I moved to San Antonio with my parents and sisters in 1986. I was actually born here, but Dad was in the Air Force, and we moved when I was one, subsequently living in Alaska and Virginia.
Mom and Dad loved San Antonio and decided it would be a good place to retire, so we moved back the summer after 3rd grade. I remember sitting in the back seat of our car, watching the cows, the fields, and then the giant rock quarry roll past the window as we drove north on U.S. Highway 281 and thinking, where in the world did Dad buy a house?
In 1986, Encino Park was still being built. My sister and I would bike in the hills off of Evans Road and have picnics. I would walk to the gas station with my friends, buy a root beer, and explore the shells of the new houses.
During the summer, we’d walk to the community pool – which was huge and had two diving boards – and play all day in the water. As we got older, we would flirt with the lifeguards and work on our tans. My first job was working the concession stand at the pool, where I made more hot pockets and nachos than I can count.
I remember Brownie and Girl Scout meetings at the community center and selling Girl Scout cookies the old fashioned way – walking door to door with my red wagon in tow. I even took gymnastics lessons at the community center and performed at La Villita.
There weren’t any schools out north at the time, so I attended Coker Elementary, Bradley Middle School, and then Churchill High School, busing at least 20 minutes each way. As I grew older, I felt that Encino Park was just too far from all of my friends and there was nothing to do without having to take the highway, so I was glad to graduate and leave town for college.
My hotel career took me out of Texas in 2001 to Colorado Springs, where I met my husband. Over the next ten years, we lived in New Orleans, Atlanta and Boston. In 2008, the market crashed and we both lost our jobs. We knew we couldn’t stay in Boston because it was too expensive, so we decided to return to San Antonio in 2010 and, after searching the city for houses, my husband fell in love with Encino Park.
My parents still live in the same house I grew up in (only a mile from our house now). The house hasn’t changed much – my room has a larger bed (for guests) and both of my sisters’ rooms became offices. But the same wind-up toys I played with as a child entertain our children now. Encino Park Elementary School is in the neighborhood now and both children can walk to school or ride their bikes to the community playground.
I will admit that the new highway expansion zone is tedious sometimes, but Encino Park is an oasis beyond all of the construction. The oak trees are huge now and offer so much shade. The pigeons coo every morning outside our window and the clicking of the grackles fills the air in the afternoons.
The neighborhood playground is always filled with children climbing the jungle gyms, and I have witnessed many volleyball and basketball games at the park. We still count down until the pool opens for the summer and spend countless hours splashing with the kids and making friends with our neighbors. The concession stand isn’t open anymore, but they do offer popsicles to the kids during adult swim.
We have a July Fourth parade that leads into a pool party, festivals at the community center, and a very active Boy Scout troop always building something at the school or the playground to enhance the neighborhood. Until lately, I would still run the entirety of Encino Park and added all of the neighborhoods that have been built on Evans (where I used to picnic in the hills with my sister) to my route.
We also are surrounded by so many things. A huge H-E-B is across the highway, Home Depot is within walking distance, we have a new Panera Bread, Chipotle, several yoga places, and a Sprouts. I’d like to see more non-chain restaurants open and a park here and there, instead of all of the apartments, but maybe someday that will come.
As I watch my own children grow, I now know why Dad chose Encino Park, so far out in the country, in 1986. He could feel the sense of ease and happiness in the neighborhood and knew his family would do well here for the rest of his days. I am hoping for the same for us. Encino Park is our home for the long haul.