Friday, May 18, 2018

This Was South Belt Circa 1978

Would I like to be able to do a "This was South Belt 1968"? 

Of course!

But other than Dobie and Almeda Mall, we have unearthed precious few photos, advertisements, and news pieces that could rebuild a decent portion of what was in place fifty years ago. 

So let's settle for 40 years ago for the time being. (Some photos are from different years but were in place in 1978 as they appear in the photograph or would be in place before the end of the decade.)

Ok, this is more like "This Was South Belt in the Late 70s" but I need a round number.

And conveniently enough, the first Google Earth historic aerial taken over the South Belt (when it had something besides pastures) is 1978.

Up in at the top, near center of the aerial below is the Gulfway Drive-In Theater. It's not technically in the South Belt, but it seems to be a cherished part of so many of the South Belt kids of the 60s memories, we'll include it. Moving towards the Gulf Freeway, the Almeda Skate Ranch, also just outside the South Belt area, simply by virtue of being on the "other" side of I-45.

From the west side of the Gulf Freeway everything you see was "ours" both in claim and in name. That region would stretch from the Almeda Genoa exit down past Scarsdale, all the way to "Choate Road" which was still Choate in 1978, but would eventually become Dixie Farm Road in the 80s. 

The business areas included the Almeda Mall area, as well as the arteries of Fuqua, Beamer, & Hughes making up the majority of addresses where we shopped and ate and used as reference for getting from one house to another.

The "proposed" South Belt was almost mythic for decades, somewhere far out on the horizon, but close enough to keep the large swath of greenbelt free and clear, except for those gas stations that finally had to go in 1983 . . . even though it was another 15 years before Beltway 8 would finally be completed in late 1997. And with it, the "South Belt" exit, after a 30 year run, was no more. 

Forty years ago this summer, The South Belt Press ran an interview with Ann West, whose family moved into one of the very first homes built in Sagemont, on Sagewood 

They were part of the first families in the area once the water district had been established to move into the dozen or so homes constructed on Sagewood and Sageville that year. 

Now, in 1978, the population explosion had caused the daily headache of even getting into or out of the neighborhood by way of the South Belt exit. 

you can see the Safeway sign above, and the Bratton Home builder sign on the right. And at the dead end at Hughes & Sabo, more billboards for home builders. Construction was not slowing down, even when traffic was at a standstill.

 Quieter time of day, but check out all those lost hubcaps!

Back behind us, of course, were the gas stations on the four corners. In 1978 that would include Sandefur's Texaco, Gulf, Shell, and Exxon, which was Humble Oil's Enco originally

There wasn't much in the way of businesses along the road that led into Sagemont, just homes, except for the Perry Home model showroom on the left, facing the road, along the ditch that divided the oldest portion of Sagemont behind Sageway, and the next oldest segment, behind Sageoak.

Take a left at the end of the road, onto Hughes and the Safeway, Vaudeville Pizza, Eckerd Drugs, Ron's Krispy Fried Chicken, State Farm, McCarver Realtors, Sqeakey's Barber Shop, and other longtime tenants held court.

I would love to find a clear shot of our Safeway with its marquee, but no luck yet.

vaguely like our Safeway's building, although the arches are different

interior layout circa 1970

the marquee, on its way out

(here's the best I've got thus far)

looking back the other way from where the photographer would be standing above, from the Safeway parking lot in 1976


Mary Lou's Florists 1978


across the street from them was the Sagemont Community Center, a small office building behind that (where my dentist, Dr. Richards practices in 1978), and then the Sagemont Pool, which until 1983 required membership and annual dues.  

across from the pool was the Snack Shack, the 7-11, Fashion Optical, and Pilgrim's Cleaners


Snack Shack signage visible right over the helicopter's tail:

 a bit farther down Hughes, looking back:

Sagemont Baptist, in place since 1966 had expanded with the large white-roofed building in 1976 and the large bare area below would become the new auditorium in a few more years.

from a street view, there were always the busses

across the street, Thompson, Stuchbery,  and their fields

and if you're looking at Thompson from Hughes, it's wayyyy back there on the other side of the field

and then Stuchbery Elementary

(when it was brand new, a decade before!)

(installed 1975)

and across the street at the light, Sagemont Presbyterian Church, which I thought I had a photo of, but I'm coming up short. 

From an undated aerial from what I'm pretty certain is the late 70s or early 80s, here's that section from above:

If we keep truckin' on Hughes, past houses and down at the next light, to our right at Beamer, is the Eagle Supermarket and shopping center. Our 1976 list of businesses on the street starts up the way past Dobie, but for our intersection here, check out halfway down.

