In This Issue
|Newsletter of the Houston Heights Association|
|Volume Thirty-Five, Number Ten, October 2009|
|Click here for the print-format PDF version.|
|Click here for the print-format PDF Business Directory.|
|Click here for back issues.|
|Click here to return to main HHA site.|
Heights Bike Rally
HHA’s 4th Annual Heights Bicycle Rally & Scavenger Hunt on Sunday, October 4, will start and end in Marmion Park at 18th & Heights Blvd. The rally runs from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM, then the end-of-the-rally party will start with free popcorn, refreshments, and music provided by “Big Al” Bettis’ Blues Band.
A prize will be awarded to the winner of the scavenger hunt, and a drawing will be held for prizes for rally participants. For rally registration, go to . For rally details, go to . For other rally inquiries, email or call Rally Chairman Paul Carr at 713-869-0505.
Biketoberfest Hits A Bump In The Road
“Biketoberfest,” which we announced in the print edition of this issue, was a group of bicycle-oriented activities that were to have taken place in the Heights on the weekend of October 3 and 4. Construction problems have delayed one of these events and cast doubt on another. The Bike Rally is now the only one of these events still definitely planned for this weekend.
The first event of Biketoberfest would have been the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Heights Hike & Bike Trail. The planning, funding, and construction of the new trail has taken seven years; now it appears it will take two more months. Mayor Bill White and other notables will participate in the ceremony, which is now rescheduled for 9:0-10:00 AM on December 19 at 2424 Spring Street. For more info, contact Dan Raine of the Houston Bikeway Program at or call 713-837-0136.
The second event of Biketoberfest was to have been a party to celebrate the opening of the trail. The party was scheduled for Saturday afternoon on the parking lot of Blue Line Bicycle Lab at White Oak and Columbia Street; plans included free food, entertainment by the Whiskey Saints Band, and a raffle for a new bicycle with proceeds benefitting Bike Houston. We have heard that this event will still be held as scheduled, but we have been unable to confirm any details. For more info, contact Fred Zapalac of Blue Line Bicycle Lab at 713-802-1707 after they open at 11:00 AM.
National Night Out
The Houston Heights Association in conjunction with the Milroy Park Advisory Council and the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department invite you to participate in National Night Out activities on Tuesday, October 6 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at Milroy Park. Milroy Park is located at 1205 Yale, on the northwest corner of 12th and Yale Streets, across Yale from the Fire Station. Turn on your porch lights and come meet your fellow Heightsites in Milroy Park. We’ll have some snacks, treats, and visits from various city officials.
National Night Out is designed to: (1) heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; (2) generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs; (3) strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, and (4) send a message to criminals letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Celebrated across the country on the first Tuesday evening in August, the observation of National Night Out in Texas was moved to October last year to avoid our August heat.
We also encourage all area residents to plan and attend local block parties with their neighbors. See for information about planning local parties. Then join us in Milroy Park before or after your local block party.
Safety RULES at the October General Meeting. Learn about how safety is IMPORTANT in the Heights.
Meet Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia (former long-time District H City Council Member).
Learn about Phase One of the Heights Constable Program from HHA Board Member Bill Baldwin. Hear the Constable report; meet Constables.
Meet representatives from the Houston Police Department. Learn about your neighborhood police programs, including the HPD Positive Interaction Program (“PIP”).
Meet Ed Gonzalez, current City Council Member for District H, and learn about his office hours at the Fire Station.
Everyone is invited. Refreshments will be served. Please join us on Monday, October 12, at 7:00 PM at the Historic Heights Fire Station (12th Street at Yale).
November General Meeting
The program for the November 9 meeting will be Get To Know Your Local Businesses. The meeting will showcase businesses located right here in the Heights! Talk with them and learn about the services and products they have for sale. There will also be door prizes donated by participating businesses. Look for more exciting details in our next issue.
HISD Candidate Forum
The Houston Heights Association Education Committee will be hosting a forum for the HISD Board candidates from District 1. The event will take place Monday morning, October 5, from 7:30 to 9:30 AM at the Fire Station. A light breakfast will be served. This is an opportunity to meet the candidates and ask questions in an informal setting.
The Education Committee is hosting this event with Parents for Public Schools, a national organization that works with parents and supporters to improve and strengthen local public schools. Any questions about the candidate forum may be addressed to or .
