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Interview with: Sidney Van Ulm
Interviewed by: Louis J. Marchiafava
Archive Number: OH 184_01
SVU: 00:02 …newspapers in the city of Boston. And the Hearst organization bought the Boston Record, changed the name of it to the Record Advertiser, and up to that time I was what I called a big fish in a small ocean. And when Hearst took over—bing—he brought over four artists.
LM: What year was this?
SVU: This was in 1920. And our advertising manager, a man by the name of Bill Allen, came to Houston and was the advertising manager of the Houston Post. A little later he contracted John Wallace, our managing editor, and John came down to Houston as the managing editor of the Houston Post. They didn’t have any artists. John was a very, very dear friend of mine, and he called me and asked me if I’d like to come down to Houston and work. When the Hearst organization came over, they naturally took charge, and all I was doing was taking an airbrush and airbrushing photographs and making a few layouts—no more drawings, no more trips down south with the ballclub, no more going to the shows, no going to the ballgame every day and going to banquets and things like that, no more drawing at all. So I decided to take the job in Houston. When I came down here I was very, very much surprised and quite elated and liked the job very, very, very much.
LM: How was it, a Yankee coming down to a southern town?
SVU: Can you imagine? I was leaving a city of over a million people, and here I come to a town—Houston, Texas. In my neck of the woods, nobody ever heard of the place. 138,000 people here then. And of course, I come down here and learn of the Houston, Texas, Chamber of Commerce slogan, “Where 18 Railroads Meet the Sea,” and I never found out any sea or anything and found out, imagine, we had a Ship Channel 50 miles from the ocean. Great. It was really remarkable. And of course, when I first got here, I was amazed at the—not only amazed but I was pleased with the friendliness of everybody. I wanted to transfer my bank account, and I was recommended to the South Texas Commercial National Bank on Main Street. I went in there about half past 10:00 in the morning and met a vice president by the name of Stallings, and Mr. Stallings was very, very lovely, and we talked of this and talked about Boston and talked about the future of the country and this and that, and when it got noontime and we hadn’t mentioned anything about finances yet, when it came noontime, he invited me out to lunch, and we went out to lunch. And when we came back, we started talking again, and about half past 2:00 in the afternoon, he asked me what I wanted. (laughs) And I told him I didn’t have too much money, but I wanted to transfer my bank account. I told him afterwards what a difference there was in a banker in Boston. If you went into a bank in Boston, he wanted to know what you wanted right away and that was it. But the friendliness was remarkable, remarkable.
03:42 Not only that; I noticed another thing. When I first got here, I think the second day, I was walking down the street, and a Negro came along facing me, and when he got up close to me, he put his hand up to his hat and he says, “Good evening.” So I put my hand up and said, “Good evening.” You’d never see that in Boston. I thought that was something out of the ordinary to me. I’d never seen anything like that.
But after I was in Houston here about five or six months, I believe that was in 1921, the Houstonians had a very, very unique way of getting acquainted with a person. I had heard rumors on the paper of something regarding a badger fight, and it was mentioned casually about this huge Great Dane dog that was going to fight this ferocious badger. I kept asking about it, and I was naturally curious. I’d like to see that. I’d never heard of a thing like that before. So finally, I got an invitation. I was going to be able to see this great badger fight, and the night it happened, I got into an automobile with Mr. Watson, the owner of the paper, John Wallace, the managing editor, Bill Allen, advertising manager, and we rode around the city for about three quarters of an hour and finally ended up parked somewhere. There were men with lanterns who looked up and wanted to know if this was all right and we were allowed to enter. We got in there, there was possibly a couple of hundred men there, and here was this huge, huge box with a big light focused on it, and you could hear this terrible scratching inside of it with a big chain coming out, and a big, huge Great Dane dog. I remember a man by the name of Lightfoot later on had owned this dog. And they were betting: “A hundred dollars on the dog.” “A hundred dollars on the badger.” “A hundred dollars on the dog.” “A hundred dollars.” “Fifty dollars.” “Seventy-five.” “Five thousands dollars,” I heard some guy bet on something. And they got ready to have the fight. This man was supposed to get up and pull this chain, and they’d lift the box up and pull the badger out, and the dog was there growling, growling. Someone says, “I’ll pull the chain.” Someone said, “Did you bet?” “Yeah.” “You can’t pull the chain; not anybody that bet.” And these three men kept edging this Yankee closer and closer to the front, and finally I was right in the front. Nobody would pull the chain out, and finally Mr. Wallace says, “We’ve got a fellow here that’ll pull the chain out, a newcomer down here from Boston, Massachusetts.” They said to me, “You go ahead and pull that chain out, Van.” I says, “Okay. I’ll be glad to.” And I reached up there and I grabbed this chain and I gave it a yank. I’ll have to let the remainder of the story be untold, but it was a wonderful way for me to get— Needless to say, there wasn’t any badger at the end of that chain. And for weeks afterwards when I’d walk down the street, I’d hear someone say, “Hi, Badger. Hi, Badger.” And that night after this was over, I had the mayor come up and congratulate me and the chief of police and firemen and bankers and everybody that you could think of. It was the finest thing that could ever happen to me to get acquainted with everybody. It was really wonderful. Oh yes, I said, “If prohibition wasn’t on, I’d buy you all a drink.” And boy, they thought that was wonderful. So that was that.
LM: How did you find working for the newspaper? What were your duties specifically?
SVU: 08:01 My duties were going to luncheons, making sketches, going to murder trials and prominent court trials, and naturally, going to the ballgame and making sketches of the baseball. I didn’t do too much editorial cartooning. I notice in some of the drawings that I’m leaving the library here showed some old, old drawings of Senator Shepard—that was in the early ‘20s—but very, very few state political cartoons. The cartoons I used to draw for the editorial page were when we had a mayoral candidate, mostly Oscar Holcombe, if I remember. And Oscar was a very, very good friend of mine, and I drew a few cartoons. The Houston Press really took the credit when Mefo was editor—old Mr. Foster—for electing Oscar Holcombe. The Press really got the credit. We were his greatest booster. And then another time we went against him, and when we went against him, it was my job with the policy of the paper to do anything I could to hurt his candidacy. And I drew four or five cartoons. One I remember had something to do with an umbrella, and I believe somebody assaulted somebody with an umbrella, and I drew a cartoon of Oscar walking down the street, and in back of him was this shadow with an umbrella, “Me and My Shadow,” and another one walking a tightrope across the city and the rope kind of frayed and “Will it Last?” and so forth and so on. But that was the policy, naturally, the policy of the paper. I received a very fine letter from Oscar telling me that he still regarded me as a good friend, and I was just operating on the policy of the paper, and he was certain that I still voted for him.
