Camp Ford, Tyler Texas
Built as a Civil War POW Prison it was originally 3.5 acres in size with a 16 foot tall stockade walls and held about 650 prisoners. In March 1864 the Commander was told that another 3000 prisoners were en-route to the prison and that he was to enlarge it to handle this number. They did this by cutting all the logs in the stockade fence down to 6 foot and using the other part of the log to expand the walls, this enabled them to enclose 10 acres to handle the extra prisoners. The funny part about his is that a group of prisoners had been working for a few months on a tunnel and they were very close to being out side the prison walls. After the enlargement their tunnel took them to the middle of the new enclosure.
Camp Ford also had the distinction of having the most Naval POW's of any prison during the Civil War, the last prisoners were marched out of the prison in March of 1865 at which point is was abandon.
East Texas Oil Field Museum in Kilgore
At the start of 1930 the population of Kilgore was just about 500, and the town was destined to become another ghost town. Then oil wildcatter Columbus M. "Dad" Joiner came to town from Oklahoma, he convinced a few people to put up some money and Daisy Bradford to let him drill for oil on her property. He had picked three different drill locations, so with a bunch of second hand and broken down equipment he started drilling, the first two sites were dry holes, while towing the derrick on skids to the third site the skids broke down so he decided to drill right were it sat.
On October 3, 1930, the well known as the Daisy Bradford #3 hit oil and marked the discovery of the East Texas Oilfield, word spread and almost over night wildcatters and oil companies from across the USA made there way to Kilgore. Later when he had some money from the gusher he went back to the original third site and with new equipment he drilled a "DRY HOLE". By 1935 this little town of 500 had increased to over 12,000, with more then 1,100 oil wells within the city limits, giving one area in downtown the nickname "the worlds richest acre".
Today only 80 reproduction oil derricks dot the downtown area of Kilgore which they decorate during the Christmas season as they did with the originals.
So it makes sense that they would locate the East Texas Oil Museum here in Kilgore. When you first enter the museum it doesn't appear to be much, but after you view a short introductory film and step through the doors into Boomtown you'll change your mind. Boomtown is set up as a typical street during the mid 1930's with all the stores, businesses, and traffic. The movie theater still shows movies, of course they only show one and that's about how Kilgore became a boomtown, but don't miss it, it has a surprise ending, also one of the store fronts has an elevator which once you get in and close the doors it takes you on a ride 3500 feet down and explains the different rock formations and how oil is formed and found.
One very interesting think we found out is that during World War Two, they built and pipeline that started in Kilgore and traveled 1,400 miles to the New Jersey shoreline to supply the military with the oil they needed to fight the war.
Once we finished up with the museum we walked two blocks across the campus of Kilgore College to visit the Rangerettes Museum, what is a Rangerette, I don't know but there was a huge photo of a pretty cowgirl on the front of the building so I figured we better go and find out, and we did. I am now a Rangerettes groupie.
In 1939 the Dean of the college decided that he need a plan to draw more females to the college, and also something that would keep the fans in their seats during half time at the football games, rather then ducking under the bleachers to sip on the contents of their little hip flask. So started the Rangerettes.
The Rangerettes are now the world's best know collegiate drill team, dressed in little red,white and blue cowgirl outfits, they manage to keep people in their seats where ever they go. They have preformed all across the U.S.A., have been on several world tours and many Presidential Inaugurations, they have preformed at every Cotton Bowl since 1951 and are the only organization to be invited back to perform at the East-West Shrine Bowl.
Again this museum is on the small side but is very interesting, the guide there was a student at the college and graduated in 1940 so she missed out on being a Rangerette but her little sister was one, her son was a manager for the Rangerettes and also married one, her second son married a Rangerette, her daughter was a Rangerette, as was her grand daughter, do you see where this is going. It's like my dad played football for Ohio State or University of Michigan and I'm going to play for them too. Once the Rangerettes get into your family bloodline they're there forever.
While Cathy was talking with the guide I watched a DVD on the Rangerettes stage show, which they only do for four days in April every year, I would have bought a copy but they didn't have any there, but if you want a little glimpse of what they are like you can check out this amateur video on Youtube.
