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Sunday, January 3, 2010

How Can We Live Without the White Pages?

We spent Christmas with our daughter and her family in San Antonio. She is my wife’s youngest daughter but she has been my stepdaughter for over 30 years so I will refer to her as our daughter. She and her husband and their 4 children live in a lovely new home in an older part of San Antonio. It is very close to Fort Sam Houston where I was inducted into the Army in May 1944. Occasionally one can hear gunfire and on a still evening hear “Taps.“

I had not been to San Antonio for a number of years and not seen the house before. I have or had cousins living there but have not contacted them since working on my mother’s family history about 15 years ago. During my Christmas visit I thought about my 4 cousins and asked our precocious 4th grade granddaughter for a telephone directory, the white pages. I could tell by her puzzled expression that she did not know what I was talking about. Let me ask my dad, she said, and went to the patio where her father and several other male relatives were cooling their hands with brown “longnecks.”

She returned, went down the hall and returned with a laptop. As she opened the computer she said her dad said that they had no phone books and she should look in the computer. I was amazed that her fingers moved so quickly over the keyboard. She asked me to spell the relatives’ name as she typed “Wikipedia.” As she moved her fingers, boxes appeared and moved and finally she said she couldn’t find anything. Her aunt had watched this and asked me for the full name of several cousins and jotted them on a small pad. The next morning she gave me one address listing 4 names but no telephone number.

This got me to thinking, are we becoming a nation without White Pages telephone books? How are we going to find where people live? What are we going to use to prop open the door while we move things? What are we going to set pot plants on that may leak a little? What are we going to put in a high chair so a toddler can reach his food? What are we going to put under a table when only 3 legs touch the floor? What are campers going to take along for toilet paper? (Well, maybe that last one is longer ago.) The list goes on. We are becoming a nation of people who don’t want to be bothered.

If I remember correctly my first telephone number after moving to Tomball was “196.” When SW Bell bought the Tomball telephone company my number became 5-1962. Later SW5-1962, then 281-351-1962.

My name has appeared in the Greater Houston White Pages for about 50 years and I want it to stay there.


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Library Lady said...


With only a few key strokes on the computer (but having had a LOT of practice), I can find almost anything I want to about a person.

For instance, I found Teddy using a computer. From my research, I gleaned his dad's obituary, which indicated no spouse for Teddy. A few more key strokes yielded an address and a phone number.

I even entered his address into Google maps and came up with a good aerial view of his home and land. I could even "see" his quite large vegetable garden from way above his property.

I agree, though, I hope the paper book never goes away completely. It's hard reading from a laptop or a Kindle in the bathtub! (One of my favorite reading spots!)

Good post. I'm glad you're blogging again. I enjoy your writings.


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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.