Volunteer Fire Force continued from home page
A small building was erected between the Holsworth Bakery and
Chris Isenees’s Liquor store for the fire equipment. A Ford Chasis was purchased in January of 1917, the engine and
tank were placed on the chasis, that made the outfit cost $900 in all. A larger volunteer fire department was officially organized
with appointed officers on December 23, 1925. The former department had no regulations, now being organized into a regular
company with 26 charter members.
A large, powerful engine fitted for both water and chemicals and costing $7,000 was
purchased by the city on August 1, 1925. After the regular council meeting that same year the men of the Volunteer Fire Department
decided to try out their new toy by making an official drill to test their ability in making a run to the old refinery, putting
the engine to work in the shortest possible time. In 10 minutes, two strands of hose, 500 feet in length, were stretched,
each throwing large streams of water from the refinery cooling system with just two hundred pounds of pressure. The men felt
that with a little practice this could be accomplished in much less time.
La Porte citizens felt the $7,000 paid for
the new engine was money well spent. Bonds were issued on December 10, 1929 and plans were presented for approval of a municipal
building to serve as a City Hall and Fire Station, with an assembly hall on the upper floor. It was built on the corner of
Second and A Streets, now the fire administration building and Station No. 1. Bonds were voted on and carried October 20,
1930. A contract was let for the new building to W. E. Streeter, and the building was opened to the public in December of
1930. City officers included A. N. McKay, Mayor; Councilmen Frank W. Reynolds, LeRoy Tolle, Fred Ruff, George Sharp Sr. and
Frank Doran; secretary I. W. Rust; A. T. Seamann, tax assessor and collector; Bess Shannon, clerk of Brenton and McKay Bank
was appointed treasurer; H.T. Neal, recorder of corporation court; M.E.Santa Rosa, city marshal; A. Muldoon, presiding corporation
judge; George Counts Sr., Fire Marshal; and Chris Isensee, Fire Chief.
In 1930, an ordinance by the city forbade parking
too near a fire plug, or driving in front of a fire wagon in service, or driving over a fire hose. Also a fire zone was created.
An organization was created on December 28, 1931, styled as the La Porte Fire Prevention Organization.
consisted of the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, the fire marshal, and fire chief, and met once every month.
first fire hydrants of standard connection were scattered over a radius of two square miles inside the city limits. In December
of 1931, Charlie Wilson Sr. was recommended by A.N. McKay as Fire Marshal. Mr. Wilson came to La Porte from Memphis, Tennessee,
in 1929. He joined the fire department in 1930 and served as Fire Marshal until 1941. Chris Isensee served as Fire Chief for
26 years from 1915 to 1941 when he resigned to give full time to his private business. On June 1, 1941, Mr. Wilson was employed
by the city as Fire Chief to serve as a full time officer of the fire department as the work had grown too heavy for a volunteer
officer with other employment. He was also the choice of the volunteer firemen as their chief.
A five-room apartment
was built above the garage for Mr. Wilson and his family. Mr. Charles Wilson, as fire chief was sent to Texas A&M, in
1941, to a fire training school during World War II. On January 5, 1942, Mr. Wilson was appointed as the first fire chief
to serve as a fulltime officer with a salary. When Mr. Wilson later resigned, Jimmy Rollins was appointed as fire chief, having
been selected by the volunteers. There was never more than one paid fireman until the 1960’s. The department has grown
to some 70 volunteers at this time, with four stations throughout the city and about one dozen paid firemen. The department
recently opened a state-of-theart fire training facility, and Mike Boaze is the fire chief with Champ Dunham, Jim Crate and
Joe Sease serving as assistants.
I was lucky to get some memories from Champ Dunham, concerning some of his memories
dating back to 1958 of the fire department and “the old days”. Many memories are stirred every time someone starts
asking about “the old days” in the fire dept.
All the breakfasts that were shared with other firefighters,
some that were more memorable than others, like “pink biscuits”, blood red pan sausage, and Frank Jr.’s
football sized biscuit that he made.
Mostly, we tried to serve the community, build the department, plan for the future,
and of course, have a little fun getting it done. The many successful “stops” we made on some rather large fires,
the ones we couldn’t stop, the folks we helped out in various ways, fires, wrecks, EMS assists, a little child pulled
from a house fire by one of our firefighters that later died, the body recoveries, constant training, and the sheer boredom
of waiting on another call. Huddling around the exhaust of the fire engines in wind driven sleet at 20 degrees, stripping
down in the shade for those 105 degree summers we’re famous for, and every other kind of weather event you can imagine.
