CAMDEN Have you ever had a really good friend who you described to others as being “such a HOOT?” This is how I describe my friend from real estate days, Pollyann Anderson. She is now 87 and we correspond through phone calls and letters because she refuses to own a computer.
She came to our Houston office from one in Dallas in 1983. She was a beautiful woman with pretty white hair and big brown eyes and came with a letter of recommendation from her former office. It was a humorous letter read to us by our owner in which her former broker tried to prepare us for this extremely personable - but somewhat eccentric - agent who was joining our firm. “A bit ‘quirky’ though exceptionally smart,” the broker wrote.
Pollyann grew up on the banks of the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida. Her family home was featured in “Southern Living,” and she was truly a lady of the South in manner and preference. A music major, she graduated from the highly prestigious Mary Baldwin College, so she wasn’t dumb. She transferred her membership in the Assistance League to Houston, and joined the River Oaks Baptist Church.
She came to us with “connections.”
At first, we didn’t know what to do with her. We loved to watch her bow and cover her face with her skirt when she became really tickled about something. We enjoyed the sound of her high-pitched, raucous laughter.
I was the lucky one. I became her best friend for more than eight years before she moved back to Jacksonville to live with her 90-plus-year-old father after the death of her husband. In the meantime, I had these stories about her to remember:
It soon became a known fact that calamity often followed in Pollyann’s footsteps. Before leaving Dallas, she was showing a large property to a very wealthy man who was also a photography buff. He brought along one of his more expensive cameras to film the rooms. He asked her to hold it for him while he examined the butler’s pantry. She promptly dropped it and shattered the lens. He bought the house anyway after a small discussion with the broker.
At our company, she decided to become a ‘lister’ in order to keep from driving the freeways which terrified her. Once, while living in Virginia, she drove all the way to Delaware and into Washington D.C. in a state of panic while attempting to pick up her husband at the airport.
Do you recall the Kingston Trio lyrics of “The Man Who Never Returned” while riding the MTA? Well, she remained on a NYC subway for 11 hours one day!
One of the first homes she listed with us was that of a close friend from the Assistance League. The house was gorgeous and the garage housed two Mercedes. While showing the house to a potential buyer, the garage door came crashing down to the driveway (she had been a bit too strong with the rope when she was unable to work the control) missing one car by mere inches.
Our company did a lot of relocation work with various petroleum companies. These were sure ‘deals’ and everyone wanted to become part of a team with assured commissions. During one move, the group was so large the broker had to recruit other agents than those of us already working. Pollyann signed up and even agreed to drive the freeways if that is what it took to get her on board.
Her first customer was awarded, and the couple was interested in The Woodlands north of Houston. Unfortunately, one must use I-45 to get there. As her best friend, I stepped in to help. We made a ‘trial run’ up I-45 and inside the massive neighborhood to locate the three houses she would be showing. I wrote explicit instructions on paper for her to memorize, and she made copious notes of her own.
That Saturday morning, she picked up the couple at the Wyndham Hotel and headed onto I-45. A chatterer like me, she kept up a flowing conversation while her white-knuckled hands grasped the wheel.
The morning wore on with a growing-more-nervous-by-the-minute Pollyann frantically searching for landmarks she’d memorized.
“Why are we going through Galveston?” the puzzled customer asked, glancing at a road sign that whizzed by, reading “La Margue/ Galveston 13 miles.” She’d turned south on I-45 instead of north!
The poor thing called me (in tears) that night to relate her harrowing day. At least she got them to the hotel okay, but she said her steering wheel - which started out round - was now oval. I tried to comfort her. But, alas, she was off the re-lo team.
The day before Thanksgiving, 1986. Pollyann received a property call and made an appointment to meet the gentleman in our front lobby at six after we closed at five. Just before the hour she decided to visit the ladies’ room to check her make-up. Coming out, she found the main door between the hall that separated Bank of America from our office had automatically locked. She could not access the bank or our lobby. Panicked, she pasted herself to the big glass window that faced a service station across the street and began frantically waving.
It was over an hour before someone noticed her, and she pointed desperately to our marquee with the phone number. Thankfully, the call was routed to the agent-on-duty and the anonymous rescuer explained what he had seen.
“That would be Pollyann; I’ll go right up and unlock the door for her,” the agent-on-phones giggled.
She still lives on the St. John’s River and enjoys playing bridge, tennis, and dining at the Yacht Club. She continues to make me laugh while relating all her latest escapades. Had I the space, I would tell you about her burying her neighbor’s cat thinking it was her own missing “Sugah-Pie.”
(Brenda Miles is an award-winning columnist and author residing in Hot Springs Village and responds to e-mail at email@example.com.)