Showing posts with label side stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label side stories. Show all posts

Friday, January 4, 2013

[Side Stories] Easterwood Memories

Of my many regrets in documenting this town, I've long forgotten and lost many things: Manor East Mall, the stoplight at North Graham, the old pedestrian bridge over Wellborn, the old H-E-B Pantry, the old Kroger, and countless others. One of the things is the changes that the McKenzie Terminal building.

To date, I've only flown out from Easterwood Airport (the McKenzie Terminal, specifically) no more than 4 times (1998, 2008, 2010, and 2012), but I've been to the terminal building (built in the late 1980s or early 1990s). I can't remember the early days too much...the building had late 1980s décor, and had those black felt seats in the lobby area. There were always two airlines, Continental and American Airlines (I think they weren't connector lines then, but I could be wrong--and at one time, Delta operated, though don't know if they were operating at the same time). Given that my father went out on business trips, that always meant a trip to the airport. My mother would try to entertain us by having us count the white dots along the perimeter of the outside. We would rush up to the windows on the upper level (before they installed handlebars on it), and watch him take off, or arrive. Downstairs, the wood-paneled area near the baggage check had a little sign about the light that would go off. We'd take his suitcases, and drive off, every time, having parked in the upper level loop (short-term).

The entrance/exit was the downstairs front, with the departures on the right (metal detector and baggage X-ray)

Of course, about the time of September 11th, things started to change rapidly. With air traffic plummeting, in addition to new security measures, the airport made "improvements", starting with adding a wooden bar to the airport departure windows, updating the décor so it looked less from the 1980s, reopening the restaurant (it used to be entirely empty, except for something with an electronic sign display). Given that the last eatery closed in 1998 (what was the name?), it's no wonder why I never remember it being open. I definitely never ate there.

In 2003, as part of these "improvements", there was a new restaurant (Sully's Landing) and a gift shop on the opposite side (Reveille's News & Gifts). Unfortunately, Sully's never did too well (despite being one of the few places on campus that sold alcohol), so eventually the bar and food options were stripped out for "Easterwood Airport Howdy Café" that sells little more than coffee and pastries. Given that the flights after 9/11 plummeted and Easterwood was never a big airport anyway, it shouldn't have been a surprise.

One of my other memories is when American Airlines introduced jets on their commuter planes, before pulling out entirely a year later and relying on an airport brand that I forgot the name of. There was the time around 2009 when one of the auto rental places pulled out (forgot their name, too).

After a time where they closed off the bottom-right side of the stairs (expanding the security area), they decided to use tunnels. While this cleared out the lower level entirely (no more waiting in the small lower level "cove" or being restricted by grumpy TSA agents), it was somewhat devastating because not the fact that the gift shop was gutted, but almost the entire upper level (the viewing area upstairs) was closed.

So what that's what I remember about Easterwood. These changes are notoriously poorly-documented, but it's a start. Any memories you have of Easterwood or this terminal?

Monday, December 17, 2012

[Side Stories] All Hail the Late, Great Madden's Street Cuisine

The sad fate of the food truck, now a second Chef Tai's Mobile Bistro

Madden's Street Cuisine, which stopped delivering deliciousness around town early last summer is covered here. I ate there and got a repeat customer card (completely useless now) and a menu, both of which are pictured here for your infotainment.

The menu actually was printed on old scratch paper: the other side has some sort of multiple-course "Civil Engineering Staff Appreciation Lunch" with classy things such as "Tomato Bisque garnished with fresh mozzarella, saffron whipped cream and fresh basil chiffonade", but I didn't scan it since it's in poor shape (and only half of the page), and you could order stuff from the actual Madden's restaurant which is very much alive.

[Side Stories] Houston Street

This was the remnant of something called "Road Profiles", explained below. Originally "Road Profiles: Houston Street". It is currently under construction once more.

Welcome to Roads Profiles! This is the result of a brainstorming session I had, this takes a look at the individual roads of the area, returning some of the focus back to the original site name. Links to other articles at this site are in bold. This is subject to be edited, too, as I get more information.

I plan to make (or to retrofit) more of these to showcase smaller things and link to other articles. Don't worry, "real" articles are most certainly not dead.

Houston Street

There have been proposals to route Welsh down to Houston, but ultimately has fallen through due to neighborhood opposition. This was finally more or less confirmed in the late 2000s when the narrow section of Welsh north of Holleman was torn up and replaced with a narrow concrete road.

