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Stories Archives for 2018-06

WHERE'S THE FREE AIR?


 

 

In the last six months I have had two occasions when the “low tire” icon lit up on my car dashboard.  I had a very low tire and I needed to air it up as soon as possible.  However, I could not find a service station that offered air, either free or for sale.  Fortunately, I had purchased a small gadget when plugged into the cigarette lighter allowed me to put air in my tire.  That brings up the question, where has the free air gone?
 
Back in the late 1940s when I acquired my first bicycle, I had to learn how to maintain and repair it.  Low or flat bicycle tires were quite common.  I relied on a small filling station for all my repair supplies, particularly the air.  Walter Jones small store had an air compressor and the air was free.  Mr. Jones’ store was located on the east corner of SH147 and FM353 (the White Rock road).  The building is still standing, though vacant.
 
Back in those days filling stations, or service stations, were abundant in San Augustine.  I can recall at least ten stations inside the city limits.  They all offered gasoline and motor oil for sale, and when you drove your automobile to the pumps you also received service.  An attendant always checked your oil level, water level, battery, cleaned the windshield, and on occasion swept out your car with a whisk broom.  Most of them could change the oil in your car, grease it, wash it, and repair a flat tire…and give free air.  Many then gave you a sheet of S&H green stamps, or perhaps a cup and saucer set.  Those were the good old days.
 
Speaking of the old days, did you know that the very first places that sold gasoline were pharmacies as a side business?  The first filling station was the City Pharmacy in Wiesloch, Germany.  This is where Bertha Benz refilled the tank of the first automobile on its maiden trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back in 1888.
 
The increase in automobile ownership after Henry Ford started to sell cars that the middle class could afford resulted in an increased demand for filling stations.  The world’s first purpose built gas station was constructed in St. Louis, Missouri in 1905.  The second gas station was built in 1907 by Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) in Seattle, Washington.  The third station claims to be Reighard’s Gas Station in Altoona, Pennsylvania dating from 1909, and is considered the oldest existing gas station in the United States.
 
The first “drive in” filling station, a Gulf Refining Company store, opened to the motoring public in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 1, 1913 at Baum Blvd. and St. Clair Street.  Walter’s Automotive Shop is now located at this spot as of 2013.  Prior to this, automobile drivers pulled into almost any general or hardware store, or even blacksmith shop in order to fill up their tanks.  On its first day of business, the Gulf filling stationed mentioned above sold 30 gallons of gasoline at .27 cents per gallon.  This was also the first architect-designed station, and the first to distribute free road maps and free air.
 
The United States had 118,756 operating gas stations in 2007, according to the census.  However, they are closing in record numbers due to severe OSHA and EPA regulations being enforced by the federal government.  Very few “Mom & Pop” country service stations currently exist.  Most stations that have an air compressor, charge for the air. Most do not have the necessary equipment to change a flat tire, or repair a leak in a tire. Instead, many stations combine small convenience stores selling candy, soda pop, and snacks.
 
Every time I drive by Mr. Walter Jones’ old grocery store/filling station I can’t help but let my mind travel back in time when I would ride my bicycle the one-half mile distance from my home to repair a flat bicycle tire, or purchase a box of .22 rifle shells for .75 cents, buy a cold RC cola with a box of peanuts to dump inside the bottle.  And, the air was free.
 
 
“WHERE’S THE FREE AIR?”
 
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
P.O. BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com
 
699 words
 
 
 
 
 

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The Spittoon


 

 

 
 
The spittoon has just about disappeared from the American scene.  In the late 19th century United States, spittoons were a very common feature in pubs, brothels, saloons, hotels, stores, banks, court rooms, and other places where people gathered. I recall seeing spittoons scattered around in our Court House, and even in churches as a young lad.
 
The present generation probably has never seen one of these receptacles as they have about worked their way out of our society.  However, I can almost guarantee that most of their great grandparents used them.  Most men used chewing tobacco, “Days Work”, being a good example.  Most women dipped snuff, “Garrett Snuff”, another good example.  Chewing and dipping tobacco required a place to spit, and in the late 1800s it was usually the floor or sidewalk.
 
I remember my father, Cecil, who was a painting and paperhanging contractor before he was elected County Clerk in 1938, telling of giving the pastor of a rural church an estimate on painting the inside.  He asked the preacher what color of paint he wanted from the floor to about three feet up the wall.  The pastor thought a moment then said, “The closest color to Garrett snuff that you can find.”  Apparently the chewing members were often missing the spittoons and splattering tobacco juice on the walls.
 
