Tag Archives: Amarillo

Growing city needs strong newspaper

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was speaking the other day to a member of my family; we were talking about two issues simultaneously: the growth and maturation of Amarillo, Texas, and the long, slow and agonizing demise of the newspaper that formerly served the community.

It occurred to me later that both trends work at cross purposes. I find myself asking: How does a community grow and prosper without a newspaper telling its story?

That is what is happening in Amarillo, I told my family member.

The city’s downtown district is changing weekly. New businesses open. The city is revamping and restoring long dilapidated structures. Amarillo has a successful minor-league baseball franchise playing ball in a shiny new stadium in the heart of its downtown district.

The city’s medical complex is growing, adding hundreds of jobs annually. Pantex, the massive nuclear weapons storage plant, continues its work. Bell/Textron’s aircraft assembly plant continues to turn out V-22 Ospreys and other rotary-wing aircraft. Streets and highways are under repair and improvement.

Amarillo is coming of age. Its population has exceeded 200,000 residents.

What, though, is happening to the media that tell the story of the community? I can speak only of the newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years before walking away during a corporate reorganization of the newspaper. The company that owned the G-N for more than 40 years sold its group of papers … and then got out of the newspaper publishing business. It gave up the fight in a changing media market.

The newspaper’s health has deteriorated dramatically in the years since then. Two general assignment reporters cover the community. That’s it. Two! The paper has zero photographers and a single sports writer.

The paper is printed in Lubbock. It has a regional executive editor who splits her time between Amarillo and Lubbock and a regional director of commentary who does the same thing.

There exists, therefore, a serious dichotomy in play in a growing and increasingly vibrant community. I see the contradiction in the absence of a growing and vibrant newspaper that tells the whole story about what is happening in the community it is supposed to cover.

Spare me the “it’s happening everywhere” canard. I get that. I have seen it. None of that makes it any easier to witness it happening in a community I grew to love while I worked there. I built a home there and sought to offer critical analysis of the community from my perch as editor of the Globe-News editorial page.

I do not see that happening these days.

Meanwhile, Amarillo continues to grow and prosper. If only it had a newspaper on hand to tell its story to the rest of the world.

Big Beaners goes bye bye

A brief, but still weird, story has come to a close up yonder in Amarillo. It might have an actual final conclusion, but for now the story appears to have gone dormant.

The story involves a restaurant opened by a flamboyant and flashy Amarillo personal injury lawyer, Jesse Quackenbush. It used to serve Mexican food, until the city closed it for reasons I do not yet know.

The joint got off to a rocky start, owing to the weird — and blatantly scurrilous — name that Quackenbush attached to it. He called it Big Beaners, which a number of folks in Amarillo interpreted as an anti-Latino slur.

And … it is. The term “beaner” is meant as a slur against people of Latino heritage. Quackenbush, of course, defended the name, even though in some circles the name “beaner” is nearly equal to using the n-word when referring to African-Americans or any assortment of epithets hurled at Asian-Americans.

Big Beaners is no longer open, which is just as well.

The universe is full of quirky, catchy, market-friendly names that do not hurl an ethnic slur.

Christmas spirit is alive and well in our neighborhood

My wife and I have settled in nicely in our new digs in Collin County.

We have become acquainted with our neighbors on both sides of us, with neighbors in four homes across the street, a couple living on the corner … and apparently some children we see playing and cavorting on occasion.

Our community is becoming comfortable to the both of us daily.

We have received a taste of the Christmas spirit that seems to abound in our Princeton neighborhood.

The doorbell rang and a young man was standing on our porch. He handed my wife a small box. It contained freshly baked cookies prepared in the gentleman’s kitchen.

He handed my wife the box. We opened it. The cookies beckoned. We ate them. They were delicious.

Why mention this? I guess it’s because we have just experienced a neighborly gesture one doesn’t see all that often.

