the defeat of Santa Anna at San
Jacinto in 1836 as the beginning, my birth in Houston
was just 5 years before this city began its 2nd hundred years. I feel
obligated and pleased to offer my witness of Houston
as a native by mentioning names of people and places I have contacted
along with my pictures of many of those. It is my hope that this writing
could help you recall key words that will start your search engines.
The following short
list may represent my approximate order of food source familiarity:
San Jacinto Inn, Barbeque Inn, Pig Stand, Princes, Stuarts, James
Coney Island, W T Grant and The Houstonian Coffee Shop, Valians, Monterey
House, Sonny Look, Samperi’s Deli, Kapan’s, Triple A and others.
The San Jacinto Inn across the road from the monument
was known worldwide. Their clientele came from visitors to the near
by Houston ship channel as well as local residents.
Mexican Food came from the Monterey House, hot dogs and chili came
from James Coney Island and Valians on South Main introduced pizza.
But when teens first got a driver’s license the thing they did was
go to a drive-in food stand, flirt with carhops and drink root beer
in ice-cold mugs. The drive-ins to choose from were Pig Stand, Princes
and Stuart’s drive-in.
|W T Grants and
The Houstonian coffee shop fed many of us downtown, while in the outskirts
the Barbeque Inn (Crosstimbers & Yale) and later Cadillac Bar and
Grille, Hofbrau Steak House on Shepherd and I-10.
Fulton Street just north of Quitman was Sonny Look’s Café. His food
was good and was the local originator of serving a quart glass of
ice tea. Look also catered parties. This was a time of railroad-car
(Pullman) style Diners. The Simpson Diner was on Main Street with
all day parking, fifty cents.
1956 Photo courtesy Ken
on 34th has served great food since the 60’s. Rosnovsky Hamburgers
at T C Jester and 34th still serves their burger made with a modest
5 to a pound patty. This allows all burger ingredients taste to be
balanced. Their original joint was at Feagan & Malone. Another was
at the Abbott Street School. In between these two locations is Supreme
Sandwich shop at the North Loop 610. These are ordinary sandwiches
(you could have, perhaps should have) made you for lunch. But they
are economically priced, tasty and fresh. People have been eating
them for 50 years. In the 1970’s when we spoke of hors d’oeuvres -
Samperi’s Delicatessen at the Northwest Mall was the place.
Look’s first steak house on Westheimer (near Chimney Rock) was where
he loaned customers his own sports coats to meet his dress code. Sonny
was large in a skinny world – so all his coats were loose fitting
on the general public. As the Astrodome was completed Kapan’s and
Sonny Look’s Sirloin House opened near by.
| Sonny usually
visited your table sometime during your meal often personally pouring
your complimentary glass of Rose’ wine.
Before the Interstate Highway System the original highway 75 to Dallas
began on Airline Drive. Airline was also the address of the Triple
A Restaurant next door to the Farmers Market – both still operating.
Weingarten’s Grocery (now morphed into only real estate) had stores
all over the city.
In the beginning
Main Street or at least downtown was the choice location of car dealers.
Next the dealers populated Washington Ave and Shepherd Dr. Now almost
all are on the freeway system. Near City Hall where the freeways come
together is known as “the spaghetti bowl”.
|Sam Henry was
a fleet and truck salesman who always wore a white Stetson
hat. Many years ago he finished his working days but even now
a decal of Sam’s hat still comes on every Tommie Vaughn vehicle sold.
arriving in large numbers at the Port of Houston in 1957. Bugs sold
for $1500, Karmen Ghias for $1900 and Porsches for $3500. The blue
VW with the snow on it belonged to the man who had what was called
the Hong Kong Flu. During this time all cars still had carburetors
and 6-volt batteries.
In the `30’s and
`40’s day and night radio was the primary home family entertainment.
KPRC stood for Port, Rail and Cotton. KTRH stood for The Rice Hotel.
KXYZ stood for all of that. In the late `40’s TV began to be broadcast
with entertainers including Texas Ruby and Floyd Tillman. Early television
stations were KLEE and KPRC-TV. The House of Television sold 13” sets
on S Shepherd Dr near Westheimer where people could simply watch and/or
|Dancing was popular.
