Andrews, TX – You Can Always Come Home

I got in last night from a trip to my hometown of Andrews, TX.  I hadn’t been there in about 20 years.  I was able to visit with some old friends and friends of the family and it was a great time.  As I expected, it was an emotional trip too.  Last Friday I walked around my old neighborhood.  No one was outside, it was a quiet neighborhood…just like I remember when I was growing up.  I walked down 12th street, past Jaime Swift’s old house on my left and remembered playing in his backyard, digging ditches with his mother’s good spoons, I’m sure she always appreciated wondering where her silverware was and his dad surely enjoyed finding all their stemware in the back yard every time he mowed the grass.

I walked past the Jones house on the right at the end of the 1000 block and remembered the giant cave they dug in their back yard and the time Lance Jones pushed my sister Martha off the trampoline, smack into one of the big mulberry trees they still have.  I cross the street onto my old block to the Moore house on the corner just across the street from the Jones’.  The pigeon cage they used to have in the back yard was gone.  From what I heard, Dr. Moore, the town veterinarian, has passed away.  He helped us get a blow dart out of our dog Sylvester’s head once.  Some mean kid experienced some bad Karma over that I’m sure.  Mrs. Clark’s house is on the corner on the left.  The front yard is surrounded by 2 foot high cinder block fence.  They used to grow little green onions on the side of the house and we used to cook them over fires that we’d start in the alley.  One time, me and Erik Wilson almost burned down the whole alley way and if Mr. Clark hadn’t jumped his fence with the water hose, I’m sure we’d have burned down the whole block of back yard fences.  Mr. Clark’s gone now too.  From what I heard, he passed away one day after mowing the grass.  He sat down on his recliner, fell asleep, and never woke up.

Then came my house.  It was a sad moment.  There used to be three trees out in front of the house that my dad planted for each one of us.  It was a red brick house with a big planter out front.  If you looked at the front of the house you could see the giant mulberry tree in the back yard.  There was a big tree house in that tree and underneath it was a sign that my mom had brought home from the dentist office where she used to work “The Bad Breath Club.”  All that’s gone now.  Whoever lives there painted the red brick and tore the planter down.  I didn’t look into the back yard.  It would have been too upsetting.  It wasn’t run down, it just wasn’t the house I grew up in.

I crossed the street and continued walking down the block that I remembered as such a big place.  The block was five houses long and everything was so small.   As I walked up the block, a little girl on a scooter pulled up behind me.  “Am I in your way?” I asked her and she pointed to the old Gregory house and said, “That’s my house.”  Bud Gregory and his wife died in that house and the Guzman’s moved in when I was in 5th grade.  No matter who you were, you were always welcome in the Guzman home.  I wanted to take a picture of the house but didn’t feel comfortable with two kids and a family being out in front of it.  I circled the block, walked by the Wilson’s old house.  Next door to them was Mr. Criswell’s house.  I looked up the street and the emotion flowed over me again as I saw Jack Horner Kindergarten on the left.  I remembered the time me and my sister, Martha, planned on spending the night on the covered patio to teach my mother a lesson for making us walk home 8 blocks after fighting with each other in the car.  We had our plan laid out when our big brother, Robert, pulled up on his little blue bicycle and said, “Mom knows ya’ll are here and she says, Come Home!”  Our plan had been foiled.   I sat on the same little bench that I had been on 35 years ago and thought of how good life had been for the kids in that neighborhood.  I remember sitting in a circle with a dozen other 5 year olds and reading Dick and Jane readers.  The building is used for storage now.  How good I had it and I didn’t have a clue how fortunate I was to grow up in a neighborhood where there were no worries and no concerns.

We played tackle football around the fastest merry-go-round in the world.  The field we played on behind the Jack Horner was huge at one time.  Now it looked as small as my back yard.  I picked up a few pine cones for my daughter to put together in her own little artistic way for the desk in my office.

I walked around the Fetner’s old house and kept walking down 11th street and walked under a Mulberry tree, grabbing a leaf as I walked under.  I took a picture and sent it to my sister with the message, “Remember when we used to put these under paper and color them?” She sent me a message back telling me how she got emotional when I sent her that message and it’s funny how what seems to be the most insignificant thing can bring on a flood of memories.

