Catching a Bus to Carthage
Born in Nederland, Texas, Carson Joines was raised in the small community of Central Garden with two brothers and two sisters. His dad worked down the road in Port Neches at Pere Oil Company for 37 years and his mother was a materials checker and welder’s helper at the shipyard in Beaumont. They lived on a farm with about 50 head of cattle. A railroad track was close to the house and he and his brothers would help get the cows from across the tracks. The trains that would come by fascinated Carson. He wanted to be a locomotive engineer when he grew up. The family moved to Beaumont when Carson turned 12, and once again they lived close to the railroad tracks.
Now that they were older, he and his brothers would hop the passing freight train to Houston. “We went to New Orleans once,” recalls Carson. “Mama gave us the money for a ticket, but we decided to keep the money and ride in a boxcar. When we got to Lake Charles, the train stopped back in some woods and derailed us and we had to spend our money to get the rest of the way to New Orleans.”
When the Joines family moved to Beaumont, Carson attended South Park High School and played on the football team. He was an offensive and defensive end and was good at it. His senior year he was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the city’s four high schools in Beaumont and was offered a scholarship to TCU. “Dutch Meyer was the coach and he took me on a tour of the campus,” says Carson, “I was scared to death because I had never been away from home.” Carson went back to Beaumont and wrote the coach a letter telling him he was not coming. He and four of his friends from high school decided they wanted to join the Army. Carson was only 17 at the time, so his mother had to sign for him to be able to go into the service. He went to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and then had a 30-day leave back to Beaumont before heading to Oakland, California. From there Carson boarded a ship and spent seven days heading to the war in Korea, a country he had never even heard of before. He was seasick the entire trip. “I spent two years in Korea and earned the rank of T-5 in the Army. They offered me another stripe to stay six more months, but I told ‘em I missed my mother.”
Caron returned to Beaumont in the summer of 1948. He went to work on a rig in Galveston, but after about two weeks, he decided working nights was not what he wanted to be doing. Going back to school sounded better by the day. He told his dad he was going to take the rest of the summer off and enjoy what time he had left before going to school in the fall. Coach Winlon Knowles from Panola College came through Beaumont and spoke with Carson’s high school coach who told him about Carson. “He called me two times and I told him I wasn’t going to leave Beaumont…no need to waste each other’s time. I had never even heard of Carthage!” A few days later Carson changed his mind and told his mother he was headed to Carthage, “I don’t know where it is, but I’m going to catch a bus and see what it’s all about.”
The campus at Panola had no brick buildings; only old army barracks for classrooms and dorms. When Carson arrived on the campus, he went to a little old shack that was Coach Knowles’ office and told him who he was. Knowles didn’t have any place for Carson to stay at the time, so he sent him to the old Lamar Hotel downtown. While staying at the hotel, a young lady caught Carson’s eye. Dixie Arnold was sitting on the stairs with her best friend Patsy Adams. Dixie’s Aunt Jenny ran the hotel and she had lived with her since she was a small child. “I asked Dixie for a date for three months, but she wouldn’t go with me because she already had a boyfriend. When they finally broke up, she agreed to see a movie with me at the Esquire Theater. We were married a year later.” While at Panola, the football team won the State Championship two out of three years but had to abandon the sport because of lack of funds.
Carson finished college at SFA with a degree in business administration. He went to work for Union Pacific Resources and was there for 37 years. “It was a good ride. While working there I decided I wanted to get into politics. My dad was in the CIO Union in Port Neches and was a big believer in laborers getting their fair share.” In 1971 Joines ran for a place on the City Commission. Ten others were running also and at the time, the top two vote getters were selected for the Commission. Joines and Shirley Emberton had the most votes. By 1979, Joines was selected as the Mayor Pro Tem and when Mayor Lee Chapman resigned due to health reasons in 1983, Joines took over as Mayor.
During his tenure, improving benefits for City employees was important. “I always wanted to make sure they got the vacation time and sick leave they deserved.” He was selected as Citizen of the Year in 1997 and serviced on many of the city’s boards. He served on the East Texas Council of Governments for 30 years and was president of the organization two of those years. He also was President of the East Texas region of the Texas Municipal League. Having met Ann Flowers over a cup of coffee at church, she has been Joines’ sidekick and companion at mayoral functions and community events. They were both instrumental in making sure that Carthage won the Mash Bash Blood Drive four years in a row, defeating Marshall and Henderson each year. Joines also made a name for himself with his snowmen collection displayed in his front yard during the Christmas season. The snowmen represent each member of his family, including children, spouses, grand children and great grandchildren.
After hundreds of proclamations, ribbon cuttings and awarding keys to the City, Joines felt it was time to step down. On January 13, 2014, he announced his official retirement after serving the City for 42 years. He wants to spend more time with his three children, Marja Williams, Mindy Pasqual and Mart Joines, his nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. “Being mayor really involves a lot of going and planning, and I’m not a young guy any more. It really keeps you going and I loved it, but it’s time to let someone else have it for a while.”