Brass was the most common material for the spittoon.  However, materials for mass production of spittoons ranged from iron to elaborately crafted cut glass and fine porcelain.  At higher class places like expensive hotels, spittoons would be elaborately decorated.
 
Spittoons were flat-bottomed, often weighted to minimize tipping over, and often with an interior “lip” to make spilling less likely if they tip. Some had lids, but they were rather rare.  Some had holes, sometimes with a plug, to aid in draining and cleaning.
 
Amazingly, the use of spittoons was considered an advance of public manners and health, intended to replace previously common spitting on floors, streets, and sidewalks.  Many towns passed laws against spitting in public other than into a spittoon.  Around 1909 the Boy Scouts organized campaigns to paint “Do Not Spit On The Sidewalk” notices on city sidewalks.  This campaign caught hold with members of the Anti-Tuberculosis League who painted thousands of such messages in a single day.  Soon signs were seen in saloons that read:
 
     If you expect to rate as a gentleman
     Do not expectorate on the floor. 
 
After the great 1918 flu epidemic, both hygiene and etiquette advocates began to disparage public use of the spittoon, and use began to decline.  Chewing gum replaced tobacco as the favorite chew of the younger generation.  Cigarettes were considered more hygienic than chewing and dipping tobacco.  While it was still not unusual to see spittoons in some public places in parts of the United States as late as the 1930s, vast numbers of old brass spittoons met their ends in the scrap metal drives of World War II.
 
While spittoons are still made, they are no longer commonly found in public places. A rare profession which commonly uses spittoons is that of a wine taster.  A wine taster will sip samples of wine and then spit into a spittoon in order to avoid alcohol intoxication.
 
Strangely, each Justice of the United States Supreme Court has a spittoon next to his or her seat in the courtroom.  However, the spittoons function merely as wastebaskets; the last time the spittoon was used for its customary purpose was in the early 20th century.  In addition, tradition makes it necessary for the U.S. Senate to have spittoons spread across the Senate Chamber to this day.
 
In this the 21st century, people who still chew and dip tobacco have generally made for themselves a small portable spittoon called a “spit cup”.  This consists of a Styrofoam cup with a paper napkin stuffed inside which is carried on their person and kept rather private and hidden.  For this we are very appreciative.
 
Spittoons are now the objects of collectors.  The largest collection of the cuspidors can be found at Duke Homestead State Historic Site in Durham, North Carolina.  This museum boasts of 382 spittoons, claimed to be the world’s largest collection.  Personally, they are welcome to all of them.
 
 
 
‘THE  SPITTOON”
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
107 HEMLOCK STREET
PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com
 
709 Words
 
 
 
 
 

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MOTHER-IN-LAW OR WOMAN HITLER?


 

 
Life, like dealing with your mother-in-law, is all the more challenging if you can’t laugh at it once in a while.  No other relationship has created more love or hate, depending upon your situation, than mothers-in-law. Men all learn, sometimes too late, that when they marry that beautiful young lady they are also marrying her family.  The mother-in-law seems to create angst more than any other in-law.  Consequently, there are more jokes told about her than any other family member.
 
The following are a few of my collection of MIL (mother-in-law) jokes that I would like to share.  
 
Isn’t it interesting that when you mix the letters in “mother-in-law” around they come out “woman Hitler”?  Is that a coincidence?
 
One man reported “I was out shopping the other day after a meeting when I saw six women beating on my MIL. As I stood there and watched, her neighbor said, ‘Well, aren’t you going to help?’  I replied, ‘No, six of them are enough’.”
 
The clock fell off the wall.  Had it been a second sooner, it would have hit my MIL.  Darn!  That clock was always slow.
 
Two men were in a bar.  One says to his friend, “My MIL is an angel.” His friend replied, “You’re lucky.  Mine is still alive.”
 
A son-in-law was driving down the road when he was stopped by a policeman.  The officer yelled, “Your MIL fell out of the car five miles back.”  The young man replied, “Thank God for that.  I thought I had gone deaf.”
 
I wouldn’t say that my MIL is ugly, but every time she puts on lipstick it tries to crawl back into the tube.
 
A man brings his dog into the vet and says, “Could you please cut my dog’s tail off?”  The vet examines the tail and says, “There’s nothing wrong.  Why would you want to do that?”  The man replies, “My MIL is coming to visit, and I don’t want anything in the house to make her think that she is welcome.”
 
