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Collegeport Articles

February 1935

Thoughts About The House That George Built

By Harry Austin Clapp


This tale is written because several have asked "what is Mopac House;" how was it built?" "what will it be used for?" So this is the story of the House that George built. When I was a lad, I had a picture book about the house that Jack built. There was the house, the malt, the rat, the cat, the dog, the cow, the maiden, the man, the priest and the cock that crowed in the morn and wakened the priest all shaven and shorn who married the man all tattered and torn, to the maiden, all forlorn, who milked the cow with a crumpled horn, that tossed the dog, that worried the cat, that killed the rat, that ate the malt, that lay in the house that Jack built.


In the house the picture showed the malt. In Mopac House, there will be no malt, hence no rat, or necessity for the other characters. I have never been informed how Jack built the house and care not for the house was in evidence. I do not know to this day how Mopac House was built, but I do know that it stands in the community this day almost ready for use.


One day in December, 1933, as I sat as my desk, I heard the clang of steel and the ring of hammers and I knew that the rails, that for twenty-five years had connected us with the main line were being torn up and loaded on cars. I looked from the window and there stood the station building and in a flash the idea came "why not get possession of that building and remodel it for community use?"


Without consulting a soul I wrote to Mr. H. R. Safford, executive vice president Missouri Pacific Lines in Texas and suggested that the building be given to the Collegeport Industrial League. This was on December 8. No reply came, but on the 20th arrived Mr. T. C. McCord, division engineer, who called and informed me that Mr. Safford had asked him to look the situation over. I gave him all the information he wished, showed him the library and explained that it needed more room and when he left he said "Mr. Clapp, you may consider the deal closed and the property is yours, for I shall make a favorable report, but do not move it until you have formal notice."


Then I called in George and told him about the affair and he much to my delight said "good work and we will put it over." Thus another hill was crossed. February 20th came a formal bill of sale transferring to the League the property and asking that it be removed by the 12th of April. May 24th a gang of men appeared and began work. They cut the building in two parts for moving, but at the end of three days work stopped. There the building stood until the storm of July 25th, when the freight end having been robbed of partitions was wrecked. Time passed and on August 21st work began again and lasted until September 15th and then stopped. December 15th, work began and continued until the old building had been wrecked, material moved to the league property and the new building erected. It needs two doors, water in the kitchen, electrical wiring and paint for inside and out and then for the opening. The building has been attached to the library giving us a building 92 feet long and twenty-four feet wide. The library has been supplied with additional room 12X14 the kitchen is 10x12 supplied with cupboards, tables and will soon have a sink and water. The main room is 60x24.


A cement floor for the entire structure, ample windows, inviting front doors and a friendly shelter over the front gallery. The only credit the writer claims is that he had the vision. He has staid back of the lines, asking for this and for that and up to this day, what he asked for in some mysterious way was forth coming. The writer loaded the gun, but George did the pointing and pulled the trigger and so accurate was his aiming technique that he seldom missed his mark. Of course George did not do all this great work alone. He gathered about him such men as Homer Trimble, James Gartrell, Glenn Taylor, the county board of relief; E. N. Gustafson, the county court and others and every sunuvagun showed their interest by their activity and piece by piece the work was done. The Central Power and Light Company by its district manager donated all materials for electrical wiring. O, well, so many have been helpful and generous it is most difficult to record the many acts of aid.


Mr. Huey Linder was in charge of construction and the job stands there as evidence of his ability. Answering the first question will reply that Mopac House is what is usually known as a community house. In reply to the second question, I simply must say I do not know how it was built and in reply to the third will state that it will be used for any clean, wholesome community purpose, such as meetings of civic clubs, Girl Reserves, luncheons, banquets, private and public parties, lectures, religious services, dancing, card parties, amusements of many kinds and in fact for any and all decent purposes.


There will be no malt in Mopac House and with a cement floor we fear no rats. The fact is that the writer knows very little about this building and how it became a reality. He does know that without the generous aid and sacrificing work of George, it would still be standing down by the tracks.


George is a big man, with a big warm heart, that reaches out to other fellows. He is widely known throughout the state and thus was able to enlist the interest of many men, some of whom did not know Collegeport existed. They gave their aid because George asked for it. I give as a guess that George has made as many as thirty trips to Austin on this project at his own expense and that his telegraph and telephone bill would not be covered by fifty dollars. All this he paid from his own purse. It has been a continuous struggle. Every nail, every ounce of material has been produced through sheer push and pull but it was done. The how and the way of all this I am in ignorance of. I can only guess.


