elsa
Home Up

 

Elsa, Chapter 72 and 73 is about George Mitchell, Mrs. Ballantyne's brother. 
 

 



DESTINY


CHAPTER SEVENTY TWO: 
BROTHER AND SISTER

Written by Rick Archer

 


SUBCHAPTER 317 - GEORGE AND MARIA'S PARENTS

 

Savvas Paraskevopoulos was the father of Maria Ballantyne (Mrs. Ballantyne to me) and her brother George.  Paraskevopoulos was born in Greece in 1881.  Since Paraskevopoulos could neither read nor write, as a young man, he made a living as a goat herder.  Although Paraskevopoulos was poor and uneducated, he was strapping lad with lots of ambition.  Seeking a better opportunity, Paraskevopoulos decided the only way he could make something of his life was to emigrate from his small mountain village of Nestani in Greece to America.   Paraskevopoulos immigrated to the United States in 1901.  He was 20 when he arrived at Ellis Island.

Due to his strength, Paraskevopoulos got a job as a laborer on a railroad gang.  He gradually moved west wherever his railroad job took him.  One day Paraskevopoulos was working in Arkansas when he went to his Irish foreman to collect his pay. 

"What's your name, mister?" the foreman demanded.

 

In broken English, he replied, "Savvas Paraskevopoulos."

The foreman stared at him in disgust.  "I can't say your name or even imagine how to spell it," the foreman snapped. "Use my name or I'm going to fire you."

"Okay, what's your name?" Paraskevopoulos asked.

"Mike Mitchell," the foreman said.

"Well," Paraskevopoulos said, "then that's my name too." 

And with that, Paraskevopoulos traded his Greek name for an Irish name.  Now known as 'Mike Mitchell', his cousin had recently arrived in America.  The two of them decided to meet in Houston.  There they opened a shoeshine stand near the Rice Hotel in the center of downtown Houston. 

Mike Mitchell would eventually leave turn out to be a bum.  However, in the beginning he was a hard worker.  He settled in Galveston, Texas.  In Galveston, he ran a succession of shoeshine shops.  Soon he branched out into a dry-cleaning shop that pressed and ironed shirts as well as other clothes.

 

One day Mike saw the picture of a beautiful Greek woman in the local Greek newspaper.  He was immediately smitten.  Only one problem - this beautiful young lady lived in Florida. 

Mike lived in Galveston, but distance was not a problem. Mike was undeterred.  Though still scraping to get by, a lifelong condition, Mike hopped on a train and headed for Florida.  Mike traveled 1,000 miles for the sole purpose of asking a woman he had never met to marry him.

When he got to Florida, Mike discovered the girl of his dreams, the stunning Katina Eleftheriou, was already engaged to someone else.  Indeed, she had recently arrived from Argos, Greece, to enter into a marriage arranged by her sister. 

Mike took the news in stride.  He wasn't the sort to quit easily.  As long as she wasn't married, Mike had a chance.  In fact, since Katina Eleftheriou was marrying a complete stranger herself, Mike figured she probably had not formed a serious attachment yet.  

Mike was a born hustler who knew how to turn on the charm.  He told Katina that he had made it this far from Greece to begin with and now he had come 1,000 miles from Texas just to see her.  As opening lines go, that had to be impressive. 

Mike added that he lived a life of ease thanks to his many businesses.   Of course, with a thousand miles of separation, Mike felt comfortable exaggerating the extent of his fortune.

 

Young Katina Eleftheriou was quite flattered.  Dazzled by this extremely confident Greek-American with his beautifully tailored suit, ample supply of clean shirts and fresh carnations in his lapel, Katina liked him a lot better than the guy her sister had found for her.  Mike had succeeded in sweeping the young lady off her feet.  Breaking off her engagement to her first suitor, Ms. Eleftheriou married Mike and hopped on a train back to Galveston. 

One has to wonder what the former Ms. Eleftheriou thought when she realized the new luxury home Mitchell had promised her was actually a tiny apartment above Mike's shoeshine shop.  However, she must have seen promise in her new husband because she stuck around.  If nothing else, this fellow was aggressive.  That he was.

Mike and Katina had four children.  The first three were boys, Johnny, Christie, George.  Then came Maria in 1920, the same year Prohibition started.  Following the birth of Maria (Mrs. Ballantyne), the next eleven years were full of happiness for the family.  The children's mother was warm, nurturing and deeply concerned about their fortunes.

Then in a flash, it was all gone.  In 1932, a terrible misfortune befell the family.  That is when Katina suffered a stroke.  The children's mother died soon after.  It was a heart-rending tragedy.

The two older boys, Johnny and Christie, were old enough to take care of themselves, so they left the home and got jobs.   However their father decided he did not have the means to take care of the two younger children.  Mike farmed his son George out to his brother and sent Maria over to live with his wife's sister.

 


SUBCHAPTER 318
- BROTHER AND SISTER

 

George was 13 and Maria was 11 when their mother Katina died due to a stroke.  It was a terrible tragedy.  Their mother was only 44 at the time. 

Then came the next blow.  Shortly after their mother's untimely death, their father had a serious car accident and suffered a badly shattered leg.  Their father was in no condition and no mood to take care of his children.

Johnny and Christie, the older brothers, were old enough to take care of themselves.  After their mother died, they went off on their own and were not around much.  Unfortunately, George and Maria were far too young to do the same.  Practically overnight, they had lost everything.  First their mother, then their father, and now their two older brothers.

This series of blows left the children reeling.  For a time, George and his sister Maria were forced to drift from home to home without any idea what their father was planning to do with them.  Things eventually stabilized for the children when their father's brother agreed to take George.  Maria went to a different home.  Under pressure, Maria's Aunt Virginia, Mike's sister, agreed to take care of the girl.

Things were far from idyllic for Maria, 11.  She hated being separated from her brother and missed him terribly.  In addition, her Aunt Virginia and Uncle Gus had three children of their own.    Young Maria found herself in a new home where there was little money and she wasn't welcome.  Maria grew up feeling worthless because neither adult paid much attention to her.  Making things tougher, she found herself ostracized by the Greek community due to her father's cozy relationship with the mob. 

The 1932 death of Katina Mitchell coincided with the peak of Sam Maceo's influence.  Gambling was wide open in Galveston and prostitution was rampant.  The Maceo brothers had the police in their back pocket and operated at will.  Maria's father Mike was not a member of the Maceo operation, but he did run errands for the Maceo brothers whenever there was a chance to earn a quick buck. 

 

Although the Balinese Room down the street was the most popular place to gamble, there was gambling in a hidden room at the restaurant where Maria lived.  Gus and Virginia's restaurant was a favorite hangout for the Galveston mob, so the customers were usually a pretty rough crowd.  Maria's father Mike popped in frequently to see if there was a job for him.  If there was no job for Mike, often he would visit the hidden gambling casino at Gus and Virginia's restaurant.  This was generally the only time Maria saw her father.  Her father rarely paid a bit of attention to her. 

Typically two very dangerous looking men took turns sitting at the table guarding the entrance to the casino door at the restaurant.  It was their job to let the right people in and keep the wrong people out. 

Inside the gambling casino was another door.  This door led to a side room where scarlet ladies exchanged their charms for a fee.  When business was slow, the girls would invade the gambling area and ply the customers with cheap booze.  That was typically the easiest way to stimulate business, but if that didn't work, then the girls went outside on Post Street and whistled at every man within hearing distance till they got some action.

Immediately following her mother's death and her father's disappearance due to the car accdient Maria, 11, was scared out of her mind in this new environment.  Her two older brothers took off and her aunt and uncle didn't exactly step up willingly.  Worst of all, George was gone.  He was now living way across town, much too far and much too dangerous for Maria to visit. 

A month had passed since brother and sister had been separated.  One day Maria gasped when George showed up at his sister's new home riding a bicycle.  "Where'd you get that bike?", Maria asked.

"I've been fishing in the bay and sold everything I caught to the seafood restaurants next to the Galvez Hotel.  That's how I bought this bike."

Abandoned by her father and neglected in her new home, George recognized his sister Maria was in great pain. Taking note of Maria's loneliness, he made sure to ride over every day after school.  From that point on, George and Maria were inseparable. 

 

Truth be told, George, 13, needed Maria almost as much as she needed him.  George stepped into the void created by his father's absence to become the best Big Brother he possibly could.  Although they lived apart and went to different schools, every day George made a point to check in on his kid sister. 

Sometimes Maria joined George in his fishing boat where he made his spending money, but most of their afternoons were spent playing tennis together on a city court.  George was an excellent player and loved the sport.  Although Maria was younger and nowhere near as fast, she was athletic enough to keep up.  Maria became George's favorite sparring partner.  The constant day in, day out volleying with Maria created a considerable improvement in George's game.  In fact, George became so good that he would one day become captain of his tennis team in college. 

Like many boys of his generation, George believed it was a man's world.  George showed no mercy tormenting his kid sister with his superiority.  Deeply competitive, George once told Maria she would never beat him.  Infuriated, Maria tried as hard as she could, but George was right.  Not once did Maria beat George in their after-school matches.  It was not until George moved to Texas A&M that Maria was able to ambush him one Christmas. 

