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  • Texas | Columns | They Shoe Horses, Don't They?

    Houston’s Days of Yore

    by Bruce Martin
    “He grew up in a log cabin…” Not really; but, I was raised in a modest house that my dad had built on Houston’s north side. It had corrugated tin panels for roofing and when it rained the sound could either be soothing or frightening. Water supplied to the house was from a well with a pumping system. There were no “subdivisions” back then. Most of the residents owned two lots and there was ample room for all of the kids to play outdoors. Yes, actually played outdoors – no boom boxes, game boys, I-Pads, or other distractions. Can you picture an episode of “Walton’s Mountain” where the family sat around the radio listening to “Amos and Andy”. “The Shadow”, “The FBI in Peace and War”, and other programs of the day? When one of the neighbors got a television set, we kids would gather to watch some of the Saturday morning programs. Does anyone remember what a “Test Pattern” looked like? One of my favorite programs later was the “Tennessee Ernie Ford” show – probably because he had a teenage singer named Molly Bee that I had an adolescent crush on. Some time ago, I ran across a signed copy of her photo that I had requested at the time.
    TX - NE Houston Neighbor Scott's Horse and Buggy
    NE Houston Neighbor Scott's Horse and Buggy
    Photo courtesy Bruce Martin
    Summer places to cool off included Dodson Lake Pool and Lindale Pool. The original Lindale Pool was of brick and mortar construction that my grandfather, Jesse Robertson, help to build for public recreational use. A brick mason by trade, he also worked on the crew that laid brick paving for Heights Boulevard. It was a sad day when the city covered the thoroughfare with a topping of asphalt. Many older homes in the River Oaks section of Houston contained his handiwork of fireplaces and other architectural features.

    During my 5th year in grade school, construction began to convert Kelley Street into Loop 137. It seemed to take a decade to get it finished! Years later, motorists opted to use a newer, faster route on Loop 610. During my senior high school years, buses were not provided to transport students. The mode of transportation was the Pioneer Bus Company. In my scrapbook, I still have a Student Pass.

    Households could have milk, in glass bottles, delivered to their home. The dairy drivers also had oleo margarine (white, with a packet of yellow coloring to be added by the purchaser). The Houston Post was a morning competitor to the Houston Chronicle. The Houston Press was a weekly newspaper delivered in the afternoons. Shipley’s Donuts were sold door-to-door, in addition to being available in their outlet stores.

    Early telephone service did not have “Area Codes”. The numbers were alphanumeric. Some that I recall include: CA = Capital; FA = Fairfax; GL = Glendale; HO = Homestead; OV = Overland; OX = Oxford; UN = Underwood. Our first telephone was a two party-line; that was interesting, at times!

    Before Astroworld, there was Playland Park, with its amusement rides and sideshows. Adjacent to the park was a dirt track for stock car races. Driver A. J. Foyt was among the competitors. Being a guy, I thoroughly enjoyed the Demolition Derby events.

    The “cool cats” in high school drove ’34 Ford or ’36 Chevy coupes, chopped and channeled, with dual straight exhausts (no mufflers). spinner hubcaps, and 15 coats of either Candy Apple Red or Metallic Blue paint, polished to a mirror finish! Needless to say, I was not one of the cool dudes. My first car was a 1951 Ford 4-door. The after school routine was to stop at either a Bailey’s or Prince’s Drive-in for hamburgers. I think that the carhops were glad to see us leave – after they had gotten their tips for service. Ah, the days! We also had our own version of “Happy Days”, meeting at the Rexall Drug Store soda fountain for chocolate malts, cherry phosphates, and other liquid treats of the day. A nerd thing to do was double date, going to the San Jacinto Battlegrounds and USS Texas Battleship memorial for a Saturday outing (been there, done that). The “formal attire” of the day was ducktail haircuts, sideburns, and collars turned up for the guys and hoop skirts with petticoats for the girls. The Jensen Drive-in Theater was generally packed on Friday and Saturday nights – sometimes to actually watch the movie; mostly, though, to “hang out”. For football games, guys seemed to compete with one another as to who could get the most elaborate corsage, with the most streamers, for their dates. Thinking about it now, the girls probably did not think of that as being the best way to impress them. Some lessons are hard to learn.

    The evolution of baseball in Houston was the Houston Buffalos, who were renamed the short-lived Colt 45’s, and later became the Houston Astros. The quarterback of the Houston Oilers was the famed George Blanda – never will forgive him for going to Oakland as a field goal and extra point kicker!
    Houston TX "Elect M.L. Fay Woolley Sheriff

    Bill Scott
    Photo courtesy Bruce Martin

    HoustonTX - "Buy it for less at Lach's Auto Supply"
    Bill Scott and M.C. Thompson of Houston
    Photo courtesy Bruce Martin
    Houston TX - Andrew Scott's Catch Of Fish
    "Andrew had a barber shop on Quitman in the days of 25-cent haircuts. In his younger years, Andy was a boxer. Later in life, he enjoyed the Friday night wrestling matches in the Coliseum and served in their security services as a deputy constable with the Harris County Sheriff's Department. In this capacity, he was often called upon to intervene in family disturbances in his northeast Houston neighborhood." - Bruce Martin
    Houston TX - Andrew Scott's Catch Of Fish
    Andrew Scott's Catch of Fish
    Photo courtesy Bruce Martin
    Houston TX - Scott and wife Pearl
    Scott and wife Pearl
    Photo courtesy Bruce Martin

    Upon maturing to the magic age of eighteen, life changed. Some enrolled in college, or entered the work force, or joined the military. But, things became different… Now, there were new memories to be developed.

    © Bruce Martin
    They Shoe Horses, Don't They? July 24, 2012 Guest column

    Related Stories by Ken Rudine
  • Houston, the 2nd Hundred Years
  • Remembrance of Things Fried: Mr. Shipley and Mrs. Hurley
  • Shipley & Hurley
  • Return to San Jacinto after 67 Years
  • How Houston's 1940 Airport Helped Me Figure Out How to Keep Our Homes and Attics Cooler
  • Forum:
    I enjoyed this very much. It reminded me of my early years growing up in what was called Liberator Village in west Fort Worth. My folks moved from Waco because dad got a job at what was Consolidated Vultee Aircraft during the war. It has gone through a number of name changes to become Lockheed now. There was no housing available at the time we moved and this "Liberator Village" was built by the government to house people coming to work in the aircraft plant building B-24 Liberator Bombers and such at that time. We lived in this area until I started 6th grade. Then we moved into the north side of Fort Worth. Dad worked for what is now Lockheed for years until one of their layoffs sent him in search of another job. Times were definitely different back then. - Nancy Howard, August 04, 2012

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