Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – August 1985 – Houston, Hurricane Danny, Trivia Pursuit by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987 that I wrote home to my parents in the UK. My father kept them all in a folder and on his death they came back to me with a note to publish them.

It is now coming to the end of August and we are preparing for our first vacation to Hawaii. We are also going to find out in a few weeks if we will stay in America for another year.

Houston, Hurricane Danny andTrivia Pursuit

26th August 1985.

Dear M & D,

Thank you for keeping the letters coming, it’s lovely to have all the home news. I hope your stay at Sonia’s was relaxing and I am sure that you enjoyed some excellent cooking.

Before I forget, here are the contact details for our hotel in Hawaii in case of emergencies (heaven forbid). It is the Sheraton Makaha Resort, Oahu – area code for Hawaii (in BT directory) 695-9511. We will be there from the 3rd to 17th September.

We are more or less ready for the trip, and I was staggered when David suggested we both go shopping to buy HIM some clothes for the trip. He hates shopping and prefers to go alone.. not like me who browses for ages, he is in, gets what he wants, and leaves! We started at midday and got home at 9pm. He bought slacks, shorts, bathers and shoes. He looks amazing in them although he feels that they are bit over casual….. he will get used to it.

Things are so much more relaxed here after England where shirt, tie and jacket is still considered proper day wear! I think he secretly enjoyed the experience, and it was certainly the first time in five years we have gone shopping for him together.

On Saturday we went to a couple’s house ten miles away with some of our friends. They are all air traffic controllers and a lively bunch. We played trivia pursuit until 2.30 am and left them to it. I assume none of them are directing air traffic first thing in the morning!

One of the young FAA guys who lives in the complex has adopted Sylvia and I, and is taking us to lunch this week. He has girlfriend troubles and aunty Sally and aunty Sylvia are good listeners. David thinks it is great and we get to each Chinese and put the guy straight on a few things….

Vicki rang yesterday from Louisiana, sounds as if things are not ideal, she misses us and of course being tied to the apartment with a new baby limits her meeting new people. When we get back from holiday we will try to go and see them for the weekend. I miss her too, she was the first friend that I met here and I would hate to lose touch.

David’s boss is coming over when we get back from holiday as they are planning a big presentation in Dallas. I will probably fly up and join them as we will be discussing if we are to stay for another year. I know David would like to stay as he is enjoying the job and has now built up a fantastic list of contacts. He would be reluctant to have to hand that over to someone else after all the hard work he has put in. And we would be happy to stay here in Houston for another year as we have made lovely friends and there is so much more of the rest of America we want to see.

David is in Chicago at the moment having left on Monday and coming back on Friday. I have plenty to keep me busy with Jane Fonda workouts three times a week, weight training at the gym (nearly killing me, sergeant major of a trainer!) swimming and tennis. I may not have a bikini ready body but at least have got rid of a few wobbly bits!

Funnily enough although I am keeping myself busy, as I hate being idle, I do miss not working full-time. I am not using my brain enough so have decided to buy books on American history and learn as much as I can (certainly before the next trivia pursuit session). I am also writing more short stories and poetry which may never see the light of day, but I am enjoying the process. I have also bought a beginners guide to Spanish, although not sure where I will use that when we come back to the UK.

I am off to dinner tonight with Bill and Sylvia and I have seven coming for Spaghetti  Bolognese tomorrow night (your recipe of course Eric). I cannot get over how amazingly hospitable everyone is and how kind. As soon as they know David is going to be away several check up on me and always include me if they are entertaining or going out for dinner. Even the guys ask me to go along when they are on dates and whilst their girlfriends come here with them and we all get on, I do feel that three is a crowd!  Anyway, we will definitely take that back with us when we come home. Expect some margaritas and fajitas when you come to us for Sunday lunch in future!

I had my long hair cut off yesterday. It was getting far too tiresome with all the sports and swimming and everyone so far likes the new look… David has not seen it yet but I am sure he will get used to it. At least when we go on holiday it will be much easier to look after and we will also not stick out like a sore thumb now that our tans have developed. Nothing worse that pasty white Brits arriving in a tropical paradise.

We have organised a children’s party at the pool and in the recreation area for Saturday. There are not many in the complex but people are bringing nieces and nephews too. We have games in the pool and then move to the tables and benches for sandwiches, cakes and jellies. I am making some Victoria sponges which is something you cannot buy over here. Hopefully it will not be 100 degrees as it is today.

Luckily Hurricane Danny missed us last week but there were evacuations 70 miles south of us. The only thing we noticed was that the shops were cleared of bottled water and food shortly after the warnings went out. I had done my weekly shop a couple of days beforehand but popped out to get some milk. It was as if a plague of locusts had descended on the supermarket and the queues were horrendous. I left and we managed for a couple of days with black tea and coffee.

