On To Fort Worth

Laurence Lurker, whom I knew slightly for he had worked at Western Litho, had moved to Fort Worth to work for Safford-Lowdon. Loren Kennedy who was working for The Western, and was learning stone engraving under Bill Tusche and Bill Estes, was asked by Lurker if he knew of an artist who might want a job. Loren mentioned me as a possible candidate. Then Bob Lowdon wrote to see if I was interested. This was in early 1931. I expressed my interest and suggested that I go down to interview them. So I got together some samples of my work I had done for Western Litho.

 

Shortly before that Bill Estes had gone to Dallas to work and Loren and Ruth Kennedy decided they would like to go down there to visit Bill and Larry Lurker. So the three of us left on a Friday in Loren’s car and we drove all night so I could have my interview with the Lowdons on Saturday A.M.

They thought it would be a good idea to do a job for them to see how I could do. They wanted a color poster advertising "Texas Tom Tomatoes" and I made up one in my spare time and sent it to them charging $40 for the job.

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Loren & Ruth Kennedy.

Well they decided they would like me to come work for them and they offered me $100 per week with a year’s contract and with the stipulation that if they wanted to let me go they would have to give me three months notice and I would do likewise if I wanted to leave. At the time I was making $65 per week for The Western and I knew that Vincent would be loathe to give me any more.

 

To Bertha and I it was a hard decision to make. We had our home at 1353 Perry well beautified and we loved it. We had lots of good friends and as an artist I was well known and had a good standing in the community art circles. I was making $10 per week teaching nights, not much to be sure, but it helped my finances and my career. I was getting pretty tired of it though and I did not feel at all bad about leaving and turning my class over to Bill Dickerson, so I accepted the Fort Worth job and resigned from The Western.

 

So we loaded up the moving van in the evening of April 3, 1931, slept with the Fooshees that night and the next morning we headed for Fort Worth, exactly five years to the day after we were married. We had, prior to leaving, rented our house for $40 per month.

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A Christmas card Clarence designed based

on their home in Fort Worth.

We had to find a house and thought it would be easy but I had a heck of a time to find one, but finally did on Ramsey Street. It was not very desirable but livable and in the short time we were there we did make life long friends of the Meirs family across the street. I guess we lived at the Ramsey Street address about three months. The thing that bothered us most that first spring in Fort Worth was the poor heating facilities and it was an unusually cold spring. All we had was a couple room space heaters. We found a nice brick home on Morningside Drive which we were able to rent for $50 per month.

 

The old building where Stafford-Lowdon was located was rather decrepit and they also had an office supply stock up in the second floor where I had my studio. They treated me exceedingly well, though, and I rated high around there for a long time. They had three good salesmen who fed me lots of work, Joe Fournace, Russell Griffith, and Herb Aldrich. The superintendant, Ray Cooper, seemed to take a great liking to me. I had not been there long when they hired Albert Couchman. It was their idea to have a creative service to create new business and service their present customers, he to do the copy writing and generate the ideas while I did the necessary art. We were doing pretty well, we thought but in 1931 and 1932 the Great Depression was upon us.

As for us, during this depression, we were living clover. I had a guarantee of $100 per week (no deductions). At that time things were so bad at The Western my pay would probably have been cut to $25 per week. After I had been there about a year and one half they did cut my salary back to $80 per week and they were fully justified in doing that considering the depression we were in.

I did lots of art work for Walkers Austex Chili Co., Bewley Universal and Light Crust Flour Mills, Gebhardt Chili Co., The Julep Co., Pangburn and King Candy Companies, Crazy Water Crystals, and the Cattleman’s Assn. and lots and lots of letterheads and building drawings. The guy who edited the Cattlemen’s Magazine which we printed had the idea of running a campaign to sell meats and for weeks I worked on very realistic and appetizing pictures of meats, cooked and uncooked. At that time the use of color photography was in it’s infancy. But he could not sell the campaign to the Meat Institute and the Lowdons decided they had put too much of Couchman’s and my time into it. And soon Couchman was looking for a job.

In 1931 we bought a nice Hupmobile Sedan 8. Cost around $900 with a trade in of our 1928 Graham Paige. It was really quite a car and it served us well. We took a lot of rides around Fort Worth and Dallas. Bertha took a couple of trips to Harper, just herself and Bob and Charles (their children). Altogether we were very happy and quite prosperous. The kids were happy and healthy, had good places to play, etc.

