Jane Blaffer Owen

Duration: 50mins:50secs
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Uncorrected Transcript

Interview with:  Jane Blaffer Owen     
Interviewed by:  Melissa Kean
Date:  March 27, 2008

MK:    May 27, 2008.  I am Melissa Kane and I am interviewing Mrs. Jane Blaffer Owen at her home.  I am very happy to be here.

JBO:    I am very pleased to see you, to meet you both.

MK:    What we are interested in, in this particular project is the history of Houston and you have seen a good bit of it, so could we start at the start, when you were a girl?  Where did you live when you were a girl?

JBO:    _______ Rice Institute, 6 Sunset Boulevard.  I used to take my baby carriage and wheel it down that avenue of oak trees leading to Lovett Hall.  And on the way, I would pass these little frogs in wire cages and I learned, to my chagrin, that they were destined for dissection in the chemistry and biology laboratories.  Now today, I imagine they still experiment with frogs but they are not anywhere to be seen.

MK:    No.  You had to cross the street to get there.

JBO:    I had to cross the street.  That is all across Sunset.

MK:    But there was no traffic?

JBO:    No traffic.  And there were islands of trees in the middle of the street.  Let's see, we were the second house.  J.F. Culinan built the first house at Shady Side, a large red brick house which had never been torn down.  And ours was the second house.  And, as I made mention, there were many pastures for mother and daddy's cows to graze.  And we would hear the bells come in at night, the cow bells, and the cow bells going out in the morning.  It was very rural.  ______ the Warwick Hotel had not been built.  Mother was very fond of candle light and our house was described abroad, by being so remotely removed from Houston.  It was like _____ had not reached them yet.  Daddy had little flashlights hidden under the pillows in the sofa in case the people needed more light.  And we did have an electric stove and electric utilities but not visibly.  In those days, people had large houses; they either had ______ or thick hedges or covered them with pig ivy.  Mommy and Daddy said anyone that couldn't afford a big house would not look enviously at you.

MK:    Was the wall up that is now around Shady Side?

JBO:    You could hardly see our house.  While I applaud the great advances in the arts and in the Medical Center, which is probably the most impressive, finest one in the country - very proud of that -, we had lost a great deal.  People now are cutting down their trees in front of their mega houses so people can see how rich they are. That wasn't the Houston I was growing up in.  In Houston, people who had wealth, they were modest about it and they did not show off their houses.  And, of course in those days, we could all have our private cooks.  We didn't.  Mother thought only older people had to cater their dinner party because there were enough wonderful black people to go around.  And we did not think of them as servants - they were part of the family.  And if I kept having babies, they would be in the kitchen.  It was the southern way of life.
            Houston has always had the two elements: the Wild West and the south.  My father's partner for 30 years, Will Farish, the firm was called Blaffer and Farish before they became part of Humble, and their families had both been ruined in the Civil War but they brought their culture with them.  And then, there was the Wild West element that speculators . . . that still exists here.  There are different strains of culture.  Rice was the first university and it was an island of culture, stability.  One of the Huxleys lectured there.  I think it was _______.

MK:    It was Julian Huxley.

JBO:    And they would be our dinner guest.  A.E. Russell, the Irish poet, and also editor of the Irish Statesman, an agriculture magazine, I remember him so well walking the sidewalks of Shady Side.  He would take charcoal and draw landscapes of Ireland on the sidewalk in charcoal.  And stories about the Celtic race.  I was fascinated.  The Culinans, very close friends, of course, of my parents, would bring their distinguished Irish guests to dinner and I would listen in.  It was a little nucleus of culture and civility.

cue point

MK:    I know that the people of Rice took this very seriously, that a big part of the reason for the university to be in Houston in the first place was exactly that - to be part of this project of bringing culture to kind of a raw town.

JBO:    Yes, it was.

MK:    And it had to be cooperative.

