Hi, my name is Damon Carney.
In July of 2016, I found myself being reminded of my parents and my upbringing and Tyler, Texas, in the most unlikely of places: on a movie set in the sweltering heat and humidity of southern Mississippi, in a cornfield filled with mosquitoes, getting eaten alive.
I was among a cast and crew of 200 shooting the film, “Logan,” starring Hugh Jackman.
Here’s a man with 350 million dollars — he doesn’t have to work another day in his life. But on this hot July evening, here comes Hugh Jackman over to introduce himself to me the same way I watched him introduce himself to any new member on the team.
Night after night, I watched him work harder than anyone else on the set. Take after take after take, he was doing pushups and curling 45-pound dumbbells hour after hour, to keep that vein-bulging Wolverine intensity night after night.
And then the director would yell “cut,” and he was this charming, lovable, goofy guy, cracking jokes and singing show tunes.
If it’s possible to be a 6’3′ perfect physical specimen with an endless amount of talent and be a dork with an Australian accent, well, that’s what I was seeing.
I think this made such a great impression on me because it was a direct reflection of how my parents raised all of us to be: hardworking, joyful and above all else, grateful for everything.
I’m one of 11 children. As you might guess by the size of our family, we are indeed Catholic. We were all baptized in the same church that my mother and father were married in, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Broadway and Front Street.
Between them and this city. I found myself grounded in steep traditions of faith, family and hard work.
My mother and father owned and operated East Texas Chemical Company and Janitorial Service for 50 years. And they started with one single job: cleaning the offices of the Trane manufacturing plant on Troup Highway back in the late 1950s. And after many, many years of relentless hard work and dedication, they turned that one job into a multi-million dollar company with 165 employees.
Growing up, our business was often a family affair. I remember back in the early 1980s, my brothers and I cleaned and waxed every classroom floor in all three high schools: T.K. Gorman, Robert E. Lee and John Tyler. In fact, in 1982, when John Tyler was damaged by arson, my parents’ company was part of the cleanup.
And as hard as that sounds, I look back on those times working with my brother and working for my dad with the fondest of memories, because it was that hard work that they were able to give us such a rich upbringing.
One of my fondest memories with my parents was when they were actually able to take us to a movie in an actual movie theater. It was over here at the original movie house in Tyler, on Broadway and the square.
During my childhood, they were only able to take us to the movie twice as a whole family, and I remember everything about that day.
It was 1976 and I was 10 years old. I thought my father was going to take us to go see a western, because that was his favorite kind of movie. But I was completely blown away and absorbed in the fantasy of “Star Wars” and thinking how cool my dad was to not only take us to a movie, but to take us to the best movie ever at the time, anyway.
And I just remember thinking that if I was having that much fun watching that, how much fun were those actors having? And I think it inadvertently led me on my life’s journey. Because that’s when I realized, “That’s what I want to do.”
And nine years later, I enrolled at Tyler Junior College and took advantage of their award-winning drama department, which is where I met my wife for the last 30 years. And after graduating from Tyler Junior College, my wife and I moved around the country. We lived in Minneapolis, performing with the Minnesota Shakespeare Company. And then on to New York, where our daughter was born, and then to Los Angeles, where our son was born — and then eventually moving back to Texas to be closer to family.
And that’s when my wife and I made the decision to also follow in my parents’ footsteps and start a business of our own. And for the last 17 years, we have owned and operated The Tin Cup Deli in Arlington. It not only allowed us to support ourselves, but it afforded me the opportunity to continue doing what I love to do the most.
As the business started taking off, a strange thing happened: acting work started rolling in and thus led to a slew of roles, including working with Johnny Depp in “The Lone Ranger” and Hugh Jackman in “Logan,” which brings me back to my parents.
I was reminded of my parents while working on the set and watching Hugh Jackman, because my parents, no matter how successful they were, they always strove to be better. They always looked to the future.
And it was because of that upbringing that when I come back home and visit family friends, I’m reminded of how, you know, some of the names of the high schools may have changed. And the city has grown and the inevitable controversy that may bring.
I look back on my time here and the traditions of faith, family and hard work. And it makes me proud to say I was born and raised in Tyler, Texas.
Damon Carney was born and raised in Tyler with all 10 of his siblings by John and Barbara Carney, who owned and operated East Texas Chemical company and Janitor Service for over 50 years. A proud graduate of T.K. Gorman High school and Tyler Junior College, Damon has enjoyed his journey from the stages of TJC to the screen in movies such as Logan and television shows including Fear of the Walking Dead.
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