Every other week, Josephine Casarez finds herself at the Victoria Public Library, where she spends time leisurely exploring the shelves of books and filling a reusable Friends of the Library tote bag with her newest selections.
She checks out between 10 and 12 books each visit, and usually reads them all before her next return.
“I’m retired, so I have the time to read!” she said. “It’s so nice to not have to buy books when you can come here and check out so many for free. Right now, I’m into mystery books.”
Casarez was one of many visitors to the Victoria Public Library, 302 N. Main St., on a recent afternoon. As she searched for the best new mystery novel, other visitors sat quietly with their noses tucked deep into a book and others worked diligently on laptops or library computers. In a different room, about 30 kids participated in a creative library event with Legos.
“A library is a gathering place, a collaborative place for people to come together and take part in one of the many things a place like this has to offer,” said Dayna Williams-Capone, the library’s director.
Libraries will always be connected with books, but the purpose of them is expanding and evolving, Williams-Capone said. In late-June, the library director presented information to Victoria City Council at a budget workshop with pride: Nearly 4,000 people visit Victoria’s library each week, and more than 6,700 items are checked out on a weekly basis.
Additionally, there has been a 32% increase in attendance at library programs and events in the past five years, an increase that Williams-Capone later said “has come about purposefully.”
Williams-Capone said the library is in the middle of a strategic five-year plan, which started in 2017, that was designed to find answers to questions such as: What are opportunities to fill the needs of our community, and how can the library meet those needs? How can the library make an impact? An initial five-year plan took place from 2011 to 2016, she said.
She said that to answer those questions, library staff have taken time to observe and initiate conversations with people in the community, and seek out consistent feedback.
“We really began watching what was happening in our building during the different events and times of day, and noticed things,” she said. “It stood out when we realized that people would come to the library for one of many different reasons and often bring their kids, but then they’d also bring their grandma, or their cousin, their friends, their neighbor next door, and we started seeing that it really is a place people can come together.”
With that awareness, the library has worked hard to grow its opportunities for people of all ages, she said. And, the effort appears to be paying off.
On the same afternoon that Casarez was filling up her tote bag of books, two St. Joseph High School students sat together to work on summer chemistry homework. Other library visitors sat with their friends and families, reading books and even quietly playing games.
Nearby, Katherine Navarro sorted through the kids’ movies with her 2-year-old daughter, Elvira. She said they visit the library often.
“When we want to get out of the house, the library is a really good place to come,” she said. “We get a lot of movies here because it’s nice that the library has these and not only books.”
On a daily basis, different areas of the library are bustling with activities. Just this week, program events included family and baby time, a teen craft for the popular show “Stranger Things,” a 3D printing class, a gardening class for adults, Lego playing for kids and more. In 2018, the library offered 505 programs that attracted more than 22,000 programs attendees, according to the library’s annual report.
Williams-Capone told Victoria City Council the library is thinking long-term about how to continue to meet the needs of the community, as those needs continue to evolve.
She said the library staff is thinking about flexibility in terms of building space to meet the needs for their many events, as well as looking into expanding services for families, which would include adding a family restroom.
More immediately, the library director presented a request for funding different building improvements, including $180,000 for new carpet on the library’s main floor. She said she has made the same request in years past, but the money hasn’t been in the budget to fund it.
Amid the books and events that the library offers, Williams-Capone said that libraries meet a unique need in communities, being places where people of all ages and demographics are welcome.
“There are not a lot of spaces in Victoria, or in life, where you can go and you aren’t required to purchase something, or you didn’t have to be invited, or you don’t even have to participate if you don’t want to,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of spaces where you can go to just be, and here at the library, you can.”
Gary P. Nunn, Johnny Bush and Janie Fricke are among the celebrities playing in the 38th annual Bluebonnet Youth Ranch Celebrity Golf Tournament.
Almost 150 guests kicked off the tournament planned for Oct. 12-14 with a prayer, the national anthem and a luncheon at the Victoria Country Club Wednesday. The tournament serves as the main fundraiser every year for the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, a nonprofit that provides homes, education and spiritual guidance for dependent, abused and neglected children in Yoakum.
