among my souvenirs is a crumbling, 65-year-old copy of the original
Note to younger folks: This was the Scripps-Howard daily newspaper
with the screaming headlines and sassy attitude, not to be confused
with the contemporary Houston Press, a news and entertainment weekly.
While admiring the modern-day, same-name publication, I wish they’d
call it something else. It’s confusing because, to this child of the
mid-20th century, there always will be just one Houston Press.
I don’t remember anyone in my hometown who actually subscribed to
the old Press -- most people took the Houston Post in the morning
or Houston Chronicle and Baytown Sun in the afternoon -- but many
of us read the Press at every opportunity. We often got our “Houston
Press fix” from news hawkers at the Morgan’s Point and Lynchburg ferry
landings, savoring latest editions while waiting in our cars to board.
Downtown Houston, you could
buy a copy on any street corner, drawn by sales pitches such as “Extra,
extra! Read all about it! He killed his wife because he hated her
cooking! … Extra, extra!”
The Houston Press was a throw-back to the era of the frenzied scoops.
The front-page crew kept the motor running, ready to mow down the
competition, namely the Post and Chronicle.
However, after wading through the mud and melodrama, one could find
some pretty terrific prose, the best of which led with a Sigman Byrd
“Byrd’s Houston,” a book published in 1955, was praised in an article
by David Theiss in 1994 in the current Houston Press. Theiss called
it “flat-out one of the finest books, fiction or non-fiction, this
city has ever spawned. That it has been out of print since its initial
release in 1955 is both tragic and typically Houstonian. The dead
and gone are seldom lamented or remembered in perpetual boomtowns.”
Houston Press writer, John Nova Lomax, paid tribute to Byrd in an
article in 2009. He wrote, “Of all the columnists in the history of
Houston journalism, Sigman Byrd was easily the darkest and the most
literary. From the late 1940s to the early '60s, Byrd wrote a column
called The Stroller for the Houston Press and later, briefly for the
Houston Chronicle. He favored the city's dark shadows, scruffy neighborhoods,
and forgotten, often wrecked people over the big affairs of the day
and Houston's high and
I’m glad my
1950 copy of the old Houston Press contains one of Byrd’s columns.
It’s about a mother who sells her son’s bike in order to put food
on the table. He wrote about local history, too, and I saved some
of those clippings.
While Bill Roberts wasn’t a great writer, his café society columns
in the old Houston Press were fun to read as were the tantrums by
editorial page columnist Carl Victor Little.
A native of Ohio, Little went over the top in his fanatic defense
of Texas, admitting there’s no one more zealous than a convert.
In his longest-running tirade, Little bashed Edna Ferber for her
novel, “Giant.” He even offered to host an autographing party for
Ferber with the main activity being a public hanging, claiming such
punishment fit the crime for making fun of Texas.
Among Little’s crusades was a proposal to organize the Society for
Prevention of Pay Toilets. In response to Little’s Big Story, the
Houston Public Library unlocked all of its restroom stalls. Free
Feature writer Andy Anderson, in contrast to Carl the Curmudgeon,
seldom had a bad word to say about anyone or anything, and he pushed
countless worthy causes with his human interest stories.
Everybody loved Andy.
In fact, everybody loved the old Houston Press -- although not everybody
would admit it.
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist, March 30, 2015 column
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