Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1985 – 1986 – Trash Can Punch and Sea World April 1986

My letters home from Houston Texas to my parents in the UK began to be a little more sporadic now as we got into the habit of weekly phone calls home. In this letter I share the pool party and our introduction to trash can punch.. and our trip to San Diego.

April 10th 1986

Dear M & D.

I hope you had a pleasant Easter and great to talk to you on the phone. Sorry it was so damp. I am not sure that I am looking forward to returning to wet winters and lukewarm summers. I do love the sunshine here.

The pool party was a huge success and there was an introduction to Trash Can Punch. A couple of us chopped up pounds of oranges, apples and pineapple and it was emptied into a black trash can (well scrubbed) and then half filled with fruit juice and ice. Then as people arrived at the pool they were invited to add a bottle of spirits or wine. As you can imagine this became very potent quickly in the heat, and it did not take long for the party to really kick off. People also bought food and a BBQ was on the go in the recreation area and just as well. I stuck to water after the first large cup full, but made the mistake of sucking a couple of pieces of orange when we got to the end of the mix at the end of the afternoon. They were well soused in booze! We all had a great time but Sunday was suspiciously quiet by the pool!

David left for Las Vegas on the Monday and then went on to San Francisco, getting to San Diego on Thursday. I flew out on Saturday morning very early arriving mid-morning and I must say I fell in love with the City right away. Sunshine of course, but also palm trees and it reminded me of Hawaii, but without the long flight.

I think San Diego makes a wonderful holiday destination as there was certainly plenty to see and do. The beaches are great for swimming and the scenery is breathtaking with rolling hills and lush plant life. As we were only there for three days we were selective about our sight-seeing and a complete day was needed for Sea World and San Diego Zoo, both of which were impressive, despite my dislike of seeing animals in cages.

I petted and fed a dolphin with some fish, and got really close to a killer whale and we watched one of the shows where the trainers were in the pool with them. A lot of water was splashed over the audience sat in the front rows, so quite pleased to be a lot further back. I would rather the dolphins and the other sea mammals were in the ocean but many of them were rescued or raised in captivity and would not survive in wild. But I have to say that from an educational perspective it was fascinating to be so close to these incredible animals.

We ate out at a couple of restaurants that were amazing including the Reuben E. Lee which is a replica paddle steamer which served seafood and steaks and then the Bali Hi which had wonderful Chinese food. Both restaurants are located on the islands in the bay with views of San Diego skyline and it made a fabulous backdrop to our meal.

One thing that is noticeable is the military and naval activity which is also reminiscent of Hawaii and we were given some pretty impressive aerial displays by naval jets on an exercise.

When I got back I took the next step in our plan to remain in the US after David’s contract is up in January, and opened a bank account of my own. The one drawback of being here is that you have to show your ID… which is my driving licence when you use cheques and the photo is appalling…. and I am stuck with it for another three years!

And a little bit of fun…I wrote a letter to the local paper as their movie critic had been very scathing about ‘Out of Africa’ and the fact that it had won so many Oscars. It is one of my favourite films so I gave him my opinion  and how disappointed I was in his review. I also mentioned that his photograph made him look very grumpy.. Lo and behold… they published the letter and his reply to it he agreed about the photo and they have changed it..

David is now in the final stages of training for his big race next Saturday and he has certainly worked very hard for it. I am sure he will do well. I am just off to play tennis with Debbie and with a run of good weather I should be able to get my hour swim each day for the next week.

Catch up with you on the phone over the weekend.

love from us both S & D…..

Thanks for dropping in today and if you would like to read more of the letters from January 1985.. you will find them here:

Smorgasbord Letters from America 1985 – 1986 – March 1986 – Pool Parties, lost puppies, New Furniture.

It is March 1986 and we are still exploring the options for us to stay in the United States when our contract ends in January 1987. The letters are now more or less in sync with the same dates 33 years ago.

March 18th 1986

Dear M & D.

Another St. Patrick’s Day over, we must have been the only two in Houston who didn’t attend the parade and celebrate it!  I hear they even turned the river flowing through San Antonio that we walked along with you last year, green. One of our friends who comes from New York said that around 40 million Americans have Irish ancestry…for a small country Ireland has managed to do what greater nations have failed to… infiltrate every continent. There were a contingent of Irish at the Alamo on both sides as there are some Mexican families with Irish surnames..

We are still looking at options should be stay here after David’s contract finishes in January 1987. The sticking point is still for me to get a visa because we would both have to work if we are to afford a house etc. David is still in talks with agencies and we have had an idea of what I might do…With my previous job with Savills in Norfolk, I am looking at what is needed to take the Real Estate exams here. Once we have an idea of which state we would like to live in, I will check that out. I would be interested to go through the course anyway to keep my brain active.

On the subject of houses, we have come up with a plan to save quite a bit of money. We currently pay rental for all the furniture in the apartment. We get a certain allowance from the company but that does not cover all the rental or the furniture. So I have been to a rental company that also sells used furniture to complexes who offer fully-furnished. We pay 200 dollars a month for the furniture and I have paid 500 dollars for everything needed to replace it. With 9 months left this means a saving of 1300 dollars that we can put towards our new home.. here or back in the UK. David’s company has confirmed that it will bring back all our belongings including my car and any furniture so either way we will get good use from it. We sold our house in Tring with a lot of the furniture included because we didn’t want to pay a lot of storage whilst we were away. So it will be useful. It is all high quality stuff and a fraction of the cost of buying brand new.

