Labor Day always brings back memories of family reunions at a place called Honey Island. How that came about is the story I want to tell you.
My grandmother, Mazura Linscomb Garison, died in July, 1964 – less than a month after this picture was made. (The date of August, 1964, was the processing date. Mom was a little slow in getting to the drug store sometimes.) This picture shows me with my brothers and many of my cousins. I’m the shirtless one, second from the left.
Anyway, as I understand the story, after Grandma’s funeral, all of the cousins, family members, in-laws, out-laws, Garisons, Garrisons (we do have some 2 R cousins), Linscombs, Cottons, and others decided that it was a shame that we needed a funeral to have a family get-together. So, a few weeks later, our tradition of a family reunion came about.
In the heart of East Texas, in the middle of an area known as “The Big Thicket,” you will find the towns of Saratoga and Kountze. And back in the day, at least, there was a little place called Honey Island, where there was a large park with open air pavilions, picnic tables – and two large swimming pools, fed by artesian springs.
I remember the water had this vague, sulphur-y smell – it smelled like the crude oil that was just under the surface in that part of Texas in those days. We didn’t mind the smell. It was a great place to swim, to play, and to see (or meet!) kinfolks we hardly ever saw.
Near the swimming pool was an open-air pool hall that had a jukebox. CCR’s “Green River” and The Hollies, “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” seemed always to be playing. (Saturday night I was downtown, workin’ for the FBI…) Momma didn’t want us going near there, but you could hear the jukebox from the pool. And I remember a sign in the pool house/concession stand that said, “We don’t swim in your toilet. Please don’t pee in our pool.”
And the food that we shared at the potluck, of course, was great. Lots of (homemade) fried chicken and potato salad, and plenty of other good things. And watermelon. It was a great time to be a kid. And part of the family. The tradition continued for many years.
Eventually, of course, we stopped going to Honey Island. One by one, the older folks passed away. The kids grew up, moved away, had kids and families of their own. But I remember those good times of Labor Days past, and those cousins and family members I loved so much. Each funeral makes thinking of heaven that much sweeter.
A few months after my mom passed, there was a family get-together, which I didn’t get to attend. Maybe we’ll have another soon. I hope so.
Meanwhile, here’s a shout-out to all those cousins and loved ones who remember with me our family reunions at Honey Island. And to all of us, let me say, cherish your families. And don’t wait for a funeral to see each other.
Happy Labor Day.