LM: Now, which paper was this that you worked on when you first came?
SVU: I first went to work on the Houston Post.
LM: Right, okay.
SVU: 10:29 And when the Post—I believe three or four years later after I came here, former Governor Sterling formed the Dispatch, and they bought the Houston Post, and when they did, that day I think nearly 200 of the Post employees lost their jobs, and the Dispatch employees took over. I went over and got a job with the Chronicle and stayed there about a month. I didn’t like it and quit. And then I went right over in 1924, I believe it was, or beginning of ’25, and Mr. C. J. Lilly, the editor of the Houston Press, gave me a job on the Press. That’s—
LM: I’m sorry. I interrupted you.
SVU: That’s some of the work I had to do. On the Press I did a lot of public relations cartoons. When the Red Cross needed a drive, I’d draw a cartoon for that and the YMCA and a lot of war bond things, and all what we call public service cartoons. I did a lot of that.
LM: After having worked for three newspapers, did you find sharp differences in the policies?
SVU: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I’m not certain of this, but I understood that the Jones interests practically owned the city of Houston, and their papers weren’t exactly newspapers for the public. The Houston Press was really a public newspaper. They fought the battles for the underdog. They fought the gas company, they fought the light company. Anything that just wasn’t so, the Press was the champions of the people, no question about it. Of course, the Press closed in March 1964, and even today, I meet people who say, “What a terrible shame that the Press had to go under.” They were losing money, and in fact, I got a letter from Jack Howard, who was chairman of the board of the Scripps Howard Newspapers. I remember when he used to come to the paper when he was a little boy, and he used to come into the art department, and I’d draw pictures for him. Then later on he got to be, of course, the big man at the paper. And when the paper closed down, I wrote him a letter, and he wrote me a very, very fine letter, saying that it wasn’t the fault of the staff of the paper. They did wonderful, he said. It was just the circumstances, bucking the Chronicle that owned practically everything in the city. They just couldn’t buck them, and that was the story.
LM: You said that when you first began with the Chronicle that you didn’t like it, and you left after a month.
SVU: 13:46 I didn’t like it. They didn’t give me any drawings to do. They wanted me to go out and take photographs, and I wasn’t a photographer. I knew photography. In fact, when I went to work for the Press, I started the first photographic studio they ever had. I had one built right in the middle of the editorial room. I was okaying bills for photographs that the Press wanted. Three dollars for a photograph. We employed a man by the name of Calvin Wheat, who did most of our work. Of course, when a big fire or something had happened, we couldn’t get hold of a photographer all the time to go out and get it, and naturally, the Chronicle would beat us all the time. They had a staff of two or three photographers headed by Jess Gibson, a very, very fine photographer. So I got the idea of building a darkroom, and I studied up on my photography and had our building superintendent build a darkroom. It was about six feet square right in the middle of the editorial room. Remarkable. And I went out and started taking photographs along with the other work I had to do, and I was making photographic layouts at the same time and drawing cartoons at the same time, and then they finally— Bruce Layer of the Houston Post was writing a golf column, so the Press wanted a golf column also, and they appointed me to be golf editor. Well, I was quite an athlete and knew all about that, so I started as golf editor. There I was making layouts, retouching photographs, taking photographs, drawing cartoons, going to banquets, luncheons, trials, and giving chalk talks at the various schools for the schoolchildren. And we got down from $3 to $1.40 a picture, including my salary, so that was quite a saving.
LM: I’d say it was.
LM: How were the—
SVU: I was going to say that regarding politics, we had something unique. I think about the only time we beat the Chronicle on anything when I was working on the Houston Post—going back to that, the Post was at the corner of Travis and Texas Avenue. Right across the street was the Chronicle. And during elections, the Chronicle strung up a screen on Texas Avenue between the two buildings, so the Post put up a screen. We had a stereopticon, and we beat the dickens out of the Chronicle on the election returns. You know how? We had glass slides that they put in the stereopticon, and I drew cartoons on these glass slides. When some opponent was beating another one, I’d probably have a cartoon of one fellow kicking another one—you know—things like that. And the crowd just loved it. We got a big thrill out of that.
LM: It must have been a large undertaking if you had it strung out across the building.
SVU: 17:08 Yeah. Houston wasn’t very, very well known Up North—I mean, in the New England states. I can prove it by just this little thing. After I was in Houston here about four or five years, an aunt of mine—you’ll notice I don’t say aunt (s/l “ant”)—and two other ladies were on their way to California. My aunt wrote me when the train would be in, so I went down to the station to meet her. And when we stepped out of the train, the first thing she says, “Let’s go outside and see the cowboys and Indians.” Now, I’d been in Houston four years and hadn’t seen a cowboy or an Indian yet. So that was the impression they had of the city of Houston.
LM: When you were working for the Post, did you do any editorial work at all—cartooning?
SVU: I’d rather not say anything about that because we had an editor on the old Houston Post—I shan’t mention his name, but he wasn’t in favor of me drawing any editorial cartoons on his page, so we’ll forget about that.
SVU: Another thing: Everybody down here kept kidding me along about my pronunciation. Of course, even today after being in Houston since 1921, I still park my car in the afternoon in a garage (with Bostonian accent), and I say aunt instead of aunt (s/l “ant”). I had a lot of fun with the people. They all used to criticize me, and I had to get acquainted with some of the pronunciations of words in Houston. I remember one case very, very clearly when I was working on the Post. Right next to the Post on Travis Street was the Majestic Café where us newspapermen ate our meals. And I was working at night, and in our first edition that night we got out I read in the paper of this lynching. Some Negroes were lynched up at a place called Mexia. I read that in the paper. I went down to the café and was eating my dinner that night when two men, all dressed in oil costumes and big boots and Texas hats, started talking, and I heard one of the men say to the other, “Well, I see where we got three more of them up in Mexia (correct pronunciation) today.” And boy, when he said Mexia, I put my food down and rushed next door to the Post and ran upstairs and got Mr. Wallace, and said, “John, I just heard a couple of oil men come in from the city of Mexia (spoken with hard X). There’s been another lynching.” He says, “Why, you nut, you. It’s right in the paper there. That’s Mexia.” That’s when I learned that we had instead of Bexar (spoken with hard X) County we had Bexar (correct pronunciation) County; instead of the San Jacinto (spoken with hard J), it was San Jacinto (correct pronunciation). So that’s the way I got acquainted with those names. (chuckles)
LM: Which politicians did you get to know during the early years when you were here?
SVU: 21:06 Naturally, getting around, I practically knew all of them—the old city councilmen. One of my closest friends was a man by the name of James H. B. House. I remember his family was in national politics. A House was something in the—
LM: Colonel House?
