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Interview with: Marvin Taylor
Interviewed by: David Goldstein
Date: March 6, 2008
DG: Today is March 6, 2008. We are in Hermann Park talking with Marvin Taylor for the Houston Oral History Project. My name is David Goldstein. Mr. Taylor, how are you today?
MT: Fine, and you?
DG: I am doing great, thank you. Let's begin with a few questions about your early life. Why don't you tell us where you were born and about your earliest years?
MT: I was born in Longview, Texas, that is deep east Texas, on March 22, 1925. In fact, I am having an 83rd birthday on the 22nd of this month. I attended elementary and high school in Longview. After graduation from high school, I was drafted into the United States Navy at 18 years of age and stayed in the United States Navy for 26 months. I was released in 1946. I was trying to get into some school and I wrote several schools. Finally, I was admitted to Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland and I stayed there for 1 year. I transferred to Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas and left there when the Korean War started June 1, 1950. I served in the Navy for 3-1/2 years and when I was discharged from the Navy, I reentered Prairie View and graduated in 1955. I started work for the United States Post Office and I stayed there - I was a regular postal clerk. I ran on the ________ for about 7 or 8 years until they discontinued that type of mail service. I was transferred to the main post office down on Franklin Street and I stayed there 23 years. I served 35 total years in the United States Post Office.
In 1957, I got involved with the Parks system as a volunteer with MacGregor Park. Jogging was not too much in style as it is now and so I was jogging from my house - I lived on Palmer Street which is about 3-1/2 miles from my house and MacGregor Park and there was an area that really was not a jogging trail there so I cut a jogging trail on the bayou and stayed there for . . . tried to get the City to put a jogging trail out there but they said they did not have funds to put a jogging trail, but the Flood Control District, they put a trail from around the loop of Braes Bayou from Calhoun down to Scott Street and back, and stayed over there for about 2 or 3 years later. Then, I started over here in Hermann Park. So, they formed a little club, they called it the Hermann Park Joggers, Runners and Walkers. We did the same process - trying to raise funds to improve the park, put lights and water fountains, telephones and this sort of thing. We raised something like $100,000 and we did get the lights and the telephones and the other amenities. There was another organization, most of the people ________. They saw that there were some improvements that could be made so we merged with them and they called themselves the Friends of Hermann Park and they were raising _______. Our first big grant we received was from the Reader's Digest _______. It was a million dollar grant. They used that to really start on the improvements in the Park. They hired a master planner, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, who drew up the plans for the whole Parks system here in Hermann Park. They started out . . . several things they had in mind. The extension of the zoo into the west side of the zoo, Miller Outdoor Theater and the _________ one is MacGregor . . . Rocky MacGregor, he donated a lot of money for that McGovern Lake lease and then they had a smaller lake on it, they called it the Reflection Pond. That was one of the greatest improvements they made. That is phase 1. So, they are working on phase 2, putting a train and a new restaurant over there by where the old train was. In fact, they are having the dedication of the train tomorrow, which is the 7th of this week. So, I have been active with this organization out here in the Park I guess from like 1989 up until now. I used to run out here in _______. I had energy about 2 years ago. I don't run but I still come out here and take exercise. I think I ran something like 400-500 smaller runs like 5Ks, 10Ks and completed 6 marathons. Do you want to stop me there?
DG: That is terrific. I am going to back to . . .
MT: In fact, they named this jogging trail Marvin Taylor Jogging Trail.
DG: How does that make you feel?
MT: Wonderful. It is an inspiration to my grandkids. Sometimes they come out here. In fact, one of those lights down there has their name plates on it, one light. The Taylor Brothers, they called it, three brothers.
DG: That is going to be there forever.
MT: Oh, yes.
DG: I want to go back to some of the stuff you covered. Your first stint in the Navy. You said you got out in . . .
DG: So, you were in during World War II?
MT: Yes. It was during World War II. You know, World War II was over in 1945.
DG: Where were you stationed?
MT: Pensacola, Florida. I took my boot camp training at Great Lakes, Illinois.
DG: And then, where all were you stationed during that first time in?
MT: In Pensacola, Florida.
DG: That is the entire stint?
