Monday, April 11, 2011

Darth Vader and the 40-Pound Feminist

The West Texas summer heat gave way to a frigid blast of air
conditioning as my mother and I pushed through the glass doors into
TG&Y. The shining floors and fluorescent lights always prompted a
quickening of my pulse. The late ’70s were the pre-Walmart years in
Big Spring, Texas, and TG&Y offered a glorious array of everything my
7-year-old mind could think of. TG&Y carried such a varied assortment
of goods that my friends and I referred to it as “Toys, Guns and
YoYos” or the more risque “Turtles, Girdles and YoYos.” That day, my
mother, an avid seamstress, needed to shop for fabric. Which gave me
at least 20 minutes to soak in the wonders of the TG&Y toy department.

Of course I could pore over the bright color pages in the toy section
of the Sears Wish Book any time I wanted to. But the TG&Y toy
department is where those pictures came to life. Gleaming Magic
8-Balls with answers to my future floating in dark blue dye. Plastic
buckets of Slime containing worms, bugs and eyeballs. Lite Brites and
Shrinky Dinks and cans of Silly String. Bicycles with their brand-new
rubber tire smell. Row after row of pink boxes showcasing every kind
of Barbie imaginable.

With so much to look at, deciding where to go first would have been a
vexing decision. But this was 1978, and the Star Wars craze had swept
through my hometown and left mobs of galactic rebel-wann-bes in its
wake. I was one of them. The previous Christmas, I had received the
Death Star Space Station, which was one of the most coveted Star Wars toys on the market, second only to the Millenium Falcon. I played for hours with my Star Wars toys – constructing endless storylines that
ranged from the Rebels hatching elaborate plots against Imperial
forces to Princess Leia and my lone Tuscan Raider becoming entangled in a clandestine, star-crossed love affair. In this cosmic fantasy
world, I was no longer a 40-pound second-grader who cowered in the
corner of the gym during dodgeball tournaments. I was the ruler of my
own embattled galaxy. Depending on my mood, I could topple Darth Vader from his reign of terror. Or I could pack the Death Star’s trash
compactor full of droids so the Imperial force could use them for
scrap metal to soup up their tie fighters. I could bring Obiwan Kenobi
back from the dead. Or have Darth Vader kill him as many times as I
wanted him to. In my bedroom, complete with a Holly Hobbie bedspread and matching curtains, I had created my own alternate universe in
which good and evil sparred in a never-ending battle.

My breath catching in my throat, I entered the Star Wars toy aisle.
Proud black boxes lined each shelf as far as my eyes could see. From
inside the boxes, tiny Han Solos and Luke Skywalkers and metallic
droids peered through plastic windows. I always stopped to survey the
action figures first. Kenner, the toy company that produced and
marketed the Star Wars toys, was always introducing new action
figures, and I had to see if any of them were worthy of my wish list.

But Kenner had recently come out with a new line of Star Wars figures.
They were the same classic characters, but bigger – more like
Barbie-doll size. I already had Princess Leia, her rooted brown hair
wound into its trademark cinnamon-bun shapes on each side of her head.

But next to Leia on the shelf that day was another Star Wars character

that caught my eye. Darth Vader. Enrobed in his signature black cloak,
the Dark Lord of the Sith peered at me from behind his sheet of clear
plastic. I picked up his box and stared into his menacing mask,

Suddenly, the box was snatched out of my hands. Startled, I looked up
to see a boy who appeared to be close to my age.

“You can’t have that because you’re a GIRL,” he spat angrily. “Here,”
he said, grabbing Princess Leia’s box off the shelf and thrusting it
at me. “You have to play with this one. Because you’re a GIRL.”

I felt frozen in a state of shock and confusion. This had never
happened to me before. My parents weren’t exactly burning piles of
bras in the front yard, but they had certainly never communicated to
me that I couldn’t have something or couldn’t do something because of
my gender. Barbie dolls and Matchbox cars and Star Wars action figures all co-existed peacefully in my bedroom. (Except for the time the Stormtroopers kidnapped Barbie and tormented Ken with vicious ransom notes.) The fact that I was a girl had never determined what I could or could not play with. I did not like this boy. And I especially did
not like the way he kept saying “girl” like it was a bad word.

At a loss for what to say, I decided to act. I calmly took Princess
Leia from the boy and placed her back on the shelf. Then I snatched
the Darth Vader box from the boy’s hands, clutched it to my chest, and


His voice jumped up an octave. Maybe two.

“But you’re a GIRL!” he screeched. “You can’t have Darth Vader! He’s for BOYS!”

Oh, my. This boy wasn’t going to go away easily. I took a step to my
right, where the light sabers were hanging. This wasn’t going to end
pretty, but it was going to end.

Before I had to take such drastic action, his mother appeared. Much to
my relief.

“Come on,” she reached for his hand. “It’s time to go.”

“Mom!” he yelled, grasping for her to support his evil chauvinist
cause. “Tell her she can’t have that! She’s a GIRL!”

“Don’t be silly,” she replied, becoming my instant ally. “She can play
with whatever she wants.”

