The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002 Page: 384
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
384 Southwestern Historical Quarterly October
"rite de passage" (p. 87), are interwoven with lines from great poetry and hymns,
lyrics from popular songs, and advertising copy. Here is history you can touch,
stories you can believe, and opinions you can trust. Using secular parables in a
conversational tone, this narrator becomes a sympathetic neighbor with whom
you could share your innermost secrets.
Approaching her tenth birthday, Rodge moves from Redlands, California, to
Texas with her parents and younger sister for the father's new job at the Lone
Star Cotton Mill. The family's seven years in El Paso (1924-1931) become the
leitmotiv for the life of this octogenarian author. These years "turned out to be
one of those before-and-after events in life from which everything else can be
dated" (p. 9). The land and native plant life of the El Paso environs capture her
imagination, especially the "openness" (p. 1) of the desert and the vast blue sky.
At first this reviewer found it curious that Rodge identifies with the "clumps of
creosote" with "sticky leaves" (pp. 4, 50, 161). These straggly native bushes vol-
unteer in her mother's garden and dot her favorite strolls along Mountain Av-
enue and her excursions to Mount Franklin, Fort Bliss, Elephant Butte Dam on
the Rio Grande, McKelligon Canyon, and Sugar Loaf Mountain. She explains
that the toughness and hardiness of the creosote rooted in rock and caliche soil
strengthen her own will to survive.
Of her friends and the local characters, Rodge tells with lighthearted humor
of fun-filled teenage days: flapper skirts, shingled bobs, and Victrola records,
Betty Boop cartoons, radios, and Kewpie dolls, ballroom dancing at the "Y" and
Model T journeys, Juarez nightlife, errands to Quinn's Grocery, and moonlight
sails in catboats on the lake. With tenderness, compassion, and refreshing can-
dor she laments teenage suicide and unwanted pregnancies, bank failures and
the loss of her S. H. Kress and Co. lunch counter job, home eviction notices and
tuberculosis deaths, along with church-going hypocrisy and intolerance toward
Mexicans. National news appears like Woman's Suffrage and Prohibition. Larger
themes emerge when Rodge attends the newly opened "Texas School of Mining
and Metallurgy" (p. 20o3) for the education required to "spread the word among
the heathen in darkest Africa" (p. 152). Her studies intersect with a longtime ab-
sorption with the missionary work of her hero, Dr. David Livingstone, famous
mid-nineteenth-century British abolitionist and explorer in Africa. In disbelief
and with indignation, Rodge struggles through class assignments that not only
include Livingstone's accomplishments but the missionary's well-documented
feet of clay. Soon she reevaluates her dream of evangelical service in Africa and
shifts to other college goals.
Throughout Rodge's descriptions of people, spaces, and events, El Paso re-
mains the hero of the story. She remembers a special welcome in August of
1924. Wearing a "broad sombrero," a sixty-year-old man with a "weather-beaten
face" marked by "smiles," assures the newcomers: "Well, you come to a good
city, pardner. El Paso-Where the Sunshine Spends the Winter" (p. 19). Mary
Frances "Mafra" King Rodge outlasts even the winter "sunshine." After all, her
desert images last all four seasons of every year that follows. The magical spot
frees her to explore beliefs, dissect experiences, welcome a faraway universe,
and reorder priorities and life goals. It is here, in this most western tip of Texas,
that Rodge commits herself to a spiritual and day-to-day acceptance of human
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page or view the extracted text.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/m1/414/: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.