Doug Stienstra, Austin writer on a mission

Writer Doug Stienstra arrived in Austin in November 2011.

“I loved many things about Austin,” the native Iowan, 27, says. “The self-starter culture of entrepreneurs, artists and musicians. And there’s so much to do. So many ways to meet people. … Austin is place of discovery for me. I’m discovering what I’m going to do with my life and what I enjoy the most.”

I met Stienstra at a BookPeople signing for “Indelible Austin: Selected Histories.” He expressed interest in local lore, so I invited him to join seven other history buffs one morning as we searched for the entry and exit points of the Chisholm Trail fords on the Colorado River. Next, we sat down over coffee and tea at Seventh Flag Coffee, partly to talk about whether he should attend graduate school to study journalism.

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Doug Stienstra, writer.

Since he currently holds down a good job at Facebook and already has worked for Apple, I advised him to stay employed. Avoid all student debt. Instead, I’m exchanging a structured weekly course in journalism for his help in creating an eBook version of “Indelible Austin” with geo-locating links. One of his past projects was working on the ground for Apple Maps. Just another boost to the “sharing economy.”

Our first writing exercise: I profile him; he profiles me. For educational blogging purposes only.

Stienstra was born in Estherville, Iowa, about three hours from Des Moines. He grew up in Orange City, Iowa, about 90 minutes southeast of his birthplace. “It’s known for its Dutch heritage,” he says. “There’s a tulip festival and most people have names like mine that you can’t pronounce.”

Both his parents descended from Dutch immigrants, though for a while, his maternal grandfather claimed some German heritage as well. Turned out, he’s 100 percent Dutch.

“I went to the town of Stiens, Netherlands, where we came from,” he says. “The ‘stra’ means ‘from.’ and ‘stien’ is probably Old Dutch for ‘stone,’ though I’m not exactly sure.”

Did he feel at home in Stiens? “Yes, there were lots of tall, skinny, blue-eyed people there.”

Did his mother have her hands full with four Dutch-American sons? “You have no idea.”

As a child, Stienstra was curious, shy, always outside exploring.

“I was obsessed with snakes!” he says. “I read a lot about them. Snakes were my life at the time. It was weird. I emailed a herpetologist and went out looking for rattlesnakes when I was in seventh or eighth grade.”

He learned to play drums and piano and joined a high school band. Yes, he went through a heavy metal phase. Now he’s mostly a music fan, another reason to love Austin.

Stienstra didn’t jump on the education train until college, where he majored in international studies with emphases in anthropology, entrepreneurism and a dab of philosophy. He’s fluent in Portuguese and German. He lived in Switzerland as an exchange student in high school, then spent two years studying abroad in Brazil before finishing his degree at the University of Iowa.

A Brazilian former girlfriend inspired his first start-up, FlashPals, which were essentially stuffed-animal flash drives.

“I looked around and found a cheap teddy bear online,” he recalls. “I was pretty sure I could make something better than this. So I gathered up material: Finger puppets and flash drives for the first version. It was adorable.”

And young women, especially, loved them.

“When you see a clear demand, you are onto something,” he says. “When I came back to the States, I worked some more on it and launched in 2011. The local paper ran a short profile, which led to a bigger city paper, then Entrepreneur magazine. That’s when I decided to take it really seriously.”

At first, he assembled the fuzzy drives by hand in his living room while watching movies, then he worked out a mass supply chain in China after visiting a trade expo in Hong Kong. He found, however, no real mass market for FlashPals.

Stienstra moved to Austin when his now-fiancee, Texas-born Monica Castillo, landed a job here. Before Facebook, he worked under contract for Apple Maps, researching locations and correcting them. He then transferred to the “ground truth team” after a call went out for Portuguese and Spanish speakers who were willing to travel up to 70 percent of the year.

