Sunday, November 19, 2017

Colleen's Books 6880 Telephone Rd. Houston

The only place better than an old library is an old bookstore. 

And we were so lucky to have such a gem very close to the South Belt, for 30 years, at 6880 Telephone Rd..

Positioned along a sketchy strip near Hobby airport (cheap rent), Colleen Urbanek opened her used book store in June 1971 with an inventory of 5000 books and shelves that she'd purchased for $700, spotted in a business-for-sale classified ad in the newspaper. She was already in her fifties and bored senseless as a housewife. 

I was so thrilled to discover this picture of Colleen among her stacks, taken in November, 1974, right about the time she'd managed to sell the "mostly crap" books from her original inventory and was starting to turn a profit. Here, the blurb from the photo notes she has 30,000 titles.

 She would go on to amass more than 100,000 books and build one of the best rare Texana book collections in the world.
Her small unassuming ads would in the back of periodicals such as Texas Monthly for decades. This was one of the flashier ones. 

She really didn't need the ads. People who knew old books, knew Colleen.

Colleen was a firecracker. She wasn't particularly fond of women or children, so I felt honored that she was so nice to me whenever Dad and I would show up on a Saturday to spend an hour among her stacks. 

I would find a favorite place on the dusty floor in the Children's section, pull out a Dana Girls book and get to reading. The Dana Girls were the precursor to "Carolyn Keene"'s Nancy Drew, and I much preferred them. Dad ended up buying me a few over the course of our visits, which I still cherish. They are first editions, printed in 1934. 


Two of the three titles were written by, I would come to find out later, Leslie McFarlane, best known for writing the first Hardy Boys books (under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon) had written my favorite two: #1 and #2 in the series. I was always a bit of a tomboy, and after the 4th mystery, the books changed somewhat, and I left off after reading #5, which turned out to be written by Mildred Benson, the primary author behind Nancy Drew. 

That would explain it. Too much girl, not enough climbing. 

I wonder if this personality was what endeared me to Colleen, who felt like a kindred spirit. 

If you want a fantastic piece on Colleen, you absolutely must read the Houston Press' "Old and Rare" by Randall Patterson, published back in June 1996 when the store was hitting its 25th year. It is an absolute blast and nothing will give you a taste of Colleen's personality like it. 

Five years later, in June 2001, the Houston Chronicle did a piece on her the last week before she retired. Click here for more fun: Tony Freemantle's "Bookstore Owner Calls it Quits."

She lasted in retirement for five years before passing April 9, 2006. Here is her obituary

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Almeda Mall Finds, November 2017

It's been a productive month on eBay for the South Belt Digital Archive!

I purchased a magazine ad that was for Lennox Air Conditioning because it had three color photographs of "Almeda Mall and Northwest Mall, twin shopping centers in Houston, Texas."

They aren't quite identical twins, though. The Northwest Mall logo is a compass with the NW portion of the star darkened. The Almeda Mall logo is the azalea petals. 

The central and largest photo on the page had those iconic blue awnings (eyelids, fingernails, or elephant toes, depending on who you talk to) and the yellow canopies over the mall entrances, but the logo was NW's.

The small top photo had a color photo of center court, with the fountain lit up. 

so, with a bit of sloppy photoshopping (which I intend to work on when I have time), I could scan the original ad and "fix" those awnings for us.

having the hard copy and scanning at 600dpi means we can enjoy the details! Look at the lights from the floor of the fountain! And all that greenery. They must have had a full time gardener on the payroll. 

The third photo at the bottom is of the Foley's end of the mall, with Foley's behind us. 

and I got a bonus I wasn't expecting! 

The hard copy is actually a three page spread, mostly copy about how Lennox air conditioning has changed the way people expect to shop in comfort, and a lot of technical detail on their systems and install options. But the boring roof photo at the top of page two gets interesting if you zoom past most of the roof and check out the view. 

there's the Almeda logo! 

Which means we are looking at what existed across the street, where the giant slide, and trampoline store, and Target, and Homer's, and Burger King, and the VW dealership, and the Monterrey House, and Cactus Office Supply, and Brown Sugar's BBQ, and Wolfe Nursery, and Toys R Us (and on and on) are not there yet.

(Also, if anyone ever runs a google search for vintage South Sound Shopping Center of Lacey, Washington and shows up on this page: I have two photos of your place to share from this advertising spread!)

Also purchased from Historic Images this month:

Final touches on the center court the week before its grand opening included the install of this 3500 lb. ficus tree.

And, also Northwest, but identical Pineapple Center Fountain, from 1980:

I'm saving two others that arrived this month for December's Christmas posts!

If you're irritated that the southbelthouston watermark is on each of the above photos, I get it. 

But balancing the money I spend on acquiring things for the Archive, I really need people to know where the first digital copy originated so they can trace their way back here and, perhaps, just maybe, contact me if they have additional vintage photos of the area to share. 

I learned early on, after I traveled to Houston, spent hours at the HRMC downtown, poured over the light box with a magnifying glass to view negatives, selected them, paid for them, and signed an agreement that their purchase was solely intended for a home on the South Belt Houston Digital Archive and associated social media, that people are more than happy to share photos with bigger sites, reaching more people, with absolutely zero attribution. When you see your hard won photo of Almeda Mall shared on Traces of Texas by someone who took it off the blog (the only place it was published) and it gets thousands of likes, that might have led people to you if only someone had mentioned who found it and who really, really wants to find more, it kind of stings. 

So from that point forward, I started watermarking any photos purchased for the Archive in the hopes that when people shared it, it would leave the breadcrumbs back to here. 

As always, hope you enjoy the findings and thanks for the continued support!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Annual Halloween Post 2017

Video of the current collection above, and individual photos below for closer inspection. 

As always, seeking additional photos to add to our archive!

Our annual roundup of all things Halloween around the South Belt, starting in 1975 and ending in 1997 from the Leader

Then, from the Dobie Yearbooks, ranging from 1969 to 1989



Dobie Yearbooks culled for costumes / Halloween (some are other events but fit in costume-wise):