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Tuesday, June 2, 2009
She may be almost forgotten now, but Hattie Valdez was one of the most famous madams in Austin history. She had several houses and made millions of dollars.

It is said that when she walked into the Austin National Bank, all the bankers stood up and tried to help her. I figure her little black book contained the names of most of the prominent men in Austin at that time. Of course I have no proof of that.

Her residence was at 1405 E. Riverside Drive. It is on the southeast corner of I-35 and Riverside. Time Insurance Agency has been located there for the past 5 or 6 years.

There are two old homes on the site. I am sure they were beautiful homes in their time. The most interesting thing about these homes is the number of bathrooms. Almost every room has or did have a bathroom. Go figure…..

I have worked at Time Insurance in the past and I have a real good true story. One morning, one of the insurance ladies was writing a policy for this little old man that was probably in his mid 60’s. They were sitting in the dining area in the kitchen. The lady excused herself to go get some other paperwork. This little old man looked up at me and smiled and said, “ I’ve been here before, and it wasn’t no insurance agency”. I had to laugh..

I have another story told to me by an old south Austin wrecker driver. Waldo Harper owned a wrecker company in Austin. His son still owns the company. Waldo was the king of the little racetrack out by the Bergstrom Air Force Base. He almost always won the championship.

The story was told to me this way. Waldo was always looking for sponsorships for his racecar to help pay for the expenses. On day he hit Hattie up for a sponsorship. Hattie had a raspy voice from smoking. She said, “Hell, Waldo, what you put on the car”.

Waldo not missing a beat, said, “That’s easy Hattie, Hattie’s Hardware, the best screws in town.” True story.

I’ll have more to say about Hattie later…..

Below is a google map of Time Insurance Agency....


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10 comments:

Been There said...

I lived out in Pleasant Valley in the early 1960s with my parents and an older brother. Every time he gave anyone directions on how to get to our house, he would say "take South Congress out of town past Hattie's Place and turn left at the next road, by Pleasant Valley Elementary School.
Reading your web page is the fist that I knew that Hattie had more than one house. The one she had out on South Congress was on the right hand side of the road (going south) a big two or three story dark green house.

Thanks for the information.

nancy said...

And if you remember like I do that house on South Congress burned to the ground. Never knew if it was intentionally set. I know this because we lived off mathews lane and you had to turn on ebberhart ln, to get there right where the house was on the hill. she also worked out of the old M & M courts farther out South Congress. A little known fact. Hattie's daughter was a nun. I attended St Ignatius school and 1 year she (her daughter) won the grand prize for the raffle. A color TV. Hattie always bought tickets for the raffle from the Bazaar St. Ignatius put on every year.I could go on but that's enough for now. As far as I'm concerned she was a decent person, always treated everyone well.

Gretchen said...

I bought an old house on Riverside Dr. in 1992. It was Hattie's old residence. A neighbor gave me a file of newspaper clippings and memoirs of Hattie's which sparked my interest in her story. I went to the Austin history center and gathered more pieces of the puzzle. I install tile for a living and frequently have clients who have lived in Austin for many years. I always ask the old timers if they know of Hattie and about 95% do. I have heard many crazy stories regarding Hattie for instance; she catered the sheriff convention, she putt the "party" in Democratic party, she brought her "girls" from out of state to "earn" their college tuition,her old lawyer Bob Flanagan and how she slowed down the expansion of Austin city limits in order to keep her house outside the city limits. She held out until her "house of ill repute" burned down. Her daughter is still alive in a convent in Baltimore.

The house I live in was one of three she owned. When she died she left them all to her daughter who then sold all three to her cousin for $15,000. Hattie's ex-husband (Valdez) cut hair on Congress the same street Hattie ran her operations on. I didn't know about her 1405 E. Riverside Place.

Hattie's first of many arrests was in 1955 by her buddy Sheriff T. O. Lang. She retired in the late 60s after a near "old west style" gun battle with the wannabe extortionists The Overton Gang at the not so glamorous M&M Courts on S. Congress. One of my older neighbors went to a garage sale after she closed down where there was a vast array of high heeled shoes for sale and then noticed that it was Hattie's garage sale.

The one thing I don't have is a picture of Hattie. If someone has a photo of her, I'd love to see it. There seems to be no mug shots of her downtown.

-Gary

Carole said...

There are photos of Hattie at a site called "Does you 'member when? Austin, Texas Version's Photos".
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=483386435851&set=a.370352810851.158006.370348560851&theater
In the mid 70s I was one of Hattie's private nurses the last few months of her life. Unfortunately she wouldn't talk about that notorious part of her life. At the time, TX Monthly had an article titled " TX Historical Landmarks You'll Never See", or something like that. Knowing she didn't like to talk about it, I finally got up the nerve to ask her if she had a place called Hattie's Place, but her only response was, "s___t". What I remember is she had several very devoted "girls" who doted on her and she always tried to get me to stop smoking. I liked the old gal.
Carole

jessesublett said...

A few corrections. Hattie's last name was Valdes, with an "S", not Valdez, with a Z. It was the house at 5906 South Congress that burned. That one was closed in 1960 and she continued operations at M&M Courts, further south, until 1965. It's not true that she only employed out of town girls. That was a little story she fiction she made up and the local press ran with it, along with a number of other convenient fictions. Her lawyer friend's name was John Webster Flanagan, not Bob. During her last years she lived in a house on Eastside Drive, not the Riverside residence.

Five-0 said...

Five-0 says...Hello,"Been There" do you mean Pleasant Hill? They used to call Hattie's lawyer... Webbie Flanagan...Flanigan defended the who's who of crooks in and around Austin..Webbie I am pretty sure went to the federal pen...I remember in the mid 60's Flanagan lived in Mission
Hills Subdivision...I had been riding my bi
ke over to his home and playing with his kids...My dad asked me at the the dinner table one evening what I had done that day...I told him I had met a real nice family named the Flanigans and had been playing at their house...He about choked on his food...He put a stop to any further visits to the Flanigan house

Five-0 said...

Hello,"Been There" do you mean Pleasant Hill? They used to call Hattie's lawyer... Webbie Flanagan...Flanigan defended the who's who of crooks in and around Austin..Webbie I am pretty sure went to the federal pen...I remember in the mid 60's Flanagan lived in Mission
Hills Subdivision...I had been riding my bi
ke over to his home and playing with his kids...My dad asked me at the the dinner table one evening what I had done that day...I told him I had met a real nice family named the Flanigans and had been playing at their house...He about choked on his food...He put a stop to any further visits

TrevorBabyak said...

You are correct, Webbie did go to the federal pen but he's been out for some time now. His 90th birthday is this October. As his grandson, I intend to spend some time with him in the next few weeks making a video diary of his life experiences... Hopefully I can get him to elaborate and perhaps even get some names from the little black book.
As for the Flanagan kids, the boys all had there own trouble here and there but his daughters stayed out of it.

Edwin said...

I know that my father and his buddy used to go to Hattie's before they got married (and maybe afterward for all I know) because I overheard them talking about it once when they thought I was still too young to know what they were talking about.

The Rail said...

1950 as a second semester freshman at UT we used to take our friends out to Hattie's Butt Hut on South Congress. Wild, crazy times for innocent young boys trying to be a man.