Postcard From Dobyville Ghost Town

Ghost towns are places where people lived and dreamed and died. They tell the stories of lost lives and abandoned dreams. Often times, the only thing left of an abandoned town is the graveyard. Such is the fate of Dobyville, Texas.

In the state of Texas, there are over 46,000 known cemetery's. No one knows how many others have been lost and forgotten. Time, weather, and vandals destroy the markers. People a generation or two removed from those buried move away and, over time, cannot be bothered to keep up the grounds. Weeds and brush eventually reclaim the land and erase any sign that people were buried there. Sometimes forgotten graves of those gone before us are bulldozed and paved over with highways and subdivisions.

Some of the known cemetery's are well-kept lush parks with mowed green grass, tall shade-trees and water fountains gurgling. Many others though are barren and desolate; quiet places offering stark reminders of our mortality. The Dobyville Cemetery is much closer to the latter than the former. The settlement of Dobyville was established in the 1850's by pioneers who wrestled the land from the Comanche Indians. By the late 1800's, Dobyville had dozens of residents and a post office, a cotton gin and grist and syrup mills. It also had a school, the Lone Star School, with 1 teacher for its 56 students.

WW II soldier killed in action near the
end of the war
Hard times and the hard limestone underlying the ground began to make it too hard to earn a living and the town began to decline in the early 1900's. Better job opportunities became available in larger cities and better roads made it easy to get away. The post office closed in 1900 and the school consolidated with the Lake Victor school district in 1921. In the 1940's there were few residents to take part in the community spring rabbit drive. The annual community event took place on a Saturday in late March or early April and families would gather for a day of hunting and picnicking, but by 1949, only a few scattered houses marked the community on county highway maps. Only a cemetery remained by the 1980s.

Although still active, the Dobyville Cemetery is a typical quiet, country resting place where love ones, recent and from years past, rest in eternal peace. Few people know about this place and drivers on U.S. Highway 281 will speed past it without seeing, without knowing that here lies people who lived their lives, dreamed their dreams, loved and were loved, laughed and cried and at one time, were important to someone.
Baby's grave - always sad to see

Another child's grave. RIP little one

Postcard from Graceland

You know how sometimes you hear stories about a thing or person for years and you begin to build it up in your head until it's pretty much larger than life? Then when you actually see it or meet the person, you suffer major disappointment. I'm afraid such was the case with me and Graceland.

I'm not a huge, go-nuts fan of Elvis; never have been. A long time ago, there was a girl I wanted to impress and since she was an Elvis fan, I bought a couple of expensive tickets for us to see the King of Rock 'n Roll in person when he came through town. He came out to the strains of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" – the theme from Stanley Kubrick's 2001 and began singing. The crowd went wild, especially the girls. I looked around confused. He sang a few songs then wiped his sweaty face with a white towel and threw it to the audience in our direction and this rather quiet, sedate young lady I was with turned into some kind of ferocious, get-in-my-way-and-you-die primeval beast! She got that towel and I became a little bit scared. She hung on to that thing for the rest of the night, guarding it like a mother bear with a cub. The concert was pretty good and my mission was accomplished as she was duly impressed. We didn't last, but I have no doubt she still has that towel.

Of course I had heard about the home of Elvis, the mansion known as Graceland; the rooms, the grounds, the parties that went on there. After his death, it became in my mind a sort of shrine, a bigger-than-life edifice. A while back, my daughter, who knows about Elvis but is not a big fan either, for some reason wanted to visit Graceland. The wife wanted to go also, so what the heck, let's do it.

Living Room
We arrived in Memphis on a Thursday evening with tickets for Graceland the next day. We drove by it on the way to our hotel and I have to say, it certainly didn't look like much from the street. Even the surrounding area was past its prime. The street in front, Elvis Presley Boulevard, was full of potholes and needed repaving. Not a good first impression.

I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but the next day, we parked in a lot & took a van across the street to the house. After waiting until our ticketed time, we were escorted inside. I guess I had expected the rooms to be large and ornate rather than the small, shag-carpeted glitzy kitsch-filled rooms most of them are. I'm sure they were cool back-in-the-day when Elvis was there and I'm also sure I had built the place up in my mind so much that anything less than spectacular was bound to be a bit disappointing for me. The house is over 17,000 square feet with 23 rooms, but throughout the tour of the rooms we were allowed to see, I just could not get over how small they were.

The TV Room. Yes, that's a strange
monkey on the table.
The 13-acre grounds were rather impressive and the Trophy Building where all of his jumpsuits, gold records, movie posters and awards were on display was very impressive. I spent more time there than I did in the mansion itself. His airplane, named Lisa Marie, was also cool to go through. The Meditation Garden, where Elvis, his parents, and grandmother, Minnie Mae Hood Presley, are buried is very nice and serene. Visitors are usually naturally quiet when visiting. Across the street is a museum of Elvis memorabilia that is certainly worth visiting. And of course, there is also a gift shop where you can purchase all sorts of Elvis-related souvenirs and mementos.

The kitchen where Elvis had his fried peanut
butter & banana sandwiches made
In spite of the disappointment over the rooms, the visit was worth the price of the ticket (at the time of this writing - $47.50 for adults, $42.75 for seniors and students, $22.50 children 7-12) if it doesn't put a strain on your budget, mostly just because it's cool to be there and tell your friends you have.

One place I would not recommend eating at is Marlowes Ribs and Restaurant on Elvis Presley Blvd. Our experience seems to be in the minority though as the place gets a number of good reviews. This is supposed to be one of Elvis' favorite places to eat, but if it was, they must have served him a lot better food than we were. My wife's plate of sliced beef was nothing but a big glob of fat and my daughter's chicken tenders were served cold. When we complained and sent them back, the waiter acted like we were being entirely unreasonable and a pain in his neck. A different waiter brought them back a while later and apologized, but the wife's brisket was still half fat and rather gross. Plus the place is in an area where we didn't feel very safe after dark. You may very well have a totally different experience than we did, but we'll never go back there.

The infamous Jungle Room
So go to Graceland, get your picture taken in front of the famous gates, and enjoy your visit, just don't go expecting it to be the Taj Mahal!


Inside Marlowes

The Texas Munster's Mansion

In these days of cookie-cutter houses in boring subdivisions, there are a few folks who are determined to be different. Take the McKee family for instance. To say they are fans of the old TV show The Munsters would be a bit of an understatement. And when it came to their family home, they certainly thought outside of the coffin!

Just outside the town of Waxahachie, Texas, the McKees built a near perfect modern replica of the Munster's mansion. Since there are no specifications for the TV mansion, the McKees watched all 70 episodes of the series multiple times to come up with what they wanted. Theirs is not as run-down and creepy, but it does have a dungeon, an electric chair in the living-room, a secret passageway, a revolving bookcase and a fire-breathing dragon named Spot under the stairway.

Each October, the McKees open their home and host a Halloween party with proceeds going to local charities. Al Lewis (Grandpa) and Butch Patrick (Eddie) have attended past parties. The rest of the year, the house is viewable from the street. It is the McKees' home so keep in mind and respect that it is private property. To see 1313 Mockingbird Lane, go to the actual address 3636 FM 813, Waxahachie, Texas.