Sonia rang me so we could talk about Emma’s visit in the summer and we are looking at June for three weeks. We just need to confirm our whereabouts but she doesn’t have to book the flight until 21 days before. It will be lovely to see her and cannot believe she is now 15… Debby and I have some trips up our sleeves including a girl’s weekend to San Padre Island which is fabulous. We will rent a beach house for three days.

David has a lot of travel planned for the next three weeks with trips to Las Vegas and San Diego in the first week in April. I will send him off with ten dollars to put in the poker slot machines for me… but don’t expect to see any winnings back! And I will fly out to meet him in San Diego for the weekend as we have some air miles to redeem and I can get a bonus ticket for 50 dollars extra. I do love that west coast and we are looking forward to exploring the southern end of the highway.

Walter has a bunch of friends coming in next week for a few days and I am cleaning his carpet for him with a rented machine from the store. I don’t mind as he is very good about making sure we are okay. We are having two of his friends stay with us, there is a big party planned for their first night around the pool with a BBQ and water volleyball and another on the Sunday at his place. I don’t think there will be much time for sleep.

I am now playing water volley ball for the boys team… I am tall and having played netball am quite useful by the net. We sometimes play other apartment complex and I am not sure if I am the mascot or the ace up their sleeves…

We nearly got a dog…..yesterday I found a small puppy wandering around Kroger’s car park and I saw it nearly go under the wheels of a truck. I managed to coax it towards me and picked her up and brought her home. I rang the SPCA but they couldn’t take her last night so we decided to keep her or at least find her a good home.  I took her for a walk around the outside of the apartment complex which has some grass, and as we passed the family section some children ran up and called her name. Seems like she had got out of the window left open for her in the truck when they were shopping at Kroger’s so it had a happy ending. But both of us were a bit disappointed.

Anyway.. time to head over and clean a carpet… and get the guest bedroom ready for the visitors. Write again next week..

love from us both S&D…

You can read the previous letters from America dating back to January 1985 in this directory:

Thanks for dropping in and hope you enjoy our reasonably quiet week….Sally

Smorgasbord Letters from America – 1986 – Birthday party and new car.

It is February 1986, we are not sure if we will return to the UK and David has been talking to recruiters. It will depend on the visa situation, especially for me as I would also like to go out to work and my dependent’s visa did not allow me to do that. As I transcribe the handwritten letters that I sent my parents during the two years we were in the USA, I am also sifting through the photographs we took at the time. Thankfully I also manage to find better ones on sites such as Pixabay.. or YouTube.


14th February 1986

Dear M & D, Happy Valentine’s Day and it is a really big thing over here. Don’t think you could get away with a card Eric… roses, dinner and the full works would be required. Not sure I can drink any more at them moment after two days of celebrating.

I did the shopping for my birthday party the night before and brought home Chinese Takeaway. ‘W’ and Sutherland came over to share it and we ended up drinking two bottles of Kroger Champagne, spending half an hour in the hot tub and then it was decided I should end the evening with a swim in the freezing pool. The temperature in the day is not too bad but it certainly drops at night.

We spent yesterday preparing the food and getting set up for the party, not sure how we managed to fit 20 people in the apartment, but everyone seemed to get a glass and a plate of cheese etc.I had to use plastic plates and cups for the wine but nobody seemed to mind, and it certainly saved on the clearing and washing up.

David bought me a beautiful guitar so that I can get back to writing my songs and we went out car hunting. So excited as I will finally get my own car. With the prospect of us staying it seems like a good idea, and if we don’t we will ship it home. We went to the Mercury garage and I fell in love with a dark grey Mercury Topaz, automatic and as a demo model for car shows it has very low mileage and is at a very good price. This will mean a big difference to me as I only get the use of David’s car when he is traveling.  I pick it up next week.

I got some lovely presents from our friends including a rubber tree plant (I keep singing Ole Blue Eyes song) an ivy plant for the patio and Bill and Silvia bought me a cowhide wallet. Before we all got too tipsy we headed off to Johnny B. Dalton’s for dancing. I have not yet mastered the Texas two-step but I love line-dancing, sorry we did not get to take you when you were here.

You were mentioned often at the party and everyone sends their love including Debbie, hoping that you might make it back again. I have spoken to Sonia and it looks like Emma will be coming out in the summer for three weeks and it will be fun to organise some trips whilst she is here. Hard to believe she is 15 years old. Debbie and I have put our heads together and thought we might take her down to South Padre for a girls long weekend, and some of the others have suggested a theme park too.

We are going on a road trip next week, it is business so will be using David’s car not my new one sadly. We head out Friday and drive to Shreveport to see Vicki and Kelly and really looking forward to seeing how much the baby has grown. We are then heading to Atlanta where we will catch up with Vicki’s parents who we got along with so well when we arrived, and David has meetings on Monday and Tuesday. We will drive straight back on Wednesday. It is quite a round trip with about 250 miles to Shreveport and then 600 miles to Atlanta with the return trip of 800 miles to Houston.

We share the driving and the roads are so straight that you can put on cruise control at the maximum speed and it flies by. You couldn’t do that in the UK even on the motorways as they are always so congested.

I will write to you after our trip and I have sent Diana a birthday card, enjoy your lunch with her on the 18th and love to everyone.

S & D.

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoyed the letter. You can find the other Letters from America HERE