Monthly Archives: June 2013

Dentoning….a different world

Denton is chock full of history, mystery, synergy, and familiarity. (That last one was a stretch, but fitting). Denton’s Square has superficially changed through the 167 years of its existence, but it has looked pretty much the same for over 100 years. Many of our parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents trod the same sidewalks that we do today. There are so many stories that revolve around the square…….after all, it is the center of our great town and at one time, the entire town was contained within the Square and the few blocks surrounding it.

This week, Denton has hosted hometown boy (man), David Barrow, as he and a film crew document a turbulent time in Denton’s past. When We Were All Broncos “will document the period during which Denton rose to the challenge of integrating its schools while navigating the changes brought on by the social and cultural turmoil of those times”(quote from broncodocumentary.com). I intend to blog about David’s efforts once this weekend is over, but this blog post addresses the same tragic chapter of American history being addressed in David’s documentary.

It’s hard to imagine that just a few decades ago, blacks and whites existed LEGALLY in two separate worlds. Segregation was the law of the land and facilities throughout our city had separate accommodations for black people and for white people. Unbelievable. For the sake of this blog, I am speaking primarily about the legal existence of segregation, not the racism behind it, although the two cannot really be divided and racism still exists……….thank God, segregation does not.

During WWII, Denton fielded both white soldiers and black soldiers. In 1942, a black soldier from Denton was serving our country in the European theater of operations. His name was Tim Terry Jr. Before leaving for the war, Mr. Terry worked at Tobin Drugs on the Square. On October 23, 1942, he wrote a “V-Mail” from the battlefield to his colleagues at Tobin’s……in answer to a letter written to him by Henry Bowden. During WWII, V-Mail was used to reduce the logistics of transferring an original letter across the military postal system during the war. With V-Mail, a letter written from either side of the pond(s) was censored, copied to film, reprinted at its destination, and then sent on via regular mail. Below, you will find a copy of that V-Mail and a transcription.

v-mail

V …- MAIL (WW II correspondence to/from military personnel serving overseas.)

Mr. Henry Bowden
Tobin Drug Store
Denton, Texas

Sgt. Tim Terry Jr. (8 digit U.S. Army serial number)
Oct. 23, 1942

Hello Henry, Jewel, Mr. and Mrs. Tobin and gang. Say and I hope that includes you all if I missed anyone tell them hell-o and say that I am glad to hear from all you good people. It sure is swell to hear that you are all well and doing fine. I hate to hear that you and Ray are about to get hooked up in this man’s army. Brother I hope you get to stay in the states cause you haven’t seen nothing brother. I’d do anything to have some nice ice cream or candy or a nice cigar. In other words folks its rough. But I’d love every one of your necks if I could only see you. There were tears as big as a house come in my eyes when I read your letter. In other words good people, I’m lonesome for you. You are my good white people. I must close for now but I’ll write if I can. I’d love to hear from you all and no fooling. To the swellest people I have ever known. So long for now.
A true friend forever.
Old Terry boy
PS: tell all hell-o

Since first reading this document, I have done some research and found that Tobin’s and its employees had the reputation of being black-friendly when most of the rest of Denton clung to segregation……but De jure segregation was still the law of the land in 1942. De jure segregation, which sanctioned or enforced by law the separation of the races, was stopped by federal enforcement of a series of Supreme Court decisions after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Tobin’s employed and did business with the black population of Denton, but by law could not allow them to sit at its lunch counter.

lunch counter

Picture from Denton. Could this be Mr. Terry?

Tobin’s policy in 1942 was a step in the right direction of what would become the new law of the land in 12 years. Could Tobin’s have gone further? Of course, but those were different times and Civil Rights for all came in baby steps. The letter refers to pharmacy owner, Mr. Tobin and to pharmacist, Henry Bowden, both of whom tried to enlist in the war effort but were declined due to age and young families.

To me, Mr. Terry’s V-Mail is a testament to Dentonites of the past who saw a wrong and chose to do all they could to not participate in or to perpetuate it. Of course there were others in Denton at the time who felt the same and did similar things, but I am proud of Mr. Tobin, Mr. Bowden and the other employees of Tobin Drugs.

Henry Bowden

I am especially proud, though, to be the grandson of Henry Bowden.

Enjoy Denton!

