Roy Watson

Duration: 1hr: 12mins
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Transcript to follow

Interview with: Roy G. Watson
Interviewed by:
Date: April 8, 1975
Archive Number: OH 188

Interviewer
0:00:02.1 With Mr. Watson at the Shamrock Hilton Lanai, April 8, 1975. Good afternoon Mr. Watson.

Roy Watson
Good afternoon to you.

Interviewer
Would you start off by telling us your full name, your family’s history--a little bit about it, where they came from, and their interest in acquiring the Houston Post. And then go on into the story of that newspaper for me.

Roy Watson
Sure, my father came from Kentucky. When he was a teenager he persuaded his father to give him some money that came from a small estate from his father and his mother. Then he and a friend bought a raft, came down the Mississippi River selling things to the people (laughs). So the time was rather interesting, and when they got to New Orleans they would sell the raft and go to Florida and go into the citrus business, and this was in the 80s. Think of the citrus in Florida in the 80s. Well, when they got to New Orleans, the little craft upset and sank, and they had 1 nickel. (laughs) And they tossed up to see whether they would buy bread or watermelon--(laughs), you could buy a watermelon.

Interviewer
--for a nickel.

Roy Watson
And so they had quite an experience of washing dishes and messenger boys, and what not. Naturally instead of going east they went west to Texas. And father was up and coming. He was a very handsome, dashing sort of a chap and everything he touched succeeded. And he started newspapers and after a rather long career--not too long--he founded the Houston Post. The Houston Post claims to be the oldest newspaper in Texas on the basis that it dug up some printing presses that had been thrown into the bayou when the Mexicans came, and that linked them to older papers so that they traced their ancestry way back yonder. And so father combined the two little sheets into the Houston Post, and I believe it was financed by the Bordens--you know, the Borden newspaper. He and Colonel R. M. Johnston founded the paper. He was the manager, and he was the doer and Colonel Johnston was the politician and editor.

0:03:19.4 Just about that time they were just--was on the market--the first printing, this typesetting machine--the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. Father was very interested in it. He decided to go up to New York and look into purchasing some, and he stopped on the way to see if friends had papers. He landed with a bunch of orders in his hands. He went to see the people who were trying to sell it and learned that they had stopped trying to sell it. It had been a flop. The printer wouldn’t permit them because it ruined their business--hand setting instead of by machine, and they said they weren’t making any more. Father said could he buy some. This was told to me by a man who years ago, was head of the International Paper Company. He said, “Yes, there was some in the basement in Chicago. Father said. “What would you give me if I sell them?” He said, “10% gross.” He said, “I nearly ruined myself financially.” (laughs) Father took them and then he acquired the sole role representative of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, and every newspaper in the world bought their first machine from J.L. Watson in New York, except one--that was Galveston. Galveston said the Galveston News would never buy anything used. (both laughing) Galveston News was already going. (laughs)

I was friends with the Dealeys. He used to run the Dallas News. Whenever I went to see Mr. Dealey, which was frequent, he’d open up his desk and show me a paper. It was a cutting that the Post had—a cutting from the Post so that--and it was fixed so that you could read, “Watch the Houston Post copy this.” (laughs) The Post was getting out any way it could and it was copying things from the Dallas News. But this linotype was a gold mine and so father--we moved from Houston where I was born on a ranch of my aunt’s to New York and lived in New York, and he bought out his partners and was the sole owner of the Houston Post running it from New York.

Well then he was a great fisherman and one summer we went up to a place in Maine that no white man had ever been up there before. He caught a cold and the cold settled into what seemed like serious things. So, on coming on a trip down to Houston he stopped to see John Vanderbilt in Asheville because the doctor there, Dr. Von Ruck had discovered the serum for tubercular difficulties. In those days, everything was tubercular no matter what. They put him to bed and kept him there till he died at age 37. We came down with our fritters and eggs and codfish and everything and lived inside a hotel when he passed on. The Von Ruck’s were very kind to mother. She was only about 22. I was 4 or 5. They rather--they converted one of their houses--it was an office house--to a home for us, and we lived there. We went abroad with them and then began a long series of--we lived in North Carolina. We lived in Europe on the Riviera for two years. Mother remarried. We went to California. We built a house in California. Her new husband went out to make a fortune at the Klondike, which he didn’t, so he came back. We lived in Chicago, went back to France again.

0:08:38.0 All the time I had three trustees--current Senator Johnston, H. F. MacGregor, and G. J. Palmer. They built the newspaper plant, 4 stories on the corner of Travis and Texas, which was the largest exclusive newspaper building the side of the Mississippi. But they discovered that if they kept mother well supplied with funds that she left them alone, and they left us alone. I knew nothing of Houston in those years. I think I only met my trustees once or twice. We came when I got to be about 12. I had tutors, sketchy education. We came back to this country. I entered Lawrenceville, and I went through Lawrenceville. Then when I graduated I went through Princeton, and when I finished Princeton then I came down to take over my paper at the ripe age of 23, knowing no one, no connections. (laughs) But I had become a Christian Scientist which was early.

Interviewer
That early, I was going to ask you when that was.

Roy Watson
When I was in college.

