The Earliest Howards, Part 1

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There hasn’t been a lot written about the Howard side of Robert E. Howard’s family. Despite its inaccuracies (the first of his American line appear to have landed in Virginia, not Georgia, for example), all we ever really had was the following, from Howard’s “The Wandering Years,” which all the biographies have used as their source for background information:

My father, Dr. Howard, was the son of William Benjamin Howard, of Georgia. The first of the American line came to America in 1733, with Oglethorpe’s colony, and helped build the settlement of Savannah, in southeast Georgia. As Georgia was itself a frontier state, the westward drift of the Howards was slow. In 1849, Henry Howard, my great-grandfather, a planter and a school teacher, was living on a farm in Oglethorpe County, in what I would describe as the middle northeastern part of the state, no great distance from the Savannah River. As far as I know, my grandfather, William Benjamin Howard, was born on that plantation.[1] In 1849 he started for California with two of his brothers. At Pine Bluff, Arkansas, cholera struck the party, wiped out most of them, and so weakened my grandfather that he was forced to turn back. One of his brothers went on to California and the other returned to Georgia. William Howard did neither. He turned southward, into Mississippi, and obtained the position of overseer on the plantations of Squire James Henry,[2] whose daughter, Louisa, he married in 18–.[3]

  1. The family Bible has his birth date as July 23, 1827; the 1830 U.S. Census for “Capt Lumpkins District,” in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, has a Henry Howard listed with four children, two of these were boys under five years of age, William Benjamin and his brother, Isaac.
  2. The 1850 Census for Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, lists James Henry, 39, born in South Carolina, as a farmer with real estate valued at “800”; his household includes wife Mary, 35, from Georgia; Louisa, 15, born in Alabama; and six other children.
  3. The last two digits are not provided in the typescript; the Howard family Bible records the wedding date as December 16, 1856.

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From there, Howard pivots to the Henry family and then peters out, leaving the document unfinished. Just one short paragraph is devoted to the Howard line, and this after pages on the Ervin clan, his mother’s side of the family. It seems that REH didn’t have much to say about his Howard ancestors. Unless I missed something in my quick search (entirely possible), there are only a couple of vague mentions in his correspondence:

Letter: REH to Harold Preece, circa early April 1930

A man has too many grand-parents to be pure blooded anything. One of my great-grandfathers was born somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean between the coast of Kerry and New York — I mean, my great-great-grandfather — he was of the old Gaelic family of the MacEnry. He married Anna O’Tyrrell, who was born in Connaught.[4] Another of my great-great-grandfathers was born in Georgia of Anglo-Irish parents.[5] Another was born in Virginia of Scotch-Irish parents.[6] Another was born in Denmark and he married an Irish-American woman in Mississippi.[7]

  1. In a short biography of Dr. J. T. Henry, Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas mentions his grandfather: “James Henry, was of Irish descent, a farmer by occupation, and died in Bibb County, Alabama.” Another volume, 1962’s Our East Tennessee Kinsmen by Aurelia Cate Dawson, has James Henry’s offspring, but all it provides for him are the barebones: “born May 7, 1765, died May 1, 1845 in Bibb Co., Ala. Married in S.C. Jan. 4, 1796 to Anna or Ann.” There is a James Henry in Bibb County on the 1830 Census with a male and a female in the household who are the correct ages, but on the 1840 Census, the same household (apparently) no longer has either of them. If this is the correct household, where did they go?
  2. I assume, based on his comments elsewhere, that REH is referring here to his great-great grandfather Howard, but everything I’ve found points to a Virginia birth for Mordecai Howard, who appears to have moved to Georgia around 1805.
  3. Isaac Collier, father of Elizabeth Ann “Betsy” Howard nee Collier, was in fact born in Virginia. Here’s his information from a historical marker: “Isaac Collier, June 6, 1769 – Sept. 4, 1848. Pioneer settler of Upson County. Born in Brunswick Co., VA, removed from VA to Wilkes (now Oglethorpe) Co., GA with his father CA 1780. Served as Clerk of Court for Oglethorpe Co. Elected to Georgia Legislature 1830-1833. Brought his family to Upson County, GA about 1835. The large mound of stones marks his grave. Isaac was one of the thirteen children of Vines Collier, a veteran of the French & Indian War and a Patriot of the American Revolution, and Elizabeth Williamson Collier. The children of Vines & Elizabeth were pioneers and prominent citizens throughout Georgia.”
  4. Here Howard must be referring to the only great-great grandfather he has left on the Howard side, and that would be David Walser. Someone on Ancestry.com has done a fairly extensive Walser family tree, and it has Walser born not in Denmark, but in North Carolina. My minimal excursions into this have only verified that location. In fact, not only was David Walser not born in Denmark, neither was his father (Pennsylvania), nor his father (Switzerland).

Letter: REH to HPL, circa early October 1930

My branch of the Howards came to America with Oglethorpe 1733 and lived in various parts of Georgia for over a hundred years.[8] In ’49 three brothers started for California. On the Arkansas River they split up, one went on to California where he lived the rest of his life,[9] one went back to Georgia[10] and one, William Benjamin Howard, went to Mississippi[11] where he became an overseer on the plantations of Squire James Harrison [sic.] Henry, whose daughter he married. In 1858 he moved, with the Henrys, to southwestern Arkansas where he lived until 1885, when he moved to Texas. He was my grandfather.

  1. Again, as far as I can determine, REH’s line of Howards came to Georgia from Virginia in the early 1800s. His great-great grandfather (Mordecai Howard) appears on Georgia land auction records as early as 1813; and one of his daughters, Nancy Howard, was married there in 1808.
  2. Isaac Mordecai Howard (REH’s grand uncle, not father), is established in Sonora, California, by 1866.
  3. Most likely John Hubbard Howard, Henry Howard’s fourth oldest son.
  4. The earliest I can place him there is 1855; neither he, nor the brothers mentioned above, have been found on an 1850 Census. William B. is mentioned in an Upson County, Georgia, “Indenture,” dated January 30, 1855, as being “of the State of Mississippi.”

And that’s about it. Luckily, we no longer have to rely solely on what REH has to tell us. Thanks to court documents, transcriptions of records found online, scans of books at Google Books, and various records available on Ancesry.com and other genealogical websites, we can now paint a slightly fuller picture of those early Howards.

Stay tuned.

“We Spent the Winter in San Antonio.”

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[by Rob Roehm. Originally published Sept. 7, 2013, at rehtwogunraconteur.com; this version updated and lightly edited.]