I drove by James Coffman’s old house and remembered the time he had a big birthday party and as we played cops and robbers, I got clotheslined across the mouth (literally by a clothesline).  I fell backward on top of a water spigot and I still have the dent in my back.

Later in the day I went to the Commercial State Bank with John Kraft.  I looked across the street and noticed what used to be the La Hacienda Mexican restaurant that my parents opened.  La Hacienda is a booming restaurant now.  Back then, it was a place for me to play in the back underneath the big tree using the roots as bridges for my hot wheels.

Afterwards, we drove around town for a bit.  I had to drive by my Aunt Rose’s old house.  It looks completely different too.  Me and my sister spent countless hours laying around on her floor, going through her records and listening to Barry Manilow, The Pointer Sisters, Captain and Tenille, Doobie Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, and many more.  Many of these records I have found over the years and now my children laugh when I tell them we used to listen to this music all the time.

We met Gilbert Peters in front of the Middle School.  Our friendships started when we were small and they just got stronger as the years passed.  When we got to Middle School and our personalities took shape, we didn’t grow apart as some kids do, we just got closer. From what I hear, this part of the middle school is used for storage too.  My dad’s orchestra class took place in this building.  Mr. Rose’s art class was the most fun I ever had in middle school and there’s still a wood sculpture of a tennis player that I did hanging in my son’s bedroom.

We met up with Patty Guzman, Gilbert, and two of his workers at Buddy’s Drive Inn.  We ran into Johnny Delgado there.  We ate the famous Buddy’s steakfingers and they tasted just like I remembered.  We talked and laughed and started our weekend of sitting around together and telling old stories. You can see on the sign that this place has been around since 1969…..that’s right around the time me and my friends were born so this place was part of our worlds for as long as we can remember.

Everyone went their separate ways until later in the evening when we would get together again at Gilbert’s house.  It was funny because Gilbert asked, “What are ya’ll doin’ tonight?”  and I said, “Coming to your house for dinner.”  It was me, Gilbert, John, Brian Jeffcoats, Patty Guzman, and Mark Bairrington joined us.  He brought his two kids and we sat around again for hours joking and laughing.  It was 2am before we decided to end the conversation and turn in for the night. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the desire to stay out that late.  The next day, we met up at Cassidy’s sub shop.  This place wasn’t around when I was growing up in Andrews.  I visited with Stephanie Tonroy on the front porch and Steve Smith and his family walked up. Steve got upset that Brian didn’t call him the night before but he quickly forgave him and we picked up where we left off the night before…poking fun at folks, remembering things and trying to forget some of the things we did.  Thanks for reminding us of all those things Gilbert 🙂  Stephanie made the astute observation that when we were all in middle school we walked around the lockers like a bunch of psychiatric patients and again we laughed until our bellies ached.  After lunch, Stephanie took off and us guys piled into one car and drove around town talked about all the things we remembered that happened in different parts of town.  Everyone had a little story for every other block that we drove by.  I laughed so hard a couple times that I got light headed.  We went to the high school and walked around, took a picture together in the Dome and the laughs continued.  This was the dome where we spent a majority of our time between classes.  It was the social meeting ground and everyone milled around up until the very last second before the bell rang.  I took pictures of the new sports facility and thought to myself, “these kids have no idea how good they have it.”

We parted ways again with the plan of getting together again at Victor Guzman’s mother’s house.  I went back to my hotel room, showered, and ran by the Tucker’s house.  Mrs. Tucker opened the front door and looked at me, not knowing who I was.  I said, “Mrs. Tucker…I’m David Barrera.”  Her eyes widened, her hands went up and she said, “David Barrera! Get over here and let me hug your neck!”  She hugged me and said, “Get in this house!”  We sat down on the bar in their kitchen and caught up.  Mr. Tucker went to his room and came out with a metal sculpture that my dad made for him years ago.  “You have to tell your Daddy that I still have this.” I think I heard them say “We just love your family” or “We just love your parents to death” about a dozen times while I sat in that kitchen.  They got upset with me for staying at a hotel and invited me and my family to come back and stay with them.  I hugged them both and it felt like hugs from another set of parents.

