Home > Howard Family, Hunt Family, Kiesling Family, McCorquodale Family > Eugenia Howard Hunt’s memory of Alpine, Texas – January, 1945

Eugenia Howard Hunt’s memory of Alpine, Texas – January, 1945

October 23rd, 2016

All y’all.

I have a cache of Jeana’s journals. This account is from a steno book she wrote in San Francisco and Marin California in the early 1960’s. Sperry

Snowfall Alpine, TX 1946

 

 

It was in the middle of a dry, freezing winter we first came to Alpine. It was in Jan. of 1945. Robin and Grainger had been ill in Houston. Lalu was healthy excess baggage and Annie, our beloved housekeeper, came with us. Mother came along because we had been relegated to a wild, high, uncivilized spot. The fact that it was on route route of the South[ern] Pacific Railroad, highway 90 to California and had a state teacher’s college, had no bearing on the matter. Mother had never heard of Alpine. Mother [Nancy Flewellen Howard] had never seen Alpine. Those facts took it out of the civilized world. So along she came. Gasoline rationing for war times made five hundred and fifty miles too many for our gar ration books. We traveled by train. My father [Dr. Alfred Philo Howard] was chief surgeon of the Missouri Pacific. That lent further primitive attributes to this foreign spot. As the six of us alighted in the onslaught of a dust-laden Alpinian winter night. I though mother was going to turn “The Sunset Limited” around on the tracks and return us all to Houston. The wind lashed at us with an icy ferocity – and skin, mouth and eyes dried out on that moment.

Southern Paciic of the 1940s

Not a living creature was in sight. Our heavy grips, a round dozen of them, were sitting between the tracks. I can’t remember a lighted spot. I’m sure there was. Here came a car, a lovely Spanish-speaking couple alighted, and helped us to the hotel, just out of gracious kindness. But their Spanish accent terrified Mother who thinks anyone who doesn’t speak southern Texas is a suspect who is intent on immediate murder. Any foreign language spoken in her presence is a silly pretense. She feels they are shutting her out from something she definitely know. She feels the same way about scientific discussions. She will not put up with it. She makes fun of anyone who is interested in something she is not. She feels she is absolutely normal and that on one else should be otherwise.

She is adorable once you understand these facts.

[To read more of Jeana’s excellent letter click on the Read More link below:]

We were blown at a 45 degree angle across the highway 90 but made contact with the hotel door where we were sent into two of the dustiest rooms I have ever encountered – drapes heavily embossed with something of a cut velvet nature, hung heavily at the tall, narrow windows. The wall-too-wall carpeting was untilled soil.The two younger children went into spasms of coughing.

Alpine Holland Hotel Postcard

Mother bought return tickets.

We went down to dinner. The potatoes were half-boiled, the pie was half-baked, and the milk, unpasteurized. Hideous day of arrival.

I went to a drug store across the street to buy lotion for our bodies which were beginning to scale. There I met a charming, energetic lovely being name Julia Gentry, who upon hearing the story, dashed home and returned with six cans of Carnation milk. We got cereal from the hotel kitchen, spoons and at least had something to let us sleep. When we lay down on our beds, a cloud of Alpine’s hills dust rose and enveloped us.

So Mother got a pain in her stomach, which she always does in moments which are really too much. However she was a gift of laughter so we finally settled down.

The next day I attempted a reconnaissance tour, but only made two blocks. I was twenty-degrees, the wind about forty miles an hour and loaded with a stinging sand that circled the eyelashes inside. I staggered back to the coughing young ones and wondered fantastically how this could cure anyone.

Mother had caught a cold, and the little ones were coughing their heads off. But Lalu was up in a chair eating an apple and reading with her bare feet on the wall. Annie had patiently put Grainger in the bath tub, and cough and all she had soaked the back of the big porcelain tub and was splashing water over everything.

Mother said, “Now we’ll turn this dust into mud,” and, bless her soul, she laughed.

I looked out of the window. I had yet to see another child in Alpine. Everyone who passed was swathed in heavy coats and tied in scarfs against these bitter biting western winds. The mountain on the other side of the tracks was the color of an old camel, with humps and bumps the same. Where was there any color? I was to learn that a single sand storm can strip the paint from a building or a car in a few hours. It formed natural sandpaper.

My husband’s mother [Lucy Brady Hunt] had notified a previous friend of hers and mine, who lived here in Alpine. Bonnie arrived. I came to find out anyone who needed help could ask Bonnie or her husband Johnny [Newel].  They were wonderful friends. They located a house for us and there weren’t many. It belonged to a lawyer who was in the army and whose wife had died the year before.

