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

 

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Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985 – 1987 – Hawaiian Luau and Trash Can Punch


It is now the first week in August 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 2018

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

Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985 -1987 – Birthday, New Car, Galverston and Houston Zoo


Welcome to the next post in the series Letters from America 1985 -1987. Last week we went on a road trip to Dallas and an encounter with a creepy crawler common in Texas… and another post on our Driving Test.

You can find previous posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/

My first birthday in Houston was my 32nd on February 13th and a lot of things came together around that time as we found both our new home for the next two years in the Chancellor apartments, Parramatta Lane. Here is my letter to my parents announcing the good news and sharing a photo of our new car on February 23rd 1985.

Dear M and D,

Just dropped David off at the airport on his way to Kansas, We now have a new car, a Mercury Marquis which is a 3.8 litre version of the Granada and is pretty swish. Very easy to drive and has all the bells and whistles including the cruise control that I told you about in one of my earlier letters. I wondered why you could see drivers on the freeway with their bare feet hanging out the window.. now I know!

As you can see from the above address we have found an apartment. We move in on Saturday. It has two bedrooms with bathrooms en-suite and a large living come dining area. It also has a balcony overlooking a wooded exercise area with the pool opposite. It is on the second floor and quiet.. Having been in this temporary apartment for the last month right next to the children’s pool and play area, it made us realise that it might be a better position away from the public parts of the complex.

This place sounds quite swinging (in the nicest possible way). They are having a Hawaiian Evening soon which made David’s eyes light up!!! However, he is fairly resigned to the prospect, as it will give us a chance to meet our new neighbours. (I will have to go out and buy him a brightly patterned cotton shirt to wear.. that will really make his eyes light up!)

With George Washington’s birthday yesterday, we had a nice long weekend. On Saturday we went exploring up to Lake Conroe, north of Houston. We discovered a wealthy resort on the lake with enormous houses and a marina. We would have given our eye teeth to rent one. They are about 3,000 a month or more but fabulous.

Sunday we went to Galverston, south of the city, on the coast. We walked miles along the promenade, full of machos on rollerskates! It is obviously the pick up place…. We had lunch in a hotel on a pier over the Gulf of Mexico, I had a shrimp platter which turned out to be huge king prawns. Nothing like the tiny things we call shrimp in England.

Yesterday we went to Houston Zoo, the sun shone and it was about 75 degrees and beautiful. It is free to go in and we spent three hours walking around the park and were very impressed with it all. We followed this with a belated birthday dinner and after a very hectic weekend I was in bed by 10.30. No stamina at 32.

 

David is away now until Friday but has left me the new car as I need to buy things for the apartment. It is unfurnished, but when we walked around their show flat, I mentioned that I would like identical set up for our apartment. They are being very obliging and transferring it all across to our new place. Normally it would cost 180 dollars a month to rent the furniture but I managed to negotiate it to 105 dollars. I am obviously getting the hang of things!

Thank you for the photographs and everyone looks in good spirits (whisky and water no doubt) Once we are moved in I will invest in some photo frames.

Will write again in a week. Love from us both as always.

©sallycronin 2018

I hope you have enjoyed my trip down memory lane…….I would love your feedback as always. Thanks Sally

 

 

Smorgasbord Letters From America Extra 1985-1987 – The Driving Test Texas Style by Sally Cronin


At the same time as I was writing my weekly letters home to my parents, I was also writing articles on various events that took place or about places we visited. I wrote this piece about the dreaded driving test that we had to take to enable us to buy a car and get insured. We both had full licences from the UK but had to give this up and obtain a Texas licence… This was 35 years ago so both the test and some of the then rules of the road are likely to have been changed. One of these was a written test which was not introduced into the UK until some years later.

The Driving Test Texas Style by Sally Cronin

From the date of arrival you have 30 days to apply for and take a Texas driving test. Within a week we had obtained a copy of the Texas Driver’s Handbook from the Department of Public Safety. Very similar to our own Highway code, but differing in several important areas such as in road signage and right of way when driving. Several pages are devoted to the various responsibilities, and penalties for failure to comply, and at first glance they were intimidating. We needed to be totally sure of all the different elements as we would be completing a written test which we had to pass before undergoing a practical examination.

