The Houston Oral History Project is a repository for the stories, accounts, and memories of those who have chosen to share their experiences. The viewpoints expressed in the Houston Oral History Project do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the City of Houston, the Houston Public Library or any of its officers, agents, employees, or volunteers. The City of Houston and the Houston Public Library make no warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the interviews and expressly disclaim any liability therefore.
The Houston Oral History Project provides unedited versions of all interviews. Some parents may find material objectionable for minors. Parents are encouraged to interact with their children as they use the Houston Oral History Project Web site to complete research and homework activities.
The Houston Public Library retains the literary and publishing rights of its oral histories. No part of the interviews or transcripts may be published without the written permission of the Houston Oral History Project.
Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to:
The Houston Oral History Project.
Houston Public Library
Houston, Texas 77002
The Houston Oral History Project reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to decline to post any account received herein and specifically disclaims any liability for the failure to post an account or for errors or omissions that may occur in posting accounts to the Virtual Archive.
For more information email the Houston Oral History Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interview with: Terry Hershey
Interviewed by: Ann Hamilton
Date: January 22, 2008
AH: Today is January 22, 2008. We are here in Terry Hershey's home in Houston, Texas for the Mayor's Oral History Project. My name is Ann Hamilton. Terry, you and I have been friends for almost 25 years and 8-1/2 decades ago, the world was blessed with your birth in Fort Worth. I would like you to tell me a little bit about Fort Worth in those days and what it was like and a little bit about your parents if you could.
TH: Well, Fort Worth’s name was Cow Town, and we were next to Dallas -- a big conflict. They were always fighting with each other and the slogan was "Come to Fort Worth for fun, go to Dallas for education.” So, we had Billy Rose’s, 1935, you know, we he had the First Lady that danced with fans and all that business.
AH: Oh, yes!
TH: We lived at the end of the . . . my papa graduated from law school from the University of Texas in 1900. He was from Louisiana. They married and lived . . . in 1911, they moved to the end of the, what, at that point is what we now call a bus. Papa never drove a car and when the town got bigger and the buses got bigger when they would come towards town in the morning, they would always stop to see if the judge wanted to come out and get on the bus and go to town. He generally did because he could not drive if he did not get on the bus.
AH: How did he get the name "the judge?"
TH: Well, they started calling him the judge. I don't even know if he ran. I think he was just a lawyer so long that they . . . He lived to be 101. And I think they just finally started calling him Judge. He wasn't very judicial. I don't know why. But anyway, they did.
AH: And, like my mother, I think your mother was very into natural things.
TH: That's right.
AH: Is that how you got your . . .
TH: She and my grandmother started the Women's Club in Fort Worth. Mother was generally off making speeches about child psychology or something. She would come home and practice on me and I would remark that I was older than what the grade level she was trying to practice on me was.
AH: Well, how did you get your interest in the environment though?
TH: Well, Papa worked in the garden when he came home from the law office. He had the biggest azaleas and the best fruit - not that he ate vegetables but he liked to grow them. We had gumbo a lot. My grandmother lived with us, too, and the two ladies were very much into what we would now call a green world.
AH: Great. And then, at the ripe old age of 17 or 18, I think they shipped you off to Stevens?
TH: I went at 15.
AH: Is it 15?
AH: How come you decided to go to Stevens?
TH: Well, Papa didn't want me to go anywhere he couldn't reach in a long day. Most of the Fort Worth girls went up to East somewhere for college for two years and then came back to the University. So, Stevens was as far as he would let me go. So, that is why.
AH: I see. And you were only there a couple of years?
TH: Two years - my first two years – and then transferred to the University of Texas. That seemed to be what all the Fort Worth girls did at that time.
AH: I see. And you majored in philosophy, right?
AH: And you have a degree in philosophy?
AH: And do you have any other . . . wasn't there a double major?
TH: Well, I had enough in psychology to have had a double major but I think they just kind of called it a second name. They are close together, philosophy and psychology.
AH: And then, you and Tom Law married right, out of college?
TH: Yes, we married in 1943, during the War, and then he went right off . . . well, he didn't go right off to overseas but we moved to Philadelphia. I was head of the Air Scoops (sp?) - that was the house organ for Philadelphia . . . the head was a retired newspaper man and I was the second in command and we would interview people. I can't find the interview that I did of Isaac Asimov, Fred Decamp and who is that third writer? Anyway, they were all three working in something that was very hush-hush called JATO and you had to have 14 badges to get into JATO to talk to anybody. Robert Heinlein was the third one. They were all there together in the same office and I have an interview around here with them somewhere I cannot find.
AH: In Philadelphia?
TH: Yes, Philadelphia Navy Yard. And JATO spelled Jet-Assisted Takeoff. It was so secret at that point.
AH: I see. I thought you were going to tell me it was the precursor to the CIA.
TH: No, Jet-Assisted Takeoff. I wish I could find that interview.
AH: How did you get back to Texas?
TH: Well, Tom went overseas on the Antietam and he was over there for a couple of years under Admiral Nimitz in the Far East. When he got out, he settled in Fort Worth with his law practice. But while he was overseas, I went back to stay with Mother and Dad in Fort Worth.
