An East Texas Stories Podcast!

The first two episodes of Pine Curtain Confidential Season One, Ghost Story, Ghost Town are available now!

These two short east Texas history podcast episodes introduce us to Homer, Texas and one of its haunting mysteries, using folklore and community stories to tie a Texas ghost story to real events. New episodes drop the week of Oct. 11.

Listen on Buzzsprout, Spotify, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Amazon Music or Stitchr. New platforms, including Apple Podcasts coming soon!

Research notes for this season are available here!

Future Cat Lady

Cat Lady in Training,” by Stephanie Khattak

If you have been connected with me for any amount of time, you know I am a cat lady. Here is the kitty that started it all, Baby Kitty in my arms, in this print based off of a 1979 photo. Baby Kitty was a gray striped tabby who lived in the barn between my house and my great-grandmother’s house. I don’t remember her being an inside cat, but she was always around and a really good sport while I learned to love animals. Baby Kitty was a beloved member of our family, to be cherished and pampered as such. As has been the case with every cat, dog (and in my cousins’ cases – horse, snake, parakeet and Galapagos turtle) since then.

Research Notes: “Ghost Story, Ghost Town”

Hopefully, you will be or were able to tune in to my 2021 Folklore in the Archives talk, “Ghost Story, Ghost Town,” covering a pivotal moment in Homer, Texas history and one of East Texas’ many ghost stories that has endured through the years. Here are a few supporting resources along with links to relevant archive collections for further independent exploring.

Archival information:
The History Center, Diboll, Texas
The Ruth Grant Homer History Collection, The History Center, Diboll, Texas
Portal to Texas History, The Banner, Homer, Texas


Photos:

Sarah Scroggins (right) with her parents and children in Old Homer, 1900. Shortly after Robert Scroggins was murdered.
Robert and Sarah Scroggins (seated) with their children and Sarah’s mother.

Digitized Newspapers:

Witness Testimony: Angelina County Press, May 4, 1900 via The History Center

Addendum:

This information appears in episodes 1-4 of Pine Curtain Confidential Season 1, an expansion and continuation of this story.

Prohibition and Temperance in Texas, Texas State Historical Association

“In the nineteenth century a movement against alcoholic beverages arose when some Americans, appalled by the social damage and individual wreckage that alcohol consumption too often seemed to cause, sought to persuade citizens to refrain from drinking liquor. This “temperance” movement enjoyed considerable success and continued parallel with the prohibition movement.”

Prohibition Party (PRO), Wikipedia

The Big Thicket of Southeast Texas, TexasHistory.Com

“These were pioneers that were looking for land of their own and looking for privacy. They were individuals that didn’t come to join the chamber of commerce. They were people who lived off the land and whatever they crops they could raise and whatever game they could hunt.” – Dr. Francis E. Abernethy

Contact Information:

Please get in touch if you have questions or comments, or if you would like for me to speak to your group on this or related topics. If you are interested in other topics like this, I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter to learn when my podcast launches later in September.

All archival images, digitized newspapers, etc. are used courtesy of their holding institutions. Please do not copy or publish my presentation, slides or research notes pages without permission. This content is is free to share on social media with credit to Stephanie Khattak, Pine Curtain Project and a link back to this Website or the appropriate social media platform.

Stephanie Khattak, info@khattakstudios.com

Ready to Fly

“Ready to Fly,” by Stephanie Khattak

My grandmother’s cousin was a career flight attendant. She worked for Braniff International in the swinging sixties, among other notable things, and retired from American Airlines in the mid-nineties after a long and interesting career. Now she lives across town from me with a designer cat and a bunch of friends who are (almost) as fabulous as she is.

Here she is with her mother in their yard. I would estimate the year as somewhere in the late 50s. This was definitely not a Braniff outfit, so I’m guessing it was early in her career. All of her Braniff photos are at her house, and I’m sure she will share them when I pester her about it enough.

East Texas Video Archive

I’m not the first amateur archivist in the family. My dad, for as long as I can remember, has documented community and family life in East Texas, first with reel-to-reel recorders and Super 8 videos, then with a huge brick of a VHS camcorder (which went on every family vacation, duct-taped and cumbersome, until the late 90s, when the battery kept falling out at Graceland.) Now, like everyone else, he uses his iPhone and sometimes the video functionality on his digital camera. But he kept EVERYTHING, and a few years ago gifted me with a box of roughly 30-40 discs, each with 4-5 events captured on it. Best of all, he had long before captured the Super 8s onto the VHS, a painstaking process where he set up the screen in the living room, put on his oldies records, and videoed the screen while my mom and I tiptoed around the set-up and tried not to knock anything over or share incriminating gossip that might be picked up on audio. He later transferred those videos to DVDs as well, so they’re also in the box.

