Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Politics — Janice @ 9:29 pm

I saw Gloria Steinem on TV one day and she was reminding me and all women of the things that the feminist movement has allowed: Women having property in their own name for one. It is easy to forget how far we have come.

I was thinking about that today, too, as some of my Facebook friends still seem to have the attitude that there is no need for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the calendar, that it was approved and created in an effort to be politically correct. Of course, this friend (truly it was only one) was a white male who has probably never felt discrimination. I got to thinking about the changes that have come about in my lifetime because of the works of MLK and other civil rights leaders and thousands of people willing to fight and march and speak out.

First and foremost, there is a black man serving as the President of the United States. I don’t know about you, but I thought about this as a child and never thought I would see it in my lifetime. Or, if it DID happen, it would be a Vice President that has to take over or some “fluke” like that. There was a book out when I was young called “The Man” (I would link to it, but it is so old I can’t find it online). In it, a black man becomes Secretary of State, I think. The President dies in a plane crash, but the VP is very sick and close to death and won’t let them inaugurate him because he knows he might die soon. So the black man becomes President and the book was about the outcry about it and how he ultimately wins over the citizens. I really didn’t expect to see an African-American man move up through the ranks and run for President and win so overwhelmingly like Barack Obama did. I was a supporter and it thrilled me to have witnessed it. I wondered what my grandparents would have said about it. When I think about MLK and Civil Rights, it is easy to draw a direct line from the 60s to this President. And it is a very short line.

I also think about attitudes within my family changing.

I didn’t know ANY black children or black people until I was probably 10. I was even very confused as to the ethnicity of Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Mathis, and Elvis Presley. Once we moved to Colorado, I went to school with a few black children, though still a minority. I remember walking home with one girl one day and discovering that her father had died in Vietnam. That was very sobering. She was the first person I knew that had a direct connection with that war. Another friend, Regina, was a fun friend at school.  She was planning a sleepover at her house. I hadn’t been invited yet, I don’t think, but I mentioned it to my mother and was told that I would not be allowed to spend the night at the home of a black friend. It wasn’t stated in a mean way, just “that’s the way it is.”

After we moved back to Texas, it was back to an almost all white school again. But a black friend worked on the newspaper with me. Everyone loved him, he was a star football player and an all-round fun guy. I drove him home one night after one of our late night newspaper work sessions because his house was on the way to my house. I mentioned it to my mother and she warned me not to let my dad know about it because he would have a fit.

When my nephews came along, Brandt’s best friend all through elementary and high school–and still today–is an African-American kid. Many times they spent the night at each other’s homes and the attitude has changed considerably in our family. Each generation has improved on the feelings and beliefs of the one before it.

Mark toured with a band that had a black singer for a year or two. I don’t know if they ever faced any discrimination as they traveled in their band van, but that singer sure remembered the days where he only played in the black clubs. He remembered playing in my hometown in the “Heights” where the black clubs were and where the African-American airmen from the base would go.

I guess that is a big difference between me and my dad, too. He had a first cousin that married an African-American in the 50s or 60s. He never forgave her for that and could not understand why she would do that. I don’t think he ever saw her or spoke to her after she married. I’ve learned a lot more about her in recent years. The man she married shared so many of her interests and her views. They both were involved in church mission work and education. It makes sense that she would fall in love. He just happened to have been born in Africa. Later they divorced and she is currently married to another black man. Another case of him being involved in education and things she was interested in. I believe he even supervised the Los Angeles school system at one time. He was also a Tuskegee airman, which makes me very interested in the new movie Red Tails that comes out next week. My dad was an airman, too, but he could not approve of mixed marriages.

And I’ll admit I still squirm a bit when I see a mixed race couple. I worry about their acceptance. I worry about their children. I know I don’t need to worry about it if they aren’t worried about it. I will admit I am still prejudice and occasionally racist. I certainly try not to be, but sometimes I feel those attitudes crop up in things I think. I try not to let them crop up in the way I act.

I still hear cases of discrimination or near discrimination that make me wonder how long it is really going to take to be color blind. I have an African-American friend that I work with that was telling me one day about going into a south Austin restaurant. The restaurant has a large lobby where a hostess greets you and seats you or you can just go on in to the bar if you don’t need a seat to eat. He went in one day to go to the bar to meet up with people from the radio station. He was striding toward the entry to the bar and no hostess was visible and then she came out just before he got to the entry. “Whoa whoa whoa,” she said, “Where are you going?” Not “Can I help you?" but a very clear implication that he didn’t belong in this place. He said he got the distinct feeling that he was not wanted there. He did go on in to the party and stayed a bit, but said he has not been back since. I am sure that there are still many stories like that in Austin.