I thought momentarily of when we moved into our brand new home in southwest Amarillo in December 1996. We had just had the house built. We pulled out belongings out of storage, where they sat for nearly two years.

One day, just before Christmas, a neighbor walked across the street carrying a large plate of brownies. She wanted to welcome us to the neighborhood.

In all our years of marriage, in all the places we had lived that was the first time a neighbor had done something so kind. It made us feel as if we were part of the community.

It was the only time someone had extended a bit of holiday cheer to us … until tonight. 

The Christmas spirit is alive and well. We can testify gleefully to its good health.

Port Neches refinery fire is especially scary … for me

I heard the news this morning of that big explosion and fire way down yonder in Port Neches, Texas.

ABC News kept saying it was just east of Houston. The local Dallas-Fort Worth ABC affiliate, WFAA, referred to it more precisely: that Port Neches is just 15 miles south of Beaumont.

That kind of reference gets my attention because, as you might know, I lived and worked in Beaumont for nearly 11 years before my wife and I migrated from the Golden Triangle to Amarillo in 1995.

There have been no fatalities associated with the disaster. Some folks were injured. I worry about their health.

On a broader scale, I worry about our many Golden Triangle friends who live near the huge petrochemical and oil refinery complex throughout the Beaumont/Port Arthur region.

Petrochemicals and the refining of crude oil is the economic lifeblood of the region. When we moved to Beaumont in 1984, there was a school of thought that all one had to do to make a comfortable living was just get a high school diploma and then apply for work at one of the many petrochemical plants. They paid well. They were lifetime jobs if that’s what you wanted to do.

My former boss at the Beaumont Enterprise once told me that all those bass boats, expensive pickups and SUVs were paid for my the handsome wages earned at those plants.

There also is the danger associated with working at those facilities. I don’t recall seeing any major refinery fires explode during my time in Beaumont. The Port Neches fire, though, should remind us of the danger inherent in that line of work.

I haven’t even mentioned — until this very moment — the air quality issues associated with living in the proximity of those plants. That’s a story for another time.

I am worrying tonight, on Thanksgiving Eve, about the health of those who work in that environment and those — especially our many friends — who live nearby.

Please be safe.

That was quite the storm!

I took a job 35 years ago in what I suppose you could call Tornado Country.

We moved our young sons from Oregon to the Golden Triangle of Texas, a region prone to hurricanes and the twisters that spin off the storms as they crash ashore from the Gulf of Mexico.

Then my wife and I moved to Amarillo, which also has experienced its share of tornado-induced misery since the beginning of recorded history. My wife and I once watched a funnel cloud form about a mile west of our house while baseball-sized hail pummeled our dwelling and destroyed our roof.

Then a year ago, my wife and moved to Collin County in the Metroplex.

Tonight we had our first tornado “experience” since moving to Collin County. All is well and good. The storm passed south of us as well as south of our son, daughter-in-law, our granddaughter and her older brother. Our son’s extended family is safe, too.

However, this is the kind of thing — even after living in Tornado Country for 35 years — that still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

The local weather forecaster broke into a program we were watching to alert us of thunder storms. Then came the “tornado warning,” which means they had spotted a funnel cloud on the ground.

The storm chasers provided some gripping video to go along with the near-frantic commentary coming from the meteorologist. One of them caught a picture of a heavily damaged pickup stalled on Interstate 635; the driver of the truck then gave a thumbs-up to the TV crew that was taking pictures of the damage done by the storm that had roared through the area.

Our son informed us they had storm sirens blaring in Allen. Ours in Princeton stayed silent. We did, however, receive a lot of rain.

The storm has passed on. My hope is that our neighbors to the east stay safe.

How will I sleep tonight? Probably not well. Tomorrow, though, is another day. We’ll see what it brings.

Yes, the city surely has ‘changed’

My wife and I are continuing to make new acquaintances in our new home in Collin County and as we do, we routinely tell folks from where we moved.