Interviewer
What brought you to that?

Roy Watson
We took an automobile trip out of town with our in-laws. A cousin of mine was a scientist, a roommate of mine, and my mother--we had never heard of Christian Science. And we kept teasing this cousin. And being a smart woman she said, “Mr. Smarty, I think if you would read the textbook you could tease me more intelligently.” And I thought I could, so I read the text book to tease her, and I accepted this hook line and sinker, only I didn’t think I needed it. Ah, and that is probably the worse disease in the world--to think you don’t need what you should have. I had my own car. I had the prospects. I had the newspaper waiting for me. I had my own money. Nothing I had that I needed more of. And so I just put it aside. But it grew on me, so one of the first things--I ended at the college--I asked to be excused from going to Chapel to go to the Christian Science meetings. I must admit, it was largely to get out of Chapel, (laughs) which was compulsory in those days. So when I came down here, I joined the Christian Scientist Church, the next year at the Mother Church. The third year I had class instruction in Christian Science with Mr. Adam H. Dickey, who was secretary to Mrs. Eddy. He was chairman of the board of directors of the Mother Church.

0:12:25.6 I was interested in modeling the Post after the Christian Science Monitor. And I was very eager to have my own concepts--translating them to the publishers of the paper. In the history of the Houston Post, which they had gotten out, they said that I Watsonized the paper overnight. I changed when I received the securities and the control when I was 25. Overnight I changed all the policies. I was pro-Woodrow Wilson. I had taken classes with him. I had changed anti-prohibition to prohibition, anti-former suffrage to suffrage. There was much ado about a Red Light District because I thought (??)exists. I did that all at once. (laughs)

Interviewer
You--you didn’t allow liquor advertisements. I loved that.

Roy Watson
Then, I eliminated all liquor advertising.

Interviewer
Which was in direct contrast to Mr. Johnston’s policies before that.

Roy Watson
Well, Mr. Palmer was the business owner.

Interviewer
Mr. Palmer was the one.

Roy Watson
And we had an editor by the name of George Bailey who had--

Interviewer
Right.

Roy Watson
0:13:59.7 --who had a national reputation, and I found out he suddenly left. One day he just didn’t show up. And I found out that he was receiving payments for his room and profits from the liquor interests. His interest in the liquor, and Colonel Johnston’s interest in Senator Bailey—

Interviewer
Yes.

Roy Watson
Someone I couldn’t staff. (laughs)

Interviewer
Few people really could. (laughs)

Roy Watson
And it seemed to me the newspaper--the advertising agencies in New York always wanting advertising not next to medical, so I decided just to eliminate medical. The Post story says that I eliminated it and took out of my own pocket some $100,000 a year. And I said, “Well, I didn’t. I’m not losing anything.” I said, “I was buying a feature called ‘Principle.’” And I did. When I finally sold the paper, which was done later, there was no inventory and no audit. There was no question about the Principle being used at the Post. I had a very exciting time because it was wartime.

Interviewer
Right.

Roy Watson
I was sued by Robert Patrick Chess (??).

Interviewer
Why was that?

Roy Watson
0:15:54.6 Because I printed a story about Father Kirwin saying that, “For the first time in my life I refuse to salute the American flag.” It was in a funeral over one of the boys brought back from overseas--because it covers a dirty spot the Knights of Columbus took it off. There was hardly a dirty spot--it was the fact the flag was donated by the Ku Klux Klan. (laughs) The Knights of Columbus took it off and said, “And it covers the dirty spot.” So Father Kirwin said, “I didn’t say that.” He wouldn’t comment, and I covered the story on the front page--both stories. It did him great harm, and so he denied it, and brought suit against me for printing something that wasn’t true. Well, that dragged on for a long, long time, with the church practically opposed to the Post circulation. It tried to get judges in small towns to stop selling the Post. Then there was Christian Scientists trying to put them up. Finally, the case got down to Galveston, a stronghold in the church. Father Kirwin said, “I don’t ask any financial payment neither damages. I just want vindication.” That sounded pretty serious, but it got a hung jury. It had a few Ku Klux Klan members on it. (laughs) So we got together, and I printed his denial on one column, and I put what I thought was a story on the other side of the front page--that was the end of that. But that was--

Interviewer
Very Woodrow Wilsonish I would say. (both laughing)

Roy Watson
And then Jessie Jones, before I became very friendly, and he wanted me to have some stocks in his bank, and he wanted stocks in the Post. He told me that he owned these profits although Mifo Foster was supposed to have. Mifo and I were like this all the time. I was extremely social, and Mifo had no social standing, and he called me the preposterous Princeton prophet. And I think he was probably right. (both laughing)

Interviewer
Looking back you mean? (laughing)

Roy Watson
0:18:58.4 I wore bow ties even then--yellow gloves. Houston wasn’t a very big town, about 90,000. And Main Street wasn’t big except the McGowans and (___??). The same people that are still tip-top. You see, this was the plantation country, and then the Civil War made them land poor, and then discovered oil, and they are the millionaires. All the families are old Houston families, the Hutchinsons, and the Williams, and the Rices, all of them, and the same parishes all the same.

