thumbnail of J.D.'s Journal; No. 101; 1991-01-01
Hide -
<v Speaker>[car honk]. <v Speaker>[music plays] <v John Davenport>Hello and welcome. Today on our outing, we'll go to southeast Houston to visit a fellow who will wed you free if you buy a ring. And we'll go to Galveston to remember the greatest storm of them all with two gentlemen who survived it. And then we'll go to West Houston to visit a wonderful woman who spreads love and cheer to a bunch of kids at a school crossing. And then we'll go further west to Burleson County to find a Kansas couple clopping along in a covered wagon, a modern covered wagon. But first, we'll go to Kipperman's combination pawn shop and wedding chapel. Hop in. When you come upon this white building in southeast Houston, you have little doubt as to the business that goes on here. The man who runs it made sure of that. He is Ted Kipperman, a minister who runs a pawnshop or should I say a pawn shop operator who performs weddings, buy a ring and get hitched free. The pawnshop part of Kipperman's operation is nothing unusual for this kind of business. The merchandise is standard stuff. Jewelry, firearms. Whatever.
<v Ted Kipperman>That's how you can notarize it, <v John Davenport>But ever the businessman, Kipperman ties his wedding business into his pawn business. <v Ted Kipperman>Yes, now if they buy, if they buy, if they buy a wedding ring from me, I give them a free wedding. And I always keep some wedding rings on me just to make sure that I have them. <v John Davenport>Got a pocketful of them. <v Ted Kipperman>That's right. Nobody has to worry about-. I've always believed staying ready. <v John Davenport>I think that's a good idea. And once they get married here, they can uh. <v Ted Kipperman>They can trade them in for a bigger ring. <v John Davenport>Bigger ring or they can get the lawn mower ready. They can get ready for household goodies. <v Ted Kipperman>Well, we'd like to be just a one a family stop here. They can just get anything they want to get here. When they come here, we- <v John Davenport>Kipperman has two chapels. A more formal one, which we will see in a moment, and one in the lobby for those in a hurry. Oh, I noticed you have your regular chapel in back of you and then you have the lobby chapel. What's that for? <v Ted Kipperman>Yeah, if a person wants to come in and they just don't want anything but something extremely brief. I can do that. I can do that. I can stand right there and I can do the wedding for them. Just whatever- with whatever donation they want to make to me
<v John Davenport>right next to the lawnmowers and the barbells. <v Ted Kipperman>If they don't mind, I don't mind. <v John Davenport>Kipperman has married people in some unusual places. On a carousel, on a boat with a couple strapped to parasails and on a sign board. <v Ted Kipperman>And the most probably most unusual wedding I had was was for KKHT. It was it was it was a wedding up on up on a billboard. I was about thirty feet up in the air. And the boy that got married, his name was Romeo. I kept thinking maybe I was going to get a ticket because traffic really came to a standstill on that. And that that that that particular wedding was a worldwide interest. It was one of a kind. It was all over the world. One time I married a couple of bikers and the girl was a strip teaser and he had the little hat and a big beard and everything. And right after I did the wedding, they started exchanging started exchanging t shirts. And boy, she really had a she was very proud of her bet. She was very proud of those breasts. And that was quite shocking seeing that.
<v John Davenport>Exchanging t shirts. <v Ted Kipperman>Yes. And then they just- took she just took her t shirt right off right there in front of me. And another interesting wedding. I was I was marrying a lady over the telephone the other day and I asked her where he was. He turned out to be in a federal penitentiary. And I asked her what he was doing there. He was he was he was confined there because he was convicted of opening a post office after hours. Everybody I marry, I give him little little laminated I.D. card. Nobody does this. This is a very unusual. I make them a little piece of identification. Sealed in plastic and actually my business card is on the back of it. Isn't that nice? <v John Davenport>Well, at that point, our conversation was interrupted by a couple who wanted to get married. <v Ted Kipperman>Y'all have have your rings? Just pick out the rings right there. <v John Davenport>They were about to become Mr. and Mrs. Pittman. <v Ted Kipperman>OK, let's sign this. You're officially launched by Chaplain Kipperman. OK, now let's have a nice wedding here. You stand right up here. Carl, let's play some wedding music.
