Struck By Lightning

I was in the second grade and we lived in the Woodland Heights section of Houston. We occupied one side of a duplex and our grandmother lived in the other side.

My sister and I were on the front porch enjoying our newest favorite pastime. The surface was very smooth concrete and we had discovered that if we wet it with water we could slide around on it with our bare feet. Although doing so generated occasional bruises and scratches we didn’t let that stop us. On that particular day, however, we were in for a surprise…truly a shocking one.

As we happily slid back and forth, laughing when one of us fell or went out of control, a bolt of lightning hit the power pole in front of the duplex. It traveled down the wires to the building where some of it jumped over to the wet porch. My sister and I both received a nasty electrical jolt.

We weren’t hurt but from that day on we never slid around on a wet front porch again.

Hurricane

It was back in the 1940s. There was a hurricane in the gulf and it was heading for Galveston. I can’t give the name of the storm because this was before the weather service started giving names to hurricanes.

After listening to the latest advisory my dad suggested we drive to Galveston and see what the gulf looked like when there was a storm coming. The forecast had said it wasn’t expected to make landfall until sometime during the coming night. Since it was then mid-morning we should have ample time to go there and get back out well before conditions started getting bad.

As we passed through La Marque, the last town on the mainland before the highway crossed the flats and then Galveston Bay via the causeway, the sky suddenly began to look ominous. My dad pulled over to the shoulder and stopped. Looking at the gray clouds he said he didn’t feel comfortable continuing on into Galveston.

My sister, several years older than me and always highly adventuresome, wanted to go on. I, on the other hand, felt afraid and said so. My sister glared at me and mumbled something about me being a scaredy-cat.

My mother pointed out that there didn’t seem to be any wind and it wasn’t raining. She thought the overcast sky didn’t look all that bad, especially since we were so near the coast.

My dad decided we would continue on to Galveston but if the weather started showing any signs of worsening we would turn around and leave immediately.

We drove across the causeway and as we turned onto 61st street and crossed Offatts Bayou my dad mentioned the wind must have picked up since the water looked somewhat choppy. We continued on and soon arrived at the gulf. He turned left onto Seawall Blvd. and after driving only a short distance he pulled into a parking space.

The surf was rough and the same color as the gray sky. My sister wanted to get out and go look over the seawall to see how close the waves were to the base. My mother said OK since the wind seemed to have died completely.

My sister asked me to come with her but I just shook my head. She gave me another disgusted look and got out of the car. She was almost to the edge of the seawall when the wind hit. At that particular location there was a railing that she was able to grab. Had it not been there she would have been blown off the seawall into the rocks and surf below.

She turned around and tried to come back to the car but the wind was blowing so hard it kept pushing her back against the railing. Finally, she got down on her hands and knees and was able to slowly crawl back to the car.

As soon as she was safe inside my dad said we needed to get away from there and started the engine. Just after we drove onto the causeway torrents of wind-driven rain started lashing the car. Because we were already on the bridge we couldn’t turn around or stop. Although he had the windshield wipers on full speed they were doing nothing to clear the glass. My mother pointed out the reason why. The wind was so strong it was actually lifting the wipers up and they weren’t even touching the windshield.

My dad discovered another worrisome thing that was happening. The bay was extremely rough and as the water crashed against the bridge pylons the wind was blowing the spray up through the expansion joints. He feared the water coming up from below might cause the engine to drown out. Fortunately the car kept running and we finally got across the causeway.

After fighting high wind gusts as we drove across the flats we suddenly reached the edge of the storm and found ourselves in fairly calm weather with only light rain falling. My dad drove about another mile and pulled off the road to try and settle his nerves. He had been gripping the steering wheel so hard his fingers were cramped and he had trouble straightening them.

While we were sitting there my mother turned on the radio just as the announcer said the hurricane was hitting Galveston at that very moment. My dad said, “No Kidding!”

The rain and wind started picking up so we headed for Houston. We arrived home and had enough time to get in the house and have some lunch before the storm arrived there and the power went off. Lucky us, we got to experience the hurricane twice.

