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10 cool things about Houston in the 1980s


marmer

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Call it sappy, but there was a "We're all in this together" attitude during that time that cemented my love for this city. I still love Houston, but the Me first attitude of the last 10 years is a decidedly less attractive quality.

That's a really good way of putting it. In some ways back then I felt more connected to other Houstonians, and the city seemed to have a much more tangible identity. We (or at least I) tend to mock the CVB folks for their bungled attempts at branding 21st century Houston, but it's a tough task, given how much we've grown.

But just for the record--my butt never got near a pair of Rockies. I was quite happy to make it through the decade without any midnite-rodeoing. :D

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another for the list: The Wortham being built. That was a real source of civic pride, in the middle of the bust. I remember my parents buying opera season tix.

(PS to Red, more like 19 year-old Crunch in a vinyl dress and doc martens. Sorry to ruin it for ya. :P )

Edited by crunchtastic
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Safe in the 80's? - Houston's murder rate in the late 70's through 1985 was four time higher than it is now. No, Houston in the 80's was much more dangerous than it is now.

...wasn't everyone's?

But then again, some areas in the 1980s weren't bad and then got worse? Like, say, Greenspoint Mall?

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My top ELEVEN but in no particular order..........

  • Cruising Westheimer
  • ACA Joe and Corona Beach Club t-shirts everywhere
  • Texas Commerce Bank on every block
  • original Vargo's
  • Sam's Boat on Richmond
  • La Bare
  • 16 mi Rd at Jamaica Beach Galveston
  • Southern Star Amphitheater
  • Joskes
  • Acapulco Bar in Windsor Plaza
  • Dream Merchant

Edited by KimmerTX
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My top ELEVEN but in no particular order..........

  • Cruising Westheimer
  • ACA Joe and Corona Beach Club t-shirts everywhere
  • Texas Commerce Bank on every block
  • original Vargo's
  • Sam's Boat on Richmond
  • La Bare
  • 16 mi Rd at Jamaica Beach Galveston
  • Southern Star Amphitheater
  • Joskes
  • Acapulco Bar in Windsor Plaza
  • Dream Merchant

Hey I am glad I did my time in the 60's. It sure must have sucked to have to have been a kid in the 80's.

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1. Ocean Club

2. Rick's Cabaret

3. Yucatan Liquor Stand

4. Astros 1986 NL Pennant (witnessed the Mike Scott no-hitter clincher)

5. Astros vs. Mets NLCS

6. Club Proteus

7. Cineplex Odeon on Bering Drive

8. Still mostly a black and white cit

9. No cell phones

10. No internet

Edited by spiderroller
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I don't know, but having titty bars in the top 10 cool things about Houston does not say much for Houston, or is it just the folks making the list?

I would tend to agree, but, all the bidnessmen doing big deals needed something to do after they ate their expense account steaks. Houston's strip clubs were very well-known.

Is that still the case?

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I would tend to agree, but, all the bidnessmen doing big deals needed something to do after they ate their expense account steaks. Houston's strip clubs were very well-known.

Is that still the case?

Sorry guys... but the strip clubs in the 80s are as non-existent as the horse and buggy.... today the "strip clubs" are simply organized prostitution and nothing else.

And Rick's had no competition.

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9. No cell phones

10. No internet

Hmm...in the 80s I lived in there were cell phones (I had one) and there was a pre 1993 BBS type internet. Remember 2400 modems and compuserve?

In general yes, cellphones had not yet become the addictive commodity they are today where you even hear someone in a public bathroom stall talking to his wife while doing his bidness. I have never been able to figure that one out and more than likely I never will.

30tsbnq.jpg

Edited by SchwinnChopper68
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Hmm...in the 80s I lived in there were cell phones (I had one) and there was a pre 1993 BBS type internet. Remember 2400 modems and compuserve?

In general yes, cellphones had not yet become the addictive commodity they are today where you even hear someone in a public bathroom stall talking to his wife while doing his bidness. I have never been able to figure that one out and more than likely I never will.

30tsbnq.jpg

Yep... was Prodigy in the 80s or early 90s?

