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 time Our fifth wedding anniversary party and I have a far too close encounter with fire ants before we head to San Antonio.
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 35 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.
An 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.