Dentoning….and foreign intrigue

In the very first episode of this blog, I reserved the right to write about anything I wanted, even if it isn’t necessarily related to Denton. I don’t do it very often, but the caveat is there. This past week, I was talking to my good friend, Shelly Tucker, the Gran Dame of Denton’s departed citizenry…….AKA….”The Ghost Lady”. We were talking about travel, and I told her the story I’m about to write. She requested that I blog it, so here goes. I guess it’s somewhat related to Denton because I learned a valuable lesson which can be used while Dentoning.

I used to travel……. a lot. I worked for FEMA years ago before it got its undeserved bad reputation. Working for FEMA at that time consisted of actually going to each and every Presidentially-declared disaster in Texas and the adjacent states. With hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, hail and occasional stampedes, we stayed pretty busy. Depending on the size, scope and type of disaster, I’d work anywhere from 3 weeks to 7 months in the field at a time. When the onsite work was complete, I had the choice to come back to Denton and continue working at the underground Federal Center on Loop 288, or……not.
Often, I’d choose NOT….

During the periods of NOT, I’d almost always travel. Sometimes to Mexico, Belize or Guatemala…..other times to Europe or the Middle East. It was during a two and a half month trip to Europe with my brother Mark that the following adventure occurred.

This blog isn’t going to be a travelogue, so I’ll rush through the first part of the trip. Mark and I flew into London, making our way to France, West Germany and eventually into Berlin. This was before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tearing down of The Wall, so it was an amazing time to be in Berlin. We spent 2 or 3 days in East Berlin, crossing through Checkpoint Charlie early each morning. We roamed through the eastern edge of the divided city, far from touristy Alexanderplatz and the blocks surrounding it. We went to the seldom visited (at that time) Russian War Memorial, with its giant statue of Rodina or “Mother Russia” crushing a swaztika with a huge booted foot. The Memorial is constructed entirely of stone taken from the ruins of Hitler’s Chancellery and contained the Russian tomb of the unknown soldier, which the East Germans called the “Tomb of the Unknown Looter”. It was cool and we were wiped out when we left Berlin to go to Rome.

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We left Berlin at night for the long train trip to Rome, falling asleep after the ride through the countryside of East Germany. It was just the two of us in a compartment designed for 6, so we had plenty of room and both slept well. I woke up to the rhythmic sway of the cars and the clatter of the rail beneath us. Mark woke up soon after and the “fun” began.

We sat in our compartment of the train, watching the countryside whiz by, reading, and talking. During the early morning, the conductor came by a couple of times to check our rail passes and we bought a coke from the train roving drink gypsies. During all my travels I had learned through experience to keep my passport, cash, other ID and camera close to me at all times. I had never had any trouble, but had heard many stories of snatch and grabs……so even while seated comfortably in the relative security of my own compartment, I kept my daypack next to me, never on an overhead shelf or such.

In what seemed like the middle of a conversation, I woke up. Huh? Mark and I had slept all night and were not sleepy in the least, but here I was waking up from a sudden “sleep”. I looked around as my head began to clear and noticed my daypack at my feet……and open. This wasn’t right, but it wasn’t until I woke Mark up and found him foggy and confused that I realized that we had been robbed.

On previous trips, I had heard stories of people being drugged and robbed on the trains of Europe. I really thought that these stories were old wives tales or that it had happened once 30 years before and been blown out of proportion…….Nope. We pushed through the fogginess and went first to the restroom at the end of the train car closest to us. I opened the door and saw my passport, my EMPTY money belt (I never wore it, I just used it as a wallet), and a few other things from my daypack. Mark’s travel debris was there too. We also found a large gauze patch with a very strong chemical odor.

We gathered our things and as we returned to our compartment, we saw a suspicious looking guy standing at the other end of the car. We walked toward him, and the closer we got, the more nervous he looked. The restroom door he was “guarding” was closed. We opened it without knocking and found another guy going through a woman’s purse. The two thieves panicked and ran toward the back of the long train. My brother and I found a conductor and explained as best we could with the language barrier what had happened. He took the purse and locked it in an empty compartment.

By this time, the owner of the purse came out of her compartment as loopy as my brother and I had been 20 minutes before. Another compartment door opened and 4 huge Michigan football players came out and after we explained what had happened, offered to accompany us on a thief hunt. The six of us proceeded to search the train in the direction the perps had fled. Within 15 minutes we’d found both of them, one of them huddled on a chair under a blanket like an old grandmother. The looks on their faces when they saw the “posse” coming toward them was priceless.

The afore mentioned conductor who it turned out was actually a train “policeman”, grudgingly took the two into custody and let the train system know what had happened. There was no sign of all the things the guys had stolen, so we thanked the posse-mates and returned to our compartment still groggy and afflicted with cottonmouth. (For the record, no intoxicants had been ingested by either me or my brother.)

