Saturday, July 08, 2006

History books (Part 1 of 2)

Go to Barnes and Noble or any local bookstore and you'll find a few books on Houston history. Maybe you're already familiar with Marguerite Johnston's "Houston: The Unknown City, 1836-1946" or "Ray Miller's Houston." I've seen "Down in Houston" in a few places, along with the out-of-date "Houston: Architectural Guide" by the American Institute of Architects.

The photo/coffee table book "Houston: Then and Now" offers a great side-by-side comparison of how the city looked back then, compared to today. I purchased my copy at Sam's Club.

Thomas Thompson's "Blood and Money," which retells the 1969 death of Houston socialite Joan Robinson Hill, can be found at any paperback shop.

"Houston's Forgotten Heritage: Landscapes, Houses, Interiors: 1824-1914" is an excellent look at what once was and what could have been. Only photographs remain of many of the homes pictured in the book.

But for those wanting to take a deeper look at local history, I suggest:

"Sig Byrd's Houston" by Sigman Byrd. New York had Damon Runyon, the Mississippi River had Mark Twain, Baltimore had H.L. Mencken and Houston had Sigman Byrd. A collection of columns from his days with the Houston Press and Houston Chronicle, this book presents a side of the city that now exists in old newspapers and fading memories.

An excerpt:

"There is a street in our town that is called Congress Avenue because it borders the tract designated by our founding fathers as a site for the government of the Republic of Texas....Nowadays Congress Avenue is mostly a double row of scrounging retail stores, flophouses, brothels, and honky-tonks; the heart of our home-grown skidrow, peopled by a curious assortment of hard-bitten merchants, working men and women, wineheads, goofball addicts, desiccated trollops, and by some honest and respectable citizens like Jake Berman, Joe and Reba McGinnis, and Hubert Bell.

We have another skidrow in our town, where the snowbirds and the hustlers go, but we get to Preston Avenue later. On Preston, a hustler means an opportunist, a plunger. On Congress, where we are now, a hustler is a gal on the avenue."

Good luck finding a copy!


Post a Comment

<< Home