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South Texas Living

Renting an apartment for $10 a week in 1949

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Rainy Days and Starry Nights
July 11, 2012 | 2,050 views | Post a comment

The other day I was watching an old “Andy Griffith” show on TV. This was one that has Barney, Andy’s deputy sheriff, getting evicted from his room that he was renting. It was for cooking on a hot plate in the room, which was against the rules. He said he paid $5 a week for rent and he should be able to cook, paying that much.

It got me to thinking about my first apartment in San Antonio in 1949. I had rented it in the fall after Lessie and Richard Wauson moved back down to Wilson County to Kasper School, where he was the teacher. He always went to college in the summer at Trinity University till he got his degree. They had rented me a room for $10 a week that summer. That included meals, too! I really had enjoyed that summer after I graduated -- since I had a place to live with good friends, and had found a job in an office right around the corner from them.

But now it was September, and they were moving and I had to find a room somewhere. I looked in the newspaper and saw an ad for a one-room apartment on Hackberry Street. It was perfect for me, and it was only $10 a week. Since I was making $20 a week, I could afford it. I still would have enough left for food and bus fare.

In my mind I can still see the apartment and where all the furniture was, and I can also remember the smell of that room -- a kind of old musty smell mixed with the aroma of the perfume that I used then -- Evening in Paris.

The room was on the second floor of an old two-story house, which had a big porch on the front downstairs and a huge balcony on the second floor. My room was upstairs and down the hall to the right. I had to share a bath with two other renters who had rooms on that floor too. But I didn’t mind. I think one was a woman and one was a man. But my room was big and airy and had windows on one side, and French doors that led out to the balcony. I had a balcony all to myself! The room had antique furniture with a high poster bed, and a dresser and vanity.

It also had a small table with two chairs and a table with a two-burner hot plate on it. I also had a little fridge. And it came with dishes and a frying pan and a pan and also cooking utensils. It had a cabinet on the wall to keep everything plus a few groceries. It was just what I wanted.

Since my office was about two blocks away, I walked to work. I heated a can of soup and made a baloney sandwich for my dinner. But, if I had made my lunch to take to the office, which was usually a baloney sandwich too, I opted for a cheese sandwich instead for variety.

I had bought a radio, so at night I listened to the radio. I was thinking back of what I must have listened to on my little radio, and remember the “Jack Benny Show,” “Lux Radio Theater,” “Dragnet,” “The Shadow,” and “The Life of Riley.” Do you know William Bendix played the original Riley but when they went to television, Jackie Gleason played Riley? Saturday night I listened to the “Grand Ole Opry,” but most of the time I went out on Saturday nights. I went with my aunts dancing. Sometimes I had a date. But that is another story! One was with an Aggie! Now that was an experience!

I used to listen to music on the radio and Frank Sinatra was my favorite pop singer and I would listen to him sing “Some Enchanted Evening,” “It Had to Be You,” and “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and daydreamed about a guy I had a crush on named Eddie Wauson, who didn’t even know I liked him. When I hear those songs today, it brings back those days, when I was a young girl 17 years old, with an apartment of my own, a job in an office, in the big city, and the world before me. I was a daydreamer back then just knowing the future had something grand in store for me.

Soon I plan on going back to Hackberry Street to see if the old house is still standing.

Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office in Floresville.

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