Smorgasbord – Letters from America 1985-1987 -My parents arrive – Part One – Stetsons, Yellow Roses, Pappasito’s and Chi Chis 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.

My parents arrive – Part One – Stetsons, Yellow Roses, Pappasito’s and Chi Chis

It is now early November 1985 and we had not seen my parents since Christmas when they stayed with us in our home in Tring, Hertfordshire. Those of you who have been following my weekly letters home to them, will know that we had been planning for their trip for months, and on Thursday 7th November they landed in Houston.

I was waiting for them as planned as they came out of immigration and customs, and there was quite a bit of kissing and hugging before I gave them their welcoming gifts. For my mother a bunch of yellow roses, which whilst not the state flower of Texas (The Bluebonnet) have historical significance in this part of the world. The real story behind the song The Yellow Rose of Texas is a fascinating tale of subterfuge and the exploitation of a powerful man’s weaknesses. There have been many efforts to debunk the story that circulated about the part a certain Miss West played in the defeat of Santa Ana. However, I prefer the romantic and daring version to the ‘historical’ account. The first words out of my mother’s mouth when receiving the bouquet, was to announce that she was now officially a Yellow Rose of Texas. This resulted in a little history lesson in the car back to our apartment, about the inadvisability of announcing that to any Texans that she might meet.

To my father, who had been bald as long as I could remember, I presented a straw stetson to protect his pate from the still hot Texan sunshine and he wore it everywhere. It returned to the UK at the end of his holiday and over the years, at any sign of sunshine he would wear his stetson. He was a life-long Western film lover and was one of the reasons I bought that style of hat instead of a baseball cap. Just one of the cowboy themed surprises for their visit.

Here is a picture of them both by the swimming pool, and if you look at my mother, you will see that she had liberated by own red straw stetson that I am wearing in the header photo.. Somehow I managed to hang on to that when she returned home.

I was well aware of how tiring that transatlantic flight could be, combined with the usual stress of travel. However, both my parents were used to long haul flights and sea journeys, as we had lived abroad all through my childhood in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) Malta and South Africa.  I also knew that both of them enjoyed a party, and after a day to recover, on the Friday night we invited some of our friends over to meet them.

Over the next couple of days we stayed close to home with with lunches out, including to our favourite Mexican Cantina; Pappasito’s on I-45 about ten minutes from the house. We were regulars there by this time and were able to point my parents in the direction of the tastiest dishes on the menu.

Whilst we certainly enjoyed indulging in shared appetizers when we visited the cantina with our friends, we were not sure how my parents would find their first experience of Mexican cuisine. We need not have worried as both tucked in and declared the Quesadillas and the Fajitas to be fabulous. In fact my father took home a cookery book with him so that he could recreate the dishes for friends.

The Margaritas were not so popular, but my father who was not much of a drinker, discovered the joys of American beer whilst my mother settled for some white wine. We experimented with cocktails for them both over the next week or so, discovering my father’s achilles heel…Chi Chis…made with vodka, coconut cream and pineapple juice, which played straight to his sweet tooth. After David had mixed a batch and given my father a glass, he emptied quite quickly and eagerly accepted a second. David told him that it had vodka in it, but my father shrugged that off and consumed enthusiastically. It was the first time I can remember my father being slightly tiddly, and for the rest of his visit he would enjoy at least one chi chi before dinner or ordered when we were out. It was lovely to see his face as he took that first sip through the straw as the sweetness hit his taste buds, and it is one of those memories you cherish.

I inherited the shopping gene from my mother, and whilst my father relaxed with a book and David was at work, I would pop out for a couple of hours with her to one of the big malls. Thankfully my father had the good sense to leave some luggage space for the expected purchases, and my mother went home with a several skirts, tops and dresses and pairs of shoes, none of which she really needed!. To be fair they came from the discount mall where you could buy top of the range fashion at a fraction of the price.

Our friends were very kind and invited us out to lunch that first week, or over for drinks in the evening. By the end of the first week my mother and father felt quite at home and ready for more ambitious adventures.

