Bear Down, AC Roos

We’ve got a great little neighborhood.

Our community in Southwest Austin has it all. Walking distance to schools. Nearby retail. And proximity to downtown. But mainly, it’s the neighbors themselves that make it special.

A number have already lived abroad, and more have plans to do so. They come from all across the country. New England. New York. Wisconsin. Minnesota. Nebraska. Louisiana. Oklahoma. Washington State. Texas.

And Illinois.

Mark Glowacz (Glow-watts) was raised in Chicago, and is a true sports fan from the Land of Lincoln. We’ve celebrated Blackhawks Stanley Cups, and we are cautiously optimistic that the curse of the billy goat might just end for the Cubbies in 2016 after 108 years. But those franchises take a back seat to…..Da Bears.

Ask Mark to review 1986, and he’ll tell you. Mike Ditka and the Bears dominated Super Bowl XX, and then Jim McMahon proceeded to single handedly wind down the Cold War. Mark has educated me about the true histories of each team in the NFC north. The hapless Detroit Lions, who can never get their act together. The Viking choke artists in Minneapolis, who never seem to win the big one. And finally, the despised usurpers in Green Bay (pop. 43), who somehow have claimed what rightfully belongs to the Bears of Chicago….…….kings of Midwest pro football.

LuAnn Glowacz met Mark at school in Iowa, before both headed south to Texas. Luann hails from Morehead, MN. And while she left her home state for college, many in her family stayed local and attended Concordia College in Morehead. Yes, that’s right Roo fans. Her family is full of Cobbers. For those who need a refresher, see December 12, 1981.

I am sometimes asked by Mark or Luann what I’ve been up to. The answer is often “well…..I’m working on another Austin College story”. Good American Gothic midwesterners that they are, they always manage to avoid rolling their eyes or chuckling.

I’ve already impressed Mark by showing him a photo of Austin College Athletic Director David Norman and former Chicago Bears Coach Lovie Smith. Norman & Smith were teammates on some legendary Big Sandy teams coached by David’s father Jim Norman. The arc of the Roo is long, and it bends towards Chicago. 🙂

Every summer, the neighbors get together on Thursday evening. The parents talk and the kids play. This coming Thursday will be the last one of the summer, before the kids head off to another year of school and the NFL regular season begins in earnest.

Mark & Luann throw a Super Bowl party every year. We all eat, drink, laugh, watch the commercials, fill our squares, talk about kids, and enjoy the game. To date, we’ve yet to see a Chicago Bears Super Bowl victory. But good health willing, it will happen. It may take a year, or 5, or 30. But the Bears will win a title again, and I’ll be sure to shake Mark’s hand as the clock winds down on their first Super Bowl win since the Walter Payton era.

This week’s Roo Tale is dedicated to Mark & Luann Glowacz, as well as all of our fantastic neighbors.

Cindy Weaver Schaufenbuel Conny Kohler Ruthven Glenn Ruthven Ken Manceaux Todd Swierk Shelley Pauler McNamara Melissa Garcia Manceaux Gerrie Fletcher Stence Michelle Hoey Schneider Jason Schneider Kimberly Sheffield Granberry Meghan Powell Leslie Wilson Aida Likaj Shana Tuttle Daniel Atkins Charles Granberry Pablo Manceaux John Wilson Linda Parrish Paul Parrish

Go Roos!

Chapter 1: Deep Ellum “Roos”
Chapter 2: Chicago, My Kind of Town
Chapter 3: Bear Down, AC Roos
Chapter 4: A Towering Task

The pride of Big Sandy, Sherman, and Chicago. Coach David Norman & Lovie Smith.

Every neighborhood Halloween. The husbands take the kids trick or treating. What do the wives do? Well, they form a “wine and candy” wall in the middle of the street and welcome the neighborhood. Well played ladies, well played.

Chapter 1: Deep Ellum “Roos”

Dallas, TX was nothing more than a small village on the banks of the Trinity when J.W. Crowdus and family arrived. Crowdus soon became a prominent civic leader, serving on the Dallas City Council in 1875 and becoming mayor in 1881. When he passed in 1895, Crowdus street in the Deep Ellum neighborhood was named in his honor. He is buried downtown, in Pioneer cemetery.

A first daughter married Thomas Marsalis, founder of South Oak Cliff and creator of the Texas State Fair. The Dallas zoo is today located in Marsalis Park. A second daughter would marry and give birth to a son who would be named after the boy’s grandfather. Crowdus Baker was born in Dallas in 1906.

Baker was an exceptional athlete at Terrill Prep, and chose to continue his athletic career under the guidance of Pete Cawthon at Austin College (see photo). He was a three sport star in Sherman, lettering in football, baseball, and basketball during a golden age of Roo athletics.

