Oral History Transcript - Clara Louise Cape - February 20, 1974
Interview with Clara Louise (Mrs. Ed) Cape
Interviewer: Stan Siler and Linda Chapple
Transcriber: Laura Kennedy
Date of Interview: February 20, 1974
Location: 344 Wood Street
San Marcos, Texas
Summary: For the first part of the interview, Mrs. Cape reads from a prepared statement that highlights what she remembered about San Marcos after arriving here in 1906 when she was about 15 years old. She talks about how different Texas was from Alabama, life as a student at the East End School, and the creation of Southwest Texas State Normal School. Mrs. Cape then answers interviewer questions, discussing topics including the San Marcos River, native vegetation, the Depression, her family history, and being a friend of Lyndon Johnson.
[Begin tape, 00:07]
Linda Chapple: The following interview is being conducted with Mrs. Ed Cape on February 20, 1974, at her home at 344 Wood Street in San Marcos, Texas. The interviewers are Mr. Stan Siler and Ms. Linda Chapple.
Clara Louise Cape: Good afternoon. It’s awfully nice of you to come over to see me. I feel quite flattered to be asked to give some of the history of San Marcos. Of course, I am 82 years old and I have lived in San Marcos all of those - most of those years. I came to Texas when I was about 15 years old and I have lived here ever since.
Things are quite different in Texas from what they were in Alabama where I came from and I don’t know what I can say to you that you probably don’t already know through research. I was born in 1892 and I wonder if that tells you anything about my life. About how I grew up and what was going along. Well, we had no electricity for one thing. And we had to hurry home from school to clean the lamp chimney and fill it with oil so we could study that night. And do all of those things and then I say, me and Lyndon. [Laughter] You remember when he turned the lights off in the White House and it made such a to-do and this was his explanation, that he also had to hurry home to clean the lamp chimneys and fill the lamps with oil.
I went to school to learn the three Rs and think of the many things that are offered to you. Why, you could stay in school until you’re 30 years old. I grew up in the Deep South in Huntsville, Alabama. A small city which attracted early settlers because it had a big spring. We called it a big spring in Alabama, but it is about the size of the San Marcos River and both of them cool and crystal clear. And now it’s a sprawling city. The home of Redstone Arsenal where the big rockets are born. And most of it is built on the land which my grandparents owned.
Texas would never had seen me except every time we had the chance of having a good crop the river would flood and wash it all away. But here comes a day when the Democrats were elected to office and FDR conceived the idea of TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority, est. 1933] and put it into operation so quickly and got laws passed so that no one can ever destroy it. The Tennessee River has been dammed and slowed down to a walk so that people do not have to fear it. It has made a chain of lakes for people to enjoy and use for power and why don’t we? We have the water right here and flood control should be our first consideration. Interest yourself to find out why we don’t have flood control and help to get it and we could build one or two small dams for the price of one flood.
Oh, enough of that. My mother developed TB [tuberculosis] and it was believed if you could just get to Texas the sunshine and the wonderful climate would make you well. When we left Alabama, the land was covered with ice and snow and we had on all of our winter clothes. We stopped in Waco to visit with my mother’s sister and brother. And it was very warm. In fact, it was hot and we took off all of our winter underwear. So we reached San Marcos as a blue norther was blowing in and I have never seen anything like it before or since.
Moses Cheatham met us at the train in the only cab in town and took us to the McLean’s [McMean’s?] house, a home hotel that consisted of five or six one-story cottages painted green. And we stayed here for, oh, probably a week and started looking for a house and when after the first night we waked up the next morning. Of course, we ran to the window to look out and what should we see but across the street from us there was a fire engine with live horses and a fire bell on a high tower and as soon as we ate breakfast, we all ran across the street and the men were very nice and let us climb all over it and we were simply thrilled to pieces to see something like that.
I needed to study Texas history and it was very hard for me. I had had English history in the 7th grade in Alabama, but Texas history was a must here and we were very fortunate in finding a home just across the street from the old East End School and Miss Laura Bell Donaldson was my very first teacher and Adeline Neighbors was my best mate and I studied my Texas history and made a fair grade and so they let me go on because I was really ahead of the other children in the other subjects. There were three girls in my neighborhood so I had friends right away. One was Lucy Johnson and one was Adeline Neighbors and one was Mary Hutchings.
