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Lufkin: A Trip Down Memory Lane

This trip started as a trip to Louisiana to see where my grandfather grew up. My mom had been a couple of times previously with her cousins and they all wanted to go back again. Since I'd never been and they needed someone to take them, I offered to drive. And since we were headed east anyway, I thought we should add on a few days in Lufkin. I hadn't been there in 15 years or so. I was born there and lived there until my mom got married when I was 10 and we moved to Bandera. My roots are there along with lots of memories. It was time to go back.

I left Dallas on a Friday morning and drove to Austin to my cousin Marsha's house. My mom was meeting us there along with another cousin, Pat, who flew in from Houston the day before. Marsha is my mother's first cousin on the German Wolford side, her dad (Shelby) and Mom's dad (my grandfather) were brothers. Pat was my grandfather's first cousin on the Irish Fitzpatrick side, her mother and my grandfather's mother (Mimi) were sisters. Both Pat and Marsha have traced our genealogy back several generations and were there to share all their knowledge with us. Marsha had some roots in Lufkin as well so they were happy to tag along for that portion of the trip.

We had some sandwiches at Marsha's for lunch then headed on to Lufkin for the evening. We were just ahead of storms the last half of the trip and made it there before they hit. We checked in to the Hampton Inn and decided to go to an old favorite for dinner, Catfish King. I've eaten Catfish King many, many times in my life but I've never actually eaten there. My grandparents would always call the order in and then Grandad and I would go pick it up while Granny stayed home to make the tea and set the table. I didn't even know they had a salad bar! The fish tasted just like I remembered.

Just as we finished up, it looked like a hurricane coming thru - high winds, heavy rain, etc. We got to the car as best we could and back to the hotel. Marsha brought some wine so we had a glass in their room before turning in for the night. Nothing like paper cup wine!

Our first visit on the schedule for the next day was Mom's longtime friend, Linda. My mom and Linda met before I was born when they worked together for Dr. Burch in Lufkin. Linda was a nurse. When Dr. Burch retired, Linda went on to work for Dr. Thannisch who would later become my pediatrician. Linda and her family lived in Apple Springs about 20 minutes from Lufkin. When I was young, they had a little house on the same land as Linda's mother and we would go visit, sometimes I would spend the night with Linda's daughter, Kristi. Linda had another younger daughter, Shandi and a younger son but I just remember her as a toddler and him as a baby.

Mom had ordered some flowers for Linda so she and I went to pick those up while Marsha and Pat got ready then we all headed off to Apple Springs. Linda and her family no longer live in that small house but it was still there. They actually purchased the house/land next door and her kids moved in to her mom's house after she passed away. All of them but Kristi live on the family's land. We arrived and got caught up while waiting on Shandi to bring lunch.

Linda's granddaughter playing for Marsha

Linda and her husband, Roy Lynn

Linda and Mom


Shandi arrived with some really good Mexican food from Herraduras in Lufkin. We stuffed ourselves and reminisced about 40-50 years ago. As we were leaving, Linda showed us the baby chick she had in the garage bathroom. I can't remember how it got there but I think it was orphaned.
Adorable of course!


We spent the afternoon in Lufkin touring all the old houses and haunts. We started at Trout Elementary where I went to school thru the 4th grade.


Not far from there was the house where I lived as a baby until age 10 when we moved to Bandera.

There used to be a huge magnolia tree on the left side where the garden hose is. The yard to the right of the house was a rose garden which is gone now, too. That curved nook on the front was our little dining room with the window to the left being the kitchen and the window to the right the living room. From the front it looked pretty good. And then we turned the corner.

This is more the side than the back but we used to park the white and brown panel Chevy Chevette in that garage and enter/exit from the back door. My grandmother also knocked the passenger side mirror off their brand new Cutlass one time driving into that garage. Going into the house this way was my "playroom" where there was a piano (I took lessons as a kid) and my prized possessions, my books and a Barbie dream house and all the accompaniments. My bedroom with the red shag carpet and red checkered bedspread was the window to the right of the back door with my mom's room being the one in the far right corner. It had a window unit when I was growing up. Mine did not. How did I survive that?

Just up the road we drove by the daycare I went to after school until my grandfather retired and kept me. Back then it was called Candy Royal and I hated it. I'm not really sure why. It was a fine day care as far as I remember. I think I was just shy and didn't like to be around other kids. I also hated mandatory nap time. My how things change. Ha ha.

We drove from there to my grandparents' house passing by Chambers Park. There used to be a swimming pool here that I was never allowed to swim in and our Girl Scout House was here where we had meetings and sleepovers. Both are gone now but most of the playground equipment was the same as it was over 40 years ago.


We turned the corner to arrive at my grandparents' house and oh what a disappointment. I was expecting that it would not be in the shape Grandad kept it but I didn't expect it to look as it did. My grandfather built this house himself in the 1940s. All of the beds, dressers, and shelves were built in. There were also built-in shutters for all the windows. He thought that was really neat. He repainted it every few years - inside and out - and kept the yard immaculate.


The window to the right of the porch was my mother's room, later my room. It was done entirely in pink with twin beds. In the right corner of the yard (basically from where the 2nd picture was taken) was a bed of wooden boxes filled with various types of cacti and on the left side of the house was a rose garden, both long gone.


The window to the left of the garage was Grandad's storeroom. That's where the washer/dryer were as well as all of his tools, all organized and labeled. He kept the pecan cracking machine he built there and in his retirement cracked pecans for all the old ladies in Lufkin. They would in return bring him baked goods that he could never eat since he was diabetic. Between the house and the garage was the custom patio. The part nearest the driveway was pebble rock and the part on the other side of the back porch was pebble rock in the shape of Texas. There were wooden outlines of all the major interstates running across Texas and a Lufkin Industries metal plate for where Lufkin was located. There were also two built-in wooden patio tables where we would very occasionally (i.e., hardly ever) eat outside. All of the custom patio work appeared to be gone.


The house used to have only three trees, all pecan, and each one had a concrete border around it in the shape of a triangle. The one that used to be to the right of the driveway had my hand imprints in it from when I was little. This appears to be the last standing pecan tree although the borders are not there.

In the backyard, which you can't see in these photos, he had a pebble rock star in the ground. At each point of the star was something different as far as bird feeders and waterers. In the middle was a very tall birdhouse built especially for purple martins. He styled the birdhouse after his own house.

In the kitchen is where we used to sit on the floor and have milkshake "parties" using my grandmother's cut crystal. At the kitchen table we spent hours and hours playing board games. Or I would empty out the pantry and get the 10-key and play grocery store. In the office, I learned to type. I typed all my grandmother's and mother's recipes on recipe cards. I typed out Red Lobster menus to use when I played restaurant. I typed reviews of articles I read in National Geographic. I remember the office closet full of Michelob bottles and toiletries because they stocked up on everything. In the living room Grandad would set up the card table for picking pecans. Granny would give us both pedicures in the recliners. Growing up I watched thousands of hours of the Price is Right, Young & the Restless, Love Boat, and Scooby Doo on their console TV while lying on their brown couch. The garage is where Grandad and I made a model of a ranch house based on a Nancy Drew book (although he really wouldn't let me do anything). And in the pink bedroom, Granny would read me books to go to sleep while I played with the porcelain animals in the cubbyholes above the bed. It's where I had chicken pox during Spring Break. And it's where I had sleepovers with my elementary school friends.

In the later years as we all got older, the kitchen is where we would heat up individual baking pans of Thanksgiving leftovers in the oven because they never got a microwave. The kitchen table was where we gathered for our weekend visits, where they always had our favorite foods waiting. The office was where Grandad would ask me questions and show me whatever notes or charts he currently had going on. The living room was where we retired after dinner to a TV that got louder and louder every year. The garage was where I got to park when I came to visit. The pink bedroom was where Mom and I would sleep and sit across from each other on the beds talking until late into the night. It's where we both were to feel the sonic boom when the space shuttle Columbia exploded above us. Miranda Lambert has a song called, "The House that Built Me." That's THIS house for me and it was very emotional to see it again after so many years.

Just next door to their house and in worse condition was where my mom's best friend, Tommy Deal, lived growing up.

Across the street was where her friend Cruz Harrison lived.

A couple of houses down was her friend Janise, my namesake.

From there we drove around trying to find the house where my grandfather lived as a boy when his family moved to Lufkin from Louisiana. Marsha thinks it's this house on First Street.


Not far away was the building where my mom worked. Back then it was Lufkin Industries and she was a secretary there. It's also where she met her husband of almost 40 years. He was an electrician on the construction site when this building was built.

Around the corner from there was where my dad worked. It's still the same company.

We also drove by the Methodist church where we attended Sunday school and service every Sunday morning.

Just down the road from there was the house Marsha's mother, Hazel, lived in.

Our last stop of the day was a drive out to my grandmother's house on my father's side. The house was torn down years ago and it's now a building owned by the water department. We used to sit in this yard in lawn chairs and watch the traffic. Sometimes we'd be shelling peas or something similar. I would always try to find an excuse to go to the store across the street and I remember being so proud when I was finally old enough to go by myself.