SVU: Colonel House, yeah. Jimmy was a very, very good friend of mine—a brother Elk of mine. We used to play cards together and were very good friends. Jimmy was the kind of a politician—in fact, I drew a cartoon of Jimmy once, and he didn’t like it very much. I had him sitting on a fence with his legs dangling, one on one side and one on the other, and he didn’t like that. We called Jimmy the kind of a politician that he didn’t want to offend anybody, and he was for this one on one side and this one on the other. (chuckles)
LM: When did you first become acquainted with Mayor Holcombe?
SVU: I just—
LM: I mean personally. You said you knew him personally.
SVU: When I first came to Houston, of course I met Oscar. I was very close with Oscar when we took a trade trip to Mexico. I was on the Houston Post, and Tim Evans of the Chamber of Commerce got up a trade trip. We had three trainloads of people going through Mexico, and Oscar was one of those on the trip. We had a lot of prominent people—Mrs. Peden from the Peden Iron and Steel Works and Denton Cooley, the banker, and Mr. Repsdorph, the tent and awning man, Abe Wagner, a lawyer, and Billy Shortwell, a haberdashery man, and Congressman Garrett, one of our Texas congressmen, made the trip with us and Bill Kirkland, a banker. Oh, I could go on forever. I don’t quite remember everybody that went. But I was the official photographer and cartoonist. I drew some sketches of the men. We went all through Mexico. We went to Monterey and Saltillo and Guadalajara, Guanajuato and Tampico and Veracruz. We went everywhere. It was really remarkable, and I took pictures all over, and we sent stories back with pictures, and at the end we got about 40 pictures together and had small prints made and gave a set of those prints to everyone who made the trip. It was really remarkable. Some very interesting things happened during that trip. I won’t go into them now; it would take too long to tell about it. But it was a great trip. It was called a trade trip. One thing we were quite proud of, the Houston Post got out a miniature copy of our paper, which Mr. Watson, the owner of the paper, distributed to different places along the route, and when we got to Mexico City, the Excelsior, one of the leading newspapers of Mexico City, had this on the front page—a replica of it—and up in the right-hand corner, they had Mr. Roberts, our reporter, underneath him a photograph of Mr. Watson, and up in the left-hand corner had a picture of me on the front page of the leading newspaper in Mexico City. Of course, we were quite proud of that, quite proud of that.
LM: Did you get involved or did you cover at any time the political campaigns here in Houston—the mayoral elections, for example?
SVU: 24:55 No, no. I had very, very little to do with politics. When I was on the Press, I did draw several sketches during the Democratic Convention, national convention. That was quite an interesting experience in that old hall down there.
LM: That was the 1928—
SVU: 1928, yes. They had a bird’s nest they had up on the uprights of the building. They had little crow’s nests where the reporters got in, and that terrible smoke-filled room with the heat, I’m telling you, it was a killer. I had a very interesting thing happen during that convention. The mayor of Boston, Mayor Peters, and our congressman, David Walsh, were here from Boston, and we had a city engineer here by the name of Jack Rafferty, who used to be a baseball coach at Tufts University in Boston. And we had lunch together with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
LM: That must have been quite an experience.
SVU: Yeah. I got a thrill out of that, us Bostonians together with Delano. It was quite an experience.
LM: Did you draw many cartoons of that?
SVU: No. I noticed one thing. One of the thrills, if you could call it a thrill, was we had capital punishment in Houston—in Texas—and I saw four men executed at Huntsville and drew their picture just before they were being executed. In fact, in those scrapbooks that I left here is a drawing which includes the four people whose picture I drew with a drawing of the electric chair in the middle of the drawing. That was quite—
LM: How did it affect you?
SVU: 27:17 Well, naturally, I was hardened to that. Drawing pictures of accidents and drawing pictures of dead people and pulling bodies out of the water and draw them for identification purposes, I was hardened to that. It’s funny. Towards the end of my career, I was quite proud about catching a bandit that robbed the Humble Bank. It’s quite a long story, but I made a drawing from description. You saw that.
LM: Yes, yes. That was amazing, amazing how close you got.
SVU: Yes. I talked to about eight people, and we finally got one that they thought was pretty good, and it captured the bank robber. It was a federal thing.
LM: Did you get to meet many of the participating national figures at the 1928 convention?
SVU: No, no, no. I did meet four or five of them, of course, and I incorporated some of them into my drawings. I think one of them was a man by the name of Louis. I forget. That’s been so long ago. He had a big beard and sideburns. I remember drawing that and another one of a very handsome man, Governor Ritchie, I think, of one of the states Up North. I forget which one it was.
LM: I was curious. You mentioned about your friendship with Mayor Holcombe, and I know during the ‘40s the Press did some exposes in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s on Mayor Holcombe. I was just wondering if that had any effect on your friendship.
SVU: No. We called him The Fox. You never could— He might have done some crooked things, but if he did, nothing was ever proven against Oscar. He was a very, very smart politician. One time we had city manager form of government too in Houston here. I remember one of our city managers very well. He was a very well-liked man by the name of Claude Belt—a very, very well-liked person. Another politician that everybody was crazy about was a very, very picturesque gentleman—T. Binford, our sheriff. Oh, what a wonderful character. Nice, rosy-cheeked, amiable, fine, fine gentleman. I can see him now. One time some convicts escaped from the city jail or something, and over here by Buffalo Bayou there was a culvert, a big, open culvert, and there were high grasses all around there. Of course, I was sent on the job to make some sketches if any sketches were made, and I can see T. now on his white horse, riding around there giving orders. Oh, gee, it was just like a movie. Wonderful.
LM: When you first came, it was in the early ‘20s, you said.
SVU: Yeah, ’21.
LM: ’21. And at that time, the Klan had sway over Houston. I was wondering, do you recall anything about that?
SVU: 30:55 No, no, no. I don’t recall anything at all about that.
LM: That was about the same time that a well-known police chief took over—Goodson, Bill Goodson.
SVU: Yes. He was a very handsome man.
LM: Did you know him personally?
SVU: Oh, yes. Naturally, I knew all of them. I used to draw pictures of all of them and do cartoons of all of them. I think one of the most interesting things—
[end of 184_01] 31:39
LM: [beginning of 184_02] 00:02 Okay. I think we’re ready to start again.