David was going to take the second week of their visit off from work so that we could go further afield. We also planned to have everyone over for our wedding anniversary party on the Friday night 15th November, before heading out to San Antonio for a two day visit on the Sunday. Apart from wanting to show my parents this lovely city, it was an opportunity to give my father a chance to fulfill one of his boyhood dreams, to visit The Alamo.

Little did we know that events on the night of the party would nearly scupper that plan!

©Sally Cronin

I hope you have enjoyed this first part of Mollie and Eric in Houston… and will tune in again next week. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Letters from America 1985-1987 – July 1985 – Hanna Barbara Land, BBQ and Lilo races 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.

July 1985 – 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 2020

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 -July 4th 1985 Celebrations, Mechanical Bulls and Tennis


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.

July 4th 1985 Celebrations, Mechanical Bulls and Tennis

6th July 1985

Dear M & D,

Thank you for your letter that arrived today. It’s lovely that you can come out earlier in November which is only 4 months away. Hopefully you will be able to read this letter without trying to decipher my handwriting. David has bought me this typewriter so that I can get on with my short stories and hopefully get them published one day. To be honest I cannot see that happening. It is so difficult to get a publisher to look at anything unless you are Wilbur Smith or Harold Robbins, but who knows what the future holds. In the meantime I shall put it to good use by writing to you.

This week we went over to the Greenspoint Mall to get a good view of the 4th July Firework display. I know that they were very pleased to kick us Brits out 200 years ago, but we didn’t see why we should not sneak into the celebrations and make the most of it.

We started off at T.G.I Friday’s… which was the first restaurant we ate in when we arrived here in Houston. We enjoyed a margarita before tucking into some jumbo shrimp (you will love them when you visit…. think size of half a lobster and spicy dipping sauce). We then sat on the bonnet of the car and watched the display… fabulous and must have cost a fortune! I am sure there was more explosives used in the space of an hour than in the entire war effort to get rid of us in 1783.

I have just realised that you will be here for our anniversary which is fantastic. Perhaps we will take you down to the Cowboy bar Gilly’s and get you to ride the mechanical bull, you’ll like that. Not a lot!! However, it is fun to watch everyone else riding it. I lasted 8 seconds last time before being thrown, and I almost won a belt buckle. I must keep practicing. You never know when that sort of skill will come in useful!

I have been baby-sitting for the last week for a young couple who both work and they cannot get their little girl into kindergarten until next week. It is only for three hours a day whilst the mother is at work, and it has been fun. Tracy is a very sweet little girl and loves to have stories read to her. Vicki recommended me to them and they wanted to pay me but I am just happy to help out. I am finding that they have a very strong family and community spirit here which is great and I know if I needed some help it would be offered without asking. Anyway, it is an excuse to make up some more children’s stories.

Vicki and her baby Megan are doing really well and plan to move next week. I shall really miss them and Vicki’s company. But she has introduced me to a lot of people who are very friendly and that will help. Also my English friend Pamela gets back from her trip home next week and we will be back to our weekly lunches out. I must say that everyone that I meet is so friendly and we keep getting invitations for meals etc. We rarely have a weekend when we are not heading out to someone else’s apartment or several people are coming around here for dinner.

I am playing tennis now with Debbie after she has finished teaching for the day, and I should soon have a bikini body. The size of the bikini is to be determined!

I am not sure what the weather is going to be like in November but I will check it that out and let you know what clothes you should bring with you. David might be away for a couple of nights whilst you are here, but will leave me the car so that we can go out and explore anyway. If it is raining we can always hit the movies. The cinemas here are massive with much bigger and more comfortable seats than back in England. Hopefully there might be a good western.

David is off to Kansas again this week until Thursday while I carry on canvassing the travel agents for our holiday in September. We both really want to go to Hawaii and with David’s airline loyalty points we should be able to afford to go. We can get some practice in here in the next couple of weeks as the complex is holding a Hawaiian luau, and we are going to be dressing up in grass skirts and lei’s… that’s just the boys!! They have mentioned something about Trash Can Punch… I will have to investigate that.