For entertainment a skating rink was nearby and I’m so glad I knew how to skate and my new friends were glad, too, because sometimes when you’re trying to help somebody that doesn’t know very well it’s a little difficult to hold them up. But they didn’t have to hold me up and they were mighty glad. We sometimes took the Johnson horse and buggy down to a ford in the river and we ate cheese and crackers while we waited for the steel ties to soak. I’m sure you all don’t know anything about horse and buggies and anything about the steel ties, but if you don’t go down the wood will shrink and the steel bands around the wheels will drop off. So they were very glad to have two little girls, but we waded in the river and enjoyed it a lot. It made for a lot of fun.
There were no movies as yet, but we had home talent shows and the Elks Minstrel was the main event of the season. Would you believe there was not one paved street in San Marcos? The streets were made of dobe [perhaps she refers to adobe or caliche?] - ooh! What was that? Well, it was slick as glass when it rained and one-foot deep in dust when it didn’t. I came from Alabama and I never heard of dobe [laughter].
Guadalupe was a residential street and we were lucky to find a place right on that street just across from the old East End School. East End School is quite a historic school now because it was the only school in San Marcos when I can and it only went to the 8th grade. The courthouse had burned and the cornerstone laying was quite a county event. It was a very large crowd and we children were right on the front row to see the performance. Then soon the battery run telephone came into being and not many had them, but a few. And soon followed the automobile and the college was built in nineteen hundred and three and it was here when I got here. Just one building and the only requirement for entrance was that you be 16 years old. The hill had been occupied by a Chautauqua and it became defunct and ran into debt and it was about 13 acres up on the top of this hill and old Judge Wood had moved here from East Texas with a lot of money and he had given this land to Chautauqua and after they no longer used it for Chautauqua the leading citizens of the town joined Judge Wood and got the deed cleared - the title to the land cleared. They took the deed to the legislature because we had heard that there was to be five or six normal schools scattered around over the state of Texas and San Marcos was eager to have one of them. So this land, this 13 acres, was offered to the legislature if they would place one of their state normal schools here. I have already told most of what I have written down here. Oh, I did say there was no such thing as a degree of any sort. They just gave you a teacher’s certificate and then you could go out and teach. But we did have waterworks. From the very beginning I remember the old ice house was our only waterworks and from that they made the electricity, but it was very limited.
Siler: What about San Marcos and its recreation by the river side.
Cape: Well, there was really no organized recreation. We furnished our own fun. It was fun to go Kodak-ing on Sunday afternoon and we generally walked to the fish hatchery. The fish hatchery was a beautiful place and it was the only park we had at that time and it was lined with beautiful trees. Old Captain Leary was the superintendent of the United States government fish hatchery and he came from a part of the world where he loved trees and he brought all of the native trees down and planted them and I, coming from North Alabama is very wooded and it has mountains. It’s just at the foot of the mountains and it meets the Tennessee River and forms a lovely verdant valley. And I was interested in everything in Texas because you have many things out here that I never saw or heard of. On the way out as we came across the - we drag down to Memphis and we came across the Mississippi River on a ferry boat, but the next train came on a big bridge that had been built across and it’s still there and the trains come across the river on this bridge, but we came across on the last train to come over on a ferry boat. I noticed the trees particular and the birds even were so different. And I would say, “Oh! What is that?” Well, they didn’t know. Why, the beautiful retama tree very few Texans even think of it. They’re so accustomed to seeing it they don’t what a retama tree is, but the body is green and very beautiful and in hot weather where there’s very little rain - we live, this is a semi-arid part of the world, although it’s perfectly beautiful. These trees, every time you would either water them or we’d get a showered rain - “retama” means in Spanish “shower of gold” - it would burst into bloom with just all over with their lacy leaves and their blossoms about the size of a nickel that were really yellow and tipped with orange. And it’s quite beautiful to me. I just love them. And then you have the huisache tree that it just looks like a mass of gold when it’s in bloom and I don’t know why the Texans don’t appreciate them more. They come in and they just cut down hundreds of them and build a house and I just don’t understand why all the beautification does not use the beautiful things that they have here. Native things that will not need a gardener. We are not an oleander country. Now, down on the coast and near over in East Texas oleander bloom and grow beautifully, but we are not an oleander country. We have the mountain laurel that’s a traffic stopper. In the winter time all winter it has very small dark green waxy leaves. It needs no gardening, it’s native to our soil. You don’t ever have to water it. It lives right through the drought and why do we go out and gather up a lot of money and then just turn it over to a florist and they plant things that have to have a gardener. And we do not seem to water things as much as they need if they’re florist flowers when we have all of these native things that people just stop and gaze at because they are so beautiful, but the people of Texas seem to be so accustomed to it that they think nothing of it.
