At East Austin reunion, ex-residents revel in neighborhood nostalgia


Kirt Reed walks into the old house on Garden Street that he lived in as a boy and points at a picture on the wall.

“That’s me,” he says, gesturing toward a photo of a little boy and girl on a pony tied to a house.

The picture was taken in the 1940s, and other neighbors quickly come by and say they have a picture just like it. A photographer would come by with the pony and knock on doors asking if people wanted their picture taken.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to come and see this house that we used to live in,” Reed said.

Reed is one of about 20 people who turned out for the eighth annual Garden Street Reunion on Saturday. Every year, the reunion brings together people who lived in the neighborhood in the 1940s.

They eat, laugh and reminisce about how things used to be: how they didn’t lock their doors, even when they went away for a few days; how the corner store used to run out of bubble gum during World War II; and how they used to play football on streets made of gravel.

“I love reunions,” said Ralph Caballero, who laughed as he remembered how as a kid he had fallen off a nearby home while searching for his toy bow and arrow set. “I see people that I never see anymore.”

People come from as close as nearby neighborhoods in Austin and as far as Louisiana.

The idea began in 2008, when Kirt Reed’s older brother, Jimmy, started contemplating getting the kids from his old neighborhood back together. He had attended reunions for the 10th Ward in East Austin — an enclave east of Congress Avenue, roughly from Fifth Street to Lady Bird Lake — but he wanted something unique for his neighborhood. That year, the 10th Ward Reunion was canceled and Jimmy Reed pushed forward with his idea.

One day shortly after, Kirt Reed drove by the old house at 1309 Garden St. where they used to live and asked his older sister to stand in front of the house so he could take a picture.

Janine Bergin, who lives across the street, came out of her home and asked what they were doing. Kirt Reed told her he used to live in the home and mentioned that he and his brother wanted to organize a reunion. Bergin offered her home as a site for the reunion, and it’s been happening every year since.

“It’s unbelievable,” Kirt Reed said. “When you get together, it’s like you never left, like you picked up a conversation from last week.”

This year’s reunion had special meaning because many of the old cottages on the street are being restored by developers — welcome news to old and current residents alike, who feared they would be demolished in favor of new buildings.

“This brings back so many memories in this house,” Reed said. “That’s why I’m so glad that whoever bought it is going to restore it.”


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