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Key Maps

Boy, if this doesn’t inspire a wave of nostalgia, you either haven’t lived in Houston for long or you’re under the age of 30.

Jen Marie Rau, the mapmaker’s daughter, is not a big fan of global positioning satellites or Google Maps.

Which is not surprising, given that she is now the mapmaker.

The new tools are not always accurate, she says. Street names are spelled incorrectly. Their directions are poor. They take you places you have no reason to go.

When it comes to finding your way from Point A to Point B, she maintains, nothing beats a good, old fashioned paper map. And in Houston, that would be the iconic, once ubiquitous Key Map.

Rau now runs the business her father, Jim Rau, started in 1957 when he literally drew his first map of Houston on the floor of his Montrose apartment and patented the grid system that made Key Maps unique and easy to use.

In many respects, it’s the same business. The main product still is the familiar map book with its orange cover. The store and design studios are at the original location on West Alabama. The telephone number has not changed in 56 years.

But the city, and the world have.

Takes you back, doesn’t it? I used to live a few blocks away from Key Map world headquarters on West Alabama. I never owned one but my roommate did, and we made heavy use of it each time we had to scout out a new place to live. I find it comforting that not only is the business still around and still doing what they’ve always done, they have a website that looks like it was designed during the Clinton administration, and a Facebook page they haven’t updated since last year. Who needs the Internet, am I right? Keep on keeping on, Key Map. We love having you in Houston. The Highwayman has more.

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