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The Legend of Big Mark Hampton and the Tea Party

By @gwhollan


It was 1948. Some say it was a more peaceful and calm time. But I think it was simply that information didn’t travel as quickly as it does now. People didn’t have the technology for exposure to all of the events that were occurring in the world. Information could be kept hidden by those purveyors of news who thought they best knew what people should and shouldn’t know.

We lived in a small central Texas town with very limited entertainment. Many of the women with families didn’t work. If they weren’t into listening to radio soap operas, then there wasn’t much for them to do in the afternoons after all their chores were completed. It was this situation that led my mother, Bette Jane, and her best friend, Elizabeth Hampton, to decide that what was needed was a tea party luncheon where the wives who weren’t addicted to the soap operas could get together and enjoy a light lunch and visit. They could exchange news (notice that I avoided the word gossip), discuss books, and play a little bridge, all over a nice cup of tea. Coffee would be available and probably would have been preferred. But there was a desire to establish a more cosmopolitan atmosphere in an otherwise bland little-town society so it wasn’t part of the menu.

I wish for you to know that despite the extraordinary events that occurred during the first one, the tea parties held afterward by my mother and Mrs. Hampton were all the rage and lasted for several years. It was, however, that first one that I wish to describe. It became legend in the community lore and probably contributed more to the ongoing success of the rest of the tea soirees than any other factor. Although it occurred over seventy years ago, it always comes up in conversation whenever I return to visit family and old friends. That first gathering became known as The Legend of Big Mark Hampton and the Tea Party.

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