 

For a while there, it was George and Maria against the world.  During the three years following their mother's death, George and Maria had each other but practically no one else.  They grew as close together as humanly possible for a brother and a sister.  Drawing strength and courage from the other's presence, together they overcame the terrible blow of losing their parents.

There were many times when the brother and the sister were alone.  During these moments, George and Maria talked about their parents often.  They agreed their parents deserved a lot of credit for having the courage to leave their homeland for the 5,000 mile trip to America. 

George said he had the exact same instinct within him.  George said he identified with the Mexican immigrants who risked their lives to come to Texas.  His father and mother had shown great determination within them to come to America.  Likewise George said that if he had been born a Mexican, no wall and no river would ever stop him from coming to America.  Proud to live in this land of opportunity, George insisted to Maria he would take any risk necessary and do whatever it took to succeed in life.  George said there was a powerful will in his Greek blood to succeed at any cost.  Maria nodded.  She felt the same way.

It was the great mystery of their lives why their father had turned to darkness.  Neither George nor Maria could figure out what happened to their father.  Before their mother's death, he had been a hard-working man with his own business.  Mike had somehow fallen off the path.  Shirking his duties as a parent, Mike decided true happiness lay in gambling, hustling a buck and womanizing.  George and Maria vowed never to repeat their father's mistake.  Due to the pain of losing their parents, they made a solemn vow.  George and Maria promised that when the day came to be parents themselves, they would become the finest parents imaginable. 

The three year period that George and Maria spent together after their mother's tragic death undoubtedly marked the birth of their incredible legacy as parents.

Family first, hard work, determination, and the resolve to never quit until they made something of themselves.  That was their shared vow.

 

The first few months following her mother's death was sheer misery for Maria.  However, her life was made bearable once George returned.  Thanks to George's constant presence, her teenage years were not miserable, just very lonely.  However, her home life was tough when George was not around.  Maria was forced to grow up fast.  She spent many a night washing dishes at the family restaurant and bussing tables.  Then she went to her room and studied hard.  Like her brother, Maria was convinced that education held the best route out of this fix she was in.

George left his own home at the first opportunity to go to Texas A&M in 1935.  He was only 16, but graduated early to escape.  George's departure triggered the toughest time of Maria's life.  Uncle Gus and Aunt Virginia had wanted to move to San Antonio for some time, but hesitated due to the relationship of George and Maria.  Now with George gone, there was no reason to postpone the move any longer.  So off to San Antonio they went. 

Maria was completely alone in the new city.  She missed her brother terribly.  Her brother George was virtually her only friend in the world and now he was gone. 

George understood what his sister was going through.  While he was away at A&M and she was in high school in San Antonio, George wrote letters constantly as a way to stay in touch.  Maria kept every single one of the letters and read them whenever she got down.

Unfortunately George was in no position to look out for his lonely sister to any great extent.  He was fighting tooth and nail to stay in school at A&M.  Since George had virtually no money, he took every job he could find.  He waited on tables at the residence hall for 25 cents an hour.  He built book cases and sold them to A&M cadets.  He sold candy.  He sold stationary to lovesick freshman so they could send love letters back home.

 

Three times George came within a whisker of being tossed for non-payment of tuition at Texas A&M.  Finally the day came when George was done for.  He couldn't pay up.  Against his will, George was forced to contact his father.  Considering how bitter George felt towards his father, he obviously had no one else to turn to.

George was incredulous when he learned that Sam Maceo, the famous Galveston mobster, had stepped up to give Mike Mitchell the money George needed.  However, George had no idea that Mike had kept half the money for himself. 

George would ask his father for help two more times and both times his father sent more money.  Oddly enough, George never quite understood why Maceo kept helping him.  That is because Maceo had kept tabs on George's progress at A&M.  George was at the top of his class.  This was quite an accomplishment for a first generation son of Greek immigrants.

The day came when Maria was ready for college as well.  However, money was tight in Maria's home and her chances didn't look good.  Maria was deeply upset.  It broke her heart to know she would not go to college.

One day a letter arrived with a check.  George had written to insist that Maria go to college.  Enclosed was a check to cover enrollment for the first month.  George was in his Senior year.  George explained he saved up money from his summer job.  Now that he had an extra job at school, George promised to keep sending money.  He added how pleased he was to finally be in a position to help.

Maria guessed the truth.  In her heart, she knew that George had worked himself to the bone to raise enough money for to pay for her to go to college.  Maria realized George was going to do the same thing for her he had done for himself... work long hours to pay her tuition one month at a time.  There was no way on earth George could keep this up.  Fortunately, at this point, Sam Maceo learned of Maria's plight.  He decided to step in and cover the young woman's costs.  George and Maria were utterly flabbergasted at the kindness of Maceo's offer. 

 

Thanks to the help of Sam Maceo, a man George and Maria barely knew, it all worked out.  Now there would be enough money for Maria's education.

While Maria was in college, George's support was unwavering.  George sent constant letters of encouragement.  One heartfelt letter at Christmas time would become part of family lore.  In this letter, George promised to take care of his kid sister Maria through thick and thin.  After revealing how incredibly protective he felt towards Maria, George called attention to how lucky they were to have each other.

George told his kid sister Maria that one day he would give her the life she dreamed of.  George never wavered from his promise.  Obviously it was this sentiment that moved George to offer Maria the valuable property that became the Ballantyne family home in River Oaks.

George and Maria were close their entire life.  They would go on to create two large families full of remarkable children.  They agreed they had so little in terms of money and home life that it toughened them and softened them at the same time.  In one sense, their hardships made them determined to do whatever was necessary to find success later in life.  On the flip side, their suffering made them both determined to give back any way they could once they were in a position to help.  It seems obvious that their early struggles became the source of George and Maria's deep empathy for the less fortunate.

 

Rick Archer's Note: 

Unfortunately for Galveston, by the time the Seventies rolled around, the city was in serious trouble.  Galveston's Seawall Boulevard and the downtown Strand area showed serious signs of neglect.  So did the beautiful ancient Victorian houses.  Now that the city had fallen upon hard economic times, it was no longer the tourist destination it had once been.

Fortunately, a native son put Galveston onto his back and returned Galveston to prosperity.  That son was Maria Ballantyne's mysterious brother George. 

This story is not only incredible, there is a powerful hint of mysticism as well. 

I think the time has come to meet George Mitchell.
 

 

 


THE MAGIC CARPET RIDE

CHAPTER SEVENTY THREE:  GEORGE MITCHELL

 

015 030 045 060 075 090 105 120 135 150
INTRO CSU HUBRIS MOONDANCE CATASTROPHE TREACHERY COINCIDENCE DR. HILTON CHILDHOOD TERRY

001

002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009 010
ABANDONMENT ST. JOHN'S FATE TWO MOTHERS INFERIORITY BASKETBALL MR. SALLS LEPROSY PAINT IT BLACK COMEBACK
011 012 013 014 015 016 017 018 019 020
LOSING MY MIND LITTLE MEXICO COLLEGE FEARS SELF DESTRUCT ABYSS VISITOR M BALLANTYNE TWILIGHT ZONE PROPHECY FINISH LINE
021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029 030
HEARTBREAK JOHNS HOPKINS BLIND SPOT SUSAN & WITCH MAGIC MYSTERY RIDERS STORM GOOD BAD LUCK LRNED HELPLESS CONFRONTATN COURTESAN
031 032 033 034 035 036 037 038 039 040
PHOBIA LOVE POTION RIVER OAKS 7 PROPOSITION KARMIC TEST REMATCH HELEN GLORIA MARK RACHEL
041 042 043 044 045 046 047 048 049 050
INTERVENTION STRANGER LOVE TRIANGLE MORLOCK MANIMAL CELESTE KATIE BLACK JACK WANDERER GODZILLA
051 052 053 054 055 056 057 058 059 060
PATSY SWAYZE ELENA YEAR OF CAT RUBAIYAT OPPORTUNITY SNF CROSSROAD MAGIC CARPET JET SET CLUB KINDNESS
061 062 063 064 065 066 067 068 069 070
TALE 2 CITIES BROTHER SISTER GEORGE MITCHELL              
071 072 073              
                   
 
  TIMELINE
   1978: February  Mrs. Ballantyne's Surprise visit to Stevens of Hollywood (44), Mr. Salls-Mrs. Ballantyne-Rick Archer Triangle (45)
   1978: January  Spotlight Effect (41), Incompetence Effect (42), Crossroad Synchronicity (43), Nicholas at Courses a la Carte
   1977: December  Saturday Night Fever debut, Robert Stigwood Synchronicity (40)
   1977: October  Opportunity Three: Disco Line Dance class at Stevens of Hollywood (39)
   1977: September  Opportunity Two: Disco Line Dance class at Memorial JCC
   1977: August  Graduation Night at Rubaiyat (38)
   1977: June  Opportunity One: Disco Line Dance class at the JCC
   1977: April  Bomb Scare class: substitute dance class in JCC parking lot (36), I write a line dance syllabus,  Rosalyn's Gift of summer dance class (37)
   1977: February  Dancing with Elena at the Rubaiyat
 

