A Texas Christmas

60 years ago Hurricane Carla ravaged the Texas coast, and at one point, in the gulf,  was a Category 5 hurricane with winds reaching 175 miles per hour on the morning of September 11, 1961.  Just before it hit the coast, the wind speeds dropped to 145.  It glanced off of Mexico and continued up the Texas coast.  Winds were strong enough inland to blow some windows out of the air traffic control tower in Houston.

Tidal surge was measured from 10 to 17 foot, and estimated damage (in today’s economy) was $2 Billion.  46 people died.

That hurricane boosted a young newsman’s career; his name was Dan Rather.

At the time, there were radar scopes and satellite pictures, and there were maps. But maps overlaid on the storm had never been seen before. Dan Rather had the NWS meteorologists place a translucent map over the radar scope which showed where the eye of Carla was relative to the coast! That excellent ingenuity saved thousands of lives as anyone who hadn’t evacuated already got the heck out of dodge. The live television broadcasting was seen around the country. And, yes, within six months Dan Rather was picked up by national CBS, but he literally put Hurricane Carla on a map. We’ve been looking at hurricanes the same way ever since.

Now we’re going to have to rely on the memories of a young boy (me) whose family picked up and moved to Texas for a year.  Dad, Granddad, and an uncle were all carpenters (Dad’s other job as he farmed), and as I recall (again, I was a kid) they responded to a call for carpenters that went out from the Texas coast that had been ravaged by the hurricane.  Ravaged is one word; destroyed is another word.   Most of the houses then had hardwood floors; Dad said they put in a LOT of hardwood flooring!  After the water subsided, those floors would swell and buckle.  They’d tear them out (along with whatever else needed replacing, usually walls, floor joists, etc.) and build it all back.

They also did some work at the shipping yards and docks.  I remember being told they used bulldozers to push barrels and shipping containers out of the way, piled up into chaotic rubble by the hurricane.

There was a popular spot north of the Galveston Island called Bolivar Peninsula.  It had a road – highway – the entire length, with shops, restaurants, diners, and other businesses related to the beach and water.  After Carla went through, it was all gone!  Nothing but sand was left, wiped clean by the force of the wind and tidal surge.  Our family went beach-combing several times there, picking up sea shells of all sizes, sand dollars, and star fish, it became a favorite place to visit.  I seem to remember going beach-combing on Christmas Day, but alas, that memory may not be correct.  I do remember it being strange to have Christmas with snow!

Another memory is a place called Moses Lake next to Texas City.  It had a large oyster bed, and we’d go there and pick up oysters by the bucket full!  Mom and Grandma breaded the oysters, and fried them.  One time we were there, and there was a man walking around with a screw driver in his hand (the tool, not the drink!).  He would stop, pick up an oyster, pop the shell open with the screw driver, and slurp that raw oyster right out of the shell!  (Okay, maybe not unusual, but for some Midwest folks, that was pretty…. ugh!  Raw oyster is still not in my diet!!)

For years after that, Grandma proudly displayed her collection of sea shells on shelves in the living room (built of course by Grandpa and my uncle), and it always reminded us of that year we spent in Texas.  As I recall her collection was a bit bigger than my Moms, but they both had “special” shells I suppose they cherished for the rest of their lives.  It certainly was a unique experience for all of us.

While our past experiences don’t necessarily have to define who we are, it often does.  But we don’t have to let it do so completely.  When we put our faith and trust in God, He helps us sort out our past, and learn from it the lessons that He knows will do us the most good.   And then we are able to help others see that all things really do work for good to those who love God.  (Romans 8:28)

2 thoughts on “A Texas Christmas

  1. You have a better memory than me. I didn’t remember any of that. It was indeed quite a year. We’ll, I did remember about the sea shells and beaches. I remember riding with a friend who drove his car into the edge of the ocean, got his brakes wet, then we rear ended a car cause we couldn’t stop. It got colder that year than it had for dozens of years. The bay, salt water, froze but wasn’t solid. A guy I knew drove his car out on the ice and it fell through!!! Oops!!! Yes, quite a year.


    1. Now that you mention it, I do remember it was cold. We North Missouri transplants didn’t think much of it, as I recall, and thought it was funny how those Texans responded to it. :<)


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