Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

July 2, 2013

Folks with eyes on the prize

Corsicana — Small town America has a tightly-knit community fabric. The color may be “cotton-sack” bland — or maybe not.

Colorado City, Texas easily qualifies as colorful — serape hues, if you will — thanks to community leaders who have long placed the public good in front of personal gain. Included are such decorated public servants as the late Congressman George Mahon and his nephew, Eldon, a U.S. district judge for whom the federal courthouse in Fort Worth is named. Others have put down deep roots, with no intentions ever to leave.

The local radio station KVMC -- augmented by additional letters when FM came along — provides a long skein of service in the community fabric. Then local attorney Eldon Mahon and two out-of-town investors ended radio silence when the station went on the air in 1950.

When two other broadcasters are bona fide characters, community colors emerge.

One is Jim Baum, who, at age 76, is mayor again — for the third time. He’s held that office for 18 of his 33 years in C-City, having purchased KVMC in 1980 “with borrowed money.”

Another figure was Porter Richardson, a radio station “fixture” until shortly before his death at age 80 in 1995. Richardson was into virtually every community project, building stage props, starring in productions, broadcasting, engineering, selling, inventing — you name it.

Mostly, he was a model for goodness and community pride, joking that if he ever won the lottery, all he wanted from the winnings would be “a sticker burr-free lawn and a white Camaro.” About three months before he died, he won $4 million, easily the biggest winner in the area — ever.

Yep, the same guy who helped develop the atomic bomb during WW II Air Force service hit it big. C-City residents sported “couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy” smiles.

Though beloved, Richardson and a mischievous buddy didn’t endear themselves to the merchants when the Colorado River rose from its banks in 1938. The two youngsters puttered through downtown in a motorboat as merchants tried to protect their stores. Boat wakes didn’t help.

One merchant, standing on a box with a shotgun at his side, yelled, “Porter, you come back down this street in that boat and I’ll blow you out of the water.”

When word got out that a local person had won big money, speculation abounded. The town buzzed with “wonder who won” talk.

Baum called the lottery people, who promised to notify him with the winner’s ID when the prize was claimed. Jim beamed at the prospect of interviewing the new millionaire.

Upon receiving the call a day later, however, he was shocked that the winner was Richardson, who opted not to be interviewed. “When he got back from Austin, I was parked in his driveway,” Baum, his employer, explained. “Porter, this is a microphone and this is a tape recorder. And we are going to have a radio interview.”

At Richardson’s memorial service, glowing comments were made by leaders of a thankful community. Clearly, he was beloved, never wanting much for himself beyond a nice lawn and favorite car.

Residents knew a corner post was gone from the fence line. And they knew his void would require the efforts of many to replace.

Few could replicate the way Porter sauntered through life, mostly relaxed. His Air Force buddies remembered his taking naps during B-25 bombing missions, sometimes having to be awakened for his radar duties.

Eldon Mahon called him “a man of many talents — agreeable and loyal.” Strong words.

Baum put it well, too. “Porter was loved for many reasons, the least being that he won the lottery.”

Visitors to C-City learn quickly how to pronounce the town’s name. Locals insist they live in “Colo-RAY-do” City. “Colo-RAH-do,” they claim, names the river and the state.

While there, drop by the station, where the mayor hangs out most of the time.

Baum will brag about his town, tell you a story and, if you insist, sell you an ad. Ask specifically about his morning newscast -- that’s when he reveals the “road kill count” of varmints failing to make it across the road the previous night.

He, like the Mahons and Richardson before him, will do to ride the river with.

—————

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He may be reached by email at newbury@speakerdoc.com. Follow him on Twitter: @donnewbury. His website is www.speakerdoc.com.

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