New Series – Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Sally Cronin

In 1984, having moved to Tring in Hertfordshire only six months earlier, David was made redundant. He had moved to a new division of his company and it simply did not take off. However, his former boss rang a couple of days later and suggested a change of role. David was an engineer and had never really considered sales as an option. But his boss offered him the position of VP of sales for the company in the USA, initially based in Houston. This was December and Christmas around the corner. It also meant putting the house on the market and moving to the US in early February.

Of course we jumped at the opportunity.

Over the next two years we travelled thousands of miles across America to cram in as much adventure as possible. In those days there were no emails and phone calls were expensive, so I wrote to my parents every week.

After my father died in 1996 we found a folder with my name on it. He had kept every letter I wrote to them and he thought that one day I might like to publish a book. I probably won’t do that but I thought that I would share those letters with you on the blog.

I will also be sharing some of the articles that I wrote about specific events or trips that stood out for us both.

I hope you enjoy the trip back in time as much as I am typing them up from my handwritten scrawl.

My parents at the time.. top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on a weekend trip

Hi M & D

Safely arrived and just about over our jet lag. The flight was very cramped, apparently due to SNOW in Houston, Friday’s flight had been cancelled, so it was booked solid. It was a DC10 and really too small for an 11 hour flight. However, we landed at about 6 p.m. local time and thankfully allowed through immigration. (I couldn’t have faced deportation and the return flight!)

We picked up our hire car and proceeded to get lost. I was driving, my first time on the wrong side of the road, in an automatic, in the dark! Nobody told us that Green’s Road where the Marriott is situated is 26 miles long…. or felt like it. An hour later and with short fuses we arrived here at the hotel. By now it was 2 a.m. our time so we were pretty shattered. We broke open the duty free and dressed for dinner. They certainly believe in big portions. David ended up with half a barbecued cow on his plate!!. We got to bed about 11p.m (5a.m. body time) and slept through until 8 a.m.

Sunday someone from the Houston office rang and asked us to dinner which was very pleasant. They eat early here, around 6pm. so it was still light out thankfully and we found the place without too much trouble. What was quite interesting was seeing some of the pick-up trucks on the road with rifles on racks at the back of the cab. Obviously not a good idea to carve anyone up in Texas!

David had to go into the office Monday and as we only have two weeks at the Marriott I had to find us a temporary apartment. This meant driving on my own for the first time and you need eyes in the back of your head….. There are some pretty fancy moves going on and some of those trucks are big and intimidating. The office had given me a short list of apartment/hotels to rent on a monthly basis, which suits us whilst we look for a more permanent place. The one I decided on has everything included in the rent (it would need to be at 800 dollars a month!). There is one bedroom, dining area, large living room and a bathroom. Maid service is included twice a week (this is the life) and a large swimming pool (ice covered at the moment).

The price is a little over what the company have allowed for but when they do their sums, they will see that keeping us in the hotel would cost 4,500 dollars a month!!.

We move in on Saturday and at least we will have our privacy again. It is surrounded by a security fence and you have to use a credit card to in and out.

We had our first dinner out on our own on Monday night. We went to a place called TGI Fridays.. (Thank God It’s Friday) I think. We met Jesus… really… our waiter was called Jesus but you pronounce it Heysus. Having already experienced a cow on a plate, we opted for their appetizers (starters) and shared them. Delicious and the service was a lot more attentive than you would get at home! I also had my first margarita … tequila and lime and absolutely amazing.

David is already booked on business trips which means I now know the route back and forth to the airport. He is away today until Friday in Kansas and Virginia and then next week in Los Angeles Monday and Tuesday. We are both going to Dallas as we can drive up and then to New Orleans for my birthday.

My first impressions of Houston are very favourable. It is very flat and spread out and because no-one walks anywhere, there are hardly any sidewalks. There is little public transport at all and as we are 30 miles from the actual centre of Houston is can be a bit restricting. They have great big shopping malls every mile or so and thankfully there is one around the corner from the hotel that I can walk to. Everything seems very expensive, especially to eat out and we will both be glad to get back to home cooking again next week.
Things here are very different and we have had some surprises. On our first morning we went to the supermarket to buy some essentials and there were horses tied up outside and cowboys in the full gear including holsters inside, stocking up on beer and chips (crisps) We thought we had walked into the set of a Western… we asked one of the staff if this was normal and he told us it was Rodeo Week… some things to get used to.

However, I am sure that once we get over the strangeness of everything we will be more relaxed. Always difficult to know how to act in a new environment but at least I have had lots of practice with all the travelling we did when I was growing up.

We know that our time here is limited and we want to experience as much as possible in the next two years. The people that we had dinner with the second day are British and we got the impression that in the six years that they have been here they have not seemed to integrate very much. The recommendation was to find a complex where there are other English families but to be honest, we both feel if we are to enjoy the real flavour of Texas and the USA, we should find somewhere we can join in more.

The weather is very cold and unseasonal, to us it’s just like home and probably easier than arriving into the very high temperatures they have from April onwards. Thank goodness I bought my thick winter coat at the last minute.

Well I think that covers most things. I have saved my letter writing until David was away so that I had plenty to do. Hotels however luxurious are pretty boring when you are on your own and I only go out in daylight. There are some quite good films on the television so I will be square-eyed when David gets back. I think he is pleased that at least I don’t moan about being left on my own. He has so much to do initially, that he has enough on his plate.

