Ned’s Skeeter Lee shares secret of his suceess
Published 5:36 pm Monday, May 14, 2007
The News staff writer
NEDERLAND — There aren’t many veterans who return home from War and quickly fall back into the groove of everyday life.
And, if that’s not enough to bust someone’s groove, being in Okinawa during World War II as the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, might.
However, Nederland resident Skeeter Lee, 84, has somehow managed to do just that in his years since coming home to Southeast Texas.
“I was young so it really didn’t make a difference to me,” he said.
Born in Indiana Bayou, LA, Lee and his family moved to Nederland within the same year of his birth. He was raised in Southeast Texas and went on to graduate Nederland High School in 1940.
Although not entirely sure what he wanted to pursue, Lee began working toward a degree in college for upper elementary education in Lafayette, LA in 1941.
While still attending college in ‘42, he was drafted into the military with little option of where he was headed.
“The draft was wide open when I got in,” Lee said, “so you couldn’t enlist or anything. I actually wanted to enlist in the air force, but when I got drafted they put me into the army.”
Spending a large portion of his time in the South Pacific, Lee was with the 1st Radio Squadron where he and his men intercepted Japenese code.
“We knew where every Japenese air base was, how many planes they had and when they left,” he said.
After the war ended, Lee occupied Japan until January in 1946.
During that time, he visited his brother who was also serving in the military.
“My brother was in Seoul, Korea so I got my commanding officer to send me there on temporary duty,” Lee said.
I spent about a month over there and it was pretty cool.”
It didn’t take too long before he was tired and ready to make the long flight back to Texas.
“Eventually I had enough of everything and was ready to come home,” Lee said. “I felt free when I finally came home, but still didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
Lee, and his father Tom Lee, decided to start their own business, beginning with a lunch counter at Nederland Pharmacy.
After closing the counter down in 1947, Lee and his father opened up their next business, which was a cafeteria called Tom and Skeeter’s Cafeteria on Nederland Ave.
“We had the only cafeteria around here,” he said, “and on Sundays we had people lined up for two blocks.”
Lee said Texas native Tex Ritter was a common visitor to the cafe, bringing his two bodyguards with him at times.
The walls surrounding customers in the cafeteria were decorated with murals painted by his old friend Milton Turner.
Lee’s cafeteria saw 22 years of success before finally shutting its doors.
His final personal business venture came with a pie shop, similarly called Tom and Skeeter’s Pie Shop.
Although it opened after his father passed away, Lee kept both their names in the title because it was so well recognized by locals at the time, he said.
“I sold big, home-made pies for $1,” he said, “but then everything got expensive. I had to raise the price to $1.50 and people just wouldn’t buy them so I had to close it down.”
Lee spent the rest of his working-life at Western Southern Insurance where he retired after 15 years in 1984.
Those hoping for a new Tom and Skeeter shop shouldn’t hold their breath because it doesn’t look likely.
“At 84 years-old I’m not opening anything,” he said. “I’m going to take it easy the last few years that I have left.”