JBO:    It had to be.  They had Mayday festivals in which I participated, and they had fascinating lectures.  Even when I was carrying my last daughter in 1950, I was taking a course under Dr. Sarnoff in philosophy, psychology.  I would arrive early in the morning and then one day, he asked Marjory McCorkindale who used to take me, he would say, "What's happened to Jane Owen?"  She said, "Well, she had her baby last night."  He said, "Oh, was she pregnant?"  He was such a philosopher, he had no idea that I was carrying a child.  But it was always available.  You could sit in on wonderful courses whether you were a student or not.  And daddy, of course, was a trustee for many years.  I was welcomed. 
            There was good music.  There was opera already in Houston.  Mrs. Lovett began Houston Opera and Imma Hogg, she started the symphony.  It was all burgeoning.  It was all burgeoning.  But the only university was Rice.  And Walter Starkey, the greatest authority on gypsies in the world, from Ireland, was there.  And so, our table was fed with wonderful people from across the street.

MK:    Yes.  Did you know James Chillman?

JBO:    Oh, I knew James Chillman well.  He held that museum together and made friends with the people who gave the place money.  He should be given far more credit than he is.  He wasn't a professional museum director.  And his wife was a lovely interior decorator and helped all the ladies with their houses.  But James Chillman had a lovely way, especially with the wives of the wealthy men who would say, "We need more money for the museum," and because Jimmy Chillman says so.  He was doing it part time on a modest salary.  He was not a full fledged director. 

MK:    He was working on the Rice faculty all that time.

JBO:    Exactly.  It was all we had.  He once asked me to speak on _______ which I am only too happy to do at the library.  By the way, I heard a marvelous commencement address by your new president Friday night.

MK:    Oh, did you?

JBO:    At Kincaid's commencement.  He was funny.  He brought us all in as fellow classmates at a wake.  He said, "I don't want you to make the biggest mistake that I ever made in my life when I was a freshman at Stanford.  I was awakened one night by my mother.  I had forgotten her birthday.  Don't you ever do that to your mothers when you go off your first year of college.

MK:    He is a good public speaker.  He is a really good public speaker.

JBO:    He was marvelous.  He had all us all rolling.  And then he got to more serious subjects towards the end but he involved us and we felt so comfortable with him.

MK:    That is nice.

JBO:    Even on those uncomfortable bleachers where we sat for about 3 hours.

MK:    So, you are a Kincaid alum?

JBO:    1930 I graduated, and the first school was in a two-story wooden house on, I think it was Elgin and San Jacinto, with open ditches all around it, deep, open ditches because Fannin was not . . . none of those streets were . . . had Heights ditch pipes.  They were just open.  And we would say, oh, it is going to rain and rain and rain and it won't be able to get across the school.  We are going to have a holiday.  My parents outwitted the weather and put rubber waders on the sofa so we got to carry them to school over the ditch.

JBO:    How did you get to school?

MK:    By car.

JBO:    You were driven to school?

MK:    We had a wonderful driver called Dan Clay.  He was with us 50 years.  Mrs. Kincaid had classes on the first floor and her living quarters on the second floor.  She and her husband and their only son, Willy.  And daddy scratched his head, searched his heart.  He said, "You know, Will Farish and Harry Wise, Burk Baker, Mr. Clayton - the first trustees - said, "You know gentleman, we are bringing up our children in brick houses and fireproof.  Here, we send them to a fire trap.  What about pulling in moneys and building a solid school on Westwood and Vostalk which was the second school from where I graduated.  But my first years were in that little fire trap.  I don't even think it was painted.
            And so, the other children who lived in the neighborhood with you also went to school at Kincaid?

JBO:    Oh, yes, we all went to Kincaid.

MK:    It is quite a neighborhood.

JBO:    They are the only private school in town. But Mrs. Kincaid impressed those fine men.  They felt that she was a real educator and that she had determination.

MK:    Well, they would know that.  They recognized it. My own father, among the many reasons he remembered so warmly, is that he was a picker of people.  He picked good people to work with him.  No one ever worked for him, they worked with him.  Those were wonderful men and we all knew them and loved them.  I am not being sentimental, I am just saying that there was an old Houston that was not Wild West, that was not . . . the French have a wonderful way of describing a spectacular house.  The people there are the ________, the "have you seen me's?"  Isn't that a lovely . . . the _______, the "have you seen me's?"  And Daddy called River Oaks, even in the days when he was still with us, "a light bulb contest."  It is even more so now.  People look like nightclubs, their houses.

cue point

MK:    They tear down beautiful houses . . .

