John Troesser was
born in Connecticut in 1947. His formative years were spent in Miami,
Florida where his father owned a "working man's hotel" between a Greek
Orthodox Church and an Italian Grocery. His neighborhood of Little
River was shaded by coconut palms and tree-sized castor bean plants.
His childhood pets included spider monkeys, possums, assorted lizards,
flesh-eating land crabs and a family of manatees in a nearby canal.
His elementary education was conducted in pale yellow or white stucco
schools - with broad verandas and transom windows that allowed lizards
to enter and terrorize the Yankee teachers - much to the amusement
of the children. School children in Miami could never relate to the
films or textbooks that showed "typical" children. Dick and Jane never
fed manatees. Spot never had a confrontation with an alligator.
Many classmates had no fathers and lived in public housing. They had
strange names and accents. Only years later it became obvious that
they were "displaced persons" from Europe. Other children had fathers
that were singing waiters at the Eden Roc or Fountianbleu - and to
Miami children - this was as normal as having a milkman father. Sunday
drives consisted of going down "Hotel Row" on Miami Beach and gawking
at the watered-down Vegas of gaudy cement statuary painted with Sherwin-Williams
Since Miami was heavily influenced by vacationing New Yorkers, his
childhood was not typically Southern. He developed an appreciation
for Cuban music, Jewish humor and guava paste.
The lack of a true "Southern upbringing" was corrected by his numerous
sisters marrying into a family of stock-car racing Tennesseans who
lived on the edge of the Everglades and occasionally worked for the
Florida East Coast Railway or a variety of construction companies.
The matriarch of this clan actually smoked a corncob pipe.
His view of life was also heavily influenced by Channel 7, a television
station that only owned 8 movies and showed Key Largo and The
Yearling on alternating Friday nights for 12 years.
Even "Scouting" was different in Florida. Scouting consisted of survival
camping in the Everglades since the scoutmasters of that time were
mostly WWII veterans who saw it as an opportunity to prepare the next
generation for the military.
He enlisted in the Army in 1965 at 17 and spent one year in Germany
and then two tours in Vietnam, where he was a demolition specialist
in the 8th Combat Engineer Battalion of the First Cavalry Division.
He also had a rare opportunity to live in several Vietnamese villages
- independent of his Army unit. Ironically he received his draft card
during his second tour of duty in Vietnam. Upon his discharge in 1968
he hitchhiked back to Miami from Ft. Lewis, Washington.
Perhaps influenced by the motley crew of tenants at his father's hotel,
or the television shows Route 66, and The Fugitive, after he was discharged
he set out on a long journey. He learned that the difference between
blue collar and white color jobs was primarily whether you showered
after coming home from work or before going to work. Many jobs were
no-collar jobs. He once found himself welding steel drums on the industrial
canal in New Orleans - the exact drums he had opened with an axe a
year earlier in Vietnam. His tour included New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta,
civilized parts of Arkansas and Campeche, Mexico. Although his tour
included many "foreign" states, he always returned to Texas and his
years in Texas total 24.
During the 70s he was seen on campuses including LSUNO (now UNO),
the University of Arkansas, Memphis State University and the University
of Houston. He didn't always attend classes - we just said he was
seen there. He has also read every Raymond Chandler book at least
Before editing Texas Escapes, his most rewarding work was teaching
English as a Second Language to refugees in Houston. He is insanely
in love with his wife who just happens to be the Texas
Escapes webmaster. They live in tiny Fayetteville, Texas (pop.
283) with a mixed herd of stray dogs and cats.
The people he's met while researching and writing town stories for
Texas Escapes has convinced him
that the preservation of Texas' buildings and the recording
of our living histories, are two of the most important things
that we can do for future generations (since they are presently occupied).
What started out as a simple travel guide has become nothing short
of a living historical and cultural journal of Texas.
John Troesser, 2001