As the woman led her son away, he never stopped shrieking. They
disappeared around the corner and his indignant cries grew more and
more faint until I could no longer hear them.

As the welcome silence fell over the Star Wars toy aisle, I realized I
was still clutching Darth Vader to my chest. I pulled the box back and
lifted it so his mask was at my eye-level. I knew this ruthless cyborg
did not approve of rebel activity. But staring at his shiny, black
plastic mask, I thought I caught a congratulatory nod. Our work was
done here. I placed him back on the shelf and turned to leave. Darth
Vader and I had won this battle together.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beaumont, Back in the Day

By Winston Hamby and Deana Hamby Nall

Beaumont Enterprise guest columnist Winston Hamby and his daughter,
Deana (Hamby) Nall, both have memories of teenage culture in Beaumont
from different eras. Winston is a 1953 graduate of South Park High
School and Deana graduated from Beaumont Christian High School in
1989. Recently, they sat down to talk about coming of age in the same
town—three decades apart.

D: Where in Beaumont did you live in the ’50s?

W: In South Park on Pipkin Street. Then we moved to Concord Road,
which was Voth Road back then. We only had one car. We would drive
downtown to the Goodhue Building to pick up my dad from work every

D: Where did you and your friends hang out?

W: Pig Stand #10 on Port Arthur Road and Washington Boulevard. There
was another Pig Stand on Calder, but that was the Beaumont High Pig

D: So if the South Park Pig Stand was #10, were there nine others?

W: No, just the two in Beaumont at that time.

D: Do you remember where my hangout was in the ’80s?

W: Rogers Park?

D: That was part of it. We hung out on Dowlen Road.

W: Oh, that was your drag.

D: Did you have a drag?

W: Pearl and Orleans, but after they were changed to one-way, it
became Pearl, Crockett, Orleans and College. We made a rectangle.

D: We just drove up and down Dowlen. When we got to Whataburger, we
turned around. When we got to Rogers Park, we turned around again. We
would drive up and down for hours—use up a whole tank of gas.

W: I used to worry about you out there.

D: We were just going out to see and be seen. The rule was to act
bored, but it was really a lot of fun.

W: One night I went out there in our red and gray van to see what you
were up to.

D: I called it the “Hambymobile.”

W: I pulled into Rogers Park and I saw you sitting on the hood of a
car with some friends. You were holding a Bible in your lap and I felt
bad for thinking you were up to no good.

D: Dad, I never had a Bible in Rogers Park.

W: You didn’t?

D: No. I did read the Bible, just not in Rogers Park.

W: I wonder why I remember that, then.

D: Wishful thinking, I guess.

W: We had a Bible class at South Park High School in the ’50s. There
was a huge cheating ring in there.

D: Did you learn anything in that class? I mean, you were a preacher’s kid.

W: I can’t remember.

D: What was the West End back then?

W: It was fields. Where West End is now was a town called Amelia that
was five miles from Beaumont.

D: So Amelia was its own town?

W: Yes. I didn’t go out there much. I didn’t leave town very often.

D: Oh, we did.

W: Where did you go?

D: Louisiana. A lot of us would go across the state line on weekend
nights. There were a couple of clubs in Vinton where we would go line
dancing. I didn’t even like country music, but we had a blast out

W: I just took dates to the Jefferson Theater and the Pig Stand on the way home.

D: Which movies did you see there?

W: Oh… “Singing in the Rain” with… what’s his name?

D: Gene Kelly.

W: Yes.

D: How did I know that and you didn’t? I wasn’t even born until 1971.

W: What were your generation’s movies?

D: Tom Cruise was big in the ’80s. I saw “Top Gun” on opening night at
the Gaylynn a few years before it closed. I liked movies, but I liked
music more. What were you listening to in the ’50s?

W: Jo Stafford, Vic Damone, Pat Boone. Bing Crosby was phasing out but I still liked him. And Glenn Miller. There was Elvis Presley, but he
took some getting used to because he was a little weird at first. I
also liked Spike Jones and his satirical renditions of popular music.

D: I remember Spike Jones because we had a record when I was a kid.
There was a song about a horse race.

W: Oh, yeah. “Beetle Bomb.”

D: The music in the ’80s was all about pop and hair bands.

W: I didn’t like hair bands. I thought they were too “hippie.”

D: “Hippie?” When I think of hair bands, “hippie” doesn’t exactly come to mind.

W: I saw hippies wearing them in the ’70s and I didn’t like them.

D: Dad, hair bands were not something you wore in your hair. Hair
bands were rock bands in the ’80s made up of members who had lots of
big hair. Like Ratt and Poison.

W: I do remember Rat Poison.

D: Ratt and Poison. They were two different bands.

W: Oh. They probably sounded the same.

D: You know ’80s music better than I thought. Did you listen to
records or the radio in the ’50s?

W: Both. I listened to Gordon Baxter on the radio. He was hired and
fired by just about every radio station in Jefferson County.

D: He lived across the street from us on Redwood Drive in the ’80s.

