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The Deer Park Community

Celebrating History: From their own eyes

Written by Sherry Garrison. Posted in Community

As Deer Park celebrates its 125th birthday in 2017, the Historical Committee looks back on the city's beginnings and preserve its memories for future generations. In this column, Committee chair Sherry Garrison shares the story of two Deer Park graduates who experienced the growth and culture of the community’s early years.

This is the story of two men who grew up in Deer Park. Both men were born in the 1920s, attended Deer Park schools, and served their country during World War II in the 1940s. These men followed different career paths and eventually established their lives outside of Deer Park.

Kinnie (Kin) Mason and Rafael Ronaldo (Ron) Meza became reacquainted in the 1980s. They rediscovered how different their lives were growing up in Deer Park. They decided to independently write about their family, school, and community. They combined their experiences and co-authored the book “Out of Deer Park.” This book is 714 pages long and explores their own personal perceptions of Deer Park. It is filled with pictures, from both authors, and sketches drawn of early Deer Park by Ron Meza.

It is a wealth of information, including descriptions of our early prairie town revealing the closeness, as well as the separateness of the community, a discussion of the different education each of the men received, accounts of the influential people that touched their lives, old school pictures, family histories, pictures and newspaper articles from World War II, and details of their hopes and dreams for the future.

It would be impossible to adequately cover all of the information that is presented in the book in this article. The following is a small sample of their memories of Deer Park.

Ron Meza was born in 1925. He was the oldest of six boys. His parents were Reynaldo and Benedicta Meza. The family moved to Deer Park in 1929. His father was involved in several businesses, including a restaurant, to support the family. The family was Spanish speaking. Ron attended the Deepwater school that was geared for children of itinerant Mexican field workers, which spoke little or no English. Ron fell into this category. He was smart, learned English, and soon attended the school in Deer Park. Deer Park was socially segregated so there was little interaction between the Anglo and Mexican community.

The family struggled financially as the senior Meza began to lose his eyesight. Ron entered the service when he turned 18 and volunteered to join the Army Air Corps. After World War II, he returned to Deer Park. He sought the advice of two Deer Park educators, Charles Dorris and Floyd Crouch. Both men were enthusiastic about Ron attending college with help from the G. I. Bill. He enrolled in the University of Houston, obtained a degree in architecture, moved to San Antonio, and worked for an architecture firm, becoming the chief designer. He later moved to California, became established as an architect, married, and raised a family.

Kin Mason was born in 1927. He was the youngest of three boys. His parents were Gaines Y. and Julia Mason. His father began working for Shell in 1929 in the “Bull Gang,” a labor pool where all new workers began their jobs. When the family moved to Deer Park there were very few places to live, so they rented a house across from the school. In 1932, they moved to their home on Ivy Street where his parents resided for years. Gaines Mason served on the school board for many years. The auditorium at the Deer Park High School - North Campus was named in his honor.

Kin was not a shy child, despite his constant stutter, he spoke to everyone. The family had chickens, a cow, a vegetable garden, and sometimes a pig. His mother canned as much as possible from the garden for the winter.

Kin gave vivid descriptions of his school years and his teachers in Deer Park, from first grade through his graduation. He wrote that Mr. Shelby and Postmaster Sneed were very influential during his early years. Shelby’s was the local store. It was a place to meet friends, listen to the older men talk, and at times listen to music. In his early teen years, more time was spent with Mr. Sneed. He recalled helping him sort the mail, discussing life’s problems, going on camping trips, and playing with radio crystal sets.

Kin spent two years in the Merchant Marines during World War II, and another two years after that in the army. While he was stationed in Florida, Kin got married and returned to Texas, where he graduated from the University of Houston. Kin became a teacher, raised a family, and made his home in Canada in the 1960’s. He and his wife spent the rest of their lives in Canada.

This very detailed book gives us a glimpse into early Deer Park as seen through the eyes of Kin Mason and Ron Meza. It allows the reader to step back and visualize all of their realities, as well as their hopes and dreams.

The Historical Committee wants to thank and acknowledge Kathy Mason Fisher for allowing us to copy and display this book in our museum cabinets. The Deer Park Public Library also has a copy that will soon be available as a research reference book.