Houston Street's rerouting has changed several times. I could look it up at "Historic Aggieland", but it was down during the holidays, so I'll have to get caught up later. The earliest known route is in 1919 where it follows pretty much the same route as today, though with the missing parts filled in, a bit straighter near where Lechner is, and terminating at the south end of modern-day Koldus. Later on, it went through a slightly different route, curving into Fairview, before finally terminating at the intersection of Jersey (later George Bush) as it does today. By the time this happened, however, the MSC had expanded and the road was no longer in one segment.

Anyway, I always knew it as being in three parts: the south, the central, and the north. The south section is a concrete two lane road with bike lanes, with a stoplight at George Bush installed in 1995.

The expansion of the Memorial Student Center and the building of Rudder Tower in the early 1970s sealed off the connection between the center portion and the southern part of Houston Street. On the other side of Houston (which Lamar Street curves into), it's northbound only, and the striping is completely screwed up. Here's what I mean: in places, like, say Jones Street, it was once a narrow two-way road, but was modified into one way with bike lanes heading each direction. But on Houston Street, that's not the case: it's much narrower heading the opposite direction (with the yellow stripe) and a bit wider on the bike lane, and a wide single lane. The result is that buses often stop on the right to pick up and drop off, which means certain risk if you happen to be biking that way. The sensible thing would be is that since there are sidewalks, eliminate biking on the streets altogether, and change the lane closest to the east (with the stops) as a double-white-line buses-only lane and the other for vehicular traffic.

The YMCA Building I have yet to write anything on, but you can at least see some pictures here. Other buildings include the Richard Coke Building and the Beutel Health Center.

At All Faiths Chapel, the road curves into Jones and continues back south, but circa 2005, however, the connection to north campus finally reopened between the center and north portion after years of being for pedestrian use, but it was buses only (even on nights and weekends).

Near this bus connection, is Lechner Hall, one of the last on-campus dorms before the Northside Residence Hall was built (way back in 1986--no new dorms on campus were built for well over two decades--and no, the University Apartments don't count)

The entrance to the Underground and Einstein Bros. are off of Houston, too. Lot 32 is also here, it used to connect to the Special Services Building, and itself used to have the original "Aggieland Inn" from 1925 to 1966. Unrelated to the former Ramada, it was essentially a hotel for others to stay on campus without actually living there. It was doomed by the MSC (a much nicer on-campus hotel) and later the first Ramada Inn. It was torn down shortly after the Ramada opened off-campus. Recently, though, I noticed that Lot 32 has been torn up, probably for conversion into a concrete road (and/or access to the new dorm).

Originally, Houston split into two concrete shady separate lanes (but without bike lanes) and up to the stoplight at College Main and University, but in mid-2012, as part of a rehabbing of University Drive, the northbound lane past Sbisa was cut off and the southbound lane of Houston could only be accessed from University. The remainder was turned into bikes only.

YMCA Building - Renovated many, many times in the last century.
Sbisa Dining Hall - Sbisa's address is actually Houston, even though it faces Ross. The entrance to Einstein Bros. Bagels and the Underground face Houston.

Friday, September 30, 2011

[Side Stories] Just Train Crazy

Sometime in late 2005 and early 2006, George Bush Presidential Library, and by extension, the entire town, was wrapped up in a massive railroad exhibit.

"Trains: Tracks of the Iron Horse" opened in November 2005 in the Special Exhibits section of the George Bush Library. But unlike other special exhibits, it was wrapped up in an entire event that involved the city and Union Pacific itself. Union Pacific is the company that runs the railroad tracks in town (except for the ones in far south Brazos County--that's BNSF), having acquired them from Southern Pacific (I think) in 1996.

And regardless of being a railroad town in name only--the trains quit stopping here officially in 1995, and by the time this happened, Callaway Villas had poured concrete over where the Amtrak station once was, leaving only an overgrown platform (that's progress, I guess).

But Tracks of the Iron Horse was impressive, and kicked off numerous things in town.

#1: If you had money to spend, there was a train ride in the brand new George Bush 4141 (a specially painted Union Pacific train) to Dallas. Yes, the luxury of going in a real train from College Station (where trains only stop under unusual circumstances) to Dallas would cost you: $250 a person and up! (link)

It's likely it went on the same route up to Dallas via Corsicana. Because of the Villa Maria underpass construction at the time, and a change in the way the tracks crossed downtown, the train didn't parallel Finfeather.