MT: Yes. And the second time, I guess I was assigned to an aircraft carrier and they went to the Far East, Japan and Korea and after I got back from . . . I stayed over there 1 year and we returned to the States and I made two trips to the Mediterranean area. Italy, France, Spain, Turkey and Greece - all those countries - and went down to Guantanamo Bay for a short while. I made two trips to the European theater they called it then. I was stationed in Boston, Massachusetts. ________ that was his home port in Boston but I was discharged from Quonset Point, Rhode Island when I got out in 1954.
DG: And how did you end up in Houston?
MT: Well, like I said, when I was transferred from Morgan City University in Baltimore, Maryland, enrolled at Prairie View.
DG: Why Prairie View?
MT: Well, I was wanting to major in industrial arts and Morgan State University was a liberal arts school and they did not have that. I mean, I was just trying to get in some school and get a start, and there were so many veterans coming back from World War II. I mean, enrollments and the _________ if you did not have some kind of connection, I guess, you could not get in a school, one of these liberal arts schools. But my intention all along was to try to get enrolled at Prairie View in the beginning because several teachers in my high school, they were graduates of Prairie View. So, by that time, I just was not able to get in when I wanted to because I spent one year waiting.
DG: When you were going to college, what did you originally want to do when you got out of school?
MT: Well, I had planned to be a teacher but I found out that I did not like that too well. I mean, it is one of the things that you have . . . I guess you try to have mentors who were in that field and you want to do like they are but I thought I could get into something different. You had to take teacher's training when you are in school - you know, they call that in-service training - for a whole semester. I was working at one of the schools there on the campus for children out in . . . that is kind of why I lost my interest in it. But the head of my department recommended some schools for me to work out in far west Texas, in the Panhandle but I did not want to go out that way and I got this job with ________ and that is where I went.
DG: When did you first come to Houston? When did you first see Houston, Texas?
MT: Well, to live, it must have been around 1957 because when I was at Prairie View, you know, I used to come down here on the weekends because I had a brother who lived here and his family who lived here and I would just come and visit them sometimes on the weekends. I had not planned to live here permanently but after I got this job, well, I just decided I would stay here.
DG: What were your earliest recollections of Houston back then?
MT: Well, I was impressed with Houston. At the time, it seemed to be a prosperous city. It was growing rapidly. It kind of compared with some of the northern cities that I had visited like Chicago and Philadelphia and Boston and all those cities. It kind of still had that western frontier air about it to me. It was a slow moving city. I mean, I had been in these cities where things were kind of on the rapid movement. You did not have a bus system or the rail system was not adequate at the time. I do not think there was . . . even the parks weren't too well maintained either.
DG: There has been a lot said about blacks who went to war and then came back to the South after seeing some of the northern cities. How did Houston strike you in terms of racial diversity, in terms of tolerance, in terms of race relations?
MT: Well, that was one of the things that most young blacks experienced when they returned here, I mean, and most of the southern cities. You had been exposed to a different type of place where people seemed to be more liberal minded, especially in Europe, you know. I mean, it was kind of shocking when you went there. I mean, you had been living in a segregated society for so long until you kind of made adjustments which you did not really like but you just put up with it just because you did not have any kind of recourse if you protested. You always had some people who would try to change things but it was a lost battle practically every time they would have that kind of confrontation. Houston was one of those cities . . . I know when I first moved, when I bought a home here, well, I used to live with my brother on Canfield - it was here in Third Ward - and they had a division line, I guess you would say, from about 2 blocks over. Alabama was the dividing line. You could not come over here in this area because that segregated law had a lot of people who worked over here but I do not know any blacks that lived in there, not unless they were living in the servant's quarters. Like all these large homes around here in Third Ward, you know. Most of them had their maids or their butlers or chauffeurs and this kind of thing, and they lived in that area but if it was at night, well, you had to tell the person who they worked for, tell them _________ police force and they would kind of circle the neighborhood. And they would tell them, well, you know, this person is coming to visit their friend. He or she is O.K. But it was like most ___________ segregated city and discrimination everyplace, all over the South. I do not care what your social status was - you did not get the type of thing we have now. There are still a lot of blacks not enjoying the American dream because they are still living in these little pockets, segregated pockets. Not segregated ___________ but because of their socio-economic conditions, they can't live in these other areas. I have a granddaughter who finished school of _________ in North Carolina and she was asking me the same thing you asked me. I said, "Well, all blacks kind of lived together in the same neighborhood." I mean, I don't care whether it was the professional people or the laborers or all these kind of people. They did not have any exclusive area for them unless you had maybe the ________, blacks who maybe had a little neighborhood they had _______ themselves. But they did not have the right to move to different parts of the city like they are now. The same way now - some parts of the city, you are not welcomed to live in, even if you've got the money. Everything is based on economics now, you would think, but I doubt if there are very many blacks who live in the deep part of River Oaks to this day and here you've got some blacks, you know, who are pretty affluent but that still does not spell anything. But it is changing gradually. It is going to take some time, I am sure. I just noticed this thing about this election going, how the young people are taking on Obama for all races. They seem to think that the American system should be different than it is now and we are going to change it which is a good thing. A lot in my age bracket won't be around when there is total change if it ever changes, won't be around. It is just one of those things that is gradually come to some kind of head, to so speak.
