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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Navasota High School, 1914

It seems on days too numerous to mention, things have had amazing serendipity at Blues Alley. The "coincidences" surrounding my multi-faceted contact with Tary Owens are a good example. And then, while writing the previous blog about Kathleen Blackshear, even more of the same...

It all started when I got frustrated with Wikipedia. They erased my erasures, and put back very undesirable things in an article gone bad, due to relentless hacking, which I have more than a casual interest in. So I decided to get into the whole Wikipedia thing, to better understand it. I spent a whole day writing and rewriting a new article, just for Wikipedia. I chose to write about Kathleen Blackshear, as she has been neglected and is not found in this, the most popular of Internet encyclopedias. I had found a bunch about her on the Internet and in a book that I had... but I needed more... something deeper.

About 3:00 that Sunday afternoon, as I furiously pecked away with my two forefingers, Leon Collins walked in with something to sell... very rare and amazingly appropriate: a 1914 Navasota High School Annual, in those days called the Sachem.

I acted uninterested, as Bert began to look at it and read aloud. "Illustrated by KATHLEEN BLACKSHEAR! Art Editor..." She did the cover, the illustrations inside... there were quotes inside by her classmates about her. The price was going up. Leon knew it was something special. I was marginally aware of him, told him I was busy, to come back when I was through with the article.

He came back about thirty minutes later, hoping I was ready to deal. I was finishing the additions to my article, which I had just conveniently gotten from the old tattered annual. It was time to deal. Our eyes had just made contact when a woman bounded into the store, "My husband is looking for anything done by Kathleen Blackshear." Our eyes made contact again.

"Now Leon, you need to either..." Leon stopped me and reassured me the annual was mine. "This is your store..." He smiled and shrugged as we then turned our attention to the couple, looking passionately for a Blackshear piece, staring at the annual, wanting an original painting and hoping we knew of one for sale. We talked about the artist, the scarcity of her work, and gave a phone number of her living relatives.

This kind of thing happens about two or three times a year. But this time I was not only writing an article about her, but Leon had found our first actual Kathleen Blackshear artifact for our museum, just in time for my article, and brought it in minutes before these folks arrived. They looked upon the old annual with true interest. Hey, at least it was something tangible. I was more convinced than ever that the old book needed to be here on display at Blues Alley from now on, so others can come bounding in and see bits of our special heritage, and keep the legends of Navasota alive. And at least on February 20, 2011, Kathleen Blackshear was not forgotten, but as much the topic of conversation as if she were still about town.

Sadly, as then, most people in Navasota today have no idea who she was.

And the Wikipedia article? It was rejected and deleted swiftly, that very day, by a volunteer "deletionist" who gave little hope of it ever being used. That story is not over.

Caught up in the moment, with people breathing down my neck as I tried to negotiate with Leon, I'm sure I paid a little too much for "The Sachem." But, Hey, these pictures and this story were worth something...

The two Navasota beauties? Marie Danford and Melba Camp.

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