A HISTORY OF THE JAMES E. RITTER, BOOTY A. RITTER, AND JAMES L. PRICE FAMILIES
THE MEMOIRS OF DAINY P. (MRS. B. A.) RITTER
James E. Ritter came to Nederland from Panola County in 1919 to work as a guard at the Texas Company (Texaco) tank farm. His wife Elizabeth came to Nederland in June, 1920, with her son David, who worked for Townsend Grocery; daughter Lucille, who taught school in Nederland; son Booty, who went to Port Arthur Business College; and son Woodward (Tex) Ritter, who went to South Park High School.
Booty Ritter finished college in 1921 and went to work in Louisiana. Tex worked on the construction of Pure Oil Company's Smith's Bluff Refinery (now Unocal) at Nederland. In 1923 Tex finished South Park High School and went on to the University of Texas Law School. Tex told Booty that he could have his job at Pure Oil Company, and so persuaded by his family, Booty A. Ritter returned to Nederland. He was to live and work there for the remainder of his life.
James L. Price and his wife Rannie and their daughters Dainy and Anna Beth moved to Nederland from Port Arthur in 1921. Both Mr. and Mrs. Price were born in Coryell County. He was employed by Gulf Refining Company (now Chevron), and he retired twenty years later. We lived where Baker-Williford Pharmacy is presently located (1203 Nederland Avenue at South Twelfth Street), and there was one block of dirt road in each direction. My father got busy and got the road shelled before too long. We had no paved streets in those days.
My father, James L. Price, became very active in Nederland and he was very civic-minded. He saw that Nederland needed to build a new school, since there was only the old original Langham school which, before it was torn down, was built on Twelfth Street between Franklin and Detroit, in an area that at present is a vacant school playground. He was elected to the school board and was instrumental in getting the new school built. When the new school was built in 1924, Nederland started growing steadily due to the building of the new Pure Oil refinery in 1923.
David Ritter returned to Panola County in 1922. After teaching a few years, Lucille Ritter married the Reverend Bruce Powers, a Methodist minister. After his job with Pure Oil Company ended, Booty went on to South Park Junior College. During the summer of 1924, he played baseball with the Pure Oil team. He was hired permanently by Pure Oil Company in October, 1924. They had a fine baseball organization under the supervision of Arthur J. Davis. The team played all around the Southeast Texas area. I remember going with the team to Sabine Pass in 1924 and then to Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1925. We had to wait 45 minutes to catch the ferry to cross the Sabine River and the mosquitoes were biting us! The local playing field was where the current Langham School is located.
Booty Ritter and Dainy Price met shortly after he returned to Nederland in September, 1923. The Ritters had built their home on Nederland Avenue at its intersection with Thirteenth Street, one block from our home. While Booty was attending South Park Junior College and I was finishing high school in Port Arthur, we usually walked to the old "interurban station" on what is now Boston Street. The Beaumont "interurban" (a one or two-car electric trolley) arrived before the Port Arthur interurban. We all loved riding on the interurban trains. We went to so many activities in Beaumont - church activities, school activities, the fair, or just to go downtown to a show. At that time, very few young people had cars.
Booty had come home from Louisiana in a Model-T Ford, but he never drove it to school. It was not unusual for us to go to some social, school or church function, and then we would have to walk home because he had loaned his car to someone.
The Methodist Church and our friends often had parties. We enjoyed riding up and down the West Port Arthur Road and singing when riding. We were always singing somewhere and playing a victrola or phonograph to dance by.
Booty and I were married on February 7, 1925. The night before our wedding, Booty was called to the door by a group of men who surprised him by taking him to a dinner in his honor at Fuller's Cafe in Beaumont. About 20 or 25 business men had planned the event, and Fuller's Cafe was the best restaurant in the area in those days. We bought a home in the McCauley Addition on South 14 1/2 Street. The twenty acres in the McCauley Addition were rapidly being built up.
We had a son, James Price Ritter, and two years later, a second son, Allan Ritter. When I was pregnant with Allan, Booty was severely burned during an explosion at the Pure Oil refinery. My mother kept my oldest son Jim so I could stay with Booty. He came home from the hospital practically helpless, but we had many friends to help get him to the Doctor and help us out in other ways.
We all weathered the Great Depression (1929-1940). Booty was never out of work, but we all learned to can vegetables in order to reduce expenses. Booty's sister, Ola McCauley, and her husband Mac (Walter K. McCauley) lived nearby (at Nederland Avenue and 14th). We grew a very large garden of wonderful vegetables, and Ola McCauley, Booty and I canned vegetables - everything! The employees at Pure Oil refinery in those days worked four days one week and three days, enabling many men to have a job, even if parttime, and continue working. Fortunately, Booty received a promotion about that time, so his pay remained about the same.
Mr. James Ritter (Booty's father) was ill for a year and eventually died on November 19, 1934. Mrs. Elizabeth Ritter died on March 12, 1935. After her funeral, just as we were preparing to leave for Forest Lawn Cemetery for her burial, we happened to look across the street and see the roof of our parsonage covered with smoke. It was located where the First Methodist Church Fellowship Hall now is. We had no fire department here and had to have Beaumont and Port Arthur fire trucks come and try to save the buildings around the parsonage. All the roofs in those days were wooden shingles. It was very scary to sit behind the hearse until the building burned down. Afterward, we went to Beaumont for his mother's burial.
