Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
In the Beginning
June to December 1971
I arrived in Houston, Texas, with my few personal belongings, basically just a suitcase with my clothes. I had finished out my teaching contract in Portland, Oregon, and was now ready to abnegate all ties to home and family and follow this Dane I had married to new adventures beyond the borders of my home town, Portland, Oregon.
My husband picked me up at the airport and we drove to the apartment the company had rented for us. Apparently, there had been some discussion as to whether the company was going to pay the $25.00 per month extra for the furniture and furnishings, and there was further discussion as to whether we were entitled to a company car. We were young and naive, but pointed out that our furnishings, meager as they were, were in storage somewhere, as was the new Volvo we had bought in Denmark which was being stored in the Freeport in Copenhagen, Denmark.
After arriving at the apartment, which was an apartment another young Danish couple had rented, I put my few belongings into the closet and was told that I would have to take my husband to the airport, as he was going out of town on a business trip. I had not seen my husband for about two months, had no idea where the Houston airport was situated and could not understand why on my first evening in Houston, I had to drive my husband to the airport. I learned later, that taxis were reserved for the more executive personnel – we were just humble employees. My husband told me that his boss would pick me up and take me to their house to have dinner with his family. I knew very little about Danes, consequently I new very little about the language or culture. So when my husband’s boss appeared at the apartment, wearing a bow tie scarf and jacket, I wasn’t sure how to react. I don’t think I had ever seen anyone wearing a bow tie scarf before. During our stay in Houston, I became very familiar with the boss and the bow tie but I have never met any other Dane wearing such accoutrement, but then my husband’s boss was unusual. I had a very nice dinner with the family but, I must admit, I was not particularly relaxed under the circumstances.
The posting for my husband was temporary. He was to fill in for the young Dane who was on “home leave” with his Danish girlfriend with whom he had been living in the apartment we now rented. My husband and I had just returned from our three-month home leave (paid holiday in Denmark). Upon their return, we became very good friends, and 42 years later, we are still good friends. We all live in Denmark now and see each other to reminisce about the Houston days! When we get together we still laugh about one of the company cars which was a red Mustang convertible. One of the other office cars was dubbed the yellow submarine because it was so low to the ground, bright yellow and it quite often stalled.
When I arrived back at the apartment, I retired for the evening. I was most uncomfortable all night, as there was no blanket on the bed. It had not occurred to my husband, who had been living in a hotel until I arrived, that I might need a blanket. Houston is a warm place, but with the air conditioner running all night, it was quite chilly. So, I had a choice, I could be hot or I could be cold. I alternated between the two. When I got up some time in the early morning and opened the refrigerator, there was nothing to eat. So, here I was alone in an unfamiliar city, knew absolutely no one, had no idea how I was going to pass the day, and I had nothing to eat. I did have a car at my disposal, but where to go shopping? I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself. When my husband returned, late that evening, I might add, because he had to work late at the office after returning from his business trip, it was not a very happy face that greeted him at the door. We ended up going out for dinner and, again, I don’t remember the details, but I think we managed to buy a blanket somewhere. Like most American cities, shops are open until quite late, so shopping was no problem. I think we also found a Safeway store and did a little food shopping. On my husband’s meager salary, we could not afford to go out too often.
Our apartment was on Allen Parkway and was called Allen House. The apartments were small, mostly one and two bedrooms, small kitchen, and living room-dining room combined. The apartment block had a pool, was enclosed by high walls, and had a security guard. We were close to Houston city center and close to the black neighborhood. When we walked to the car, the security guard accompanied us and we drove with our doors locked. Having grown up around Afro-Americans in Portland, I had learned to be careful but had no fear of my fellow Americans.
I think I lasted about two days, before I started looking for work. How do you find work when you are only temporarily living in a new city? Well, fortunately, the Danish Honorary Consul, Poul Hansen, needed a secretary because his secretary, the girlfriend (now wife) of the young Dane my husband was supplanting, was in Denmark getting married. So I took the bus across town to a place called Wilson Oil and sat at a desk answering the phone and doing very little else. But it was a job, and it got me out of the apartment, at least until the regular secretary came back from her home leave and wedding in Denmark. And so my life in Houston, Texas began to take shape