How long have you lived in Austin and in Allandale?
We moved here from Abilene in January 1965.
What was Allandale like when you moved here?
There were many young families just buying their first home. Many children played in the front yards, and most mothers were at home during the day while dad worked to support the family. Most had only one car. Kids went to Lucy Reed Elementary, Burnet Junior High and Anderson High School. When we moved in our home, most of the children were elementary school age on our street.
The schools were not integrated when we moved in and the first non-white family was the Burl Hancock Family. I believe he was on the City Council. I remember one day there came a knock on the door and it was one of their children asking my permission for them to walk on our grass (there were no sidewalks going up the hill on Silverway to Lucy Reed, and their mother was concerned about them walking in the street). Our daughter was just a baby, so I did not have that worry at the time, and gladly let all the children walk through the yard. For the record, I believe the Hancock children were the only ones who sought permission.
Silverway Drive was open to traffic then. The North Austin Bank was being built and the owners wanted to open Silverway all the way to Burnet Road, and the neighborhood did not want that due to the many school children who walked to and from school each day. The City Council was going to vote on this issue, and they would put it on the agenda but would delay it and often it would be midnight before it would come up for discussion, so my neighbor and I took our children in diapers, and just stayed, we fed the children, changed them, we did the whole nine yards mothers do with infant children, not leaving the chamber for fear they would vote the minute we left the chamber.
So the neighborhood came together, signed a petition, stating they would remove their money from the bank, if the street was opened, so they decided not to pursue it anymore, and the street did not open to Burnet Road.
In those days the creek at the end of our street always had water in it, and the kids all played there. When walking home from school they would play under the bridge. In the summer time they played in the creek. All along the creek were honeysuckle vines, and large Chinaberry trees, and in the spring all the kids would stop coming home from school, pull the flowers off the honey suckle vines, suck the nectar, and also throw the China Berries at one another, and go for a wade in the creek.
On many occasions one of more of them would end up in the creek. You could walk down the creek all the way to the Northwest Park. There were caves where the kids played. There were no homeless people camping in and around the park and creek, and under the bridges, so everyone felt safe for their children to walk to the park alone. It was much more of a neighborhood park then. Our children were not nearly so restricted nor programmed as they seem to be now. They had lots of time to just be kids. All the adults watched out for all the kids. After school, and in the summer the children would gather in someone’s yard, and whoever the mother was in that house was responsible for Kool-aide, cookies, or popcorn for all the children and they played there until dark, moving from house to house with just a phone call from that mother informing others where they were they were going next. They seemed to run in packs.
We had no shopping malls close by (the closest was Hancock Center), the area was much quieter, people walked to Northwest to watch ball games, or swim in the pool. It was safe for even small children to walk in a group to the park to swim. We had no HEB, the closest grocer was Rylanders on Balcones Drive. There was very little, if any crime.
Shoal Creek ended at Foster Lane (then it was Anderson Lane). There were just fields of wild flowers, horseback riders, and there was a big dip at the end of the street at Foster Lane and Shoal Creek. There was a storm drain there where the kids played, and when heavy rains came the kids, and a few adults, would go watch cars get caught in the rising water.
We all looked forward to the Fourth of July parade. One family had a fire truck and all the kids wanted to ride, and those that couldn’t ride would ride horses, bikes, wagons, and little cars, all decorated. The street would be lined with people celebrating the freedom of our country. This was before the differences in the country and so we had none of the anti-war or ant-American stuff we see now. We celebrated the accomplishments of our children, especially those in the award-winning Anderson High Band. Many of us would go regularly on Saturday morning for breakfast at Frisco, and another popular eating place was The Barn, where they started you off with a big hunk of cheese, and by the time your steak came you were no longer hungry, and you got to bring it home with you for the next day.
Our yard was narrow and long, so all the children on the street liked to play in our yard and the one next door. My husband, Max, bought a surplus parachute and they loved unfurling it on the lawn. It has huge and they could make a tent out of it, or just get under it and wait for the wind to blow and when it did if they were careful, it would bellow up and carry the small ones off the ground.
What do you think would surprise people the most about how Allandale used to be?
How much like a small country town it was. Most people knew each other, either from living near one another, from their kids’ school, church, or some activity that brought us all together. The family evening meal was important, but after the meal, everyone was outside in the front yard, watching the kids play, while the neighbors visited one another. Perhaps it was that we had little money to go any place, we were all saving our money, building a future, which we now all enjoy. Now people seem to go inside, perhaps in front of the TV and are not so caring about one another. There are only a few of us left who have been here all these years and we still check up on each other, but the rest not so much.
Because we all knew each other, did things together, looked after one another, it was like we were all family. Somehow as the city has grown we have lost some of that. Perhaps it is because both adults in the home so often work and there does not seem to be time for neighborhood activities.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in Allandale?
There is much more traffic, and more people. There are more businesses on Anderson and Burnet Road. There is also so much more crime. There are more bike riders and runners. There are no longer horses coming down the street. I can remember when the young riders would cross over our lawn on their horses because riding on the street was so much more dangerous.
The biggest single change, I think, occurred in 1981 when our street, and most of the rest of the area, was flooded. All the houses on our street had water in them. Ours had less than the others because my husband opened the doors and it just came in and then ran out, but it ruined everything inside. People forget whatever the river runs over it carries with it, so we had all sorts of things, including stray animals floating around in our home. Following that flood, several houses on the street were condemned and had to be torn down, so many friends moved elsewhere, and it has never been the same since. The creek was re-routed, the bridge closed and made into a foot bridge. The city put large rocks in the creek (I have never understood why) and it changed the creek forever. Where there once was water trickling, even in the dry season, and fish swimming, now it has to be a very hard rain and in a matter of hours, it is all gone, and just a few puddles set and grow moss. The city does not keep the creek clean, children no longer play there, older teens, and adults now walk down the creek bed to Northcross Mall, and on a few occasions the police have come and discovered items taken in petty crimes hidden under the bridge. It is not safe to walk there anymore.
What is the most interesting / amazing / surprising thing you have ever seen in Allandale?
The most interesting to me is how the population has changed. We have many more people of other races, many from other lands and they have brought with them, their culture, language, and foods. I guess I am most surprised at the rate of growth in Austin.
What do you like best about Allandale?
My neighbors and the friends I have made here. A good thing about being my age, I no longer have to hurry to get somewhere now. I have time to sit, have a cup of coffee, and do whatever pleases, or at least I do not have to do what I do not want to. A word of advice, work hard and save your money, keep your family ties strong and intact, and one day soon you can have the life you dreamed of, and the best is to live now so then you won’t have any regrets.
If you could change one thing about Allandale, what would it be?
I would change the climate, less allergens, more cold weather, like a snow fall each year, and cold enough to kill a lot of the stuff that makes so many people sick. Other than that, I wish we did not have so much traffic. Our City Council once voted a no growth policy in this city and thought that would keep people away, but you see it did not. We have not planned ahead, and we seem to always be trying to play catch up with roads and highways to move the traffic. We have not always supported mass transportation because we seem to want to drive our own cars, even a few blocks, but other than that there is little I would change about our lives.
We have a wonderful church where we worship, and we spend our time with family, with him hunting; I am a responder with Texas Baptist Men where I give of my time helping those whose lives have been torn apart by the storms of life (or fires, or explosions). Our home is very convenient to everything. With the exception of our church we can walk to all the things we need to sustain our daily lives. People are friendly and care for one another. That is probably why the crime rate is less (though it has grown in recent years) than other cities of our size.