Siler: You must love blue bonnets since you have a lot
Cape: I never saw a blue bonnet until I came to Texas. Never saw any of the wildflowers. We don't have those, but we did have daisies and we loved to go out and pick the daisies in the springtime. They grew wild. And jonquils grew wild. Sometimes we’d just have, where there’s a little spring, we had many spring branches and along there where there was laurel there was flowers. But not just out on the plain like we have on in Texas.
Siler: When did you come to San Marcos?
Cape: In nineteen hundred and six.
Cape: Um hm.
Siler: And you came over by train?
Cape: Yes, came by train.
Siler: And, did your entire family come with you?
Cape: The entire family came and I had four brothers and there were two girls. I had one sister.
Siler: What did your parents do when they came to San Marcos?
Cape: Long ago boys - all of the family lived at home and boys followed their footsteps and all of my grandfathers owned land. They were landed people and they didn’t know how to do anything but help their father operate the lands. They had slaves in those times and they watched over the slaves to see that the slaves did their work and when we no longer had slaves they tried to operate the land as best they could, but most of them were not successful and unfortunately my father was not one. And so when he came to Texas he was what they call a traveling salesman, but now that’s another story because in those days there were many traveling salesmen because we did not have the advertising. We did not have the transportation. We did not have all of that and men would come around with large suitcases and visit all the stores to sell everything from toothbrushes to most anything you might mention. Everything was sold by traveling salesman.
Siler: That’s interesting. You said you went to school in San Marcos.
Siler: And did you go to the normal school?
Cape: No. I wasn’t 16 yet so I couldn’t go to normal school, but I graduated - I brag because I graduated from old East End School.
Chapple: Did the Texas climate improve your mother’s health?
Cape: Did what?
Chapple: Did the Texas climate improve your mother’s health? You said you came . . .
Cape: Oh, yes, but it didn’t make her well. Many people during these years and earlier years came to Texas because some member of the family had developed tuberculosis.
Chapple: Were you the oldest child?
Cape: I had an elder brother.
Chapple: And have your brothers and sister stayed around this area?
Cape: Well, no. There’s just three of us left and one lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee and I live here and one lives in Helotes, Texas, and one lives in San Antonio.
Chapple: What did you do when you graduated from high school?
Cape: Well, you have drama and many of you take - what do you call it? Speech?
Siler: Speech, uh huh.
Cape: And drama, and in those days we had elocution. And I went to old Coronal Institute - the last year of its existence  - and took elocution from Miss Georgia Fisher. And I taught small children how to read and how to speak and especially poetry. I taught them to recite poems like “The boy stood on the burning deck.” [Laughter.]
Siler: You married a Mr. Ed Cape. How did you meet him? When did y’all get married?
