Where I Live: Shenandoah Suburb, Stuck in the 70s

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Shenandoah Fourth of July Parade participants mingle at end of the parade which started at Cody Library. Photo by Warren Lieberman.

Shenandoah Fourth of July Parade participants mingle at end of the parade which started at Cody Library. Photo by Warren Lieberman.

I read with interest and a bit of envy the multitude of personal reflections on some of the wonderful San Antonio neighborhoods featured in the Rivard Report series “Where I Live.” The marvels of Blue Star to South End Lofts, Tobin Lofts and Monticello/Deco District leapt off the screen to my delight.

At times I fantasized about a move to one of these locales from our humble home in the Shenandoah subdivision. Who wouldn’t like to walk to one of the marvelous restaurants in the Pearl Brewery, live in a King William home with the San Antonio River flowing through your backyard or engage in the challenge of restoring a home in Government Hill with charm and character that shame the newer suburban homes in a gated community.

But then I take a deep breath and step back to reality. Shenandoah is my home and I have lived in this working/middle class neighborhood for more than 35 years.  Shenandoah is a hidden jewel sandwiched between Huebner and Wurzbach Roads just off IH 10.

Map of Shenandoah subdivision relative to downtown. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Map of Shenandoah subdivision relative to downtown. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

 

Wurzbach Road was one lane in each direction when the subdivision opened in the late 1960s. The Medical Center still new and clean then. Handy Andy operated a store close by.  Shenandoah of 1970 possessed a country atmosphere despite its location within the city limits. At the current location of Sea Island Shrimp House, children would fish in a pond that formerly served the needs of some long forgotten ranch and ride dirt bikes in a wooded area where the Omni Hotel now dominates the landscape.

My wife and I moved to San Antonio from densely-populated Elizabeth, New Jersey. We thought we arrived in heaven, both the neighborhood and the city.

Our children walked to Shenandoah Elementary School. They rode bicycles in the street or walked to a friend’s house without a care in the world. Today children still walk to the elementary school, now named Howsman Elementary School after a beloved principal, and ride bicycles in the street – exercising more caution because of the increased traffic.

Some of the neighbors who welcomed us to the neighborhood still reside in their modest homes; turnover of Shenandoah residents is slow and steady with newcomers staying for several years before moving on to “greener” pastures.

As the years passed Wurzbach widened to host both fantastic and ordinary restaurants close by. H-E-B opened three markets within three miles of our home. Sadly, Book Stop, Barnes & Noble, and Borders departed our immediate area. But Half Price Books nearby and the adjacent Aspen’s Brew Coffee are excellent replacements. The Cody Branch Library is adjacent to the subdivision and at times I have either walked or rode my bicycle there to search for a book or order one from the interlibrary loan service.

Looking towards IH 10, this is truly the traffic center of the city. Photo by  Warren Lieberman.

Looking towards IH 10 on Wurzbach Road, this is truly the traffic center of the city. Photo by Warren Lieberman.

My two sons grew into men and moved out. Our old home became an empty nest. One major remodel and two minor fix ups transformed our Shenandoah track house into our own retirement village. Our covered patio is ideal for an impromptu dinner al fresco. On a good night we can sit out and listen to the music emanating from County Line BBQ and smell smoked brisket in the air. Or we can walk to County Line and enjoy free music on many Wednesday evenings.

Shenandoah is an all-American subdivision complete with clubhouse, pool, tennis court and a Fourth of July Parade. Best yard awards and Christmas decoration contest foster old fashion neighborhood pride. Neighbors who will call you when you leave your garage door open or bring in the mail if you go on vacation are intangible qualities that add to the resistance to move away.

Shenandoah Clubhouse flying the Texas flag which alternates with U.S. flag. Photo by  Warren Lieberman.

Shenandoah Clubhouse flying the Texas flag which alternates with U.S. flag. Photo by Warren Lieberman.

