Austin Stories B. C – Off The Drag, The Renaissance Market and More

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. I’m way behind!

I won’t even pretend that I can complete the alphabet prompts on time. I’ll share a two-fer and try to hurry things along. I have to admit, I’ve lost enthusiasm for writing about myself week after week and I’m missing the ancestors. The past few weeks I had computer issues, several medical appointments, and my daughter and I, in an attempt to remain calm in the midst of crazy, have watched 6 seasons of The Good Witch and all of the movies that preceded the series. None of that helped move things along here.

But, I gave myself this challenge and I intend to complete it.

R is for Renaissance Market

No stroll down The Drag was complete without turning the corner onto 23rd Street to visit the vendors at the Renaissance Market.

John R. Van Beekum. [Street Vendors near UT Campus], photograph, Date Unknown; ( accessed August 28, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

Vendors began selling on the Drag in 1969, but the city moved them to 23rd Street in the early 70s and rules were eventually established that excluded booths for imported items. It was a great place to browse the clothing, sandals, jewelry, and other items made by local artisans. Music was also a part of the scene.

When I asked my husband for a memory, he said that he especially liked the jewelry one of the artists cut from coins. He bought a necklace for himself with a pendant cut from a dime. We can’t find it. He may have given it to one of our daughters years ago.

Below, a glass tree sculpture and some small armadillos and birdbaths.

Austin Citizen. [Glass Merchandise at Renaissance Market], photograph, 197X; ( accessed September 12, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

We bought a hot air balloon crafted by the artist pictured below, but we purchased it at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, not at the Renaissance Market (now known as the 23rd Street Artists’ Market). The balloon part was a copper toilet float. He used them for all of his “flying” machines.

Simon, Los. [Metalsmith sculptor selling wares at the Renaissance Market], photograph, 1977; ( accessed August 20, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

My husband took this photo of the iconic Austintatious mural, painted in 1974 and visible in the photo above.

He also got a shot with no people in it.

Over 45 years later, the mural is still there. It has been refurbished and updated four times, most recently in 2014 when it was defaced with large graffiti. The original artists repainted and repaired the mural with donations and their own money. It now has a coating that paint will not adhere to, protecting it from vandals, but also from the artists themselves. They won’t be able to add anything more.

I can’t name everything and everyone in the mural without doing some work, but that’s Stephen F. Austin in the center holding an armadillo. In later years, a crown was added above his head. The UT tower is on the right, Capitol building on the left. Some local characters, street scenes, and notable buildings. Willie was added at some point, and stands by the red truck bottom left. A “neked” Matthew McConaughey with his bongo drums, added some time after 1999. If you don’t know the story, you can find it online. Just a few weeks ago, he brought out bongo drums to rev up the crowd for Austin’s new soccer team. (He was fully clothed.) You can get a peek at Matthew and Willie and some other scenes in this news piece.

And more. Full screen is great for this one.

Hare Krishna. The street preacher. Who and what else can you find?

The mural repaired.

The artist Kelly Awn does most of the talking in both of the videos. He is also a founding member of The Uranium Savages, a satire and parody band which came into being around the same time as the mural. Although I knew about the band, I have never seen them in person. I watched a few videos and some of the scenes in this one looked very familiar. No wonder. They used scenes from the movie Outlaw Blues, which I highlighted in Photographing Film Stars.

I skipped the letter O, so going backward rather than forward in the alphabet …

O is for Off the Drag

At the corner of 24th and Nueces, one block west of the Drag, was Bluebonnet Plaza, a small cluster of businesses and restaurants with all the charm of old, weird Austin. Most of the businesses were in an old two-story building. On a Facebook page dedicated to old Austin, I found this great advertisement drawn by the artist … Kelly Awn! If you are keeping count, that makes three Kelly Awn references today.
I love this drawing! Unfortunately, a little was cut off from the top and bottom.

I think by the time we moved to Austin, Octopus Garden had become Mad Dog and Beans, a hamburger joint. My husband and I both wore Earth Shoes, but he assures me we got them on a trip to Dallas when we were students at Baylor. They did last a long time, so maybe we never bought any in Austin. Whole Earth Provision Co. still exists, but not at this location. There was a hair salon, The Leather Bench, a book store. It didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but the building was also home to The Texas Tribune, where Molly Ivins worked as a journalist. Oh, how I wish I could have met Molly!

The store we visited most often was Inner Sanctum Records, my husband’s favorite record store.

Inner Sanctum Records 1980 by Ben DeSoto

He had one of their posters. We can’t find it. That seems to be a theme.

Les Amis restaurant was on the east side of Bluebonnet Plaza.

Les Amis 1970s [PICA-08569], Austin History Center, Austin Public Library

Neither of us hung out at Les Amis frequently, but we ate there a few times and when I was in graduate school, I’d occasionally go with friends after class. The movie Slacker was partially written and filmed at Les Amis.

Of course there were other places north and south of the part of Guadalupe known as the Drag that we frequented. My husband attended UT his junior year and hung out with his APO friends at Shakey’s Pizza farther north on Guadalupe, and after we moved to Austin the APO folks would sometimes meet there for the beer, pizza, player piano, and sing-a-longs. One of our friends would often play the piano and lead everyone in A Boy Named Sue.

At the south end of the Drag, near the intersection of Guadalupe and MLK (19th Street at that time) my husband played his first of many games of Pong at the Roy Roger’s. The first Pong game in town!

Uncle Van’s Pancake House was also a favorite among UT students for breakfast or the munchies any time of day or night. My husband made sure to take me to his one-year-as-a-UT-undergrad haunts once we moved to town.

I keep thinking of other places where we spent time near the UT campus in those days, but I’ll stop here. Many of the old haunts are now occupied by chain stores and Starbucks. Toward the end of the video below, some old-time Austinites stand with signs where what was is no longer. And guess what? Kelly Awn is one of them. Four references for the win. (No. I don’t know him. He just kept showing up everywhere.)

C’est la vie.

This is my very, very late contribution to Sepia Saturday when the prompts were O and R.
I’m so far behind, I can’t even find the prompt photo for the letter O, but here is R.

Please visit others who are responding to the current prompt at Sepia Saturday.

I know this is long. Thanks for reading!