Posts Tagged ‘America’

That First AFL Championship Game

December 30, 2010

January 1, 1961: A half century ago - and I was there to see it.

It was January 1, 1961 and, ah yes, I remember it well!

In their first year among the other founding partners in the new American Football League, the Houston Oilers were preparing to take on the Los Angeles Chargers in the first ever new professional football conference’s championship game at Jeppesen (now Robertson) Stadium on the University of Houston campus. And I was there with my girl friend, Sandy, to take it all in. We were young and fresh out of UH as new Cougars on the Houston job market back then, but we were able to obtain affordable tickets on about the north end 20 yard line in the preferred sun-at-our-backs west grandstands – in spite of that now seemingly dire financial fact.

What was the bare bones of that money fact? Well, as a 1960 psychology graduate, and waiting on an affordable opportunity for graduate school at Tulane, I was getting paid $339 a month as a full-time family case worker at what was then known as DePelchin Faith Home and Children’s Center here in Houston. Sandy was doing what most young women did with college training in 1960. She was not working as a teacher or nurse, so she had taken a job as a legal secretary. Of course, this was the era in which guys were expected to pick up the tab on all social outings, anyway, and, make no doubt about it, going to see the first AFL championship game of a half century ago was 99% my need and idea. Our female partners back in that day simply did not speak up and say, “Hey, Boob! Why don’t you make sure we get tickets for that first major sport championship game in Houston history!”

January 1, 1961: Our Game Faces Were On! You also dressed up for big games back then.

The game was great and quite exciting. The weather started brisk, but seemed to heat up with the action on the field before the 32,183 capacity crowd that showed up to view the biggest sporting event to that time in Houston history. “Old Jepp” was the Oilers’ home field during the 1960 inaugural season under Coach Lou Rymkus as Quarterback George Blanda and LSU Heisman Trophy Winning Running Back Billy Cannon led the baby-blue-sky adorned Oilers through their half of the first major championship season. Now all the men in blue had to do was knock off the visiting impostors from the West Coast to grab hold of the big boast that our Houston would be the permanent home to the first AFL football kings.

For those who stayed home that day, the first AFL championship game was being televised over ABC-TV with Jack Buck handling the play-by-play and George Ratterman and Les Keller handling the analyst/color roles. Forget instant replay and watching the game on a VCR later. There was no such thing back in 1961. You either saw it live or missed it completely.

The pre-San diego Chargers gave the Oilers all they could handle.

The Oiler offense sputtered in the first quarter as the Chargers’ Ben Agajanian banged home field goals of 38 and 22 yards for a 6-0 Los Angeles lead.

A 17-yard TD pass from George Blanda to Dave Smith early in the second quarter drew first blood for the Oilers, pulling the club ahead, 7-6, but that advantage failed quickly when Agajanian kicked another field goal from 27 yards to put the Chargers back on top by 9-7. A George Blanda field goal of 17 yards would put the Oilers ahead at halftime by 10-9.

The afternoon and our Houston fan appetite for winning went into halftime with a decided hot flash for the idea of winning it all.

#20 Billy Cannon racks up another gain on the ground.

The Oilers added some breathing room in the third quarter when QB George Blanda capped a drive hitting receiver Bill Groman in the end zone from 7 yards out for a 17-9 expansion on the lead. LA came back with a drive capped by a Paul Lowe dive run that again narrowed the Charger deficit to a single point at 17-16.

Going into the fourth quarter it was still anybody’s game at 17-16 Oilers and we all began to feel that curious teeter-totter between joyous hope and dreadnought fear of something going terribly wrong. Fortunately for Houston fans, the realization of dreadnought fears was little more than the hint of Houston’s future back in 1961.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the ball on the 12-yard line down near the south end zone, Oiler QB Blanda dumped a little pass off to RB Billy Cannon on the right side. Cannon took it on the fly and poured his heels into g-force traction. He took off down the sideline, coming our way on the other side of the field, and leaving all pursuers in the dust. Just as he once had done to Ole Miss while at LSU in 1959, Billy Cannon had stunned a foe and done the deal.

