Ray began his professional career shortly after college. He began building Holiday Inns before they were a household name. Among the first was the landmark Holiday Inn across the street from the Johnson Space Center. At that hotel, they provided lodging services to the budding aerospace community including all the test pilots who had the “right stuff.” It was a heady time for a 22 year-old “Innkeeper.” Ray met and got to know the original astronauts and many who followed. During the first lunar landing, Ray’s ability to speak the French language came in handy. The French Radio and Television Networks hired Ray to translate the news of the historic space mission from English into French for a worldwide audience. Ray performed similar duties during the “Houston, we have a problem” Apollo 13 mission.
Ray’s no longer builds hotels. He’s a hotel broker, bringing buyers and sellers together. It allows him more time to enjoy his two adult children and their families. Ray says it’s a rare day when he’s not visited by one or more of his five grandchildren.
Ray says he now has a greater appreciation for his home town than ever before. He’s watched this city overcome remarkable challenges. He credits the determination of its citizens…to get back up after being knocked down. He says we saw it after Hurricane Ike. Ray believes Houston’s secret is its people.
Here’s Ray Hankamer with his essay for KUHF’s This I Believe.
“I believe that cities develop their own unique personalities, as they gradually attract people with similar talents, mind-sets, and business interests. New Orleans, Los Angeles, Austin, and Houston are some cities which immediately come to mind.
Houstonians chose long ago the rodeo for our signature city “festival”, although I have always thought my city has one foot in the Deep South and one in the West.
Rodeos are built around taking risk, and sometimes experiencing sudden pain and injury, and they are almost always exciting. Participants mount angry animals and try to symbolically tame them, sometimes getting unceremoniously thrown to the ground — and sometimes trampled.
But I believe the real message of the rodeo — and I think of my city of Houston and of life in general — is that no matter how severe the setback or the pain, the cowboy dusts himself off and tries again, hopefully learning from his earlier failure.
All of us have setbacks in our lives, and some of them are terribly painful: lost jobs, lost relationships, sudden and unexpected loss of close friends or family…setbacks which can make life seem at the time impossible to keep on living.
But somehow the “cowboy” in Houstonians has brought us back from crippling natural damages in the form of hurricanes, and from crippling economic damage in the form of the oil depression of the 1980’s, when there was no “bailout” to come to our city and region’s aid. So we had to climb back up on the brute all by ourselves, dust ourselves off, forget the pain, and learn from our failures.
This time around the Houston and the Texas economies, having learned from our experiences of the ’80’s, are better off than most other areas of our nation. And I believe we remain unafraid to take calculated risks to improve our quality of life.
Houston continues to take risks to attract like-minded citizens, as an estimated 60,000+ new jobs were created here in 2008. And no one can say that life in our city, like the rodeo, is not exciting!
This I believe.”