Back in 1985, Dan Rather and CBS News apparently referred to Houston as the "foreclosure capital of America." It was the mid-80s and Houston was suffering the aftereffects of an oil bust, a massive drop in the cost of oil that crippled the city's economy. In many ways, we have that time to thank for our city's robust economy today as it forced business to rethink their models and move away from a blue-collar, oil-centric business community to a white-collar, technology-specific one.
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But at the time, a lot of people were not happy with the situation. In the late '70s and early '80s, the city's freeways were lined with out-of-state license plates as people poured into Houston looking for work with oil companies. The oil bust caused many of those people who came here for work to lose their jobs and homes. One local dentist, Dr. Gene A. Raney, decided to take out an ad in the paper to address Rather through a conversation with his mother he wrote down and it was recently resurrected in a post on Reddit.
The result is one of the most optimistic letters about Houston you'll ever see and one that seems to foreshadow the dramatic urban revitalization of the city some 20 years later.
"Houston is a great place to live! There are lots of fine people here! We're all having to work pretty hard these days, but it's NORMAL! What's happening in Houston is the same thing that happened all over the world every day. It's SUPPLY AND DEMAND, Mom. Right now we have an oversupply of houses. So, some construction people are having to move to other towns or find other lines of work. There's too much oil, so oil companies are laying off people. And the people find other jobs. Sometimes people are surprised to find that they like a new job or a new line of work much better than the old one."
"Houston has come alive, Mom. We're not a crazy boom town anymore. It's getting to be like the Houston I used to know. People are becoming aware that the gravy train doesn't stop here anymore. The name of the game is WORK. Anyone in Houston who is willing to work hard and is willing to compete will do fine. There is a great fleet of people helping each other to get ahead."
"As we all work harder, we all benefit. My favorite restaurant now serves me a glass of water with my food, just like old times. And I get a second glass of iced tea for free! My favorite cafeteria now serves continuously all day. I love it! I can now get my hair cut at *;00 at night. I can buy almost anything I need on Sunday. Many prices are coming down instead of going up. It's easier than ever before to get anything I need!"
"So I'm staying in Houston, Mom. For me, it's where the action is!
I attempted to reach Dr. Raney but was unsuccessful in locating him. I'd love to tell him thanks for reminding all of us that we Houstonians are, were and always will be tough, resilient, unabashed supporters of our fair city.