For most of my life, I returned yearly with family and friends to my second home-the Rockport/Fulton area on the Texas Gulf coast.
Gatherings occurred there as often as in my hometown of San Antonio. My family took vacations to other parts of the country but, since Dad was in business for himself, a closer retreat was needed. After spending time in that area, where Dad hunted and fished as a young man and later took his family for vacations, it was logical that he began to look at real estate. In the 60's he bought an older home a block off the Fulton Beach Road where he believed it to be safe from high water during hurricanes.
I wondered if Dad, as a small boy, ever traveled to see the bays or learned about the sailing vessels that once brought mail to places that no longer exist in that area. He was born and lived a few years in a small South Texas town near Victoria where his father sold land to Northerners coming in by train. Dad could remember fishing at a nearby lake in the Bloomington area in about 1918. Perhaps, later in life, he thought about going back to that area of the state one day. Meanwhile, he lived in west Texas and later moved to San Antonio where he worked, raised a family, and went duck hunting and fishing as often as possible in that coastal region.
Like the prevailing winds that swept over and bent the oak trees at my coastal home, so did sweeping changes occur through the years to that sleepy fishing community. Improvements kept pace with needs of tourists, permanent residents, and the "Snow Birds." Certain landmarks, the fishermen, art colony, sea shell shops, shrimp boats and bait stands remained but, while my children were young, I shared with them memories of an older Rockport. When I went there as a child, there were no fast food chains but rather a favorite place called Mary's Malts which served great hamburgers, malts, and fun for a generation of kids in the 50's and 60's. Dad loved malts so we would stop there before checking into our cottage at the flamingo pink motel called Palm Village. He checked on the shrimp boats, caught up on fishing reports, and checked on bait. We had plenty of seafood to eat almost every night after our swim off the pier because we bought shrimp right off the boats. Dad did not fish much in later years but resorted to the "silver hook" method of getting fresh fish to cook....he bought it mostly in Aransas Pass!
Some small cottage type motels remained but Palm Village was eventually torn down and condos went up. The brushy uninhabited beach nearby where I played as a child made way for a popular housing development called Key Allegro. Gone was the little wooden bridge that led to the desolate beach with the sign that read: "Beware of Our Rattlesnakes." My children, unlike me, were never scared of the "haunted" house, though my father threatened to take the older one there! Eventually they witnessed the restoration of the beautiful and historical Fulton Mansion which for years had succumbed to neglect. Unlike kids of my generation, my sons were not on the lookout for a mysterious figure called Peg Leg. My brother and I would scream "there he is!" whenever we saw him walking along the road. He had a beer joint on the beach road and a genuine wooden leg which Dad, of course, informed us was due to a shark attack. I never watched the old movie, Moby Dick, without thinking of Peg Leg.
When I return to Rockport, my mind is full of memories and thoughts. Some concern Dad and the meaning of home. If home meant freedom from worry and the family being happier together, than this was one place where we were more at home. Old oaks and the sea soothed the soul I believe and made for a calmer and happier family. In the front yard of our old home is one of those beautiful oak trees that has survived hundreds of years and storms. Dad told me once that he would rather talk with God right there under those spreading branches than in any church. Perhaps he is there in spirit sipping on a malt, sharing big fish tales with the old man who lived next door, watching for Peg Leg to appear, or waiting for those shrimp boats to come in...I believe Daddy's home."