I will take some photos and tell you about it next week..

Anyway love from us both… take care and look after your strength. You will need it for November. All our love Sally and David xx

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 – June 1985 – Thunderstorms Texas style, Pool Antics and Birth Coach on Standby 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.

We are now in to our first June and really hot weather in Texas. The swimming pool was the focus of the complex and we would meet a lot of wonderful people down there over the next two years. Many of the residents worked so it would be early evening or the weekends when we would gather and plastic cups of beer or wine were in plentiful supply.

I was feeling a little homesick and also trying to find new things to learn to occupy my mind. I had worked for a living since 14 so almost 20 years, at first after school and weekends and then full time after college from 17.. I was not used to being idle.

June 12th 1985

Dear M & D,

Thank you for the letter and photographs, Emma is looking very grown up and so like Sonia. I was delighted to see the physical evidence of your first caravan weekend. Are they going to put up a plaque above the door saying “Mollie Coleman Slept Here!”. You certainly have been having a busy time of it and I hope the book exhibition was a success.

David is away this week, Kansas, Washington and Minneapolis. He is in Washington trying to get official government approval for his cable spec. Once obtained it will make it a lot easier to get potential customers interested. He has just bought a computer for business use, which will make his work easier. He have been involved in these machines since the mid 1970s and it is amazing the difference in size from those he used to work with. He spent the weekend uploading programmes to it and then put a wrong piece of data in that wiped the lot and he had to start all over again! There was quite a lot of profanity issuing from the spare bedroom, so I took myself off to the pool!  Luckily these days they are more portable so he has now taken to the office and will no doubt be the envy of his less technically minded colleagues who still use paper the whole time.

My friend Vicki is almost due and her mother arrived yesterday and her husband has taken time off work. My job as assistant coach looks redundant at the moment but I am on hand if needed! The baby would certainly be arriving to unpredictable weather. We had a three hour thunderstorm last night and it was in true Texas style. Nothing like our hour of rumbling in the skies with the odd flash of lightening. This was crashing, boulder rolling and forked lightening for the entire time. I have never seen lightening like it and watched from our balcony as it hit between the trees in our central garden area with an almighty crack.

The rain is torrential and having been caught out in one last week it is very frightening. The windshield wipers could not keep up with the amount of water even on the fast speed and in the end, like everyone else I had to pull over and wait for it to subside. The roads were also dangerous to drive on as it was easy to water plane across into oncoming traffic.

I had hoped that it might have cleared the air which has become very humid and suffocating. But no such luck.

I do still feel a little homesick but we are getting used to doing things in a slightly different way. I do miss not being able to walk out the gate and find pavements that I can walk around the block on or to the shops. You have to drive about a mile up the road to a row of shopping malls and restaurants to find a footpath and I think if we decide to move again later this year, we will bear that in mind.

We do love the pool because most of the time we have it to ourselves. Especially early in the morning. We both enjoy doing laps and that is not always easy in the late afternoons and early evenings as most people bring down their airbeds and have a quick dip then hop on and float around for an hour.  Still we have the best of both worlds and I am afraid that I too have succumbed by buying myself a rather substantial lilo… with a sit up bit at the end and cup holders… I must say it is rather relaxing when everyone is at work to float around with a cold drink, reading a good book and popping in to cool off from time to time.

I am looking forward to seeing you trying to get on and off gracefully when you are over later in the year… I will be taking pictures!

Love to you both Sally and David.

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 – May 1985 – Las Vegas, Hoover Dam and Los Angeles 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.

Last week I shared our adventures on our arrival in Los Angeles for our first visit

We decided to spend another couple of days after the convention to do some exploring but of course it was on our dime..