SVU: As I was saying, one of the most interesting things when I was in Boston, every show for nine years that came to Boston, I had a seat in the front row and made my impressions of the proceedings on the stage. Naturally, I saw such remarkable actors as Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, and Fanny Brice, the Barrymores, Will Rogers, Sarah Bernhardt. And during intermission, if my drawings weren’t right, I’d go backstage and meet the principals and so forth and so on, and after nine years of watching all of the shows that came to Boston, I considered myself a pretty good critic. I’d see The Passing Show and The Ziegfeld Follies and all these musicals and even remember the world premiere of the operetta Irene with Victor Herbert, who wrote that, conducted in the orchestra, and all. I remember those things. I was a pretty good critic. When I came to Houston here, we had a stock company called The Palace, The Palace Theatre, stock players, and every month or so they’d change the leading lady or the leading man, and we had a fellow come down here. He made quite a hit here in Houston. On his first performance, naturally, I gave him the prominence in my drawing of the stage show. And he came down to the Press and wanted the original of the drawing. He said that was the first time that he’d had that much publicity, and he was quite pleased and so forth. We got to be very good friends, and we dated a few of the actresses at The Palace Theatre. He was a very good cook; he used to make fine spaghetti. As I say, we got very good friends, and I said to him one time, “I’ll tell you one thing, you’re very lucky you got this job here because as far as I’m concerned, I think you’re a ham actor.” And that was Clark Gable, so it just goes to show you, you can’t judge. (laughs)
LM: (laughs) You were off on your criticism.
SVU: 02:28 I should say I was. And from then on, I never did criticize anybody or make any predictions.
LM: Did you know any other big name stars like that?
SVU: Do I know what?
LM: Did you know any other big name stars or men who would become famous?
SVU: I came in contact with a lot of prominent people, naturally, in my line of work, especially in Boston. I think it was ordained somewhere that I was to meet a lot of prominent people. The first one, I shook hands with the President of the United States when I was five years old. That was William McKinley in 1898. When I was going to New York with my mother and we were in a Pullman car, this entourage came in, and there was a big, huge man there, and they sat down in the Pullman and we were on our way to New York. My mother was quite a nervy person, and she says, “That’s the President of the United States. Let’s go over and talk to him.” So she talked to one of the—I guess it was a Secret Service man. I was just about 10 or 11 years old, I guess. And he said, “All right.” We went over and shook hands with him. It was William Howard Taft. And of course, later on I drew lots of caricatures of President Taft, a big, stout man with a beak. I don’t know. Somehow, everything worked in. I went to school with Rose Kennedy, the president’s mother. She was a year ahead of me, of course, but we knew each other very well, and the president’s uncle, Tom Fitzgerald, played baseball and football on teams that I captained when I was in high school. In fact, we had a 50th reunion, and when I went to Boston, I stayed at Tom Fitzgerald’s home. His father was a former mayor of Boston, “Honey Boy” John F. Fitzgerald. Meeting all of these people, it was really remarkable. Calvin Coolidge I knew very, very, very well. He was quite a character. Silent Cal they called him, and he certainly was silent. He was a man of very few words, and he had this New England twang. I remember one time I saw him at a banquet one night, and he says, “Mr. Van Ulm, when you draw my picture, you always have the corners of my mouth turned down.” I said, “Well, I very seldom see you smile.” And he gave me just the slightest smile you ever saw. Another time the managing editor asked me to go up to the governor’s to get an article that the governor had that we needed, and the State House was just about 10 minutes’ walk away from the paper, just walk up Beacon Hill and there was this dome building, gilded dome you could see for miles. And Henry Long, the governor’s secretary, says, “Go right in.” I walked in, and he said, “Howdy, Mr. Van Ulm. Set.” He didn’t say sit; he said set. And I set. I must have set there for a half an hour, and he finally says, “That’ll be all.” He changed his mind. He was quite a character, quite a character.
LM: You mentioned—
SVU: 06:22 Towards the end of my stay on the paper, I made a sketch that, gee, I got a thrill out of: Sarah Bernhardt, considered one of the world’s greatest actresses. She had one leg—gave a performance seated at an archway with flags and that kind of decorations and this nasal, nasal voice of hers. It was quite a thrill. Afterwards, when we went down into the dressing room, I knew a few words of French that I picked up during the war, and I greeted her in French, and she started talking. She understood very little English, very little English, and would hardly speak any English.
LM: Did you ever meet Woodrow Wilson?
LM: You did a lot of sketches of Woodrow Wilson, didn’t you?
SVU: Well, I’ll tell you my experience. When Wilson came back from Europe, from one of his League of Nations things, several newspapermen—and I was included—boarded a pilot boat at the Port of Boston and went out into the harbor, and we boarded the ocean liner where Wilson was. We were all introduced to him, and I trailed him all day, making sketches and so forth. And that night at a huge building, Mechanics’ Building in Boston, they attended a big banquet for the president. I was sitting probably no more than five feet away. We had a press table directly in front of the speaker’s table, and there were two other sketch artists. Most of the papers in Boston had a sketch artist. I was sketching the president, and every time I’d look up, and he’d— I guess I wasn’t any further away than a little more than that. Finally, the Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, who I also sketched—in fact, I have some of his handwriting. We exchanged handwriting during that dinner. They were introducing the president, and he was still posing for me, and he apologized. He said, “I’m having my picture drawn by that young artist down there.” And boy, my head went up like that, and they had a little story in the paper about it, of course, which was quite a thrill.
LM: I’m sure it was. How did you first get into cartooning? I don’t think we discussed that yet.
SVU: 09:22 I could draw ever since I was a kid. In fact, I have a little sketchbook at home, a composition book with compositions that I wrote while I was in school, and some of them were illustrated. When I was in high school, of course, I drew pictures for the school paper. Being an athlete, I played baseball; I captained my baseball team. I played football and captained my football team. I played hockey. After high school I went to art school, and during that time, I played semi-professional baseball and got to be quite well-known as a baseball player. I started to be a mural decorator. It was expensive for my folks buying paint for me on these big murals I was trying to draw, and when I’d go into the art class, the instructor used to tell me that my drawings weren’t myself. He said the drawings were too lifelike; they weren’t any good. And I’d look at some of the others’ drawings, and they’d have a picture of a nude standing there, and it looked like an elephant or something, and he thought that was wonderful. My drawing that was very accurate he didn’t like at all. And so I decided that wasn’t for me. I spent most of my time drawing cartoons of the instructors and the characters. One day, one of the fellows says, “Van, why don’t you try and get a job on one of the papers?” So I knew the sporting editor of the Boston Record, Carl Barrett, and I brought some of my drawings up one day to see Carl. He looked at them and he says, “I don’t know whether they want to have an artist here. We’re a small paper. I don’t know how much they could pay or anything like that.” He says, “But I’ll tell you what to do.” He says, “Why don’t you go around to the different schools and draw pictures of your impressions of their baseball practice. Draw the coach and the high school captain and some of them.” So I did that for five or six drawings I made, and they ran them in the paper and gave me $3 for each drawing. Gee, that was wonderful. And I had a chance to go up touring the White Mountains with a bunch of semi-professional baseball players, mostly college boys, and I told the office about it, that I wasn’t going to draw those anymore, and so Mr. Deland, he was the owner and editor at the paper, said, “Do you want a job, a steady job?” He says, “We’ll teach you the business and give you $8 a week.”
