USS Texas

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The USS Texas is located in the same spot as the San Jacinto Monument and battlefield, so we combined both attractions in one day. Here is the link to my post about the battlefield and monument. https://texastalesblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/san-jacinto-monument-and-battlefield/

The USS Texas was in service in both WWI and WWII. The USS Texas is the only remaining battleship that participated in both wars.

I really didn’t know what to expect about the USS Texas, but I was surprised in a good way. Even though a lot of the ship is blocked off because of restorations, we still felt like we had reign of most of the ship. Exploring all over is encouraged. We were going up and down hall ways, getting lost around corners, and going up and down all sorts of stair cases.

My favorite was seeing the beds, (yikes, couldn’t have been that comfortable sleeping) the soda fountain, and just other aspects of their daily life such as the barber shop and the dentist. Some of the machine guns on the top deck were steerable, so you could climb on up and aim the guns around!

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San Jacinto Monument and Battlefield

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San Jacinto Battlefield, about 20 miles from where we live, on the outskirts of the city, is the site where Texans won their independence from Mexico on April 21, 1836.

Any time someone found out I was into history, they recommended coming to the site.

The highlight of the battlefield is a large monument, larger than Washington monument in D.C. I guess everything really is BIGGER in Texas.

Driving up to the battlefield, we could see the monument from a few miles away. Derek commented that it was awful that there was so much built up right around it (it is right on the bustling ship channel) but that’s really no different than what you would see at Gettyburg. Once we were on the battlefield inside the park, the ship channel seemed further away.

The battle was a surprise attack and lasted 18 minutes.  The General of the Mexican Army, Santa Anna, was captured. In exchange for his freedom, he signed a treaty recognizing Texas’ independence.

There is a small museum in the base of the monument. Admission is free, but you can pay for extra exhibits and a 20 minute film. We paid to go to the observation level.

Afterwards, we took one of the few trails through the battlefields and found some monuments. The walk would have lasted longer, but being near the ship channel, the mosquitoes were out and we got bitten a lot! After that we stuck to driving around in the car.

It was a good day trip and we learned some more Texas history. It was great that it was so close to the city. After the battlefield we headed on over to the USS Texas, which was right across from the monument. Stay tuned for a post about that.

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This iron spike, found in the ground where Santa Anna camped, may have been used to secure his tent.

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Personal items belonging to Stephen Austin (whom the capitol of Austin, Texas is named after.)

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Personal items belonging to Sam Houston. Houston fought in the battle, and later became the president of the Republic of Texas. When Texas became a state, he served as governor.

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View from the observation floor.

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National Museum of Funeral History

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Yes, you read the title right. There is a National Museum of Funeral History in Houston. I visited there yesterday to write an article for work. The museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall.

The museum truly lives up to the “history” part of the title. I interviewed the president of the museum, and I told her that there were similar items in the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C.

Someone might say, who the heck wants to go to a funeral museum, but it really was fascinating. There are many different exhibits, all focusing on a different aspect.

For instance, there was an extensive collection of hearses and coffins, and some of them were really ornate like a white children’s hearse from the 1800s.

There was also a section dedicated to famous people who have passed on, a Day of the Dead altar and a section about presidential funerals. I loved seeing more artifacts from Abraham Lincoln’s funeral! They even have the hearse that carried Presidents Regan and Ford!

Visitors to the museum can also learn about the history of embalming, starting with the Egyptians and then during the Civil War.

The biggest area of the museum was an exhibit on the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II, and a look at Popes in general. This was a collaboration with the Vatican itself, so a lot of the items were authentic.

I was surprised in a good way by what I found, and learned, at the museum. If you are looking for something to do in Houston that is different, look no further.

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Holocaust Museum

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Last week I went to the Holocaust Museum. It is much smaller than the one in Washington D.C., but no less powerful. They had quite the collection of interesting artifacts.

