How Different Things Were In 1960 In Austin

A while back on another group I’m on, we were commenting about Bruce’s & Barnett’s Fried Pies made me think about the other things that were happening around Austin around that same time. It made me realize how simple our lives were almost six decades ago.

The selections of eateries was really limited, but people didn’t eat out very often. Eating out was a special occasion instead of a way of life. My first memory of eating in a real restaurant was when I was 6 or 7. We were traveling home to Jollyville and it was getting late so we stopped at Hill’s Cafe on South Congress. We each got steaks, small cuts most likely, that they called their “Sizzler”. I still remember the sound those hot metal plates of steak made. An occasional trip to 2-J’s Burgers was the only other eating out I remember back in that time period.

Most all shopping was still done downtown. There were a few, what we call strip centers now. Capitol Plaza was coming but didn’t open until 1961 or 1962. Hancock Center came into being in the middle of that decades, but Highland Mall didn’t appear until the early 70’s.

Then there was the issue of cars. There were only the big 4 car companies. That is if one considered American Motors – Rambler a real car company.

In Austin I can’t really remember who the Rambler dealer was in the 1960.

General Motors had Capital Chevrolet and Covert Oldmobile, Buick and Cadillac, both downtown on 5th Street. Jack Stableford was the Pontiac Dealer, but can’t remember the location.

Simmons Motor Company was the Plymouth and maybe they also carried Dodge and Chrysler Automobiles. They were up around 10th and Lamar.

The Ford Dealer was Armstrong-Johnson (now Lief Johnson). It was way out north on Lamar, just south of Airport Blvd. The may have still operated the showroom downtown on 1st at South First. My dad made a purchase of a 1960 Ford Falcon, the year they were introduced.

Roy Butler started his Lincoln – Mercury business in 1960. I’m not sure who sold Lincoln’s prior to Roy Butler.

Foreign cars were mostly limited to Volkswagen and Datsun. VW was either the small doodle bug car or a VW Bus. Datsun was mostly a sub par vehicle with lots of mechanical problems. A decade later they would be rebranded Nissan, to help escape an earlier bad reputation. Honda only made motorcycles and wouldn’t enter the car market for another decade. In the later 60s, we’d skip school and go out on East 6th St to marvel at the Honda Motorcycles.

The 1960 census listed the population of Austin at 186,545. So it wasn’t a small place back then. People’s buying habits and customs were just so much different back then. Six decades later the population of Austin was just over five times as large, to just under a million people. But look at the difference in places to eat, shop and entertain ourselves. More than 5 times as many. More than 50 times as many, it seems like. Count the number of movie screens then and now. There is a fast food place on every corner. More Shopping Centers and Malls are popping up each day. Compare the number of supermarkets then and today, let alone the floor space of each.

Austin was mostly a city unto itself in 1960. Now the little towns in every direction have become connected to Austin city limits, bringing the total metropolitan population to around 2 million.

Yes, I’d say things have really changed.

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