Director Candidate Statements
Bill Baldwin: I have served on the Board for the past two years. As the owner of a local real estate agency, I am actively involved with the concerns of our members. I will continue to work for a diversified, progressive, environmentally friendly community and would appreciate your support and vote.
Paul Cottage: A Civil Engineer by education and a General Contractor by choice. As a 3 year Heights resident I’ve served in the Spring/Christmas Home Tours, The Bike Rally, volunteer work on the Boulevard, and been a member of the Boards of Greater Greenspoint Management District and Northborough Property Owners Association.
Lindsey Lee: Being the Houston Heights Association Treasurer has given me the opportunity to join others working to improve our community and serve our neighbors. As a board member, I will work to maintain and strengthen the financial viability of the Association so that it can continue and expand these efforts.
Genie Mims: For nearly 20 years I have worked on numerous HHA events, served as chairman of various committees and have taken photographs for home tours. I’ve noticed a lack of communications between membership and board members. If elected, I want to work on a plan to open the lines of communications.
Trudy Nelson: Volunteer-oriented. Open to new ideas and new people. Mindful of history and tradition. Committed to continuous improvement. Organized. Pro-active. Financially-focused (banker). Non-profit experience. 2008 Holiday Home Tour Chair. 2008 Citizen of Year. Belief in celebrating unique quality of the Heights and willing to work to keep it strong.
Christine Spin: Current HHA Boardmember, VP Meetings/Membership, 2X Home Tour Chair. For bringing new faces to volunteerism, proud recipient of HHA’s New Generation Award. Advocate for education at all ages. Works with Councilman to voice our concerns. Strives to maintain the Heights’ character, safety and prosperity, even as Houston grows and changes.
Bart Truxillo: Respect for historic preservation and the work of the HHA have succeeded in making our neighborhood exceptionally desirable. Managing this success is an on going challenge. Restoring a Heights Victorian in 1976, working with the association, being a past president, twice. I feel I bring experience to the table.
Five of the fifteen positions on the HHA Board of Directors will be filled by election over the next few months. These five positions are opening due to normal expiration of terms; members elected to these five positions will have three-year terms. The five nominees receiving the highest numbers of votes will fill the three-year terms.
The schedule for the election of Directors to serve terms starting in 2010 will be as follows, in accordance with the By-Laws and Policies of the Association:
• October 12, nominees or their representatives may speak on their qualifications at the General Meeting for 3 minutes. They will also draw for ballot positions.
• On or before October 15, the Election Committee will mail a ballot with a control number to each member whose dues are current as of October 1.
• By November 7 at the close of the post office, ballots returned by mail must be received with control numbers intact.
• November 9, polls will be open for secret balloting in person from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM before the General Meeting. The Election Committee will tabulate ballots and announce the results during the meeting. The results will also be published in the December newsletter.
The Houston Heights Association gratefully acknowledges the support of the following 2009 Platinum sponsors:
The next Houston Heights Association Restoration/Historical Committee meeting will be held at 1626 Cortlandt St. on Thursday, October 15 from 7:30 to 9:30 PM.
October is the month for Halloween with all its stories and legends of ghastly things. Here in the Houston Heights there have been a number of stories, some of which have been true, which took place in historic homes. We will visit a home that has been gently renovated with additions and enhancements contributing to the homey, eclectic style we all enjoy. Truly, a “deed was done within.”
Consider that this home was occupied by a lady welder for the Hughes Tool Company during and after the 2nd World War; she left mementos of her work in the home in which she died. These details are a story of mystery to hear just by themselves.
Next consider the purchase of this estate home while the news media were still lingering for more details “as to what actually happened in the home!” And consider how you might resurrect a one-story bungalow built in the early 1900s to add extra living space, weeks after being wed. To keep the yard intact, including an 80-year-old pecan tree, you would tear the roof off in 100-degree heat in August and add a second story! Even if you do not know how to operate an electric drill, you will learn from an experienced husband who takes on all challenges. Sometimes he does this without heat in the “dead” of winter while installing gas lines, removing gas jet heaters, and camping in completed rooms.
Hear how students of Civil War history reflect their varied interests in their living space. Cedar plank ceilings, knotty pine walls, salvaged newel post, and Robert E. Lee statues all in one home. Learn why the neighbors sometimes call this home “Dogwater, Texas.”
