Best Out-of-Print Book by a Dead Local Columnist (2000)

Sig Byrd's Houston, Sigman Byrd, The Viking Press, 1955

Sig Byrd spent years as a columnist with the old daily Houston Press and later moved to the Houston Chronicle, but his columns, compiled and connected here, read today like nothing you'd expect to find in a newspaper, daily or otherwise. Downtown, when there was still a thing called Vinegar Hill there, and the Hispanic east side were his favorite beats, and if Sig Byrd's Houston reads like a different town entirely, that's partly because it was, and partly because of Byrd himself, whose ear was finely tuned to the town's skid rows: "Raquel, who comes to Martin Nelson's photo parlor to have her picture made every payday, is about 17, small for her age and as cute as a speckled pup. Bark-brown hair, curly; limpid brown eyes, golden-tan cheeks and lush red lips. Petite figure. You know the type. In certain circumstances she could go far. But living in the Second Ward and working as a tomato packer at a place on lower Louisiana Street, she will never go much of anywhere. By the time she is 25 the freshness and bloom will be gone from her face and figure, and at 30 she will not even resemble the pictures made of her at 17." As with Raquel, so with Houston. At least there are still a few stray copies of this photograph floating around.


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