Then of course, I led the fight against the governor, and we apparently had him convicted on what they call a chicken salad case. We proved that he served steak chicken salad at the socials. (laughs) Then he put Maud Ferguson in--you know? She was governor and he went on being governor.
Interviewer
2 governors for the price of one.

Roy Watson
Yes, and then years later I had an occasion to stay in Austin for a church purposes, Science, and I rented the house right next to the governor, and we became great friends. (laughing)

Interviewer
People said that he was a charming person.

Roy Watson
Always--every time I did the most unethical thing a paper could do, really. I prepared his name to appear in the paper, and every time it appeared he’d bring suit. And he’d bring it for $5000, $10,000 around their somewhere. Then I’d have to pay Baker Botts $1000 or so, and I’d have to get representation, and we couldn’t afford to. And I knew other ways to settle it--just that I wouldn’t print anything about him (laughing).

Interviewer
Avoiding, huh?

Roy Watson
That’s that. (laughing)

Interviewer
0:21:29.9 One of the things it said is that you banned oil stock ads too, was this because of the Waters-Pierce and Joe Eldin Bailey (??)?

Roy Watson
Oh yes, there was fortunes to spend in advertising, “Send us $50 and become a millionaire.” I didn’t—it wasn’t only liquor—but—I don’t think I stopped (___??)But these oil stocks and the Chronicle got rich on it. But I had had a very high ethnical feeling that this paper belonged to Houston, and I printed it. And it could never be the same. It had never been and never would be. And if it went into people’s homes—the homes of the people I knew—I didn’t think I should carry into it something that for the sake of money that I wouldn’t wish to have his family read and be governed by or harmed by. And that was how the paper thrived. The Turning Basin was in at that time, the war was going on. I would not attack the Ku Klux Klan because they did nothing to be attacked for in Houston . If they had, I said I would. But they didn’t. It was just a tumultuous time.

Interviewer
Right.

Roy Watson
And I was not in uniform, the governor accused me of dodging the draft, and that I had been reclassified--was on my way to France. We lived near the country club way out east, and we got home on Monday night, and he actually had done that, his draft-board, his appointees, and I had been told to report that afternoon, which had past. And Baker Botts was petrified. They wanted me to claim physical disability, kind of which I could not do as a Christian Scientist. They said if I didn’t do that--

Interviewer
Who was your advisor at Baker Botts then—particularly--do you remember?

Roy Watson
They all were pretty good. Jim and I were at Princeton at the same time, that was one thing. Then there was a man there, a wonderful chap, and his wife, was a Christian Scientist. He was my chief voice. But they would be leaving.

Interviewer
0:24:26.1 Right.

Roy Watson
And our bank in South Texas, which was Baker Botts, and it seemed natural.

Interviewer
Let me interrupt you a minute, you said that you were born at your aunt’s ranch near Houston, who was your aunt?

Roy Watson
Her name was—let’s see—my grandmother was Phillips and she married—let me see—Phillips, her cousin, is the same family tree as Nancy Estes (??), and we claimed cousinship. She always played a large part of our lives.

Interviewer
Very nice.

Roy Watson
And she married a cousin, and they lived here. She got baptized in winter, caught a cold, and passed on. (laughs)

Interviewer
One of those crimped baptisms outside—oh, man. Where was the ranch?

Roy Watson
I don’t remember.

Interviewer
You don’t remember. It would be interesting—probably downtown Houston almost. (both laughing)

Roy Watson
Main Street probably.

Interviewer
0:25:52.3 Maybe right here.

Roy Watson
Oh, this is out in the country.

Interviewer
Oh, yes--right.

Roy Watson
I’ll think of the name of it.

Interviewer
That’s alright.

 

Roy Watson
My grandfather died. And my grandmother and mother lived in New Orleans at the St. Charles, a marble hotel, you know--grandeur.

Interviewer
Yeah.

Roy Watson
We had a friend—one of my best friends—Robert Garrett, who was the president of L&M. He thought they should come to Houston--there in that building. And so he put them on this private car and brought them over here. Mother hated this cow town of saloons and mud after New Orleans.

Interviewer
Right, right.

Roy Watson
But she agreed to marry father if they wouldn’t live here, so that’s why they lived in New York.

Interviewer
0:26:55.1 I see, so your name, Garrett, comes from this very good friend.

Roy Watson
From this friend, I was named Roy Garrett, after Dr. Robert Garrett.

Interviewer
I see.

Roy Watson
And so—let’s see now—well—

Interviewer
Your mother was a Phillips then?

Roy Watson
Yes, she was Natty (??) Mae Phillips. She married J. L. Watson--Julius Louis. Then her second marriage was to a man from San Antonio named William Webb.

Interviewer
Oh.

Roy Watson
Mrs. Webb was the sister of J.J. Haverty, the furniture millionaire.

Interviewer
Furniture.

Roy Watson
Very handsome, heavy headed, blond boy, but he just wasn’t able to do anything financially (laughs).

Interviewer
Right, because of the Klondike.

Roy Watson
0:27:58.7 And we went to—we lived in Chicago when I was young. We lived there. And came back just to put me in school (inaudible).