And that was my introduction to the power of Mother Nature. It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

Galveston

As far back as my memories go there was Galveston. The family went there often. We even went there one time when we shouldn’t have and got caught in a hurricane.

Even back in the early days there was always a variety of things to do. We used to go to Murdoch’s to swim because they had a bath house.

There was an arcade on Seawall Blvd. which my sister and I always wanted to visit. That worked for my mom and dad because there were also slot machines they could play.

Within walking distance, behind the Buccaneer Hotel was a big, scary roller coaster that I rode once…and only once. That is another story, as is the hurricane. I’ll tell them in later posts.

Even after I was married and moved from Dallas back to Houston, our place to go when we wanted to get away for awhile was always Galveston.

Although we live at Lake Tahoe now Galveston is still a special place to me and always will be. Quite often I go online and look at their live webcams.

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Staying Cool

In the 1940s and

1950s it was not only the public schools that didn’t have air conditioning. We lived in three different houses during those years and none of them had it. The first one had only small table fans, the second had a big window fan, and the third had an attic fan.

Although most businesses were air conditioned many smaller shops were not. Residential air conditioning was only enjoyed by the wealthy.

We didn’t get our first air conditioner until I was in high school and then only because my grandparents had central air and heat installed in their home and gave us their window unit.

The day it was installed in our living room the outside temperature was 95 degrees. After the installer left we each got a dining room chair and just sat in front of the unit for awhile. That cool air felt wonderful.

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Schools

When I started to school we were living on North Avenue in Woodland Heights.

I first attended Travis Elementary on Beauchamp Street, which was within walking distance of our house. In kindergarten I once was given a gold star for taking the best nap. I think that was the only award I ever received during all my years in public school.

When I was in the 3rd grade we moved across town and I went to River Oaks Elementary. I recall my first teacher there was Mrs. Warner.

After elementary I went to Lanier Junior High School and then to Lamar Senior High where I graduated in 1957.

All of those schools are still in operation and I bet they have something that we didn’t back in the 40s and 50s. Air conditioning. All we had was big pedestal fans and open windows with no screens. You can imagine what that was like in Houston with its 90 degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity?

San Antonio

One summer when I was still quite young my mother and dad took my sister and I to San Antonio.

I had gotten my very own Kodak Brownie camera for Christmas and I was going to finally get to really try it out.

We visited all of the tourist spots and historic places. The Alamo, the rose window at Mission San Jose, the Chinese Sunken Gardens at Breckenridge Park, and the Buckhorn Saloon.

But the river walk appealed to me most of all. It instantly became my favorite place. We walked the entire length of it, crossed a footbridge and walked back to where we had started. After re-crossing the river we had dinner at the Casa Rio.

A few days ago I came across some of the pictures I took there with my Brownie Camera on 127 black and white Verichrome film. Some of them were considerably better than what I produce today with my fancy digital outfit.

Note: The image below is from the internet…not from my Brownie camera.

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Falling Down The Stairs

We lived in one side of a two story duplex. The living room, dining room, and kitchen were on the ground floor. The three bedrooms and the only bathroom were on the second floor.

We were all upstairs getting ready to go out somewhere. I don’t recall where for sure but probably to get a hamburger at the nearby Prince’s. There still isn’t anyplace nowadays that comes even close to making a hamburger equal to what Prince’s made.

As I started down the stairs my foot made just enough of a slip to cause me to lose my balance. I pitched forward and fell down the stairs head first…sort of. It happened so fast I was down at the bottom of the stairs before I really knew what had happened.

My dad had already gone downstairs and was standing by the front door and looking up the steps when I fell and he was amazed at what he saw. When I first pitched forward I had unconsciously put my arms up over my head. I landed on my hands a few steps down and flipped forward to land on my feet. I repeated this all the way down to the bottom where I landed on my feet and stumbled into the wall. He said he’d seen circus tumbling acts that weren’t half that good.

I wasn’t hurt…in fact I didn’t have a scratch or bruise on me.

Needless to say I was very careful from then on whenever I was near those stairs.