The best way to describe Jay Moore’s latest book on Abilene history is “You really have to read it to believe it!”
Moore’s 330-page book, “Abilene Daily: Snapshots of Home,” is written in bite-sized entries, one for each day of the year, including Feb. 29. The easy-to-read format was the suggestion of Glenn Dromgoole, retired editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and co-author with Moore on other projects. Dromgoole and his wife, Carol, own Texas Star Trading Company, a Texas-themed gift shop and a publishing firm, which published Moore’s book.
“Glenn was the one who suggested it to me,” Moore said. “I wish I had thought of it, but didn’t.”
But he did take Dromgoole’s suggestion and spent a year collecting stories for the book. It was on the shelves last fall and, like all of Moore’s books and videos, was an immediate top seller, Carol Dromgoole said.
“Abilenians are always excited when Jay writes another book, giving us all another little glimpse of local history,” she said.
Moore, a retired Abilene High School history teacher, has published local history books and a video series, “History in Plain Sight,” and has presented much-anticipated programs to packed houses at the Paramount Theater.
Even though Moore has many titles to his credit, he had a cache of stories he hadn’t written about before. Moore called on his memory and search of Reporter-News archives to create his latest book.
“There were some dates that were pretty easy to fill in,” he said, while some events had enough “wiggle room” to use on days that were harder to fill.
The Feb. 13 entry took place in 1960 when voters decided whether to incorporate a small area on Abilene’s north side. If the measure passed, the new town would be named Impact for the public relations firm owned by the man behind the election, Dallas Perkins. But it could well have been named for the impact that the incorporation had locally and nationally.
After much legal maneuvering, the vote in favor of incorporation was validated and Impact became a Texas town, with Perkins as mayor. Impact would become famous nationwide as a town created just to sell alcohol legally.
“It was the top story in Texas three years running,” Moore said.
On Feb. 10, 1944, enemy shells fell on a field hospital near Anzio, Italy. Five nurses were killed, including Second Lieutenant Laverne “Tex” Farquhar of Abilene. She and the other four nurses were the first Army women to die in World War II as the result of direct enemy action. Farquhar’s name is etched into a memorial at the courthouse listing the names of Taylor County veterans who died in service.
“Laverne Farquhar’s name is listed,” Moore wrote in the book, “although few know that she is the only female soldier from Abilene to die in battle.”
Even with his impressive knowledge of Abilene history, Moore did find a story he wasn’t familiar with. It’s the Sept. 16 entry and occurred in 1946. The story is titled, “Miracle in the Maize Field,” and relates the tale of Captain R. M. Krieg, pilot of a Pacific National DC-3 passenger plane.
Krieg radioed the Abilene airport after 11 p.m. Sept. 16 alerting the crew that he had lost both engines and was hoping to glide his crippled plane in for an emergency landing. But more problems developed and Krieg had to land the plane, with its three-man crew and 21 passengers, in a 100-acre maize field eleven miles east of Sweetwater. For the rest of the story, you really have to read it to believe it!
“That one, I never knew about,” Moore said.
One story he did know about but had never written is the entry for Aug. 16, 1953. On that date, fifteen Abilene All Stars boarded a chartered flight to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the PONY (Protect Our Nation’s Youth) League World Series.
“I’ve known about it,” Moore said, “because my uncle was on the team.”
He is now deceased, but other team members, such as Bruce Boyd and Rob Carothers, are current Abilene residents. The Abilene youngsters lost their first two games in the double elimination format, but got a great consolation prize. The Pittsburgh Pirates hosted them for a night game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. They got to see a bit of history.
“They watched as Jackie Robinson came to the plate five times, getting four hits and leading the Dodgers to a win,” Moore wrote.
If you’re curious–the oldest entry dates to Aug. 31, 1836, forty-five years before Abilene was founded. On that date, twins Claiborne and John Merchant were born. “Clabe” later moved to Taylor County and became known as “The Father of Abilene” for suggesting the town’s name.
The newest entry came on March 21, 2021, when the ACU Wildcats, the number fourteen seed in the NCAA March Madness men’s basketball tournament, took down the third-seeded Texas Longhorns by a score of 53-52. The game was clinched with two free throws by Joe Pleasant with one second left on the clock.
That remarkable achievement may not equal “Miracle in the Maize Field,” but it was close. To ACU fans, it may even top it.
How to buy “Abilene Daily: Snapshots of Home” The hardcover book by local historian Jay Moore sells for $27.50 and can be purchased at Texas Star Trading Company 174 Cypress St., by phone at 325-672-9696, or online, www.texasstartrading.com The book also is for sale at The Grace Museum, 102 Cypress St.
By Loretta Fulton
Photos Courtesy of Jay Moore