Nostalgia Central

A Place Where the Past Is Always Perfect

More Nostalgia Central

D. McRae Elementary in the News--Back in the Day
Sherry Newman Mallory supplied these newspaper stories about D. McRae Elementary School, clipped by her mother:

Tail Fins, Fountain Pens, and Rin Tin Tin
Bill's Retro World Web site is "A celebration of American life in better times. Grab a Slice and a Coke and enjoy!" (Thanks to Jane Ann Smith Cassidy.)

Take Us Back to the Sixties--And Step on It!
Take Me Back to the Sixties is a visual and musical retrospective.

A Little Poly History in the Key of "Gee!"
Sherry Newman Mallory reports a claim heard down Joshua way: Kenneth Pitts, who was a 1930 graduate of Poly High (when the high school was still housed in the building that later housed Poly Elementary School) and who in "our day" was band director at William James Junior High, once played fiddle for Bob Wills in the Light Crust Doughboys.
Sure enough, Professor Charles Townsend in his history of the Light Crust Doughboys writes:
"The years between 1935 and World War II were among the most successful in the long history of the Doughboys. By 1937, some of the best musicians in the history of western swing joined the band. Kenneth Pitts and Clifford Gross played fiddles. . . . from the first "The Light Crust Doughboys are on the air" in 1931 and continuing through their silver age renaissance in the 1990s and beyond, the Light Crust Doughboys and their illustrious alumni like Bob Wills, Milton Brown, Herman Arnspiger, Tommy Duncan, Johnnie Lee Wills, W. Lee O'Daniel, Leon McAuliffe, Marvin Montgomery, Cecil Brower, Knocky Parker, Kenneth Pitts, Muryel Campbell, Leon Huff, Dick Reinhart, Hank Thompson, Slim Whitman, Jim Boyd, Johnny Strawn, Ronnie Dawson, Carroll Hubbard, Jerry Elliott, Bill Simmons, John Walden, Art Greenhaw and others wrote a large and important chapter in the history of both Texas and American music."
Our Mr. Pitts also was a member of the WBAP radio studio orchestra.
But wait! There's more. Our Mr. Pitts and a Fort Worth woman, Diane Johnston, co-wrote "Can't Shake the Sands of Texas from My Shoes," which was recorded by another north Texan, Gene Autry, in the 1940s. Give a listen.

Fiddlin' Kenneth Pitts, 1930 Yearbook

Pages from the Past: PTA and Student Directories
From the Sherry Newman Mallory archives we have pages from PTA directories and student directories from D. McRae Elementary School, William James Junior High, and Poly High. These directories were saved by Sherry's mother.

In this 1952 D. McRae PTA directory listing the faculty, notice the six-digit phone numbers and the long-ago exchanges:

In this 1956 D. McRae PTA directory listing the faculty, notice that the phone numbers are now seven digits:

And this 1961 D. McRae PTA directory shows the school faculty:

Here are pages from the 1961 William James student directory:

And here are pages from the 1962 William James PTA directory listing the faculty:

Finally, here are pages from the 1966 Poly High student directory:

Poly versus Paschal: A-Feudin' 'n' A-Fishin'
We of the class of 1967 didn't invent the Poly-Paschal blood feud, of course. We just inherited it and improved upon it. Phil Vinson contributed this Fort Worth Press clipping, which a classmate submitted for the Poly class of 1958's fiftieth reunion. Just imagine our Mr. T. and their O. D. Wyatt (principal of Paschal from 1940 until 1962) going fishing together to discuss the problematic rivalry. No doubt Mr. T. told O. D., as they baited their hooks, "Now, O. D., you've got to keep those one percenters of yours in line."

Fenders and Feelers and Foot Feeds
Here is a link to a site that celebrates a time when girls weren't the only ones who wore skirts.
Read All about It: 1942 School Newspaper Unearthed
Allen Koenig has some issues of the Poly Parrakeet (as it was spelled then) from World War II. Here are links to scans of an issue from 1942 (to be readable online, these scans are larger than your computer screen. If they appear too small, you may have to click on a magnifier icon on your browser) (thanks, Allen):
Page 1 (Principal J. P. Moore's honor roll, ex-Parrots in the armed forces)
Page 2 (columns)
Page 3 (news and gossip)
Page 4 (sports and merchant ads)

Beatniks, Bikinis, and Bouncers
You must be weird or you wouldn't be here. Yes, ArvEL Jr. Stricklin, who in 1962 became the Cellar's first fulltime staff musician, maintains a Web site devoted to the legendary nightclub.

Fort Worth in Photos: The Way We Were
Fort Worth . . . The Way We Were is a Web page of links to many old photos of Fort Worth. The Web page is part of John Roberts's excellent Web site about Fort Worth, especially its history and architecture.

Time Gets Better with Age
Click here to read an essay on growing older. (Thanks to Sherry Newman Mallory.)

Was There Really Ever Such a Time?
Do you remember these advertisements? (Thanks to Pat Pendley.)