<v Speaker>[wedding march plays] <v Ted Kipperman>Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to marry Frank and Cathy. They're getting married today. Why? Because they're in love with each other. Frank, do you take Cathy to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live with her according to God's holy ordinences. And Cathy do you take Frank to be your lawful wedded husband, to live with him according to God's holy ordinences. OK, Frank take this ring as a symbol of your love especially for Cathy and put it on the third finger of her left hand and repeat the wedding vows after me. With this ring, I thee wed. <v Frank>With this ring, I thee wed. <v Ted Kipperman>With all my heart's affection. Thee and thou. Amen. Ok Kathy. Take this ring here the token of your love, Frank. You slip it on the third finger of his left and repeat these wedding vows after me. With this ring, I thee wed.
<v Kathy>With this ring, I thee wed. <v Ted Kipperman>With all my heart's affections. I thee and thou. Amen. Stay with your hands still joined in and by the- go ahead and join hands- and by the authority of the state of Texas, by my authority as a chaplain and by this still higher authority on the word of God. I now pronounce you husband and wife. Frank, you may now kiss the bride. <v John Davenport>After the ceremony, some pictures, by the cake, one that does not need refrigeration and one that never spoils. <v Ted Kipperman>It's not plaster of Paris, but the- it la-, I replace that cake about every six or seven months and. <v John Davenport>Why is that? <v Ted Kipperman>Well, because it it just needs to be replaced. Everybody li- it looks pretty real if people like to stick their finger in it and eat that cake. So after about so after about six months, I always buy a bran-, always by brand new cake. And it really looks, it looks nice for photography,
<v John Davenport>but why stop here? First the rings, the ceremony, the fake cake. And to top it off, the man who married them gives the happy couple a free limo ride. Hopefully, Mr. and Mrs. Pittman will have a happy life, but just in case things don't work out. The man behind the wheel is ready to make a deal. It's called the greatest storm of them all, the Galveston hurricane of nineteen hundred caused the most damage of any storm that's ever been recorded. It left the island devastated. Few survived. Recently, we traveled to Galveston to visit two gentlemen who went through the storm and lived to tell about it. September is a good time of year on the Gulf Coast, the hot summer blasts begin to be more benign with the coming of fall. And so it was that first week in August and September of nineteen hundred. There was no seawall then. Galveston was the queen city of the coast sitting exposed on the island. Thirty-eightthousand citizens lived there in Victorian splendor boats, banks, bordellos and beachfront mansions nestled together in the central city. Galvestonians had weathered storms before. Still, some took heed as island weather forecaster Isaac Klein warned about an oncoming storm. He said this one might be a bad one. Some paid attention and fled the island, but most did not. Saturday morning, September eight, the winds rose to 40 miles an hour. The Gulf waters began to snake their way through the streets of Galveston. The late Mary Moody Northen recalled that fateful day,
<v Mary Moody Northen>and it had been raining very, very hard and the wind was increasing all the time. And we had a couple of maids at home and we noticed the water was getting a little bit deeper un the yard. We thought it was from the rain water. And finally, though, one of us maids went out and tasted it and much to our amazement and great shock, we found it was salt so we knew that the water was coming in from the Gulf and the bay, it was not just rainwater. <v John Davenport>Weatherman Klein did not wait for instructions from Washington. He issued his own. A hurricane was eminent. Those who could flee should do so. By now, beach houses and Pavilion's were floating hulks of kindling. The four wooden causeways to the mainland were down. Now the wind was up to 80 miles an hour. Galveston was only five feet above sea level. The tide was 15 feet high. The winds pushed in the giant surge of water. The late motion picture director, King Vidor, was a young lad living in Galveston at the time.
<v King Vidor>It looked at that time as if you were looking up to the ocean. Galveston seemed to be like a cup, like a bowl. You looked out the street and the waves looked higher. And naturally when they came over to swept over the town and ships went up and down the street to to the push everything was just blown to pieces. <v John Davenport>The late Wilbur Goodman also was a survivor. <v Wilbur Goodman>Those frame houses just crumbled like matchboxes, and in those homes were people. Whole families huddled together, perhaps in one room, and they all just suffered and died. <v John Davenport>For weatherman Kline, the storm was personal. I was standing at my front door, which was partly open, he said I was watching the water, which was flowing with great rapidity from east to west. The water at this time, he continued, was about eight inches deep in my residence and the sudden rise of four feet brought it above my waist before I could change my position. Weatherman Klein herded his family up to the second floor of his sturdy home. By now, all of Galveston was underwater. The water tore a streetcar trestle loose and the car hurled it like a battering ram against Kline's house, pulverizing the building. Most of the 50 people taking refuge there were drowned. Klein lost his pregnant wife. As the storm lashed its full fury, countless acts of courage saved lives. The sisters at St. Mary's Orphanage saved many youngsters while losing many of their own lives. Later, the corpses of several sisters were found tied to the bodies of children they tried to save. Furniture mingled with bodies as they floated about inside homes, hotels and saloons. Now the winds were howling at one hundred eighty miles an hour. Ships were ripped from their moorings and Galveston was a windy, watery tomb.