1977-1979: Magic Carpet Ride

 
   
   1976: December  Lunch with Rosalyn
   1976: October  Rosalyn's line dance class at JCC
   1976: September  Patsy Swayze explains I do not have enough talent to join her dance company
   1976: June  Godzilla plays volleyball
   1976: April  Patsy Swayze's jazz class
   1976: January  Lance Steven's Whip demonstration at Stevens of Hollywood, Roberta's request asking me to take over her class (35)
   1975: September  Gaye Brown-Burke at Vocational Guidance Service (34), Ted Weisgal, Becky at Sundry School Line Dance Class
   1975: August  Katie Disaster at Melody Lane, Mark says goodbye (33)
   1975: July  Sundry School Ballroom class, Katie
   1975: April  Disco Dave ends his class, Phoney Baloney Dance Studio, Morlock Dominates Rice Volleyball
   1975: March  Lucky Break at Rice University (31), Manimal (32), Celeste, Second Office Club
   1975: February  River Oaks Seven vanquished (30)
   1975: January  Farmhouse, Mark's Love Triangle
  1974: December  Juicy and Lucy, Talk to Elena Project, Mark meets Sean, Stranger in a Strange Land
   1974: November  Rachel (28),  Casa Mark, Mark and Donna's Dance Intervention (29)
   1974: October  Gloria (27), Mark
   1974: September  Dilemma, The Prize
   1974: August  Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
  1974: July  Courtesan Book (21), Yolanda, Stalled Car Incident (22), Drag Queen Lynn (23), Rejection Phobia develops, Dance Path Synchronicity (24),
 River Oaks Seven, Disco Dave, Dance Class from Hell, Parking Lot Inferno, Karmic Test of Fire (25), Magic Mirror (26)
  1974: June  Couch Catatonia
 

1974-1976: The Lost Years

 
   
  1974: May  Dismissed from graduate school
  1974: April  I teach my experimental Psychology class
  1974: March  Debbie and the Cow Eyes Incident
  1974: February   Jason takes me under his wing and tells me to keep trying, Learned Helplessness, Negative Self-Image, Point of No Return
  1974: January   I begin five months of therapy with Dr. Hilton, Epic Losing Streak
  1973: December   Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November   Love Affair with Vanessa begins, showdown in Fujimoto's office, Vanessa makes one excuse after another
  1973: October   I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (20), butting heads with Fujimoto
 

1973-1974: Colorado State

 
   
  1972-1973: Interlude  Arlene, Mental Hospital, Letty and the Cooler incident
   
  1971-1972:
  Senior at Hopkins
 Disillusionment with the Magical Mystery Tour due to problems at Colvig Silver Camp the summer of 1971
  1970-1971:
  Junior at Hopkins
 Camp Counselor Daydream (19), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1969-1970:
  Sophomore at Hopkins
 Connie Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Depression Realization, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
 Antares-Astrology eye injury (17), Séance with Vicky, Ghost of Terry (18)
  1968-1969:
  Freshman at Hopkins
 Emily at the Train Station (16), Sanctuary at Aunt Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
 

1968-1973: Johns Hopkins

 
   
   1967-1968: 12th Grade  Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Mom's Cosmic Stupidity regarding child support check (09), Little Mexico, Cheating in Chemistry
 Christmas Eve blowup with mother
, Father gives me Edgar Cayce book at Christmas, Foot in the Door Strategy, Father's $400 insult,
 Off Limits Chemistry Restroom, Caught cheating in German (10), Lost Jones Scholarship to Katina, Edge of The Abyss,
 Mrs. Ballantyne fails to connect with me at SJS for 9 years (11), Cosmic Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne at Weingarten's (12),
 Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins, Close Call Car Accident (13), Senior Prom Cheryl (14), Heartbreak with Terry,
 Senior Year Blind Spot (15)
   1966-1967: 11th Grade  New identity forms at Weingarten's, I buy a car
   1965-1966: 10th Grade  Locker Room fight, Set of weights appears (07), George Broyles is paralyzed, Second skin operation,
 Father denies third skin operation, Weingarten's job (08)
  1964-1965:  9th Grade  Profile of Mr. Salls, Acne Attack (05), Basketball strike on swollen face (06), First skin operation
   1963-1964: 8th Grade  Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, quit 8th Grade basketball team, Caught stealing at Weingarten's,  
 Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer Basketball Project, Discovery of chess book (04)
   1962-1963: 7th Grade  Katina Ballantyne joins my class, Illness at Boy Scout camp leads to invisibility, I feel I don't belong at SJS, Uncle Dick pays my tuition at SJS
   1961-1962: 6th Grade  Mom's suicide attempt at the bayou, Terry runs away in Hurricane Carla, Blue Christmas (03)
   1960-1961: 5th Grade  Dad remarries, Obsession with the St. John's Mother's Guild, Comparisons between my mother and Mrs. Ballantyne begin
   1959-1960: 4th Grade  Divorce, 4th grade at St. John's, Mom begins to fall apart, Dad abandons me for  his girlfriend
 

1959-1968: St. John's

 
    
   1955  Cut my eye out (01), Near Death experience with Stock Car (02)
   1949  Born in Philadelphia
 



DESTINY


CHAPTER SEVENTY THREE: 
GEORGE MITCHELL

Written by Rick Archer

 


SUBCHAPTER 319
- GEORGE MITCHELL

 

Rick Archer's Note:

I never met George Mitchell.  Considering how much I admire this man, I regret never having the privilege.  That said, based on everything I read about Mr. Mitchell, I greatly admire this man.  From the moment I read about how he worked his way through college just like me, I felt an immediate kinship. 

To be honest, I never heard of George Mitchell until 2013.  Mrs. Ballantyne always referred to him as 'George', so after a while I wondered if he even had a last name.

I discovered Mr. Mitchell's identity by accident when I began writing my book in 2012.  One morning I went to the Internet to see if there was any information about Mrs. Ballantyne I could use for my book.  I typed 'Maria Ballantyne' into Google and a picture from the Hotel Galvez website appeared in Google's 'Images' section.  The Houston Chronicle had taken a picture of her hugging some guy at a celebration honoring the 100th anniversary of the hotel. 

I recognized Mrs. Ballantyne immediately, but not the man she was hugging.  The caption said the man was her brother... some guy named 'George Mitchell'.  I had no idea who George Mitchell was.

Out of curiosity, I Googled his name.  To my surprise, this man had a Wikipedia profile.  Whoa!  That was my first clue that I might have missed something here.  

The moment I read Mr. Mitchell's Wikipedia profile, I was stunned.  I had no idea my friend Maria Ballantyne had a billionaire for a brother!  I just sat back in my chair in total awe.  And then I laughed.  Look what Mrs. Ballantyne has been hiding from me.  That sure was sneaky of her to change her last name!

I would like to share the details of George Mitchell's life and explain some of what he accomplished.  And then I have something important I wish to say at the conclusion. 

Let's start with the Cynthia Woods Pavilion, a fabulous music venue in The Woodlands, a planned community just north of Houston. 

 

 

George Mitchell was many things, but first and foremost he was a a family man.  Mr. Mitchell enjoyed a loving relationship with his wife Cynthia that is one for the ages. 

George and Cynthia were married for 52 years until Ms. Woods passed away in 2009.  She was 87 at the time. 

They had 10 children.  Pamela Maguire, Meredith Dreiss, Scott Mitchell, Sheridan Lorenz, Mark Mitchell, Kent Mitchell, Greg Mitchell, Kirk Mitchell, Todd Mitchell and Grant Mitchell. 

Mr. Mitchell had a very touching way of acknowledging his special wife... he liked to name things after her.  The best example of this interesting trait is the 'Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion'. 

Located in The Woodlands, the Cynthia Woods Pavilion is famous in the Houston area.  Many of the biggest names in the music industry have performed there.  

In 1982, civic leaders and members of the Houston Symphony approached George Mitchell with the idea to establish a summer home for the symphony up in The Woodlands.  The facility was envisioned as a place where both performing arts groups and contemporary entertainers could perform. 

Mitchell said he would be more than happy to help.  He donated the funds to make this outdoor amphitheater a reality.  While he was at it, Mitchell made sure to immortalize his beloved wife by naming the arena after her.

Today the arena seats 16,000 people.  It has become the second-most heavily used amphitheater in the world.

On a personal note, I have known of the Cynthia Woods Pavilion ever since it opened in 1990.  Not once did I have a clue as to its origin. 

 

Another example of Mr. Mitchell's interesting naming habit is The Woodlands.  George Mitchell built this city 30 miles north of Houston.

One day Mr. Mitchell was wondering what to call his new city.  Why not name it after his wife Cynthia Woods?  Considering his town was built within a thick Texas pine forest, 'The Woodlands' had a very nice ring to it.  The name was perfect. 

