The Vinson Papers — Part 6

Part 5

[By Rob Roehm. Originally posted on July 13, 2011, at the now defunct REH Two-Gun Raconteur Blog. This version has been updated.]

Following the collapse of The Junto and the death of his father, Truett Vinson picked up the pieces and got on with his life. The April 22, 1931 issue of Stamp-itis, a stamp collecting publication put out by the Texas Philatelic Association, notes his application for membership. The July 1st issue acknowledges his acceptance into the association. By the Christmas of 1933, things appear to have returned to normal, with Robert Howard telling August Derleth about his holiday:

A friend came over from Brownwood (a cattleman named Truett Vinson) and we saw a couple of shows in Cisco. Drove over to Ranger Sunday trying to find a good show, and finally saw a lousy one at Cisco. Went back the next day and saw another.

In July of 1934, Howard sent the following to H. P. Lovecraft:

I went to Brownwood Saint Patrick’s Eve and Truett Vinson and I celebrated in our small way. I wish you could know Vinson — a fine, upstanding man a few months older than myself, six feet two in his socks, about 185 pounds with no fat on him, shoulders broader than a barn door, and all man. I knocked him down once when we were both drunk, but nobody ever floored him when he was sober. He’s an accountant for a big wholesale company and a stock-raiser for himself. Keen witted, with a natural knack for finances. Once an ardent Socialist, but too strongly individualistic for that, as I often told him. Well educated and very well read.

After talking about a boxing match they saw, and some fun with one of Vinson’s mares and some booze, Howard continues with the following:

Last month Vinson had his vacation and he spent a week with me. We had a most enjoyable time. I had an unbroken case of Sterling bock all ready when he arrived, but much to my regret he had a slightly corroded gut and had to go easy on his imbibing. He got to Cross Plains on Monday and in search of a show, we went to Ballinger that afternoon. Ballinger lies about seventy miles southwest of Cross Plains, an old town that has a romantic and sometimes violent past. The county is dry but the town is wet and the citizenry favors Rheingold — Sterling bock is Cross Plains’ favorite drink, and still farther west they go in for Blatz’ Old Heidelberg in a big way, from Midland clear to El Paso. Discussing plans for amusement we decided to take a small swing westward the next day, so returned to Cross Plains early and got to bed before midnight.

That “small swing” included a trip to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and went as far west as El Paso. On the return trip, it appears that Vinson and Howard stopped to visit Truett’s sister, Mrs. M. A. Wilson, the former Flora Grady Vinson. The Big Lake Wildcat for June 29, 1934 says that “Truett Vinson of Brownwood spent Friday [June 22] afternoon with his sister, Mrs. M. A. Wilson. He was enroute home from Carlsbad Cavern.” Perhaps the photo below was snapped by Robert E. Howard.

Mark A. Wilson with his brother-in-law, Truett Vinson

According to L. Sprague de Camp’s interview notes, in the spring of 1935 Truett met Novalyne Price, the future Mrs. Ellis. There are several short mentions of Vinson in the Novalyne file, all pretty much saying the same thing:

She went with Vinson for three years, 1935-38, although REH was angry. When she spoke of intending to date Vinson, REH scoffed, saying he would never date her. This angered her and caused her to encourage a date with Vinson. Then, when she had begun such dating, REH would not, at first, believe it.

The notes also say that given a choice of all three, REH, Clyde Smith, or Vinson, Novalyne would have married Truett as he was the one “with the widest range of interests.” These interviews took place in the late 1970s.

Sometime after the death of Wade Vinson, the family donated his collection of books to Howard Payne College. A note about the collection appeared in every issue of the college’s bulletin until at least 1965, and possibly beyond. The 1935 notice reads as follows:

The Wade D. Vinson Sociology and Theology Collection is the gift of Mrs. Wade D. Vinson, her daughter, Miss Lena Vinson, and her son, Mr. Truett Vinson, of Brownwood, Texas. This collection contains numerous works of theology and sociology which had been a part of the library of the late Rev. Wade D. Vinson. In addition the collection contains the files of several magazines on the subject of missionary endeavor together with several volumes of clippings on missions. One of the most valuable features of the collection is made up of a collection of clippings and pamphlets dealing with the American Negro. Former friends of the Reverend Mr. Vinson have added a number of current books on sociology to the collection.

In June of 1935, Vinson and Howard again traveled to New Mexico, this time visiting Lincoln, the scene of some of Billy the Kid’s famous exploits and the “Bloody Lincoln County War.” Vinson probably took the photo above. The gentleman with REH is probably Ramon Maes, who showed them around the town while they were there.

