I was fortunate to have grown up in the forties under one of Austin’s famous moonlight towers. Austin originally purchased thirty-one from the Fort Wayne Electric Company. Only thirteen of the original vapor lights remain in the Capitol City. Today Austin is the only city in the World with the 1894 lights still in service. They were manufactured in Fort Wayne and shipped by rail to Austin. Our neighborhood tower light was on the southwest corner of South First and Monroe. The Guedea Grocery sat directly underneath. The Bowles house at 1503 South First was directly across the two-lane caliche road. The glow of the lights lit up our yard and the neighborhood for blocks. My parents read the Austin American-Statesman in the front yard late at night. My older brother Rodger Bowles, Guedea brothers Tom and Hava, Pearson brothers Bob and Jim, and the three Alvarez brothers played baseball in the intersection under those lights. Traffic was not a problem then. When the boys saw lights from the car, they called time out and got out of the way.
Most of the streets in the Bouldin Creek Community were not paved. Deward and Maude Kitchen enjoyed sitting on the porch watching the neighborhood children play at night. The younger children developed throwing arms, playing Red Rover. A game of throwing a ball over the house. Yes, we could see the ball in the glow of the tower’s light. Because of the light from the tower, we could play hide and seek outside until bedtime. Once in bed with the lights off we could see everything going on in the neighborhood.
Recently I visited the old neighborhood to find a Gourdough’s Doughnut trailer parked on the lot where the modest Bowles’ house once stood on Bouldin Creek. The tower has been replaced by a high-rise apartment building.
I never experienced total darkness until I was ten years old when my mother took me to visit family in Lubbock. While my cousins sat glued to T.V. watching I Love Lucy, I suggested we go outside and play. My oldest cousin Cecil Puryear said, “you can’t play outside, it’s dark!” He was right, I went outside. It was pitch-dark. The first time I can remember being in the dark.