Like his coach Pete Cawthon, Crowdus Baker’s first love was football. But his gridiron days came to an early end in 1924 when he was injured in one of AC’s most famous games….a 7-3 victory over Baylor at Waco. Thereafter, Baker would focus on basketball and baseball. Baker became a member of the “A” Association before graduation. Like many Cawthon boys after Sherman, he began a career in coaching.

His coaching days would not last long.

 Crowdus Baker on the 1924 fightin’ Roos baseball squad…

Baker with Coach Cawthon, a basketball regular in Cawthon Gymnasium…

A member of the “A” Association on the steps of Luckett (front row, far right) circa 1925…

The families of Marc (Sherman TX) & Luann (Morehead MN) square off in a titanic battle for the ages…

Chapter 2: Chicago, My Kind of Town

Baker returned to Dallas at the end of the roaring twenties, starting a family business and coaching local baseball and basketball. But the rigors of running a business led to a decision that would change his life. In 1929, just before the beginning of the Great Depression, Baker sold his interests in the business and took a mail order job with Sears, Roebuck, and Co.

Retail & merchandising in the early 20th century were overwhelmingly mail order. Consumers in America would receive the Sears catalogs in the mail, determine what purchases they wished to make, and make their orders through the postal service. Think of it as the world’s worst Amazon. The rise of Sears can be attributed to its mastery of mail order through its famous catalog.

Baker’s first job was clerk in the Dallas mail order return department, about the lowest rung on the corporate ladder. But Baker had found a home and was on his way to becoming a loyal company man. Promotions soon followed. He was lured away to run the Houston plant. This was followed by mail order management positions in Seattle, Boston, and Philadelphia. Throughout the Depression and WWII, Baker was slowly becoming one of the most recognizable faces of Sears.

A final move occurred in 1951. That year, Crowdus Baker was elected treasurer of Sears, Roebuck & Co (see photo). His new and final home would be Chicago, Illinois. Baker spent the Eisenhower years overseeing the books for Sears in the Windy City as the company experienced a tremendous period of growth. He would also become a huge Chicago sports fan, especially for his adopted Chicago Bears.

Large corporations can often become stagnant entities that fail to identify new trends in business. But Baker and other Sears executives were exceptions to that rule. Sears leadership recognized the inevitable decline of mail order as the automobile began to power retail. During the post war period, executives moved to capitalize on these trends by actively encouraging mall retail nationwide, with Sears as anchor stores. Consumers would be driving to shop, and Sears would be there.

In 1960, Sears needed a new president to run the entire company. The choice was an easy one.

An AC Roo is chosen to run Sears, Roebuck & Co…

Chapter 3: Bear Down, AC Roos

Newly elected Sears president Crowdus Baker’s first big initiative in 1960 was to increase the company’s presence in the market for sporting goods. Sears began to seek the endorsement of sports star heroes of the day to plug the company. Baker’s biggest get was the splendid splinter. Just before 1961, Baker lured Ted Williams to sign an endorsement deal with the company. The greatest hitter who ever lived famously hit a home run in his last at-bat at Fenway in September 1960; 3 months later, he was wearing a Sears ball cap standing next to a Roo (see photo). Baker was off and running.

So was a new administration. JFK and Baker were elected president in the same year, and Baker was an admirer of the new Camelot. When he learned of the first lady’s interest in acquiring American fine art on behalf of the White House, Baker sprang into action. Sears executives and employees owned a significant number of Native American works created by artist Charles Bird King, and the company purchased these works and donated them to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, then chairwoman of the White House Fine Arts Committee.

On November 22, 1963, Baker was in Cleveland discussing details about his plan for Sears to enter the Wall Street “buy side” business. After his speech to local business leaders, he would learn to his horror about the tragic events that day in his former home town. LBJ would assume the oath on a plan back to D.C., and his fellow Texan at Sears would become one of the new president’s biggest backers.

The Vice Presidency remained vacant from JFK’s death to 1965, and during the campaign of 1964 LBJ selected Senator Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota as his running mate. Baker was a supporter of Humphrey, and held events and dinners on his behalf to assist Humphrey’s attempts to get on the ticket. In the general election, Baker was a strong backer of his fellow Texan’s campaign. His efforts were rewarded with consideration for the position of Secretary of Commerce. It’s not known whether Baker desired the position, but it would go to another. Baker returned to his primary focus in life……running his company and rooting for his Bears.

The Bears were giving him reason to cheer at that time. Tight End Mike Ditka and the rest of the 1963 team were rolling, and could not be stopped. Chicago reached the NFL championship game in December 1963 with a record of 10-1-2, and would meet the New York Giants at Wrigley Field for the title. The weather for a Chicago title was ideal…..just above zero degrees F.

