Even though I haven’t lived in Austin in many years, i have spent many a time here visiting my parents and friends since graduating high school and doing the grown up thang. What I find funny are the people who lament what Austin used to be like before ________ (insert whatever gripe you have heard or have said). Before MoPac Loop 1 was constructed. Before the mini silicon valley boom of Dell etc. Before Californians moved in or everyone discovered how fun it was. Before it was called Lady Bird Lake. You name it there’s been a gripe. I am amused in particular by anyone who whines who wasn’t here prior to 1990. Because any time before the 1990’s is when Austin was different than 2015 in my opinion. South of the river and Congress Ave, which was Town Lake not Lady Bird Lake as known now, or south of Cesar Chavez which was 1st street (changed in 1993), wasn’t know as SoCo. It was south Austin. The Austin American Statesman had a columnist who even referred to the folk there as the “South Austin Bubbas” before it was the hipster trendy land it has become in this century and seems to take itself way too seriously as cutting edge and cool.
Austin by its nature is different than other cities in the state because of being the state capital for starters. It does have a thriving music scene and The Continental Club on Congress started in 1957 as a supper club but the Congress Avenue I saw as a kid growing up in Austin, south 1st and south Lamar were places that had car repair shops and similar service types businesses. it wasn’t a hang out like I have experienced this past weekend or in the past few years.
But I can appreciate the changes and i can miss the sleepier town it was in the mid 70’s when i was 10 when the population was less than 300,000. Last I looked it was triple that amount and the metropolitan area was closing in on 2 million. Change came to Austin even when Austinites didn’t want it. Hence why there is never ending roadway construction. Austin didn’t build infrastructure because it stubbornly refused to believe people would keep coming. If we don’t build it maybe they won’t come! Never mind the fact that UT alone has around 50,000 students and a lot of them stick around after graduation.
For me personally I assess the whining about the change this way. If you didn’t drive old 183 headed out to 620 when it was basically 4 lanes and have a bumper sticker on your car that said, “Pray for me I drive 183” you don’t have a dog in the how-things-used-to-be fight, debate or lament. If you can’t remember when Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd was 19th Street (pre 1975) and El Matamoros was one of THE 5 “El” notable mexican restaurants, on then 1st street where the Four Seasons stands now. If you didn’t go to UT basketball games in Gregory Gym, or Highland Mall, shop at Scarboroughs when wanting something really nice to wear, or see movies at the Fox theaters, have a date treat you special at The Old Spaghetti Warehouse or Magic Time Machine, scoot a boot at The Silver Dollar or go to Aqua Fest, then perhaps you need to not talk about how Austin has changed. Because you didn’t know Austin like the real “old timers”.
I remember Austin from years back and there was a lot to love. But you know what? i still love it. I love it so much I can’t wait till i get back for good, change and all!
(Although I can do without the “hipsters”. I kinda miss the South Austin Bubbas. They knew how to take it easy)