Adopting EMS into the Fire Department in the ‘80’s and watching it grow into a State of Texas Award Winning EMS
service, and of course, watching 911 occur right before our eyes and watching as several hundred of our fellow firefighters,
EMS personnel, police officers and American citizens die a terrible death. Yes, it’s been quite a ride.
beginners, yes folks, we are mostly a volunteer fire department, with 14 full time career firefighters covering 4 stations,
and about 50 volunteers.
La Porte Loses Part of History
by Maggie Anderson Eddy
Excerpt from Summer Folks
and Year Round Neighbors by Elsie Moore
A fire destroyed Moore & Moore General Contractor’s building
at 530 S. Broadway January 3rd. To many, this was just another business that had closed in 2011 and was sitting empty and
abandoned. To me it was a reminder of a family who had helped build La Porte.
In 1941, two of the nine Moore brothers
moved to La Porte and were the beginning of a construction dynasty that helped build many of the homes in the ‘50’s.
Bryan and Neal, with their families, purchased Parker Ragle’s interest in a saw mill in the Lomax area on Sens Road.
When Todd-Houston Shipyard shut down after the war in 1945, the two men bought a large supply of timbers and set up the sawmill
as sole owners. This was the beginning of Moore and Moore Contractors, Inc. In 1946, they purchased the property at 530 S.
Broadway in La Porte as their new home. Their first office building was the Texaco gas station building at 5 Points in La
Porte. Through the years I have met many people, including my father, L.E.Anderson, who worked at that particular gas station while
going to La Porte High School. The Moore brothers had the building moved to the Broadway location and Moore & Moore was
on its way. Watt Milton “Snookey” was the third brother to join the team and became their first superintendent.
In September 1946, they began building homes in La Porte that would start their legacy. The first house that was built was
a spec home at 617 S. Virginia and the second house was next door at 619 S. Virginia for another brother, Henry Moore Sr.
and his family. In 1946, Neal and his family moved into their new home at 620 Iowa directly behind Henry’s just before
On December 23, 1946, “Snooky”and his family moved into their new home next to Neal on Iowa
Street. By the late 50’s, Moore and Moore Construction had built over 30 homes in the La Porte area. In the late 50’s
the facade on Moore & Moore was modernized with a brick front, as it remained until the fire. When I was in the 4th grade
at La Porte Elementary, I sat by the windows facing the Moore & Moore office. They had a new “Pittsburgh Paint”
sign that hung on the south wall with all of the paint colors. I remember a spelling test …… yes, I remembered
all of the colors in Pittsburgh as I looked over to the Moore & Moore building and spelled Pittsburgh.
& Moore expanded to include commercial construction. In the late 50;’s two more brother joined the team, Homer and
Joe. Joe became famous until his death in 2010 for his Shetland ponies, which were showed in various shows and in different
La Porte Parades throughout the years.
The only brother that lived in La Porte who was not involved with the family business
was Henry, who was a Greyhound Bus Driver in the Houston, Lake Charles and Ft. Worth area. Henry is probably remembered around
La Porte as the inventor of the wood trapeze man who flipped around.
In 1974, Moore & Moore expanded one more time.
They purchased all of the property from Broadway to 1st Street to house Moore & Moore Lumber Yard (see picture from the
La Porte Bayshore Sun). During the 68 years in business, Moore and Moore Construction have built over 1,000 commercial buildings.
In La Porte, they built the following churches: First Baptist, First United Methodist, La Porte Community, First United Presbyterian,
Christ Lutheran and Church of Christ. Local businesses include: the first two Isensee Grocery Store building on Main Street
(now gone), La Porte Hardware (Vickie’s Antiques), Evelyn Kennedy Civic Center, La Porte Library and Happy Harbor (now
gone). They expanded to out-of-state construction with franchises such as Jack-in-the Box, Olive Garden, Ryan’s Steak
Houses, and million dollar buildings like Red Lobster.
Bryan and Neal Moore came with a vision and I think the five brothers
took the concept to the highest level. They were the builders and the entrepreneurs that help build La Porte.
Derrell C. Willson, Derrell C.
Willson II, Derrell C. Willson III
Three Generation Military Family Makes La Porte Proud
Written by John A. Lawler
by Maggie Anderson Eddy, Editor
Nestled parallel to the inner courtyard of La Porte HighSchool’s main
building, and squeezed between the nurse’s office and the ever-mysterious teacher’s lounge, hangs several long
rows of photos. The pictures, ranging from recent to long-ago alumni of the school, serve as reminders to those who pass of
the military service many of La Porte’s graduates have chosen to pursue after completing their education at LPISD. Although
surely incomplete in the 100 plus years of La Porte’s existence, the Honor Wall is one of many ways our community continuously
honors and respects our military veterans. Across the many faces and names one could explore many storied histories of some
of La Porte’s finest. One such history is that of the Willson Family.
