3. Mister Bates house on Lester across from Coca Cola Company
When I was young, Mister Bates was old. His property was 1/2 block long from Antelope Street to Leopard, then all the way down Lester across from Coca Cola Company. A 1/4 of it backed up to our property & old shotgun house 2009 Antelope. When I was little in early to mid 1960s, his property consisted of a number of kitchenettes. These were onthe Antelope/Lester side and made of some kind of concrete. Must have been about 8 of them, and I am sure that they were mighty nice in 1940s, 50s, when he probably last rented them out. His main house faced Coca Cola and is shown in the photo, had a neat overhang in front for shade. Behind his house were series of garages, but when I was 5, maybe 6 years old, these were already falling apart. And the kitchenettes were locked up and could see lots of junk thru windows. EXCEPT ONE. More later. The yard was still being mowed. Pretty sure these kitchenette's were nice 'in their time' and probably rented to sailors since this is about mile from Port. And my grandma's house WAS a 'boarding house' six rooms, one kitchen, one bathroom, in the 20s thru early 50s (I believe, might have been late 40s) Mister Bates didn't like kids. And sure as hell didn't like us neighborhood kids. We heard all sorts of stories about 5 if we were bad 'Mister Bates will get you on Halloween!' and stuff like that. He was a old codger just wanting to be left alone the sort of "you kids get outta my yard!" type. Missus Bates didn't say much, she would sit on front porch and watch all the Coke and Sprite trucks, and the Coke people wave at her. Between our yard and Bates were bricks towards back of house that were from the 1940s or 50s, you could touch them and they would crumble, very brittle. They were open type like this OO but square, and could look deep down in them and see all sorts of critters, I heard there were snakes the size of cars, but never saw any, we did see possums and rats. Sometimes move a brick so the rat or possum trapped, but after a few days, would be stinking up to high heavens. Our kitchen window faced these and if stinking, momma knew what it was. And WHO did it ha ha. Right parallel along side out 2009 Antelope house was many leftover rebar and pipes from the I-37 construction across street. Momma hated these as stacked up 3-5 feet high she said 'it attracted lightning' which I thought would not happen, until it DID hit the trees there over span of several years! One time the sound of thunder blew out several of our plate glass windows. My dad had a talk with Mister Bates, but nothing was done he said 'he was going to use them' you know.
Some of us kids would stand in back of Rabago's yard (4 & 4B on map) and toss rocks over into Bates yard over the garage, and occasionally could hear glass break. Was like a prize for us. Yes, we were a**hole kids no wonder Bates didn't like any of us. Can't blame him either! When I was about 10 I heard that Mister Bates had bear traps in his yard, so Emilio & me, went into the overgrown brush, by this time, trees, and high grass had taken over, 1/2 way up to kitchenettes, no more mowing. We found a 'cat trap' with fresh food for cats and took a baseball bat to it. We didn't find a 'bear trap' but DID find a 5-6 feet large coffin sides hole in ground covered by reeds, so if someone was walking thru there (and there were NO TRESPASSING signs all around property) someone would have had some collateral damage to leg or foot. But again, no one supposed to be on his property anyways. I guess hindsight is if the bear traps, cat traps didn't get you, the mesquite thorns would.
During Hurricane Celia my dad and me walked over IN THE EYE to check on them, they were fine but I stepped on nail. Lots of damage in his yard, mostly stuff blown over from Coca Cola. Will never forget looking at Wilson Tower, Driscoll and 600 building and seeing that huge wall of black clouds rushing in background, and all the furniture hanging out windows. After Celia for weeks he cleaned up his property. Several of us kids used to throw rocks at cars up on I-37, endless supply of good egg shaped 'throwing rocks' from Missouri Pacific train tracks block away. This is what us poor kids did for fun and did break a lot of windows, and major dents, the people would slow down but never stop as one lane to curve to Crosstown and next exit was Agnes, good luck finding your way back to us! Well, this silly crap sort of came to halt when my uncle Haskell got windshield broke, and came back around he told my dad 'I knew right where to come!' not sure if poppa paid for it or what, but big trouble for Mondo & me the Rock Throwers. With his overgrown yard there were whippoorwills, or nighthawks as we called them, they nest on ground and have big, gaping mouths. I was standing in OUR driveway minding my own damned business about 7 years old and a 56 or so Chevy came down Antelope with little girl hanging out waving, screaming, and a nighthawk blew out of bates yard, right along side of the car, scaring girl back inside, I am standing there terrified and it did right angle turn and headed RIGHT FOR ME! A few feet away I screamed and it shot off back into Bates jungle. That was not the end of it for me, since we poor, we shared beds, I am sure many lower end families did that, but I slept in momma's bed, Tommy in poppa's bed. There was wall between bed in old shotgun house. I had a nightmare and screamed in middle of the night THE NIGHTHAWK and kicked a hole in wall that could have probably crawled thru. I still get creeped out seeing them dive 60 miles a hour over skies in Houston to this date.
Mister Bates sold his property from Gulf Radiator to Lester, so along Leopard, to the old house, basically 1/2 of property at some time. Then Coca Cola, who had offered to buy our property for $28,000, mowed everything down, paved it and put up 12 foot fence with barbed wire on top. Missus Bates would sit on front porch mouth gaping open sort of like elder President Bush does sometimes. I would go check on her, and many of the Coca Cola employees sort of adopted her and check on her daily also if she needed anything, help her get in house before nighthawks get her. Sometime in this point Mister Bates died, not sure how nor how old he was, maybe in 80s. And literally overnight, Coca Cola bought rest of property EXCEPT Missus Bates house. Ever see the movie Up? This is it, they totally built around her house, not that she drove or anything, just sat on porch.