In the Land of Sandra Dee
Long ago and far away,
In a land that time forgot,
Before the days of Dylan
Or the dawn of Camelot.
There lived a race of innocents,
And they were you and me,
Long ago and far away
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

Oh, there were truth and goodness in that land where we were born,
Where navels were for oranges, and Peyton Place was porn.
For Ike was in the White House, and Hoss was on TV,
And God was in his heaven
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

We learned to gut a muffler,
We washed our hair at dawn,
We spread our crinolines to dry in circles on the lawn.
And they could hear us coming all the way to Tennessee,
All starched and sprayed and rumbling
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

We longed for love and romance and waited for the prince.
And Eddie Fisher married Liz, and no one's seen him since.
We danced to "Little Darlin',"
And sang to "Stagger Lee"
And cried for Buddy Holly
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

Only girls wore earrings then, and three was one too many.
And only boys wore flat-top cuts, except for Jean McKinney.
And only in our wildest dreams did we expect to see
A boy named "George" with lipstick
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

We fell for Frankie Avalon, Annette was, oh, so nice
And when they made a movie,
They never made it twice.
We didn't have a Star Trek Five, or Psycho Two and Three,
Or Rocky-Rambo Twenty
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

Miss Kitty had a heart of gold, and Chester had a limp.
And Reagan was a Democrat whose co-star was a chimp.
We had a Mr. Wizard, but not a Mr. T, and Oprah couldn't talk yet
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

We had our share of heroes, we never thought they'd go,
At least not Bobby Darin, or Marilyn Monroe.
For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be,
And Elvis was forever
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

We'd never seen the rock band that was grateful to be dead,
And airplanes weren't named "Jefferson," and zeppelins weren't "Led."
And Beatles lived in gardens then, and monkeys in a tree,
Madonna was a virgin
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

We'd never heard of microwaves or telephones in cars.
And babies might be bottle-fed, but they weren't grown in jars.
And pumping iron got wrinkles out,
And "gay" meant fancy-free, and dorms were never co-ed
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

We hadn't seen enough of jets to talk about the lag.
And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag.
And hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea,
And rocket ships were fiction
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

Buicks came with portholes, and the side show came with freaks,
And bathing suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks.
And Coke came just in bottles, and skirts came to the knee,
And Castro came to power
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

We had no Crest with Fluoride, we had no Hill Street Blues,
We all wore superstructure bras designed by Howard Hughes.
We had no patterned pantyhose or Lipton herbal tea,
or prime-time ads for condoms
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

There were no golden arches, no Perriers to chill.
And fish were not called "Wanda," and cats were not called "Bill."
And middle-aged was thirty-five, and old was forty-three,
and ancient was our parents
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

But all things have a season, or so we've heard them say,
And now instead of Maybeline, we swear by Retin-A.
And they send us invitations to join AARP,
We've come a long way, baby,
From the Land of Sandra Dee.

So now we face a brave new world in slightly larger jeans,
And wonder why they're using smaller print in magazines.
And we tell our children's children of the way it used to be,
Long ago and far away
In the Land of Sandra Dee.

To Kids Born in the 1930s-1970s
(Contributed by Sherry Newman Mallory)
First we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one died from this.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because . . . we were always outside playing!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were okay.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendos, X-Boxes, no video games at all, no ninety-nine channels on cable TV, no videotape movies, no Surroundsound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms. We had friends, and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given BB guns for our tenth birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and although we were warned it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to friends' houses and knocked on the door or rang the bell or just yelled for them!
Little League had tryouts, and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!
The idea of parents bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They sided with the law!
This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past fifty years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success, and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all. And you are one of them! Congratulations!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.
And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.
Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?

Before There Was Tom Thumb,
There Was Gussie Watson
This 1964 Fort Worth Press feature details the Watson Grocery Store on Fitzhugh Street in Poly. Such small neighborhood stores thrived in the days before supermarkets.

(Clipping from the Sherry Newman Mallory archives)

Dead Sea Scrolls Reveal Poly's "Downtown" of 1968
Actually it's a column from the 1968 Fort Worth city directory. It shows the businesses and residences that were along Rosedale from Thrall Street to Collard Street, including Poly's two-block business district from Vaughn to Binkley.

How Old Were You When . . .?
Charles Owen found this Web site that calculates how old any person was at the time of big news events, hit songs, movies, and TV shows and compares any person's age with that of famous entertainers: the Age Gauge.
Hey, Kids, It's Time for the Bobby and Jack Show!
Sure, in the photo below you know who the man on the right is: Jack Ruby. The short man is Little Jimmy Dickens. But do you know who the man on the left is? This photo, taken about 1952 at the Bob Wills Ranch House western-style night club on Industrial Boulevard in Dallas, shows Jack Ruby posing with Bobby Peters, who hosted a pioneer kids show on WBAP TV from 1952 to 1957. Dallas millionaire O. L. Nelms built the night club for Bob Wills. In 1952 Nelms leased it to Ruby and later sold it to Dewey Groom, and it became the Longhorn Ballroom. The man between Dickens and Ruby may be Dewey Groom.

Here's a song, taken from a 78-rpm record, made by Bobby Peters and Buster's Gang in 1951 on the Texadisc label in Dallas:

Continuing our "It's a small world after all" theme, the woman in the photo below is Karen Lynn (Little Lynn) Bennett Carlin. She was the Carousel Club dancer (she also danced at the Cellar) to whom Ruby wired money at the Dallas Western Union five minutes before he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. She later was arrested for having a pistol in her purse as she entered the courtroom during Ruby's trial. At the time she resided on Meadowbrook Drive in east Fort Worth. Lee Harvey Oswald is stilll in east Fort Worth.

Hey, Kids, Where Were You on September 10, 1959?

On September 10, 1959, you were probably sitting too close to your family's black-and-white TV set and watching the premiere of a new show on a relatively new TV station: On that date Icky Twerp's Slam Bang Theater went on the air on Channel 11 and kept us laughing through the '60s. Bill Camfield was the star of that show and of just about every other show that we kids watched on Channel 11. To our generation Bill Camfield was the patron saint of silly. To celebrate the forty-fifth birthday of his Slam Bang Theater, you can click on some links to Web sites that keep the funny flame burning:

Paul Camfield's It's Summertime in Slam Bangland Web site is devoted to his late father.

Remember Mickey and Amanda?

Rick Phillips's Web site tells how a Poly woman gave birth to the most important possum and mudturtle of our childhood.

Greg Knight's Patio Culture Web site has some Slam Bang Theater Web pages.

Fort Worth artist Kerry Gammill's Web page is devoted to the "dark side" of Bill Camfield: Gorgon.

