In the years just before America’s entry into World War II, thousands of people, shaken and scattered by the Great Depression, made their way to Houston, where the shipyards were booming.
My people wound up there, too. The place they lived was called West End, rows of little white houses set up on cinder blocks, neighborhood groceries, such as Chick Schreiber’s near my grandparents’ house off Washington Avenue, and buses that could take you downtown to see the picture show or to the Sam Houston Coliseum for the annual Fat Stock Show and Rodeo. Daddy and Uncle Harold saw Gene Autry there twice.
Grandma and Poppa, my great-grandparents, lived there. I spent a lot of time in that house on Malone Street with my grandmother and Momma, who helped to take care of Poppa when he had cancer. There were deer antlers in the house and a picture of Jesus on the wall. (Grandma was very pious and made her free-spirited husband keep his beer outside in an icebox.) I think there was a big chinaberry tree just off the front porch.
Momma was among Poppa’s favorite grandchildren. I can’t remember how many he had, and, with nine kids of his own and their offspring, I was often confused about just what kin all of them were to me. It didn’t seem to matter. We were close in those days.
Cancer was a mystery to me. I hated to see...