Driving and Biking in the Big City

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Ann, Mel, Denise, Tracie, Pam

This is my very favorite photo from my girlhood in Port Neches. I am in the very middle of this fine group of strong and beautiful women. Two sisters on the left side of the photo and two nieces on the right side.  It was taken in 1966 in my front yard on 14th Street in Port Neches with those big wonderful cars in the background. Those are the sized cars that acted as living rooms when I was a kid growing up. Toys, games and food strewn everywhere. No seatbelts, of course, because we would sleep on the floorboards and in the back windows, always hanging on for dear life.

As the youngest of six with an age spread of 16 years between me and the oldest, I have my siblings’ kids as surrogate siblings of my own. We were really close growing up, and when I’d babysit them a bit, but we grew less close as time and years marched us down different paths.  I remain closest to my niece Pam, who is only four years younger than me, and who came to live  with me for a short time my senior year and when she was in eighth grade. She is the little one at the right side of this photo with our longtime favorite hound, Bossy, in front of her beautiful face.

Pam fell in love with a future coach for the area when she returned to Bridge City and was sitting on the school bus one day. David handed her his tennis shoes and said, “Will you hold these while I throw this paper wad?” More romantic words were never spoken. Her heart was his ever after.

Her older sister, Tracie, is also a favorite but never lived with me. She is now the doctor in the family and we are all very proud of her.

My sister, Mel, is another story. An Army wife, she’s been married to Cliff for 50 years this year. She would come and go at our house when he was stationed overseas. In the years before I came to understand the true cost of war, I can remember her crying when the news came on and the reports of the deaths and casualties would be reported each night for the Vietnam War where my oldest brother was fighting.

But mostly, I remember her playing the 45 record on her player. Just one song, over and over again:

Soldier Boy, oh my little soldier boy. I’ll be true to you . . .   Yes, I know all the words.

Then, at the very left end of this photo, is the oldest of my family and the leader of many of our adventures, my sweet sister Ann, who is Pam and Tracie’s mom, and who we all lost to lung cancer and 50 years of smoking, dating from the time she was 15 years old.

I spent summers and Christmas vacations with Ann and had the time of my life, ate my first pizza, and read, read, read. Her kids had all the Dr. Seuss books that I came to love and later bought for my own kids. But, better yet, her husband had some graphic novels and detective stories stashed under his bed. That’s where I learned my love of superheroes, science fiction and murder mysteries from his old copies of Perry Mason, James Bond, Doc Savage and Honey West.

I can remember being horrified by the old tabloids he kept with stories like “The rat ate my baby’s face” and “I shot my wife’s lover and buried the body.” Yes!! And, when I’d come home, my mom would wonder why I was such a terrible insomniac.  If she only knew . . .


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

July 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

9 Responses

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  1. Loved reading your memories Denise xx

    Jayne Hampson

    July 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

  2. Excellent!

    Victoria Allen

    July 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  3. Great photo and wonderful memories!

    Jan Collins

    July 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm

  4. Denise, I love this so much! I have that awesome picture that you gave me on my kitchen counter & I look at it every day! I look forward to hearing my iPad whistle to tell me you have sent a new story! I love reading them, they bring back some great memories! You are my hero!

    Pam Guidry

    July 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm

  5. I very much would like to be in touch. Your article referencing the image of Jesus on the screen door in Port Neches has sent my heart racing. I saw this when I was 7, just before we moved to New Mexico. The event has had a profound effect on me throughout my life. I have thought of that day (screen door viewed the first Sunday following the apparition June/1969) every day of my life. My parents have passed away and I can no longer locate the one Polaroid we had. Can you help me obtain a copy of a photo? …Be in touch with others who found the event “life changing”? You can message me here on via Face book… Also, wanted to say how much I appreciate the old black/white photo from the time…our family had a Rambler. Yes, it was our roaming living room. So many happy time, happy journies…

    Deanna Cheney

    January 6, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    • Thanks for the thoughts and response. I know lots of folks have similar Polaroids as mine so I bet you can find a copy — perhaps even online. I’m going to take a look and see if I can help. Otherwise, I will make a copy of mine and post soon. Thanks again. Hope you sign up to follow.


      January 11, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      • We moved to New Mexico immediately after the event (screen door/Port Neches) so I am not in touch with anyone there who might have a photo. After a long search (and I’ve been searching the Internet for years) I only recently found a picture posted but the photo has a number of objects in it –books and framed art, family mementos on a shelf, etc. You can see the Polaroid sitting behind these objects, just barely. I’d like very much to get a copy of a picture (or pictures) that are of the screen door image itself, the yard, viewers, etc. Whatever you can do to help me obtain photos would be greatly appreciated. Please refer anyone you know to send to photos, and if they’d like, written memories of the event as it transpired for them to: Deanna Cheney, c/o: 686 Calle Espejo, Santa Fe, NM, 87505. It would mean a great deal to me.

        My entire adult life, until recently, I did not know where this event occurred. I was just a child when our parents took us to see the screen door one afternoon. They had long since forgotten the name of the town when I started asking them about it and now they are both gone. The photo too. My siblings and I cannot find the one Polaroid our family had. I’ve been googling the event on the Internet off and on for years hoping to find something. I came up with nothing until just this past month. Someone wrote a fictionalized account of the event and that book was made into a movie recently called “Screen Door Jesus”. The publicity surrounding the movie has stirred some commentary online…Drilling through these postings got me to you and your wonderful blog.

        Thank you again for responding to me and for your photos and articles. Truly bring backs a lot of good memories. Maybe we’ll see you in Santa Fe sometime. A wonderful, historic city…

        Deanna Cheney

        January 12, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      • The writer of “Screen Door Jesus” is Christopher Cook who also is from the area and has several stories and books with descriptions and characters you might like. You should take a look at his work on Amazon. Meanwhile, I will make a good copy of my photo and post it soon. Hang on. I will do it soon.


        January 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm

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