24th May 1985

Dear M & D,

I really don’t think that I have woken up properly yet! Last night was showtime. We booked for dinner and a show here in the Hilton as it looked very spectacular. We were all seated by 6.30pm. (1,200 of us) and it felt a bit of a squeeze as we were crammed onto the end of a table for ten people, right out in the aisle. The most spectacular thing I felt was the occasional backhander from the waiters and they whizzed by and my neighbour’s elbow in my ribs. After about five minutes of maintaining an attitude of ‘Oh well, we are lucky to be here at all!!’ David did a wonderful Mollie move (if you will pardon the expression) . He upped and walked over to the Maitre D’, and within minutes we were esconced in a private booth, with an excellent view of the stage, all to ourselves. The power of a small piece of paper slipped into an open palm.

The majority of the people at the show were on a package tour and virtually eating off each other’s plates, which to be fair seemed to be part of the fun. However, after an excellent dinner, the show began and it had everything including elephants, horses, dancing, beautiful costumes and topless dancers. It really was very colourful and another experience to be stored away in the memory banks.

We finished up the evening in the casino lounge, listening to a very talented Japanese rock band, all girls and another late night or early morning as it was well after 2 a.m before we got to bed.

25th May..

David is now officially off duty and so we have spent the day exploring the strip. We have now visited all the major casinos, and have been very strong willed, the temptation to throw a few more dimes into the slot machines is tough to ignore. Especially when you see hundreds of people with buckets of coins wandering around checking out the slot machines to see where the next jackpot might erupt. You do get free drinks while you are gambling even if you are only playing the nickle slots! If you lose $4 it is only the same as buying a Gin and Tonic so we feel we have not really lost anything.

We also moved to our motel today. What a contrast from our gaming suite, but I have to say the king size bed is actually more comfortable than the pull out sofa we had at the Hilton.

26th May.

We went to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead today. It is a holiday weekend and the place was crawling with people. We did however manage to get a good look at the dam, which is very impressive. The temperature was around 95 degrees and you have to keep plenty of fluids in the car, particularly since some of the roads cross the desert. We spent all day driving around Lake Mead and found a place that hired houseboats and they look amazing. We might think about coming back and booking one for a week later in the year.

Our overall impression of Las Vegas is that it is a wonderful escape from reality for two or three days. Neither of us is used to being in such a people packed environment and whilst fascinating to be part of, we are looking forward to going to Los Angeles tomorrow.

27th May

We arrived in L.A at about 11 in the morning and decided to drive down to Long Beach and visit Marine World where the famous dolphin flipper resides. It was certainly good value. We had a voucher giving us $3 off and so for $8 each we spent the whole day there. They have a steady stream of shows in the pools including shark, dolphin, killer whale and seals. You can also get up quite close to some of the tanks and I actually chatted to friendly killer whale (young one).

They also had a human diving team that did a spectacular display for nearly 30 minutes from a series of high boards. Must have taken some stamina and I expect there were some Olympic hopefuls amongst them.

The highlight was buying some fish and feeding a dolphin… so gentle

It must be very difficult to train them and whilst we appreciated the exhibitions, and even the soaking we got when the adult killer wales were in action, it was quite sad to see such beautiful creatures trapped in such small and unnatural enclosures.

We continued down the coast seeing as much as possible before checking in to our motel around 8.30pm. It was more of a luxury hotel and really comfortable and had a Chinese restaurant attached where we ate dinner.

On Monday we went to Disneyland. You really need two day to visit all the attractions. It is basically an amusement park and by midday all the rides have a queue a mile long. We went on half a dozen and frightened ourselves half to death.. A couple I was hoping I would be too short to be allowed on…. some were so scary they had a poster saying that those with heart conditions should not do the ride… if you didn’t have one before you screamed around the circuit.. you probably did afterwards!

We were very impressed by the stage productions and the creation of various worlds around the park including Fantasyland, Tomorrowland etc. Once you have paid your entrance all the attractions are free, but by the time you buy lunch, ice-creams and cold drinks it mounts up, especially if you are a family with several children.  We were worn out by mid-afternoon and again so many people. However, the whole trip has added up to an unforgettable week.