One of the reasons I was so gung-ho about going to WorldCon this year was because it was in San Antonio. Readers of this blog may have noticed that I’m a tad obsessed with visiting county courthouses in Texas, and, up to this point, I hadn’t been to the Bexar County facility. There are reasons for this: I have generally found that the larger the courthouse, the less helpful they are; also, my usual traveling companion (my dad) disdains to drive in populated areas. But, since the Howards had lived briefly in San Antonio and visited on occasion, a stop at the courthouse was required. So, since I’d be traveling solo this time, I figured I’d brave the traffic and see what treasures I could uncover.

I’d originally planned on swinging by the courthouse in the morning, before my first WorldCon panel on Friday; however, I lost half an hour due to construction and the abysmal parking situation downtown, so I abandoned that plan and went to the convention center. During a lull between panels, I decided to take a walk. I asked my fellow Howard-heads if anyone else was interested; only equally-obsessed Patrice Louinet took the bait [that’s him in the photo above].

We walked the five or six blocks to the courthouse, emptied our pockets and walked through the metal detector, only to be told by the guard that everything we were looking for was at the annex across the street. We refilled our pockets and hit the county clerk’s office in the other building.

One good thing about the larger counties is that their land records have been scanned and indexed. A quick name search on the computer will generate a list of all the pertinent documents. I searched for Howards and McClungs while Patrice looked for Ervins. None of the Howards that popped up appeared to be connected to our Howards, but there was one item on W. O. McClung, Bob Howard’s uncle (Dr. Howard’s brother-in-law). The document raises more questions than it answers. Some kind of judgment was rendered against McClung and a few others, but the type of judgment is not mentioned and the clerk couldn’t find any other documents to help us make sense of this one. And it’s always possible that this McClung isn’t our McClung, though they were definitely in the area around that time. Maybe someone will look into it later.

After finishing up with the county clerk, we went down the hall to the district clerk, which is where medical/physicians registries are typically housed. There were at least two reasons for looking into this. In a November 7, 1936 letter to a sister-in-law, Dr. Howard says the following: “I well remember when Robert was only four years old we spent the winter in San Antonio and the spring months in Atascosa County, some thirty miles south of San Antonio.” In Dark Valley Destiny, L. Sprague de Camp reports this:

[O]n January 8, 1910, Dr. Howard presented his credentials at the county seat of Bexar County, giving his home address as Poteet, a few miles from the border. Years later Howard reported that he lived for a time on a ranch in Atascosa County, Texas, near San Antonio. These bare facts are the only records we have of the family’s South Texas adventures.

I already have a copy of the registration mentioned above, but it’s a crappy scan of a photocopy, and I always like to have color photographs of the real thing. Plus, there’s a problem with de Camp’s statement: The January 8, 1910 document was filed by the district clerk of Atascosa County, not Bexar County. Of course, when I went to the county seat of Atascosa County last winter, they couldn’t find a Medical Registry, so maybe, I figured, the book was housed in the larger county’s archives. Anyway, I wanted to have a look at the Medical Register for Bexar County.

With one exception, Clay County, the district clerks’ offices never know that they should have such a volume; Bexar County was no exception. Luckily, the director of archives happened to be in the building and he called over to his office. Someone there located the volume I wanted; unfortunately, the archives collection was clear across town. As Patrice and I walked back to the convention center, in the blazing, humid heat, I tried to decide if I really needed a color photograph of a document I already had a copy of. Obsession won.

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Leaving a trail of sweat behind, we arrived at the Bexar County Archives and Training Center—they were expecting us. We drank gallons of water and wiped the sweat off of our bald heads with paper towels while waiting for the book to arrive. The book (above) has seen better days, but its index is still intact, so I turned to the section marked “H,” found Dr. Howard, and went to page 260. I didn’t remember the short list of Dr. Howard’s other registrations at the bottom of the page, but I was so convinced that I already had a copy of this document that I didn’t pay much attention to that. After taking a few photos, we settled back and waited for a taxi—if we’d tried to hike back in the sweltering heat, there’d be nothing left of us but a sweaty smear on the sidewalk.

In the cab, I inspected the digital images a little more thoroughly in my camera’s display window and started to think that maybe this wasn’t the same document that I already had, but we arrived back at the convention center and I put that thought on the back-burner and enjoyed the rest of WorldCon.

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Once I got home, I pulled the image up on my computer and had a better look. Different document. The registration de Camp mentioned was indeed filed on January 8, 1910—but in Atascosa County, not Bexar—and Dr. Howard’s address is listed as Poteet. This document was filed on November 20, 1909, in Bexar County, and Dr. Howard’s address (after crossing out what would have been Holly Springs, in Arkansas) is listed as San Antonio! Plus, at the end of the page is a list of other counties in which Dr. Howard had registered: Palo Pinto (Oran), Gaines (Seminole), and Coke (Bronte). Some of the information here flies in the face of what has been presented in the past. For example, according to notes by de Camp’s partner in DVD, Jane Griffith, Dr. Howard registered at Seminole on the day that the Bexar Co. document has him registering in Coke County—I’ll take a document over someone’s notes any day of the week.

Using this document, and a couple of newspaper articles I found just before going to San Antonio, I’ve put together a more precise timeline for December 1907 to January 1910. To wit:

On December 20, 1907, I. M. Howard of Oran, Palo Pinto County, had his medical certificate recorded with the county. Shortly after doing that, he packed up his wife and almost two-year-old son and headed west. The January 3, 1908 edition of The Enterprise (edited by Hester Howard’s brother, William Vinson Ervin, in Big Spring, Texas), has this:

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“Monday” would have been Dec. 30, 1907, and don’t go scrambling for a map to look up “Cran” like I did; there is a Crane, Texas, very close to Big Spring, but as soon as I showed this to Patrice he said it is “of course Oran.” Duh.

The January 24 Enterprise has an update:

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The new San Antonio registration has Dr. Howard registering in Gaines Co. on February 3, and we know from a death record that he was there until at least July 24. The same document has him registering over in Coke County on September 14, 1908, and he starts recording births in Bronte at least as early as January 19, 1909. The last birth record I’ve found there with Dr. Howard attending was recorded on August 24, 1909.

I’ve theorized that after leaving Bronte the Howards visited the McClungs in Crystal City and went down the Nueces in the fall of 1909 (look here). Whether they did that then or not, we now know that they were in San Antonio sometime before November 20, 1909. Less than two months later, Dr. Howard registered in Atascosa County, with an address in Poteet. From there, things get pretty sketchy again.

I never did get a picture of the Atascosa County registration.

Down the Nueces

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[by Rob Roehm. Originally published Jan. 17, 2013, at rehtwogunraconteur.com; this version updated and lightly edited.]