Our 32,183 voices roared as one. With little time remaining in the game, Houston now led 24-16 and we were on our way to our first citywide celebration of something that felt like a world championship.

After the game, many of us went to Valian’s for pizza. What better way to commemorate a championship. We poured pepperoni and anchovies all over the thing.

Now I’m just glad to be around long enough to remember things that happened in Houston a half century ago.

In spite of all the bad things people have learned to say about you since that time, Bud Adams, thanks for acting upon a dream that made big league sports in Houston available to the rest of us. And thank you, “Old Jepp,” for lasting this long as a daily reminder of Houston’s salad days in big time sports. It will be too bad for local history if UH decides to take apart all of your architectural exterior in the construction of its new venue on your current site.

Happy New Year and Fondest Memories, Houston! – And remember too – our best days are still out there – still yet come! Let’s all try to hang around for the party, OK?

Biggest Sports Story of 2010!

December 29, 2010

Which is your pick of the litter?

My own pick of the biggest sports story in 2010 may not be yours so let us hear from you as a comment to The Pecan Park Eagle. My only guidelines for even considering our options for the year were these: (1) It could be anything that had anything to do with an athlete or sport of national or international renown; and (2) It had to be something that came to mind without the help of Google or any printed form of reference. The underlying supposition here, of course, is that, if we have to look it up for a name, fact, or anything else, it could not be that big of a deal and (3) It was perfectly OK to simply consider the question from an American sports fan’s perspective since that’s what I am. I would expect Brazilians to vote something like 100% on this matter in favor of their country’s 2010 first win ever in soccer’s 2010 World Cup matches.

Along my way down memory lane, I ruled out several things, many of which would only be deemed of superior importance to the participants and fans of a particular geographical area:

(1) The biggest sports story of 2010 was not Alabama winning the NCAA Division 1 football championship for 2009. Once you get fifty miles away from from Tuscaloosa or Birmingham, Alabama, the shrine of Bear Bryant begins to lose the glow of its elephantine self-importance to the cry of neighboring war eagles.

(2) It also was not the New Orleans Saints playing and winning their first Super Bowl in history. The Saints even getting to the big game was about as random as the storm named Katrina that first inspired national sympathy for the team’s achievement. After all, the club had been trying to get there for over forty years. Wasn’t it about time they succeeded, anyway – storm be damned upon their city or not?

(3) It was not the NCAA Division 1 basketball champions for 2010. I cannot even recall who that was. Had I gone to that school, or had I lived in that area of the country, I’m sure I could tell you – or even make a case in behalf of my alma mater.

(4) It was not the total collapse of Tiger’s Wood’s reputation, marriage, privacy, financial empire, or golf game, but Tiger and sweet old Jessie James, the ex-husband of actress Sandra Bullock, ran a neck-and-neck tie for the most disingenuous apology for 2010.

(5) It was not Brazil winning the World Cup, notwithstanding the power of the Brazilian vote or the American soccer lobby vote. Any big win in  soccer in any year will ever be the major thing that happens on my calendar – and my attitude is not parochial. The world’s view of the support is. Soccer in the USA will continue to be the “sport” which allows our kids to break into sweat while they are growing into the desk jobs they will occupy for the rest of their lives as adults working for Chinese-owned companies on American soil.

(6) It was not the Texas Rangers reaching the World Series for the first time under the brief leadership watch of President Nolan Ryan, nor was it the patched-together Giants winning the 2010 World Series for the first time since their 1958 move to San Francisco. (See previous thoughts on the 2010 success of football’s New Orleans Saints for further explanation.)