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Bertha, the boys, and Clarence.

Bob started school but he evidently got off on the wrong foot for he would come home crying sometimes. Charles was born when we lived at the Morningside address. He was little trouble to us, the only thing that bothered us with him was that it was difficult to get him to sleep.

 

Our house was on a street that was a thoroughfare between two main railroad lines. Many bums went by, or should I say transient workers for the depression was on then and it really was hard to get jobs. Many of them asked for handouts which Bertha never refused. One of them actually walked into the kitchen one time and Bertha practically had to push him out. She had plenty of guts to do that.

We lived there for a couple of years and finally got a yen to buy a house. We found one at 1805 Thomas Place in Arlington Heights that greatly appealed to us. We paid $4,500 for it.

It was an unusual house for the time, built by a contractor who had enough material left after building an expensive Spanish style mansion to build the one we bought. It was of hollow tile construction, stuccoed on the outside and plastered on the inside in an antique finish. It was built on a solid cement foundation, had steel casement windows, a heavy red tile roof, random width oak flooring and a real nice wood burning fireplace in the living room. In the backyard were some nice fruit trees including two fig trees and a jujube tree, servants quarters and a garage. Shortly after we bought this house the Interurban Line between Fort Worth and Dallas was abandoned. I bought one of the small depots for $25 and had it moved to the back of the lot. This made a nice studio and workshop. We were very proud of this place and to this day look back on it with many fond memories.

About six months after Al Couchman left they hired Charley Johnson to take his place. Charley was sort of an artist, too, and I thought he was overly conceited. I felt that sooner or later there would be friction between us. He was evidently trying to convince the Lowdons that they did not need me and he could do the art himself as well as take on the copywriting. This went on for a long time. About July 1936 I received notice that I would no longer be needed. It was quite a shock to me but I held them to their promise of giving me three months notice. During the three months I made plans to go to New York and go to school for awhile before looking for another job. We were well enough off financially that I thought we could swing this.

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1805 Thomas Place, 2019 (above). Inside the house (below) when the family lived there. Notice Clarence’s “Mr. Miles” above the fireplace.

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The Lowdons evidently had some second thoughts in the mean-time for they called me in and told me that if I went to New York for the winter, went to a litho school there and got into the Lithographer’s Union they would  on my return groom me for the job of Assistant Superintendent under Ray Cooper. So when I was ready to go to New York they paid my fare.

 

Just like in Wichita with Chili Capps I was able to turn my job in Fort Worth over to my friend Bill Baker who was unemployed at the time.

In assessing my experience in Fort Worth I certainly came to the conclusion that you just can’t beat family ties in an organization no mater how good you may be. That has been true in nearly every place I ever worked. On a visit I made back there some time later, Russell Griffith told me that Ed Lowdon was just not all there when he let me go, he died shortly after.

 

When I came back to Wichita in 1946 I made a trip down there on business and called on them and was received with open arms, in fact I have made it a rule never to leave a place having anyone mad at me so that no matter where I have worked I can go back and people are friendly to me.

 

When Jerry Fite of Stafford-Lowdon, their V. Pres. in charge of commercial printing found out I was back in this part of the country he wrote to me and asked if I would be interested in doing some of their building drawings in my spare time. This offer I accepted and for ten or twelve years I  did one or two merely every month for them. Jerry Fite died in 1960 and thereafter I did no more so that ended my relationship with Stafford-Lowdon.

Generally speaking living in Fort Worth was an agreeable experience. Despite the depression of the time we were relatively prosperous. The climate was nice, we did not experience the dust bowl conditions of Kansas and Oklahoma, we had very little sickness and always had a nice home to live in. A real good place to raise kids. We had no air conditioning then even where I worked but the nights always seemed to be blessed with a nice cool breeze from the South. The lack of any heating facilities other than gas space heaters was the worst part of the winters. Central heating systems, even floor furnaces were a rarity and no one had basements.

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While in Fort Worth, Clarence was inspired to do a print titled “The Old Van Zandt Place” ( l ). The Van Zandt cabin (r) has since been restored.

It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest home in Fort Worth on it’s original foundation.