Welcome to Austin —10 Minutes Too Late…

Everyone arrives in Austin 10 minutes too late for the latest Lost Austin icon.

If you arrived in Austin in the 70s (like I did), well, you missed the Vulcan Gas Company — but you caught the Armadillo World Headquarters. Folks arriving in the 80s missed the ‘Dillo — but got here in time for Liberty Lunch. If you arrived later than 1999, you missed the Lunch, too — but now there’s Stubb’s.

And the beat goes on…

Born in Austin, I grew up in Houston, regularly attending UT football games in Austin as I grew up. My folks would meet up with Aunt Marion and Uncle Willie before the game, and we’d stroll the UT campus where they’d all been students in the late 40s. Aunt Marion would suddenly exclaim, “OH, what’s THAT?” pointing out a newer-looking building. “That’s new — didn’t that used to be…?” This would happen several times each visit.

That gave me my first impression of Austin as forever changing. 

Living there from the 70s until 6 years ago meant surfing the waves of change & holding on to what we could while adding to Austin’s unique flavor. We helped launch things like Austin City Limits, both the TV show and the music festival, and Southwest by Southwest (SXSW),  from music to film and interactive. Before Austin’s motto became “Keep Austin Weird,” some of us were making it weird.

By 2017, Austin had outgrown me & Sara. Beloved places like Threadgill’s World Headquarters, Flipnotics, Strange Brew, and more restaurants than I care to count were closing or closed. By the time we left, the annual listing of closed “favorite” restaurants had shifted from ones we knew, loved, and frequented to ones we had never even heard of. Sure, there’s definitely several long-term stalwart establishments like the Scholz’ Bier Garten, Broken Spoke, and the Hole in the Wall hanging in there. It’s not like the town is shutting down. It’s just changing. Always.

Several years ago, someone who’d lived through the heady days of the Dillo moved away then moved back briefly before leaving permanently. He decided his prior departure had been the right decision. He was enjoying new digs in a funky San Antonio neighborhood that reminded him of the old Austin he used to love. But he ended by noting how Austin was THE perfect city for his 25-year-old son.

Several years ago, Michael Corcoran suggested locals complaining about the immense SXSW crowds miss the trees for the forest. Amidst the overwhelming hordes of temporary hipsters, oglers, and passersby, there’s almost certainly at least one someone whose eyes have just got opened up wide to the wonders of the world and how they might find a way to live this fuller, more satisfying life.

Everyone living in Austin had one of those moments. Maybe it took a week or a year— but pretty much everyone lamenting the influx of newcomers into Austin moved there themselves sometime in the past, even if it was a half-century ago. And we should not only acknowledge that awakening individual, but we should welcome them with open arms. Austin needs that new energy.

That is the true spirit of Old Austin — welcoming new people streaming in regularly. That’s what has always made Austin so vital and full of promise. Austin is and always has been change. We thought we could change that. Of course, we were wrong. And that’s okay.

Everyone arrives in Austin 10 minutes too late for the latest Lost Austin icon, but just in time for front row seats for the Next Big Thing.

BLOGGER”S NOTE: I wrote the first draft of this post several years ago. Our upcoming visit to Austin and a current New Yorker article (“The Astonishing Transformation of Austin“) brought it back to mind. It didn’t really take much revision — Austin is still changing constantly. I did enjoy running across these older links that are already “outdated” — unless you were there!




About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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1 Response to Welcome to Austin —10 Minutes Too Late…

  1. Sheryl says:

    Whatever happened to Morty’s Pizza?

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