(7) It was not the TCU Horned Frogs going undefeated in the 2010 NCAA Division 1 football season and qualifying as a BCS participant in the Rose Bowl a few days from now against Wisconsin. TCU had to win all twelve of their games and be perfect enough in that way to receive any kind of invitation to the dance, even though they have no chance of winning the big prize, a national crown in football. Under the present system, TCU could repeat this year’s performance for the next ten years running and still be denied an opportunity to play for the national championship.

None of those things are my pick for the biggest sports story of 2010. My pick is more like a loaded gun that has now been cocked and aimed at 2011 – and maybe at several years to come. My choice is the Philadelphia Phillies of Major League Baseball signing starting pitcher Cliff Lee and ending up the year with arguably the greatest collection of four ace starters in baseball History. With Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt manning four of the five starter spots in the Phillies pitching rotation, what are the odds of that club now taking most of the three-game series they play next season? And how often do you think the Phillies may head to the ninth inning with a league to protect next year? Man! If closer Brad Lidge has his head and his arm in shape in 2011, he has a chance to set a stratospheric record for saves pitching behind this group.

You may disagree, but my pick is the greatest pitching show on earth that now sets up its tent in Philadelphia next baseball season. I can’t wait to see how the best staff on paper now performs on the field of actual play, where the real results are determined.

Please check in with your own opinions. Maybe your memories are more far-reaching than my own.

The Art of Time Framing Our Lives

December 28, 2010

“The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad.” - Salvador Dali

I still remember the first time I embraced this thought. It was June 1950, the day after North Korea’s invasion of South Korea. I was only 12 years old, but I was also a product of my generation. We didn’t need a political conference in Washington to discuss what this action meant. Even we kids knew what it meant. – It meant war, even if the official description of our United States military “police action” presence on the Korean peninsula was never updated to “war” status over the next three years of hostile fire action and the loss of American lives.

I remember thinking: “It’s 1950. Five years ago, in 1945, we were all celebrating the end of of World War II – and I was just a little kid. Hey! Five years from now, in 1955, I’ll be 17, almost 18, and going over to fight in Korea too.” It didn’t happen because the “war” didn’t last long enough to wait for me, but today we have a war blazing in Afghanistan that is using up the lives of young Americans who also were little more than small children when the thing started for us nearly ten years ago.

Where does it all end? It doesn’t. Like Old Man River, it just keeps rolling along.

I’ve never written on this subject prior to this morning, but my real subject here is not war and peace, but something I’ve always called out to myself as “time framing.” Time framing is simply a way of seeking another timeline perspective on the events of our lives. Why do it? Beyond its prurient pleasure payoff, it’s a way of time-altering our perspective on the events and scope of our lifetime experience for the sake of improving our more limited experience of things in the actual moments these occur.

It’s a way of drawing from, and learning from, the generally similar and our pretty-much-the-same past personal experiences as each applies to what is going on in our lives now. In other words, it’s something that may help us learn the lessons of history as they apply even to each of us in a moment of pain, threat, or risk, especially.

1939: "Gammy and me." My maternal great-grandmother and me at her place in the country near Beeville, TX. She was born in 1857, four years prior to the start of the Civil War- and she was once a big everyday part of my early life.

I will turn 73 years old this coming Friday, December 31st, and I make no apologies for my years. As far as I’m concerned, we are all here on borrowed time. When you time frame my first 72 years back to the last day of 1937, my actual natal day, we find that there has been something approaching a 98% turnover rate in the actual faces of Earth’s living, breathing residents since that moment.

Time frame it further. Do this one with your own age too. This past summer, on July 4, 2010, and we Americans were all celebrating the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, that date alaso meant that I personally had been around for 30.77% of this nation’s formal history since that starting date.

Here’s a more personal time frame: I graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston in 1956. That was 54 years ago this past May 2010. If I now slide the older me at 72 back to 1956 for an encounter with the 18-year old me that owned that year, what does the younger me think of the older me? Based upon my memories of him, younger me is thinking: “Man! If this old cat is 72 in 1956, that means he graduated from high school back in something like 1902! – What the the heck did people like him know about anything back in 1902?”

