My wife Carolyn and I came to Austin in 1949 to attend the University of Texas. We met in 1950, married in 1952 and considered ourselves among the “lucky” ones who were able to stay in Austin after graduation. Our first-born son, Michael, was delivered in 1953 in the “old” St. David’s Hospital on 17th Street, between Rio Grande and Nueces. Our apartment at the time was on 32nd Street, across from a caliche and cedar covered hill with a dilapidated three-strand barbwire fence, now the site of the “new” St. David’s Hospital Complex.
In early 1958 we began looking for a lot where we could build our home. Northland Drive was a two-lane road that became FM 2222 at Balcones Drive. Gravel trucks were traveling Northland from the old Far West quarry, reaching 40-50 miles per hour on the incline down to Shoal Creek, an accident waiting to happen. There was no railroad underpass. That would come in the late 60s. During the underpass excavation, the earth’s shift creating the Balcones Fault was exposed. On the north side of Northland, between the tracks and Shoal Creek, was a pasture with numerous large mesquite and oak trees that would become Allandale West. The developer would be W. H. Bullard, an Austin realtor.
An interesting aspect of the subdivision is the street names chosen by Mr. Bullard. Having known Bill, I picked up on several of the names but recently confirmed the rest with his daughter, Jane:
Bullard Drive—obviously name for Bill Clarice—a long time employee
Carleen—wife of the civil engineer for the project Sarah—Bill’s secretary
Gena—Sarah’s daughter Janie—Sarah’s daughter
Louise—Bill’s mother, also his daughter Marilyn—Bill’s law partner’s wife
Susie—a long time Austin Club employee Rickey—Bill’s close friend, Rickey Key
Fairlane—Bill’s Ford automobile Treadwell—named by an optometrist
Louise Lane, Susie Ct., Marilyn (only to Fairlane) and Fairlane (only to Carleen) had been built out when we bought at the corner of Carleen and Fairlane in April 1958. We built and moved in July 25, 1958. The Boothe family, still our next door neighbor, moved in July 10, 1958. Carleen was the last street in the subdivision at that time. Fairlane ended at our back property line, marked by a large (30” diameter) scraggly old oak tree growing, in the middle of the street. Only five-foot sunflowers, underbrush and cactus were between us and Gullett Elementary School, which had opened in December 1956. The neighborhood boys hunted rats and mice, which lived in the cactus patches, with their bb guns. A cat was almost a necessity to catch the occasional mouse that managed to get inside a house. Our cat was loaned out at times because it was a good “mouser.” While sipping early morning coffee on the patio, it was not unusual to see cottontail rabbits in our backyard munching on some of our initial plantings. There was hardly a concern about where the kids were playing; just walk down to the closest house under construction and there they were, playing in the framing or chasing in and around the partially completed rooms. And there were lots of kids, from teens down to toddlers. It was a young neighborhood.
Shoal Creek was truly a country creek. Just 25 yards south of the White Rock bridge is a “pool” where the banks are wider and the water is deeper. In the early days, it was known as “blue hole,” in that the water was fairly clear and reflected the blue of the sky. There were minnows, perch and catfish. More than a few summer afternoons were spent there fishing and skipping rocks. I don’t know if our kids ever swam there but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. When they came home wet, they said that they “slipped in.” Today, it is silted up, kids no longer play there nor is it still “blue.”
In the early 1960s, the neighborhood began a unique project, the lighted Christmas candy canes. A few families pioneered and the idea spread like wild fire. Several of the neighborhood men walked Carleen and took orders, about $2.50 per cane or $5.00 for a cane and floodlight. Stovepipes were assembled in our garage, and then hung on a long wire for painting. The addition of a few yards of wide red plastic ribbon and a bow completed each cane. The work crew even installed the canes to insure a uniform angle and spacing. As new streets were opened, the new neighbors were encouraged to join the candy cane project. Within two years virtually every house had one or two lighted canes. Bullard Drive was the show-place street in that it was wide and straight, brightly lighted and lined with the colorful five-foot red and white candy canes. It was featured on television and in the newspaper as “Candy Cane Lane.” People drove from all over Austin to let their children ooh and ahhh over the beauty of the street and neighborhood.
Another early neighborhood activity that has taken on a life of its own is the annual Allandale Neighborhood 4th of July Parade. In 1960, Rev. John Lovett had the idea of a neighborhood parade. He was joined in organizing the first Allandale parade by the Frank Tuttles and another family or two. Circulars were printed and distributed announcing the parade and encouraging children to decorate bicycles, tricycles and wagons. “Musicians” were urged to come and bring their instruments. The assembly point was Bullard and Fairlane. The Tuttle family lived on that corner and moved their stereo set into the yard, put on some Sousa march records and cranked up the volume. Perhaps as many as 30 children and adults were there for that first parade. Someone brought the US Flag. At the appointed time, the parade headed south on Bullard with a bass drum and a snare drum setting the cadence. Bicycles, brightly decorated in red, white and blue crepe paper led the way, doing lazy turns and coming back to the larger body of marchers composed primarily of the parents herding little ones on decorated tricycles and pulling wagons with little ones riding. A riding mower brought up the rear. There were a few pauses to sing patriotic songs. At Clarice Court, the marchers gathered for the pledge to the flag and sang the Star Spangled Banner to the accompaniment of several musical instruments. The group “marched” back to Fairlane to close out the parade. The rest is history. Current day parades are almost like neighborhood reunions with children, grandchildren and even g-grandchildren coming “home” to participate.
There were two early political controversies. Nelson Puett, an area realtor and builder, owned several lots on Shoal Creek West that backed on to the creek. To accommodate Gullett students living east of the creek, he allowed the City to build a footbridge over Shoal Creek at Hunt Trail on one of his lots. Later when he was ready to build on his lot, the City said that he had “dedicated” the lot and that it belonged to the City. The matter went to court with Mr. Puett getting his lot back.
A second issue involved the completion of Great Northern Blvd. The developers on both the north and south sides of the present water detention pond had curbed, guttered and paved Great Northern Boulevard. It was a quick, direct route to Anderson Lane and points north but the City, which owned that tract, refused to complete the Blvd. In rainy weather, there were deep mud holes in that unpaved sections and a rough, bumpy, dusty section in dry weather. The City initially put up moveable wooden barricades but to no avail as they were moved or cars drove around them. The City escalated to posts, which cars also drove around. Finally, the city acquiesced and paved the last section of Great Northern affording a through access to Foster and Anderson lane. To this day though, the City of Austin has yet to curb and gutter that small section of roadway.
Finally, in the late 70s, what may have been one of the Neighborhood Association’s first major skirmishes with the City involved plans to extend Far West Blvd. through Northwest Park, connecting with Pegram and Justin Lane to create an east-west traffic artery. The Association rallied the neighborhood and maintained the integrity of the area.
As an aside, the railroad grade crossing used to be at Foster Lane, not at Anderson Lane. Westbound drivers on Anderson jogged south at what is now Northcross Drive to connect with Foster Lane. There was a steep embankment on both sides of the track making it difficult to navigate. I don’t remember if there was a crossing gate or flashing lights to warn of approaching trains but there was little train or automobile traffic in the early years. And MoPac came along in the mid-‘70s. My, how times have changed in 45 years (now 52 years)!
John C. Miller, 78757 August 2003 (Updated 7/7/10)
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