Well that is about it now.  I will write and tell you all about Hawaii when we get back and then it will only be six weeks until you are with us.

Love and hugs from us both Sally and David.

©sallycronin 2018

I hope you have enjoyed this trip back in time.. next week Part one of our trip to Hawaii that I wrote as an article.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – August 1985 – Hawaiian Luau and Trash Can Punch by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987 that I wrote home to my parents in the UK. My father kept them all in a folder and on his death they came back to me with a note to publish them.

It is now the first week in August 1985 and we now had gathered a group of like-minded friends (tequila and shrimp) around us. The long awaited Hawaiian Luau arrived.

Dear M & D.

Just recovering from our Hawaiian Luau on Saturday. We spent last week making garlands and decorations, and after a dreadful thunderstorm on Friday night, Saturday dawned hot and clear. We started putting up the decorations at 10 am. and it looked fantastic. The party started at 3pm and we had all sorts of silly games. (I was in charge!)

I had hard-boiled 30 eggs, and marked one with a red spot before throwing them all in the pool. It was called pearl diving! The person who found the egg with the red spot won a prize. We also had a raft race with three to a lilo. As I mentioned last week we have been practicing for weeks and it was clearly a waste of time! However, that was hilarious and got us into the party spirit.

Talking of spirits, David and I were introduced to Trash Can Punch which certainly helped the party get started. We all had cold beers and soft drinks, but a large black plastic waste bin was bought (and scrubbed, thankfully not used for waste before) and filled with ice and chopped fruit. We were all invited to bring our favourite spirit and empty the bottle into the can.

As you can imagine, this meant that there was at least 20 bottles of neat vodka (clearly popular) Tequila, Whisky and a couple of unmarked bottles that we think were moonshine! It was then topped up with fresh fruit juice and some water (not much). We then helped ourselves throughout the day.

It is a surprise we all survived. I stopped after a couple as did David and moved onto Coors Light beer since we definitely did not have the head or stomach for it. I did however make a tactical error when I helped myself to a couple of pieces of orange from the fruit that was left at the end of the afternoon. After a few hours soaking in all that booze, in the hot sun, it was very intoxicating indeed.

We did keep active and by 6pm the water volley ball net was up and we played for the next four hours straight.. I am called ‘Sledgehammer’ as I play at the net and being tall can thump the ball over. All that netball paying off. At 10pm we retired to our place and ended up playing poker until 2am. Don’t worry we will dial things back a bit when you come to see us and be in bed by midnight!

Last night our friends from Argentina, Bill and Silvia came over for supper, lovely couple and you will enjoy meeting them.

Our trip to Hawaii has been confirmed for September 3rd so I am aiming to lose a few pounds to that I can put it all back again! By the time we get back it will only be about 6 weeks to your visit.

David is off to Kansas tomorrow until Thursday morning. It is almost his second home and I think our holiday will do him good as he will be in one place for 14 days.

The apartment owners are building security gates and a fence around the property. I hope it won’t be too like Colditz. Also they are building a hot tub in front of our apartment. They seat about four people and I have heard quite a few tales about the goings on to be expected. I shall be able to sell tickets to people who want to use my balcony for front row seats!

Looking forward to seeing you soon.. all our love Sally and David X

©Sally Cronin 2020

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you enjoyed our latest escapade. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – June 1985 – Photos from Disney Adventure, Alone in America, Television Fitness Classes by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987 that I wrote home to my parents in the UK. My father kept them all in a folder and on his death they came back to me with a note to publish them.

June 1985 – Photos from Disney Adventure, Alone in America, Television Fitness Classes

We were now into June of 1985 and getting the hang of things. We had met more people in the apartments and were planning our next trip later in the summer.

23rd June 1985

Dear M & D,

Thank you for your letter, and by the time you get this you will probably have spoken to David. He left yesterday for a very hectic nine days to try and get things tied up over there. It feels a little stranger than normal. Although I am used to him being gone at least a couple of days a week for work, he was at least still in the US and could be home in a few hours if needed. I almost don’t want to go out in the car in case something happens which is silly, but Vicki, who is nearly due, has said she will come out with me to the shop as she would like the company too in case she goes into labour!

She and her mother are coming here for fajitas tomorrow night and a movie. She is trying to stay occupied as she is of course very nervous. Her mother is great and she is minding us both. I had better not make the fajitas too spicy otherwise there might be a quick dash to the hospital at midnight!

No doubt you will have noticed the envelope was a little thicker than usual and discovered the photographs of our Disney adventure when we were in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. They don’t capture the atmosphere but gives you an idea of how vast it is.  I took one of an Indian chief for you Daddy.. but could not find any cowboys.. sorry.