And what does the 72 year old me say to the 18 year old me? I don’t know. Maybe something like: “Age humbles. It teaches us what we were unwilling to learn earlier. It is a voice that only gets heard once we outgrow the ideas that (a) we are exempt from the laws and truths that apply to others; (b) we don’t need any teachers outside our own experience; and (c) our education begins once we open up to the wisdom of our elders. The elders can’t teach us everything, but they may help us skip over some bad spots on the road.”

Ask yourselves as you time frame – in whatever way you do it – who were the important teachers in your own life? If you cannot find any, you probably are not looking hard enough. Everyone we meet is our potential teacher at any age – whether we like like the lesson they bring to us or not.

At any rate, have fun getting ready for New Year’s Eve. It’s one of the great places for both celebration and reflection on this river of no return we all travel.

Santa Toys That Went Away

December 17, 2010


Cap Guns were our treasures as kids of the post WWII era.


With Christmas coming up faster than some of us can finish shopping, a few of my thoughts turn to the toys that went away from the shopping lists of Santa and our parents in the post World War II years. I’m not all that sure about changes in the girl toys, but there seems to be a major turnover in the toys for boys that are out there.

Exploding cap six-guns and rifles that all of us pre-teen boys down to ages 3 or 4 had to have back in the day seem to have vanished completely from the toy shelves. I guess today’s more violent world, one in which some real kids run around with real guns, pretty much precludes the opportunity for playful gun fights. In 2010, holding up anything that looks like a gun is also a good way to get yourself shot by the police. There was a story this week about a young man who was shot dead when he held up a detached garden hose nozzle and pointed it at the police when they came to check out a neighbor’s 911 call that the man was walking around the yard with a gun in his hand. It’s pretty easy today to see how that might happen. And also pretty scary. The threat of violence in our world today is always only a few seconds and a wrong turn on the streets away. That leaves no room for gun play as child’s play. Not in this world.


I was a pin ball wizard at the baseball part of this game.


Once upon a time, I got to the proficiency point of pretty much being able to call my shot on home runs in this little Christmas present pin ball game shown in the picture. The one in the picture is the exact model I played, way back in the late 1940s. Of course, we all know what happened to pin ball games and just about every other sports game involving pin balls, dice, or playing cards. Specific computer programs  and game company technologies have pretty much taken over the gaming world, for now and forever.

Too bad, There was some considerable mechanical skill required in the game of pin ball – and it was all something we developed over thousands of pulls and releases on the firing knob at different forces that taught us where the little silver  ball probably was going to end up.

Those too were the days my friend. Again, we thought they’s never end.

Perhaps, some of  you readers will also be able to comment on the differences you see in the Christmases you recall from your own personal “old days” in comparison to the ones that kids are having now. All I know for sure is – Christmas has changed in so many ways.

Let us hear from you.



A Houston That Might’ve Been

December 14, 2010

Without cars, Houston might've grown no wider than today"s "Inside the Loop" area.

The problems of mass transportation in Houston are virtually unsolvable unless we finally get it into our collective heads that they are almost absolutely necessary. I say almost because the alternatives to mass transit will always be out there: (1) We can continue to live large portions of our working days stuck in our 0ne-person-per-car traffic jams, covering long distances each on our drive-ins from hinterlands; or, (2) Others of us can find ways to contain our lives in one of those constantly developing smaller sections of Greater Houston and simply only venture beyond our personal world gates when we absolutely have to go elsewhere.

Houston didn’t have to develop along these lines, but it almost had no choice. As one of the newer developing major cities of this country that sprung up west of the Mississippi River, Houston quickly got caught up in America’s eco-political addiction and sale of the spontaneous combustion engine to “We, The People” during the early decades of the 20th century.