On that one kitchenette, it was closest to our property and next to the CPL power pole. Tommy & me snuck up to it was only 5 feet from sidewalk and looked in. Pretty much simple setup, a small stove, table, shelves, looked like Kelvinator icebox, and old fold up bed, off to side was small wall with what looked like porcelain tub behind it and toilet. The front door was screen that you could fart & it would turn to dust, but behind it little wooden door. So could see not only thru door but side window. It looked like vintage The Landing efficiency apartment, gauging size inside now must have been 12' to 14' square inside. Must have been the one that leaked the less? Had a thing with bars, didn't know what it was, so brought my dad over to peek in, he said that was a radiator, but looked nothing like stuff at Gulf Radiator, so had to explain to us it was to heat room.
So fast forward, now all the kitchenettes gone, everything in them scrapped hauled off, guess there was nothing in those little houses except memories, but to who? I don't remember when missus Bates died, just remember suddenly Coca Cola tore down house, paved over it, put new gate for delivery trucks. These trucks were full of 32 oz new bottles, of which could get $4 a case refund back then, so the Dobermans were supposed to be guarding the trucks, they were all pussies and liked to play. So several of us would hold up fence next to my house, prop it up with wood Coke cases, then crawl in and empty trucks. Sometimes maybe 100 cases, would pour out the sodas into sewer on Antelope while parents all slept, sure wondered what Coke employees though next day seeing a sort of colored river of their products drying up out there, but be then, most of the cases had been taken out to Warehouse Groceries (next to K-Mart on SPID) and Skaggs Albertsons corner of Everhart & SPID, since those were open 24 hours. We never took ALL of them, just maybe 20, hid the rest in my dad's depilated old garage and deposit them as needed. Guard dogs stayed happy, fat with treats, and we would throw leaves and stuff on ground to cover tracks at fence, no one ever caught on, but sure best Coca Cola's inventory was screwed. Mister & Missus Bates today would be called hoarders like the cable show. Save everything even old Caller Times, not that anyone reads Caller Times anymore, but Bates did, they saved it. Why I do not know. Life, and time, just seemed to quickly pass them by. All the 'projects' whether the steel girders, bars, bricks & lumber that rotted under relentless Corpus Christi rain, salt, season changes, all those projects like getting pushed to back burner on stove, eventually fell off stove. He was on first name basis with 'CC 'Neighborhood Improvement' (as our family often was too) but after hiring a few guys to clean up 'offending' pieces they many times would simply move junk to another piece of huge property out of sight of inspectors and all good. In later years besides Coca Cola employees taking care of Missus Bates, we did too, not much to do except check on her, sometimes take beans, rice and tortillas over to here, ain't got no teeth so good, soft stuff to eat God bless both of them.
Photo #1. Looking thru window and door of the only kitchenette that was not chock full of old junk, we saw what looks like this. This is not a photo of Bates place, just looked like it inside. Really self sufficient little place. There is that heater thing my dad described to me, next to it old stove, and off to left sink.
Photo #2. In Bates yard was a LOT of these. We had two of them at our house next door also. For you folks wondering what type of sorcery this might be, it is a wringer, you wash clothes, usually in tub, then wring them thru this gadget, and hang up, others methods may differ. Bates had a lot of these, and old washers, and Cajun type scrub pans.
Photo #3. Not sure why this old photo is angled like bad Batman Series, but that is me, late brother Tommy, and my dad in front of one of the kitchenettes which faced Lester street and Coca Cola, this must have been about 1965.
Photo #4 This was our driveway where I was standing when the nighthawk described above flew out of Bates yard, flew alongside the Chevy with little girl hanging out, then blasted full speed right at me. That nightmare persisted for many years. Tat is Antelope street there, with me on bike, and dad talking to brother Tommy. No nighthawks in photo, nor is The Big Sign shown up on freeway hill there. He must have been asleep.
Photo #5. In 1980s, my dad stands in front of a 'new' 1970 AMC Javelin Big bad Blue car I gave hiim for his birthday to snap him out of fun after momma dies. But if you look past him, you can easily see the Stakes/Bates property line, now, fenced in with 12 foot fence after Coca Cola bought property. That is Coca Cola building in white.
Photo #6 This photo is of Bates property after Coca Cola bought south side, then later north and west side. Whole 1/2 black! Gulf radiator to the right along with old Mobil gas station. So you are standing in Leopard street looking north along Lester.
Photo #7, the Stakes/Bates property line after Coca Cola bought Bates whole property. This is what it looks like in 2018, full of more junk, some things never change. If you click on Photo #5 where my dad standing, this pretty much same photo, just angled to show the fence we used to crawl under to steal cases of Cokes ha ha. dumb dobermans, they looked fierce, but saw us kids and wag little stumpy tails, knowing it is 'treat time' hell, several of them would give us guided tour to the trucks with most sodas. coca Cola, or what left of this once beautiful building, off to right here.
Photo #8. Overview of not only our old property of 2009 Antelope & 723 Doss, but all of Bates property, taken from top of I-37 hill. Antelope in foreground, Doss on left, Lester on right and Leopard in background.
Photo #9. Nighthawks mouths are extremely HUGE. Might have well been a shark flying at me. And to make matters worse, these things nest on the GROUND, so walking thru jungle of Bates yard in 1960s, you never knew if one of these would jump up at you with laser beams for eyes, and ninja sword. I still kicked huge hole in wall dreaming about one trying to get me, probably soiled bed too as kid, wasted hour throwing a rock at one on telephone wire on Mestina behind Beil's. Bird never moved. Even now in Houston, when I hear their shrill screech as they dive bomb over buildings, sends chill down my spine from time long ago.