Using a government loan, Mitchell went to work.  Immediately the critics surfaced.  Local sources stated that the HUD New Town program, a federally funded program, had a 'low survival rate'. They questioned whether The Woodlands would succeed.

If these critics knew George Mitchell, they would realize what a favor they had done for him.  Mitchell loved being told what he couldn't do.  His ambitious project included a conference center, hotels, office parks, retail malls, schools, large distribution centers, homes and beautiful golf courses. 

George Mitchell said he wanted his development to be so special that it would "entice city slickers looking for far-flung suburban quality of life."  One way he could do this was to preserve as much of the surrounding forest as he possibly could. 

Mitchell was an early conservationist who became a persistent voice for environmentally-responsible economic growth.  Mitchell wished to demonstrate how civilization and nature could be intertwined harmoniously if humans were willing to use sufficient imagination.  With these ideas in mind, he created The Woodlands by building homes and commercial areas to exist in harmony within the beautiful pine forest.  The master plan called for preserving trees, protecting the environment, minimizing flooding and creating ways to blend homes and forest together.

Mitchell's understanding of how to integrate modern technology with environmental responsibility was light years ahead of its time.  People have called The Woodlands the City of the Future

Mitchell got his wish... indeed one corporate executive after another fell in love with the place.  However these bigwigs didn't like the commute.  So what did they do?  They moved their headquarters out to The Woodlands instead!!

The Woodlands won a Special Award for Excellence in 1994 from the Urban Land Institute.  One can only wonder what the critics said that day.

George Mitchell was definitely way ahead of his time.  The man had the ability to envision things like few other people.  But lots of people have good ideas, then quit at the first sign of negativity.

Not George Mitchell.  What really set Mitchell apart was his ability to make it happen.  Mitchell was special because he possessed the dogged determination to get his vision accomplished despite all the obstacles and naysayers. 

   
 


Considering how humble and unpretentious she was, Cynthia Woods always laughed at the pop culture status afforded her due to her husband's amusing quirk.  She would tease, "Gosh, George, let's call your next city 'The Cynthia' and let's call your Mardi Gras party 'Cindy and the Woodpecker Ball'!" 

Cynthia Woods did a lot more than help her husband George find convenient names for things.  She served as an inspiration to George Mitchell throughout their time together. 

Cynthia Woods was born in 1922 in New York City.  She and her identical twin Pamela moved to southern Illinois at the age of eight.  Ms. Woods was an excellent student. At the age of twelve, she distinguished herself by winning the county spelling bee.

The family fell upon hard times during the Great Depression.  In search of work, the twins and their mother moved to Houston in 1938.  Both girls supported their mother as teenagers while simultaneously attending night school at the University of Houston. 

In 1941, following the traditional Thanksgiving football game between the University of Texas and Texas A&M, Cynthia was briefly introduced to a young A&M cadet named George on the train ride home.  George was a buddy of Pamela's boyfriend.  Cynthia was not happy with her own date who had been drinking heavily.  There was something special about this George guy she had just met.  He seemed very smart, something she liked.  But first she needed to ditch her drunken date. 

So Cynthia persuaded Pamela's boyfriend to lure her date elsewhere on the train for a while.  George was sitting in another seat, but he had been eyeing what was going on. Seeing the opening, George wasted no time occupying the vacant seat next to Cynthia.  Moving fast, George got Cynthia's phone number before her date could reappear.

George Mitchell shared a humorous version of the same story.  It reminds me of an old joke.

   Q: What is the easiest way to get the attention of a pretty girl?
   A:  Hang the Congressional Medal of Honor around your neck. 

While serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, Mitchell met his future wife during a train ride on Thanksgiving Day, 1941.  George was returning to Houston from the football game.  Everyone was in a bad mood because A&M had been undefeated until the Texas Longhorns came to College Station and beat the Aggies.

In Mitchell's own words:

"So here I am on the train.  There are these two attractive girls, twin sisters, identical, both beautiful, very smart. 

The one I liked had a blind date with an A&M senior.  He wasn't paying any attention to her because he was still upset over the big loss.  Me?  Hey, I had forgotten about the game.  I was more worried how I was going to get this girl's phone number.

Cynthia sensed my interest, so she tried to get her date to go to the back of the car to take care of something.  Aha, I smiled, this is my chance.  But this senior didn't leave.  He must have been suspicious.  The guy looked at me, then looked at my bag and saw something.

I had won some sort of tennis medal.  I was captain of the A&M tennis team and all that stuff.  He recognized the A&M insignia, so he grabbed my medal and pulled it out. 

The medal was attached to a gold watch and it fell on the floor.  Cynthia saw the watch and asked if it had any significance.  I explained I had won the watch as the top engineering student of A&M. 

Cynthia's expression changed on the spot.  That's all it took.  Once Cynthia saw that watch, that was it.  So I started going out with her.  We were married a year later on Halloween Day.

We had 10 children.  Cynthia was a wonderful wife and a wonderful mother.  I loved her so much.  Everything I did, we did together... Family, philanthropy, rebuilding Galveston. 

Cynthia was the love of my life."

 

George Mitchell did indeed graduate first in his class as a petroleum engineer.  However, he also graduated without a cent to his name.  Not a problem.  Once Mitchell had his education, he would go on to become an extremely successful oilman. 

Mitchell had a legendary career.  As the founder of Mitchell Energy and Development, Mitchell was a giant in his field. 

His major accomplishment was pioneering the economic extraction of shale gas, better known as 'fracking'.  Through this technology, George Mitchell is credited with creating the modern shale revolution which in turn freed America from its over-dependence on Arab oil.

In 2013, Forbes Magazine ranked George Mitchell the 249th richest American with a net worth of $2 billion. 

 


“George Mitchell is the father of fracking.   Mitchell's
fracking technique is by far the most important energy innovation of this century.    It is because of George Mitchell that today we are able to talk seriously about ‘energy independence’ here in the United States."   -- Daniel Yergin, oil-industry historian

 


“Mr. Mitchell’s role in championing new drilling and production techniques like hydraulic fracturing is credited with creating an unexpected natural gas boom in the United States."
-- New York Times

 

 

George Mitchell dreamed of becoming an astronomer back in high school.  He built his own telescope in the process.  Assuming he would study astronomy in college, throughout high school he concentrated on math, physics and chemistry.  Mitchell loved to dream about outer space. 

However, one summer his brother Johnny arranged a summer job in the oil patch.  At this point Mitchell became enthralled with the hunt for petroleum.  Realizing the search for oil would be a more profitable profession that the search for life on other planets, Mitchell dedicated himself to petroleum engineering. 

One of George Mitchell's greatest traits was loyalty.  He understood that the education he received at Texas A&M was what enabled him to become a success in his chosen field.  Consequently George Mitchell came to love Texas A&M with a passion.  Over the course of his life, George Mitchell donated $400 million dollars to the school.  In so doing, Mitchell became the greatest benefactor in the history of Texas A&M.  George Mitchell is a legend at his alma mater and deservedly so.

However, Mr. Mitchell also had a secret agenda.  He still wanted to explore the mysteries of the Universe.  He talked about it so much that his friends often teased about his intense love of outer space.  His friends called Mitchell the 'Star-struck Billionaire'. 

Sadly, Mr. Mitchell's passion for astronomy set him up for his greatest letdown.  From what I gather, George Mitchell did not have many disappointments in his life, but there were a few.

Mitchell's greatest disappointment was the failure of the Texas Super Collider Particle Accelerator

A particle accelerator is a device that uses electromagnetic fields to propel charged particles to high speeds and contains them in well-defined beams.  The idea is to unlock the secrets of the atom.  When completed, this ambitious project would form a giant circular tunnel around Waxahachie south of Dallas. 

Mitchell was instrumental in getting the Superconducting Super Collider project approved by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.  Sadly, it was killed off in the 1990s due to budget cuts.  The project was left half finished.  Had the Supercollider been completed, it would have boosted energy 20 times larger than any accelerator ever constructed.  No doubt the Supercollider would have allowed the U.S. to retain dominance in high-energy physics.  Mitchell was devastated.  This had been his baby.  It took him a long time to get over this disappointment. 

As a visionary, one can assume that,  Mitchell understood the practical long-term benefits of this project far better than the average man.  But there was nothing he could do about it other than accept defeat... something he wasn't used to.

Picking up the pieces as best he could, Mitchell quietly saved the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer at Texas A&M University, and funded research to create stronger magnets to help in cancer research.  And the list just goes on and on.

Watching Mitchell mope around, one day a friend said, "If you love astronomy so much, why not build something over at A&M?" 

What a great idea!  Since Mitchell was dying to renew his love of all things interstellar, why not build an Astrophysics center indeed?  Boys and their toys, right?

First Mitchell helped fund the Giant Magellan Telescope high in the Andes Mountains of Chile.  Then for good measure, in 2002, Mitchell endowed the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, an astrophysics lab designed to research the complex issues of the universe.