As a child I crossed the South Plains, not in a covered wagon indeed, but in a buggy, in what was about the last big colonization movement in Texas—the settlement of the Great Plains. (I did go down the Nueces in a covered wagon.) I also saw the beginning of the development of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

After reading the above, from Howard’s newly rediscovered letter to Dime Sports, I got to wondering about a few things. The “South Plains” comment refers to Howard’s time in Gaines County—Seminole, to be precise—in 1908, but the other items are pretty vague. What else did Howard have to say about the Nueces River (pictured above)? The only other mention of the river comes from his circa October 1930 letter to H. P. Lovecraft:

But the old Texas is gone or is going fast. All the plains are fenced in, where in my childhood I’ve ridden for a hundred miles without seeing a foot of barbed wire. I can’t remember when I’ve heard a coyote. And one of my earliest memories is being lulled to sleep in a covered wagon camped on the Nueces River, by the howling of wolves.

When they built Crystal City twenty years ago in Zavalla county, some forty miles from the Mexican Border, the wolves came howling to the edge of the clearings. The woods were full of wildcats, panthers and javelinas, the lakes were full of fish and alligators. I was back there a couple of years ago and was slightly depressed at the signs of civilization which disfigured the whole country.

Looking at the map that heads this post, it’s pretty clear that anyone going “down the Nueces” would probably stop at Crystal City for supplies and/or human contact. So, if we can figure out when the Howards were in town, we can conclude when they went down the river.

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In an undated letter to an unknown recipient, Howard says of Crystal City (seen above) that it’s “a fair-sized town now and growing all the time. I lived there when the first store went up during its earliest boom.” No help with the date there, but in the letter to Clyde Smith that I recently tacked a “circa June 1928” date on, Howard says that he “was here twenty years ago when there was only one store in Crystal City—just beginning to build.” This comment would put his earliest trip to Crystal City in 1908, if I dated the letter correctly. Of course, he could easily be rounding the “twenty years ago” comment up or down. It’s fairly common for people to say “twenty years” when the actual number is nineteen or twenty-one. But there’s still another reference, this one from Howard’s circa August 1931 letter to Lovecraft:

I remember, very faintly, the fall of a meteorite in South Texas, many years ago. I was about four years old at the time, and was at the house of an uncle, in a little town about forty miles from the Mexican Border; a town which had recently sprung up like a mushroom from the wilderness and was still pretty tough. I remember waking suddenly and sitting up in bed, seeing everything bathed in a weird blue light, and hearing a terrific detonation. My uncle—an Indian—had enemies of desperate character, and in the excitement it was thought they had dynamited the house.

The description of the town here matches Howard’s description of Crystal City above, and his “about four” comment indicates that he was there in 1909 or 1910. We also know who that uncle was: William Oscar McClung, the husband of Doc Howard’s sister, Willie. In L. Sprague de Camp’s biography of Howard, he says that “Fanny McClung Adamson [Willie’s daughter] remembers that ‘Uncle Cue,’ as his nieces and nephews called Isaac Howard, was a frequent visitor to Crystal City.” However, in the interview transcript housed at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Adamson says, “The only time I ever met him [Doc Howard] and knew him, I was sick.” She then describes an episode of chicken pox she had while living at Crystal City with her parents, adding that “We must have moved there in 1908 and it was either 1909 or 1910 when [Doctor Howard] was there.” I’ll leave the frequency of his visits alone for now, but it seems pretty clear that the Howards were in Crystal City sometime in the 1909-10 range. Let’s see if we can narrow that down a bit.

Doctor Howard registered in Seminole on February 3, 1908, and then in Bronte, over in Coke County, on September 14, 1908. His next appearance on paper is his signature on a January 19, 1909 birth record from Bronte. He’s there until at least August 27, 1909, when he signs his last birth record for the county and drops off the radar until November 20, 1909, when he filed for record in San Antonio. He didn’t stay in Bexar County long because in January 1910 he sent a note to the Journal of the Texas State Medical Association changing his address from Bronte to Poteet and  filed for record in Atascosa County, post office address Poteet. In a letter to his sister-in-law, Mrs. W. P. Searcy, November 7, 1936, Dr. Howard says, “I well remember when Robert was only four years old we spent the winter in San Antonio and the spring months in Atascosa County, some thirty miles south of San Antonio.” Robert Howard turned four in January 1910. So, the question is: What were the Howards doing in the fall of 1909? I’m guessing they were going “down the Nueces” and visiting in Crystal City.

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Have another look at the map above. About 150 miles due north of Barksdale, off the map, is a little town in Coke County called Bronte. I speculate that when the Howards left there in the late summer or early fall of 1909, they traveled south and went down the Nueces River in a covered wagon to Crystal City. After visiting the McClungs in the fall of 1909, they continued following the river as it meandered east toward Corpus Christi. After about 80 miles, in McMullen County, they left the river (or perhaps joined the Atascosa River) and went north another 80 miles to winter in San Antonio, the county seat of Bexar County, where de Camp says Doctor Howard registered on January 8, 1910. The doctor’s letter mentioned above says that the Howards spent “the spring months [of 1910] in Atascosa County, some thirty miles south of San Antonio.” After that, they appear to have traveled to Palo Pinto County, far to the north, where they were recorded on the U. S. Census, which was enumerated on May 16, 1910. Again, this is speculation; however, if this isn’t when the river trip occurred, there wasn’t much time left in 1910 for another. On December 20, 1910, the McClungs sold their land in Crystal City (below), practically an entire city block, and headed off to Arkansas.

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The Kline Connection

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[by Rob Roehm. Originally published May 1, 2011, at rehtwogunraconteur.com; this version lightly edited.]

Born in Chicago on July 1, 1891, and author of at least thirteen novels (most appearing as serials in the pulps), not to mention all the short stories, articles, letters, and even poems, Otis Adelbert Kline is perhaps best-known to readers of the Two-Gun blog as the author of The Swordsmen of Mars, and as the one-time agent for Robert E. Howard. In the 1920s, Kline hobnobbed with Farnsworth Wright and E. Hoffmann Price at his Chicago home. A successful pulp writer himself, Kline started agenting for others in 1932 or 1933. At the suggestion of Price, himself a client of Kline’s, Robert E. Howard joined the stable of authors that Kline served.

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The earliest Kline-Howard connection that I’m aware of is Kline’s May 11, 1933 letter to Howard. In that missive, Kline mentions having at least four Howard stories already on hand: “The Yellow Cobra,” “The Turkish Menace,” “The Jade Monkey,” and “Cultured Cauliflowers.” Not only did Kline attempt to place Howard’s fiction in different markets, he offered tips and strategies to more effectively produce those stories.