About an hour later, the train made an unscheduled stop at a very small town in Italy called Orte. The two criminals were escorted off the train, accompanied by the applauds of most of the train passengers, who had by then had heard about their misdeeds. It was satisfying to see them led away until the “police” at the station motioned for us to collect our bags and get off the train too. We let them know that our destination du jour was Rome, not Orte, but they were very insistent, so we bowed to authority. Our fellow travelers booed as we were led into the train station…..we really had no choice.

It soon became apparent that the “conductor”, the perps and the officials at the station were all in cahoots (Italian for “partners in crime”). It was obvious that they all knew each other despite the fact that we could not communicate. Mark and I were put in a room with one window which overlooked the track, while the criminals were entertained in the station office by their compadres. They all laughed and drank wine while Mark and I contemplated our fate. No one on the train knew our names. No one at home knew we were on that particular train…….we had interrupted the lucrative “business” of these guys, and we weren’t sure that we wouldn’t soon be in a shallow grave behind the train station. I like Italy, but not enough to stay there permanently.

After about two hours of sitting, pestering the station personnel to allow me to call the American Embassy in Rome, and listening to our stomachs rumble, one of the gang members came to me and ordered me to fill out a “denuncio”. This was an official train system form to report incidents such as ours. I am pretty sure it is not used often. It was, of course, written in Italian, but I understood the jist of it. I wrote about a two page description of what had happened on the train. As an afterthought, the last thing I included was the fact that we had asked the train policeman to lock the woman’s purse into an empty compartment. I gave the denuncio to the station staff and again asked to be allowed to contact the Embassy in Rome……….again they refused the request.

We were getting pretty hungry by this time and asked for food after we saw the thieves being fed. Didn’t happen…………About this time, the guys who now seemed to be our guards found a woman in town who read and understood English. We talked to her for a minute, explaining what had happened and that we were being prevented from contacting the Embassy. She looked scared and said she’d do what she could to help us. She was then led away to translate what I had written.

An hour or so later, the head train troll opened the door to the room we were in and motioned for me to come with him. He didn’t look very happy. As we walked down the hall, it dawned on me that I had something that might help us. I reached for my wallet and pulled out my FEMA ID which had the official seal of the United States on it. I handed it to the guy and told him in broken Spanish (close enough) that I was with the American government. This seemed to get his attention and spark a little fear in him. I took the ID from his hand and buried it as deep as I could in my pocket.

We arrived at a dusty room in the ancient station and there sat the interpreter, the perps and the rest of the train gang. Everyone was smiling except for the woman, who was very uncomfortable. She proceeded to tell me that they didn’t like what I had written very much…………well……chaaaa! They particularly didn’t like the last sentence in which I had documented the fact that the conductor had secured evidence on the train. The guy who, by this time, had become the hardass of the bunch, demanded that I rewrite the denuncio leaving the incriminating part out (not that the entire essay wasn’t incriminating). I bluntly refused. I then pulled out the FEMA card again and demanded a phone to call the Embassy. The ID spooked them enough that they finally handed me the phone after dialing a number.

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Local artist’s rendition of intimidating ID card

The female voice on the other end of the line was a true breath of fresh air. I calmly told her what had happened on the train, how we had been treated in Orte and that we’d not been allowed to call her or leave the station after numerous requests and demands. She was obviously perturbed and said it was a very good thing we had gotten through to her……….I knew that! She asked to talk to the Nazi-like hardass and evidently proceeded to berate him. After about 5 minutes of watching him listen to her, he sheepishly handed the phone back to me. The Embassy employee told me that another train would arrive in Orte in about an hour and that we would be allowed the board it and leave. This sounded great and I thanked her profusely. The train arrived, we gathered our backpacks and headed out to the boarding area. We were surrounded by the train staff before we reached the outer door and were led back to our “cell”.

Obviously we had tumped their boat over and they weren’t happy about it. They strongly and persistently demanded that I rewrite the damning denuncio, and I stubbornly refused to do so. As the pressure increased, I continued to demand additional calls to the Embassy. It seemed we had reached a stalemate, but the FEMA ID still worried them, and I was allowed to make several more calls to the woman in Rome. Each time she said we’d be allowed on the next train, each time it didn’t happen.