Downtown at 103-½ Main St. was an upstairs facility and Cook’s Hoedown
Club at street level. Residential halls were SPJST, Bill Mraz and
Dance Town USA to name a few. On Airline Dr. and on Telephone Road
(The Four Palms) were places called “pressure cookers”. Songs like
Stranger (Johnny Duncan), Love in a Hot Afternoon (Gene Watson) and
Third Rate Romance (Amazing Rhythm Aces) tell about the goings on
at these establishments.
theatres included the Majestic, Lowe’s State, Kirby, Uptown, Iris,
Texan and Metropolitan. Neighborhood theatres included North Main,
Stude, Santa Rosa, River Oaks, Park Place and others.
1957 Photo courtesy Ken
played by disc jockeys dominated daytime local radio programming.
This began the rise of DJ personalities I knew like Gabe Tucker who
also worked with Elvis and Eddie Arnold, Arch Yancy KILT and Ken Collins
KATL. Biff Collie was a “large” DJ but had a relative short local
duration because of rumors about him and a man’s alleged wife, “Little
Marge”. Other popular DJs were Paul Berlin and Bill Bailey.
The Frontier Fiesta
was totally the students’ idea held during the `40’s and `50’s. It
was born of their efforts to create an annual social event to help
the University of Houston become known. Built new each spring, Fiesta
City would be constructed by student volunteers using donations and
freebies. Students of a fraternity and a sorority would join together
and originate a theme, create a stage show, and build the “saloon”
in which to perform the show. A long-time friend, Bob McGee, was a
Usonian Fraternity member and male chorus line participant back then.
The ex jet-fighter pilot explained that males were added for the humor,
not for their talent!
The organizations would be issued an assigned space in frontier square,
Midway style, to build their “saloon”. Most shows included music and
dancing themes. A parade with floats would be held on Main Street
to announce Fiesta City’s annual opening. After a fashion, the Fiesta
continues today, but the heydays were during the time of Johnny Goyen
and Jack Valenti.
Some local broadcast
personalities were just so strong they burst to the surface. Alvin
Van Black was a Talk Radio magnet. Alvin was my original source of
the Saratoga Texas
(Bragg Rd.) mystery light. He had the talent to agitate the Houston
melting pot. Then in Colorado a harassing personality, like Alvin’s,
was murdered. That is when Alvin decided to switch to TV and became
less opinionated. TV exposed that Alvin was an obese individual. Perhaps
that allowed the grim reaper to catch up with him at an early age.
was a Ch13 lightning rod personality that attracted attention. Marvin,
the disowned son of Zindler’s Clothing store founder, is gone now
but we first met him in 1960 when he was a constable. He was fired
from his first TV job because “He was just too ugly to work on TV”.
After his many plastic surgeries his foray into LaGrange
to close the “Chicken Ranch” launched his popularity. Personal interest
in golfers kept him through the lean times until he began his attack
on restaurants. “Slime in the Ice Machine” became his mantra on a
personal discovery mission. His reporting seemed more about sensationalism
than correctness like ORLANDO food market in Acres Homes. When he
attacked this business the sign on the business read “O LAN O”. The
name was “ORLANDO” but the “R and D” was blown away by a storm. The
publicity of this name error has resulted in the “O LAN O” sign being
retained over the years.
2012 Photo courtesy Ken
|Just off Ella
Blvd on Stonecrest Dr was an icehouse where the grandson of Pappy
Daily, Mike Daily formed his “Ace In The Hole” band. Mike studied
steel guitar under Herb Remington (The Texas Playboys). Later in college
Marcos, Mike Daily and George Strait would meet making music history.
In the same area but down on 18th Street was another icehouse where
Gene Watson used to pick his guitar and sing in one corner. His wife
used to sit at a table right in front of him (by herself) to protect
him from groupies.
Houstonians who should be remembered are anchors Ray Miller, Ron Stone,
Steve Smith and weathermen Doug Johnson, Sid Lasher and Neil Frank.
Houston Buffalos (Buffs) was our baseball team in the Texas League.
This league produced many major league players. During this time
innovator Gordon McClendon came to town and on radio station KILT
began to broadcast reconstructed major league baseball games. The
plays of the game were sent to him by wire. He would recreate the
event like he was reporting what he was seeing with appropriate
Colt 45’s baseball sprang up in a bleacher stadium complete with
mosquitoes on south Main and soon was renamed the Houston Astronauts.
That name was immediately contracted to Astros. Sports writer Mickey
Herskowitz proposed the name be further shortened to Stros – and
so it is/was.
Oilers played its first seasons across from the U of H in the “HIGH
SCHOOL STADIUM”. Then the Oilers agreed to play in the “Harris County
Domed Stadium (Astrodome) beginning in 1965. Next the U of H played
in the same stadium (but named Jeppeson) where the UH QB Alan Neveux
had also played for Reagan High School. (This stadium was later
called Robertson). Many of these U of H players were from Reagan
giving the university the nickname of “Cougar High”.