Victor was flying in from Tennessee and Patty and his mother had been cooking all day in preparation for everyone coming over.  As usual, we sat around, told stories, and joked and laughed.  It was great to see Patrick, Victor, and Patty again after all these years.  Mrs. Guzman is still one of the sweetest ladies I know.  Mr. Guzman already passed away and I missed him….I can only imagine how much his family misses him.  I sat with Victor and he told me, “You have no idea how hard I looked for you in Houston one time.” It meant a lot to me knowing that an old friend went to a city of three and a half million people and looked for me.

We drove a few blocks to a block party close to the middle school and walked around.  The city was having a celebration and we walked around, gave the kids time to run around and we visited some more.  Everyone decided to take off for the night and we said our goodbyes to Victor, Patty, and Patrick. We made sure we had each other’s phone numbers and we promised to stay in touch. Patrick and Patty hugged me at the same time and it was just like I was talking to my own brother and sister when I said, “I love you guys.”

The next day I slept late and met Gilbert and John for lunch at La Hacienda.  It’s grown over the years but the quality of the food is nothing compared to when Jess and Halya Barrera (my wonderful parents) ran the place.  We spent another hour and a half of joking and laughing and we knew our time was short.  I was going to meet up with Troy Yarbrough after lunch, run around town and visit some folks and then head back to Corpus Christi.  It was a weekend filled with hugs and folks telling each other “I love you” and “I’ve missed you.” My parting with John and Gilbert was no different.  Gilbert said, “I never really knew how much I missed people until this weekend.”

I drove out to Troy’s shop and Stephanie Tonroy came out and visited with us for a little bit.  Troy’s wife Kim showed up and when I wanted to take pictures they both refused because neither had make-up on.  Stephanie took off and me, Troy and his son, Taylor headed out to see folks.  We started off at the Gilliam’s house.  We pulled up and Mr. Gilliam walked out the front door.  “Hey Troy….who you got with ya?”  I said, “Hello Mr. Gilliam, I’m David Barrera.” Again…just like at the Tucker’s house, his arms went up around my neck and he hugged me and said, “Get inside this house.” Mrs. Gilliam walked out of the back room and I walked over to her and she looked at me not quite knowing who I was.  I said, “I’m David Barrera.” She hugged me and said, “Oh My Goodness.” We sat in the living room and visited for about 40 minutes.  Mr. Gilliam said, “I’ve missed you kids.  There’s never been a group like you and there’ll never be a group like you in the future.”  We all played tennis together and just like most parents at sporting events, the Gilliams were a permanent fixture at the tennis tournaments.  Mr. Gilliam would stand behind the windscreens and cheer you on whether you were his kid or not. Shanna Gilliam and my sister were State champions and I’d like to say what drove them was not only their hard work but the people cheering them on behind the wind screens, folks like Mr. and Mrs. Gilliam.

From there we went to Mrs. Clark’s house.  I’d already walked by there two days earlier and now I was knocking on the front door.  Mrs. Clark opened the front door and said, “Can I help you?” “Mrs. Clark, I’m David Barrera.” Same response, a hug and an invite into the front living room.  Mrs. Clark took care of me when I was in kindergarten.  Her and my mother were back and forth comparing crafts and I still remember the macrame baskets hanging around her house.  Mrs. Clark said, “your mom told me that you liked coming over here because I would let you crumble crackers in your soup.”

We crossed the street and we went to the Jones’ house.  Billie Jones answered the door and invited me and Troy in without knowing who we were.  There’s things that people do in a small town that you would never imagine doing in a big city.  Even then, it’s dangerous.  I introduced myself again and Mrs. Jones said, “I was inviting you in and I had no idea who you were” as she gave me a big hug.  We visited and talked about all the good times all of us kids had running around the neighborhood.  She talked about the big cave her boys dug in the back yard and I reminded her about the warped tree house we all put together and about the concrete bike ramp we built behind her house.  As I was leaving, she told me to tell my parents that she’s at the same address and she wants to send them a Christmas card.  She was showing me her fish pond as her two grandsons (Lance’s boys) climbed out the window into the back yard.