My best friend had one of the first 'mobile' phones.... the kind you could actually take with you. Many people in the 80s had CAR PHONES... you know.... they pretty much had to stay in your car... some you could take the whole contraption with you.... but... I'll never forget my buddy who had the Oki mobile phone... looked like a massive walkie talkie.... we would go into a restaurant and he'd call people... and others in the place would look at him, tranfixed, wondering what the hell he was doing and what he was talking into!

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Yes, let's not get this thread confused with the equally enjoyable "Back in the '60s when we had an actual culture..." thread.

The first time I saw cell phones was at the opening of the GRB convention center in '86 or '87. There was a giant fireworks display created by some Italian fireworks artist and the Rice orchestra played live music for it. Several of the organizers and event staff were walking around with "bag phones" slung over their shoulder, having Very Important Conversations. These phones were about the size of a purse or large hardback book. I wonder what they were paying per minute? I bet it was something like a dollar or something.

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I had a bag phone from Houston Cellular. There was a phone cord to the receiver. I have no clue what the cost was back then.

Speaking of the GRB opening - Does anyone remember the Continental jet doing a flyover? I've never seen a jumbo jet fly that low outside an airport.

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I had a bag phone from Houston Cellular, too. It was a Christmas gift from my wife, probably '89, '90 or so. It was pretty expensive at the time. Don't remember what the minute charge was, either. Expensive enough that it was pretty much only for emergencies.

Edit: I don't remember the Continental flyover, and I was there. But I had a thousand things to worry about with the orchestra, and that may have been earlier in the day.

Edited by marmer
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i graduated high school in 1983. although my love of houston began before my teenage years, the mid/late eighties are when i actually ventured out and had some REAL fun.

personal pivotal 80's events/discoveries:

#s

NRG

power tools

record rack

cruising westheimer

marshall fields/matinique/dream merchant/judy's/visible changes

jean michel jarre, rendezvous houston (celebration of houston during a difficult time)

sony walkman, cd players

after hours clubs/parties

the menil

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I had a bag phone from Houston Cellular, too. It was a Christmas gift from my wife, probably '89, '90 or so. It was pretty expensive at the time. Don't remember what the minute charge was, either. Expensive enough that it was pretty much only for emergencies.

Edit: I don't remember the Continental flyover, and I was there. But I had a thousand things to worry about with the orchestra, and that may have been earlier in the day.

$30 per month base charge, 38 cents a minute usage. I don't believe there were any free minutes, but I may be mistaken.

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I remember a club called "The Fizz" on Richmond (about a block east of Fondren) that was so hot they had people being bussed in. I also seem to remember that it was before exctasy was made illegal and they would have the pills in glass bowls before you walked in the door. Of course my memory may be a little fuzzy on that one.

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Yes, let's not get this thread confused with the equally enjoyable "Back in the '60s when we had an actual culture..." thread.

The first time I saw cell phones was at the opening of the GRB convention center in '86 or '87. There was a giant fireworks display created by some Italian fireworks artist and the Rice orchestra played live music for it.

I was there too! It was in front of the GRB. They had a lot of fireworks that were on sort of pinwheels, instead of shot into the air.

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I was there too! It was in front of the GRB. They had a lot of fireworks that were on sort of pinwheels, instead of shot into the air.

Yes, exactly. We (the orchestra) played Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien and the fireworks artist was in contact with the various "firing stations" by radio or more likely wired intercom. I don't remember if he had a cue person following the score, but I think he did. Anyway, in time with the music, he would call commands like "Venti due.......GO!" It was very cool.

It was at a planning meeting for this event that Dancie Perugini Ware greeted my arrival by throwing a chocolate truffle at me, which hit my jacket with a very surprising "splat!" Sort of a chocolate paintball, I guess. She paid for my dry cleaning and sent a box of truffles to my office. Classy lady, classy firm.

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....and YOU in a pair of Z.Cavaricci's...........ACK !!!

Now, Galveston was ALWAYS fun back in the 80's, East Beach in particular.

I remember West Beach in the 80's when you could build a fire , camp and spend the night . Not a beach house in sight .

