Troubadour: Can’t say I remember needing the word before


By Hudson Old — June 28, 2018


Tuning in to Professor Steve Howell’s lyrical-musical lectures ever time I crank the pickup stereo’s expanded my brain. I’m prob’ly smarter than y’all now.

I’m smug knowing “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South” was once Louie Armstrong’s tribute to Dixieland Jazz pouring down the Mississippi into the port of New Orleans. Hearing Professor Howell and the Mighty Men turn its melody into a riverboat paddle wheeler on a moonlit night taking me where I’ve never been makes me a philosopher.

Is it wrong for a troubadour (sic – I looked it up) to love his guitar? A Texas board room oil baron, Professor Howell would as soon be playing a honky tonk. I know, I was there. As an emerging music critic, I drove 50 miles to Marshall where he was booked for a Wednesday-night show.

A classical guitarist, Dan Summer took the distance trophy for driving up from Louisiana to accompany Professor Howell at OS2. OS2 is either a place with linen table clothes attached to an old railroad town tavern, or a tavern attached to a restaurant with a selection of Vegan, Organic and Non-GMO entres on the menu alongside marinated crab claws and filet mignon.

Either way, carry your wallet.

I got there in time to see Professor Howell and wife Leigh picking up the check for Mr. Summer’s meal.

“I take good care of good musicians,” Mr. Howell said. Also, I checked the spelling on “troubadour” before I started tossing out French, probably a residual effect of going in a bar with no pool tables. A beatnik could play bongos in there.

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Editor’s note:
I am siting the historical dates included in this article from memory. They may be off by a year or two but that does impact my opinion in any way. has verified that in the last month City Manager Jack Redmon has discussed transferring management of Wonderland of Lights from the City to the Chamber with Chamber Director Stormy Nickerson.

I commend the City Manager for taking this action since festival management is not a core function of the City and historically the City has not been directly involved in the management of Wonderland of Lights.

Wonderland of Lights was born in 1982 – the brainchild of Marshall News Messenger Publisher George Smith. The festival was managed by volunteers with heavy citizen involvement. In 1985 I was living in California but returned to Marshall for Christmas – the first time in 20 years.

I was very impressed with WOL. The decoration of the Square was very nice; the decorations on the neighbors’ homes were outstanding. This was something that Marshall could be proud of.

Wonderland was born as a volunteer-driven organization and was managed using a 501c3 structure. When I arrived back in Marshall in 2001, Wonderland was managed by Marshall Festivals. Marshall Festivals was criticized by many people, including me. I now realize how wrong I was. I now know Marshall Festivals did an outstanding job considering what they had to work with and the changes in society since WOL inception in 1982.

WOL was operated as a standalone 501c3 for 28 years. In retrospect, this was the best way to manage the festival.

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An abstract blue pattern with numbers

By Ron Munden – June 26, 2018

The wait is finally over. Based on the numbers the City provided for my February 6, 2018 open records request and the three previous three requests, the numbers provided by the City show that the City lost at least $191,998 on WOL 2017. I say at least because the City said because of their accounting system they could not provide me the contract labor costs or the material cost for January 2018. So, no January costs are included for those items.

The $191,998 is based entirely on the numbers provided by the City. I did make one adjustment. The City uses $50,000 of hotel occupancy tax money to pay for WOL. They count this $50,000 as revenue. This is not revenue it is simply a transfer of money between two city accounts. No one gave the City an extra $50,000 for WOL. This is a zero-sum-game for the City. Therefore, deducted the $50,000 from the revenue the City reported.

As I mentioned there are several missing expense numbers from the numbers provided by the City.

When the Convention and Visitors Bureau operated as a 501c3 and produced WOL the City charged the CVB for electricity usage. As I recall the charge was around $35,000/year. Now that the City runs the festival it does not report electricity as an expense even though the City pays the bill.

