Remember the Alamo

9 Jul

November1957

Its astonishing how our childhood impressions and experiences remain with us and influence our decisions and choices decades later.

I was a boy of ten in 1957 and studying at the Delhi Public School. Almost the entire school was conducted under tents as the permanent buildings had not come up yet. I sat on the same bench as K.M. Chandrasekhar, who rose to the position of the 29th Cabinet Secretary of the Republic of India. When I last met him in Trivandrum, he was the Vice-Chairman of the Kerala State Planning Board.

I lived in New Delhi with a very distinguished uncle at 121 Kakanagar, which I suppose was a residential colony for senior Government officials.

Upstairs, in 122 Kakanagar lived an Air Force Officer and his two children. He was a widower. His son Ranjan was slightly older and his daughter Bina was younger than I.

One day, maybe in November when it was getting cold in Delhi, Ranjan and I were hunting for lost golf balls in the Golf Links across the road from Kakanagar.

Ranjan was thoughtful and suggested that we go to Connaught Circus to see a new film. I was delighted and asked only two questions. “What’s the name of the film?” and “How will we go there?”

The film was “DAVY CROCKETT, King of the Wild Frontier”. I now see that it was a 1955 Walt Disney Production starring Fess Parker as Davy Crockett and Buddy Ebsen.

“We will go on my bicycle. We can ride double” said Ranjan. Wonderful, I thought although I had to get permission from my uncle and aunt who were my local guardians.

I asked my uncle for permission to go and his first reaction was, “No, you can’t go riding double on a bicycle to Connaught Circus”. I looked at my aunt, who I knew could change the decision in my favour… She looked doubtful, even a little worried because she took the responsibility of taking care of me in Delhi very seriously. She looked at me and her eyes darted at her husband, preoccupied with a sarkari file. “If its a Walt Disney film, let him go, Daddy”, she pronounced judgment and so it was that I got pocket money to go to Connaught Circus, see a morning show, have an ice cream and come back to Kaka Nagar.

And that was how I first heard of the saga of Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

What stuck in my memory was the song with the refrain, “Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier”. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txcRQedoEyY

I loved Davy Crockett’s frontiersman hat made from the pelt of a raccoon with the tail hanging at the back.

***

20 June 2019 – San Antonio, Texas. (All names are disguised although the events are true, subject to minor creative interpretation).

“Would you like to visit a friend of ours? He is from Kottayam and knows your father. He has asked us to bring you over. He has been in San Antonio for about forty years” my hostess asked.

“I would be happy to meet him before I leave San Antonio, but today I want to do something else”, I said.

“What’s that?” asked my ebullient hostess.

“I want to go to see the Alamo” I said.

“Sure we can run you down…” says she.

“Oh no! I want to go on my own and spend the whole day there”, I said very firmly.

“There’s nothing there”… my hostess said, “What will you do all day there?”

“Her husband, my host, who had his head inside the folds of the SAN ANTONIO TIMES turned slowly and looked at me over the rims of his glasses.

“How will you go? This is Texas, not London or New York. Here public transport is not as convenient.”

I won the argument and got dropped at the Medical Centre Transit Station. I got a “Whole Day Pass” for three dollars and found a bus going downtown. The Alamo Plaza was about 18 kms away. It took about 45 minutes to get there.

I had forgotten what the Alamo looked like in the movie but had done quite a bit of research.

My beautiful friend Dawn Latham says she likes my ‘potted history’ which is a specific part of a larger history. I wont go into the history of the Defense of the Alamo, which led to the slogan, “Remember the Alamo”, and became a rallying cry for the independence of Texas from Mexico.

Most of the Texas territory belonged to the Spanish Empire in the 17th century. Mexico won its independence in 1821.

The Mexican dictator General Santa Anna sent his troops to put down a rebellion by settlers north of the Rio Grande, who wanted independence from Mexico. One of the centers of resistance to Mexico was at the Mission at the Alamo in San Antonio.

On 6 Mar 1836, Santa Anna’s troops wiped out all the defenders of the Alamo and he ordered that their bodies should be burned. It is estimated that “between 182 and 257 Texans died, while most historians of the Alamo agree that around 600 Mexicans were killed or wounded.”

In addition to Davy Crockett, the heroes of the Alamo included James Bowie (after whom the famous Bowie knife is named), and William B.Travis, Co-Commander in charge of the garrison.

The Independence of Texas was taken forward by other leaders like Sam Houston and Stephen Fuller Austin. Austin is known as the “Father of Texas”, and is acknowledged as the founder of Texas.

My photographs of the Alamo Plaza will fill in the gaps.

There will be other posts that describe the Riverside Walk, Lunch at an “Irish Pub” and getting back by the same No.100 Bus to Medical Centre Transit Station. There is a separate adventure story of my visit to El Paso on the Mexican border.

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