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  • 1 year later...

(The Montrose topic got me thinking about Houston in the 1980s.)

My top ELEVEN but in no particular order..........

  • Cruising Westheimer
  • ACA Joe and Corona Beach Club t-shirts everywhere
  • Texas Commerce Bank on every block
  • original Vargo's
  • Sam's Boat on Richmond
  • La Bare
  • 16 mi Rd at Jamaica Beach Galveston
  • Southern Star Amphitheater
  • Joskes
  • Acapulco Bar in Windsor Plaza
  • Dream Merchant

I think my Aca Joe shirt is still lurking in a closet somewhere. ^_^

Fast 'n' Cool on Kirby. They had the dancers in cages.

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Hey I am glad I did my time in the 60's. It sure must have sucked to have to have been a kid in the 80's.

Aww, c'mon now! I was aged 4-14 in the 80's and I still have very fond memories of the era. I guess it's just what you grow up with. My top 10 (in no particular order):

10. The OLD Third Planet in that little house.

9. GiGi's model shop in Sharpstown Mall (especially that model of the Invisible Woman)

8. Trick or treating - after dark!

7. Funland arcade at Meyerland Plaza

6. Open-late Thursdays at the Bellaire Public Library (Yeah, I was/am a dork)

5. Cruising Westheimer (It was in the back seat of my parent's station wagon, but Westheimer at night still felt magical)

4. 25 cent bowling at Palace Lanes on Bellaire during the summer

3. World Toy and Gift

2. Astroworld when a season pass was $30 - not that my parents ever got one for me.

1. PLAYING THE FARK OUTSIDE. The city is safer now, but back then parents seemed to have less compunction about letting kids play outside. At least my parents and my friend's parents didn't. There was also less emphasis placed on safety

and that "neglect" was lots of fun. I wonder if kids still try to climb the electric towers in the horse field between Bellaire and Beechnut, east of Newcastle? Or cross the trestle over Braes Bayou? Or navigate Bellaire and Meyerland via bayous

and drainage ditches? I spent much of my youth playing in - and around - sewage. Fun.

I do hold some envy for those that were young and on their own in Houston during the 80's. But, I wouldn't give up my childhood in Bellaire during that time for anything.

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being that I was a kid in the 80s, my view's a bit skewed...

8. roller skating rink at bellaire and kirkwood.

7. keemah before the boardwalk.

6. NASA visitor stuff before they disneyfied it. I may have been a little kid, but I certainly enjoyed seeing the real stuff over seeing props and playing on a computer simulation.

5. fame city (bowling, puttputt, rollerskating all in one?)

4. season pass to astroworld, and watching the fireworks display every saturday night, it never got old! (I wonder if it got old for my parents? I remember after the display, all 4 of us, mom, dad, sister and me would run back to the greezed lightning, or over to the cyclone for some no line action after the fireworks)

3. sesquicentenial celebration, jean michel jarre laser show.

2. miller outdoor theater the friday and saturday nights we weren't at astroworld, we were sitting on the hill.

1. moonlight bicycle ramble

okay, so that's all I got.

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Hey I am glad I did my time in the 60's. It sure must have sucked to have to have been a kid in the 80's.

Hey I am glad I did my time in the 50's. It sure must have sucked to have to have been a kid in the 60's.

10. Steam locomotives daily down the double tracks.

9. Escape to monkey's hill.

8. Seeing the distant 4th of July fireworks at the Shamrock Hotel.

7. Open windows, attic fans, quiet city at night.

6. Saturday morning double horror features at the Bellaire.

5. Looney auction.

4. You actually see stars in the night sky over Bellaire.

3. Safely walking to and from Horn Elementary without a care in the world.

2. Leaflet drops from DC3's.

1. Rides and races at Playland Park.

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Hey I am glad I did my time in the 50's. It sure must have sucked to have to have been a kid in the 60's.