January 30 the league met in special session and appointed a board of five administrators who will have charge of the property and administer its use. This board consists of Hugo Kundinger for one year, H. A. Clapp for two years, Seth W. Corse for three years, Mrs. Dena Hurd for four years and Mrs. Agnes Liggett for five years. Each year one member will be elected for five years, thus making the board a self perpetuating body. Soon as the board is organized the names of its officers will be published. There is one secret about the matter which I will give to the reader provided it goes no further. So far as the board may prevent, there will be no liquor used in or about the premises. For heaven's sake don't mention this. Keep it a secret. Soon as kitchen equipment is in place and the final finish is complete there will be a formal opening. On this occasion a luncheon will be served by the Woman's Club to which the public is invited. This luncheon will be quite elaborate and will cost fifty cents. We expect representatives from the A. & M. College, the State Department of Agriculture, the Missouri Pacific Lines, The Intracoastal Canal Association, the Gulf Sulphur Company, the County Court, the State Board of Control, the Office of the Attorney general, the State Highway Commission and other bodies.


Some of them will be there with good words of cheer. At this time the Blessing of God will be asked, as the building is dedicated to the comfort, the happiness, the pleasure of the community. At the battle of Aggincourt King Henry V said:


"And gentlemen of England now abed

Shall think themselves accursed

They were not here;

And hold their manhoods cheap

While any speaks

That fought with us upon

St. Crispian's Day."


This is what the people of this community will say, who do not attend this opening which marks an important event in the community life.


Without George there would be no Mopac House. Remember this fact, for it is the solemn truth. So this is the tale of the House that George built.


Some times in a while "Thoughts" fine readers who agree and they write sweet letters and here is one that arrived the other day.


"Dear Mr. Clapp: I am not a regular reader of the Matagorda County Tribune, but my attention was called by both Catholics and non-Catholics to your article in last Thursday's paper.


"Let me take the liberty and express my appreciation and thank you heartily for your sound thoughts expressed especially in regards to the Townsend plan and the peddling of anti-Christian papers and the fostering of bigotry.


"The Townsend plan into my notion is about the silliest thing that has shown its face to the public in past years. I should heartily welcome and support an old age pension but not the kind that is advocated by the Townsend plan.


"As to the non-Christian propagandist we know that they would not like to swallow the medicine which in their hatefulness and ignorance, they are so anxious to give to some one else.


"Best wishes and may God bless you,




A. I. Weber, Pastor St. Peters, Catholic Church, Blessing, Texas.


Some times there comes letters which are not so kindly and helpful but it is a difficult thing for a man with a wooden leg, one eye and half a brain to please every reader. I gave up trying years ago and just go ahead writing my "Thoughts." I record with sorrow that little John Morris Merck, Jr. has been attacked by some mysterious ailment that has made it necessary to take him and his sweet mamma to the Bay City hospital. We trust that the doctors who are handling the case may be able to supply relief. We have no desire to lose any of the little children who come to our homes.


The past week has been dull so far as news is concerned. The only thing of interest is that it is rumored that two test wells will soon be started right east of town. Prospects are still at work with elaborate equipment so it appears that oil companies are still willing to spend money on exploration.


The Matagorda County Tribune, February 7, 1935



By Harry Austin Clapp


[Local information taken from longer article.]


Friday morning seawall workers assembled as usual only to be informed that work would be deferred until some later date. Saturday they waited at the Boeker store for the pay wagon which probably arrived in good time.


A splendid job has been done along the seawall shore and it looks beautiful. Work on the Mopac House stopped because there was nothing to do until paint is received and two doors, one for the reception room and one for the kitchen.


Wiring will begin in a few days and thanks to Roy Miller, director of publicity for the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company, funds have been provided for a light plant. Just appears that God planned it all out that this community should have this splendid house with its spacious auditorium library room and kitchen.


Our friends have been so generously helpful that it appears we must give hearty thanks not only to those friends, but also to the good God who prompted them to give so willingly and so bountifully. As for me, it has brought me much happiness. Mopac House means much to me for it is the culmination of twenty-five years of dreaming. Its opening will mean to me what the completion of the Intracoastal Canal will mean to Roy Miller. God has been good to us. Will we thank Him on opening day? I guess yes.


Several have asked "what kind of luncheon will be served?" I don't know a thing about it nor do I care. The Woman's Club assumes all that obligation and we all know that they do grand things in a right way. Be present and try the eats and you will have the answer.


Reverend James Aiken, pastor of the local church, held a school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights for the study of foreign and home mission work. With so much mission work in our own yard, I am not very much interested in poking our brand of religion down the throats of those who live in other lands. There is a possibility that their religion is better than ours and that it brings less confusion, more happiness and peace. We resent their attempts to build temples and present their beliefs on our soul. It might be a good plan to mind our own business, at least until it is well done. There is plenty of mission work right here in this burg to keep a few militants busy for a time.


