Tag Archive for kentucky

Old Hickory

Why is Andrew Jackson your favorite president?

 

If memory serves me correctly (which is questionable these days, when I can’t remember why Mom sends me to Walmart), I was always fascinated by his nickname ‘Old Hickory’, and the fact that I gleaned from my history teacher (who was probably a coach) that Andrew Jackson was a man who followed his heart and did it ‘his way’.

That really stuck in my mind. As I got older and did a little research on my own, I found Jackson’s roots were in Tennessee-Kentucky culture that was part of my heritage through my mother (Hallie Mae Benton Stevens).

Jackson was affected ( I don’t fully remember to what extent) by the Stone/Campbell movement, which was also a very important part of our heritage.

For all of the reasons above, I adopted him as my favorite president.

From personal experience, the one president I got to meet and shake hands with (as a candidate in 1960) was John F Kennedy. His height, red hair, and awesome personality really surprised me, because he had been so demonized by the anti-Catholic element. He reminded me so much of all three of my brothers–tall, handsome, articulate, a smile that just blew you away…. I began to realize then the importance of judging a politician, not by his looks, but by what he stands for.

In this day and age (where media creates images they want us to see), it is even more important that we investigate and become involved in the campaigns of the men who become our leaders.

I hope I’ve not been too far off base in my choosing ‘Old Hickory” as my favorite. :-)). Luv u, Pop

Blame it on a coach!

I had a Fiat over this Italian Girl…

What is the first family vacation you remember?

 

All the ‘vacations’ we went on with mom and dad were generally in connection with gospel meetings or singing schools. One such trip was to Poughkeepsie, New York for a singing school and gospel meeting at the church where Brother ‘Shack’ Hartsell’s daughter lived. They lived out in the country on a polled Hereford ranch called “Clove Creek Farm”. The family stayed in town, but I got a job working out on the ranch which was owned by Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., son of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt the president who preceded Truman.

Roosevelt was the U.S. representative for the Italian Fiat Motor Company. There were 2 other college students there, also.The other boys were Ivy League–one attended Cornell University, and the other went to Princeton. One highlight I remember from that vacation was when we helped Mr. Roosevelt plan a picnic for some guests he was entertaining from Italy. The man was a ‘bigwig’ owner of the Fiat company coming to visit, and he wanted to see ‘Clove Creek’. His name was Gerabaldi…a famous Italian! The reason he wanted us to help him with the picnic was that Mister Gerabaldi was bringing his 16 year-old daughter with him, and Mr. ‘R’ thought we could help entertain her! This was the summer before my senior year in high school, and it is so hard to describe the anticipation we three boys had all that week. Wow! An Italian girl! We could just see a Gina Lollibrigida (Jimmy Durante used to call her Gina Lolibrigidigger) or a Sophia Loren! Both girls were Italian actresses (and luscious pin- up girls)! Remember, we were 17 and 18 year-old boys….anyway, after a week of anticipation, the day came, and their beautiful, long, luxurious limousine came rolling up to the farmhouse, and out stepped Mr Gerabaldi and our dream girl! She was a little, short, fat, Italian….the farthest from what we’d been expecting! I can’t tell you how fast those boys retreated and let me be the host for Miss Gerabaldi! We rode horses through the pasture, all the way up to the highest spot on Clove Creek, which was a beautiful view of the whole place. We (us boys) had gone up there earlier in the week and mowed out a spot for us to spread this very romantic picnic lunch! And here I am, with this little fat Italian girl whose feet don’t reach the stirrups, who’d never ridden a horse before. Can you imagine what I’m feeling? Disappointment is an understatement!

I’ve never been the greatest horseman myself, but that was a ride I’ll never forget. Mr Roosevelt was a giant man (about 6’7″ tall), and when he and Mr Gerabaldi came driving up to the picnic spot in his pickup, he had changed clothes and had on khaki pants and shirt. When he squatted down to where we had the checkered tablecloth spread for the beautiful picnic, his pants split, and one long, bony knee protruded, and the whole crowd was petrified…except Lanier…I fell out laughing! And guess what? Mr. Roosevelt did, too. He and I just ‘connected.’ I had no idea, really, what an important man he was, even though he was the son of a president, an international businessman, an influential politician in his own right…and me, a little nobody from Louisiana, sitting there laughing together about his split britches! He talked with me about my future, dad’s singing schools, and even had me sing some Southern Gospel music for him. The Italians and the other boys all were the audience for these two ‘new friends’! I suppose that’s why this vacation is one of my most memorable early vacations. Clove Creek was built by some movie actress from the early 1930s, and our ‘barn’ was originally a movie theatre with little twinkling lights in the oval ceiling (which also was painted to look like a night sky). Mr. R. told me that the actress who lived there hosted her Hollywood buddies there back in the ’30s. I checked the Internet, and Clove Creek still exists. I’m gonna have to do a little more research.

Anyway, also a part of that trip was a visit to Hyde Park (FDR’s residence), and I even got to see West Point. More importantly, our trip took us back through Kentucky and my mother’s birthplace…even the old single-walled house where MaMaw was born, up in the mountains near Nicholasville, Kentucky. We also visited the cemetery where both her parents (my maternal grandparents) are buried. We even got to visit with her Aunt Susan, who lived on a tobacco farm near the banks of the Kentucky River in one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. Aunt Susan lived down in the river bottom, and mother’s family lived way up the mountain. I Also got to meet MaMaw’s double first cousin (brothers married sisters–a typical hillbilly practice). His name was Homer Benton. I had never been inside a tobacco barn until that day at Aunt Susan’s. I had seen pictures of them, but it’s a totally different experience to see how it’s cured and the smell…I’ll never forget! Even tried chewing tobacco after that trip!