I was not able to take photos within the exhibits, but I took notes of the things that I found to be interesting, or moving:

A German passport stamped with a big “J” to identify the person as Jewish,

A baby spoon with a Swastika engraved in it,

Propaganda books for children. There was a photo with a caption that read, “He who fights against the Jews wrestles with the devil,”

Cobble stones from the Warsaw, Poland ghetto,

A deportation notice from a Benjamin Wassermann, donated to the museum from Wassermann himself, (Could you imagine holding on to that all those years?)

A Zyklon B gas canister that was used at Auschwitz, (Zyklon B is what was used in the gas chambers)

And perhaps most moving of all, was the soil from camps in the memorial room, with the inscription “The soil from these six concentration and extermination camps contains the ashes of those who perished in the Holocaust.”

One thing that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life is an image taken by one of the liberators at the Buchenwald concentration camp: It was a photo of the crematorium, and you could see rib cage bones still intact among the ashes.

Outside, there was a rail car like one of the ones that would have transported the Jews to the camps, and a Danish fishing boat like the ones that helped the Jews escape to neutral Sweden.

I am interested in the Holocaust, so I am always trying to learn about it. After being to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. three times, I have to admit that I expected to not learn anything new. I was wrong though. One thing that I found particularly interesting was that college students at the University of Munich formed a resistance group called The White Rose. The leaders of the group were executed. I’m really glad to live in a world today where we have the freedom to protest.

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George Ranch Historical Park

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I love history. And I love photography. I discovered a place where I could combine my love of both: The George Ranch Historical Park.

The GRHP is 26 miles southwest of Houston, perfect for a day trip. The park features four homes belonging to four generations of one Texan family, ranging from the 1830s to the 1940s. It is a whole lot of history packed into one area!

The first home is an 1830s cabin. The second home is an 1860s home with a chuckwagon set up outside. The third house is an expansive Victorian 1890s home (with a second sharecropper home off to the side.) The last home is from the 1940s. At each home, a costumed person takes you through the rooms of the house and explains what life would have been like for the family back then. Extras included a working blacksmith shop and cattle demonstrations. There was so much to look at! The park really outdid themselves in the details.

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The Menil Collection

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Last weekend Derek and I spent a Saturday afternoon checking out the Menil Collection, which is the largest private art collection in the gallery.

I was not allowed to take pictures inside the galleries, but photos were allowed in the corridors.

Some highlights of the collection included indigenous people’s art (the masks, carvings and the woven blankets were fascinating) a room dedicated to Pablo Picasso’s drawings, and Andy Warhol paintings.

My favorite Picasso was a series called “The Bull.” In each drawing, the drawing of the bull gets stripped down of the basics.

Here is an article describing The Bull, along with pictures: http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/animals_in_art/pablo_picasso.htm.

I enjoyed seeing one of Warhol’s famous chicken soup can paintings, and a large bright painting titled “Flowers.”  Check this link to see the series: http://revolverwarholgallery.com/power-behind-andy-warhols-flowers/

My personal favorite was a drawing by Henri Matisse, because I wrote a paper on him last year in school. It is awesome to be able to learn something, and then actually be able to go see it.

Here is a link to that drawing: https://www.menil.org/collection/objects/16662-studies-for-the-spire-of-the-chapelle-rosaire-des-dominicaines-de-vence-etudes-pour-l-aiguille-du-chapelle-du-rosaire-des-dominicaines-de-vence

Some history: Towards the end of Matisse’s life, he helped design a chapel in the south of France. This drawing features sketches of the spire of the chapel.

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An Andy Warhol painting titled “Ice Box.”

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Galveston Railroad Museum

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When dad was here for the week helping us move in, we wanted to have one day of fun and go to Galveston.

My dad and I are big train buffs, so we were happy to discover that there was a railroad museum.

The entrance, ticket booth and gift shop were in the actual old train station building, which was impressive in its own right.

There were lots of engines, cars and cabooses to check out. Highlights for me included the mail car, seeing the kitchen inside the dining cars and going inside the caboose. It was also cool to see the old 1950’s style sleeper cabins. So tiny!

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