Read a biography of Bill Camfield at IMDb.

And last but soitainly not least, Chowderhead, there's the official Three Stooges Web site.

"Hey, Bud. Whatcha lookin' at?"

If You Want That Pony, You'd Better Get Busy

Remember when kids earned prizes by going door to door selling Cloverine Salve?

"The Poly Blues"

760k sound file
Comb your ducktail and put on your bobby socks! Just click on the jukebox to hear the 1955 Poly Marching 100 band play "The Poly Blues." It's the swingingest, Daddio.

The Perks of Being over Fifty Years Old

(Contributed by Larry Murphy)
1. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.
2. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.
3. No one expects you to run into a burning building.
4. People call at 9 P.M. and ask, "Did I wake you?"
5. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.
6. There is nothing left to learn the hard way.
7. Things you buy now won't wear out.
8. You can eat dinner at 4 P.M.
9. You can live without sex but not without glasses.
10. You enjoy hearing about other people's operations.
11. You get into heated arguments about pension plans.
12. You have a party, but the neighbors don't even realize it.
13. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.
14. You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.
15. You sing along with elevator music.
16. Your eyes won't get much worse.
17. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
18. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the National Weather Service.
19. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them, either.
20. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.
21. You can't remember who e-mailed you this list.

Class Reunions

(Author Unknown)
(Contributed by Don Peacock, Class of 1950)
Every ten years, as summertime nears,
An announcement arrives in the mail,
A reunion is planned; it'll be really grand;
Make plans to attend without fail.

I'll never forget the first time we met;
We tried so hard to impress.
We drove fancy cars, smoked big cigars,
And wore our most elegant dress.

It was quite an affair; the whole class was there.
It was held at a fancy hotel.
We wined, and we dined, and we acted refined,
And everyone thought it was swell.

The men all conversed about who had been first
To achieve great fortune and fame.
Meanwhile, their spouses described their fine houses
And how beautiful their children became.

The homecoming queen, who once had been lean,
Now weighed in at one-ninety-six.
The jocks who were there had all lost their hair,
And the cheerleaders could no longer do kicks.

No one had heard about the class nerd
Who'd guided a craft to the moon;
Or poor little Jane, who'd always been plain;
She married a shipping tycoon.

The boy we'd decreed "most apt to succeed"
Was serving ten years in the pen,
While the one voted "least" now was a priest;
Just shows you can be wrong now and then.

They awarded a prize to one of the guys
Who seemed to have aged the least.
Another was given to the grad who had driven
The farthest to attend the feast.

They took a class picture, a curious mixture
Of beehives, crew cuts, and wide ties.
Tall, short, or skinny, the style was the mini;
You never saw so many thighs.

At our next get-together, no one cared whether
They impressed their classmates or not.
The mood was informal, a whole lot more normal;
By this time we'd all gone to pot.

It was held out-of-doors, at the lake shores;
We ate hamburgers, coleslaw, and beans.
Then most of us lay around in the shade,
In our comfortable T-shirts and jeans.

By the fortieth year, it was abundantly clear,
We were definitely over the hill.
Those who weren't dead had to crawl out of bed,
And be home in time for their pill.

And now I can't wait as they've set the date;
Our sixtieth is coming, I'm told.
It should be a ball, they've rented a hall
At the Shady Rest Home for the old.

Repairs have been made on my old hearing aid;
My pacemaker's been turned up to high.
My wheelchair is oiled, and my teeth have been boiled;
And I've bought a new wig and glass eye.

I'm feeling quite hearty; I'm ready to party,
I'll dance until dawn's early light.
It'll be lots of fun; and I hope at least one
Other person can make it that night.

One Extra-Large Memory, Please, with Everything on It

Remember the Italian Inn on East Lancaster near Panther Hall? Many a boy took many a girl there to impress her in "our day." The restaurant had cozy wooden booths on which diners had carved and written their initials and other graffiti through the years.

The building is now owned by Wino's Crew motorcycle club (, which uses the building as a clubhouse. A club member, Scooter, recently gave Marcia Melton Caple and Mike Nichols a tour of the building and told some of its history. The Italian Inn, he said, opened in the early 1950s in a house that was moved from Arlington and cantilevered in place on that sharp embankment on the south side of Lancaster. As you recall, if you parked on Lancaster in front of the Inn, you walked downstairs to enter; if you parked behind the restaurant, you walked up to enter. Scooter said that the restaurant was still operating into the mid-1990s and was closed for only a few years before Wino's Crew bought it.

The club made some changes, of course, but members have retained some of the wooden booths with their generations of "________ + _________" graffiti. And its former life as a restaurant is not forgotten by those who ate there: Daygo, another Wino's Crew member, said, "Many people who carved in the booths have stopped by to see them and the writings on the wall."

Jane Finley Eggenberger of our class says the sister Italian Inn, on the West Side, is still going strong, serving up pasta and song.

And this update of the old Italian Inn is served with dessert: Wino's Crew generously donated a pair of original swinging doors from a booth! Look for them to be displayed at the next class gathering. Please keep your pocketknife or Marks-a-Lot holstered.

The old Italian Inn, Wino's Crew member Scooter, and years of graffiti

Poly Odyssey 2003

A recent tour of the old neighborhood included these sights, from top to bottom:

  • "Clinker House" at 4621 Foard Street, built in 1913 of imperfect bricks from the Cobb Brick Company, which was once located just west of Cobb Park. The house was owned by a man named Harris, who was bookkeeper of the brick company and cousin of the owner, Mr. Cobb.

  • Skeletal remains of the rodeo arena in Cobb Park located between the driving range and the creek.

  • Narrow iron bridge in Sycamore Park that allowed streetcars of the Fort Worth Southern Traction Company, which opened in 1912, to cross the creek on the trolley tracks to Cleburne.