According to the Kline Agency ledger, “Wild Water” was received on June 15, 1933. The very next day Kline returned it, saying that while it was loaded with “excellent local color, powerful characterizations and fast action,” he was afraid he couldn’t sell it “because the plot is not powerful enough to support a story of this length.” While I don’t agree with Kline’s assessment, he apparently knew what he was talking about at the time. Howard rewrote the story and sent it back that October. It was shopped around by V. I. Cooper, who sent it to Fiction House, Wild West Stories, and others, to no effect. The story remained unpublished long after Howard’s death.

And so it went; Kline continued to place, or not place, Howard’s work. In 1935, business must have been going well, as Kline enlisted the aid of Otto O. Binder. Binder went to New York late in 1935 to be closer to the publishing scene than Kline’s Chicago offices allowed. And he had some success, placing several of Howard’s “Spicy” stories with Trojan Publications, as well as other items, like “Black Wind Blowing” and “The Curly Wolf of Saw-Tooth.” After a rough start in New York, when things started picking up, Binder wrote the following to his brother Earl on June 7, 1936:

The business is beginning to pick up a bit at that, though. I wish all our authors were like Robert E. Howard. Since I’ve been here, I’ve sold $700 worth of his stuff, getting him into Argosy, and into Star Western, and Complete Stories S&S. He’s thirty years old and has sold 22 different magazines and over 125 stories altogether. I’ve seen his picture—he’s a rough and ready Texan and claims he wears no underwear because there’s no sense to it!

Howard’s suicide a few days later certainly negated that “wish.” Binder sent a postcard to Richard Frank, a friend in Pennsylvania, mentioning the suicide. Rich responded in a July 9, 1936 letter:

Give me more dope on the suicide of ROBERT E. HOWARD. Funny thing about my hearing of the tragedy. Your card arrived telling me of the suicide and while I was waiting at the post office I saw a magazine thrust into my box. I pulled it out and it was the July issue of WEIRD TALES with Howard’s latest story, “Red Nails,” featured on the cover. It gave me a peculiar feeling to hear of an author’s death and then, in the same mail, receive his latest tale.

And while there would be no new Howard items to show, Kline Associates got first crack at the fabled trunk, and Kline continued to represent Howard through his father, Doctor I. M. Howard. During this time, A Gent from Bear Creek was published, and the foundations for Skull-Face and Others were laid. This stormy relationship would last until the doctor’s death in November 1944, but that was not the end of Otis Kline Associates’ relationship with the works of Robert E. Howard.

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In his will, Doctor Howard left “all property, both real and personal” to his friend Doctor P. M. Kuykendall. This included the literary rights to Robert’s work. And, while the actual items—typescripts, clippings, letters, etc.—were shipped off to E. Hoffmann Price in California, Dr. Kuykendall received royalty checks from Kline. Business was slow.

Kline died in October 1946, but his agenting business lived on. His daughter, Ora Rossini (later Rozar), took over the practice for a year and a half, but when her husband was transferred to Texas, of all places, she “turned over everything to Oscar Friend, including material published and unpublished, records, files, etc.” Oscar Jerome Friend was a veteran writer himself, as well as editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories from 1941 to 1944. Upon purchasing Kline’s business, he set out to fatten it by contacting various authors, including Binder and British science fiction writer Eric Frank Russell, and asking them to let him represent them. The Howard items were probably not very high on his priority list. Things change.

In 1950, a small specialty publisher purchased the rights for Howard’s The Hour of the Dragon—Gnome Press. Conan the Conqueror, as the novel was re-titled, was the first in a series of books covering the Cimmerian’s exploits. From all accounts the series wasn’t exactly lucrative, but it did show some possibilities. Enter L. Sprague de Camp.

According to de Camp’s introduction to Gnome’s King Conan (1953), he had been acquainted with Oscar Friend and, when he learned from Donald Wollheim that Friend had “a whole pile of unpublished Howard manuscripts,” he rushed right over. This was November 30, 1951. Upon his arrival, he met Harold Preece, and then Friend “hauled out the carton of manuscripts—about twenty pounds of them.” Among the stash, three Conan tales were discovered, and “it was agreed that [de Camp] should rewrite these stories—not, however, to turn them into typical de Camp pieces, but to create as nearly as possible what Howard would have produced if in his later years he had undertaken to rewrite them himself with all the care he could manage.”

Meanwhile, Doctor Kuykendall had decided that he’d had enough of the literature business and made Friend an offer: “We would consider a sale price of three thousand dollars for all rights, and a complete release of any claim to future royalties that might accrue.” Friend responded on March 14, 1954, saying that the property wasn’t really worth that much, and offered $1,250, instead. The reasons for this reduction in price seem quite reasonable, for the time. There was, after all, no guarantee that the Conan name would take off.

Friend described his efforts to continue the Conan series, and the amount of work that would entail:

Now let us consider the future prospect of a continuation. In the first place, I have to guide, cajole, help plot, supervise, etc., the future books, and keep a firm rein and control—or the project would go completely haywire and finally bog down in complete ruin. There is one rather smart writer now who has been doing some work for us in rewriting several Howard stories, and he keeps pressing for a larger cut and keeps slipping in side remarks to the effect that if he wants to he can and will go ahead on his own and write about Conan as the author is dead, etc., etc. And I’ve warned him that I’ll sue the pants off him if he makes one silly move of this nature before the CONAN material runs out of copyright (56 years).

We all know how that worked out.

Sometime later, Kline’s daughter recalled that “Oscar moved to another place and I suspect disposed of practically all OAK material, records, and files.” This may be when the Howard items listed on the Kline lists disappeared. Items like “The Phantom Tarantula” and “Footprints of Fear,” which are listed on the list, but no copies have ever turned up.

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Friend enlisted the aid of his wife, Irene M. Ozment, as vice president, and his daughter, Kitty F. West, as early as 1955, with West acting as secretary for Kline Associates and sending letters to the above-mentioned Eric Frank Russell. Around this time, also, a young Howard fan named Glenn Lord secured the rights to Howard’s poems and published Always Comes Evening (1957) with Arkham House. Friend’s health began to fail in the early 1960s, and he died on January 19, 1963. His wife and daughter continued the agency through 1964. In the interim, Dr. Kuykendall had also died, leaving the rights to Robert Howard’s works to his wife and daughter. With the Kline agency closing up shop, the heirs were in need of a new agent.

In Costigan #7 (REHupa mailing #9, May 1974), Glenn Lord explains what happened next: “The Howard heirs asked Mrs. West to find another agent to handle the Howard material, and L. Sprague de Camp was asked, but turned it down due to his own writing. De Camp suggested that I might be a good possibility.”