Stienstra: “An easy choice for me!” He worked in Australia, Singapore, France, Germany, Brazil and, of course, the U.S.It was during his travels that Stienstra starting writing the blog, Life on a Planet.

“It was mostly a way to digest what I was experiencing,” he says. “I was meeting so many interesting people and encountering fascinating cultures. It was mostly for myself, but also for others to see what I was up to.”

Now he’s on a mission to make that impulse into something much more.

Austin patriarch Fidel Estrada, Jr. turns 80

It looked like a scene from “The Godfather,” but in a sweet, sentimental way.

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Fidel Estrada, Jr. sat behind a long table at the center of the tent. His round face radiated bliss, but he barely moved. Instead, everybody in the room, from famous politicians to youths inked with tattoos, came to him.

Estrada, longtime owner of Estrada’s Cleaners on East Seventh Street, the patriarch of a large family and mentor to many, has turned 80. For many years, when his community had no direct voice in city government, he and other East Austin business leaders — some of them present this day — acted as liaisons to the powerful.

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Father and son Virgil and Lonnie Limón.

Everywhere you looked among the festivities, there were Limóns, Ojedas, Maldonados and, of course, Estradas. Among those who felt comfortable enough to draw up a chair to the head table was former State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos. Nearby were former or current owners of key spots such as El Azteca, Rabbit’s Bar and Roy’s Taxis. The Democratic nominee for constable in District 4, George Morales III, paid his respects.

I had been invited, of course, by Lonnie Limón, Estrada’s grandson and pretty much the chief anchorman for the vast Limón and Estrada families, as well as chronicler of the leaders of Old East Austin. I felt genuinely honored to be there and to wish Mr. Estrada the best.

1970s Austin No. 18: Billy Harden on desegregating the city’s schools

We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first. 

Feel free to send yours to mbarnes@statesman.com

Billy Harden, Austin educator and executive director of Spectrum Theatre Company

I was moving into my junior year in high school in 1969 when I was selected to participate in a computer programming class to be held at the Rio Grande campus of Austin High School. The class was an attempt by the Austin school district to desegregate the schools by bringing minority students to other campuses who were interested in taking classes not offered at their high school. It was part of larger current and past attempts to reform itself as an urban district with largely poor and minority enrollments.

The plan was in effect until July of the year when our parents received notification in the mail that the computer programming class would be moved to Anderson High School, located at that time on Thompson Street in East Austin.   The school had previously been an all-black high school and had only joined the UIL athletic programs under the district a few year earlier. The school was also directly across the street from the Booker T. Washington public housing complex.

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From Aug. 31, 1971 American-Statesman “Busing Gets Off to a Smooth 1st Day.”

The program had registered nearly 30 students prior to the July decision. When we arrived at Anderson High School on the first day of school, only 12 students showed up for the class. I was among the six students who represented Albert Sidney Johnston High, now known as Eastside Memorial High School. The other students came from Anderson High School (2), Crockett High School (2) and Reagan High School (2).

No students from Austin High School nor any other AISD high school registered for the class. We all commuted in each day and spent 2-4 hours at Anderson and then returned to our home campuses. We did this for 2 years and all earned credit for the course as Anderson students, but graduated from our respective high schools.

In 1970, Department of Justice officials filed suit in District court against AISD. At that time, in East Austin there were 18 schools with more than 90 percent black and Mexican American students totaling nearly 80 percent of Austin’s black students and almost 60 percent of the district’s Hispanic students. The federal district court judge ordered the district that year to close one elementary school, transfer its black students to nearby white schools, and change the boundaries of all-black Anderson high School to include white neighborhoods. No white students showed up at Anderson when school opened that fall.

