Henry Halff was asked to deliver a toast to his parents
at the party. Here is the text of that toast. It was given extemporaneously,
and the version here is somewhat more polished than that delivered at
I need to begin with a warning. It was only
yesterday, the eve of this great event, that my brother, Bro, who planned
and orchestrated this entire affair, worked up enough nerve to ask me
to deliver a toast to our parents. To his great dismay, I said that I
would. So, those of you who know me realize that now is a good time to
Those of you who dont know me, deserve some explanation. It all
has to do with genetics. You see, Lee and Albert passed a genetic heritage
on to their sons. But some of thier outstanding genetic material did not
find its way to me, and other unexpected mutations have, as they will,
crept into my DNA. These genetic alterations explain why I am not like
the other members of my immediate family.
One of the genes I dont have, for example, is the smart gene.
The smart gene is what allows you to speak intelligently, and on demand,
about any subject of importance, or of no importance. Although this gene
runs in my family, it has somehow bypassed me. But thats all right.
I have found that not having the smart gene puts me at something of an
advantage. By hanging around the same people for long periods and being,
over and over again, unable to come up with anything to say, Ive
gotten the reputation of being a good listenera definitely handy
reputation to have in my family.
Im also missing another gene, the art gene. The art gene
is what keeps you awake after intermission in a concert by the National
Symphony Orchestra in the Kennedy Center, or what keeps you buying paintings
long after theyve covered all of your walls, have been hung in your
back stairs, and are piling up under your sofas. The art gene runs in
the Halff family, but I dont have it. Nonetheless, I consider myself
lucky, because instead of shelling out a few hundred bills to suffer through
four hours of some screechy-deechy at the opera, I can get a kick of sitting
outside at the Specht Store in the Texas hill country, watching the sun
go down as some kid takes care of his prize bull in a far pasture and
a terrible Texas troubador plays his heart out as if the Specht Store
was the stepping stone to Nashville, or at least Austin (which it is,
in fact). And all this for nothing more than a tip and the price of a
But perhaps the worst gene to be missing in this family is the ambition
and industry gene, which runs deep in the Halffs. Witness my brothers
monumental efforts in putting this party together (applause). Or witness
my fathers 55-year career building the city of Dallas (applause).
Or even more prodigious than either of these witness my mothers ceaseless
and heroic efforts whereby she has, for lo these 57 years, managed to
keep me out of jail (thunderous applause)! I have none of the ambition
and industry gene, but thats all right by me. I figure that Im
the only one in the family that will die relaxed, and with nothing left
on my list. Indeed, I dont even have a list.
But lets take a look at some of the genes that I do have. My first,
and very best gene, is, of course, my sweetie, Jean. (Jean enters to applause.)
But there are others that deserve mention. Im the one in the family
that got the mischief gene. Theres one member of every generation
that is a total screw-up, either through intention or ignorance or a combination
of both. And I am that person. If I dont inadvertently mess things
up, Ill do it intentionally. Im the only one, for example,
who wears his hat indoors, to my mothers great shame. (Be thankful,
Mom, at least Im not in jail, yet.) In fact, the reason that we
were late arriving at the party tonight was that I forgot to bring my
hat and insisted on going back to get it so that I could wear it indoors
Related to the mischief gene is a gene that Im
very fond of, the beer gene, which needs no explanation. Except
perhaps to note that the beer gene, in the presence of the art gene, tends
to mutate into the very, very dangerous wine gene. Those with the
wine gene look forward to a future first of snobbery, then of financial
ruin. Thank goodness, my beer gene is intact. One reason the beer gene
is so wonderful is that its possessors never at a loss for a toast, as
those of you who were unwise enough to stick around now realize to your
horror. And what better beer to toast this incredible couple than a Shiner
Bock (pours a beer) from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas (raises
glass, takes a sip).
Which brings me to the last, and most important gene, that I could possibly
have tonightthe TEXAS gene, yee-haw! (chorus of yee-haws) Why? Because
almost all of the 60 years that this couple has been married have been
spent in Texas. And here they are out in California, celebrating their
60th wedding anniversary so far from home. And, here am I, sandwiched
between the California quiz show and the Hawaiian hula. About all I can
bring to this celebration is a little bit of Texas.
Music is the only way that I know of doing this, so what Ive got
are three hastily chosen songs from the Lone Star State. One, sung by
San Antonios great Tejano music starAugie Meyers, is just
to get things started. Its the first song I ever learned, and its
made for clapping to and singing to.
The second is a song about Mom and Dads courtship. It was written
by a couple from Wimberly, Texas who had the same kind of courtship in
Boston. So the details of the song dont quite match. But, what the
hey, Boston and Chicago are pretty much indistinguishable from Texas,
as Im sure they are from California. And I imagine that there are
very few people in this room that know the difference between Wimberly
and Kingsville. Its the spirit of this song that captures the story.
The third song was the hit song of 1940. I dont know whether
they knew this in 1940, but its sure apparent in hindsight. The
song is a classic not-so-western swing number rendered by Austins
premier Western swing band, Asleep at the Wheel and sung by Dwight Yoakum.
If you dont find yourself dancing to this song, check your shoes;
theyre probably nailed to the floor.
(Three songs: Deep
in the Heart of Texas, performed by Augie Meyers; Texas Waits
for Me, performed by The Denns; and New San Antonio Rose, performed
by Asleep at the Wheel
with vocal by Dwight Yoakum. Jean and Henry start to dance to the last
number. Lee and Albert join them on the dance floor.)
The toast: Mom and Dad, heres to yousixty years
and still dancing.