<v Adrian Levy>I suppose I don't have the figures in mind accurately, but I think it that was probably. 15 feet of water. <v John Davenport>Retired lawyer and former Galveston Mayor Adrian Levy was a boy of five at the time when the storm hit, <v Adrian Levy>when the nineteen hundred storm came, the water rose so high in my home or my mother and father's home that everybody had to go upstairs to avoid being drowned because the water covered the lower floor. For about three or four feet or perhaps more. So we went upstairs. And I viewed from the upstairs, other people walking up and down or sailing up and down, if you want to call it that, in rowboats. Moving toward the north. I suppose to avoid, if possible, the heavy rains. And the incoming waters from the Gulf
<v John Davenport>as a youngster watching all that destruction, was he frightened? <v Adrian Levy>To be perfectly frank with you, I don't recall being frightened as much as I was engaged and amused, so to speak, by what transpired. I don't suppose I. Well, perhaps I should say that I might have been afraid, but I have no recollection of fear. I was so stunned, uh, by what had transpired and what I saw my family doing about it that I didn't have time, I suppose, to think of myself. <v John Davenport>A friend of Adrian Levy's also survived the storm. Retired banker John Harris was seven on that eighth day of September, nineteen hundred. A day that he lost several members of his family to the raging wind and waters. <v John Harris>Well, I remember a very heavy rain and the water rising to about four feet in our gardens, which was raised two feet above the street and father coming home in hip boots walking into the front door there with hi- hip boots on. We had about 18 refugees in the house and about twelve or one o'clock they all left and the storm had got passed all over. But it was a terrible storm. And, of course, as you know, there were six thousand five hundred and seven thousand people drowned in the hurricane of 1900.
<v John Davenport>As a young fellow, were you frightened? <v John Harris>Well, yes, I was a little bit frightened, but I remember helping some people come in the window there, lifting with the wind, working with them. And the window was open and they were refugees were coming into this brick house, stood during the blow. It was damaged badly, but near the top there, some bricks blown out, well, my father's family wiped out. Eleven of them. His sisters and their children and husbands. Their names are all on the- in grace church on the window, the memorial window there. Harris family. <v John Harris>Sunday morning, the stench of death replaced the winds and water, a slimy ooze covered the rubble of the city, corpses of people, pets and cattle, bloated and stank in the sun. Survivors picked through the debris trying to find loved ones. Cleanup crews drank straight whiskey and smoked pipes and cigars to keep the stench out of their nostrils. Looters tried to pull the rings off of lifeless fingers.
<v Adrian Levy>Yes, it's my understanding that they, uh, had to shoot and kill in many instances, people who are robbing. <v John Harris>At a ball committee. They killed two or three of them and then it stopped. <v Adrian Levy>I don't know whether you've ever seen a chafing dish, but you know what it is. And I want you to know. That is the means of by which eight people lived following the nineteen hundred Castroism. Until the waters receded and then, of course, we went downstairs, I don't have to tell you that it was a terrible thing to see and I remember my dear mother crying as well as some of my sisters. Uh, when they viewed the damage or rather the absolute ruin of valuable articles which were in the lower floor ground floor of our home.