Interviewer
You got an education traveling?

Roy Watson
Oh, (break in tape), and handicap when I got there because while I knew my way around Paris I didn’t know Babel very well--and I don’t care (laughs).

Interviewer
It didn’t seem to have bothered you any (laughs).

Roy Watson
Oh, not at all I have the diploma so I can work (laughing).

Interviewer
Mortgage (inaudible).

Roy Watson
This Irish vice president of SMPA sold the newspaper, seemingly active in all the activities.

Interviewer
This would have been in the 1920s?

Roy Watson
1914 to 1924--10 years, because I ran it 10 years. The Turning Basin--I became very much interested in moving grapefruit, and I tried to get them to have an exit here rather than San Antonio. When the first ones they made were green, the people wouldn’t buy them. Then I got private car and toured the valley. I had a name everywhere, and they started calling it the “Watson Grapefruit.”

Interviewer
Really?

Roy Watson
0:29:38.8 But my competitor, Mr. Foster, got a “Taste of Foster.” And now it’s forgotten (laughing).

Interviewer
Texas pink grapefruit.

Roy Watson
Ruby red.

Interviewer
Yeah, during the time that you were handling the paper, two rather important events come to mind. One was the riot of Camp Logan, and the other is the Red Scare that followed World War I.

Roy Watson
The what?

Interviewer
The Red Scare--when supposedly the Communists were blowing up, turning Mitchell Palmer’s house, and what not. I was wondering if there was any manifestation of the Red Scare here.
Roy Watson
I do remember when the black soldiers stormed Houston.

Interviewer
That was the Camp Logan affair.

Roy Watson
It was—huh.

Interviewer
There was a riot at Camp Logan, which was during the war.

Roy Watson
Oh, Houston was pretty well petrified that night.

Interviewer
0:30:37.4 I’ve hear people say that out in the Heights they could hear the gunfire.

Roy Watson
No, I was at the country club and they didn’t get that far.

Interviewer
We’re talking about the country club on Wayside, out in the East End?

Roy Watson
Yes--is that still a club?

Interviewer
It’s become a public golf course, and clubhouse is open to dinners for the school athletes, and that sort of thing.

Roy Watson
Then it’s still there?

Interviewer
It’s still there.

Roy Watson
When we lived there we had 4 or 5 rooms, and we were great friends of E.F. Simms who had a—is that place still there?

Interviewer
I’m not sure, I don’t believe.

Roy Watson
They had magnificent hothouses—grew the American Beauty roses there.

Interviewer
I think that’s gone.

Roy Watson
0:31:26.8 Magnificent. When they closed the club to permanent guests, we moved into one of the Simms' (___??) and lived there. They fixed it up.

Interviewer
Was a pretty end of town then?

Roy Watson
It was lovely, trees—and there the club was ideal because you could play golf, and everybody else went in for dinner, and they kept the servants on. I loved the paper, I started an afternoon edition. I had 24 hour paper, one of the first in the country. And the things that startled the newspaper—I felt there was a lack of cohesion between the departments, and so I had a meeting every afternoon at 2:30 and mixed the—okay?

Interviewer
It’s okay.

Roy Watson
—the editorial, Mr. Bailey, the news department, the circulation department, advertising department, the business department met in my office. I had the Rice Institute design my office. It was a factory-type building, so I had the office design by my ideal measurements, the height, the ceilings, the panels and the walls, the rugs, and lovely drapes. I expected to get tapestries, but I had uncut velvet at the time, and all the electric fixtures, crystal, silver, fireplace, lavatory, safe, and an entrance—very elaborate outside.
That was really to retire Ken Johnson with a pension from my—I had loaned the manager, I gave him some $100,000 to go to up to Washington, and be a Dollar-a-Year Man (laughing). But this meeting in this elaborate office—and I couldn’t find anything of common interest. We had a man in charge of the mechanical department named George Epperly, and he was so mad. And he threatened to kill any new reporter that ever put his foot on the fourth floor (knocking). Okay—on the fourth floor, and they didn’t. And so he sat there in the circle. And so all the country hears this young whippersnapper. (interruption)

Yes, Honey.

Interviewer
They seem to have gone away. Only knocked and then they backed out again.

Roy Watson
They were all 6’s and 7’s, and so what I did was I read the editorials—the next day editorials—which no one would ever read, not for criticisms so much as to so they know what they were, and if we had (___??) or something we would get circulation going ahead of time and make preparations for everybody stopping the paper—that sort of thing. But the story got out that I had discharged all these faithful people. Truly they had taken good care of the property, and just going ahead and having George Bailey’s editorials criticized by mechanics (laughs) and I was more impressed by (___??) But as the Post history says, “I didn’t do so badly either.”

Interviewer
0:36:19.5 No--you did establish one with an ongoing affair.

Roy Watson
Yes sir, and I did have my paper help Baylor of Houston on a daily basis. That used to be corn field. And they just dug a hole big enough to turn a ship around--and you could see the smokestacks sticking up from the rows of the corn. It was a wonderful experience. A religious experience led to my selling the paper.

Interviewer
Oh really, tell me about that.

