Popular as it is—and it has long been our readers’ favorite column—Speaking of Texas is a gate-crasher where this magazine’s quarter-century birthday party is concerned. Because Speaking, as we like to call it, didn’t debut until August 1975, more than a year after Texas Highways became a travel magazine.
That first Speaking of Texas (SOT) offered 17 items, most of them one sentence long (the very first item appears below in its two-sentence entirety). In those days, SOT was written or compiled by only one person and carried a byline at the top. Pete Haight put together the first one and many thereafter. In fact, Pete, who retired from the Travel and Information Division in 1993, easily qualifies as the most prolific SOT contributor ever, with some 1,500 items to his name over six or seven years.
As our editor, Jack Lowry, reported, on the occasion of Speaking’s 20th anniversary, Pete got his inspiration for the column from The Handbook of Texas, which he discovered upon his return to the state after 20 years in the Marine Corps. Pete read the Handbook “cover to cover” and started sending “little curiosities, anecdotes, facts, and figures” to then-editor Frank Lively. Frank liked Pete’s items, and thus was Speaking born. The idea for the department’s name came from the old Texas Parade magazine’s popular Talk of Texas column.
To celebrate Texas Highways’ 25th anniversary, we decided to do something a little different with Speaking of Texas this month—a Speaking of Speaking, so to speak. Enjoy!