Above, Historic Sheet Music Collection, Library of Congress
Former Governor Thomas Mitchell Campbell, August 1912
At Thomas’ invitation, Judge Ramsey loosens his tie and plops into the chair on the other side of the desk. His beard is stubbly and his eyes bloodshot.
“You were wise to steer clear of that steamroller in San Antonio, Tom. Toot-toot. Toot-toot. Toot-toot. That was the most intellectual sound Oscar Colquitt’s men in the convention hall could utter. The second Cullen Thomas requested recognition, pandemonium broke out. The band struck up ‘You Great Big, Beautiful Doll.’ Upset, Cullen tried shouting over the crowd, shaking his fist. ‘Is this a democratic convention or a mob drunk with power?’”
Thomas frowns. “Sounds more like drunks fueled by the brewers. Children with tin horns on Christmas morning probably demonstrate more maturity.”
“It only grew worse, Tom. The band launched into ‘Hail! Hail! The Gang’s All Here’ encouraging the uproar to continue. All the Antis joined in. ‘What the hell do we care? What the hell do we care?’”
“Poor Cullen. I can imagine his frustration. What has the democratic party come to, Judge, when its members refuse to yield the floor to gentlemen addressing them?”
The Judge stands, puts his hands on his hips and gives a wiggle or two. “Then the band had them all parading around, shimmying their hips to some hoochie-coochie tune as though they were following the infamous Miss Egypt in her all-together.” He sinks back into his chair. “Cullen pointed at the rowdiest group in the hall, asking what brewery paid them. Even though he was shouting, no one more than ten feet away could possibly hear him above the din.”
“Judge, I know casting the vote of the Johnson County delegates for the Colquitt platform must have been painful for you to swallow. But we need to maintain some degree of party unity, even though no other party is capable of challenging the democratic nominee in November.”
“Tom, I fought hard to at least keep saloons out of residential neighborhoods. Tried to make a case from keeping the brewers and distillers out of retail. But I failed on every front. Last-minute behind-the-scene maneuvers mysteriously moved the drinking hours for saloons back from 7:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. Men need not drink the second the sun rises. Almost the only thing salvaged from my platform was to increase the salary paid judges in the high court.”
“That’s not true, Judge. Your continued pressure on the Governor forced him to include 9:30 closing at night on the platform. You know the pros tried to persuade him to back down from that earlier pledge.”
“But, Tom, we needed to convince the convention to resubmit prohibition to the entire state to vote on in November. It might pass next time.”
“Don’t give up hope yet, Judge.”
Dejected, the Judge shakes his head. “The low point in the convention arose when that representative from Denton took to the stage. He complained his own district was as dry as the Sahara. Then he ridiculed you with a stupid insult: ‘If the political Thomas cat of the Trinity wants to continue his night howls to the stars, he must seek seclusion in the backyards of politics in Texas.’ They shrieked like alley cats at that.
“When the band started playing ‘Everybody’s Doin’ It,’ the idiots jumped up on tables and chairs, ripping down bunting to wave to the music. The Prison Commissioner and former chairman embraced each other—well, as much as the chair’s portly dimensions would allow—and pranced up and down the platform in a disgusting version of the turkey trot. Any number of men paired up and shamefully turkey-trotted around the hall. This foolishness went on for at least a half-hour, leaving broken chairs in the clumsy dancers’ wake.”
“Mark my words,” promises Thomas. “My howling days are far from over. One day they will wake up and find all of Texas dry.”
Steamroller toot-toots, hoochie-coochie and turkey-trotting delegates all were part of the rowdy Democratic Convention held mid-August in San Antonio. And the band played on and on, providing the suitable soundtrack to encourage the chaos. Ramsey suffered through it, while Campbell did indeed sit it out. The Author was not present during any conversations they might have had about the raucous affair.