Finally, after a particularly heated exchange between hardass and the nice Embassy lady, we were told that we would definitely be allowed to leave Orte on the next train. 45 minutes later, a Rome-bound train arrived and Mark and I boarded. As the train pulled away, we looked back at the station to see the band of miscreants bidding us farewell with the single-digit, International sign of discontent.

Mark and I settled into a compartment and even though we were exhausted from the daylong ordeal, stayed wide awake during the train trip south. As you might imagine, we were a little sick of Italy by this time and decided to go only as far as Milan instead of venturing on to Rome. We arrived very early in the morning and waited in a park for the American Express office to open at 8. When it did, we proceeded to get our stolen traveller’s checks and AE cards replaced and then got back on the a train headed northeast to southern France and then on to Spain. Before boarding the train, I called the woman at the Embassy to let her know we were OK and that we’d decided to cut the Italian portion of our trip short. She had invited us to the Embassy when we got to Rome, but understood how the events of the day had put a bad taste in our mouths. She told me that the Embassy had found out that the two original thieves were illegal Albanian refugees and were to be deported the next day. She also said that the compartment containing the woman’s purse on the original train was empty when it got to Rome…..go figure. I asked about the rest of our “captors” in Orte and she said that unfortunately, that was an Italian problem and out of their hands.

Mark and I stayed in Caans for a few days and then went on to the Basque area of Spain and stayed with distant, yet very close “relatives”. The trip was great, the ordeal in Italy an ordeal and a learning experience.

I claimed a lesson learned at the beginning of this story and that lesson, which should fervently be attached to any Dentoning, is…………beware of Albanian refugees and power-happy Italian train goons.

Enjoy Denton!

Dentoning….People

This is just my own personal, correct opinion, but I think the PEOPLE of Denton are what makes it such a cool place to live. I could be wrong, but doubtful. From the students of our two and a half universities to the lifetime residents to our newcomers to our local business people to our Dentonuts to our ever-present visitors to our City government……they all play an integral part in what makes Denton work….

Denton’s history is full of “characters”, statesmen, world-renowned artists, Joe Blows and malfeasants. It’s all good. A walk around the Square at almost anytime will give you a great cross-section of what I’m talking about. One such person is actually buried on the courthouse lawn (maybe). John B. Denton lies a-moldering on the East side of our Square, and as everyone knows, our great city was named after the early resident of the area in which we now reside. Whether or not it’s actually him buried there is up for debate, but if we claim it, it must be true.

I’ll leave stories of early residents to other entries and to other blogs, there are plenty of more recent Dentonites to talk about. On that walk around the Square, Jim Matheson, perpetually seated in front of Jupiter House, is a great resource for both history and current events. I consider Jim the concierge of Denton. He says no, but it is what it is. Jim is a life-long Dentonite, a published author and is chock full of pertinent and not so pertinent information. Jim loves to talk, so don’t hesitate to stroll up and chat him up. You’re bound to get an interesting pearl no matter what subject you choose.

Jim Matheson

Jim Matheson

Rex Cauble

Rex Cauble

One of Denton’s more controversial characters was the late Rex Cauble. Cauble’s story is packed with solid-citizenship, eccentric accesses, lavish parties at his ranch north of Denton, famous friends and finally, prison time. This humble blogger was on the Federal Grand Jury which indicted Mr. Cauble on drug-related charges in the early 1980s, so a future blog will probably take a look at (without divulging ever-secret Grand Jury info) this man who was such an interesting character in Denton history.

Many people who have come and gone have made an impact on our corner of North Texas. Musicians such as Don Henley, Roy Orbison, Norah Jones, Sly Stone, Pat Boone, B.W. Stevenson and Meat Loaf have all either gone to school here or lived here at one time or another. It’s no wonder Denton is known as the other music capital of Texas.

Other not so praise-worthy individuals who lived in or affected Denton include Sam Bass (who watched for posse formations around the Square from Pilot Knob), Charles “Tex” Watson of Charlie Manson fame, serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, and Texas Ranger-killer, Gregory Ott. The good, the bad and the ugly……..and we really don’t have much control of the ner’do wells anyway….. “It takes a village”, partially populated with miscreants, to make a proper village.

Many Denton residents are hangers-on after attendance, and in some cases, graduation from UNT or TWU. This is one part of the music puzzle of Denton music. Sometime in the past, a music stake was pounded into Denton culture and ever since, numerous UNT musicians have stayed after studying at the world-renowned music school. Win-win for us. Denton IS the “other” music capital of Texas, but it IS NOT “Little Austin”. Denton has its own creative personality and is what I’ve said before, …………what Austin wishes it still were.