LM: What year was this?
LM: What year was that?
SVU: 12:40 This was in 1914. So I grabbed it. The devil with baseball. Here I was going to be a— And right away after I was on the paper just a short while, boy, they sent me down to Hot Springs—no, to Miami. The first time I went away was to Miami, Florida, with the Boston Braves in 1915. Gosh, 1914 I think it was. I was just on the paper just a short while. I wrote stories. I remember the editor said, “I’ll tell you one thing now.” He says, “You know baseball.” He says, “I want you to write back just as if you had just played in a game with your gang and you were talking about it afterwards, what happened and so forth, some of the things you saw.” And he says, “And don’t use any big words.” I remember one of his words, he says, “Do not say pyrotechnics when you can say fireworks. Now, go ahead.” And that was it. I used to go down with the Red Sox and the Braves the next year. Of course, that was 1915, I believe it was, that Bill Carrigan was manager of the Red Sox, and the rookie pitcher arrived a little late in the Majestic Hotel at Hot Springs, and it was all filled up, and they had this huge room the ballclub was paying for, naturally. So Bill asked me if I’d put up this rookie pitcher for a week or so until they could find room for him in the hotel, and I said, “Sure.” The fellow’s name was George H. Ruth. That was The Babe. We got to be quite friendly. He was a source of a lot of good stories for me, and it was very, very nice. Years later when he was with the Yankees and I was in Texas here, when he’d come through, he’d always look me up and we’d get together when the Yankees came here to play the Houston ballclub.
LM: Any particular story about him stands out in your mind?
SVU: No. Too many. I do remember one incident that was never reported, and it could have changed The Babe’s entire life. I never did run the story. Coming back from the ballpark, the ballplayers walked at Hot Springs. We went over in a little horse-drawn trolley car, but coming back we had to walk. And on our way back, we went through a section where they had a carnival, and if you’ve ever been to one of those country carnivals, remember the huge canvas with the hole in it where the little boy would stick his head out the canvas and you threw these little baseballs and hit him in the head and get a cigar or a doll? Three balls you’d throw for five cents at a distance probably of 20-25 feet. We were coming back from the ballpark this day—I’ll never forget it—and one of the pitchers, a fellow by the name of Ernie Shore, one of our pitchers, Babe Ruth, and a fellow by the name of Chet Thomas, a catcher. When we stopped by there, they looked and saw this little Negro boy. “Hit the Negro on the head and get a cigar.” We stopped, and one of the ballplayers said, “We haven’t got any change, Van. You have.” So I put a few nickels on the counter, and they picked them up, and they threw these baseballs—not too hard or anything—and one of them hit the little Negro boy on the head, and they got a cigar for it. And The Babe reached in his back pocket and pulled out a regulation baseball, and he took that baseball and he wound up and he slammed that thing at the thing, and it nearly went through the canvas tent and didn’t miss that little Negro’s head by an inch or two. So I raised the devil about it, and Babe says, “Oh, I just wanted to show off my control, that’s all.” Now, if he’d have hit that little Negro boy, it would have killed him with the speed of an American League baseball. And of course, if that would have happened, you wouldn’t have been able to keep it quiet, and there was a chance it could have ruined The Babe’s career. I never did run that story. I never did.
LM: It was just an impulse, I suppose, on his part.
SVU: 17:35 But he was quite a character. He was a vulgar person, and despite that fact, he was one of the most lovable and gentle people that I knew, the kindest person. Boy, he’d give his money away like a drunken sailor. He went to the children’s hospitals all the time, anything he could do, and then some of the things I really can’t tell you, some of the things that happened. He was really a character. I consider him one of the greats of baseball, never to be forgotten.
LM: These things that you can’t tell us, are they intimate stories or—
LM: Are they intimate stories about him?
SVU: Yes, yes, yes. There are some odd people. We had a man that was sort of an oddball in Houston here, a lawyer. I won’t tell you his name. But over on Houston Avenue, there was a park, and Buffalo Bayou trickled by there. This man—I don’t know how he did it, but he contracted with the authorities of this park his idea he was going to have Buffalo Bayou dredged so big ships could come up as far down to Houston Avenue to this park, and he’d get the benefit of the traffic that came off of these ships. And on the opening night, he had a band of Indians in their brilliant feathers and costumes and everything, and there was this lovely building he had erected. I went over there with some of my friends to the opening, and he invited me to come over and see this building. We walked in, and one of the first things I saw was a door with my name on it—Public Relations, Sid Van Ulm. I said, “Heck, I don’t know anything about this. You never told me anything about this.” He says, “This is a surprise.” We opened the door, and there was beautiful furniture in there, a filing cabinet, a typewriter. I never went over there at all. The thing flopped, of course. The man had an idea, and it was one of the craziest things that I’d ever heard of.
19:59 There was one very interesting thing. I read an article in one of the papers the other day of a lady that was here just about the same time I was, and she told about the wonderful paved road from Houston to Galveston. I had to differ a little on that. At the Army camp, Ellington Field, when we’d have a heavy rain, a Negro and his team of mules with a huge chain attached would attach it to the bumper of your automobile and for one dollar pull you through about 50 to 60 yards of 2-feet deep mud. You couldn’t—
LM: This was the paved highway, huh?
SVU: Yeah. You couldn’t get through there after a terrible rain. That was really something.
LM: I imagine you must have met Ima Hogg.
SVU: Yes, I met Ima lots of times. In this collection I’ve given you here, there’s a drawing of her brother, Mike, a life drawing I made of him.
LM: What impression—
SVU: Oh, yeah. One thing that was very interesting, I was aboard the first ocean liner to come from Galveston up the Houston Ship Channel. Jess Gibson, the photographer at the Chronicle, and our city editor, Mr. Roy Roussel and his brother Hubert, and Emmett Walters, who was later to be editor of the Chronicle, we were all on that trip, and we took a pilot boat down out to the Bolivar Roads and boarded this ocean liner—I forget the name of it—and came down the Ship Channel. And we were wined and dined, and oh, it was just a wonderful, wonderful trip. That was really something: a big ocean liner to come down the Houston Ship Channel into the Turning Basin.
LM: What year was that? Do you recall?
SVU: Oh, it must have been about 1923 or ’24, somewheres around there.
LM: What impressions did you get of Ima Hogg after you met her a few times?
SVU: 22:16 I don’t remember. I don’t remember much about her. She was a very friendly person, very friendly person.
LM: You said you were golfing editor.
