The oil business was booming in 1954 when my husband Jesse and I moved to Tyler. After his service in World War II under General Patton, Jesse used the G. I. Bill to pay for his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Texas. When Jesse finished his master’s degree in geology, he was offered a job in Tyler. Several new sources of oil had been explored and wells were being drilled upon wells. It was an exciting time to be in Tyler. The population was about 50,000, the city boundary stopped at the cemetery, and the present shopping mall was a pasture, but there was a sense that we were part of a grand adventure.
I had grown up in Beeville on my daddy’s ranch, among the prickly pear, mesquites, jack rabbits and rattlesnakes of south Texas. He had met my mother who taught at a country school near Yoakum in Lavaca Country, and soon they married. Daddy was elected to the school board and they both remained active in education throughout my childhood.
I started dating Jesse the summer after my junior year of high school. I met him at the Methodist church at Friday night play night. Jesse would sit behind me and tease me to get my attention. When he asked if he could take me home, my parents gave their approval. Jesse was an orphan and had lost his parents during the great flu pandemic. His uncle raised him and taught him the value of hard work. When I finished high school, I went on to college and received my teaching certificate. I went back to Beeville to teach for one year while Jesse served in Panama with his National Guard unit. We married when he returned and six months later, Jesse went to war.
When we arrived in the piney woods, Tyler truly looked like a garden to me with its rolling hills, tall trees, and lush gardens. I became interested in gardens on a personal level when the preacher of our church didn’t like the flowers that were being placed on the church altar. It seemed that they were using some of the flowers that hadn’t sold, and the arrangements looked a bit sickly. He asked the ladies at church to help. Kathryn Speas taught us how to arrange flowers, and continued to be my mentor and friend for many years. Later, we named our garden club after her.
In 1993, C.C. (Pinky) Baker called to ask if I would serve on the committee to decide what to do with what had been a small faculty parking lot on the TJC campus. I suggested that an azalea garden would be a nice addition to Tyler’s Azalea Trail. The college embraced that notion and before long we had a beautiful but unfunded plan. My husband was with Exxon, which offered to triple any amount that we contributed to TJC providing that we had a relative that had attended the college. My son was a graduate and so was his wife, whom he had he met at TJC.
For my son, TJC did what it has always done best: put him in a position to be successful, even though some others might have thought he wasn’t “college material.” So many colleges “weed out” freshmen. Weeding out works in gardening, but it should not be a part of higher education!
Today, our own TJC grad is an accountant and his wife is cost analyst and the azalea garden in the old parking lot on campus is blooming just like TJC continues to do!
- Visitors to the Tyler Azalea Trail, now stop at TJC to view the Ina Brundrett Azalea Garden. A member of the Mt. Pleasant, Larkspur, and Azalea Garden Clubs, Mrs. Brundrett is noted statewide for her horticultural expertise. She received The Plaque of Recognition from TREES (Tyler Reforestation Encouraging Ecological Stability) in May 1993. She has served as President of Texas Garden Clubs, Inc (1997-1999), Parliamentarian for the South Central Region Garden Clubs, Inc., National Environmental Schools Chairman, and is currently Chairman of the Mentor’s Committee for Texas Garden Clubs, Inc. Mrs. Brundrett is a member of Fairwood United Methodist Church, DRT, DAR, and the Mayflower Society.