This meeting will highlight an unusual example of recycling a Houston Heights property from near tear-down to a very livable home. Overall, meeting attendees will see first hand what eclectic beauty and character can be maintained in the Heights historic neighborhood under adverse circumstances. For those interested in many unusual ghastly stories and added features adding function to a property, this meeting will be a must. Also, for those wanting to talk with a couple that accept all challenges and to meet some neighbors for an enjoyable evening, do attend.
The Houston Heights Restoration/Historical Committee meetings are open to the public quarterly to learn about history and restoration in keeping with the appreciation of the historic nature of the Houston Heights. Please let Chairman Dean Swanson know if you have a restoration project, historical structure under restoration, or historical information about the Heights to share at future meetings. Everyone learns something new at these meetings. Contact Dean at or 713-880-2832.
The October issue of the architecture magazine Dwell featured an article titled “An Introduction to Modern Real Estate.” The fifth item was: “Being part of a local, state, or national historic district helps increase property value significantly, according to numerous academic and governmental studies.” In the same issue, another article mentions a newly modernized home located with “access to Houston Heights, a hip part of town where neighbors chat over espresso at coffee shops and hang out with their kids in nearby parks.”
Urban Forestry Day October 31
Come join us for a fun- and education-packed day at the Heights Fire Station. Learn about your Heights Urban Forest. Pick up treats and learn about the tricks for living in tandem with trees, as well as bird, butterfly, and vegetable gardening. Heights families & neighbors are invited!
The date is Saturday, October 31, from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Please note this date has changed since our last announcement. The Heights Fire Station is located at 12th & Yale Streets.
Since 2005, the Houston Heights Association Urban Forestry Committee (made totally of volunteer professionals) graciously donate their time and resources to promote and educate our neighborhood about the wonders of our Heights Urban Forest with plantings, nature talks & garden tours. Promoting “Living in Tandem with Trees” together with generous corporate and local business partners, local and state urban forestry agencies, and loads of great neighborhood volunteers.
For more information, send email to .
HHWC Halloween Witches Luncheon
Bats, Rats, Cats? Nah ... It’s Witches who rule! The Houston Heights Woman’s Club will hold its First Annual Witches Luncheon on Friday, October 30. The location will be the new restaurant at 1001 Studewood (the former Bedford Restaurant, now under new ownership).
Spirits will flow at 11:30 AM. Edibles (no one you know) served at Noon. Member price is $35; Non-Members $40. Cash Bar. Cauldron Awards: Good Witch and Bad Witch, Best Witch Hat/Outfit, Door Prize from Oolala!
RSVP to for an Evite Invitation (with option to pay online) OR mail check payable to: Houston Heights Woman’s Club (HHWC), P.O. Box 7782, Houston, TX 77270-7782.
2009 Holiday Home Tour Update: Stay at Home this Year
CLEARLY, we do not mean for you to stay at your own home - unless, of course, your home is on the Tour! This year’s Holiday Home Tour theme, “Home for the Holidays,” is meant to remind you that the Heights is where your heart and home are and that there is so much more “home” in the Heights than even we knew! So mark your calendars now for the 2009 Heights Holiday Home Tour on Friday, December 4 (6:00 - 9:00 PM) and Saturday, December 5 (3:00 - 9:00 PM)! Um… we really meant that last bit. Did you do it? *Sigh* Put the coffee down. Hoist yourself up. Get the BlackBerry, iPhone, or the black marker or whatever you do your calendaring with and, uh, yeah, block the time. Okay, back to the article.
Seven lovely and amazing houses will be dressed in their holiday best ready to welcome you and your true friends (now we’ll see who invites you!) into the holiday season. Where else can you find such fun, ideas, and in this economic time, hours of entertainment for $17 advance purchase?? Even the procrastinators will be hard pressed to argue with $20 to attend (what else could you pay the average-per-door price of $2.86, stay as long or short as you like, learn, spy, talk with, and get to know cool people and ask nosy questions?!? We didn’t THINK so!).
The Heights Branch Library is also fully into the swing of things and has pledged to stay open for the full Tour hours on both days to provide a rest stop, a place to see more history and photographs of the Heights “back when,” and, on Saturday, a chance for the kids to see Santa. The Heights Women’s Club will be onsite at the Fire Station at 12th and Yale. We are sure to be delighted with what they bring to the table. Remember that the Fire Station is also a shuttle and rest stop and ticket sale location. More details later!
