So, how did a Michigan farm girl wind up in the middle of Texas?
I'll start with January 1981. It was not starting out as a very good year. The factory where I had been working for 4 years was having trouble staying afloat. They would work us a few days and lay us off for a week or so. The outlook for the whole state was looking pretty bleak.
A friend I worked with (Velda) had been talking with her aunt that lived in El Paso, Texas. Her aunt said that there were all kinds of jobs in El Paso. "Pack up and come stay with us!" So Velda and I came up with a plan. She would sell her car and fly to El Paso and check out the job market, then I would drive out there so that we would have a car, until she could get another one. (I didn't say it was a great plan!) By the first of February the plan was set in motion. Velda sold her car and flew to El Paso. For 2 weeks she hunted for a job. The plan was not quite working as drawn in our heads! Our idea of "all kinds" of jobs and Velda's aunt's idea seemed to differ . . . . . . a bit. So! New plan! At that time you could buy a Houston or Dallas Sunday newspaper in Michigan for about $5.00. It was worth it though because the "want adds" were huge!!!!!!! There were "millions" of jobs that I could do. (eye roll) No really - that's what I thought! Ok, then . . . . the "NEW" plan - I would drive to Dallas or Houston; get a motel room; Velda would fly in from El Paso and we would get a job and find an apartment and go from there. See - simple. Won't take long if you say it fast! I'm not sure how or why we decided on Houston, but we did so that's where I was going! Side note: I was 23 years old, born and raised on a farm in the thumb of Michigan (about 80 miles north of Detroit). The biggest city that I would frequent was Port Huron. Which at the time did NOT even have a mall. In these 23 years I had never lived more than 30 miles from my family. And, as I look back, I was not the brightest bulb in the box!
On with the trip. February 18, 1981, I packed my little 1976 Mustang, Cobra II with my worldly possessions and off I went. Mom was not thrilled, but glad I was trying but I think Dad didn't like it at all. He didn't say anything to me about it until years later, but said he worried because I could get lost going to town! (We lived 4 miles, straight shot, from town.) He liked to tease, but really was worried.
Not to worry! I had gone to AAA and pretended to know what I was doing (like I was a member) and had them map out my trip with a handy little "trip tick" they called it, with my route highlighted. I was good to go!
Mom made me promise I would be off the road by dark and call as soon as I was settled in a room every night. No problem. First night I was barely out of Ohio. Second night I was in West Memphis, Arkansas. During this check-in Mom told me that she had talked to my Aunt Jenny and that Jenny told her that my cousin, Vince, lived somewhere near Houston. (You know how crazy that sounds to me now? Now that I know what Houston looks like? Now that I know that Houston actually starts about Conroe and extends nearly to Galveston!?)
Webster to be exact. Any way, they thought that I should have Vince's number in case I could make it by to see him while I was there. Cool! I hadn't seen Vince in years! It would be wonderful to stop by for a visit. Why back when we were in 5th and 6th grade, he and his family lived just a few miles from me for a year while his dad (a career military man) was in Viet Nam. We were buds! (Some great stories there! Later) So, after talking to Mom, I called Vince. (Don't remember the exact conversation now, but it was something like this . . . . . .) Me: "Surprise! It's cousin Kath! I'm going to be coming into Houston this weekend and Aunt Jenny said that you lived somewhere near, so I thought we might get together for a visit."
Vince: "Hi! Ah. . . . you're where?
Me: "Well, right now I'm in Arkansas, but should be getting into Houston tomorrow."
Vince: (Still not sure he is hearing me right) "And you are coming to Houston for . . . . . "
Me: "To work, to live! I'm moving there!"
Vince: "You have a job and a place to stay?"
Me: "Well, no. Not yet, but I will.
Anyway, I told him "the plan" and looking back I'm thinking he must have thought, "My dear Lord! She must be on drugs!" "My dear cousin has lost her mind!" But he calmly told me that I should go right on through Houston to Webster and don't stop till I get there. He gave me all the needed information to get to the apartment complex where he lived and I went happily to sleep.
Day 3 . . . . . . . WAS A NIGHTMARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What. In. The. World. Was. I. Thinking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Arkansas was not a problem, but when I got to Texarkana, it turned to crap quick! 32 years ago the expressway system was a little rough. There was no smooth transition from I40 to Hwy 59. You had to hunt and search!!!!!!!
Ok - found Hwy 59 south to Houston. Whew!
Now, somewhere between Texarkana and Houston, I needed gas. Looking, looking, looking, ooooohhh, looking, OK! There's one. There I am, pumping gas, and here comes the station attendant (they still have those? even then?) Attendant: Hi there! Need some help?
Me: Hi! No thanks! I got it.
Attendant continues to get closer. I mean closer! "Are you sure you wouldn't like some help?
OH CRAP! I look around and there is no one around! I mean NO ONE! "Ummm, no really, I got it." Then he touched me! YIIIKKKEEs! That's it! I handed him the money and the gas hose, put the cap on and hauled butt!!!!!!!!!!!! I was almost hysterical!!!!!! A few miles down the road, actually probably almost a hour down the road, I realized in my hurry to get out of there, I took the wrong road! Again I was almost hysterical. Ok, OK just get the map out and get your head on straight. I found my way back to 59, thankfully without having to go back by that gas station!
All calmed down now and just ready to BE THERE! Just about dark and I see a sign that says "Houston Intercontinental Airport". "Cool", I thought, "that's where I can pick up Velda! I'm here!" WRONG! It's over an hour before I see a sign that says "Houston City Limit". CRAP! Traffic flying around me like the Indianapolis 500!! Then there it is! In all it's lights and towering skyscraper glory! Downtown Houston! WOW! How cool is that!? Honk, Honk!!!!! Whoa! Sorry!
WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS I THINKING!
Ok, Ok 45 south, ok, got it.
Eldorado Blvd. exit - great! got it! Wait! What do I do now? Where's the road? Is this it? or is that it? CRAAAAPPP! Don't honk at me! I'm lost! Ok, ok, just pull into this mall. Crap! I wish it wasn't dark! Pay phone, good, I'll just call Vince. Shoot! how many of these numbers do I dial? Is it a local call or long distance? CRAP! Third try - ring, ring, "Vince! I'm at a BIG mall, I can't find the road! Get back on what? The feeder? What's that? Oh - ok, I think. Go to the overpass and come back on the other side and take a right. Ok - got it. I think."
There it is, Eldorado Apartments, now to find number 911. What the heck? How many buildings are there in here? The biggest apartment complex I've ever seen only had 4 apartments in it! How in the world am I going to find #911! I'll just have to park the car and walk around. There's 5 or 6 guys on a balcony, I'll ask them. "Excuse me. Could you tell me where apartment number 911 is?"
"Would you settle for 909?" "No, thanks" I'll just keep walking - I must be close. Now I'm walking in between the buildings, it's dark, I can't read the apartment numbers, I'm scared, tired and really feeling I screwed up beyond repair and I hear, "You looking for me?" I look up and at the top of the stairs was a tall, slim good looking young man with a beard. I was just about to say, "No! I'm not looking for you!" But instead I said, "Vince?" Oh My Goodness! I found him! Praise the Lord! I couldn't even make it all the way up the steps! I sat down and started, wait scratch that, continued to cry and he came down to give me a hug!
And there, my friends, is where my life as a Texan began.
Over these 32 years, most of the trials and rough spots have faded but I will forever and always remember that Friday evening in February, 1981 when God sent an angel to save this Michigan farm girl from being swallowed up by the big city of Houston, Texas!!
God bless you my dear Vince!