Bluebonnet Youth Ranch’s history, stories compiled in new book
Bluebonnet Youth Ranch came into existence because of a case of neighbors helping neighbors, and that caring is something still going on today.
Written by Claud Jacobs and Sonny Long, “Bluebonnet Youth Ranch: A History of Caring” was published in September by the University Press of Victoria housed at the University of Houston-Victoria. The first book will be auctioned off Sunday during the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch auction.
Pre-sale book orders are available. Autographed hardcover copies are $25, and the paperback edition costs $15. Proceeds will benefit UHV Athletics and Bluebonnet Youth Ranch.
“A spirit of generosity is prevalent throughout this book, and it has extended to the decision to donate some of the proceeds to our athletics program,” UHV President Vic Morgan said. “I want to thank Mr. Jacobs and the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch staff for supporting our student-athletes and making it easier for them to earn a degree and play the sports they love.”
Bluebonnet Youth Ranch is a nonprofit organization that serves as a long-term, residential home for dependent, abused and neglected children. The facility is located four miles south of Yoakum. Through its 48-year history, Bluebonnet has helped more than 500 children.
“What impressed me the most is the number of people who have supported Bluebonnet through the years,” Jacobs said. “In the book, we attempted to mention every person who had an impact and how the ranch evolved from day one.”
In 1968, Yoakum attorney Charles Kvinta Sr. asked a group of local businessmen to provide $50 a month to house five children whose widowed mother left to go to an alcohol treatment center. While that generosity provided a short-term fix, Kvinta soon received a cease-and-desist order from a district judge in Austin for running an unlicensed home.
Rather than give up, Kvinta, Jacobs, Yoakum school principal Calvin Gilpin, Yoakum Mayor Harry Gibson, rancher C.Y. Jacobs; Charlie Janota, an insurance company district manager; and M.C. Jamison, funeral home and nursing home owner, formed an organization and became the board of directors. One year later, Anne Barre donated 50 acres of land to serve as the location for the facility.
Jacobs, a partner in Lodestone Financial Services of Victoria, is the last living person from the original board of directors. He asked Long to help him write the book to make sure the ranch’s history was preserved.
Long, a retired journalist who worked for the Victoria Advocate from 2005 to 2014, said Bluebonnet’s staff had a large number of photos and newspaper clippings scattered about.
“The history all needed to be in one place,” Long said. “We needed a comprehensive history that someone could pick up and learn how the ranch got started.”
Beyond research, Long conducted interviews, including one with a woman who was one of the first ranch residents. While he said it’s a book about history, it doesn’t read like a textbook. The book includes stories about entertainers who have visited the ranch or put on fundraisers. There’s also a number of photos, some dating back to the 1970s.
“It’s full of anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories that people probably haven’t heard before,” Long said.
While Jacobs was helping write the book, it brought back a lot of memories, such as bonding with a young resident named John Fivecoat who was the first person from Bluebonnet to graduate from high school. He went on to raise a family and has a successful career at Dow Chemical.
“There have been times that we laughed and times that we cried,” Jacobs said. “There were a lot of emotional memories. Bluebonnet Youth Ranch almost went under one time. There were memories of phenomenal people who have given so much to the ranch. When you take a look at the list of celebrities who have lent a hand, there’s more than 100 names.”
Long said while foundations and celebrities certainly have played a role in the ranch’s success, the support has come in all shapes and sizes.
“There are also stories like when the Yoakum High School cafeteria workers sold cupcakes for a nickel each and raised $50 to donate,” he said.
The book was designed and the publication arranged by Charles Alexander, UHV poet and designer in residence. University Press of Victoria began in 2010 and focuses on publishing books written by local authors. Other books published include “Port of Victoria” by Charles Spurlin, “The Republic of the Sierra: An Alternate History of Texas” by Kerry McCann and “Wooden Stirrups” by Harold Nichols.
“Preserving and celebrating the history of the Crossroads is one of the significant functions of our university press,” Morgan said. “Bluebonnet has provided an invaluable impact for more than 500 children, so I’m glad the story of its beginning and its growth will not be forgotten.”
Starting Oct. 10, books will be for sale at the UHV Center for the Arts bookstore, 204 N. Main St., or by visiting the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch website at www.bbyr.org. They also can be purchased by calling Tylar Walyuchow, Bluebonnet Youth Ranch development director, at 361-772-2199, or Jacobs at 361-564-8264.
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973, offers courses leading to 70 bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degree programs and concentrations in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as a teaching center in Katy, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities, and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.