50 Years and Counting

Last year my mother realized that the next year would be hers and Daddy’s 50th anniversary. She thought she’d set up a few tables in Daddy’s new shop, hire Uncle Mutt’s Barbecue to cater and invite a few people for lunch. Well, the best-laid plans of mice and men.

Last year the shop was brand new and looked like this:

This year, it looks like this:

It could have been cleared out, Daddy was more concerned about parking. Mother said she should have just had the party last year. So the new location was the six-car detached garage at the house my dad has been building for the past 15 years. He’s pretty much built himself a three-bedroom, two-bath workshop. But he’s happy and it keeps him out of trouble. The garage was jam-packed full of tools and stuff, too, but he moved everything over to the house. The garage has a little room off to the side to use as a small shop and he and Douglas, my brother, spent the week putting in a bathroom in the corner.

So the plan was Katy and I would come the first Saturday of her spring break, help plan the party and have it the next Saturday. I thought all I’d be doing is decorating and getting the cakes. Well, Daddy decided he wanted to do the meat himself. It turned out he knows a guy who knows a guy who does brisket, sausage and beans. That left me to do everything else with mom’s sister, Shirley, and Katy as my helpers.

So Katy and I flew in to Houston on Saturday, Mother and Daddy picked us up at the airport and we made the obligatory stop at Buc-ees on the way to Victoria.


Katy with Bucky himself.

Sunday we hit the ground running. Saturday night I came up with the idea for all of us “event staff” to have matching t-shirts. Buying them online was going to be expensive and cutting it close with shipping but I found a local place with a quick turnaround. They print everything, so we also ordered a yard sign.

So our to-do list was decorate the bathroom in the shop and the one in the house, order cakes, buy all the food, paper goods, decorations, take everything over to the garage and set up. I have never in my life made so many trips to Wal-Mart. We got party stuff at the party store but they didn’t have enough of the matching table cloths. Katy found two more online and while the table cloths were a reasonable price, we paid $27 in shipping to get them there on time. We ordered balloons for the yard and for centerpieces and paid in advance. Mother decided those weren’t going to work so it was back to the party store for a refund on the balloons and to find different centerpieces. Mother knew what she wanted but there were only two in gold in the whole city. Katy found them on the Wal-Mart website and we did the ship-to-store and they came in on Friday evening, just in time.

For food we wanted chips and salsa on the tables to nibble on before lunch. Shirley thought guacamole would be good, too. Well, no one had it in tubs except for a restaurant that wanted $18 a quart so we decided to skip that. We went to Sam’s for iced tea and got eight gallons of sweet tea. Then my mother told me practically everyone coming is diabetic so we returned the tea to Sam’s. They took it back but because it was fresh-brewed and perishable, it couldn’t be resold. I felt kind of bad. Sam’s doesn’t have unsweet so we went to Wal-Mart, which thankfully is right next door. They had plenty. I don’t know why Sam’s didn’t carry it, it was the same brand. The rest of the food went pretty smoothly. We did potato salad, green salad, bread and onions/pickles/jalapenos. I lost sleep Friday night worrying about what we were going to put the lemon wedges for the tea in. My mom has some nice cut glass bowls, so I got one of those. All the little things you have to think about.

Even though the party was in a garage and would be hot I knew some people would want coffee with their cake. The first plan was to get a box of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts but Victoria doesn’t have one. A friend mentioned a place called The Coffee Box. I called them and they would deliver coffee in something to keep it hot for 6 hours and provide cups, creamer and sugar. Daddy decided he didn’t want that so we canceled it and went with Shirley’s Keurig and some K-Cups. So we added coffee stuff to the grocery list.

And Daddy had his cooler full of sodas and bottled water.

No one was in danger of going thirsty, any way.

Tuesday we took the day off. It was Katy’s spring break and we wanted to do something fun. We woke up early and drove four hours to South Padre Island to look at sea turtles. More on that in another post.

Otherwise, it was work, work, work. We bought stuff, we returned stuff, we OK’d the design for the t-shirts and signs. We added to the t-shirt order because I knew Daddy wouldn’t wear one so I didn’t order one for my mom, either, and it turned out she wanted one.

