Thursday, July 28, 2016

Those Places Thursday: CC Beach Parks - Then (1982) and Later (2006)

This is what I wrote for a story called "Beach park to provide new types of play equipment" on the front page of the October 1982 issue of City Quill, the newsletter for City of Corpus Christi employees produced by the Information Services department, which I worked for at that time.  Since I had worked for the Parks and Recreation department for two and a half years prior to that, I was typically assigned all of the stories related to that department.  At that time, North Beach was called Corpus Christi Beach or CC Beach.

Drive out to the north end of Corpus Christi Beach sometime this month, and you'll probably find park construction crews hard at work.  Near a recently-completed 52-space parking lot, the crews are utilizing the slab from a house destroyed in Hurricane Allen as the base of a group picnic shelter.

City of Corpus Christi Park and Recreation department construction crew works on converting the slab of a house destroyed in 1980's Hurricane Allen into a group picnic shelter on North Beach in September 1982.

Across the lot, next to the restrooms/shower building, others are placing telephone poles and boulders to simulate a beached, wrecked ship.  Climbers, a slide, and a swing will be added to this "adventure playground" designed to stimulate the minds of youngsters.

With land acquisition nearly complete, development of recreational facilities on Corpus Christi Beach is now underway.  With restroom buildings and parking/access complete or nearly complete at the north and south ends of the beach, park construction crews are beginning work on two group picnic shelters and the "Shipwreck" adventure playground, and will install the 40' by 40' by 24' "Spacenet" rope climber recently authorized for purchase by the City Council.

City of Corpus Christi Park and Recreation department construction crew installs the "Spacenet" rope climber on North Beach in September 1982.

Although the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers plan and the 1977 bond program, which is the source of funds for the project, originally called for five access points to the beach, the City decided to build two such points for now and provide facilities with them.  "We're concentrating on the extreme northern and southern ends," said Park and Recreation's Landscape Architect Malcolm Matthews.

Parking at the southern end is tied in with North Shoreline street improvements now underway and will provide approximately 34 spaces.  The existing slab for another building destroyed by Hurricane Allen will be used as the base for a group picnic shelter adjacent to the restroom building.

Recently completed (in September 1982) restroom building at the southern access park.  Based on the location of the breakwater in the background, this restroom likely had to be removed to accommodate the access ramp to the USS Lexington aircraft carrier.  The restroom building at the northern access park (today's Dolphin Park) is similar.

Both the north end and south end shelters will be constructed with lath-top roofs similar to that of the picnic shelter in Cole Park.  A solid roof, according to Matthews, would probably blow away in hurricane-force winds.  In addition, air can circulate through the slats in the roof.  "It will provide shade but it won't be completely dry if it rains," said Matthews.  The slab at the south end is quite large, and "the majority of it will be resurfaced and used for roller-skating and dancing, similar to the Peoples' Street T-Head band shell area," added Matthews.

Above: Malcolm Matthews, City of Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation department's Landscape Architect, and his design for the "Shipwreck" playground for the north end access park on North Beach, September 1982.
Below:  close-up of the "Shipwreck" plan, detail from the photo above.

The "Shipwreck" adventure playground is one of the most exciting features of the new park.  Designed by Matthews, the facility uses pressure-treated, non-toxic telephone poles, boulders, and a modular pre-fabricated wooden playground unit all put together to resemble a half-buried, deteriorated ship.  Its features include a "cargo net" for climbing, a "fallen mast" (an angled pole with a rope swing), a slide, and various wooden decks and ladders.  It also has the potential to add more features, such as a "steering wheel" on the "main deck."

City of Corpus Christi Park and Recreation department construction crew works on the deck of the
 "Shipwreck" adventure playground at the north end of North Beach (today's Dolphin Park).

Some landscaping is also included in the project.  Palm trees and pampas grass, as well as boulders, posts, and rails will be used to stabilize sand areas as well as serve as vehicular barriers.  All landscaping and facilities are designed to be salt- and sand-tolerant as well as to withstand tidal surges and hurricane force winds.

So what has happened to these areas in the last 30+ years?

Sadly, the "Spacenet" and much of the "Shipwreck" is now gone.  The pictures below are from our visit in May 2006.  The "cargo net" and the "fallen mast" had disappeared from the "Shipwreck," and this was about all that remained of the "main deck" and the bow of the ship.  Even less of the Shipwreck was visible on our latest visit in June 2016.

What's left of the "main deck" structure (above) and the bow of the "Shipwreck" (below) in May 2006.

The beach access point at the extreme northern end referred to in the article has since been named "Dolphin Park." It still has the restroom/shower building and a picnic shelter (although the latter may not be the original one), but a more typical, traditional playground has been installed in the area.

However, the restroom building, and likely the shelter, at the south end (referred to in my article) are gone.  Based on the photo earlier in this post of that south end restroom building, it is right where the entrance to the access ramp to the USS Lexington aircraft carrier now stands.