AH: And Fort Worth was a place where you started a business?
TH: Oh, yes, I started Wonderful Things. It was the first art gallery in Fort Worth.
AH: I love the name of it.
TH: Wonderful Things. It was wonderful. I enjoyed it for 2 years.
AH: The Gallery of Wonderful Things. Isn't that what it was called?
AH: And it was art but it was other things as well?
TH: Well, it started out by being art because I cannot do art and so I admire art and I always went around and looked at museums and the more I looked at more museums everywhere, I kept thinking we have the most wonderful artists in Fort Worth and they did not have any place to show. So, there was this bottom of the property there that wasn't used, the old cow barn and the old horse barn and the old laundress cottage, and I just put a sign out and called it Wonderful Things and said, “Hey, if you want to bring anything in, I will show it.” It was fun. It was more like a salon. They always came in around the cocktail hour to switch paintings. We had a lot of wonderful artists up there. When I married Jake and moved, I gave it to my friend, Electra Carlin, who was helping me.
AH: How did you meet our old friend, Jake?
TH: I met him at a benefit -- where else -- in New York when I was up there visiting friends.
AH: Did you run into one another?
TH: We were introduced and somebody said . . . in Fort Worth, there was nobody named Hershey but Mother was a person that took very good care of what one ate and we did not have a lot of sweets and everything but if I was very good, I was allowed a Hershey bar. That was reward for being just very nice. And when somebody said, "This is Mr. Hershey," I said, "Really. There is a Mr. Hershey?" And he was kind of taken aback because there were plenty of Hersheys up there and I was just absolutely taken with him. So the next day, I was dating an architect and he called me in the morning and said he was going out to look at a boat he was having built and I thought that was strange, he never mentioned it. I was staying at the Carlisle with a friend of mine, Nora Darden. So, I go down to meet the architect and it was Jake.
AH: Really? He was building the boat?
TH: He was building the boat.
AH: How neat!
TH: So, we went to upstate New York and looked at the boat and visited all the way.
AH: And he was, at that point, in Houston?
AH: He lived in Houston and ran a business in Houston?
TH: Yes. American Commercial Barge Lines.
AH: And then you all ended up falling in love and I think getting married sort of . . .
TH: Two years later. I had my gallery and I said “What am I going to do with my business?” He said, "You call that a business?" It broke my heart!
AH: Well, and so, you got to Houston in 1958 or 1959, right?
TH: Yes, I came back.
AH: And did you get right into the environmental stuff?
TH: No, I had been pretty active in things in Fort Worth. Remember, I had done the Junior League Magazine for 2-3 years, and I had been on the Mayor's Animal Control Board and the Easter Seals sale. I set up the driving for the youngsters to get in for the cerebral palsy. I have always been active. Mother wouldn't have put up with me if I hadn't been active. She always kept telling me to get out of the hammock and put the book down and get busy.
AH: Your mother was a good Methodist.
TH: She was, yes, and Papa was a good Catholic. He would get up early and go to Catholic mass and then come over and stand on the top steps of the Methodist church and say, "I can go in here because I have already been to a real church today." And they would say, “Come right in, Judge.”
AH: I remember that at one point, Jake owned some apartments or something down there on San Felipe and you told me about how that . . . didn't you get involved in the landscaping of it?
TH: Yes, I did somewhat.
AH: So, we were talking about those apartments. I cannot remember the name of them.
TH: Tall Timbers.
AH: Tall Timbers, that's right.
TH: Yes, he had gotten involved with that and so I helped somewhat with the landscaping because Papa had been a big gardener.
AH: And that is sort of what started you in the environmental here?
TH: No. What started me was the day . . . we were living here by then and Ernie Faye who was . . . Jake was a yachtsman -- that is what he did and he was a member of the yacht club here. He was out of town that weekend and there was a party going on and Ernie Faye was going to pick me up and pick his wife up. And he said, "Well, they've started." And I said, "Who started what?" He said, "They've started concreting Buffalo Bayou." And I said, "What?" Of course, I don't live on Buffalo Bayou, I live on a tributary. So, I had never really stared at it except, as all of us do, crossing it. He said, "Yes." And so, the next morning, I called Mary Kelsey next door and Isabel ______ and we all went out to look at Chimney Rock. And they had cut down 9 acres of beautiful trees and were busy digging a ditch and moving Buffalo Bayou where it is now, under the bridge at Chimney Rock. And that seemed awful stupid to me and so I thought I would just sort of find out what was going on. So, the next day, I found out we had a county commissioner, his name was Squatty Lyons and I called him up to see what was happening. He said, "Oh, Mrs. Hershey, it is them big government fellows that are coming in and pushing us around." I said, "What big government fellows?" And he said, "Oh, that is that Corps of Engineers." Well, Jake's business was American Commercial Barge Lines. He started this big business on the Mississippi. And so, I had had meetings with the Corps and they weren't all that stupid. So, I said, "Well, why does it say Harris County Flood Control all over the trucks?" and he said he didn't have time to talk to me anymore and hung up and it made me mad and I stayed mad for 30 years. But anyway, I dug into it to find out what was going on and I found out that the Harris County Flood Control had cut off 5/10ths of the bayou generally to benefit a real estate person and straightened it out. You see, the city of Houston flooded in 1935 downtown, up to the 2th floor, and the city fathers turned to the Corps and said, “Save us.” So, they came in and designed Addicks and Barker Reservoir and the 3 rivers that run out . . . if this is downtown; here was Braes, here was Buffalo and here was White Oaks. And to avoid flooding downtown, they recommended straightening and stripping 3 rivers and dumping all the water down quicker. Now, somehow my philosophy and psychology background thought that was pretty stupid so I kept asking around and found some people that also thought it was stupid and what we called the Buffalo Bayou is now the BPA but at that point, it was the Buffalo Bayou Preservation Association. And one year into it, we dropped the Buffalo because we realized that all _______ had already happened to Braes and was happening to White Oaks. We managed to save Buffalo with a little help from the two Georges: George Mitchell was president at that time and George Bush was our congressman. And when we made the pitch to him, we tried . . . we talked to the Corps down here and they said, you know, “That’s the plan.” The Corps colonels only stayed there 3 years and then they were out of here, happily. And so, the plan had been made in the 1960s.