Katy spent a great deal of time wrapping chocolates. She was good at it and like doing it.

The cakes were a chore. We went to Halepaska’s Bakery, which is the big bakery in town. Mrs. Halepaska made their wedding cake back when she was still alive and making cakes in her kitchen. Mother wanted an anniversary cake and a birthday cake as her birthday was a couple of weeks ago and Daddy’s is in a couple of weeks. The birthday cake was no problem. I had looked at photos online of anniversary cakes but I thought the bakery would have some ideas. I asked if they had any photos of any anniversary cakes they had done. They didn’t. Most independent bakeries take pictures of the cakes they make and build an album so you have something to look at for ideas and to see what kinds of things they are capable of. This girl just said “well, most people just look on Pinterest”. So I pulled out my phone and we looked at a few photos and came up with something. I wasn’t real sure what we were going to get. We didn’t get any better service than we would have at Wal-mart. So we ordered a white cake for the anniversary cake and chocolate for the birthday cake.

We picked the cakes up Friday afternoon and then had to decide what to do with them. They didn’t need to be refrigerated but they couldn’t sit in a hot garage. We put the birthday cake on the bottom shelf of the drink cooler. We were going to take the other cake to my parents’ house and were almost to the car with that heavy cake (we’d already taken it out) when Daddy said the little shop area of the garage had an air-conditioner and he would turn it up real high and keep the door closed. So that’s what we did. Driving that cake around was making me nervous. And the boxes didn’t have windows so you couldn’t look at it to see what kind of damage you’d done, either.

They tasted wonderful, I knew they would. Halepaska’s made Heath’s groom’s cake, as well. I had a piece of the chocolate and everyone said the white was good, too.

Friday Heath flew in to Houston, rented a car and drove down. I wanted to have Mexican food while he was here so we went with my parents and two of their friends of theirs to The Pinto Bean, where dishes are so big it’s not unusual to get two full plates of food. More on that in another post.

Then it was back to work. Daddy and Douglas had picked up the tables and chairs that afternoon and the tables were set up. Heath, Katy and I met Shirley and Chase (her son) at the garage and started the decorating, setting up chairs and arranging the food tables. We wrapped up about 10 p.m. and Heath, Katy and I hit Wal-Mart yet again for a few things we realized we needed, including bigger cups for the Kuerig as the ones I bought were too small.

It’s coming together.


Daddy had put two maps up and put a red pin for every place they have lived and a black one for most of the places they’ve visited or where Daddy has worked, I know he missed a few. But people looked at them and a few people asked me what the pins were for.


These were the cake tables.



Heath and I got a hotel room for the weekend so we dropped off Katy at my parents’ and headed over there. I was up early Saturday morning, picked up Katy and we were at the garage at 8. Naturally no one else was there. Mother and Daddy showed up later with the balloons. I had stuff to hang from the ceiling so Daddy had to find a ladder for me. Naturally as soon as he put the ladder back, something fell off the ceiling. Gravity is always out to get me.


The guy brought the meat, barbecue sauce (made with the meat drippings!) and beans about 10:30. It took up more space that we thought so we had to set up another table for the iced tea. He told me I would need a spoon with holes for the beans. He picked up a regular serving spoon and said I should just have my dad drill holes in it! Mother went to the house for a slotted spoon, realized she didn’t have a house key, so went to Wal-Mart and bought two spoon sets. If I’d known she was going I would have had her buy third set of tongs. My mom got a lot of new serving utensils out of this, I’d already bought four serving spoons and an ice cream scoop (she wanted one for the potato salad).

It was supposed to start at 11 with lunch at noon and people started trickling in a little before 11. So then I was busy giving last minute directions to my staff and greeting people and making sure they could find the drinks.

We had our staging area in the little workshop and that was kind of our staff break room. Katy spent most of the time back there on her phone. She had JJ, my dad’s little dog, with her for part of the time.

Keep in mind, this is where the air conditioner is!