I am a board member of this organization of the Hermann Park Conservancy. That is the name of the organization out here that is making all these improvements. Actually, when I ________ group. They have 3 parts of the organization: the advisory board, the executive board and the regular board. I have kind of gone down through the ladder of all three of them. Right now, I am on the regular board. There are about 35 to 40 people on this general board. This is about, I guess, the most progressive park. ________________ but the city just does not have the money to do all the things that have been done out here in this park. Now, in Memorial, you are going to have either, I guess, these nonprofit organizations that you want to see the type of improvements that you see in the park or they want done the building and I guess the infrastructure that we see in all these parks, even the neighborhood parks. I mean, you had some people in these small neighborhoods - they are trying to . . . we are just not conscious of that kind of thing. I know several years ago when we first started with this group, there was a lady who was the CEO of Central Park, she is from here - a lady by the name of Ms. Royce. She was visiting here. Now, the park director, he invited her to attend a meeting. So, she was telling us about what all they do to generate money to improve the park, have different affairs. So, we shared . . . do the same thing here, I mean, because a lot of these rich people here, I mean, I see they donate a lot of money to the other affairs that we have or the Museum of Natural Science and the Arts and the Wortham Theater. I said, "Well, why don't we get in that same position?" "Oh, we don't want to get something like that. We would be upsetting the city government if we do that." We were trying to run . . . no, it would not be run. I mean, but the city would welcome that. I mean, they would really appreciate this type of thing now, because, well, they are going into privatization now, you know. They privatize everything. I mean, they had plenty of money from that kind of thing, but letting somebody else do it.
DG: What else do you remember of Houston when you first came here? You worked for the post office?
DG: So, if there is any good seat to see how the city grows, it's got to be the post office. I mean, you can see how he stands in terms of the mail volume and the new roof . . .
MT: Oh, yes, well, the mail . . . they went into technology and machines at the post office. Like I said, they had a lot of businesses. Oil was the king here in Houston just like it was in some other parts of west Texas and all this energy they had here, well, that increased the mail volume. So, we went from kind of manually handling the mail to the machines. I mean, even sorting the mail . . . we used to sit at a letter case and throw the mail in these different slots, you know, but now, they have a machine that takes sacks of mail and goes through all these different little channels. They do a heck of a job . . . they have more mail now in a day than we have handled, I guess, in a whole week. And it is still improving. They are still trying to find methods of improvement. But I saw improvement in the Post Office. I think it was kind of like the Armed Services. They integrated the Post Office. When I first went in the Post Office, it was segregated, too. We had our little problem with that kind of thing but it finally integrated. In fact, I was there when we had our first black postmaster - a young fellow that came up through the system and then the supervisors, there were a lot of black supervisors - men and women in the Post Office now.
DG: You talked about your involvement with the Parks. I am interested in the fact that you saw something that needed to be done and you took it upon yourself to do it, to suggest it, to raise the money. What was the reaction from people when you first sort of, just as a regular citizen, said . . . well, what did you say first? What was your first step and what was the reaction of people?
