the old rail yard behind the station, a place where six or eight
passenger trains from all Houston railroads with passenger service
were once switched into Union Station daily. The old place with
canopies and boarding aprons leading into the station is no longer
recognizable. It also is long gone, replaced by other modern-day
business endeavors. All this is so reminiscent of my Dad often telling
me; “Nothing stays the same, son. Nothing ever stays the same.”
Game Time!… More importantly to some people today, is the
modern “Minute Made Stadium and Sports Complex”, located
right next door on the east side of the old train depot property.
I have attended a few baseball games there. It is a very nice, up
to date, hi-tech, user friendly complex. I think I’ll go back again
sometimes, real soon. Though doubtfully, and to my regret, I may
never see some of my favorite players and baseball greats like Roger
Clemens or Andy Pettitte ever play there again. But then, I might!…
Remember – “Nothing ever stays the same.”
Meanwhile, back to the end of our train trip.….. We had arrived
in the Big City. At Union Station, Mother and I were met
by her brother, my Uncle Willie. After leaving the train and walking
through the station, I remember Uncle Willie had parked his car
along Texas Avenue just a few feet from the front door. From there
he took us to his family home surrounded by a six-foot chain-link
fence and huge pecan trees. Next door was his successful plumbing
business at 7606 Jensen Drive near Crosstimbers, in NE Houston.
Cultural Shock #1… Two weeks of so called “vacation” in the
fast pace lifestyle on Jensen Drive; the hustle and bustle of Uncle
Willie’s street-front business, plus their citified family/home
life, had this country boy turning in circles. It was all really
very foreign to what I was used to at home in the rural, laid-back
country life of Cass County.
Mother’s uncle, Mayo Clark, a crippled handy man and part-time plumber,
worked there at the business for Uncle Willie. Being a bachelor,
he too, lived on Jensen Drive about a mile south toward downtown
Houston, passed the railroad
underpass and north of North Loop 137 and Kelly Street. Uncle Mayo
had a rented cabin barely south and east of the Jensen Drive railroad
underpass. Interstate Loop 610 North later came through that area.
One evening after his workday, Uncle Mayo suggested to my Mother
and me, that I go and spend the night with him at his cabin. He
was always a good, family loving, kind and gentle man; a favorite
of all us children. Mother agreed and I reluctantly went with him
in his old Dodge pickup. Remember, I was only six and a half and
had never, at that time, never been away from my mother overnight.
Can you see why I was reluctant to go?
Arriving at his cabin Unkie Mayo prepared for us a supper, as I
recall, of cold canned beans, sardines and crackers and a big orange
soda pop. Afterwards, we shared a candy bar; a peanut patty.
The cabin wasn’t lighted well. It was cold and musty! This was way
back in 1945, long before the days of television in my life.
(Say what? What did I hear you say? No TV to watch!) Yep, that’s
right! At the time, we didn’t know what TVs were. And Unkie’s statically
old AM radio wasn’t real good listening either. You see, Unkie was
a good man that never learned to read or write. So there was no
reading funny books, Bible stories or any way for him to entertain
me. I was too young to know how to play dominos, checkers or solitaire.
I just missed my mother!
It was a long, miserable night! I remember crying some. I cried,
sobbed and pouted missing my mother. I felt sad and lonely, alone
in a strange environment. Basically alone in such a humongous, unfamiliar
city with this “old man”, a person I had never before spent much
time with. Trying his best, Unkie was of little comfort to me. Then,
after considerable exhaustion, sleep came, all-be-it a restless,
non-refreshing sleep. He awakened me the next morning to go back
to his workplace where my mother was.
What I have
just described, I believe at a young and tender age, was my first
experience with Cultural Shock.…… Continuing on here, I will
describe to you my other experiences with the strange and dreaded
feeling of maladjustment, or not belonging.
Some thirteen years later I graduated from McLeod High School, near
thereafter, I left home and moved to Houston
where I had relatives and felt my best chances to seek employment
were. And it was! Good jobs were plentiful and easy to find. Just
too far from my home in NE
Cultural Shock #2… In Houston,
I worked for General Electric Company with offices at the corner
of Polk and Live Oak Streets. After a year of living about town
in several different apartments, reality began to set in on this
immature teenager. I was too confined in the big city and highly
limited in doing the things I enjoyed most. I was grossly unhappy
in that lifestyle and high crime environment, living near the inter-city
and within the shadow of downtown.
Convenience, employment and apartment living weren’t worth the “cost”.
Cultural Shock was once again taking its toll on me. Not
adjusting very well, I pulled up stakes and moved back to NE
Texas, back on home turf near McLeod.
Cultural Shock #3… Then again, another two and one half years
later, accepting state employment took me back to the Houston
area. This time not to Houston
proper, yet to me, still the unattractive, over populated and high
traffic areas. My work frequently took me into inter-city Houston
all over again. Once more it was too close to the “big city” and
too far away from NE Texas
for this born and bred country boy’s pleasure. I pulled up stakes
again and moved to North
Texas, near Cooper.
Later, I was able to retire.
is the one thing that hopefully and eventually will come to us all,
sooner or later. I am enjoying it immensely now in a quite, laid
back community where I have lived for the last thirty-eight years.
And far, far removed from any “big city”.
Any cultural shock I experience these days may only be momentarily,
fleeting and short lived. It may occur during my travels about this
marvelous country to strange and unusual places. Or perhaps upon
a short visit to a big unfamiliar metropolis. In retirement we are
flexible and never stay anywhere not feeling free and comfortable.
My greatest passions these days are family and traveling. You see,
road trips throughout this great USA are a lot of fun. So is Amtrak,
our modern day, laid-back, relaxed passenger train service. We use
it pretty frequently, too. For retirees not on a rigid schedule,
it is an unhurried way to travel.
These and all other life’s experiences are what have made me what
I am today; good, bad or indifferent. I know the good Lord has continually
blessed me for these last sixty-plus years, ever since those formative
days on Jensen Drive. I pray He has blessed you and yours (my readers)
real good, too. May He continue to smile upon His children!
I sincerely hope to see you on down the road; perhaps on the railroad.
© N. Ray Maxie
April 1, 2008 Column
See Texas Railroads
More Texas | Online
Magazine | Texas Towns | Features
| Columns | Ramblin'