Back Porch Thoughts:

July 14, 2011

A photo from the Minneapolis Star Tribune taken in June at the Minneapolis National Cemetery:

February 4, 2011

Lynn Ashby was on the news the other night.  His pocket had been picked at a Texans game last year, and Ch. 2 was looking for the pickpocket.  Mr. Ashby was shown, getting old like the rest of us, typing away on his computer. 

An allusion to his past as the editor of the Houston Post was made by Bill Balleza who also remembered that Mr. Ashby is a Marine.

I've heard Mr. Ashby speak in the last ten years, and he's wandered way over to the left in his old age.  When he was the editor of the Houston Post, in my mind he was pretty conservative.  Possibly that perception occurred because I was comparing him to the editor of the Houston Chronicle, and there weren't many news leaders around in those days.  In any event, I wrote to him often and suggested this or that, and sometimes he would use one of my thoughts.  I recall telling him of a trip to El Paso when I discovered by reading the local papers that UTEP was allowing illegal immigrants to enroll and pay only in-state tuition amounts.  He included that tidbit and was also opposed to the idea.  Of course his mentioning of it didn't do much good as the concept soon spread to colleges and universities all over Texas.  But at least he said something and stood against it at the time.

Ashby in addition to being the editor, would write weekly (?) columns that often were superb. For some reason his "Even Jackals Have Jackals" was my favorite.  His columns were collected and published.

When I heard him speak, he was the guest speaker at the Houston Property Rights Association, and he talked about what constitutes "news."  It was very enlightening, and I always enjoy speakers who leave me with a good thought to carry away and remember.  The thought carried away that day had to do with his concept of news.  Mr. Ashby suggested that anything on television news that doesn't inform us of something that affects us cannot be news.

That's a thought-provoking assertion.  Watch a TV news show tonight, though, and see for yourself how applicable his premise really is.  All the shoot-em-ups, the honorariums of this or that political figure, and all the other fluff are worthless to you in your life.  Some channels like Ch. 2 begin with "local" news and one might hear of the revolutionary riots in Egypt in a 15 second sound bite at the end of the show if there's time left! That revolution might affect all of us and should be the first thing on the "news"!

I decided a while back that the 10 o'clock news was valuable to me for the weather--as that's the only thing they are telling me that is of help to me as a person--and then only if they don't predict three inches of snow when we're really only going to get cold with sunshine!  And yes, I know I can get it all on

I could save myself three and a half hours a week, 182+ hours a year, if I'd listen to Mr. Ashby.

So why do I religiously look at their pap every night? 

Habit.  Mr. Ashby forgot to mention habit.

Westbury Square and Otto's

A real estate article in Sunday's paper took me back in time on two counts.  Westbury Square, a fifty year old shopping center in Southwest Houston is going to be sold and probably demolished.

If one were new to Houston in the early seventies, one lived in an apartment in Southwest Houston.  In those days young couples had to wait a while to earn the money to put a down payment on a house--the government didn't just hand it to you.

Shopping spots included Sharpstown Mall and declining areas of downtown--but the downtown Foley's was still multistoried and full of all sorts of things.... and Shell employees on their lunch breaks. For bargains one went to Globe, and for a night out we could go to Romano's or the Village Inn Pizza on Westheimer or to the Drive In Theater on Hillcroft and Bellaire.

So when we discovered Westbury Square, that was a real find.

The site was one of the first "artisan" (and I hate that word but it fits) shopping areas in Houston.  It was filled with cute little shops arranged irregularly, and landscaped so that it was pleasant to be there and walk around.  Such shops are de rigueur these days, but not then. 

At Christmastime it was especially lovely.  I spent many hours there.  They decorated with lots of lights, and it was festive.  Candles, ornaments, and other trinkets were available and reasonably priced for a mom with no money.

One of the shops had glassware, Sheffield silver pieces, and other hand made goods.  I recall that my husband,  for Christmas, bought a dome over a wooden base there and hung his Grandfather's old pocket watch in it for my Christmas present.  He also bought a pair of small glass candlesticks.  I still have the dome and the watch, but I sold the candlesticks in a garage sale one time.  I've regretted that ever since.

I've driven by the place every now and then over the years, but the aura that it once had disappeared a long time ago.

Otto's Barbeque and Hamburgers has also been sold.  It used to be a rip roaring place to go after softball games in the mid-seventies.

My husband played on the Glenshire Reds.  Our subdivision in West Houston was well known for all the fun we had.  We had two City League Men's softball  teams, and every weekend we had  Men's and Women's leagues made up just of those living in the subdivision.  There were enough players to field at least fourteen teams.  When we weren't playing in the subdivision,  the guys played at Memorial Park.  Our kids grew up playing under the bleachers or playing "cup ball" or chasing armadillos into the woods.  Those were the good old days when one didn't have to keep an eye on the kids every minute.

When the games were over at Memorial Park, if we were hungry we went to Otto's.  They had the best hamburgers ever. 

I wonder what they did with all the pictures on the wall of all the sports teams.  Lots of memories there.