What a campaign that was. It must have been as tough as it is for drug dealers when they try to sell crack cocaine to street addicts. The people wanted their own wheels – and these came in stages. First the forces behind the gas-powered engine sold communities on the bus as a superior mode of transportation than the train or street care because it wasn’t contained to a fixed route. Once approved, rail tracks were pulled up so that there was no going back. Then the campaign shifted from busses to cars. “Why wait on the bus when you can plan your own trip with a personal automobile”

They Ford and Chevy salesmen forgot to tell us what will happen once a quarter million of us started planning the same trip to work every day at the same time on the same old two-lane street to downtown. By the 1940s, in Houston and elsewhere, we were getting the message that “super highways,” or so-called “freeways,” were needed to solve the problem of traffic jams.

Houston got its first superhighway in 1948 with the opening of the Gulf Freeway. It solved very few needs for long and it has been in a state of continuous updating ever since, as it apparently always will be. It’s just the nature of the beast. The driving dynamic is the constant growth of a population in which all new members also want to drive their own personal autos alone each day over streets that never get wider on their own,

The problem with mass transportation in Houston now, whether it’s by bus or train, is, “Who is going to use it?” The other driving force against useful public transit is the growing fear of people that  their lives may be in greater danger from random acts of violence as passengers on public vehicles.

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe there isn’t one. In fact, one of our larger problems in America today may be the naive belief that every problem we create has a solution that simply needs to be located at a later date. Oh really? Is that what we are counting on in the matters of our huge national debt and the big tab of that bill that’s now owned by China?

As for the smaller matter of “the Houston that might have been,” had we not grown up with the personal auto, my guess is that the actual city today would only cover a land area that is roughly, if not perfectly, comparable to the space within our present 610 Loop. It would be without a loop, or any other freeway, of course, but it would have rail service to all of its not-so-distant-from-downtown points.

Houston North would run no further north than Crosstimbers, just north of the present day 610 Loop.

Houston West would end at the far western side of Memorial Park, pretty much along the trail of our current 610 Loop and heading south along Post Oak Road to South Main.

Houston South would trail along the area that is currently 610 Loop, south of Reliant Stadium and the Astrodome. (Parts of Houston West and South would be cut out by the cities of Bellaire, West University Place, and Southside Place.

Houston East would also take a raggedy-patch route as far southeast as Park Place, up Old Galveston Road to Broadway, north to Harrisburg, and over the Ship Channel to take in Denver Harbor, and on north to present day Loop 610 North, give or take few blocks, here and there.

Downtown Houston would have remained the heart of local business activity and retail marketing, and it would have grown as the hub of Houston’s mass transit rail system, cultural and sporting events, and entertainment district. With a few exceptions. like the present growth of our cultural, sporting, and museum venues in and near downtown today, it would have been a very different Houston from the one we actually built – had it not been for the automobile.

We can’t know if the rail system version of Houston would’ve been better for us because we don’t know how we would have grown up personally had we not fallen in love with the idea of the personal car so many years ago.

Our love affair with the automobile may have caused some problems with traffic and the environment that have no real solutions to them in a world that continues to depend on freeways and oil-based fuel. Our hope has to be that it has also sparked the scientific genius we shall need to work our way out of the problems that come with our dependency on cars  – and that we are not stuck with a fatal attraction to something that eventually wipes out our “precious” way of life.

America in Color: 1939-1943

December 4, 2010

Faro and Doris Caudill, homesteaders. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

We have my old friend and St. Thomas High School classmate Pat Callahan to thank for these beautiful photographs making their appearance in The Pecan Park Eagle today. Patrick, my man, thank you for all of us.

Today’s column is a visual feast. Just click on the link below and be whisked away to the Denver Post collection of rare Library of Congress photos depicting everyday American life in color during the latter years of the Great Depression-Early World War II era, from 1939 into 1943. Their beauty is in their full color depiction of an America that used to be, but no longer is. In some ways, that’s good. Poverty and racism are never pretty – and both need to be fought commonly as depredations of the human spirit that they each are.

