12/17/14 5:05pm


With the U.S.-Cuba cold war finally melting away, it’s as good a time as ever to point out a few key sites from Fidel Castro’s trip to the area, and those associated with Houston’s Robert Ray McKeown, the machinist-turned-international businessman-turned-peripheral figure to the JFK assassination. McKeown was also Castro’s best buddy on Galveston Bay, and a man who claimed to have met Lee Oswald in San Leon and sipped beer with Jack Ruby at Jimmie Walker’s Edgewater Restaurant in Kemah.

The story begins in Houston in 1950. McKeown, then 39, was a machinist with his own shop in Pasadena. One day his ship came in: an inventor approached him with a plan for a machine that could clean coffee better than any other before it. McKeown built the machine, and apparently several more, and the two men went into business. McKeown trolled the coffee ports of Latin America for sales, which eventually lead to him moving to Santiago, Cuba during the administration of president Carlos Prío Socarrás, who would become a friend.


Cold War Picaresque
09/06/07 11:21am

Roller Coaster on the Kemah Boardwalk Under Construction, June 2007

Worried that deed restrictions won’t protect your home from someone putting up ugly townhouses on your street?

Big whup. On the Kemah Boardwalk, the next-door neighbors of Coy and Carol Killion decided to build a 96-foot-tall roller coaster.

The Boardwalk Bullet is now a few dozen feet from the house. For 12 hours a day, the family listens to the coaster’s squeaks and rattles and the screams of 800 passengers an hour rolling by at 50 mph.

“It’s such a shame, really. We all used to just love the peaceful quiet,” said Carol Killion, who built the house in 1962. “It’s what we enjoyed about it, away from the big city.”

The Killions, of course, still refuse to sell their home to Landry’s.

“As long as I live, it will not be sold to him,” she declared, referring to Landry’s President Tilman Fertitta.

This weekend, the coaster’s noise drove them all from the porch: Killion, her husband, Coy, and her son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons. “You can’t even carry on a conversation,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll even be able to barbecue.”

No public hearing was ever held to inform residents about the coaster.

The city has no zoning, and the coaster met all setback requirements, a Kemah city administrator told the Houston Chronicle in July. Carol Killion said a lawsuit would be just too exhausting.

Boardwalk Bullet photo: Kira Hamilton