Cape: Well, he was just one of the boys around town. Now, little girls grew up in a different atmosphere. In Alabama we had dancing school and we had dancing classes and we went once a week to dancing class and everybody went. And everybody danced. And I got to San Marcos and I found out it was a sin to dance and nobody danced. And then was an Elks Club organized and they had a very nice quarters upstairs over an old building on the square. I don’t think of the name of the building right now, but next to the first - right across the street from the First National Bank. And it was the only club in town and the only social place where large groups could gather and it was very popular and the ladies could have bridge club, could play bridge or dominoes or whatever game they chose to play and have many tables and I’ve been to many parties up there where they had at least - well, I would say 25 tables. There might have been more, but the place was full of tables. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun and the ladies took a great deal of pride in having the place very, very pretty. Then the members of the Elks Club would have dances and because I could dance everybody invited me and I never was a wallflower because I already knew how to dance and I helped everybody who wanted me to - to learn how to dance. And soon there was more dancing in San Marcos, but it never did grow to any large size, but then we were not a large city at that time.
Siler: About how many people were living here during this period?
Cape: Oh, dear. I never was much on arithmetic or statistics and I have no idea how many people were here. I can tell you that the city limits extended in every direction about, well, to the college. It ended at the college. And then it ended at the Katy Railroad, you know, that way. And up that way, up toward Austin I don’t know how far it went, but there was - the farmlands began then. And then there were earlier, in the very earliest days there was a caravan came over, made up of some 10-20 families and Mrs. Zora Talbot has written a book about Stringtown and they settled from Al Lowman’s house to Hunter, as far down as Hunter. And that was called Stringtown and they were all related, most of them related, and if they weren’t related the children married into each other’s family. By the time, in a few years, most everybody in San Marcos was related to each other.
Then on the other side of the river, Kyle was organized and it was quite a large community and the railroad came to Kyle before it got to San Marcos and they had a railroad - and that brought a number of people to Kyle and eventually that broke up the livery stable business was a very lucrative business because that was the only transportation. They furnished the transportation for weddings and for funerals and for their drummers, the traveling salesmen would sometimes come in and from here they would rent horses and buggies and go out to Lockhart or go out to New Braunfels or all around the surrounding area until the train finally got over to San Antonio. But I don’t know what year that was. But the train ruined the livery stable business and then everybody that had livery stables either sold them or closed them down.
Siler: Going back to Mr. Cape, when did you . . .
Cape: Oh, Mr. Cape. You want something about Mr. Cape. Well, he ran away from home from New York state up there on the Erie Canal. He remembers the Erie Canal when he was a small boy. His mother died and his father married again and he didn’t like that and so - but it was not unusual for boys to run away from home in that period. Many men left home long about that time to make their way in the world. He walked and he found people who would take him in. Farmers were delighted to have a strong young boy to come in and help them with the chores around the house and stay with the children and do anything that came to hand just like a member of the family. He finally came to San Marcos and he spent a few nights under the moon and stars at the head of the river. Then he met a man who wanted him and who took him in and he stayed with them and he was a very prominent man. Oh gee, I don’t know if that’s [tape distortion] now, how old would he be?
Siler: He would be - it would be 1975.
Cape: Mr. Cape came to San Marcos when he was 14 years of age, which would make him born about eighteen hundred and seventy-five. During the 58 years that he resided in San Marcos, Mr. Cape served in numerous capacities of honor and trust. Oh, it says, “as follows: as postmaster four years, under appointment of President Benjamin Harrison.” Well, you shouldn’t be interested in that particular thing, but Coolidge and Hoover and the last time that he was, well he served on the public school board from nineteen hundred and eight to 1922. He was vice president and then president of San Marcos Public Utilities Company in nineteen hundred and nine to nineteen and sixteen. He helped to organize the State Bank Interest Company. And then my husband, his son, Ed Cape served as president after Mr. Barber’s death. I think the bank now had just had four presidents.
Chapple: The first one was Mr. Cape senior and then who?
Cape: No, Mr. Cape senior was never president. He just helped to organize it. To tell you the truth I don’t know who was the first president unless it was Mr. Will Barber. And then Ed followed him and now Bob Thornton, Ed’s son-in-law, is now president. Oh, here’s something interesting: he was a former Worshipful Master of the San Marcos Lodge No. 342 AF and AM and was a member of the San Marcos chapter No. 129 Royal Arch Mason. Now, would you like to know who he was survived by?
Siler: Yeah, go ahead.