The following article is very good.  We should all fly the American flag in front of our homes.  I do, and I hope you do too!

Honoring Our Countryís Flag

October 1, 2010 by Chip Wood 

Honoring Our Countryís Flag

Do you live in a community of flag flyers?  Iím happy to say that I do. Several of my neighbors fly the Stars and Stripes proudly every day of the year. My immediate neighbor has his up shortly after dawn and takes it down solemnly every night at dusk.

But itís not just my neighbor. On July 4 and then again on Sept. 11 there were flags flying on most of the houses in our neighborhood. One gentleman had an entire row of them running along the sidewalk in front of his house.

How about in your neighborhood; and at your house?  If you havenít been flying the U.S. flag lately may I encourage you to do so. Youíll feel better seeing the Stars and Stripes waving bravely in the wind. And so will the other people who see it; or at least most of them, I bet.

I think there may be an age thing going on here. I live in a community of people who are mostly retired. Heck, Iím supposed to be retired myself, but I got so bored after I sold the company I founded, I had to find something to do or my wife was going to kill me. Well, not really. But there are only so many hinges you can oil and light bulbs you can change.

So I took on a part-time job. Then another one. Then a third one. Now I find myself with more to do than when I was working full-time. No complaints, you understand. Writing three columns a week for Personal Liberty ó and seeing some of the comments and controversy they stir up ó is one of the great joys of my life.

Back to the flag. Iím sure there are many communities where it would be hard to find a flag flying, even on the 4th of July. If you happen to live in one of them I feel sorry for you. And even more for your neighbors; sounds like they may be such poor citizens they donít even read Straight Talk.

But hereís an idea: Why donít you try to start a new trend?  Go to your local hardware store and buy a flag and a mount for it. It will only cost you a few dollars. 

Put it up near your front door or on a tree in your front yard. Or on your garage or by an attic window; youíll know where it makes the most sense.

Then start flying it and see what happens. Every day is a good day to fly the flag, but some holidays are especially appropriate. Iíve already mentioned the 4th of July and Sept. 11. Later this month thereís Columbus Day (Monday, Oct. 11) and Navy Day (Wednesday, Oct. 27). Donít forget Veterans Day on Nov. 11, or Thanksgiving two weeks later.

By the way, if you would like to have a really special flag to fly outside your home, hereís an idea: Get one that has flown over the U.S. Capitol. You may not know it, but itís possible to order such flags through your United States Senator. In fact, you can go one better ó you can request one be flown on a specific day of the year, such as your anniversary or birthday.

Years ago I got one for my mother that had been flown on her birthday. She was so thrilled, she cried. She had me mount it right outside her front door. We put a spotlight near it so she could fly it at night. (Contrary to what many people think, the U.S. Flag Code says itís perfectly all right to fly the flag at night, so long as it is properly illuminated.)  Whenever I pulled into her driveway, her flag was one of the first things I saw. And I always felt better when I did.

If you donít know who your U.S. Senators are (you have two of them), let me tell you how to find out. Just click here for the government website and type in your state. When you do, the names, addresses, and contact information for your senators will appear. Pick one, call his or her office, and a member of their staff will be delighted to be of assistance.

And hereís an extra treat: Your flag will arrive with a certificate from the Architect of the Capitol certifying that your flag was flown as requested. If you mention that the flag is for a special occasion that information will be included on the form. Perhaps you know someone, like my mother, who would be thrilled to receive such a gift. May I remind you that Christmas is just three months away?

Let me mention a couple of other things you may not have known about the proper etiquette for flying the U.S. flag:

By the way, the U.S. Flag Code specifically prohibits wearing the U.S. flag or any clothing based on its design. I know that many people think wearing a jacket, polo shirt, or sweater that consists of the stars and stripes is somehow a demonstration of their patriotism. I appreciate the sentiment but itís not appropriate. If you own such attire, please dispose of it.

If you are going to wear a lapel pin of the flag or part of it, it should be worn on the left lapel near the heart. Iíve been guilty of violating this one myself. In fact, it wasnít until I read the Flag Code, in preparation for this article, that I realized my error.

Finally, if you enjoyed this column, please do two things. One, share it with a friend. And two, say a ďthank youĒ to my wife, who suggested it. And she says I never listen to her.

Until next time, keep some powder dry ó and the flag flying.

ó Chip Wood



A new wrinkle is about to manifest itself in our lives.  Daylight saving time will be a little early this year.  I want to be among the first to thank the congressman who proffered the bill and those who voted for it.  Selfish as it may seem, I like being able to enjoy the outdoors for a longer time in the evenings, and so does my family.

One has to wonder, though, why the onset of DST was not arranged to coincide with the same time as its cessation with relation to the autumnal equinox and the vernal equinox.  Logically, it should have begun each year in late February or early March.  But hen one doesn't expect whole pieces of logic from the Congress.  One must be satisfied with small bits, and I am.

Mary McGarr

Katy 77450

[The clock moves ahead one hour this year on the first Sunday in April instead of the last Sunday as in the past. --Editor]