On the border of Chambers and Liberty Counties, on State Highway 146, just north of Interstate 10, sits the town of Mont Belvieu, Texas. Originally known as Barbers Hill, it was renamed in 1890. By 1920, it had an estimated population of 20 people. But things were about to change. In May 1922, the city plat was filed. Oil production had begun in 1918 and would soon increase dramatically with the discovery of oil reserves at a deeper depth. Oil and agriculture were the sources of income.
Philip and Barsa Hollingshead were trying to scratch out a living by farming, but times were tough. In October 1923, their family of four increased by one with the birth of their second daughter, Minnie. They would eventually have six children, four now deceased. Farming proved to be an unsuccessful venture, so the family farmed in several places including Dayton and even in Oklahoma. In 1929 Mr. Hollingshead landed a job in the petroleum industry working for Humble Oil and Refining Company, which today is known as ExxonMobil.
Minnie remembers her childhood as a happy one even though money was scarce. She recalls having one dress to wear during the week and a second dress to wear on Sunday. An uncle allowed the family to raise a vegetable garden on his land. Minnie says, “So we at least had vegetables, even if we didn’t like them.”
Minnie graduated from Baytown High School in 1941, just months before the United States was plunged into WWII. She was accepted into the National Youth Administration (a New Deal agency that was organized under the WPA after 1939). The program provided jobs and education for young men and women. Minnie didn’t recall her wages, but research indicates salaries ranged from $6 to $40 per month. Minnie learned to be a welder and was one of the thousands of Rosie Riveters that supported the war effort. She worked for Houston Ship Yard producing Liberty Ships until the war ended. She proved to be an excellent welder and was soon doing some of the most demanding work. I asked her how much she was paid at the time; she didn’t remember the wage, only that “I didn’t have time to spend it anyway.”
Minnie moved back to Baytown and took a job as a waitress after the war had ended and was soon married to Frank Harris, a GI who was part of the North Africa Campaign during the war. Although the marriage didn’t last, the couple had two daughters. Martha lives in Georgetown, and Jeanette lives here in Pearland.
As a single mother, Minnie continued to wait tables and enrolled in Massey Business College to learn a trade that would support her and her daughters. Nina Layton was working for a company owned by a man who had a brother in the contract hauling business. Through Nina, Minnie was able to land a job as a bookkeeper for the R.A. Schriewer Company. It, along with other companies, was involved in the construction of the Astrodome. Minnie would remain there for 25 years. She bought the house she lives in today back in 1961. When I commented about how long she had lived there, Minnie said, “I really don’t like change.” For 35 years, she worked out of her home as a bookkeeper and a tax preparer.
Minnie has worshipped here since her earliest days in Pearland. She has been involved in personal evangelism and volunteered for Meals on Wheels and World Bible School since those ministries were begun. Beginning in 2003, she also volunteers with Relay for Life, a dusk-to- dawn fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. She keeps herself busy! Minnie has 3 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
Thanks to Jeanette Hays for contributing some of the information needed. – DC