Cape: He was survived by his widow and four sons, E.M. [Edward Matthew] Cape, attorney; Horace Cape, farmer and ginner of San Marcos; John D. [Dewey] Cape, engineer with the Alamo Iron Works of San Antonio; Enos Cape, a civil engineer with the highway department at Lufkin. Three daughters: Mrs. Walter H. Tiner of San Marcos; Mrs. Hugh Echols of Goose Creek, Mrs. Hubert Wyatt [Ruth Cape] of Houston. And one brother, Martin Cape of Dalton, Nebraska.
Chapple: How old were you when you married, Mrs. Cape?
Cape: I don’t know, but I married in 1913 and my only child was born in 1915.
Chapple: What’s your daughter’s name?
Cape: Mary Louise. Marie Louise Cape. Married to J. Robert Thornton.
Chapple: What was your husband doing at that time? After you married. Was he a lawyer yet?
Cape: Um hm. He graduated in law school from Valparaiso, Indiana. He graduated in A&M first in engineering and got a law degree from Valparaiso, Indiana.
Chapple: How many lawyers were there in San Marcos then? Was he the only one?
Cape: No. I recall that there was first Mr. Will Barber and then there was Mr. Earl McGee [?] and then I think Mr. Cape and I believe the others were a little bit too young for that period.
Chapple: When did he take over the presidency of the State Bank? Was that much later?
Cape: [tape glitch] . . . that we opened the new hospital and they turned the business part of it over to the Seventh Day Adventists to operate for the county. The Pink Ladies organized. I can’t tell you the exact date, but this will be easy to find in the county records what day it opened. And I’m looking at a picture of my daughter Mary Louise Thornton who is modeling a pink apron, which later on gave name to an organization of Pink Ladies who still serve the hospital. They go and they are not allowed to do many things for the patients, but they take the flowers to them, they take the mail to them. They write letters for them and do any other chore that the hospital asks them to and after they organized a short while they thought a cupboard would be a very nice thing to do. Some people came out and they needed a drink of coffee or they needed cokes or they needed various gifts for babies that would come and it was nice. At first the cupboard was very small, but now it became so popular and so necessary and so many people ask for the service that they have now, the hospital has seen fit to give them a place of prominence near the front door where everybody can see them and the space is much larger. And they sell sandwiches made in the kitchen of the hospital and they’re always fresh and good and they sell many articles and do a wonderful service and it’s the nicest organization in San Marcos, I think. And they organized in my home and I can’t tell you too much more about that except there is underway now a history that is being written about this organization. About how it came into being and I’m very happy that both my daughter and I had a part in implementing it and organizing it.
I’ll tell you a few things about my son-in-law now. He hitchhiked his way - and I’m looking at a picture right now of this nice looking, slim young man with his thumb out hitchhiking his way to Texas. It was during the Depression days and he was just out of high school and he was very disappointed that he was not going to be able to go to college. His father was a lumberman and the lumbermen in Mississippi were the hardest hit of any of the people in Mississippi at that time. So, he had a brother-in-law, Mr. Murreph (sp?) who operated the compress - cotton compress - here in San Marcos. And he came out to work in the compress with his brother-in-law and this is how Mary Louise met and married him. And he now goes from a hitchhiker to bank president.
Siler: This was during the 1930s, right?
Cape: Yes. It was during the Depression. Was that the thirties? I’m awfully not clear on dates. [tape glitch] The board - it was the reserve board - Bob Thornton Chairman of the Board and President of the State Bank and Trust Company of San Marcos has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the San Antonio branch, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, according to Carl H. Moore, Vice President in Charge of the branch. Thornton’s appointment was made by the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and is for a term of three years.” But it doesn’t give the date here, but he’s still on the - he’s still serving on the Board.
Siler: How did he meet your daughter? Did he go to school with her?
Cape: Yes, they went to college together.
Siler: At Southwest Texas?
Cape: Um hmm.
Chapple: Where were you and your husband living during the 1930s Depression?
Cape: Right here.
Chapple: Right in this house?
Cape: No. We were living out in a little house on San Antonio Street that we paid $6 a month rent for.
Siler: When did you move to this location?
Cape: This is not my home.
