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A Celebration in Alpine

December 30th, 2016 Comments off
Robin, Grainger, Sperry and Lalu

Robin, Grainger, Sperry and Lalu at Reata Restaurant in Alpine Sept. 21, 1996

If you’ve been reading this blog,  you’ll know what a special place Alpine, Texas is to our family. Alpine was our mother’s artist retreat and our father’s vacation home. It was where my sisters spent many of their summers making friends among both the town folk and the ranchers as well. It served as my brother’s respite from the terrible summer asthma he suffered as a boy. It was in Alpine that Grainger got his masters, and his wife Barbara, her bachelors. And it was there that my childhood friend Mary Bell Lockhart and I roamed the hills and streets, and our imaginations thrived.

It was in the dark, in the rear seats of the college auditorium, that I watched Grainger and his classmates rehearse and perform Shakespeare’s Henry IV. (Grainger had the title role, in fact.) It was during those performances, as I repeatedly viewed the follies of Sir John Falstaff, the courage of young Hotspur and the coming of age of Prince Hal, that the seed of my film script Texas Dick was planted. (I’ll have more on that in other posts.) It was my attempt at producing the script that drew the four siblings to Alpine on this occasion in 1996. More importantly, it was a celebration of our connection to Alpine, our shared affection for William Shakespeare, and our deep love for one another. These were three of the happiest days of my life. You can see it in all of our faces. I have footage of us reading the script and romping around Alpine and Marfa. I will share clips with all y’all later.

Judge Hunt was a serious poker player

November 7th, 2015 Comments off
JudgeSperryPlayCardsLivingRoomFriarTuck1960ish

Judge Hunt and Sperry playing cards in the living room of the house at 526 W. Friar Tuck, Houston circa 1957

My dad, Judge Wilmer Brady Hunt, was a very serious card player. Notice the expression in this photo. He’s playing a ten-year-old (me) and was as focused as a terrier at a rat hole. Note the hat. He always wore one when he played cards. It was likely to cover his expression as he studied newly drawn cards. (The second hat likely belongs to the photographer – probably Uncle Philo or Uncle Brother. (Yes, Uncle Brother, as Henry Safford was known.  His wife, Aunt Georgia, called him Brother, which must have raised some eyebrows occasionally.)

My father’s favorite people to play cards with were probably his mother (Lucy Brady Hunt) and his sisters (Lucy Hunt Barada and Lennie Estelle Hunt). All three were sharks. His mother, whom we called Nana, was the Miss Marple of cards. She was a master of bridge and hearts. Nana rarely glanced around the table. Instead she would stare at her cards, cluck and shake her head grimly. And she would win – decisively and often. What made her particularly difficult to beat was that she held her hand upside down and completely unorganized – so that if a competitor or kibitzer happened by …

My dad told me some of his best times as a young man were playing cards on ships. He did his undergad at Georgetown University in D.C.  Most people would have taken the train from Houston. It was a two-day trip. Instead Dad took a ship from Galveston, which would take four or five – leaving plenty of time to drink whiskey and play cards. He was also very good at shooting skeet, which he probably did at the fantail in those days.

As a lawyer and a judge, he played cards with and his friends every Monday night, barring holidays and assassinations. When he hosted the party (in the room in the photo), I made a habit of drifting by for the cold-cuts and the wonderful chatter. One of the men he played with was Judge Pete Salito, who brought wonderful Italian food of his own making, which he warm-up in our kitchen before the game.  Another, and I don’t remember his name, drove up in a beautiful Jaguar XKE, he could barely get into. The men always enjoyed themselves.

Among my dad’s favorite sayings at the table were:

  • I’d rather owe it to you than beat you out of it.
  • Boys are no damn good (which he told me sisters often)
  • A woman’s just a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke

I’m looking to my family to assist me with more.

 

 

Letter from Jeana to Lalu March 11, 1965

October 17th, 2015 Comments off

Click below to open up a scanned letter from Jeana to Lalu.

