By Candace Ord Manroe
The Granbury Tablet – October 6, 1983
THE “AMAZING” BLANCHE GORDON
When the white ball of canine fur known as Sweetie disappeared, there was an intensive search by Granbury police, as well as neighbors and friends of Blanche Gordon. Sweetie was returned unharmed to its owner.
When Blanche Gordon attends performances at the Opera House, it’s not unheard of for someone seated closer to the front to gladly offer his or her seat to Mrs. Gordon, who, lately, has some difficulty hearing.
In the grocery store, grown men approach Mrs. Gordon, put their hands on her shoulder and ask fondly if she remembers them. Of course they were boys when Mrs. Gordon knew them.
Why the respect?
“She’s amazing,” says next-door neighbor Cissy Wilson. “I just hope I can have that kind of respect some day.”
September 16, Blanche Gordon turned 96. Born in South Texas in Austin County, she moved to Granbury as a baby and has lived here since. She’s spent a lifetime earning the respect which is now hers without the asking.
“The day Sweetie ran away, all the officers were out looking for her. Once before that, she was stolen. A man found her way down below the peak. The man found my name on her tags and called me. I said I would go pick her up but he said, no, I shouldn’t have to drive. He brought her to me.
“Everybody’s so good to me. I don’t deserve it,” says Mrs. Gordon, who, despite her white hair and glasses, does not look her 96 years.
The secret of her good health, she says, “is that I just go all the time. I love life. I have a lot of friends. For instance, today, I’ve been out all day. A friend came in from Acton and we ate hamburgers out — the biggest ones you’ve ever seen — and we went to three grocery stores and shopped all day.”
Still dressed for shopping, Mrs. Gordon is wearing a matching pant suit, hose, black-patton dress shoes, a strand of pearls around her neck and matching pearl earrings. She also wears a small circular pendant on a chain. The pendant bears a photograph of her late husband, Jack Gordon, who owned five cotton gins in the area and a dry goods and grocery store in the building which now houses the Nutt Shell. Her nails are well-shaped and polished a fashionable shade of rose.
Those who know her well say Blanche Gordon’s penchant for good grooming is not confined to shopping days. Taking care of herself and looking her best is simply another facet of Mrs. Gordon’s zest for life.
Born a Dabney, Mrs. Gordon has only good memories of her childhood and younger days in Granbury. She says she lives in those memories often these days, the memories triggered by a multitude of family pictures and paintings.
“Here’s where I live, and I live with my people,” she says, leading the way through towering oak French doors from the parlor to the bedroom. “Here’s Poppa and Momma, here’s Jack, here’s my sister, here’s another of Jack,” she says in referring to a few dim photographs amidst a room filled with family memorabilia.
“Here’s another of Momma. She never left the house without every hair in place and dressed her best.” Obviously, Blanche Gordon learned well from her mother.
One of nine children, Mrs. Gordon lived out her childhood on a Hood County farm. Her father was in the insurance business and sent his children to Add Ran University in Thorp Spring (the college later moved to Waco and then Fort Worth where it is now known as Texas Christian University).
“Oh, we studied everything,” Mrs. Gordon recalls. “One of my sisters took painting, and I majored in voice and piano. When I went to school, you didn’t get degrees. You went so far and that was as far as you could go.”
As both a pianist and vocalist, Mrs. Gordon was accomplished, and her talents were in demand.
“I used to sing in the Opera House years ago when it was owned by the Shanleys. Mrs. Shanley was a beautiful woman and she would play my accompaniments. I had classical voice training but I sang other things, too. Whenever there would be something special going on and they’d want to put on airs, I’d sing classical. We always got big crowds and, lord, people would dress up like a sore thumb.”
Mrs. Gordon also traveled to Weatherford often to perform piano recitals — she preferred jazz — and, as a girl, she loved to dance.
“Jack was a divine dancer and I fell for him. Everybody wanted to dance with Jack.”
The couple grew up together — “we knew each other all our lives” — and on March 12, 1913, married in Mrs. Gordon’s sister’s home in town.
“Everybody knew Jack because he would buy anything that was for sale, for his store — pecans or whatever, then he’d up the price a little and sell it.”
Jack Gordon also had strong Granbury roots. His grandfather, Jack Wright, was the first sheriff of Hood County, and his father served several terms in the state legislature as the area’s representative.
The days of Mrs. Gordon’s girlhood and the early years of her marriage were distinctly different from current times.
“When I was a little girl, the town wasn’t as busy as it is now. Near here, I remember, there was a laundry and it had big old pots where the clothes were boiled. The owners had two daughters and they would stand there with big sticks, stirring the laundry.
“Granbury used to be cotton country. On the days they would bring the cotton in, the square would be covered with cotton wagons and cotton everywhere. They also used to raise wheat here, but now it’s oats.”
At the turn of the century, people had horse-drawn wagons and buggies. “Momma had her own buggy and nobody ever touched it. Poppa had his and the boys had theirs. Everybody had their own. Those were the good old days, though.”
In December 1913, only nine months after marrying Mrs. Gordon, Jack presented her with “a Buick car. It was one of the first in town. We had the first ballooned tires. Before, all the cars had those little ones. We went on a vacation in that car with the ballooned tires and the people at a national park didn’t want to let us go in because they were afraid we’d get bogged down in the mud with those big tires,” she recalls, laughing.
In discussing the changes she’s witnessed in Granbury, Mrs. Gordon inevitably finds herself talking about her late husband (“I don’t remember the year he died,” she says, blinking hard, “I’ve been trying to forget”) and her mother and father.
“As a girl, we had our own hogs, you know. Every Saturday, Momma had to boil a huge ham, just as regularly as anything. And she sure set a good table. We’d all come to the table, Poppa would say thanks, then when Momma and Poppa excused themselves, the fun would begin — after Momma and Poppa were gone. Fun times. Fun times.
“We always had company growing up. We had great big rooms and they were always full. Poppa always took care of the preachers when they’d come, and everybody had to get up and go to church and Sunday school on Sunday. Poppa was kind of a quiet man, in a way, but everybody came to him when they needed something.”
Once, as a girl of about 17, Mrs. Gordon remembers shocking her fellow townsmen after a three-month stay in Harlingen at her uncle’s ranch. “That was when those divided skirts for horseback riding had first come out. I bought one in San Antonio, and when I came back people here thought I was terrible. You wore those divided skirts so you [could] ride with a man’s saddle.
The Gordons never had children but they reared Mrs. Gordon’s nephew, Caroll Dabney, from the time he was six. Dabney is now a policeman in Bedford and Mrs. Gordon says she thinks of him as her own child.
Mrs. Gordon appreciates the preservation of the town square, but she has her own ideas about the one-way streets. “Nobody ever had any wrecks on that square before. Now, the way they’ve got it, you can’t find your way around. I don’t know where I’m driving now. I just drive through the first hole I come to. If they want to arrest me and put me in jail, I guess they just can.”
If the odds of Mrs. Gordon going to jail weren’t slim enough, they are now nonexistent. Mrs. Gordon gave up driving two years ago due to vision problems from cataracts.
She admits to having witnessed some interesting events and explains it by saying, “Well, darling, I’ve been here a long time.
“I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I’ve been in other cities and abroad — anywhere anybody would ever want to go. I’ll take Granbury every time. I love it. Jack loved it. Everybody here is go good.”
Happy belated birthday, Blanche.