Follow-up: …On Randolphs and Clarks

You know, those names like Randolph and Clark were so interesting to me. All the Clark family that I’ve known were natural musicians–Jughead, Johnny, Mike, Matt are all descendants of the Clarks who founded TCU.

You’re familiar with the Randolph name–all of the above were also families very involved with churches of Christ in Madison County. Up until the early 1900s, the church in both Midway and Madisonville was simply called Christian church because ‘the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch’.

Midway got its name after Midway, Kentucky, where Barton Stone’s Cane Ridge Revival took place. The settlers who came to Texas from Kentucky named it after their old Kentucky home. It tickled me when I found that out from Dr. Bill Humble, when he brought some folks from Abilene to Midway (a place significant in the Restoration movement).

Mamaw’s family also came from that area of Kentucky. ;))

Granny Was the Spitting Image

Were your grandparents alive when you were small?

 

I only had one grandparent living during my childhood, and that was my Daddy’s mom, Nancy Stevens.

Mom’s parents died when she was a little girl.   Her mom passed away before the family came to Texas from Kentucky. She died in 1908, when little Hallie was just 4 years old.  Her daddy, William Benton, died in 1914 when mom was just 10.  He never got over the death of his wife when she was giving birth to their 12th child, William, who we all called him Uncle Bill.

My dad’s father, Texas Hulan Stevens passed away in 1932 at about the age of 60, if memory serves me well.

So my one grandparent was Granny, as we called her.  Aunt Myrt, Pawpaw’s sister, wanted us to call her Grance….but you’d have to have known Aunt Myrtle….she always tried to fancy everything up…but she was always just plain ol’ Granny to Nancy and me.

The thing I remember about her more than anything else was that she had this funny smell whenever she would kiss you. I didn’t know until I got older that the smell was because she dipped Garrett Snuff. When Daddy was aware that Nancy and I had figured it put, He started gift wrapping snuff bottles or tins for us to give her at Christmas or her birthday. She would have a fit when he would do it and oh, he’d get the biggest kick out of that!

I remember going to see her in San Antonio shortly before her death when I was a freshman at SFA in 1959.   It was a very sweet and special visit, and she assured me that she’d be waiting for me in Heaven!

God Bless the Workin’ Man

You mentioned your Dad worked for the railroad in Wharton.  What jobs did he have when you were growing up?

 

beasley_txWhen Nancy & I were born (1941&42), Dad owned and operated a little drugstore with a soda fountain in the little town of Beasley, Texas.  Back in those days, pharmacists didn’t have to go to college to be certified to open up a pharmacy.   Dad had worked under the supervision of an old guy by the name of Slataper who owned a drug store in Rosenberg.   I think that’s where he was working when your Uncle Bubba and Uncle RJ were born. He moved out to Beasley and started his own business there, primarily because that’s where Mama’s sister (Aunt Sally) & her husband (Uncle Henry Ellison) lived.

Mamaw’s family all stated coming to Texas from Kentucky around 1910 and by 1914 at the death of her daddy, William Benton. Her mother had died in 1908 giving birth to her 12th child, uncle Bill. Mamaw was born in 1904, Aunt Tamar in 1906 and then Uncle Bill in 1908. 
     

My daddy’s dad, known to everyone as Brother Tex (Texas Hulan Stevens), was a circuit riding farmer/ preacher in the late 1800s until his death in 1932.   Instead of a horse, he would ride from town to town on a train called the Rock Island Line…..and his middle child, Roy Stevens (1899-1969), would travel with him and lead singing for him.   It was at one of their stops at Beasley or Rosenberg that a young lady named Hallie Mae Benton caught Roy’s eye (she was 14, he was 19), and in 1919 they got married.  He was 20 and she was 15.

They lived on a farm in a little community called Fordtran down between Halletsville and Victoria. Their first baby boy was born when she was 16 and only lived a few days…. Eldred was born when she was 17, Texas Hulan (Uncle Bubba) when she was 19, and Uncle RJ when she was 23.   I, Benton Lanier,  came along when mom was 37.  When I questioned her at her 75th birthday if I was kind of an accident or a surprise, she demurely replied that I was more of a disappointment:)) She then said, “Nancy (born not quite a year later in 1942) was the surprise. I would have never had another on purpose….you were my last shot at a little girl.”

When Granddaddy (Bro. Tex) died in 1932, my daddy began preaching at some of his daddy’s appointments in places like Beasley, Rosenberg, Wharton, and Rock Island.   Many said that he truly felt a calling, not only to preach, but to try to fill his father’s shoes. In 1942 after Nancy’s birth, the 26th & North Shepherd Church of Christ in Houston called Dad to be their preacher, and he became a “full-time preacher” for the rest  of his life.
    

He taught all of his children the value of hard work and I can’t tell you how many times I heard him quote the apostle Paul, “if any won’t work, neither shall he eat!”   I often heard him say, “Always remember who you are.  Number one, you’re a Christian and number two, you’re a Stevens–in that order, and don’t you ever forget that!”

He was good at anything (as far as work was concerned ) that he tried to do.  Businessman, construction work, and one thing that sticks in my memory is his typing.   He used his 2 huge forefingers to literally make his old Underwood (desktop) typewriter sing!   He used to say, “I’m a hunt and pecker, but I want you to learn to type the right way!”   …and he made sure that Nancy and I took all the typing courses that we could in school.