<v John Harris>Our house was damaged a good deal, but it was intact [inaudible], so she wouldn't let me out. There were dead people all over everywhere. <v John Davenport>Survivors loaded the bodies on barges and dumped them at sea and the bodies would rise to the surface and wash back into the beaches. Finally, Galveston, basked under a pall of smoke as scores of bodies were cremated. I understand that they tried to bury a lot of people at sea and the bodies were just washed back in. <v John Harris>Yes, and of course you couldn't dig a grave in those days. <v John Davenport>Because of the ground, the water. <v John Harris>All water, yea. <v John Davenport>They had to just cremate them. <v John Harris>Well, they did cremate many of them and the smell got pretty bad they tell me. Some people-. I remember one of the builders came in the fall wanting a drink, he said the smell of bodies was so upset he couldn't eat. <v John Davenport>Do you feel like you are a very lucky man to have lived through that? <v John Harris>Well, yes, I do. My sister's alive, my mother, father. [inaudible] the one sister. It wasn't my turn yet, I guess that was it.
<v John Davenport>In spite of that storm and all the storms since Adrian Levy shares his friend's sense of fatalism. Storm or not, he's staying at home. <v Adrian Levy>I have absolutely no fear in that sense, and I would be- call me what you will, stupid, foolhardy for remaining right here in Galveston and there are many people that do not leave the island, although I'm speaking now, in recent years <v John Davenport>here, you've lived through the worst tragedy in memory of man. And you still say that? <v Adrian Levy>I certainly do. I guess is stupid on my part, but that's the truth. <v John Davenport>You must be a fatalist. <v Adrian Levy>Well, I suppose I am, but I can't say that my family share my view because the rest of my family think I'm quite foolhardy. And I suppose they're right. <v John Davenport>Some call it foolhardy. Adrian Levy calls it loyalty. <v Adrian Levy>I do not believe you will ever find a more loyal citizenship than we had in Galveston in the year 1900. And, uh. The results. Perhaps indicate that many of them, including my family, shouldn't have stayed here, but God be thanked, we came for it. Of course, we would. Damage in many, many ways, my dear family. But we lived.
<v John Davenport>She's got love in her heart, and it shows. Florence Lipp makes sure that her daily flock of schoolkids gets across the street safely. She does it with firmness and style, with hugs and kisses. One thing about it, when you pass Florence's way, you won't soon forget it. One day we stopped by her corner to watch her perform. It's time for 71 year old great grandmother Florence Lipp to go to work. She unloads the tools of her trade and sets up shop. Her place of employ is on a corner, near Thornwood Elementary School in the spring branch school district. Florence has been doing this sort of thing for 12 years. She loves her school kids. And it shows, <v Florence Lipp>Come on darling, everybody gets a piece of candy. <v Speaker>[children talking simultaneously] <v John Davenport>She has plenty of candy for them. And those with birthdays get special treats.
<v Florence Lipp>Everybody say Happy birthday, Thomas. <v kids>Happy birthday Thomas <v John Davenport>But the thing people remember about her is her costumes. Today, she is a clown with bells on and she makes sure they mind their manners. <v Florence Lipp>Come on, my darlings. What do we say? <v kids>Thank you. <v Florence Lipp>You're welcome. You're welcome. I love it better than doing anything on Earth. This is this is what makes my life go around. This is what makes me happy. It's not easy, though. <v John Davenport>How so? <v Florence Lipp>The weather, 90 percent of the time, it's bad. It's either hot, too cold, too wet, too windy, or all at one time <v John Davenport>when Florence began this job, she wore comfortable clothes like Mumus, then a neighbor suggested she try costumes. Nothing unusual for her because she says she never wears normal clothes. With her modest pay of about one hundred dollars a week, she buys treats for her school kids. She also spends much of her time volunteering at local hospitals. But the kids are her first love.
<v Florence Lipp>You know where the candy always is in the heart. <v kid>Thank you <v Florence Lipp>You're welcome. <v John Davenport>Any thoughts of retiring? <v Florence Lipp>I can't find anything better to do. I could find some way of making a lot more money, maybe not a lot but a little. But that wouldn't make up for all the love and care. You're welcome. Bye bye darling. <v John Davenport>And now to Burleson County and the town of Somerville. I was tooling along the main highway there a while back and I had to slow down for a house trailer. And then I saw a wondrous thing, the state highway version of a covered wagon. It was then I discovered how a Kansas couple is living life in the slow lane. Things go slower in small towns, take my trip through Somervell, for example, I had to slow down behind an Airstream trailer going along on the main drag through town. Then I noticed something different. There were hooves below the front of the trailer and there they were. Dawn and Vy Godwyn flopping along with their two horsepower rig of Barney and Brother, the draft horses. A willing passenger on the front seat of Princess the Pooch. These folks are in no hurry. So far, they've traveled about 7000 miles in this rig. On this day, they were on their way to Waco for an Airstream rally. Then it was on to the Rio Grande Valley and back to their home of Udall, Kansas. Why two horsepower instead of engine power?
