Falling In The Same Creek Twice

I was in my hometown--Conroe, Texas--back in August and took a few hours to drive around photographing some stuff mildly significant to my life there. Everything changes, yes? It was a little disappointing that no-one ever rushed up proclaiming "Todd Hoke! Todd Hoke! Welcome home!" Oh well. My mother was glad to see me. My father was strangely non-committal on the subject. Curious.

Okay. Let's begin. What we have here is what used to be the parsonage for The First United Methodist Church. Then it was an office building. I used to mow the yard. Or did at least once, anyhow. There was a majestic (truly) magnolia tree that stood pretty much in the middle of that patch of grassy lawn there. When I was a younger and smaller Todd Hoke I climbed up in it and couldn't get myself down. So the senior pastor came up and fetched me. I'm not sure what his name was, but I like to imagine he was wearing his preaching robes when he de-treed me. Though he probably was not. Oh and that parking garage is new also.


And this is the church right here. Or rather this is the building standing on the block the church stood on. The city bought the land, knocked down the church where I was baptised and married, and built this municipal fortress in its place. Oh well. City workers gotta sit somewhere I guess. Mother Hoke actually just retired from her 30-something year career at the church. I used to walk over here and hang out after school (grades K-4 and 7-8). Hm. Moving on...


What is now the county tax office used to be the Montgomery County Public Library and I spent a lot of time here (it sits two blocks down from the chuch or what was the church--you know what I mean). Mother Hoke would let me get huge stacks of books from the children's section. I remember trying to get into The Hardy Boys but it didn't take. I remember flipping through the card catalog. And the due date card in the back pocket. Hm. When I was a very young Todd Hoke I once used Mother Hoke's library card to check out some books and the librarian teasingly commented on how she knew a Jody Hoke but that I was FAR too young to be the Jody Hoke she knew. So I earnestly explained that Jody Hoke was my mother and that I was her son. Isn't this fun? Let's continue...


Downtown Conroe had a cluster of drug stores around the courthouse. I'm not sure what's in this one now, but it used to be Capitol Drugs and served as my primary comic book source. (Carter's was where I went for an ice cream soda. In case you were wondering.) There was also a barbecue joint called Casey's on this block that did a very respectable chopped beef.

Close-up of the Capitol Drug building. What is this sort of architectural flourishy thing called? Not a fresco...hm. I don't know. Should've paid better attention in architectural flourishy thing class.


What was Sam Houston Elementary is now a community college, I think. I remember going back to Sam Houston when I was in college to visit a friend's mother who worked in the office. I was really surprised at how small everything seemed. Hm. One of my favorite teachers ever was Mrs. O'Dell who let me go at my own pace in the first grade. I read and read and read some more and she encouraged me all the way. Thanks for that, Mrs. O'Dell.


I cannot remember what this movie house was called--North Hills, maybe. It had two screens for a long time and then went to four. Mother Hoke took me to see Smokey And The Bandit here after endless begging and failure on my part to just shut up already about it. The ticket woman advised Mother Hoke that it was really funny but did have some language in it. Bless her, she took me anyhow. Also saw Superman, ET, Airplane, and a bunch of other stuff I don't remember here. I keep hoping someone will buy and refurbish it but I guess they aren't going to.


Living in this house in Sunset Ridge I learned to ride a bike, whistle, and snap. Also did a fair amount of awkward pajamaclad dancing in the living room to my sister's 45s (favorite song: "Boogie Nights" by Heatwave). My maternal grandmother lived across the street and one of my mother's sisters lived a few blocks away. Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July--this was the cradle of my Norman Rockwellian youth, right here. (It wasn't really that perfect, of course, but let a man fondly misremember why don't you?)


And now we have several photos from The Conroe Country Club where Father Hoke has taken I couldn't even begin to imagine how many swings at golf balls. He's good. He actually got a hole-in-one several years ago and won a truck. Wish I'd been there to see that. This first photo is of a rickety old bridge crossing over to an island in the club's lake. This may be one of the few things that is unchanged from my childhood--this bridge looks 35+ years old, don't it?

And this swing right here looks like original equipment also. As I remember it, anyhow. There was another piece of playground gear from my youth that they tore down a long time ago. Or maybe it fell down. It looked sort of like a big frame for a bell and I broke my finger on it on the day before my birthday. We went to the ER and got it splinted and the next day at school--I was in Kindergarten--I told my teacher it was my birthday and she said my broken finger wasn't much of a present. Nice.

View from the clubhouse patio looking down the fairway of the 9th hole. The old clubhouse I grew up with was torn down recently-ish and a shiny new one was erected in its place. This will sound very dumb I'm sure, but I miss the rust and gentle decay. Oh well. I'd probably feel different if I spent more than 45 minutes/year out here. Or if I played golf.

Conroe Country Club's swimming pool. The diving board is gone. I learned to do a flip off of it. After many many many tries. There was a little girl swimming in the pool with her father when I took this picture and she asked him what I was doing. I told her I was documenting how much things had gotten worse since I was her age. She looked worried.


Conroe High School. The list of things my adult Todd Hoke would like to tell my high school attending Todd Hoke is probably about as long as your own list. Unless you're one of those people who got it right the first time. Good for you. (Hmph.) I actually believe the steps--and mis-steps--of our youth propel us down the path to who we are/I am today. And I'm good with that. But I really should've been in drama or band or something. That's all I'd tell him.

Stand for the gold and white our colors raise our alma mater's might lead on always we pledge now joyfully as years go by honor and loyalty to Conroe High. Right.


I don't remember this, but Mother Hoke claims I was born here. More recently it has been a mental health hospital. Insert your own joke here.


No big finish here, but driving around seeing how much my own hometown has changed over the course of my life makes me think how much every hometown has changed over the course of my life. Over the course of your life. And I wonder what the kids I know today will mourn/miss when they are adults. Not documented here are all the trees that have been knocked down in exchange for parking lots and shopping centers (despite plenty of empty storefronts all over town). Do you know John Prine's song "Paradise?" It fits my mood if not the reality. Heraclitus may or may not have said that we cannot step into the same river twice, but I do know Thomas Wolfe said we can't go home again. And it's true either way. Thanks for riding along.

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