10. Steam locomotives daily down the double tracks.

9. Escape to monkey's hill.

8. Seeing the distant 4th of July fireworks at the Shamrock Hotel.

7. Open windows, attic fans, quiet city at night.

6. Saturday morning double horror features at the Bellaire.

5. Looney auction.

4. You actually see stars in the night sky over Bellaire.

3. Safely walking to and from Horn Elementary without a care in the world.

2. Leaflet drops from DC3's.

1. Rides and races at Playland Park.

I see you mentioned monkey's hill. In the 80s we had a Monkey Hills that was the drainage ditch at the north end of the horse pasture between Bellaire and Beechnut. We'd jump our bikes across the ditch. Same place?

I, too, remember walking to Horn Elementary. My folks never gave a second thought about my walking home form there.

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I see you mentioned monkey's hill. In the 80s we had a Monkey Hills that was the drainage ditch at the north end of the horse pasture between Bellaire and Beechnut. We'd jump our bikes across the ditch. Same place?

I, too, remember walking to Horn Elementary. My folks never gave a second thought about my walking home form there.

oh man, thinking about it, I remember many summer evenings playing in that landfill between cook and kirkwood, not to mention having b.b.gun wars across the drainage ditch that eventually filters in to braes bayou.

do either of those things these days you'd be going to some juvenile detention or something.

Aside from losing an eye in the b.b.gun fights (which I grew back because of the toxic stuff in the landfil) I think it was a positive experience overall.

Edited by samagon
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oh man, thinking about it, I remember many summer evenings playing in that landfill between cook and kirkwood, not to mention having b.b.gun wars across the drainage ditch that eventually filters in to braes bayou.

do either of those things these days you'd be going to some juvenile detention or something.

Aside from losing an eye in the b.b.gun fights (which I grew back because of the toxic stuff in the landfil) I think it was a positive experience overall.

Heh, I lived out that way at one point, as well. Never played in the landfill, but I would drive past it quite often on the way home from football practice at Elsik.

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Houston in the 80s was a GREAT place to live. More than anything specific it had a lower population plus the mentality of people was generally with a positive outlook on things and less hostility. I suppose that is true for all of our culture in the nation. These days people get into an arms race with giant SUVs with tinted windows for privacy and as soon as they get home to their planned community and the garage door drops behind them they are completely isolated from the world. There is some kind of anti-social pathology in the aggregate with this "me me me" egomania and self indulgence.

Back in the 80s Houston was more of a traditional southern town where people really did say "howdy" to complete strangers and if you made eye contact with a stranger randomly they were more apt to say hello or at least nod instead of looking away in fear or due to anti-social mental disorder.

Downtown was in ruins for the most part and the idea of lofts and urban living was not the in thing. We did have Houston House and the Savoy was still open but people were still flocking to suburbia. I would say we had at least 40% fewer cars on the road and people were much more friendly on the roadways. Prior to the late 1980s expansion of the SW freeway I think we had only 3 lanes going in each direction but it still worked.

Something just went wrong in the 90s and what was traditional Houston culture was lost. It was not exactly like carpetbaggers who came to the south after the civil war and altered it but to some extent it was.

The best things about the 80s I can recall:

1. That lights lasers show in downtown

2. Sharpstown mall before it declined hard

3. Kiddies Wonderland was still around

4. Astroworld was cheap and nice

5. The Origional X-mas store

6. Houston Zoo was free and not all corporate littered like now

7. JSC NASA was free and focused on science instead of being a playground; you could drive up to rocket park in your own car!

8. Woolworth downtown as stil a true 5 and dime store

9. Marvin Zindler was at the top of his game (plus The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas added to his fame)

10. METRO seemed to just conduct public transit business instead of being a front for deep corruption, illegal deals, and leaders with phoney diplomas/qualifications.

As a bonus....I don't think the director of the YMCA Houston took home about 60% of all income they generated back in the 80s like he does now.

The "good ole boy" days in Houston seem mild compared to what is normal these days.

7.

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Sam's Boat on Richmond

I find it interesting that so many people listed this. When reporter Dan Garcia left KHOU to become news director in Wichita Falls we had his going away party here. I had no idea it had so much sentimental value to the people of Houston. Yet another thing about the bayou city that I didn't appreciate when I lived there.

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There was another boat restaurant on South Main not far from the Shamrock. It was mainly seafood, of course.

