Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Houston Trip April 2015

Fun stuff in Houston this past week!

As I waited at the gate last night, I checked on the number of files in my 2015 Trip folder over the course of the week. Grand total: 2015. How's that for synchronicity?

That's likely at least 3000 individual photos, as many of those files have 2-4 different photos in a single scan.

It was also a week of timing on Almeda Mall. Monday morning, a member of the Almeda Facebook page and mall walker posted a photo of walls that had gone up around the center atrium and said he thought they might be planning to remove the skylight.

I walked into Marie's office and asked, "Did Terry (the Almeda Mall manager) say anything about the skylight coming out?" He hadn't. She gave him a call and got his voicemail, telling him I would be coming over to take some photos for her.

So over to the mall I went, with her camera in hand. 

I parked at the Penney's end and entered through the entrance of the long (once very dark) hall by Visible Changes to see the brick work we'd discussed on the Facebook page that had been revealed when they removed the old drywall during renovations. To my delight, one section of the original brick work had been left visible. So I wanted come clear photos of that anyway, long before the skylight question. 


I just smiled a people as they looked at me quizzically taking photos of a brick wall.

Still a work in progress, but the hallway is much brighter and inviting now. 

There is a play area where the fountain in front of Penney's once stood.

No tenants in the old toy store and hobby shop side.

Visible Changes is still going, some 30 years on, 
but you'd never know H & H Music was once its neighbor.

there is a toy store close by, but every other store seems to be discount sneakers.
How do these stores stay in business?

Looking at the old Woolworth's.
The doors in view were once the entrance to the diner. 

The area where the Christmas train and Easter bunny would set up,
just down from the center atrium. 

For comparison, this is what is looked like in 1969:

Those banners would look cool today, too.

On the other end, at the larger skylight:



Then I headed down the "Farrell's hall" (and Baldwin Piano, Doktor Pet Center, and Gold Mine..) to find the Management offices. 


this could use some work

(early 70s)

The Management offices are locked behind glass with a buzzer to get in.
There wasn't anyone in view, so I rang the buzzer once and waited. Nothing.

I knew Marie had only been able to leave a voicemail, so I wasn't sure folks hadn't closed down for lunch. But a rang one more time. And waited. Just as I was turning to go, I see a head peek from the hallway behind the glass, so I wave and smile, and apparently don't seem very threatening, so the young man opens the door and I asked if Terry was in. He was. 

Terry is a very nice, soft-spoken man who hadn't heard her message yet but was happy to fill me in on the atrium work. The skylight was not being removed, but all of the central atrium iron work that made the paned panels around what was once a recessed floor with a fountain (long gone) as well as the brick planters and benches that had been in place since 1968 were being demolished . . . tonight.

If I'd waited one more day, they would have been gone. 

He said the side door should be unlocked and I could go in. He'd call security and let them know.

So I head back to the center, find the little door, and peek my head in. 

Inside is a guy on his cell, clearly talking about the evening's demolition plans. I introduce myself and he says I'm lucky as he was about to head out and lock the door behind him. 

If I'd waited ten more minutes, I'd not have gotten in. 

He heads out as I promise to lock the door behind me when I'm done. 

And so I spend ten minutes pondering and taking photos and staring up at the skylight in silence. 







Farewell, old friend.



After that, I quietly walked back to my car and made a slow trip around the exterior, looking back in time at things that remain. 



On the way back, I cut down Kirkdale and took a photo at the curve in the road that I recalled Dad photographing some 40 years prior. I didn't get the angle right, once I reviewed his photo, so I went back yesterday morning to try and get closer to the original. If I stood exactly where he stood, I would be taking a photo of a nearly three foot wide tree trunk and nothing else. But I got closer the second time around. 

While I was doing this, a neighbor across the street emerged holding a broom and asking me what I was doing. There'd been a couple of break ins on the street in the middle of the day, so I'd imagine seeing some person walking around taking photos of houses might be a bit suspicious. I introduced myself and explained what I was doing. She asked, "Was your mom a nurse?" She was remembering my next door neighbor, Mrs. Choate, whose daughter was my age and we were fast friends as pre-schoolers. 

I hope she sees this in today's paper so she'll know I was legit. The street is really well-kept and I was happy to know neighbors were still looking out for one another. 

Of course, a part of me really, really hopes the people living at 10210 will see the article, call Marie, and tell her I can come inside and see the backyard. One can dream. 

The photos in full. Marie was really stretching to squeeze six photos in, so the little tree I was referencing got cropped, but you can see it below.

That backyard tree 40 years ago is nothing but a spindly little thing, behind me on the right, partially sunk in the puddles we'd always get whenever it rained.

Maybe next time I should get a partner and hop on a bike for this one? 
I think it should also require cowboy boots.

Another absolute thrill was getting to spend a few hours, over Brown Sugar's BBQ, with Mr. Golenko.