Visit White Rock Sometime

Wagon on the old Jefferson Road

Ox-drawn freight wagon along the Jefferson Road in northeast Texas. Slow going every day.

Some day take a drive north on Highway 34 toward Wolfe City. When you see FM 1566, turn left and drive down a slight hill to the old community of White Rock. The area is truly unique to Hunt County and the Blackland Prairies. The name White Rock refers to an outcropping of Austin Chalk that is close to the top of the ground in that area.

Originally the community was a camping place and later became known as Tidwell Creek. It was on the Old Sherman and Jefferson Trail, part of the Jefferson Road that began in the town of Jefferson, the second largest port in Texas at one time. The Jefferson Road entered Hunt County west of Cumby and split near Brigham Cemetery. The main road arched into Greenville along what was later the East Line and Red River Railroad or the Texas Midland Line. The auxiliary road went on to Sherman through Whitewright and Kentucky Town.

Freighters hauled goods mostly by ox teams on heavy freight wagons. Some used teams of mules. In muddy winter and spring weather, the wagons did good to travel two or three miles per day.

On the first Hunt County tax roll in 1846 Jonas Havens was listed as the first settler in the area. On August 28, 1857 Henry Pinney received a patent to establish the seventh post office in the county. It was known as Tidwell Creek. The following year Tennessean John M. Tittsworth started a school in White Rock. No exact date was found as to the time of the name change.

The first store in the area was a general store operated by Lem Kennedy. Kennedy and John Kiser ran the first saloon. Later a barbershop opened. By the beginning of the Civil War about ten families lived in the area.

In the 1870s the White Rock School had a large number of students. Some of the children came from as far as ten miles away. Their fathers blazed a trail through the thick timber. By 1890 the school had expanded to a two-story building with five teachers required for the large student population.

White Rock was a busy place with ten stores, two saloons, a blacksmith shop, a mill, and the cotton gin. Later the community boasted two telephone systems. Claud Lowry owned one of the telephone lines with a switchboard serving about seventy-five customers.

In the early days there were no churches at White Rock, but itinerant preachers held services in private homes when they passed through the area. The Pleasant View Baptist Church was organized in 1871 about a mile west of White Rock. In 1901 the membership voted to move to White Rock and changed the name to White Rock Baptist Church.

The Methodist Church met in the school until a church building was finished in 1898. In 1907 the church was damaged in a storm but quickly rebuilt. In 1920 Henry Grady May organized an orchestra for the church.

When railroads in the late 19th century chose to service Kingston and Celeste, White Rock began a decline. Businesses moved away, followed by families. Today White Rock is a small community in a lovely setting, well worth a drive there.

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Good Old Ben

Benjamin Franklin book

Reading Walter Isaacson’s biography was insightful into one of the most famous Founding Fathers, but one who is probably lesser known for his intellect. Isaacson brings the human being to the forefront of this almost mythical figure. Franklin was the only Founding Father to sign all four major American Revolution documents; the Declaration of Independence, Treaty with France, Peace Accord with Great Britain, and the United States Constitution. In later life he was President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

Where would the United States be today had Benjamin Franklin not shared his wisdom throughout most of the 18th century? Yes, we know he fiddled with a kite and skeleton key to discover electricity. He started the first free public library on this continent. He organized fire brigades and formed militias to maintain order in cities. He developed bifocals, something most of us use today. He created a smokeless wood stove that cleared the air for healthy breathing.

But those characteristics are not what made Franklin a true American hero. Born in Boston to a lowly shopkeeper and his wife, Benjamin ran away from home and ended up in Philadelphia while still a teenager. He studied printing from an older brother, working in print shops before opening his own. Owning his own shop allowed his to share his thoughts and expose new ideas in a particular way. He wrote parodies to slyly expose his beliefs. Once read, the audience thoughtfully recognized the true meaning of his work. He organized clubs to promote conversation and understanding among citizens.

Franklin’s first encounter with politics occurred in Philadelphia where he clashed with the Penn family, the Proprietors of the Colony of Philadelphia. Most of the colonies were Royal Colonies, meaning they answered to the King of England. But Proprietors had more leeway, answering only to Parliament.

About the same time Franklin was named Post Master of all the colonies. He traveled from Connecticut to South Carolina while carrying out his duties. From these travels Franklin learned first hand about life throughout the British Colonies. Along the way he urged the colonies to join together for their common good as early as the early 1850s.

In 1857 Benjamin Franklin began a new service, that of political service. He was not a political genius, neither was he extremely well learned in religion or science, but his practical interest in these areas allowed him to mingle with rich and poor alike. Kings and leather apron manual laborers alike felt an affinity for Benjamin Franklin. Yet, Franklin often wore a fur cap to show he lacked elitism. Never did he own a powdered wig, the sign of a true gentleman.