At that time the Reverend R. C. Terry was our pastor of First Methodist Church. He had to go on and complete the funeral even though he knew that everything his family and our church owned was completely gone. We later built a new parsonage next door to the Griffins (the Frank Griffin family at 104 Thirteenth), which was where our First United Methodist Church main sanctuary is located today.
The Rev. R. C. Terry put Booty and several other young men on the church board. They were called the Board of Stewards in those days. The church board became very active, and Booty became very active in all other civic affairs as well. He became a member and officer of the Chamber of Commerce, and he served on the School Board for twelve years. He was always called a "leveling influence" on the different boards that he served on.
In 1947, after our sons were gone (Allan was in the Navy after having attended the University of Texas for a year and a half, and Jim was in dental college), we decided to start up a little business. We didn't know where or what we wanted to do, but we recalled that Mac (Walter K.) McCauley owned a small office and lumber shed, in the 600 block of 11th Street, that he had operated before World War II, and later he sold it to Midcounty Lumber Company. Later Midcounty moved to Beaumont and the place was closed.
Booty talked to Mac about going into the lumber business on a fifty/fifty basis as partners. Booty was excellent with figures, but I had to learn everything from scratch. Mac and Booty worked part-time. Ola McCauley had been in New York, but she later returned. We handled the little business we had. Later Ola moved to Houston, and we had to hire additional help. Booty worked all of his spare time in the business.
In 1948, our son Allan Ritter was injured in the Pacific and was taken to Pearl Harbor, and later to Oakland, California. His injuries caused him to become quadraplegic. Through the efforts of our relatives in California, we were able to get Allan transferred to Houston as everyone thought at that time that he would not live.
During this period of time of our extreme bereavement concerning his physical condition, the Ritter-McCauley Lumber Company became our salvation. The harder we worked, the better our minds became because we had no time to dwell on his physical condition that medical science was at loss to improve. Our son Jim also spent all of his spare time working in the lumber company, and he was a very hard worker.
When Allan arrived in Houston, we all went there, but Booty had to return to work at Pure Oil Refinery (now Unocal). Ola stayed in Nederland and continued to work. Later I would get a relaltive or my son Jim to come to Houston to be with Allan, and I would return to Nederland for a couple of days. We always worked as that became our salvation. Booty would come over to Houston on his days off, and he continued to work hard at the lumber company and his job when he was by himself. He was a shift supervisor at Pure Oil Company for the first five years that we operated the lumber company.
Allan was soon moved to Memphis, Tennessee, for rehabilitation. I spent one week of every month with him. Booty or Jim would go there one weekend until he was able to come home at the end of a year.
Jim graduated from dental school in 1950, and he soon opened a dental practice in Beaumont. He had four children: James Price, Jr.; Patricia, Allan Brown, and John Charles. He often spent his holidays working at the Ritter-McCauley Lumber Company.
It took Allan about two years to adjust to people looking at him. He then started working at the lumber company every morning. He worked from his wheel chair, and an attendant assisted him as needed. He was very sharp mentally and managed the hardware department, building it up greatly. Salesmen pushed his wheel chair around, and Allan often attended sales shows in Houston.
Allan lived for nineteen years after his accident. He died in Memphis on May 7, 1967. Allan had a wonderful group of friends, that have continued to remain friends of our family.
The business suffered as a result of Allan's death and the two months Booty and I spent with him in Memphis. So, in 1968, we purchased Mac McCauley's interest in the business and renamed it Ritter Lumber Company, which it still remains today, and is still owned and operated by our grandsons.
Booty was a charter member of the new Port Arthur Savings and Loan, the second savings and loan company in Jefferson County. He became a director. The Savings and Loan company was later sold to Republic Savings and Loan of Houston, and Booty still remained on that board as well, going to Houston once a month for board meetings. He had resigned his directorship, however, by the time that Republic was taken over by Savings of America. He received no stock in that takeover, but we had made a good profit on the shares we sold to Republic.
Booty also became an excellent builder of homes, and he continued to build them until after he was eighty years old. Home-building more or less became his love. He also became a director of First National Bank of Port Neches, which later became First National Bank of Midcounty. He remained a director there until 1987 when he resigned due to ill health.
After the McCauley family sold their home on Nederland Avenue in 1946, our home became the place for all Ritter family gatherings. Booty's brother Tex dropped by whenever he was in this area, and we always had a large group of relatives and friends when he was in town. Tex died on January 2, 1974. His funeral service was held at First Methodist Church, and he was buried on the Ritter family plot in Oak Bluff Memorial Park in Port Neches. About fifty feet away from his grave stands the Texas State Historical Marker, honoring Tex Ritter, the cowboy movie star. The Governor of Tennessee sent the pallbearers and other celebrities attending the funeral in his plane, and all of them congregated at our house. When the Tex Ritter Park in Nederland was dedicated some years ago, we hosted a dinner for 55 people, mostly family and friends, in our home at 1220 Seventeenth Street.
Booty and I continued to be involved in as many activities as possible until his failing health prevented it. He died on April 23, 1989. Allan, Tex, Booty, his parents and my parents are still fondly recalled and sorely missed by the many relatives and friends whose lives they touched. The End.