What the Heck are the Tour People Doing?
It’s an exciting time for the volunteers and homeowners alike as we do walkthroughs of homes, imagine them with decorations here and there, mentally place the docents, and begin to put the history of the houses and points of interest about them and the owners into talking points. The houses have been numbered according to shuttle route and we’re now working on nearest best shuttle stops. We’re embarking again on our journey to be sure that the tickets are available for sale at your favorite and convenient business locations throughout the Heights. Oh! And that the posters and tickets are pretty (i.e. nicely designed) and, lest we forget, actually printed! We’re also rather ambitiously trying to compile a list of eateries since all of this touring tends to build up appetites. We have quite a lot going on so if you are bored, you have not sent us an appropriate e-mail! (pssst! See address below in the Volunteer section…)
Map Your Route
Several of this years’ homes are located within walking distance of each other (see last month’s newsletter for addresses; maps will be forthcoming in print material), so begin plotting your perfect route and start thinking about how you’d like to get around! Please think about enjoying more of your time in the Heights with neighbors and friends, and reducing environmental impact: the bicycle trail is open (yay!), carpooling to central locations and walking to clustered homes, and of course shuttle services will be available on both Friday and Saturday this year. Also, if you’d like to stretch out your experience (because you’re stretching your legs??), why not plan to visit a couple of homes on Friday evening and catch the rest on Saturday? However you choose to see the homes, have fun and enjoy!
As are all fundraising efforts to support the Heights, this one is volunteer-run through and through. So we look to you to help us make the Tour another resounding success! This year’s Volunteer Coordinator, Darla Fanelli, has been compiling the names and will be making initial assignments as early as September 14. When you send your name to (we especially love those who volunteer themselves and others in the e-mails we receive!), please let us know if you have a preference for home or role and/or if you have prior experience on either a Spring or a Holiday Home Tour. (We like to try to evenly distribute newbies and experienced volunteers - more fun that way.) It will also save legwork if you go ahead and provide your cell phone number. We may have failed to mention this, but each docent earns a free Tour ticket!!! Think about it: Bring your friend on a volunteer date selling tickets and then have another outing at the Tour itself. Honestly, it brings tears to our eyes it is so good.
Bring a friend, spend time with your family, or enjoy the tour on your own and make some friends and family along the way. Support your Heights at the 2009 Holiday Home Tour by staying “Home for the Holidays” this year!
“Home for the Holidays” Sneak Preview
On Thursday, December 3, supporters of the Houston Heights Association’s 2009 Holiday Home Tour will be treated to a special preview of many HHA Holiday Home Tour homes, as well as a patron party at the gracious home of Patti Worthington, 1135 Heights Boulevard, one of the most spectacular homes in the Heights.
Access to this inaugural event is for “bells” only - that is, Jingle Bells, Sleigh Bells, and Silver Bells (indicating their level of support for the HHA Holiday Home Tour, starting at $100). The “bells” will have access to many of the homes on the holiday tour from 6:00 to 8:00 PM on Thursday, December 3 (as well as access during regular tour hours). “Bells” are then invited to partake in holiday cheer at Mrs. Worthington’s home from 7:30 to 10:00 PM. Delights will include mistletoe morsels and holiday beverages from numerous Heights-area restaurants. Plus, there will be swag bags for all, filled with a gift from Jubilee, Anne Sloan’s new book (or the postcard pack) from Arcadia Publishing, Images of America: Houston Heights, and other surprises.
ACCESS IS LIMITED, so if you are interested in more information about becoming a supporter of the HHA’s Holiday Home Tour, visit or email .
Volunteers on Heights Boulevard
Thanks to Nancy Simpson for the donation of two large Nuttall Oaks for the Heights Boulevard esplanade in memory of her parents, Ernest F. Simpson and Betty Simpson. Not only did Nancy donate the trees, but she also saw to planting them (on the 500 and 1200 blocks) and extending the sprinkler system to make sure they get off to a good start.
Thanks also go to the Immanuel Lutheran 8th grade class who, again this year, are helping out on the Boulevard one afternoon each month. In September, nine students quickly managed to move 20 cubic yards of mulch to enlarge one of the 500 block mulch beds in preparation for more tree planting. The mulch was generously donated by San Jacinto Stone.
