Publication date: August 2005
Digital Book format: PDF (DRM-Free)
In 1929 a new high school named for the Confederate general Robert E. Lee was built on the banks of Goose Creek, across Market Street and parallel with the tracks of the railroad where an Inter-Urban rail system connected the Tri-Cities area (Baytown, Goose Creek and Pelly) to Houston, twenty-five miles west. For the investment of twenty-five cents and forty-five minutes, you could travel one way between Houston and the burbs via rail. The Tri-Cities were in "oil boom" territory on the Texas Gulf Coast. Humble Oil & Refining Company, known today as Exxon, had invested heavily in this area by building both a petroleum and petro-chemical refinery and deep-water docks capable of handling ocean-going tankers which maneuvered up and down the Houston ship channel. The Baytown refinery was, until the 1960's, the largest oil refinery in the Western Hemisphere. The people who lived in this area were a hardy sort who carved a living out of the black clay, called "gumbo," and mosquito-infested, swamp-like, humid plains. Oil, or "black gold" as it was called, drove the economy here. The stench of it and petro-chemical fumes were, on one hand, abhorrent, but on the other, had the sweet aroma of money, and lots of it, which is why people were willing to live in this grievous place. My father, Allen A. Rice, born in Livingston, Texas and my mother, Lula V. Haralson, who was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and their families migrated to Baytown in the late 1920''s, and they were students in the inaugural Class of 1929 at Robert E. Lee High School.