The Kuykendalls apparently agreed and, in the winter 1965 issue of The Howard Collector, Lord made the announcement: “Otis Kline Associates, the agent for the Howard Estate, went out of business at the end of 1964. I have accepted the handling of the Howard material for the Estate.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

[Note: Most of the information used to write the above came from the forthcoming collection from the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, The Collected Letters of Doctor Isaac M. Howard. Ora Rozar’s information is from OAK Leaves #2, Winter 1970-71, edited by David Anthony Kraft. The letters to and from Otto Binder are unpublished; copies were provided by the Cushing Memorial Library at Texas A&M. Binder’s list of sales appeared in OAK Leaves #5, Fall 1971. Letters from Kline Associates to Erick Frank Russell are unpublished; they are housed at the University of Liverpool Special Collections and Archives.]

REH in Classic Cars

Cars of the Classic 30s

[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted June 19, 2006, at thecimmerian.com.]

On one of the bus tours of Cross Plains that took place during Howard Days, my dad asked me about Robert E. Howard’s car. I didn’t know much, so I asked Rusty Burke, who was our tour guide. He said that Howard owned a ’31 Chevy first, and then upgraded to a ’35 Chevy. I thought that was the end of it.

About a week later and I’m still unpacking boxes from my recent move. My dad calls and asks about pictures of Howard with cars. I tell him that I don’t know of any. Then, on Father’s Day, I go over to his place for our usual Father’s Day six-pack in his Ham radio shack, and what does he do? He gives me a dissertation on the differences between the 1931 Chevrolet and the 1935 Chevrolet; he elaborates further on the differences between the “standard” and “master” models of the ’35 line. Very interesting. Of course, I wanted to know how he’d found all of this information. With a twinkle in his eye he pulls down a book, one in a series, called Cars of the Classic ’30s (© 2004, Publications International, Ltd.). We look at the pictures, he talks some more, and then, just as we’re getting ready to go inside, he says, “Oh yeah.”

On page 243, the first page of “Chapter 7: 1936,” he shows me this quote:

The great British author Rudyard Kipling died this year. Death also took philosopher Oswald Spengler; writers G. K. Chesterton, Maxim Gorky, and Conan creator Robert E. Howard; playwright Luigi Pirandello; physiologist Ivan Pavlov; and aviation pioneers Billy Mitchell and Louis Bleriot.

REH shows up in the strangest places.

Footnotes #2

masthead-sm

Now the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, the old Baylor College for Women in Belton, Texas, ran an annual high school poetry contest starting in 1922. When they opened the contest up to boys in 1923, Robert E. Howard submitted “The Sea.” I wrote about this contest a few years ago in “The Poetry Contest.” For that article, I had to rely on community newspapers for the bulk of the information regarding the contest in which Howard won an Honorable Mention. Now I’ve found a better source.

In his June 22, 1923, letter to Clyde Smith, Howard doesn’t mention the Honorable Mention, but he does describe the fate of his poem:

I got a letter from the assistant editor of The Campus, S.M.U. He said he saw my poem “The Sea” in The Baylor United Statement [sic.] and he asked me to contribute to The Campus. I sent him a poem.

Moved to action by this reference, several years ago I spent an afternoon in front of the microfiche reader at Southern Methodist University in Dallas looking through old issues of their newspaper, The Campus. I didn’t find any Howard poems. I have also been on the lookout for issues of The Baylorian and The United Statements, especially the issue containing “The Sea,” which, as far as I know, no one has ever seen. If Howard hadn’t mentioned it to Smith, we wouldn’t know about that appearance. Not long after visiting SMU, I contacted the library at Mary Hardin-Baylor and learned that they did have some issues of those papers, but not the ones I was looking for. So, I put those papers on the back burner and moved on to the next thing.

Not long ago I reopened the investigation and discovered several digital copies of the college’s publications from the right time period, including the issue of The Baylorian that contains the rules for the 1923 poetry contest. At the bottom of that page, partially obscured by their “Courtesy of . . .” watermark, is the following publication information:

Announcement of the awards, together with the publication of the poem winning first place, will be made through the press of the state; and all poems winning prizes or honorable mention will be published in the May issue of the Baylorian.

1923 03-00 v8n2_Page_45

The May 1923 issue of The Baylorian is available, and it does contain a lot of poetry, but none of it is from the poetry contest. So, it seems that at some point it was decided to publish the poems in The United Statements, instead. News of the contest winners started appearing in state newspapers as early as May 9, 1923. Presumably, “The Sea” must have appeared in The United Statements around then. There are two 1923 issues available at the website, but neither the March 31st nor the May 19th edition has a poem by Robert E. Howard.

And the search continues.

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The Missing Mexico Trip

1928 06-00 REH to HPa 1-web

[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted November 30, 2012 at twogunraconteur.com. This version slightly expanded.]

One of the items found in the collection of Glenn Lord (1931-2011) was a postcard, seen above, from Robert E. Howard (who signed with his X-triple bar brand) to Harold Preece. In the picture, the last words above the doorway, partially obscured by the tree’s branches, are “Piedras Negras,” which is a Mexican town just across the river from Eagle Pass, Texas. This is a picture of the border customs house. The flip-side of the card is below.

1928 06-00 REH to HPa 2-web

With the stamp long gone, and with it some of the post mark, the date is not known. So, when was Robert E. Howard in Eagle Pass and/or Mexico? None of the standard biographical material mentions Mexico much. Howard’s 1934 trip with Truett Vinson—through New Mexico, El Paso, and over the river to Juarez—is about it. Howard’s July 5, 1934 letter to Robert Barlow explains that he has been on “a sojourn in the extreme western part of the State, and into New and Old Mexico.”

Howard also mentions Mexico in at least two letters from 1935: his March 6th letter to Emil Petaja (“As for Old Mexico, I’ve been across the Border a few times but haven’t spent enough time in the south to learn much of the language”); and a circa July letter to H. P. Lovecraft (Santa Fe, New Mexico, is “much like towns I have visited in Old Mexico, with the exception that it is much cleaner and neater”). The above quotes indicate that Howard had been to Mexico on more than one occasion. So what do his pre-1934 letters have to say?