The last two days we have had thunder and torrential rain and there have been flash flood warnings. Another reason not to venture out. I am missing my daily swim and have been doing a daily workout to a television fitness instructor who is crackers. She must have rubber legs because there is no way I can get myself in to most of the positions that she does. I was chatting to the apartment complex manager who is about my age, and she has suggested that I go to aerobics with her at the local gym three times a week. That would suit me as I want to shift another 30lbs in the next few months. I am starting next week and looking forward to it.. I think!  If the mad woman on the television is anything to go by it is not for the fainthearted.

Anyway, I am sure the sun will be out tomorrow and back to swimming in the meantime.

Once David gets back we should have a better idea of whether we will be moving from here or not. The advantage of Houston is that it is a huge hub for internal airlines, and we usually fly Continental. It is easier to get to other parts of the country, and since David can visit several states in a month, we do need to be close to a major airport as we are here.

And apart from the occasional thunderstorm.. well at this time of year frequent ones, I like it here and we are beginning to meet more really interesting people.  I will be sorry when Vicki leaves in a month or so when the baby is born but she is so excited to be able to join Kelly and their new apartment.

Another thing that I miss is M&S and David has promised to go and pick up one or two things for me. Not sure what the customs are going to say this end when David arrives back with several pairs of ladies knickers and bras!

You mentioned that you have started to make plans for your trip and once David gets back we will have a firm decision of when or where we are going to move to. Once we have that we can finalise your travel arrangements. They might even send us back to the UK in the New Year so it is great that you are thinking of coming over in October/November time frame.We would like to stay another year if we can and the work supports that. There is so much of America we have not seen yet and being such a vast country we need as long as possible.

Anyway, off to write to David’s parents and keep them up to date. Love to you both and will call you next week once David arrives back with the plan for the rest of our stay.

Sally and David.

©Sally Cronin

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will join me next week for another of our American adventures.  Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – Adventures in the USA -Arrival in Houston by Sally Cronin


Somebody recently asked if I was going to repeat the series of Letters from America as they had missed many of the earlier ones. I then realised that it was two years since the first post went out and there are some newer readers to the blog who might be interested in reading.

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.

©sallycronin2018

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

Smorgasbord Letters from America – Texas 1985-1987 – 100 degrees, Key Lime Pie and Adverts


We are now in mid-July 1985.. the weather is hotting up and we are getting excited about our trip in September to Hawaii..

12th July 1985

Dear M & D,

Thanks for your latest newsy letter, sounds like you have been pretty busy between debating societies, trips and visitor. I am sorry that Ethel has not been well and I am sure that the wet weather you have been having has not helped. There are times when I wish we were closer to be any help when things are not going well. It is tough being thousands of miles away and feeling helpless.

We had a quiet weekend, playing tennis and relaxing. Last night was the first meeting of the new residents’ social committee and we have got some plans together for the next few months. Seems that I will have a few duties to perform, especially when it comes to shopping for events, as I am one of the few people not working.  That’s fine and very happy to do it as the parties bring the whole community together, and we have a lot of fun. I have extra time on my hands now that the little girl I was looking after is in kindergarten. The main parties take place once a month and there is one scheduled for during your visit. I am sure it will be something to write home about to the grandchildren!

On the home front we have bought a VCR, as we both find the long advert breaks annoying. It seems like every ten minutes for ten minutes. It is so irritating when watching a movie. And often you are in the middle of eating your dinner, when you are confronted with recommendations for Preparation H for haemorrhoids or graphic images of acid reflux. Now we record programmes that we want to watch, then play them back, fast forwarding through the ads.

I have had some photos developed and including one of me and my friend Debby who I play tennis with. She is great company, and with David away such a lot it is very comforting to have her and the others here who have taken me under their wings.

Everyone is excited to meet you. I do have the habit of referring to you Mollie as the Duchess, and for some reason our friends are under the impression that you are a Duchess.. so don’t let me down. However, the tiara is probably best left at home as they are a little more casual here!

Tonight we have a birthday party for our German friends. There are eight of us with four nationalities which is interesting, and as everyone is bringing a dish with them, it should be a veritable feast. The weather has been very hot and muggy at 100 degrees, and thank goodness we have air conditioning, otherwise it would be unbearable. None of us really want to eat stodgy food at the moment so steak, salad, jacket potatoes, loaded (as they say over here) with sour cream, cheddar and bacon bits (I will be good tomorrow!). There will also be Key Lime Pie that you won’t find in the UK, but is light and delicious (well that is what I tell myself). One of the advantages of having people come to us is that the leftovers stay in our fridge!  Not for long…….

