After —well, I don’t like to think how long — I’ve finally had enough time to pick up enough steam on the Pine Curtain Project to start writing about East Texas history again. I haven’t had to start from scratch because I’ve been collecting bits along the way, but it still kind of feels like it.
My story of focus these days is my grandfather’s story, or rather my great-grandfather, Charlie’s. Among other things, he managed a speakeasy during prohibition, and made and sold moonshine. This is a tough one, because the speakeasy, a place called The Green Lantern, is long gone and left no trace! My grandfather remembers enough about it to roughly sketch the story, and there’s a brief mention of it in an Oral History document at the History Center. But that’s it! A head-scratcher for sure.
Anyway, because of the sparse info, I’m having get really, really detailed into my research. Which is fun, even if it is slower than I’d like.
Lately I’ve been digging into the Diboll Free Press archives. Nothing notable about the Lantern so far, but what it does have is a treasure trove of community gossip columns. These will take me a while to get through because I want to read every word! (And not just because the Free Press publisher was a Durham and covered the family like royalty, haha!)
Calling out a man who used up all the community blood!
Feasting on catfish!
What happened in Burke?! I must know.
Anyway, hopefully I will be able to update on the Pine Curtain Project more often. It hasn’t gone away, and there certainly are still plenty of stories out there to tell.
I was invited to participate at the 2022 Kilgore Geekend, sharing the inspiration and processes behind my work on the Pine Curtain Project. As part of my presentation, I also shared some of my resources for Texas history research, and some favorites I have found in the archives. I’ve listed them below, in the order they appear in my presentation, along with the accompanying art, photographs or artifacts.
Interested in a piece of art that you’ve seen here or elsewhere? I offer hand-embellished fine art reproductions of most pieces made to order. Prices start at $100 for an 8X10 hand-embellished piece, and will deliver in approximately two weeks from order confirmation. Please let me know if you see something that speaks to you. More information can be found here, and information about commissions, etc. can be found here.
Would you like for me to speak to your group? Please get in touch to discuss options for events, meetings or workshops starting Oct. 2022.
I spent the past weekend in and around Lufkin, conducting research and visiting family. I added an extra day to my usual weekend visits to fit everything in, and I still didn’t fit everything in!
Due to the size and complexity of the Pine Curtain Project, I have divided it up into a multi-year roadmap and what I hope are small, manageable chunks. The last time I visited for this work, I focused on some cemetery tours and family oral history. For this trip, I chose two local history centers and narrowed down my research to Old Homer History and the beginnings of a Huntington, Texas history that I am pursuing.
Researching takes a long time, longer than expected and longer than people realize. When I look through archives or do field interviews, I usually have one or two main points I want to explore, but I also have to leave time and “brainspace” for other ideas and topics that I encounter along the way, to either fit them into the narrative or file them away for later. Especially when I am interviewing or consulting someone. This is why you may notice that sometimes my art production goes dark for a few weeks – it is just hard to do everything at once. The past few weeks have been devoted to launching the podcast and preparing for this trip.
Because the Ora McMullen Genealogy Room hours aren’t compatible with my non-resident schedule, the Kurth Memorial Library team was kind enough to pull stacks of requested materials and set me up in a study room on Friday. I stayed for nearly three hours and only made it halfway through. I spent my time going through three large file folders: One on the historic role of the Masonic Lodge in Homer; one on general Homer history; and one on Huntington, Texas around the 1930s-40s. I have 347 photos from my trip, and most of them are of documents found in these folders, if that tells you anything.
Saturday morning, I woke up early and drove out to Huntington, to spend some time talking to Darrell Bryan of the Huntington Genealogical & Historical Society. Darrell is a longtime Homer, Huntington and East Texas historian whose work focuses on armed conflicts, cattle rustling, racism and land disputes. He is also a friend of my father’s, and very nice.
Darrell gave me a tour of the historical society building in Huntington’s Centennial Park, and then spent most of the morning sharing his research finds and opinions; and helping me understand the bigger picture around the incidents I am learning about. I came away with a better idea of the “whys” around the “what happened,” and also new, bigger mysteries to contemplate.
Since most of my work was in Lufkin proper, I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott. I’m a frequent guest there, and this time they upgraded me to a suite! Score! So, I spent the evenings with lots of space to spread out, organize my notes and snack from the giant bag of gummy candy I bought at Target.
When I wasn’t working or in the hotel, I was at my parents’ house catching up with their animals, and that was pretty cool, too. Less cool is the blighted field across the street from them, that used to have horses, goats, tall grass and trees. Soon, the field will be an all-night gas station and truck stop. An infuriating but important lesson that nothing lasts forever.
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.
“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.”
“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
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.
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.
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.
I was selected to participate in the 2021 Folklore in the Archives symposium presented by the University Libraries at the University of North Texas! I will speak at Noon September 3, and the event is free and open to the public with registration.
My presentation, “Ghost Story, Ghost Town” will combine family stories and historical documentation to look at parallels between community folklore and a troubling era in my home community of Homer, Texas.
It’ll be short and sweet – around 15 minutes – with time for a Q&A. My fellow presenters are from universities, research centers and heritage organizations worldwide, so as an independent operator I feel proud to be in such good company!
About the Event: Join archivists, researchers, and lore enthusiasts from around North America as they share their collections and research in a two-part virtual showcase taking place on Friday, August 27, and Friday, September 3, from 11am-1:30pm CST. Participants will learn about topics such as cryptids, urban legends, superstitions, local lore, hauntings and ghosts, UFOs, and more through examples of archival materials and special collections. This is one event you don’t want to miss, so register today at: https://bit.ly/3BILXpv.
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.