In 1971, The Board of Trustees — with Wilhelmina Delco the only black member — closed Anderson high school and Kealing Junior high school, the only black secondary schools in Austin; all students were bused to white schools and teachers transferred to other district schools. Serious disturbances flared at schools receiving bused students initially but soon simmered down. Black parents whose children were bused were upset over troubles at receiving schools and often brought their complaints to both then superintendent Jack Davidson and the Board of Trustees in these years. Many parents felt the best and most experienced African-American educators were taken to the predominately white schools and the less experienced teachers were assigned by design to the minority schools mostly located in East Austin. Parents were also upset the burden of desegregation was now solely on the shoulders of the African-American community because they lack alternative educational resources.

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Photograph of Austin High School 1971 student council members standing L to R: Katie Miller, Vice President; Anna Reyes, Secretary; Charles Riptoe, Treasurer; Seated: Carlton Lowe, President. Photo: Richard Creed.

This single event changed the course of East Austin for good and thus change the inner core of African American culture forever as it existed in Austin. Without the central focus of the educational norms provided by schools in the community, gentrification was able to spread quickly and can be seen in full swing in East Austin today. Many families were forced to move out of East Austin so that their children would be closer to the schools they were forced to attend. This significantly changed the housing patterns in Austin and saw more blacks moving to neighborhoods in far southeast Austin (Dove Springs) and far northeast Austin near University Hills and Walnut Creek developments.

It is within this larger current and past context of school purposes and reforms that urban districts with largely poor and minority enrollments such as Austin, Texas operate now and for the past half-century. For nearly a decade, AISD, under the leadership of a more conservative Board of Trustees and Superintendents have introduced a bundle of initiatives aimed at reforming the district organization, curriculum, and instruction in order to improve students’ academic achievement and reduce considerably the gap in that achievement between white and minority students. The culminating reform of these efforts over the past decade is High School Redesign launched in 2005. And while I do believe that some of these initiatives have fostered overall improvements in education, they have continue to contribute to the dilution and decentralization of the African American cultural life in Austin.

Index

1970s Austin: No. 1 Elizabeth Christian
1970s Austin: No. 2 Forrest Preece
1970s Austin: No. 3 Eddie Wilson
1970s Austin No. 7: Fern Santini
1970s Austin No. 8: Rick Lowerre
1970s Austin No. 9: Sherry Matthews
1970s Austin No. 16: Bobby Bridger

1970s Austin No. 17: Ken Capps responds creatively

We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first. 

Feel free to send yours to mbarnes@statesman.com

Ken Capps, KTBC-TV reporter 1978-1982,born St. David’s Hospital 1960,McCallum High School 1978, UT Grad 1982

Austin was to the 1970s what San Francisco was to the 1960s.

Then, we left Haight-Ashbury in the dust.

But we offered up a far more colorful culture of characters, music and politics.

The River City mixed up such a crazy cast of citizens comprised of  old-time goat ropers, real-time rednecks and extremely young, talented musicians who not only played rock n roll, but country, folk country, jazz, fusion, soul and R&B.

It was the hair.

Really, it was the hair, folks, the hair.

Willie had collar length hair, and the longer his hair got, the greater the Austin legend grew.

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Austin and Ken Capps

And here in our great city, Texas Big Hair and Progressive Long Hair lived together in relative peace and harmony and that led to the economic, technology and UT-boom to come.

Austin also was about access.

Anybody could go just about anywhere (even us high school knuckleheads) if you had the chutzpah and maybe a couple of bucks to walk in.

Most places you just walked in for free.

The drinking age was 18. That allowed even more mingling and mixing.

The original hippies in this city must be laughing their butts about all the different colored lanyards for access and priority and territory needed now for SWSX and ACL.

True power and freedom meant no identification at all.

It also led to a Austin-born style of equality unmatched since.

You could talk to the Mayor and council folks – even the Governor or Travis County Sheriff.. because you might be sitting next to them at the Armadillo, Antone’s,

Soap Creek Saloon or the Split Rail.

Or sampling the canned meats at Spam-O-Rama.

Wheatsville Co-op employees indeed worked barefoot.

D.E. Crumley’s store did exist and Mr. Crumley ran it.