The South Belt Press would move into its first offices here in 1978

Hobbyriffic opened 1975, The Juke Box 1979

Across the road, is a 7-11 (which would shortly become a dry cleaners) . . . and on the other side of the road, in 1978 construction underway for the Sagemont Plaza strip 

Back in 1975 the lot was still a playground, but not one that was terribly welcoming

Within it's first year, a number of long time business would be in place at Sagemont Plaza, including Ziggy's Sandwich Shop, Sweet Sue's Ice Cream, Mary's House of Gifts, Solutions Pool & Pesticide, and the Sagemont Bicycle Shop (which would move to Sagewood Center at Scarsdale by 1983)

I'm told the buildings along Beamer heading north towards Hall (not labelled above) were Dr. Hanchey's Sagemont Animal Hospital, Stokes Chiropractic, a daycare, and a dentist office.

If you keep going down Hughes on Beamer, you'll pass Frazier Elementary on your right, 

and just more homes back into Sagemeadow.


Taking a right on Beamer at Hughes, the next light we'll come to is at Hall Rd.

7-11 will actually move here in 1978, next door to a car wash that is still going in 2018, and the Sagemont Produce Stand.

(photo from 1981)

the Hall Road produce stand

St. Luke's is tucked along the right of Hall Rd. among the homes. The parish was formed in 1975 to split from St. Frances Cabrini, but it took a number of years before their building was completed.

(still seeking a better photo of the building)


and a new park nearby on Sagetrail

Get all the way to the end of Hall Rd. (at Blackhawk which was apparently still called Hall Road per the address here), and there is the Kirkmont Skate Ranch (younger sister to Almeda Skate Ranch) which has been in operation for a whole year now!

still seeking a photo of the Kirkmont Skate Ranch building from the outside! This is the best I've come up with in five years.

(from 1983)

After the Skate Ranch? Fields and more fields. with a newly constructed Moore Elementary slated to open in 1980

seriously, this was a front page photograph of Hall Rd. in 1978

So let's pop back to Beamer, past Kirkfair, and up to Dobie High School

 The trees are still very small after only ten years of growth

There isn't anything across Beamer yet except the church. There are no apartments across from the parking lot. As late as 1982 this was the view looking down towards Fuqua (although the apartments had gone in by that time, just visible far right.)

the first Dobie marquee had been put in place in 1976

and another aerial from that year:

 If we keep going down Beamer to Fuqua, we'll hit the next business heavy area near Beverly Hills Intermediate and Meador Elementary.

Still seeking an exterior photo of Meador!

Best I've got at the moment:

But here's the crossing guard nearby, in 1979

Across the street from BHI, at least in 1978, was Sagemont Hardware, which was once Minimax but had closed by early 1976.

another photo from the corner looking west shows Pat's Pharmacy and Crutchfield Carpet

many thanks to Lauren for the address list from 1976 which lists most of the businesses found along Fuqua:

and there is the Jack in the Box 



Fuqua at Sabo 1979:

with big plans on the horizon for the street's expansion

This photo, looking east, has the Mobil station in view with its futuristic canopies, Bray's, Sonic, and 7-11 in view

Another shot, right at the light this time, you can see the Sonic, the Dairy Queen, Bonanaza, Pizza Hut, Bray's, 7-11, and, if you have really sharp eyes (or the ability like I do to zoom in on the original) the Fox Photo Hut is sitting in the parking lot of the Gulfway Shopping Center, home to Kroger, Roy's Gas Grills, Realty World, a Liquor store, and way off in the distance, the Taco Bell.

interior Bonanza photo, mostly for those plaid pants.

a shot from the other direction, with mostly a whole lot of nothing between the Gulf Freeway (behind us) all the way to Sabo.  You can spot the Kentucky Fried Chicken Bucket sign and striped roof on the right.

cropped to zoom in a bit:

and the Taco Bell on the left behind the truck:

Anyone have any photos of the old Breezeway out there?

oh, and way over there in the middle nowhere on Fuqua at the Gulf Freeway:
("opening soon" according to this ad from May 20, 1976 in the Friendswood News, transferring the Mike Persia name to Joe Conte. It will later change again to Dan Boone.)

If we take a right, with Conte Chevy in our rearview mirror, on Sabo down to Kingspoint . . . 

we will pass the Seventh Day Adventist Church property on our left, a small stable area and trailers, then the Meador entrance, then the stop sign at Rambling Trail, then on past the Almeda Chateau apartment complex on our right, to the stop sign where we have a Texaco on our left and the strip in front of us, Vaughn Furniture, Bread & Butter and Kingspoint Hardware

Left here would take us past the Perez Barber shop (still going in 2018) in the shopping center on our left, along with Dan Muske's Insurance office, the Beverly Hills Cleaners, Beverly Hill Liquor, and J&J's Cafe, past Cokesbury Methodist Church, then past the homes down to the Beverly Hills Park on our right:

Back behind here were the infamous sandpits, later Windmill Lakes Apartments. By 1980 a number of drowning deaths were leading to its inevitable closure and sale.