Downtown was in ruins for the most part and the idea of lofts and urban living was not the in thing. We did have Houston House and the Savoy was still open but people were still flocking to suburbia. I would say we had at least 40% fewer cars on the road and people were much more friendly on the roadways. Prior to the late 1980s expansion of the SW freeway I think we had only 3 lanes going in each direction but it still worked.

I think Houston was known for horrendous traffic early on since the population had grown faster than the infrastructure could keep up. After the bust people used to say that one benefit was that traffic slacked off.

Downtown was indeed a different and not so nice place. The Savoy, Lamar, Holiday Inn, Whitehall, Sheraton and Texas State hotels all closed down. The entire Lamar Hotel block was demolished and left as surface parking. The Rice Hotel was decrepit, boarded up, and smelled like urine. Something like a dozen skyscraper projects were canceled. The east side of downtown was a sea of surface lots, and what is now Midtown was largely vacant except for some somewhat shady operations in some of the old houses.

All that said, it did seem like a fun place to live at the time. As others have mentioned, there seemed to be something of a "we're all in this together" attitude.

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There was another boat restaurant on South Main not far from the Shamrock. It was mainly seafood, of course.

I think Houston was known for horrendous traffic early on since the population had grown faster than the infrastructure could keep up. After the bust people used to say that one benefit was that traffic slacked off.

Downtown was indeed a different and not so nice place. The Savoy, Lamar, Holiday Inn, Whitehall, Sheraton and Texas State hotels all closed down. The entire Lamar Hotel block was demolished and left as surface parking. The Rice Hotel was decrepit, boarded up, and smelled like urine. Something like a dozen skyscraper projects were canceled. The east side of downtown was a sea of surface lots, and what is now Midtown was largely vacant except for some somewhat shady operations in some of the old houses.

All that said, it did seem like a fun place to live at the time. As others have mentioned, there seemed to be something of a "we're all in this together" attitude.

In addition to the slacking off of traffic (Houston actually lost population in the mid to late 80s), the huge number of freeway construction projects begun in the early 80s in a desparate attempt to lessen the gridlock on nearly every freeway began to come online. For instance, the Hardy and North and West Sam Houston toll roads were opened in the late 80s, and the widening of I-45 was also completed, making travel in north Houston almost pleasant for a few years.

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In addition to the slacking off of traffic (Houston actually lost population in the mid to late 80s), the huge number of freeway construction projects begun in the early 80s in a desparate attempt to lessen the gridlock on nearly every freeway began to come online. For instance, the Hardy and North and West Sam Houston toll roads were opened in the late 80s, and the widening of I-45 was also completed, making travel in north Houston almost pleasant for a few years.

Shows my age I suppose, but I still think of the Hardy Toll Road as being new. Before it was built it was hellacious getting to the airport. It was basically a bet as to whether traffic would be worse on 45 North or 59 North.

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There was another boat restaurant on South Main not far from the Shamrock. It was mainly seafood, of course.

Captain Benny's? I've eaten there, but it's been nearly 30 years...

The Rice Hotel was decrepit, boarded up, and smelled like urine.

Must be one of those sense-memory things, but I still cannot walk down the sidewalk past the Rice without smelling ghost wino pee.

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and what is now Midtown was largely vacant except for some somewhat shady operations in some of the old houses.

I remember in the late 80s and early 90s having to go to the old Boy Scouts Sam Houston Area Council office that was in midtown, the landscape has changed so much down there. What always stood out in my mind were the huge old trees that were in the yards of those old worn out houses. There's still a few of the big old trees still there, but most have been razzed along with the old houses that they shared lots with.

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In no particular order:

1. Cooters

2. Ocean Club

3. Club Proteus

4. Yucatan Liquor Stand

5. Astros 1986 Pennant (& specifically the Mike Scott clinching no-hitter)

6. Club 6400

7. Fizz

8. Confetti

9. Piranha Room/Roxy/R&R Bar.... i.e. every bar at this location in the 80s.

10. Metropole

11. Rick's Caberet

That was quick.. and sorry... needed 11..... considering Rick's was such a standout during the 80s......could probably come up with another 10....