We made it back to the hotel just in time for Mom and I to head over to her friend Jo's house for a quick tour before dinner.

We all then met up for dinner at the Hole in One. Mom's friend Marianne joined us there.


The food was shockingly really good and we had a great dinner before calling it a night.



The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel and then drove just down the highway to Garden of Memories cemetery. We wanted to spread some of my grandparents' ashes together in Lufkin since that's where they made their home and raised their family. Marsha reminded us that my grandfather's brother, Cotton, was buried there with his wife and we thought that would be the perfect spot. Now to find it! Marsha had a vague memory where the gravestone was located and after just a few minutes of looking, Mom was able to spot it.

We said a little prayer and joined them together.


From there, we headed south about for a little over an hour to the town of Livingston. This is where my grandmother grew up with her family, where my grandparents met, and where my mom and her brother were born before moving to Lufkin. They lived on Young St which was named after my grandmother's mother's family.

My grandmother and her sister inherited this property when their parents died. Her sister sold her portion immediately but Granny kept her portion which contained the house. She allowed a relative named Lenore to live there for many years. My grandparents maintained the land and we would come periodically to visit Lenore and the lady across the street named Mae Mae. We finally convinced my grandmother to sell the property as it was getting too much for them to maintain. Of course the buyers tore down the old house but they built a beautiful house to replace it and have nicely maintained the property all these years.


Mae Mae's property was right across the street but we were very confused by the house that's there now. I remember a two-story, white house with a big, front porch. What is there now is a yellow (could have been painted) gingerbread house with a porch that looks much different than I remember.

The historical marker plaque says it is the GG Nettles home built in 1895 at this location. I guess that means it's the same house but it's not what I remember at all.

From there we drove a little ways out of town to Peebles Cemetery where my grandmother's parents are buried. Mom had called ahead and gotten directions to the gravesite from the lady who manages the cemetery. The ground here was pretty uneven and it was getting very hot so Marsha and Pat stayed in the car while Mom and I looked for the grave. Mom insisted it was an upright, pink granite headstone so that is what we were looking for. After traipsing all over this cemetery, we called the lady back who manages it and she gave us more specific directions. We finally found it and guess what? It was a FLAT, pink granite headstone.

We said a prayer for Granny and joined her with her parents.

Nearby were some very old headstones of our Young family ancestors, including the small one of a young child.

By now we were hot and hungry so we drove back into Livingston to grab some lunch at the Whistlestop downtown. I had a really good reuben sandwich and while perusing the gift shop afterwards, found a picture of a cardinal that seemed totally appropriate for the trip. Cardinals were a favorite of my grandparents so it was the perfect memento from the town where they met.

A few blocks down from the restaurant was the corner where they actually met. My grandfather and his brother worked at this store downtown (it was a little grocery store then).

My grandmother worked down the street for the water company, we think in this two-story building.

Grandad would see her walking across the street to work and eventually asked her on a date. Their first date was to a homecoming football game. He bought her a white mum with green and white ribbon (Livingston school colors). They were married almost 70 years when she passed away and every year at Thanksgiving he bought her white mums with green and white ribbon. Every year.

We headed back to our hotel in Lufkin in time for Mom and I to meet up with Kay, one of my mom's friends from many years ago when she worked at Lufkin Industries. Kay was about 20 years younger than my mom and grew up in Lufkin. She was majoring in accounting at Texas A&M and worked at Lufkin Industries. She became a role model for me of sorts. She was smart, pretty, and successful. She's part of the reason that I also went to Texas A&M and majored in accounting. She went on to work for Arthur Anderson in Houston (and others since then) but was living back in Lufkin taking care of her ailing mother. She only had a couple of hours to drop by but we had a great time catching up.


After Kay left, we all went to an Italian restaurant for dinner called Roma Italian Bistro. It was appropriately Lufkin terrible so it was good that we weren't all that hungry. It had been a long day so we all retired to our rooms shortly after. Not before taking the time to smell the magnolia in the hotel parking lot, a flower/smell that always reminds me of Lufkin and the magnolia tree we used to have in our yard.

The next morning Mom and I dropped by the flower shop to pick up flowers for Mrs. Hooker and our short visit with her. Mrs. Hooker is the 90+ year old mother of Mom's dear childhood friend who passed away a few years ago. Coincidentally, she was also the school secretary at Brandon Elementary when I attended 5th grade there. We had planned to visit with her for a couple of hours before heading to Louisiana but unfortunately, she came down with COVID a few days prior. We were only able to drop off her flowers and say hello from afar before leaving Lufkin.