MT: Well, I said that, you know, I was a Boy Scout master when I was coming along . . . I mean, I was in Boy Scouts and then I became a Boy Scout master and all that kind of civic pride you have when you are with an organization like the Boy Scouts and the kids really did not have too many places to play, and beautiful scenery like this . . . I mean, this park . . . and it was just run down. I mean, there were no, I guess, no amenities there that they could go . . . unless they went to the zoo but particularly, they would rather have a picnic and this sort of thing but it was not maintained properly. The trash would be piled up. I mean, on a weekend, it just looked like the city dump. And over there in the parking lot where I would usually be all the time, I used to get bags and just pick up trash myself. In fact, I have a clean up now that goes around this part of this trail and rakes up the leaves and this sort of thing. It looked like a jungle. Are you a Houstonian? Do you remember how it used to look _________? Well, I used to cut a lot of this stuff all down in that area. People did not want __________. There were a lot of homeless people living out here. It was a paradise for them because they had some trees right there by the Rose Garden in a circle. I called it the United Nations because they had about 10 of them living in that little circle, in different little spots. There were some other people that wanted this to be natural. They said, "Why don't you leave this alone? We don't want it manicured like it is somebody's yard or something. We just want" . . . in fact, I bought a truck, that truck that I have down there that I will never get rid of. But I bought this truck and one morning, I went jogging, I came back and I was telling a guy and he said, "You said you just bought this truck? You must have some bad springs. See how that truck is leaning?" I said, "No, I haven't noticed it." He said, "Yes, it is leaning to the side." So, we walked up there and somebody had cut all my tires. So, I went and asked the, they called them urban park rangers then. Park police, in a sense. And I said, "Could they have gotten away?" "Well, I mean, what can I do?" I said, "Well" . . . I knew they were not going to give me no satisfaction. So, I went and got a city policeman. He said, "Well, we will keep checking on it." They never did do a thing with it. About 2 or 3 weeks later, I was out here at Miller Outdoor Theater one night and I came back to my truck. It had a big note on it saying what they were going to do. It said, "We have been watching you and we see you out here in the day. You are changing our habitat here and we are going to stop this." I said, well, I am going to continue going. No one ever did approach me but they would just leave those kinds of signs around. But people hate change. I do not care what it is. I mean, if it is something that is going to affect them, in a sense, you know. They just did not want that kind of change. And then some said, "Well, why doesn't the city do that? You don't need to be bothered. Let them __________ picking the stuff up and whatever. They have people hired that can do this." I said, "Well, you know" . . . you go out on these highways _________ President Johnson was in office, well, you know, they started beautification of the highways, Don't Mess With Texas, ___________. You could not be throwing stuff . . . I said that is the same thing that needs to be addressed here but people were throwing trash and all this kind of stuff in the parks, litterbugs. You can have cans and all this kind of stuff right in their presence and they won't drop it in there, they will drop it on the ground, you know, that sort of thing. That is the kind of pride, that is not even thought about, I guess. But people have asked me, "Why would you want to do something like this?" One guy, he said . . . when they ________ to name this trail, you know, somebody had to write a letter to the Parks and Recreation Department and if they accept the letter, it will be started but you had to get so many signatures. _________ I did not get one negative letter that I should not be awarded this name. ____________. I had not made any real enemies with this kind of change. But there is still a lot of work to be done but I have been working over here since about 1989 or 1990. I guess I __________ here.
DG: You mentioned civic pride. Is it civic pride that motivated you for Houston? Why this park? Why this city? Why this place?
MT: Well, because it was in my neighborhood. Like I said, I did the same thing I could over at the MacGregor park which is the adjoining park to this park. I think when MacGregor and George Hermann decided to donate this money for this park, they wanted there to be a connection. I did all I could to ________. I said, well, it is time for me to move on ________ but I got here and I have not left here. I have been satisfied here ever since. And like I say, it has been my home. Sometimes, I used to run from my house over here. It is about a 15-20 minute run from my house here and in my car or truck, I can come over here in less than 10 minutes.
DG: Did you try to contact the city first to do the work or did you just . . .