The Civil Rights movement did not give me any more rights than I would have had as a white girl in America. But it has given me a wider variety of friends and co-workers than I would have had. For that I am grateful. It has certainly given me a richer musical experience and for that I am extremely grateful. Those are very selfish reasons that I am happy that change came to the U.S.A., but this is my blog and I am allowed to be selfish in it.

I am glad we have an African-American family in the White House. It seems sometime that some of the other candidates are desperately holding back on hurling a racial epithet. Instead, they use code words, hoping that there are enough people that understand that code and still hold those views to go back a generation to an all white male political system.

Sorry to go all political on you today, but MLK Day makes me happy. I see it as a reminder of where we have come from and a reminder of what visionaries can achieve.

January 14, 2012

And yet another

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family — Janice @ 1:38 pm

It’s almost eerie when a picture keeps coming up over and over. I chose the picture of me and Mackie playing in the gravel 2 days ago and posted it and then yesterday easily found another one of that same day in my computer. Today I am REALLY doing some cleaning in my office (how many times have I said THAT?). I pulled everything out of my file drawer where photos end up. There are albums and boxes and envelopes full of photos. My intention is to scan them all. Of course, being as organized as I am, I am sure I am going to spend the afternoon re-scanning photos that have been scanned before, but are labeled in such weird ways I can never ever find them.

So I have this giant pile next to my desk of boxes, albums, and envelopes. And out of the corner of an envelope peeks out THIS picture. Another one of that same day that I had not scanned before. I know I hadn’t scanned it because it had ended up trimmed and in a large frame with other photos that we only recently took out of the frame.


I wish I had the photo know-how to fix the scratches on Mackie’s face, but I don’t. My mother was wearing the coolest sunshades in the world. What I would give to have those today!!! (at least $10 or $15, usually my limit for shades)

And I don’t quite know what was going on in this picture either except maybe mother was giving us tips on how to beg for coins to cars that pulled up to the stop sign. “See, just hold this hat, look pathetic and say, ‘Please sir, I’m hungry.’ Now get out there.”

January 13, 2012

Still in 1961

Filed under: Childhood Memories — Janice @ 11:10 pm

I found another picture taken soon before or after yesterday’s picture. At least we’re clear of the big cars and the busy roadway and it looks like it was time for a good talk with Daddy. Meanwhile, I’m wishing there was something more substantial than gravel in that spoon of mine. I guess I’m waiting for Daddy to get a bite on that line. I’m also hoping (now) that that coffee can and spoon weren’t used for bait.

old box from Mackies house scanned 9 10 2011 305s

January 12, 2012

We Were So Poor…

Filed under: Childhood Memories — Janice @ 11:33 pm

When I was a kid we were so poor our only toys were a Folger’s coffee can (we had to share it), two spoons, and gravel (if we were lucky enough to pull off the road where there was gravel). And we had to wear our school shoes all summer long.

old box from Mackies house scanned 9 10 2011 289s

January 11, 2012

24 Things Texans Should Do

Filed under: Austin,Writing — Janice @ 9:46 pm

A writer in the Austin American Statesman has been writing about 24 things that all Texans should do. I have read one or two of them and it makes me want to create a similar list. I would add the warning, though, that I wouldn’t presume to tell you what things you should do, I would just like to tell you some of the very Texan things I’ve done that I would recommend to anyone, though some just can’t be done again and I’m glad I had the opportunity.

One was taking the little boat across the Rio Grande into Santa Elena, Mexico. This was back before 9/11 when you could pay a man a dollar or two and he would row you across the river. You wander the dirt streets and ate a really good meal in a cantina and then when you were ready to come back to the U.S. you just went back to the shore and he took you across, your trip already paid for with the first payment. No passport needed, no declaration of where your citizenship was. It was a better, easier time.

Hike McKittrick Canyon…  It is in far West Texas and Mark and I came through there once after a trip to Terlingua and hiked through that beautiful canyon in the fall and saw the most beautiful leaves. A park ranger couple, who were Dutch, lived about a mile or two into the park and had a nice point to stop and visit and learn more about the park before going in further or turning around and coming back out like we did. I have never been much of a hiker, but trips like that tempted me to do it more.

