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Ben Online - typing, reading & reacting

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I have always been fascinated by anything that moved, trying to understand how it was made and how it worked. I saw my first electric fan when I was maybe 5 years old. We were visiting my mother's parents on the farm near Brenham. On Sunday we went to church in Brenham and after church we visited my grandmother's youngest sister, my mother's Aunt Emma, in the hospital. Years later I learned she had had a cancerous breast removed (she lived another 40 years). There were several patients in the room and near the window was a small oscillating electric fan. Mother cautioned me not to get too close but I was fascinated by the fact that while blowing air the fan would swing to one side and then to the other side. When we got home I looked in the Sears & Roebuck catalog and saw an Emerson Electric just like the one in the hospital.

After Evelyn and I married we lived on Magnolia Street. The only other house on our block belonged to Roy and Carolyn Hohl. One evening we went to their home for a church meeting. This was before air-conditioning and the room became warm so Carolyn brought in a small fan. I recognized it immediately as an Emerson. Someone had put hardware cloth in front and behind the blades to make it childproof (they had 4 children).

Some years later, driving past the Hohl‘s driveway, I spotted the fan with the trash to be picked up by the city. This was a classic and I couldn't bear to see it tossed into the garbage truck. I took a stick, pushed it through the wire mesh and spun the blade. It turned freely. I took it to my workshop, replaced the cord, put oil in the cup, turned on the switch and it ran. I turned another knob and the fan oscillated. For years it has sat on my work bench and when I work in my shop and am hot, I turn on the Emerson.

I recently asked Carolyn about the fan and she has no memory of owning it but said she will ask her children. Jean Alexander at the Tomball museum recognized it as a classic and would like to place it in the Griffin House.

I recently removed the wire cage, took the fan apart, cleaned everything and it runs like new. How old is it? I cannot find any markings. It looks like a fan that Roy or Carolyn's parents gave to them used when Roy III was born. Maybe it's 75 years old. They don't make them like that anymore. Maybe I'll give it to the museum - I have several other fans in my shop.


On Friday the 12th my wife Priscilla celebrated her 80th birthday. She was given flowers and candy and three of the girls took us out to eat. She got a number of cards and her older brother by almost 4 years sent the following note.

“80 years ago today my dad took me to Grandma's to spend the day. In the late afternoon he returned to take me home. Arriving home, he took me to my parents’ bedroom and showed me a new baby girl. Nothing was said about where she came from, only that it was my new sister. Then my dad took me to the backyard and gave me an orange to eat. It was the first orange that I had ever seen or tasted.”


Some months ago I wrote an article about the TDC (Texas Department of Corrections), saying that my daughter was their "guest" for 5 years. She maintained a good record and was paroled after serving approximately one third of her term.

During her time there Rachel moved from Harris County-Houston to Dayton to Huntsville to Gatesville to Texarkana to Bridgeport, from where she was paroled. On her last day she was taken to Fort Worth, given money for a bus ticket to Conroe and sent on her way. Our eldest daughter met the bus and brought Rachel to our home, where she will stay until her house is restored after having been vandalized.

She came here the 10th of February and the next day I took her to Houston to meet her parole officer. On the way home we stopped at the drivers license office and it was so crowded Rachel could not get in the door. Her license had expired and she knew she would have to "start over." A Texan without a car is like a cowboy without a horse.

I suggested she call the telephone number on the back of her old license. It took days to get the call answered and be told what was needed to reapply. She had lost her Social Security card but knew the number and thought she had everything else needed. I suggested going to Conroe. "Your uncle Harvey was helped immediately in Conroe," I told her. On the day a friend had planned to take her to Conroe, Rachel called me at work at TEAM and said the friend had car trouble and could I take her to Conroe. I told our director that I needed to leave and in about 3 minutes we were on our way.

Rachel had directions and a computer map so we found the DPS office without any problem. We drove through the lot. It was full so we circled the block and tried again. I spotted a car backing out but another car was waiting for that space. I saw a handicapped space, pulled in and hung my wife's handicapped card on the mirror. (I didn't want to be towed from the DPS lot.) In about 30 minutes Rachel came back and said we had to go to the courthouse for a new birth certificate and to the Social Security office for a new card. She had directions for both places.

At the courthouse I found a handicapped spot and pulled in. My daughter said I needed to go inside with her because there would be a charge to pay. I got out of the car and manifested a bad limp until I turned the corner from where I had parked.

Outside the birth certificate office an official was sitting. I asked about a restroom and he pointed down the hall. I started walking in that direction and he called me back, indicating a container in which I put my keys and a device to walk through. Never before have I had to go through a metal detector just to pee.

When I returned the clerk was waiting for $24 for a document that was the same as the one Rachel had, only on colored paper. (For $24 they could have framed it.) Then we headed to the Social Security office across town, where at least there was parking. The clerk said Rachel would need a drivers license to get a new card and Rachel explained that she needed the Social Security card to get a license. This clerk gave her a letter stating she had applied for a card.

Back we went to the DPS office. When Rachel worked her way to the front of the line, the clerk told her it was too late for the day and she should come back Monday morning. On the way home we stopped to renew her auto insurance but they would not take my charge card - cash or check only.

The following Wednesday Rachel went to Hempstead and was told they would not accept the letter from the Conroe SS office. Hempstead DPS suggested she return to the Conroe DPS office. On Thursday Rachel’s friend had business in Humble so she went with him, taking her paperwork and planning to visit the DPS in Humble.

However on the way to Humble, thinking she would likely be rejected again, she asked her friend to make a stop in Conroe. There she paid the license fee, took and passed the written exam. Noting that the friend's truck might not pass the physical exam she made an appointment to take the driving test the following morning, asking another friend with a newer truck to take her to Conroe for the third time. Not having driven any vehicle for almost two years, she was pleased to pass the driving test and get a temporary license. As soon as she gets an official license with her picture she can get a new SS card.

PS the Conroe office told her the Hempstead office should have accepted her paperwork.

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.