Thursday, September 02, 2010

Texas '10 Oddments

Back to posting on September 7 or so. An enjoyable Labor Day weekend to all.

On our last full day in Texas, we ate barbecue with my brother Jim, who suggested we go to Texas Pride, a joint east and a little south of San Antonio on Loop 1604. As the name says, that road loops all the way around the city, making an even larger circle than Loop 410, which is part of the Interstate system (though no one ever calls it I-410). Much of Loop 1604 is a rural, two-lane highway, and so it is near Texas Pride.

The place is going for that former gas station/road house look, I guess. Had some good 'cue there and a Frostie Root Beer. Can't remember the last time I had one of those.

On the way back, I asked Jim if I could drive (we were in his car), and he agreed to that, so I drove a little south on Loop 1604, and then turned west on US 87 back toward the city. The point of this maneuver? So I could pass through China Grove, Texas, the subject of a fairly nonsensical but still memorable 1973 song. Going home that way wasn't out of the way, so I figured, why not? I'd never been there before, song or no song. In China Grove I saw a scattering of businesses, including gas stations, an industrial bakery and a convenience store. I didn't stop. Maybe the interesting parts of the town are off the main road.

I had more interest in the San Antonio River and its headwaters on this trip than at anytime before, perhaps because of my visit to the now-dry spring at Cathedral Park that was flowing in the late 1970s. This web page is remarkably detailed on the subject of the headwaters. I wish I'd seen it before I visited (that happens often). Next time I'm in town, I'm going to visit the Headwaters Sanctuary and the Blue Hole on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word.

There were a lot of objects around my mother's house, photos but also smaller items, that I wanted to scan and post sometime or other. Trouble was, I had no scanner. Not even a computer. That was one aspect of the trip that I liked best, since I need to leave my electronics behind now and then. Not quite all of my electronics, since I had my digital camera, and so I took a few pictures of unusual objects around the house. Such as this one.

That's a commemorative plaster plaque from the American Legion National Convention in San Antonio in 1928, which my grandfather attended. So did Gen. Pershing and Col. Lindbergh, who are the floating heads above the Alamo chapel. My mother says she has a faint memory of her dad in a Legionnaires parade (she would have been three years old). He didn't buy the plaque at the time of the convention. I don't think that would have been in character for him. But many years later, my mother found it at a garage sale or the like, and got it as a retroactive souvenir.

I've read that H-E-B, or more formally the H.E. Butt Grocery Co., now has nearly two-thirds market share in San Antonio, and I believe it. There were many to be seen during our drives through the city. Once upon a time, back in the retail mists primeval BW (Before Walmart), H-E-B was one of three major grocery operators in the city. The other two were Piggly Wiggly and Handy Andy. Piggly Wiggly left the market all together, I believe, while Handy Andy is a shadow of its former self with only a handful of stores. Maybe. I haven't seen any for years, and the most recent articles I found on the subject are some years old, never a good sign about whether a business is ongoing.

A Handy Andy was within walking distance of the house I grew up in. This was an important consideration in the days before getting a drivers license, so I went there often enough. It seemed so large then -- it would be small now -- and by the mid-70s had a deli. That was an exotic innovation. Besides an impossibly large selection of meat and cheese -- which would be small now -- the deli also carried exotic goods such as Tiger's Milk nutrition bars and canned bear meat. We rarely bought anything like that, but it was somehow good to know that you could.

There was also a mini-mall attached to the Handy Andy, all under the same roof, which was there as recently as 1994, when I had some film developed at the mall's camera shop. The entire area now an H-E-B, with no trace of the mini-mall; the grocery store swallowed it up. The site of the small barber shop where I got my hair cut every six months or so is now part of the store bakery, way at the back. My regular barber back then was a good ol' boy from somewhere in East Texas. He fit the stereotype, too (someone has to). In the early '80s I remember seeing a report on the barber shop TV about AIDS, before it even had that name, I think. The reporter explained that the mysterious disease seemed to afflict Haitians, homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and heroin users; and my barber said that any disease like that was all right with him.

On the streets of Alamo Heights, a small city completely surrounded by San Antonio, I saw a number of black signs with white lettering that simply said: NO SOCIALISM. I'd heard about these signs, and others, which appeared last year during the long hot-n-bothered period before the passage of health insurance reform. I wondered whether the signs represent a principled stand against public ownership of the means of production (and service industries, in our time) or resistance to an entitlement program that will not benefit the sign-placers personally.

Since both Lilly and I were traveling by car together, we each sought San Antonio radio stations on the dial not necessarily to the other's liking. But here's the twist: I remember some of the same stations from years ago. Especially KONO, which now is an oldies station. In other words, it plays almost exactly the playlist it might have in 1979. KTFM, on the other hand, now plays contemporary music. In the 1970s it was an album-oriented rock station until suddenly one day in January 1979 it went 100 percent disco. I left town before the station, I imagine, sheepishly pulled the plug on that format sometime in 1980.

But in any case I wondered: which of these two stations hasn't really changed? One plays the same stuff as it did 30+ years ago; the other plays new stuff, which it did 30+ years ago.

Some lawyer or architect or accountant needs to lease this building, which is on the Austin Highway at its junction with Broadway in Alamo Heights. It was once a Mobile gas station, in case the Red Pegasus wasn't a giveaway.

The station closed in 1985, and I've read that Mobile allowed the new owners of the building to keep the trademark on the building as a "permanent loan." Good to see than not all landmarks disappear when you leave town for a few decades.

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