TexasEscapes.com Texas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1800 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
Texas Hotels
  Texas : Features : Columns : N. Ray Maxie :

Cultural Shock Then. Cultural Shock Now
****(Past recollections brought up to date)****
-- 1945 to 2007 --

by N. Ray Maxie
N. Ray Maxie
At the Atlanta, Texas, railroad depot, then known as the local Texas and Pacific train station, we waited. I was just six and a half years old. This was the beginning of an exciting adventure; my very first train trip. “Hush my mouth; I’m headed down south.”

It was barely post WW-II, late October of 1945, a cool fall day in the midmorning hours. My mother and I sat patiently inside on those big solid dark colored, heavy wooden benches. The waiting room wasn’t well lighted, but we could see large colorful posters and maps on the wall advertising the excitement and adventure of train travel.

We were awaiting arrival of the T & P passenger train, well known as the great, the fast, “big bird”; the “Eagle”…. Steam engines were still the mighty workhorses of that day and diesel power remained something way out in the future when this train would become known as The Texas Eagle.
Atlanta Texas depot and Union Pacific  caboose
Atlanta depot and caboose
April 2006 photo courtesy Barclay Gibson
More Texas Depots
Mother knew the “big train” originated daily way up north somewhere and came through Arkansas and the Ark-La-Tex border city of Texarkana before it arrived in Atlanta. She had already purchased our tickets at the window and checked our few travel bags with the ticket agent. There, he told us our bags were tagged and would be put in the baggage car.

We were all set for my very first trip to the big city and thriving metropolis of Houston, Texas. It was about 250 miles away in SE Texas near the Gulf Coast. The “EAGLE” made its run straight south, smoking through East Texas pineywood towns of Bivins, Kildare, Lodi, Jefferson, Marshall, Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Moscow, Corrigan, Livingston, Cleveland and Humble, into Houston. Those were the days long before Amtrak. On August 15, 1948, the “Eagle” train became The Texas Eagle.

Hopping the EAGLE in Atlanta
….. Today, the modern day Texas Eagle is still running a daily schedule. It has been rerouted by Amtrak to turn west at Marshall, going into Dallas/Ft.Worth, then turn south, screaming down through Central Texas by way of Hillsboro, Waco, Temple, Austin, San Marcos, New Braunfels and into San Antonio. There it joins and is actually hooked on behind Amtrak train #1, The Sunset Limited, on to Los Angeles. The transcontinental Sunset Limited is a tri-weekly East-West train.

“Houston, The Eagle Has Landed”….. After about an eight-hour, mostly pleasant journey through the entirety of East Texas, Mother and I arrived at the gigantic Houston Central Train Terminal. Back then everyone knew it as Union Station. That grand old marble-stone structure on Texas Avenue is still there, but today no longer recognizable as such. Totally renovated and modernized, it is now a marvelous and grandiose upscale office, business and museum complex, still a nice, pleasant place to visit.
Union Station, Houston Texas old post card
The Union Station in Houston
Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
More Texas Depots | See Texas Railroads

I remember the old rail yard behind the station, a place where six or eight passenger trains from all Houston railroads with passenger service were once switched into Union Station daily. The old place with canopies and boarding aprons leading into the station is no longer recognizable. It also is long gone, replaced by other modern-day business endeavors. All this is so reminiscent of my Dad often telling me; “Nothing stays the same, son. Nothing ever stays the same.”

Game Time!… More importantly to some people today, is the modern “Minute Made Stadium and Sports Complex”, located right next door on the east side of the old train depot property. I have attended a few baseball games there. It is a very nice, up to date, hi-tech, user friendly complex. I think I’ll go back again sometimes, real soon. Though doubtfully, and to my regret, I may never see some of my favorite players and baseball greats like Roger Clemens or Andy Pettitte ever play there again. But then, I might!… Remember – “Nothing ever stays the same.”

Meanwhile, back to the end of our train trip.….. We had arrived in the Big City. At Union Station, Mother and I were met by her brother, my Uncle Willie. After leaving the train and walking through the station, I remember Uncle Willie had parked his car along Texas Avenue just a few feet from the front door. From there he took us to his family home surrounded by a six-foot chain-link fence and huge pecan trees. Next door was his successful plumbing business at 7606 Jensen Drive near Crosstimbers, in NE Houston.

Cultural Shock #1… Two weeks of so called “vacation” in the fast pace lifestyle on Jensen Drive; the hustle and bustle of Uncle Willie’s street-front business, plus their citified family/home life, had this country boy turning in circles. It was all really very foreign to what I was used to at home in the rural, laid-back country life of Cass County.