How do you end a great day, by having some of the best BBQ in Texas, it doesn't look like much and it wasn't, uneven floors, seating for about 10, no two chairs matched, the table was wobbly and the room was filled with the delicious eye watering smell of smoked meat, who could ask for anything more, that alone made the trip worthwhile. We ordered the combo plate, first he put on the ribs, then the brisket, then the pork and finally the sausage, with it all piled nice and high he covered it with their special BBQ sauce, aside of potato salad and beans with bread and onions, throw in a bottomless mug of sweet tea and you're ready to sit down and eat. Did I mention that all of this was only $8.00 a head, tax included. Owned by the same family for the past 50 years, mother to son and now the grandson is getting ready to take over.
We were going to spend Saturday at the 75th Annual Texas Rose Parade but something's came up and we were unable to attend, maybe next year, so we'll tour the Rose Gardens Monday instead.
American's Rose Capital
Today we went over to the Tyler Rose Garden, it covers 22-acres and is the nation's largest rose showcase, there are close to 500 different varieties of roses and 38,000 rose bushes planted here. As I mentioned before we missed the Rose Festival during the weekend which was probably a good thing because we had the entire gardens to ourselves today. As it turns out they prune back all the roses in September so that they will be in full bloom for the festival and that means for us too.
We've never seen so many roses, every size and color that you could think of, we spent about two hours walking around and I think we still missed a lot of areas.
We loved the names that were given to some, Betty Boop, Good n Plenty, Sexy Rexy, it took some thought as to were to plant the different bushes, for example the Abe Lincoln was planted right next to the Queen Elizabeth, but for some reason the John F Kennedy was planted about a 100 yards away form the Marilyn Monroe Rose.
I took a ton of pictures but it's one of those places that you just have to see in person.
But as everybody knows, there is only one rose in Texas and that's
THE YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS.
Ever have one of those days that just starts out normal and then something happens to make it a real big WOW day, we had one of those today. It's our last day in the Tyler area, so we figured that we would just run over to the Historical Aeronautical Military Museum, give it a quick look and come home to pack things up. We entered the museum and after about ten minutes a short little old guy came up to us and introduced himself as one of the volunteers and said that if we didn't mind he would just walk along with us and try to answer any questions we might have. We said sure and started looking at some of the displays, then Cathy asked him what his favorite display was and he said "step right down here and I'll tell you about the Naval Aviators". After a few minutes we noticed that the name on his name tag matched the one that was on the uniform that was on display, yep, it was his favorite because it was him. Lt. Comm. Leo "Smoky" Sabota, he joined the Navy when he was 17 and became a carrier pilot getting his wings the day the war ended in Europe, but as he pointed out we had another one a few years later called Korea. During Korea he flew a Corsair and was CO of an all-weather night squadron, which means they always took off and landed on the carrier in the dark, during Korea he flew off of the Carriers Leytei, Intrepid and Valley Forge. He was also the first Navy pilot to fly 100 missions during the Berlin Air Lift. After the air lift he went back to fighters and continued up through the Vietnam era jets. After retired from the Navy he got his Doctorate and was a professor teaching Political Science at a small collage out west for 25 years before settling in Tyler Texas. We spent about 3 hours with him talking about his life and career and could have talked for another 3 hours. I couldn't even start to repeat the stories he told us, out of the 6 volunteers that were there today we hit the jackpot with Leo. Almost forgot the first trainer that Leo flew was a Bi-plane.
Even without Leo the museum is well worth the time to visit, there are about 15 different fighter on display outside on the tarmac and about 24 different displays inside. They had a great section on the woman pilots through out the wars, from the WASP which were only allowed to fly non-combat, normally ferrying the planes from base to base, to Jill "Raggz" Long and her 60 combat missions in A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog) in Afghanistan & Kosovo.
The story behind the picture of the Knight and Devil is that on the eve of the World War One ending, two soldiers got a little bit drunk celebrating, they decided that they wanted a souvenir so they went outside to the airfield and cut the side out of one of the fighter planes (bi-wing and made with a canvas skin) they rolled it up and brought it home where it was put away and forgotten about for about 90 years until some relative unrolled it and figured that it was probably something the museum would like to have. A little research on the Internet and they found pictures of the original plane.
Time to get home and pack up for tomorrow we head to Waco.