#2: After the train ride, a special spur was built near the pedestrian overpass that housed the 4141. She's a beauty, and in the time since, I've seen it several times. I once got in an argument on Flickr that I had just seen it in town when the other person claimed it was in the storage yards. So obviously one of us was mistaken, or UP made multiple 4141s.

#3: Local businesses and other institutes bought fiberglass trains for $2500 to paint. I have a full brochure (it's on Project HOLD somewhere) that details the exhibit and also the train details, but here's the list. I saw the "Hot-N-Ready Express" the most often, but there were many others. In 2006 they were auctioned off, though there are still a few hanging around town.

#4: There was a talk done by the Union Pacific President and Former President George H.W. Bush, which I went to. And I talked to former President George H.W. Bush, which was amazing.

#5: There was a giant model train in the rotunda of the museum.

#6: The exhibit featured a "timeline" of how various railroad companies were eaten up to become an oligopoly industry today.

All in all, it was a fantastic exhibit and a fantastic era (if short) of the city, and one of the highlights of the year 2005. I had liked that year so much in particular that last summer on the now-defunct Two Way Roads, I dedicated an entire summer to The Spirit of 2005. Two Way Roads, of course, is defunct and often has terrible writing, but CSR&R is a spin-off of it, and thus some credit has to be given.

In the future, I may update this post with pictures of the glossy book that was handed out during that time (it's paperback and essentially a giant advertisement for UP, but it's just that cool).

EDIT 3/20/12: A better link for those train statues.

May 2013 Update: Side Stories

Monday, September 26, 2011

[Side Stories] Turkey Creek: FM 2513

Updated June 2013

Back in early 2011 I created a post called "Turkey Creek: The Old FM", but the whole thing was based on the assumption that Turkey Creek Road was the old FM 2818. But I did more research and found out that I was wrong. So I removed the post and eventually forgot about it. But in September of that year, I found it and updated it again.

It's 1956 in Snook, what's the quickest, distance-wise, to get to downtown Bryan?

Well, FM 60, of course. You could keep going west and go into Texas A&M College, but that's a bit out of the way. Isn't there an easier way? Today, you could go on FM 2818, but back in the 1950s to 1970s, people didn't have that option. They DID have, however, FM 2513, which takes you to directly to Carson Street.

A distinctly different road, FM 2513 is a bit blurry to read, but what happened to it?

Well, part of it was replaced with FM 2818, but it's still mostly intact. Turkey Creek Road, yes, from Bryan to the airport.

It would make sense, of course: Farm to Market roads were around long before the West Loop, and why else would there be two Turkey Creek Roads?

I had theorized that they did connect, and if you looked at the way the grass is after Turkey Creek Road connects to Harvey Mitchell near the Dick Freeman Coliseum, it supports that.

The College Station segment was never really improved. The West Loop opened (I'm guessing...1972-1973?) as a two-way road, which likely caused the existing Turkey Creek to be torn up and rebuilt, and the rest of Turkey Creek, now in two segments, to lose its status as a FM. While the section between FM 60 and F&B had homes and got the old "tar and gravel" treatment (it was eventually paved), Turkey Creek between F&B and Harvey Mitchell was never improved, and retained a narrow, badly-paved section. Historical, but hardly drivable material. This remained into the early 1990s, when a new terminal was built for Easterwood Airport, causing Turkey Creek to be extended under Raymond Stotzer Parkway (an overpass was completed circa 1996) as William A. MacKenzie Terminal Road. However, from the other end of 2818, anyone looking to turn onto Turkey Creek for a quick shortcut to the airport would be very sorry.

In the late 2000s, F&B gained a stoplight and extended, causing Turkey Creek to be broken in multiple segments, so that there were two different segments. At least now one segment of Turkey Creek WAS a shortcut to the airport. Shortly afterward, in 2009 or 2010, the oldest and worst segment of Turkey Creek was closed. There's gates and barbed wire, with a cul-de-sac at the southern end, but it hasn't been torn up. It's a private road (and sometimes I see the gate near the 2818 side open). Sadly, as much as I'd like the actual feel of a genuine old Texas farm-to-market road, potentially getting stuck/cited for trespassing is not one of my favorite things to do.