Now Mitchell needed someone to get his institute off to a rousing start.  Mitchell knew just the right guy: Stephen Hawking, the world’s most famous scientist. 

George Mitchell had originally met the physicist during his pursuit the Supercollider project.  Hawking was impressed at the depth of Mitchell's interest and knowledge in his work.  Mitchell was equally impressed with the professor's profound insight into the mysteries of life.  The two men formed a deep friendship. 

Mitchell brought Hawking to lecture at A&M on four different occasions.  During Hawking's stay, the world-renowned physicist would delight in traveling across campus in his wheelchair.  He loved to interact with star-struck students who often greeted him with a Texas-sized "howdy, how ya doin', Dr. Hawking!"

Mitchell commented, "Stephen loved to go across out campus in his motorized wheelchair.  He would scoot from the Student Center across to the physics building.  Many an Aggie stopped in their tracks upon seeing Stephen Hawking roll across campus with a big smile on his face.  He enjoyed seeing their enthusiasm and have them say hello to him.  It was a special connection."

In addition to their intellectual brilliance, both men had a sense of humor.  Late in his life, George Mitchell was no longer able to walk.  Now Mitchell, like Hawking, was confined to a wheel chair.  Did Mitchell, once the fastest tennis player in Aggie history, mope about his problem?

No, of course not.  Competitive as always, Mitchell challenged Hawking to a wheel chair race.  Now the two friends had a blast racing each other in their spare time.  Can you imagine?


 

 


SUBCHAPTER 320
- THE MAN WHO SAVED GALVESTON

 

In the 1970s, Galveston's Seawall Boulevard and the downtown Strand area showed serious signs of neglect.  So did the beautiful ancient Victorian houses.  Now that the city had fallen upon hard economic times, it was no longer the tourist destination it had once been.

George Mitchell often brought his family to the Island.  He took special delight in teaching his sons and daughters how to fish.  He would tell them stories about how he grew up here and fished to earn spending money. 

George and Cynthia loved coming to Galveston so much they made it their second home.  However, lately it was hard to miss the decline.  It seemed like every time they passed through, they would notice another old home or old building had fallen prey to the wrecking ball. 

One day Cynthia said, “Someone should really do something about preserving those beautiful buildings. It would be such a shame to see them torn down.”

Mitchell agreed with her.  Galveston possessed the best Victorian architecture in the Southwest.  It was sad to see these stunning examples of architecture thrown away.  It deserved to be protected. 

So Mitchell began to talk it over with Cynthia.  They both recognized the fact that the people who lived and worked in Galveston were unable to do the needed restorations on their own.  Nor was there a leader strong enough to mobilize any sort of rescue effort.

Finally it got to the point where Mitchell could not tolerate it anymore.  Something had to be done.  One day Mitchell realized he was probably the only man who had the resources to do it.  So he began to think about it.

By chance, on a 1972 visit to Savannah, George Mitchell learned about an innovative preservation program that had been established which included a revolving fund for buying and reselling endangered properties.

Seeing the merits of this program, Galveston's native son decided to put Galveston onto his back and return it to prosperity.  He quickly dispatched six members of the Galveston Historical Foundation to study Savannah’s achievements and adapt them to his home town.

Contributions from local foundations helped establish a revolving fund for Galveston that to date has saved over 30 buildings.  The main contributors, of course, were George and Cynthia Mitchell.  George Mitchell took immense pleasure in lavishing a great deal of his personal fortune on the island where he was born. 

The restoration did not take place overnight.  Over a period of 40 years, the Mitchells invested more than $175 million in rehabilitating historic properties in The Strand National Historic Landmark District.

Today Mitchell Historic Properties oversees Galveston properties owned by George Mitchell and his family.  These properties include three hotels - Tremont, Galvez, Harbor House - and approximately one-fourth of the buildings in the historic Strand District and Pier 21 along the harbor.

Of all the projects Mitchell was involved in, the one that really caught his fancy was reintroducing Mardi Gras to Galveston in 1985.  How cool was that?

The Mitchells had long dreamed of restoring the Island's splendid Mardi Gras tradition which had disappeared during World War II.  However they weren't sure how to go about it.  In 1985, they were in the process of remodeling the elegant Tremont House Hotel in the historic Galveston Strand District.

George and Cynthia decided to schedule the revival of the citywide Mardi Gras celebration to coincide with the re-opening of the Tremont. 

The 1985 revival was spectacular.  The revival featured a mile-long Grand Night Parade saluting "The Age of Mythology."  A huge crowd of many thousands came out to party.  The streets were jammed.  This had been a grand idea.  Galveston Mardi Gras was back to stay.

I could write chapter after chapter on George Mitchell.  I have never researched a man who fascinated me more than him.  I feel like I know his spirit. 

In short, once George Mitchell put Galveston on his back, he restored it to economic prosperity.  I have never heard of a more noble effort in my life.

Below is a pictorial tribute to all the projects initiated by George Mitchell.  Then I will share a story about how he brought the invaluable cruise industry to Galveston. 

 
 
 
 


SUBCHAPTER 321
- THE TEXAS CRUISE INDUSTRY

 
Once upon a time, Galveston had been the mightiest port in the entire Caribbean.  Then came the Great Storm.  Houston's ship channel did the rest.  Ever since then, Galveston's maritime industry had been reduced to a trickle.  As early as the 1980s, George Mitchell realized the potential of Galveston to be used as a cruise departure point.  However, he could not seem to get anyone to listen to him.

According to Douglas Matthews, the former city manager of Galveston, George Mitchell contributed more than one billion dollars in development on Galveston Island.  One would think that would get Mitchell some credibility, but apparently not.  Matthews recalled how Mitchell fought the Galveston City Council and the Wharves Board over his request to build a cruise ship terminal and a $750,000 cruise ship walkover in the late 1980s.

Matthews said, "The critics labeled it, 'The walkway to nowhere!'  Only George Mitchell had the vision and persistence to proceed."

Mitchell was convinced a cruise ship would do well in Galveston.  However, very few  people agreed.  Frustrated, George Mitchell decided to do it himself.  He began pursuing the cruise industry in 1989.  To understand the magnitude of Mitchell's accomplishment, one needs to understand that Galveston first had to build an expensive cruise terminal before they had the ships. 

 

This was such a huge, costly gamble, no city official had the courage to do it.  It was beyond their imagination, too risky.  For one thing, there was absolutely no cruise market in Texas.  No one was banging down the doors begging to take a cruise trip out of Galveston.  So the Port Authority officials said no. 

By chance, I ran across a 2013 interview with George Mitchell which explains what happened next.

 


George Mitchell: 
"We worked hard to get the cruise ships down here to Galveston.  Oh, yes, indeed we did.

I had a friend tell me, 'George, how in the hell did you get the cruise ships down here?  What a great move!   We like visiting Galveston.  Hey, you're costing me money.  My wife says we need to come down and buy some real estate here as well.'

Sure enough, bringing in the cruise ships was an eye opener.  It made everybody realize something big is going on down here. So now we're pushing to put two more cruise ships at the Del Monte terminal.  They would have seven cruise ships in a row and you should get an aerial picture of that.  Impressive!

 

A lot of American cities would be jealous of what we have here.  I'm telling you, they would be.  This was a valuable addition to be sure.  Pretty soon everybody's going to be saying the same thing, 'What the hell is going on in Galveston??'

There's an interesting story about that.  I kept asking the cruise terminal people to do something.  We had a committee, but they weren't very strong, certainly not bold and I wasn't getting anywhere.  Every chance I got, I'd ask the Galveston Port Authority, "Hey, you've got all this empty space down at the docks.  Why don't you work on getting the cruises?"

They said, "Well, no, George, we don't have a chance. They don't give us the time of day."

 

What a runaround!  I got tired of listening to them.  So I sent a representative to Miami four years straight at my own expense, five thousand dollars a pop, just to talk to the cruise ship companies.  "Hey, guys, why don't you come to Galveston?  Give it a try."

Every time I did that, the Port would send me a message, "You're wasting your time, Mitchell.  You're wasting your money and you're wasting your time.  Give it up.  They won't come here.  They have said so repeatedly.  There's no market."

Finally I said, "Give me a package to take to cruise people.  Let me see what I can do."

So I got the Galveston port people to say, "Okay, this is what their taxes will be; this is what this cost would be; this is what that cost would be." 

I was impressed.  These were good terms.  They were fair.  Now I had something I could put on the table.   So I personally took it to the cruise ship people and they thought it looked pretty good too.  Now they were interested.  And that's when it happened.  A guy looked at me and said, "George, where are the customers going to come from?" 

All the others nodded.   They had serious frowns on their faces.   The deal hung in the balance.  I looked at them dumb-founded.  Were these guys kidding me?  No, they were dead serious!  They didn't get it!!  They actually didn't get it at all.  So I spoke up.

"Gentlemen, Texas is a large, very populous state.  There are 12 million people who live within a 300 mile radius of Galveston.  Houston, the 4th largest city in America, is just over the causeway.   NASA is our next door neighbor.  This is an untapped market!  You are looking at a gold mine!"