Mrs. Thomas, the new teacher of English, has arrived and assumed her duties. She is an accomplished teacher of our language and the board is to be congratulated on securing her services. It is hoped that she will spend some of her time teaching the teachers how to use good English, for there be some who sure need teaching.


Little John Morris Merck has been taken to a specialist in infant diseases at Houston. The community pray God to spare the life of this fine baby boy and to bring the mamma bird back to normal health.


The Matagorda County Tribune, February 13, 1935



By Harry Austin Clapp


[Local information taken from longer article.]


One of the pupils in the English class worked up a peeve because Mrs. Thomas, the teacher, insisted on the observance of certain rules in the use of English and refused to enter the class. On being asked why he cut language he replied "she ain't got nuthin' about langwage that she kin tell me." From my observation of this lad for several years, I am inclined to believe that he told the truth. No one is able to teach English to such a sponge.


The Woman's Club held its regular monthly meeting in the library on Thursday with a small attendance because of the inclement weather. Those fortunate enough to be present enjoyed a splendid program and had the privilege of partaking of a very dainty refreshment service, tendered by Mrs. Vera Batchelder. All who were there knew exactly how refined and exquisite was the affair.


Friday the library was opened as usual and a good business transacted as more than fifty books were loaned and thirty-five visitors registered.


For more than a century, the Woman's Union have observed the birthday of George Washington with a banquet. This year will be no exception and the affair promises to be up to former marks, both in quantity and quality of food and in the arranged program. Mr. Cherry, superintendent of the school, will act as toast master, while Reverend James Aiken will be the principal speaker and tell us all about George. The menu will consist of roast pork with dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy, baked apples, pickles, jelly, hot rolls, cherry pie and coffee and all this for thirty-five cents. The hot stuff by Cherry and Aiken are free. We hope for good weather and large attendance.


It is with pleasure I am able to announce that little John Morris Merck was operated on in a Houston Hospital and is now making a rapid and favorable recovery. I am informed that the trouble was found to be a small tumor located where the stomach joins the intestinal tract, thus almost closing that connection.


With sorrow I announce the death of Sam Franz. Mr. Franz died in Bay City, Friday, February 15 and was buried in the old home cemetery in Matagorda. Sam Franz filled his place in this community where he operated a barber shop. It was a clean shop and Sam was a good barber. He often gave me service, during which time we conversed on many topics and I found him well posted on current events and at times his thoughts led him to discussions that were far and away beyond the ideas of many people who not knowing him well would have been surprised. Sam Franz filled his place in the community well and when one has done that one has made one's self a real and indispensable part of community life. I shall miss Sam Franz and his cherry "Good morning Mr. Clapp."


Beginning Sunday the 9th, the sun hid his face from us poor mortals for a full week and during most of the time he shed tears a plenty until it is estimated that Ben R. Mowery, local weather observer, that four inches of rain fell. Along with it we enjoyed severe wind squalls and near freezing temperatures so altogether we had a very nasty week. Saturday night the 16th, the moon rode in glorious majesty and the stars glittered and sparkled in the calm, cold blue and Sunday morning the sun peeped above the horizon on a cloudless sky. We may now expect some fine weather at least so says Mr. Radio.


Friday morning about fifteen men assembled for work on seawall and Mopac House, but all they did was assemble for at 9:30 came the foreman who announced that work was suspended for a time. All went their way more or less disgusted especially those who came seven miles. Wiring on Mopac House about finished so that much is good. This job of doing things on the installment plan is a fine thing for it causes one to acquire patience and that is a grand virtue.


The Matagorda County Tribune, Thursday, February 21, 1935



By Harry Austin Clapp


[Local information taken from longer article.]


It was so dark outside, that one was unable to see six inches from the window glass. The rain driven by the winter's gale beat on the sash as if determined to break into the room. The wind howled and screamed around the house, its claws reaching out as if to clutch shingles from the roof. Inside a cheery fire burned in the spacious fire place and before it we, meaning I and the miserable wretch, sat in comfort. She was knitting, while I smoked my cob pipe filled with good old R. J. R. Between us Jimmy reposed, stretched out enjoying the comfortable fire, his fine brown eyes sparkling with pleasure. There we sat in comfort and as we looked


"On that hearth of fire

Flaming with heart's desire."


