I recently had a Facebook messenger conversation with a dear old friend of mine… shout out to Nikki T! Note, she isn’t old, but we’ve known each other pretty much since the womb. It got me thinking about a town, way down in South Texas called Raymondville. Population 11,284 according to the 2010 census. This is where Nikki T and I grew up. I moved away from Raymondville in the 3rd grade, but because of the miracle of Facebook, I am able to keep in touch with my good old friend (and a few other good old friends as well).
As I laid in bed last night, I started to have one of those old, childhood movies play in my brain. You know what I’m talking about, the kind that keeps you up WAY past your normal bedtime but is just too good to stop. I wondered if I could actually sit down and write all of the things that I remember about Raymondville, TX. It’s been 10 years since I’ve been there, and 25 years since I actually lived there. And I know many things have changed since that time. But for old time’s sake, I thought I would do some recollecting about the good ole days. Please, read this with a warning that these memories are coming from my little nine-year-old mind, so they may not be entirely accurate, but hopefully some of it rings true.
I remember the first home I lived in on Riggs Ave. If you walked a few blocks away, you would come to the ballpark. This was where I played t-ball as a child, and I remember the team that I played on like it was yesterday. Hocott Implement was the sponsor and they were a John Deere dealership, so of course, we wore green. There were swing sets and see-saws at the park and we had birthday parties there (not me though because my birthday is in January and even in South Texas, January is too cold for a birthday in the park). And right at the edge of the park, was the city water tower. It was painted bright blue and had a huge smiley face painted on the top of it. It was aptly named, the Smiley Tower, and you could see it from all over the town. A few blocks in the opposite direction was Shed’s swimming pool, where we went swimming almost every day during the summer. That pool would be full of people every day because, I don’t know if you knew this, but it gets HOT in South Texas in the summer.
When I was about six years old, we moved to our second home on the corner of Wood Ave and 12th St. This house had belonged to my Great Grandma Pearl and when she went to the nursing home, we moved in. The house had these old hardwood floors and formica countertops. My father’s gun repair shop was in the garage. I recall that the yard on 12th St was huge, at least compared to the Riggs Ave yard. And it was full of mesquite trees, some of the tallest mesquites I have seen. In the front yard, there was a variety of flower bushes, leftover from Grandma Pearl. The ones I remember the most were the plumbagos, with their tiny, cornflower blue flowers.
Just a few blocks walk down 12th St brought you to Raymondville High School. I never actually attended this school, but as a child, I always wanted to! We would walk there on Friday nights during the Fall and watch the football team play – the Raymondville Bearkats. Their colors were blue and gold, and the marching band was amazing! The stadium itself was named Burnett Stadium, after one of my very own relatives. My Grandfather, Tuffy, was the head maintenance man for the Raymondville School District for many years and I remember visiting him at the maintenance shed as a child.
Next to the high school was the auditorium. As a child, it was the largest building I had ever seen. This was where we had our dance recitals for Sissy’s Dance School. All of us little girls would get all dolled up backstage and wait our turn to dazzle the audience under the lights. Even some of the mothers would dance. I always wanted to wear pointe shoes, but I didn’t stay in long enough to do that.
A few blocks in the other direction from our home (note, this was not a very big town and everything was essentially “a few blocks” away), was the First Presbyterian Church. One of my very favorite pictures of my grandmother was taken in front of this church. My mother and I went every Sunday and I attended Sunday school in the little classrooms right next to the church. This was where I was baptized and I actually remember that day a little bit. During Christmas, the church put on a hand bell choir that my mother played in, and the music was beautiful.
Downtown Raymondville (yes, there was a downtown) was quite the place in those days. There was an old movie theater where we went to see a show and munch on a fire stick. There was a bank, where my mother had worked for years, right across from the grocery store. And just down the street was the old soda fountain where my parents told stories about hanging out with friends as teenagers.
This sounds a little bit like it’s out of the ’60’s, not quite, this was the ’80’s, and we did have the typical ’80’s amenities. There was a Wal-Mart, although, not the kind of Wal-Mart you see nowadays. This one didn’t have groceries and it was actually quite small, but you could get pretty much anything you needed there (other than groceries). Right next to Wal-Mart was the video rental store where we rented Betamax tapes. I especially remember watching reruns of The Monkees, over and over and over again. In the parking lot next to Wal-Mart, was McDonald’s, where I played on the playsets and ate endless chicken McNuggets.
I attended Pittman Elementary, the same school my mother had attended when she was my age. I remember the classrooms had these huge, tall windows – the kind that you don’t see in modern schools, only in pictures of those pre-World War II buildings. And I used to watch the clock impatiently, waiting for my father to pick me up on his motorcycle so we could go to the swimming pool after school.
Every year, we attended the Willacy County Young Farmers Association annual barbecue at a local ranch house. Your ticket got you a huge plate piled high with brisket, bread, corn on the cob, potato salad, and beans. And every plate came with a whole jalapeno. They had hayrides through the ranch for the kids and a barn dance with a band that played well into the night.
For only living there a few years, I sure do have some good memories of the place. Just a little look into my childhood. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I tip my cap to Facebook, and all the lovely souls that I grew up with for helping me to remember those days. The days before work, or bills, or children, or eating disorders, or worries, or any of those pesky things that come with adulthood. The days when I was free to just be me. Thanks for the memories Raymondville!