Friday, May 30, 2014


Cheryl had a blog day that wasn’t filled so I knocked out a little remembrance from some years back. What made me recall this was the story I wrote for this blog about the 1959 Poe Elementary School bombing a few weeks ago (“The Day Things Changed” May 19), although it’s not directly related to it.
I was raised in Houston, Texas, in what today is called “Inside the Loop,” referring to the 610 Freeway Loop that encircles the inner city. Back in those days though, there wasn’t a loop to be “inside of.” It was an area near Rice University and southwest of downtown—unusual for many cities because downtown was right in the center of the city.

In 1959 Houston’s population was a mere 936,000 compared to today’s 2,200,000—over six-million for the Greater Houston Area. Even with a population under 100,000, back then it was the seventh largest city in the country. To me it felt like a big city with a small town atmosphere.

So, stepping back into 1959; Terry Dexter and myself had a date of sorts. Terry’s a cute, tomboyish, redhead, across-the-street neighbor. I say “a date of sorts” because we weren’t “hooked up” as kids say today. We were buddies. We had built a scrap-lumber fort behind the garage with other neighbor kids, pulled silly pranks, had firecracker and BB gun fights with maundering kids (today, SWAT would be called in and our parents court-ordered to seek counseling for us), rode our bikes to The Village shopping district, read each other’s Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novels, and had spats—she punched me out once, knocking me into rose bush.

We were going to a movie. Ben-Hur had just opened. It was a November Saturday matinee show, so there’d be no lines. Back then, when a new extravaganza movie opened it was shown in only one theater in the city, and on weekend evenings, lines wrapped around the block. After a few weeks, it would be shown in other theaters. Ben-Hur was showing at the downtown Majestic Theater, a grand theater opened in 1923 and bedecked in the gaudy style of an Italian Renaissance opera house.

Terry was decked out in a pale green sack dress—went well with her bobbed red hair. That was the hottest style from France, basically a straight tube—no tapered waist or belt—with three holes in the top for head and un-sleeved arms. I wore a white dress shirt, dark slacks, and Sunday shoes.
All dressed up, we walked to the end of the block and caught the Fannin Street bus for downtown. Cost us a dime each. A half-hour later, we stepped off the bus in the middle of bustling downtown.

There were no malls in the suburbs so everyone went downtown on weekends to shop at Foley’s, Sears, and Woolworth’s. Nowadays, the downtown is deserted on weekends except for a few trendy clubs and restaurants. We knew to get off at Fannin and Rush Streets and then walked two blocks to the 2,000-seat theater. I think it was a $1.50 apiece for the movie and we got a drink (Two straws, please.) and popcorn together was maybe another buck.

It wasn’t crowded at all and we got perfect seats in a center row to watch one of the greatest movies ever made. If you’ve not seen it in a while, you should. It holds up fine by even today’s “standards.” During the intermission, Terry found a friend from church—small town atmosphere like I said—and they visited with Terry, teasing me about covering my eyes during the leper scenes... (Well, heck, it was gross.)

The movie over, we did some window-shopping on Main Street and retraced our steps to Fannin Street and waited at the stop for the bus having do idea of the schedule. We were let off at our bus stop and I walked Terry home and chattered with her parents a bit. Then I walked across the street to home.

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, mildly interesting, so what’s the big deal? No big deal at all, except no one thought a thing of it that we were 11 and totally out on the town on our own.


  1. I miss the old days. In about 1961 or so, I had a history teacher who said, "Houston's just a little old East Texas town with a long main street." It's changed a lot since then.

    1. Very true. I live out side of Houston now and dread the idea of having to go "inside the Loop." One of the nice things about downtown Houston is its much wider streets than most downtowns possess. That because in the 1840s the street were wide enough for a logging wagon and four-horse team to turn around.

  2. Gordon,

    Ahh, nostalgia and old memories from the past, remembered as clearly as if it happened yesterday evening. In some cases the years have made it an even clearer image to recall. So many good memories from the past, and it seems a good movie was usually wrapped up in it somewhere.

    Yes it's all changed now. Too many people on this planet, fewer resources, and even more ruthless competition!


    1. True what you say about old good memories being connected to a movie, or a book.

  3. I remember those days and remember them is a mostly fond way. We grew up well and I don't most of use were damaged for life. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Doris

    1. We did a lot of things that would be considered dangerous and irresponsible on our parents' part today.

  4. Gordo, I remember going to the Saturday matinee with a group in our small town, then walking down to a nearby drugstore and lining up to call our parents to come and get us when it was over. I had one particular guy, Tim Wantland, that I was totally head over heels crazy about--but as a friend, since we were only in elementary school at the time. We were both nuts over The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond. So when there was a good James Bond movie on, we wouldn't miss that for the world.

    This was during the late 60's, still much simpler times compared to what goes on today. We used to buy a huge dill pickle in a little paper cup at the movies, or popcorn, drinks with two straws, as you mentioned. And of course, the candy--Slo-Poke, those huge Sweet Tarts--all the things that would give you a sugar coma. LOL

    What great memories. Couldn't do that today--our kids missed out on a lot.

  5. I grew up on a ranch about five miles from town and was such a loner that I didn't have but three close friends. One lived in town, one about 15 miles out and the other was 25 miles out. When I did go to town to the movie, which was fairly often, my parents would stay in town and do the weekly shopping or visit with their friends, then pick me up after the movie. I went to the movies mostly by myself, but I loved movies so much, I didn't mind. I didn't hang around town just to hang out. (not complaining, just wasn't something I did). I do agree that my early years were a safer, simpler time. I think that all really started to change in my community with the coming end of the VietNam war era, which was when I was in high school. Something about 'lost innocence' and disillusionment maybe?

    I went to the public swimming pool several times a week all summer long, too. Remember the candy necklaces? Nasty tasting candy, but I loved them. ;-)

  6. It is much the same over in the UK. Whereas when I was a youngster you went off on your bike, played football, played at cowboys, and came back for the evening meal, and to arch whatever Western serial was on then. the Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, Hopalong, Have Gun Will Travel. Nowadays you have to watch kids like a hawk. The world has changed. It is good to be reminded of those days. Thanks, Gordo.

  7. LOVE LOVE LOVE Ben-Hur! One of my faves.