Siler: This isn’t?
Cape: This is Bob Thornton’s home. He bought it just the year that Camp Gary opened - not Camp Gary, but it grew into Camp Gary, but it was first a United States government flying school. There were men here that were wanting the contract to build this opening on this - I want to call it a camp, but it’s an army installation. It was a school more than any other thing and at that time, why, there were lots of builders here and this house was on the market first for $50,000 and then for $40,000 and then for $30,000 and then for $20,000. And finally George Norman Martindale, the son of Mr. Norman Martindale, told his good friend Mr. C.M. Allen that the house was on sale for $12,500.
Cape: And Mr. Allen just took out his checkbook and wrote him a check for $12,500 and the next morning he called Bob and said, “Bob, I bought you a house last night.” So that’s how Bob got this beautiful home.
Siler: It is a beautiful home.
Cape: It is a beautiful home. It was built for the first president of the Baptist Academy, Mr. J.M. Carroll, and was called Carroll Hall. And it was built the year the Baptist Academy was built and they were opened about the same time. And this house has entertained all of the big Baptists that would come to the school to look at it with the idea of making them nice, big contributions and he entertained all of these - the big Baptists of Texas have been entertained in this home. It has never been a rent house. It has never been rented. It was sold several times, but it was never rented and it’s never been abused and the floors and the walls and everything else is in absolute perfect condition. So far as I know, there’s never been but one thing to go wrong with the house in this window right here the windows are open, let up and down with weights. Long, round weights about two or three or four feet long and one rope has worn out in all these seventy-five years that this house has been standing. And when I took the window - we took the window off to fix the rope on the, I believe they call it pilaster, on the pilaster there on this window is written the name of who built and when it was built.
Chapple: Does your daughter and son-in-law still live here?
Cape: Oh yes. They live downstairs and I live upstairs.
Chapple: Well, that’s nice.
Cape: When we get through I’ll take you through it if you would like to.
Here’s John Connally. Oh, do you want me - you asked me to tell you, to talk about Lyndon’s years. There was a time in San Marcos before Lyndon’s day and it continued in a small way through his period of years because the Depression came on. But before that time San Marcos was small enough - the college was small enough that the townspeople knew all of the teachers and most of the students. Knew them personally through church or some other way.
And if you had a vacant room you were considered really unpatriotic if you didn’t let a student have the room. And in that way, most every family had at least one student friend. Maybe a number of them, but you had at least one student friend. And how did I know - or how did we know that we became friendly with a young, struggling student that he would turn out to be the President of the United States. But we knew that he was smart and he came from a poor family and he had to work his way through school. He didn’t have time to play football and he did not have any time to spare at all and when he did he was janitor and he swept out the president’s office. There were several other boys who did this.
Now Bryan Wildenthal was another that I call to mind right now that came along a little bit later. He was a little bit younger than Lyndon. But he kind of travelled the same road and swept out the president’s office and finally before his death he became president of Sul Ross out at Alpine. So most all of the boys of that era who came up, there was some help from the federal government for them. That helped them to stay in school. John Connally was sort of in that group, but I think he went to the university. Earnest Morgan was in that group, but he came here later. He was not one of the early students. I believe that he lived in Kyle and that he went to the state university first and then came back down here to school. There were a group of boys, Jake Pickle was in that group. There were a group of boys and when they United States government closed the camp here in San Marcos - the school here in San Marcos - the deed was so written that in case the federal government did no longer use the land then it would revert back to the City of San Marcos. And I think that is - that still holds true.
So, the government has to make some use of this so when the Depression and the need came up for Camp Gary, they just were glad to have established this school for boys. This was just such a thing as had happened to the country when Lyndon and John Connally and Walter Richter - oh, there were many I can’t - these are the ones that I call to mind right this minute. And when Camp Gary had its opening, they all sat on the platform and they joked with each other and when it came their turn to make speeches, they told about their experiences. I wish we might have had a tape recorder at that day and time, because to have that program would be well worth the price of tape recorder. But we did not have that in that day and time. But it was such great pleasure and fun to me to sit in the audience with Lady Bird and listen to these boys talk to each other about their day. And the poor boys of all colors and from many states came and they were pretty well shaken up to think that the President of the United States, the governor of the state, and the representative from our district would stand there and put their arm around them and shake them by the hand and wish them good luck. They were just - they were amazed and they didn’t believe that such thing was possible, but this really and truly happened and all these boys said, “Boys, think nothing of it. We at one time were in a place like this and look what it did for us and I hope it will do the same for you and we want to ask you personally to do your best to make it meaningful to you.”
