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Ben Online - typing, reading & reacting

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


On a recent morning as I was backing my van into the street I saw the Western Waste garbage truck at my neighbor’s. I waited until they had picked up my single bag of trash. The truck did not stop, only slowed as the one man in the back tossed the bag into the hopper and then jogged to the next stop, where there were several bags. Because of the incoming traffic I followed the truck for a block and a half. Only when crossing the next street did the helper step up on the truck, a step of over two feet. During his time on the truck the helper pushed a button compacting the trash in the hopper and pushing it into the truck, making room for the next bags.

Recently Immigration made an early morning raid at the Western Waste yard in Houston, picking up a large number of workers. A spokesperson assured the TV reporter that despite the raid, everyone’s garbage would be picked up before dark.

I’m interested in garbage trucks. They are huge, efficient machines that make the collection of garbage less labor-intensive. There is a type of truck that needs only one person to operate it, a driver that uses equipment to pick up the container, empty it into the truck and return the container to the curbside.

I am the only adult that I know who has worked on a garbage truck—although it was for only a short time and over 30 years ago.

When I moved to Tomball in 1951 the city had about 600 residents. Each person and business took care of their own trash and garbage. There were several independent haulers. One that I remember, I think his name was Curtis, walked up and down the street, going into business places, carrying a large bag of bananas. He offered one to everyone he met. He didn’t ask for hauling jobs but made himself available.

In about 1957 Humble closed their oil camp and the population of Tomball almost doubled. The oil company people were used to having garbage picked up and let the mayor and city council know it was expected. I have learned that nothing motivates a city government like suggestions from the voters. A contractor was hired and garbage pickup was started. There were complaints about the open truck so a used garbage truck was purchased. A number of homes still had a gas-fired burning barrel in the backyard and did not want garbage pickup. An ordinance had to be passed prohibiting burning barrels.

When I was elected mayor there were still problems. The old truck failed so we bought a new one. We used the Harris County Landfill next to the Salem Lutheran Cemetery. Those inside the fence did not complain but the families and neighbors complained, so we bought land for our own landfill, purchased a bulldozer and hired a part-time operator. Dogs turned over the garbage cans so we passed a dog ordinance.

The two workers on the back of the garbage truck complained about the heavy cans. One afternoon I decided to work the back of the truck and investigate for myself. The driver J.H. “Tiny” Dubose picked me up at City Hall. We worked both sides of the street. Some garbage containers were 30 gallon galvanized cans. Others were small barrels and one was a section of 24” high pressure gas line with handles welded on the side. I was young and used to doing heavy lifting, moving appliances, but some of the cans I could not empty into the truck. If the trash did not come out easily we had to bump the cans, which brought on more complaints.

When the truck was full and unloaded at the landfill I asked Tiny to take me back to City Hall. As I eased my tired self into my truck I thought there must be a better way. After much discussion at several Council meetings we voted to start using paper bags, over the objection of two Council members. This eliminated injuries to workers on the back of the truck.

The requirements for operating a landfill continually become harder to comply with. Several years ago the city got out of the garbage business and signed a contract with Western Waste. We now use biodegradable plastic bags.

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Ben the Cook

Ben the Cook
Action shot from the 1970s



I recently made Tuna Helper, following the instructions on the box and adding margine, milk, etc. Priscilla and I had generous portions for lunch. When she asked about my recipe, I pointed to the kitchen table where the box was sitting...and only then noticed the unopened can of tuna sitting next to the empty box.

Well, we enjoyed our macaroni & cheese lunch and already have the tuna on hand to make another box of Helper.


I watched the TV news show "The Eyes of Texas" for years. When in the mid 1980s they announced the publication of a Texas cookbook I wrote down my grandmother's honey cookie recipe. I asked Priscilla to type it, and she mailed it along with several of her personal favorites.

When the book was published Priscilla's recipes were not included but mine was, with a special mention in the cookbook's introduction. I was invited to the signing in Houston, where I got all three of the main Eyes of Texas contributors to sign the front and while standing in line got a number of contributing cooks to sign their recipe pages.

Some might consider the description "somewhat chewy" an understatement. For those who are dentally impaired, I recommend soaking a cookie in milk or hot coffee before trying to chew it. The good news is, these cookies will keep indefinitely.

Eyes of Texas Cookbook introduction:
My great-grandparents August and Caroline Weiss operated the first cotton gin operated by steam, near Salem in Washington County, Texas. They were among the first German settlers in that area. Money was scarce; however, they always had bees and native pecans...consequently, this recipe was a favorite.

1 1/2 pints honey, warmed
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
1 tsp. baking powder
Enough flour for a very stiff dough

Mix all ingredients well. Roll dough out on a floured board and cut with a cookie cutter, or drop the dough in a greased pan and flatten with a floured glass. Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, with edges slightly darker. These cookies will be somewhat chewy.

Ben's Bio

I was born in Rose Hill, Texas in 1925 and at age 18 drafted into the Army. After my discharge I settled in Tomball, which although a small town had more opportunities than Rose Hill. I ran my own appliance installation and repair business for many years and in 1977 accepted a position as Plant Engineer and Director of Maintenance at Tomball Regional Hospital, where I worked until retirement in the late 1980s. In the 1970s I served two years on Tomball’s City Council, was elected mayor and served for six years during which major streets were paved and guttered, utility lines were extended, and a new jail and city hall were built. After retirement from the hospital I spent time on a genealogy project that included two trips to Germany to visit relatives and look up archival records. I have also gotten into writing, chronicling my WW II experiences and authoring Growing Up in Rose Hill, published by private press and sold as a fund-raiser for the Tomball Community Museum Center, where I have served as a volunteer, trustee and Chairman. I am still involved with the Tomball hospital as a weekly volunteer and serve as General Manager of Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries (TEAM), a church-sponsored operation that provides food and other assistance to area families. I continue to be involved in writing about my childhood and personal interests, and I still enjoy woodworking and other handyman projects. My wife and I still live in Tomball and are not far from most of our 8 surviving children and 14 grandchildren.