We came here from Amarillo, we tell folks. The response is varied. “Oh yeah. I’ve been through there. Have you eaten the big steak?” is one. “Hey, that Palo Duro Canyon is really something,” is another.

We met a fellow the other day who said this, “I go to Amarillo frequently. Man, that city has changed!”

Yeah. It has. I didn’t take the time to ask what precisely he has noticed about the changes he has observed, although I did offer my own brief observation.

“The downtown district is nothing like it used to be,” I told him, “and it’s still undergoing an amazing transformation.”

Indeed, the city’s change has been dramatic.

We moved to Amarillo in early 1995. I went to work at the Globe-News’ office downtown. I was struck by how quiet it was. I learned of the “main drag” that used to run along Polk Street. The blocks between Seventh and Ninth Avenues were virtually desolate.

They are no longer desolate. There has been a tremendous infusion of business activity along Polk. And along Buchanan Street. So, too, along 10th Avenue.

There’s tremendous construction clamor occurring as crews work to finish ongoing projects. The Potter County Courthouse complex restoration has transformed the courthouse square. County commissioners have just voted to proceed with a $54 million construction of a new courts building.

And, let’s not ignore Hodgetown, the new ballpark that is getting the finishing touches in time for the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ home baseball opener in a couple of weeks.

The medical complex on the far west end of the city is growing. Texas Tech University is pushing ahead with construction of a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. Medical clinics are popping up throughout the area.

Texas highway planners are tearing the daylights out of Interstates 40 and 27. City street repair is diverting traffic throughout the community.

Has the city undergone change? Uhh, yeah! It has!

Part of me wishes we could watch it unfold in real time. A bigger part of me enjoys seeing the result of all that effort upon our occasional return trips to the place we called home.

Hard to let go of those Panhandle issues

My wife and I are settled nicely now in Collin County, Texas. We are purchasing a new home and our beloved puppy, Toby, is running himself ragged in his new back yard.

But the blog keeps gravitating back to the community we left after living there for 23 years.

Amarillo, Texas, is the place we called “home” for the longest stretch of our married life together. Indeed, we spent roughly half of our life there. I had a great job, and my wife also found solid gainful employment during our years there.

It is hard for me to give up on commenting on issues that still matter to me. Downtown Amarillo’s rebirth still has my attention. So does the incessant street and highway construction. The same can be said of the local political leadership comprising individuals I got to know quite well during my time as a journalist.

With that, I guess I will declare that High Plains Blogger will continue to comment on Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle.

I feel I developed sufficient familiarity with the issues that are driving Amarillo to enable me to keep abreast of what is happening there even as we pursue our retired life together in Princeton. We surely intend to continue focusing our attention on our granddaughter, who — after all — is the reason we uprooted ourselves from our Amarillo home and relocated to the Metroplex.

Nor will I fail to take note of the places we intend to visit as we continue our travels throughout North America. It’s a huge world out there and I want to share what we find along our journey.

Still, I keep hearing the call to comment on a community I got to know pretty well. So, I will answer that call when it moves me.

It’s impossible to say “farewell.”

Happy Trails, Part 145: Yes, we like this better

I cannot believe this question stumped me for a moment . . . but, it did.

My wife and I were closing on the purchase of our new home in Princeton, Texas, when we hit a quiet spell in the process. The title clerk asked a simple question: Do you like it better here than Amarillo? 

That’s a direct question, yes? Of course it is! However, there are some hidden complexities in it.

I froze for just a bit. I rolled it around in my head, trying to figure out the best way to answer it.

Here’s what I came up with:

Amarillo is a lovely city. It is growing. It has about 200,000 residents, which makes it a significant community. We made many friends there and we’ll miss seeing them. The major difference between there and here is that despite the size of Amarillo, it’s out there all by itself. In order to get anywhere in the Texas Panhandle, to see or do anything in a place other than Amarillo, you’ve got drive a long way. 

