Who lives in Alvin, and why do they live there? I suppose this could be asked of any small Texas town, and the answers are a hodge-podge of history and accident more than choice, unless it really is an artist’s community, as my mother wondered. It was a chilly day, but small Texas towns always look hot to me – maybe it’s the yellowed grass, or my memories.
My father, a retired development economics professor, is interested in housing, and in transitions involving land use. To explore these interests we drove out of Houston south, on 288. This freeway was built in the last few decades. It is of special family interest because back towards town, it took the home my dad grew up in, on Binz, gouging it away for the sunken freeway. All the development along here is new.
We then turned east on Beltway 8, and drove around Tom Bass park, mentioned in an earlier blog. Then we continued east, surprised to see some nice, authentic prairie grasses under the power lines along the beltway. How many other prairie remnants are there, and who can recognize them, I wondered? We then went through Pearland, developed largely in the last 20 years, and full of flood reservoirs, parkways, neighborhoods isolated from the main streets, not a sprig of bluestem in sight. It is a car economy, a modular one, and we moved on.
Out of Pearland, we came to some junk yards, scrap metal places, whether official or unofficial was hard to tell. We passed a rural jumble of homes that keep their trash on their property, old refrigerators, cars, and the like. It made me wonder how differently we would all live if we had to keep all the things we no longer wanted that we couldn’t sell. The small lots of Bellaire would be full of old cars, microwave ovens, freezers, toys, flower pots, and couches, and we would probably be much more carful to buy things that lasted, and repair the things we have. We passed through an active oilfield, with those funny things pumping away on both sides of the road. One seemed to be very new. Some fields now had cattle in them, and we were out of any planned development.
I kept checking my iphone map to be sure we didn’t miss Alvin, and we wondered if it would have a real center. It did, with a number of abandoned buildings along 35. My parents liked the roses, and the live oaks, and we wondered if these people too had to commute to Houston for employment.
If you look this little town up on Wikipedia, it is known for being home to Nolan Ryan, a famous baseball player. And my surmise about hurricanes came most true with Claudette, on July 25, 1979, which stalled over Alvin, and dropped 43 inches of rain in 24 hours, a US record. That was just a day before my dad’s 53rd birthday, but he was safely up in Michigan then. Claudette never even made it to hurricane force winds, just like Allison that did so much damage to Houston.
Pearland also suffered from hurricanes, the two big ones that hit Galveston in 1900 and 1915, and pummeled its fruit industry, just as hurricanes wiped out the early efforts at turning Chambers County into a vegetable patch.
We left Alvin by driving west into the sun on 1462, passing modest homes less charming than those in town, and on large, scalped lots. At Rosharon we turned north on 288 and went home, cresting the overpass that revealed the Houston skyline just as it caught the evening sun. The Texan’s game hadn’t yet finished, so we swooped smoothly past Reliant Center on the south loop, home again, home again.
Alvin, Texas, where everything is scaled down, except the live oaks.
The girls in the driveway cautiously returned our waves.
We could move here!
Lovely January roses.
These trees must have withstood many hurricanes.
A sweet cottage.
I wish we had shutters like this!
These modest homes are eating up the countryside on their huge lots.
North, towards Houston, 1462 to 288, no hurricane today.