<v Vy Godwyn>Well, this is my husband's lifetime dream. This is what he wants to do, and we're fulfilling that dream. <v Don Godwyn>Sixty year old Don Godwyn is a realty auctioneer when he's not on the road with Vy, Barney, Brother, and Princess. Well, this long story is a lifetime dream of mine to go cross the country in a covered wagon with a pair of big horses. I was raised with them, draft horses. My wife never exactly shared that dream. Her idea of roughing it was a microwave oven. And so that's why we got the compromise. <v John Davenport>The high price of gasoline does not bother these folks a bit. Never had a problem with missing a gasoline station, do you? <v Don Godwyn>We haven't used a gallon yet. However, we have used a few bales of hay. <v John Davenport>Well, they can always eat and stop on the roadside and get some fuel. <v Don Godwyn>Oh, Yes, mm hmm. Well, it's not exactly inexpensive. We go approximately twenty to twenty five miles a day and they eat a bale and a half a day and probably about 50 pounds of grain.
<v John Davenport>Well, it's nice that there's somebody in this country who is not in a hurry. <v Don Godwyn>Well, everybody ought to do it once. <v John Davenport>Now and then, the Godwyns make road stops to chat with admirers. They are religious people and sometimes sell booklets to finance their mission. <v Don Godwyn>It's a dollar 5. Thank you. <v John Davenport>Don says he's fitted his horses with special shoes to pull his rubber tire air-conditioned TV equipped, covered wagon. <v Don Godwyn>Like to see that big foot. <v John Davenport>This the big foot? <v Don Godwyn>Yea on this drill tact here we put on that, that digs into the pavement and gives them traction and also makes the shoes last a whole lot longer. <v John Davenport>Meanwhile, Princess grabs a little sack time at her house. <v Don Godwyn>Stay a minute. OK, now you come on out. <v John Davenport>Time to hit the road again. Time to head them up and move them out. <v Don Godwyn>Fred, how else they did it in the movie? [yells] Come on boy. Come on Barney. Barney says he didn't know that man. Come on. <v Vy Godwyn>That's right Don.
J.D.'s Journal
Episode Number
No. 101
Producing Organization
KUHT-TV (Television station : Houston, Tex.)
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip-526-sj19k47324).
Episode Description
In this episode of J.D.'s Journal we meet the owner of a pawn shop in Houston who sells wedding rings and weds couples for free. Next, in Galveston we remember the worst storm the island has ever seen. Then, in West Houston, we meet a woman who works as a crossing guard and brings joy and love to children. Lastly, we go to Burleson county to meet a couple who travel in a hybrid horse-drawn covered wagon and Airstream.
Series Description
"J.D.'s Journal was six-part human interest series presented January and February of 1991. The [first] program was broadcast on KUHT on January 1, 1991 and the following Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. "The programs ranged from profiles of eccentric people to series stories such as a preview of the 1900 Galveston hurricane which took more than 6,000 lives. "The documentary about the storm (program one) included interviews with two survivors of the storm. One of these gentlemen has since died. We believe this is the most thorough television review of the storm. "The program also served an educational function both as history and as a warning to those who do not evacuate when a hurricane approaches their area. "Another series subject was a documentary on the so-called killer or Africanized bees now infiltrating Texas from South America. "Other subjects included the only radio station run by a state prison and run by inmates, a pawnbroker/chaplain who [lends rings] to newlyweds (buy a ring and get a wedding free) and a Kansas couple plodding along in an Airstream trailer pulled by two beer draft horses. "The series was written, produced and narrated by John Davenport. We are gratified to say that the series was so popular that it has been increased to thirteen programs in 1992."--1991 Peabody Awards entry form.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: KUHT-TV (Television station : Houston, Tex.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-8875e3ee20f (Filename)
Format: VHS
Duration: 00:30:00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “J.D.'s Journal; No. 101; 1991-01-01,” 1991-01-01, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “J.D.'s Journal; No. 101; 1991-01-01.” 1991-01-01. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: J.D.'s Journal; No. 101; 1991-01-01. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from