Poverty is not the absence of money. It is the absence of opportunity. Racism simply guarantees that the absence of opportunity for some people over time will not lead to a crying out for same, but as a calling out for entitlement and rescue with money, If granted as living subsistence relief only through publicly funded social programs, the suffering new political constituency group gets to keep the spiritual poverty that came with the racist limitations of their previous mental or legal slavery to a prejudicially suppressed life without any real opportunity. In other words, remove opportunity long enough – and people don’t stop being hungry – it’s just that many of them forget what they are really hungry for. They grow up settling for rescue and relief from the public soup kitchen because that’s all they ever known or been taught to know.

But there’s something else here too in these photos. – To me, it’s an America still bonding close to the ground on family, shared labor, and community connection to others – and not to selfish consumerism
or addiction to technological distractions, like texting devices, or this one I’m using now, the Internet. Even in color, the people are not living at the brim of frilly material things that surround most of us in 2010, but they are not impoverished either by the absence of money.
Check out the photos. Get lost in another world of America’s yesteryears. Enjoy. Reflect. Connect with what you see in the images that follow. Then, here’s a game you can play that may be both helpful and kind of fun: Pick out a photo that might help you with your own perspective on life in 2010, if you could magically go back and personally experience the 24 hours of that particular photo day with the subjects, scenery, or activity that unfolds in that particular picture. Have fun. Here’s the Library of Congress collection link now hosted by the Denver Post:

A Thanksgiving Eve Day Wish

November 24, 2010

Our little family isn’t doing much this year because of holiday work obligations that are tying up the time of my wife and son tomorrow, but we will all meet at the end of the day to break bread together and be thankful for all the right reasons.

Thank God for the riches of health, for the kind of love that reaches out as concern for others, for friendship with those who share our bond to life as the opportunity for creative experience, and for a wide open, full-throttle passion for living in peace, with no resentments or regrets. Those elements are all vital to spiritual peace, in my book, along with an acceptance of our need to battle back forever against any new or ancient adversity that attacks any of those essential facets of a full life.

My best wishes to all of you and yours for a most happy and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday. Take it – and make it beautiful.

Warm regards,

Bill McCurdy

Union Station 1912

November 14, 2010

Union Station in Houston, 1912.

Last night I attended the Second Annual Knuckle Ball, the benefit that honors the late Joe Niekro in the fight against brain aneurysms. This year it was held in the great hall or rotunda of Union Station in Houston or, as it is better known today as the administrative offices of the Houston Astros and the opening face on Crawford Avenue for Minute Maid Park, home field of our National League ball club.

The place reeks with Houston history.

I thought last night, as I often do whenever I’m in that place long enough to be reminded of its full context for me as a kid who grew up in Houston: “This is where we used to come pick up Papa when he came to visit us from San Antonio.”  It was a happy memory. Papa was my grandfather on my mother’s side

If you got here early for a train back in the day, you were supposed to wait on these long wooden benches in the Great Hall until it got here. As kids though, we had to move around. We also enjoyed testing the echos of our loud calls against the hard marble walls of the place. As best I remember, nobody tried the echo trick at the Knuckle Ball last night.

Drayton McLane, Jr. and the Houston Astros have done a wonderful job of preserving an important Houston architectural structure in the way they have restored Union Station to much of its former glory. It probably looks better now than it did in the first place, when it served as Houston’s rail window on the rest of the country.

In 1928, you could take the interurban line from Union Station to the baseball games at Buff Stadium.

Long before Union Station ever became the hub of our Houston baseball world, it served as the central depot for taking people the four miles or so they needed to travel to reach the new Buffalo Stadium that first opened n Houston on April 11, 1928.

If we had a time machine cranked up and were ready to go, wouldn’t you love going back there at least once to take that same train out to the ballgame on the first Opening Day of the new ballpark? The Buffs were opening against Waco in 1928. Branch Rickey, General Manger of the Cardinals, and Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis were going to be there too.

