Millionaires to Mermaids

Welcome back.  Millionaires to mermaids, you’ll find it all in Rockport, Texas and friends there’s a tie to the Bartlesville area that this week I thought you might find interesting. Water Street in Rockport is only a mile long and runs right along the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. The area often floods but most of the houses are built on stilts and there are few full-time residents. The beauty of the place outweighs the sometimes-rough weather that coastal living can bring. Here small waterfront lots can bring as much as half a million dollars and there are few of them available. If you put a nice house on a lot it would be common to have at least a million dollars tied up in a home on this street.

Walking this piece of high-end real estate most mornings I’ve found another road about a quarter mile south where the lots are even more expensive. This is a small unmarked peninsula which during high tide can become an island and this is where the connection to Washington and Osage counties starts.

It was 1967 when John Mecom, Jr. and his wife Katsy Kay Mullendore of Cross Bell Ranch fame, bought the newly established New Orleans Saints football team. At the time the pair also owned Mecom Racing which had all the top drivers under contract including A.J. Foyt and Gram Hill who had just won the Indianapolis 500. For twelve years their football team grew in popularity until in 1985 New Orleans billionaire Tom Benson came a knocking with a check for sixty-four million and with that the football team sold.

After some research I learned that Tom was a hardworking man who started his career as a car salesman, and went on to own several dealerships in Texas and Louisiana as well as multiple other investments. He bought the Saints with his first wife Shirley who died several years later. The couple had three adopted children,

Robert, Renee and Jeannie. Tom remarried but his second wife died of Parkinson’s Disease. Then in 2004 he married Gayle Marie Lajaunie.

Tom was actively involved with his businesses until he died in 2018, adding the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Pelicans team along with several banks and ranches to his portfolio.

Tom’s death made Gayle the first female owner of two major sports teams and gave her a net worth of 3.3 billion, putting her in a class of her own. Of Tom’s kids only Renee has survived and every morning I walk by a fancy ten-foot-high concrete fences at the end of this mysterious street which encloses her personal retreat. Her father has now become a part of Louisiana’s history and I’m hoping to learn more from Renee who I’ve made contact with down here, looking for more of a connection between her family and the Mullendores.

Now for the mermaid part of this story. A fabled marine creature with the head and upper body of a human and the tail of a fish, mermaids and mermen have existed in folklore going back hundreds of years. My encounter happened in the early morning while I was walking along this remote part of the island where Renee’s home is located. My head was down as I was thinking about the connection I’d just made with the Benson family when out of nowhere two sirens or mermaids as they’re called appeared out of nowhere. Well, I’m out of space so this story will have to be continued.

              Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…………….


The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Welcome back. Located in Oklahoma’s Osage County, Osage Hills State Park was built in 1937 during the depression era by the Civilian Conservation Corps as were several other parks around the State. The park was created by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who decreed that the land not be developed but set aside for the enjoyment of mankind. Here in Rockport, Texas I’ve found another preserve that President Roosevelt had the vision to establish and a truer gift you’ll have a hard time finding.

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was first named the Blackjacks in the 1880s by Europeans who had an early settlement in the area. Prior to their settlement the Karankawa Indians had lived there but the tribe was almost completely killed off fighting for their ancestral land against Texas cattlemen in the 1850s.  This area was also home to the legendary pirate Jean Lafitte who plundered many Spanish ships full of gold and legend has it hid it in what is now the refuge.

This wildlife refuge is on a peninsula which sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico and is part of a long chain of land forming a barrier island which is home to an amazing number of wildlife species. Sea turtles, alligators, deer and coyotes all live here but what draws the most visitors at this time of year is the whooping crane, a bird that was almost extinct in 1941 when there were only 15 birds remaining. These magnificent birds have made somewhat of a comeback thanks to the generosity of wealthy philanthropists and the donations of common men and women all of whom have made it possible to purchase additional land for the refuge in an effort to expand the cranes’ winter habitat. Yes friends, just like a visit to the Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie, on a road trip to this preserve you never know what you might see.

I’ll end this week where I left off last week with the question of the legacy we leave in life. Paul Endacott, the Phillips man I highlighted last week left his own. My late friends brothers Bill and Don Creel, both of whom I’ve written about in the past, left theirs through community involvement as did Don Cone, the longtime Woolaroc docent who never met a stranger.

The famous musician Bruce Springsteen. recently wrote that what people leave behind are like dreams to him. He often sees the faces of people who have been important to him and not just when he’s sleeping but whenever something reminds him of them. Now if part of your legacy is that people still envision you after your death than I’m with Bruce because I can still see the faces of people who made a difference to me in my dreams as well.

