Penny Record founder, Gaston, dies
Record founder left mark on Bridge City
Walter Gaston, 89, there at the beginning of The Penny Record and Bridge City’s American Legion Post 250, died Tuesday in Port Arthur’s Christus-St. Mary Hospital.
He was also described by many as “Mr. Lions Club,” and was once president of the Bridge City chapter.
He lived to see The Penny Record celebrate its 49th anniversary in 2009, as it continued to cover Bridge City and later extend to a second paper, The County Record.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday from Claybar Funeral Home in Bridge City. Burial will follow in Hillcrest Memorial Gardens.
Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday in the funeral home.
Born in Orange in 1920, Gaston saw places such as Australia and New Zealand as a Navy sailor in World War II. After his service time ended, he saw a need for a fraternal military organization in Bridge City. Co-founded with Capt. Glen Humphrey, that group became Post 250. Gaston was honored in 2008 with a Lifetime Achievement Certificate by the post.
In 1960, Gaston and his wife Audrey Rogers Gaston cranked out the first Penny Record, the year after Gulf States Utilities built its Bridge City power plant and the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce formed. The original Record office was a stucco building on Texas Avenue.
“The first issue had about eight pages,” Gaston told The Record Newspapers in 2008. It was newsletter size with photographs in black and white. The premier edition featured an aerial photograph of the city.
The paper was there in 1965 to record the high school football team’s first chance in a state championship game. This was followed by the 1966 team – which won the state championship title outright.
Not many Penny Records from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s are known to have survived, other than a few copies at the Bridge City chamber offices and those scattered about town in private collections.
But surely there must have been some mention in those pages of the first city council in 1970, the old Bridge Theater movie house, which later became Bendy’s Dance Land; 1981’s new fire station on Bland Street or building the Veterans Memorial Bridge in 1985; and personalities who made up the fabric of Bridge City such as W.T. Oliver, Frank Hatton and H.D. Pate.
Gaston’s survivors include daughter and son-in-law Marilyn and Ronnie Flitcraft of Bridge City; and daughter, Diana Grindele of Angleton; five grandchildren and their spouses, Jennifer and David Mott, Jeffery Flitcraft and Todd Flitcraft, all of Bridge City; Brian Grindele of Angleton and Chad Grindele of Houston; eight great-grandchildren; sister Jessie Foreman of Orange; sister and brother-in-law Betty Jo and Curnie Lormand of Bridge City; and numerous nieces and nephews.
See full obituary elsewhere in this issue.