I voiced my wish that time would turn back in its flight and make me a boy for just this night. As I made my wish and looked in that fire, lighted a quarter of a century ago, lo, the flames parted. My wish was granted. The years rolled back and I was a boy at home with my father, mother, sisters and aunt. I was in the grand and beautiful old home place where joy and tragedy had walked. Joy? Yes, for there I spent the joyous days of life. There my baby son climbed about the floor and learned to walk. There my sisters went with me to school. There my mother folded me in her beautiful arms as she prayed that God would keep me clean. Tragedy? Yes, for there my mother died in the bloom of a graceful, sweet life, just beginning to be made into the charm and mellowness of age. That was my first great sorrow.


As I sit gazing into the dancing flames I recall and suffer again the shock that came to me with her sudden passing. Looking into that "hearth of fire" I saw my boyhood sweethearts, all clean, sweet girls and their faces pass in review, Flora, Emma, Alice, Minnie. O, their names constitute a legion, for I was something of a Mormon in those days and after quaffing the cup of honeyed joy passed on to another.


Summer days were spent in fishing, swimming in the old narrows and during the day I wore a hat, a shirt and pants. Nothing more. Bare foot and almost bare back, but 'twas enough and I was a happy lad.


Evenings I spent at home or going to parties where I would, in an embarrassed manner, meet a girl friend and had the joy of escorting her to the home gate. Arriving there we would linger. I wishing I had the courage to kiss her and she hoping I would. She on one side, I on the other, both wishing for what was so near and yet so far until at last a voice from the house "Emma are you never coming in?" compelled a reluctant parting.


But never mind on the morrow, sweet little notes of love were passed and we were ready for another evening of tantalization. An evening of eagerness lost through lack of courage. Happy days those and as I look back, I realize that I was a very fortunate boy. Years rolled around. Local school days were over and away I went to New York to secure better education. Back to begin a business life also filled with joy and happiness until it all culminated in the bringing to me that wonderful sweet daughter Mary Louise and it was on the day of the christening by Father Sloan that the fire was lighted with the force of love, flames leaping from the hearth of hope, flames of dancing, leaping heart's desire and as I looked on her baby face and saw the flash of joy pass over that face, the thought came that God was merciful, that God was good to me, for he brought to me "My Heart's Desire." As the flames died down and began to smolder, telling us that it was time to retire, the years slipped around the scale of time and there I sat a man past seventy two and by my side the wonderful woman who has walked with me for forty years, standing without criticism for the bitter, enjoying to the fullest the sweets, a faithful, loyal pard going along with me on the last trek. My son, my daughter. What wonderful treasures. What a glorious sunset will be ours, for long after we have passed, both will look back with loving pride and will be glad that they were of us and for us. The wind still howls. The fire is a bed of glowing red hot coals. It is time for dream land. Good night "Flame of Heart's Desire." Good night "Hearth of fire." Good Night! God go with us all "before the lights are lit."


The board of trustees of Mopac House met Tuesday and adopted a constitution and by laws and elected the following officers: Seth W. Corse, chairman of the board; H. A. Clapp, manager; Mrs. Dena Hurd, vice manager; Mrs. Agnes Liggett, secretary; Hugo Kundinger, treasurer. Rules and regulations for the use of the house will be prepared soon and the same will be made public. Charges will be as low as possible, but in all cases must be sufficient to cover cost of lights, heat, janitor service and upkeep.


Some call him Gustafson, others say "N. E." and those who know him best and love him most just say "Gus." Gus acts just like the leaven in bread. He keeps a risin'. He left this county as engineer and relief administrator to go with the PWA at Fort Worth. Here he again made a success and was soon promoted to chief expediter. I don't know much about the mission of an expediter, but it is something like the pusher used on big mountain locomotives. Sort o' gets behind and keeps things goin'. That is what Gus did. He got behind and pushed. Now he goes with the Portland Cement Company as research engineer and they think so much of him that he is authorized to roam all over Texas and New Mexico and they pay his expenses while he roams. When Gus stops roaming for an hour or two, he will rest his shanks in Austin. As no one can keep this boy down, we, meaning I and the miserable wretch, send hearty congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Gus.


The twenty-fifth annual Washington banquet sponsored by the Woman's Union is a part of the community history. It was a brilliant affair attended by about one hundred folk. The tables were arranged in a big "U" and seated ninety four. Decorations were the red, white and blue in air streamers and table strips. Little blocks of cherry tree with a red hatchet set in the bark were at each place while larger blocks stood about, each telling the tale of the famous cherry tree.


In the center of the "U" rested a small table with several "Old Glories" which George Cohen described in song as "That Grand Old Rag." The stage was decorated in the national colors and on a large easel was displayed a fine portrait of the Father of His Country, draped in the red, white and blue. The complete ensemble was artistic and chaste in its simplicity.