Signs and signals are basically the same as in the UK, but one thing to watch very carefully , is that it is legal in Texas, and most other states, to pass on the inside, and to even turn right at a red traffic light if your road is clear. In the UK it was illegal to undertake, and whilst you still would check before moving into an inside lane, in the US you needed to be almost paranoid in attention to your rear and side mirrors.

At least we had enjoyed three weeks of driving practice in David’s temporary company car before the test, and we spent considerable time doing our homework. Both of us had driven for several years and were only too aware of our bad habits!.

The morning of our test we drove to the Department of Public Safety with some trepidation, unsure of what to expect. We had already filled in our application forms and stood in a long line waiting to be seen. An eye test is conducted at the counter and both thumb prints taken. You are then given two sheets of questions and told to sit in the examination area. Thank goodness we had done our homework, although the questions all had multi-choice answers, which meant you had one in four chances of getting it right, there was no room for guesswork. After completing the questions it was back in line and the papers were marked.

Thankfully we both passed having asked more than 14 questions correctly, but were told that they were booked up for the day on the practical tests and we needed to come back in the morning for ours.

Having had another nervous night’s sleep, we presented ourselves at the DPS as soon as they opened at 7.30 a.m, to ensure being first in line. Our tests were booked one after the other from 8.00 am. although it was 8.30am. before David was called over by a police officer.

When David returned 20 minutes, later I was waiting by the kerb for my turn, and as he got out of the car he shook his head at me. He had failed, but he didn’t have time to say anything, as the trooper indicated for me to take the driving seat. I was already nervous, not knowing quite what to expect and quite frankly, slightly intimidated by an armed policeman sitting in the passenger seat. He introduced himself as Officer Rodriquez and told me to drive to the rear of the building, where I was told to reverse into a coned off parking space and parallel park. This was almost a disaster as I was so nervous; you could have got a taxi to the kerb.

I was then directed to leave the car park and proceed onto the main road. As in England, signals and checking mirrors are of vital importance, and I made sure to look as if I was aware of both.The rest of the test was conducted around a nearby housing estate where the speed limit was 20 miles per hour. Several right and left turns were involved and the officer told me to “Stop”…..which I did immediately having checked my rear view mirror and slamming the breaks on. Officer Rodriquez peeled himself off the dashboard and turned to glare at me…. “As smoothly as possible”  Clearly not the Emergency Stop that I had expected as part of the test then!

He then made me reverse up the road for 50 feet and around a corner until told to stop. I had convinced myself that I had now failed after nearly sending him through the windshield; the rest of the test passed in a blur. We finally arrived back at the test centre and parked at the back of the building. Officer Rodriquez was rapidly writing on a pad which he then handed across the seats for me to sign. Then amazingly told me to go and pick up my temporary licence. He got out and left me holding the portion of the test and shaking from head to toe. The maximum points that can be deducted before failing the test was 30 and I had 26.

After locking up the car I went into join David in the centre where he had booked a retest for the next day. Apparently he had failed by going 22 miles per hour in the 20 mile zone.  I took my test results to the counter and had my photograph taken which was horrendous as you can imagine; I have to live with that for the next two years on my licence as a reminder of the day. Not so bad when you only have to show occasionally, but it is now my official form of identification and I have to show every time I write a cheque in every store I shop in.

David returned the next morning and passed his test thankfully, but the amusing thing was that it turned out I was one of a very few that had passed the day before; most in line commented that they hoped they did not have Officer Rodriquez again!

©Sally Cronin 1985

I have to say that my terror of driving passed, but my fear of bumping into Officer Rodriquez when out in the car, meant that I was a law abiding citizen throughout the next two years. I eventually clocked up over 50,000 miles as we explored both coasts and across central America on our adventures.

I hope you have enjoyed this adventure and look forward to your feedback.

You can read my Letters from America in this directory:https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/