Keep going past the Beverly Hills Rec center (pool would be added in the 80s) and we'll hit Mango Street on our left which, if we followed to its dead end, would get us back to Fuqua across from the King of Glory Lutheran church and just down the road from BHI again.

There was originally a U-Tote-M here, but by the late 70s it had been converted into the 8th Day Gameroom and a car repair place.

(not ours) 

And somewhere in there, since this ad was in the 78 Dobie yearbook, Shirley's Shop

So let's go back to the other side of Kingspoint at Sabo, where one of the real gems of my childhood was unveiled in 1975. It was the second in a series of 9 designed by SITE (Sculpture in the Environment). All have been razed except for one, Forest Façade in Richmond, VA.

Did you know it was one of a handful of buildings designed by SITE architecture to get people to think about the design of suburban sprawl? This documentary keeps getting removed from YouTube and then put back up, so this month, this link should work. Our store's discussion appears starting at 1:50 where you can see a quick glance of the Bread and Butter store.  You can see the crumbling, tumbling pile of bricks getting laid around the 2:20 mark. 

We'll do a 50th Almeda Anniversary post in October, but a look around the outskirts of the mall while we're nearby.

In the Almeda Mall parking lot, the J.S. Bracewell branch of the Houston Public Library. 
Want to know more about Mr. Bracewell? Click here.

a 1970 Chronicle photo when it first opened

Also in this region of the mall parking lot was Almeda West and its sister on the other side of Penney's near the Gulf Freeway, Almeda East. The numbers started at 4 and as screens were added, the numbers grew. The photo below was a decade later.

Behind Almeda East, you can see the Steak and Ale

Almeda Square was opened in 1976

from a birdseye view (although taken in the 80s) you get a better angle on all of Almeda Square. The newest complex with all the white concrete had just been built.

fond memories of that Whataburger, too


The Almeda-Genoa Bank held court alongside the Gulf Freeway at Almeda Mall for years, changing its name to First City in 1976. When the new space next to Almeda Square was being constructed, the whole thing was finally demolished.


Behind Almeda West was Wolfe Nursery & Goodyear Tire at the intersection of Thermon and Kleckley

(from a Wolfe Nursery commercial in the 70s)

Brown Sugar's BBQ would be arriving in the strip center across the road in another year

Thermon (mispelled in the ad above) ran back to Rowlett, where Golf N Games would eventually set up shop in the 80s (and is still in business)

Rowlett was an odd little street on its own, mostly a cut through over to Almeda Genoa, but there was a small list of business all sharing that same entrance (and address) to the lamp factory that had been in place since before Almeda Mall was built.

that lamp factory was visible from Almeda Mall's roof in 1968 (from an air conditioning ad) when nothing else was out there.

Great link here for a view of the very mod building still hiding out over there.

Hopping back to Kleckley...

(ours wasn't this flashy)

Out in front of Monterey was the tiny little odd shaped building that housed Cactus Office Supply, although I'm not certain when it opened. It was definitely up and running by 1981 with ads in the Leader.

 The building is there in 1978 

Now just a green triangle in a sea of parking lots. And how sharp is today's aerial photography?! Poor old abandoned Bracewell is getting swallowed up by vegetation.

Behind there was the Target and across the way the Lamp Factory.

There was once a trampoline place here as well as the Sky Slide, although these were earlier than Target. Kathy Guffey Herman shared this photo from 1968 when her parents owned the place!

Moving on down the road...

early 80s when Marshalls had moved in next to Target

Around the corner is Childhood Mecca Toys R Us 

and across from there, the Woolco

(not our Wooco, I wish.)

ours was more . . , pedestrian


All the area business with a Gulf Freeway address in 1976

side note: still seeking a photo of the Twin W Motel and signage!

So that about wraps up everything I've found so far over the past five years of the Archive's existence of places we fondly remember from forty years ago. If you remember other places, please comment below. If you have PHOTOS of said places, please share!

Before you go, just to enjoy the era...

Some fun South Belt Press Clippings from 1978


From 1975 - 1977, more favorites

And from 1979

The late 70s was also the coming of Texas Commerce Bank to the area. They opened in 1979

 And the first annual "snow" at the bank was held just before the turn of the decade

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