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 Roller Coaster

One of my first adventures in Galveston, but definitely not one of my favorites, involved a roller coaster called the Mountain Speedway. It was located behind the Buccaneer Hotel on Seawall Blvd.

We had gone to the beach in the afternoon and afterward had a seafood dinner at Hill’s Restaurant. By the time we finished eating the sun had set. My sister wanted to go to the amusement park just a few blocks down the street so we headed that way.

As we neared the Buccaneer we caught sight of the roller coaster with all of its dips and curves outlined with small lights. My sister, who was several years older than me, just had to ride it. My mother and dad talked it over and decided that we would all ride it.

Now I was still quite young and didn’t know what a roller coaster was. Rather than several cars hooked together the Mountain Speedway used single cars that held about six people. My sister wanted to be in the front seat, of course, so my dad rode with her. My mother and I sat in the second seat.

Nobody told me what was going to happen but as we began the tow up to the top I began getting nervous. My mother used the diversion of pointing out how pretty the neon sign at the top was. That worked until we got up there and the car was released.

We screamed down the first dip and I totally freaked. My mother had to hold her hand over my eyes while at the same time hold me tight because I was shaking like a leaf.

It was the longest and scariest couple of minutes in my life.

I never rode the Mountain Speedway again. In fact I was in my late 20s before I rode any roller coaster again…and I didn’t enjoy that time either.

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.

Chased By Something Unseen

It was close to sunset when Nan and I began our drive up the mountain. Part of the way up we pulled into a scenic turnout and and got out of the car to watch the sunset. The view was incredible.

As we enjoyed the beauty, I suddenly felt something strange nearby and I turned around to face the east. I couldn’t see anything but I could feel a presence approaching us. I felt very uncomfortable with this and anxious to be somewhere else. I turned to Nan and told her I thought we needed to get away from there. One look at her face told me she was feeling apprehensive too.

As fast as we could we got in the car, turned around, and headed back down the mountain. The sunlight suddenly failed completely and darkness descended on us like a snap of the fingers.

Whatever was out there was very close by. We could both feel it. I had to really fight to keep from giving in to panic as I drove down the twisting mountain road.

The presence stayed with us all the way down the mountain and into the outskirts of a small town, where we finally felt it suddenly depart. Nan, who had said nothing since we had jumped into the car and literally fled, looked at me and asked what that was. I told her I did not have any idea but I was certainly glad it was gone. Since we both were completely unnerved and exhausted from the experience we decided to drive some distance away from the area and find a room for the night.

What was it that chased us that night? Even after many years I still do not know. We have since been back to that same mountain and driven up that same road with no problems. We did make certain not to stop at that same turnout though.