THE TAPED MEMOIRS OF ADAM DAVIS WINTERS, JR.
(An Interview With W. D. Quick Made on March 30, 1990)
I, Adam Davis Winters, Jr., was born on May 22, 1911, the son of Adam D. Winters, Sr., and Effie Emma Price. I came to Nederland, Texas, in 1922 at age eleven, having attended through the fifth grade the Magnolia Elementary School in New Iberia, Louisiana, where I was also born.
My father was hired by Sun Oil Company at Smith's Bluff in June, 1922 (Ed.'s Note: Adam's father, A. D. Winters, Sr., along with William H. Smith and Tom Housenfluck, Sr., were the only three Nederland residents of pre-World War II days who drew Spanish-American War pensions that the editor has knowledge of.). My uncle was foreman at Sun Station. Mrs. Winters, Sr. had three brothers in Nederland (Eugene and Gilbert Price) and Beaumont. I started the sixth grade in Nederland when Mr. (E. W.) Jackson was superintendent. We lived at Sun Station in the one company house that was near the dock area on the river.
As a teenager, I played in the old-abandoned Port Arthur Irrigation Company pumping plant that was located at the river end of Sun Station at Smith's Bluff. We had no modern conveniences - only outdoor plumbing, no electricity, and bath water from an old underground cistern, filled with water caught on the roof top and conveyed to the cistern through gutters, along with a few dozen frogs. We had a pot-bellied wood stove in our house for heat. We had no close neighbors. Our house was the only house down there up until the time Sun Oil Company built its docks there during the 1920s. (Ed.'s note: Although Sun Oil Company has been located at Sun Station since 1902, the year that J. N. Pew sent J. W. Barr from Pennsylvania to Nederland to buy up Spindletop crude, there was no need for docks there at first and no water deep enough to float large tankers until the 1920s. Sun Station was merely a station that collected Spindletop crude, stored it in underground tanks, and then pumped it to Sun Oil tank farm at Sabine Pass, where it was loaded and shipped coastwise to Pennsylvania by tanker.)
When Sun built its docks on the river, I went to work for Sun Oil Company as a water boy for $3.50 a day for nine hours work. My pay went to 50 cents an hour when I did other work. There was only one gate into Sun Oil at the railroad tracks. Later another gate and road was built into Pure Oil property at the river end. My father had a horse that I rode the two miles to the main Sun gate, where I staked out the horse to graze, and then walked to school either on the highway or railroad tracks. Sometimes I walked with the Price and Nunez children. The Prices lived in a company house near the railroad tracks.
At one time, where the suction pump of the old Port Arthur pumping plant was located, there was a small dock, where Dad and I used to fish. On day a ship came by, being towed to Beaumont by a tug. The side of the boat came in close to the little dock and hit the pier. As it turned out, the boat's rudder was missing, and it could not be steared properly. Oil began bubbling up because the ship had hit and damaged Sun Oil's underwater pipe line that crossed the Neches River and went to Terry in Orange County. The pipe line went to No. 18 underground tank. Our telephone could reach only Sun Station. The pipe line had to be cut off and replaced. The pipe line was weighted down so that it would sink into the silty river bottom, and it had to be pulled out until the broken part was clear of the river and could be repaired.
Some of the early Sun tankers that I can recall that docked at Sun during the late 1920s were the Delaware Sun, Bidwell, Pennsylvania Sun, and Chester Sun. (Ed.'s Note: I would have thought that Adam might have mentioned something of the Pennsy Sun's steam whistle around 1935, but he did not. Captain January, the master of the Pennsy Sun, had a unique method of informing his wife, who lived in Central Gardens, that he had arrived in the river. Upon reaching the river bend between Pure Oil docks and Magpetco (today Mobil tank farm) docks, the Pennsy Sun kept up a series of long and short steam whistle blasts that lasted 20 or 30 minutes and informed Mrs. January, and everyone else in Midcounty for that matter, that the captain would soon be needing a ride home from the docks.)
