, especially during fog or at night. Spurlock Road was a dirt road, but later was shelled. Jens H. Peterson, my dad, kept a lot of hogs, and George Yentzen of Yentzen's Bakery gave Daddy his stale bread to feed to our hogs. Dad gave the hogs small amounts of strychnine to control their worms. We bought all of our bread direct from the bakery.
We sometimes travelled on the West Port Arthur Road, via Viterbo Road (now Canal Street). I belonged to the 4-H Club and raised chickens as my project. The nuns from the old Hotel Dieu Hospital (in Beaumont on Sabine Pass Avenue by the river) came often to visit us and buy eggs from my mother. I don't know whether the eggs were for themselves or for patients.
After father sold his land to the oil company, they used the back tank at first to pipe waste oil to. There are a lot of pipe lines through that property. The tank levees were very high. I built my home in 1957 or 1958 whenever the highway came through. The county bought my old home, and C. F. Bosse built my new home on the only two lots I could locate to buy. Mae Youmans told me that she used to beat me all the time playing jacks at school. I can remember when the old D. Chester home was still on the corner at Helena and Twin City. I started to school and finished high school in Nederland. Caroline (Giebelstein, later Mrs. F. A.) Peveto was one of my school chums. Dad once said he wanted to run for the school board. He went to Austin on school business for some reason with Mr. (M. W.) Oakley, who at that time was on the school board (as well as Nederland's hotel keeper), and when they came back, Dad said, "People in Austin should be locked up in the insane asylum, and the insane should be kept in the Texas capitol!" I don't know why he said that. I knew Ray Oakley, Edith Oakley, Ralph Oakley.....End of tape. (Note: the young Oakleys gradually left Nederland upon growing up, some moving to Austin. The old Oakleys, M. W. and wife, sold the hotel to Dick Rienstra about 1939, and they too moved to Austin).