and Mrs. Hurley
of Things Fried
Text and Photos
is not uncommon for your senses to promote a memory recall. The other
day I recognized a taste that reminded me of Houston’s
Mrs. Hurley’s Fried Pies – a memory from before 1944.
As kids we would congregate at a corner until we had just enough time
to walk to Travis Elementary School and not be late. I think that
was my first awareness of the "herd mentality." Our path to school
would sometimes change, but it always included about six blocks on
Bayland, Highland or Woodland. All were parallel streets leading to
| Bayland Ave
Canopy of trees looking the same as when I was a child
| Mrs. Hurley’s
house was on one of those streets and sometimes those of us who had
a few nickels would buy one of her pies. I think she only made apple
and peach, but they were both delicious. I recall they were packaged
in glassine envelopes that were hand-stamped with her name.
Sometimes my mother would make fried pies just like Mrs. Hurley. Mom
would use a syrup bucket lid to cut the pie crust in a circle about
a five-inch in diameter. She put a couple of spoons of cooked fruit
filling near the middle and folded it in half, forming a semi-circle.
Then, using a fork, she’d seal the filling inside. Meanwhile, she
had heated a skillet of shortening where she fried the crust.
After my schooling at Travis was completed, my walk to Hogg Junior
High was on the same streets, but in the opposite direction. I had
a Chronicle delivery route that included the three previously mentioned
I remember how, in those days before air conditioning, everyone’s
windows were kept open. One afternoon in 1944 as I delivered my papers,
I could hear what was on everyone's radio as I peddled by. The radio
was announcing that President Roosevelt had died. The only President
I had known. It created an indelible time marker in my life. About
this time a family named Shipley moved into a house on Euclid near
the corner of Michaux.
| Michaux and
A crossroads in the lives of the Hurley and Shipley Families
|A garage apartment's
concrete driveway was once the front of Mr. Shipley’s first store.
|As it happened,
Wolfe Cleaners on Michaux moved to a building on Studewood. The small
storefront that had been the cleaners was remodeled by Mr. Shipley
into a donut shop. Occasionally I would be sent to Mr. Shipley’s to
buy donuts for our family.
Mr. Shipley always worked by himself. Donuts were five cents apiece
or .50 for a dozen. If I ordered a dozen, he would make them right
in front of me. I enjoyed watching him use a cookie cutter-like device
to cut out the dough one at a time – and then flipping them onto the
fingers of his other hand. After filling a perforated tray, he floated
the donuts in the hot grease, turning each with a wooden stick. He
would then remove the tray of donuts to drain and finally, dip them
into the glaze.
Today a garage apartment has replaced that small store. It is sad
that the humble building where Mr. Shipley started his donut empire
now only exists in my memory.
|The Shipley name
on Houston's Bellaire Blvd
Mrs. Hurley and
Mr. Shipley were entrepreneurs using what they had to get what they
wanted – personal security. They had faith in their own means of
surviving as their lives met their own personal crossroads.
As a child I was privileged to witness these and other ordinary
people, some of them accomplishing extraordinary things.
Today once again many people are unemployed or underemployed. They,
too, will have to develop faith in their own means of surviving.
August 25, 2010 Column