Roy Watson
[Stumbling] I felt—actually I heard a voice saying, “Sell the paper, sell the Post, sell the Post.”

Interviewer
No reason?

Roy Watson
No, I didn’t want to sell it--all day Sunday, all that night. Mr. Sterling, R. F. Sterling, had made a lot of money with this big hotel, and then he founded the Hoban Company, and then he sold to Saunders for $8 million. (laughs)

Interviewer
He was a smart man.

Roy Watson
He wanted to be governor. And he wanted to buy the Post, and I wouldn’t sell it to him. And so he started little rival paper and was trying to get all the newspaper people on the Chronicle, Post, to come to him, so it was an open feud. This is what I consider as a voice. The next morning I called in my manager, and I said that I had decided to sell the paper. And G. J. said, “Well, you can’t.” “Why?” “Well, you can’t get enough to live on.” And I had a great feeling of relief because I didn’t have to sell it. I had to be willing to sell it. I was counting on that I would never sell it, so I had to be willing to sell.

0:39:14.8 But I went down to Baker Botts to see my attorney, and he was in California. I got word to him that I didn’t know how you went about selling a paper, that I knew that one thing was secrecy. And I told this to his protégé who was going out to see him. I swore him to secrecy and he kept it from Baker Botts. I owned probably 60% of the stock, but there were a lot of other stocks--there were bond shares. I think the largest was about $30,000 worth. It was like owning the (inaudible).

Baker Botts had some shares of stocks. The news got out that that I was selling, and I was getting a big price, and the stockholders would benefit. And this stockbroker, who later went to penitentiary—not because of this—but he sold Governor Hobby the idea that you could make a lot of money if he bought stock, if he went around to buying all the little minority. And Baker Botts people came to me and asked if I would waive—they wanted to sell the stock to Mr. Garwood (??)—if I would waive legal procedures of some sort. And I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t tell them why. They were furious.

When I came back to my office I found a card this next day, and it was from William Randolph’s representative. I vaguely remembered who it was and I called him, which was extremely unusual. My secretary called, I usually paid no attention to something like that. He said, “Mr. Watson, I am a representative of William Randolph I, and I would like to talk to you. I know you’ve told me to never call you again, but wouldn’t you let me come over to talk?” And to his amazement I said, “Yes, that would be very nice, go ahead.” And so he told me that William Randolph had a plan. When we lived in Brooklyn father used to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to the railroad buildings. William Randolph had his offices there and everybody knew everybody else.

Roy Watson
He used to tease my mother saying that, “I’m going to own the Houston Post someday.” She said you never will. And that had come down in the family.

Interviewer
Yeah.

Roy Watson
So when this William Randolph I wanted to buy it I said, “Oh, nothing doing.” But he came and he said Mr. Hearst wanted to start a chain of papers with the Post as the morning paper, the Sunday Paper, Global Enterprise, Galveston, Waco, San Antonio, (inaudible), so on. And they wanted me to arrange a publisher for the whole thing. To his astonishment, he found me completely agreed (laughs). And we even settled on a price.

0:43:25.4 I accepted a method of determining the value that had been settled by the courts in New York of the papers that had been sold. I said that would be satisfactory. I said, “You know, today you have an option to settle this deal.” And he said, “No, I’ve contacted Mr. Hearst, but I’ll be back in the morning.” Then I prejudiced against Hearst’s sensationalism. I didn’t want it so. I didn’t think it was good for the town. And I remembered Mr. Sterling wanted to get it. So, I told my intimate friend and attorney, Warden Reeves (??), and told him to go see Mr. Sterling and tell him that I was selling the Post on this plan, and if he can accept it he can have it.” He said yes he would accept it. It took about a week to him getting his billfold straighten up, and (laughs) I didn’t hear from the Hearst man. It was first come first serve. And that’s when this attorney, knowing that I could get three or four times the value of these minority stocks, selling Will Hobby the fact that he ought to buy this subsidy thing and he’d earn $100,000 easy.

Well, finally Hobby got it all straightened out. He agreed to cash because he had his millions, and he thought that was a good way to be governor. You see--we were on the original Associated Press papers, so we could outvote our competitors. We had 20 votes, the richer ones. Well, make a long story short, I signed up with him the following Monday, in a week. But I learned—Sam Tall was a friend—he called up and told me that they were raising my stock. This seemed the natural thing to do. I’d put a lock. I said that Mr. Sterling need not buy any of my minority stockholders—as I had said he’d had to—who hadn’t held stock as of the first of the month, which was spring, June, July. And then the Hearst man showed up all beaming. He located Mr. Hearst. Mr. Hearst had his stock.

Interviewer
(laughing)

Roy Watson
Mr. Hearst had been crossing the country, and he couldn’t get in touch with him at the time. And the whole--his whole plan was working. He wanted me to fill out and start signing the papers, become part of the Hearst organization, which I would not consider doing, but I’m selling the paper. I had to tell him the paper had been sold. And I think he fainted after that. (both laughing)

Interviewer
Could be after his well-laid plan.

Roy Watson
0:47:16.9 And so, two weeks later I left the Post with my clock under my arm, and I’ve never been there since. I’ve never been in the new building. Inside is Mrs. Hobby’s vault.

