August 7, 2020 - “Cecil, I think someone is in our house!” my mother exclaimed as dad drove our 1941 Chevrolet into the driveway to our house. It was dusk on a summer day in 1946. I was ten years old at the time, and we were returning from an exhausting road trip to Los Angeles, California. My brother, Richard, who was stationed at the naval base in San Diego, had been quite ill, and we had made a hasty trip to check on him. Now we were back in San Augustine, Texas, our home, but things did not look quite right.
There was a window open on the driveway side of the house, with the window screen propped up under the window. Even my childish brain knew that this was not right. My father agreed.
Dad pulled out his .38 pistol from under the front seat and exited the car. Mother warned, “They may be in there still, don’t go in the house yet.” Ignoring her, he crept to the window and peeped inside. Seeing nothing, he went to the back door, unlocked it, and inched his way inside. This proved to me that my father was afraid of nothing.
After checking all the rooms and closets, it appeared that the burglars had done their job and had already left. The sheriff was immediately called, and after he arrived the lights were turned on in the house which revealed quite a sight. Burglars had spent some time in our unoccupied house. They had struck matches to see in the dark and left burned matches all over the floor. They had emptied all drawers on to the floor, turned over all the mattresses on the beds, eaten food from the refrigerator, and generally made a huge mess.
After taking inventory, we discovered that the thieves took only men’s clothing, such as suits, boots, and coats. Also gone was our large leather suitcase, apparently stuffed full with the stolen clothes. My brother’s only nice dress suit was gone as well.
My grandfather, Felix, lived about one hundred yards south of our house, but he had not seen any suspicious activity. The burglary of our home was never solved. The sheriff ventured a theory that two prisoners had escaped from a county jail north of our town, and perhaps they checked houses along the highway until the found one that was unoccupied – ours. They needed clothes to wear in place of their prison garb. Perhaps they were hungry, and our home served their needs quite nicely. The sheriff’s theory sounded good to me. We were thankful that they had not set our home on fire with the matches they used.
So ended my first venture out of Texas. It was an exciting one, and we had indeed made it to California and back. All the people involved with this event are now deceased, except for my older brother who precipitated the whole thing.