SVU: Yes. I was the golf editor of the Houston Press for 37 years. I covered every big golf tournament all over Texas, and I inaugurated the first Houston Amateur City Golf Tournament for men, and I inaugurated and ran the first City Golf Tournament for women. And I had the honor of naming the BraeBurn Country Club. I gave that club its name.
LM: Perhaps we could go into some detail about the development of golfing here.
SVU: When I first started golf, there were three golf courses in the city of Houston—the old Houston Country Club, Hermann Park started in 1923, we had a golf club by the name of Rio Rita that was later on Glenbrook, and I say River Oaks started in 1924, I believe. And today there are about 40 golf courses within a 30-mile radius of the city of Houston. Imagine that.
LM: Golfing then really developed around the country clubs.
SVU: Yes, and some very interesting things. Just imagine, our last tournament, the winner received $40,000. The first tournament held in 1923 was won by Joe Kirkwood, a trick shot golfer who was from Australia, and Joe won the first prize and collected $100. What do you think of that? One hundred dollars. I remember going to the Texas Open in San Antonio a few years later. Jack O’Brien, a newspaperman, he ran the tournament, and at the 18th green, he passed a hat around to the spectators to get enough money together to pay the prizes for the golfers.
LM: Who financed these early tournaments?
SVU: Associations got together. One tournament was financed by Jack Burke, the River Oaks golf pro, and Willie McGuire, the Houston Country Club golf pro. And they got some of the rich men of the clubs together to finance it. They didn’t give too much money, of course, in those days for prizes. Then in the later years it’s all done by sponsorship, the Houston Golf Association, which I helped to form. I was a charter member. In fact, I’m the oldest living charter member of the Houston Golf Association. They sell sponsorships. That pays the expenses of it. They made money this year and made money last year, I believe.
26:01 I had some very funny things happen during my writing of golf. I was following a friend of mine, one of many brothers, a fellow by the name of Turnesa, and he wasn’t playing any too well, but I’d go from one player to the other and follow them around. We got up to his ball. It was on the edge of the rough, and there was a little green snake about that long coiled up right near his ball, a little grass snake, and in a kidding way I said to Joe, I said, “Joe, that’s a Texas diamondback rattlesnake there. You better be careful of that.” And he jumped up, and the caddy took a club and knocked it away, and the story got back. I can remember very, very well that Grantland Rice, one of the great sport writers and O. B. Keeler, he was a sport writer, the man that guided the destinies of Bobby Jones, the great amateur golfer, and they sent that story out over the wire, over the syndicates about the huge rattlesnake that coiled around Turnesa’s ball. I got quite a kick out of that.
I was playing golf one day with a lady by the name of Shepherd at one of the three par holes out at Hermann Park, and she putted the ball, and the ball went into the cup, and she reached down into the cup and let out a scream and fainted dead away on the green. There was a frog in the cup, and she had grabbed hold of this frog. (laughs) Remarkable.
LM: When was the first women’s tournament?
SVU: I don’t quite remember. I don’t quite remember the dates on those. In the middle ‘30s, I should judge, or the early ‘30s for the men also. Gave lovely prizes. In those days, the merchants used to give me the prizes. The press would buy the gold watch, of course, for the winners. People like Foley’s and Corrigan’s and all the stores would give me prizes to give the players and the amateurs. It was very, very interesting. I was playing out at Glenbrook one time with a man by the name of Charlie Young, one of our prominent printers, and his ball hit something way down on the fairway and it was a duck—killed a duck—and we gave the caddy the duck and told him to take it back to the clubhouse. And when we came in, we had a nice roast duck dinner. Very, very interesting.
In Boston I met a character that was really something. I was very, very much of a boxing enthusiast, and of course, one of the champions in my mind all the time was John L. Sullivan, the Boston Strong Boy. He was quite a drinker; he drank himself to death, of course. He took on all comers. He was the first fighter to fight under the Marquis of Queensbury rules, that is, using gloves. They used to fight barehanded. He lived in Abington, a little town about 25 miles outside of Boston, and the boss sent me out one day to get a story and make a drawing of John L. Sullivan. Of course, he had been retired for years. In my mind I still had this impression, even as a grown man, of John L. Sullivan, this bad, knuckled—oh, gosh. And when I got out to his house, his sister answered the door, and I told her who I was and what I wanted. She says, “Well, John is out back there, seated out there under the tree. You go right out there and see him.” I walked out there and I looked, and my bubble burst right away. There was this huge, fat, big, fat gentleman with a big, big tummy, and his big, white, drooping mustache was all yellow from tobacco, and he had one of these little bamboo fans in one hand fanning himself, and in the other he had a glass in which there was an amber-colored fluid. Of course, I didn’t know what it was, but I had a good idea what it was. And I introduced myself, and all I got from him was, (grunting sounds). I couldn’t get a story from him, but I sat there and I made a drawing of him. And in those drawings that I left up here, there’s one of the drawings I made of John L. Sullivan. Isn’t that something?
LM: Yeah. It’s kind of a sad experience, actually.
LM: You had this image of a man in his prime.
SVU: I had two things happen just at the end of my stay with the Boston paper. I was all alone in the art room. There was a long, long desk, and it was in the middle of the summer and the heat was terrific. I was in my undershirt, and I was trying to get out two pages of pictures at the same time, airbrushing these photographs—
[end of 184_02] 31:53
LM: [beginning of 184_03] 00:01 Side three or part three, I think.
SVU: Where shall I start now?
LM: You were telling us about the Boston newspaper when—
SVU: Oh, yes. When I was at this long, long desk, it was the middle of the summer, and I had to work in my undershirt, using an airbrush, and the perspiration was rolling down, and I had a deadline to meet, and I was doing this and doing that and doing that. And I finally looked up, and in the doorway I had an impression of this tall man with sort of a cowboy hat looking on. And he was a big, tall man, and he says in sort of a high-pitched voice, “How are you doing, young man?” I says, “Hell, how am I doing? I’m trying to do three things at once here. I’ve got a deadline.” I cussed a few times, I guess, and the man disappeared, and a couple of minutes later, three or four of the reporters rushed in and said, “What did he want? What did he want? What did he want?” And I says, “What did who want? I’m busy here.” It was William Randolph Hearst. (laughs) Imagine that.
01:07 And before that, we had a very prominent man come to Boston to write a series of articles, and Mr. Deland, the owner of the paper, asked me if I would show this gentleman around the sites of the city of Boston, and I could take his car. I didn’t have a driver’s license, but I could drive an automobile. And we went around. I showed him Paul Revere’s home and the Bunker Hill Monument and drove him out to Lexington and Concord, showed him the old Revolutionary battlefield sites and so forth, and we really had a whole day of it. That was a very interesting man who a few times I had drawn caricatures of with his long, long hair curled up in back, and I used to put a few eggs in there like a bird’s nest, and I told him about that. That was William Jennings Bryan.
