Henry M. Apperson 80th birthday celebration, October 26, 2013, Whitney, Texas
1. Henry and his family and friends will celebrate his 80th birthday on Saturday afternoon from 2 to 5 p.m., October 26, 2013, at the Whitney Lion's Club, 504 S. Bosque Street (Texas state highway 22) in Whitney, Texas, a beautiful lakeside community about 35 miles north of Waco.
I know this because Henry sent me a stunning personal invitation that shows a picture of him as an innocent High School graduate in 1951 alongside his picture as a worldly-wise college professor today.
I see no reason not to tell the world about this special celebration for this special person.
2. Henry is currently in the 46th year of a distinguished career at McLennan Community College in Waco.
I know this because I studied alongside him for my M.A. at Baylor in 1968-69 when he was already teaching at MCC.
But he told me that for permanent status MCC required an M.A., which he had virtually completed except for one thing: history Professor Rufus Spain's need to see a finished thesis!
Which at that time still consisted of several boxes of extensive, but disorganized interview materials Henry had collected from almost everyone in the small town of West, Texas where he pastored the Baptist Church.
3. Henry had (and still has today) a wonderful, down-to-earth manner, offering his people (and his students today) a warm message and all the help of any kind he could (or can) muster. Henry also had an inquiring mind about those townspeople, which led to all those interviews for his potential thesis in those boxes.
I know this because one Sunday in 1968, I visited that church with Gloria and my daughter Wendy (I even played the piano Sunday night for his wife singing the special music), and I went pastoring through town with "Brother Henry" during one week.
Henry typically ministered to everyone he came in contact with, listening to the life stories of many generations.
His inquiring mind began trying to learn how the town's original Anglo-American culture had first conflicted with, then assimilated with, the new Central European immigrants of the late 19th century, producing the peaceful, unified community he saw before him in the 1960s.
The congenial Prof. Spain approved the idea for Henry's thesis. Everyone at Baylor loved Henry; I was the one they didn't like!
4. Henry did finish that thesis, he did get his master's in 1969, he did get permanent status at MCC, and he did get his work published by Texian Press as History of West, Texas, 1836-1920: Conflict of Conservative Cultures (Waco, 1969), and copies of it are still available from the West Public Library.
I know this because I was there in his home one day in spring of 1968, sitting in the room with those interview boxes stacked against the wall, with Henry pacing back and forth talking so much about those interviews that he finally discovered (or stumbled upon) the key to organizing them into a coherent historical account.
The rest was down-hill after that. When he graduated, I had already moved to New York, but he sent me a copy of the book, and I later saw the proof of his graduation on a piece of parchment signed by the president of Baylor University.
I visited him many times at MCC during the years whenever he graciously invited me to teach his classes. As visiting "independent scholar" I shocked the students, and Henry, as much as possible.
5. In 1951 Henry graduated at the age of 17 from Nederland High School where he played quarterback on the football team. In his home church he dedicated himself to a life-time ministry of service, which led him in September to enroll as a freshman in East Texas Baptist College in Marshall.
I know this because that same year of 1951, I graduated from Tulsa Central High (winning cross-country track, though, not playing football), and in my home church I also dedicated myself to a life-time ministry of human service, which also led me to ETBC in September.
I first met Henry on a campus street one rainy night. We both ran for President of the Freshman Class, which Henry won with about 40 savvy Texan voters to five or six straggler voters from elsewhere for me, officially called "Outlanders"!
By the next September of 1952, we became roommates in the new Men's Dormitory. A few years ago, we visited campus together (now East Texas Baptist University), and we could not believe how far that room had shrunk to become virtually tiny by comparison with our memories.
That semester I dated Bonnie Louise Slayter from New London (who later became my wife), but Instructor Charlie Jackson told me one day I should not kiss her so much when I walked her to the girl's dorm. Henry dated Mary ----- from Texarkana, but I won't give her last name, because if she is still alive, she might still be coming after Henry with a hatchet!
By Spring 1953 I had transferred to Baylor, and Henry transferred over the following September, so the rest, I suppose, at least for now, is history . . . best left for telling at another occasion..
I suppose that if I were to write down everything I know about Henry, and if Henry were to write down everything he knows about Max, we would, in "the old days," have had a couple of racy best-sellers on our hands, to be banned in East Texas, if not in Boston.
But as a trained historian of ideas and culture, I must honestly report that American culture in general has gotten far racier far faster than either Henry or myself, or both of us together, have been able to keep up with over the years. Hell, the word "racy" isn't even racy anymore!
Congratulations, Henry! I'm coming up right after you on December 4th in Chicago!
Affectionately to my life-time buddy, Henry Milton Apperson,
Max Joseph Havlick
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Copyright (c) 2013 by the Max Havlick School, a nonprofit project of New World Community Enterprises, Inc., 16 W. Vermont St., Villa Park, Illinois 60181-1938, where "we value each person's life as a priceless work of art."