MT: Oh, yes. Well, the Parks and Recreation Department. That is who I worked with. I did not get too much of a response from the Parks and Recreation Department. They told me they just did not have the budget to be doing any improvements at the time and so, after I got some people that had some connection and interest in parks . . . in fact, the person who was doing the most, I guess, supportive, was a fellow by the name of Larry Nettles (sp?). He is the one that started doing the improvements out there in Memorial Park. He is an attorney. He works for Vinson and Elkins law firm. And so, he helped me a lot. I did not have a secretary. When I would go to a meeting, I would take my tape recorder and record all what happened and I would get back home and I would write out my minutes. Like I said, it was quite a challenge. It just did not have . . . people would say, "I don't have the time." It was a lonely past for me all the way but I finally got used to it. It just became a part of me. People would tell me all the time, "Do you go out to the park every day?" I would say, "Yes." I mean, I have the urge to come here every day. When I was running, I might come out here at 4, 5 o'clock, whatever. Rain, sleet or snow - it did not matter, I was here. So, they said, well, he must be really dedicated. But a lot of people think I work for the Park system because I know one time, they had a park director and there was something going on. He said, I want you to do this and I want you to do that. I said, "O.K." Later on, he said, "You know, I thought you worked for the Park. That is the reason why I was ordering you around so much." I said, "Well, that is O.K. I was going to do it anyway."
DG: Who were some of your other early supporters when you first started trying to raise money and interest?
MT: Well, the most financial supporter was Ollie Hershey. Her father and mother have the Hershey Foundation. Do you know Terry Hershey? She had another daughter whose name was . . . there is a light right up there. When she was killed out in Colorado, I gave Ollie that light for her sister, the motor for her sister. It is on this trail here. Do you see the single lights there, the green light that has a ______ looking globe on it? Well, those are the lights that were put on out here, 26 of them. But after you go right there off of MacGregor where there this pavement starts, well, the lights are city lights but they had to have an arm attached to it to hang over the trail. Houston HL&P, they gave us a big discount to do that. We had to put up $34,000 because it is about a mile and a half on those wings - they call them wings - over the trail from right there that go all the way back up to the rose garden.
DG: In 1987, you formed an organization called Hermann Park Joggers, Runners and Walkers.
DG: How did you get that thing started? How did you get the word out?
MT: Well, they had some people walking and running out here and I just made a lot of circulars and handouts when I would see them. I had to form a corporation to get finance support. I would ask them, I said, "Well, you say you don't have time to . . . just let me put your name on here as a _________ so I can get this cooperation." So, they consented to do it. __________ who helped me get that set up with the Secretary of State. At that time, you had to pay so much a year when you have a nonprofit organization and he helped me on that. But like I said, it was not a membership paying . . . I had 2 or 3 fun runs trying to generate some money but that wasn't too much. We had to rely on donations. I do not know how many hundreds of letters we wrote to different corporations and all that, to oil companies and these philanthropist groups and people who you thought would donate. Now, for each one of those lights, we were asking $500 or more for one of those lights. Some people would maybe give $1,000 or $1,500. It was a donation like that. That is how we raised some money for that. And, as I said, running, jogging and walking in the park was not too popular back then because they just thought I was a nut. _______ the guy, I see him out there running every day - I know he is crazy. It did not look like he was an athlete ____________. But it took off like wildfire. They had fun runs every week, sometimes 4 or 5 of them a week.
DG: I have in my notes that you raised $74,000 for lights and improvements for Hermann Park trails. How much money do you think you have raised overall to benefit Hermann Park?
DG: Well, like I say, since I have been with this organization, we would write letters to people and they would send in contributions. I never questioned how much it was or this sort of thing. It was just sent to the organization. The CEO, Doreen Stollers (sp?) is CEO of the Hermann Park Conservancy. She was praising me all the time about how much I have helped the organization by doing this sort of thing. In fact, we had a dedication about January. Dr. Martin Luther King. They had a statue erected out here. _______ the Council person. She started that project but the Hermann Park Conservancy, they were really the ones that took it over. I wrote over 100 something churches to get donations and some of them responded. Like I said, I don't know how much . . . that statue cost $250,000. So, we did get that much money to do it. I don't know how many . . . but there is a list of people's names on there, up there where the statue is. Do you ever go up there ______________? And whatever they give, I mean, I never asked how much it was so I cannot say the total amount.
DG: Are you surprised at the generosity of the people in Houston?
