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Columns | "They shoe horses, don't they?"

Longview: A Memoir

by Mike Campbell
They shoe horse
When I was five years old, my family moved to Longview from Houston. My dad took a job as an engineer with R.G. LeTourneau, designing offshore drilling platforms. We moved into a pink house on Idylwood Drive and lived there until I was ten. The things that still come to mind about that time in Longview was in the summer, the streets, which were an oil/tar base were plowed up with huge tractor like vehicles. The smell of the tar was pervasive for weeks after they did that. As a young boy, I went barefoot in the summer and walking on the streets in Longview caused the bottoms of my feet to become black, like the tarred streets.

Longview had a mass transit system even back in the late 50s and 60s. My mother, who could not drive back then would catch the bus at the corner and ride it to downtown to do her shopping. I used to take the bus in the mornings to go to school. Although I was a block away from South Ward Elementary, I attended St. Anthony’s Catholic School and the only two ways to get to school for me were either on the bus or to walk. I opted for the bus ride. Since the Catholic school and the high school were nearby, I rode the bus with a lot of high school kids from the south side of town. I was sort of adopted as a mascot when I rode the bus, which was alright…I enjoyed the attention. The city bus system was pretty efficient. The main terminus for the buses was downtown, so if you needed to go to the north side of town from the south side, you had to change buses in downtown. I recall the buses being old Bluebird school buses painted a strange shade of green.

Where LeTourneau University is located today, used to be an army hospital during the second world war. As a kid, I used to ride my bike over there to swim in the pool that was located on the campus. It was a round affair with a kiddie or wading section as the outside ring and then the deeper part located in the center. What was fun for us was that many of the old army buildings were still up when I was a kid and I recall riding my bike between all the buildings through covered breezeways. Going up and down through the buildings.

I recall a special treat for the family was to go to eat at Johnny Cace’s restaurant – which is still there. In fact, Gerard Cace, Johnny’s son who now runs the restaurant, was a schoolmate and a fellow boy scout. I still stop there to eat when I get back to Longview…it brings back memories as well as it is great food!

Every Saturday, all the kids would go to the Arlene movie theater in downtown to watch the Saturday serial movies. I remember that admission was six bottle caps of RC Cola. I used to get the caps from the coin operated vending machines at local gas stations along Moberly Avenue. We would watch old 1940’s serial movies – the one that comes to mind was Rocket Man. The Arlene was located between a Christian Science Reading room, which was to the west and a record shop which was located to the east.

When I was a little past my 10th birthday, we moved to Seattle for about 18 months and returned to Longview. My dad still worked for LeTourneau and we ended up living just down the street from the plant in one of the concrete homes that LeTourneau had built. It turned out that Mr. LeTourneau had invented a machine that could pour a two bedroom house out of concrete. Anyway, his first homes were houses that were located near the plant and near his house as well. We lived on McArthur Street, all the streets in our area were named after famous generals or admirals.

During my time living there, I used to see Mr. LeTourneau driving his Volkswagen Bug. My parents told me that he was a notoriously bad driver and that he would occasionally get into a minor fender bender. I would always wave at him when he drove by and he would always provide a cheery wave back.

I loved living in Longview in those days, I would explore the whole area on my bicycle and had friends all over town. I played football, was a boy scout and an occasional altar boy. I went to Forest Park Junior High because they had a better football team than Foster Junior High, but after my seventh grade playing season, my family moved to Italy and outside of an occasional visit back Longview, I have never lived there again.

You can never truly go back because it is more about the time you were there and the people who were in your life. When I go back to Longview now, I see a town with Walmarts and a Mall, not the town I grew up in. That town is in my mind and my heart.
- Mike Campbell, Hong Kong, December 01, 2006

"They shoe horses, don't they?" 12-4-2006 Column

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