About 1930, the Corps of Engineers dredged out a cut that eliminated a mile of horseshoe bend in the Neches River, located at Sun Oil docks. I helped a Mr. Alexander survey the site for the docks, where also a large mud flat had once been located. Around 1930, much of the Sun Oil Company marsh was filled up with silt, clay, and dirt dug from the new McFaddin Bend river cut.
Near a slough by the river, there was the remains of an abandoned cemetery. There were a few old cypress, unreadable headboards still up, but all the thin marble stones were already destroyed. Sun Oil put a chain-link fence around it. On Pure Oil (Unocal) property, there were two small headstones near the dock, and one bore the last name of Rose. (Ed.'s Note: Mrs. Jane Staffen, the editor's mother by her first marriage, lived on the river on Staffen property near Sun Oil docks from 1908 until 1917. She often told that the mud flat there contained the wrecked hulk of an old sail ship about 80 feet long. The old captains on the river told her it had been there at least since Civil War days, and they thought it had once been a Confederate boat. It was later blown up. By 1908, the old cemetery on Sun Oil property had had sixty or seventy graves in it and already was long abandoned and destroyed. The following Smith Bluff residents from Civil War days are believed to be buried there, as follows: Johan Mikiel and Wilhelmina Staffen, Frederick William and Mary Painter Block, Johan and Christina Wiltz, Henry Wendt, Henry and Frederika Wendling, Karl and Wilhelmina Meinke, and many others--W. T. Block)
When I went to Langham School, one of the teachers was a Miss McIlheny, who later married Judge (W. T.) McNeill--also a Miss Biggers. In 1924 they built the new Nederland High School (at 200 South Twelfth at Avenue A, where the YMCA is). A Miss Kennedy taught me history; Mrs. Cora Linson taught English; Mr. Greer was the superintendent; and a Mr. Adams was principal (Ca. 1925-26). Then C. O. Wilson came over from Port Neches. He taught math and coached all sports. Recently they had ten coaches for only 22 students. Then Mr. (L. R.) Pietzsch became superintendent (Ca. 1927-1928). Wilson ran the school, and sports was not stressed so much then as it is today. Wilson brought football to Nederland, which until then had only track and basketball - no baseball. Classmates were Stan Hardy, son of the Baptist preacher, who later was killed at the Pure Oil docks while cleaning out ship tanks (1930?); Katherine Goodwin, Elizabeth Ingwersen, Hardy Johnson (from Sabine); Dena Devries, William Doornbos, John May, Glenn Spencer and Ruby Snellgrove.
I bought a camera from a distant cousin - Norman Yentzen - a little Kodak. Our class was the first to put out an annual in hardback - the Pilot. We had a "senior day." Johnson had replaced Price as superintendent at Sun Oil, and he arranged for the entire senior class to ride to Sabine Pass on a Sun Oil tanker. C. O. Wilson said they would probably learn more on the trip than they would in school, so he allowed them to go. After reaching Sabine Pass, they rode back to shore on the pilot boat. When they were still in the channel, I took some pictures with my camera.
When asked if he had done any of the pen or pencil art work on the 1928 annual, A. D. Winters replied that he had not. I first took pen and ink art classes at Texas A and M in conjunction with architecture classes. I did happen to be design engineer in the Sun Oil Company geophysical department. Actually, I had wanted to be an archeologist in Biblical Studies in the Middle East. I went to Lamar Junior College for two years, then finished two years at A and M to get my electrical engineering degree in 1935.
A. D. Winters then commented on the old Interurban - the old Beaumont-Port Arthur electric double-trolley of the 1912-1932 era. Each summer I worked for Sun Oil at 50 cents an hour. I still lived at Sun Station. Got on and off the Interurban at Spurlock Road crossing, which was then a dirt road that deadended at the Spurlock home. There was a little "waiting house," called Sun Station, at the Spurlock Road crossing. Interurban station in Nederland was in back of the Andrew Johnson home, only a few feet from where the present-day windmill stands. Boston deadended in those days at Fifteenth Street, and the offset road from 15th Street (the road in front of the Chamber of Commerce and Donald Moye's law office) deadended at the Interurban waiting room. There was another Interurban station at South Park, where I got on and off while attending Lamar Junior College. An interurban passed through Nederland, one in each direction, every hour.
