Sunday, August 09, 2009

My Anatevka

A reposting from 2005:

Kman and I spent last weekend in Santa Anna (the picture at this website has a nice shot of the corner where Kman's cousin has a cabinet shop). Both of us have roots here and find every chance to return for a visit. We didn't discover our shared history until after we were a couple, and then were amazed at the connections we had. His aunt had been my aunt's Sunday school teacher, and once was the town telephone operator. Another uncle, recently deceased, moved to Santa Anna after retirement and our destination last weekend was to his home to do some yard clean-up and general repairs for Kman's cousin. My aunt still lives in Santa Anna; she grew up there, left for a few years, then returned to raise her only daughter and to take care of my widowed grandmother. (My readers know that my grandmother passed away last fall.)

Time moves slowly in Smalltown, Texas, and Santa Anna is certainly that. I find myself remembering my grandparents and my great grandparents; the wonderful week each summer I spent in this little town when a youngster. Trips to the lake to fish with my grandfather in his army-green john boat, the girly wonders of my grandmother's beauty shop - cutting Betsy McCall paperdolls from the magazines beside the hairdryers, and the dollar's worth of change spent on comics and candy at the local drugstore were all a part of those idyllic days.

Santa Anna Baptist Church

This beautiful old church has been the site of many family baptismals, funerals and weddings. My Mom's parents lived just to the west of it for several years in a yellow clapboard house, right next to the railroad tracks that still run through town. Late at night you can hear the mournful whistle of a train as it passes through, listen as it moves off into the distance. My grandfather was a roadmaster for Santa Fe and later ran a motor car ( a truck rigged up to run on the tracks) that went from Santa Anna to Coleman to Sweetwater. Each time I spend the night in Santa Anna, I hear the trains as they roll through town, "click, click, click", their warning song piercing the stillness of the dark and the memory of my grandfather in his blue-ticked overalls fills my dreams.

The town once had a nice hospital. My Dad was born in the old Sealy hospital on the third floor. When this photo was taken in 2000, the place was in bad shape. It is now being considered as a potential museum for the town, and renovations are in the works.

Sealy Now and Then

Other old structures in town bring memories flooding back. Very faintly etched on a brick wall of an ancient building just off the main drag, I can still make out the words, "Beat Coleman", painted there by my Dad and a group of friends around 1944 or '45. He played football for Santa Anna high school and the rivalry with nearby Coleman was strong. He once pointed out his youthful hooliganry to me, but sternly insisted that it was wrong to have painted on the building, all the while smiling at the fond memory of that time.

Dad and Granddaddy Hicks

My great great grandfather owned a hamburger stand downtown Santa Anna (see the word "HAMBURGER" on the window in the background of the photo) and my great grandmother, his daughter, also owned a small cafe in town. I have been told that this great great grandfather was once a deputy in nearby big town, Brownwood, but I haven't been able to verify that. I do know that he paid his son-in-law, Amazhar (rumored to be shiftless and a womanizer), $200 to hop a train out of town and sign over his parental rights to his family, my grandmother and her sister. A few years ago, I contacted a distant cousin who fondly remembered this man, her uncle "Em" and my great grandfather, but said she knew he must have had secrets in his past - lots of whispers and such at family gatherings. He was seldom mentioned by my grandmother, and it would be years and my love of geneology before he became a real person to me. I wonder just exactly what the bad blood was between Amazhar and Granddaddy Hicks, but now I will never know. The two women who could have told me, my grandmother and great grandmother, have passed away and I have lost that bit of family lore.

It is an ongoing dream of mine and Kman's to live out of a smothering anonymous "big city", preferably in Alpine, Texas, but if not there, then certainly Santa Anna could fill that hoped for destination. We talk late into the night of the orchestration of such a life change and the hope of escaping the choking jumble of cars and people that Cowtown has become.

As I face the last half of my years on earth, I crave a calmer, simpler lifestyle, one with memories and "Beat Coleman" etched on old brick walls.


Anonymous said...

I liked this story mom. I too wish to move somewhere where you can hear your own thoughts and dont have to have the newest fashions.I dont want my children to grow up in a town flooded with violence and too fast paced for them to even know what childhood means.Lets go together sometime soon ;-)

Pete said...

There was "bad blood" in my family, too, a generation or two back. Family secrets run on guilt and shame.I probed a little into what had split my father and his seven siblings into two warring camps and decided I didn't want to know any more. Several of them went to their graves unreconciled, which is just a damn shame any way you look at it.

The photos with this post look to my New England eyes as if they were taken on another planet, but I know better. Mainers and Texans are more alike than most people would ever suspect.

Chancy said...

Here's hoping your wish comes true.
I live in a large city, Atlanta, but the older I get the more I seem to draw in the borders of my lifestyle and also the perimeter of my spaces. It's down to about a five mile radius now.
So we can sometimes create our own "small towns" right where we are planted.

bill / prairie point said...

I actually went into that cabinet shop once. I can't remember why.
We used to drive down 67 to Big Bend and generally stopped in Santa Anna to stretch our legs. There was a big quilt shop on the south side of the highway. I probably just went into the cabinet shop to pass time while Tricia was looking at fabrics.