AH: And George Mitchell was the president of the Buffalo Bayou Preservation Association? That's right.
TH: Yes, and then we dropped Buffalo. He stayed president for quite a few years and then Frank Smith I think took over.
AH: Yes. Well, it was interesting because this past year, you all were honored by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership which is doing quite well.
TH: I am glad when they started because they took Buffalo from town down and we were sort of upstream on Buffalo Bayou but anyway, we got it saved and Braes was already done. Of course, it flooded 8 times after that and the thing that really bothers me is when it flooded the Medical Center several times -- the time that it killed all the animals in the basement, all the primates.
AH: Yes, that was Allison.
AH: Oh, terrible.
TH: 4,000 critters died in their basements.
AH: And isn't it funny that now, back out on Braes Bayou, trying to buy off land to make it more natural, to have jogging trails, so it all comes around, doesn't it?
AH: You had a relationship with Ms. Imma Hogg in the 1960s?
TH: Well, she lived on Buffalo Bayou downstream and she had always protected Memorial Park. She was the one . . . it was a sale to the city from her brothers that had it. She talked them into it though. It was a donated sale. And so, she was very interested in it and she wanted it to be a place of nature, quiet nature in a burgeoning city. Well, you know what it is now. It is all wild fields. But anyway, she cared about it and they were pushing to do some channelization behind her house and that is where she heard my name. So, she had been working with the City Parks Department and she had turned down over 100 things in Buffalo Bayou. But she was getting elderly and could not go around and she called me. I did not know her personally. I was a newcomer to Houston. But she knew about me because of the Garden Club and because of the Fight to Save BPA, the bayou. And so, she called and asked if I would go and look at some of the things. Well, I was new to Houston so I asked Frank Smith. By that time, I guess he was president of the BPA. And he and I, when she would call, we would go look at it and then tell her what we thought about it and she would go with the Parks Department. So, the two of us did it for a while and then Sadie Gwynn retired from being the national park person and we got her in because she was . . . so, the 3 of us would go around and look at things. And Sadie Gwynn took it to the next . . . of course, Ms. Imma got killed in there some time but the Parks directors kept calling us because they needed help. People have more ideas about what to put in open space and you just can't believe what they are going to . . . somebody wanted to put a whole place on the green where you ate with all the parking all around it in the middle of Memorial Park and right now, everything on the east side is pretty well used up by stuff with ball fields. But the west side still has a little bit when it goes down to the bayou. So, we would go down at her calling and then after she was gone, we would keep going to check on things when the Parks directors would ask us. And then, Sadie Gwynn thought it ought to be bigger so by that time, she had an office and somebody or other, so she started having meetings and she asked the people that were heads of the various things like the runners and the people to come and join us but we were still just an official 501(c)(3). Then, Clara Caudell (sp?) got involved through the garden clubs and she took it to the next level where she raised money and got a plan and got it to be a 501(c)(3). So, that was the next level and now it has gotten quite big and doesn't even meet in Memorial Park anymore because there is no space for it but anyway, it has got committees and they are there for advice and consent sometimes of what the Parks Department decides to do. But their purpose originally was to be there to help the Parks Department turn down all the stuff that people like drilling in Memorial Park. Do you remember that?
AH: Yes, I do.
TH: She was still alive then.
AH: At one point, didn't they want to drill a well in there?
TH: Oh, yes. They wanted to drill.
AH: And then they also had a vision for a stadium in there, as I recall.
TH: Oh, they had more things. She took on 100 things including Astroworld ________.
AH: As we say, we must be ever vigilant of what little green space we have in Houston.
TH: That's right.