  • Poly Theater on Vaughn Boulevard.

  • Tombstone of Duncan McRae (for whom the elementary school is named) in Polytechnic Cemetery and the Ashburn's sign on Rosedale.

    On This Model T, the "T" Stands for "Texas"

    Once upon a time in the West, a stranger rode into town, lean and hard and ready to take on "the big boys" from up north. The stranger was an automobile named the "Texan," the year was 1920, and the place was Fort Worth.

    In 1917 two brothers, James C. and Will H. Vernor, started the Texas Motor Car Association in Dallas with two hundred dollars in capital. They built an automobile factory south of Fort Worth on the bare prairie that would someday be the 3600 block of McCart. The company had big plans to produce a luxury car and an oilfield truck. The city of Fort Worth planned to extend a streetcar line south along the old Cleburne Road for the convenience of factory workers.

    But the company's life was brief. By 1922 the company had ceased production, hurt by a factory fire, the post-World War I flu epidemic, drought, and competition from cars such as the Ford Model T.

    Only about two thousand Texan cars and one thousand Texan trucks were built. The car sold for one thousand dollars, had a thirty-five-horsepower engine, thirty-three-inch tires, a wooden dashboard, and a rumble seat.

    Decades later the Texan auto factory was bought by Martin Sprocket and Gear company. Martin has on display one of the few surviving Texan cars. And entrance pillars and towers of the building still bear the original stones with the letter "T" for "Texas"--reminders of Fort Worth's brief time as a "Dixie Detroit."

    "Lou-ie, Lou-ie, Something, Something, Something"

    Remember the infamous 1963 song "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen? Here are two entertaining Web sites that deal with the fact and fiction surrounding the lyrics: Urban Legends and The Smoking Gun.

    Return with Us Now to Those Thrilling Days of Yesterhear

    Listen up, boys and girls. The Texas Radio Hall of Fame Web site has information on many radio personalities from our Poly past--Jimmy Rabbitt, Ken Dowe and Granny Emma, Harold Taft, Porter Randall, Alex Burton, Bill Mack, Mark Stevens, and more. To listen to the sound files, you'll need the free RealOne player software (the link to download the free player is in the lower-right corner of the Web page).

    Signs of Our Times

    A montage of signs seen during a recent tour of the old neighborhood.

    Before There Was Rap, There Was Tap

    Hey, guys, don't you wish you could forget that time in your life when you wore taps on your shoes? Well, here are two Web sites that won't let you forget:

    To Protect and Serve (and Wear a Cool Badge)

    As men grow older they naturally begin to look back on their achievements in life ("1. ate all of my vegetables, 2. passed Miss Gill's chemistry class, 3. never killed anyone important. Yet."). Many a boy includes among his achievements having served his country and his community as an elementary school safety patrol boy--"patrol boys," they were called.

    Here are just the facts, ma'am: The school safety patrol program was begun by the American Automobile Association in 1920 and continues today in many schools in America and even beyond. It is the largest safety program in the world, with 500,000 boys and girls participating in 50,000 schools. Some patrol boys and girls have gone on to become U.S. presidents, governors, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, astronauts, and Olympic gold medalists.

    Safety aside, most boys were in it for the prestige and perks, which were several. For example, patrol boys got to get out of class early and go outside to perform their solemn duties, although at least one remembers mostly just strolling around and swapping dirty jokes with fellow patrol boy Jon Jenkins. And they got to wear the uniform--that manly white canvas "Sam Browne" belt to which they pinned that shiny tin badge of authority. Girls loved it. Or so patrol boys told themselves.

    A few of the boys behind the badge:
    Jackie Thomason, Bob Allen, Neil Wilcox, Al Mallory, Ronny Rhodes

    The white belt of honor and the red badge of courage

    Below are two memories by former (little) men in uniform found on the Internet (note the location and principal mentioned in the first).

    My Short, Unhappy Time as an Officer of the Law

    By Phil Latham

    Editor and Publisher of the Marshall News Messenger

    MARSHALL, Texas--I had a brief career in law enforcement, which few people know about, but the absolute power of it all went to my head and I had to give up my badge.

    In the big cities before school busing was normal, everybody got to school in one of two ways: Your mother brought you or you walked. It was that simple. My mother never drove so I walked to school from the first grade to the 10th.

    With all those walkers crossing busy streets, there was a great need for guards at crosswalks--unpaid guards, of course. So the cops on the beat in elementary school were the top male students in grades 5 and 6.

    I dreamed of being a Patrol Boy--the leader of the group was called the Head Patrol Boy--since I could remember. My parents hung a picture of my brother wearing his white Patrol Boy sash and silver badge in the front room and I wanted to be just like him.

    But everyone wanted to Patrol Boy. If you were a kid you looked up to every Patrol Boy you knew. Girls swooned over Patrol Boys and teachers loved them.

    And there was another thing: If you were a patrol boy and it rained, you got to wear one of those heavy, yellow rubber raincoats with the neatest buttons.

    And the best part about being a Patrol Boy? You got to get out of class five minutes early.

    There was only one problem. You had to be chosen by teachers to be Patrol Boy and you had to have good grades. I was not a great student which meant my grades were always on the edge and my citizenship marks, uh, well, they left a little bit to be desired, too. (That little box that indicated I didn't think before I acted was always checked.)

    But from the day I entered fifth grade I began asking the principal, Mrs. Ashburn, if I could be a Patrol Boy.

    Get your grades up, she told me.

    I wasn't daunted. After all, a new cadre of Patrol Boys was chosen every six weeks. I had plenty of time.

    The next six weeks I tried again.

    Learn to behave yourself, she told me.

    The next six weeks I tried again.

    Get your grades up and learn to behave yourself, she said. I clearly wasn't making progress.

    So my entire fifth grade year, Patrol Boy-hood eluded me.