Manny Gammage was the Mad Texas Hatter.

Crazy Carl was in his youth.

Keeping Austin Weird wasn’t difficult.

Hard to believe: Austin’s big Achilles’ heel is it yearns to be somebody else.

It curses Dallas and Houston but then builds fancy condos and ultra-rich restaurants to compete with the big boys.

Remember the cranes of 1986? And what happened next?

Now the economy and the pressure to compete on a big-scale is back for this once ‘small town.’

Say what? The population the Austin Metro rises past TWO million.

The cranes are back in full force.

And while Austin talks a big game about preservation, the very places that made Austin weird in the first place seem to be fading away.

Unmercifully.

The Broken Spoke is now surrounded by condos like the 101st Airborne was surrounded at Bastogne.

Muny golf course may go away.  Less greens, more concrete?

Is this honestly the way we want our beloved city and my beloved hometown to go?

I named my son Austin before it was cool to name your son, daughter or dog Austin.

I am proud of be from here. Always will be.

There’s still time to save what’s left of the old-time Austin we love.  But who will lead the charge?

Find the old turntable and crank up Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.

The old hippies will remember, smile. And know.

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.

Index

1970s Austin: No. 1 Elizabeth Christian
1970s Austin: No. 2 Forrest Preece
1970s Austin: No. 3 Eddie Wilson
1970s Austin No. 7: Fern Santini
1970s Austin No. 8: Rick Lowerre
1970s Austin No. 9: Sherry Matthews
1970s Austin No. 16: Bobby Bridger

1970s Austin No. 16: Bobby Bridger’s take

We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first. 

Feel free to send yours to mbarnes@statesman.com

Bobby Bridger, singer-songwriter, storyteller, writer, teacher

There is an old artistic axiom that necessity forces creative spirits to seek and find a place where the cost of living is low enough for them to survive while continuing to explore the creative process. Of course the axiom’s cliche is painters living and working in cold-water garrets in low-rent warehouse districts that provide both home and studio.
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Bobby Bridger

There is, however, a second, equally-important part of that old axiom. It is that eventually the exotic lifestyle that evolves from the success of the positive energy spun by creative spirits attracts the both the curious and the wealthy like the proverbial moth to the flame. Once this second part of the phenomenon occurs prices immediately rise in the heretofore inexpensive creative place, thus forcing the artists who created the energy to move on to less expensive places that can support their unconventional creative lifestyle.

 
When I moved to Austin at the very beginning of the 1970s one of the first things I was told was that it was the cheapest place in America to live. This of course was music to a struggling singer/songwriter’s ears. But the second thing that immediately caught my attention about Austin was something very simple: I had never been in a town where everyone was so proud of where they lived. During my first month in town I didn’t met a single person who complained about living there; indeed, everyone I met so LOVED Austin that many even mentioned they felt “honored” that they lived there.
Free-spirited Texans had indeed been relocating to Austin for generations because of the liberal environment created by the vast numbers of young liberal students at the University of Texas that were a huge percentage of the population. But the low cost of living also allowed the creative spirits to stay there and continue the exploration of creative expression. The result of this was that as the counterculture exploded throughout America Austin became a virtual green house of cultural creativity. 
 
It would appear now that Austin is seeking balance in the old two-part axiom now that success has brought massive population growth and vast wealth into the region’s cultural equation. I sincerely hope she finds harmony in the very delicate process. I’m still proud and honored I was able to be a part of Austin culture in the 1970s.

Index

1970s Austin: No. 1 Elizabeth Christian
1970s Austin: No. 2 Forrest Preece
1970s Austin: No. 3 Eddie Wilson
1970s Austin No. 7: Fern Santini
1970s Austin No. 8: Rick Lowerre
1970s Austin No. 9: Sherry Matthews

1970s Austin No. 15: Tim McClure on the pure and the simple

We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first. 