A few memorable people in sports (out of many) begin with Bum Phillips
who now resides in Goliad.
Also there is Bill Yeoman (QB triple option), Ray Childress, and
Earl Campbell. Dan Pastorini was probably the only quarterback to
play wearing a flack jacket.
Stores downtown were Oshman’s, Holts, Battlestein’s and Foley’s.
As the 40’s ended Glenn McCarthy completed the Shamrock Hotel. Back
then the Rice and Lamar were the other fine Houston hotels.
sporting venues, the clean air-conditioned Astrodome got most sport
fans to dress a little better to go to the games. “Harold’s (Rosenthal)
in the Heights” who sold flashy jackets and pants to pro golfers
had just the right clothing for fans and other sports minded individuals.
Many if not most men had at least one outfit from Harold’s.
There were specialty stores like Spec’s where at the downtown store
you could see Percy Foreman and his secretary re-stocking their
office beverage cabinet. He lived in River Oaks like many of the
well to do but others who were known as the fathers of this city
like Jesse Jones and Oscar Holcomb lived in University Place around
Rice University (Institute, then).
Most people don’t know how small this city once was - kids used
to ride their bicycle about a mile and a half to Keppler’s Model
(airplane) Shop was on North Main near Quitman. Near where Reveille
and Telephone Road cross the Gulf Fwy Gulfgate Mall was constructed
in the 1960’s. Where it was is still recognizable unlike Palms Center,
which has disappeared.
Houston Intercontinental Airport eventually morphed into Hobby after
Bush Intercontinental was built on the Jetero (Jet-era) land north
of the city off Highway 59. There also were several small airports
on the outskirts of town like Andrau Airpark off Westheimer nearly
to Alief. John Felter kept his Mooney at Andrau. Here you see him
doing a preflight check to fly to Indianapolis. It was 1961 and the
next day A J Foyt won the Indy 500.
I told you what to expect in this remembrance and I believe that was
delivered. I did leave out a lot of things, some accidentally and
others on purpose. The key words contained here can lead you to find
“the rest of the story”. I apologize for the year’s dust and deterioration
accumulated on these transparencies that caused marks in these e-files.
Since the completion of Reliant Stadium, Harris County officials have
let the Astrodome simply be deactivated. Formerly this venue hosted
motocross events, rodeos and basketball games.
1972 Photo courtesy Ken
Team Rudine March 6 , 2012 column
Subject: Houston, The Second Hundred Years
My grandfather, Jesse Martin Robertson, was a brick mason by trade
and he worked with the crew that laid the brick paving for Heights
Boulevard. It was a sad day when the city covered the thoroughfare
with a topping of asphalt. Old homes in the River Oaks section of
Houston contained much of his handiworks in fireplaces and other
architectural features. The original Lindale Pool was of brick and
mortar construction. Jesse laid the brick work for the pleasure
of recreational use. Jesse Robertson died in 1938.
As a young girl, my mother, Effie (Robertson), worked at the Rettig's
Ice Cream Store in the Heights.
Station KTRH: "Keep Tuned Right Here".
When we first got telephone service, there were no "Area Codes";
and, numbers were alpha-numeric. I can't recall all of the prefixes,
but some that come to mind are:
CA = Capitol
GL = Glendale
HO = Holbrook (or, was it Homestead?)
OX = Oxford
PR = Preston
UN = Underwood
Also, our first service was a party-line. That got interesting at
- Bruce Martin, Leawood, KS, March 22, 2012
Thank you so much for your mention of Rettig's Ice Cream Store,
which was on the SW corner of 14th and Yale St. I ate their ice
cream many times before 1950 when I left for the service. Perhaps
your mother served me, bless her heart. I had intended to include
Rettig's in my story but somehow failed to do so. You are correct
that TODAY radio station KTRH 740kc AM is referred to as Keep Tuned
Right Here. I remember the Lindale Pool well. My family was friends
with the Frank Emmett family who lived at 810 Gale St. They had
daughters Jackie and Margaret who went to Jeff Davis. We spent time
at the pool. I remember well the brick paved Heights Boulevard from
the Union Pacific Rail Road to 20th St. I checked and that is 2.25
miles = boulevard length of 4.5 miles (north & south). That is a
large job. See if you can tune in KTRH direct in Kansas, I get it
in West Texas and the Valley, if not its on the web. - Ken
Rudine, March 22, 2012