We went back to Troy’s and he showed me his work of art kitchen and then I drove him and his boy back to his shop.  I got out of the car and gave him a hug and we talked about a future vacation together and the possibility of him and his family coming to visit us in Corpus Christi.  As I drove toward Odessa, I looked and saw Andrews in my rear view mirror.  I couldn’t wait to get out of that little town when I was 18 and after 22 years of being gone part of me wanted to stay.  I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see but I’m sure i’ll be back.  The people are special in that little town.  The friends I made there as a child will be my friends forever.  We’re doctors, lawyers, supervisors, electricians, soldiers, business owners, nurses, police officers, and school teachers.  We’ve been to war. We’ve crossed oceans and continents.  We’ve lost close friends and family members.  We’ve made a good living and lost everything…just to climb back up and do it all again.

We’ve survived cancer and illness and some have lost those battles.  As police officers and soldiers we’ve taken lives and we’ve saved lives and we’ve survived the trauma that comes with the realities of life.  We’ve raised family’s and some of us even have grandchildren already but when we come back to Andrews, Texas we walk through the neighborhoods where we grew up and we go back in time to a place where we had the best childhood anyone could have asked for.  We sit down across the table from each other and as my good friend John Kraft said, “we pick up our conversations like we just saw each other yesterday.”   We look different, some more than others but (from the words of Gilbert Peters), “They can look in your eyes and you’re the same person everyone remembers.”

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44 responses to “Andrews, TX – You Can Always Come Home

  1. That was an amazing account of something and some place so close to your heart. I knew it was in there somewhere. I’ve been crying since the first paragraph. I’m glad you had a lovely experience.

    • Thanks Steve..i’ve been tied up for a while, I haven’t been able to write, it was a good one to start off with again.

  2. Great Job David! I left West Texas in a hurry at the end of high school and thought I would never be back. Now I’ve got two daughters and I finally understand why my parents picked up and brought me to Andrews…

    It was a different world that we grew up in 20-30 years ago but it sure was fun remembering it with you!

    Thanks,
    Josh

    • i’m like you Josh….the day after graduation..i was gone. I guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

  3. I still have three sisters living in Andrews. One is a nurse, one works for the post office and one works as a teacher at Middle School. I still love that place! I, too, take out my camera and take pictures of all the places that I loved in Andrews. Thank you so much for sharing all you thoughts with us. We are the lucky ones that get to grow up where “everyone knows your name”.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it Kim… when we were younger, we thought everyone knowing our names wasn’t a good thing…how wrong we were. 🙂

  4. David, you are younger than I am — I graduated in 1970. I really enjoyed this blog and just want to tell you that I was Scott and Lance Jones’ babysitter. Their Granddad — Ray Porter — was one of my most favorite people of all times. I have known the Porter (Billie Jean Porter Jones) and Jones families my entire life. I LOVED seeing that pic of Billie Jean. Thanks for this amazing account. — Donna

    • Thanks for the comment Donna. Mrs. Jones was always such a nice person….even when she was getting on to us for climbing up on top of her house 🙂

  5. David, I don’t know if you remember me. I sure remember you. Back when I was in orchestra, you were “Mr. B’s” cute little boy. After looking at the pictures, you sure remind me of him. I remember your brother and your sister as well. I also remember that tree house in your back yard! I was envious! We had a summer concert in your backyard once and I wanted a tree house like that even though I was almost a teenager at the time! Mr. B was one of my absolute favorite teachers. I played viola from the 6th through 12th grades and enjoyed the trip to Corpus several times.
    Thank you so much for sharing this story. It truly took me home. I’m so glad you took the time to walk your old neighborhood and share pictures and your memories of a place that is just as special to me as it is to you!
    By the way, I don’t play viola anymore (though I wish I had never quit) but my daughter plays cello. Instead, I went the art route as Mr. Rose secretly told me to one day during an orchestra break. I am now an art teacher in a jr. high and my room is right next door to the orchestra room. Memories of AMS float around me all the time!
    Thanks again and please tell your dad hello for me.
    Cheryl Temple Stribling, Sr. ’82