JBO:    Oh, well built in the 1930s and 1920s and then the Meece Vandevoort (sp?) period was behind walls, you know which houses __________ or Hugh Newhouse's architecture which was very Mecian where people were like early civilizations.  They were behind walls.  And no one would envy them and no one would gawk at them and they weren't advertising.

MK:    Well, like the Menils.

JBO:    Yes, well, that side of Houston still exists but it is being outshouted.  Well, look what has happened outside of Wortham Center, the Furtito Blues.

MK:    Yes, the aquarium.

JBO:    See, no zoning.  Anyone can do anything.  That is the Wild West.  One man, one horse.  And if I want to have my leaf blower all day long, I can jolly well have it all day long.  And Sundays, too.

MK:    I believe I understand what you are saying.  So, the people who lived with you, I am particularly interested in the Wise family - the other people in there would have been more of the old style?  The Farishes, the Wises, even the Hobbys.

JBO:    Only Mrs. Hobby torn down that beautiful Culinan house.  It should have been part of the museum.  They could use it for classes, for lectures.  It was so well built.

MK:    I never saw it.

JBO:    It was a beautiful house.  Solid.  It looked like an old English Manor house.  We all loved Mr. Culinan because, first of all, he was so handsome. He was a very tall Irishman but thick white hair, a moustache, and his birthday was either New Year's Day or New Year's Eve.  And my family always had violets in their driveway.  My sisters and I would compete as to who was to pick a bunch of violets to take to Uncle Joe for his birthday.  He was quite a figure.  And then, again, he bought these fabulous poets and writers to Rice, and I am so glad that Emily, his granddaughter, is with the Mayor's office.

MK:    Yes, that is right.  Emily Todd.  Tell me about your mother.

JBO:    Mother was a free spirit.  People asked her who did her hair.  She said, "The wind does my hair."  She was the first person to completely strip her house for the summer months.  No curtains, no rugs.  White slip covers on all the chairs.  And magnolias and jasmine everywhere.  Mother was an artist, really.  Not on canvas but with the rooms and houses she designed.  Someone once asked her to help with the redoing of their house.  She said, "Dear, it is not what you put in, it is what you keep out."  Her taste could be called chaste.  Less is more.  She began buying her great paintings when she was in the 20s, in the 1920s.  She never paid more than $16,000 for a Picasso or a Bulliard.

MK:    So, she bought early?

JBO:    Yes, she bought early.  She had a great eye.

MK:    It was her own eye?

JBO:    It was an infallible eye.

MK:    Was she taught by someone.

JBO:    It was her own eye.  People were putting runners down their dining room tables.  She would say, "You don't need a runner.  If you have a beautiful table, why hide it with a placemat or a cloth?"  She was innovative and not a committee woman at all.  She was not a club woman but she influenced a great many people.

cue point

MK:    Who were her friends?

JBO:    Well, Aunt Imma, of course, was her maid of honor when she was married.  At Mommy's wedding, Imma Hogg was her maid of honor and, of course, they were lifelong friends.  I have a beautiful picture - I gave it to one of my daughters - of the two young women at Varner, the Hogg plantation, with a surrey with a fringe on top in the background and they waists were like this, and they had these lovely hats with veils.  I had it enlarged.  All my daughters have a copy of it.  And Mrs. Albert B. Falls deserves a great deal of credit for having led the first committees to raise money for the MFA.  Mrs. Falls was not a wealthy woman - her husband was not one of the big rich men, but she knew Houston needed a museum.  And she led the first drives.  She was one of Mommy's closest friends.  There used to be a picture of her, a painting of her, at the entrance of the MFA.

MK:    I don't know.

JBO:    Mrs. Albert B. Falls.

MK:    I don't know about her.

JBO:    Well, she deserves a great deal of credit for having raised the first money for the Museum.  And Mrs. Edward Neville, she was a hard worker for it.  It was the women that persuaded their husbands, of course, and the husbands came along, beat the bushes and made the trails.  But Mrs. Falls was one of the most prominent.

MK:    Were your parents interested in politics?

