Written by Liz Stewart
Dear friends …
I’ve been putting this off for as long as possible because how can one cram 50 years into a couple of pages? Also because I’m awed by all of your bios! But, here goes …
I was one of the late arrivals at the party! We moved to Midland from Houston in the fall of 1953 and what a surprise it was! I’d always lived in lush … green .. . humid areas and wasn’t at all prepared for the starkness of west Texas. However, what I first felt and saw as stark. .. bleak, even … soon became beautiful to me. It was an openness that gave me a sense of freedom and a thrill to be able to “see forever”!
At San Jacinto, I met my first friend – Chadsey Hayes – who helped me get over my initial shyness. Moving to a completely new place at age 13 must be painful for anyone, but it was especially so for me. However, I soon found my niche (and second home) at the most beautiful rusty Quonset hut I’d ever seen .. . the old Midland Community Theatre! Jr. High and H.S. years were full of plays and terrific acting classes with a true mentor and friend, Art Cole. (Roz Redfern and I knocked ’em dead as the two “mischievous weavers Zar and Zan” in The Emperor ‘s New Clothes!)
Wonderful memories: Finding the best friends ever in Roz, Mary Lynn Osborn, Mary Ada Rosson, Mary Jane Aldridge (and listening to endless Broadway musicals -Pajama Game – up in her room), Emily Stall (at whose house I first read about “Eloise” and her enchahnting life at the Plaza), Polly Langley, Patsy Aday (a movie theatre owner for a dad … How great is that!), Paula Crites, Ann Elder (who invited me to go to New Mexico one summer…and where the neatest guy gave me my first kiss … OK, I’ll admit it…I was a late bloomer), Mary Pat Speed, Sherry Benn, Susan Jones, Melba Davis (who groaned along with me through our debutante “season” in ’62), Carolyn Evans, and so many, many more .. .
. . . Starching “petticoats” in the bathtub on Saturdays, leading to my dad’s refusing to sit with me in church! We Episcopalians are up and down a lot and Dad said I sounded like a “damn sack of Fritos!”
… The gang (accompanied by Dennis Kelley, Bill Pannill, Hugh West, Kenneth Fletcher, etc. – AKA the “WestFlePanSki Brothers” -waterskiing at Lake Thomas. I will never forget Dennis dressed in a dark three-piece suit, cigar in hand, hitting the water. With Dennis under the surface, aJl you could see was that lit cigar being towed along like a periscope! I miss him! .. . Drama classes at MHS with my all-time favorite teacher, Verna Harris. Traveling to speech tournaments in the dead of winter on the “yellow dawgs” with ice forming on the inside of the windows! … The Youth Center dances … yearbook signings … Persian Melon lipstick. .. Whew! Needless to say, I had a wonderful time in high school!
This promptly led to my comeuppance at UT!
Mary Ada and I headed off to Kinsolving Dorm, corded bedspreads and sweater sets in hand. We went through Rush and pledged Zeta Tau Alpha (Mary) and Delta Delta Delta (moi). The only bad thing about my high school years was that I made great grades without having a clue about how to study.
One would have thought that having two brilliant gals as roommates (Mary and later another Liz from San Antonio), would have inspired me to great things, but no. I just continued having a super time which led to scho-pro, not making the grades for Tri-Delt initiation, but becoming involved with the most fun group on campus: the staff of the “Texas Ranger” humor magazine!
I’d gone off to UT as a Radio-Television major, but after learning that I wouldn’t even be able to touch a camera until my junior year, I switched to Speech Pathology and loved it. One evening, Liz and I were walking down Congress Avenue from our apartment and happened to meet a deaf student who scribbled a note asking whether we had any matches. We said, “Sorry, no” and walked on. When we got to our restaurant, there he was with a group of his friends. He waved us over and we started trying to communicate. They quickly taught us the manual alphabet and .. .I … was … hooked! The next morning I went into the Speech Building and asked whether there was “a course to learn how to teach deaf kids.” There was, and I became the second person in the program. I graduated in ’63 as one of the very few “Certified Teachers of the Deaf’ in the U.S. and started my career as a third-grade teacher at the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin. After two years I moved to Houston where I taught for the next five years.
Mom and Dad had moved back to Houston in ’64 so that was lovely. The only bad thing about it was that – except for the summer after my freshman year at UT, when a bunch of us took classes at Odessa College – I never really had any reason or opportunity to go back to Midland. I’m so sorry now that I didn’ t. I lost contact with so many of you and I’ll always regret that. My true love had always been acting and “the theatre” and I’d wanted to pursue that as a profession. But “born to reject rejection,” I went into something less risky but which provided a regular paycheck, meager though it was! When you really think about it, though, teaching the deaf is very emotive and so I was quite happy.
In 1968 my “baby brother” John (21) was killed in Vietnam and it hit me that life was indeed too short not to go for my dream of living in New York. I moved to New York in ’69 (actually Ft. Lee, NJ where I had friends) and started commuting to my new school, the New York School for the Deaf
in White Plains. What a wonderful place! And it was without a doubt the best thing I’d done in my life. A couple of years later, I got sick of the daily commute and moved up to Hartsdale, NY, a couple of miles from school. A good friend and I would get on the train on Saturdays, go into THE CITY to see a couple of plays and have dinner at Sardi’s! Heaven!