    • I remember your name Cheryl….and I’m sure if I went through my parent’s photo albums, i’d see a picture of you at a concert in my old back yard. I will tell my dad you chose art over music..i’m sure he’ll be disappointed 🙂 just kidding. Glad you enjoyed the piece 🙂

  6. Loved reading this David. I took a trip back in time this summer as well. I even ran the 600? 660? Whatever….around my old elementary school field(not as difficult as I remember), played on the playground with my daughters and brother, ran the stairs of the new high school stadium. The most beautiful high school sports facility anywhere! – Terri

    • it sure is amazing isn’t it. I remember the 600! It was a great place, even without the multi-million sports facility. I can still remember the intensity of wanting to win. That was just part of being a Mustang athlete. Thanks Terri.

  7. I couldn’t wait to see Andrews in my hindsights either and haven’t been back in years because my parents retired and moved to Abilene. My children were amazed to see a free standing kindergarten and a town with only one middle school and one high school. Thanks for posting.

    • Thank you Debrah. I think the fact that we had/have one middle school and one high school made it a special place and created such strong bonds.

  8. David, such a lovely trip down memory lane! I walked along with you among those familiar streets, hearing you talk of familiar people, and it brought back a nostalgia that I don’t feel very often. I grew up on the corner of 11th street, right across from the backstop at Devonian. Even though I’ve been gone longer than you have (I graduated in 1980), I have many of the same feelings about Andrews as you do. I remember your dad fondly, and had no idea that your parents were the original owners/proprieters of La Hacienda!! My parents were both teachers too, and I agree with you when you say “these kids have no idea how good they’ve got it”, just like we had no idea either. Thank you for sharing your memories so that I could experience them too!!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it Rhonda and that you were able to take that trip in your mind. I remember being a little boy running around La Hacienda with people sitting at the tables. Someday….those kids will realize how good they had it…it just takes enough time and distance to step back and see it clearly.

  9. David, great read. In fact, younger Brother Ted just called me about a half hour ago and we talked about all the schools and Jack Horner in particular. I remember playing football in that very same place. Your Brother Robert and Ted were friends and in the same class. Your description of the Jone’s house and Doc Moore brought back memories as well. Doc will surely be missed. Again, great read, you have a gift.

    • I remember Ted. i’m surprised the grass grows on that little field with all the feet that have been back and forth across it….. thanks for the comment.

  10. Hey David, I wish I could have been there to share all of that with you all. I needed to get back and be near the girls though. Call me a pussy but still tearful. Makes me want to start my own blog. As I blot my tear-filled eyes with a snot filled paper towel, knowing I’ll get conjunctivitis, this was a well needed cry. Much of what you wrote hit home big time. Miss you buddy. Back in San Antonio as John probably mentioned and may I add, he’s awesome. I can count on one hand the number of people who would do for me what John did. Took me in like a brother. I reminisced, balled so hard it made me feel like momma was near me saying, “it’s ok son, let it all out.” This is a must read by all small town folks. Never say never. I told myself I’d never go back and did. Wish the circumstances would have been different but people that have lost everything and bounce back, I hope that to be me, it sure felt like it. I have some stories of my own when going back to Andrews but I’ll save that to not take anything away from this wonderful moment. Great words. Shawn

    • It would have been extra special had you been there brother. I miss you too my old friend. Your name came up several times in conversation and although you weren’t there physically, you were there in spirit and we all know how much louder the laughs would have been had you been there with us. Take care brother…and i’m looking forward to reading your blog.

  11. David,

    Great account of the neighborhood we all grew up in and loved. Glad you got to see tons of people from the past and realized how great growing up in Andrews was. Thanks for the flash back, it was a great trip in my mind.

    Randal

    • Thanks Randal. Glad you enjoyed it. I forgot to mention all the older guys in the neighborhood that made it a point to terrorize us youngsters :), Jay Brownlee, Mark Longshore, Kirk Wilson, you, my brother, etc. Take care friend.

  12. David,
    Enjoyed so much your account of your return to Andrews. It will always be our home town. Loved all the pictures also. Just want you to know how proud I am of you.
    Coach Kniffen

    • I appreciate that Coach. Alot of us are who we are because of the life lessons that we learned on the tennis courts. Thanks for everything.