JBO:    Yes.  Daddy would say, "______ political machine tonight.  I hope you all vote.  You don't deserve your dinner if you don't vote."  He saw that we all went out to the polls.  He used to say "I am a democrat without the accent on the damn."  But little by little, we realized that Houston and especially Texas needed a two party system.  And so, there again, Women Power for Tower helped to elect our first Republican senator and we felt that was the fair thing to do so both parties would vie for our attention instead of being consistently democratic.  And we were appalled at Ma Ferguson.  As you know, her husband was indicted, I think.  And so, Ma Ferguson became the governor and assigned herself "Empress of Texas."  You don't remember those days.  You weren't born.  Politics was not very, very pretty.  Governor Hogg, of course, was our beloved early governor and did you know that when he left his will, he wanted scores of pecan trees planted around his grave so that the people of Texas could find pecans for free at his gravesite.

MK:    That's nice.

JBO:    Now, how many people would think of that today?  Let them have pecans.

MK:    Yes, that was quite a family.

JBO:    They were wonderful people.  Beautiful people.

MK:    And they gave a lot, not just in Houston but all around Texas.

JBO:    Oh, they did.  Aunt Imma used to spend her summers with us in Massachusetts and she and Mommy, with our wonderful Dan Clay, our black chauffeur, would go antiquing.  And they bought many of their things together.  Only Mommy had children to leave her furniture to and Aunt Imma never married and left her beautiful collection to the nation, I will say.  She was a gracious, beautiful woman.  We all loved her.

MK:    So, I mean, the whole time that you have been alive, Houston has been changing fast, at a run pretty much.

JBO:    At a run.  At a gallop.

MK:    Yes.  So, when you first were a girl on Shady Side, there was no traffic on Sunset?

JBO:    No.

MK:    Did you have a horse?

JBO:    Oh, yes.  We kept our horses where is now the Container Store on the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak.  That was called Green Stables because John Green was chief attorney for the Gulf Company, and they built a lovely brick house in River Oaks.  But they kept their horses at Green Stables.  It was also the Polo Club.  And since Daddy and Mommy were friends with the Green, I had a horse . . . Daddy's horse was called Nellie and mine was called Prince.  And, believe it or not, on a Saturday, a school day off, we would drive to Green Stables, Green Pastures, on the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak, leave our car, mount our horses and go all the way to Shady Side driving down Buffalo Speedway which was just a buffalo trail.  And arrived for late lunch with Mommy.  And then, we would ride our horses back.

MK:    When you say at buffalo trail, do you mean it was just like dirt?

JBO:    Yes, dirt.

MK:    Not even ______?

JBO:    No, it was just a dirt trail.  This was in the 1920s when I am still at Kincaid.  Can you imagine the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak which is now the Container Store?  That was all Green Pastures.

cue point

MK:    But things were already changing?

JBO:    Yes.  And along the golden circle of Post Oak Boulevard, there was nothing but little truck farms.  Mexicans growing vegetables.  And we had a Mexican gardener called Angelo who lived on that golden circle and sometimes bought us vegetables.  It is happened.  Gallop is the right word.  I can hear hoof beats, galloping hoof beats.  My chief desire became to live in the country.  When I married my husband in 1941, he took me to this little village and it became the focus of my life for 67 years.  It is bringing _____ to the Houston.  What is that wonderful book of Joseph Campbell?  He wrote about 1,000 pages.  He goes deep into the bowels of the earth to find a ______ for humanity, and this may seem hypocrycical, far-fetched, but I felt if I had any ______ for Houston, I would have to bring them from that little town.  And right now, I am working with the University of Houston in Harmony Park designed by Frederick Kiesler, the great unbuilt architect with whom I worked and I will invite you to the dedication of it.  It is going to be sort of an oasis for the busy students at U of H.  And the reason I am involved now more with U of H - Mommy and Daddy were great friends of the Cullens and Uncle Roy, as we called him, wanted desperately to be a member of Rice _______ and they turned him down.  Do you know that story?

MK:    I do know that story and, you know, it makes me cringe but in the end . . .

JBO:    In the end, Houston has benefitted.

MK:    We are better off to have the University of Houston with the Cullen support.

JBO:    Oh, we are.

MK:    There is no question about it.  My daughter is there right now.

