Saturday, June 14, 2014

Way-back Post: South Houston 1925 - 1962

In the Chronicle morgue files, tucked away in the folder marked Subdivisions: South Houston, were two typewritten accounts of the earlier days of South Houston, from which came the South Belt area in expansion. Sadly, the first one had no name attached. 

Since the paper and the type is already fading, here is a digital transcription to pass on to the next generation of archiving. Where possible, I've tried to keep all of the unusual ellipses use and other grammatical strangeness and spellings intact. I have, however, dropped to lowercase to save my sanity.

South Houston . . . . . 1925 to  . . . . . . . . . . . .Feb. 1966

When I arrived in So Houston in 1925 . . .  forty one years ago . . . the population was about 400 people and two hundred cows. . . I bought one bldg. that is now Gulf states Asphalt CO . . . from Jack Meador to house my circus . . . It contained 300 tons of hay I bought this moved it outside and the next day a huge crowd of cows were consuming my hay  . . . . The Christy residence was a dairy lot with mud up to the cows bellies . . . College Ave. was a dirt street impassable after a rain . . . Spencer Hiway was non existant . . . College ended at Texas which was just a trail to a fireworks in Pecan . . . . No houses . . . The entire prairie south of where Spencer now is. was vacant and I grazed 14 elephants from the bayou towhere Kay Mart now is . . . In 1908 the big hurricane that killed so many in Galveston just about wiped out So. Houston too . . There were factories . . all along the railroad where Christy

and the asphalt and pecan homes are how . .  a big brick making plant. a huge foundry. a walking toy factory. a candy factory. a large bottling works . . . lumber yards . . . and later even an airplane factory where the first plane was built and one of the real old settlers L.F. (Greasy) Smith [see here for more info] flew that plane 80 feet . . . possibly being the very first plane flight in America. . . . . There was a hotel . . .  the hurricane wiped out most of these. Then soon the Houston Ship Channel . .  after that our transportation to Houston was by horse and buggy or the Interurban Elect R.R. which operated from Houston to Galveston. The office and electric power plant was in the two story Christy building at College and Alabama St . . . . . .

A street cap later operated thru Houston to where Milby school is now . . . . . There was then a shell street from there to South Houston . . .  on to Galveston about 50 years ago. The town or village was Dumont named after the developer . . . who promoted the sales of lots by operating special trains from the snow bound north with free trips to the glorious climate where they were told they could raise figs. strawberries . . and many other things that did not materilize.  . . . Lots were sold for $140. each and later the town was incorporated when they alleged they had 600 population in which a citizen over 80 years old tells us they named their cows gave them addresses of vacant lots next door where the cows were grazed and jus voted the cows to get over the 600 people required to incorporate . . . This person still lives in So. Houston . . .

