You got me Vintage Houston Commercials for Christmas? How Remarkable!

Merry Christmas Eve y’all I hope this post finds you well on this unseasonably warm morning. Although not unwelcome by folks like me, who prefer to stay out of the cold. To mark the special occasion, we’re taking a look at some presents left by an Anonymous visitor, though not necessarily through the chimney. While I’ll leave the joy of “opening” these presents until you read the post, I will note that what we’re taking a look at today are all vintage Houston commercials that ran from the mid 80s to early 90s.

Sign-On

You wake up early, too early. You tip toe out of bed to see who else is awake. With your siblings and parents still asleep and the tempting Christmas present sitting just feet away you decide to sit on the couch on flip on the tube. Being up before the sun is out, you manage to catch the TV sign-on. After hearing a very familiar voice explain what was going on, you pause a moment to listen to the national anthem. Christmas day or not, it still plays welcoming you to what’s going to be a great day of TV, and an even better day of presents.

 

After sitting still through all of 20 minutes of claymation reindeer and a fuzzy yeti, you’re not all too enthralled by you begin to see sunlight peek above the horizon. You use the aid of the new light to begin to size up presents which were not there the night before. Without a chimney in Texas, you’re not totally unsure how Santa gets in, but it obviously works. The dim but persistent yellow, golden rays of hope start to permeate into your parent’s room, as you ever so expertly tilt the window blinds to let the perfect angle of sun in. Quickly running to wake your equally excited siblings for their presents

Local Color

It’s early in the morning, you’re excited to open your presents, but you have to wait! Mom and dad aren’t ready yet, they need to get up have coffee and pull out the camera. They’re really dragging behind for such an important morning, you’re not the only who Santa brought presents for, but of course you’re oblivious to the true reason for their late night. With the screaming singing chorus of your brothers or sisters, you beg for your parents to wake up. The blinds you expertly adjusted, no longer blocking the sun, do an even better job at rousing your drowsy parents’ attention. While being rushed out of their room so they can “get ready”, you’re told to go change into your Christmas PJs, to look good for the photos you’ll send to grandma and grandpa!

Unwilling to change into pajamas that have been two sizes too small for three Christmases now, you instead choose to head back to the TV. While you try scoping out your presents, you can’t tell much through the thick wrapping paper. You sit down just as a block of commercials starts. It’s still early in the morning, as the national sponsors haven’t taken over. Lots of local commercials catch your attention. Here goes this guy with his mattress shtick again, you think to yourself. He’s been hocking furniture out of a set of abandoned model homes of I-45 North. I don’t know anyone dumb enough to buy from him, but I’ve heard he’s a shady character. I’d bet within a few years, this guy is gone.

 

 

You get yelled at to change again. Your other set of grandparents will be joining you for Christmas supper this year, and you need to look presentable when they get here. This upsets you some, because it now means that you must wait to open the majority of your presents. It’s been a good year, so you’ll probably get away with one in the early morning, but everything else will have to wait. The upside to it, means that you’re now getting more presents, although what those could be is a mixed bag. Grandparents were always the wild card in Christmas going all out, or for clothing from a strangely named regional department store. The next commercial catches your eye, you hope to not end up looking like the kids in the commercial.

 

Barring ending up as a “Weiner Class Hit”, your best bet for something from your grandparents is that remote control car you’ve been eyeing. It’s super cool, and it goes really fast. Even still, your older sibling talks down on the idea of you getting a remote control car. They say it’s a baby’s toy, and they’re too mature to ask for something like a toy anyway. They should know, as they’re 15 almost 16, one of the coolest ages alive. To show how mature they are this year, they asked Santa for a water bed, but they said Santa was fake, and your parents wouldn’t let them get a water bed anyway. Just as the thought leaves your mind, your sibling plops down next to you on the couch and begins flipping channels.

 

After having the TV swiped, you run back upstairs and get ready to unwrap presents. Mom has decided she’s going to cook breakfast. One of the rare occasions that she does, but it is welcomed. So of course this means another 2-3 hour delay until you can open your presents. It’s already well past light outside, and some kids on your block are already playing with their gifts. You make your way outside your house to see what’s going on in the neighborhood. Riding your bike up and down the street, you see a few kids on new bikes but not a whole lot else. Although one sign of civilization continues, you can smell the Two Pesos Tacos across the neighborhood begin to heat up the grill, open 24/7-365 of course!

 

Most every other place in the area is closed, including your normal hang out spot, the parking lot of the local Burger King. Riding back around to the other side of the neighborhood, you decide to run across the unofficial meetup spot amongst your friends. It’s the backside of an old nursery building. Technically, it’s trespassing, but Mr. Teas the owner is pretty nice about it, and besides none of your friends dirty up the place. While you wheel by with high hopes to see what your friends got, you leave empty-handed and head back home.