We are now back home again and our own bed has never looked so inviting and I think we might be in a state of recovery for some time, bearing in mind the late nights and the traipsing about we have done. I hope that I have managed to get some of the atmosphere across, but it really needs to be seen to be believed!

David is off to Dallas tomorrow so will sign off for now.. we will probably talk on the phone before you get this.. love from us both Sally and David x

©Sally Cronin Images 2018

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

Smorgasbord Letters from America 1985 – 1987 – June 1986 – Kittens, sit ups and water volley ball!


By this time in our time in America, I was speaking to my parents much more frequently by telephone each week, but I was still writing two or three letters a month.

19th June 1986.

Hi M & D,

Thank you for your letter which arrived this morning and so pleased you are happy with the new arrangement to the flat.. it sounds great and looking forward to seeing them on my trip home in September.

This has been a busy week with one thing and another including an upping of my training. If I am going to keep up with a 15 year old for three weeks next month, I need to get in shape. I mentioned that I would like a six pack to my trainer at the gym and she promptly had me on the floor doing 300 half sit ups.. I actually meant a pack of beer!  I also make the mistake of saying I would love a 36 – 26 – 37 figure but I reckon I will have to steal one.. In any case I have hit my latest target and here I am with a little way to go yet.

Earlier in the week David had some business visitors and we took them to Pappasitos of course, and they were intrigued when the guitarist came over and asked after Mollie! You made a lasting impression there.

As you know Sutherland went missing several weeks ago and despite some sightings he has not returned. Walter was obviously devastated but he has gone out and got a kitten. Very sweet and its name is Farley, after the author Farley Mowat. He is coming over to us regularly when Walt is on a long shift and we have been training him to a cat carrier so that we can take him back and forth safely.. He loves it but I am missing one table mat and two clothes hangers.

David seems to be coping with his cat allergy which is just as well as Farley follows him everywhere and is on his lap at the first chance. When David is at work, I find myself fighting for the pen when writing, and oops here it goes again. Farley will not be able to roam as Sutherland did, as we don’t want to lose another.

Sonia and I have been in touch with instructions for Emma on arrival at Houston, but she will also have an escort from the plane through customs and immigration. I am sure that Emma is more than capable to handling it herself but want to make it as stress free as possible. I have booked the beach house in South Padre for four days and Debbie and I will enjoy the break too. We get back the day before she travels home so she should be lovely and tanned.

We also have tickets for a James Taylor concert

Last Sunday there was a match with another apartment complex water volley ball team and I was playing for the boys.. this week at least the injuries were fairly minor, one bloody nose, 1 mild concussion, and one black eye (mine). One of the members of the opposing team spiked the ball across the net onto my face, it bounced off and one of my teammates hit it back and we won the point. Some justice after all. We played for four hours and I was wiped out but I do enjoy and it is great exercise. A little make-up around the eye should conceal the bruise. David was not impressed and suggested I might play for the girls team instead… I pointed out that they can be even more vicious!

Tomorrow Debbie is intelligence testing me at Sam Houston University in front of her professor. She is taking a summer class towards her private counselling licence, and it should be enlightening. I am not sure that I want her to tell  me the results. She is a great friend and I shall miss her very much if we have to leave here next January.

A week on Saturday we are going to New Braunfels near San Antonio and are renting rafts to float down the Guadalupe River (including the rapids). We have two condos with eight in each and as David is in Austin until Friday, he will drive to meet us. Apparently it is another of those experiences we need to get in before we leave Texas. I am sure that they make half of this up just to see us (me) petrified.

I will give you a full report if I survive…

I hope this has been more legible than usual, having been typed on the word processor on David’s new computer. Much as I have loved being here in Texas and taking full advantage of the freedom to travel around America and enjoy days in the sun, I am ready to go back to work. I have not been out of work since I began that part time job at weekends and holidays when I was 14. I intend to get as familiar as possible with David’s machine so that I can be up to date with new technology if we come home next year. If we do stay it will be on a different basis and I will have a visa that enables me to work, and being able to understand computers will be great.