In the ballroom, children from the ranch and their house parents filled one of the large tables. Allen Shamblin, prolific songwriter from Franklin, Tenn. and celebrity co-host for the tournament, pointed to them during his presentation.
“I leave every year thinking of this, it’s a celebrity golf tournament, but the celebrities are sitting right over here at this table,” he said. “I don’t mean to embarrass you, but this whole room is here for you, and each one of you has a great destiny in this life, and you have this many people who have come into this town, into this room for y’all, and we’re pulling for you, we’re praying for you and we believe in you.”
Shamblin’s mother was raised in a children’s home in the mountains of Tennessee, so he has a special connection to the fundraiser, which he has co-hosted for eight years.
“I know what can happen when people get behind a child,” Shamblin said. “I would not be here today if my mom had not been fortunate enough to end up in a home where she was given love and shelter and a community to take care of her.”
Shamblin has composed many well-known songs including “The House That Built Me” recorded by Miranda Lambert, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” recorded by Bonnie Raitt and “He Walked on Water” recorded by Randy Travis. In the last few weeks, his songs have been released by Reba McEntire, Rodney Crowell and Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish.
His celebrity co-host, Moe Bandy, is a country musician who has recorded 10 No. 1 hits during his 50-year career. Other celebrities confirmed to participate in the tournament include Johnny Rodriguez, Gary Morris, Moore & Moore, Dion Pride, Justin Trevino, Bobby Flores, Tony Booth, George Chambers and the Country Gentlemen, Bill Mata and Red Steagall. Several well-known songwriters also are expected to participate. Celebrity golfers include Shirley Furlong, LPGA, David Lundstrom, PGA, and Steve Veriato, PGA.
The number of celebrities is expected to double by tournament time, said Micah Roth, development director for the ranch.
“Each one of these ladies and gentlemen donate their time to come to Victoria, Texas to entertain each of us,” said Claud Jacobs, one of the founders of the youth ranch and co-chairman of the tournament. “It’s amazing the charity and the love they have for so many people.”
In honor of Kim Reeves, the former director of the youth ranch who died May 5, Jacobs acknowledged the “300% effort” she gave the children during his presentation. A moment of silence followed in her honor.
7 p.m. update:
A tropical depression is expected to form by Thursday and likely strengthen to a hurricane that will likely make landfall in Louisiana, bringing storm surge, rainfall, and wind hazards to the central Gulf Coast, according to a National Hurricane Center bulletin.
A dangerous storm surge remains possible in parts of southern and southeastern Louisiana, where water has the potential to reach between 3-6 feet above ground level if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide.
A hurricane watch is in effect from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Cameron, La., where tropical storm conditions are possible by early Friday and hurricane conditions by nightfall.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency for the state on Wednesday.
The slow movement of the system is expected to result in heavy rainfall through the weekend and early into next week along the central Golf Coast and inland, through the low Mississippi Valley.
Between 6-12 inches of accumulated rainfall are expected in those areas, with maximum amounts reaching 18 inches in some areas.
Rainfall amounts exceeding 6-9 inches already occurred across portions of the New Orleans metropolitan area Wednesday, causing flooding.
12:30 p.m. update:
The National Hurricane Center has issued advisories for a potential tropical storm that is expected to make landfall in Louisiana.
Water could reach 3 to 5 feet above ground level in Louisiana, prompting the issuing of a storm surge watch and tropical storm watch, according to a National Weather Service bulletin.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the storm remained a low pressure system but was expected to become a tropical cyclone by Thursday.
Along the central Gulf Coast, the storm system could bring 6-12 inches of rain.
10:50 a.m. update:
Meteorologists expect a low pressure system moving across the Gulf of Mexico to miss South Texas, according to a late Wednesday morning weather bulletin.
Nevertheless, the system, which is expected to increase to a tropical depression, could bring swells, coastal flooding and increased rip current risk, according to the National Weather Service.
“There is still considerable uncertainty with the eventual track and intensity of this system. Current expectations keep the system north of South Texas, but this could change,” the bulletin states.
Located about 170 miles east-southeast of the Mississippi’s River’s mouth, the system was moving west at about 8 mph and was expected to turn west-northwest on Friday.