They all started to blink like this was the first time they had ever heard this radical concept.  Now they started to nod.  Yeah, this might just work!

They said, "Well, we are going to have to do some serious advertising."

So I said, "Promise me you will come to Galveston and we will help you do the promotion for the first year.  What do you need?"

They said they wanted $250,000 to begin promoting the arrival of the cruise ships to Texas.  I said okay, that's a lot of money, but I will see what I can do.  So I took the deal back to the Port Authority.

That was 1992.  When the Port Authority did the final negotiations with Carnival, they requested $250,000 from the private sector to pay for a portion of their first year’s advertising budget. 

So I went about raising the money.  The Moody family, the Fertitta family, and the Park Board each contributed $50,000 each. Now we were $100,000 short, so I threw an additional $100,000 into the pot.  That did it.  We closed the deal with Carnival. 

I was excited.   I could not believe after all that work, Carnival had finally accepted the deal.  Let's do this promotion and try it out!  

Weren't they surprised!?   Yes, almighty, it was a success from Day One back in year 2000.  After a year or two, the statistics reported that 75 percent of the people were driving in, not flying.  These were brand new customers from that 300 mile radius I spoke of.  And that made all the difference in the world to them.  So that's why they expanded as fast as they could. 

And then the other companies, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney, they smelled the bait and they came too.

But Carnival was the first.  Give them credit.  They got the ball rolling."

 

 

No one could see it but George Mitchell.  Fortunately, his dogged determination won the day.  The city officials finally gave in based solely on the strength of George Mitchell's firm belief that this would pay off and built the expensive port terminal.

In the end, it turned out Mitchell's vision was absolutely correct.  Mitchell's help in getting Galveston's cruise ship pier built would pay off grandly.  Galveston is now the major cruise port in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Incidentally, there is enormous irony in George Mitchell's accomplishment.  A bit of 'What goes around comes around' mysticism as well.

Please read this 2018 report.

 


SUBCHAPTER 322
- TURNING THE TABLES ON HOUSTON

 

People are called visionaries because they not only see possibilities that others don't, they know how to get it done.  Furthermore, a visionary is someone who gets it done in the face of serious criticism.

George Mitchell was a visionary with the determination to defy the critics on fracking.  Today, America is free of Arab oil dominance because of George Mitchell.  He was a visionary in real estate with The Woodlands.  Of all the planned communities funded by government grants in the Seventies, only George Mitchell's creation thrived.  George Mitchell was a visionary who saw the cruise potential of Galveston.  Time and again, George Mitchell was the only man who could see things clearly. 

In hindsight, it makes complete sense.  How difficult was it to see that the entire Caribbean was at the fingertips of Texas?!  Furthermore, Galveston was the closest port not just to Texas, but to Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and so many other states.  In the space of just a few years, Galveston became the fourth busiest cruise port in America.  How could the cruise industry be so blind?  It took George Mitchell to make it happen. 

Just think of all of those tourists flocking to Galveston.  Not only was the Galveston hotel industry back in business, Galveston was back on the world map.  The influx of tourism turned the corner for Galveston.  Now the city to flourish again.  Galveston had regained its momentum and purpose.

Meanwhile, the Houston officials were flabbergasted.  Right before their eyes, George Mitchell had stolen the cruise industry that rightfully belonged to Houston's business leaders.  They couldn't believe Galveston's success.  Shades of Jesse Jones, they plotted a counterattack. 

 

In 2008, at the cost of $81 million, Houston's Bayport Cruise Terminal over in the ship channel opened to great fanfare.

If we build it, they will come...

Wrong.  Too late.  People preferred Galveston.  Prettier.  More fun.  More things to do.  Houston did not understand tourism.

As of 2014, that terminal was still empty.  It just sat there doing nothing but grow weeds in the parking lot.  Meanwhile Galveston's cruise business just kept expanding. 

Seven cruise ships called Galveston home the last time I checked.  Finally, in 2016, Houston called it quits and completely withdrew from the cruise business.  Galveston had a monopoly.

Thanks to George Mitchell, Galveston definitely got the last laugh on this story.  He turned the tables on Houston.

 

George Mitchell passed away in 2013.  The citizens of Galveston wasted no time naming him 'Mr. Galveston'.  Interesting enough, the last man to be called 'Mr. Galveston' was Sam Maceo. 

Other people called George Mitchell a genuine American hero.  I completely concur.  There was so much greatness about this man.

Upon George Mitchell's death, his friend Stephen Hawking delivered a beautiful, very touching eulogy. 

 

 

So how do we explain the greatness of George Mitchell?

Mitchell offered a clue of his own.  In 2010, George Mitchell wrote an open letter on the importance of Education.  Here is an excerpt: 

I was born in Galveston, Texas, to Greek immigrant parents.  I was a teenager during the Great Depression.

Although I grew up in a very meager, yet loving, environment, I always considered myself fortunate to live in America where the opportunities are unlimited, yet something we all seem to take for granted.

I quickly learned that a good education, hard work, dedication, willing mentors, and a few lucky breaks meant the difference between success and failure.

Throughout my life I've seen firsthand how even a little financial assistance could mean a chance for struggling students, dedicated scientists, and families to reach their goals.

I've also witnessed how underwriting large-scale academic, performing arts, medical, and research programs can be quite appealing, as those ventures have far-reaching, long-term benefits for society as a whole, often extending for successive generations.
 

An even better clue to George Mitchell's greatness can be found in an interview he did with his biographer Joseph Kutchin. 

The words below are basically George Mitchell speaking directly about the most remarkable moment of his entire life.

 

An outstanding student, George Mitchell finished high school in Galveston at 16.  Unfortunately, no college would accept him at that age, so Mitchell went to another high school for a year and brushed up on math.  George's mother had long hoped her smart son would become a doctor, but George Mitchell's interests went elsewhere.  Although his first love was astronomy, he decided oil offered the most promise as a career.

In 1935, the following year, George Mitchell was accepted into Texas A&M, a school with a strong petrochemical engineering program. 

Texas A&M was located in College Station 130 miles northwest of Galveston.   Lacking a car, Mitchell was completely on his own on the A&M campus.  There was no support system waiting for him at school.  Nor were there any trips home to cheer him up. 

George Mitchell was very poor.  The only money he had in his pocket had been made selling fish he caught back in Galveston.  His father was too busy losing money at poker to provide any help.   In order to stay in school, George was constantly forced to scramble for tuition and living expense money. 

His problem was intensified by a hard and fast A&M rule... non-payment of tuition meant automatic expulsion.   As a school based on military principles, A&M took a hard line where tuition was concerned.  

Tuition in those days was $39 a month.  A student was given 45 days after the bill was due to pay up.   After that, it was time to go.  No exceptions!

Forced to work a neverending succession of part-time jobs, one day Mitchell had an interesting idea.  Since A&M was a men's college, the campus was full of lonely boys who missed their hometown honeys.  Mitchell decided to sell gold-embossed stationery for the lonesome male students to mail to their sweethearts back home or take with them on their next visit.  The item sold like hotcakes. 

However, this clever idea was hardly sufficient to pay his way through college.  Mitchell was nearly kicked out of college several times because he could not pay the $39 he needed each month to cover tuition plus the extra $10-$15 needed for room, board and school books.  Mitchell could not let this happen.  His entire future rested upon completing his education. 

 

Working practically non-stop,  Mitchell would do anything.  He sold candy, waited tables and built bookcases... anything to make money.  Sometimes when he was short, Mitchell would borrow the rest from a friend and pay him back later.   Mitchell did whatever it took to make the monthly payment so he could continue his studies.  

Unfortunately, the day finally came when no matter how hard he tried, Mitchell could not scrape enough money together.  This seemed like the end of the line.  George grimly faced the fact that unless he could think of something, he would be forced to drop out of school.

Desperate, the young man thought about asking his father for help.  This was a move George dreaded making.  For one thing, it was a long shot.  Depending how the poker cards had been falling lately, half the time his father was penniless.

More important, Mitchell's pride prevented him from asking his unreliable father for anything.   However, now that it was beg or leave school, George swallowed his pride and wired his father for money.

 

In George Mitchell's own words...

"As I expected, at the time Dad wrote back that he didn't have a cent to his name.  So my dad said he would ask Sam Maceo, the Godfather of Galveston, if he would help. 

My father said, 'Mr. Maceo, sir, my son is the top student at A&M, but he is going to get kicked out because he doesn't have any money. 

Do you think you can you help him?' "

Sam Maceo, the famous Galveston gambling impresario known for his generosity, smiled.   On the spot, Maceo reached into his pocket and handed the elder Mitchell a hundred dollar bill, no questions asked.

"Thinking fast, Dad immediately got change and broke the bill in two.  He knew I only needed $50, so he sent me $50 and kept the other $50 to play poker.  My father always lived by his wits."

That was the lucky break George needed.   Thanks to this contribution and several more timely Maceo contributions along the way, George would make his monthly college payments on time for the rest of his tenure at A&M.