Howard’s earliest trip to Mexico appears to have been in 1924 when the whole family visited the Rio Grande Valley, way down on the Texas-Mexico border. In an illustrated letter/poem from Weslaco dated September 7, 1924, Howard tells his friend Clyde Smith, “I went across the Rio Grande / And viewed the great Tequila land. / The Rio Grande I went across, / It cost just fifty centavos. / There is a bar on every street. / You get quite thirsty in the heat.” Their return was noted in the Cross Plains Review for September 19:

1924 09-19 CPR p05

Another reference to his being in Mexico comes from a January 1932 letter to Lovecraft: “I’m no gambler. I don’t like to risk money I worked hard to get. I was never a very welcome guest in the gambling houses of Mexico, for I was merely a looker-on.” Later that year, circa July 13, 1932, he tells Lovecraft, “My entrails have been insulted with so many damnable concoctions for so many years, that I fear I may have lost the ability to appreciate good liquor—though on my pilgrimages to Mexico I find that knack unimpaired so far.” And on November 2, “I’m in favor of the open saloon; and legalized prize-fights and horse-races, licensed gambling halls and licensed bawdy-houses. I wish I was in Mexico right now.” Howard’s late-December 1933 letter to August Derleth has more:

I’ve drunk only Prima, Budweiser, Pearl, Old Heidelberg, Schlitz, Rheingold, Savoy, Sterling, Blue Ribbon, Fox, Country Club, Atlas Special, Jax, and Superior. None of it was as good as the Sabinas I used to drink in Old Mexico. I understand that company is going to move their brewery to San Antonio, and I hope they do. That was mighty good stuff.

Shortly after his trip with Vinson, circa July 1934, Howard tells Lovecraft that Juarez “was just as dirty and lousy as any border town I ever saw—more so than Piedras Negras, for instance, and swarming with the usual pimps and touts. We drove around awhile, made a brief exploration of what is politely known as ‘the red light district,’ and of course imbibed some.” Around the same time, Howard told Carl Jacobi: “I prefer Piedras Negras, which lies across the river from Eagle Pass, and is somewhat cleaner and more progressive. The main charm about those Mexican towns to most people is, of course, the liquor, and El Paso is now just as wide open as anything south of the Rio Grande.” These are not Howard’s first mentions of Piedras Negras.

His March 2, 1932 letter to Lovecraft has the following: “I don’t know whether they’ve run the Chinese out of Piedras Negras or not. When I was there a few years ago—it’s the town opposite Eagle Pass, Texas—it was largely dominated by Chinese. They owned small irrigated farms along the river, and ran most of the best cabarets and saloons in the town.” And there’s one more mention, but we’ll look at that one a bit later.

1928 06-04 back-web

All of the above indicates that Robert E. Howard was in Piedras Negras at least, as he told Lovecraft, “a few years” before 1932. We need a little more help to pin this down. Luckily, Harold Preece moved around quite a bit in the late 1920s due to his work on the city directory crew. In January 1928, Howard told Tevis Clyde Smith to write to Preece at “905 Main Street, Dallas.” In February, we learn that Preece is “now in Wichita Falls.” A postcard (above) postmarked June 4, 1928 is addressed to Preece at the same Fort Worth address as the Piedras Negras postcard that heads this post. Preece’s July 26, 1928 letter to Clyde Smith is addressed from “202 Provident Bldg. / Waco, Texas,” and mentions a prize fight Preece and Howard “attended together in Ft. Worth.” In October, Preece was back home in Austin. All of this suggests that Preece was living in Fort Worth for a relatively short time in June and possibly July 1928. None of his other surviving letters, nor those of his sister Lenore, nor the surviving envelopes (the ones I’ve seen, anyway) or letters from Robert Howard—none of these suggest another time that Preece was in Fort Worth “a few years” before 1932; however, 1929 is pretty sketchy, with big holes in all of the correspondence, but the Junto mailing list for July and August don’t have him anywhere near Fort Worth, either. So, with 1929 a remote possibility, given all of the above, I date the Piedras Negras postcard to circa June 1928. And that unlocks another little mystery.

In volume 3 of The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard is an undated letter to Tevis Clyde Smith that begins, “Not even a movie in this god forsaken town.” That letter has the final reference to Piedras Negras that I mentioned above:

I didn’t see such a hell of a lot of Eagle Pass but I saw Piedras Negras—and the hottest girl I’ve seen in many a day—a skirt in a Mexican whore house away out of the polite section. Also I learned several new vulgarities in Spanish. Some nice looking strumpets in what they name The Reservation across the border and most of them brazen as hell—five dollars [which is 67.64 in 2012 dollars].

Looks like circa June 1928 will work for this one, too. I love it when things come together.

Sick Days

HPU1

[by Rob Roehm; originally posted March 6, 2011, at twogunraconteur.com. This version slightly edited.]

Since beginning my research into Robert E. Howard’s college experience, the exact date of his bout with the measles and absence from school has intrigued me. A surviving medical record says only, “Measles, 21,” indicating that Howard had the disease when he was 21 years old, sometime between January and December 1927. Not too helpful. So I decided to lay out all the pieces of information at my disposal in chronological order, plugging in other relevant information where it seemed to fit best. Maybe that would yield a definitive result.

The first mention of measles in the Howard record comes, of course, from his mom. Hester Howard’s January 4, 1927 letter to Bob states, “There are some cases of measles in Brownwood, and if you begin to feel bad, ache or feverish or anything, go to Dr. Fowler, Bailey or Snyder, or any of these men, & let them go over you to see what your trouble is. Try to be sensible about yourself & keep fit.” Like many young people, Howard appears to have done the exact opposite of what his mother wanted.

1926 Lasso - HPU-cu

Howard’s friend and roommate at the time, Lindsey Tyson (above, from the 1926 Howard Payne yearbook), related the measles event to L. Sprague de Camp in an October 10, 1977 letter:

While I am on this Main Street place [the pair’s boarding house] I would like to tell about one thing that amused me. While we were there an epidemic of measles got started; the Powells we were living with had a baby girl who got the disease. The Howards heard about the epidemic and came to take Bob home as he had never had the measles. Bob said this time I damn sure will have this stuff; he did not want to go. He went into a bathroom that the little girl had been using, picked up a glass that the child had probably been using, drank out of it, rubbed a towel over his face that he thought she had probably been using; well, he sure did have the measles, missed school for some time, but came out without any bad effects.

Howard tells a condensed version of the story in his autobiographical novel, Post Oaks and Sand Roughs: “The measles hit Redwood [Brownwood] and Steve [REH] was struck down, taking the disease from the Powers’ [Powells’] baby who died.” Since the source of the disease for Howard appears to have been the Powell baby, any information regarding her sickness might prove useful.

The first mention of the Powells’ daughter that I’ve been able to find is in the February 12, 1927 edition of the Brownwood Bulletin—just a quick note in its “Little Items of Local Interest” column: “Nelda June Powell, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. O. L. Powell, is quite sick at the family home, 1214 Main Avenue.” Being “quite sick,” she probably picked up the illness somewhat earlier than the February 12 date of publication.

Another “Little Item” on March 1 pins down the date a bit: “The condition of Miss Nelda June Powell, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. O. L. Powell, 1214 Main Avenue, who has been seriously ill for the past four weeks, is reported more serious today.” If the child had been “seriously ill” for four weeks, that means she had been sick since at least the beginning of February, and possibly not so sick as early as late January, the same month Howard’s mom was warning him about the measles. Time for a little medical research.