Posted by zihuatcat 21:12 Archived in USA Tagged texas mom lufkin Comments (0)

Padre Day 3: A Day to Myself

I could tell on Sunday night that a flare up was probably coming on for Mike and when we woke on Monday, i found out I was correct. He wasn't feeling well at all so I knew there would be no beach time for us today. I hung around the condo until around noon then decided to get out and do a little shopping around the island. I left Mike resting.

Since I hadn't been to Padre before, I wasn't sure what to expect on the shopping front. I didn't want to spend time in the 20 t-shirts for $10 places and there were plenty of those.


I did have to pop into one briefly to get Mike a bathing suit since he'd forgotten his at home. Luckily, I did come across a few nice, boutique-type stores with some beautiful island-style gifts. I bought some fancy flip-flops for myself and a Guy Harvey fishing shirt for Mike. I managed to occupy myself for about four hours then went back to the condo to check on Mike. He was still "out" and in no mood for dinner. I didn't really want to eat in so I treated myself to a nice night out at Liam's. I started with a disappointing appetizer of shrimp rockefeller. I'm pretty sure those shrimp were frozen which seems ridiculous on a Gulf island.

I moved on to a ribeye and lobster tail. This was much better and tasted fresh.

After a couple martinis, I headed home and amused myself as usual with the TV and my Kindle. It was a nice, quiet evening by myself. Although I missed having Mike to share it with, sometimes I appreciate that alone time.

Posted by zihuatcat 15:04 Archived in USA Tagged texas padre vi Comments (0)

Padre Day 2: Hook, Line, and Seagull

We woke the next morning about 9:30a to an overcast and windy day, a perfect day for kite-flying. Only we had no kite. So we set off to find one and to pick up the supplies we had forgotten the day before, most importantly, fishing licenses. We first stopped at the local grocery store, the Blue Marlin. Their computers were down so no fishing licenses were to be had there. As luck would have it, there was a kite store right next door. But our luck ran out. It was closed due to a death in the family. We drove down the strip a ways and found a souvenir shop with kites and bought two. They told us the best place to get fishing licenses was the pier in Port Isabel. So back across the bridge we went and finally, success! While we were there, we threw in some Cajun fried fish and french fries for lunch.

The condo provided us with some great beach chairs. We loaded up our ice chest, our kites, and fishing gear and headed to the beach in front of the condo.

La Internacional from the beach.

Mike got the kites out and in the air. There was plenty of wind for flying.




After he bored with that (i.e., the kites got tangled), he got set up for surf fishing. He'd gotten a pole holder so he could both fish from the water and from his beach chair.






Unfortunately, the only thing he caught wading in the water was seaweed. So he decided to join me on the beach and lazy surf fish for a while.

Mike had his line in the water and we were just sitting there talking when we heard the line run out. He jumped up, thinking he had a fish. I looked out at the rod, trying to figure out what was happening as it seemed like something was off. Sure enough, a seagull had flown straight into the fishing line and gotten itself wrapped up. Another lady on the beach saw it, too, and came running over to help us get the poor thing untangled. It was so scared while Mike was untangling its wing that it threw up. Finally, he got it untangled and gave it a little toss and it flew off. Thankfully, it was not hurt.

Our setup.

After the harrowing bird experience, Mike went up to the condo to make us a couple of pina coladas. The blender blew up. Great. We have a travel one that we could have brought but didn't since the condo came with one. This did not make me happy. We gave up and went to the hot tub.

Our new mission became finding a place for dinner that was open past 8p on a Sunday night. This proved harder than it would seem. I must have called about five places before I found one - Burger Fi, a gourmet burger place just down the street. We stopped in for a quick dinner before they closed up for the night. I had a breakfast burger and fries and Mike had a chili dog with onion rings. Both were really good.

We went home and called it an early night.

Posted by zihuatcat 14:28 Archived in USA Tagged texas padre vi Comments (0)

Padre Day 1: Can We Get Some O.J....Please?

Our decision to spend a week in Padre in October came about sort of suddenly. We had already taken a big vacation this year to Curacao but wanted to do something more local just to get away after Fall tax season ended. We mulled over a few locations but decided on Padre for a couple of reasons. Mike and his dad used to go there almost annually each Thanksgiving when he was a child. He had so many memories there yet hadn't been there in some 20 years. I had never been there, the farthest south for me was Port Aransas. So we planned a Saturday-to-Saturday trip for late October, flying in and out of Harlingen. Our good friend, Vi, who travels with us frequently, was raised in Raymondville, just a few miles away. She would drive down to visit her family for a few days then spend Tuesday thru Saturday with us. It was a perfect plan. Mike and I would have some alone time at first then we would have friend time to end the week.