JBO:    He was determined to do something for those who couldn't afford Rice.  He was a real humanitarian and we loved them both.  I will never forget when they lost their only son on an oil rig, the source of their wealth was the source of their greatest sorrow.  We were on the Mediterranean that summer and we had a cable - we didn't telephone so much, there were cables - they wanted to be with Mommy and Daddy.  And so, we spent several months together, the Cullens . . . by that time, there was just Margaret and Wilhelmina.  The others were married.  We had a wonderful summer together.  Uncle Roy had talked about breaking the bank at Monte Carlo and we said, "You know, Mommy, I know that Uncle Roy can do anything he sets out to do.  Do you think he will really break the bank?"  She said, "Well, we will find out.  We will sneak you all in to the little casino and follow Uncle Roy and see what he does."  He bought maybe $40,000, $50,000 worth of blue chips.  In 10 minutes, they were all gone.  He turned around and said, "Do you see, girls?  I have proved ___________."  He was undefeatable.

MK:    He did wonderful things for the city with support for the University of Houston.

JBO:    Great, great people.  And they were so modest.  Aunt Lillie would write her own Christmas cards in her own writing.  Today, you get, the secretary has done it and wonder if the sender has ever seen it.  I gave a statue in their memory.  Did you see The Winged Victory at University of Houston.  There is a little plaque.  Perhaps you have not seen it, it is still there.  To the friendship of the Cullens and the Blaffer family, Wing of Victory.

MK:    That is very nice.  That is very appropriate.  Well, since we are talking about the University of Houston, what can you tell me about the opening of the Blaffer Gallery then?

JBO:    What year was that?  My brother was still alive.  It was early 1970s.  He died in 1973.  Well, they were interested more in art than Rice.  As you know, Pat Nicholson obtained a concession from Austin to do a certain percentage of all the money from the University to go into sculpture.  Some very important sculpture there as you well know since you have been there.  And so, Mother felt that they were more interested in art, and through a friendship with the Nicholsons and, who was that wonderful president that Mother was so fond of?  It will come to me.  They had a burgeoning art department.  It was just crying aloud for a gallery.  Mother felt that art belonged, first of all, where young people could see it and then, from the University, then go on further to the Museum, but so many of these students had never seen art.  I remember one of the letters received thanking the Foundation for a traveling exhibit because Mother wanted art to travel around Texas, especially the places that had no museums.  And the majority of the letter said we felt we would never be in the same room with something 500 years old because this little town was 50 years old.  The age of something impressed them.  It was not that Mother didn't like Rice, it was just the circumstances and her friendship with the Cullens, and having the burgeoning art there.  I don't think Rice had an art department in the 1930s.

MK:    You know, it was James Chillman.  He was it.

JBO:    Yes.

cue point

MK:    He was the only one.  And that is only slowly changing now.  The Browns, the Brown Foundation just made a gift so that we can start a department of art history with a Ph.D. program in there.

JBO:    Oh, good.  It is evening out.  It is what I call creative competition.

MK:    Time.  You know, you give things enough time and they will find a balance.  You know, Rice was very focused on science and engineering in those first years.  That is where they started.  And largely, the reason they started there was because the need of the growing energy companies for trained engineers . . .

JBO:    And geology.  Daddy used to . . . so many of the geologists that came to the Humble Company came from Rice.  It was the only department of geology in this part of the country.

MK:    Yes.  Harry Weiss gave a great deal of money for that program.

JBO:    Good.

MK:    What is interested to me is to step back and look at this, and I see 2 things:  I see the galloping change and I see the explosive growth of the oil and gas companies that is paying for a lot of the changes.

JBO:    I know Daddy helped towards that endowment.  While he was trustee, he helped towards that endowment from oil interests.  I think some oil properties were given to Rice.

MK:    Yes.

JBO:    I remember Daddy talking about that.  So, that was a very natural alliance and a needed one.  Not only a natural but essential to the development of this whole area.  It all made sense.  And it was less so when the University of Houston started.  They began with . . . I think Uncle Roy wanted many professions open to young people and diversity.  He was into diversity.

MK:    I have a list here.  I didn't write this.  It is asking me do you have any recollection of these individuals and the roles they played in the development of Houston.  This is a very interesting list of people and I will bet you know most of them.  Will Clayton?

