Austin Stories B. C. – How We Got Here or … The Things We Carried

My attempt to share stories for each letter of the alphabet featuring our life in Austin B.C. (Before Children) 1975-1985. The 70s were a long time ago. 26 stories might be a stretch for my brain, but I have made it to H – as has the Sepia Saturday prompt photo for this week

How We Got Here

When we graduated from Baylor in 1975, I was working at Sears in the Women’s Department and my husband was still making better bucks as a waiter. It was time to put our degrees to use – mine in Social Work and his in Psychology. My husband left Baylor his junior year, I think it was, and transferred to the University of Texas at Austin. He returned to Baylor to finish up because those drives back and forth on I-35 to see me had become really tiresome. But once he had experienced living in Austin, he wanted to move here.

We don’t have many memories about the whole process. One morning in late summer, we made that drive south on I-35 to look for jobs. We had written resumes and may have sent them to a few places. And once we were in town, we bought a newspaper to check the classified ads and make a few calls. All I know for sure is that we went to the offices of the Mary Lee Foundation and were interviewed. We may have called ahead or maybe we just dropped in. We went as a duo, not sure how that would work. The director interviewed us and told us there was one position open at the Live Oak campus, a residential program for children. The job involved supervision of the children in one of the dormitories. Then he told us to decide who got the job because he was willing to hire either one of us. That was unexpected.

My husband and I talked about it and l suggested he take the job. I knew I wanted to apply to graduate school in Social Work and he wasn’t as sure. Also, I wasn’t sure this was the job for me. And I was probably right.

Before we had any children in elementary school, the director’s wife had been a counselor at the school our children later attended. And years later, the wife of the Psychologist who worked at Mary Lee was our son’s first grade teacher. Small world. Small Austin.

The Things We Carried

The prompt photo prompted me to think about our actual move to Austin – what we brought with us and what remains.

We moved to Austin in September. We didn’t own much, moving from a small furnished duplex into a small furnished apartment. We don’t remember anything about the move. Since we didn’t have much furniture, we could have moved most things in our cars, but a mattress?

I guess since we don’t remember anything, it was uneventful. No catastrophes, anyway.

A few photos hint at some things we carried with us.

A potted palm, a big animal print pillow I made, and a plaster panda my husband painted. There was a smaller pillow I made, a kind of jungle animal print. Also a poster, but I can’t tell what it is. We still have the panda, but not the pillows.

A bookshelf my dad(Jim) made for me when I was in college. It is standing to the left of the desk where I am using the computer as I write this. And those family photos hang in our home today.We still have some of those books. I still own that cable knit sweater!

Me Christmas 1977.

A painting a friend’s mother painted for us as a wedding gift. It is hanging in our house today.

Another Christmas, a slightly different wall arrangement. We brought the filled type tray with us and still have it, although it is not hanging. And I’m pretty sure we brought the plaster etc that we spray painted gold. That is long gone. The family photo hangs upstairs now and we still have the framed sheet music that I think we carried with us during that move?

The popular mushroom themed canisters that my parents gave us. We no longer have those. Once we moved into our current house, we just couldn’t make the orange mushrooms work.

My husband started painting plaster figures when he was in high school. First came model cars and model monsters, then came plaster monsters and other things. The ones we carried with us, he painted during college. Besides the panda in the first photo, he painted Charlie Chaplin and two of the Marx brothers. We still have them. I pulled them out of the junk room “attic” during one of my recent cancers, thinking they would be fun to see on top of the kitchen cabinets. I needed something fun to look at.

Of course we carried our TV, our stereo and albums and 8 track tapes. My guitar and sewing machine. Our clothes.

I had to replace the sewing machine, but still have my guitar. The stereo was replaced long ago. I still have this 8 track – one of the first gifts my husband gave to me while we were dating.

Listening to the album brings back memories.

We were still newlyweds when we moved to Austin, so we had our new set of stoneware dishes and pewter goblets and set of pots and pans. Pyrex. Corningware … All still here and in use. Well, there has been some breakage.

We also carried the odds and ends of kitchen things that our moms let each of us take when we first moved into our own apartments. A couple of pieces of my mom’s older Pyrex casserole dishes, some odd pieces of silverware, a couple of kitchen knives, a cheese grater. We had a metal colander that we used for forty-five years. I was cleaning the veggies from our CSA box a few months ago and noticed that a hole had worn through the bottom and I threw it away. My husband claims it was his inheritance from his great-grandmother.

I still have a rusty sifter from my mom’s kitchen. It was an extra. My husband doesn’t understand why I don’t get rid of it. Seriously? It doesn’t shed rust into the flour, so why would I replace it?

It’s funny writing these remembrances from so long ago. I don’t remember a lot of details and it is interesting to note what I remember and what I don’t remember. And photos. Today I pull out my phone and take a picture of anything and everything. Not so back then. It required a camera and film and waiting. We just don’t have that many photographs of the ordinary. Some, but not many. And my husband was the photographer in the family, so most of the photos are of me. Not a fair representation of our life.

