A multi-class reunion for graduates of Hull-Daisetta High School was held in late September at the Raywood Gymnasium on FM 160. The Golden Oldies Luncheon, emceed by Kitty Key, was a time for former classmates to reflect on memories, remember the friends who have passed, and share a meal and a laugh.
The event was a “who’s who” of not only Daisetta, Hull and Hardin, but all of Liberty County, and beyond. Several of the graduates have gone on to teaching and coaching careers throughout Liberty County. Others have held careers as road-and-bridge commissioners, playwrights, authors, college professors, journalists and world travelers.
Those with the longest history in the community remember the communities of Daisetta and Hull in a much different light than today. With the discovery of the Hull oilfield in 1918, there was a huge increase in the population. Curtis Hortman, Class of 1954, was among the families that moved to the Hull and Daisetta area as a result of the oil boom.
“My dad, William Wiley Hortman Sr., came here in 1926. When he came here there wasn’t even a highway between Hull and Daisetta. There was a board walk where the old gaugers could walk to gauge their well. The road between Daisetta and Raywood was a ‘corduroy road’ where they had laid down old logs to make a road,” Hortman said.
Despite the size of the communities, people knew each other pretty well as they worked for the same companies, their children attended the same schools, they shopped at the same stores and watched movies at the same picture show.
“We used to be able to go down the street and tell you where everyone lived,” said Hortman, who now lives in Saratoga. “I wouldn’t even want to do that these days.”
The Hortman family lived on the south end of Daisetta, an area Hortman said was called “The Prairie.” The area where he lived is grown over and covered in trees now. Hortman said he and his siblings, Billy, Theopal, Ruby Thelma and Joyce (all now deceased) walked back and forth to school, which was one mile from their home.
“At that time, we had a picture show. Bonnie Jean Fregia made popcorn and sold tickets. The first service station that I can recall was run by a family named Johnson. There were other stations run by the Wilburns, Johnny Farris, Billy Malone and Walter Matthew. We had three automobile dealerships – Bill Mullinex had the Studebaker, Johnny Farris had the GMC Pontiac, Mr. Kahler had the Chrysler dealership. Mr. Anderson had the icehouse. Sidney Robinson and Jimmy Best had groceries stores, and Mr. Devine had the Piggly Wiggly,” Hortman said, though he could not verify the exact spelling of the surnames of all these late business leaders.
Many of the homes in the Daisetta and Hull communities were built by the oil field companies to house their employees, he said. The once-bustling communities began to shrink in size once the oil companies left.
Many of the other students at the reunion have local histories dating back decades to the time when their parents attended school in Daisetta. Linda Besch Gruver, Class of 1959 and a six-year cheerleader for H-D ISD, remembers the old three-story brick school building that sat on the same location as the current high school. Her mother, Margaret Evans Besch graduated from there in 1934.
“You could always see the oil fields all orange from the gas lights back in those days,” Gruver said. “Football games were the place to be on Fridays. People would be six deep along the sidelines. It’s sad now because we don’t have as many people coming to see the football games.”
Gruver said she and her friends were looking forward to this year’s reunion. It was the first one they have held in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Bobcat spirit never dies. We enjoy coming to the reunion. Kitty Key and the board have done an outstanding job with it,” she said.
In the program that was handed out to attendees was a history of Hull-Daisetta ISD. Here is a condensed history based on that information:
- A one-teacher school located at the back of Barngrover’s homestead was the first school in the area. A second school opened in a three-room building on the A. Merchant lease located in Common School District 21.
- 1921 – Nineteen students graduated from Hull’s school. By a special act of the Legislature, the Hull ISD was organized and the first trustees met for the first time on July 29, 1921.
- 1922 – A $100,000 bond was passed by voters. This allowed a school site in Daisetta to be expanded to 10 acres. A wooden building was constructed for grades 6-10.
- 1923 – A temporary wooden building was built for grades 1 through 5, and an 11-grade was added.
- 1924 – Thirty teachers are employed by the school district and equipment is installed for home economics, commercial subjects and a library.
- 1925 – A three-story building for high school and primary grades was built in Daisetta at the cost of $136,000. That same year, Hull Elementary was completed at a cost of $44,000.
- 1926 – The 39th State Legislature change the name of the school district to Hull-Daisetta ISD and enlarged its boundaries to its present-day size. Today, it still remains the smallest public school district in Liberty County.
- 1944 – Hull-Daisetta High School’s football team is presented the World Champion Trophy for 43 straight football wins from 1936 to 1939, setting a world record.
- 1965 – The three-story building was demolished to make way for a new high school.