I can’t take credit for the following dispatch. This one belongs to my mother. She wrote it after the new owners of the property had the house razed. I found her writing while searching for something else and just had to share here. -ch
6 November 2017
By Joni Tidwell Haldeman
A story that began in the early days of the 20th century came to an end tonight. I was in high school, when I first heard the story. It was one that I remembered and loved to share, as it had the sense of an authentic southern tale…there was a rhythm to it. It never occurred to me that it would become a part of my life.
It is the story of a house…and not just any house. It is the story of a family or families, I should say. And they were not just any families, but those considered, by most, as privileged, upper class – special people. They were all – larger than life – even during their lifetimes. For the most part, they are all gone now. And tonight, that saddens me. I long to hear the sound of their voices…the sounds of their world.
A.G. Crump Sr. built the house I live in now. His only son, Anderson Givens Jr. was born in this house, in 1896. And when the time came for Givens Jr. to take a wife, his father built a house for the young couple. He built the house next door. Or rather I should say, he had it built.
What I would give to know who actually built the house next door! The exterior could not be categorized in any particular style, but the interior was a wonderful surprise. Entering the front door, the living room was filled with natural light from the windows that covered the east and north walls. The windows were solid glass on the bottom three quarters, with small panes across the top. To the left was a fire place. But your attention was drawn to the divider that separated the room from the formal dining room. There were built-in wooden cabinets on either side of the opening, with square columns rising to a wooden beamed arch. It was only then that your eyes found a four-square beam covering the ceiling. All of the wood – doors, door frames, window frames, beams…were stained dark. Or maybe the darkness came with age. The floors were hardwood.
A plate rail set the dining room apart. I often thought of the proximity of the railroad to the house, and wondered how many plates had been lost to the vibrations of the steam engines of old.
A door to the right, entered a room that was added on at some point. It was a bedroom, with a bath. The door to the west, led to the breakfast room….with its built-in three-sided booth under a large window, on the right. A “butler’s pantry” filled the left wall. Glass doors covered shelves above a cabinet with drawers for linens and dinnerware.
A swinging door led to the kitchen. Again, it was the windows that you noticed first. The kitchen its self, was non-descript. It was not a room that was used very often by the occupants. When the house was actually built, there was no running water…
There was a door to a screened back porch. There was also a door to the left that took you into what was a bedroom, and from there, to a hall, with another bathroom to the right, and ending in another bedroom.
Originally, the house next door was a two bedroom structure, with no indoor plumbing. That would come in time. As would the house become a home.
Givens married Georgia Berry Lindsay in June of 1919. Their only son, Givens Lindsay Crump was born in the house next door in June of 1922. Voices from long ago tell me that Lindsay was adored by all, a cherished, precious child. I believe I can say, those endearments were still true, when he left this world at the age of 89.
So the story of the house and how the last true occupant got there. Georgia Berry’s brother married her dearest friend, Hazel Mac Lenox.….and they moved in….the reason lost to the passage of time…..Givens and Georgia Berry’s marriage did not last, and he moved out…then Georgia Berry and Lindsay moved out, leaving the house to her brother and Hazel Mac. Hazel Mac’s parent’s home burned down and Tom and Mary “Mamie”, along with son, Jack, moved in the house next door. Hazel Mac’s marriage ended, and her husband moved out. Brother Jack would marry and with his bride, reside for a time in the house next door. Hazel Mac would remarry and leave…but would return upon the death of her father. She shared the home with her mother and daughter. She always said she got the house by default…she was the only one left. She would be next door until her death in 1986.
I was a Senior in High School, when I decided to take piano lessons after an absence of many years. Hazel Mac was my teacher. Robyn Pinkham had the time before me….Tim Rhea, followed me. Both are talented pianist today. Myself? I know a lot of stories….that was mostly how my time, sitting on the piano bench, was spent.
I know that when her parent’s home burned to the ground – her Mother remained upstairs too long, much to horrors of family and friends. She was throwing her jewelry out the window…a string of pearls breaking, and the days spent looking for … and finding them all. The jeweler, Judge Owen, cleaned and restrung – restored the piece.
The house that burned was a two-story Victorian, that sat on the north half of the block of now Crockett – then South Street, between West and Johnson Streets. There was a picket fence surrounding the property and a monkey lived in a cage, in the front yard. And there was music – from the piano or from the Victrola….
I know that Tom Lenox was in Dallas, staying at the Adolphus Hotel, when he demanded the hotel phone operator to get the Secretary of War – in De Kalb Texas. The perplexed young woman connected with the operator in De Kalb – and reported that a gentleman seemed to think that the Secretary of War was in De Kalb and he insisted on speaking with him….the operator here…could it have been Mrs. Chasteen??? – understood perfectly and replied “please hold for Mrs. Lenox.”
I know that Hazel Mac’s aunt had a young son – a baby, that had died. And her father, loved his sister very much and could not bear her to suffer from this loss…The year was 1900. Galveston had been destroyed by a massive hurricane. Thousands were dead, hundreds of children left orphans. Tom Lenox took the train from De Kalb to Houston and then made his way to Galveston to bring a baby home for his sister. A baby girl, name unknown, who miraculously survived the horrors, was given Tom Lenox’s middle name – Boyce.
I know that when indoor plumbing – running water – came to De Kalb, the house next door soon made room for a bathroom. The novelty of the commode and its flushing operations fascinated all. While I cannot remember who all was present on this day, I do know that each had a turn flushing and watching the water empty from the bowl, only to reappear in a matter of seconds. It was Mamie Lenox that took one more turn…and as she pulled the commode chain down – the large diamond encrusted brooch that she always wore – fell from her dress and disappeared into the abyss. It was never recovered.
So many stories…so many memories. Classey & C.F. Williams…they took care of Hazel Mac. We would laugh at Hazel Mac’s inability to use a can opener…
We moved into our home in July of 1980. The home next door became a part of our lives…Charles, Charlie and me. Hazel Mac would call at night – if I didn’t have a light on in the rooms on the north side of the house. She would come to Charlie’s birthday parties and roll her eyes as children hung around her neck. We did not lock a door – as she would walk in as needed. She would drive thru the yards…right up to my back steps or thru the front to go to church.
I sent Charlie a picture of Hazel Mac’s house today. The windows were gone. I tried to remember if I had “good” pictures of the home. I do. Just as I have “good” pictures … in my heart and in my head of all the people, all the events .. that belonged to the home next door.