AH: The Corps of Engineers. Let's go back to Corps a minute because you gave me this wonderful article that was written in 1975 and published in this publication called the Water Spectrum by Major General J.W. Morris and you said that Jake knew him, and I think it is so interesting because this was 1975. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
TH: Well, Jake was a member of something called PANC, which is the Permanent International Navigation Congress, and it was an international group. Our general of the Corps was always the head of the US delegation. And so, we met all over the world and I got to know the top guys on the Corps, and they were far different from Squatty Lyons and Houston, Texas, you know, about what you ought to do to a bayou. And I would tell them what was happening here and they would kind of gasp and turn and change the subject. But anyway, this guy was wonderful. He came down and talked to the BPA one night when his wife was in the hospital with a broken foot or something and he honored his commitment to coming down. And that was the result, that article I gave you, where he says there on the front page that the Corps has to go more nonstructural than structural; that nonstructural is a way to go. And he was very helpful in turning the Corps around and the wonderful heads of the Corps after that that I knew well and I could work with them through Jake, you see.
AH: Well, one of those people in the Corps, you ended up getting here into Houston, at great benefit to the city.
TH: Yes, I was always telling Jack Morris, I said, "Can't you send us a young you down there, somebody that really is on the way up and that understands what you are talking about?" So, I was in Washington for a meeting once and he said, "Come over to the office, there is somebody I want you to meet," and there was this dignified young colonel in the corner and he said, "I want you to meet this lady" and introduced me and said, "This is John Vandenbash that I am sending to Galveston at your request." And he turned to John and said, "You are going to meet a lot of weird types down there. You might as well meet this one now and get it over with!" Anyway, John was wonderful and he ended up head of Public Works for the city.
AH: Twice. Not once but twice.
TH: Yes, twice.
AH: He came back in and sort of saved the day after things kind of went astray.
TH: Yes, he did and he told me once, he said, "I walked down the hall to get ready to leave my last time when they tore up a bunch of stuff I put in there."
AH: And you are still friends with John and his wife?
TH: Oh, yes.
AH: That is great. Let's talk a little bit about George H.W. Bush and his reaction to when you went to visit with him about Buffalo.
TH: Well, he looked at the pictures. Of course, he was from here and knew it and he thought it was . . . he had the same gut reaction as anybody that did look at the pictures of a concrete river as a beautiful curving . . . it is common sense to realize that a curving river - we call it the flood plane now; there is the flood way and there is the flood plane - and of course they are holding water back and absorbing water. And if you want to hold water back, you don't concrete and straighten the river and dump it downstream on somebody real fast and lose every benefit from a wooded river - for critters and holding water and washing. It was stupid. I said there are curly engineers and there are straight engineers and straight engineers go from point A to point B if you hire them to do that and they think that is fine. Curly engineers look at the bigger picture. And we just needed some curly engineers and we got them. They were some good people.
AH: So, he was really on your side from the very beginning?
TH: Oh, he looked at that . . . and so he went up there with the famous answer that everybody always asked us. I was making the pitch. George Mitchell and Ernie and Elkins - all these people were busy and George Bush set up a meeting with the Subcomittee on Appropriations and all those men were too busy to go, so they put me on a plane and sent me up there. So, I am making the pitch about how stupid it is and George is running up and down with the pictures showing them what it looked like. There is nothing like a picture, you know. And finally, when he paused or something, one of them said . . . it was later afternoon - I remember that . . . and he said, "Congressman, do we understand you are asking us not to spend money in your district?" and George gulped and he said, "I think there is a better way to manage storm water than concreting rivers and I would like the Corps to do to a restudy." And they got up and walked out. I said, "Well, what happened?" He said, "I think we won." So, he took me back and put me on a plane and I came home and said, "Well, Jake, that wasn't hard." We fought for 4-5 more years but he stayed behind us. He wrote letters, he wrote congressmen, he wrote other people. He really got in there. If it hadn't been for George Bush, Sr., we would have a concrete river in Buffalo Bayou.
AH: Well, I might add for Terry Hershey, too, because you had a lot to do with it.
TH: Well, there is always a woman behind pushing somewhere.
AH: Right. How did you get appointed to the National Recreation of Park board, do you remember?
TH: No, just because I was pushing . . . I don't remember what I was on, when I was on the National Audubon board and NRPA. Twice on that when I came back. Meanwhile, Ford put me on his Citizens Committee.
AH: Right. You encouraged a lot of people to get involved with NRPA, National Recreation of Park Association because, for a long time in Houston, we just didn't have professional people in the Parks Department.
TH: The mayor appointed the Park director, and we had one - Bill Shivey - who came in from Dallas under Welch, was a professional and he was very helpful during all those fights. And so, the mayor . . . but then, the Parks director felt like they ought to resign every time a mayor came in so the mayor can appoint his new person. That was a shame. I wish Shivey could have just stayed.
AH: And Shivey was very good, wasn't he?
TH: Oh, he was good, very good.
AH: And then there was a man named Hart or something that came?
TH: Yes, he did not last very long. We had a mayor that was not in very long there and he put him in and then we had . . .
AH: Didn't you have somebody named Lanier at the Parks Department, too?