W: Yes. He was quite a character.

D: Where did you eat in Beaumont in the ’50s?

W: The Golden Arrow was nice. Their worms were better than most.

D: Worms?

W: They always had worms in their salads.

D: And you kept going back?

W: Yeah. We just ate around them. We also ate at the Enterprise Café.
I loved their breaded veal cutlets and cream gravy. And I liked
Shelton’s and Motor Lunch.

D: Motor Lunch doesn’t sound appetizing in the least.

W: I ate there when the Pig Stand and Shelton’s parking lots were
full. There was also the Seven Seas restaurant toward Port Arthur. It
had the same manager as the Golden Arrow.

D: Did Seven Seas have worms in their salads, too? Since it had the
same manager?

W: I couldn’t tell. The lights were pretty dim. They kind of blended
in with the tomatoes.

D: We had Novrozky’s in the ’80s, across from the mall. That was a fun
place to hang out. I loved their hickory burgers.

W: Are they still open?

D: I don’t know. Mr. Gatti’s was right next door to it. It’s closed now.

W: In the ’50s, I liked Phelan’s Coffee because of its slogan: “Good
to the last drop.”

D: That’s Maxwell House.

W: It is?

D: Yes.

W: Oh.

D: Why do you think Beaumont was such a fun place to come of age in
the ’50s and ’80s?

W: For me, it was just where I lived. There were a lot of fun things to do.
D: The ’50s and ’80s were eras of optimism. I think that made those
decades seem more carefree. Plus both decades had the best music and
cars of the 20th Century.

W: I drove a ’39 Buick. And I never missed a driveway.

D: Oh, I put cars in ditches all over Beaumont.

W: I know. I had Bra-K Wrecker Service on my speed dial.

D: It’s hard enough learning to drive. And Beaumont has ditches all
over the place. They were unavoidable.

W: Well, you made it through your teen years alive.

D: We both did.

W: I’m glad we both spent our teen years in Beaumont.

D: It was a fun place to be a teenager. I think we are lucky.

W: I think so, too.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Hope for Hyperemesis

Some of you know that Julia, Jenna and I are survivors of a debilitating and life-threatening pregnancy complication known as hyperemesis gravidarum. If you don’t know what that is, you can click here for more information. That’s the website for the HER Foundation, which was started by my friend and fellow HG survivor, Kimber MacGibbon. Kimber was a guest on the Dr. Phil show a couple of years ago for a segment on HG. She has put a lot of work into the HER Foundation and made it a valuable resource for HG sufferers, their families and health professionals.

For years, many HG survivors have believed more research should be done to find a cause and cure or at least lessen the devastating effects of HG. Recently, our prayers have been answered: The Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Southern California and the Department of Medicine at UCLA are conducting a study to identify the genes and risk factors of HG. I’ve been contacted about this study and have agreed to participate in it.

The study still needs participants. They need women who have had HG, and they also need a control group of women who have been pregnant with no HG. For the control group, they need women who have NOT had HG and who have had at least two pregnancies that went beyond 27 weeks.

If you are not sure if the nausea/vomiting you experienced in pregnancy was morning sickness or HG, this can help you out.

Please consider being a part of this study. This research could provide the answers that HG sufferers and their families have needed for years. For some women, the HG becomes so severe that they must terminate (very much wanted) pregnancies to save their own lives. This was not the case with me, but it could have been and it is a reality for many women.

If you live in the U.S. and are interested in participating, either as an HG survivor or non-HG participant, please contact please contact Marlena Schoenberg Fejzo, PhD at or 310-210-0802.

Here’s more info on the study:

Help Find a Cure for HG

HG Genetic Study Needs Participants!

USC & UCLA are close to meeting their goal of 1,000 participants. The goal of this study is to understand the etiology of Hyperemesis Gravidarum so we can develop better treatments and improve the quality of life for patients suffering from HG and their offspring. (More information... or contact )

Current 2007-2012 Study: Genetics of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)

This study is designed to identify individuals affected with HG, to study epidemiologic factors via an online survey, to collect DNA samples from saliva through the mail at no cost or travel for you, and to search for genes and risk factors that may be potentially associated with this condition. To be eligible, you must have suffered from HG and had treatment for your HG that includes i.v. hydration, TPN or other form of non-oral feeding (ie nasogastric feeding), OR both, and are able to recruit a friend with at least 2 pregnancies who has NOT suffered from HG to serve as a control. If you live in the United States and are interested, please contact Marlena Schoenberg Fejzo, PhD at or 310-210-0802. Download the USC/UCLA Consent Form (804 Kb PDF) for more details about the study.

Identification of genes and risk factors that contribute to HG will lead to a better understanding of the causes of severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, and should be a first step toward the development of more effective treatments or a cure for this devastating disease. To learn more about why Marlena is devoted to finding the cause of HG and information about participating in the study watch Marlena's video here.

Identification of genes and risk factors that contribute to HG will lead to a better understanding of the causes of severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, and should be a first step toward the development of more effective treatments or a cure for this devastating disease.