The Bicentennial year of 1976 brought about increased interest in history from the national all the way down to the hyperlocal, and perhaps it was that spirit that motivated a group of Hastings High School students to make this film on the story of Alief’s past. Along the way, they captured a present that now seems almost as distant to the people of today’s Alief as the horse and buggy days might have seemed to them.
Sadly, Super 8 cameras like the one used to record this footage did not record sound, and the accompanying soundtrack, recorded on audio cassette, has been lost. Still, it’s a deeply moving and sentimental journey into a lost and very different Alief, one that was still semi-rural and a very far cry from the extremely diverse urban neighborhood it is today. Somehow the silence of the film emphasizes those differences, draws them out in a way not possible with the distraction of sound.
YouTube commenters have furnished their best guesses at exact locations for this footage. Here is a quick rundown of what you will see for those inclined to fast-forward to see their own neighborhoods or possibly even their own streets or homes or workplaces:
Opening: Alief painted on wall, American flag proudly snapping in high winds, man in yellow jumpsuit reminiscing on front porch of old white home
56 seconds: Alief post office exterior, then interior shots of employees and long-haired male customers
1:22: Alief Community Church. Built in 1941, it is one of the oldest structures in Alief.
1:36: Unidentified construction site or loading dock; Alief Church of Christ (now Iglesia Cristiana Jehova Es Mi Pastor) at 7130 Cook Rd.; Alief Community Fire Dept.
1:49 : Men working on yellow pick-up truck, probably at firehouse; smiling long-haired kid showing off ambulances and firetrucks and excitedly gesturing.
2:21: Exterior of back side of glum three-story building, then same smiling long-haired kid repeatedly shaking hands with another man in front of an illegible stone plaque.
2:42: Exterior Viola Mahany Elementary School
2:48: Possibly Hastings HS as it looked in 1976?
3:01: Construction equipment and Crump Stadium
3:26: Elsik HS, then possibly an elementary school with flags flying out front
3:43: Tour of Alief’s older residential areas with special interest on cars of the era
4:01: Lingering shot of a beautiful robin’s egg blue/white ‘57 Chevy (I think) sedan with glorious fins.
4:17: More scenes from Old Alief’s backstreets
5:07: More modern houses are featured
5:15 One such street full of these newer homes has been identified by a former resident as Shannon Hills Dr
5:30 Brookfield subdivision sign and its community pool
6:50: Film moves to commercial sites, beginning with a long-gone bank.
7:01: Alief Music Center, offering guitars, drums, lessons and records.
7:05: This is probably the footage with the most widespread appeal: a drive eastbound on Bellare starting at Kirkwood, taking in an Exxon station, a Pizza Hut (most recently reincarnated as now-defunct Taqueria Cazadores), and a then-Weingarten Supermarket-anchored shopping center. In 1976 it was home to Great Skate and Western Auto. Today it’s home to Duc Dinh Learning Center, Hai Cang Harbor Seafood Restaurant, Cho Thanh Binh supermarket, and in the parking lot, Magic Cup teahouse
7:35: Bellaire Blvd Jack in the Box, remembered by one Youtube commenter as “an epicenter of Alief’s high school social life for many in 1976,” having superseded a Dairy Queen that can briefly be seen behind it. A little of that hot rod- and-hamburgers social life is pictured, capturing with it a Fox Photo booth in the background.
8:02 Finds us at Cook Rd and High Star, where once stood a once regionally-ubiquitous U-Tote-M convenience store, and then we close in Alief Cemetery, the burial site of Alief’s Eve — Alief Ozelda Magee herself.