Thursday, August 14, 2014

Road Trip to Big Spring, Texas

My sister Ginger and our Aunt Gay

Our cousin Gordon
This is Gordon's wife Susan on the right, I grabbed this pic from Facebook since the ones I took were blurry. 

My son Graeme and Ginger in front of a long time favorite restaurant in Big Springs, Carlos Mexican Food, looked just like this in 1956 but they have remodeled the inside.

Gordon told us the Settles Hotel had been completely refurbished so we went downtown to check it out, next time we will stay here for sure.

This was not a state park when we lived here, it was called Scenic Mountain and it was a city park.

With an elevation just over 200 feet (more like a foothill than a mountain)  this and South Mountain are the highest points in Big springs so they look like mountains there. 

Those roof tops in the center was park Hill Elementary where we went to school, if my parents were late to pick me up I would just walk home up the mountain side.

The Settles Hotel marks Downtown, without it downtown would be difficult to make out from here.

To the Southwest is South Mountain, We lived on top of it for about a year as well.

My Sister was excited to see our old home which is a State park building now. The big open area one the right was enclosed and was our bedroom.

Park Ranger Ron Alton drove up and after we explained that we lived here as kids he gave us a first class tour along with the History that we never knew before, the house was built in 1936

Was our living room

The wall on the right was not there, this was the Kitchen with a back door leading out to the right

This circular staircase led to the attic where there was a big water cistern now removed.

It was very common to have one of these critters in the house and tarantulas as well, I kept a broom by my bed to whackem!

This Pavilion was our private playhouse, even though this was a public park there was almost no one else ever up here when we were kids.

We found the property where The Clover Bowl Bowling Alley was that our parents owned and operated, the first automated bowling alley in Big Springs. 

Those rocks up there is where my and my dog played and hunted varmints with my BB gun.

That trail in the center led up to the home we lived in on South Mountain.

We went to Lunch  with  Gordon and Gay to the Crispy's Cafe

A obvious Big Springs Favorite, the place was full.

Santa Fe Chicken Salad

Gordon brought along some pics to share, this is our Grandparents Muzz and Nandy. He ran a tire store, Service Station and then eventually a Generl Electric Appliance company in Big Springs.

We found our Grandparents Home where we spent a lot of time growing up.

First time to see this pic of my Grandfathers family.

On the way back to Austin we stopped in Abilene to get some pics of our first home on Whittier St.

Road Trip to Big Spring, Texas,_Texas

I planned a ten day trip to Texas to see family in Austin, and go to the boat to do maintenance and make sure everything there was good to go for a few more months. My cousin Gordon emailed me to let me know they were moving his mom, and our Aunt to Big Springs from Coffeville, KS since she was requiring more family assistance than they could manage long distance. I discussed going to visit Gay with the Admiral and she reminded me that she is the last surviving relative on my side of the family from that generation. I knew I needed to go see my Aunt so I made that the first priority after arriving in Texas. I thought I would just fly into Abilene and rent a car for that part of the visit but the cost of the plane ticket from Seattle to Abilene was crazy expensive and the rent cars were also going for a premium. It appears that all the new oil business in West Texas due to Fracking is driving up all the cost associated with transportation and lodging to the area. So I just got a cheap ticket to Austin and planned on Driving the Little Truck That Can out there, about a 5-6 hour trip.
When my sister and Son heard that I was doing this trip they wanted to go along. There are few opportunities for these sort of trips so I knew it was important to make arrangements for all of us. My son volunteered to drive us so I got a couple of hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn Express. Gordon warned me that the rates would be high and if I wanted rooms I better book early since every available room in the surrounding area is usually booked well in advance by the Fracking workforce. $170 per room, twice what the same room cost even in Austin, TX where you generally pay more than any other city in Texas due to the crazy growth going on there. Austin is adding over 110 persons per day to the Austin City Limits population.
We had a great road trip through the heart of Texas and was surprised to see the huge number of wind turbines as we entered the South Eastern edge of West Texas. Thank God for the Dairy Queens and Chicken Shacks along the way for restroom stops! I decided to enjoy a dipped cone at the Dairy Queen and ordered a medium one and a Unsweetened Ice Tea. Wow, the dipped cone was free on Monday's!
Since we were just staying one night I asked Gordon to make arrangements with Aunt Gay so we could see here when we arrived in Big Springs and again the next morning before we headed back to Austin. I also asked him about Carlos Mexican food restaurant and he said it was still there and it was still good. So we connected as soon as we arrived and planned to all meet at Carlos for a early dinner. Carlos was just down the street from our lovely Holiday Inn Express so we checked in and headed for the restaurant. Gordon and his wife Susan was already there with Aunt Gay. My sister and I had made a big mental list of questions that we wanted to ask Aunt Gay since she is the last surviving member of our side of the family of her generation. I hope we did not overwhelm her with our questions, if we did she would never let on as she was always the most loving Aunt in the world to us. We enjoyed catching up with Gordon and Susan's family with their kids and lots of grand kids. We finished the evening at Gay's home to continue tying up the loose ends regarding our family tree. We made plans for lunch the next day.
Trying to make the best use of our time we visited downtown Big Springs looking for a couple of our old haunts like the Ritz Theater and the State Theater. both buildings are there but they look deserted and either need to be knocked down or restored. The normal population of Big Springs is about 25,000 but with all the Fracking the population has swelled to about 49,000 and the change is apparent. Downtown Big Springs is not what it once was as a vibrant but small town center. The Settles Hotel restored to it's 1950's glory days  is the bright spot and perhaps that will bring downtown back. With room rates around $200 it is certainly worth the extra $30 over the Holiday Inn Express!
We managed to get up early enough to go up Scenic Mountain to the homes we lived in the longest in Big Spring. The Stone house is still there, it is used as a information center for the State Park. We were peering into the windows when Park Ranger Ron Alton drove up. I told him we lived in the house as kids so he gave us the grand tour and the History that we never new before: We found out the house was built in 1936.  He explained that the States three main Geographical regions all meet heer in big Springs. He mentioned South Mountain and I explained that we had also lived on top of that mountain as well. He said, "Your parents must have liked High Places",
We then had just enough time before our lunch date to try and find the old Clover Bowl Bowling Alley property off the old San Angelo Hwy. that our parents built, owned and operated. It was not that hard since the topographical terrain is part of my soul since I played or rode a horse on every square inch of that property as a kid. Not sure if the same building is there but some business are there in the same or remodeled version.
We took our Cousin's suggestion to have lunch at Crispy's Cafe seriously and had a sloe but good lunch with lots more family catch up conversation. We wanted to try and find one more connection before leaving Big Spring and that was our grandparents home where we all spent so much time growing up together. Gay and Gordon had tried to find ot before but they were unsure since the neighborhood had changed quit a bit with a lot of remodeled homes or just newer homes replacing the old ones. Gordon did know the address though since he was able to find an old document with the address on it. The street name was correct but the address number had changed over the years due to a change in the streets numbering system. He actually drove us right to the property, Ginger and I recognized the home immediately. It was one of the few that did not have a new exterior, there were some changes but it was the same house for sure. Something about Family History that is more important as you get older.
Oh, and if you were wondering....You can still find a Horny toad in Big Springs!

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