The purpose of this Blog

This blog is to detail my 43 years (1973 - 2016) with a 1928 Chevrolet tourer, affectionately called "The Red Chev".

The acquisition, restoration, improvements and my experiences over the years are covered in as much detail as I can remember.

Some of the later postings include car club outings and other vintage car items that I hope will be of interest to people.

If you have the time, scroll back to where it all began in 1973 and follow the journey so far.

Thanks for dropping by.

Regards Ray Dean

See my new section "The Red Chev - Repairs, Improvements, Maintenance and Technical Details" located on the left hand side of the screen.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Talk about driving on the straight and narrow!!

Sam Robertson, an engineer from Missouri, got the contract to lay tracks and build trestle bridges from Robstown to the border for the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico Railroad, the “Brownie,” because he was known as a tough man who finished tough jobs.

Robertson showed how tough he was. In a derailment at Santa Gertrudis, he broke both legs and several ribs, but stayed on the job, learning to use crutches with such agility he could catch a moving train.

He taught his horse to kneel like a camel so he could get in the saddle with crutches. He was still hobbling when the railroad was completed to Brownsville in 1904. Robertson went on to found San Benito, served as a scout for Army forces chasing Pancho Villa, and enlisted in World War I, where he went to France as a colonel in command of the 22nd Railroad Engineers.

Back home after the war, Robertson had plans for the last frontier in Texas, Padre Island. He was one of the first to understand the island’s great appeal. With three investors from Kansas City, he bought the island from Patrick F. Dunn with plans to develop both ends of the island. He planned to build a 110-mile toll road down the length of the island, called the Ocean Beach Driveway, and he built the Don Patricio Causeway from below Flour Bluff to the island, named in honor of Pat Dunn.

The wooden causeway built on pilings opened on July 4, 1927. Robertson drove the first automobile across. For the first time, the mainland was joined to the island and a steady stream of traffic crossed the causeway, 1,800 cars the first month and 2,500 the second.

During this time, when Prohibition was the law, jettisoned cargoes of whiskey washed ashore on the island. In the Civil War, salt was the contraband on the island; now it was whiskey. Louis Rawalt, who lived in a shack on the island, wrote about an incident when a smuggler was chased by a Coast Guard cutter and the captain dumped his cargo overboard.

Sacks filled with tin cans labeled insect spray, which contained bottles of “Old Hospitality” Bourbon, washed ashore. Rawalt hid 110 sacks in the dunes, then took a duffle bag with 72 bottles to Port Isabel, where he sold the whiskey. On his way back home he saw the ferry captain driving back down the island in a pickup truck and Rawalt realized he had followed his tracks into the dunes and found the hidden whiskey. It was all gone.

Besides the Don Patricio Causeway, Sam Robertson operated ferries at both ends of the island, built the first 12 miles of the toll road, built the Sportsmen’s Hotel and the Twenty-Five-Mile Hotel. In 1931, a Brownsville man was staying at Robertson’s Twenty-Five-Mile Hotel when he found a site 27 miles up from the lower end. Buried in sand were pieces of timber held together with ship hardware, a box stuffed with Spanish doubloons, Belgian coins, U.S. Army sword handles, and bullets from muzzle-loading guns. This, it was supposed, was the site of Padre BallĂ­’s Rancho Santa Cruz and John Singer’s Las Cruces Ranch.

Sam Robertson was wiped out by the Depression, followed by a hurricane in September 1933. The storm destroyed the Twenty-Five-Mile Hotel and demolished the Don Patricio Causeway; only the pilings were left. Robertson died five years later, on Aug. 22, 1938.

The Kansas City investors — Albert R. Jones, his brother Frank and J.M. Parker — acquired Robertson’s holdings, taking possession of the colonel’s land and dreams. The principal investor was Albert R. Jones, who bought out the other two.

Jones, a wealthy Kansas City oilman, believed Padre Island was a natural site for a multimillion-dollar tourist resort, a Texas version of Miami Beach. He struck it rich by finding and developing oil and gas fields in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. He was an avid collector of famous paintings; he built a wing on his home in Kansas City for his world-class collection of art works.

Jones became interested in Padre Island in the 1920s. He was a principal backer, if not the major backer, behind Sam Robertson’s efforts to develop the island. It was largely Jones’ money that built the Don Patricio Causeway and when Robertson ran into financial difficulties brought on by the Depression, Jones stepped in and bought his island holdings. Jones owned almost 90,000 acres on Padre Island.

In 1936, A.C. McCaughan, mayor of Corpus Christi, was among those lobbying to turn Padre Island into a state park. It was pushed through the Legislature by W.E. Pope. Albert R. Jones offered to sell the state his 90,000 acres on the island for $4.50 an acre, $405,000 total.

The bill was vetoed by Gov. James Allred, who spelled out his reasons: (1) He thought the state owned much of Padre Island and should not buy land it already owned. (2) He objected to buying land without acquiring the mineral rights. (3) The bill included plans for toll-financed causeways at the north and south end of Padre and he considered this indirect taxation. Allred’s opposition killed plans to turn the island into a state park.

During the war, the island was off limits to visitors. Three large circular areas on the Gulf side, beginning near Packery Channel, stretching to the south, were used for aerial bomb practice. A fourth area reserved for gunnery practice was on the Laguna Madre side. It was said cattle from the late Pat Dunn’s ranch, still grazing on the island, became so used to bombing sorties they would run in the opposite direction when they heard the drone of planes overhead.

The island was patrolled by the Coast Guard, which maintained observation stations every six miles, all linked by phone. Survivors from ships torpedoed by U-boats often washed up on the island and were rescued by the Coast Guard units. There’s another story about Padre Island in World War II. In a test, the first atomic bomb was exploded near Los Alamos, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. One of eight sites considered for that first atomic blast was Padre Island.

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