Feel free to send yours to mbarnes@statesman.com

Tim McClure, co-founder GSD&M, Austin citizen since 1966

Because, purely and simply, Austin was pure and simple in the ‘70s. This was pre-Californication. These were the salad days of Armadillo World Headquarters, Oat Willie’s Head Shop, Hippie Hollow and  Dry Creek Saloon.
Nothing was wrong, so everything was right, right down to dancing “on the wrong side of the tracks” at Charlie’s Playhouse, then moseying over to the Chicken Shack after hours to soak up all the evening’s illegal alcohol.
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James Polk & The Brothers. Courtesy AllAboutJazz.com.

Everything was politically correct, because nobody bothered to correct us. The Vietnam War was winding down, thanks to the largest protest marches east of University California Berkley. Politically, Democratic Governor John Connally had just abdicated to eventually rebrand himself as a Republican and run for President. He was followed, after a fashion, by the likes of Governors “Press On” Smith, “Dog Biscuit,” Briscoe, “Clementine” Clements, and Mark “One Term” White.

God, I miss Ann Richards!
Austin was still small back then, still had a sense of humor liberally blended with a sense of humanity. This was still Virgin Territory –- free of South by Southwest, Formula 1 and all the “foreigners” that take over our fair city as if it’s their own.
I could go on, but I suspect you see where I’m going here: Back. Back to when promises were promises and a handshake made it right. Back when you could eat a greasy, cheesy Holiday House Hamburger and feed the leftovers to Charlie the Alligator.
I long for those lazy, crazy days, my friend.
And if you hunker down and squint your eyes real hard, you can still see Old Austin -– Authentic Austin –- if you’re willing to overlook the traffic snarls and the back-in parking and the Confederacy of Dunces that have tried (in vain) to take over this great city.
God, I love Austin!

Index

1970s Austin: No. 1 Elizabeth Christian
1970s Austin: No. 2 Forrest Preece
1970s Austin: No. 3 Eddie Wilson
1970s Austin No. 7: Fern Santini
1970s Austin No. 8: Rick Lowerre
1970s Austin No. 9: Sherry Matthews

1970s Austin No. 14: Joe Bryson, ‘Mr. Inner Sanctum’

We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first. 

Feel free to send yours to mbarnes@statesman.com

Joe Bryson, “Mr. Inner Sanctum,’ currently president of Real Estate Alliance

In my mind, the “scene” coalesced during that time. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, we became a culture unto ourselves. We were able to elect a mayor and council members. The vast majority of people in this culture came together to protest our involvement in Vietnam.
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Joe Bryson, Neil Ruttenberg and other staff of Inner Sanctum record store, 1978.

We started and had businesses that catered to us: Armadillo World Headquarters, Whole Earth, Oat Willies, Inner Sanctum, plus the many music clubs that came & went during this time — New Orleans Club, Jade Room, One Knite, Soap Creek, Castle Creek, etc. Print media like the Austin Sun, The Rag, gave it focus Radio like early KLBJ, K98, KUT promoted the music of the day.