With cooler weather on its way, we are starting to plant trees again on the esplanade. Since last September, when Ike took down about 50 trees on the Heights Boulevard esplanade and seriously damaged many others, volunteers have planted 25 trees. We’ll be putting in at least 50 more (and the sprinklers needed to support them) in the coming months. If you’d like to help, send an email to and we’ll add you to the mailing list for upcoming work sessions.
The Houston Heights Association gratefully acknowledges the support of the following Fall 2009 Bronze Sponsors:
New Photo Book Signing Set
We are proud to announce the culmination of the historic photo book project first mentioned here last September in the availability of a new book - Images of America: Houston Heights by Anne Sloan and the Houston Heights Association - containing more than 220 images plus text and a companion packet of 15 postcards with additional images. The publisher, Arcadia Publishing, has set the prices at $21.99 for the book and $7.99 for the postcard packet.
The first signing for the book will be held at the Heights Branch Library on October 10 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Copies will be available there for purchase by cash, check, or credit card.
Primary author Anne Sloan says “In selecting the photographs for this book, I tried very hard to portray the diversity to the neighborhood - the bungalows and working people. I also tried hard to not use Sister Agatha’s nor Randy [Pace]’s photos. Obviously I did use a few, but I didn’t want it to be a book that people would pick up and say, ‘Oh I’ve seen that!’ I hope I succeeded in finding new photos that would still carry the impact and the interest level of these earlier photos”
Preorders by credit card are now being accepted online for delivery after the signing; visit our home page and click on the title of the book or the postcard packet. Orders by check may be mailed using the order form in the print or PDF edition. Online and mail orders carry a shipping and handling fee of $5.00 per book and $3.00 per postcard packet. Copies ordered online or by mail will not be signed.
The books and postcard packets will be available for purchase at the October and November General Meetings and at the Holiday Home Tour, December 4 and 5, but come on October 10 if you want your copy of the book signed by Anne.
Spotlight on Heights Business Member:
Joellen Snow, Attorney at Law
We continue with the newsletter feature “Spotlight on Heights Business Member” - this month spotlighting Joellen Snow, Attorney at Law. You may have noticed the recent newsletter issues have been focusing on a local business. These businesses are drawn from business cards collected at the Houston Heights Association Business Mixer. The next Quarterly mixer is October 14.
Joellen Snow was born in Houston and is a fifth generation Texan. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Michigan State University, a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Texas School of Law, and a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Joellen moved to the Heights in 1980 when she purchased her 1907 Queen Anne cottage from a former law firm colleague’s mother. She loves old houses with front porches, antique furniture, and folk art. Much of her furniture is from R&F Antiques here in the Heights.
Over the years Joellen’s house has undergone several renovations. Her home has been featured on the Spring Home Tour and in a Bluebell Ice Cream commercial. Joellen offices at 1148 Heights Boulevard in a 1924 brick bungalow. She bought this house for her office because she loved the location and the huge live oak trees surrounding the house. It received the HHA Community Improvement Award in 1986 for Commercial Restoration. Both her home and office are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Joellen is married to Stan O’Neal. They have two daughters, Megan and Ellen. Megan is a digital communications student at Houston Community College. Sadly, Ellen lost her battle with brain cancer in 2001 at the age of 7. That experience confirmed Joellen’s awareness of what a small town in the big city the Heights is, due to the tremendous outpouring of support her family received from Heights residents during Ellen’s illness and following her death.
Since then Joellen has become active in the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance, an organization which provides support for families with children with cancer. You may have noticed the tree and marker in the 1100 block of Heights Boulevard planted in Ellen’s memory. In addition there are a bench in Donovan Park and a kindergarten courtyard at Harvard Elementary with tiles painted in Ellen’s memory. Each year six Harvard students receive the annual Ellen O’Neal Art Scholarship to attend the Mad Hatter’s Art Camp here in the Heights.
Joellen is active in the Houston Heights Association, having served multiple board terms and co-chaired the building of the Heights Playground at Donovan Park with Anne Culotta. At St. Mark’s United Methodist Church she chairs the worship committee and plays in the bell choir.