Anyway.. before that more fun to come and I intend to take full advantage of the opportunity….take care and love from us both.

S & D.

©Sally Cronin

If you would like to read any of the other letters from the two years we lived in Texas and our travels you can find them in this folder: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/

Thanks for dropping in and your feedback is always welcome.. Sally.

 

 

Letters from America – 1985- 1987 – My Parent’s visit – The Alamo and Natural Bridge Caverns.


After the drama of the aftermath of our anniversary party Fire ants and nearly lights out…we headed to San Antonio for a visit specifically for my father.

My parents enjoyed going to the cinema and they passed their love of movies on to us. My mother was more into romantic dramas, and my father loved thrillers and westerns, so we got introduced to a great mix. My first real memory of going to the cinema was my fifth birthday, which was in February and usually cold and wet. My mother told me we would catch the bus and go to Portsmouth and go to the beach. I think she actually had a day’s shopping planned at the then Handley’s (now Debenhams) department store. However, it tipped down with rain and instead she took me to Fareham, our nearest town to the cinema.

I can remember the film vividly, even if I did not understand a thing about it. The Key was set in 1941 and starred Sophia Loren, William Holden and Trevor Howard. I remember wartime action at sea, and also Trevor Howard banging on the door to Sophia Loren’s apartment and shouting loudly. I never did like him as an actor from then on!  Following this, during our time in South Africa from the age of 10 to 12, my father, in addition to his other duties at HMS. Afrikander, was film officer. This meant that my brother and I would go to all the Saturday morning children’s movies (Lassie etc), and he would also bring home a projector and the latest film doing the rounds to bases and ships. It was usually either a musical or western and would be the after dinner entertainment for my parents and their friends. I would sneak up the corridor and sit cross legged outside the door to the lounge which was left slightly open to allow the cigarette smoke to dissipate! If someone got up to visit the bathroom I would scuttle back down to my bedroom and then resume my position when safe to do so. This meant I watched a lot of films, but missed chunks!

Later on back in  England Saturday afternoons were reserved for my father to watch a football match on television. This clashed with the musical or Hollywood epic on BBC 2 that my mother wanted to watch. We would all settle down to watch the football, with my mother and I nonchalantly sat on the sofa. About ten minutes into the football match, my father who had enjoyed his steamed steak and kidney pudding and apple crumble with custard, would drop off in a post carbohydrate slumber, snoring away happily in his recliner. With that my mother would give me a nudge, and I would dash across to the television, switching it to BBC2 and the musical (no remotes in those days). A sign that my father was stirring, was usually indicated by a change in the snoring tempo. My mother would nudge me again and I would dash across and turn the TV back to the football. It was a lucky day when we got to watch most of a musical, and I would turn back the television to the end of the match, a few minutes before my father woke up and remarked what a great game it had been!

This was unless there was a Western showing on BBC2 instead, particularly if it had John Wayne, in which case my father would forgo the football and watch the film instead, remarkably staying awake for the entire movie. His passion for cowboy films included the film The Alamo released in 1960, produced, directed and starring John Wayne (his idol). We must have seen that film ten times, and I knew that taking my father to the actual Alamo would be very special for him. We kept our destination a surprise and just told my parents to pack for a night away in a hotel.  Once he saw the sign posts to San Antonio he cottoned on to our surprise and was thrilled by the prospect of visiting the museum. They were also blown away by the Marriott with its magnificent atrium with part of the river diverted through the foyer. A stunning location and I am sure equally so today.

When we visited the The Alamo museum in 1985 it was not as extensive as it is now, and I do recommend that you take a look at their website and try and time your trip to when they have one of their re-enactment weekends.