The business climate of Denton is healthy due in large part to the business people of our town. This may seem obviously apparent, but a good business environment doesn’t just happen, it must be cultivated by our City Government and by city businesses. Denton is quickly becoming know as a business and tech-friendly town.

swash labsSwash Labs, a full service creative agency CHOSE to locate in Denton because of our artsy, creative, progressive, techy business environment.
More have and will follow.

Pan EctorAnother fairly new business which chose to locate here is Pan Ector Industries. Pan Ector is a screenprinting and design shop. They are known for having their hand on the pulse of Denton and for their amazing T-shirts and t-shirt design.

I plan on doing a series of entries on individuals of Denton. If you have someone you’d like me to write about, please feel free to email me. The best thing about the people of Denton is that most of them are Texans which means good stories………

 

Enjoy Denton!!!!!

Dentoning….Yocal politics

Denton is what it is partially because of politics…….which makes politics part of Dentoning! Politics in Denton has always been interesting, from the mayor who became mayor due to Ed McMahon showing up on his stoop one day to a mayoral candidate being indicted for FELONY malfeasance. The “P” word often gets people riled up, but in Denton it can be phun…..

local yocalIn our latest race for city council, the same indicted individual mentioned above struck again. Bob Clifton is a local (he lives in Corinth) who loves to stir things up. The Denton Record-Chronicle has called Mr. Clifton “the Foghorn Leghorn of Denton politics”. He has been known to call members of the Denton city council “terrorists” and “criminals” during public comments portions of council meetings, claim addresses as his domicile when they were not and to go to great expense to distribute crude door-hangers on the homes of Denton residents.

Why does he do this? No one seems to know other than Mr. Clifton and a few of his cohorts. It is somewhat ironic that Bob calls anyone a “criminal” considering his long history with law enforcement across the country. Mr. Clifton has caused a lot of problems for people through the years, but his latest antics backfired on him.

For some unknown reason, Bob doesn’t like newly-elected city councilman, Joey Hawkins very much. Bob has a habit of calling the residency of Denton candidates into question in hopes of having them disqualified in whatever political race they may be in. Bob has continually claimed that Mayor Mark Burroughs does not live in Denton despite proof positive to the contrary. Irony strikes again here, because Bob Clifton was indicted in December 2010 on a misdemeanor record-tampering charge based on evidence that he didn’t live at the Denton address he claimed as his residence on a 2010 candidate application. Mr. Clifton was subsequently issued a $300 fine for record-tampering.

Well, you guessed it, Bob claimed that Mr. Hawkins was not a resident of District 4 when he registered to run for councilman for that district. This time, Clifton sent out the slick mailer (posted below) to voters throughout Denton. The claim of non-residency on the part of Mr. Hawkins was false, but that didn’t stop Mr. Clifton from throwing out the accusation to see if it would stick. It didn’t. This humble blogger even pointed Mr. Clifton to the City’s file on Mr. Hawkins which contained records disproving Bob’s claim.

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In a stroke of genius, Joey Hawkins decided to turn Mr. Clinton’s negativity into something positive for Denton. the following was posted on Mr. Hawkins’ website and Facbook page and subsequently flew around Denton in a whirlwind of forwards, tweets, shares, calls and emails.

“Many of you have called today about fliers you received in the mail. These fliers were mailed out by Bob Clifton, whom the Denton Record-Chronicle has called “the Foghorn Leghorn of Denton politics”. The mailer questions my qualification to run for city council based on the length of my residency in District 4. I have lived at 923 Ridgecrest in Southridge since July 2011, almost a year longer than the year required. Not even my honorable opponent, Phil Kregel, questions this.

So, let’s turn this attempted malfeasance into something positive for Denton. If you received one of these fliers, adorned evidently by a self portrait of Mr. Clifton, please bring it in to Jupiter House between now and closing on Saturday, and Jupiter House will donate $1.00 to Serve Denton and you will receive a free cup of in-house coffee!! Donations to Serve Denton will also be accepted in Mr. Clifton’s name! I will prominently display the documents accepted by the city proving the length of my residency…. This will be fun!

Keep Denton Positive!!!

~Joey”

imageOn the day this went out, Jupiter House either donated or received donations to the tune of $300 for Serve Denton. What a cool way to turn a negative into a positive. The people of Denton are it’s soul. They are the larger part of what makes Denton such a great place to live, and the nice thing is, there is room for everyone!

(Mr. Clifton was unavailable for comment)

Enjoy Denton and Keep Denton Positive!