I read with interest and a bit of envy the multitude of personal reflections on some of the wonderful San Antonio neighborhoods featured in the Rivard Report series “Where I Live.” The marvels of Blue Star to South End Lofts, Tobin Lofts and Monticello/Deco District leapt off the screen to my delight.
At times I fantasized about a move to one of these locales from our humble home in the Shenandoah subdivision. Who wouldn’t like to walk to one of the marvelous restaurants in the Pearl Brewery, live in a King William home with the San Antonio River flowing through your backyard or engage in the challenge of restoring a home in Government Hill with charm and character that shame the newer suburban homes in a gated community.
But then I take a deep breath and step back to reality. Shenandoah is my home and I have lived in this working/middle class neighborhood for more than 35 years. Shenandoah is a hidden jewel sandwiched between Huebner and Wurzbach Roads just off IH 10.
Wurzbach Road was one lane in each direction when the subdivision opened in the late 1960s. The Medical Center still new and clean then. Handy Andy operated a store close by. Shenandoah of 1970 possessed a country atmosphere despite its location within the city limits. At the current location of Sea Island Shrimp House, children would fish in a pond that formerly served the needs of some long forgotten ranch and ride dirt bikes in a wooded area where the Omni Hotel now dominates the landscape.
My wife and I moved to San Antonio from densely-populated Elizabeth, New Jersey. We thought we arrived in heaven, both the neighborhood and the city.
Our children walked to Shenandoah Elementary School. They rode bicycles in the street or walked to a friend’s house without a care in the world. Today children still walk to the elementary school, now named Howsman Elementary School after a beloved principal, and ride bicycles in the street – exercising more caution because of the increased traffic.
Some of the neighbors who welcomed us to the neighborhood still reside in their modest homes; turnover of Shenandoah residents is slow and steady with newcomers staying for several years before moving on to “greener” pastures.
As the years passed Wurzbach widened to host both fantastic and ordinary restaurants close by. H-E-B opened three markets within three miles of our home. Sadly, Book Stop, Barnes & Noble, and Borders departed our immediate area. But Half Price Books nearby and the adjacent Aspen’s Brew Coffee are excellent replacements. The Cody Branch Library is adjacent to the subdivision and at times I have either walked or rode my bicycle there to search for a book or order one from the interlibrary loan service.
My two sons grew into men and moved out. Our old home became an empty nest. One major remodel and two minor fix ups transformed our Shenandoah track house into our own retirement village. Our covered patio is ideal for an impromptu dinner al fresco. On a good night we can sit out and listen to the music emanating from County Line BBQ and smell smoked brisket in the air. Or we can walk to County Line and enjoy free music on many Wednesday evenings.
Shenandoah is an all-American subdivision complete with clubhouse, pool, tennis court and a Fourth of July Parade. Best yard awards and Christmas decoration contest foster old fashion neighborhood pride. Neighbors who will call you when you leave your garage door open or bring in the mail if you go on vacation are intangible qualities that add to the resistance to move away.
Two or three times a year our home becomes the focal point for holiday dinners. Serving dinner for twenty people from the galley kitchen is an adventure in logistics. My wife has perfected cooking, serving and cleanup from one small kitchen. The success of the event is measured in decibels, something that apartment or loft neighbors might find irritating. Newcomers are warned of the noise level upon arrival.
My wife and I can lounge together in the family room or retreat to separate rooms to watch TV or surf the Internet. My home office delivers the luxury of a quiet retreat. A room with a restored 50s vintage wooden desk, sofa and an overflowing bookcase offers me a quiet place to write or work with my digital darkroom (i.e. Photoshop).
We frequent theaters nearby and the Huebner Oaks Shopping Center keeps us out of the mall. Pasha Mediterranean Grill, Golden Wok, Mama Margie’s, El Rodeo de Jalisco, and Sea Island are only a few of the neighborhood (locally owned) restaurants just a short drive away. Green Vegetarian, Franco’s Italian and Myron’s Steak House anchor dining in the Alon Market area. Chicago Bagels, the home of the best bagels in San Antonio, is just over a mile from my house. Newly opened Hardberger Park offers an ideal location for walks with and without our dog.
Every one of the fine attractions that residents of other famous neighborhoods tout as charms I can drive to in less than twenty minutes. I can ride a bus to work if I wished. However, the convenience of getting in the car to enjoy the marvels of our great town beats waiting for a bus. Time has moved us from a suburban home to a city location without the need to actually move.
The 2010 US Census data locates the population center of Bexar County near the intersection of West Avenue and West Wildwood, only a few miles away. This information reinforces a belief my wife and I already hold, that we reside in the middle of a vibrant city and are quite content to remain in our track home (with upgrades). We really don’t need to move to enjoy the fine benefits of San Antonio.
*Featured/top image: Shenandoah Fourth of July Parade participants mingle at end of the parade which started at Cody Library. Photo by Warren Lieberman.
Click here to view all stories in our “Where I Live” series.