Jeana Letter to Lalu March 11 1965

In the letter she talks about meeting Prince Charles, Sperry coming home from Fountain Valley with his friend from Bogota, Brady’s christening, Roy’s birthday and Daddy’s blues. We lived in this house between the one at 526 W. Friar Tuck (1951-1964) and The River Oaks High Rise on Westheimer just south of Buffalo Speedway (1966-1968). From the apartment she and Dad moved to 900 W. Red Bud Trail in Austin (1968-1983?).

Hunt Home 1964-5. (After Friar Tuck) 1163 (?) Bissonnet St. Houston. 2 blocks from the Houston Museum of Art

Hunt Home 1964-5. (After Friar Tuck) 1163 (?) Bissonnet St. Houston. 2 blocks from the Houston Museum of Art

Below is the apartment. This is the north side. We were on the west near the top. A decade letter Robin and Malcolm moved into a house on Locke Lane, a block behind the Google camera tacking this photograph.

Hunt Apt River Oaks  High Rise Westheimer and Buffalo SpeedwayHouston

Hunt Apt River Oaks High Rise Westheimer and Buffalo Speedway, Houston

1954 – Jeana composes a letter to Grainger

October 11th, 2015 Comments off

Alpine, TX; Early circa 1954

The following is a draft of a letter to Grainger, who is fourteen and at Moye Miltary Academy which he recently said was, “run by nuns.” I doubted that, but turns out to be true!!!  ( http://www.moyecenter.org/about-moye-retreat-center ). Actually Jeana and Judge were taking their girls to California and leaving their boys behind. I was left (happily) with the Lockharts in Alpine. Mrs. Gard ran a wonderful day care that had a rusty old jalopy to play in as I recall.)

We had a modest summer house on a hill facing the sunset in Alpine. Jeana called it the Gate to Heaven because of the view, and because it was behind the houses of people named the Crosses and the Sohls (lovely people, by the way).

The journal entry ends with a working sketch noting colors she will use to paint the California hills.

———–

Dearest Grainger,

Well – we finally left this morning – as I fell apart and had to stay in bed yesterday.

We left Irene and Mrs. Sanchos1 at the studio cleaning up for our tenant – Mrs. Sanchos is taking Amigo even after knowing what he did last night. He chewed up Lalu’s good black shoes and her brand new blue hat, and the poor thing wept.

Sperry was furious because my being sick delayed his going to Mrs. Gard’s an extra day.

Finally we got off – Mrs. Lockhart lent me her movie camera. We are going to take a film of the trip – and then if they turn out good we’ll show you when we get home.

Down the road and right out of Van Horn with Lalu at the wheel and blow out. The tire was in complete ribbons. Robin and Lalu changed it in about 15 miinutes and on to Van Horn where we had to buy a new tire. Now Robin is at the wheel.

Next day

Well we spent last nite in the La Fonda in El Paso. You remember it used be a motel. Well they added another group of rooms around a patio and a swimming pool and a beautiful dining room. We enjoyed it so much.

Then we left about eight this morning with me driving. About 50 miles from El Paso the car began to giggle and I drove into a station, and lo and behold another puncture. Well we got that fixed and on.

We have been in Texas today, New Mexico and Arizona. We are now nearing Phoenix, Arizona. We stopped at a wonderful place and saw some gorgeous rocks. We could hardly get Lalu out – there were 1000’s of rocks and she wanted to see them all – and found out about them all.

Friday Morn –

Here we are in Phoenix – I think it is the land of motels – hundreds upon hundreds

Another tire down – so we have decided to buy extras, and now they are being put on and Robin and I walk down the streed and find a metal dog – painted about four feet high. So we confer with the furniture store owner and find the enormous fellow was made in France 100 years ago. He’s been in this country 60 years. So we went back and told Daddy we had purchased an antique dog – and we were going to load it on. Poor Daddy’s had so many surprises, I think he believed it.

[New Topic]

Cal. Fall

For gold mountains – under-painting with raw umber and whit. When dry use white brush and brush on Mars yellow for grass. The undulating shapes are almost done across half a side ridge sometimes grew black. Oaks leaning into the wind.

