Arthur B. Hiatt & Those Black Cordovan ChukkasSunday, February 06, 2011
It was 1960 and I was in the 12th grade at St. Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas. It may have been one of the first days of the school year or it may have been not. But I do remember that it was in Forrest Wright’s Civics class. I remember a lot about Mr. Wright's class because he wore shiny brown shoes that Americans call chukkas. He had been a soldier in WWII and he told us of a famous boulevard in Paris called Chance for an Easy Lay.
I first noticed Arthur B. Hiatt when I saw his shoes. They were black cordovan. They were scuffed just right. I had never seen anything like them before. I knew the story of the British Army desert boots (mostly hearsay in my opinion) that they were a bit higher in the ankle to prevent sand from seeping in. They originally had crepe soles and were brown or light tan suede. These were not suede they were black cordovan (a strip of leather from the upper back of a horse). They were beautiful. I looked at the quiet almost taciturn young man wearing and instantly had a liking for him. He rarely volunteered opinions in class. Like me he may have been a bit shy. But after a few conversations with him I knew he was just as intelligent as another friend of mine Howard Houston. Both were day students. We boarders tended to ignore day students and more so because they had the privilege of being able to have and drive a car. It was verboten to us even though Lee Lytton III had a 57 Chevrolet convertible hidden somewhere and he drove it on weekends. He took me for a drive once and he tried to make think that the automatic transmission was three on the floor!
Before Christmas, this past year I spotted a pair of these black desert boots (which Americans like to call chukkas) at my Oakridge Hudson’s Bay. They did not have my size as I now need a half size larger size to accommodate my orthotics. They promised to call me when they received a new batch. They never did.
But those black chukkas, and their original owner, Arthur B. Hiatt have been in my mind since.
After I graduated from St. Ed’s I never saw Hiatt again. Only recently I found out that he was a roommate with Howard Houston for a couple of years at the University of Texas. Houston, like Hiatt was intelligent with no need to excel or try too hard to get by. Perhaps that made them friends. In any case when I Skyped Houston he told me that he last saw Hiatt in the early 70s and that he had, “gone hippie on us.”
Now I have made it a pastime the last couple of years to find my fellow classmates from St. Ed’s and then convince them to attend our reunions in Austin. I have found many of my friends including John Ryals who had been dead for many years.
But Hiatt has drawn a blank in all my search efforts. I found one Arthur B. Hiatt who was a crew member of the USS Sirago (SS485), a diesel submarine that was decommissioned in 1974. Arthur B. Hiatt, according to the US Navy registry had been an ensign, in 1949 and 1950.
I did not think that this was my Arthur B. Hiatt. But I did find Arthur B. Hiatt’s house in Austin and it was listed as a modern, 50s Austin house. I could not find anything more since obviously my fellow student would have moved out probably not long after he graduated in 1961. From Vancouver it would have been much too complicated to search Austin home records.
I told Howard Houston today about my find. He told me that the submarine Hiatt was the right Hiatt. It was Arthur B. Hiatt Jr’s father. He further told me that the B stood for Buell.
With that new information I went back to my search engine and located an Arthur B. Hiatt in partnership (kitchen cabinets) with an Antonius Kramer who have a business in Buda, Texas.
I left a message at the business number listed and it is my hope that the original owner of those flashy black cordovan chukkas will have been found at last.
St.Ed's Alumni Web Site
Addendum, February 7:
I talked to Antonius Kramer's wife who confirmed that Arthur (Art) Buell Hiatt is indeed her husband's partner and that they are in the cabinet business. She told me that Art and his wife, who live in Austin, rarely answer the phone. Mrs. Kramer gave me an address. I called up Mike O'Connell (Class of 1967) who has promised me that he will pass by and ring on Art's doorbell.