Saturday, February 1, 2014

2/1/14 Nostalgia in the New Year

I'm readying for another trip back to old home country this month in the hopes that I can procure some more treasures for the archive. 

My first run, back in September, was something of a success, although I am still learning how to best organize and catalog my finds. I'm also discovering as charming as the old black and white pictures are, without the narrative to give them heart, they are lacking something crucial. 

What I hope to accomplish, in the long run, is an archive filled with both pictures, film, and the stories that bring them to life. 

I can't help but wax nostalgic at my childhood home. 

The South Belt area had its beginnings when the only Houston airport of the time was being renamed William P. Hobby Airport after the former Texas governor. (In 1927 it was known as W.T. Carter field; in 1938 it was purchased by the city of Houston and called the Houston Municipal Airport until 1954 when it was renamed the Houston International Airport as Pan Am had begun flights to Mexico City four years earlier.)

from the South Belt Leader files

Just a few miles down Interstate 45 was the South Belt exit and home.

When I was just a little girl, they were already dismantling the gas stations at the South Belt exit, one on each corner: Shell, Texaco, Gulf, and Exxon (previously Enco). They had stood at their corner posts since the mid-60s, full service operations where you could also fill up on fishing tackle. 

It was to make way for the Beltway, which had been planned by the City of Houston since the fifties when the 610 loop was already underway. It would be another decade before the Beltway finally became a reality. In the meantime, another generation was raised in this sleepy little corner of southeast Houston. These were days when children played outside until dark, as streetlights coming on would signal it time to get home for dinner. We would play in the ditches, and the flood waters, without any thought to the chemicals we were swimming in. Bike rides around the neighborhood, on lots of gravel roads, were without helmets or pads or cell phones or parents. The local pool did land-office business every hour that it was open in the infernal Texas summer heat.  Baseball, softball, and football filled the seasons, both our own leagues in our neighborhood, as well as the Astros in their rainbow uniforms and the Oilers in their baby blue.

This girl's brother points to the manhole that had been left open when he and his sister exited the school bus and she's fallen straight down it. It was high drama for our 'burg.

the original ballfields near I-45 on South Belt, before the ones near Brio

From the Remember in Sagemont When Facebook page: note the single building of Sagemont Baptist Church in the background. 

A few a little closer to home: 
Me on my beloved banana seat bicycle circa 1974 on the sidewalk in front of my house at 10210 Kirkdale

and on the Dobie fields, just behind Kirkdale, flying my box kite

and in the backyard, after a typical rain.

This was our driveway in 1974, home to my dad's '72 Gran Torino bought from Russell Smith Ford in Houston. It was in 1974, when we were were at the Gulfgate movie theater watching Old Yeller, that the car had been stolen. It was a few weeks later that a woman from an apartment complex on the west side of Houston called my dad to tell him she was having it towed if he didn't get it out of her spot. It had been driven about 500 miles. Only his Bible that his mother had given me, as well as some gospel 8 tracks were missing. That was our only brush with crime I can recall, and it took driving to Gulfgate for it to find us. 

In the Sagemont of my memory, dead ends were everywhere. To get into Scarsdale you had to drive far out and around. Pearland was an eternity away. Every time I return now, I am baffled at how interconnected the Beltway made everything.

But the history I am after, the stuff I'd love to find and digitize from dusty attics and backroom boxes, are the moments in time when we were our own little dot on the map, disconnected, and sheltered. 

Before the inevitable progress of time. 

(all photos except where noted are courtesy of the South Belt Leader or from my private photographs)


  1. I loved the old pool. The spot where I fell and had to get stitches is in the photo of the girl getting out of the deep end. I was running, like the life guards always said not to do.

  2. Definitely would like to see more from your blog

  3. Just looking at the pool again, that is a later photo from after its refurbishing. The diving boards are not present and the edge of the pool is white edging. Originally the Sagemont pool had dark slate gray bricks for edging. I used to love that pool, so many memories of walking there with my grandmother and neighbors, swimming, horseplay, walking across to 7-11 for Icees and gum. Summers were long and fun.

  4. Looking at the pics of the old ballpark,I remember the fields being in much better shape.I played ball 2 years before moving to the brio site.After that it seemed we lived at the new ballpark building it and getting it ready .Beamer was just an old shell and dirt road and everyones cars were white from the dust.

  5. The next to last picture is facing east, with what would be the eastbound frontage road of Beltway 8 intersecting with the northbound frontage of Interstate 45? That would mean that this is the current light, right?

    I wonder why there are WALK/DON'T WALK signals...seems awfully desolate, and there aren't any there now.

    1. yes, that is the exact spot. There was probably more foot traffic around that square when all the gas stations were still in operation. They were moved in the early 80s even though it was another decade before the Beltway construction actually got underway at that corner. See here:

  6. Was that last photo taken when that side of Beltway 8 was being constructed back then?

    1. yes, likely the same week it opened to the public