Quentin Vennis Harold Manson was born on June 20, 1913 in Rockdale, Milam County, Texas. He was the eighth and final child of Otis Manson and Betty Sanford of Rockdale. He appears on the 1930 census with his parents. At some point after that however, he headed for the Gulf Coast. In Rockport, Aransas County, he met and married Jesse Bowie. Their wedding was on August 30, 1931. The following year, they became parents when my father was born. A lot of the rest of the story I simply don’t know. But my grandparents broke up sometime before 1940. My Grandpa Quentin was a jazz trumpeter, and served with a band in the Army during World War II. At some point after the war he moved to Los Angeles. There he made his living as a musician. In the meantime my father remained on the Gulf Coast of Texas and in Houston with his mother and other relatives. In 1948 Grandpa Quentin came to Texas to fetch Dad and together they traveled out to Los Angeles. On the way they stopped off in Midland, Texas, where Otis and Betty and their other children had moved. It must’ve been somewhat of a strange visit to Midland. My father had never been there before, and had never met the relatives who live there. One day while my dad was in a house in Midland, a man rode up on a horse and stared at my dad through the window. Then and suddenly as he arrived the horseman departed. A relative said to my father “do you know who that was?” Dad replied that it looked like a white man on a horse. “That was your grandfather,” he was told. Dad’s encounter with his grandmother Betty was even stranger. He saw her from a distance and she stood in a field. In the 1930s according to Milam County records, Betty Sanford Manson had been adjudged non compos mentis. As a result of her mental condition the rest of the family wouldn’t let Dad interact with his grandmother.
One of the relatives Dad met in Midland was his cousin Lee Chester Manson. Lee and his brother Roy were the sons of Leroy and Estelle Manson. They were a few years older than my dad. Lee rode out to Los Angeles with my dad and Grandpa Quentin. Los Angeles was also the home of my father’s Uncle Carl, Quentin’s oldest brother. My dad spent the 1948 school year living with his father in south-central Los Angeles.
Well this is supposed to be about Quentin, but the fact is I really don’t know that much about him. I think the first time I saw my grandfather I was probably a teenager. He was a tall light-skinned man. He seemed to me to be of good disposition. And I’m sure I never spent more than a few days in my life talking to him. I do know that he was married perhaps twice more, and his last wife is still alive in Los Angeles. About 15 years after I first met him, he died in Los Angeles. He’s buried in Los Gatos, California, near my parents’ home in San Jose.
Today would be Grandpa Quentin’s 93rd birthday. I do wish I’d gotten to know him, about his music, his family — our family — and what life was like growing up in Texas in the early part of the 20th century.
So I decided to celebrate my Grandpa Quentin’s 93rd birthday by doing something I’ve never done before. I wrote a letter to cousin Lee Manson who’s still alive in Midland. I’m eager to see what sort of reply I get. In the meantime, happy birthday, Grandpa Quentin.
June 21, 2006 Wednesday at 6:48 am