Sweet Home San Antonio

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These are the sky ride gondolas that used to soar above the Japanese Tea Garden. I apologize for the blurriness of the photo; that's what happens when you use a camera with 126 cassette film.

These are the sky ride gondolas that used to soar above the Japanese Tea Garden. I apologize for the blurriness of the photo; that's what happens when you use a camera with 126 cassette film.

(U.S. Air Force Photo/ Staff Sgt. John Bainter)Surely in another life, I lived in San Antonio. How else to explain that feeling I got when the U.S. Air Force brought me here in 1993?

I immediately felt at home, and immersed myself in the culture. I made it a point to learn as much as I could about the people and events that shaped this area. While I had no direct ties to the many German influences, I still took great pride in my heritage as a first-generation American.

My San Antonio-born friends often shook their heads and laughed when I talked of local history. On more than one occasion I heard: “You know more about my hometown than I do!”

So when it came time to move away in 2000, I was heartbroken. I had retired from active duty and had started a new life, putting down some deep roots.

But those roots didn’t matter, because the Air Force had other plans for my husband, and so I left to start the next chapter of my life. I didn’t leave kicking and screaming … at least, not by any outward appearances. But something inside – a streak of optimism and a good dose of German stubborness – kept me going and gave me hope. I was meant to be here.

It took me five years, but I returned, even more appreciative of this city because of the time I had spent away from it. And ironically, it was the Air Force that brought me back, this time as a civil servant.

My dad took this photo of me with my mom and two brothers the day I left on my recruiting visit to Incarnate Word College.

My dad took this photo of me with my mom and two brothers the day I left on my recruiting visit to Incarnate Word College.

But I can’t credit or blame the Air Force for my very first exposure to San Antonio. It was just for a short visit, but that experience stayed with me. It doesn’t seem possible, but it was nearly 39 years ago, back when:

  • I was 16 years old and working at McDonald’s.
  • I thought I would be a nurse when I grew up.
  • I had no inkling of leaving home, much less joining the Air Force.

I was a junior at Bishop DuBourg High School in south St. Louis. I don’t remember how I met Sharron Stephens, who was assistant director of admissions at then-Incarnate Word College, but I did and was invited to take part in a recruiting trip to the college. Somehow I managed to talk my parents into letting me go.

That’s how I found myself with three other St. Louis-area high school students on a trip to San Antonio. It was June 1974 and I was one month away
from turning 17 . At that age, of course, I knew everything.

Judging by the itinerary, we had a busy schedule.

This was Page 1 of the itinerary of my first visit to San Antonio. I was one of four high school students from St. Louis who were on a recruting trip to Incarnate Word College. I still have the scrapbook I made with mementos of my trip.

This was Page 1 of the itinerary of my first visit to San Antonio. I was one of four high school students from St. Louis on a recruting trip to Incarnate Word College. I still have the scrapbook I made with mementos of my trip.

I remember bits and pieces of the trip

These are the sky ride gondolas that used to soar above the Japanese Tea Garden. I apologize for the blurriness of the photo; that's what happens when you use a camera with 126 cassette film.

These are the sky ride gondolas that used to soar above the Japanese Tea Garden. I apologize for the blurriness of the photo; that’s what happens when you use a camera with 126 cassette film.

  •  The grease-stained menu from Little Hipp's. My scrapbook also includes a grease-stained napkin from Casa Rio and Jim's.

    The grease-stained menu from Little Hipp’s. My scrapbook also includes a grease-stained napkin from Casa Rio and Jim’s.

    Riding a gondola high above Brackenridge Park near the Sunken Garden Theater.

  • Loving the shypoke eggs at Little Hipp’s.
  • Shopping at Market Square and visiting the Alamo.

What I remember most is falling in love with Incarnate Word College. The campus was gorgeous and the whole idea of going away to college was so romantic – and so out of the question. I knew my old-fashioned parents would never consider letting me go all the way to Texas, and they certainly couldn’t afford to send me to a private university. Attending a Catholic high school had been a sacrifice on their part. I knew better than to ask about college.

So I returned to St. Louis, never imagining I would be back in San Antonio. A year and a half later, however, I did just that – not for college, but for Air Force basic training.

My Air Force career took me many places – some wonderful, some not so great, but all good experiences: the Philippines, Ohio, Alaska, Illinois, Colorado, New York, Turkey and then … saving the best for last: San Antonio.

And you know what? I finally did get that diploma from the school that tried to recruit me in 1974. After retiring from the Air Force, I used my G.I. Bill and attended the school now known as the University of the Incarnate Word in their Adult Degree Completion Program (ADCaP). I graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Arts and Sciences in 1999. I even appeared on a billboard for the school:

I was one of four UIW students featured on billboards and in newspaper ads during a 1998-99 ad campaign. As luck would have it, the first billboard that I saw with my photo on it was in the parking lot at the San Antonio Museum of Art. I was there for a job interview! And in case you're wondering, I got the job.

I was one of four UIW students featured on billboards and in newspaper ads during a 1998-99 ad campaign. As luck would have it, the first billboard that I saw with my photo on it was in the parking lot at the San Antonio Museum of Art. I was there for a job interview! And in case you’re wondering, I got the job.

For the last seven-plus years, I have lived about a mile away from the school. I pass by it all the time, favoring the trip downtown via Broadway instead of Highway 281. And as the house photographer for both the Majestic Theatre and Sam’s Burger Joint and Music Hall, that adds up to several hundred trips up and down that corridor every year.

But now it seems that the ol’ seven-year itch has gotten to me again. Yes, I’m moving from San Antonio.

Say what?!

OK, it’s only to Live Oak, but hey, it’s still a move. And while it’s only 10 miles and not 1,300 like the last time, there will be changes that come along with it and routines that will be disrupted.

The cover of the phone book that was in my dorm room at Incarnate Word. Ripping the cover off a phonebook isn't the same thing as ripping the tag off a mattress, is it? If it's a crime, I'm sure there's a statute of limitations.

The cover of the phone book that was in my dorm room at Incarnate Word. Ripping the cover off a phonebook isn’t the same thing as ripping the tag off a mattress, is it? If it’s a crime, I’m sure there’s a statute of limitations.

I’ll miss living across the street from my HEB. Sure, there’s an HEB only about a mile from my new place, but you know it’s not the same. There’s YOUR HEB, and then there are “the others.”

I’ll miss being within walking distance of three different Starbucks and a Panera Bread Company.

I’ll miss being only three miles from the airport, and having such an easy commute to downtown.

And yes, I’ll even miss my zip code. Farewell, 78209. Hello, 78233.

But at least for the next couple of years, I’m happy to relinquish the responsibilities of home ownership while I decide what I want to do next. Maybe I’ll end up in Tobin Hill, or Monticello, or Lavaca. Maybe I’ll live above the Majestic, or in a loft on South Flores.

Wherever that place is, I’ll know it’s where I’m supposed to be. Life’s funny that way. I’ve traveled down some twisting, turning roads, made some U-turns, and didn’t always stop and ask for directions. But somehow, I ended up where I belong.

Technically, I’ll be living in Live Oak, but as far as my heart’s concerned, I’m in sweet home San Antonio.

 

Annette Crawford is a public affairs officer at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. She is also the house photographer for the Majestic Theatre and Sam’s Burger Joint & Music Hall. You can read her music and travel blog atwww.thegroovygringa.com or follow her on Facebook at The Groovy Gringa.

 

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Click here for a full list of our “Where I Live” series.

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Where I Live: Monticello Heights

Where I Live: The Judson Candy Factory Lofts

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