Interviewer
It’s like a fortress.

Roy Watson
What happened next was that there was Mr. Hobby with this stock which he couldn’t sell, and it had no more value than it had before because he couldn’t sell it because of Sterling. Sterling said, “Well, why don’t you come over here as the editor of the paper?” He did, and I’m told that he got no dividends and no salary for three years, which had never been never been (inaudible). My wife--you know who my wife is?

Interviewer
No, I don’t.

Roy Watson
Did you ever hear of Paul McDuff?

Interviewer
Oh yes.

Roy Watson
She’s Mrs. McDuff, and came that close to being First Lady of the land. So, she and Mrs. Hobby became good friends in Washington. We came down after we were married, being that there were tender feelings after the divorce. There was a wedding, one of her first children were getting married. At New Year’s Eve, a formal invitation was sent to come every year. Then I came down nearly about a year later and I visited the Shamrock because of strictly the excitement there. They were having a big banquet. The legal firms had taken taking tables, and the Supreme Court table was occupied. And asked what all the excitement was, and they were giving a great dinner to Will Hobby.

Interviewer
Ruined the day.

Roy Watson
0:49:38.2 I wasn’t invited (laughing).

Interviewer
That’s odd isn’t it?

Roy Watson
A reporter discovered me and he got so excited, “They don’t know you’re here”, but nothing ever happened.

Interviewer
Well, since you left Houston what have you done to keep yourself busy?

Roy Watson
Let me finish.

Interviewer
Okay.
Roy Watson
(Inaudible) Their son is the architect for the new hotel, and they were very interested in architect and my seeing it, and I didn’t feel I should go see it through the back door, so word was passed on I think to Mrs. Hobby. She sais—she didn’t tell me—but she had her secretary tell our secretary that if I should come home Sunday with Mrs. Watson on a certain hour that she should show us the building. But that particular Saturday was the day of my convention. I had a 1000 people teaching them (___??). She reportedly remarked that she had used that excuse many times, but she never had it used on her before. And it didn’t really make sense. Well, what I did was, I found a real estate company (___??) and a large part of the money invested in corner lots on Main Street, and the city skipped every one of them. (laughs) Then I was—I love to travel, and I couldn’t wait. So, we sold our house in Asheville, and as Mrs. Vanderbilt was opening up part of her estate, you know Asheville?

Interviewer
0:51:49.0 Very vaguely, went through there.

Roy Watson
They have a marvelous house--they have 400 rooms—beautiful house. I was about the same age as Camellia, and Biltmore House is my second home there in Asheville. I was very interested in laying out the plans for the golf course, and this addition--and I bought three acres on the golf course to live in Asheville. I designed—half designed—a lovely fenced tower house around the court with the view of the marshes in the backyard. This is our summer home and you could see in the picture (inaudible) That’s right on the water (inaudible).

Interviewer
Yeah--it’s beautiful.

Roy Watson
And that was my plan, so we went to Egypt. I have a Rolls Royce (___??), and a Scottish driver. He became my driver for years and years. And we went, spent Christmas, went down the Nile on a Christmas boat, and then came back and then went everywhere, everywhere. Then I came back, I tried to get him to come back with me to this county. He was a great big Scotch, you know, those piper types. And he said he asked his wife. And mother asked him, “What did she say?” and he says, “No, no, no, no, no.” And Mother asked, “Well, what did you ask?” and he said, “I asked if she’d let me off for a year.”

We came back went to Asheville, and then worked on the house—expecting to build it, planning it—and things didn’t go as I thought they would. So, I closed it down, and we took the driver and went on to Honolulu. Then we went to see lakes and national parks, and then I realized I hadn’t been to the Holy Land, so we went back to Egypt or Persia. And then I had to shock him by saying, in the middle of November, I had the same voice to go back to Houston, which was just as extraordinary as the first. And I knew mother was going to be willing to go, so I asked the next morning, “What do you think of going back to Houston?” She said I think it’s exactly what we should do, and I can live anywhere. By that time I had investments in real estate and I could live anywhere, but not in Houston. That event with the holiday dinner was a sour for us. From complete (___??) to nothing.

Interviewer
0:55:27.8 Yeah.

Roy Watson
But I came back, and by that time my interest in Science had grown. I had made one of the branch churches my office. So, I changed my plans--we came back. I had taken a house on Lovett to live in until I could pay over in River Oaks. I had an option on the land right next to that French Chateau--you know, (___?) I had that. I kept it for some time and then released it, and the man that bought it hired my architect in Asheville to build his house. And my golly I stayed in this house 420 Lovett Blvd. for several years. I spent half the year in Europe. I built a third church over there in (___??) I went into practice in (___??) became a teacher. I stayed there until I was invited to go to Boston as a treasurer. First, I was invited to go as manager of the publishing side, which I thought was a natural. And that board split off the board, and they declined. They wanted me to be a teacher and the treasurer. I was a treasurer of bank, but I didn’t know anything about being a treasurer. I thought I knew a lot about running a newspaper, but I had never had a foot in real work. I was taking it as a test. But I was treasurer for 32 years (laughs).