About 1929 or thereabout  A.W. Estes started securing right of way for Spencer and the county judge Mr. Spencer got interested & built Spencer across the praries to LaPorte. He was quickly ciritzed about building a concrete road to no where. Serving no one. etc . . . Mr. Christy unloaded all the gravel cars with two elephants pushing 7 cars to the plant then operating where the theater is now . . That mixed the material for Spencer . . . . Many large building housed the Chrity Bros. Big Circus and A R.R. yard where Mr. Christy stored 52 railroad circus card was where the present asphalt plant is now . . . and ran from Spencer south them east to Texas Ave. with double tracks . . . . . Mr. Christys private railroad car was placed in a small park he built just inside of the iron gates on Spencer along the railroad tracks. . . There was a hand pump well where the Lunsford Law Office is where everyone came to get their water with mules horses or goats pulling sleds with barrels . .  This water had a sulphur taste and folks claim it cured their ills also . . .  Where the drug store at Indiana St. and Gal Hiway is . . . there was a huge wooden building. One time a dance hall up stairs . . . and the post office down stairs . . . A long sign across the front said Negro Don't Let the Sun Go Down on You Here . . . .  When the Christy Circus arrives with a lot of
 Negro employees. THe sign came down Mr. Christy bought the bldg. and completely remodelled it into a drug store . . . Lots about 1925 to 1940 were very cheap from $ 50.00 to a few hundred dollars . . . and then went begring an auto agent in Rosenberg owened a great many and offered to sell them all for $2. each . . . Some are now Ave. A & B . . . . .  The bayou had old rattling wooden bridges at two places Marylane Place ditch had none you waded across it when high water you left your car on Ave. A and waded home afoot . . . . . . . . . . . . Wonderful stride have been
 made since them . .  The first water plant and sewers were installed. with 6 in. sewer pipes. But it was a great improvement over the hand pump wells. Most of their water came from that one sulphur well and the old fellow who sold its water . . bu delivering it . . . at one time So. Houston was a sort of Strawberry Capitol . . A long loaded shed was north of the depot where every nite it was loaded with strawberries goin on the evening train . . .. . THis finally all fizzled out but only 10 years ago a few Latin people still raised some and sold them along the hiway. . . There was a large concrete school bldg. where the Jr. High is now . . . on 20 acres one time owned by J.E. Dickens father . .  finally went to the county . .  and Mr. Christy obtained the 20 acres and all for the Jr. High after much trouble with the ten Sam Hoover who was the civic leader in Pasedent . . 9 different meetings and speeches before Mr. Christy did finally win over Pasedena who wanted the school so bad, Mr. Cambell fought for it to go where the strawberry patch was, and where all those small stores are
 along Ritchie . . . . . but he helped Mr. Christy at the end by over ruling Sam Hoover and his groupe . . . Christy got the present Jr. High . . . and bought the land the bldgs. for $10.000. for the school. He had the honoe to pay for it with a school check for $10.000 after the county had already agreed to sell it to a Waco Bibel school for $80.000.00.

Alas, the account abruptly ends there.

Here are some photos regarding the winter home of the Christy Bros. Circus in South Houston.

Photos of the Christy Bros. Circus on the Road are here.

And the Christy Bros. Big Five Ring Wild Animal Exposition routes from 1927-1930, when the depression shut them down.

Behind that typewritten account was a second one, a speech, by Mayor George Christy (yep, same Christy who owned the circus) to the South Houston Chamber of Commerce with a handwritten date of June 29, 1962.

(It has all the hallmarks of an accomplished circus barker, but one who could never imagine women in business, nor how "Discount Houses" could possibly undersell the little guys by enough to make a difference. His reference to "Sage" was the new Sage Department Store and Grocery, which pre-dates even Walmart, but was not a national chain. It did at one time require a membership fee, similar to Sam's Club.)


Nothing could please me more than to see such a fine representative group of leaders of this community finally come forth and be seen and take an interest in our city, your city, and its affairs, its progress, its development, and its moral uplift is greatly needed and now I really believe we are on the right track with the proper push and I mean energetic push, support, soliciting of all the small industry we can possibly attract out there in the oil field part of the city where lots and cheap and loans hard to get for housing.

We are located here in the very center of activity on all sides. We are almost complete surrounded by the largest city in the South which affords every opportunity for jobs, business, and exports, etc.

People are being attracted to this very area in flocks and droves. It is up to us to stop some of them here in South Houston. Let us not lie here as dormant as old Rip Van Winkle. Business will not hunt us out. There's too much competition these days for that. We must have go-getters, doers, hustlers, to go after what we need. You and everyone of you can easily be a doer. Just start in right now by boosting, talking, writing about the virtues of South Houston, the many opportunities here, the low tax rates, the freedom of exercising your own business as you wish, the very closeness of the industries on the Channel; the Gulf breezes and the fine recreational facilities on the beaches right at our back doors. The very best schools and plenty of them. The finest, purest water that comes from 1300 feet under the ground, not out of a dirty river.

Our location 20 minutes from downtown Houston, right on the freeway. The pleasant living and at lower costs in the friendly city of South Houston, the city within the largest city in the South, and still governs itself with officials you can talk to every day. The closest city to the new Space Center. Just a jump and hop down the Old Galveston Hiway and there you are the the new Cape Canaveral. You fellows get organized and get the new Chamber of Commerce rolling. Let the world know there are many opportunities in South Houston, the Friendly City, where labor is plentiful; land cheap; the greatest fat stock show on earth, finest transportation; most rapidly growing area in America; the oil capitol; the gas center; the sulphur of nearly all the world; right here. Let folks know what we have. Tell them to come here and get some. It's here, waiting for them. Confidence in our city government; our willingness to serve.

