Spare Time in Texas: Recreation and History in the Lone Star State

By David G. McComb | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The Licit and the Illicit

If prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, as folklore claims, then drinking and gambling are handmaidens in attendance. When a dusty, stinking nineteenth-cen­ tury cowboy, with money jingling in his pocket, came to town after spending three weeks chasing range cattle, he took a bath, shaved, ate a good meal, took a drink of whiskey, gambled, and thought about women. In Big Spring, Texas, in the 1880s the first establishments that catered to that frontier cowboy were combination saloons, gambling places, dance halls, and restaurants. It was an explosive situation as experi­ ence proved, and the town shortly separated the activities. “In other words,” recalled Shine Philips, a druggist who grew up in the town, “folks decided that when a man ate he got to drinking and when he drank he got to looking around for a woman and it was best not to have all three in the same building—too handy and convenient. So these three prime entertainments were segregated.”1 Gambling and drinking, thus, remained within the province of the saloon while prostitution and restaurants moved into separate housing. This division was the general pattern for these recreational businesses in Texas until the mid-twentieth century, but the vice triad of gambling, drinking, and prostitution have danced together in a loose historical rhythm, at times legal and at other times illegal, even unto the present time.


PROSTITUTION

Sexual activity and prostitution, the exchange of sex for money, have always been a part of the human story. In the Epic of Gilgamesh (2000 BCE), one of the oldest pieces of literature in Western civilization, the hero, Gilgamesh, sends a temple prostitute to weaken a savage rival with six days and seven nights of lovemaking. The words come down to us from the ancient Middle East: “She used not restraint but accepted his ardour, / She put aside her robe and he lay upon her.”2 Moreover, as most Christians know, Mary Magdalene of Jesus’ time was once thought to be a repentant harlot. ”And behold,” states the Gospel of Luke, “a woman of the city who was a sinner when she learned that he [Jesus] was sitting at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an

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Spare Time in Texas: Recreation and History in the Lone Star State
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Licit and the Illicit 7
  • Chapter 2 - Parks and Other Public Spaces 39
  • Chapter 3 - The Great Stadiums 71
  • Chapter 4 - The Pleasure of Libraries 99
  • Chapter 5 - Theater and the Electric Revolution 129
  • Images of Recreation 153
  • Conclusions and Afterthoughts 251
  • Notes 255
  • A Bibliographic Note 277
  • Index 281
  • Image Credits 287
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