I live in a 107-year-old house on Terrell Road that was built by Dr. Frederick Terrell, who founded Terrell Hills. Terrell’s family lived here for 38 years; my family has owned it for 68.
In 1950, my parents bought it from Terrell’s daughter Sarah Terrell Engelke, who with her husband, Albert, had reared her children in it. They took an acre off the east side of the yard and built themselves a smaller house, and our brood moved into the big house. We adored the Engelkes, and they became like grandparents to us kids.
I was 5 years old when we moved in, and I’m still here 68 years later (you do the math). It is a fabulous old house, graceful and spacious. When my father, Walter McAllister Jr., died in 1988, people would say to my mother, longtime San Antonio philanthropist Edith McAllister, “Now Edith, when are you going to move out of that big old house?” Mother would say, “Big? It’s not big enough!” She was acquisitive and had acres of clothes, and as we all left home she moved into our closets. I told her, “Mother, you raised a family of six in this house and now I can barely wedge myself into a closet in my old room when I come home for visits.” It didn’t faze her.
Because Mother entertained so much, both socially and institutionally, there are few people in San Antonio who haven’t been in the house at some time or another. It opens its arms from the moment one steps through its door. Between our large family and all our friends, dogs, and cats, it has probably sheltered more life and activity than the average dwelling. We tore around it like a playground when we were kids, yet it held up and became more and more beautiful as Mother made her domestic improvements.
Now I live in it by myself, unlonely and unafraid because it is home. I don’t want to be anywhere else. Cats loll about, friends and family come by, my housekeeper of 41 years and I confer, and I spend much of my time at my desk, working for the San Antonio Symphony. It is my cause, my love, and my chief worry. I love my city and the resources it affords me, and I get around. Yet as I am embraced by the warmth of my old house, the land that surrounds it, the friends I see almost everywhere I go, the love and camaraderie I give and receive, always in the back of my mind I’m thinking of my Symphony. That is my life, held within the walls of my old house and my old city.