1954 Sketch of California Hill in the fall to be painted by Jeana

1954 Sketch of California Hill in the fall to be painted by Jeana

A sister takes a moment

September 14th, 2014 4 comments

Lalu Wedding

It must have been around ten forty-five in the morning or so on a mild, sunny Saturday as I recall. December 22th, 1955.  My oldest sister was getting married in a little over an hour, judging from the clock in the left picture above. I was seven years old.

Always last to be ready, my mother was still in her bedroom putting herself together, as she often said. My dad and I were in the high-ceiling, more glass than brick living room of our mid-century house in west Houston. Dad was almost certainly reading the paper in the wing-back chair. I was on the couch sulking.

I had two sisters in their twenties and a sixteen-year-old brother. I don’t know where my sister Robin was at that moment. Probably doing her makeup. (She was our blonde bombshell.) My brother Grainger was  probably feeding the snakes caged in his room. (A future biologist, he was allowed to keep non-poisonous snakes in the house, but that’s another story.)

My unhappiness on the couch was born of my disappointment at losing my sister Lalu, who took that name from me when I was two and couldn’t pronounce “Nancy Lou.” We were very close. Being sixteen when I was born, she evidently put me in her bed when I cried in infancy. She took me to movies, got me my first haircut, taught me to play chess and cards, etc. When I was six, she returned from Stanford, as promised, to teach science at a high school. I had started school late due to my mother’s misperceptions (a good story, that one). It was then that she discovered I could neither tell time nor read.  Lalu taught me these things in short order, which saved me further embarrassment at school.

Now, two years later, she was leaving again, and for good this time.  When, sitting on that very couch, I heard of her engagement, I tried to poison my future brother-in-law.

Sort of.

On hearing the news, my dad opened a bottle of champagne, an ounce of which was allotted to me as was the custom on such special occasions.  Something had to be done, I thought. Not waiting for my pour, I walked into the kitchen and retrieved a glass from on high. Into it I poured tomato juice, Worcestershire, my father’s beloved Mexican hot sauce, and carried the concoction to the couch where I handed it to the fiance saying, “Drink this. It’s poison.”

Silence.

After I disclosed the recipe, the others laughed – the fiance rather nervously. I did not.

What followed were months of preparation for what was to be a very large wedding. Everyone pitched in. A lot of money was spent. (My father offered the couple the same amount if they’d elope, which my sister declined, and my mother poo-pooed.) Hundreds of invitations were assembled in our living room. Licking stamps was my contribution, which I considered mildly heroic. (No one mentioned the use of a damp sponge until I began to gag.) And during the months that followed no one bothered to ask me how I felt about my hitherto doting sister’s impending disappearance from the house.

And so it was that I was brooding on our living room couch the morning of December 27, 1956.

Lalu walked into the room, looking beautiful in her white dress flowing all around her. My dad put down his paper and said as much, then talked breezily in his usual fashion about how boys are no damned good and offered to put the groom in jail if Lalu had changed her mind. (Dad was a humorist and a civil judge who very rarely put people in jail and then only for contempt.) My sister laughed heartily, as she still does. She kissed Dad, and declined both offers.

At this point Lulu looked down on her little brother and found him sulking once again. It was then that Mother entered the room. Seeing her daughter doing nothing but standing there staring at her brother, Mother suggested there must be something Lalu should be doing.

Indeed there was, Lalu said. She promptly opened the game cabinet and retrieved the carved wooden chess set and placed it on the coffee table before me. “I need to play chess with Sperry.”

And so she did. The game didn’t last too long, I’ sure. Lalu was very good at chess. But she was in no hurry. We spoke of things I can’t possibly recall. Only that we spoke only to each other for the little while she had separated out for me, her anxious little brother, a moment that stands out to me now as clearly as it did these many years ago.

A note about the images. The photos at the top of this post are of Lalu and Dad (left) and Mom and her brother, the beloved Uncle Philo. Below is a picture of Lalu and me a few years ago with Mt. Shasta in the background and, of course, the bride and groom with Lalu and Robin’s dear friend Jean Garwood.

Lalu and Sperry 2006Lalu and Roy