The Record Newspapers - Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

The ghosts of Orange


Last updated 10/28/2009 at Noon

It’s Halloween again, and as usual there are Martians in the trees showing cartoons on the ground. And the world is destroyed once again, so goes the news from 1938.

Louise Wood, former newspaper gal who had sense to get out of the game and do PR for Lamar University, has told me many times I should teach journalism.

She sees something in me I don’t see in myself.

And for my first class I’d take those kids down to Spanky’s and buy them all the beer they want.

Probably not a great way to start my first teaching assignment, but I’ll bet it would be a real popular class.

Even if I never took them down, they’d wind up there eventually.

That’s what reporters do. It was a tradition long before Jim McElhatton and Amy Bria got there.

I suspect I learned more at Spanky’s than from any AP Style Guide.

And now I sit outside and look at the trees and see ghosts of dead people.

And they are so long gone, so gone and so very soon.

Many years ago I was at Papania’s listening to Louis Armstrong on the jukebox.

He sang “Sunny Side of the Street.” I was in between jobs. I asked Eddie the bartender, “What can I do that people will hire me?”

He replied, “It’s not about them Robert. It’s about you, and what YOU can do for YOU.”

And he was right.

Not long after, Glenda Dyer took me on at the Orange Leader.

She saw something in me I didn’t.

I had a lot of lucky breaks. And I’ve fallen on my ass a few times too. I somehow, even blindly going through life, managed to do what Eddie said.

I’ve never made a secret I’d like to work in Lake Charles again. But my hometown won’t call me up to the big show. Now some might say I’m stuck here, stuck in old dumpy Orange. I’ve come to look at it as a blessing.

And in so many ways it all goes back to Spanky’s. Where we all wind up eventually and so long gone.

Sometimes Louis Dugas would come in, order his DeWar’s and steak and tell me a wonderful, wonderful story. The old former district attorney held court with his tales of Korea. A Texas-fried Republican who liked Hank Williams, talking to a hippie liberal who liked the Beatles.

But that was just Louis. I think he pretty much liked everyone he ever met, no matter what the differences were. Then on a cold day in December, he had the audacity to die on my birthday. But I knew he was joking with me, just like he always did.

Amelia Feathers dropped by on occasion. We worked together at the Leader. Very often in the newsroom, I would feel bad and want to rest.

And she would say, “You probably just need to get a couple drinks in you.” And after 30 minutes at Spanky’s, I knew what she meant. Another memorable character was Craig Swearingen,

chain-smoking and arguing politics early into another morning. The ghosts of Orange will always be with us, but we won’t be scared. 

We might look into the trees and cry a little bit, but in the end it will be all right. []


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