JBO:    Yes.

MK:    What can you tell me about Will Clayton?

JBO:    I have a picture of Uncle Will and Daddy at the Port of Houston - I can't lay my hands on it now . . . because this was going to be a source of enormous -- 1 out of every 3 dollars came out of the Port of Houston to open our ditch to the sea.  And it was extremely important.  And Daddy and Mommy were very interested in building a seaman center of which they did not live to complete but which I took the torch from them and I helped start the seaman center.  Maybe you know that, because Daddy said, "Part of our wealth comes" . . . and these sailors, many cynics say, all they want is a whorehouse and a bar.  That is not true.  They are educated young people and they play chess now in the center that we have and they telephone their families.  They use the chapel which I am very moved that they named for me because I had a lot to do with the chapel there.  And the first Christmas eve that I spent worshiping there, they had to have 3 different services to accommodate all the seaman that wanted to pray.

MK:    That is nice.

JBO:    So, there was a cynicism about it and Daddy and Mommy said, "Some of the money I am leaving you has to go to that seaman’s center."  And, of course, Burke Baker, the planetarium.  Name them all, the list of people that you have there.

MK:    Judge Elkins.

JBO:    We did not admire him at all.  He was hard.

MK:    Was he?

JBO:    He was a hard man.  He was a tough guy.  He was no gentleman.  I am sorry.  Don't quote me.  He was no gentleman.  But he intimidated my son into becoming a bank president for which he was not suited.  He wanted to go into advertising.  He wanted to do anything but be head of that First City Bank.  And what happened?  It collapsed.  Jim was being forced to do that by his father.  His father was an autocrat.

MK:    I didn't know that.

JBO:    He was not a gentleman, I am sorry.  The others were.  Will Clayton, Burke Baker, Will Farish.  My beloved father from New Orleans, bringing civilization to the Old South.

MK:    Your father was from New Orleans?

JBO:    Of course he was.  Three, four generations.

MK:    I didn't realize that.

JBO:    Oh, Lord yes.  Daddy ordered his wines and his petit pois, his condiments still from Marseilles where his family had always obtained their wines and their petit pois.

cue point

MK:    I don't want to keep you all day but I do want to get at one more thing.  One of the things we keep talking about is how much things have changed.  I would be interested to know if you think that there is anything here that is still the same and if there is some kind of spirit of Houston.

JBO:    It is a can do spirit that I think is still here.  But you can do the right things and you can do the wrong things.  I think the University of Rice and the University of Houston and St. Thomas - I love St. Thomas - are all examples of the can do and the right spirit.  And the Medical Center is the can do and the right spirit.  But this disrespect for well built houses and for beautiful trees that are being cut down right and left, that is the not do.  And the flagrant exhibition of wealth.  I used to love the old Houston Country Club.  It was a rambling Spanish style with red tile roof and it was ________ and beautiful and this looks like something just stranded, more that it receded from it.  It is horrible architecture, and you know that.  It is no architecture.  It is just look how big and rich our members are.

MK:    And the other one, that was over on the east side?

JBO:    Yes, Wayside.  The first one.  It was the only swimming pool in Houston.  We used to drive hours to get there.  In those days, I had lace-up shoes.  Our mothers thought that it would keep our ankles thin to have lace-up shoes.  No sandals.  I had to unlace and go an hour or so, but it was worth it for that one swim a day when the weather turned.  That was Wayside.  A lovely, rambling club.  I hope it still exists.

MK:    I don't think it does.  They tore it down.

JBO:    Gus Wortham bought it, bless his heart.  Now, there was a wonderful man.

MK:    Yes, I was going to say, he was on the list, too.

JBO:    I loved Gus Wortham.

MK:    He went on the Rice board also.

JBO:    Oh, he was a gentleman.  They adopted these two girls, they were the ages of my two eldest girls, so they were very great friends.  I will never forget when Janie had polio in 1951 and she could no longer romp and play children's games, so the Worthams devised sitting games in their playroom upstairs so Janie could participate.  And they were such kind, generous people.  I can't say enough lovely things about them.

MK:    Did you ever see their plantation in Louisiana?

