As snowflakes tumbled from the sky above Ohio, we started our motor coach engine and headed southward toward Texas and our winter volunteer position at San Jacinto State Historical Site. This winter is our fourth tour of duty at San Jacinto where the Battleship Texas is moored in a slip off of the Houston Ship Channel (historically known as Buffalo Bayou). In addition to the Texas, the San Jacinto Monument stands proudly overlooking 1,200 acres of land where Texas won it’s independence from Mexico in 1836. Part of this land is a marsh-a place where a variety of birds and animals call home. A mile long, U-shaped boardwalk is in the process of being constructed through this educational and interesting environmental setting.
Upon our arrival at San Jacinto the third week of December, we set up a booth in front of the ship’s store to promote & sell Texas State Park annual passes to visitors of the Battleship Texas. These annual passes eliminate the entrance fee to the 120 State Parks in Texas; and, therefore, help families and groups of visitors save on recreational costs. Selling the annual pass was an easy assignment. Because of teamwork among the Site employees and volunteers, San Jacinto SHS sold more State Park passes than any other historical site in Texas and won $3,000 to be used on Park projects.
Houston received its first measurable snowfall, in 18 years, the day before Christmas. By northern standards, the snow was spotty and barely noticeable. But if you looked real hard into a bright light and twitched your nose to the side, you could tell it was snowing in Texas.
Jerry and Ellen Hopkins invited us to travel with them to San Antonio to spend Christmas with Jerry’s Mother, Solange. Between us, we traveled with three puppies, Jolie Hopkins, Angel and Precious Mondl. Our two-day visit included lots of delicious food, fun playing a variety of games, an exchange of wonderful gifts and great conversations with good friends.
In the fall of 2003, we initiated a public relations program at San Jacinto with sponsorships from area businesses. Remember the baseball trading cards we traded as youngsters? At San Jacinto, photos are taken of the Battleship, the Monument, and the marsh and placed on the front of a “Historic Trading Card”. On the back of the card, we place a short interpretive paragraph describing the photo, information about the Site and information about the sponsor. Our marketing plan describes how the trading cards will be distributed throughout the community. In 2003, Series 1, Cards 1-9 were issued. During the months of January and February, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Houston Chamber of Commerce secured booths at the Sportsman show, the Boat show, the RV show and the Home and Garden show. As volunteers at San Jacinto, we attended these venues to pass out state park brochures, sell annual passes and distributed the trading cards.
During the winter 2005, we continued the Heritage Card program and the response to the program far exceeded our expectation and goals. Area business and industry rallied to support San Jacinto State Historical Site by committing to 23 Heritage photos and 68,000 cards that will be distributed to schoolchildren to spark their interest in Texas history. This translates to completion of Series 2, 3 and part of 4; and Cards 10 thru 31. Distribution of Series 2, 3 and 4 will begin this summer. We are very proud to be a part of such a successful community partnership. We are looking forward to expanding the Heritage Card program next winter to other State Parks in Texas.
The greater Houston area is alive with a variety of entertainment events. For Jan’s birthday February 17th, Steve secured tickets to Circus d’Soeil. Perhaps you have witnessed Circus d’Soeil in person or as a special program on television and you know that Circus d’Soeil is not a circus in the conventional term - there are no animals. But you will experience the thrills and excitement of trapeze artists, tight ropewalkers and other aerobatic marvels as you view the performance. We had excellent front row seats that put us within arms reach of the performers. Not only were the maneuvers of the performers breath taking but the costumes were brilliant and spectacular.
Hee Haw!! Grab your cowboy hat and put on your cowboy boots!! The Houston Livestock and Rodeo has come to town. Sure enough, Houston becomes Rodeo City for the first three weeks in March. During the last week of February, hundreds and hundreds of trail riders with their chuck wagons ride into Houston’s Memorial Park. A Rodeo Parade through the downtown starts the festivities. Everyday, participants compete in events such as rough stock: bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding and timed events: barrel racing, steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping to accumulate points in each category. On the next to the last day of the Rodeo, participants perform one last time and strive to improve their overall scores to win the championship and the grand prize money.
Since 1957, nearly $100 million has been raised by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to provide scholarships and educational programs to children across Texas. Prize winning cattle are displayed, judged and auctioned to the highest bidder to fund these scholarships. Local businesses also contribute to these programs and to the Rodeo’s operations by underwriting much of the costs. Every evening, big name, well-known performers are in concert at the Rodeo. We attended the Rodeo finals and were entertained by Houston’s native son, Clint Black. To begin his show, Clint Black rode into the auditorium on horse back and the audience was his. His show mixed many of his old time favorite songs, such as Desperado, and some songs from his newest album, “Spend My Time”.
During the month of March, San Jacinto had a variety of special events. Jan was a judge for the “Little Mr. and Mrs. Lone Star” beauty pageant. Over 40 youngsters were divided into age categories and evaluated on beauty, costume and modeling abilities. Youngsters as young as 3 months entered the completion. It was so hard to evaluate each youngster. Jan would have preferred crowning every child- “Little Mr. Lone Star” or “Little Miss Lone Star”- a winner.
The 50’s Ford Car Show was another special event hosted at San Jacinto in March. Many vintage cars representing a variety of makes and models lined the Park’s roads. There was something unique about each car-be it the rumble seat or the running boards. Every car was primped and polished in order to receive recognition or a prize during this annual event.
The first of April, we drove to the Rio Grande Valley to visit with our good friends Gary & Pat Jeffries. We met Gary & Pat in 1998 and they introduced us to the park-hosting program. Gary & Pat have recently quit the RV lifestyle and have purchased a mobile home in Alamo, TX – just a few miles north of the Mexico border. While visiting the Jeffries, they took us to Nuevo Progresso, Mexico to shop, eat and dance. Jan decided to visit the dentist in Progresso for a teeth cleaning ($20) and to fill a few cavities ($20 per filling). Lots of great fun to share.
We have been invited to return to San Jacinto State Historical Site in November. The Texas Historic Trading Card program is so successful, five new sponsors are anxious to participate in the fall when we return.
We have returned to a cold, wet Ohio to ready the motor coach for our next adventure this summer to North Dakota. Our next volunteer assignment will be at Fort Stevenson State Park, just north of Bismarck, ND. We will be giving tours of this Historic Fort, which is located on the Oregon Trail and the Missouri River.
Thanks for taking the time to visit our WEB site and for Traveling Along with Steve & Jan.