The innocence and naivety of the 1950s and early ’60s faded away. We became our own living culture that started to exercise it’s power politically, financially, & culturally. Like a child growing up, we became aware of who we were and our personality as a group. We could exist on our own.
There really wasn’t anything to culturally to counter that, except the “country folks”, many of which were becoming us. When the music started to assimilate country into the rock scene, the blues clubs started to happen, concerts out in the wild (Hill on the Moon, Steiner Ranch, Willie’s Picnics) we became the music culture of Austin. Of course drugs (especially psychedelic ones) helped sear this cultural identity into an “us vs them” consciousness.
Being a major university town, this became a good percentage of the general population.  Artists could make a living. The Drag vendors were in full swing. The word was getting out on Austin. As it did, more and more people of like mind started to move here.  Most everyone that was here, stayed. Sixth Street became a focal point for entertainment (Antone’s, Steamboat, Toad Hall, etc.)
We started to have culture-wide events like Eeyore’s Birthday Party, the Helms Street Halloween Bash, AWHQ New Year’s Eve) that started to develop the “weirdness” that is celebrated today. Besides the weirdness, there was an evolving healthy organic & vegetarian lifestyle. People could enjoy the outdoors at Hippie Hollow, Barton Springs, Enchanted Rock.
This all became the dominant culture in Austin. We had reached critical mass. We were the culture in Austin. Even as Austin grows, it’s still the undercurrent in this city. It’s diluted by general population growth, but it’s still here with SXSW and ACL and the Austin Music Awards.
I’ve lived here for 50 years (50th anniversary this June).  I have not lived anywhere else, but the “counterculture” has only become this dominant in a few other cities. No other in Texas really. This is it for this state.
All in all, it’s been a fun, healthy, and sustainable lifestyle in this city without a lot of backlash from the “establishment”. Why would anyone stop when it’s been this good?  That’s why it’s had the lasting impact on the Austin culture.
I used to say that Inner Sanctum was the coolest place to be in Austin during the daytime.  There were lots of cool places to go to at night, but in the daytime, we were it.
Without a doubt, Austin is the coolest city in Texas. Texas is the best state in the union. This country is the best country in the world.  So I used to say, “For half of every day, I felt like I was sitting on top of the world.”  I really felt like that too. I couldn’t have been happier than to do what I was doing. Somehow I got very very lucky in my life. There are many similar stories and lives in this city.  Why would we go anywhere else?

Index

1970s Austin: No. 1 Elizabeth Christian
1970s Austin: No. 2 Forrest Preece
1970s Austin: No. 3 Eddie Wilson
1970s Austin No. 7: Fern Santini
1970s Austin No. 8: Rick Lowerre
1970s Austin No. 9: Sherry Matthews

1970s Austin No. 13: John Inmon on the city’s coming of age

We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first. 

Feel free to send yours to mbarnes@statesman.com

John Inmon, musician

Of course you realize that an entire book could be written on the rather open question you ask. In fact, it’s possible that there could be a thesis or two either being written or already written somewhere.

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Anyway, in my experience Austin has always been a young person’s town. It was in 1970 and it is now. In 1970, the generation that was “coming of age” was the largest in history. It was also the first generation to grow up with the threat of nuclear annihilation.

As soon as a critical mass of them/us woke up to that fact, they/we started looking for new ways of doing just about everything from politics to music to fashion.

This, of course, became, or was absorbed, into pop culture, depending on your definition of the term. Again, Austin is a young person’s town. Who consumes pop culture? The young – and so, it perpetuates itself.

Until the next wave, that is…

Index

1970s Austin: No. 1 Elizabeth Christian
1970s Austin: No. 2 Forrest Preece
1970s Austin: No. 3 Eddie Wilson
1970s Austin No. 7: Fern Santini
1970s Austin No. 8: Rick Lowerre
1970s Austin No. 9: Sherry Matthews

1970s Austin No. 12: Dan Bullock on some surprising influences

We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first. 

Feel free to send yours to mbarnes@statesman.com.

 

Dan Bullock, longtime civic leader

Thoughts on the dynamics of the 1970s: Austin in the 1960s still centered around the Capitol and University of Texas. IBM was expanding a plant, but the tech industry was in its infancy. There was no significant philanthropy and limited cultural opportunities. We were growing in some ways, but had reached our “Peter Principle level of financial and development incompetence.” All that was getting ready to change.
Austin had many successful homegrown businesses as we entered the ’70s, but it would take outside investors to give our community the jumpstart to a higher playing field. Houston and Dallas bank holding companies took over several of our major banks and gave us larger sources of investment capital. The Austin National Bank (Interfirst), City National Bank ( First City) and Capital National Bank ( Texas Commerce) were three main examples of local to regional ownership transitions in the ’70s.
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What is now the Bank of America Building was finished in 1975.