MT: Yes, I am. Some of them. I mean, people have really been supportive of Hermann Park. Different organizations, I mean, these foundations and these . . . like the McGovern, the Jones Foundation in Houston. The Houston Endowment has really gone overboard to help donate for this park here. But I know there are a lot of other things that they donate to, too. That is part of that Jesse Jones fund, the Houston Endowment. And then, they have a Jesse Jones Foundation. the most amusing thing _________ the lady who is over it now . . . I met her when I was first ________. She used to work for the Park, ____________ department. The money would not come to me, it had to go through the Park board. She was in charge of that. We were talking one day, I said, "You know, I wonder if I write the Houston Endowment, would they give a donation to us? I know it is mostly for education." She said, "Well, try it. ____________. I will tell you when they meet and you send a letter just prior to the board leaving, and I will have them check your request. Write all the things that you are trying to do and how much it costs and this sort of thing." She gave me a full map to follow. I was kind of timid. I needed a lot of money, I needed at least $50,000 but I said, "I know they won't give it." So, I had a meeting and asked for $10,000. And in less than 1 months' time, there was $10,000 here. So, I said, you know, all this money these people have, they weren't hesitant at all to give me $10,000. She said, "That is not what you asked for." I said, "I should have asked for more. _____________". She said, "Marvin, you have to make up your mind what kind of money you need when you ask people now!" I said, "Yes, ask for the most I can." They have been very generous with their funds.
DG: You have been on the executive committee of the Friends of Hermann Park for over 20 years. What are the kinds of issues you guys have dealt with? I mean, besides the refurbishment of the park, have there been any other trends, any other issues, any other . . .
MT: Well, yes. Their vision is to improve this park so I guess to cover everything that you could think of that needs to be done for generations to come. In 2014, well, this park will be 100 years old. Now, if they get through with all the improvements on this phase 2, with the improvements that they make, it should last more than 100 years. In fact, this golf course, this is a new golf course. ___________. That was one of the things that we had done, too, was this golf course. But really what got a lot of people interested were the kids. All across that bayou, that first grant we got was the Reader's Digest ________. The Digest donated that money, one million dollars, and they set up a course over there, they called it Education 101. They have several schools around here in the surrounding area that bring these kids out here. They had a regular curriculum they were following __________ over there in that area. You know, you've got a lot of kids right here in the city who have never been into an environment like over there on that bayou. It is just a wooded area with everything over there. It used to be the same way out here. Parents really were impressed with that. Then, they built a . . . it is not exactly a zoo - it is a playground. Do you know where that pavilion is? There is a little children's playground back there. That really went over well with the kids. Then, they expanded that McGovern Lake and, you know, you can fish in there. Parents bring the kids out there and teach them how to fish and all this sort of thing. That lake is stocked periodically by the Texas Wildlife and A&M. They have about I think 7 species of different fish there in that thing. That is something that the kids really enjoy, too. That is something that they could look forward to, the zoo and that lake and this place over on the other side. And the train. That is the most impressive thing that the kids really enjoy and the improvements they are making, they will never forget that. Some of the adults remember when they were kids, about that train now. That lake over there. 'The first date I had was over there at either Miller Outdoor Theater,' or all this kind of stuff. They can relate to all the things. It is certainly worthwhile, I mean, to have.
DG: Mr. Taylor, all the Houstonians are going to benefit from your involvement with Hermann Park, with the Parks system - why are parks important to us? Why should we care about the . . .
MT: Well, it is kind of a relaxing thing, an uplift for meditation and commune with nature. I know you go back in history, especially with the Greeks and the Romans, they had these parks and these kinds of things; I mean, exotic-looking places. Italy, the same way. You would be surprised the number of people . . . the way our society is right now, I mean, there is so much stress and strain on people now - they need to go someplace and kind of relax where it is not going to cost them a fortune to do that. A person comes out here . . . I was talking to a lady yesterday, she moved down here from Canada. She lives in one of these high-rises over here. She said, "You know, I am trying to stay physically fit. I am just running around in the _________ end of my house and somebody said there is a park right across the street there from you. Go there." I saw her this morning. She said, "You know, it is really wonderful to come out here. I feel relieved when I make a tour around this park in the mornings and go back home. It is relaxing." So, this is good relaxation. It is therapy. People need some kind of mental therapy. That is the best thing to do. A lot of people, it is good weight loss for people, too. I know some people who put a lot of weight on and they started working out in this park and they lost all that weight. You know, Houston was rated the number one weight city in the country. That was Mayor . . . __________________ and I would run here one time, too, here in the park. Yes, he is a physical fitness enthusiast.