TH: Yes, and he was good. He was an architect. He did not know anything about parks. You could call down to the Park Department 10 o'clock at night and he was down there studying up on things. He was great. And I have forgotten which mayor he was under. But then that mayor left and then we had . . . maybe it was Hofheinz.
AH: Yes, I think it might have been because it was Hofheinz that started the Houston Parks board which was started 2 years before when you started Park People.
TH: Yes, he was a good person but he did not have the background. Then, they appointed somebody else that was an architect and he didn't have much background either and he didn't last. He went off to Louisiana. And then, they had one man that was quite good. I can't think of his name right now but he was in there for a long period before . . .
AH: Don Olson.
TH: Don Olson.
AH: He was a professional.
TH: He was professional. He had run state parks up in Ohio or something.
AH: That's right.
TH: He was there long enough to help. So, we had some good park directors.
AH: Well, it really all does depend on the mayor, doesn't it?
AH: It truly depends on the mayor. And right now, I think we seem to have one that really cares about green space and waterways.
TH: I think when I heard of Bill Turner, I immediately thought he had 3 good recommendations that some of these people . . . when they brought down Oliver Sullivan, he was a professional, too, and a good person but they come down here and they were just aghast to realize that we have no zoning. They don't know that Houston has no zoning and the development people are in control and it is a shock. But Joe Turner was born here and he was a businessman who had done well in business, and then he worked for 2 years as a park director for one of the commissioners. And then was tapped to come to the city. So, he knew our oddities and he knew what the county could do and what the city could do, so it wasn't like bringing in a professional from across the world that was just astounded when they got here.
AH: Well, and one of the reasons he started the Park People was because of the national group. We were after some federal money, weren't we? It was a study on parks, wasn't it?
TH: It was a study but we just realized that past the BPA, which is still one of the oldest groups going, they were working on the bayous itself and through that, we realized our dwindling open space. And so, we started the Park People.
AH: And the Citizens Who Care before the Park People? I am sorry, I've got that mixed up with CEC.
TH: Well, the CEC started . . . they were about the same time, the early 1970s. The Park People came in . . . yes, there was a study. There were 4 entities that had to be involved: there had to be a local group, there had to be a city group, a county group and a state group, and we were the city group for Chris Delaporte (sp?) who was head in Washington, to open a regional office, the first one - you are right.
AH: For the National Parks and Recreation?
TH: Yes, the National Parks and Recreation. And so, we needed a citizens group so we started the Park People.
AH: That's right.
TH: And we called it, what was it? The Citizens Open Space Taskforce, and somebody pointed out that that spelled COST, so we changed the name to the Park People. But it was the Citizens Open Space Taskforce. And so, we kept going and Chris Delaport opened the office here and the mayor appointed his person and the governor didn't and that was our first Republican governor. And he just wouldn't . . . we had to have a state representative and he just wouldn't appoint anybody, so we all sat around for one year trying to get him to appoint somebody. And he finally appointed somebody but they never came to the meeting but at least we had the name on the stationery.
AH: Well, then, the Park People has been very effective in their advocacy work and in getting more park land designated for . . .
TH: Well, we came in as a result of that and then it broke down because Delaport’s guy that he appointed disappeared and the state guy never came but the city and the county appointees stayed with us and we worked with the FCS, Fall Conservation Service, Don Newman who was extremely helpful. He let us use his office and we had conferences on the need for open space. We had some big conferences in there. I think Burdette Keeland (sp?) I think was our first president?
AH: He was.
TH: Yes, he took over. And we became a 501(c)(3).
AH: I remember Burdette. Burdette was an architect. He was great. And he really cared.
TH: I was temporary chair during that whole spring while we were looking for something and getting our act together when the national thing sort of fell apart and that is what we did was try to point out the need for open space.
AH: Well, I think one of the more interesting organizations that you helped start is the Citizens Environmental Coalition which certainly had a long checkered career, let's say.
TH: It was started by a bunch of women who called themselves . . . they didn't like the name but they couldn't think of anything better . . . they called themselves the Citizens Who Care. I was one of the younger members of the group so you can imagine - they were older, established Houston women. And they started this group because they wanted to have an impact on the city about what we called green things now. And so, we had a 2 year hiatus where it doesn't work out and then we fell back again and side worked through groups instead of people. And by that time . . . see, when we were fighting for saving the Buffalo Bayou in the 1960s, none of the national groups were here. Sierra was not here, Audubon was not here, ________ Lands was not here.
AH: Outdoor Nature Club was about it, wasn’t it?
TH: It was the only one and the Garden clubs. And Hannah Ginsbard who has that wonderful nature environmental studies group out in Bellaire, but she sat down in Memorial Park and got 4,000 signatures against concreting it and that sort of thing. That caught the eye of the elected officials. So, that is what we were here - to have comments. And the city and the county . . . the county did not have park directors. They had the head of Bridge Control or the Highway Department or something like that and I remember the second meeting we had was the first time the county people all got together, they were looking at each other down the table and saying, "You do that? Do you think that is a good idea?" We were just sitting there not saying anything while they were talking, the four commissioners.
TH: Yes, so we built sort of a conversation among people who cared about the same thing.