We headed to Love Field on a Saturday morning for our flight to Harlingen and I soon remembered why I usually avoid flying on weekends. The Parking Spot was full and we had to divert to overflow parking. Since we're both TSA Pre-check, we got thru security quickly, even with Mike checking his gun, and made our way to Cool River Café for some breakfast fare. We were politely informed that breakfast was over at 10a. My watch said 9:55 but ok. So we ordered some lunch instead with a bloody mary for Mike and a mimosa for me. Nope. No mimosa. They were out of OJ. What? How can a restaurant be out of OJ? I looked across the way at Whataburger which was serving up plenty of it. Are you kidding me? I went with the bloody mary instead which was so spicy I could barely drink it so Mike got two. We finished our food and got to our gate only to have to wait in line during boarding while they took someone OFF the plane who had just boarded. Not sure what that was about. The first leg of the flight was fine. We made a pit stop in Houston but stayed on the plane. A crew of old, fat, drunk fishermen sat in front of us on the second leg to Harlingen. Lovely. We finally made it to Harlingen and got our luggage then stood in line FOREVER to get our rental car. While we were standing there, I noticed Mike had on two completely different colored shoes. I have no idea how he did that or how we didn't notice. Dorkity dork dork! Our smallish SUV was finally ready and we hit the road to Padre. The area had very recently had a lot of rain, evidenced by the floodwaters we drove thru in several places, but we made it to the La Internacional condos around 4:30p.

The Internacional condos are located on the far northern part of the island, on the oceanside. This is where Mike and his dad used to stay all those years ago when they came to Padre. He really wanted to return there so I found a one bedroom that would work for us.

The décor of the condo really needed some updating in my opinion.

The advertised telescope didn't work.


The condo was much smaller than I realized but was okay for what we paid for it. I didn't realize, however, that the refrigerator was not a full-size refrigerator and was not pleased at all about this. We had trouble fitting our food and drinks in it. In addition, when we arrived, someone had spilled a colored liquid all inside the freezer and this had not been cleaned before our arrival. I had to spend time cleaning this mess up before we could use it.

While it was still daylight, we wanted to go down to the beach for a little bit to see how the water felt. Mike realized he forgot his swimsuit so he wore bike shorts that he usually wears under his suit instead.



There were some people kitesurfing.


The dogs were out, too.

It started to get a little chilly so we went back to the condo and warmed up in the hot tub. This became a favorite for us over the week with its warm waterfall.

We went back upstairs to change clothes and saw this rainbow from our balcony.

Before dinner, we wanted to pick up some supplies for the condo so we stopped off at the liquor store and grocery store. We got home and realized that we paid for ice but forgot to get it. We also forgot to buy fishing licenses. But most importantly, we bought champagne for mimosas but FORGOT THE OJ! It's like there's a mimosa troll somewhere trying to prevent me from having one. Give me a break! By now, we are hungry and tired so we just walked across the street to the Wanna Wanna Beach Bar for dinner. There was an awesome band called Pelican West playing so we had some killer pina coladas and peel & eat shrimp, lack of OJ forgotten. We stumbled back home later after closing the place down.

Posted by zihuatcat 12:01 Archived in USA Tagged texas padre vi Comments (0)

TX Camping Day 3: Chillin' on the Frio

We had talked about going into Garner State Park on Sunday and possibly doing some hiking or tubing down the river. But then we decided what the hell for? We have our own little piece of the river right behind the campsite. No need to get in the car and drive into Garner to deal with other people. Plus, the river over on that side looked pretty shallow and dried up. So after more yummy breakfast tacos, we hauled all of our fishing and lazing around gear down to a little patch that was uninhabited.




We spent the day there until it was time to pack up to cook dinner. For our last night, we decided to have a nice dinner of ribeyes, corn, and potatoes.


Mike was chef tonight and dinner was perfect. He and Vi played washers for a bit while I took some pictures of the campgrounds.





After dinner, Mary Kay had to head home so we helped her pack everything up and get on the road. Vi was really tired so she went to bed early. Mike wanted to get a little more fishing in before dark so he and I went down to the river. Again, no luck catching anything but a poor turtle. I'm convinced it's because the water is too clear. The fish can see you coming!




Mike and I stayed up for a while enjoying our last campfire.

The next morning we packed everything up and drove into Bandera. We met my mother for lunch at the OST. I wanted Vi to see the town where I grew up. The OST's chicken fried steaks and enchiladas were good and greasy as usual!


After lunch, we drove back to Dallas. It had been a great camping trip with good friends. Mike and I remembered how much we enjoyed camping and committed to not waiting five or six years before the next camping trip.


Posted by zihuatcat 15:49 Archived in USA Tagged camping texas Comments (0)

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