J. Frank Dobze and Walter Prescott Webb
Nothing I have ever written comes close to meeting those standards,
but those words stand as a virtual definition of the man who wrote them.
JON D. SWARTZ*
I first met J. Frank Dobie when he was a man of seventy and I was in
my early twenties. I was a graduate student at the University of Texas at
the time and supported myself with various part-time jobs. During the
summers I worked at The Book Stall, a bookstore that occupied various
quarters in the area of the Drag where Dobie Mall now stands. I saw
Dobie frequently because he was a friend of the store's owner, Burwell
Pope, and a regular customer.
One day, during the summer of 1961, I was alone in the store-lo-
cated at that time in a small frame house on Poker Alley-going over
the page proofs of a psychology book I had coauthored. Pancho walked
in, chatted for a few minutes, and then strolled into a back room to
browse the shelves. I returned to my work, only to be interrupted a
short time later by two middle-aged women who came into the store
single file. They walked up to me and the one in front (who completely
hid her companion) asked peremptorily, "Where are all your copies of
West Texas Hellzon?" I replied that I didn't think we had that title in
stock, but could special order it if she'd provide some information.
"Oh, that won't be necessary," she said, "because here's the book . ..
and here's the author." And, handing me a copy of the book she had
taken from her purse, she stepped aside to reveal her companion. I
looked carefully at the book. The dust jacket described it as the story of
a busty wench from the West Texas oil fields who had bit and clawed
her way to the top of the world of roadside hamburger stands. The
dust jacket also had a picture of the author, but the woman standing in
front of me could have been her mother! Eventually I recovered from
my mental shock sufficiently to discuss the book and answer some ques-
tions about what I was doing: "You've written a book, too?" "What's it
about?" "Just how old are you?" We had a pleasant chat, as people of
letters do, and they were preparing to leave when they remembered
their reason for being there. Turning, they reminded me to order
many copies of Hellion because it was going to be a best-seller, undoubt-
edly outselling even Dobie's books. (I'll Tell You a Tale had been pub-
*Jon D. Swartz is an associate dean at Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/. Accessed April 18, 2014.