The great Bartlesville architect Derry Ebert, a man who also served three times as Board President at the YMCA. Mike May, another early Y guy who also served on many other Boards for organizations benefiting the town. John F. and Dick Kane who did so many good things for the community we may never know the extent of all of them. There are dozens more, some who have been gone for years and some like Don Cone and Frederick Drummond have only recently died but I can see them all in my dreams. It may be my legacy that I keep these people alive through my writing, so, what is your legacy? That is something only you can determine.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road …………

Leave A Legacy

Welcome back.  Traveling the country in search of interesting stories for almost 18 years I have had the opportunity to meet many fascinating people. I was recently in the company of one such person, an eighty-year-old friend of mine who thanked me for being part of his legacy. After looking up the definition of legacy in the dictionary I found two meanings

1.a gift by will especially of money or other personal property 

2: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

Clearly, he was referring to the second meaning and it got me thinking of the people I’ve known in my coming on seventy years on this earth and the legacies they have left.

Early in life I met Paul Endacott and his wife Lucille as they both got their hair cut at Barbara’s Beauty Shop which was located in the Price Tower. As a small boy whose mother did hair for Barbara, at the time I had little knowledge of what this man meant to Bartlesville.

A graduate of the University of Kansas at 21 with a degree in civil engineering, Paul as his friends called him, was also named the outstanding collegiate basketball player of the year in 1923 and became a member of the all-time All-American team the same year. In addition, Paul was the first student at KU to receive the Honor Award for academic excellence.

After hearing L.E. Phillips speak at a banquet during the university’s engineering day, Paul decided to pursue a career with Phillips Petroleum Company which was only six years old at the time. His first four years were spent developing boom towns, building roads, tank farms, gasoline plants and company camps to support Phillips’ oil discoveries. He went on to create a new marketing plan for the company’s fledgling propane gas business which he directed in Michigan.

In 1934 Paul came back to Bartlesville and began his rise to executive leadership as the Director of Employee Relations and Boots Adams’ right-hand man. When Boots Adams became Chairman of Phillips after Frank Phillips’ death in 1951, Paul was named President of the company. This was a period of great growth for Phillips when they acquired one patent after another, particularly in Marlax plastics which brought in millions of dollars but the biggest achievement was yet to come.

In the early 1960s Paul had become Vice-Chairman of Phillips and he led the company to make a major drilling investment in the North Sea where he believed there was a major oilfield. The discovery of this field and the creation of new drilling technology to explore and develop it put Phillips in a class of their own.

Paul retired in 1967 and his retirement was reported in PhilNews, a paper he had started in 1937. It stated:

“Throughout his long career (Endacott) has retained the common touch and personal qualities of consideration for others.”

After retirement Paul and Lucille committed their energy and resources to many philanthropic activies in both Oklahoma and Kansas. I crossed paths with them by chance shortly before Paul’s death in 1997 and I still felt the depth of his concern for other people. Now that my friends is quite a legacy to leave.

So, what will be your legacy or mine/ A question well worth some thought.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road….


Travel in the COVID 19 Era

Welcome back. Recreational vehicles or RVs as they are commonly called, over the years I’ve owned about a dozen of them and camped out in RV parks across the country. On the west coast Mugu State Park was my home for two weeks while I was investigating the Whitey Bulger story. Bulger had an apartment in Santa Monica where he was captured which is not far from the campground. Will Rogers and movie star Joel McCray both had ranches close by as well which I also visited regularly and always on a budget I preferred to save money by tent camping at RV parks.

When I arrived in Rockport, Texas recently I learned that there are over 80 RV parks here which accommodate both workers and the “snow birds” who come here every year from northern Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and other more northern states to enjoy the mild climate. Many of these RV parks offer a full range of amenities including shower houses, swimming pools and hot tubs along with washers and dryers and WIFI and most also have dog parks, playgrounds and water access for fishing and boating on the Gulf of Mexico. All of this in a town that has just around 10,000 full time residents.

In Bartlesville travelers have two options for RV camping with all the amenities of a big time RV park like these. At 1211 SE Adams you’ll find Riverside RV Park a place that offers 80 spots all with electric and everything a good RV park should have. Riverside also offers a sparkling swimming pool which is the oldest public pool in the country. I’m told that the health department monitors the pool and Riverside’s management has been told that it is always one of the cleanest inspectors see. Family run, clean and handy to all the attractions in downtown Bartlesville, Riverside is one of those places that visitors hate to leave.

The other RV park in Bartlesville has years of history as well and if you ever need repairs to your camper Bell Camper Sales can help you out there as well. Located between Bartlesville and Dewy, like Riverside Bell RV Village has an employee on site 24/7. You old timers may remember Blackie Bell, the man who started it all, who was known not only for his service to

his customers but also for his acrobatics in human kite flying.

It was back in the 1960s when Blackie did his airborne work while being pulled by a fast boat. Although it’s all history now back in the day Blackie drew quite a crowd to watch him perform at Hulah Lake which was the big lake at the time. If you want to learn more check out Bell Camper Sales’ new office where the whole story of Blackie Bell is kept alive with a photo exhibit of his accomplishments.

Yes, friends these two local businesses, along with all the other ones, are just another reason

out-of-towners passing through praise the area.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road……………….