 

Heading back into the house, you find the TV once again vacated. Plopping yourself down to waste away some more time, until you can tear into that wrapping paper. The commercials now are practically screaming at you to come buy things! There are a few chains that seem to be constantly liquidating or going out of business, and the deals they advertise seem good enough. Although, your parents always shy away from them, claiming they’re all scams or rip-offs. Either way, this one for Stereo Warehouse seems to pull you into the idea of getting a personal Hi-Fi for Christmas!

 

Just as you’re getting comfy watching TV, your parents finally are ready for you all to sit down for breakfast. Just as you get ready to stand up and walk away from the couch, a litany of food service commercials begin to play. Although you’re not the biggest fan of some of the commercials, for places like Chili’s or Casa Ole, one comes on just as you’re walking away that entices you to stay and watch. Randall’s, it’s your families normal grocery spot, this reminds you to rush to the kitchen! You hurriedly rush to eat your breakfast in anticipation of the wrapped boxes neatly tucked under the base of the Christmas Tree. Just as you finish eating, your grandparents arrive, and you quickly rip into the packages. Tearing the wrapping paper off at speeds unimaginable by anyone who wasn’t there to see it happen.

 

With family around to chat, you’re not to be playing with your toys, as that’s impolite around company. You are oddly allowed to watch a bit more TV while some coffee is brewed for your grandparents to chat over. Although, you are given an ultimatum to put something Christmas-y on, or turn off the TV. After a few minutes of aimless channel surfing you roll onto one of the independent stations, maybe 20 or 39, playing an old black and white Christmas movie. After only a few seconds of this, you’re again treated to a commercial block. Being midday by now, commercials are popping up for larger national chains. There are ones for Home Depot, Ross, tons for fast food like Jack in the Box, Popeyes, and Long John Silvers. There are even a couple for Sears, despite the fact all of these places are closed today! The next retailer is barely even operating in Houston, despite airing commercials here non-stop. It’s this new place, called Wal-Mart, and while it looks cool, it’s not a match for Kmart.

After what feels like grueling hours of listening to your parents and grandparents go on and admonishing praise upon you loudly and publically, you’re loaded up with hugs and kisses and your grandparents finally depart. You’re dismissed to go play with your new toys until dinner is ready, a task you’re more than happy to accomplish. After what are actually hours of uninterrupted play, you’re eventually called down for dinner. In a rare treat, everything is set up to watch TV while eating dinner. There are so many good movies on, who could blame your parents! With good movies, come good commercials. Including restaurants like Black Eyed Pea. The next ad has left a multigenerational earworm throughout Southeast Texas, and it’s great.

 

After an extended and shockingly quiet dinner, the dishes are put away and the Christmas entertainment on TV is resumed as a silent family activity. Everyone has had a long day, so this downtime together is cherished, not wasted. Getting later and later into the night moving from one Christmas movie to the next, before you know it, you’re coming up onto the news. You know this of course because of the ad breaks that are split between a quick news update and a tiny commercial, usually for a major sponsor. The one tonight is being run by Fiesta, you’re fairly certain it’s the new NASA Road 1 being featured. The one with the Hydroponic Gardens!

 

Finally, as it gets closer to bedtime, the excitement of playing with your new presents begins to lose to your sleepiness. The commercials begin to revert back to indpendents, like Computer City (not the Tandy one), and the Colonial House Apartments. It’s been a great day. Getting to see all your family together, you got every present you asked for. Even your older sibling got their waterbed, although it was mom and dads old one. The cares of the world sink away as you prepare yourself for tomorrow. A second day of playing with everything fresh and brand new. It almost comes at a dream like state, but by this point we have reached the end of Christmas day so the following plays on TV.

 

Merry Christmas everyone, thanks for a great year of support. Please let me know what you liked best this year (Grocery stores, Dead Malls, Retail News etc…) in the comments!

6 comments

  1. Hey, Santa and I have the same kind of VCR! Er, oh, wait, lol. Contrary to any rumors which might be circulating, that VCR is not the same one that was thrown into the pool of the Colonial House Apartments!

    I will say that a VHS Christmas is my kind of Christmas. As for what I liked best this year, well, it’s hard to pick just one thing. I thought the Month of Malls posts were great. It was a lot of fun writing the Willowbrook one (with many contributions from Mike and our friend Je) and it was even more fun reading Mike and billytheskink’s posts. Naturally, reading about historic supermarkets is great as well. I think my favorite (and most unexpected) post this year was the return of Sears…to a Houston-area mall no less! At least one mall, it looks like there might be more to write about this situation in 2022!

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    1. Thank you for all your contributions this year. I’m glad I have folks like you to help out, and spice things up every once in a while. Also I want to extend a special thanks to Santa, whoever it was for finding those tapes. I mean hmm I wonder who I know that might have some old recordings on physical media lying around?

  2. Merry Christmas indeed! I may like this better than any gifts I’ll get… don’t tell my wife.

    Now to scour an antiques store for a Two Pesos frisbee and see if Taco Cabana will kick me out for tossing it across the patio.

    1. Ha, I would argue that, but my incredible wife got me a Reproduction Cocktail Table Ms. Pacman, with a bunch of games on it. Maybe I could make up some Two Pesos decals to apply on the side for authenticity!

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