the Humble Community House – the crown jewel of the Baytown Refinery’s
company housing addition -- bit the dust more than a half-century
ago, I can’t seem to get it out of my system, remembering what a
big part it played in my childhood and youth.
I think often about that majestic, stucco building, especially during
hurricane season. Known as a recreation center for all of Baytown,
the Community House led yet another life as a storm shelter – a
safe place to be during a hurricane.
“Rather safe than sorry” was our typical response to a hurricane
warning as we left our frame house near Black Duck Bay for the fortress
in the Company Addition.
The subject of evacuation never was open to debate, and we wasted
no time mulling over options. If a hurricane aimed toward Baytown,
we knew what we had to do. We had to go to the Community House.
An alternate plan once popped up when neighbors persuaded us at
the last moment to change our course and go instead to San Jacinto
Elementary School three blocks away. Soon realizing that was a mistake,
we (my parents and I) huddled in a classroom around small desks
fit for first graders. In fact, I had started to public school in
that very room with Alma Miller as my first-grade teacher.
Tired and sleepy
during the dark and stormy night at San Jacinto Elementary, I laid
my head on the little desk just as any obedient first-grader would
have done at nap time. Mrs. Miller would have been proud of me.
I was on my best behavior.
What worried me though was the vast array of windows nearby. As
a day-dreaming student, I had enjoyed gazing out those windows.
The view of the outside world gave me something to do besides reading,
writing and arithmetic. However, with the possibility of a high-energy
hurricane racing through town, windows and winds seemed not a good
The Community House had windows, too, but the place was huge. We
could always create a buffer zone between us and glass.
Little ol’ San Jac not only lacked space; it didn’t have a grand
piano under which to arrange my pillow and blanky.
The Community House possessed two grand pianos, one on stage in
the auditorium/ballroom and the other in the Ladies Lounge where
parties and meetings were held. Choosing the latter, I took the
Ladies Lounge name literally. I lounged under the piano.
In September 1961, two years before the Community House was demolished,
Hurricane Carla lashed out at Baytown.
By then I was a wife and mother, living in the Lakewood subdivision
near Burnet Bay, where for the first time in my life I stayed at
home during a hurricane.
We were OK -- our roof lost only a few shingles -- but throughout
the unrelenting rain, tidal surges and powerful winds I longed for
the protective wing of the Community House.
“Next time, we’re going there!” I resolved after Hurricane Carla
finally moved out of our way.
But we never
By the time the next hurricane skirted the upper Texas coast, flirting
with disaster for the Houston-Galveston
area, the Humble Community House in Baytown
had been wiped off the map – not by a hurricane but by bulldozers
and a wrecking ball.
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
May 25, 2015 columns
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