The Willsons - which is spelled with two
L’s, mind you - are not notable for how long they have lived in La Porte but for what their three generations of sons
have accomplished after graduation. Beginning with Derrell Willson, then Derrell’s son Cliff and Cliff’s son DC
- all served in unique time periods of America’s military history. Derrell served in the Air Force during the Korean
War, Cliff right out of high school during the Vietnam War and DC in the seemingly infinite War on Terror.
Derrell Willson moved to La Porte with his three brothers and parents in 1947. Although he dropped out of high school in
order to serve in the military he eventually obtained his military GED. “I loved my hometown, and just like my brothers
when we got to sign the paperwork to enlist, we all three proudly placed La Porte as our hometown,” Derrell reflected.
During the Korean War, Derrell can still recall his friends from his hometown of La Porte shipping off to fight. “Not
all of them returned but I know our community respected them and supported them.”
Derrell, who received additional
training and education in the Air Force, moved across the western states with his new family in a manner reminiscent to many
military families. When it came time for his son Cliff to be born in the summer of 1954, Derrell was stationed in post-war
Japan and still jokes that “because of the lag of communication back then, I didn’t even know my son had been
born until I got back to the states!”
We were lucky to get the education we needed in the Air Force which enabled
you to go out and find jobs that were similar to our jobs in the service,” Darrell said. Upon leaving the military,
he joined the Coca-Cola Corporation as a Warehouse Operations Manager and retired at the young age of “65 and a half.”
When asked to reflect on changes in today’s military compared to 34 years ago he supposes that “today’s
military gets paid more value of money than we would have.” However, he emphasized that what made him most proud was
the lasting effect he was able to offer to those under his supervision. “I got to serve as a ‘Mama and Daddy’
to the outfit of young kids. When they needed discipline or someone to help them work through the military, I aimed to be
there for them like I tried to be for my kids.”
Cliff was raised in La Porte but moved around
during his earlier years, and graduated from a high school in Sacramento California in 1972. With the Vietnam War still tearing
apart the Indochina Peninsula and American society, Cliff chose to sign up his senior year for the Delayed Enlistment Program.
Within a month of graduating he was placed on active duty and, similar to his father Darrell, taken to Lackland Air Force
for basic training. Stationed in several military installations including Korea and Arizona, Cliff eventually found himself
back in his hometown of La Porte as an Air Force recruiter near the end of his military service. “I started out working
on teletype machines and other technical aspects of the Air Force,” Cliff stated. He went on to joke that “if
anyone in La Porte is still looking for someone to fix their old teletype machine, well then they can call me up!” He
also served as a Training Instructor for incoming members of the Air Force and had the opportunity to “help the new
enlistees become acclimated to the ‘special’ environment of the Air Force.”
After retiring from the
service, Cliff used the skills he was taught in the Air Force to find a career as a recruiter for higher education in the
Houston area. These days, Cliff can be found recruiting aspiring artists and culinary chefs to The Art Institute of Houston.
“I appreciate the structured and organized environment of recruiting,” Cliff mentioned. “I try to look at
my job of helping young minds find what they believe and want to be their best career path.” When asked what he would
recommend to students considering a path in the military, Cliff recommended “they take a look deep in their heart, and
figure out what is right for them.” he continued, “my father, son and I have enjoyed the added benefits of having
lived a life of military service to our country, and for that we have gained the skills and education necessary to be productive
later in life.”
Like his father, Cliff was adamant about the positive role his hometown and community played in
supporting him and other military men. “La Porte has a wonderful program for getting students set up with the right
recruiters for the right programs.” In addition, he commended La Porte for the efforts and lengths they go through to
show their commitment to honorable military service not only in the schools but also in the memorials and honors bestowed
upon veterans at Sylvan Beach’s veteran wall. “My grandparents, who came to La Porte in 1947, set the foundation
for a family that has now accumulated well over 100 years combined service. We’re proud to have contributed to the great
record of military service La Porte, our home town, has.”
Now currently serving in the Air Force,
Cliff’s son DC has a unique perspective on military service compared to that of his father and grandfather. Unlike during
their service time, which included periods of traditional wars with foreign countries, DC has served during an increasingly
nontraditional military time period that has seen terrorist attacks on American soil and an Air Force that increasingly relies
on unmanned drone strikes and cyber defense. DC is on the front lines of this modern Air Force as an individual who specializes
in securing communications in distant posts and countries. “He has definitely traveled the most and the farthest,”
father Cliff remarked.
