As remembered by Bill Christensen
In the early days of Radiance we had two big driving forces:
- get our people living on the property
- funding: we had purchased more land than we needed (942.6 acres compared to the ~250 we estimated would be needed for Radiance itself), so we needed to either sell some of that property or get some investors to work with us in developing it.
Those two forces came close to a head-on collision one day in the early ’80s.
In order to accomplish the first goal we began to ‘colonize’ the valley between a couple of the hills near the entry with older houses slated for demolition, bought cheap and moved in. Four came from the properties next to the then- TM Center/DevCo offices at 2806 Nueces St, sold to become yet another condo development. A fifth was the original Christal ranch house, moved from a spot very near the current entrance to The Colony just barely off the current path of Crystal Hills Drive into the valley with the other moved-in houses. They were all tucked into the valley where they’d be functional but out of sight of visitors such as potential land buyers and land investors because quite honestly they were a bit run-down and weren’t likely to impress the deep-pockets crowd.
One enterprising community member, Bob Massey, who was working on founding Radiance Growers, found a couple more. One was a small, nondescript box. But the other! Oh my… it was two small, home-built domes connected by a vaulted passageway, probably built in the late ’60s. Very hippy. Painted a hideous bright green on the interior. Round “bubble” windows bulged out in several places. And to top it off, the entire exterior was covered with greying cedar shakes. Between the rough cedar and the bubble windows, it looked like a furry Pac-Man!
Bob was a practical guy and didn’t really care about the way it looked. He just wanted an inexpensive place where he and his wife Merilyn could sleep and eat. The price was right – it’s possible that the previous owner paid for some or all of the moving costs just to get it gone, it was that ugly.
Moving day comes. The house movers pick it up one evening and drive it to the 290/71 Y in Oak Hill, where they had to leave it by the side of the road until daylight. (At the time, the City required that house moving be done at night to avoid impacting traffic… but the County required that it be done during the day for visibility on the [then] less traveled rural roads.) Early in the day the semi- sleep deprived house moving crew begins the slow second part of the journey down narrow, hilly, twisty FM 1826.
Pac-Man eventually lumbers, swaying a bit, over the last hill toward the entrance to Crystal Hills Drive. Slowly it makes the turn and eases its way over the gracefully arched bridge on Spring Hollow Creek, just barely avoiding the stone columns. Also just barely avoiding bottoming out on the arch. And then it stops. In the middle of the bridge.
Coincidentally, DevCo President Walter Reifslager had arranged to meet some potential deep-pocket investors at the property on the same day.
The ancient live oaks on either side of the road on the south side of the bridge, which we committed tree-huggers had so carefully snaked the road between, had some limbs which Pac-Man just couldn’t get under. On all the previous house moves, the crews had been able to drop the roof (and in the case of the biggest house, completely removed the 2nd story) to avoid things like traffic lights and low hanging telephone/electrical wires. But because Pac-Man was two attached domes it wasn’t possible to lower the roof on it without destroying what little structural integrity it might still have. They’d managed to get it all the way there in one piece but it wouldn’t fit under those limbs.
As Pac-Man sits blocking the entry, with the DevCo ‘ground crew’ and the house movers standing around scratching their heads trying to come up alternative ways to deal with the situation, Walter comes flying up in his shiny new Suburban, dressed in a suit, ready to sell the project to the investors.
Thankfully the ensuing conversation wasn’t recorded for posterity.
Eventually long enough ladders and a chainsaw are gathered.
Walter paces, looks at his watch.
Ladders are set up.
Walter looks at his watch again, looks up 1826 for any signs of the investors.
Chainsaw started and passed up to the guy on the ladder.
First limb done.
Walter, visibly sweating, looks at his watch and up 1826 again as the ladder is reset.
The second limb gets its haircut.
Finally there’s just barely enough room to squeak Pac-Man under.
Slowly, painfully slowly, the truck pulling Pac-Man resumes its journey up Crystal Hills Drive. It makes the turn onto Colony Road. It crests the hill.
Just as the last sight of it disappears over the hill the investors roll up, apologizing for being “a bit late”.
I don’t know for sure if we ended up in a deal with those investors, but I don’t think we did.
Furry Pac-Man housed Bob and Merilyn and some later residents for a good decade or more before being removed.