At noon it was finally time to eat. My mom got everyone quiet and settled in their seats. My mother is a professional introducer. When Katy and I got to a car club event, she walks us around and introduces us to everyone individually. So she went around the room and introduced everyone and said their names, how they knew them and maybe a cute story. She mentioned someone who kidnapped them on their way to their honeymoon in Port Lavaca and took them to dinner. So I held up the ashtray mother stole from the hotel that weekend. Well, when someone else is paying for the honeymoon and you can’t afford to buy a souvenir …


She looks like she’s directing traffic, but she’s introducing people.

Mother had three people picked out to say the blessing and none of them made it. She asked if Heath could do it and I said yes, but to write it down because he sometimes loses his train of thought. He did a very good job. Then, finally, everyone could eat!



Now that’s a barbecue plate!

We had a good turn-out. My mom figured out there were 54 people, including all the family, and 27 were from the Antique Automobile Club. She invited the entire club and there would have been nine more couples except they are all also in the Model A club and they were having an event that weekend. Heath actually ran into them on the way from the airport when he stopped in Wharton for a What-A-Burger.

But back to the introductions. My grandmother and her husband, Warren, (my granddad died in 97) were there and her younger sister and her husband, Aunt Verble and Uncle Bob were there.


Uncle Bob, Aunt Verble, Grandmother, Warren

The woman in the red talking to my Grandmother and Aunt Verble is Doris Reiser (photo below). She and my grandmother have been friends forever. Mr. Reiser worked with my granddad at Shell Oil and Mrs. Reiser worked at the school district administration office and she suggested grandmother apply for a job there back in the late 50s. Mrs. Reiser gave my mother one of her three bridal showers (in a three-week engagement!) and Mr. Reiser took pictures at the wedding. She came up to me and said “you probably don’t remember me” and I recognized her immediately. For that matter, she was at my wedding! I remember seeing her at the school district office when I was pretty young.

Uncle Bob looks thrilled.

Another special guest was Sweetie Lancaster. Sweetie and her husband, Joe — who sadly died 20 years ago — and their two sons lived next door to us for about a year and a half in Singapore. We all got to be fast friends. When I was in college, Mother, Daddy and Douglas moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Lancasters were already there. They helped my parents find a house and I think they stayed with them for a short time. She lives in Corpus Christi, about an hour and a half away, and we were thrilled she was able to come. We had a nice chat and heard all about the boys and the grandkids.

Sweetie, Daddy and Mother

This gentleman, who is looking through the wedding scrapbook, introduced himself (I can’t remember his name) and said he would have married my mother if my dad hadn’t. I asked “are you the guy from Mistletoe” (the street my mom grew up on) and he said “no, that was the other guy”. So I guess my mother had teen-age boys lined up to marry her. My dad said later not only did this guy think he was marrying mother, so did his mother. I think she had the wedding planned!

I don’t know who these two little boys belonged to and my mom said she didn’t either. I saw them come up the driveway the same time as a few other people. They’re probably someone’s grandkids. Anyway, they were bouncing around in the Model A and having so much fun. Someone snagged me and said I should get some pictures. They were happy to pose for me. Then I said they could get in the convertible if they wanted and their little eyes lit up like Christmas. I opened the Model A doors (they only open from the outside and the boys couldn’t manage the handles from inside) and ran over and climbed in the Miata. They got settled in the seats and I noticed the key in the ignition! I said “don’t you boys touch those keys”. They were very good boys.

Look at those grins! There are people in the car club and at the shows from other clubs who don’t want their cars breathed on and, well, that’s their prerogative, those cars aren’t cheap, but my parents have fun with theirs and are happy to have kids — and anyone else — sit in them and check them out.

J.J. hung out the Model A some, too.

Here are some of us in our matching shirts. Katy came up with the idea for the design and they looked really nice.


Katy, Leigh Ann (I’m looking a little frazzled), Mother, Shirley, Heath.


This is what the back looked like (Douglas is talking to someone)

And we had a sign made for the yard.

And that about wraps it up. We had tons of leftover everything. The meat and unopened salad and tea are going to a car club potluck tomorrow, the leftover cake and chocolates went to my mother’s office this morning. Shirley was taking stacks of plates and napkins and a bunch of cups and picnic packs to church and the leftover decorations, party plates and napkins and centerpieces were going to the Salvation Army Thrift Shop.

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