However, we spent two hours there with my parents and it was extraordinary for me to see the look of wonder on my father’s face as he stood in front of the museum for the first time and during his slow and studied tour of the exhibits . Over dinner that night in one of the Mexican restaurants along the river walk, he could not stop talking about it, and seeing his animation and delight was such a treat for us. It was also their first introduction to Mariachi music and seeing their enjoyment still makes me smile 33 years later.

On the way back from San Antonio on the Tuesday we stopped off at the Natural Bridge Caverns 30 miles north of the centre of the city. My mother was a bit claustrophobic (well a lot) and had no wish to go underground. But my father was definitely up for it, so we left Mollie at the coffee shop (I think it was not very big at the time unlike today) and we went into the bowels of the earth.

Amazing experience and one I can recommend for all the family. I seem to remember it being pretty basic then but it has been expanded and is now well lit and offers a great many more experiences and tours.

Not sure I have this photograph the right way up.. I am sure someone will tell me!!

Thanks for coming along on this trip down memory lane.. next week we head to the coast during the last week of my parent’s stay.

You can find the other posts in this series here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/

 

 

Smorgasbord Letters from America 1985-1987 – July 4th Celebrations, Mechanical Bulls and Tennis


We lived in Houston Texas from January 1985 to January 1986 and most weeks I wrote home to my parents about our adventures. We traveled extensively during those two years including to Hawaii as we want to make the most of our time there. We have just celebrated our first July 4th.

6th July 1985

Dear M & D,

Thank you for your letter that arrived today. It’s lovely that you can come out earlier in November which is only 4 months away. Hopefully you will be able to read this letter without trying to decipher my handwriting. David has bought me this typewriter so that I can get on with my short stories and hopefully get them published one day. To be honest I cannot see that happening. It is so difficult to get a publisher to look at anything unless you are Wilbur Smith or Harold Robbins, but who knows what the future holds. In the meantime I shall put it to good use by writing to you.

This week we went over to the Greenspoint Mall to get a good view of the 4th July Firework display. I know that they were very pleased to kick us Brits out 200 years ago, but we didn’t see why we should not sneak into the celebrations and make the most of it. We started off at T.G.I Friday’s… which was the first restaurant we ate in when we arrived here in Houston. We enjoyed a margarita before tucking into some jumbo shrimp (you will love them when you visit…. think size of half a lobster and spicy dipping sauce). We then sat on the bonnet of the car and watched the display… fabulous and must have cost a fortune! I am sure there was more explosives used in the space of an hour than in the entire war effort to get rid of us in 1783.

I have just realised that you will be here for our anniversary which is fantastic. Perhaps we will take you down to the Cowboy bar Gilly’s and get you to ride the mechanical bull, you’ll like that. Not a lot!! However, it is fun to watch everyone else riding it. I lasted 8 seconds last time before being thrown, and I almost won a belt buckle. I must keep practicing. You never know when that sort of skill will come in useful!

I have been baby-sitting for the last week for a young couple who both work and they cannot get their little girl into kindergarten until next week. It is only for three hours a day whilst the mother is at work, and it has been fun. Tracy is a very sweet little girl and loves to have stories read to her. Vicki recommended me to them and they wanted to pay me but I am just happy to help out. I am finding that they have a very strong family and community spirit here which is great and I know if I needed some help it would be offered without asking. Anyway, it is an excuse to make up some more children’s stories.

Vicki and her baby Megan are doing really well and plan to move next week. I shall really miss them and Vicki’s company. But she has introduced me to a lot of people who are very friendly and that will help. Also my English friend Pamela gets back from her trip home next week and we will be back to our weekly lunches out. I must say that everyone that I meet is so friendly and we keep getting invitations for meals etc. We rarely have a weekend when we are not heading out to someone else’s apartment or several people are coming around here for dinner. I am playing tennis now with Debbie after she has finished teaching for the day, and I should soon have a bikini body. The size of the bikini is to be determined!