Two or three times a year our home becomes the focal point for holiday dinners. Serving dinner for twenty people from the galley kitchen is an adventure in logistics. My wife has perfected cooking, serving and cleanup from one small kitchen.  The success of the event is measured in decibels, something that apartment or loft neighbors might find irritating. Newcomers are warned of the noise level upon arrival.

Warren’s home office. Desk is a 1950s vintage desk that he refinished, on the left corner is wine box crafted into a mini bookcase. Photos on window sill are some of his favorites. Warren’s home office. Photo by  Warren Lieberman.

Warren’s home office. Desk is a 1950s vintage desk that he refinished, on the left corner is wine box crafted into a mini bookcase. Photos on window sill are some of his favorites. Warren’s home office. Photo by Warren Lieberman.

My wife and I can lounge together in the family room or retreat to separate rooms to watch TV or surf the Internet. My home office delivers the luxury of a quiet retreat. A room with a restored 50s vintage wooden desk, sofa and an overflowing bookcase offers me a quiet place to write or work with my digital darkroom (i.e. Photoshop).

We frequent theaters nearby and the Huebner Oaks Shopping Center keeps us out of the mall. Pasha Mediterranean Grill, Golden Wok, Mama Margie’s, El Rodeo de Jalisco, and Sea Island are only a few of the neighborhood (locally owned) restaurants just a short drive away. Green Vegetarian, Franco’s Italian and Myron’s Steak House anchor dining in the Alon Market area. Chicago Bagels, the home of the best bagels in San Antonio, is just over a mile from my house. Newly opened Hardberger Park offers an ideal location for walks with and without our dog.

Every one of the fine attractions that residents of other famous neighborhoods tout as charms I can drive to in less than twenty minutes. I can ride a bus to work if I wished. However, the convenience of getting in the car to enjoy the marvels of our great town beats waiting for a bus. Time has moved us from a suburban home to a city location without the need to actually move.

The 2010 US Census data locates the population center of Bexar County near the intersection of West Avenue and West Wildwood, only a few miles away. This information reinforces a belief my wife and I already hold, that we reside in the middle of a vibrant city and are quite content to remain in our track home (with upgrades). We really don’t need to move to enjoy the fine benefits of San Antonio.

*Featured/top image: Shenandoah Fourth of July Parade participants mingle at end of the parade which started at Cody Library. Photo by  Warren Lieberman.

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25 thoughts on “Where I Live: Shenandoah Suburb, Stuck in the 70s

  1. Dear Warren Lieberman, Thanks for this delightful reflection on your neighborhood. Have driven through it many times but never knew its official name before. A pond where Sea Island is? Wow, time. You remind us how all we need and delight in can be very close by.

    • I remember local children occasionally fishing the pond. But also I saw the evidence that hitch-hikers and transients frequented the location because of the proximity of IH10.

  2. Nicely done! You make a great point about the population center being a bit further north than downtown. Before moving to King William, we lived in the Medical Center area for 10 years in a small neighborhood called Donore Square. We could walk to Indian, Italian, Chinese, Thai, and Mexican restaurants as well as to our favorite bar. I could ride my bike or walk to work every day if I wanted to, but actually did only three times. It’s paradoxical that actually living downtown feels more rural, with the train sounds through the night, ducks and egrets in your back yard, and having to drive 20 minutes for groceries. The debate gets polarized into either downtown or Stone Oak, but there are many other pockets where an urban or near-urban experience can be had.

  3. There was cattle at the intersection of huebner and Vance Jackson up until around 2000ish. There was also not a light at that intersection at the time. How times have changed that entire area has some of the worst rush hour traffic in the city now

  4. Thank you for sharing. Remember the “blue laws?” Aisles of merchandise at HEB, and everywhere, that could not be sold on Sundays.

  5. I like the shout out to Aspen’s Brew, which I’ve been enjoying lately as a temporary office and keep running into my cuz who offices there too Carlos Canseco

  6. Hey Greg! Remember Hickory Hut? Man, I loved walking through the fields, I would go to SASA in Handy Andy making a withdrawal,going to the movies at Colonies, eating BBQ and stopping at Winn’s for an ICEE and candy for the return trip back through the fields. My mom still lives in our house, going on 47 years.