Franklin represented the Colonies in England and France to achieve treaties and peace accords. Always fighting arbitrary authority in a peaceful manner, he stood for merit, virtue and hard work. Yet, he was pragmatic, often showing willingness to compromise after pushing his ideas to great limits. Such was the case at the Constitution Convention in the summer of 1787. Delegates differed on the form of representation. After strongly supporting a unicameral delegation, Franklin realized the need of smaller states to have equal representation. At that point he suggested two legislative groups, one with equal representation and the other with representation based on population. Without this compromise, the United States might have been a pipe dream.

On his death the French statesman Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot wrote, “He snatched lightning from the sky and scepter from tyrants.” For much more about this American hero read Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

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Prison Songs in Greenville

These words were scratched on the wall of the men’s jail in the Greenville Municipal Building.

For over ninety years the City of Greenville had no public space for its government. Back rooms of stores or saloons were used for city council meetings, other departments rented space in every thing from hotels to rooms adjacent to doctors or dentist offices. In the early days, the mayor was often a storekeeper using his storeroom as the mayor’s office.

By the 1930s the city decided it was time to have a real City Hall with space for police, water, electricity, fire department, and a real jail. For years the city had paid the county to share their jail. But the Great Depression that officially began with the stock market crash of 1929 created an inordinate lack of funds for anything but the most vital necessities. One of recently elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s main goals was to increase work for both manual laborers and professionals such as contractors and architects. He instituted the New Deal to help put people back to work.

Auditoriums, city halls, fire and police stations along with jails were acceptable to the Public Works Administration (PWA) programs. The first round of application began on August 19, 1933. Thousands of cities, including Greenville, applied for grants and loans of more than $25,000 upon completion.

Greenville submitted a very detailed document that included everything about the city, why help was needed, what the city assets were and what assistance was needed in the local opinions. One statement claimed that the “City of Greenville leased jail space at the abandoned county jail.” Well that wasn’t exactly true. It suggested that the jail was in derelict condition. However, when the new county court house was opened in 1929 all prisoners were moved to the fifth and sixth floors there. The city made a contract with the Hunt County Commissioners Court to renovate the old county jail at the intersection of Jordan and Stuart Streets as a city prison. Once the renovation, which the city paid for, was complete prisoners arrested by city officers would be held there.

The old jail had been empty for three years except for birds and an occasional tramp seeking shelter from the weather. Improvements were not to be extensive, just more habitable and sanitary when the first city prisoners arrived.

However, that was not what knocked Greenville out of the running for the grant/loan. All the money was taken by the time Greenville submitted its application. However, the mayor and city council held on to all that work and were rewarded in 1938 when the second round of application were taken. This time Greenville was one of 7,000 communities approved.

Two jails were built, one for men and the other for women who were given a kitchen to cook for the men. Both jails were racially segregated. The jails were stacked on top of each other with the women above. Under the jails were dressing rooms for auditorium performers to use. The Municipal Building and Auditorium opened on October 9, 1939 to the delight of Greenville, Hunt County and neighboring communities.

Often the prisoners could be heard singing prison songs or along with performers. Prisoners were detained there until the 1970’s. Yet they left their marks. One inhabitant scratched on the wall, “Please Lord, don’t let them take me to TDC (Texas Department of Corrections).” There were worse places than the Greenville jail.

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Friday Night Lights at Phillips Field

Coach Henry Frnka

Coach Henry Frnka led the Greenville football team to win two Semi-Final Championships in 1931 and 1932. The in 1932 the team won Texas State Football Championship as the best in the entire state. The winning teams were a great morale booster for Greenville and Hunt County citizens during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many of the players went on to become heroes in World War II.

On Friday before Labor Day this year, Greenville High School held its first Tailgate Party before beating North Garland High School 40 to 27 in a great football game. What a splendid way to begin a new school year!

Football grew in popularity in Greenville during the 1930s, a time of few pleasures for most people; with few distractions from falling agricultural prices, rising unemployment, and growing poverty. In the summer of 1931 a new football coach arrived in town. Henry Frnka joined Dennis Vinzant as coaches at Greenville High School. Together the two men and a group of talented athletes gave Greenville citizens something to cheer about. The football team went to semi-finals in both 1931 and 1932. In 1932 they earned the title of State Championship, the first and only time in the history of Greenville.

But the athletic rules in the 1930s were quite different from those in the second decade of the 21st century. Grades were not regarded as important when recruiting a team. Good strong boys who worked hard were necessary. It has been rumored that some of the team did not attend school in Hunt County in 1930. Dean Hallmark, an outstanding player and later World War II hero, came from Robert Lee, a small town in Coke County. The story goes that his father, a cattle raiser there, was offered a job in Greenville as a cattle buyer if he would relocate his family here and enroll Dean in high school.