Joellen has practiced law in Houston for thirty years. Her practice has been exclusively in the areas of wills and estate planning, probate, and guardianship for the past twenty years. She has also served as an associate municipal court judge for the City of Houston for the past twenty-seven years. All of this experience uniquely qualifies Joellen for her next endeavor: she is a candidate for Judge of Harris County Probate Court 2.
In her spare time, Joellen enjoys Jazzercise. She has performed with the Heights Jazzercise group at several Rockets and Comets games and at the Heights Festival. Her favorite places in the Heights include Chatters, Berryhill, Viet Nam, Crickets, Shade, R&F Antiques, and the 19th Street shops.
Next time you need an attorney with expertise in wills and estate planning, probate or guardianship, please support Heights business member Joellen Snow. If you’re a business member, come to the October Business Mixer and meet Joellen and other business members.
The next Houston Heights Association Business Member Mixer will be Wednesday, October 14 at 6:30 PM at the Fire Station. Come meet your fellow business owners and hear about the opportunity to show off your products and services at the November General Meeting. Contact Donna Buchanan at .
Super Neighborhood 22 Candidate Forums
The Washington Avenue Coalition/Memorial Park Super Neighborhood (firstname.lastname@example.org) will host two forums for City Council At Large races this month.
The Candidate Forum for At Large Positions 1 and 4 will be on Monday, October 12, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the West End Multi-Service Center, 170 Heights Blvd. (between Washington Avenue and I-10). The Candidate Forum for At Large Positions 2 and 5 will on Monday, October 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Dow School Building, 1900 Kane Street in the Old Sixth Ward Protected Historic District.
For additional information please direct inquiries to . Also, please be aware that SN 22 activities can be followed on .
Please welcome the following new or returning members to the Houston Heights Association.
Thanks to the following for their support of the programs of the Houston Heights Association.
Brian & Barbara Balance - Graffiti Abatement
Jim & Donna Bennett - Graffiti Abatement
Mark & Stacey Courville - Parks, Boulevard, Flower Gardens
Ken & Anne Culotta - Graffiti Abatement
Simon & Linda Eyles - Graffiti Abatement
Lisa & Tom Gladney - Graffiti Abatement
Grogan Building Supply Co. - Heights Bicycle Rally
Mary Scott Hagle & Daniel Kornberg
Cheri & Carl Hanemann - Boulevard Maintenance
Donald & Joann Hardey - Graffiti Abatement
Ramsey Jankowski - Parks, Boulevard, Flower Gardens
Charles & Cordelia Martin - Graffiti Abatement
Mary Murdoch - Boulevard Maintenance
Thomas & Virginia Norwood - Boulevard
Allen G. Pike - Boulevard Maintenance
Eric & Noelle Reed - Boulevard Reforestation and Flower Gardens
Steve & Linda Rogero - Flower Gardens
John & Gail Siegel - Graffiti Abatement
Tracy Southwick - Parks Maintenance
Houston Heights Son, WWII Veteran, And Author Passes Away
Robert Ellis Robinson of Silver Spring, Maryland, who departed this life on September 5, 2009, considered himself one of the luckiest. If asked why, Bob often turned storyteller, a favored communication mode.
Born into the family of Dr. Guffie Jefferson Robinson and Neva Florence Robinson in Houston Heights on February 7, 1920, his family included one sister and five brothers. “Even into old age I think of myself as ‘a Robinson boy,’” Bob said. “That meant meeting not only parental and grandparental expectations, but demands by older and younger siblings. The family had standards of what ‘being a Robinson boy’ meant.” Both of Robinson’s grandfathers and his own father were Presbyterian elders. Bob counted this fact as one of life’s blessings.
He first laid eyes on Washington D.C. with a group of Houston Boy Scouts. They came to a 1937 Jamboree, camping on the Haines Point golf course for two weeks. He had entered a contest, the prize being an all-expenses-paid Jamboree trip. He did not win, but a benevolent family friend decided he should go anyway. He never forgot lining up on Constitution Avenue with 10,000 scouts from all over the world and Franklin Roosevelt riding past in an open limousine. Or finding his way to Griffith Stadium and seeing Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig play in 1937’s all-star baseball game. “I thought the National Capital was the most beautiful city I had ever seen, that I must live there someday,” Bob said. As luck would have it, that wish came true.