They get as far as Santa Fe when “Vinson got in a swivet to get home, for some reason which he never made entirely clear, but which seemed so important to him that I didn’t press the matter.” Perhaps tension was flaring between the two due to the girl they were both dating. Or perhaps it was a bit later, but by July 9, things had reached a head, with REH writing to Novalyne, “you and Truett haven’t played fair with me, in concealing the fact that you were going together.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram for Friday, September 20, 1935, has this:

Came this letter from Truett Vinson of Brownwood:

“A bunch of us here would like to know if the Texas Christian-Howard Payne game, to be played Saturday afternoon, will be broadcast by WBAP? Can you tell us?

“Incidentally, I will bet you a nice little wager that this game will be more open and more spectacular than the Texas Tech-Hardin-Simmons game in Abilene, which is being called by you sports writers (and Hardin-Simmons publicity agents) the classic of West Texas.

“Why should Hardin-Simmons have a ‘classic’ team? They can’t even ‘go places’ in the Texas Conference. It might interest you to know that of the 14 games played in the last 15 years between Howard Payne and Hardin-Simmons the Cowhands have won exactly three games and tied two, and their record with other members of the Texas Conference is not much more impressive.”

To which the editor replied:

WBAP hasn’t decided definitely on a broadcast of Saturday’s game, but it is almost certain that one of the Fort Worth stations will put the game on the air.

There is no doubt but what the T.C.U.-Howard Payne game will be a spectacular one, with both observers rated the ends fair, the guards good and the center questionable.

The June 1936 Howard Payne bulletin has another Vinson item listed under “Endowments”:

Vinson Athletic Prizes: Mr. Truett Vinson and Miss Lena Vinson offer annually two cash prizes of ten dollars and five dollars, respectively, to the highest scholastic ranking athletes who are letter men in either football, basketball, or track. To be eligible for the first prize the athlete must have an average of B on a regular course of fifteen hours per semester. The highest ranking athlete will be awarded the first prize and the second highest ranking athlete will be awarded the second prize. The awards will be made on commencement day in May of each year.

Also in June that year, Robert E. Howard killed himself. Novalyne told the de Camps that Vinson was one of two people who sent her a postcard notifying her of the tragedy.

On November 26, 1936, the Howard Payne Yellow Jacket ran “New Books Are Given Library”:

The library has been receiving many new books lately. The English department has added twelve modern books dealing with Folk Love [sic: Lore] in the Southern United States. The Howard collection received four more novels this week, Mr. Truett Vinson being the donor.

The books that have been donated to our college by the Howard family have added much to the reading material in the library. Many interesting and modern novels are to be found in the collection. The popular novel, America’s Way Out, by Norman Thomas, is among the novels received this week.

For the next couple of years, Vinson and Price continued to date. They broke up some time in 1938. On December 3rd of that year, Truett makes his next appearance in the Yellow Jacket:

Valuable Book Collection in HP Library
In the north east corner of the Howard Payne College administration building lies one of her greatest treasures—the library. It contains more than twenty thousand volumes, consisting of references and reading material for all subjects. And, among these twenty thousand volumes, five different collections are found. Some of these deal with special subjects, others cover a varied field.
[. . .]
In the line of general literature falls the collection in the memory of Robert E. Howard, author, who died June 11, 1936. This group was presented by Dr. I. M. Howard, father of the deceased, and contains a complete file of magazines in which the published works of Howard appeared prior to his death. This, by the way, is the only collection which is kept together.

Vinson Sociology and Theology
The Rev. Wade D. Vinson collection of Sociology and Theology is possibly the largest in the library. A one time student and past field secretary of Howard Payne College, Rev. Vinson collected a vast array of sociology and theology books. At his death his library was added to the Howard Payne library. Included in this collection are magazines relating to missionary endeavor and missions, and one of the most valuable features is the collection of clippings and pamphlets dealing with the American Negro. Rev. Vinson was the father of Miss Lena Vinson and Truett Vinson of Brownwood, who, with Mrs. Wade Vinson, presented the collection to our library. Former friends have added a number of sociological books to the collection.

Not to be outdone by his father, Truett Vinson has well under way a collection of his own. He is a graduate of the commercial department of Howard Payne College, and one of the staunchest rooters. His reason for the collection was an interest in furthering Howard Payne. Books of all kinds are coming in in a steady stream; they range from history and historical novels and biographies to current novels. Two of the most recent additions to this collection are The Bellamy Trial, a recent Crime Club mystery novel, and Young’s They Seek a Country, the latest novel of the Book of the Month Club.

More on Vinson’s interest in the college library next time . . .

Part 7

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