Tour the Astrodome. Okay, another one that you can’t do anymore, but I’m glad I did it in high school. I guess the equivalent today would be to tour the new Cowboys Stadium and see the big TV screen. Back in the 70s a lighted screen that could make it look like a cow had steam coming out of his nostrils was pretty impressive.

Survive being snowed in without electricity in the Panhandle. I did it plenty of times…more with electricity than without, but all were a challenge. And having to GET to work when the whole city was snowed in was always a challenge, too.

Canoe the Brazos. Okay, I haven’t done that one so now I am obviously going far afield and haven’t thought this post through. Thoughts? What am I missing? Something related to bluebonnets, for sure. Cattle roundups. Boots. You tell me.

January 10, 2012

More from Zephyr–or Hamilton?

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family,Genealogy — Janice @ 10:55 pm

After I posted yesterday and was undecided whether that was my family at Hamilton or Zephyr (which are only about 40 miles apart), my mother wrote with her interpretation. She felt sure it was the Hamilton farm because she only remembered going to the Zephyr farm one time. That gave me clarity on other pictures I have in my collection. Maybe. Now that I put them here I see that my great-grandmother is wearing three different dresses, so I’ll let Mom tell me when these were made.

Mom’s story was that at Christmastime, 1951, she and Daddy were dating in Amarillo. She worked for the telephone company and lived with her parents. Daddy was in the Air Force at the Amarillo base. He went home to Big Spring for Christmas and she took the bus down the day after Christmas to see him. She had already gone through the horror of “meeting the family” in October and my cousin Mike, who was 2, was already calling her “Aunt Patsy” when they talked on the phone. She went to Big Spring and Dad took her to the top of Lookout Mountain and gave her her engagement ring. The next day she and Daddy and my grandparents and my aunt and uncle and little Mike all piled in the car and went to Zephyr to see the rest of the Williams family. That’s close to 200 miles so it is not a fast trip, but Mom remembers it as fun and that there was a lot of Williams family there. I have these pictures and SOME of them must have been from that day. Mom certainly looks young and in love in this one, so I think it should be from that day. And zooming in I think there is a ring on her hand.

Mattie Williams Pat Williams Hamilton TX 1954 (2)

Then there is this one where Mike still looks the right age, but I think Mamma has changed dresses so this may have been a different trip. This is four generations with my great-grandmother, my grandfather, my aunt, and my cousin Mike.

Four generations Williams-Faulk (2)

There there is this one with lots of family there, like Mother remembers, but Mamma has changed dresses again, yet Mike still looks two. That my grandmother and grandfather on the left.

William Family about 1953 (2)


















And then this one doesn’t seem to match with the last two, but Mamma appears to be in the right dress again, but my aunt and Mike are bundled up tight – yet it was December. So it could be the 1951 trip and the two above are another time. Of course, we laugh in our family because my aunt apparently always bundled up her kids no matter what season or what weather, so the picture below could have been made in July. But the picture above probably was not December. I don’t think everyone would have had short sleeves in December.

Faulks and Williams (2)

I’ll let Mom shed some light on these pictures, but I sure am glad I have them. In this digital age it is so nice to be able to share them and make them bigger and examine the little details.

Distant Past

Filed under: Blast From The Past,Childhood Memories,Family,Genealogy,Writing — Janice @ 12:10 am

I want to write in my blog more, but I get here and am uninspired. Topics seem too big or trivial. I’m always thinking I can just pull a picture out and talk about it, but then I spend a half hour just looking through pictures, discounting them for being too much or too trivial. But I found this one tonight and it makes me feel old. It looks like I was growing up on a sharecroppers farm in the Great Depression, doesn’t it? Yes, I’m the little one in this picture in my dad’s arms. That’s Uncle Dick on the left, he lives in Abilene now in a nursing home. That’s his mother, my great-grandmother on the right. She died when I was in college. I’m not sure if this was their farm in Zephyr or in Hamilton. Probably Hamilton. There are some really good stories about Uncle Dick and Grandma Williams… another time.


January 8, 2012

Cemeteries in the New Year

Filed under: At home,Cemeteries,Travel — Janice @ 9:54 pm

Last weekend I met Mark in Houston and we spent a fun day on the island of Galveston eating seafood and driving around looking at old neighborhoods and going to an Army surplus store and other cool stores on the Strand. It was a beautiful way to start the New Year (this was just before New Year’s Eve). I did have him drive me through an old cemetery in Galveston, but I did not get out and look since time was short and I didn’t have any relatives there.