Interviewer
The voice had known this I guess. I mean this voice that did all of this had something to do with it?

Roy Watson
My life has changed twice, starting upon coming back here. When I got back I found that this same old little organization I had started. They wanted to build a church and I built it, financed it, and when I was finished I went back to Europe. I had the Rolls built, and I took my family to Europe in great style.

Interviewer
It sounds lovely.

Roy Watson
And I expected to live a very beautiful life picking up beautiful things, putting them in beautiful—but I hadn’t counted on Christian Science. So, we lived in Boston. We had an apartment in view of the church, so we build a summer home there. But now that I’ve retired I’d be very happy just to have that.

Interviewer
0:58:46.5 Well, then you come to Houston, and visit here, and you came here.

Roy Watson
I have a class of 30, once a year at the end of March, the 1st of April. I’m here every year and I take these same rooms, and I’m here for a month.

Interviewer
Ms. Smith came down from Boston for this thing that was going on, the lady—Ms. Smith that came over to visit me and—

Roy Watson
Oh yes, they come from everywhere. Two of them came from Ghana; one came from Persia for one day. Do you know anything about Christian Science?

Interviewer
Not very much—not enough to bring me from Persia right now. I just had friends who were, but I never really studied it at any time.

Roy Watson
It takes a strong man.

Interviewer
It’s a plain kind of religion isn’t it? I mean _____??

Roy Watson
We know about—we teach all the teachings of the Christ literally. We don’t have any rights as far as—

Interviewer
No, it’s a simple religion.

Roy Watson
Very concecrated, very dedicated but it’s a way of thinking. You look at all the material in the mental.

Interviewer
1:00:11.4 That’s why I’m interested with you, who had so many material things, loved travel and the good life, and what not. It’s very interesting.

Roy Watson
I was in (___??) house.

Interviewer
Were you. Did you know him here in Houston or no?

Roy Watson
In Washington.

Interviewer
No, because you would have missed him when he was locally.

Roy Watson
And, of course, the Woodrow Wilson family.

Interviewer
Yeah.

Roy Watson
And then Mrs. Howard Hughes, a very beautiful woman, and Mrs. E. F. Simms, and Mrs. Thompson and myself, we were going to form a new social club in Houston. And I think the Bio Club (??) is an offspring of that. And Mrs. Hughes, having something on her cheek, the doctor said just come by and we’ll take it off. Her sister, Annette, went with her and waited for her. She went in and he gave her anesthesia.

Interviewer
Local.

Roy Watson
1:01:19.1 And she passed on—shocked the community. Then there’s Howard Senior, unmarried and (___??) (laughing)

Interviewer
A little genius brat. (laughing) Well they are difficult.

Roy Watson
About the time that the he’d gotten his money—he didn’t get it for a long time—but he started lighting cigarettes with 50 dollar bills and things like that. I was one of the pall bearers in Mrs. Hughes’s funeral. We were very close friends.

Interviewer
When did you know Glenn McCarthy, when you first started coming here?

Roy Watson
Well, nothing.

Interviewer
The legend, Glenn McCarthy. He built a beautiful hotel.

Roy Watson
It’s a funny thing. You know that we loved the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. John. St. John’s is the Rockefeller plantation.

Interviewer
Yes.

Roy Watson
And I have (___??) I’ve been there in Christmas and I’m going now, and I’m going again in December. He bought an island there.
Interviewer
He did?

Roy Watson
1:02:41.2 Yes, has an island, right in (___??). There’s no way to get to it, I mean there are no beaches or anything, but he has it.

Interviewer
Still?

Roy Watson
As far as I know he still has it. I also discovered over there—this has nothing to do with this—but what happened to Santa Anna, you know. After he had been defeated he left Mexico, was put out. He went to St. Thomas and he built an hacienda there. And this last trip I discovered nobody knew Santa Anna, but they know Santana. They got a rent house, a boarding house, a small hotel.

Interviewer
Santana.

Roy Watson
Magnificent. But Houston—my goodness—to see it now. It’s almost frightening, the thought of trying to come back. I have no social ties, I don’t know. My whole horizon is Christian Science. So they are selling Third Church. The church I built. And so I built myself (___??) more church, a very beautiful church. And we hold our first meetings on the first Saturday in April, 1st in March, or something like that. And I’m going back to St. John’s this Friday.

Interviewer
We’re glad we had time to talk with you and get this interview in because (talking at the same time)

Roy Watson
Oh, I don’t have anything (inaudible—talking at the same time)

Interviewer
Well, I think that little part about the Houston Post is very vital to our archives and—

Roy Watson
It was interesting.

Interviewer
1:04:39.8 Right, exactly, because you were sort of a transition figure from when Houston was a small town, and you set the stage then for the great growth that came along.

Roy Watson
Incidentally, I was the number one bachelor.

Interviewer
Were you? I thought that was Jessie Jones always, but he got married before didn’t he?

Roy Watson
He got married the first time when he was older.

Interviewer
Was he? I know at the turn of the century he was.