As modern technology evolved, I eventually found myself with no DVD player, and also no real way to copy those discs to a digital format. But they are treasures, and I knew that in particular, there was a Homer history talk by the OG Homer Historian, Mrs. Ruth Grant, in an event at our church in the early aughts. Because I don’t know of a labled map of old Homer, I needed to see if she mentioned any locations or had other information that I could use in my upcoming folklore presentation. So, I went on Amazon, bought some new equipment and started my journey down memory lane.

The good news is that it all works perfectly and I have been having a great time seeing so many memories again. I did find Mrs. Grant’s lecture, and it provided some missing links and also, since she was an expressive talker, I am able to estimate some of the important landmarks of old Homer based on which direction she pointed as she spoke.

This is really exciting for me, not only for this particular event I am preparing for, but also in general to see how I can use more multimedia content to create for and enhance the Pine Curtain Project.

The missing link!
The family dog’s haircut and then his funeral. Not on the same day. RIP Tater.
Not sure what happened at the Smokey Bear museum, but it must have been unpleasant!
My patron saint these days. She’s done all the hard work, I’m mostly just sifting through and organizing it.
How I wish she was still with us to discuss these things in person!

Catch!

“Catch it! Got it!” By Stephanie Khattak. 12×18 Acrylic Monotype on Paper.

This print was taken from a vintage photo from the late 1960s in Lufkin, in the deep East Texas. My uncle and cousin playing baseball in my great-grandmother’s yard, dodging pine trees to catch the ball. Somewhere in front of them, there must have been a batter and a photographer. No cameras were harmed as far as I know!

East Texas Car Share

“Paper Mill Car Share.” Acrylic monotype, 18X24 by Stephanie Khattak.

This piece is based on another Farm Security Administration photo by John Vachon. It shows four Southland paper mill workers and their car share vehicle. I like that it also shows their work gear and lunch boxes. Reminds me of how my dad used to dress for work and the lunch box he carried for so many years. My mom always packed my dad’s lunch (or dinner, if he was on an evening or overnight shift) and used to put Mrs. Baird’s fruit pies in there for dessert. So, when I see these types of lunch boxes, I think of fried pies and those big metal clasps snapping shut.

The paper mill has been a theme in my work before and probably will be again. As I’ve mentioned, it had a huge effect for Lufkin and surrounding areas, too. It was one of the largest employers for generations, and when it shut down, it didn’t necessarily tank the economy because I feel at that time the town’s economic drivers were changing anyway. But it definitely caused a shift and left a lot of people displaced, professionally. It is integral to the larger East Texas story.

Research Notes: Balinese Room

One of the family history threads I’ve been researching leads to Galveston, Texas in the 1930s-40s and the Maceo family, and by extension, Galveston’s Balinese Room. This spot was super-popular in its heyday, attracting visits and performances from celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Peggy Lee and others. Apparently it was quite the place to be – and a dance hall and illegal casino stretching over the Gulf of Mexico does sound pretty cool!

“On January 17th, 1942, the Maceos opened their Galveston jewel, the Balinese Room. The interior had been remodeled in a South Seas motif and the pier had again been expanded, this time to 600 feet. Its private back room was equipped with the most modern gaming equipment, and long before Vegas attracted the big names, the Maceos lured high rollers to “Play on Galveston Island.”” – via Galveston Island/Facebook

Unfortunately, time and Galveston’s famous tropical storms and hurricanes have erased The Balinese Room from its prominent spot across from Hotel Galvez, at 21st and Seawall Blvd. After being purchased and rebuilt several times over the decades, Hurricane Ike demolished it, leaving only the memories and memorabilia of this distinctive place.

Later on, I will dive deeper into my family’s connection with Maceo family associates and its repercussions. For now, enjoy these images and scroll down to read more about this fascinating place and period in Galveston and Texas history.


June 10, 1957:The Balinese Room at 2107 Seawall Blvd, Galveston. via Houston Chronicle Files
Galveston’s Seawall Boulevard and Balinese Room, via Galveston Island/Facebook

Please explore these links for further reading:

Boatman, T. Nicole. Island Empire: the Influence of the Maceo Family in Galveston, thesis, August 2014; Denton, Texas. University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library.

“One Last Shot,” Texas Monthly, June 1993

“Land of the Free: Galveston’s Resilient Spirit Sparks Another Renaissance,” Texas Highways, June 2021

The Anniversary

Detail Shot, “The Anniversary” by Stephanie Khattak.
“The Anniversary” by Stephanie Khattak.

My parents had the most seventies wedding ever. White shoes on the men, sherbet-toned bridesmaid dresses for the ladies, complete with floppy hats and flower baskets instead of bouquets. But it worked for this East Texas wedding portrait in 1973 and in some festival/Midsommar aesthetic circles it still works today. They got married roughly a month after my mom graduated high school, which was common for the time. I came along three years later. They’re still together, their health has been good. They lead quiet lives in a nice home with a bunch of cats and a dog so spoiled we’ve taken to calling him Little Lord Poncho. It hasn’t been perfect because what is? But they got their happily ever after.