SVU: Yeah. That was very, very interesting. You were asking me something about ballplayers. You know, it’s really some of the superstitions that they have about ballplayers—I don’t know many of them today, but I had one that almost had me sent back from Miami to Boston. I made a few sketches, and some of the sketches I didn’t like. I had my drawing pad and I tore it up into small pieces right in front of the dugout. This was down at spring training at Miami. The first thing I know, this man came roaring at me and bawled the living dickens out of me. It was George Stallings, the manager. He said if I ever threw papers on the diamond again, he’d send me back to Boston. Superstitious. Honus Wagner, one of the greatest of all shortstops—you’ve heard of the great Hans Wagner, the shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates—he always took his warming up practice wearing three sweaters. Imagine that, wearing three sweaters. And talking about three, Ty Cobb used to come to the bat swinging three bats, always swinging three bats. Talking about the number three, I saw Babe Ruth in a regulation game in Boston hit a high fly that the catcher, the pitcher, the first baseman, all the infielders came after, and it dropped safely, and there was Babe grinning at them, standing on third base. He got a three-base hit, and the ball didn’t travel any more than ten feet in distance, but it went a mile high, and then none of them touched it as it came down. He got a three-base hit. We had an outfielder for the Boston Braves by the name of Kelly. I saw him make three errors on the same batter. Twice he dropped a ball in foul territory, and the next ball was his, a regulation easy fly, and he dropped that one; three errors on the same batter. Isn’t that remarkable?
SVU: 04:42 Let me see here. I made my radio debut with our sporting editor, Ralph Anderson, called Andy Anderson, a very, very fine sport writer working on the old Houston Post. It was a radio station owned by Will Horwitz, the theatrical man. He had a studio in the Post building, and one noontime Andy and I went into the studio. I play the piano a little, and I started playing the piano, and Andy would take the drum and hit the drum, and Andy would blow in a bugle or something like that. And finally, we got singing the verses from Mademoiselle from Armentieres, the old French song, and in it there had a few suggestive verses. We got into that, and suddenly the door opened and somebody rushed in and bawled us out and said the mike was open and the telephone was ringing with people calling in about it. One man living out in The Heights—he was an invalid—said that’s the best program he’d listened to in all of his life. (laughs)
What else can we talk about, my friend?
LM: Well, I was wondering if we might deal a little more with the golfing here in Houston. You might be able to pinpoint when professionalism really came to Houston. You spoke about the amateur tournaments.
SVU: From the ‘30s on, we always had some major golf tournament here in Houston. Of course, I don’t remember the exact date of the Houston Golf Association, but I think it was in the early ‘40s. And there were other attempts by odd groups that got up golf for the professional tournaments. We attracted the finest golfers in the country. One of the most fascinating golfers was Walter Hagen. The great Bobby Jones played golf down here as an amateur one time in an exhibition match, and also the great Babe Didrikson played golf here. All the game’s greatest golfers have all appeared in Houston here: Tommy Armour and Bobby Cruickshank and Ben Hogan. Of course, one of the greatest fellows we had for golf, a great ambassador, was our own Jimmy Demaret. Jimmy got his training at the old Army camp, Camp Logan. That’s where Memorial Park is now. It was a 9-hole golf course, and Jimmy caddied out there. Talking about caddying, I was covering the Texas Open in Texas one year, and an Army colonel came up to me and said, “How are you, Mr. Van Ulm?” I said, “Fine.” And he says, “You don’t remember me, do you?” I says, “No, I don’t.” He says, “I used to caddy for you at Camp Logan.” That was really something.
LM: How did Houston rank in these early years with other cities as far as being attractive to golfers?
SVU: 08:35 It took us a long while before we got up to the top. I should judge it’s only during the last nine or ten years that we really ranked with the top ones. See, we used to hold our tournaments first at Herman Park and then at Memorial Park, and then they later on went high tone and had a golf tournament held at the various country clubs and so forth and so on. So they attracted the best golfers in the country. The golfers always praised our courses. Whether they deserved it or not, they always did.
LM: Was golfing in the early years generally a wealthy man’s pastime, or was it popular among people in general?
SVU: It was fairly popular, fairly popular. At one time, I remember there were only about eight or nine golfers that could break 80—very, very few golfers that could break 80. And in later years, I can remember about the fourth or fifth flight in my city tournament with 32 players in the flight, that we had one flight in the fifth flight all in the 80s—from the low 80s to the middle 80s. So shooting 80s in those later days wasn’t anything at all, but in the early days, boy, if anybody shot around 80, they were a star. In fact, we had one star here, an old man by the name of Commodore Bryan Heard at the Houston Country Club. He shot a 76 on his 76th birthday. That was a big story. And you know the modern cart that the golfers use now?
LM: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
SVU: That was originated here in Houston by a man by the name of Jackson, an automobile dealer. He originated the original golf cart. I believe another incident that originated here in Houston, if you will notice at nearly all of the ballparks today whenever the home club is starting a rally and gets a man on base, you hear the bugle go, “Da, da, da, da, da, da, da.” I believe a form of it started in Houston at the old ballpark, the old West End ballpark down in what is now a Negro section of Houston on San Felipe. It was the old West End Baseball Park off of West Dallas. In that old shackety press box in the old corner, there was an aged Negro called Charlie that had a drum, and whenever the Houston Colts, as they were called in those days, got a man on base, old Charlie beat the drum, and everybody would start cheering. And I think that was one of the starts of this bugle.
LM: What year is that? Not the exact year, but what period is that?
SVU: That’s in the early ‘20s.
LM: It goes back a ways.
SVU: 12:28 Yeah, sure.
LM: What about university sports? Local university—Rice University, for example. Do you recall any—
SVU: The only thing that I can remember on that, I drew a lot of cartoons for Rice University on football. Football was the mainstay of Rice athletics. They had some great stars—Bill Wallace, All-American, Weldon Humble, All-American. They had some great football stars. In fact, Paul Hochuli, who worked on the Houston Press as amusement editor, he was working part-time on the Press when he was playing football for Rice. He weighed 135 pounds and was their quarterback and one of the best, one of the best.
LM: Fast, I hope.
SVU: Yes. He was a great football player. I have a picture in one of my books at home showing the stands. I’m standing by a gate. The photographer took a picture. I’m standing by a gate, and these old wooden stands they had with all the fellows wearing caps and all the girls with shirtwaists on. Very interesting. Very interesting picture. But Rice certainly did grow.
