A Tiny First Abode

[Warning: content includes multiple appearances of the word “tiny.”]

After our honeymoon at Six Flags Over Texas, Rick and I moved to San Angelo, Texas, where we both planned to attend Angelo State College. Instead, Rick took his first job in banking as a bank teller, and I enrolled in Angelo State College with a major in German. We lived in San Angelo from September 1969 to January 1970, and there are only three things that stand out in my mind about our very short stay there:

1) Rick and I saw the movie “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.” It was a weird feeling being married and not having to abide by “parent rules.” Going to see this risqué movie seemed like something I should not tell my parents about. I realize this is a strange memory to hang onto. I can’t explain it.

2) I met an old girlfriend of Rick’s. She was working the teller window at a local bank when Rick and I drove through. She smiled at Rick and blushed.

3) Last, but not least, our first apartment made a lasting impression on me.

Our first residence was more like a stucco tourist court than an apartment complex. It was a very small u-shaped complex. Our tiny apartment was probably less than 400 square feet, and I believe the rent was about $60 per month, including utilities. It was barely furnished with a plastic couch, a double bed, a chest or dresser in the bedroom, an old refrigerator, and a Formica-topped kitchen table just big enough for the two chairs. It had linoleum tile floors throughout, and one air conditioner in one of the windows. At night we could hear everything going on through the paper-thin wall between our bedroom and the bedroom of the single man next door.

Everything about our apartment was tiny: a tiny living/kitchen and a tiny bedroom with a tiny bathroom and an even tinier closet. It was the original “tiny house.” The tiny and already very old refrigerator was probably no taller than five feet. Its single pull-latch door opened up to the refrigerated section and a tiny shoebox-sized freezer with one lonely metal ice tray.  Just a little frost accumulation in the shoebox freezer kept the single ice tray from fitting into the freezer, which meant it was time to defrost…or move. This is when I figured out how to use an ice pick and a hair dryer to defrost a freezer. The tiny kitchen got used a lot, because we couldn’t afford to go out; however, my challenge was that I only knew how to cook a couple of things: chicken and rice in gravy, and pork chops and rice in gravy.

On the longest living room wall, Rick built a trendy wall unit bookshelf with cinder blocks and lumber he painted black. It was the nicest thing in our apartment, other than the six-year-old portable black and white TV which I brought from home. I don’t remember watching TV much, but Rick watched football games whenever possible.

About four large steps from the front door through the living room was the opening to the tiny bedroom. The tiny bedroom closet held almost nothing, so we bought a rolling metal floor rack for hanging clothes and set it against the back wall. I barely remember the bathroom. The only thing that was NOT tiny in our first residence was a huge crack running along the floor at the base of the back bedroom wall. It came with the apartment at no extra charge. The two- to three-inch-wide fissure ran the length of the ten-or-so foot wall. I stuck a long piece of coat hanger wire in it once and never felt the bottom. I sprayed it every day with bug spray.

While Rick’s parents were away on vacation once, we kept their poodle Pierre. He was a good dog and liked to sleep on the bed with us. One night, I awoke to the incessant and annoying sound of what I thought was the dog licking himself. He wouldn’t stop, so I sat up and turned on the light to see if he was ok. I looked at him, as he returned my puzzled stare. Rick was still asleep, but Pierre and I sat very still listening to the strange sound. I got out of bed to investigate and stepped into cold ankle-deep water rushing through the bedroom. That’s when Rick woke up. The water flowed from the front living room wall, through the bedroom door, to the far side of our bedroom, and finally down into the abyss at the back wall of the bedroom. If it hadn’t been for that bottomless crack, I believe we would have been up to our knees (at least) in reddish-brown water. We called the landlord (who also happened to be the county sheriff and definitely looked and acted the part), but we were not able to reach him until the next morning.

The problem turned out to be a rusted out old pipe outside our front door. The living room and bedroom were entirely flooded. The water mixed with the red West Texas dirt made it a challenge to clean up, which we had to do ourselves with no help from the sheriff/landlord. All I could say was, “Thank goodness for the linoleum floors and the big crack in the floor.” We didn’t have any real valuables, so there wasn’t much to ruin – only a few books and record albums that were on the bottom shelf (the floor) of the cinder block shelves. We were not compensated for our trouble and didn’t have the courage to challenge the sheriff about the incident.

While exploring San Angelo on Google Maps, I was surprised to stumble upon what I believe is our old apartment (see featured image). The location generally fits with where I thought it was. I’m fairly certain this is where we lived, but it didn’t look this good. Our door was the last one at the back of the right wing, facing left. A current real estate Internet site indicates the pictured apartments were built in 1959, which fits my timeline; but it also means they were only ten years old in 1969. I guess the West Texas climate and dirt age things quickly. I’m very surprised but a little glad the building is still there and looking better than ever.