Buff Stadium. Don’t you want to go there now? What a trip that would be! And what a great opportunity to see how Houston actually looked, smelled, and tasted back in the late halcyon days of the so-called Roaring Twenties.

I would have been tempted to also take a 1928 side trek to the Heights and check up on how a certain little 12-year old girl was doing. In 1928, that little girl would have been my future mother. Then I get to thinking harder about why mass time time travel probably never will happen, and for reasons that go way beyond the Laws of Physics governing time/space worm holes that impose certain barriers in reality that fail to dampen our theoretical attraction to the possibility. That being said, if millions of us suddenly became like a legion of time-traveling Marty McFlys, bouncing “Back to the Future,” we would probably manage to change enough destiny to assure that many us were never born, anyway. Once establishing a case for altering history and assuring our own states of non-existence in the future, we would simply disappear completely, having never existed in the first place.

I cannot believe all of that stuff now pours out of my brain on a Sunday morning after simply sitting in an historical spot for one brief evening last night. Now I need to grab some oatmeal and a firm anchor on the fact this is Sunday, November 14, 2010.

Have a peaceful and restful Sunday, everybody.

Old Houston Car Dealers

November 11, 2010

“take the wheel…make a deal…on a beautiful Rocket Oldsmobile”

Important Notice: This column thread is closed from further reader comment at this site, as of February 12, 2018, due to a volume of interest that exceeds our particular aims at The Pecan Park Eagle. We are appreciative, however, of the apparent high interest in a site that is designed to keep this ball rolling.

Reader John Landeche has created a new site at Facebook for everyone who wants to stay in touch as connected members of this new “Old Houston Car Dealers” location on FB.

We do NOT have the link. For further information, contact John Landeche at his e-mail address,

Thank you all for support here. And please know that we will do all we can to help the group connect at their new base.


Bill McCurdy, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Most to all of the Houston car dealers that I shall mention here are long gone. I’m presuming they all are, but with the caveat that one or two may still exist on a low-advertising budget during an era in my life which finds me less involved with car dealers than I ever was as a kid and young man.

I grew up with cars and car dealers because cars were my my dad;s business. Dad had a Dodge-Plymouth dealership in Beeville, Texas back in the 1930s. In fact, when Dad opened his doors there in 1936, he was briefly recognized as the youngest car dealer in the United States at age 25.

World War II ended our family-run dealership and we moved to Houston on my fifth birthday, December 31, 1942, spending our first Houston night at the old Big Chief Motel on South Main and celebrating New Year’s Eve with burgers at the Prince’s Drive Inn at the South Main/OST “Y” connection of those two old city roads.

Dad spent World War II working as a welder at the Brown’s Shipyard and then went to work as manager of the parts department for the Jess Allen Chrysler-Plymouth dealership near the Broadway/Harrisburg “L” link in 1946. He later held the same job for Bill Lee Motors, a Studebaker dealership on Lawndale, east of 75th, from 1950 to 1958. 1958 is also the year that my parents and siblings moved back to Beeville so Dad could go back into business for himself. I stayed here because I was already into my junior year at the University of Houston by then – and because I had been raised as a Houstonian. I didn’t have to leave town to go home. Home was here.

An off-the-top-of-my-head list of Houston car dealers that are no more includes Jack Roach Ford, Sam Montgomery Oldsmobile, Earl McMillan Ford, Jess Allen Plymouth-Chrysler, Bill Lee (Studebaker) Motors, Art Grindle Motors (I forget what he sold), and so many more that now escape easy memory, and they all sold American cars: Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Hudson, Nash, Kaiser, Fraser, Chrysler, Plymouth, and Dodge.

There were other American cars and far more now-lost dealerships in Houston that I can no longer quickly recall, but they were once here. And they were real. And they basically drove Houston and fired the horsepower of our mid-20th century American economy. Then along came VW, Renault, Fiat, and Toyota – like so many soldiers from the Trojan Horse belly of our new Post WWII world economy – and it was all but over soon for the dominance of Detroit in the American new car world.