AH: And now they all have their own park districts.
AH: So, that was the evolution of that. I never knew that. I never knew that they didn't always have that park . . .
TH: No, they didn't. They didn't call them park directors. I think they were the road and bridge crew or something like that. And we got them together and then the city park directors were delighted to have some help. And we had meetings just monthly on these subjects around town and getting groups in. So then we realized that the groups were coming then, some of the national groups were getting here and nobody knew who was doing what so that is when the ladies decided that we needed something to tell people what was going on. So, the Citizens Who Care eventually started the CEC which comes out yearly and lists all the 501(c)(3)s. At that point, there were maybe 10 or 12 groups in town and now there are over 100.
AH: It is their resource guide that they . . .
TH: Printed out once a year and it tells who is meeting about what. It has to be a green group sort of and have regular meetings and a board and agendas.
AH: Right. They keep news of Houston's environment really kind of going?
TH: It has been a very, very helpful thing all these years but like everything, groups change, groups switch, people want their new groups, they don't want to work with another old group. It happens.
AH: Yes, it happens.
TH: Things happen.
AH: If you had to say, which individuals and groups do you think have been most helpful in educating and preserving in Houston?
TH: Oh, there have been so many and some have come and gone. The League of Women Voters - they were there and they didn't have at that point an environmental committee but they started one and it was quite active then. It has not been so active lately. The Audubon, when it got here, Audubon was extremely helpful all along because, you know, they are bird people - they really have to have trees for the birds to sit in! The BPA hung in there. It is still . . . after Frank Smith, I thin maybe Hugh Barrett came in after Frank. Their presence stayed longer.
AH: Yes, they did.
TH: Then we had . . . who came in after that? Was that Kevin?
AH: Kevin Chandley.
TH: And he stayed a long time, and now we have Ty Kelly. And so, that group is still going. And then, Ann Olsen who had been very involved in East End came in as head of sort of from town down and took the name bayou. We dropped Buffalo because we were then concentrating on all the bayous. And she was Buffalo Bayou Partnership. They have really built that into a wonderful thing, decorating the bayou downtown and working on south of the Ship Channel in getting trails going.
AH: What do you think about master plans for parks? Do you think those are good? I mean, given the fact that we have had a history of building things in parks that might not be there, is master planning the best way to go about that?
TH: Well, I think planning, trying to look ahead and seeing what is needed and how you are going to produce what is needed . . . and plans change, as we know. But I am in favor of planning. Well, look at Hermann Park, for instance. It was given to us, all that land out there, by a person that had moved in from elsewhere and made a fortune and half of what he gave us, they just took for the Medical Center. I mean, on a vote of just a couple of hundred people - didn't even know they were selling it off. I hope they sold it. They probably gave it away.
AH: I think they gave it away.
TH: I think they gave it away and it was given to us for a park.
TH: And you know how crowded it is, and things coming and going and they stuck the museums in there. The Museum has been wanting to put another wing into it. Oh, I will tell you - the fight to save open space is just a magnet to people that want to buy things, put things in it.
AH: Yes, and that leads me to the next question about what do you think are the most pressing needs in terms of the environment today in Houston?
TH: Oh, boy! Common sense. Protection of what open space we have which is dwindling at all times and trying to get more and keep out massive highways that are going to run straight across Texas and through all open space that we've got. And just room for the critters. The critters can't vote.
AH: Yes, I know. I worry about the critters, too. How did you get involved with the Galveston Bay Foundation?
TH: Well, when they started that, they had 3 emeritus and I was one and George Mitchell was one and I have forgotten who the third one was. Eventually they put Harold Scarlett. He was a wonderful environmental writer for the Post. We couldn't have done a lot of things that we did without Harold Scarlett covering in a very thorough . . . bless his heart. So, he put me on there because, see, Jake was a member of the yacht club and sailing and all that sort of thing, so he was a natural for the Galveston Bay Foundation. So, he was on the board. But they put me up there with those two nice guys.
AH: Well, it has done well and had its problems but it is now back in full force.
TH: I am glad it is there.
AH: Yes, it needs to be there.
TH: Things come and go and sometimes they go away entirely and sometimes somebody resurrects them.
AH: Did you know they were going to name Terry Hershey Park Terry Hershey Park?
TH: No. A total surprise.
AH: How did that happen?
TH: I don't know.
AH: You still don't know?
TH: I don't. He got the idea and he started naming parks after people. You have the Art Storey Park.
AH: Steve Raddack.
TH: Yes, Steve Raddack. He named parks after people. George Bush Park which is great, I mean, for a while, and when we pass on, they can change the name.
AH: Well, it used to be you didn't name a park until after the person . . .
TH: Well, we are all still alive. I don't think any of us at the ________ Park . . . they have completely refigured it to use it as water storage with trails all around and all the good critters that need water are there and the birders are delighted and they have that willow water hole thing going on in the city, county, state.
AH: At last, people are understanding that we've got to have the tension but we can have it without it just being a giant hole in the ground.
TH: Yes. Convoluted.