    I had a new sense of urgency when sixth grade came along. Unfortunately, that new urgency was not accompanied by better grades or a better citizenship report.

    So I went to Mrs. Ashburn at the beginning of the third six weeks and begged her to put me on patrol. I promised I would be the best Patrol Boy ever.

    And the answer was still no.

    But perhaps something happened over that third six weeks (it was not an improvment in grades) that softened Mrs. Ashburn's heart, because when the fourth six weeks began, I didn't even have the chance to ask. She came to me.

    I was on the force at last.

    Without any exaggeration, that was one of the happiest days of my public school career. I got fitted with my sash and badge, though I was mildly disappointed to hear we didn't get to keep the badge. No, I wasn't Head Patrol Boy, but it was enough just to serve.

    And wouldn't you just know it, but the very first week of my tour of duty, it came a spring rain. I got to wear the raincoat. As a perk, the raincoats were located deep in the bowels of the boiler room, where no one was allowed to go.

    No one but a Patrol Boy, of course.

    Seeing one of those raincoats and wearing one are two different experiences. Slickers look, well, slick just from looking at them. But put one on and you have a totally different experience. They are clammy and heavy.

    Clammy, yes, cold, no. Ten minutes of standing in that warm spring rain and I discovered I was as wet as if I had been wearing no raincoat at all. Twenty minutes of wearing it and I became obsessed with getting it off. So obsessed, in fact, that I wasn't doing such a good job at hustling children across the street. My first week on the job and already a reprimand.

    It rained every day for the next two weeks and I came to loathe that yellow raincoat. Even today, the sight of a yellow raincoat makes me itch and sweat.

    When the monsoons ended, though, my troubles as a Patrol Boy had only just begun.

    I worked Hampshire Boulevard in Fort Worth, a street that is moderately busy. It was a Patrol Boy's job to wait until the coast was clear, then walk halfway with the little students to make sure they got across.

    But sometimes you could wait forever. I had the idea that it was my responsibility to get these kids to class on time.

    So I began to stop traffic. I'd walk to the middle of the street, hold my arms up and, when traffic stopped, let the little kids cross.

    It worked wonderfully. No kids ever got hurt on my watch.

    But I suppose some drivers got to work late. It got to where I enjoyed stopping traffic and would do it for even one student.

    It wasn't long before I got a call into Mrs. Ashburn's office. The police had called.

    The Real Police.

    I was causing a traffic hazard on Hampshire Boulevard. I was a nuisance and I had to be stopped.

    She held out her hand and I handed over my badge, but it wasn't a total loss. At least I never had to wear than dang raincoat again.

    What Happened to the Days When Boys Could Be Counted On?
    By Walter Jowers

    When I was 11 years old and in the sixth grade, I was one of four patrol boys at Burnettown Elementary School in Burnettown, S.C. It was our job to escort the first-graders from the school to two points about a half-mile from the school--one to the east and one to the west. After we'd patrolled 'em for the half-mile, the first-graders were on their own.

    The best part of being a patrol boy was getting out of school about an hour early. Sure, we were supposed to come back to class after patrol duty, but we learned pretty fast that if we walked the first-graders slowly, and if we took our time getting back to school, we could effectively kill the hour between first-grade dismissal and our dismissal.

    We patrol boys got to wear canvas belts across our chests, with big silver badges pinned to 'em. On rainy days, we got to wear yellow raincoats with matching hoods.

    Last night, I told 10-year-old daughter Jess about my patrol boy days. She was astonished.

    "How did they pick you?" she asked.

    "Our mean old sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Rogers, just pointed at four of us and said, 'Y'all are the patrol boys.' That's the way things happened in those days."

    "Were there any patrol girls?" Jess asked.

    "No. Never. Girls weren't smart or careful or responsible enough to be patrol boys." (OK, OK. I was kidding. But I wanted to see what she'd say.) "How old did you say you were?" Jess snapped back.


    Jess laughed uncontrollably for five solid minutes. "Girls weren't careful enough to walk first-graders home? And boys were?" She laughed for another two minutes.

    "What's so funny?"

    "I'm thinking of every 11-year-old boy I know," she said. "They're wild. They're not careful. They tear things up."

    "I don't know what to tell you," I shrugged. "I had the long patrol route. I actually had to walk the first-graders across the highway. Sometimes I had to walk out into the road and stop traffic using nothing but my hand. No whistle, no stop sign, no orange gloves."

    Jess just kept laughing and shaking her head. "Eleven-year-old boys. Careful. Hahahahahaha."

    I must admit, she has a point. These days, what school administrator would put boys just shy of bomb-building age in charge of a bunch of first-graders? Away from the schoolhouse, with no adult supervision? For that matter, what first-graders walk home anymore? Perverts could snatch 'em up. (I promise you, if a pervert had jumped out of the bushes and tried to snatch a kid out of our patrol line, co-patrol-boy Danny Dennis and I would've kicked that pervert's ass.)

    All this put me to thinking: What's changed about 11-year-old boys and first graders and society in general that makes the patrol boy idea seem not just outdated, but downright scary?

    Well, I don't know what's changed, but I do know this: When I was 11, you could count on a class of 30 (that's right, 30) sixth-graders to have at least four miniature honest-to-god men. Stand-up guys who could be trusted to protect their little schoolmates, rather than picking on 'em or plotting their death. We even had miniature citizens who'd run out and fetch the flag down off the pole the instant it started to rain--without being told to do it.

    By the time we were 16, some of the boys were volunteer firemen. We'd be sitting in algebra class, the alarm at the firehouse would start whooping, and a couple of boys would just jump up and run out the door on their way to fight fire.

    All I can figure out is, we must have expected more out of boys in years past. It could be a Southern thing. Just after the Civil War, the genuine men were mostly dead or mangled. The boys were the men. It could be an agrarian thing. When a boy was old enough to load a wagon, he had to load a wagon.