The game was close. But a late Bears interception and drive fueled by Ditka receptions put the Bears up in front for good. Final score: Chicago 14, New York 10.

After yet another decade of phenomenal corporate growth, Crowdus Baker retired as president of Sears in 1968. But he would not be leaving the company; Baker accepted the position of vice chairman of the board.

While the day-to-day running of Sears would fall to someone new, Baker had his sights set on a much “taller” task.

Crowdus Baker & Camelot. Baker organizes effort to donate art to the JFK’s White House….

…and meets with Jackie Kennedy in Washington to deliver…

 Baker is in Cleveland the day tragedy strikes in Dallas….

After his landslide re-election, LBJ considers Baker for the Secretary of Commerce position in his administration…

Baker’s beloved Bears beat the Giants at Wrigley. NFL Champs! 

Chapter 4: A Towering Task

The size of the company required addressing. Sears employees were scattered in offices around the state of Illinois, and consolidation was desired. There were options. Relocation to another city. Office parks in the Chicago suburbs. Or………….Sears could simply remain downtown and construct the largest building in the world. Baker and other members knew what they wanted, and knew what Chicago would prefer.

If New York and Los Angeles are the Harvard and Yale of American cities, Chicago is Princeton. Chicago is always reminding us that it is here, standing tall, not to be overlooked. The locals know they live in an American city of the first order that does not take second place to any metropolis on the coast. Construction had already begun on the WTC towers in downtown Manhattan. Those towers would surpass the Empire State building and would soon be the largest structures in the world. Not for long if Baker & Sears could help it.

Construction costs were huge, and the Sears Tower itself took over 5 years to complete. But by 1974, it was done (see photo). It towered over the Midwest landscape, and exceeded the height of every occupied structure ever created. It would not relinquish the title of world’s tallest building for nearly a quarter century, until the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur were completed in 1996.

With the Sears tower project wrapped up, Crowdus resigned from the Sears board in 1974. His nearly half century career with the company had come to an end. Baker’s retirement would be dedicated to some of his favorite past times. Charitable work, involvement with Illinois horse racing, and time dedicated to his beloved Bears.

The early retirement of linebacker Dick Butkus due to injury increased interest in sports medicine and the science of keeping athletes as healthy as possible. In 1976, Chicago Bears team doctor Theodore Fox created a sports medicine center within the Illinois Masonic Hospital chain with the mission of addressing health needs of professional athletes. Dr. Fox asked Baker to be a member of the board; Baker agreed.

Other fixtures of the Chicago athletic community were also invited to become members of the board, including some guy named Halas. 😉

George Halas is the NFL. He was one of the first professional football athletes in the 1920s, and the first owner of the club that would become the Chicago Bears soon thereafter. More than an owner, he was focused on ensuring the success of professional football itself. Stories of his financial assistance for opposing teams are legendary; after all, their success was league success. To this day, Bears players wear “GSH” on their uniforms in his memory. The champions of the NFC receive the George Halas trophy.

From the time of Baker’s arrival in Chicago in the 1950s until the end of their lives, Baker and Halas were close…..united by their love of football and the Monsters of the Midway. Crowdus Baker passed away in 1981. Halas would pass in 1983, but not before hiring Mike Ditka as head coach. Ditka would lead the Bears 3 years later to their only championship since 1963.

Baker never lost his connection with Austin College. While Sears president, he was invited to address a reception honoring his legendary Coach Pete Cawthon in 1965. His adopted home of Illinois never quite replaced his native Texas.

Crowdus Baker’s efforts to establish Sears as the primary mall retail anchor took him to Austin, TX in 1963. The new Hancock Center was opening just north of downtown, and a Sears store would be a part of the development. Baker’s ribbon cutting that day allowed him to reestablish ties with friends from Sherman & Dallas whom he had not seen in years. That Sears store remains in use today.

Mark & Luann will likely find themselves zipping along I-35 in Austin sometime in the new future, and will see that Sears out of their window. When they do, they’ll be reminded that nobody……….not residents of Moorhead MN, not those from Chicago IL, and certainly not the iconic owner of the great Chicago Bears……………can ever fully escape the long arm of the Roo.

Go Bears! And…..Go Roos.


Crowdus Baker & George Halas team up to minimize Chicago Bear injuries…

Baker never forgets where he came from….

Sears President Crowdus Baker does some ribbon cutting in Austin, TX. Hancock Center opens! And remains open 51 years later…

Your humble author takes a photo of Soldier Field from atop the Sears Tower in 1993. At that time STILL the tallest building in the world…

Our Chicago friend Ferris Bueller, enjoying a day off atop the tower a Roo built…