I remember now, the front porch, trees and an acre of land. There were three bedrooms, a bath, living room, dining room and kitchen. The whole affair was clean and sweet with plenty of room. The kitchen was yellow and white and in sight of the distant mountains.

The dust immediately assumed its out of doors habitation, where we moved in our cottage. We had a home in what we thought then was the outpost of the world. Flowers. It seemed to me then and it still does now – we were in the old dream of a “vine covered cottage.” And the people around us were kindness itself.

Mother stayed three days with the first real cold she ever had in her life. Her sinuses blocked, mother’s humor increases with trouble. Robin, poor darling at eleven, our 1st night at our house called out over our giggles, “Please, grown-ups, quit laughing and let me sleep.”

By the end of mother’s stay the children were well. No one coughed, no one sneezed. And the miracle in the sand and wind and cold, everyone was healthy.

At the front door were similar examples of results not expected. All through the freezing nights and cutting winds, the calico red verbena, the cobalt blue larkspur bloomed merrily, sans water and warmth, in a blanket across the small patch of front yard. And so did the children in Alpine.

The first day of school, three blocks away we walked, with scarfs tied across our freezing noses.

Grainger found a small, freckled and red-headed friend by the proper name of Mike. Mike was loved tenderly by Grainger. They were a dreadful pair and needless to say, entertained themselves extravegantly.

My darling brother Ryland [Alfred Ryland Howard] had given his life for his country on last July the Fourth at the Battle of St. Lo. Now my baby brother Philo was a prisoner of war of the Germans. In our cottage was a night-working radio – only then would the sound come through the hills. It was a large, old, cumbersome model with many mysterious knobs. But it gave long and terrible accounts of battles, and lists of missing and killed-in-action.

My other brother Philo [Alfred Philo Howard II] had flown a P-51 from England and had been shot down over Germany. My cousin Jack Helm had been killed over Austria, he had been a radio technician in a bomber. He has never been accounted for. It seemed incredible that now that Philo too might be lost also in the melee. We knew he was in a certain camp, but gruesome reports came through about fleeing , forced-marched of American officers through snow and ice. I had spent a winter in Germany in ’29 [as an art student], so I had sent him two pairs of long underwear which I had procured under much stress. Several merchants in Summer Houston had refused to get down their longies as had been put away until next fall! A man who owned a box company had ?? no interest in getting me the right-sized box for the designated Red Cross shipping. It is strange how some untouched souls are so disinterested in common Christian service. I am sure if the enemy had been victorious they would have cringed the loudest.

Our next-door neighbor hearing my wails of anguish produced two lovely, dusty attic pair, and now my worried heart knew some comfort when I saw a picture in Time Magazine of the poor boys, snow driven German soldier herded some lying dead. My prayer was the the Waddells long-drawers were where they should be. They were, and on Mother’s Day, out of a “where is Philo?” came a telegram to Mother. “Happy Mother’s Day: Philo!” She called me long distance.

I called the Alpine friends, Johnny and Bonnie. They got Air Warden trucks and came after me with a bottle of champagne waving out of the window.

Later I was to hear that Philo had been one of the cooks in the camp when they ran out of food – they ate – the cat. Then they were forced-marched. Our Red Cross plans could no longer get through with food and supplies.

They were finally quartered in a room with a hot water heater. It was also equipped with benches around the room. There the famished boys sat passing cops of hot water around. The stomachs didn’t cramp so much being kept hot and warm but it was months of torturous ordeal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Sperry Hunt
    October 24th, 2016 at 18:18 | #1

    Jennie Kiesling, Jeana’s granddaughter and namesake (Eugenia) wrote me the following note. She teaches military history at West Point!

    I love the description of my mother, Lalu, reading and will tell the story about the fate of the POW’s camp in a lecture tomorrow night! Jennie

  2. Sperry Hunt
    October 24th, 2016 at 19:32 | #2

    The following is from Grainger Hunt, who is the four-year-old in the story:

    My mother told me the story about the cat, as follows: Nannie Mine sent a package of goodies to Philo in prison camp, and among them were cans of potted meat. Philo and his mates ate part of a can and saved the rest for the next day. The contents, however, inexplicably disappeared overnight. They opened another, shared some of it, and posted a watch that second night. Sure enough, the cat arrived and went for the can. So… the boys summarily did the cat in and ate it. That’s what I remember being told, but who knows if I’m making things up. Remember the Golux. Only half the things he said were true, and he couldn’t remember which half.

    Love, Grainger

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