Table service was given by the Girl Reserves all dressed in the Reserve costume. This service adequate and graceful ever present, never pressing. The menu consisted of bake ham with dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, Parker House rolls, baked apples on head lettuce, cherry pie and coffee. A generous feed for thirty-five depreciated pennies. After a very fine welcome address by Mrs. Liggett, the program was turned over to Mr. Elliott Curtis who acted as toastmaster, who realizing that the duty of a toastmaster consisted in "starting the fire works," proceeded to do so in a creditable manner. First was the invocation by Rev. James Aiken, then followed a piano solo by Mrs. Dorothy Corporon; America's Creed by Miss Roberta Liggett; The Making of the Flag by Miss George Alice Jones; vocal solo by Miss Sue Mansfield; Your Flag and My Flag by Miss Esther Boeker; George Washington by Miss Parker; Christian Ideals from Washington's Character, Reverend James Aiken; History of Mopac House by Harry Austin Clapp; closing song The Star Spangled Banner by the audience.


While all did well, there were some bright lights. I have known for some time that Sue Mansfield could ride a horse, but I did not know she could sing. She rendered her song in a sweet, melodious voice with good carrying qualities, splendid range and true in tone. I think I'll buy a cage and catch that song bird. Esther Boeker spoke with a voice that carried to every portion of the house. She is a splendid girl, a credit to the Boeker family and with fine talents.


Reverend Aiken, being the principal speaker, discussed the Christian side of Washington's life and drew from lessons for his audience. The writer was not on the program and was given a surprise call, but gave the audience the inside of the building and equipping of Mopac House, its board of administrators et cetera. In vaudeville, especially in the days of the continuous performance, meaning the "ten-twent-thirt" days, it was the custom to place last on the program what was called a chaser. This was a dumb act calculated to clear the house for the next show.


At the banquet, I was the chaser and it is to my credit that I closed the show and cleared the house, as was evidenced by the yawns and the rush for out doors to secure a breath of fresh air. I am glad to inform the community that the board of administrators, consisting of five, contains at least three reputable people and that being a quorum guarantees safety in administration of the property. For the past twenty-five years I have attended all of these banquets when present in the community and in my opinion it was a brilliant affair, with distinguished guests and glittering appointments. A credit to the Woman's Union and I hope they made a million dollars. Among those present I noted Mr. and Mrs. Kay Legg from Gulf, Mrs. Fox, mother of the ubiquitous John Fox, from Palacios; Melvin Spoor and Mrs. A. E. McCune and two sons from Sandy Point; Mrs. Richmond from Palacios; Mr. and Mrs. Pat Richmond of Sandy Point. No doubt there were others, but unable to see with my left eye, it was impossible to visualize all of them.


On Friday night the Girl Reserves will put on for the amusement of the community "The Mellow Moon Minstrels." From the name, this no doubt will be good, provided the Moon is Mellow. It is a difficult task for these girls to produce this number, for not one of them has ever had the privilege of seeing a minstrel show. The days of Hy Henry, Lew Dockstader, Primrose & West are way back in the past. I have seen them all and in my opinion a revival of the minstrels should receive a hearty welcome from lovers of fine music. I am informed that in this presentation the orchestra will appear in black face. This will be some thing new, for I have never seen members of a minstrel orchestra appearing in the pit in black face. It never was done, but then this is 1935. There will be enough black faces on the stage without daubing up the orchestra pit.


I trust the show will have generous support. One of the features will be a song by Sue Mansfield entitled After That Try and Be Good. Don't miss it. Miss Harris will croon a song entitled You Needn't Come Aroun' When Your Money is Gone. All I know about it is what seeped out from time to time, but I have enough to be sure it will be a good show.


If I should write what I think of the miserable vandal who broke into the school house and stole the two trophies won by our basket ball team, Carey Smith would refuse to print it. The trophies were two small statutes representing basket ball players in action and they were honestly won by the local teams and prized by them. The miscreant climbed to the roof, dropped through a scuttle accidentally tapping the bell once which fixed the time of the theft at 8:30 in the evening. He descended into the library and left with the prizes. He wore a number eight shoe with leather heels. This community is infested with some petty thieves and the sooner the people arouse themselves and take some action, the better for all of us. A crime on a community is worse than a crime on an individual. I am unable to understand how any one can steal from a church, a library, a school or any other enterprise devoted to public use but we have plenty of evidence that in this burg exists some low down thieves.

The Matagorda County Tribune, Thursday, February 28, 1935


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