I went away to San Francisco one year. Gaylord Johnson was business manager, and the director of athletics, Harry Scott, Andy Anderson, the sporting editor of the Press, and Lloyd Gregory, the sporting editor of the Post, we made the trip in Gaylord Johnson’s Cadillac—Pierce-Arrow, rather, I think. Yeah, Pierce-Arrow. We drove out to California and saw Rice play Santa Clara in San Francisco. That was quite an interesting trip for us. We extolled the great forward passing game of the Rice Institute over the radio every night in Los Angeles and finally in San Francisco. And poor Rice, they had the life beaten out of them out there. We didn’t do so good, but we had a wonderful trip.
LM: I wonder if we might just jump back for a moment and talk about some of the editors for the newspapers you’ve worked for and what kind of policies they had or how they directed the newspapers.
SVU: 15:50 It’s pretty hard for me to talk about that because I didn’t know very much about that, to tell the truth. The first editor that I worked under was a man by the name of C. J. Lilly. Our paper, the Press, was, as I say, a small paper in Houston—not too big. He was just like one of the boys. You wouldn’t know he was the editor of the paper. After he was the editor, of course, came M. E. Foster. He was very, very well-known. He had a big, big following, a great following. He never talked. He wrote notes. And only one person on the paper could decipher his notes. That was Miss Mabel Burkett, his secretary. She’s recently passed on. His office was on top of the new Press building. We moved from Capitol Avenue. We used to be down on Capitol Avenue and moved there to this new building, and on the top of the building he had his office. He never had anything to do with any of the staff at all. He kept himself aloof from everybody. If you were ever called up to his office, it was something very important. I was just called up there one time all the time he was editor. After him came Allan Bartlett, and Allan Bartlett was fairly well-liked. There was a paper that got out by a fellow by the name of Terence called The Houstonian and sort of a muckraking paper. Every time it ran a picture, our editor, Mr. Bartlett, they ran the picture, and he ran his paper upside down. And then after Bartlett came this idealistic gentleman, George Carmack, and he was pretty close to all of us on the paper. He was quite friendly with everybody and was well-liked by everybody, but they still couldn’t make the paper go. He is now working for the Express in San Antonio. He is writing that weekly—
LM: Carmichael? This is who now?
SVU: Mr. Carmack. When he was here, he wrote a weekly letter on travel tips. He and his wife used to travel all over Texas, and he wrote some very interesting letters. He does the same kind of work in San Antonio now. I hear from him all the time. His wife was a very good friend of mine and worked on the Press in the old days—Bonnie Tom Robinson, a very wonderful reporter. That’s quite a come-down from editor to going back to being a writer again. I guess it was pretty hard on George, but he seems to be doing very, very well.
LM: What do you think was the reason for the decline of the Press?
SVU: I told you before we couldn’t buck the Chronicle. It was too big. It was too—I don’t know. I don’t know very much about the business end of it.
19:51 I was noticing the other day—not the other day but quite a while back, the various drawings that you see on television today in courtrooms and all the sketches the artists made during Watergate and during different murder trials now and big, important events, that there were several artists’ work shown on television. That’s nothing new. I did that 60 years ago.
LM: I was going to ask you about some of your court cases. Do you remember sitting on any of the more famous ones or outstanding ones?
SVU: Well, it wouldn’t be famous to anybody in this part of the country. No. I don’t remember any one that was nationally—
LM: Uh-hunh (affirmative). That’s what I meant; something that was—
SVU: No. I don’t think there were any nationally known. In the old days, the only way you could take pictures in the courtroom would be, if they allowed it, with a flashgun. They had this gun. We called it a gun; it was just an apparatus that had a holder, and you poured the powder in there and you snapped it. There was a huge explosion, and the whole room got filled with smoke, and it wasn’t allowed in courtrooms. So therefore, the papers had sketch artists where we made sketches of the trial and so forth. In fact, I was showing Don Carlton 15 or 20 years ago or more, I was looking through a detective magazine, and in one of the stories was a story about a man up in New Hampshire that murdered his wife, and I was sent up to cover the trial. There were some photographs. The man’s name was Small. There were some photographs of Mr. Small and some of the characters, and I looked in my scrapbook and found the sketch—of course, the reproduction of the sketch—and I compared them to the photographs in this detective magazine, and boy, they were identical. I showed them to Don, and he got a big— It’s in that collection of mine that you have.
SVU: It showed the book there, and then the drawing is in the book, in the detective magazine. But only one time did I figure in—no, twice. I was covering a murder trial—I forget where it was—and I would have a small drawing board, and I carried my ink and everything with me. So I would ink the thing in during it. And I had this bottle of ink here like this, and I was sitting at the press table, and I was sketching away some characters, inking them in; I had already penciled them in. I wasn’t paying any attention to what was going on, and suddenly I looked up and in front of me there was a bottle with a head in it. Jeez, I went like that and spilled the ink all over my drawing and everything. I’ll never forget it.
23:28 Then another time I went up to Fort Worth, Texas, here to cover a trial of a minister called the Reverend Norris. I think he murdered some lumberman or something. I don’t quite remember what it was. But it was claimed that he hypnotized the witnesses and could hypnotize people. I was in the courtroom sketching, and he looked over at me and he started staring at me like that, and I says, “My God, he’s trying to hypnotize me.” But it didn’t work. I remember that very, very clearly.
I think we’ve—
LM: Just about covered it.
SVU: I think we’ve covered this very, very well.
LM: It’s quite an experience going back through your own experiences with the various newspapers, and so many years have gone by that you can remember all these details.
SVU: Yes. I still have a very good memory. Most of my friends say when you get my age—83—all you’ve got left is reminisces. I guess they’re pretty close to being right. You should look to the future and forget the past, but some of it’s very, very interesting, or some of it is tedious. You get speaking with some of your friends, and you start talking about the old times, and they say, “Oh, the dickens with that. Let’s talk about the future.” They don’t want to talk too much about the old days. I’d like to know a little more about this work of all of my stuff that I’m giving to the library here. I hope that it’ll interest the public in some way and help some would-be newspapermen or would-be newspaper artists that would be interested to know what’s what and so forth and so on.
LM: I assure you it is. It’s an important historical contribution to the community. Let me turn this off first. Let me thank you for the time you’ve spent.
SVU: It’s been a genuine pleasure to me. I’ve really enjoyed it.
LM: I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. I feel like I’ve experienced some of the things with you now.
SVU: Swell. Thank you.
LM: I do appreciate your coming down.
LM: On behalf of the library, let me thank you for your participation.
SVU: The pleasure was mine, and it was a pleasure to have met all of these nice folks down here. It’s beautiful. The appointments here are out of this world. Beautiful, beautiful.
[end of 184_03] 26:48