I was sorry that I had to miss the re-opening of the Brunson Theater. I have many great memories of the kiddie shows there and movies as a teenager, since it was THE place to go on dates. I think the new façade looks fantastic and gives a shot of new life to Texas Avenue.
We were out of the country on a trip to the island of Aruba where we were also going down memory lane since we lived there in 1971 and 1973. Exxon sent my husband to work at their refinery located on the southern tip of the island, which is now operated by Citgo.
Our older son went with us because he had not been back since he was a young child. We visited Aruba in the late 1990’s with friends who also worked there when we did, and again in 2009 when we took our other son and his family.
Of course, it had changed greatly in the 48 years since we were first there. Back then, the only fast food restaurant was Kentucky Fried Chicken. We loved it because it was a familiar face from home. When Colonel Sanders grinned at us from atop the red and white bucket, we felt comforted. The chicken was almost, but not quite, the same as home.
The second time, about 25 years later, a lot of fast food joints had made their appearances. There was now Wendy’s, McDonald’s, more KFC, and even Hooters. There was just more of everything: hotels, casinos, and a glitzy shopping mall across from the cruise ship docks. The old stores at which we had shopped were all hidden behind these glittering storefronts.
By 2009, when we returned, it had grown even more. Beside the Marriott, where we stayed, construction was going on for yet another hotel. There were now duplicates of all the fast food places. Hard Rock Café had shown its face on the island.
Oh my, where was the Aruba we once had known?
Now we fast forward to this summer, August. There was a proliferation of fast food eateries, even a Taco Bell and more than one McDonald’s. A Ritz-Carlton was added to the line of hotels along the beach. There was a four-lane divided highway all along hotel row. And traffic was wild as you motored around the multiple roundabouts that have been added on the island.
As is often the case, when you return to earlier times and things have not been maintained, age is a destroyer. The neat bungalows where we lived close to the refinery were in shambles. The Esso Club where we ate dinner by the sea and went to the movie was falling down. It did my heart good to see that the little community church had been somewhat maintained. It was freshly painted and still had a scheduled Sunday service.
The saying, “you can never go back home again” has a lot of truth to it. You can go, but it is never the same as you picture it. Only memories remain of the way it was. This had been our home, briefly, long ago. We cherish it as a special, unique part of our past. Progress brought much change and change builds things up, but in the process, also tears things down.
I missed the celebration at the Brunson Theater because of our trip. It made me glad that a place where happy times happened has been preserved, because memory lane has many pathways and they all lead back to the heart.
A former longtime Baytown resident, Ginger Stripling now lives in Mont Belvieu. She can be reached at email@example.com,
Attention: Ginger Stripling.