2017-02-28 03:53:42 UTC
My memories of the time have faded after well over four decades have
intervened. In 1973, I was attending San Antonio College and driving a
night-shift taxicab. The big story at the time, of course, was
Watergate; Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were our heroes; therefore,
I was studying journalism and contributing to the college newspaper,
The Ranger, as well as The Eagle-Bone Whistle (San Antonio's
alternative newspaper in the '60s and '70s). I recall that we were
discussing the idea of "vetting" a story in journalism class; the
professor broke us into groups, assigned each of the groups a lead and
told us to check out our respective leads; of course, these "leads"
were entirely mythical. The one I received was that our new governor,
Dolph Briscoe, had proposed (or would propose) that the state sell the
Alamo and San Jacinto battlefield as we were in a recession and in
need of cash.
I probably never was cut out to be a journalist because I always had a
creative streak and the bit about Dolph selling the Alamo was just way
too pedestrian for me; I decided to jazz it up a little. At that time,
Medina Field was a major training base for Iraqi pilots; therefore,
San Antonio was positively rife with Persian royalty who paraded
through my taxi cab every night. One night, I picked up a few Iraqi
pilots at the Crockett Hotel headed back to base and, as we passed the
Alamo on Bonham St., one of my passengers asked how much it cost to
stay in *that* hotel? ... and that's the origin of the Persian prince
who was going to buy the Alamo.
Well, I had to vet the story and fully expected to find that Dolph was
*not* going to sell the Alamo. To this end, I contacted the Daughters
of the Texas Revolution... I don't recall offhand to whom I spoke;
however, she positively blew a gasket at the very idea. I think I
contacted a San Antonio association of realtors and the governor's
office, all of whom, very predictably, denied knowing anything about
it. Thus, I had debunked the mythical lead, written it up, and that
should have been the end of it.
Except fate intervened. That evening, a few of us met at the Towne
Pump, a campus watering hole on N. St Mary's at Locust St. near SAC...
and the editor of The Ranger was there. I remember that he liked my
piece; I don't recall actually giving him a copy; however, the college
paper ended up publishing it. I didn't think much about it at that
time; my whole thesis was that Texas was absolutely not even going to
consider selling the Alamo and that part of it was true and well
vetted. Someone from The Ranger apparently followed up to Dolph
Briscoe's office, though, because, the governor's office issued a
press release saying essentially what I said in the previous sentence.
But it was a press release! Anyway, this gained the attention of, at
least, the San Antonio news media; we had the San Antonio Express News
and the San Antonio Light at the time; I think that they were both
upset that the San Antonio College paper had scooped them on the story
that (STOP THE PRESS!) the Alamo wasn't for sale. The News added the
part about it being a Saudi Arabian prince (I had said simply
"Persian") who was buying it for his wife. The Light, not to be
outdone, added the part about how he was going to have it disassembled
and shipped home as a wedding gift. Anyway, neither of them attributed
any part of it to The Ranger!
Then the wire services picked up the story. My journalism professor
was out of town; however, he heard the story all the way out in
Seattle and recognized it. I will never forget the phone conversation:
"Jones, what the fuck is going on?"
"Well, sir... " I replied, "You asked for a story, so I gave you one."
"I hope you have a good one for the dean! < CLICK >"
And thus ended my short career as a journalist. It turned out to be a
good thing that I wasn't cited by the other papers because heads
definitely rolled down the aisles of their editorial rooms when the
story's legs crumpled beneath it a short time later. Looking back, I
fault the governor's staff in their formal press release wherein they
changed my initial subjunctive question: "If [somebody] were to
offer..." into the more demonstrative: "*The* prince that *did*
offer..." thereby setting it all in motion. The San Antonio realtors
didn't help when they said that they could not discuss their client's
intentions due to confidentiality (remember that Watergate was in full
bloom!) And, of course, the Daughters of the Texas Revolution added
their contribution by shrieking loudly.
As Jay Gould said: "Nothing is lost, save honor," to which my dean
added: "... and the journalistic integrity of the Texas print media!"
The whole idea, for me, anyway, was to debunk the entire story.
Oh well, thus ends my story about the Alamo.