  13. I walked the streets of Andrews with you just now, tears in my eyes!!!! Love that little town and miss it very much. Thanks for the walk. xoxoxo

  14. David,

    Thanks for the walk back in time. I still have family in Andrews and get to visit from time to time.
    You probably don’t remember my name. I was one of your dad’s students for eight years. He was a great teacher and a very good man. Please tell him that I said hello. I have often wished that I could send him a card but had no idea how to get in touch.

    Thanks again,
    Alisha

  15. So enjoyed your account of your childhood. You were blessed with such wonderful parents and I am very proud of the person you have become. My husband is the one that found your blog.

    • How cool to see your name on a post on my blog. I haven’t broken out the pictures but I think I remember you being my first grade teacher 🙂 Thanks so much for reading an for dropping a line!

  16. David,
    What a great story! I live 45 minutes away from Andrews and have only been in and out of Andrews a few times, but your wonderful story made me experience Andrews in a special way and remember great times and people also. I was glad to hear of all of the people you mentioned and how well they are doing including yourself! Mr. Roses mention brought back great memories of how I had no art skills and he had to practically do it for me to get me through his class with a smile on his face, that was still the best class ever! Your dad was great as well. Thanks for touching my heart with this story….

  17. David,
    Thank you so much for sharing this journey with all of us. Andrews was always such a wonderful place, thankfully I knew it when I was there. Now we live in Houston and more and more I find myself referencing that small town–maybe because of where I live, maybe because that is just what people do as they grow older or maybe because there truly is no place quite like Andrews. I hope that the people who have been lucky enough to call Andrews home realize how fortunate they are. As I read your words and walked with you around the town, I remembered my own special places. I lived at the end of NW 12th place next door to Wade Elliot. I thought about all of my golf teammates and Coach Boynton and Bice. What about the skating rink where I spent every Friday night in elementary school? Dragging Main…Roller Coaster Road? Bon fire? I could go on and on. Thank you so much for reminding me of the things that I didn’t remember today but will never be forgotten!

    • Thank you Melissa…. It really was an awesome experience for me. After living in Houston myself and the smaller (but still bustling compared to Andrews) city of Corpus Christi, I soaked in the clean and quiet air while I was there and I look forward to going back.

  18. David
    Found this by accident – we attended school all the way up to being seniors
    Keric, Scott, Gilbert, Erik, etc all Hung out
    All the memories came rushing back to me – since I know how to find you & Gilbert maybe we all can have a reunion?
    God bless
    Rod

  19. David,

    I came upon your story and was mesmerized by it. I visited Andrews this past summer of 2015 on my journey to visit a friend in Santa Fe NM. My family home was once there on the 800 block of NW 11th street. It was 1967, and I was three years old. I had not been there in 47 years! I went to the front door of my childhood home and knocked. I presented an old black and white Kodak photo of my sister and I on the front porch. I explained to the current owners who I was. They had lived there since 1976! They were the nicest people.
    I stayed and visited with them for about two hours. The trees , the shrubs and the grass were so green in the photos from the 60’s! Very different from today. It was a very emotional experience. I remember some things about that house, and living there, but mostly it was through photos. We only lived there about a year. My father was offered a job in Houston, and away we went. As I looked back at these family photos in Andrews they looked so magical. We were so young and full of hope. It was the last time I remember the four of us being happy at the same time. At least that was my perspective. Our lives were never the same, after leaving Andrews. Although I was very young, the photos looked like a small town storybook life. I don’t know what it was about that town, but I’ve never felt a connection to a place like i did when I returned there as an adult. I often think, what would our lives have been like, if we would have stayed? Although, I’m happy here in Houston, I often wonder what would have been if we would have never left, that cute simple life offered to us in Andrews. As I pulled away from that house on NW 11th, which was an emblazoned memory from one small chapter from my childhood, I cried with a feeling of release and joy. Memories of a childhood cut short in a small Texas town of a small boy that would pedal on his Western Flyer tractor up and down the sidewalks on 11th street without a care in the world. I was happy that such a nice family, had purchased our home years later and made such wonderful memories for them and their children. I’m sure I will stop by and say hello to them again.
    Until then…

    Steven Hollowell
    Houston, Texas

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