Fun for Kids, Circa 1972
Highlights from Hair Balls
Fun for Kids,
Houston guidebook has (bad) tips
By John Nova Lomax
With school winding down, you might be wondering how you are going to amuse your idle whippersnappers all summer long.
While it is no easy feat, you, the parents of 2012, should count yourselves lucky. Your own parents were in even more of a bind back in those pre-Internet, pre-water park, pre-video game, pre-Chuck E. Cheese and Children's Museum days of 1972, and so what constituted fun time for the kiddies was, shall we say, somewhat broader than it is today.
Here are five selections from Houston Tours for Children and Other People, published by Ebenezer Press in the Heights the year Tricky Dick unleashed the burglars on poor old George McGovern. (To be fair, the booklet does include stuff like Astroworld, NASA and the Battleship Texas/San Jacinto, too, not to mention some more obscure things that seemed pretty amazing, but we've selected only the weirdest ones here.)
5. Take 'em to a tortilla factory, or even two! At Tony's Tortilla Factory (913 McKee), your kids will thrill at the workings of this "small family owned business of a type rapidly disappearing in an age of complex industrial plants." They will marvel as several people make tortillas and taco shells out of fresh corn and water with no preservatives added! Plus, at the end of the tour, there will be "plenty of hot, buttered tortillas for everyone to taste."
Maybe Tony's doesn't offer the kind of visceral delights your kids demand. If that's so, take them instead to La Monita Tortillas (4214 Chapman).
At La Monita, "every week end, 120 pigs' heads and cows' heads are barbequed in huge bins and sold to be taken home for dinner. Americans have many different customs of food and language, and at the La Monita factory the flavor of Mexican traditions comes through." Such as "the music of guitars on the big radio in the workroom," where the "girls with big long braids operate the machines that turn large bags of corn into coarse, yellow dough and then to the flat, round tortillas that are a type of bread."
Make sure you ask the suggested questions: What is the recipe for a favorite dish called "menudo"? And then the follow-up: What is "tripe"?
4. Where better to take the kids than the downtown Foley's (1110 Main)?
"Not so long ago," the guide tells us, "when the first large department stores were introduced, they were a 'must' on the list of any visitor to town. Today such establishments as Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, Sak's Fifth Avenue in New York, and Foley's in Houston continue to hold the same kind of attraction for tourists." At Foley's, visitors are awestruck, as "nowhere else in the city can one find quite the variety of color, sight, and sound that Foley's provides."
Fashions for every taste, size and pocketbook! Piece goods, patterns and needlework, each a whole tour in itself for their devotees! Exotic fish from faraway waters in the aquariums in the Sporting Goods Department! Noted authors signing their works in the Books Department! And, on many days during the lunch hour, "fascinating demonstrations of time-saving or unusual appliances in the housewares section"!
3. At True to Life Taxidermy (5220 Nolda), your kids can watch this unusual craft from beginning to end, starting in the brine room, "where pelts, separated from antlers or horns, are soaked in large vats." Sound a bit much? Don't worry. "The odor one expects is absent from all stages," the guide hastily adds. You can also watch as heads are stretched, "and in which eyes, tongues and teeth are eventually placed." In the end, customers leave with "artistically mounted headpieces" and "luxurious rugs for the family room." Rarrr.
2. Show them the exciting world of casually sexist journalism at "the outwardly striking and impressive within" Houston Post building (4747 Southwest Freeway.) Not only will the kids love the "polished slate floors, wood-grain concrete walls, and contemporary art work," they will find it equally amazing when they see the "Want Ads Department," where "about 60 women process the various types of personal advertising."
If you want to see the Linotype machines, you'd better hurry, because that technique is "rapidly being replaced by a relatively new method called 'Cold Type.'" And no visit would be complete without a trip to the newsroom, which "is divided into City, State and Copy Desks, Women's World, Business News, Sports, Action Line, and a few others." The Action Line? Sounds groovy.
1. We've saved the best for last. Are y'all ready? Are you strapped in? Got your helmets on? The Electric Living Center (2121 West Loop South) is a "public service operation of Houston Lighting and Power Company," and man does it rock.
Arrange a group tour two weeks in advance, and gaze in slack-jawed wonder as HL&P reps give "demonstrations of the latest modern electric appliances"! And there's more! "In a program given in the auditorium, graduate home economists prepare unusual dishes [no doubt utilizing the "latest modern electric appliances"!], sampled by the guests, and give helpful hints on food preparation and home management." They'll give you a seat for that show, but you're only gonna need the edge of it, but good gravy, this riveting thrill-ride is still not over, folks!
"Other programs feature the effective use of lighting in the home and garden." And there will be refreshments courtesy of HL&P! Living at its most...electric!
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