January 31, 2021

A party at our Austin St. garage apartment in Houston, TX

APARTMENT LIVING

The second year after we married, Tom and I lived in an artsy garage apartment near the University of Houston while he finished his dissertation at Rice University.  Marilyn Duro, a single friend I had briefly worked with the year before at the Fondren Library at Rice, told us about the vacancy. She and her bulldog rented the upstairs, and we moved in below.

Two bachelors had remodeled the place a few years before—and it was a significant upgrade from our previous two Houston apartments.  The galley kitchen had modern appliances and a spacious refrigerator-freezer, there was a working fireplace in the living room, a black tile sunken bathtub, one bedroom, and sliding glass doors across the front opened onto a brick patio with a tall wooden privacy fence surrounding it. 

Marilyn was from the Ozarks and had come to Houston hoping to become an opera singer.  She did get parts in the Houston opera choruses and we enjoyed hearing her singing from upstairs.  Charles and Annis McCabe were an older couple who lived in a big house across the street and they were very hospitable and generous to us.

We brought furniture in a U-Haul from Tennessee—and the wall décor was decidedly Confederate!  There was a large framed print of Stonewall Jackson in the bedroom.  And everything on the living room wall was a framed print or painting related to the Civil War.  The painting over the fireplace was supposedly a scene from the Battle of Nashville.  Our friend Gail Holt from Nashville gave it to us for a wedding gift.  The horses were amazing, but Tom said it wasn’t historically accurate.  After our divorce, he got custody of the painting and I don’t know what happened to it.  Gail’s mother contacted Tom’s mother to request it back but that didn’t happen.  Here it had its moment of glory! I’m seated on the floor beside Tom’s prized possession—a trunk that belonged to General Don Carlos Buell.  How that came to be his is another story.

It was fun entertaining our grad student friends on Austin Street, as we are in this photo.  Snacks and hot buttered rum—future university professors, writers and even opera singers.  Here we hosted our first visits from family—Tom’s parents and brother Bill brought my Mother with them for Tom’s Ph.D. commencement; my sister Tootsie and sister-in-law Katie came to pick Mother up after a monthlong stay; and one weekend, my sister-in-law Mildred and her teenage son Buzz surprised us when they came on a company jet with friends from Ashland Oil for a quick visit.

We also spent our first Christmas away from Tennessee here.  We bought a small aluminum tree, and decorated it with blue lights and balls.  Since it was so warm in Houston, we turned on the air conditioning and built a fire while we played “Blue Christmas” by Elvis!

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