But we did go on to Baytown, the home town of Mark’s mother. Mark took me to the Hill of Rest Cemetery to see the graves of his great-grandparents Joseph and Lillian Russell. Mark remembered his great-grandfather being very quiet and looking like Harry Truman and remembers his tiny little great-grandmother cooking the best gumbo in the world. He has very fond memories of her especially. He didn’t think he had been to the cemetery since Joseph Russell’s funeral in 1978, but he found the grave very quickly. I was glad he did because as I was walking the cemetery, looking for the grave, mosquitos the size of small birds were trying to pick me up and take me with them. This Hill of Rest was right by the bay of Baytown and the mosquitos had found their paradise. I have found out since we’ve come home and Mark’s uncle is also buried in this cemetery, a man who was killed in the terrible Texas City explosion that killed so many and was such a tragedy. I would have liked to have given him his respect, too.

I also found time on that quick trip for a living relative. I had met my cousin Sandra through the internet and she and my dad would have been second cousins, though they never knew one another. Her grandmother and Dad’s grandfather were brother and sister, but it was a huge family with 10 sisters and it did not stay very close. She and I have become email friends and friends on Facebook, but we had not met face-to-face. She and her husband travel and live in an RV and make Columbus, Texas, their winter home near the Colorado River. I knew I would be coming through there on my trip home, so I called and dropped by. My mother says I get this from my father, who was willing to call and drop in on just about anyone as he never lacked for friends and relations that he enjoyed visiting. Truly, I am more like my mother and do NOT like to visit people or make plans, but occasionally I do make these exceptions. I was very glad I did on this trip because Sandra and her husband Roger were beautiful, gracious people with a lovely home and two sweet dogs and it was great to meet them. I have always had an image of this part of my family not being the classiest bunch of people, but I am learning through her and another cousin that they truly were nice people with a  lot of grace and class.

This weekend we played host to my sister and her husband from Dallas. It was really great fun and we all felt like we were grown-ups because it was the first time in 20+ years that we had had a dinner with just the four of us and no nephews. Of course, I’ve loved every meal I’ve ever had with the nephews, but it was fun to have just the four of us together once again. Today we all ate at Cisco’s and had maybe the best migas and biscuits I have ever had there, and that is one place that ALWAYS has great migas and biscuits.

After they had left and headed back home, we drove around and stopped at a store of a friend. As luck would have it, we passed another cemetery. I had never seen the “A.S.H. Cemetery” and it took a while before Mark saw another sign and let me know that was the Austin State Hospital cemetery. I had heard about it before, but had no idea where it was. I had assumed it was closer to the grounds of the actual hospital, but it is further east. Tonight I read that it was originally on the grounds, but they moved it to the “edge of town” because the sight of it upset some of the patients. It is an interesting cemetery in that there are so many unmarked graves and so many barely marked graves. It is huge, over 3000 graves, but only a few headstones stand up and are visible from the street. We did not go exploring this cemetery today, I believe it is locked, but maybe I will one of these days.

Oh, and good news. After I wrote about not having a bedside, handwritten diary for the year, Mark found me several he thought might be suitable on the Internet. I liked one myself and ordered it and have it in use now. I am such a creature of my bedtime routine I was suffering from anxiety at not having that moment to write in my diary each night, but that has been solved and satisfied.

January 2, 2012

Still Dwelling on Christmas

Filed under: At home — Janice @ 10:51 pm

I used to be a fanatic about getting my Christmas stuff all put away before the New Year began. I have gotten a lot more lazy laid back about it in more recent years. And after a few years of not having any Christmas decorations up at all, I am really enjoying it this year and still have the lights on my tree glowing right now. I am gathering things up to get ready to put them away so that I don’t discover something after I’ve put it all away. So where presents were last week, I am now piling my favorite Christmas house decorations.

Last year I put things away very carefully and smartly labeled one bin as the most important bin to have. That is about all we put out this year and that is really all we need. I thought I would share some of the important ones with you.


This is my Christmas banner and “mistletoe” ball that always go over the kitchen archway. I made this Christmas banner probably the first year we were married. Each letter is embroidered and then it is all quilted. A bit of detail:


This is Mark’s favorite part of our Christmas, I think.

