SPOILIN’ THE BROTH
T his is one of those smallworld stories.
Wife Pegaroo and I, along with daughter-in-law Noelia and her sons (our grandsons) Kevin and Agustin, spent last weekend in Victoria with son Ken and his boys, Esten and Will.
The eight of us were celebrating Will’s eighth birthday at I-Hop, chowing down on a hearty noontime breakfast, when a familiar face entered the building.
A waitress guided this familiar face and his wife to a booth near our table, but he paused in front of me and said, “Cooke, right?”
I stood and we shook hands. “I know your face,” I said, “but I can’t call up a name.”
“John Stewart,” he said. “I grew up in Rockdale and I’m the police chief in Port Lavaca.”
John and wife Carol live in Port Lavaca, about 25 minutes away from Victoria. He’s in his eighth year as police chief there, commands a force of 20 officers in a town of about 15,000. “We could use five more officers,” he said, “but most police chiefs would say the same thing.”
I remember John’s parents well. In fact, his dad John was one of the subjects in a series of World War II veterans’ stories we ran several years back. And his mother, Evelyn Stewart, ran a day care for years near the football field. There’s a huge chunk of Rockdale’s population that she helped raise. They remember her as “MawMaw.”
John said he makes it back to Rockdale occasionally, and has two sisters living here, Margaret Farr and Eileen Stewart. Another sister, Elaine (Eileen’s twin) lives in California and a brother, Gary Stewart, lives in Overton.
John graduated from Rockdale High School in 1966, and while a student had a band that played for a lot of local functions. He’s been picking guitar since he was six years old and still does so, exceptionally well. His band, 1090 Line, plays most Friday nights at Six Mile Bar, the only bar in Six Mile, and draws quite a following.
The Victoria Advocate recently ran a photo feature on John and his band, and how he’s able to blend that with his profession of arresting bad guys and enforcing the law.
After graduating RHS in 1966, John joined the Army and was soon a military policeman, serving until his discharge in 1974. He then joined the Austin Police Department where he worked for 26 years.
“I retired from the Austin PD at age 49,” he said, “but two years later I’d had enough of retirement. It just didn’t take.”
So he was hired by the City of Brady as police chief and stayed in that job for six years. He’s been the chief at Port Lavaca for eight years.
“The city manager who hired me at Brady, Bob Turner, had become city manager at Port Lavaca,” John said. “Bob had a bit of a mess on his hands and asked me if I’d move to Port Lavaca as chief. I’ve been here ever since.”
John has always maintained his guitar skills, although he didn’t play in bands during his career in Austin and Brady, mostly just pickin’ at home where music was a good release from the stresses of police work.
The band grew out of a friendship with a neighbor who shared an interest in pickin’ and singing. They jammed in their garages for a time, gradually added another guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. A versatile band, 1090 Line, was set.
Police Chief John Stewart, a man of good stock, still going strong, policing a lot and pickin’ a little too.