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By Ron Munden – June 26, 2018

At a Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting during the summer of 2017 there was a discussion about how much it really cost for the City to produce Wonderland of Lights. Commissioner Doug Lewis, who represents the City at the CVB meeting said that he had asked city staff that question, and he was told, “You do not want to know.” Commissioner Lewis said that he replied, “yes I do.”

For the past two years I had submitted open record requests for the data required to calculate the total cost of WOL. Each year the City’s reply was that the city must be non-responsive to my request because the city didn’t collect the data.

I was optimistic that if a City Commissioner wanted the data the City would collect the data for Wonderland 2017.

In November 2017 I submitted my first request for the expenditures for October 2017. I was pleased when the City responded to my request. I repeated the process in December and January and the City responded to both requests. So, by mid-January I had data on all the expenditures for WOL 2017 through the month of December.

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By Ron Munden

The two tourism murals installed by the CVB continue to fade as does the memories of Marshall’s failed tourism project.

I worked on the initial phase of the tourism project – selecting a consultant to develop a plan, coordinating the development of the plan and ensuring that the plan was approved by the City Commission. The effort started in 2006 and continued until the mid-2007.

Even though there was a constant battle between then City Manager Frank Johnson and the Task Force members were able to get the plan adopted in its entirety by the City Commission in mid-2007. On the night the City Commission approved the plan, Frank Johnson disbanded the Task Force. Firing all the member of the Task Force. This ended my and most other members of the Task Force involvement with Marshall Tourism Project. The tourism consultants recommended a six-month transition period for the management of the project to transition from the task force to the Brand Development Committee to ensure project continuity. Mr. Johnson action ensured that there was no transition and therefore a complete loss of continuity. In my opinion this was a fatal mistake.

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Leann Rimes in Concert – Marshall Texas – June 2011


Photography by Ron Munden

In 2010 and 2011 Marshall Texas as trying to brand itself as “Marahall Texas – Center Stage” (the center for entertainment in North East Texas).  The effort failed but during that two years the city have more good entertainment than in all the years that have followed.  It was an expensive failure but it was a fun time while it lasted.

Recently I ran across 83 images from the Leann Rimes concert in June 2011.

Click here to see the slideshow/gallery.

Evenings and Birthday in Syracuse – April 25 & 27, 2018 – Syracuse, Sicily, Italy


By Tom Allin

Not all our time with Anna and Edmund was looking at old things. We spent three
evenings in Ortygia, which is the original settlement of Syracuse. Ortygia is located
on a small island to the south of Syracuse. We would take a five to seven minute taxi
rides each way and had what I tasted as very good meals.

Anna volunteered to introduce Nancy and me to several desserts and drinks –
sometimes in the late afternoon and others after dinner. I don’t remember the
names of the desserts but I do remember what they look like and have continued to
order when I see them in a pastry case.

Our drinks and the free bar food. This was at the small café shop next to the
entrance to our hotel.

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By Ron Munden – June 17, 2018

On Saturday the Marshall News Messenger published an article titled, “No bond election for new animal shelter after split Marshall commissioners vote.” When I read the headline, I assumed that after 6 years the City Commission had approved the project and construction would start in the fall.

After reading the rest of the article and making a few calls, I think the fate of the animal shelter is still up in the air.

The MNM article said,”Commissioners Larry Hurta, Vernia Calhoun and Doug Lewis voted against the $2.2 million certificate of obligation funding option.” It is my understanding that these commissioners will support an election petition that if successful will prevent the City from using the certificate of obligation that passed on Thursday.

Last week I wrote an article that said, “in my opinion if the city commissioners decide on a bond election rather than using a certificate of obligation, they would be shooting themselves in the foot.”

After Thursday’s vote it looks like Commissioners Hurta, Calhoun, and Lewis missed with their first shot but are putting another bullet in the chamber and getting ready to take another shot. The only difference is that if this one hits the foot it is going to be even more damaging. I’ll explain why in the remaining part of this article.