Here are two other “must haves” for my Christmas:


Both have come from antique stores since we got married, but I am very fond of them each. This year they were both in the kitchen window through the Christmas season. They both light up. Well, right now two of the candle bulbs are out, but these are hard bulbs to find anymore! I just let the one shine brightly. The reason I love the red candles is because when we used to visit my grandparents in Eastland, Texas, at Christmas, they would have candles like this in the front living room window. I remember it being magical to pull in their drive and see those lights. The little glowing Santa just makes me happy.

I have written about my Santa from my childhood, but didn’t post it until tonight because I didn’t have the pictures. I pre-dated it for Christmas day, so go back and read it, too, okay?  have had this Santa 50 years so he does mean a lot to me:


I have only had him back in my possession the last few years and I like having him back. Mark thinks he is creepy.

And another fun little piece of our Christmas is a little drummer Santa:

I would encourage you to watch all 5:17 of the video, but if you get impatient, at least watch the last 30 seconds to see his big finish. We’ve had this toy for years and I didn’t know he had such a big finish until I made this video this week!

These decorations don’t include the very special ornaments on the tree. Someday I will get to those for you. Meanwhile, these go back in the attic to be brought down and enjoyed next year.


Filed under: At home,Austin,Food — Janice @ 1:09 am

A good start to the New Year by being in bed before midnight. I would have been asleep if it weren’t for the fireworks in the neighborhood. Today was a good start with lots of housecleaning and a big pot of 15-bean soup including black-eyed peas for luck. Mark was out of town so we didn’t start our New Year together until late afternoon.

I was trying to think of my best and worst New Year’s Eves and barely could even come up with 5 that were memorable at all. So here are 5 memorable New Year’s Eves:

1. Most memorable and probably the best ever. I don’t really remember the year, but somewhere in the mid-1990s. It was the first time Mark didn’t have a gig on New Year’s Eve and so we were both just home on New Year’s Eve and we had John Coltrane music on the stereo and were drinking wine and talking when the New Year rolled in. Very sweet and nice.

2. Probably a year before #1 was the year at Charlie’s. It might have even been our very first New Year’s, before we were married. It wasn’t the worst, but it does stick out. Mark had a gig at a really lame club in Dallas called Charlie’s. It was pretty much just a neighborhood bar and I don’t even remember what band he was with or what music they played. My best friend Beth was in town and I think she had a friend with her, too, another girl. We went to Charlie’s and had old men hitting on us and it was a spectacle of tired lonely people trying to have fun. I think we might have even left before midnight.

3. I guess this one was the worst, certainly a memorable one. I’ve written about it before and here is where I should link to that, but I’ll just let you search instead. It was the one at Sullivan’s in Dallas where the bass player and his girlfriend were at each other’s throats and she decided to make the rest of us miserable since she was. No offer of cab fare would make her go back to the hotel. She rubbed off on the lead singer’s girlfriend and she drank too much and was making a sight of herself to make him jealous. The piano player was mad at the band leader. Only the sax player seemed to be on an even keel that night except for me and Mark. Whew. I don’t ever want to experience that again. And it was Y2K so we were waiting to see if the world would end at midnight, too.

4. A memorable one from my childhood was when 1969 turned into 1970. My family had gone ahead and turned in early that night, but I was extremely excited at my first change in decade (well, that I could remember). I wanted it to be a big change in my life. I had my big old 1950s radio on low and was listening to a countdown probably (I loved countdowns) and heard them play Auld Lang Syne. I looked out the window and could see fireworks being shot on top of Pike’s Peak. I went to my sister’s room and said, “Do you want to see the fireworks on Pike’s Peak” and she mumbled in her sleep, “I’ll just lay here and listen to them.”

5. Another memorable one was one when I was single and living in Dallas and Beth came down for New Year’s Eve and we went to Dick’s Last Resort. We were quite certain that we were sharing a table with aliens. There were five or six people dressed formally and not talking to one another and they weren’t very animated. One picked up a peppermint and gazed at it and finally nudged their companion and they gazed at it together as if they had never seen one and had no idea what it was. That was when we concluded they were from outer space.

Last night was certainly not the first New Year’s Eve where I’ve just gone ahead and gone to bed. I’ve also spent many New Year’s Eves watching television or being on the computer or reading when the New Year rolls in. I’ve never felt like one way was better than another to bring in the New Year. On the other hand, I would not even think about starting a year without black-eyed peas and I recall one year when Mother decided not to make them and I ate a spoonful of frozen peas from the freezer just to make sure I got my luck in. I had plenty today so 2012 is a slam dunk to be a great year.

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