Friday, July 11, 2014

7/11/14 Post 365 ahead of schedule: History of the South Belt History Blog

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming . . .

It all started with a hunt for a photograph of the Foley's Shoe Ship, this is true. But then it exploded.

This post will be the 365th published on the blog, more than two months ahead of schedule of the one-a-day goal I settled on a few months back.

Post #1 was September 25, 2013, mostly out of the sheer joy of finding so much more on my first hunting expedition than I'd imagined when I returned to Houston earlier that month. I wasn't sure whether anyone else would be as excited as I was to see all the old stuff, but where else to put hundreds of yearbook and newspaper black-and-whites for posterity?

Much of the impetus for that original trip was the frustration of searching online for photographs of my childhood area and finding precious little.

Now? Try typing "South Belt Houston" and its alternative "Southbelt Houston" into Google images and see what you get.

None of this would have been possible without the incredible generosity of Marie Flickinger. She didn't know me from Adam when I emailed her last June about whether or not there were copies of the paper I could access somewhere.

The fact that Marie not only let me access the hard copies of the papers later on, but shared wonderful memories and stories of the photographs I was going through from the very start, makes her one of my very favorite people. I'd love to write a book about her and the community she's served for so long.

at the end of our first day together

I even ended up making the paper a few weeks later, which helped with more eyeballs on the blog right off the bat. I cannot thank her enough for her willingness to support this project.

By my second trip in February of this year, I had a better handle on the direction of the blog, as well as a desire to scan as much news as possible out of the Leader offices. (The first trip I was only interested in higher resolution photographs.) But on return, the amount of information was so overwhelming, I just dumped everything, all at once, onto the blog. Seriously, check out the post count for March 2014. Whenever I feel like I've run out of material, I can always go back to the 234 postings of that month and flesh them out!

So for Trip #3 in April, I was more methodical about keeping a running roster of what was being scanned (still had a number of bugs in my system, however) and tried parsing them out at a goal of around 30 a month so I could spend more time on each posting and create more text to help with searches that people may have. As of today, I still have enough stuff from Trip #3 to get us through the end of summer at a one-a-day average.

And as of yesterday, I have one more trip planned for 2014 in October.

So far, the goals of that visit are to

  • finish out the 90s Brio coverage (and anything else that fits the "remember when/pre-Beltway" time frame of the blog that's in the 90s Leader stacks).
  • complete the full range of missing newspapers by date at the Leader offices in a chronological log. The first half of 1983 is M.I.A. unless I can find another box in the back.
  • search and scan the San Jacinto holdings for those missing dates/papers that fall within their microfilm range. Per the director, that's only 1976-1980 but they are attempting to add to that.
  • attempt to get into the Dobie bandhall to find what remains of old Band historian books (mine included).
  • return to the Texas Room downtown to finish looking at the AIA negatives available.
I wish the Houston Press, Houston Post, and Houston Chronicle had an online searchable databases of subjects for a more comprehensive date range of their respective publications. I imagine there are lots of hidden gems in the microfilm rolls of the big city papers about our corner of Houston that need discovering; I just can't pin down an efficient way to find them yet. Pouring over the few bound volumes of Subject Headings available for the Post from 1976 to 1980 didn't yield anything other than one lucky strike of the 1976 Almeda Mall Classified special on Presidents Day. And the size of that print in those indexes will make you blind. There must be an easier way.

I have this crazy pipe dream that some day we'll have this massive outpouring of old photographs shared by the long-time residents of South Belt, maybe one of those digitizing pushes that gets folks without the technology over to an arranged spot so we can scan their area photographs for them and the blog. But that's a way's off. Still, it doesn't hurt to put it out there. You know there are parents and grandparents who've been in the same houses since 1966 with scrapbooks brimming full of yellowed images and even 8mm home movies waiting to be discovered before they disintegrate. Feels a little like our own personal National Treasure hunt. 

So, to mark the 365th post, I thought I'd pull out my top 7 finds from the original trip, ten months ago.

These are the photos that, when I first pulled them out of the dusty stacks of boxes or spotted them in a yearbook, made me very sure my own personal quest was something worth sharing, even if they were meaningless to anyone who didn't grow up in the place I did.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to another 365!