A “HOLD” on History
Anne Boykin is one of College Station’s nicest people and one of the city’s most precious resources.
She is a talented artist, a wise woman and she knows her way–story-wise–around her hometown.
Anne comes from historically-minded stock. Her parents, Rosemary and Cal Boykin, both worked for and retired from Texas A&M.
Cal attended A&M both before and after World War II, Class of ’46. He graduated from the College of Agriculture with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. For most of his career, he was an agricultural economist. His international postings doing agency and consulting work included assignments in Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Botswana, Ecuador, Yemen, Somalia and Lesotho.
Rosemary Boykin grew up in Dickinson, Texas, near the Gulf Coast. Her father, an A&M graduate, Class of 1924, served as the principal engineer for the construction of the Galveston Seawall. She attended SMU, receiving a medical arts degree from the Dallas university at the age of 20.
As a Texas A&M professor, Cal was on staff in the Agricultural Economics department and a research fellow with the Mosher Institute for Defense Studies. Rosemary worked at the university, too, in the Department of Oceanography & Meteorology. She coauthored four technical publications on the hydrography of the Gulf of Mexico.
Although Anne spent most of her childhood in College Station and is a member of Texas A&M’s Class of ’71, she spent only two years on campus as an Aggie. After marriage, she followed her husband to Arizona State University, took classes there, but with the birth of her first child, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom.
So, no class ring from any school in Anne’s past, other than those of her late father and grandfather which she wears on football game days for good luck.
Anne moved back to College Station in 2004 to take care of her parents in their retirement. What she found in her parents’ home wasn’t the environs of elderly people in need; but rather, the enclave of a pair of avid historians. Both Clay and Rosemary were busy working on projects of their own. Rosemary put together a family history dating back to the 1800’s and was working on a book about the unincorporated Brazos River bottomland community of Steele’s Store.
Cal’s passion was World War II history. He wrote and edited several books on the subject, including a history of his 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion.
Anne set up her own office in a spare bedroom of the Boykin home, located in College Station’s Emerald Forest subdivision. There she continued work on a memoir.
At about that same time, the City of College Station was preparing to start up a new municipal undertaking seeking to preserve local history.
“My mother served on the Brazos County Historical Commission for 14 years,” Anne says today. “Given both my parents interest in history and the obvious ardor I possessed for the past, they thought it might be a good idea for me to learn more about ‘Project HOLD.’”
Still in existence today, Project HOLD stands for “historic online library database.” The enterprise began in 2002 and was administered in its early years mostly by local volunteers. primarily Bill Lancaster and Colleen Risinger.
“Bill Lancaster and Colleen Risinger did a lot of the initial work,” Anne says. “Mostly, they scanned old newspaper articles about the city and its history.
“After a time, the project grew to incorporate an ‘Exploring History’ luncheon series, in which lectures were taped and placed on the City of College Station YouTube channel.”
Anne came aboard as a city volunteer in 2005. By 2007, she was the Heritage Programs coordinator and administrator of Project HOLD. She served in that capacity until 2011. Under her guidance, the Heritage Programs office became a “resource center for city employees, area historians, college and grade-school students, and authors.”
One day, out of the blue, Anne got a phone call.
“It was from a woman in Arkansas who wanted to donate a historic letter written by her great grandfather,” Anne remembers. “In that letter, he had described, in great detail, the days surrounding the death of former A&M President Lafayette Foster, who, literally and figuratively, helped bring the school into the 20th century.”
Foster held the position of A&M president from 1898 until his death in 1901.
“I told the woman I was interested in her letter, so she scanned and emailed a copy to me. After I received it, I called John Adams and he was at my desk in 15 minutes. He was ecstatic with my ‘dicovery.’”
Adams is a College Station resident and A&M graduate who has written numerous books about the school’s history.
Newspaper- and document-scanning remained a large part of Anne’s responsibilities in charge of Project Hold. “We wore out several Laserfiche scanners. They were made by the Fujitsu company and we affectionately called them ‘Fifi 1, Fifi 2, etc., much in the manner of A&M’s Reveille series of canine mascots,”
In addition, Anne also showcased her organizational skills, putting on special events and exhibits highlighting College Station’s proud past.
“I horse-traded to acquire a couple of additional display cabinets for our efforts,” Anne laughs. She was adept at finding used or surplus office furniture and equipment to help further her history cause.
“‘Scenes of the Sixties’ archived a mammoth collection of artifacts from that decade.” Anne says. “We coordinated with A&M Consolidated High School’s 60th Decade Reunion.
Anne also fondly remembers another exhibition, called “¡Siempre! Otra Vez,” which documented the rich history of the Brazos Valley’s Hispanic population. Opening night featured the Aggie Mariachis and a children’s folkloric dance group.”
One of Anne’s proudest achievements with the City of College Station was putting together an exhibit commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
“The Texas State Historical Commission charged each county’ historical commission to celebrate that important anniversary,” Anne says. “We had less than three months to create the exhibit...and less than $2,000 with which to do so.”
Anne delivered. The exhibit was delivered on time and proved to be a hit. Held at the George Bush Presidential Library, thousands attended the opening. The “exhibit”–it was truly far more than that–included gallery talks, panel discussions, vintage movies, a period fashion show and displays of military equipment and vehicles.
“Working with so many great people in the community and meeting so many veterans gave me such a thrill,” Anne recalls today. “At the end of one particularly taxing day, a veteran caught me as I was walking out the door.
“He told me, ‘This was great! We’ve needed something like this for a long time. Let’s do this every three or four months!’
“I was pleased with his enthusiasm if not his take on my reality,” Anne chuckles.
As for the most rewarding aspect of her job with Project Hold, Anne Boykin says it was exceeding expectations on a shoestring budget.
Financial cutbacks ultimately ended Anne’s run with the city. But, as a woman with many skills, her artistic abilities led to her next job: a position as a graphic designer with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, where she worked another six years before retiring in 2017.
Project Hold continues on today. Many of the recent coordinators, now a part-time position, have been graduate students from Texas A&M.
The City of College Station remains committed to historical preservation.
This project, looking back on the city’s most recent 30 years, is just one of the numerous endeavors the city continues to coordinate and promote–mostly through the Historical Preservation Commission.
Why is that important?
“Modern cities have well-developed economies and infrastructure enabling people to enjoy a high standard of living,” Anne says. “But prosperity isn’t everything.
“However dynamic a city may be, much of its legacy is defined by the culture and history of ‘place.’ It is important to preserve that heritage to instill in the citizenry a sense of pride.”
One of Anne’s favorite quotes is from Texas writer/photographer Rick Vanderpool, whose most well-known work commemorated the hamburger’s history in Texas...in both words and pictures.
“Rick said, ‘People settle in a place for a reason, and so begins its history. As time passes, the ‘reason’ may dry up and blow away, but the ‘history’ never leaves.’”