There was a special reason Sam Maceo continued to help.  The Godfather had checked on George's grades at Texas A&M.  Mike Mitchell was a notorious embellisher.  Sensing a possible scam, Maceo called A&M.  To his surprise, Mike Mitchell had been telling the truth.  When the registrar reported George was currently at the top of his class, Maceo was very impressed.  From that point on, Maceo made sure George would no longer have to worry about money.  

George Mitchell was indeed an excellent student.  He finished first in his A&M class in petroleum engineering.   He became a battalion commander in the Aggie Corps of Cadets.  Mitchell even found time in addition to his studies and all his odd jobs to become captain of the A&M tennis team.

George Mitchell may have been virtually penniless when he set foot on the A&M campus, but he wasn't going to let that stop him.  George Mitchell had incredible drive.  Although short on cash, George was long on determination.   No matter what obstacle was placed in his way, George Mitchell intended to succeed.

 

-- Excerpt from an interview with George Mitchell conducted by Joseph Kutchin
 
How Mitchell Energy and Development Corp. got Its Start by Joseph Kutchin

 

 

Despite his riches, George Mitchell remained a humble man who never forgot his roots.  Crediting his fine education at A&M for giving him the knowledge he needed to become successful, Mitchell would go on to donate $400 million to the school.

Mitchell loved A&M fiercely.  An Aggie to the core, Mitchell took great pride in helping students who were poor like he had been get an education there.  Who would have ever thought that George Mitchell, the poor kid who could barely pay his tuition, would one day become the greatest donor in Texas A&M history? 

It was unbelievable what George Mitchell accomplished in Galveston.  With the help of his talented wife Cynthia, Mitchell literally put the entire city on his shoulders and breathed economic life back into Galveston.  Furthermore, Mitchell created an economy based on jobs that are meant to stay.

Houston may have had Jesse Jones, but Galveston had George Mitchell. 

Mitchell was a visionary who saw the value of saving what had been built in the 19th Century.  He turned preservation and renovation into a city-wide ethos.  The Galveston of today is a thriving gem complete with stylish restored hotels, beautiful beaches, renovated buildings and magnificent Victorian homes.

Galveston is fast becoming the tourist mecca Houston only wished it could be.  However, don't feel too sorry for Houston.  As George Mitchell pointed out, what is good for Galveston is typically good for Houston as well.  Every day the two cities grow closer together.  Houston has the industry, Galveston has the tourism. 

To me, I believe the Maceo-Mitchell connection is much more than a coincidence.

How incredible is it that Sam Maceo, the man who was once the savior of Galveston, would coincidentally hand the baton to George Mitchell, his eventual successor, through his simple act of kindness? 

Considering George Mitchell spoke of Sam Maceo's gesture every chance he got, there cannot be any doubt that Maceo's gesture left a powerful impression.  Through his profound act of kindness, it certainly seems like Sam Maceo passed an invisible torch to George Mitchell. 

George Mitchell never forgot the kindness of the man who helped him stay in school during the toughest stretch of his life.  I firmly believe that Sam Maceo's powerful gesture affected Mitchell in a profound way.  Based on his own words, I think George Mitchell sensed that Sam Maceo had imparted a calling to him.  

Amazed that the Godfather of Galveston would go out of his way to help some nameless kid, George Mitchell chose to pay the kindness forward.  Mitchell made sure that Galveston, a city mired in thirty years of hardship, got back on its feet.

 

So now we talk about Fate.  Is it possible that George Mitchell acted out a certain Destiny when he decided to help Galveston? 

What goes around, comes around. 

Once upon a time, Galveston was the greatest city in Texas.  In 1880, at a time when most of Texas was still the wild frontier country depicted in Western movies, Galveston was the largest, most modern city in the state. 

Galveston was a jewel.  Due to the prosperity brought by possession of the finest port in the South, Galveston had countless stunning homes as well as all the modern conveniences. Galveston became the first city in Texas to have electricity, telephone, gas, and trolley lines. 

That all came to a terrible halt in 1900 when the Great Storm demolished the greatest city in Texas. 

In 1920, Sam Maceo returned the affluence to Galveston.  But it didn't last.  In 1950, Galveston showed Sam Maceo the door.  Big mistake. 

 

Economic ruin set in almost immediately.  By the 1970s, a sense of doom hung over the city.  Downtown was in decay with more buildings boarded up than open.  One thousand mansions built during the glory days of Galveston were falling apart from neglect. 

Once George Mitchell saw what had happened to his beloved city, he was determined to do something about it.  Mitchell reasoned that with a little paint and lot of love, Galveston's historical buildings could be restored.  Mitchell brought back Mardi Gras and resurrected Galveston into the charming Town that Time Forgot.  

In 2000, the Carnival Celebration departed the Port of Galveston.  The ship carried 2,000 passengers who had driven from every corner in Texas to participate.  This was a powerful moment.  It marked the return of Galveston as the tourism center of Texas. 

Please note the significance of the date. 

1900.  The Great Storm.

2000.  Prosperity returns.

It took one hundred years, but thanks to George Mitchell, the native son, Galveston was finally back on its feet.

 


SUBCHAPTER 323
- ODE TO MARIA BALLANTYNE

 

My beloved Mrs. Ballantyne passed away in May 2015, two years after her brother.  As one may gather, Maria Ballantyne was the inspiration for my book. 

Given the impact of what Mrs. Ballantyne did for me, one can imagine why I love the tale about my coincidental parking lot meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne so much.  I contend her actions embodied the story of the Good Samaritan as told by Jesus. 

Somehow Mrs. Ballantyne chanced upon the lowliest child in her realm.  A high and mighty woman who occupied the loftiest social status, Mrs. Ballantyne could have easily excused herself and left the parking lot without a word.  No one would have ever been the wiser... including me.  Mrs. Ballantyne owed me nothing; I expected her to leave at any moment.

Instead Mrs. Ballantyne, ordinarily an extremely busy woman, went out of her way to stay and take care of me.  She spent 40 minutes with me and refused to leave until my will to continue was restored.  Mrs. Ballantyne asked nothing in return. 

 

Sam Maceo touched two people... George and Maria Mitchell.  They both turned around and dedicated their lives to helping others as Maceo once helped them.  I was one of the beneficiaries.  Sam Maceo was a gangster to some, but perhaps an angel in disguise for what he did for the people of Galveston. 

Half a century later, the parking lot incident I shared with Mrs. Ballantyne remains the closest thing to a religious experience I ever had.  Nothing in the past fifty years has changed my mind that something truly extraordinary took place that day.

What if our chance meeting was not 'chance'?  What if it was arranged by a hidden hand?

In my heart I cannot shake the feeling that Mrs. Ballantyne was intentionally steered my way by someone special to put me out of my suffering.  Nor do I believe that 'someone' was a human being. 

As I was writing my book, I kept asking myself how Mrs. Ballantyne would feel about being included in my story.  It is one thing to bare my soul.  It is another thing to involve this lady so intimately in my story.  I was very concerned about how Mrs. Ballantyne might feel.  How would Mrs. Ballantyne feel about being identified as the participant in a supernatural event? 

I had a feeling  Mrs. Ballantyne would approve.  After all, she had read my original story in 2005 and had nothing but compliments.  However, in the book I would add many more details about her life story.  How would she feel about letting the world know her education was financed by a gangster?  It was only right to run it past her.

 

So I spoke to Christie Ballantyne, her son.  I told Christie I would only add his mother's story to mine with her permission.  Christie replied this wasn't his call.  He suggested I should go ask her in person, then added that his mother was in failing health.  In other words, do it soon.

In February 2015 I paid what I suspected would be my final visit to Mrs. Ballantyne, my lifelong heroine.  I was worried about her condition.  I had not seen her in six years and she was 94 years old.  I was sad to discover that Christie was correct.  Mrs. Ballantyne had indeed become frail.  However, to my delight, her mind was still pretty sharp.  Mrs. Ballantyne recognized me immediately and gave me a warm smile. 

Her first words were, "Rick Archer, I know you!  You were in Katina's class at St. John's!  Where have you been?" 

Upon seeing her, I smiled as always.  Mrs. Ballantyne had the funniest way of making me feel like the most important person in the world.  I had several questions to ask Mrs. Ballantyne about the past.  In particular, I wanted my burning question answered..."Mrs. Ballantyne, what went through your mind on the day you discovered who I was back at the the Weingarten's parking lot??"

Unfortunately, I was out of luck.  I had waited too long.  Mrs. Ballantyne no longer remembered any details of the fateful meeting back in 1968 or for that matter the reason why she had come to my dance studio in 1978.  Oh well.  Although I was disappointed, I didn't let it bother me.  That wasn't the main reason why I had asked to see her.  What I wanted to know was whether Mrs. Ballantyne had any objections to letting me share her personal story in my book.  So I took a deep breath and asked.

"Mrs. Ballantyne, I am not sure what Christie told you, but I came here today to ask your permission to tell the story of your difficult childhood.  As you may recall, back in 2005 I first wrote the story of the significance that you have played in my life.  I believe our lives are linked in a special way.  I would very much like to tell the world why you are so important to me."