David is home this week but goes to Chicago on Sunday for six days. We have decided that I won’t go, as we are saving money for our holiday in three weeks. We are getting very excited as Hawaii has always been this exotic paradise that you feel you will only ever see on National Geographic or Magnum P.I ( you won’t have seen the series but you can watch when you are here).  It is still nearly 4000 miles from here, but because it is such a popular holiday destination there are plenty of flights available. We are flying to Los Angeles, staying overnight and then flying across the Pacific the next day.

Not a great deal of news this week but counting the days until you arrive.

love from us both Sally.

©sallycronin2018

Thanks for dropping by today and hope you have enjoyed the latest episode… Sally

 

Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985-1987 – Hanna Barbara Land, BBQ and Lilo races


It is now July 1985, and the weather in Houston is very hot and muggy. The pool became the centre of entertainment in the evenings and the weekends as everyone stripped off and cooled down.

July 16th 1985.

Dear M & D,

Just back from the airport, David is off to Dallas and then Kansas, putting together another order, and won’t be back until Thursday.

Despite the fact that lovely Vicki has now left, I am still very busy, playing tennis, swimming and aerobics. The little girl that I have been looking after will be over later this morning and we are reading Black Beauty at the moment. I am enjoying sharing the story as it is a lot of years since I have last enjoyed.  It has been fun looking after her and tomorrow I am taking her and two others to Hanna Barbara Land, which is like a mini Disneyland. Three toddlers… will I survive?

I got your last letter yesterday and was pleased to hear that the flower festival went well. You will need a rest when you to visit Mollie. I have checked on the weather for November and it is a bit mixed. Temperatures around 70 mostly with some cooler rainy days, but people say it is usually lovely. You will be pleased to miss the 95 degrees and the 95% humidity would be unbearable without air conditioning. I am learning to live with it but when you walk outside the apartment or out of a shopping mall, you are soaking in sweat by the time you reach your car. Not a good look…..

Just to let you know in advance that when you fly over you will need to fill out an immigration form before you land with passport details and home address etc. You will also have to put us down as being financially responsible for you during your visit (you have waited a lifetime for me to say that haven’t you!). I am enclosing David’s business card so you can use those details and also a dollar bill in case I forget. You will need that for the luggage cart to take you through to customs where they take your luggage off you, and send it down to baggage reclaim for you to collect.

I am enclosing a lock of hair to show you the effect of sun and chlorine. It gets blonder by the day and is now quite long again, by the time you get here it will be the same length as when we got married.. If I have not had it all chopped off because of the heat and swimming every day!. The weight continues to come off although I have a medical condition called ‘lack of self will’ specifically when it comes to chocolate milkshakes with lashings of vanilla ice-cream. I am working on it.

As I have not much to report, I will finish this letter after the weekend.

July 20th….

We went off to Hanna Barbara Land as planned and there were thousands of screaming children and stressed looking mothers. Every one was hyped up on sugar and my three charges dived straight into the mayhem and had a great day. When Hailey’s father arrived to pick her up I was ready for a gin and tonic or two! I don’t get paid as I am not allowed to work here but it helps keep me occupied. But her father kindly brings us a bottle of spirits or wine from time to time…

Tennis is great fun and I am getting my form back. Debby still beats me but I am working on it. We play at 8am. before the heat builds up and the storm clouds gather in the afternoon. Then back to the complex and an hour’s swimming to set me up for the day. David has bought a racket too and we are going to play when he is here. He is either in the office or on a plane, and apart from a daily swim he feels he needs more exercise.

One of the weekend activities is lilo racing in the pool.. sometimes as a solo or if you are really good friends as a double act. Debby and I are really quite good at it. It gets a little rowdy and people do not play by the rules so getting to the end of the pool is quite an achievement especially if the lilo sinks due to the number of boarders. You can end up with more than when you started.

Vicki and Kelly kindly left us their Barbecue kit, and David has been practicing on our friends. It is a little smokey but does the job and it reminds me of the days when we would go up to Ceres and have a braai with those delicious boerewors sausages. Happy memories. We keep on our balcony but it is light enough to carry downstairs into the central area where we can sit around the tables with friends and enjoy the food and company. Everyone brings something, a salad, wine, beer or dessert so nobody has to bear the cost of everything.

We decided that as we are going to be here for at least another six months, that rather than spend 100 dollars a month renting that we would buy our own furniture from a second hand store. We are pretty sure that we will be here until the end of 1986 at least and we could save 1000 dollars.  I went over yesterday and bought two matching settees, a six seater dining room set, a king-sized bed, two singles and a computer table for David to put in the spare bedroom rather than the dining room table. We have to move the machine every time we have someone over for supper so it makes sense.

Anyway, this should keep you busy until the next letter when I will be reporting on the Hawaiian Lua this weekend..

love from us both  Sally and David.

©Sally Cronin 2018