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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Conversation About Housing in A Company Town

Here's another piece of the luncheon conversation about housing in Sugar Land and other travails of life.

Rita Drabek: "I came to Sugar Land in 1955 right after Johnny and I got married. We moved into a house on 4th Street. I think the rent was $14 per month. You had to pay your electricity and your utilities - water - yeah. It was very inexpensive living in those days ... Sugar Land is home to me ... much more than where I grew up in East Texas."

Mary Shelton: "I came to Sugar Land because of my sister. She had just graduated from university and this was her first job ... They wouldn't let married teachers teach in those days ... Anyway, she wasn't married, and didn't have a place to live - the Teacherage was full. They told her if her mother and two sisters came with her (my father had already died) they would allow us rent a house ... That's what we did - we rented a house on 4th Street."

Dorothy Harrington: "When was that?"

Mary Shelton: "That was in '34."

Dorothy Harrington: "Which house on 4th Street was that?

Mary Shelton: "It was 2 houses down from the Hightowers - toward the Methodist Church."

Sally Kelly: "That was the McGowan house."

Mary Shelton: "That's right, but it wasn't the McGowan house then. Oh ... the Baines had just moved out of it ... They had planted verbenas up and down the front driveway ... They were so beautiful. Back in those days Sugar Land was lined with ... what do you call those things?"

Dorothy Hightower: "Oleanders ... No - crepe myrtles." (Words and gestures of assent)

Mary Shelton: "Right - crepe myrtles. Sugar Land was so beautiful. We had just come from dry San Antonio and Sugar Land looked like a garden - to me. Of course, I was young then.

"My sister got married in '39, and I graduated from high school in '39. That meant we would have to give up the house. Well, the teachers in the Teacherage asked Mr. Ulrich if he would get Mama to come and cook for them.

"He asked and she said yes, so we (me, my sister, and Mother) moved into one room of the Teacherage. It had a big dining room table ... She cooked breakfast and supper and Sunday dinner.

"She worked there till 1944. Then she gave it up. I had married. I don't know who moved in there after that ... Well, Annie Albritton ... maybe she did. I think she did."

Maxene Gary: "Was that before she had the boarding house?"

Mary Shelton: "No - she always had that. She lived in the Teacherage. I'm not sure if she cooked for the teachers or not. I was married and had Steve - I thought I had the whole world on my shoulders." (Laughter)

Dorothy Gandy: "That first baby'll do it to you." (Laughter)

Mary Shelton: "Of course, my husband didn't work for the Company. He worked for Exxon - or Humble back then. We moved away. We eventually lived in Houston.

"When they began selling land to outsiders ... We didn't wait ... We went for it.

"Mr. James took my husband in to see Mr. Kempner. He said, 'Well, how much do you need to build that house?' He said, 'One hundred feet.' They went out and walked it off and we bought it. We still live there, and we've been so happy in Sugar Land."