Well... they are gone now. The MoPac oaks that stood serenely for so many years, adding a softness to the ever increasing traffic nightmare that is MoPac. How did this slip past so quietly? Austin is the the city that outlaws the destruction of trees yet a whole stand of ancient Live Oaks was dozed and reduced to mulch before our eyes.
For a toll-road to nowhere.
Disch Field start of school concert: leon Russell, allman Bros band, PG&E, Its a Beautiful Day
I remember going to the Split Rail in the mid to late 1950s when my Daddy, Jim Solt, played catcher for the Austin Senators. That was a favorite hangout for the team and their families after the games since it basically "backed up" to the old Disch Field on Barton Springs Road, the Senator's home ballpark.
Then in the 70s we went there to hear the music. It was a cool place because I had a small child and back then children were allowed.
Good food, good music, great place. Miss those times!
Debra Solt Godina
I was downtown today and, as sometimes happens to an Austin old-timer, I had a flash recollection of something long gone... the steam locomotive that sat on track in a park downtown. I couldn't remember where it was exactly but I did recall that it was maintained by the firemen from the nearby station. I also had some vague recollection that the O. Henry house was somewhere nearby. Right on both counts. The park is still there but the train is long gone. It's a good story though, engine 768 was refurbished and actually put back into service as a weekend tour train ride from Cedar Park to Burnet and back. I took that trip several times with my kids and remember the amazing power and noise that engine created.
On a happy related note, in doing the research to help my failing memory I found that Google has this delightful image of how the park is being used today. That simple image sums up a lot about the power of Austin.
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Tonight, we all thought it would finally rain. Austin back in the day was always a lush green place. These days, I feel that it is turning into a semi-desert. The radar showed promise tonight... the regular and expected line of storms moving in from the west, filling up our lakes, and then raining down the cleansing blast that washed away the debris of spring. This year however, that debris is still with us. Not a single rain storm has come since each species of tree has gone through its annual bloom and drop cycle. Mounds of spent pollen buds line the gutters even now, months after they should have been washed away and put to good use. No rain tonight.
Austin has survived many things... I hope an historic drought is one that it can take in stride.
Update! Shows you the power of thought... this morning, the rains came in full force, thankfully.
Well, I really received a shock the other day. We had some guests from out of town who had spent enough time in Austin to know the cool spots. It was decided that we would all trek to Ski Shores for an afternoon of burgers, beer, and old-time Austin vibe. I suppose two out of three ain't bad but that vibe is long gone. Ski Shores has turned into little Disneyland with a bar... kids everywhere.
I don't fault the management for making a decision that will probably keep the business afloat and with us for many more years to come. It is just another notch on the list of "long gone" Austin places that personified the culture of our town. What passes for Austin culture these days seems to come out of a mayonnaise jar. Whether it's the artificial Bohemia of South Congress, the hipster popularity contest of East-side cocktail bars, or plastic playscape-themed conversions of previous dives, it all seems a little desperate.
Back in the 80's, Dallas seemed to "wake up" to what was happening in Austin and tried to manufacture hip culture: South Greenville, Deep Ellum, etc., were 100% contrived attempts at cool. I would look upon these with the smug satisfaction that here in Austin, we had the real thing. I look around now and and it seems that the pre-fab forces are gaining on us.
Who was here that fateful day, Dec. 8, 1980? It was actually the day after that I remember. I was awakened, as always back then, to KLBJ-FM. Note, that was when KLBJ was good; before it changed into their current "Hey man, let's party!" blazing guitars and hair mode. Anyway, the DJ was very somber and announced that Lennon had been killed the night before. They played only Beatles and Lennon that day non-stop, no commercial breaks. I had to go to work but I was completely shocked into an altered sense of being. The Beatles meant so much to us all. Around 5:00pm or so, I was at my girlfriend's apartment and she told me of a gathering at Zilker under the Zilker Christmas tree... we had to go.
What we found there was a very large but quiet crowd of Austin under the tree. Some had brought candles to pass around and soon there was a large circle of folks, all holding candles, around the base of the tree, all facing in. We cried, we sang, we thought of the damage that Mark David Chapman had done. We all knew that things had fundamentally changed that night. Austin certainly never felt the same again. It seemed like from that day forward, the pace of change in Austin has done nothing but get faster, accelerating away from us.
Today, there are pan handlers on every street corner. Back in the good old days, there were hippie flower sellers. Remember them? I think they were officially called "The Flower People". They each had a white plastic bucket of long stem carnations and each had their own style of marketing and actually put some effort into it. The main technique I recall was their ability to twirl a long-stem flower on their index finger for hours. Much like watching someone spin a basketball or ride a unicycle, it look effortless and easy.
Effortless and easy... that pretty much describes the culture of the times that allowed not only the omnipresence of these hippies of commerce but also allowed one of them to rise up to run the circus: