Senior Interview: Bill & Dusty Gaston
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd is fortunate to welcome parishioners of all generations. We are particularly blessed with senior parishioners who have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, rich and interesting lives. Every few months we will hear from our senior members and learn about the joys of their family lives and careers, as well as the lessons, accomplishments, and challenges they have experienced.
Bill & Dusty Gaston
Interviewed by Brian Gaston
William “Bill” Gaston, a native Austinite, was born December 27, 1927, and Eleanor “Dusty” Grigg was born in Houston on February 20, 1934. Bill’s parents moved to Austin in the mid-1920s. Bill’s dad was a serial entrepreneur who, among other ventures, bought land on the newly-created Lake Buchanan and built lake cabins for rent along with a marina to rent boats. Mr. and Mrs. Rice, the resident managers of these “Island Lodges,” were previously from Baytown and friends of the Grigg’s. The Rice’s invited Dusty at age 13 to come up to the Lodges for a few days’ summer vacation. In looking around for someone to entertain Dusty, they immediately thought of 19-year-old Bill Gaston! From then on, Bill and Dusty would see each other yearly during Dusty’s summer vacation at the Rice’s.
Bill has fond memories of growing up in Austin. His Hemphill Park neighborhood was full of kids, and there was always a daily sandlot football or baseball game. Bill’s dad wanted him to become a doctor, but Bill much preferred engineering: Around the age of 12 he built a go-kart. The belt drive to the lawn mower engine continually broke so he went to a motorcycle shop and upgraded to a motorcycle engine with chain drive and a three speed transmission. Result – a speed-demon machine! At 14 his dad gave him a 10-year old ’31 Model A Roadster convertible. He sanded it down and had it painted with a new two-tone blue scheme. The war was on and gasoline was rationed – but his father never needed his full allocation of gas – so “Billy Dick” as he was then known, never ran out of gas.
Dusty’s dad first worked at the Humble Refinery in Baytown but after the war founded Baytown Lumber Company with a partner. Dusty was outgoing and especially liked English and music classes. She began singing in the junior high and Methodist church choirs. Her high school choirmaster, Mr. Seale, saw potential and suggested to her parents that Dusty get more formal training at the Houston Conservatory of Music. She rehearsed there through high school. Dusty had a Model A as well – a two-door sedan. In keeping with her musical talents, she had her Model A adorned with painted-on stars and the moniker “Stardusty” – because “Stardust” was her favorite song. Thus her nickname, “Dusty.” She was always able to keep gas in her car by taking three car-less neighbors to school daily for a fee – Uber before Uber was invented! She would also rake in 10 dollars to sing “behind the curtain” for funerals at the Paul Lee Funeral Home.
Given her attractive looks and maturity at such a young age, Dusty’s teacher, Mr. Seale, mentioned to her that Republic Pictures was holding auditions in Beaumont. The audition was a success, and she was offered a “contract” to go to Hollywood upon high school graduation.
After Austin High, Bill went on to UT to study Mechanical Engineering and joined Delta Tau Delta. He did his college thing while Dusty finished junior high! Then while Dusty was in high school, he went up to Detroit, Michigan for a work/study program which yielded a Masters in Automotive Engineering from Chrysler Institute. While at Chrysler, Bill worked on the gas turbine engine for 15 months.
Tiring of the cold winters and the fact that no Michigander could hold a candle to the outgoing and beautiful Dusty, he decided to move back to Texas and marry Dusty soon after her high school graduation, if she would say “Yes.” Though the idea of trying to make it in Hollywood had its allure, to Dusty, Bill was every bit as good looking as John Wayne or Gene Autry – and younger, too. So she said “yes!” and they got hitched in 1952, three months after her graduation.
Bill and Dusty’s first year of marriage was spent at Island Lodges where Bill managed an expansion of the “resort.” Lake Buchanan was not the ideal spot to start a young marriage, so Bill negotiated the purchase of “Boats and Motors” – then a small business in Austin- from his father. It was a Johnson motor dealership along with wooden boats of the era. Renaming it Bill Gaston Boats and Motors, he picked up a line of new-fangled fiberglass boats from California. Demand across the country wildly outstripped supply. Seeing an opportunity, he decided to get into fiberglass boat production himself! With nine other investors, $25,000 was raised to form Glastron Boat Company in 1956. From humble beginnings, Glastron grew to over 1600 employees by the early 70s, making it one of the largest employers in Austin in its time and the largest fiberglass boat manufacturer in the United States.
Bill and Dusty were both raised in the Methodist church during childhood. As Austin newlyweds they both sang in the choir at First United Methodist (guess who was better…). A change in ministers, coinciding with a move to Pecos Street in 1961, caused them to check out Good Shepherd – and they were hooked. Bill and Dusty taught children’s Sunday school together. Bill has served on the Vestry while Dusty – utilizing her acting chops – was the Fortune Teller at the annual Church Bazaar. How she enjoyed baffling those junior-high aged girls during Tarot card readings!
Bill and Dusty have two children. Brian, with his wife, Jenny, lives in Austin and is a member at Good Shepherd. Christy lives in Dallas and is a member of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal. Dusty and Bill have a total of five grandchildren.
Bill and Dusty feel very comfortable, welcomed, and loved at Good Shepherd – their neighborhood church home. It has been so for 55 great years.