Why did the "Spacenet" disappear and the "Shipwreck" deteriorate?  A friend who continued to work for the City of Corpus Christi through 2005 told us that the north end of the beach suffered from continual erosion, which likely contributed to the situation.  But I think there is more to the story.

A number of city parks are up for sale or have been sold.  When I worked for the Parks and Recreation department, the city had a parks dedication ordinance that required developers to set aside a certain percentage of the land to be developed as park land.  Unfortunately, this resulted in a lot of very small parks, often not in the best locations, with little money to develop or maintain them.  I think parks maintenance overall suffered.

My former co-worker Malcolm Matthews had a better ending.  He went on to be the director of the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation department, and then the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation department director (1998June 2008).  He served as the president of the Texas Recreation and Park Society (TRAPS) in 1999-2000.  He spent the last six years of his career as Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Kerrville, Texas, retiring in February 2016.  He was tapped in early June to serve as interim deputy city manager, until the new one starts in August.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: It's National Cousins Day!

About a month ago, I was at the Shelton Family Reunion in Verda, Louisiana, for descendants of Levi Marion Shelton (1863-1941) and Sarah Ann Spikes Shelton (1871-1935), my great-great-grandparents on my mother's side.  Just before everyone left, group photos were taken of descendants of various of Levi's and Sarah's children.

The photo above is of descendants of Euna Ann Shelton Thompson (1905-1959), the ninth of Levi's and Sarah's twelve children (nine of who survived to adulthood).  I did not get to meet everyone, but I can tell you that three of the five women seated in the front are Euna's three surviving daughters, my first cousins twice removed.  The one with the cane is Lemora Thompson Stroud. The one with the little one in her lap (her great-granddaughter Victoria Davis, my third cousin once removed) is Garnell "Nell" Thompson Doherty. The one in yellow next to her is Shirley Thompson.  These three ladies took me under their wings, and I spent a lot of time with them the rest of the day, especially Nell.

Nell's surviving daughter Phyllis Doherty Holmes (my second cousin once removed) is standing behind her.  Standing next to Nell is her granddaughter, Phyllis' daughter Sara Holmes Davis (my third cousin).  Folks in this picture are likely similar levels of cousins (and their spouses), so I think this is a perfect picture to post for National Cousins Day, July 24.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Those Places Thursday: Missing Memorial, Corpus Christi, Texas

Last month my spouse and I were in Corpus Christi, Texas, where we lived in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  It was quite the nostalgia trip. Some things and places have stayed the same in the last 30+ years.  A lot has changed, though, or even disappeared.

We stayed at a hotel in the downtown bayfront area, so I'd go out early every morning for a long walk, looking for things that were still there and things that were long gone.

One site that caught my eye was this one.  It is sitting in what used to be the median between the northbound and southbound lanes of Shoreline Drive, along the bayfront in downtown Corpus Christi.  It used to sit right outside the Memorial Coliseum (demolished in 2010), and now it is next to a playground.  And it had an aircraft on it, but I couldn't remember exactly what.

A little digging produced the photo below, taken in 1981.  As you can see, this memorial was on the south side of the Coliseum (pictured to the left in the photo), and featured an Army helicopter from the Corpus Christi Army Depot.  I'm not sure why the helicopter was removed - perhaps it was taken down before a hurricane.  More about the Coliseum in a future post.

ETA October 26, 2019 -  I did a little research in old newspapers about this helicopter. The first copter was put up in 1970 and was blown off the pedestal two months later by Hurricane Celia. Workers repaired it and it stayed until November 1989, when it was replaced by another helicopter that was removed in June 1997 due to salt water corrosion. That one was replaced in November 1997, and that last one was apparently there though at least October 2001 and possibly April 2005, based on some other stories I found. My guess is the November 1997 copter also corroded and was removed, but then was not replaced.

The chopper that was replaced in November 1989 ended up going to the Aransas Pass VFW Post 2932. During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, it was blown off its mount.  At the Aransas Pass City Council meeting on June 4, 2018, it was reported that "the helicopter that was damaged during Hurricane Harvey is being transported to Illinois for repairs."

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Those Places Thursday: Rock Lodges, North Beach, Corpus Christi, ABT 1976, and 40 Years Later

Once I figured out the location of a couple pictures on our "mystery" roll of  Ektachrome film from the 1970s that we had developed by Film Rescue International. I was quickly able to figure out where the two black-and-white photos in this post were taken.  Take a look and see how they match with a similar color view forty years later:

The pictures above were taken standing out in the middle of Beach Avenue on North Beach in Corpus Christi, roughly in front of 302-304-306 Beach, the subjects in last week's post.  Further evidence that this is the right location is that the circa-1976 302 Beach picture was #8 on the roll, while its near neighbor (304 or 306) was #7.  The black-and-white picture above was #9, while the black-and-white below was #6.  I imagine my husband only had to walk half-a-block down Beach to get these four shots.