Austin’s retail opportunities would be enhanced with our first shopping malls: Northcross and Highland Malls.

Austin’s skyline took a leap in the ’70s with three new towers. Dobie Center and two bank towers Chase and Bank of America.
Our tech industry took a big jump as Motorola joined IBM as major tech manufacturers and employers.
Austin’s “Live Music Capital” rep would have its genesis in the ’70s. Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin City Limits, Antone’s, Liberty Lunch, The Chequered Flag, and Soap Creek Saloon were major influences starting in this era. Many musicians such as Jerry Jeff and Willie Nelson ould come to play and decide to stay.
The ’70s saw the renovation of the Paramount Theater and development began on Sixth Street.
Mo-Pac was opened thru the middle of town, opening up transportation parallel to I-35.
And Texas Monthly began their successful publishing run that would highlight Texas from their Austin base.
All of these were catalysts that changed the dynamics and diversity of all aspects of our community. More jobs, more money, more demand for cultural diversity, more philanthropic potential, expanding creative classes.
The ’70s were a time of significant growth in almost all facets of community. We’re now living in one of the fastest growing and most desirable cities in the country. That fact comes with attendant frustrations, but lots of us love Austin for its unique mix of cultural and natural resources. We owe much to the dynamics and creative, progressive thinkers of the ’70s for pushing and loving us to the current city we so enjoy.

Index

1970s Austin: No. 1 Elizabeth Christian
1970s Austin: No. 2 Forrest Preece
1970s Austin: No. 3 Eddie Wilson
1970s Austin No. 7: Fern Santini
1970s Austin No. 8: Rick Lowerre
1970s Austin No. 9: Sherry Matthews

1970s Austin No. 11: Lee Cooke on the super-sizing of Austin

We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first. 

Feel free to send yours to mbarnes@statesman.com.

Lee Cooke, former Mayor of Austin
1. The young liberal/populists/neighborhood movements took over city government in mid-seventies and the environmental movement quickly followed. This changed Austin in every way to the city it is today.

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Council Member Emma Lou Linn was among the liberal coalition that took over Austin politics in the 1970s.

2.  The outlaw/counterculture music movement was given birth with the relocation of Nelson and gang along with creation of Armadillo, Austin City Limits and Antone’s, etc. This gave rise to music as a economic sector and Austin Chamber of Commerce staff promoting and exporting Austin music in 1980s along with their first use of “Live Music Capital of World” in August 1985 issue of Billboard Magazine and calling meeting in 1986 that lead to creation of South by Southwest

3.  The discussion on central city revitalization was institutionalized in the business, cultural and architectural discussion in late 1970s (see many Statesman stories from 1978-1980) that begin the 24-hour livable central city with a strong tax base for the Austin school district and reversed a dying core that has impacted so many American cities.

4. Infrastructure in energy (power plants), roads (Mopac, 360 and discussion on east loop), push for a new airport, convention center and expansion from a 3-sector economy to a 7-9 sector economy to keep and attract the creative class to be new job base gave Austin the diversity by 2008 to weather the financial recession better than any large American city per CNN — and many business publications and the cultural identity by the type of people living and still coming.

5. Steady and focused goal-oriented leadership at all levels that took goals developed in 1970s and implement and improved them in every succeeding decade. Austin in halfway through a total transformation that begin in 1970s and will go on till 2040s.

In 1970 Austin was 57the  in size — today 11th. No American city, save Charlotte, has changed that much! Note: Charlotte was 60th in 1970 and is 17th today.

Index

1970s Austin: No. 1 Elizabeth Christian
1970s Austin: No. 2 Forrest Preece
1970s Austin: No. 3 Eddie Wilson
1970s Austin No. 7: Fern Santini
1970s Austin No. 8: Rick Lowerre
1970s Austin No. 9: Sherry Matthews