Before my visit to Texas, the name Alamo seemed to me to be the outstanding one in Texas history, but I found that the battle of San Jacinto was the decisive one that gained independence from Mexico. The Alamo was a mission in San Antonio, and on Sunday, March 6, 1836, one hundred and eighty-eight Americans under Lt. Col. Travis were killed to a man, the only survivors being Mrs. Dickenson, wife of one of the officers, and her little girl. Thus, "Remember the Alamo" was the battle-cry at San Jacinto near Galveston, in which the Americans, under Gen. Sam Houston totally destroyed the Mexicans, under Santa Anna. A monument 570 feet high, similar to the Washington monument is at the site. Also, the decommissioned battleship Texas is there as a memorial, bought from the government in 1945 by the Daughters of Texas. After Mary and I had gone to the top of the monument, and viewed the surrounding country and bayous, we thoroughly covered the battleship. She had to go right down to the bottom to see all of the machinery. Some small boys were getting a big thrill by climbing up into the seats of the anti-aircraft guns and turning the levers that swing the guns around, and in their imagination bringing down countless enemy airplanes.
From San Jacinto to Galveston was but a short drive, and I had my first look at the Gulf of Mexico, and rode for miles along the granite sea-wall. Galveston is an important shipping center, boats from the whole world entering her harbor. Houston is about fifty miles northwest of Galveston, and we arrived there in the early evening. If you want a sure thing to bet on here it is, Houston is a city that is going places, and will make some larger cities look to their laurels. They have a ship channel to the Gulf to aid them commercially, lots of wealth from oil, many ultra modern buildings and a will to forge ahead. I had the pleasure of being the guest, with Mary, at the Cotton Hotel, owned by her brother-in-law Robert Moffatt. At seven o'clock the next morning we were on our way to San Antonio, two hundred miles to the west. We first visited the San Jose de Valero Mission in the southern outskirts of the city. The chapel is still in use. We saw a Brother working in the garden in the boiling hot sun, in his long brown robe, and asked him for some cold water which he brought from the refrigerator. When he learned I was from Cleveland, he asked if I knew about two certain places there. When I told him I was very familiar with the spots, he seemed rather homesick and asked me to think of him when I returned. Next, we visited the Alamo, which has become a shrine to the Texans. Col. Travis offered the chance to any who wanted to save his life, but every man voted to stay with him, knowing there was no chance to escape death. We saw the little rooms where the wounded lay, but most of the fighting took place in the open courtyard. There are many Mexicans in San Antonio, and all with whom we came in contact were very courteous. We had occasion to search for San Markos St. and I inquired of a Mexican girl standing on the corner. Her reply reminded me of Pedro on Judy Canova's radio program: "That way - four blocks, I theenk" We had supper at the Casa Rio, at a table on the patio right alongside the San Antonio River. I had my first Mexican meal. I was not able to identify what I was eating, except that I ordered Chicken Taco and tortillas, round thin pancake affairs, which you butter, then roll up. The sauces which are served separately are very hot, but I sampled them just a little. After supper we headed for Austin, eighty miles to the north, arriving at ten o'clock. I spent a grand week there, visiting the Capitol, the Texas Museum, the University with high tower, affording a splendid view of the entire city. In its library I saw the collection of rare books, one of the finest in the country. These books are available to the students for research study.
I had the thrill of a motor boat ride on Lake Austin, an artificial lake made by a dam on the Austin River, also a long auto trip round the lake and the hills to the north and west of Austin, a wonderful sight at sundown. At the Museum I learned about two bits of Texas history, the siege of Goliad and the Meir Expedition. The Goliad siege preceded the Alamo massacre by just a few weeks, when three hundred and fifty Americans surrendered when their food and water were exhausted. They expected to be made prisoners of war but were marched about a mile from the town and all were shot.
The Meir Expedition occurred in 1842 as a reprisal for two raids against San Antonio. A small force of Americans crossed the border against the town of Meir, but were hopelessly beaten. One hundred and seventy-four were captured, and ten percent were to be shot. There were seventeen black beans and the rest were white. As soon as a man drew a black bean he was shot at once. You still hear the expression, "drawing the black bean," as we use the term "black balled," or "drawing the short end of the stick."
A few hours before I had to take the bus for Dallas, Mary and I drove to Fort Hood, north of Austin, where her son, Joe, is a lieutenant in the armored division, training new recruits. He took us for a partial tour of the huge camp which covers four hundred and fifty square miles. We saw tanks, jeeps, trucks of all kinds, scout planes, and all of the accoutrements of a tank division which enables it to be self sustaining. It was a very interesting and educational trip.
I'll conclude by giving you a personal glimpse of human nature that I saw in Columbus on the last lap home. Two Cleveland men and their wives were just completing a thirty-four day bus trip to the Grand Canyon, West Coast from Los Angeles to Seattle, and Yellowstone Park, but the best part of the trip for one of these men was the ride through the prairies of Kansas, where he could see where he was going. To quote him, "Those mountains and stuff - I don't go for them." Poor man, I wonder why he ever left Ohio, unless his wife liked mountains and stuff. I hope you readers have enjoyed these two letters, but I am glad to turn the BY-WAYS back to Florence.
Virgil J. Taylor
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