I am not sure what the weather is going to be like in November but I will check it that out and let you know what clothes you should bring with you. David might be away for a couple of nights whilst you are here, but will leave me the car so that we can go out and explore anyway. If it is raining we can always hit the movies. The cinemas here are massive with much bigger and more comfortable seats than back in England. Hopefully there might be a good western.

David is off to Kansas again this week until Thursday while I carry on canvassing the travel agents for our holiday in September. We both really want to go to Hawaii and with David’s airline loyalty points we should be able to afford to go. We can get some practice in here in the next couple of weeks as the complex is holding a Hawaiian luau, and we are going to be dressing up in grass skirts and lei’s… that’s just the boys!!  They have mentioned something about Trash Can Punch… I will have to investigate that.

Anyway love from us both… take care and look after your strength. You will need it for November.  All our love Sally and David xx

You will find the other Letters from America: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/

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

 

Smorgasbord – Letters from America – 1985 -1987 – Thunderstorms Texas style, Pool Antics and Birth Coach on Standby


We are now in to our first June and really hot weather in Texas. The swimming pool was the focus of the complex and we would meet a lot of wonderful people down there over the next two years. Many of the residents worked so it would be early evening or the weekends when we would gather and plastic cups of beer or wine were in plentiful supply.

June 12th 1985

Dear M & D,

Thank you for the letter and photographs, Emma is looking very grown up and so like Sonia. I was delighted to see the physical evidence of your first caravan weekend. Are they going to put up a plaque above the door saying “Mollie Coleman Slept Here!”. You certainly have been having a busy time of it and I hope the book exhibition was a success.

David is away this week, Kansas, Washington and Minneapolis. He is in Washington trying to get official government approval for his cable spec. Once obtained it will make it a lot easier to get potential customers interested. He has just bought a computer for business use, which will make his work easier. He have been involved in these machines since the mid 1970s and it is amazing the difference in size from those he used to work with. He spent the weekend uploading programmes to it and then put a wrong piece of data in that wiped the lot and he had to start all over again! There was quite a lot of profanity issuing from the spare bedroom, so I took myself off to the pool!  Luckily these days they are more portable so he has now taken to the office and will no doubt be the envy of his less technically minded colleagues who still use paper the whole time.

My friend Vicki is almost due and her mother arrived yesterday and her husband has taken time off work. My job as assistant coach looks redundant at the moment but I am on hand if needed! The baby would certainly be arriving to unpredictable weather. We had a three hour thunderstorm last night and it was in true Texas style. Nothing like our hour of rumbling in the skies with the odd flash of lightening. This was crashing, boulder rolling and forked lightening for the entire time. I have never seen lightening like it and watched from our balcony as it hit between the trees in our central garden area with an almighty crack.

The rain is torrential and having been caught out in one last week it is very frightening. The windshield wipers could not keep up with the amount of water even on the fast speed and in the end, like everyone else I had to pull over and wait for it to subside. The roads were also dangerous to drive on as it was easy to water plane across into oncoming traffic.

I had hoped that it might have cleared the air which has become very humid and suffocating. But no such luck.

I do still feel a little homesick but we are getting used to doing things in a slightly different way. I do miss not being able to walk out the gate and find pavements that I can walk around the block on or to the shops. You have to drive about a mile up the road to a row of shopping malls and restaurants to find a footpath and I think if we decide to move again later this year, we will bear that in mind.

We do love the pool because most of the time we have it to ourselves. Especially early in the morning. We both enjoy doing laps and that is not always easy in the late afternoons and early evenings as most people bring down their airbeds and have a quick dip then hop on and float around for an hour.  Still we have the best of both worlds and I am afraid that I too have succumbed by buying myself a rather substantial lilo… with a sit up bit at the end and cup holders… I must say it is rather relaxing when everyone is at work to float around with a cold drink, reading a good book and popping in to cool off from time to time.

I am looking forward to seeing you trying to get on and off gracefully when you are over later in the year… I will be taking pictures!

Love to you both Sally and David.

You will find the other Letters from America: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/letters-from-america-1985-1987/

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