Telephone Road, Texas

Three generations of Sam Allen's once ran a 15,000acre cattle ranch in what is now southeast Houston. In those old days you arrived from the south on whatis now known as Telephone Road. As Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports a road that old has to have a lot of history attached to it.

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Burton Chapman grew up about a mile from Telephone Road. He graduated from Mt. Carmel High School and the University of Houston. Today he teaches in Pearland. Over his 34-years he's logged a lot miles in southeast Houston.

Back in 2001 while driving along it, he got the idea to write a history of the area along Telephone Road. Turns out the road has a history linked to stars.

"I went to school at Mt. Carmel, like I said, right at the Bellfort/ Telephone area and there's an Ambox building that's there now that used to be a NASA building right when Kennedy got the idea we had to go to the moon. The NASA building was visited by John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson."

Telephone Road's stars are not only celestial, but man made too. The famous Gold Star/Sugar Hill Recording Studio's 50-years of recording stars like Lightin' Hopkins, George Jones, Freddy Fender and The Big Bopper are part of the story.

So is The Jimmie Menutis Club's dazzling story during the 50's and 60's. Chapman says he learned a lot by digging through past records.

"Then actually was able to track done Jimmie Menutis himself and he was wonderful about providing photos and lots on information."

Menutis' club was famous not only for acts like Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, but also for Jimmie's creative promotions.

"When people would come to the door they'd be brought to their table in golf carts. He had an elephant that he'd bring in the club that could pick up people and give them them rides, sprinkle pink glitter on an elephant and sit him outside the club door so people driving by would think they'd seen a pink elephant."

Chapman's book also covers the 1920s and 30s when the Christy Brothers Circus wintered in South Houston. Telephone Road, Texas also covers the rise and fall of the Santa Rosa Theater. It showed feature films into the 70s, Spanish language films for a short time and then for 20-year it was a porno theater before being torn down recently.

Burton Chapman says he wants his book to be more than a history of the area.

"It's kind of a history and it's also kind of a guide to what people are able to see today. Interesting places that people wouldn't otherwise know about, like a Ukrainian Orthodox Monastery right on Telephone just inside the Loop, neighborhoods that are really neat like Idle Wood and Eastwood, different things that people wouldn't come across otherwise."

Burton Chapman discovered so much about the area he's working on a second edition with new material.

You'll find a link to the Telephone Road, Texas website at kuhf.org.

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