One more thing: prior to F&B's major expansion, it was planned that Turkey Creek (CS) was going to widened significantly to become a major road. Oh well, it was doomed anyway...

The Bryan section I'm less familiar with, and it did keep its FM status for a little while longer. Originally, the intersection with 2818 was completely different.

This isn't actually that intersection, but it's a close replica: it's a tilted version of the Texas 21/William Joel Bryan Parkway intersection redone in the late 1990s or early 2000s, though the Turkey Creek/2818 was redone years before it, possibly to create a small extension. I do enjoy the Turkey Creek interchange, it's possibly the last place with the overhanging yellow and red blinking lights (the ones at 47 go way too fast, dang LEDs). That's worth it for the nostalgic factor, and I always passed those lights, and I'm glad that it's one of those things on those Waco trips I used to take when I was younger that's still around (unlike Hearne's railroads and a few other things).

UPDATE 6/18/12: AND IT'S GONE in early 2012, with only the concrete bases remaining. However, to be fair, it was for the 2818/Villa Maria interchange, so I guess it at least has an actual REASON.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

[Side Stories] George Bush Presidential Library and Museum: The First Ten Years

Yes, IA&ABV is alive after all: I'm not going to leave you hanging (that's a tactic of other blogs/websites I know), so here's another post.

To be honest, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, whether or not you are a Republican or have even a semblance of respect for G. H. W., is a profound achievement of College Station and the greater area.

I don't really have a bunch of pictures on the Library, I just have a map (as seen below) and eggs. Easter eggs, that is, and we'll get to those later (eventually).

The 2007 renovation changed a lot of things for the worst, but here are some of the general (and specific) memories I have:

- Security was amped up a lot after 9/11. There were hidden cameras everywhere, but it wasn't until post-9/11 that a permanent bag check was established near the entrance. Prior to that it was just a nice open area where you could probably find a corner to curl up next to an air conditioning vent (I know I did).

- The Ansary Gallery of American History is a temporary exhibit gallery. Over the years (prior to 2007), there was a general 1960s Americana thing: I specifically remember a tiny putting range (that you could use!) and an old Wheaties box. That was the first temporary exhibit, and over the years, it included so many things that they're largely forgettable. One of the things I remember was the "Miniature White House", in which you just looped around the giant (and detailed) dollhouse and went back out again. Another one was about trains, but I'll talk about that in a bit.

- There was a holographic baseball in "The Family, The Man" section, but it was several years until I was tall enough to see it on my own. Still, it was really neat, but it was removed with the renovation (holographic images were really popular in the late 1990s)

- The World War II area actually never changed over the renovation, which I like. There's a film on George Bush getting shot down and rescued later, and also a metal platform with information on some WWII planes (including the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb)

- There was also a wall of television screens, which screamed "1990s" and was taken out after the renovation.

- "The Overlook" originally had nothing, it was turned into a (rather tacky) quasi-museum area after the remodel.

- "Air Force One" was a neat exhibit, it was styled to look like an airplane cockpit, complete with the sound of pressurized air. You could buckle up in one of the seats, but the buckles were removed in the late 1990s and remained that way until just a few years prior to the renovation.

- There was a Berlin Wall exhibit, which I honestly forgot is still there or not. It used to have several black and white pictures and a color monitor. Most notably, it had a chunk of the Berlin Wall, with graffiti on one side, and nothing but concrete on the other.

- "The Gulf War" exhibit was later de-rided in its later years for being a bunch of chintzy lights, but I tell you, it was something really neat. There was a huge 3D (at an angle) map of the Middle East, with LEDs going off as a video was telling you was telling you about the Gulf War. The lights indicated troop movements, bombing raids on Iraq as a bunch of rapidly flickering lights (then fading), missle movements, and little red lights indicating where Saddam set the oil on fire as he was leaving Kuwait. Lights would flash overhead when the missles hit (such as the Scuds being aimed at Israel). It gave me chills watching it every time, and back in that era, Saddam was still at large post-Kuwait. The exhibit that replaced it really is pathetic compared to what it once was.

- Toward the end, there were machines (I think they're still there, but they cost extra...I think) where you could input your name and pick a number of pre-selected questions to get a "letter from the President". The novelty wore off quickly. Also toward the end was tourist information. I always picked up this digest-sized "dining guide" that had menus of restaurants all over town (including but not limited to the late Deluxe Diner).