A developing low pressure area in the Gulf of Mexico could bring heavy rainfall and strong winds to the Texas coast later this week.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the system is expected to develop into a tropical depression by late Wednesday or Thursday as it continues westward. Meteorologists have calculated a 90% chance of tropical depression development.
“This system could produce storm surge and tropical-storm- or hurricane-force winds across portions of the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Upper Texas coasts later this week, and interests there should closely monitor its progress,” states a hurricane center bulletin.
Located just south of the Florida panhandle as of Wednesday morning, the low pressure system was to be monitored by a Air Force reconnaissance aircraft Wednesday afternoon.
In the meantime, Wednesday was expected to get hot with a high of 97 degrees and heat index value of 107 degrees.
That night, a 20% chance for rain was forecast with partly cloudy skies and a low of 76 degrees.
Thursday, there was a 30% chance for rain with a high of 96 degrees and heat index value as high as 106 degrees.
Thursday night, a 30% chance for rain was predicted with mostly cloudy skies and a low of 78 degrees.
More than 650 men and women from the Yoakum area posed in front of cameras in their respective military uniforms during World War II. Their expressions were joyful, serious or thoughtful, and their body language was relaxed, stiff or elegant. They all shared a youthful glow, and they all looked like their whole lives were ahead of them.
These black-and-white photographs, both large and small, comprise an exhibit, “A Beautiful Salute to Yoakum’s Own WWII Military Heroes,” which the Yoakum Heritage Museum will display through the end of July. The museum also will host a closing reception featuring a concert pianist playing patriotic music on a restored 1920s piano, singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and dining on light hors d’oeuvres from 1 to 4 p.m. July 28.
World War II U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Navigator John Quast, 96, of Yoakum, visited the museum Monday.
“It makes people think of what the military did for this country, especially in this area,” Quast said. “A lot of men were in the service.”
Quast was born in Yoakum, moved to Houston at age 7 and moved back in 1980 with Marguerite Quast to whom he has been married for 74 years.
He joined the war effort “to beat them to it” because the draft was in effect and he always wanted to fly airplanes. He trained to become a navigator and a radio operator, and a week before he was scheduled to fly overseas with his crew, the Corps made him an instructor at Langley Field in Virginia. Navigating involved a lot of math, so he attributed his assignment to his strong math skills. He served for three years and spent two of those years training at least five cadets daily to navigate four-engined B-24 bombers.
“The exhibit encourages others to join the service to help our country, to fly to war if we have to go again,” Quast said. “We don’t have the draft anymore, so we have to depend on guys to join, and nowadays they get money for college.”
Quast lost friends during the war and said he was “blessed not to be sent overseas.”
“I learned a lot of discipline in the service – if the boss said something, you got to do it because it keeps you in line with what’s going on,” Quast said. “I’m glad I’m alive.”
Quast joked that he and his wife have “helped the population go on” with four daughters and 50 immediate family members, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The exhibit was made possible by William Browning who owned W.T. Browning and Co., a men’s clothing store in Yoakum, during World War II. He sent letters to the local servicemen and servicewomen whose addresses he knew and many care packages. He asked their families to send photographs of them for a display in his store, which opened in 1912. When the store closed in 1954, the large glass cases featuring 800 photographs were moved to the American Legion, then to the library and finally to the museum, now located in what was once the Browning home. In the 1980s, Mary Bell Browning deeded the historic home built in the early 1900s to the Yoakum Heritage Museum after her husband’s death.
Museum volunteers Rosemary and Dennis Havlik undertook the task of salvaging the photographs from shards of broken glass and what remained of the old wooden cases. They individually bagged all of the photographs, alphabetized them and placed them in three legal boxes. When Laura Henson, executive director of the museum, discovered the boxes, the idea for the exhibit was born.
“We decided to have the exhibit because this is such a treasure trove of pictures, and just such a fabulous find,” Henson said. “The official information done by the Browning Store – there is no way we could later have been able to get all of that information on that many people in the service, so it’s an amazing thing, and there were quite a few women, nurses, in the war effort, too.”
