Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
Last Sunday night I was faced with some mixed emotions. I was ready and excited for the first football game of the year, but when the Tennessee Titans trotted out in “Luv Ya Blue” fashion, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about it. Don’t get me wrong, Jeff Fisher is a fine man and a good coach and the Houston Texans are my hometown team, but the Titans are not the Oilers.
So I started thinking back to the glory days of the Houston Oilers: Earl Campbell, Bum, the Dome, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson and his touchdown dance (that my son Kurt and all three girls did a million times in our living room) and of course that song played over and over in my head. (You’re singing it now, aren’t you? Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers…)
The Oilers existed during an era when Houston was in its heyday. Dallas was the number one show on TV. “Who shot JR?” was the question the world wanted to know. Texas was all cowboy hats and oil wells and Houston, not Dallas, was the Mecca of all things Texan.
What started out as a small agricultural village on the banks of Buffalo Bayou in the early 1800s, became the oil boomtown capital in the 1970s, to the home of NASA, the Texas Medical Center and one of the most diversified international cities in the world today – Houston is still number one. (You’re singing the song again, aren’t you? Houston Oilers number one…)
In late 1831, brothers Augustus and John Allen arrived in Galveston from none other than New York City. After a brief spell in San Augustine and Nacogdoches, they set their sights on Harrisburg and the vast possibilities for fortune and fame in this coastal village. Not being able to acquire land in Harrisburg, they purchased “a half a league” of the John Austin estate along Buffalo Bayou for $5000. Then on August 30, 1836, the brothers expanded their holdings by purchasing 6,000 additional acres along Buffalo Bayou and decided on a name for their new town in the emerging new Republic – Houston City.
Now, we could have easily been Austin since the first purchase was from the Austin family, and I would have liked Travis, after my favorite Texas hero, William Barrett Travis. But, the Allen brothers sought to honor General’s Sam’s recent victory at San Jacinto and name their new settlement along the murky banks of the bayou after Houston.
Since our inception, Houston has lived up to Texas’ reputation of everything being bigger, and well, better. The Allens took on a marketing campaign that would rival any modern day PR firm and promoted Houston City, as it was called in those days, from New Orleans to their home town of New York City as the “great interior commercial emporium of Texas.”
Augustus Allen continued his campaign to establish Houston’s importance by pushing for his new town to serve as the capital of the new Republic, after all he did name it after the newly elected president. And because of his determination, Houston became the capital – if only for a short time, we can still lay claim to being the first official capital.
In the fall of 1836, the official boundaries of Houston were drawn to include Buffalo Bayou to the north, Texas Avenue on the south and stretch east to west from Crawford to Bagby. On a side note, you may not have noticed before, but Texas Avenue is wider than all the other streets in downtown Houston. Texas Avenue was the main route for the cattle drives into town and it had to accommodate the Longhorns making their way through they city. This also happens to be the same route we still take each year for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo parade.
By the turn of the 20th Century, Houston City had dropped the second half of its moniker and became a one name town. Which is appropriate, we really only need one name. Among many things in our storied history, the 20s roared in with the founding of Humble Oil. We weathered the depression better than most in the 30s and the 40s established the Greatest Generation.
The 50s brought Houston air conditioning and the baby boom. The 60s gave us NASA and the 8th Wonder of the World. (Singing the song again, envisioning the dancing cowboy on the scoreboard or resisting the urge to do a Billy “White Shoes” rendition?)
The 70s saw the biggest rise in fame and fortune with the oil boom, but was followed by the biggest fall from grace in the 80s. But, as always, Houston emerged to be even better in the 90s and continues to be everything the Allen brothers sold it to be today.
From cattle drives to the first words spoken on the moon to the creation of the artificial heart, Houston remains a unique city that is rich in history, pride and perseverance. Today, we are facing challenges in our economy, but we have certainly been there before and came through the “bust” to see a bigger and better Houston in the end.
And in the spirit of those “Luv Ya Blue” days and the immortal words of Bum, “this year we beat on the door, but next year we’re gonna kick the door down!” (Well, not exactly in Bum’s words, but you know what I mean.) It’s that kind of attitude that the Allen brothers had nearly 200 years ago when they came to Texas and the kind we still embody today.
And that’s just the way it is.