These photos are of the “back” side of today’s Travel Inn at 4414 Surfside Boulevard at its intersection with Beach Avenue on North Beach in Corpus Christi.  My research shows that the Travel Inn was the Rock Lodges tourist court from at least 1955 (first reference in city directories I can access online) to at least November 1963. It was owned/operated by a Henry J. Kerber (1911-1995) and his wife Thelma from at least 1955 through at least 1960 (according to city directories - Surfside Boulevard was C Avenue back then), and I found a reference to a March 1956 newspaper article that indicated Henry had just been reelected president of the North Beach Businessmen's Association.

Gordon Henry Grote (born 1921 in Mason County, Texas) and his family lived there from at least 1966 through 1969 (based on newspaper articles); he still owned it at his death in 1997.

The owner of 302 Beach tells me that Mrs. Grote (who is still alive as of this writing), "was our neighbor when we first moved here in 1996ish, but the Rock Lodges - as it still was then - sold twice after that.  The last owner ... changed the name to the franchised chain.  Mr. Grote was the postman assigned to this neighborhood for over 30 years; Mrs. Grote was a school teacher."

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Those Places Thursday: Old Tourist Court Cottage in Corpus Christi

On a recent trip to Corpus Christi, Texas, my spouse and I drove around looking at how places have changed (or not changed) since we lived there in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  One day we drove over the Harbor Bridge to North Beach, which has undergone a lot of transformation after Hurricane Allen in August 1980 pretty much wiped the peninsula clean.  There are still a few old pre-1980 buildings around, though.  I spotted this one at 304 Beach Avenue, and it looked vaguely familiar:

I knew I'd seen this little cottage with its unique roof before - and I was right.  The cottage is on our mystery roll of Ektachrome film we had developed by Film Rescue International.  Because it was so old, the images were processed as black-and-whites.  Ektachrome was color slide film first manufactured in 1963.  We were able to date the last pictures on the roll and knew it was shot before 1980.  As my spouse did not move (back) to Corpus Christi until early 1974, we also know that the roll of film was shot after that point.

I now feel fairly certain the black-and-white photo above is either the same building as that in the color photo at the beginning of this post (304 Beach Avenue), or else its neighbor at 306 Beach (visible on Google Maps), or possibly another building that would have been 308 or 310 Beach Avenue.  There is also a similar stucco cottage at 302 Beach Avenue, at the corner of Gulfbreeze.

My theory was that these three existing buildings (302, 304, and 306) were once part of a "tourist court" so prevalent on North Beach in the past.  According to the Free Dictionary online, "Tourist courts were usually a series of very small one-room buildings separated from each other by the width of an automobile."  Sometimes they had as few as four units, with the owner or manager living in one that also served as an office.

I was able to contact the current owner of 302 Beach and ask about my theory.  She told me that "302-306 were all together.  I understand they were built in the early '40s.  There were 4 of them at one time, but one of the hurricanes got the one [308 or 310] where the present-day alley is."  She e-mailed me later to tell me her husband said there were actually eight units in the complex at one time.

By studying some Corpus Christi city directories for the 1940 to 1960 time period, as well as a Sanborn map updated in May 1950, I think I have pieced together a rough history for this site for that period.

Beach Avenue was called Walldue and Gulfbreeze was called B Avenue through at least 1960.  The cottages on today's Beach were actually on a lot at that time that fronted on Avenue B, with the address 4501.

There wasn't much of anything this far "north" on North Beach in the early 1940s, at least that I can determine from the city directories (the earliest I can access online is dated 1940) and Sanborn maps.

The first possibility appears in the 1946 city directory, a "Helen Marie Courts" at 310 Walldue owned by Frank Sovey (1893-1983), who also operated a produce company and watermelon garden in town.

However, there is nothing at that address in the next available directory from 1948.  Instead, there is a "Mackey Courts" at 4501 B Avenue, which is at the corner with Walldue.  It was owned by Ken and Leta Mackey.

The next available directory is from 1955, and lists "Atwater Courts" at this 4501 B Avenue address, but I found references to it (as Atwater Courts and Atwater Cottages) in Corpus Christi newspapers from 1952 and 1953.  The owner/operators were John Cameron (1892-1960) and "Mrs. Wallace F.[rancis]" Hunt (1894-1959) Cameron, who were originally from (and ultimately returned to) Hamilton, Texas.

The 1957 directory for Corpus Christi is incomplete, but the listings for 1958 through 1960 show 4501 B Avenue as being the Willis Courts, owned by Floyd Moore Willis (1906-1976) and his wife Frances Augusta Sellers Aubuchon Willis (1912-2007).

After that, the trail gets cold.  But I did determine that the photo below is most likely today's 302 Beach Avenue, sometime between 1974 and 1980.  Note the "Office...Vacancy" sign by the door:

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: Happy Birthday to My Brother!

Brian in 1965, probably April, shortly before he turned three.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.