Britt Towery

Monday I took a walk. I do it every day either around the San Angelo old folks home where we live or along the downtown parks or river walk.

But last Mondayís walk was different. It was in Brownwood. The mile or so my dad walked twice a day for nearly 30 years. The trek from our house on Fourth Street along Fisk Avenue, Howard Payne College campus, the Sinclair station on the corner of Austin and Fisk, across from the First Methodist Church (long since torn down) where Dad married mother on Christmas Eve, 1925. Twenty-five years later, Jody Long and I married on that same corner (chapel under the main steps).

Mother was a Methodist and after Dad became a Christian she walked across the street and joined him at the First Baptist Church. The church no longer has those lovely banana trees growing along the sanctuary. (For years Dad cut many a preacherís hair as well as deacons and fine Christians. None ever said a word to him about his soul or church. Finally Howard Payne professor Tibbits shared his faith with Dad and slowly friendship developed and that is how he found his faith.)

He would not recognize the walk today, especially the Howard Payne campus. The Barn as the menís dorm was called is gone as is Old Main. (Coach Gordon Wood once told me the ďinside storyĒ on how that dear old building burned to the ground. But Iím not telling!) Today Howard Payne is a campus of new buildings and beautiful lawns. Then, across the street where President Tom Taylor lived, rows and rows of army barracks were used for classrooms. These came with the shut-down of Camp Bowie after 1945.

Continuing north on Fisk, comes Adams Street. The north corner of Fisk and Adams was the location of my grandmotherís boarding house. Motherís niece lived with the family (and worked at the telephone exchange), liked to tell about the great fire in a building across the street. Weatherby built an automobile show room and repair shop there later.

Mother and her two sisters learned to cook and serve in that famous boarding house. Hotels were not as many as today and travelers liked the family styled meals in a boarding house. It was a real home away from home. All kinds of traveling salesmen, farmers and ranchers arrived a block away at the Santa Fe Depot. Grandmother Sophie Jane Hawk was born in 1870. Somewhere along the line she met up with Willis H. French, three years her senior. Their middle daughter, my mother Christine French, was born in Blum, Texas.

Grandpa French did odd jobs, drove a taxi around town and once road his horse from Brownwood to Oklahoma City where evidently he stayed, for we never heard from him again. Sophie Jane died when I was nearly 3. I have been told the story so often it must have happened that way ó of seeing Grandma French the last time on her deathbed. I walked hand-in-hand with my cousin Patricia Townsend, about the same age, to tell her goodbye. (Give your kids memories by re-telling them of events. They will thank you later.)

Dad began barbering on the Square when he was 17 and stayed with it into his early 70s. I still meet men who tell me he cut their hair. The most recent one was Jim Johnson after Sunday services at San Angeloís First Presbyterian Church.

At Anderson Street, Dad turned left and went to his own shop between Brown and Center, across the street from the stage door of the Lyric Theater. That is where I often saw him after work going over the Masonic rules and passages in order to become a Mason. I had a preacher tell me that the Masons pulled men out of church. He really didnít like them. I told him that did not happen to my dad. If anything, it made him more active in the First Baptist Church. Later he moved his shop to Fisk Avenue where it soon burned down. (Dadís younger brother Dick had a barber shop across from the Brownwood Hotel at same time.) Herman Bennettís construction team built Dad a new one next to our home, 309 Fourth St.

It was a walk I have needed to make for sometime. I was back in town to attend the first Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics on the HPU campus. Seeing again classmate Jimmy Allen (we took a journalism class together) and many others was a blessing. Iíll leave that for next week.

Britt Towery, author and retired from Baylor University lives in San Angelo. He welcomes comments at bet@suddenlink.net.