I became involved with an organization called “Bedside Network,” made up of professional actors, singers, and just plain “hams” like me, who volunteered at area VA hospitals. Remember that this was at the height of the war and the wards were full of returning wounded vets. We’d go to different wards and lead them in singing, or we’d have them star in radio shows using actual scripts such as “The Lone Ranger,” “Mystery Theatre,” or “Fibber McGee and Molly,” complete with sound effects. Each session was recorded and played later over the hospital PA system. It was extremely moving to see a lot of the men (boys in reality) come out of their shells and show off talents even they didn’t know they possessed!
Also, I had the opportunity to work with the National Theatre of the Deaf at their campus in Connecticut. Linda Bove (of “Sesame Street”) became a good friend, as did her husband who taught fencing classes. I’m reminded of Ed every time my knees crack going up and down stairs! My life continued happily – and singly – although by age 36 I’d acquired five cats and was well on my way to definite spinsterhood.
I’d been dating the Athletic Director at the school for several years and one day a couple of my friends asked me – idly – whether I thought I’d ever get married. “Oh, I don’t know,” I said airliy, ‘Tm waiting for a widower with three sons” a la Fred MacMurray!
About a month later my erstwhile swain decided to take his mom to North Carolina for Christmas, 1976. So .. . taking pity on the li’l gal so far from her Texas family, my headmaster and his wife Carolyn invited me to Christmas dinner! Also attending would be her brother and his family from Temple, Texas. And there I met the love of my life, my best friend, and true soul mate Warren Stewart! He’d been suddenly widowed two years before and (tah-dahhhh!) had three sons! After a wonderful evening, they invited me back the next day for Warren’s middle son’s 21st birthday. From there on, my life took a definite tum for the better!
Warren and the guys flew back to Temple; he called me mid-week and invited me to a New Year’s party being given by friends; he flew me to Temple; we drove to College Station and met my mom and dad; he asked me to marry him; I flew back to New York on clouds! All of this happened in one week and we married in New York six weeks later! I was finally back home where I belonged with a wonderful new family! Doug (now 56) and Greg (54) were out of college, so Andrew (then 12) was the only one at home.
Warren was the Chief of Clinical Psychology at a large medical specialty clinic and hospital in Temple, Scott & White, and I happily settled into being a “Sadie, Sadie Married Lady!” I stopped teaching, but soon became involved in local theatre and – over the years – a succession of “professions” … realtor, travel agent, part-time bookseller at our local Walden Books (where Emily Stall and her sister Kay found me one evening after about 30 years!), Manager of the Central Texas Orchestra, and Business Manager of the Temple Civic Theatre. In 1984, I went back to school at our local community college and got an Associate Degree in Telecommunications (finally!) and went on to host and produce community affairs programs for their PBS station. A somewhat checkered background and Warren ( or as Emily Stall has dubbed him, “Juan”) insists that the kiss of death for any job I take is to have business cards printed! I’ll admit that I really love learning more about how to do something rather than actually doing it!
Warren retired in 1994 and we took off in our motor home, traveling extensively throughout the U.S. We bought a bigger one and were on the road one year for over five months! Warren likens it to running off and joining the circus! He’s a musician as well (acoustic bass … the BIG one) and played with our local symphony for several years.
In 1999 we moved to Sun City in Georgetown -just north of Austin – and we love it! Warren plays golf and has a jazz combo which entertains all around the area. We helped form our local Georgetown Symphony Society in 2000 and I’m still involved in that as well as fundraising for the organization. A lot of my fundraising has been through organizing trips and we’ve traveled to China, Spain and Portugal, Greece, and Mexico. We were also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel all over Europe, Australia, Russia, and New Zealand.
I truly consider myself so lucky to have been blessed with Warren and our family (three sons, two daughters in law, and four grandchildren, aged 13 through 30) who live close enough (Wimberley, Fredericksburg, and Flower Mound, TX) that we can visit often. I’m also thankful for friends old and new, good health, and with the steadying and firm background of having lived in such a place as Midland, Texas!
So here I am after 50 years, looking back and remembering sleepovers at Roz’s, sandstorms, “come-as-you-are (kidnap!) breakfasts,” Princess phones .. . STOP ME!
Liz. What a great life. Your Brother John and I may have crossed paths in NAM. Did John graduate from MHS or LHS? If so let us know. Again your story is amazing. John
Hey Liz, a great positive life! Keep on keeping on! I experienced the same shock of moving from the green of Pasadena California to the starkness of Midland in December 1952 but grew to love the simplicity of the landscape. Best wishes, Bob Ittner MHS 1962
Liz, such a great story written with such candor! My wife found the same loves for theater, working with the deaf and doing speech and language therapy. Through your story, you show such a passion to get involved, help others and make the best for your life and your loved ones. I, like so many others, am greatfull for this “Water drinkers” venue that gives us a place to share our life stories with others who love reading them. Great life!