Former resident recounts what drew him originally to city
The late Bob Easton moved to Lampasas after World War II and was instrumental in establishment of the Lampasas Dispatch as well as radio station KHIT.
The late Bob Easton moved to Lampasas after World War II and was instrumental in establishment of the Lampasas Dispatch as well as radio station KHIT.

‘We left with regret. The departure was such a wrench that for 25 years we found it difficult to think of coming back. When we told friends in California that we were planning to revisit Lampasas and that already four different people had offered to drive the 150-mile roundtrip to Austin to meet our plane, they shook their heads in disbelief. Such hospitality doesn’t grow everywhere.’
-- the late Bob Easton, commenting on Lampasas

COMMENTARY

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story was forwarded to the Dispatch Record by Jimmy Hammett for publication. It is a commentary the late Bob Easton wrote in the mid-1970s after a return visit to Lampasas. Easton died at his Santa Barbara, California home on Nov. 14, 1999.

Easton once was described by Lampasas County native and illustrious New York Herald-Tribune city editor Stanley Walker as “the town’s most loving booster, sincere and 100 percent pro-Lampasas.”

Hospitality brought us to Lampasas originally, and hospitality brought us back after 25 years.

I was stationed at Camp Hood during World War II and could find no place for my wife to live until Charlie Wachendorfer offered us a room at the Hotel Wachen. It was the only vacancy in town.

It became our home for six memorable weeks in 1943. Uncle Charlie and Aunt Verna, as we soon learned to call them, were like foster parents.

At Otto Lang’s food market and Cass’ Rexall Drug we heard for the first time “Hurry back!” and “Come see us!” We had never encountered such openness and friendship. Most unforgettable of all was the way Uncle Charlie answered telephone calls at his lobby switchboard: “Hello, this is me. That you?”

It sounded like what peace was, or should be, all about.

From a pup tent in a rainy woods in France, I wrote Jane [Easton’s wife]: “If this war ever ends and we survive, let’s go to a place like Lampasas and put our roots deep into the American soil.”

In 1946, we bought Roger Carpenter’s house at the corner of North Arnold and Avenue A.

E.C. Lowe at Lometa gave me a job on his newspaper as apprentice printer-editor under the G.I. Bill of Rights. A few months later E.C., Ward Lowe and I founded the Hill Country Publishing Co. and established the Lampasas Dispatch.

J.V. Hammett drew up the articles of incorporation. Herbert Abney leased us office space in his old Leader building near the City Hall. One of our first subscribers was the Rev. Hicks; one of our first guest columnists was Stanley Walker. The mainstay of our one-man staff was a 15-year-old boy named Norris Monroe who could do anything from cast a cut to sell an ad.

Ray Jones, whose saddlery and boot shop was located on Third Street near the Christian Church, became our first advertiser. Happily for us, others followed Ray’s example. I used to enumerate them before falling asleep at night.

To expand our operations we moved into the building formerly occupied by Glynn Perkins’ pecan and wool warehouse on the east side of the square. It was a time of beginnings. Mayor W.M. Brook was leading the city into new postwar attitudes. Streets were being paved. There was talk of a golf course in Hancock Park. Dr. Rush McMillin was calling attention to public health and welfare problems that led to immunization programs and to two modern nursing homes.

Yet Elijah Chambers, in from the wild country east of Izoro, could be seen on the square with a half-dozen dead rattlesnakes hanging from his snake spear, and Mrs. John B. Taylor, the county treasurer, paid him the standard 10-cent bounty for each of them.

One of the most memorable occasions for me was when Virgil Wooten, Maurice Hoover and I dreamed up the idea and the name for Lampasas’ first Hayloft Party. Another was when Sylvester Lewis and I, with a strong assist from C.A. Northington and the Peoples Bank, established Radio Station KHIT, now KCYL.

June Cox was the champion fiddler in those days. A picturesque figure with very bowed legs and a tall black hat, June couldn’t read a note of music. He’d learned by ear everything he knew, many of them tunes dating back to the beginnings of this country.

Square dances, cemetery workings, ice cream suppers and revival meetings were community events. There was and still may be an annual Community Thanksgiving Service. Words we sang there came from the heart.

It was a life deep in the American grain, distinctly Lampasan. There would have been no break in it for us, probably, had not two of our three girls suffered so acutely from asthma that only Rush McMillin’s timely injection of adrenalin permitted them to keep on breathing.

We left with regret [the Easton family moved back to Santa Barbara around 1949-50]. The departure was such a wrench that for 25 years we found it difficult to think of coming back.

When we told friends in California that we were planning to revisit Lampasas and that already four different people had offered to drive the 150-mile roundtrip to Austin to meet our plane, they shook their heads in disbelief. Such hospitality doesn’t grow everywhere.

When we drove over the high ground at Bachelor’s Peak, our hearts lifted as we looked out across the 30 miles of trees and streams and rolling prairie – with a courthouse tower in their center – that are the heart of Texas. We had that sure feeling of coming home.

Mayor and Mrs. Campbell took us on a tour of the city. At first, it seemed that the only changes were external. The Santa Fe steam train no longer backed into town from Radio Junction to deliver its passengers and freight. Key Avenue had become rather too much like some Southern California highway thoroughfares of unhappy memory.

There were some painful gaps in the buildings surrounding the square. Urban sprawl – uncontrolled growth – had become something of a problem. But there was the new integrated high school, the Wieser Mill, Tom Winters’ Livestock Auction, Brook Park, a fine library, your modern motels, and many new and attractive housing developments.

And when Joyce Lowe took me through her modern newspaper and printing plant at the site of the old Record office on the square, and I saw her new offset printing process, I thought how E.C. Lowe and E.M. Pharr would probably be as amazed as I was. I wondered how many Lampasans realized that not one line of type and not one drop of ink are used in printing their newspapers.

Things had indeed changed. In the paper I saw a picture of an outstanding high school athlete. He was black. Twenty-five years ago his picture would have been unpublishable.

What hadn’t changed was the kind of warm greeting I received from D.T. Briggs, Dusty Bales, Rucker Northington and many others.

During a three-day visit, there wasn’t time to see everyone and everything we wanted to see, but we found an even larger, even more compassionate spirit of welcome.

It was a pleasure to be back.

‘We left with regret. The departure was such a wrench that for 25 years we found it difficult to think of coming back. When we told friends in California that we were planning to revisit Lampasas and that already four different people had offered to drive the 150-mile roundtrip to Austin to meet our plane, they shook their heads in disbelief. Such hospitality doesn’t grow everywhere.’
-- the late Bob Easton, commenting on Lampasas