DG: How has the city changed since 1957? You have been here 50 years. More than 50 years. How has the city changed from your viewpoint?
MT: It has changed tremendously to my impression. The Parks system and the Metro system, transportation system or whatever, sports arenas. We have gotten really sports conscious. They are building . . . I guess the Dome was one of the largest things that we got excited about. It looks like every sport now, they want to have their own arena. I mean, that shows you how people have gotten into that kind of thing. Sports, sports, sports. That is one of the most healthiest things that a person can get involved in - some kind of outdoor activity. I know kids play in the neighborhoods or in school but I know Mayor Lanier, he tried to get these middle schools involved in running. I will never forget, one time, about 4 or 5 middle schools came out and brought some kids out here. We had finished ____________. We were all sitting over there on the _______ on the end of the table over there and they were talking. One of the teachers asked us, "Will you help us monitor some kids we've got to help try to run?" "Yes, we would be glad to." Those kids, they could not run 12 meters to that light. I mean, they were just bloated. I said, "What happened here?" "Well, they don't have PE in the schools in the morning. They don't let them go outdoors for that physical training like they used to have." But after about 3 or 4 weeks, they had gotten in shape and every year now, they have that run. The marathon run is on Sunday and they had that run for the kids on Saturday. So, they got them involved which is good.
DG: Talk about the generosity that you have encountered in Houston. How would you describe the spirit of Houston in terms of generosity, in terms of the people here, their willingness to help?
MT: Well, I think the generosity is outstanding. People give from their hearts. The spirit, I think, has improved a lot because you have such a diversity of people here from all over the country and all over the world, and the _______ of activity which appeals to a lot of people. It seems like it is rubbing off on the people here in Houston. We had a run here 3 weeks ago, this organization ____________ 5 mile run from Minute Maid Park to this park and a 2 mile walk around this jogging trail and a 1 mile run around Miller Outdoor Theater for kids. There were something like 1,200 people participating in that. It was a beautiful day for it but I think people from other areas of the country, they are demanding more from the city for this kind of activity, you know, I mean, improvements in the park. Prior to then, we did not have that kind of thing yet people especially from the west coast, California and around Florida, especially on the coastal areas where they've got the beaches and all this kind of thing, I think they are outdoor people ________. Some of the northern states, they got hunting and all this kind of thing but it is still outdoors. And so, if it was not liable, you would find a lot of people camping out here, especially on that other side of there. In fact, we had a Boy Scout troop that got them to be out there one night just for demonstrating . . . they were kids just trying to get some merit badges and we let them use it. And there are a lot of people who were visitors, that had an Indian war dance and all that kind of stuff. They enjoy that. But like I said, it depends on the people. The administration . . . Mayor Lanier and Mayor White seemed to be the only mayors I can recall who really have put some interest in backing behind this Park system.
DG: Your story is interesting to a lot of people because you were able to accomplish a lot, you raised a lot of money for the benefit of all Houstonians but you did not really have a high profile job, you did not come from a family with a lot of money - what would you say to people from your experience about the ability of any citizen to do the kind of thing that you have done to improve their city?
MT: Well, I think love people. I like to see people benefit from some of the good things of life and if they are not able to have all these luxuries of people who have money . . . it does not cost anything to come out here and enjoy yourself. That is the thing that I said . . . the spirit of that kind of life is . . . we all should be able to do that or try to do that. Love your neighbor as yourself.
DG: Is there anything else you wanted to add?
MT: Yes, I would like to say that the young people who are sports minded, especially these athletes who are making these big . . . getting large contracts monetarily, should try to improve their neighborhood, whether it is Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth or whatever, for the benefit of kids because you have a lot of kids who will never be able to have a good environment, but they can have some . . . with the money they are making, they can buy some land in the neighborhoods and set up some type of recreation for kids. They've got to prioritize their funds for something else aside from what they are doing. A lot of them are not investing their money wisely and are just having a good time or whatever, and they are not doing anything for the kids in the neighborhood, because every one of them came from that kind of environment themselves so they know what it is. So, they should try to make it better for others.
DG: O.K., thank you Mr. Taylor.
MT: Thank you.