Roy Watson
I will tell you one thing that gives a perfect picture. There were so many parties, I went with a different girl. And you’d say, “Well, point out who this is.” They all looked alike. But you’d go to the cigar store, or in the Rice Hotel, Palmer, and use the guest list. So, the name would be there and you would pick out your gal, and put down who you would take and—

Interviewer
Cigars, I can’t (laughing)—I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Roy Watson
I mean it.

Interviewer
That’s fantastic.

Roy Watson
Of course, nobody drank and all the girls were holy girls. But there was the Red Light District after that.
Interviewer
1:06:00.2 Where was the Red Light District in Houston?

Roy Watson
I got sued for that—an editor at Union Station. I made some cracks about the Red Light District and everybody wanted to sue me.

Interviewer
Yeah.

Roy Watson
And they sued me for all I had.

Interviewer
Was it as distinctive as the one in Galveston—I mean was it as clear, was it bright—I mean everybody knew where it was as Galveston’s Post Office Street?

Roy Watson
I can’t help there.

Interviewer
I just wondered. Post Office Street was so notorious everywhere. I wondered if Houston’s was as well known.

Roy Watson
This time I didn’t finish really. When he accused me of being a dodger, I was working with the governor in (___??). If the war would have lasted 2 or 3 more months I would’ve been in uniform and with the Post. When the thing all got finished I was reclassified as “poor me,” the necessary manager, the necessary investor. If I had gone, then everything would’ve reverted back to the trustees and trustees’ policies, of course at much disadvantage to me.

Interviewer
Mr. Palmer would’ve been back in.

Roy Watson
1:07:25.5 Not until I retired.

Interviewer
Is there anything else that you could add to our little stories about Houston in the early days that you’d care to put on tape at this time?

Roy Watson
Well, the big thing is the trees. There weren’t any trees. I remember when all those trees were planted at Rice—

Interviewer
Rice University.

Roy Watson
Rice Institute just began when I came back.

Interviewer
And those trees weren’t there?

Roy Watson
Nothing was there at all.

Interviewer
I thought the cross over there in Hermann Park was an old forested area that belonged to George Hermann.

Roy Watson
That’s right.

Interviewer
But there weren’t any trees on the Rice Campus. That’s interesting. I thought it was probably—

Roy Watson
And then they planted the magnolia following—what’s across—the azaleas?

Interviewer
1:08:25.9 The azaleas.

Roy Watson
What do they claim is the flower of Houston?

Interviewer
The oleanders.

Roy Watson
I guess the oleander.

Interviewer
Yeah.

Roy Watson
That has all always been, but they’re all gone. But the trees are beautiful. The campus is really beautiful.

Interviewer
It looks like a campus should look.

Roy Watson
(___??) was Mrs. Woodrow Wilson’s brother--and he came down here—I lost connection with. And then I had lot of connections with the ballet, the Russian Ballet. My critic came out the next day and was missing for awhile. And who was the man, the dancer? Anyway they had the Rose Pericon (??). And he came on stage dancing through the window, and the Post came out the next day and said the only good thing about it was the orchestra (laughing)(inaudible)_____? I said, “That’s the truth.” Think of criticizing(___??) (___??) reports the reception the audience to reply. (laughing)

Interviewer
That would be the only reply.

Roy Watson
That was the Saunders--Mrs. Saunders.

Interviewer
1:10:00.5 Edna Saunders. She was the daughter of a former mayor.

Roy Watson
I think I was treasurer of the Abbey, a little event over there. At least it was very interesting on occasion. But you met Mrs. Lawrence? You know Mrs. (_____??) Lawrence?

Interviewer
Yes.

Roy Watson
She’s a chancellor.

Interviewer
Yes. I’m a Houstonian from about the 40s, then I had a gap then I came back in 1960, and in some of these things—and being a historian I got to pick up on some of the old names, but I don’t know them all.

Roy Watson
Oh, they are still here the Hutchinsons, the DeMenils, the Rices.

Interviewer
It’s very interesting the old families that still are around. I talked to Will Kirkland who of course is—

Roy Watson
He was in college with me.

Interviewer
Well, was he? Well, we had an interview, and his grandfather was Ben Shepherd, who started the First National Bank, and—

Roy Watson
(inaudible) He married (_____??), about the only Christian Science gal in the social world.

Interviewer
1:11:19.7 In the social.

Roy Watson
Social.
Interviewer
Most of them seem to be Episcopal and go to Christ Church. They used to fill all the big social—

Roy Watson
Is that burned downed?

Interviewer
No, it’s still downtown, Christ’s Church, it’s still there. It’s a landmark.

Roy Watson
And the Post building’s there but you’ll never know. I came by years ago, and they were tearing it down and you could see through the window—they were tearing my office down.

Interviewer
I was going to ask you what happened to those gorgeous things?

Roy Watson
(inaudible)

Interviewer
I wondered what happen to that gorgeous office and furniture in it.

Roy Watson
I don’t know. I have photographs of it. It was just ideal and incredible.

Interviewer
It really would’ve been something that the interior should’ve been saved and passed on. Well, thank you very much for all this information. I certainly appreciate your time.

Roy Watson
(inaudible)(laughs)

1:12:32.7 (end of audio)