A few remaining belongings, some physical and some only vague memories, are my contribution to Sepia Saturday this week.

Please visit other participants here. They are a creative bunch.

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

8 thoughts on “Austin Stories B. C. – How We Got Here or … The Things We Carried

  1. Darn you, Kathy, this is the best! I wish I had read your story before I posted. I got hung up on the lack of a photo of us actually moving, so I didn’t tell my story of moving. As a result, I just have a little lame post. When Barry and I were planning our move from Harrisonburg to Chesapeake back in 1976, we compared prices on rental trucks and laughed at the blissful tone in U-Haul’s slogan “Adventure in Moving” as compared to the truck we went with: “Move It Yourself.” We had our own furniture, so the truck was jammed full. The last thing to pack – and I don’t know WHY it was last – was the dish drainer. We just threw it in on top and slammed the door quickly. When we got to Chesapeake and started to unload, the drainer came tumbling out. What a greeting!

    • That is a great story! And you actually remember it. Impressive. I was thinking my post lame after reading your serious (deadly serious) post. I’m feeling like a navel gazer writing all of these posts about me, me, me. And this was only letter H.

  2. Next to tales about animals, stories about moving are the best. I actually looked up your sheet music’s song title on YouTube and just listened to a 1927 rendition by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians.

    My family have dozens and dozens of stories about house moves as my dad’s army career took us to many places and each one required a different method. It’s amazing that like you I can identify hundreds of things in my house by when and why they came to be transported to their present location. In the 70s when I finished college my parents presented me with a graduation gift of a green Toyota pickup truck. It transformed my life in ways no regular car could ever have done. It was not just a vehicle, it was an all-purpose wheel barrow which soon made me everyone’s useful friend. Over time that truck and its subsequent replacements, all small Japanese trucks, let me move anything anywhere. And because of its size this usually required multiple trips. As recently as this past year when I disposed of my mom’s remaining furnishings from her apartment to the storage unit to the Goodwill shop, I kept remembering how often I had boxed up and carried certain family things from one place to another.

    In a few weeks I will be making one last move for my parents, though I won’t need my truck, as I will be taking their remains to our family’s cemetery in Washington D.C. Last year when my mom died the crematory returned her in a fine rosewood box. But when my dad died in 2014 my mom delayed his burial and then decided she liked having him around in her home. However we didn’t pay extra for a fancy urn and the plastic container for his ashes was hardly a suitable decorative object to display. Yet I knew exactly what would work. For over 60 years my dad had kept a small wooden shipping box from his Korean war service. In about 1952 it was used by a Korean orphanage which sent him a gift for his patronage of a large brass school bell. For years my dad had proudly hung that bell in nearly every home we lived in. And being a packrat he had saved its useful box to store other things like tools and photos, and of course being his son, I knew where to find it in our attic junkroom. It is of crude but sturdy construction and just the right size. My mom approved and over the last few years enjoyed telling its story to anyone who visited her home. Somehow the provenance of this odd keepsake made it destined for this final purpose.

    Maybe this is the blog story I should have written for this weekend’s Sepia theme. Thanks for letting me share it here.

    • Thank you for sharing that story, Mike. It is indeed worthy of a blog post and I hope you will do that one day. It has me thinking of what will one day be before my siblings and myself. My mom’s ashes are in my dad’s closet right now. Not a suitable place at all. But I don’t think he wants to think about it or do anything about it and will leave that to his children when he passes on.

      We probably didn’t make as many moves as you did, but my dad worked for Sears and any promotions meant a move, so we did. Some to towns with military bases, so everyone assumed we were military when we arrived. We usually had two weeks notice for my dad to arrive at his new “post.”

      Your parents were wise to give you that truck. Everyone needs a friend with a truck!

  3. With my husband working for the U.S. Forest Service we moved around quite a bit. For the first seven years of our marriage we actually moved 4 times in the same area as we lived in a resort community and many of the cabins we were renting were owned by older folks who were close to retirement. They’d retire and want to move into their cabins, so we’d have to move. Each time we moved it was by pickup brigade with helpful friends. So when we finally had to make a big move of several hundred miles we had a big moving van come, Our 7 year old son was confused and wanted to know where all the pickup trucks were? We had a good laugh at that. 🙂

  4. I love this series about your life. This one in particular strikes a chord. When I was recently blogging about my early teens, I was amazed at what I had managed to save through numerous moves — three years of Sixteen Magazine, a program from a 1965 Gene Pitney concert, Dion and Dave Clark Five albums. Like you, I still have my high school guitar — and also my mother’s aluminum measuring cup set, so I am totally with you on saving that sifter! I do envy the ceramics you have saved — most of what I made was lost in various moves — and the artwork you still have, including that lovely wedding-present painting. Looking forward to your next installment!

    • Thanks, Molly. Sometimes I wonder why I still have this, of all things. And sometimes I am left wishing for something I got rid of. Hang on to those measuring cups. I’m keeping the sifter!

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