- There was a time in 2nd grade where we were taking a tour and saw Barbara Bush walking her dogs. We thought we were so lucky because the other class missed it, but then another class got their picture with her. :/

- One of the best times during the pre-remodeling was the 2005 train exhibit...but I've decided to save that for another time, as it really is a story in itself.

- I don't know if it's still there, but there was a "Millie's Activity" thing where there were doghouses periodically that had questions for kids. I think there were two levels, one for beginners and one more advanced.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Comm. Building Permits College Station in the Late 1980s

This is removed from the Index and only serves as a resource to what links here.

We rarely get stuff this neat: this is a list of commercial buildings for the late 1980s (taken from a city-produced master plan guide from circa 1990).

No idea where the other 1985 permits except for Scott & White, and that's probably the older building on University, and the Hampton Inn...which is probably the one next to Applebee's. It's likely the Theatre is the Brazos Fellowship building (it was a three-screen theater off of Southwest Parkway), but I can't know for sure. I do know where Aggieland Printing was, up until about 2001, it was located in a little maroon building right about where the water tower driveway is.

The 1986 permits include 7-11 (which replaced a gas station-turned-bar), but it's not a 7-11 anymore, which is a shame: I do enjoy Slurpees, and ICEEs (found at a few gas stations in town, and Target) aren't the same, as they mix syrup and ice, while Slurpees is frozen syrup continually blended (it's true).

Kentucky Fried Chicken is probably the one at Southwest Parkway and Texas, renovated a few years ago.

Whataburger is almost certainly the one on Dominik, which places it as being relatively new before a fire gutted it in the early 1990s (it has since been repaired).

Mazzio's I have unpleasant memories of, it's where Harvey Washbanger's is. The change-over happened in the late 1990s.

1987 brought Putt-Putt Golf (which closed about five years ago or so, dying as "Brazos Valley Golf and Games"), an "Exxon Shop", which I'm guessing is modern-day Franky's (or the Valero on Holleman, or even the Highway 30 ones), and Wal-Mart, which secured its permit that year and was up and running by 1988. I don't know about the go cart track, wasn't Pooh's Park, which was on its way out by that time.

1988 brought Loupot's (probably the Southgate location), Taco Cabana (near Barnes & Noble), Circle K (which is where Texaco is, near Walmart, a funny story on that one, we'll discuss it later), CC Creations (moved), Shamrock (Diamond Shamrock?).

1989 brought "Nancy's Cookies", "Jud's", and "Western Auto". Western Auto is probably the current Advance Auto Parts on Harvey, which is what all Western Autos are now.

If you have locations for any of these, please please please...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

[Side Stories] LoTrak

Updated on June 28, 2013, with the correct spelling of the word, also renamed from "LoTrack: What Little We Know"
Being in College Station, I can say that The Eagle keeps the worst archives of newspapers around.

One of the more interesting things I heard I've heard about the history of the city was the circa-1993 proposal of "LoTrak" officially) was a way to avoid railroad crossings along Wellborn Road.

The main reason is that both College Station voters didn't want to do it (or was it Texas A&M?) even though TxDOT, the county, and Bryan would do it (it would cost millions, as seen above).

The original plan (seen above) was a sunken trench that would basically allow trains to descend about 25 feet below street level around Southwest Parkway, and convert Wellborn Road to a divided highway. What's bizarre is that Villa Maria Road and FM 2818 (it was FM 2818 back then!) as railroad crossings, which ironically are the only ones today that have replaced their at-grade crossings with overpasses or underpasses since the LoTrak proposal.

I've heard some earlier conflicting stories about this (source and other source), as some have claimed that it would go past 2818, or be partially elevated (possibly around University, maybe, which already had an overpass)

Later the possibility came up of rerouting the railroad to the west (that I remember) around 2001. That was even more difficult to imagine. First off, had they done that, my best friend would've moved out of town (he had lived in River Run). Furthermore, I couldn't imagine (and still can't, frankly) the railroad being abandoned along Wellborn. That would leave a lifeless right-of-way along Wellborn, bumping over patched crossings and seeing nothing but a scarred grass path, which would eventually give way to a full highway.

Updated to 2013 Format 5/15