That is not nearly the situation in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Here, we are surrounded by, well . . . damn near everything!

We live in Fairview at the moment. Princeton will be our home in short order. Princeton is not far from McKinney, Allen, Plano, Frisco, Richardson, Carrollton and Dallas. If we want to drive just a little bit farther, we can find things to do and see in Grapevine, Arlington, Keller and Fort Worth.

It’s a fairly significant leap to move from a metro area comprising about 500,000 residents to a metro area that is home to more than 7 million folks. Thus, one can get lost in the crowd here, unlike in Amarillo, where one can see the same folks almost weekly just when you go about your day.

Of course, I didn’t factor into my answer the most significant reason why we like it “better” here than Amarillo. That would be our granddaughter, Emma, who is the primary reason we moved from there to here in the first place.

Thus, do we like it better here than we did in the place where we used to live? Yep. Absolutely!

Happy Trails, Part 144: The move-in will commence

PRINCETON, Texas — Pardon me for showing you this picture once again. I just have to divulge that we’ve signed on many dotted lines. We did so late this morning as we “closed” on the purchase of our “forever home.”

So what happens now?

The move-in will commence. However, given that we’re now retired and given also that we have a bit of time left before our tenancy in our apartment expires, we’re going to take just a bit of time to make this move.

But . . . not too much time.

We’ve got some muscle signed up to help us. Our sons are here. Both of ’em. So we’re going to employ them for as long as we can. We’ll be moving smaller items in our vehicles over the course of the next several days.

This move is a bit different from any we’ve done before. For example, the most recent relocation before this one occurred in March 2018. We vacated our house in Amarillo and moved into our fifth wheel. We emptied the house of all its furnishings, putting them in storage. We painted the place. We replaced some fixtures, seeking to “modernize” them.

Then we accepted an offer. We intended to close a bit later than we did, but the buyer wanted in right away. We had to expedite the move before we shoved off on an RV trip we had planned. We got a little frazzled as we signed the house away.

I don’t expect any frazzling to occur with this move. We have decided to be deliberate, systematic, highly choreographed.

But today was a huge day in our retirement journey. We intended to make our apartment our “forever home.” It didn’t work out that way.

Now, however, we believe we have found the end of our rainbow.

It’s a beautiful sight.

Happy Trails, Part 142: Moving into transition

One of the more exciting aspects about the next — and hopefully final — stop on our retirement journey has been the changing nature of the community we’re going to call home.

Princeton, Texas, sits east of McKinney — the Collin County seat. The next town to the east along U.S. 380 is Farmersville; the one after that is Greenville, hometown of the late Audie Murphy, the Medal of Honor recipient and the Army’s most decorated soldier of World War II.

Princeton is still a rural community. It is home to around 10,000 residents. When you drive east from McKinney you see lots of orange barrels, cones and “Road Work Ahead” signs. They’re tearing up the highway, expanding it, improving access and exits.

The residential neighborhood we’re entering also is under construction. Indeed, our street is cluttered with construction vehicles.

I am getting the strong sense that McKinney is inching its way east toward Princeton. The rural community will become an urban one in due course.

It has all the requisite urban accoutrements: a postal ZIP code, plenty of commercial outlets, heavy traffic (at times), traffic signals, sewer service. You know, all those things associated with urban life.

I find it strangely exciting to witnessing this change from the front end. We had a similar ringside seat to all that change in Amarillo. We moved into our newly built house in late 1996. Our home was one block from civilization as we knew it in Amarillo. Beyond the busy street to our west were literally miles of pasture land. You could hear coyotes yipping and yapping in the early morning hours when you went out to fetch the newspaper.

It all changed rapidly. They built the Greenways residential complex west of Coulter Street. It went up in a major hurry. The range land gave way to manicured lawns. Urbana arrived in far west Amarillo.

We’re going to witness it yet again in our new home.

I plan to welcome the change . . . as long as it arrives in an orderly fashion.