Because of my partiality to Oldsmobile, or maybe “just anyway,” I do still easily remember the jingle that Sam Montgomery used to attract new customers by radio. Sung a cappella by a men’s barbershop quartet, the Sam Montgomery Oldsmobile pitch went like this:

“Go to Sam Montgomery, and climb behind a Rocket!

You will find what’s right for you!

A car to fit your pocket!

Take the wheel, make a deal, of a beautiful Rocket Oldsmobile!

Better talk to Sam! – Sam the Rocket Man!

Talk to Sam Montgomery today!

(He’s in the Village!)

Talk to Sam Montgomery – TODAY!”

… Have a nice Thursday, everybody! If you remember the names of the many other now vanished Houston car dealerships that I have so easily forgotten, please post them below as additions to this piece.

Valian’s Pizza Update

October 28, 2010

Honest Raia Family Wants Whole Truth Known.

We’ve written quite a bit lately about the rediscovery of Valian’s Pizza at Raia’s Italian Market at 4500 Washington Avenue. Many of us have since been to Raia’s more than once to sample the rich goodness of the thin crust and rich marinara and cheeses that together make up the arguably greatest tasting pizza of all time. I’ve even taken Richard Coselli, the fellow who served as the UH student chairman of Frontier Fiesta back in 1957 when Valian’s Pizza was first introduced at our big annual campus show, to try the Raia version with me.

Richard Coselli’s taste buds agreed with mine. The Raia version, indeed, is enough like the original to be accorded the status of Valian’s Pizza Reincarnated, even if there existed for both of us a slight variation in taste due to some changes in herbs, spices, or meat products now available in comparison to a half century ago.

Now it seems that we have jumped to a wrong conclusion on how the item described by the Raia family on their menu as “Valien’s DeLuxe” pizza came about. It turns out that this beautiful restoration of an all time Houston culinary favorite was not the result of some ancient family friendship between the Valian and Raia families and a handing-off of the former’s famous pizza recipe in the name of friendship for the sake of posterity.

That story was the urban legend that I hooked onto when my friend first told me. And, since my friend had never been to Raia’s, that was also the legend that he had hooked onto from someone else. My error was then going to Raia’s to try the pizza and then writing about the experience without checking out the truth of the story about its origins directly with the cafe’s owners, Luke and Kathy Raia.

I still haven’t met the Raia couple, but I have heard from Kathy Raia a couple of times by e-mail. Give me an “F” in investigative journalism this time, folks, but I wasn’t on assignment, looking for a deception that never existed in the first place. The Raia place just reeks with good taste and integrity.

My willingness to accept the story I first heard about how the pizza started at Raia’s, nevertheless, has only reenforced the urban legend version of a delicious replication that deserves the Valian’s pizza comparison in its own right.

An e-mail I received from Kathy Raia last night explains the whole misunderstanding:

Date: Wed, 27 Oct 2010 16:46:36 -0500
Subject: Re: Raia’s

Mr. McCurdy, we appreciate your blog about how good our Valien’s pizza is but we don’t want to create any false impressions.  The store manager you talked to is our son. He knew that my husband went to Valian’s when he was younger. We have never had a relationship with the Valian family nor received any recipes from them.
We named this pizza after one of the pizzas we used to order at Valian’s. This pizza was put on our menu as a tribute to the first restaurant in which my husband was introduced to a pizza.
If you would like to clarify this on your blog, we would appreciate it because we have been getting a lot of phone calls and emails.  My husband has had to expain that we didn’t know the Valian family and this pizza is not their recipe.  We just enjoyed going there.
Please come in again and say hi to my husband so y’all can reminisce about Valian’s.
Thanks, Kathy Raia

And thank you for that clarification, Kathy. You and Luke still deserve Valian’s Pizza status and credit with your tribute recipe version of one of the greatest and most uniquely delicious foods ever produced by a Houston family.

Long live Valian’s! Long live Raia’s!