No, I do not recall any Interurban mishaps. The Interurban was operated by the East Texas Electric Company, the forerunner company of Gulf States Utilities Company. Yes, I had heard some wild stories about the Interurban - Hardy Johnson attended Lamar with me. After 1921, Twin City was a two-lane concrete road. Most people didn't know that that road was built on top of six pipe lines. Yes, my folks went to Beaumont once a week to the ABC Food Store to buy groceries, but Dad always bought meat in Nederland. Downtown Beaumont had a lot of traffic back then -- there were no shopping centers or malls in those days. Going to Beaumont, there was the ruins of a small refinery on the right.
Lamar University campus in 1920 was an abandoned Texaco tank farm and pumping station before the college located there, and the campus today is filled with abandoned underground pipe lines. Earlier it had been known as South Park Junior College, and was located on the third floor of the South Park High School. My Dad had a 1916 Model T. Ford, bought from Broussard Motor Company in New Iberia. As to the early Nederland service stations, J. H. Peterson operated one across from Sun Station. E. P. Delong had a two-story garage and service station at Eleventh and Boston during the 1920s-1930s. It was across from the side of Setzer Supply Company (which was then Koelemay Grain Company), and traces of that garage's old concrete foundation are still visible in the parking lot there. About 1934, Delong sold out to George Netterville. H. O. Morrison and L. B. Cobb had service stations on Twin City at Helena and Franklin Streets.
I remember the J. B. Cooke home before it was torn down. Also the old Star Theatre on Boston that had no sound. It was called the "Bucket of Blood" because of the violence in the Western movies they showed. (Ed.'s note: "Bucket of Blood" must have been a common name in early Nederland. Nederland's "drug store cowboys" of the 1936-1938 era commonly referred to a pool hall, known as the "Dolf Club" and located in what would later be the Creswell Home Supply building at about 1131 Boston, as the "Bucket of Blood.").
We had the Beaumont Enterprise and Journal delivered at Sun Station. We received mail in Nederland. The old wooden St. Charles Catholic Church was located at Ninth and Chicago. The Baptists had their old tabernacle located at Thirteenth and Boston. The Methodist Church was located across from where it still is. I was Catholic when I first came to Nederland, but I am Methodist now.
I married my wife, Archie Dean Campbell, in 1936. Earlier I had graduated from Texas A and M in 1935. I went to work for Sun Oil in 1936. My wife was Presbyterian, and we were married in the Presbytertian Church. At first, we traveled for Sun Oil, in Louisiana and in Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. In 1941 we bought a house in Beaumont on Pipkin Street.
We have three children, a daughter Effie Gaye Winters Trahan, a son A. D. Winters III, who is an Air Force colonel with two doctorates. Our youngest is Patricia Dean Krueger. Gaye is in the school system.
I went on active duty with the army in July, 1941, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. My degree is in electrical engineering. I had been in the Officer Reserve Corps at first, later in the Army Replacement Center, when I was transferred to the 8th Observation Battalion. In March, 1942, we got orders to report to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Our entire brigade moved to Camp Sutton, N. C., and my wife got there one week ahead of me. In convoy, our brigade was 75 miles long on the road. It took three days to get there, and it rained all the way. We spent the first night in Selma, Alabama, and the second night in Columbia, S. C.
We never attended church in the army. In Beaumont we attended Westminster Presbyterian Church until we moved back to Nederland. We decided to become Methodist in 1948. We still had small children. (Adam then discussed a bad train-auto accident at Helena and the K. C. S. railroad track in 1923, which killed several people and involved one of his uncles.)