“Their friends wondered why Autrey wore a hat to class that day!”

In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have scheduled moving out of our house for remodeling during the first week of the semester. This is a reasonable approximation of how I feel right now:

That’s Autrey Lewis, by the way, class of 1935, who is handling her woes better than I am. I lifted this story about her from the  1994 newsletter of the Concerned Citizens for Washington Cemetery Care Inc. and Washington Cemetery Historic Trust. (The newsletter is actually interesting in its own right so if you’d like to read the whole thing it’s here.)

Autrey was born in Bay City, Texas on December 20, 1914 to Richard R. Lewis and Selma Autrey Lewis. The family soon moved to Houston, to be near Mrs. Lewis’ family. Dick Lewis practiced law in Houston for many years, and at one time was the City Attorney. The Autrey family owned the Brazos Hotel as well as the Magnolia Brewery, which produced Southern Select Beer, before being sold to the Falstaff Brewing Company in the 1960’s.

Autrey attended San Jacinto High School. She met Dick Ballanfant while both were students at Rice University, and they eloped during lunch break at Rice in 1934. (Their friends had wondered why Autrey wore a hat to class that day!) They graduated from Rice together in 1935. Later, she attended graduate school in Mexico City.

Dick Ballanfant served with the First Special Services Forces during W.W.II. In 1947, Autrey and Dick opened a Boys’ Camp in Junction, Texas, where her family had a ranch. Although the camp was successful and all of the Ballanfant family enjoyed life in Junction, the terrible drought in the early 1950’s forced them to leave the Hill Country and move to California for 5 years. In 1959, the family moved back to Houston, where both Autrey and Dick began teaching school in HISD. Autrey taught elementary school Spanish, then moved on to McReynolds Junior High to teach Spanish and English. Dick taught Science at Furr High School. Both retired from teaching in the early 1970’s.

One of Autrey Ballanfant’s proudest achievements was hosting in her home the initial meeting of concerned descendants of people buried in Washington Cemetery. CCWCC was formed as a direct result of that January 1975 meeting. Dick Ballanfant passed away in October 1981. Autrey died on July 3, 1994. Both are buried in the Autrey/Lewis family plot. Alongside them is their first grandchild, Christopher Louis Voss, son of Anne Ballanfant Voss and James George Voss.

Autrey touched many lives, and will be greatly missed. However, we are very grateful to her many friends and relatives who honored her memory by making donations totaling over $1000 to WCHT.

Bonus: It was a beautiful winter day on campus today.

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10 Responses to “Their friends wondered why Autrey wore a hat to class that day!”

  1. Lynne Hsu Xavier (WRC '88) says:

    Do you know what the event/situation was that prompted Autrey to mop pavements in high heeled silver shoes?

  2. almadenmike says:

    “The Gasser” column in the Jan. 27, 1933, Thresher includes this gem:

    “We have a new club idea for lovers this week. It is entitled “HERMANN PARK LOVERS,” and its charter members are … RICHARD “BUNNY” BALLANFANT and AUTREY LEWIS … . These- couples sneak off during off hours or cut French classes to go to the park across the way and catch up on the activities people usually save for dark nights and lonely roads.”

    (Source: p.2 – https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/65372/thr19330127.pdf )

  3. almadenmike says:

    And p. 5 of the Nov. 9, 1934, Thresher (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/65429/thr19341109.pdf) has three mentions of the couple:

    In the leftmost column is this formal item in the “Society” column: “Mr. and Mrs. Richard Ricks Lewis announce the marriage of their daughter, Selma Autrey, to Richard Edward Ballanfant of Mercedes, Texas, October 25. The couple, both of whom are seniors at Rice, will make their home temporarily with the bride’s parents.”

    In the 4th column, the first of the “Sammy … The Owl Sees All: Knows All” feature is an item about a pair of guys who some are worried might arrive late “to play for the Saturday night dances:” “Maybe (Bob) ILLES has an excuse, because he has nobody to remind him to get places on time, since SIR BALLY (consult last year’s OWL for details of the title) done went and took the leap with AUTREY. Congratulations, folks.”

    Then in the 6th column, still in the “Sammy” feature, is this: “Looks like BALDY” BALLANFANT and AUTRY LEWIS have taken it upon themselves to get into some real trouble. We hope they are happy, though.”

  4. almadenmike says:

    The Vol. 6, No. 11 (1950) Sallyport has this ad for the couple’s Junction ranch: “Send your boys to Lynnside Ranch . . . A complete sports program … combining the best features of ranch and camp life” — https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7906/45768770355_918a3369ab_z.jpg

    Check out the Houston representative: Future AD Red Bale!

    • Dale Henry says:

      Was the Richard Lewis family’s “Lynnside Ranch” in Junction named after “Lynnside”, the traditional name of the William L. Lewis estate in West Virginia? William Lewis acquired the land in a grant from King George. The original house was built around 1800 near the old Greenbrier – Lynchburg toll road, which Virginia constructed in the late 18th Century. The “Lynnside” manor standing today dates from 1845. It’s part of the Lynnside Historic District in Sweet Springs, West Virginia.

      A trove of additional information concerning the Lewis Family and “Lynnside” can be searched here: http://www.lynnside.org/

  5. almadenmike says:

    To finish up the Thresher search results … the Society column of the Nov. 16, 1934, edition mentioned a shower for the new bride:

    “Misses Mary Louise Blohm, Margaret Byrnes, Frances Mandell and Anna Belle Moursund entertained Sunday afternoon with a seated tea and miscellaneous shower in honor of Mrs. Richard Ballanfant, the former Miss Autrey Lewis, at the home of Miss Byrnes. Forty-five guests, friends of
    the honoree called during the afternoon.”

    ( p. 2: https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/65430/thr19341116.pdf )

  6. almadenmike says:

    The September-October 1983 Sallyport (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/99575/sallyport-vol-40-no01.pdf) contains some additional family information in an article about large bequests made to Rice by Autrey Lewis’ childless aunt and uncle, Lynnette Sternenberg & Herbert Autrey.

    “Two of Herbert’s nieces and a nephew attended Rice: Autrey Lewis Ballanfant ’35 of Houston and Carmen Lewis Gould ’32 of Kensington, California. Their brother, Dr. Robert F. Lewis ’44, attended Rice three years, then enrolled in medical school. He now practices in Odessa, Texas. Their mother, Selma Lewis, also left a bequest to Rice in her will.”

    And it’s probably worth mentioning that the Autrey family was “not, however, related to the Autry family — the name is spelled differently — who gave Rice Autry Court and for whom Autry House is named.”

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