Siler: After Johnson left Southwest Texas and San Marcos it seems that he did keep up his friendships here.
Cape: Oh yes indeed! He never forgot a friend. If you ever befriended Lyndon Johnson anything in the world he could do for you he would. I remember one time people who did not know him so well, one of the boys who had worked with him and for him and worked awhile in Washington for him was getting married. He was just a poor little boy and an unknown and Lyndon as Vice President of the United States flew down to some small South Texas town to be his best man. And people were surprised because they did not know the connection, but I did. I knew the boys and it’s fun to me to go to all the meetings. They still meet once a year and get together and talk over old times and when you go to any kind of a meeting and Lyndon was going to be there all of these boys were there.
Chapple: How did you first meet him? Did he live in your house?
Cape: I met him here in San Marcos through my husband. He was interested in law. He was interested in everything and he found Mr. Cape to his liking and when I went to - he invited me to the White House and I went. There were many people standing around, I suppose reporters of various sorts and people who work in the White House, but I was surprised to find such a crowd in the White House and everybody wanted to know how I was because he put his arm around me and kissed me as he always did and they said, “Who is she?” And so he introduced me as “This lady and her husband were the first people to pledge me their support in my first campaign.” So that’s my only bid to fame.
Siler: And did you also know his wife before they married?
Cape: Yes, Lady Bird was dear. I didn’t know her intimately and I did not know her well, but I grew to know her because Ed followed Lyndon’s campaign trail and I followed with him and she followed with Lyndon and we were thrown together quite a bit and whenever they came - whenever they were in San Marcos, why our home was open to them. My home was not a fine home, but it was large and able to hold the whole family and they knew they were always welcome in my home.
[tape skips ahead]
Cape: . . . picture. You might - I might tell you that I have in front of me a scrapbook that I have kept for many years and I just said to the young man and young lady who are taping this, now here’s a good example of Lyndon never forgetting anyone. The procession was walking down the aisle and I was on the front row and he passed right by and he had gone, oh, quite a few yards before he turned his head and saw me standing there and he came back and gave me his usual greeting and everybody says, “Well, who is she?” And fortunately, my grandson and his young wife were standing beside me and the picture makes a very, a priceless thing for me as I recall and remember all of the meetings we have had. And see the smiles on all the people’s faces?
Chapple: Where is this from?
Cape: This was taken in the gym at the college when Dr. McCrocklin was inaugurated president. And it was snapped by a man from KTBC all the way across the hall and it was on TV. But the college journalism department gave me the film of this picture. And any time that Lyndon was here the photographer was here and they happened to catch me and the president or someone from the college always sent me a copy of the picture.
Siler: What was that letter that you just passed up back here?
Siler: No, the next page.
Cape: This? This is the invitation which I received to the inauguration of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Isn’t it beautiful?
Siler: It is.
Cape: It’s all taped up here so I didn’t want it to slip out and I certainly didn’t want, so I can’t take it out and show it to you, but it says “Inaugural Committee requests the honor of your presence to attend and participate in the inauguration of Lyndon Baines Johnson as President of the United States of America and Hubert Horacio Humphrey as Vice President of the United States of America on Wednesday the 20th of January One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Sixty-Five in the City of Washington. Dale Miller, Chairman.”
Siler: Did you go to the inauguration?
Cape: Indeed I did. I was sitting on the front row. As I say, Lyndon never forgot a friend. If you ever befriended him, why, you had a friend for the rest of your life; and also we knew John Connally very well. I loved John.
Chapple: How were you able, how did you come in contact him first?
