Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bill Mack’s Entertainment Beat: nothing like your hometown

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I was born in Shamrock, Texas, where the 2000 census lists the population at 2,029.
I was born in Shamrock, Texas, where the 2000 census lists the population at 2,029.

I've been in the business of broadcasting for almost 60 years. Willie Nelson, CNN's Larry King and I began our careers around the same time. Needless to say, Willie and Larry have more recognizable names then mine. However, neither could brag on having a better hometown.

Willie's hometown is Abbott, Texas. The population in this fine little town is 300, according to the 2000 census. Of interest is the fact that Abbott has lost 14 people since the 1990 census, when the population was 314.

I was born in Shamrock, Texas, where the 2000 census lists the population at 2,029.

Lawrence Harvey Zeiger's (Larry King) hometown is Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn is spread over 71 square-miles, making it New York City's second largest borough, with the population being 2,508,820 (2006 census).

I mention these statistics for one simple reason: It doesn't matter what the population is, the hometown is...and always will be...that blessed geographical location that will be a part of your life, and your heart, as long as you live.

I'm sure there are those who have placed their locations-of-birth on the "back-burner" of importance, and there was most likely a legitimate reason for their forming this attitude. However, I have always considered Shamrock, Texas to be a very special spot on the map. I know that Willie has similar thoughts toward Abbott.  Larry King now lives in Los Angeles, but loves to track-back to New York. "The city just draws you back to it," he says.

Let's face it. We may travel to some of the most fascinating cities on the globe, but the "old hometown" will always maintain that special shine in our lives.

I was born in the Shamrock General Hospital, although the family home was in Abra, Texas, a spot-in-the-road located just a few rural miles from the Irish City. We moved to Shamrock when I was four-years-old. I can still remember our making that memorable move. The bright street-lights seemed awesome to me. The downtown area, with its busy stores and sidewalks loaded with people, caught my attention in a big way.

My grandparents, assorted uncles, aunts and cousins, created assurance that we would never be alone in Shamrock.

After living in the hometown for awhile, a strong allegiance was formed.  Shamrock High School football games were always serious happenings. When the Shamrock Irish were pitted against the Wellington Skyrockets, it was similar to the Super Bowl. After the game, the fathers of both teams would meet at the Lutie (Ludy?), Texas cotton gin, located between Shamrock and Wellington, and fight it out. Most times, this was more exciting than the game.

Willie Nelson has homes in Austin and on the island of Maui, but some of his most precious days are those spent in Abbott. There are no movie theaters or night clubs in Abbott. It's just the beautiful feeling he receives when walking on old familiar ground. He and his sister, Bobbie, attended the Abbott Methodist Church when they were growing up. A few years ago, Willie purchased the old church and had it completely restored to perfect condition. Today, the church is back-in-action. "I just felt like Bobbie and I needed to rebuild the old church and give it back to the town. We received some of our most blessed moments while singing and praying there when we were youngsters," said Nelson.

Larry King said that although Brooklyn was a huge part of New York City, it reflected the feeling of being in a small, restricted neighborhood. "Everybody knew everybody else and everybody else's business. There were the daily fights among the various gangs, but they were "personal" fights, just part of the expected. After the hitting and kicking was over, we headed to the drug store for some ice cream or milk shakes. We were friends again."

Shamrock, Texas had a population of approximately 4000 when I was growing up there. Located on the old Route 66, there were dozens of active motels, restaurants and service stations. The thousands of bright lights resembled a small Las Vegas. A few years after I had moved away, Interstate 40 replaced Route 66, causing serious economic damage. No longer was it a "stop for the night" or "stop for a meal" town. Most of the traffic whizzed past Shamrock, making Amarillo or Oklahoma City their destination points for fuel and food. I will always feel that the non-stop traffic was missing out on some very good opportunities by not stopping in my hometown. They were missing out on some good meals in restaurants that still make certain the food is the best. It was--and still is--home-style cooking. They also missed out on sharing some time and conversation with people who are genuinely interested in the well-being of others, even though they are strangers.  "Stranger" is a temporary word in Shamrock, Texas.  Most of the citizens in my hometown want you to "stay and visit for awhile." They'll take the time to show you around. This includes a visit to the U-Drop-Inn, once referred to as one of the main highlights on Route 66. Because of the outstanding architecture, it was utilized in the animated film, "Cars."  There is also the tallest water-tower in Texas, the museum, and other magnificent places that remind you of a more casual, enjoyable environment.  And you may be driving on Bill Mack Boulevard,  now stretching from city-limit to city-limit on the town's north side, a part of old Route 66. Sure, I'm proud of that street, just as I'm proud of that town!

This month, I am scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the St. Patrick's Day banquet in Shamrock, taking place on March 19, and I've got to be honest with you. I'm a bit nervous. Sure, I've spoken at hundreds of get-togethers, but on this special night I'll be speaking to individuals in an exceptional town, made up of wonderful people. And I know they'll be listening carefully to what I have to say, because they will want to know whatever made me decide to leave the most memorable location in the world: Shamrock, Texas--my hometown!

One thing for certain: the words won't come easy, but it'll be great being back home.

Listen to Bill Mack daily from Noon 'til 3:00PM (ET) on Sirius (Channel 64) and XM (Channel 13) Satellite Radio, known as Willie's Place. The programs are re-played on these channels from Midnight until 3:00 a.m. (ET). Bill's "Sunday Social" is presented at Willie's Place on Sundays from 9:00 a.m. until Noon (ET).



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