Unfortunately, DC could not be reached for an interview, but his father and grandfather were
proud to share with ‘Around La Porte’ the many countries and Air Force bases where all three of the Willson generations
were stationed. Additionally, the father and son shared the story of DC’s immediate movements from Europe to Pakistan
following the 9/11 attacks.
One aspect of DC’s story that is not similar to his father’s or grandfather’s
is that DC’s wife, Theresa, also serves as a professional member of the Air Force. When asked whether any of DC’s
children would join the Air Force as well, Cliff, who we should add is a proud grandfather himself, said that “DC’s
oldest daughter did not decide to join the Air Force.” He then laughs and proudly mentions that she will instead be
attending The Art Institute of Houston next year.
Eugene (Gene) Washington: A Reflection on Segregation and Overcoming the Odds
By John Lawler
With football season roaring into gear,Around La Porte took the opportunity to catch up with former La Porte
resident and football star, Gene Washington. Washington currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife of over
La Porte has had many accomplished citizens and local alumni throughout its history, but when it comes to football,
few past La Portians rival the career of former North side resident, Gene Washington. Washington, a former professional Wide
Receiver for the Minnesota Vikings and National Football Champion with Michigan State’s 1965 and 1966 squads, is remembered
to this day in the neighborhood in which he was raised. But you won’t find Mr. Washington’s name on any La Porte
High School record boards or alumni displays, because although Washington may have been raised in La Porte; the La Porte he
was raised in is vastly different from today’s community.
A Segregated Beginning
current La Porte residents, it was not that long ago that African American youth living in La Porte were bused to the area’s
high school for African Americans, George Washington Carver High. However, when one hears Mr. Washington speak on his experiences
and upbringing in that darker period of Texas history, one does not hear a message of hate or adversity, but instead a hopeful
message of the power of individuals to overcome the greatest of barriers.
Washington, who has been spotlighted and awarded
in such honorary groups as the “College Football Hall of Fame” and Michigan State’s “Ring of Honor,”
openly discusses the issues and setbacks of playing ball in a segregated South. He also is quick to be thankful for the type
and quality of education he received at Baytown’s Carver High where they were taught "you had to run faster, you
had to jump higher and that you had to prepare yourself to always be the best of the best in all of your endeavors.”
That attitude, to take on the challenges one’s life may present, something to be prepared for and to overcome, seems
to have carried throughout Washington’s life.
Champion of Diversity
After several seasons
with the Vikings and an eventual career-ending injury, Washington ended up taking his experiences and transforming them into
an asset professionally and with the intent of helping others. Many may know of Washington’s football statistics but
not his pioneering in diversity and inclusive management practices. As an employee of the Michigan State University administration,
Washington gave back to the school that introduced him to integrated life by hosting diversity career fairs and leading the
nation in the growing field of minority recruitment and retention. In fact, Washington has gone on to manage the national
diversity recruiting of the 3M Corporation and was recognized by such groups as The National Society of Black Engineers, the
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, for his efforts in creating
a more diverse workforce.
Washington recently retired from 3M in Minnesota and continues to support diversity and inclusiveness
in his community service.
A Supportive Community
Aside from the lifestyle of a segregated society,
Washington has reflected positively on La Porte for the community and mentors it provided him throughout life. Washington
is appreciative of the role the community, and particularly North side community leader Deotis Gay, played in his life. Washington,
who only grew up a short distance from Gay’s home, considers La Porte’s first African-American City Council member
the provider of “a sense of pride and confidence that [he] could succeed beyond the segregated situation that was a
primary part of [his] early years.”
In addition, Washington remembers La Porte for families such as the Askins
of “Askin and Askin” for their encouragement, and the Boyles of “Boyle Realty” who employed Washington’s
father for years and “remained very supportive, loyal and encouraging to me and my parents.” In fact, in a recent
Michigan State publication concerning Washington’s induction to the College Football Hall of Fame, the former Spartan
noted how “a lot of the business people in [his] small community pooled their money to send [his] father to a game.”
That game would end to be one of the many storied “Games of the Century” in 1966 when Michigan State tied Notre
Dame at the end of both of their otherwise undefeated seasons.
So what advice does one of La Porte’s greatest football
stars have for the future generation of Bulldogs? The same lessons he was taught at George Washington Carver High: “I
was encouraged to follow my heart and to think through situations rather than show my emotions. I learned that in responding
to segregation, (what was done to me was not important) but the most important thing to me was how I responded.”
“Run faster, jump higher and prepare for life’s obstacles, because it’s not the dilemma that defines you,
it’s the response.”