TH: And there have been all these groups that are listed in the CEC book. You can see so much . . . you can't do everything. There is only one common denominator in our lives and that is 24 hours. And you've got to sort them. You've got to eat and sleep sometimes. So, you have limited time if you are working somewhere to do these other things. So, you sort of drift towards the one that is the utmost in your fears or hopes. But now, we have over 100 so there are lots of people working on stuff. And Parks and Public Lands wasn't here. I kept getting appointed to these boards out of the blue. Governor Ann put me on the Parks board out of the blue.
AH: I was going to ask you about your tenure on Texas Parks & Wildlife because that was quite a 7 years, wasn't it?
AH: That was really quite a 7 years -- you being the only nonhunter, as I recall.
TH: I am the second woman they have ever had on it and the first one was a big game hunter. Her husband had a private plane. She flew all around the world hunting special things. But anyway, I was there.
AH: Well, we were all very happy that you were there and that first meeting was a disaster. Do you want to talk a little bit about after that first meeting and what happened that night? I think that is a wonderful story.
TH: That was my first meeting. I went up there. I didn't know the background much of the state park system. Now, mind you, by that time, I had been on the NRPA board and I had been on the Audubon board and I had been on the Parks and Public Lands board. I had been floating around in the atmosphere up there. So, here is another state board. I had been on 2 that had gone away in the past. And the Corps board, too. But anyway, there I was, my very first meeting. It was March. We had 23 items on hunting. I am a nonhunter. Jake shot birds until he discovered that I cried every time I had to fix them for dinner and that sort of bothered him a little so he quit hunting birds or if he hunted them, he didn't bring them home for dinner anyway. But here I am, the 23 items on hunting, and I am just thinking, what am I doing here because I am not a hunter? And so, a 24th item came up and it was from some group from San Antonio that I had never heard of. I thought I kind of knew what the green groups were around the state and everything. This is somebody I never heard of. And they had a plan that they wanted the Park board to help them with and as far as I could figure, it was going to give an award to the youngest person that could drag a gun around the thing and the oldest person that could walk around the thing. It was the overlooked people that hadn't had hunting awards. I could not believe my ears. I spoke from the heart. They were getting ready to call for a vote for . . . I said, I can't believe . . . “I have sat here for 23 things and I have not thrown up yet but I am about to." That blew it. It was in the paper. “New commissioner throws up at meeting.” And I had done it that night that Lady Bird and Liz . . . I did not know it was going to be that big a deal. They didn't vote it in, by the way. They tabled it and it didn't ever come back on the agenda.
AH: Lady Bird Johnson and Liz?
TH: Lady Bird and Liz, we were having dinner and I said, "The damndest thing happened today," and I told them what I just told you. Lady Bird said, "Oh my!" Her strength was she never criticized anything. She always praised. She was just very graced under pressure at all times. But when she said, "Oh my," she knew what was going to happen. Oh man, it was in all the papers.
AH: It sure was.
TH: It went on and on. But Ann Richards said she got all these letters. She said, "Most of them were in favor of you." She didn't throw me off the . . . I said, "I'll resign," you know. I had no idea . . . what I did not realize was that the March meeting is when they set the hunting license numbers for the year. It is always at the March meeting. So, they were talking about all the hunting things - how many of this can you shoot, how many of this, where can it be? See, that is the meeting that they devote to that. Nobody told me that. Oh, I just was sitting through some 23 meetings on hunting breaks.
AH: Your first meeting?
TH: My first meeting.
AH: And they did devote some time to parks, did they not?
TH: No, I don't think so. I don't remember them even talking about parks. It was all about hunting. At the next meeting, I guess it was the next meeting, we had a little room behind . . . we sat up on a dyess like we were some high muckety-mucks and the popular, sat down in our seat down here because there was this little room behind where we could go back and have a cup of coffee or something. It was at the next meeting . . . all the correspondence that had been so ugly in the papers and carrying all this and stuff, and then some of them came to visit with me. The Dallas guy came down here to talk to me and he kind of looked around . . . this lady is crazy but she means well. She just was pretty stupid. So, he was out there and wanting to see me. And they said, "No, you can't come in here." He said, "I want to see her right now." "No, you can't come in here." So, we all go out and sit at the dyess again and he runs up to the dyess, he puts a barf bag - you know the kind you get - in front of me and all the reporters had signed it.
AH: Oh my! How interesting!
TH: That was a peace offering. So, for the whole rest of the time, I always kept my barf bag in front of me. I thought that was cute of them.
AH: That was great. And that was a 7 year tenure that you served. You served it out.
TH: Yes, I did.
AH: And it wasn't always easy for you as I recall.
TH: It was easier after that because with the other commissioners, they weren't ugly - they were laughing if anything, you know? But they were pleasant. They were all gentlemen.
AH: What do you think the most significant change in Houston has been over the years since you've been here, since 1958? That is a long time.
TH: Our change is the same change that is hitting the United States and the world - it is overpopulation. Too many of us. We keep breeding. We are going to breed ourselves right out of the planet. And we have had some good people come in. We have not had any real evil people come in. I think everybody that has been down there has tried; some I would disagree with in some ways but they weren't evil.