Sometimes the father-in-law knows best.  At a senior citizen’s meeting, a couple was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.  The husband stood and was telling the story of his dating habits in his youth.  It seemed that every time he brought home a girl to meet his mother, his mother didn’t like her.  So, finally, he started searching until he found a girl who not only looked like his mother and acted like his mother, she even sounded like his mother.  So he brought her home one night to have dinner, and his father didn’t like her.
 
George went on a vacation to the Middle East with most of his family, including his MIL.  During their vacation, and while they were in Jerusalem, George’s MIL suddenly died.  With the death certificate in hand, George went to an American Consulate Office to make arrangements to send the body back to the United States for proper burial.  He was told, “My friend, the sending of a body back to the States for burial is very, very expensive.  It could cost as much as $5,000 dollars.  Therefore, in most cases, the family decides to bury the body here.  This would cost only $150 dollars.”
 
Upon consideration of this information, George then replies, “I don’t care how much it will cost to send the body back.  That’s what I want to do.”  The Consulate remarked, “You must have loved your MIL very much, considering the difference in price involved.”  “No, it’s not that,” George replies.  “You see, I know of a case many, many years ago of a person that was buried here in Jerusalem, and on the third day he was resurrected.  I just don’t want to take that chance.”
 
A beggar came to my MIL’s house and said, “Excuse me madam, have you got any old beer bottles you can let me have?”  At this, she indignantly replied, “Do I look like I drink beer?”  At this he replied, “Sorry, ma’am, I suppose not.  But, perhaps you have some old vinegar bottles then?”
 
I can always tell when my MIL is coming to stay.  The mice throw themselves on the traps.
 
I just returned from a pleasure trip.  I took my MIL to the airport.
 
My MIL said, “One day I will dance on your grave.”  I said, “I hope so.  I am going to be buried at sea.”
 
I haven’t spoken to my MIL for eighteen months.  I just don’t like to interrupt her while talking. 
 
A police recruit was asked during an examination, “What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother-in-law?  He answered, “I’d call for backup.”
 
Last night the local peeping Tom knocked on my MIL’s door and asked her to shut her blinds.
 
And finally:
 
A couple drove several miles down a country road not saying a word.  An earlier discussion had led to an argument, and neither wanted to concede their position.  As they passed a barnyard of mules and pigs, the wife sarcastically asked, “relatives of yours?”  “Yep,” the husband replies, “in-laws.”
 
 
 
 
“MOTHER-IN-LAW OR WOMAN HITLER?”
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com
 
852 words
 
 
 

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Cheetos and 42


 

 
 
Both my parents and paternal grandparents were avid 42 players, and I was introduced to this domino game at an early age.  I began my 42 career around age eight or nine - they waited until I learned to count and cipher.
 
My grandmother, Mary Murphy, was a very serious player, you know the type who hates to lose, counts all the dominoes, and will know who has what domino in their hand.  I never advanced to her level of proficiency.
 
My parents hosted “42 parties” at least once a  month.  They had enough room in the house to set up four or five tables.  We had great fun with the winners of one table taking on the winners of another table until the champion team evolved.
 
It seems that after evening church services many times the pastor of Liberty Hill Baptist Church, Bro. Russell Smith, would join us for several games.  I recall him to be the most avid player of all time.  He would make very high bids with hardly any good dominoes.  I enjoyed seeing him in action.
 
Sometime before 1950 my mother introduced a new snack to the domino tables.  It was a cheese snack named “Chee-toes”.  I fell in love with these morsels and consumed more than my share every time.  This new snack was touted as “a cheese-flavored cornmeal snack” by their maker Frito-Lay Company.  The snack was introduced to the market in 1948 along with a potato snack, “Fritatos”.  I don’t recall the latter product as it must have had a short life.  I still enjoy a sack of Cheetos from time to time.
 
My 42 career continued during my college days.  I lived at a boarding house and a game was usually going most of the day.  I recall that we would begin playing soon after lunch and play continuously until midnight.  Some of us even cut our lab classes in order to play 42 uninterrupted.
 
I learned later on in my career that 42 is definitely a Texas domino game.  When in Colorado most people admitted that they had never heard of the game.   We found several transplanted Texas families and formed a 42 club.  We enjoyed the game one night a month, rotating to different homes.  All the couples were from Texas except a lone Louisiana pair.  We felt that they were close enough to Texas to qualify for acceptance.
 
I truly think that playing 42 helped me learn to count, to concentrate, and most importantly, how to lose gracefully. Eating a Cheetos snack did not hurt anything, either.
 
 
 
“CHEETOS AND 42”
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
107 HEMLOCK STREET
P.O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
phone: 936-275-9033
cell: 936-275-6986
email: sugarbear@netdot.com
 
434 words
 
 

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