Mother’s uncle, Mayo Clark, a crippled handy man and part-time plumber, worked there at the business for Uncle Willie. Being a bachelor, he too, lived on Jensen Drive about a mile south toward downtown Houston, passed the railroad underpass and north of North Loop 137 and Kelly Street. Uncle Mayo had a rented cabin barely south and east of the Jensen Drive railroad underpass. Interstate Loop 610 North later came through that area.

One evening after his workday, Uncle Mayo suggested to my Mother and me, that I go and spend the night with him at his cabin. He was always a good, family loving, kind and gentle man; a favorite of all us children. Mother agreed and I reluctantly went with him in his old Dodge pickup. Remember, I was only six and a half and had never, at that time, never been away from my mother overnight. Can you see why I was reluctant to go?

Arriving at his cabin Unkie Mayo prepared for us a supper, as I recall, of cold canned beans, sardines and crackers and a big orange soda pop. Afterwards, we shared a candy bar; a peanut patty. The cabin wasn’t lighted well. It was cold and musty! This was way back in 1945, long before the days of television in my life.

(Say what? What did I hear you say? No TV to watch!) Yep, that’s right! At the time, we didn’t know what TVs were. And Unkie’s statically old AM radio wasn’t real good listening either. You see, Unkie was a good man that never learned to read or write. So there was no reading funny books, Bible stories or any way for him to entertain me. I was too young to know how to play dominos, checkers or solitaire. I just missed my mother!

It was a long, miserable night! I remember crying some. I cried, sobbed and pouted missing my mother. I felt sad and lonely, alone in a strange environment. Basically alone in such a humongous, unfamiliar city with this “old man”, a person I had never before spent much time with. Trying his best, Unkie was of little comfort to me. Then, after considerable exhaustion, sleep came, all-be-it a restless, non-refreshing sleep. He awakened me the next morning to go back to his workplace where my mother was.

What I have just described, I believe at a young and tender age, was my first experience with Cultural Shock.…… Continuing on here, I will describe to you my other experiences with the strange and dreaded feeling of maladjustment, or not belonging.

Some thirteen years later I graduated from McLeod High School, near Atlanta. Soon thereafter, I left home and moved to Houston where I had relatives and felt my best chances to seek employment were. And it was! Good jobs were plentiful and easy to find. Just too far from my home in NE Texas!

Cultural Shock #2… In Houston, I worked for General Electric Company with offices at the corner of Polk and Live Oak Streets. After a year of living about town in several different apartments, reality began to set in on this immature teenager. I was too confined in the big city and highly limited in doing the things I enjoyed most. I was grossly unhappy in that lifestyle and high crime environment, living near the inter-city and within the shadow of downtown.

Convenience, employment and apartment living weren’t worth the “cost”. Cultural Shock was once again taking its toll on me. Not adjusting very well, I pulled up stakes and moved back to NE Texas, back on home turf near McLeod.

Cultural Shock #3… Then again, another two and one half years later, accepting state employment took me back to the Houston area. This time not to Houston proper, yet to me, still the unattractive, over populated and high traffic areas. My work frequently took me into inter-city Houston all over again. Once more it was too close to the “big city” and too far away from NE Texas for this born and bred country boy’s pleasure. I pulled up stakes again and moved to North Texas, near Cooper. Later, I was able to retire.

Retirement is the one thing that hopefully and eventually will come to us all, sooner or later. I am enjoying it immensely now in a quite, laid back community where I have lived for the last thirty-eight years. And far, far removed from any “big city”.

Any cultural shock I experience these days may only be momentarily, fleeting and short lived. It may occur during my travels about this marvelous country to strange and unusual places. Or perhaps upon a short visit to a big unfamiliar metropolis. In retirement we are flexible and never stay anywhere not feeling free and comfortable.

My greatest passions these days are family and traveling. You see, road trips throughout this great USA are a lot of fun. So is Amtrak, our modern day, laid-back, relaxed passenger train service. We use it pretty frequently, too. For retirees not on a rigid schedule, it is an unhurried way to travel.

These and all other life’s experiences are what have made me what I am today; good, bad or indifferent. I know the good Lord has continually blessed me for these last sixty-plus years, ever since those formative days on Jensen Drive. I pray He has blessed you and yours (my readers) real good, too. May He continue to smile upon His children!

I sincerely hope to see you on down the road; perhaps on the railroad.

© N. Ray Maxie
"Ramblin' Ray" April 1, 2008 Column
See Texas Railroads
More Texas | Online Magazine | Texas Towns | Features | Columns | Ramblin' Ray


Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast

Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos


Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright ©1998-2008. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: April 1, 2008