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.

©sallycronin2018

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