Cinderella Moved to Houston the Summer of 1980

May 16, 2015

2115 River Oaks Boulevard
Yes, it was the summer of 1980 and I was living in the garage apartment on the far left of this photo. Today when I opened my email I had a Real Estate alert telling me the home is now listed for $17+ million dollars. So naturally I started typing!
They had just begun the work on this "enclosed pool." But I'm getting ahead of myself.
An Elementary School teacher with a six year old son, I had just returned from a Singles Retreat where I met lots of new singles from Houston. I decided that a clean sheet of paper in a brand new place was just what the doctor ordered.
As I recall, Houston smelled like money. Mattress Mac was working out of a tent on I-45, Kathy Whitmire was about to be elected mayor, Luv Ya Blue was at it's peak and every night before you went to bed Marvin Zindler would tell you where to avoid, "Slim in the ice machine."
A good friend from that Singles group asked if she might ride down to Houston with me as she did not at all like Houston traffic. So Shannon and I set out for a weekend in Houston planning to stay with her Mom's sister.
We talked on the drive down but as we got close to the Galleria area I asked what streets to be looking for. Shannon said to take the San Felipe exit. I did. She then said her aunt lived on River Oaks.
Oh, I had heard of River Oaks. In fact, I had just finished reading Tommy Thompson's fascinating book Blood and Money which was all about River Oaks, Ash Robinson and Dr. John Hill who had attended med school with my uncle. But I wasn't at all prepared for what we pulled up to next...
"Oh my 'Lanta, Shannon!!! Are you sure this is where your aunt lives??" You've never told me about this aunt!"
"How does one tell someone about this sort of thing? Besides, most people don't want to hear about this." said Shannon.
No, THIS was what nobody wanted to hear about. The house Shannon had met me at before starting our drive that day... Mine.
Equally appealing with just as much curb appeal, right?
To say that I was about to step into high cotton was putting it mildly. After coming to Houston on Memorial Weekend of 1980, I had made the decision to not only put my home on the market, but to also change careers. I would be closing the door on teaching elementary school and preparing for my entree into Real Estate.
Kind, generous Mrs. Elizabeth Hovas, after hearing my Queen For a Day story, asked me if I would like to live in the Garage apartment while I attended Real Estate School for six weeks.
In the midst of a divorce, my house on the market and David staying with Mother and Daddy for the summer, I could not say YES fast enough.
Now the home did not look like this when I lived there. It has undergone many permutations over 35 years but it was still none the less impressive as is the case with any home that fronts on River Oaks Boulevard in Houston, Texas.
Mrs. Hovas explained to me that someone had recently thrown a Molotov Cocktail through their window so they were in the midst of a complete remodel. She actually referred to living there as living in a prison and she cautioned me to be careful when I went for a walk.
Even knowing this I had a most difficult time wrapping my head around River Oaks as a rough neighborhood?
I loved living there. Who wouldn't, right? Each night I had to be sure I returned before midnight... I mean 11, because if I didn't I would find the gates closed.
I really enjoyed spending time talking to the staff each night in the kitchen.
Can you say, "Out of body experience?"
At the time this home was owned by Mrs. Hovas's daughter and son in-law, Sandra and Enrico di Portonova. They were great friends with Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and would often visit them. I believe though that they were in residence at their Acapulco home, Arabesque, the entire time that I lived there.
I never had the pleasure of meeting them. My relationship was strictly with Sandra's mother and Shannon's aunt.
 I do recall my room above the garage looking much like the one below - alas, sans the pool view.  And I remember Sandra's room looking more like Last Call at Neiman's as the remodel was in full swing. 
Arabesque, Acapulco
Like I previously mentioned, work had just begun on this incredible 12000 square foot enclosed pool.
 
Sadly, both di Portonovas passed away in 2000 a mere few weeks apart. And as fabulous as this house is and was...
I fully intend to have a home in Glory Land one day that will outshine the sun.
I hope they both do too.



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