He was a University of Texas senior working at a news job in an Austin radio station on Pearl Harbor Sunday. Within weeks he was enlisted in the US Army Air Force, joining four Robinson brothers who would see military service in that war. (He served from 2/7/42 to 5/16/45.) He was sent to officer candidate school, lived in a Miami Beach hotel. After being commissioned his first duty assignment was with the Air Transport Command at Washington’s National Airport. Other “lucky assignments” during WW II took him to New York City and to air bases in Tunis, Naples, Rome, and Paris. The latter station saw his assignment as Deputy Chief of Staff of ATC’s European Division with quarters in the Plaza Athanee Hotel. When the Division’s Commanding General decided to fly home to Washington for Christmas in 1945 he offered Major Robinson a ride. At the National Airport’s bachelor officer’s quarters Bob waited for a plane to carry him home to Texas. He decided to ask the new owner of the Austin radio station where he had worked before the war if there might be a job for him in Austin. The station’s new owner’s name was Ladybird Johnson. She answered the phone when he called the Johnson residence in the Sheraton Park Hotel. Ladybird referred the job question to her husband, Congressman Lyndon Johnson. Bob soon found himself being interviewed in LBJ’s Capitol Hill office. The interview ended with LBJ saying, “When the Air Force releases you, go see the station manager in Austin. Tell him I said to put you on the payroll.”
Thanks to the GI benefits program and the radio job, Bob completed graduate studies at UT in 1950, taking a Master’s Degree in English. He began a freelance writing career, selling articles to such magazines as Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, and Red Book. In 1954 he and Martha Nell Boone of Gainesville, FL were married, making their home in Washington. Between writing assignments Bob also worked from 1955-57 as a University of Maryland English Department Instructor and as news reporter for WWDC radio. From 1959-1967 he was Director of News and Editorial Operations for WWDC, managing an award-winning staff and personally covering Republican and Democratic political conventions, Congress, the White House, and presidential inaugurals. He was on duty during the JFK assassination and funeral, the LBJ presidency, and the 1964 election.
In 1967 he became Chief, Publications Staff, Office of Research, Statistics, and International Policy for the Social Security Administration in Washington, DC. He retired from government service in 1985.
Bob’s interests and writer-publishing experiences continued during his retirement years. He served in many positions at North Chevy Chase Christian Church in Maryland, including editor of The Caller, a monthly newspaper focused on community events. For five years he edited with his wife Martha the Montgomery County Historical Preservation Commission’s newsletter.
In Northumberland County, Virginia, he became active in an environmental organization called the Northumberland Association for Progressive Stewardship. The group’s newsletter, which the Robinsons edited, fostered interest in Northumberland’s environmental heritage and preservation of Chesapeake Bay water quality.
They became charter members of the original Rice’s Hotel/Hughletts’s Tavern Foundation Board of Directors. The Foundation’s purpose: to preserve from demolition by neglect the oldest courthouse tavern in Virginia’s Northern Neck, a structure dating from the 1640’s and located in Heathsville. Bob organized a volunteer group to work on the restoration and promoted Foundation activities through newsletters and other publications. A successful fundraising program saved the structure from demolition and ultimately saw its restoration into a viable modern restaurant and historical attraction for visitors.
Interest in history led him to family genealogy research throughout his retirement years. With the encouragement and support of his wife and brothers, Doctor Robinson, His Life and Times, a 250-page biography of his father’s life was published in 1993. With his son they published in 2003 The First Seven Generations of Robinsons in Virginia & North Carolina, a family history for the period 1640-1825. For many years a periodic newsletter, Robinson Family News, documented for readers family history dating from the 16th Century.
Bob considered himself as “one of the luckiest,” yet his survivors would all agree that they are the lucky ones to have experienced the steadfast joy, blessing, and love that he poured upon them throughout his precious life.
Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Martha Nell Boone Robinson; four daughters, Shirley Lalia Robinson Werth of Adelphi, MD, Elizabeth Smith Robinson of Falls Church, VA, Susan Threet Cochran of Mt. Airy, MD, Mary Catherine Stone of Boones Mill, VA; one son, Phillip Rease Robinson of Silver Spring, MD; three sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law; 15 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. One surviving sibling is G. John Robinson of Austin, TX.
The family has requested that expressions of sympathy be made to the Houston Heights Association for historic preservation work.