Mrs. Ballantyne smiled.  Without hesitation, she said of course it was okay. 

"I remember your story, Rick.  Of course you have my permission." 

And then she grinned.  Mrs. Ballantyne got that familiar twinkle in her eye.  

"But only on one condition!"

 

My heart stopped beating.  What could it be??

"You have to promise me you will tell the story of the time I beat my brother George at tennis when he was captain of the A&M varsity!!!"  

And then she flashed that huge smile of hers. 

Now I smiled too.  What a thing to ask for!   I nodded and said, "Don't worry, Mrs. Ballantyne.  Consider it done."

Before I left, I had one more question to ask. 

"Mrs. Ballantyne, do you believe in Fate?"

Mrs. Ballantyne thought about it for a while.  Mrs. Ballantyne looked at me very carefully, then spoke up. 

"Rick, I will tell you what I do believe in.  I believe in miracles."

I nodded. 

"Yes, Mrs. Ballantyne, so do I.  And one more thing.  I love you for what you did for me.  Thank you so much."

 


THE MAGIC CARPET RIDE

CHAPTER SEVENTY FOUR:  PISTACHIO CLUB

 

015 030 045 060 075 090 105 120 135 150
INTRO CSU HUBRIS MOONDANCE CATASTROPHE TREACHERY COINCIDENCE DR. HILTON CHILDHOOD TERRY

001

002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009 010
ABANDONMENT ST. JOHN'S FATE TWO MOTHERS INFERIORITY BASKETBALL MR. SALLS LEPROSY PAINT IT BLACK COMEBACK
011 012 013 014 015 016 017 018 019 020
LOSING MY MIND LITTLE MEXICO COLLEGE FEARS SELF DESTRUCT ABYSS VISITOR M BALLANTYNE TWILIGHT ZONE PROPHECY FINISH LINE
021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029 030
HEARTBREAK JOHNS HOPKINS BLIND SPOT SUSAN & WITCH MAGIC MYSTERY RIDERS STORM GOOD BAD LUCK LRNED HELPLESS CONFRONTATN COURTESAN
031 032 033 034 035 036 037 038 039 040
PHOBIA LOVE POTION RIVER OAKS 7 PROPOSITION KARMIC TEST REMATCH HELEN GLORIA MARK RACHEL
041 042 043 044 045 046 047 048 049 050
INTERVENTION STRANGER LOVE TRIANGLE MORLOCK MANIMAL CELESTE KATIE BLACK JACK WANDERER GODZILLA
051 052 053 054 055 056 057 058 059 060
PATSY SWAYZE ELENA YEAR OF CAT RUBAIYAT OPPORTUNITY SNF CROSSROAD MAGIC CARPET JET SET CLUB KINDNESS
061 062 063 064 065 066 067 068 069 070
TALE 2 CITIES BROTHER SISTER GEORGE MITCHELL PISTACHIO CLUB            
071 072 073 074            
                   
 
  TIMELINE
   1978: February  Mrs. Ballantyne's Surprise visit to Stevens of Hollywood (44), Mr. Salls-Mrs. Ballantyne-Rick Archer Triangle (45)
   1978: January  Spotlight Effect (41), Incompetence Effect (42), Crossroad Synchronicity (43), Nicholas at Courses a la Carte
   1977: December  Saturday Night Fever debut, Robert Stigwood Synchronicity (40)
   1977: October  Opportunity Three: Disco Line Dance class at Stevens of Hollywood (39)
   1977: September  Opportunity Two: Disco Line Dance class at Memorial JCC
   1977: August  Graduation Night at Rubaiyat (38)
   1977: June  Opportunity One: Disco Line Dance class at the JCC
   1977: April  Bomb Scare class: substitute dance class in JCC parking lot (36), I write a line dance syllabus,  Rosalyn's Gift of summer dance class (37)
   1977: February  Dancing with Elena at the Rubaiyat
 

1977-1979: Magic Carpet Ride

 
   
   1976: December  Lunch with Rosalyn
   1976: October  Rosalyn's line dance class at JCC
   1976: September  Patsy Swayze explains I do not have enough talent to join her dance company
   1976: June  Godzilla plays volleyball
   1976: April  Patsy Swayze's jazz class
   1976: January  Lance Steven's Whip demonstration at Stevens of Hollywood, Roberta's request asking me to take over her class (35)
   1975: September  Gaye Brown-Burke at Vocational Guidance Service (34), Ted Weisgal, Becky at Sundry School Line Dance Class
   1975: August  Katie Disaster at Melody Lane, Mark says goodbye (33)
   1975: July  Sundry School Ballroom class, Katie
   1975: April  Disco Dave ends his class, Phoney Baloney Dance Studio, Morlock Dominates Rice Volleyball
   1975: March  Lucky Break at Rice University (31), Manimal (32), Celeste, Second Office Club
   1975: February  River Oaks Seven vanquished (30)
   1975: January  Farmhouse, Mark's Love Triangle
  1974: December  Juicy and Lucy, Talk to Elena Project, Mark meets Sean, Stranger in a Strange Land
   1974: November  Rachel (28),  Casa Mark, Mark and Donna's Dance Intervention (29)
   1974: October  Gloria (27), Mark
   1974: September  Dilemma, The Prize
   1974: August  Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
  1974: July  Courtesan Book (21), Yolanda, Stalled Car Incident (22), Drag Queen Lynn (23), Rejection Phobia develops, Dance Path Synchronicity (24),
 River Oaks Seven, Disco Dave, Dance Class from Hell, Parking Lot Inferno, Karmic Test of Fire (25), Magic Mirror (26)
  1974: June  Couch Catatonia
 

1974-1976: The Lost Years

 
   
  1974: May  Dismissed from graduate school
  1974: April  I teach my experimental Psychology class
  1974: March  Debbie and the Cow Eyes Incident
  1974: February   Jason takes me under his wing and tells me to keep trying, Learned Helplessness, Negative Self-Image, Point of No Return
  1974: January   I begin five months of therapy with Dr. Hilton, Epic Losing Streak
  1973: December   Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November   Love Affair with Vanessa begins, showdown in Fujimoto's office, Vanessa makes one excuse after another
  1973: October   I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (20), butting heads with Fujimoto
 

1973-1974: Colorado State

 
   
  1972-1973: Interlude  Arlene, Mental Hospital, Letty and the Cooler incident
   
  1971-1972:
  Senior at Hopkins
 Disillusionment with the Magical Mystery Tour due to problems at Colvig Silver Camp the summer of 1971
  1970-1971:
  Junior at Hopkins
 Camp Counselor Daydream (19), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1969-1970:
  Sophomore at Hopkins
 Connie Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Depression Realization, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
 Antares-Astrology eye injury (17), Séance with Vicky, Ghost of Terry (18)
  1968-1969:
  Freshman at Hopkins
 Emily at the Train Station (16), Sanctuary at Aunt Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
 

1968-1973: Johns Hopkins

 
   
   1967-1968: 12th Grade  Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Mom's Cosmic Stupidity regarding child support check (09), Little Mexico, Cheating in Chemistry
 Christmas Eve blowup with mother
, Father gives me Edgar Cayce book at Christmas, Foot in the Door Strategy, Father's $400 insult,
 Off Limits Chemistry Restroom, Caught cheating in German (10), Lost Jones Scholarship to Katina, Edge of The Abyss,
 Mrs. Ballantyne fails to connect with me at SJS for 9 years (11), Cosmic Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne at Weingarten's (12),
 Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins, Close Call Car Accident (13), Senior Prom Cheryl (14), Heartbreak with Terry,
 Senior Year Blind Spot (15)
   1966-1967: 11th Grade  New identity forms at Weingarten's, I buy a car
   1965-1966: 10th Grade  Locker Room fight, Set of weights appears (07), George Broyles is paralyzed, Second skin operation,
 Father denies third skin operation, Weingarten's job (08)
  1964-1965:  9th Grade  Profile of Mr. Salls, Acne Attack (05), Basketball strike on swollen face (06), First skin operation
   1963-1964: 8th Grade  Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, quit 8th Grade basketball team, Caught stealing at Weingarten's,  
 Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer Basketball Project, Discovery of chess book (04)
   1962-1963: 7th Grade  Katina Ballantyne joins my class, Illness at Boy Scout camp leads to invisibility, I feel I don't belong at SJS, Uncle Dick pays my tuition at SJS
   1961-1962: 6th Grade  Mom's suicide attempt at the bayou, Terry runs away in Hurricane Carla, Blue Christmas (03)
   1960-1961: 5th Grade  Dad remarries, Obsession with the St. John's Mother's Guild, Comparisons between my mother and Mrs. Ballantyne begin
   1959-1960: 4th Grade  Divorce, 4th grade at St. John's, Mom begins to fall apart, Dad abandons me for  his girlfriend
 

1959-1968: St. John's

 
    
   1955  Cut my eye out (01), Near Death experience with Stock Car (02)
   1949  Born in Philadelphia
 

 

 

 

SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