According to eMedTV, the measles has an eight to ten day incubation period when the afflicted are not contagious, further: “A person is mildly contagious when he or she first experiences symptoms, and is most contagious about four days before the onset of the measles rash. Some risk of measles transmission lasts until about four days after the rash starts.” And, despite Howard’s drinking out of the Powell baby’s glass and using her towel, he probably didn’t catch the sickness that way: “The virus is rapidly inactivated by heat, light, acidic pH, ether, and trypsin (an enzyme). It has a short survival time (under 2 hours) in the air, or on objects and surfaces.”

measles

So, if the Powell baby’s infectious period began with her symptoms, and the Brownwood Bulletin reported that she had been “seriously ill” since the beginning of February, it seems likely that Howard picked up the virus late in January, possibly early in February. He would then go through his own eight to ten day incubation period and start exhibiting symptoms in mid to late February.

In its “Mortuary” section of March 2, 1927, the Brownwood Bulletin has one last mention of Nelda June Powell:

Nelda June Powell, sixteen months old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. O. L. Powell of 1214 Main, died at the family home Monday night. Little Nelda June came to bless the home Nov. 3, 1925, and since that time has been a bundle of sunshine to the hearts of her fond parents. Many of the friends and neighbors who had learned to love little Nelda June in her short life on earth will join with the parents in mourning the untimely death of the baby.

The funeral services for little Nelda June were held at three o’clock this afternoon at the Church of Christ and were conducted by Rev. U. R. Forrest, pastor of the church. Immediately following the services in the church the little body will be laid to rest in Greenleaf.

Pall bearers for the funeral services this afternoon are J. Claude Smith, Harvey Jones, O. P. Latta, and Bruce M. Francis.

Post Oaks describes what happened after Howard contracted the disease:

Steve [REH] went back to Lost Plains [Cross Plains] and had as bad a case as any man ever had and lived. He found difficulty in “breaking out” and finally succeeded, after filling his hide with prescription whiskey. He missed some two months of school and spoke as follows of Gower-Penn [Howard Payne]:

“—and when I says to the bursar, I says, ‘I’m goin’ home to have the measles and likely won’t be back for a couple of weeks, do I get a refund on the money that I paid just the other day as tuition for the new term?’ ‘Oh no,’ says she, ‘we don’t refund money for just a few weeks.’ ‘But maybe I’ll be out for months,’ I says, and she says, ‘Oh no, we don’t refund money for just a few months.’ ‘Then will you extend the tuition over into the spring term?’ ‘Oh no,’ says she, ‘we don’t do such as that.’”

So, what records are available from Howard Payne? According to their catalog, the winter term at HP ended with the term examinations on February 26, 1927. The spring term began on March 1st. There are no grades recorded for either of these terms on Howard’s transcripts. This makes sense. If, as it appears, Howard missed the end of the winter term and the beginning of the spring term, there wouldn’t be any grades; however, his claim to have paid tuition on the winter term “just the other day” is problematic. That term began on November 29, 1926. Perhaps he was paying in installments.

Further evidence of Howard’s absence comes from the Yellow Jacket, the school’s newspaper. After a string of Howard yarns, it published “Cupid Vs. Pollux” in the February 10th edition; no stories after that date carry Howard’s byline, though two—“From Tea to Tee” (March 17) and “The Reformation: A Dream” (April 21)—are possibly his. Patrice Louinet is confident that “Tea” is not Howard’s. If that is the case, there are no Howard contributions from February 10 to April 21, which would confirm his alter-ego’s statement that he “missed some two months of school.”

There are a couple of pieces of information that place Howard in Cross Plains, rather than Brownwood, during the month of March. The first is a letter to Robert W. Gordon, who ran the Adventure section “Old Songs That Men Have Sung”; Howard had been sending Gordon old song lyrics for a while. The March 17, 1927, letter with “Cross Plains, Texas” at the head, includes the following personal information: “This time I have an excuse for not having answered your very welcome letter sooner. Measles! Can you feature a grown man being put into retirement for two months by measles?” March 17 was a Thursday in 1927.

The second piece of information comes from Post Oaks:

Steve [REH], as soon as he was convalescent, wrote many rhymes, all of which were rejected. He heard nothing from either Sebastian [Truett Vinson] or Clive [Clyde Smith] until he returned to Redwood [Brownwood].

“Oh yes,” said Sebastian as they walked along the street, “I was intending to tell you—Clive’s married and vanished.”

1927 Trail - DB Yearbook - Echla Laxson

According to the marriage certificate found at the Brown County courthouse, Tevis Clyde Smith married Echla Laxson on March 17, 1927—the same day that Howard was in Cross Plains writing a letter to Robert W. Gordon. The scene described above must have occurred later that month.

And there you have it. It appears that Howard contracted the measles in late January or early February of 1927. His parents came to take him home and he missed school from mid-February through at least late March, and possibly the entire spring term, for which he received no grades and which ended on May 24.

The Aztec Bar, er . . . Cafe

2009 REH 162

[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted February 22, 2010, at rehtwogunraconteur.com]

I was in Brownwood during my school’s winter break. I’d gone with my dad to tie up a few loose ends from our previous excursions. After crossing most of the “things to do” off our list, we decided to hit the road early, just ahead of some pretty bad weather that was coming in from the north. We spent the first night of our homeward trek in Odessa.

Having shaved a few hours off the trip, the next day we decided to stop in Old El Paso. It was nearing lunchtime, and I could think of nothing better to do than track down “The Aztec Bar” and have a cold one. Why, you ask? In a lengthy letter to Lovecraft, circa July 1934, Howard describes a trip west that he took with Truett Vinson. After visiting the Carlsbad Caverns, Howard and Vinson head for El Paso where they “saw pictures of the Baer-Carnera fight” from June 14, 1934 (below), and then “primed” themselves at, you guessed it, The Aztec Bar.

Baer-Carnera_2a1-530x317

We were still a half hour or so from the city, so Pop suggested that I put my cell phone to use. I pulled out the AAA tour book, found the correct phone number, and called the El Paso Visitors’ Center. “No,” the voice on the other end of the line said, “we don’t have a genealogy library, but there is a Heritage section in the public library.” I got the number and made another call. We were good to go.

We found the library with little trouble; finding a parking spot was another matter. We put an hour’s worth of coins in the closest meter we could find and walked the two blocks to the El Paso Public Library. Once inside, we found our way to the Heritage section. I immediately asked the gentleman at the help desk if they had a city directory from 1934. He asked what I was looking for and, after I explained, he went looking in a cabinet that contained an old-school card system. A few minutes later, he hadn’t found anything, and I repeated my request for a city directory. This time, he led me to a locked section of the library and went inside. A minute later, he returned with the book I’d requested.

