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Wed, Oct. 23

Column: Oh, Bossy! If only you had Buddy's vision

You readers probably aren't going to believe this, but I was born on Buddy Holly Avenue in Lubbock, Texas. Now, your skepticism is warranted based on my having been born in 1932 and Buddy in 1936, but I'm hoping that you'll be in a forgiving mood when it comes to my one and only claim to fame. You see, Avenue H is the maiden name of the street on which the family home in which I "discovered America" was located, and it subsequently was re-christened by the city's hierarchy after Buddy made it big-time before his untimely death in 1959.

Avenue H back then would never have been mistaken for Silk-Stocking Row, as our family's rental home was in a semi-industrial area a mile or so from downtown. There was a machine shop across the street on the north, and to the east - facing Avenue H - was Harry Hazel's Mobil filling station, where cheap gas (those were the days!) was pumped beneath a large sign bearing the likeness of the Flying Red Horse. Yes, "in-steed" I remember it well, along with the cow that resided in our backyard. Actually, Bossy wasn't our cow, as my dad simply fed and boarded her in exchange for the milk she produced. But it helped keep our family afloat during that depressing Depression era.

Bossy could be mischievous, though, and one day she managed to break loose from her tether (our yard was unfenced) and wandered over to, and fell into, Mr. Hazel's grease pit. It took a crane and manpower to lift her out, and my parents related afterwards that the cow emerged from the pit looking sheepish. She still was with us, though, when the family relocated to "Grandma's house" (my paternal grandmother was the owner) on 16th Street, and it was there that I witnessed another of Bossy's shenanigans. You see, she developed an affinity for items flapping on our backyard clothesline (her favorites were lacy linen things), and I remember my mom - armed with a broom - one day chasing her down 16th after she got loose (once again she managed to weather the tether) and was in the process of feasting on Mom's favorite table cloth. Not a pleasant sight.

Getting back to Buddy Holly Avenue (nee Avenue H), there now is nary a sign of any structures from the '30s, as a latter-day highway Loop now slices through the location, providing time- and gas-saving for drivers who have no "inner-city" business beckoning.

As luck would have it, though, my December issue of Texas Monthly ("The National Magazine of Texas") that arrived in the mail last week carried a column focusing on "the inside story of Buddy Holly's glasses" that was an interesting read. The piece was written by Lonn Taylor - a historian and former museum curator who lives in Fort Davis in far west Texas. The community is the county seat of Jeff Davis County, which sports the highest elevation above sea level - at 5,050 feet - of any county seat in Texas. And so it is that I sense a certain kinship with our mile-high county seat of Prescott.

Taylor's article - titled, appropriately, "That'll Be the Frames" - leads in with: "It is easy to find the Buddy Holly Center, in Lubbock, because a gigantic pair of Holly's famous black-rimmed eyeglasses, worked in welded steel 5 feet high and 13 feet wide, sits on the front lawn. The real ones are inside." The referenced real ones "were the glasses he was wearing when he was killed, along with Ritchie Valens and J.P. 'The Big Bopper' Richardson, in a plane crash in a cornfield near Mason City, Iowa, on the snowy night of Feb. 3, 1959. The glasses were thrown clear of the plane wreckage and buried in the snow. They were found, along with the Big Bopper's watch, when the snow melted in April."

Holly's widow, the former Maria Elena Santiago, subsequently sold them in 1998 to Civic Lubbock, the nonprofit cultural organization that created the Buddy Holly Center, Taylor noted, for $80,000. They're on display at the center, located at 1801 Crickets Ave. (nee Avenue G).

The significance of those glasses, which Buddy - who was saddled with 20/800 vision in both eyes and finally settled on after striking out with contact lenses - has been substantial, according to Taylor. "People wearing eyeglasses suffered a certain stigma in the fifties," he wrote, "and music historians have suggested that Holly paved the way for Roy Orbison, John Lennon and Elton John to perform wearing distinctive eyewear." Yes, those horn-rims produced a sensation in the spectacular spectacles sphere.

As a footnote, Paul McCartney adhered to the Holly beat and told a concert audience in Lubbock two months ago that "we followed his records and that was really the beginning of the Beatles." He also revealed during his appearance in the United Spirit Arena on the Texas Tech campus that it had been "a lifelong dream to perform in Holly's hometown" and that "you don't know how exciting if is for me to be here in Lubbock, Texas." In a show of appreciation for the concert gig, the Buddy Holly Education Foundation presented the former Beatle with a custom-made acoustic guitar that contains a fret from Holly's original guitar inside the sound hole.

Songwriter Don McLean placed the immortality tag on Holly, Valens and The Big Bopper with his "The Day the Music Died" paean in the movie "American Pie." But the Beatles provided the resurrection - in spades - that rocked the rock world to its foundations. So thanks, Buddy. And Paul, John, George and Ringo.

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