Samuel Augustus Minter Remembered
By Dennis J. "Jack" Robinson
Every boy when he was growing up no doubt had an older person, or two, whom they looked up to -- someone they admired, and who served as a role model. It may have been an uncle, an older cousin, or just a friend of the family. I know I did, and one such person was my mother's eldest brother. This uncle of mine was somewhat small in physical stature, but he made up for this by being cocky and somewhat confrontational. To go with this persona, he had the somewhat awesome sounding name of "Samuel Augustus Minter." I always addressed him as "Uncle Sam."
I graduated from high school at Wichita Falls, Texas, in the spring of 1933. During the summer after getting my high school diploma I attended college at East Texas State Teacher's College in Commerce, Texas. When the summer term ended, I went to Pine Forest to stay at my mom's house for a few days. After that, I then went to Winnsboro and stayed a few days with some of my father's relatives. Next, I decided to hitch-hike down to Houston, where I had a sister working as a stenographer, and some other relatives whom I reckoned I could visit with until I could find me a job to make my own way.
I had my sixteenth birthday in the previous February. It was a nice autumn day, and I got out on the road pretty early to try to get a ride with someone. I got rides with several people, and by mid-afternoon, I found myself at the little town of Diboll, just south of Lufkin. There was little traffic, and as the afternoon wore on, I began to get uneasy at being at the edge of the East Texas piney woods with night coming on. I had heard stories of people being attacked by timber wolves and by panthers, and my bravado was ebbing fast. I had a very small amount of money in my pockets, and when I saw a bus approaching going my way, I made a quick decision to get aboard and buy as much mileage as I had money. The driver told me I could ride to Humble, which was about 20 miles from Houston. So I left the forest and the wild animals behind, and rode in style to Humble.
The driver let me out on the highway, and I got back into a hitch-hiking mode while it was still daylight. Soon a young man in a nice car gave me a ride. He was a traveling salesman, coming home from his sales territory. As we drove toward Houston, he talked about his job. His Company furnished him with the nice car we were riding in, maintained it, and gave him an expense account. That on top of a salary and commission. I was astounded anyone could be so lucky; and, then and there I resolved that someday I would find a way to get myself such a position. Later in life it came to pass, I followed that course in working for a living.
The salesman, who had given me a ride, let me out in downtown Houston. It was getting night, and it was the first time I had been to this city, and I was like a lost babe in the woods for a while until I came to a decision. I still had a few cents in my pocket, so I looked around and found a telephone booth. Uncle Sam and Aunt Lela were living in Houston, so I called them to find out if I could come spend the night at their place. As I expected, Uncle Sam said I would be welcome. It was about 30 blocks out to their apartment. He told me how to get there, do I walked to the house. They were very cordial, and told me I should plan to stay with them until I could make other arrangements.
During this period of time the Conroe oilfield had been discovered,
and was being developed. And as a result, business was booming.
And Uncle Sam was cashing in on the excitement and momentum!
He had purchased a large panel truck, and had shelves installed on
the inside walls. He stocked the truck with candy, tobacco, health
and beauty aids, and notions to sell. He would drive to the oilfield
and visit the well sites where all the drilling and production was
going on, and sell his wares. I accompanied him a few times on his
rounds, and helped out with the work as best I could. In those days
there was no air conditioning; so if you let chocolate candy get hot,
it would become discolored. Uncle Sam had a box of Almond
Hershey bars that had changed their color as a result of the heat.
As we were driving out to the field one morning, he showed me the
box of Hersheys and told me there weren't saleable; but were
perfectly good to eat. He said I could have some, if I wished. I ate
several of them during the day, perhaps three or four. For years after the incident, he had a big time telling the story to one and all about me and the candy. He would say the box was full, and when he opened it later in the day to get himself a candy bar, it was empty. He said I had eaten the whole box of candy! He would really get a laugh out of telling that yarn about me.
Sometime later, after I had found a job and moved into my own digs, Thanksgiving Day came up. Uncle Sam and Aunt Lela planned and served a feast for the occasion. They invited their daughter, Exa and her husband; their son Robert Melson, Sr, and his wife and children; my sister, Fannie and myself as guests to dine with them. They hired a woman to assist Aunt Lela in preparing and serving the meal. While we were all sitting around the table enjoying the food and fellowship, the woman helper served Uncle Sam a hot cup of coffee. He had been accustomed to having his coffee served at a much cooler temperature than this coffee was. Thus, without noticing the coffee was so hot, he took a big swig of the hot stuff . . . and then immediately spit it out on the carpet. Now Uncle Sam was a sort of quiet man and somewhat opinionated, so everyone tensed up a bit in anticipation of what might happen next. Finally, he looked up and saw everybody was looking at him . . . so he said, "Many a damn fool would have swallowed that."
Uncle Sam was something. When I was a child, he would greet me with the question of , "How's your Coparostus seeming to gazauate?" I never found out what that meant, but I always answered, "Fine!" One time I asked him, "What time is it?" He replied, "Its time all fools are dead, aren't you sick?" During and after World War I, Sam had a mean little smooth haired terrier named "Kaiser Bill," that was very protective of him. It would be hard for me to ever forget my "Uncle Sam."
Dennis J. "Jack" Robinson (b. 1917) lives in Houston, Texas, and is a Minter descendant and family researcher/archivist. story8