My dad had grown up outside of Marlin, Texas and my mom, a Dr’s daughter, grew up outside of Abilene, but as we looked for a house far outside the city limits of Houston, far at the time was over 5 miles, we finally settled on a 3 bedroom bungalow 6 miles from the western city limits. Moving in to the new house in October of 1939, everything was fine until August of 1941.
We had moved in without any problems, the “new” wasn’t even off the house and we had moved into a brand new, incorporated, subdivision. Being west of Rice Institute (now University), the subdivision was aptly named West University. “West U” as we called it had, and still has, its own fire, police and water departments.
Houston’s urban sprawl now has encircled “West U” and driven prices sky-high! Our 3, bed room, frame, house and lot, had cost $3,900. Today lots are over $200K and homes over $500K. Back then, the streets were paved with oyster shell, drainage ditches lined the streets, but on calm and still days, when new shell was applied to the streets, the smell was overpowering! Now “West U” is a model, pricey, yuppie haven, not the almost country place of my youth.
The radio had alerted us of a storm thrashing around in the Gulf of Mexico and apparently headed for landfall on the upper Texas coast, back then storms weren’t named. It hit between Galveston and Freeport and unknown to us, was headed our way. Now, with satellites and radar we can tell within miles of where one of these monsters will hit, but back then it was just an educated guess. To me, not yet 6 years old, it sounded like a lot of fun, but looking back, I just don’t know how we survived without the TV weather folks, with their foul weather gear on, telling us what to do, how to pack our survival items and not to drive our cars into the deep water!
The storm made landfall and bored inland. “West U” is about 60 miles as the “crow flies” from the coast and we received almost the full fury of the storm! The rain was first, beginning in mid morning, then the wind, strengthening and making noises that I had never heard before. By early evening the lights went out, the telephone was dead and we had lost all power. Lightning flashed, thunder roared, the rain came down in sheets, but our new house held together! Then everything stopped!
The hurricane’s eye was passing right over us my mom and dad explained to my sister, H.R., and me, as they took us outside for a quick look around. It was dark but we could tell that there were no clouds above us, the stars were out and there was no storm, wind, rain or lightning. Our parents hurried us back inside and we waited for the onslaught to begin again, and it did with a vengeance! More wind and heavy, rain, not as much thunder and lightning, but the storm pounded us until morning.
The hurricane had moved away and following my dad outside, we both heard a tiny “Mew” and looked under the edge of our house (it was built on a block foundation and raised about 18” above ground level) and found that the source of the “mew” was a tiny, yellow kitten. Picking it up, I discovered later that it was a male, and as I ran back inside, yelled, “Mother, can we keep it?” She replied, “If your Dad says so.” He was easy on this one and “Tom” lived with us for the next 14 years.
Not knowing it then, but we had a much bigger and deadlier “storm” coming our way on December 7, 1941!