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There was another boat restaurant on South Main not far from the Shamrock. It was mainly seafood, of course.

/quote]

Yes, that was the old Captain Benney's which used to sit across the street from The Stables Restaurant off of S. Main at Greenbriar. I think there is a sports medicine hospital there now.

The boat was back from the road towards Bray's Bayou. It looked like a real boat, but I'm not sure if it was or not. The new building, further up S. Main by Target is just shaped like a boat. Many of the Oilers along with Bum Phillips used to be regulars at the old Captain Benny's.

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Yes, that was the old Captain Benney's which used to sit across the street from The Stables Restaurant off of S. Main at Greenbriar. I think there is a sports medicine hospital there now.

The boat was back from the road towards Bray's Bayou. It looked like a real boat, but I'm not sure if it was or not. The new building, further up S. Main by Target is just shaped like a boat. Many of the Oilers along with Bum Phillips used to be regulars at the old Captain Benny's.

The original location of Capt. Benny's was at Main @ Holcombe, caddy-corner from the Shamrock. It was a real shrimp boat with a door cut in the side and a horshoe-shaped bar and cooler inside and not much else, very limited menu, too, according to my brother, who went often. Later moved down to the Greenbriar location.

Benny was an oyster shucker at Bill Williams who opened his own place when BW closed. See the posts including the quotes from vonroach in this thread.

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The original location of Capt. Benny's was at Main @ Holcombe, caddy-corner from the Shamrock. It was a real shrimp boat with a door cut in the side and a horshoe-shaped bar and cooler inside and not much else, very limited menu, too, according to my brother, who went often. Later moved down to the Greenbriar location.

Benny was an oyster shucker at Bill Williams who opened his own place when BW closed. See the posts including the quotes from vonroach in this thread.

Speaking of seafood restaurants in the 80's, what was the name of the one at the southwest corner of W Gray and Woodhead? Pier One currently occupies the site.

It was a white stucco building with a nautical Streamline theme - lots of stainless steel and neon. Someone had recently completed a very nice renovation when it burned to the ground, circa 1986. Among the improvements was a NOS tile floor found in a rural hardware store basement.

I salvaged one of the exterior lighting fixtures, which appears to be an authentic ship light; the casting states it was manufactured in Houston.

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Speaking of seafood restaurants in the 80's, what was the name of the one at the southwest corner of W Gray and Woodhead? Pier One currently occupies the site.

It was a white stucco building with a nautical Streamline theme - lots of stainless steel and neon. Someone had recently completed a very nice renovation when it burned to the ground, circa 1986. Among the improvements was a NOS tile floor found in a rural hardware store basement.

I salvaged one of the exterior lighting fixtures, which appears to be an authentic ship light; the casting states it was manufactured in Houston.

That was Captain Johns. The building dated from 1940 and was originally the Golden Girl restaurant. It became Captain Johns in 1944. It closed in the 1970s but was remodeled and reopened in 1982. The fire was in 1985.

Any more questions, just ask! :D

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These pics just reinforce my beef about the completely ass-backwards nature of so-called preservation in this city.

Rather than Sue Lovell and friends jack-booting homeowners, why aren't we focusing our collective efforts on commercial and industrial structures-- all over the city? Because the city lacks the wherewithal to do the hard work of raising funds or interest to do so. It's easier to push it off on the small guys, the non-investor homeowners, and claim we're preserving 'neighborhoods,' than to tackle much more expensive, useful and visible sites.

Edited by crunchtastic
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  • 1 month later...

1. astroworld (working and playing in the park)

2. astrodome (mom dropping me off with 5 bucks for astros games)

3. parker pool during summer

4. riding bikes from Missouri City down Chimney Rock to Braes Bayou (and back)

5. Godfathers pizza on Fondren after football games

6. Westbury National Little League (70's really)

7. Getting on the roof at Westbury HS after school was out to find handballs

8. Walking to and from school (Andy Anderson) across Chimney Rock

9. Crawdad fishing on rainy days along Chimney Rock

10. Meyerland Plaza

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