Earline purchased a five-acre plot in eastern Harris County and
built a modest home, adding rooms as the family grew. The rural
sounds were interrupted by freight trains traveling on nearby tracks
and tug boats in the San Jacinto River basin.
To supplement income, they decided to build rental apartments on
a portion of their acreage. A local church on Sheldon Road in Channelview
had elected to construct a new sanctuary, classroom, and office
structure. Bids were taken for the removal of the existing church
building. Apparently, Woodrow’s bid of $500 was the only one received.
Enough lumber was salvaged for Woodrow to build a two-story four-plex
and two single-story duplex apartments. He jokingly said that the
ones who built that original church building had used “a ton of
nails”, his obvious observation of over-abundance.
Expanding this entrepreneurial spirit, they also opened up space
for the parking of trailer homes. Living on a dead-end road, there
was not a lot of traffic, other than residents and the occasional
After Woodrow’s untimely death in 1978, Earline continued to manage
the rental apartments and mobile home spaces for another thirty
It may be that Woodrow was a bit mischievous in his childhood years.
On one occasion, a grade school teacher told him that he was going
to be a janitor in hell; to which he replied, “if I do, I’m not
cleaning your room!” The first-born child, my wife Sharon, says
that her dad had a “unique” sense of humor; but, did not elaborate
Our daughter recalls that, when the grand kids were there visiting,
he would pile them in the back of his pick-up truck to take them
to the store to get barbeque and buy them each a piece of candy.
When our son was a young lad, Woodrow gave him a small pocket knife
that became known as “my ghost-cutter”.
Sharon’s sister, Martha, commented on Woodrow being sometimes stern,
but soft-hearted, too. She remembers him sitting in a folding lawn
chair in the front yard talking to their hound dog, Rochester. It
seemed as though the dog understood his every word. When, Ginger,
her Chihuahua, died during birth of her puppies, she thinks that
it was the first time she saw tears in her father’s eyes.
Marilyn, the youngest daughter, shares: He worked very hard. He
had his carpenter jobs, plus he grew strawberries, supposedly for
extra money to buy building materials for the rental apartments.
He would come home from work every day and either work on the apartments,
or old cars for the boys, or go to the grocery store for mom. I
think he enjoyed this latter chore, because he loved visiting with
people. Perhaps from his farm days, he loved working in the garden,
tending to the plants and rose bushes. In the evenings, he walked
around the property checking on things and visiting with the renters
if they were outside. Dad somehow found time to visit his mother
and in-laws on most weekends. He also found time to go fishing and
had the patience to take me with him and teach me how to fish. He
made me learn how to bait my own hook; I still enjoy fishing. I
think all dads should teach their children how to fish, take care
of the yard, paint, nail, varnish cabinets – so they will know how
to take care of things around the house, too. I remember that dad
would bring home every stray or feed ones that were dumped at the
dead-end street we lived on. He had a big heart and was a bit of
a romantic. He would always buy mom a dozen red roses for Valentine’s
Day and the largest box of candy he could find. Red roses were always
his favorite flower. One time, I remember his buying mom a set of
china for their anniversary. At Christmas, he would try to surprise
us. One year, he kept telling me that I had one more gift under
the tree, but I couldn’t see it. He had tied a little black box
around the trunk of the tree that contained a Timex watch. He had
not finished school; but, he always wanted his children to get a
college education. He promised me that if I made the honor roll
for good grades he would buy me a car. Since I was young, I told
him that I really wanted a pet monkey, like my friend Nancy had.
That didn’t happen! Although, he did keep his promise about the
Years ago, Earline, now in her early nineties, spoke about the fruition
of their courtship: On Valentine’s Day in 1942, they were out driving
around with an aunt and uncle when they passed the home of a local
preacher; at which time, Woodrow said “let’s just get married”.
The preacher was out milking his cow, set the pail down, and performed
a wedding ceremony. Thus, the beginning of married life and family
© Bruce Martin
June 5, 2014 Guest column