Aztec listing

In a matter of moments we found what we were looking for, listed not under “bars” or “taverns”—Prohibition had been repealed in December of ’33—but under “beverages”: 100 San Antonio E. We double checked the address in the street listings and then asked for a 1934 map.

Lucky for us, the library had electronic copies of Sanborn maps. We pulled up the appropriate El Paso map (below) and printed the page that showed 100 E. San Antonio (corner building pictured at the top of this post). We were going to leave so that we could consult our modern map, but when we stopped at the counter to pick up our copy, the gentleman behind the desk gave us directions. It was just a few blocks away. You can type the address into Google Earth and it’ll get you in the right building.

Aztec map

We got back to the car with a couple of minutes left on the parking meter. We checked our modern map anyway, of course, and then followed the librarian’s directions downtown. After navigating the one-way streets, we found a parking spot right in front of 110 E. San Antonio. From there, it was a very short walk back to “The Aztec Bar.” Of course, it’s not a bar anymore. Today, it’s “Sunny’s Accessories” and, man, is it colorful inside.

2009 REH 159

2009 REH 170

Anyway, we took a few pictures of the place, and the old Plaza Hotel that towers nearby, and then hit the road again. We weren’t going to get anything cold to drink there. The downtown area has plenty of old buildings to look at, but I’d recommend visiting in the spring instead of the winter. And it’s always nice to knock another REH location off the list.

2009 REH 164

Or so I thought. It’s never that easy.

Back home, I started sorting through the pile of memorabilia that I’d scored while in Brownwood and, as usual, for every new item that answered one question, it created one or two new questions. Of course, it all started with my dad.

He was browsing around in a newspaper archive and found this:

SHOPPING PLEASURES come with a pleasant lunch or relaxing afternoon drink at the popular AZTEC CAFE, 102 E. San Antonio St. This week there are some special Chinese lunches by a fine Chinese chef for only 35c, besides the good American menus at the same prices. The ever-attractive bar is a popular meeting place for the business men of El Paso.

Aztec Cafe at 102 E. San Antonio? Great. The article above appeared in the El Paso Herald-Post on December 6, 1935, and not sometime in ’34. So, what happened? In 1934 the only listing for “Aztec” is the 100 San Antonio address. 102 is listed as an art shop. I’m guessing that sometime after the 1934 city directory was printed and before the above article was published, The Aztec expanded their business into the adjacent section of the building. This supposition caused me to reexamine the Sanborn map and my photos.

While Sunny’s Accessories is indeed located at 100 E. San Antonio today, based on a comparison of the Sanborn map, my modern pictures, and Google Earth’s satellite images, I’m now pretty sure that in 1934 Sunny’s would be in 102 E. San Antonio. So, the colorful shop I poked my head into was the Aztec Cafe. Oh well, at least I stood in front of The Aztec Bar.

Footnotes #1

Beginning a series of footnotes for Robert E. Howard’s letters. Most are far too obscure for publication.

1930 03-27 HaroldPreecefrom Lenore scrapbook-crop-sm

Preece’s Nose

Toward the end of 1928, Harold Preece, one of Robert E. Howard’s correspondents, was complaining about a nose problem. In his ca. October or early November 1930 letter, Howard responded:

Well, Harold, I’m sorry to hear your nose is troubling you again. I hope it will get alright. My own nose is nothing to brag about, having been broken several times. Man is a frail and very imperfect piece of nature.

Howard brings it up again in the ca. Dec 1928: “Hate to hear about your nose. What is that—sinus trouble, or septum or what? It must be Hell. Be careful about it.” Little details like this stick in my brain for some reason so, when I stumbled on the following passage from “The Spirit of Old” by Harold Preece, I immediately made the connection:

Within a month [of meeting Hildon V. Collins, a member of The Junto, in Waco] necessity forced me to undergo an operation upon my nose. Hildon went with me to the doctor’s office on the day of the operation. He conducted me back to the hotel and sat up all night with me. In a few days I was able to go to my home in Austin and recuperate. Hildon assisted me in getting my baggage to the station, seeing also that I was comfortably seated on the train. All this kindness to a youth he had known a short time [. . .]”

So the timeline for Preece’s nose trouble goes like this:

On July 13, 1928, Robert E. Howard and Harold Preece attended a prize fight together in Fort Worth, Texas (see “Dula Due to Be Champion” in Collected Letters vol. 1). That August, Howard wrote to Preece in Waco: “Glad you enjoyed our reunion at Fort Worth. I sure as Hell did. Yes, I’d have liked to have been with Truett, Hildon and yourself at Waco.”

1928 12 Lone Indian 00

“The Spirit of Old” appears in the December 1928 issue of The Lone Indian, a “tribe paper” put out by a member of the Lone Scouts of America, an organization to which both Preece and Collins belonged (Clyde Smith, Truett Vinson, and possibly Robert Howard as well). In the article, Preece explains when he first met Collins:

Two months previous to the time of this writing, I came to Waco, Texas, to fill an assignment made by the concern by which I am employed [the city directory crew]. Shortly after arriving, I became acquainted with Hildon V. Collins, LSB, who joined the LSA in 1926. We became quite intimate friends.

If tribe papers came out the month before the date on their covers, we can assume that the “time of this writing” is sometime in October or November, which places the time that Preece first met Collins around August. But in a letter from Waco, Texas, dated Thursday, July 26, 1928, Preece told Tevis Clyde Smith: “I wish you could have been with Truett, Hildon, and myself, the early part of the week. We had a prolonged and interesting session, and nothing was too sacred for the gamut of conversation.” That would place the meeting early in the week of July 23, 1928.

So, putting it all together, Preece tells Howard about his nose trouble sometime in July or August, possibly at the boxing match. A week and a half later, Preece meets Hildon V. Collins for the first time, somewhere around July 23. “Within a month,” Preece has an operation on his nose with Collins taking him to the doctor’s office and then seeing him to the train station to recuperate in Austin, this would be in late August or September. And we can do a bit better than that.

As luck would have it, Preece was a stickler for starting his letters with dates and places. His September 15 letter to Tevis Clyde Smith is from Waco. The September 30 letter is from Capital Station in Austin and begins, “Back home again. It is my intention to attend the State University for the spring term. I think that I can stand Austin for the next nine months, provided I am going to school.” So I’m betting that the operation happened between September 15 and 30.

All of which would end up like this in a footnote:

Well, Harold, I’m sorry to hear your nose is troubling you again 1

1 Preece had an operation on his nose at Waco in September.

And people say I’m obsessed.

1928 12 Lone Indian p29 Preece