AH: And you are talking about people down there at City Hall?
TH: Yes, City Hall and the county. And I have been very impressed with the county people that I have known - Steve Raddack and all. I was so afraid he was going to resign this year. I went down on bended knee and said, "Please don't. We need you." So he said he was going to hang in there awhile.
AH: Well, he certainly has been a champion for parks.
TH: Judge Lindsey, when he was down there, he was great.
AH: He did The String of Pearls, right, that green emerald?
TH: The String of Pearls Park, yes.
AH: Cypress Creek. But you think there are just too many of us?
TH: Well, I think the development community is used to sort of having its own way and they just like to develop. That is what their business is. They are not worried about open space. The Audubon folks are fighting for the birds and the other critters are fighting for some green place to go have a picnic in the park. The canoe people want to canoe on the bayou. There are a bunch of people out there that want things.
AH: And all sort of conflicting interests.
TH: Yes. But you have to have open space . . . I could be wrong but I think there is a ground swell in the knowledge that open space has the merit. And before, I don't think . . . there was enough open space that it wasn't so endangered and people didn't worry so much about it because you could go outside of town and there was somebody you knew that had a ranch if you didn't have one. All the ranches are getting chopped up. That is why the Trust for Public Lands, I think, is doing such a good job with its constellation easements on land and land trusts where people could give up development rights in exchange for some benefits, economic. It was, used to get 30% write-off and 5 years to write it off if you put your land and some restrictions on use, restrictions depending on how much you got off your income tax. But, I mean, if you were going to put 5 houses on something, you did not get as much as if you only put 1 house on something or other, you see. But that has been helpful. And then, this last 2 years in the law, they changed it to 50% write-off and 16 years which was great. Now, that has expired. It is in the farm bill and I think it has passed the Senate to extend that, but I hope the House will. I hope they do that again because that was quite an incentive for people to protect their land. And when 95% of the land -- I think it is 95% of ground land, of the land in Texas is privately owned. If the private owners don't step up and protect land, it is all going to be like my concrete floor.
TH: You and Jake were kind of way ahead of your time back in 1961, I think, when you started the Jacob and Therese Hershey Foundation, and it is alive and well, I am happy to say. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that foundation?
TH: Yes, I will. You know us, so you are laughing, too. I did not know Jake started the foundation. Jake was an entrepreneurial male that did things when he thought they ought to be done and did not ask a lot of questions about anything, you know, the homosapien male. But he started the Hershey Foundation. I did not know about it. But he kept getting requests for hundreds of thousands because everybody thought it was the Hershey company. So, he changed the name to the Jacob and Therese Hershey Foundation and that is when I found out that there was a foundation out there. And we give a tremendous amount of money. We have 7 people on the board and we give $200,000 a year for 7 people. That is not much for everybody when they are . . . we have a very good mission statement that limits it to what we can do because there are foundations for everything out there -- all the goods things, but there are a lot of them.
AH: But it is one of the few foundations that does do environment. There are not a whole lot of foundations in Houston or in Texas really that do environmental giving. And you, I think, led the way on that. And that is wonderful.
TH: Well, our first dollar goes to Planned Parenthood because there are too many of them. That is the group that is trying to use a little sanity in population control. And that is my first dollar. And then, we go to open space for the critters. What else do we do?
AH: Well, you do parks.
TH: Parks and open space. We are a critter. All the things for us, too.
AH: Wetlands, wet water-type stuff. I think one of the most important initiatives lately has been that Texas Living Waters Initiative that Hershey Foundation was involved in and still is.
TH: And Texas EGG.
AH: And Texas Environmental Grantmakers Group, so there is a small cadre of people, and I am serious - you led the way along with others, a few others, like Mrs. Todd, led the way with her very charitable trust and her 2 children are involved. It is not easy being green in Houston, is it?
TH: Yes. It's not hard. There are plenty of green people. And I don't care about messing around with the ones that aren't.
AH: Well, maybe I should say it has not always been easy but you certainly have led the way and we thank you very, very much for it. Is there anything you want to say before we cut this off? Perhaps would you like to describe the spirit of Houston?
TH: I think there is a lot more knowledge in the last 100 years of where we fit in and I hope that knowledge is knowledge among a lot of people. I don't know - it sort of scares me when you look at the world - so fast 2 groups can hate each other like Mohammed, it was his son and son-in-law . . . we have been involved in a family fight for the last several thousand years. The son and the son-in-law! And one of them . . . the son got killed and the other one got mad at him. They have been fighting like that since. The bona bugs, they are closest to us of all the primates and they make love all day. They never fight.
AH: They make love?
TH: Yes. They make fun of love. It was just in the magazine. Pictures.
AH: Well, maybe we can take a lesson from the bona bugs.
TH: They are very close. They are the closest _____ except for eating and ________. I may write a book about the bona bug some time. ________ some fancy people are writing books so I do not have to do that.
AH: Well, I am sure it will be a best seller if it's got your name on it, Terry. Thank you very much for all you've done for Houston.