Hopefully before you come out for your visit next year we will be settled, although there is a possibility that we might be moved to Washington. At least that will mean a shorter flight for you and more moderate weather in the summer.

Stay well and will write again next week and all our love.


I hope you will tune in again next week for our trip to Dallas and more adventures. Thanks Sally

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About Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

My name is Sally Cronin and I am doing what I love.. Writing. Books, short stories, Haiku and blog posts. My previous jobs are only relevant in as much as they have gifted me with a wonderful filing cabinet of memories and experiences which are very useful when putting pen to paper. I move between non-fiction health books and posts and fairy stories, romance and humour. I love variety which is why I called my blog Smorgasbord Invitation and you will find a wide range of subjects. You can find the whole story here. Find out more at

71 thoughts on “New Series – Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Sally Cronin

  1. Hilarious first impressions of a ‘new’ country from someone from Britain. Love it. I had similar anecdotes to tell when I moved to Canada from England. Lots to get used to. I found the language difficult and was often misunderstood. Then there was the time that, just for a brief moment I left the windows of my car open in February and, of course, it filled with snow.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Love this! It’s always fun to read about fish out of water. 🙂

    Funny how “crisps” and chips are always written into letters. I wrote home about Tatos. I remember loving mushy peas in London but I’ve never been able to make my own with the same distinctive flavor (or maybe it was the strong beer I was drinking over there).

    Look forward to the next installment. Gotta love cowboys and horses.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Welcome to America! A chicken in every pot. A Chevy in every garage and a cow on every plate! That’s awesome. It is most entertaining to hear how someone else “sees” another world in a part of the world, I just see as “home.” Love that your dad saved your letters. Looking forward to the rest of the series. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Wonderful first impressions of Houston, Sally! I lived there for a year or so years back, did not like the humidity, being a northerner by upbringing. We moved up to the DFW area in 1986 and much prefer it here. I am anxious to read what you thought of Dallas. (We are in Fort Worth, some 30 miles west of Big D.)

    I’m so glad your dad saved all your letters. Great of you to share them with us!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I too love this letter and look forward to more. The language difference is so funny. When my hubby immigrated to Canada from the UK 43 years ago, he told me about his uncle who was a joiner. I thought he was someone who joined lots of clubs and organizations!! We still laugh about that.

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  6. This is brilliant Sally. I really got a sense of time and place with this… Cowboys and rodeo week, ice and cold weather in Texas… things I would have never thought. One thing surprised me was that you said it was expensive to eat out then… We found it to eat out in America years later although to be fair you do get a lot on your plate for the price…. hence the comment I loved about the cow on the plate! Looking forward to this series. Pxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Paul.. I think at that time we had gone from penny pinching with a large mortgage on a mover from Liverpool to the south of the country and had been on a budget for quite a while and although we liked to go to nice restaurants at that time the cost to eat out in Houston, particularly in that area where we were staying was higher than we expected. But food in general in the stores was a lot cheaper than the UK and so it was swings and roundabouts. I also saved money on my cigarettes (I was a pack a day girl then). I bought a carton of 200 for a dollar for pack of 20.. So we were able to eat out quite a bit. Our friends we made new all the good places, especially all you could eat Chinese buffets.. xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jacquie.. I think we were quite lucky, David had travelled in the middle east with his job and had been at sea for several years with oil tankers. I had travelled a lot as a child and both us still are up for the odd adventure. Our two years there still ranks as one of the most amazing experiences and we took full of advantage of the ease of travel. Wonderful friends too.. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: New Series – Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Sally Cronin | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  8. I can imagine how strange and exciting it must have been – especially driving on the wrong side of the road. And how funny that you arrived during rodeo week. My only trip to Houstan was during the rodeo. This letter was full one wonder and smiles, Sally. It’s so sweet that your dad saved all these letters. Thanks for sharing the adventure.

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  9. Sally, this is a lovely idea for a series. Love the title. I always enjoy reading about your life in the varied places you’ve lived. The pictures add so much too. Your mom and her jackets — a woman after my own heart. (My office is usually too hot so I take mine off. But I put it back on every time I leave my desk for so much as a trip to the bathroom.) Have a fabulous Friday. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This is going to be a great series Sally, looking forward to the next episode. Strange that the Brits you met did not mingle with the locals, they speak the same language after all (well almost). I’ve always found the Americans warm friendly, inviting and incredibly generous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know Lucinda and I never really got on with the more traditional approach to learning Spanish. I ended up with a different approach and found it much easier and quicker to achieve the vocabulario activo I needed each day. Michel Thomas is amazing and his audio lessons are terrific. I brushed up my French as well. I have to say that despite the fact that I am likely to go and live in Italy I have his Italian course waiting to be enjoyed.. Here is a link for his Spanish course should you want to recommend to any newcomers to Spain that you meet.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hon, I live in a small town 30 miles south of Houston, and we are at the moment approaching rodeo days. There are so many endearing things in your post that prove the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same. To say you wouldn’t recognize Houston is a massive understatement!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – U2, Blog Challenges, Literary Column and Letters from America | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  13. Pingback: *Press it* New Series – Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Sally Cronin #17 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

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