At the museum, more than 650 of the collection of 800 photographs are mounted with T-pins to 18 insulation screens covered in royal blue paper. About 35 volunteers who are familiar with the community culled through the images to find the men and women originally from Yoakum because there was not enough space in the museum to display them all. Many of those not featured are from surrounding areas. The images are mounted on red and gray cardstock, and the names, ranks and other specifics about the soldiers are included under each of them.
Henson noted the special connection between the images and the Browning house, now the museum, where the exhibit is on display: “They were the retailers who asked for the photographs, and they were so involved in the war effort.”
“Visitors from Poland came down the stairs with tears in their eyes,” Henson said. “They didn’t know anyone from our community, but we have a wealth of unbelievable pictures.”
Larry Jirkovsky, 62, was born and lived in Yoakum until 1987, when he moved to Sweet Home. He attended the exhibit and said some of the faces he saw were his coaches, his neighbors and other familiar members of the community from his youth. He did not realize that many of them had served in World War II because they never talked about it. Some even fought on D-Day at Normandy.
Lt. Col. Joseph Jarmon, his backyard neighbor, served in the Army; Sgt. Geharde Baros lived across the street and served as a medic in the Army; and B.F. “Buck” Okruhlik, who lived on the corner, worked the grave detail on Omaha Beach. John Byrnes, also across the street, served in the Marines. Jirkovsky’s boss, Louis John Grubert, was a tank driver in the Army who lost three tanks on D-Day.
“After I saw some of their pictures up there, it made perfect sense ... you go out ... and only one or two come back out of 10 or 12,” Jirkovsky said. “The exhibit put into perspective their personalities, the way they were, and reinforced how great that generation was.”
POINT COMFORT – The Calhoun Port Authority indulged its best customer on Wednesday by giving Formosa permission to build two pipelines on its property and water for the company to use.
The pipelines, Formosa vice president Jack Wu said, will bring Formosa’s product from the monoethylene glycol plant it is building in Point Comfort to the global market.
Wu asked the board to amend the port’s agreement with Arrowhead Offshore Pipeline, which already has an easement for a pipeline rack at the port, so Formosa can add two pipelines to the rack.
Mickey Sappington, the vice president for G&W Engineers, the Port Lavaca company that designed the rack, said it could handle the additional load.
Monoethylene glycol is raw material in the manufacture of polyester fiber. It is also used in antifreeze, according to Nan Ya Plastics, which is part of a petrochemical conglomerate that includes Formosa.
Port board secretary Shields A. “Tony” Holladay, Sr., meanwhile, left the meeting on Wednesday pleased that his and former board chair Frank Diebel’s idea get a water supply contract with the Lavaca Navidad River Authority for 594 acre feet of water per year in 1995 had finally paid off. Holladay estimated that Formosa paying the port to pay the river authority for that water would save the port about $90,000 this year.
But new board members Jasper “Jay” Cuellar and Luis De La Garza asked questions of port staff and Formosa before agreeing to give Formosa the water, describing the water one of the port’s greatest assets.
Cuellar asked that the contract more clearly state that the port retained ownership of the water and that Formosa could not resell it or use it for anything other than industrial purposes.
Cuellar and De La Garza also asked port staff to remind them to re-evaluate the water contract in at least three years.
“Everything is gravy right now, but in 10 years or 20 years that relationship (with Formosa) may not be the same and the port’s needs may not be the same and so is this the best way to word the contract? That was my concern,” Cuellar said.
The way the contract is currently written Formosa would pay a $250 administrative fee to the port as well as what the port pays the river authority for the water every month. In June, the port paid the river authority $9,370.70 for the water, according to the port’s check register. The port may also cancel the contract with Formosa with a 90-day written notice.
Wu agreed to the changes, so Formosa will get all of the port’s water, which would fill half the Astrodome in Houston.
Patrick Brzozowski, the general manager of the river authority, said Formosa already has a contract with the river authority for 36,200 acre feet of water per year. That’s enough water to fill 40 Astrodomes, according the Measure of Things, a tool that helps people understand physical quantities in terms they are familiar with.
Steve Marwitz, a Formosa spokesman, said Formosa needs the water from the port “to ensure that we are positioned with more water for times of drought and future growth.”
According to the Water Footprint Calculator, it takes 22 gallons of water to make one pound of plastic.