  7. This was a wonderful read. I taught at Shenandoah for 12 years and it was an ideal setting with children from loving homes and very involved parents. I loved it. This article makes me feel like living there. It’s still a very pleasant area. I’d probably want to live with the writer of this article and his family. It just made me feel warm all over.

  8. I worked at the Shenandoah Club House from 1974 to 1978 doing maintenance, lifeguard, and general handy man. Loved working there and the people of the neighborhood.

  9. My parents moved to this neighborhood in September 1968. If I remember correctly, it was still outside the city limit, which ended at Wurzbach and Vance Jackson. My siblings and I fished in the stock pond where The County Line restaurant is located. I believe it had once been used for the cattle and other live stock from the cattle ranch that was located where the Colonnade is now located. We built tree forts there and got into all kinds of mischief. We would walk through field between the neighborhood to the Winn’s store at the Colonies North Mall. Sometimes the cattle would chase us or we would chase them. I remember attending Shenandoah Elementary when it first opened. It did not open at the beginning of the school year, and we had to attend Colonies North Elementary for a few months under a separate and very weird split schedule with the kids who went there until Shenandoah Elementary opened. Even then, the cafeteria was not completed, so we had to take a lunch everyday for a few months. My siblings and I delivered the San Antonio Light newspaper to the neighborhood for years. I was nine years old when I started my route which included Millstead, Bunker Hill, Flint Hill, Belle Grove, and Markham. My brothers delivered to the other streets. It was a simpler time when kids could safely ride their bikes after school and in the wee hours of the weekend mornings to deliver newspapers. Times have changed. My parents passed away and we sold their house at 10910 Lands Run a few years ago. I was sad to see lose it.

  10. I used to go swimming there with family friends..great pool, .and the country side was just past huebner with bluebonnet riding stables across IH10. My only fear is that suburbanites only know suburbia and have no pride of downtown, downtown neighborhoods and the history and architecture to help gain a greater sense of place (I have heard many times that there’s nothing to do and SATX is boring…maybe its them?)….the Chicago Loop promotes itself very well. Most great cities and their downtowns are loved by folks in suburbs and surrounding towns. Pride by outer loop folks does exist here but inner loop pride needs to be cultivated, targeting outer loop folks, more aggressively by all chamber, revitalization and educational groups.

  11. This was so neat to read! I grew up in the Shenandoah development (1968-1979) and LOVE my roots in San Antonio. I moved to Denver, Colorado in 1988 and have been blessed to meet and promote many great musicians (I use their music in my Tai Chi classes.). One of them recorded an incredible guitar version of “Shenendoah.” Every time I hear it, I think of this great place! Thanks for writing this piece. It brings me peace…

  12. Instead of the decline that seemed inevitable in the early to mid-1970’s, Shenandoah has undergone a welcome economic improvement over the years. The neighborhood has been blessed by the positive development of the nearby section of I-10 and, interestingly enough, by its isolation from the traffic congestion created by that same development. Compare the success of Shenandoah to that of another similar neighborhood, Castle Hills Forest.

    P.S. I miss the postscript of the Shenandoah sign at Ramsgate and I-10 that used to state, “Elevation 1,000 feet.”

  13. I grew up in Shenandoah, on Belle Grove. The pool was my refuge every summer and I will never forget the good times on the swim team. There was a skating rink close by when I was a little kid, I remember a field between the neighborhood and the Colonnade. Walking to the elementary was easy as it was at the end of my street and I played there all through the summers too. I remember my joy when the library was built. I am old enough that we had to walk to Hobby Middle school, which was a minor bit of torment. My good memories include walking the neighborhood filled with my friends. The Lone Star convenience store also holds a lot of great memories. Thanks for this lovely little walk back in time.

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