We are eager to cooperate with any prospects for expansion of our housing business, small industry, streets, drainage, parks, etc. You can now see rapid development on every hand, South Houston is on the march. We of the city's official family are determined to clean up and develop the old own so we may attract more people and more business. The many vacant lots bring very little income and are a continual upkeep expense. Such matters are of vital concern to us. We must grow and grow rapidly. It is not in the cards; it is up to you the citizens and the Chamber of Commerce to join with us and keep talking about the virtues of our city, the very low taxes compared with those around us, the closeness to the Gulf and its fine beaches; good fishing, recreation, etc. While we are also just a step from the Channel and its mighty industries that offer hundreds of good jobs. We are establishing a motto of The Friendly City and as your mayor, I implore you to join in this most important phrase of the city's new program of progress. Greet your neighbors and all new comers, make friends for yourself and your city. Let's keep this friend-theme going. You can all readily see the many large projects now under way and we have many more on the blueprints coming up.

We must keep this trend going so we will be in position to enjoy some of the benefits from the NASA development. This tremendous project is bound to benefit our city too, therefore, we must be prepared to have something to offer. We need the support of every citizen. Every one of you are important. You will feel more important if you keep your own homes neat and orderly so you can be proud of the city that you helped to give the great uplift that is coming.

We are on the threshold of a new era. This whole east end is going to burst wide open with progress. We are lucky to be located right in the center of it all. Business men hold the key to the downtown section now. The new shopping center at Shaver Street and the big discount house will certainly draw thousands to this city. With that much business sitting out on the edge of our city, they will certainly hurt some of our downtown businesses as Sage did, but I feel that Sage will be the worst hit. So now you business men remember there will also be many more citizens here and close by to patronize the stores. We will becomes a shipping center and that can only mean one thing. While we may feel some hurt at first, as folks try out the new places, they soon find that even discount houses can not give things away, and the margin of profit is not so great  that there can be much difference in your price and theirs.

Now then fight for your share. Advertise plenty, use the specials as much as possible and I know you give better and more personal service and all those little things help hold your customers, too.

Live wire business men make business. Be a live wire in everything relating to your city. The Chamber of Commerce is the best possible place to start. Get people here; get payrolls here; no matter how small, get jobs here; the rest will take care of itself. In a great measure good flashy clean friendly stores with the prices pared as low as possible is what holds the business. Sell it with a smile, deliver goods, where possible take phone orders, promote contests, give prizes, drawings, samples, etc. Advice is cheap. I am vitally interested in building up South Houston in every way, its business, its welfare, its friendships, its streets, fair taxation, equal consideration to everyone, respect and loyalty to its city government; its health matter; its policying; and above all its development into one of the neatest, cleanest, easiest living residential cities with every service that can possibly be given our citizens.

Yes, gentlemen, South Houston is on its way to a place in Texas where people can live with ease, dignity, price, and reasonable economy. Our prairies must bloom with housing priced so the common man can buy them and I can see a future not far off that will completely change our map. Our welfare and our pride. The future Friendly City within a city, can not stand dormant right in the middle of progress all around us. It's coming and it's coming fast. Make yourself a part of the big bloom so you can always say, I had a hand in developing that old town into this fine near city where shopping is so easy; where prices are always the lowest; where service at our stores are outstanding; where you can visit with and talk to the men who own and operate these businesses; where you can have adjustments made instantly, and at the same time your purchases in your own home town help you tax wise. Because these same merchants, your merchants, help with your tax load by the taxes they pay. Buy South Houston always where your money you and your city.


  1. Tremendous post! I knew none of this about South Houston.

  2. I am the greatgranddaughter of George Luigi Christi. As I uh understand it he made up the name, Christi. His real name was Luigi or George Luigi . he was Italian and from Europe.