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Summer Fun: Kids These Days

Summer Fun continues with Nina on the Texas State Capitol

By Nina Hernandez, 1:45PM, Tue. May. 14, 2013

Back in the day, when our elementary school classes went to tour the Texas State Capitol, we were really there, man, analog, truly in the moment… not like kids these days.


The Texas State Capitol
photo by Devaki Knowles

I decided to refresh my memories from those school days and head over to the pink dome to take a tour of the capitol building with my friend and fellow intern Neha.

We watched tour after tour of third graders wearing matching T-shirts crowd around in the rotunda, clasping their digital cameras and smart phones. Even our tour guide used an iPad to show us pictures. Back in our day (the early 2000s) we had, at best, an old Kodak wind-up disposable camera. I couldn't even tell if most of these kids had two eyes — they were glued to their point-and-clicks.

It always amazes me how much stuff you just don’t listen to when you’re a kid. Especially now with distractions like answering texts and clicking away on cameras. Maybe at the ripe old age of 21, I'm old-fashioned, but I feel that these modern conveniences take you out of the experience. I may not remember every detail about the capitol's history from my grade-school days, but there are distinct feelings and memories for me, associated with the seals on that floor. We were wide-eyed, ecstatic to be away from our desks for a few hours. If we wanted a photo we had to click, click, click to take each one, and we couldn't pace ourselves, so by the middle of the day there would be no film left.

The two pearly white sculptures that frame the rotunda on the south side of the Capitol were done by Elisabet Ney, whose museum I also visited during my early years. When we took our tour, I was a little confused when our guide said Elizabeth Ney sculpted Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. Ney is just obscure enough that I questioned myself. Maybe I’d gotten the name wrong? I haven't been to that museum for many years. I mostly remember the old house having a distinctly spooky vibe.

But before we walked downstairs, our very kind and otherwise knowledgeable guide informed us we couldn’t go upstairs into the House of Representatives or the Senate because the “legislation” was in session. Are we talking about the same thing? At the time my friend and I shared a tiny chuckle, but now I’m wondering if this woman wasn’t messing with us a little bit. She didn’t misuse any other words in the entire 30 minutes we’d known her. Just those two words. Was it some kind of game? What little things would I flub if I had to give the same speech multiple times a day? Legislation? Is anybody listening? Okay, I'll admit I'm being a little paranoid.

We were treated to some facts about the ladies of the Texas legislature. Barbara Jordan is one of my favorites, the first African-American woman elected to the Texas Senate, but we also heard about Rep. Senfronia Thompson, who has been in the Texas house since 1972. We also learned about Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade.

After the tour wraps up inside, take a stroll around the grounds. A self-guided tour that highlights various memorials and statues is available for download from the capitol website.


The Fireman's Monument at the Texas State Capitol
photo by KXM

Check out the Volunteer Firefighters Memorial; it has been around since 1896. Since then, the memorial has run out of space to carve names of volunteer fighters killed in the line of duty, a problem since the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas took the lives of 12 first responders last month. There are tentative plans to expand the existing memorial to include names of the most recent fallen.


Little DUDE!
photo by KXM

If you take a closer look at the Volunteer Firefighters Memorial (and either possess eagle-eye super powers or a decent zoom on your camera), you'll find the mini firefighter holding up the shield which tops the statue's hat. It's a tiny little touch, but could be a comment on the work these men and women do (especially in these Texas summers) for us. Any of the kids we saw humming with energy around this old, granite building could be the next generation of firefighters propping up this noble tradition, if they take their noses out of their gadgets long enough to be moved by what there is to feel at the Texas State Capitol.

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