    These days, though, what do we expect of the boys? I could be wrong, but I think we expect just about the same thing from them that we expect from the girls. And I suspect the kids will set their goals pretty close to the adults' expectations.

    I know it won't happen, but let's just pretend a teacher had to pick a patrol squad today. Of course, she wouldn't choose just boys. And would she dare limit her choices to the alert, upstanding, responsible types? Nope. Most likely, the patrol children would be chosen by lottery, lawsuit, or both. If we'd done that back in Burnettown, Leon Lewis, the class criminal, could've ended up a patrol boy. Inside of a week, he would've had the first-graders stealing cigarettes for him, and he would've been beating 'em up and taking their lunch money.

    So Jess is probably right to laugh at the thought of 11-year-old boys as protectors. I say that's a dang shame. Ten years from now, we'll need those little guys to guard the perimeter between the good and the not-so-good. In fact, I suspect we'll need all the protector-types we can get, girls included. If we want that, we'd better start expecting it of the kids, and we'd better encourage 'em to get a little protector practice in, starting now. We old patrol types aren't going to be around forever.

    Lose a Lake, Find a Lot (of History)

    Recently, while researching how Beach Street got its name, classmate Marcia Melton, who works at the Star-Telegram, found an old newspaper article that mentioned that the Stripling-Cox store at Lancaster and Ayers was built in the 1950s on the filled-in site of a Tandy Lake. In an informal and highly unscientific survey, no one of our class had ever heard of Tandy Lake, which apparently had been drained or had otherwise dried up before our time. But more research by Marcia, Cathy Hardisty, Danny Washmon (class of 1968), Don Peacock (class of 1950), and others found a few other references to the lake and to the early history of the Poly area. According to the Poly Alumni Association Web site's history of Poly, written by Nell Bratton's fourth-grade students at D. McRae Elementary in 1933, Fort Worth was a mere village and the Polytechnic area was unnamed prairie in 1852 when brothers Arch and W. D. Hall and their brother-in-law, Roger Tandy, came to the area. Bert Tandy, Poly High class of 1949 and a great-grandson of Roger Tandy, says the Tandy and Hall settlers came from Christian County, Kentucky, in covered wagons pulled by oxen. The Tandy and Hall families would come to own a truly Texas-sized expanse of real estate (see below).

    Part of Roger Tandy's land was called Tandy Ranch. He channeled water from a spring on his ranch into bottom land of clay to create a small lake--Tandy Lake. Tandy built his home north of the lake near the intersection of Lancaster and Ayers; Arch Hall built his home south of Tandy Lake at about where the 3500 block of Avenue E now is; W. D. Hall built a home on what is now Avenue I. During the 1880s there was even a town named Tandy Lake, and the lake became a popular place to hunt, fish, and picnic.

    (That area today also has a Tandy School, Tandy Hills Park, and Tandy Avenue. And Meadowbrook's Lewis, Ben, and Giles Streets are named for Tandys.)

    One Internet Web site locates the lake this way: "TANDY LAKE: Located near Normandy Place Park on the R. J. Tandy survey. Tandy Hills Park site hunting, fishing and dancing in the 1880's. 1919 map at S17/18. Mapsco 78G?"

    Normandy Place Park (dark shaded on map) is very near the intersection of Ayers and Lancaster and the Stripling-Cox store.

    Joyce Alison Calhoun, a great-granddaughter of Roger Tandy, attended TWC and taught business and English at Poly High in the 1950s. Her mother, a daughter of Roger's son G. E. Tandy, was a clerk at William James Junior High. Mrs. Calhoun said recently that the lake was gone by the late 1920s when she was a child in the nearby Tandy house that she refers to as "the big house," although she remembers seeing a photo of Tandy family members swimming in the lake.

    Lewis Tandy Jr., brother of Bert Tandy, was born in 1917. He does not recall seeing the lake and thinks it may have been gone by 1920. The Tandy Lake Garage at 3505 East Lancaster was operated by Floyd Thomas, who was the Tandy family mechanic for many years. Lewis Tandy Jr. said that when the interurban station at the lake was demolished after the line closed, Floyd Thomas saved the "Tandy Lake" sign and gave it to Lewis Tandy Sr., father of Lewis and Bert.

    The Tandy and Hall families had a lot (the company that would become the Tandy corporation was co-founded in 1918 by Roger's grandnephew David, father of Charles Tandy), and they gave a lot. W. D. Hall was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. While held in a Union prison camp, he passed the time by teaching himself Latin and other subjects. After his release he taught others--at the Poly area's first school on Sycamore Creek.

    G. E. Tandy--son of Roger--and Arch Hall began Poly's first streetcar system in 1892. Mules pulled cars between Poly and downtown Fort Worth. G. E. Tandy also donated land for the interurban train that ran between Fort Worth and Dallas (another interurban line ran between Fort Worth and Cleburne. The narrow steel footbridge over the creek in Sycamore Park originally was part of that line).

    In 1890 the Southern Methodist Conference built a college near Fort Worth on land donated by the Hall families and G. E. Tandy. The college was called Polytechnic College, so the town that grew up around it was called Polytechnic. In 1914 Polytechnic College was renamed Texas Wesleyan College.

    TWC is located just a few blocks from the site of Tandy Lake.

    (Also near the site of Tandy Lake, on Avenue C east of TWC, is Polytechnic Cemetery. A portion of this cemetery was used by Masons to bury women and children who had lived at the nearby Masonic Home. Duncan McRae, for whom D. McRae Elementary School is named, is buried there. So is a grandchild of Roger Tandy. So are the parents of Paul Hollis, who invented Poly Pop, the world's first powdered soft drink. Poly Pop was manufactured in Hollis's house just a few blocks from Poly High and was popular in the 1920s and 1930s before Hollis was run out of business by Kool-Aid.)