Cape: John? He sort of belonged to this same group. He was the same sort of age, but a little bit younger. But he, we were all poor at that time and John has a brilliant mind and he came from a very poor family and he made it on his own. But Lyndon helped him a lot. You’d just be surprised. I wish I could name all of the boys that he has promoted, but right now I just don't call them to mind. I can remember what they do, but I can’t call their names.
Well, I would like to tell you that since I am not able any longer to drive my car, I gave my car license up voluntarily, which is most unusual I believe, but I realized in my physical condition with my eyes like they were, it wasn’t safe for me to drive any longer. So I voluntarily gave up my driver’s license and I haven’t driven in fifteen years. And then I fell down and broke my leg and I have not recovered from it yet, so that further handicaps me. And during these fifteen years I have gone in for genealogy and my brother had just retired from the Navy and he was very, very frail and he had nothing to do. He was not physically able to take a job, and he needed a hobby. So I went to see him and I took along an old book that was about our family that was written in 1885 - 1858 it was. And I said, “Todd, I brought along this book.” And he said, oh he didn’t care a thing about that old book, you know. But he had insomnia that night and couldn’t sleep and so he thought, well, he’d pick up this book and see what it was like. So he never laid the book down and from then on he was an ardent genealogist.
He lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee and, well Chattanooga has a wonderful library. Tennessee is very historically minded and he spent most of his time in this library reading and fortunately they had a very good Xerox machine and he would send me a lot of things and I would send him a lot of things. And between us we have gathered probably five hundred pages of Xeroxed material. Now, I could’ve rewritten this, but then I might have accidently made a mistake - put an eight where a five should’ve been or something of the sort. Then I would if I had printed the paper and printed the book and had it published, you would have to have a typist, she might make a mistake. You would then have to have a mat made of it and they might make a mistake there. So you had three chances of people making mistakes. So I decided to just collect Xerox copies and Xerox doesn’t make mistakes. And I have these, about five hundred pages of it.
They contain a bible and I’ll begin at the beginning by saying, in sixteen hundred and seventy-four, a young Episcopal minister came to Virginia from England and they did not stop on the shoreline as most of the first immigrants did. They came inland quite a distance and established a small community, which they called Middle Plantation. After Jamestown burned twice and Bacon’s Rebellion, the people decided that this was, the coast was unhealthy and they must move further inland. And so, where should they come but to Middle Plantation.
Well, when the small community heard about this they were very excited. This was to be the colonial capital, which meant a lot of dignitaries would come here to live and they said, “Oh, we must have a new church!” They just had a little one-room church. And so they got their money together and they must have had slaves because it is brick building and the slaves were able to make brick at that time with mud and straw. And the people began coming and … the name of the place was changed to Williamsburg. And the church’s name was Bruton Parish and it still stands and this minister served the church until his death in sixteen hundred and eighty-eight. And his son’s home is one of Williamsburg’s restorations. The Orlando Jones house. And is used in connection with Williamsburg Inn.
Siler: What was your brother -
Cape: The elder, the first minister to Bruton Parish Church is buried behind the chancellor rail of the church as is his son Orlando and his wife Martha Macon.
Siler: What was your brother’s name that collected this material with you?
Cape: Todd Harrison.
So, here I am in nineteen hundred and seventy-four, which makes three hundred years that my family has been in America. And the names of all of Reverend Roland Jones, all of his descendants, are in this book that I have put together. I have sent a copy to the Yale University because one of his grandsons graduated from there in eighteen and eighteen. I have sent one to William and Mary College because his son Orlando Jones graduated in sixteen hundred and ninety-eight. And I have sent one to the Tennessee Archives because one of them married the daughter of Judge John Haywood [spelling?]. Tennessee historians all know about Judge John Haywood.
Siler: This tape will be given to the Southwest Texas Library and put into the library and do you have any reservations about anything that you’ve said that you think you would like to be held out of this discussion?
Cape: I believe everything. I’ve sort of been talking off the top of my head, but at the same time I can’t think of anything objectionable that I have said and I hope I haven’t said anything I shouldn’t say.
Siler: Okay. That’s fine.
[End tape, 1:00:38]