Calendar of Events for October-November 2009
HHA headquarters: The Fire Station is on the corner of Yale and 12th Streets.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Historic Houston’s salvage warehouse is open. Call 713-522-0542 or visit their web site .
Every Monday, 7:30 to 10:00 PM, Houston International Folk Dancers introductory lessons at Oddfellows Hall, 115 E. 14th.
October 3, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Citizens Congress III and Mayoral Candidate Forum in George R. Brown Convention Center. For more information, visit .
October 3, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The City of Houston kicks off its Solar Tour with a social at Discovery Green from 9:00 to 11:00 AM. Self-guided Solar Tours of the Greater Houston Area run from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, featuring local residences and commercial buildings with solar and other renewable energy systems. The main purpose of the tour is to raise awareness and provide an opportunity for the public to see working systems in place. This free event is sponsored by the City of Houston, American Solar Society, Houston Renewable Energy Group, and Houston Advanced Research Center. For more information visit .
October 3, 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church will hold their Autumn Bazaar at the church, 1819 Heights Boulevard. A variety of artists, crafters and specialty vendors will showcase and sell their wares. Items on hand will include handcrafted jewelry, accessories and toys for babies and children, unique art and home decor, handmade clothing, purses and accessories, old-fashioned quilts, yard art, books, stained glass, health and beauty products, and much, much more! Admission is free.
October 3, 10:00 AM. Kicking off the Bazaar, St. Andrew’s will host a Blessing of the Animals. Dogs, cats, birds, and other beloved creatures will be welcomed on the front lawn of the church for a special blessing from parish rector Rev. Barbara Lewis. The event commemorates St. Francis of Assisi and his love for all creatures. Animals large and small and their owners are invited. Please bring pets on a leash or in a carrier.
October 3, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Immanuel Lutheran School holds its Fall Carnival at the school, 306 E. 15th Street. Their afternoon of fun includes games, prizes, carnival rides, a raffle, crafts booths, and great food. Everyone is welcome.
October 3, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, the kick-off for Books on the Bayou will take place at the Central Library, 500 McKinney. The Houston Public Library invites you to participate in this citywide project focusing on readings held throughout the month of October. The idea is that the entire city will read the same book at the same time, provoking discussion among co-workers, friends, families, and classrooms. This year’s selection is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. The kick-off celebration will feature special guest Lucy Anne Hurston, Zora’s niece, who will speak at 1:00 PM. For more information on this and other events at the Houston Public Library, visit or call 832-393-1313.
October 4, 12:30 to 2:30 PM, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church presents Bren Hardt on ways of communicating with compassion to open relationships and build bridges. For more information, call 713-861-3104 or visit .
October 10, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Houston Fire Department’s Training Facility at 8030 Braniff (south of Hobby Airport) hosts Firefest 2009 as part of Fire Prevention Month. Parking at Monroe and Meldrum; free shuttle service. Proceeds benefit the programs of the Houston Fire Museum .
October 15, 10:00 AM, White Cane Day march starts at 914 Main Street, ending at City Hall. Celebration and displays follow immediately. Part of Disability Awareness Month. For further Information contact Lori Lawson at 713-802-3100 (DARS) or Peggy Garrett 281-438-9665 (Houston Council of the Blind).
October 30, HWC Witches luncheon, see article above.
December 4-5, Holiday Home Tour
February 28, 2010, Awards Dinner
April 9-11, Spring Home Tour
June 5, Heights Fun Run
October 3, Bicycle Rally
Copyright and Submissions
The Heights is published monthly by the Houston Heights Association. Its purpose is to acknowledge achievements and to inform HHA members of events.
Copyright 2009, the Houston Heights Association and/or the authors unless otherwise noted.
Newsletter inquiries, suggestions, or submissions should be directed to:
Editor, The Heights, P.O. Box 70735, Houston, TX 77270-0735;
email ; or leave a message on 713-861-4002.
Staff and Contributors
Editor: Mark R. Williamson
Assistant Editor Kathleen S. Williamson
Stephanie Babb, Jim Bennett, Paul Carr, Angela DeWree, Diane Easley, Lauriel Hindman, Trudy Nelson, Robert and Phillip Robinson, Margarete Sanchez, Anne Sloan, Katrina Stilwell, Marianne Sulser, Dean Swanson, Bart Truxillo.