    But just to further muddy the waters, Danny Washmon says his father recalled a lake located closer to where Panther Hall--north of TWC--would later be. That lake was used by a railroad (presumably Texas & Pacific) to supply water for steam engines, as were Katy Lake and Echo Lake in south Fort Worth.

    So, were there two lakes located close to each other? A map of the area from 1927 (and even older maps) shows no lakes. But it also shows no housing or other development in the area where the two lakes would have been. (The dark shading on the map is apparently not an indication of water, woods, etc.)

    There's more. During the New Deal's Federal Writers' Project of 1936-1940, writers interviewed and recorded the oral histories of many Americans. Below is an excerpt from the transcription of the oral history of Tom Garrett, a cowboy born on the Tandy Ranch in 1885 (note the passage in italics):

    "Tom Garrett, 52, negro was born on the Tandy Ranch, which was located on the S.E. outskirts of Fort Worth and extended to where Handley, Tex. now stands. Tom was taught to ride at an early age, and was employed as a regular cowboy at the age of 10. His father, Frank Garrett had won recognition as a top cowhand, thus Tom received the best training possible, working with his father. When he was 25, he quit the Tandy Ranch to work with his father, who went to dealing in stock. His father died in 1916, and Tom went to the Triangle C Ranch, in Crosby and Lubbock counties, where he was employed until he quit, at age 33. He then came to Fort Worth to pursue various other occupations, where he now resides at 1307 Lucile St. His story:

    "Does I know anything 'bout de old time cowboys? I'll say I does! Why, I was bo'n on a ranch just a few miles f'om whar weuns am standin' right now. I was bo'n on de Tandy Ranch, right up de crick f'om whar de big white house at Tandy Lake now am. 'Twas on November de 10th, 1885, when de ranch am so big it runs f'om somewhar in whar Poly am now, to de tudder side of whar Handley am now. In de days I'm talkin' 'bout, 'twarnt no houses a-tall, just cow critters, grass an' mesquite bushes. De headquarters house am a double log house wid a hall runnin' betweens, an' a big rock chimney on both sides.

    "Co'se now, bein' a nigger kid, 'twarnt none of my business 'bout how many critters de Tandys am runnin', nor how many section 'twas in de ranch. 'Bout de most of what I can tell 'bout, am de wo'kin' and what de cow punchers done. I can't tell you 'bout when I fust rode a hoss but I'll say 'twas befo' I was three yeahs, old, 'cause I can rec'lect pullin' a hoss over to a mesquite bush so's I could crawl on when I was so small I couldn't carry anything very heavy. By the time I was six, I was ridin' ever' yearling I could catch wid a rope. I was crazy to ride. I wanted to be ridin' 'round all de time. De main most reason 'hind de ridin' idea was dat I wanted to be lak my dad. His name was Frank Garrett, an' lotsa oldtimers will rec'lect him as bein' de best in de business in dat day and time."

    Note that Garrett mentioned a "crick" near the lake. Possibly that creek flowed from the spring that was the source of Tandy Lake's water.

    The East Side has had other lakes tucked here and there that have come and gone through the years. Robert Smith, class of 1951, reminds us that there once was a lake at Glenwood Park, which is on Riverside Drive south of Vickery and north of Rosedale. And a 1955 U.S. Geological Survey map of Fort Worth shows an Eliot Lake just north of Berry and west of Riverside Drive. Both lakes were near railroads and possibly were used to supply water for locomotives. And, of course, some of us caught catfish in Fosdic Lake, which still exists in Oakland Park east of Oakland Boulevard and south of the Turnpike.

    And then there was Erie Lake, behind the Handley power plant south of Spur 303 (map is 1905, postcard is 1908), which was used to supply water for the original power plant that generated electricity for the interurban line between Fort Worth and Dallas. Don Peacock recalls swimming at Erie Lake. He says the water was very warm after being used to cool the generating equipment. Lou Hudson, class of 1958, remembers when his Boy Scout troop helped build a temporary road around the area when the dam was built for Arlington Lake. A historical marker at the plant reads:

    "The Northern Texas Traction Company built the original plant at this location to generate electrical power for the Fort Worth-Dallas Interurban. Lake Erie provided water for plant operations. The area developed as a park and became popular for local outings and social events. A two-story auditorium extended over the edge of the lake. When interurban traffic declined the park was closed. The power plant was expanded to meet increased electrical demands. In 1956 Lake Arlington became the new source of water for the Handley Plant, and Lake Erie was drained. (1980)"

    At this point our casual research into the "missing lake" took an unexpected personal turn. After the death of his mother in 2000, Mike Nichols had come across an abstract for the family property at 3230 Burton--a few miles south of the center of Tandy world headquarters. The abstract was dated 1930 and yellowed and brittle, containing more than one hundred pages of plats, affidavits, deeds, liens, court cases, and other dense legal documents relating to the chain of ownership of that humble city lot. Reading that Tandy Lake had been located in a "Tandy survey" rang a bell. Nichols reexamined the abstract for 3230 Burton and discovered the following history:

    1840: The abstract states that secretary of war for the Republic of Texas, Branch Tanner Archer (born in Virginia in 1790, came to Texas in 1831), issued to the heirs of one Robert R. Ramey an "augmentation and bounty land warrant" for 1,920 acres of land in what would become Tarrant County. This land was granted in recognition of Ramey's service while fighting--and dying--in the Texas Revolution.

    Research shows that Robert R. Ramey (also sometimes spelled "Rainey" and "Raimey") joined Colonel James Fannin in Tennessee and went to Texas, where he died with Fannin at the Battle of Goliad shortly after the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.

    The abstract includes a 1908 affidavit from Duncan McRae, an heir of Ramey, stating that according to the story told in his family, Ramey did die with Fannin at Goliad.