JBO:    No, I knew about it.  I knew about their ranch outside of Houston.  And whenever I had distinguished guests from England, because I founded an English speaking union here many years ago and Gus came on our board . . . whenever they entertained them at the ranch, Linda would take the guests . . . the long approach for the view and Gus waited patiently because he had taken the shorter route without a view.  Oh, but he was such a delightful host.  He handed out red bandanas to all our guests.

MK:    He had a big auction every year.

JBO:    Yes, on the ranch.  I would ask him about the grandchildren.  He would say, "Those are Linda's grandchildren.  You ask her."  They were completely opposite but they made a wonderful couple.  They were truly great Houstonians.

MK:    They contributed a lot and if I am hearing you right, I think one of the things you are telling me is that there was that ethos there of philanthropy, of building up the institutions homegrown.

JBO:    Yes.  And, of course, Jesse Jones and his lovely wife were great friends of my parents.  He and J.S. Culinan vied with each other in my mind as to who was the handsome-est, who was the most imposing.  He loved beauty.  Jesse Jones had a lovely _______ apartment downtown.  What was the building?  On top of one of the buildings.

MK:    It was a hotel, wasn't it?

JBO:    He was very sensitive to beauty.  And when Reese and I so disliked Franklin Roosevelt, was what he did to Jesse Jones.  You know the story.  If it hadn't been for the reconstruction finance that he started, he saved the economy of this country and he was badly treated by FDR.  You know all of that.  But it was a Houstonian that got all the banks reopened.  The nation owes Jesse Jones a great debt.

cue point

MK:    Houston, too.

JBO:    Yes.

MK:    He kept the banks here . . .

JBO:    Absolutely.  And, of course, Roosevelt . . . Mother had gone to a luncheon from his mother either before or after the first election . . . she said, "I don't know what Franklin is going to do with money because I give him an allowance."  He knew nothing about finance.  He had other gifts, of course - bedside manners and fireside chats - but I think he must have had an envy or dislike for people that did know financing.  Maybe he didn't realize it.  But he couldn't wait to get rid of Jesse Jones.

MK:    He did.

JBO:    But history has certainly, I think, done justice to Jesse Jones.

MK:    Yes.  He is maybe the Houstonian who gets the most credit on a national scene.

JBO:    Yes, and he deserves it.  But he was heartbroken.  And Wallace who knew nothing about money replaced him.

MK:    Any more?  Do you have anything leaping out at you?  There is a question here that is very interesting to me but I hesitate to ask it because I don't understand it myself.  There are a series of questions here about your father and your mother and then it says a news account once described their marriage as the conglomerate of the century.

JBO:    Oh, I think that is hyperbole news, sensationalism.  My Campbell grandfather was the founder of The Texas Company, Thomas Campbell.  William Thomas Campbell was the founder of The Texas Company.  That was the connection with the Culinans.  And then, of course, Daddy was a founder of Humble.  The newspapers just picked that up as a Texaco Exxon alliance and they ran with it.  It had nothing to do with us, I mean, with our description of the _______.

MK:    No, it is the newspapers.  I hear what you are saying.  I just didn't understand why someone would even say such a thing because I didn't understand that your Mother's . . .

JBO:    Yes, all they are picking up was the economic side.  Texaco marrying Humble Oil.  So, that explains it.  But it doesn't forgive it.

MK:    No, it is not nice.  That actually brings me to one more question I want to ask.  You just had an editorial in the Houston Chronicle.

JBO:    That is my beloved daughter but I applauded every word she wrote.  And, do you know, the Rockefeller family, I have learned today through an attorney friend who had read the article and said the Rockefellers are coming out with the same position; that there should be a separation between the chairman and the president and the outrageous salaries, while people are dying and dying of early cancer near the refineries.  And with all these tremendous profits that they are making, couldn't they put something aside to relocate some of the people who are living in cancer polluted areas?  When my father and Will Farish were alive, and the Culinans, there was absolutely no connection between cancer and refineries.  That was not an issue.  And if it had been, those fine men would have done something about it because they were humanitarians as well as businessmen.  And so, Janie is speaking for my dead father.  He would have applauded every word she wrote.

MK:    That is wonderful.  Thank you.