    This is corroborated by sources such as Harbert Davenport's "The Men of Goliad: An Essay on the Texas Revolution, Goliad Campaign & Massacre" of 1939, which states:

    "RAINEY, ROBERT R., Private, Duval's Company

    "Although Robert R. Rainey signed the Convention Memorial at Refugio about Feb. 5th, he was paid as a member of Duval's Company only from Feb. 15, 1836 to March 27, 1836; from which it may be inferred that he came to Refugio as a member of Lawrence's Company [or possibly with Wigginton's] and did not decide to enroll as a "permanent volunteer" until after Fannin's march to Goliad. His pay was drawn by J. C. Burney as administrator. [CMSR No. 46, State Library.] The sources all agree that he was a victim of the general massacre of March 27, 1836."

    The same source further states that Ramey's heirs were given a "bounty and donation" land grant in Tarrant County.

    1851: The abstract shows that that bounty and donation land, in three 640-acre sections, was surveyed for Ramey's heirs by M. T. Johnson.

    1857: Ramey's heirs gave a fourth 640-acre section of land known as the R. R. Ramey survey (outlined in yellow on map) to Johnson in payment for his surveying the wilderness that would become Poly. The 1908 affidavit by Duncan McRae stated that M. T. Johnson had been given the Ramey survey by Ramey's heirs in return for surveying the sections. In an affidavit filed in 1911, A. S. Hall (see below) made the same statement.

    1874: Johnson's heirs sold the land of the R. R. Ramey survey, in sixteen forty-acre tracts, to, among others, W. D. Hall, G. E. Tandy, and A. H. Tandy--of the original pioneer Hall and Tandy families--for as little as $1.30 an acre. (Lewis Tandy Jr. still owns a house built for G. E. Tandy in the 3400 block of Meadowbrook Drive.)

    Tracts 4, 5, 6, and 7 (light shaded on map)--which we will detail later--of the Ramey survey were bought by K. M. Van Zandt and A. H. Tandy.

    (K. M. [Khleber Miller] Van Zandt--lawyer, soldier, merchant, banker, and civic leader--was born in Tennessee in 1836. The family moved in 1839 to Texas. He arrived in Fort Worth in 1865 and found "a sad and gloomy picture," as the town had a population of only 250 people and lacked "even a saloon." In 1875 he organized the Tarrant County Construction Company, which built the Texas & Pacific roadbed from Dallas to Fort Worth. In 1874, with John Peter Smith, James Jones Jarvis, and Thomas A. Tidball, Van Zandt organized Tidball, Van Zandt and Company, forerunner of the Fort Worth National Bank. He also co-founded the Democrat, Fort Worth's first newspaper.)

    G. E. Tandy and A. H. Tandy were brothers--sons of Roger. W. D. Hall and Arch Hall were brothers. Was the A. S. Hall who filed an affidavit in 1911 the Arch Hall who came to Tarrant County in 1852 with brother-in-law Roger Tandy and settled south of Tandy Lake, per the Bratton history? Probably. A. S. Hall's 1911 affidavit states that he came to Tarrant County in 1853 and lived "near Fort Worth" about one mile from the R. R. Ramey survey.

    1876: K. M. Van Zandt sold his two tracts of the old Ramey survey to A. H. Tandy, giving A. H. Tandy ownership of tracts 4, 5, 6, and 7.

    1909: A. H. Tandy sold his four tracts of the old Ramey survey to American Realty Company.

    1910: American Realty Company sold the tracts to Polytechnic Heights Investment Company.

    1914: Polytechnic Heights Investment Company named the tracts the "Englewood Heights" subdivision and, after streets were built, dedicated the streets for public use.

    The boundaries of Englewood Heights subdivision were Hanger Street to Tarrant Road and Vaughn Boulevard to Little Street.

    1921: Polytechnic Heights Investment Company sold lot 8, block 9 of Englewood Heights subdivision--the legal description of 3230 Burton--to Mrs. Etta Newby.

    1922: Mrs. Etta Newby sold the lot to Ida Williams.

    1927: A detailed 1927 map shows a house on the lot at 3230 Burton--surely the current Nichols house. Another 1927 map shows that the Fort Worth city limits ran along Burton and Miller Streets! Also notice a street named Ramey. And notice that Burchill Road was called Bowman Springs Road, which today exists only in Arlington.

    1930: Ida Williams sold the lot to R. M. Chitty.

    1948: R. M. Chitty sold the lot to Willie Mashburn.

    1950: Willie Mashburn sold the lot to A. E. Busby.

    1951: A. E. Busby sold the lot to S. D. Nichols.

    2003: The heirs of S. D. Nichols will have to part with the lot and now-empty house, thus ending fifty-two years of family ownership and adding another link to a chain of ownership dating back 160 years in history to the Texas Revolution--history shared by Randy Renois, Dianne Duke, Marcia Melton, Monte Martin, Charles and Joe May, Candy and Kerry Taylor, Sherry Newman, Jack and Fuzzy Hotchkiss, John Nevins, Jerry Zeigler, Dennis Parrish, Billy Foster, Jerry Jackson, Keith and Ken Petty, Cindy and Raymond Dunaway, Debbie Hill, David Geeslin, Butch Hawkins, Barbara Cleveland, Ronald Gould, and all the other kids who grew up in that neighborhood.

    And so, in looking for a lost lake, we found more--a lot more--tying together the Tandys, Duncan McRae, Robert R. Ramey of Goliad, and all the people who would someday live in places called Poly and Englewood Heights, just south of a lake called Tandy that no one remembers.

    Somewhere up there our old history teacher Joe Clark is smiling and saying, "I told you chuckleheads--history is damned interesting. And it's right under your feet!"

    More Nostalgia Central
    Last updated 14.4.2012