Other team members lived with families throughout the county. These boys and their parents were encouraged to allow the young men to live in Greenville and attend Greenville High School. Whether these rumors were true or not, the players were extremely strong.

Games were played at Phillips Field at the east end of Jordan Street near the Cotton Belt Railroad Depot. Mrs. Eula Phillips, widow of wealthy banker Frank J. Phillips, donated funds to purchase and erect an athletic field for Greenville High School students in the late 1920s. When the Phillips field opened electric lights were not needed. All games were held on Saturday afternoon. Yet by the time Coach Frnka took charge, evening football games became more and more prevalent.

At that time, the school district and power company were under the city umbrella. Frnka asked the Mayor and City Council for electricity for the field. That was not a problem; the city would furnish wires and poles. Frnka agreed that the team would install the poles over the weekend so there would be lights for the following Friday night. The young men pitched in, dug holes, moved and installed poles in no time. Soon Phillips Field was electrified.

If you have a tendency to feel the young men were over exerted, remember that Greenville High School in the 1930s was located on Wesley Street where the GEUS Service Center is today. Each day the team ran from there down to Phillips Field for practice, and then back up the hill to change and go home. No buses or car rides for those guys.

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Blue Laws and Sales Tax

Majors Stadium Gate - Greenville, TX

Main Gate to Majors Stadium, home of the Greenville Majors baseball team and other local teams between 1925 and 1957. Many believe that Sunday closings due to Blue Laws limited the number of paying spectators. Going to a Sunday afternoon game was impossible. (Dallas Morning News)

The last semester of my senior year at Midwestern State University I discovered that I needed a car to get to my assigned school for student teaching. Wichita Falls had, and probably still has, an outstanding public transportation system, but, it did not go into the area where my school was. So my dad came to get me on Sunday and we drove to Jacksboro to buy a car. At that time one could not drive into a car dealership and purchase a car on Sunday. Thank goodness my dad knew the dealer well, he promised to come by the next day with a check, and I drove off to my student teacher assignment in a four-cylinder Pontiac. My friends referred to it as the “sewing machine.”

Why not buy a car on Sunday? Because Texas had and still has a Blue Law that forbids such transactions. Blue Laws have been around since the American colonies in various forms. Puritan laws in the northeast forbid any unnecessary labor on the Sabbath. As the Industrial Revolution grew in America, workers were allowed Sunday off. It was a time among other things that children were taught basic learning skills in Sunday Schools near the industries.

By 1863 Blue Laws were established here in Texas. It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the Civil War, although slaves weren’t allowed to work on Sundays. But there was no horse racing on Sunday either.

Baseball historians attribute the lack of success in Greenville baseball teams to Blue Laws. During the early 20th century numerous teams sprang up there but seldom had the needed financial support. The best fans were farmers, tenants and owners, whose only day off was Sunday. But baseball and other sporting events were on the list of Sunday closings, at least here in Greenville.

In 1961 Blue Laws were codified and signed into law by Governor Mark White. Among the forty-two categories of goods not sold on Sundays in Texas were clothing, footwear, utensils, baby bottles, electric fans and air-conditioners, radios, clocks, tools but not hand tools, nails and screws, jewelry, watches, toys but no novelties or souvenirs, and lawn mowers. The penalty for selling such items was $100 to $500 and/or up to six months in jail. Therefore, opening a business on Sunday was simply impractical.

By the 1970s department stores and theaters were finding ways to side-step Blue Laws. Items not for sale were covered with cloth or paper. Some items were considered “emergency items” and sold if an emergency existed. Yet what is an emergency for me might not be an emergency for my neighbor.

Other storekeepers favored Blue Laws. They believed it allowed family time for employees. Others feared the cost of opening a seventh day each week.

Finally the vast majority of goods listed on Blue Laws ended in 1985. Ironically the law went into effect on September 1, the same day that the use of seat belt laws went into effect. But to this day there are a few items not sold on Sundays. I still can’t buy a car, even a four-cylinder Pontiac on Sunday. Beer and wine cannot be sold before noon on Sunday. Have you tried to shop in a liquor store on Sunday? No way; they too are closed all day Sunday.

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Where Was Crescent?

Grave stone of Oma and Fletcher Bland at the Merit Cemetery in western Hunt County. Mr. and Mrs. Bland were a kind, generous couple who donated land for the consolidation of several small schools in the late 1940s.

My mother-in-law, Joyce McCloud Taylor, lived in Crescent when she was a young girl. A few years ago my husband and I took her there so she could show us around. If you’re not acquainted with Crescent, it’s a village near Dulaney, Merit, and Wagner in the northwest part of Hunt County. It has a very interesting history.

On February 25, 1951 the Greenville Morning Herald ran an article by F. B. Bland and Patsy Rackley describing what was then a thriving community. Crescent was established in 1870 on land donated by Richard and Nancy Harrell who also donated land before the Civil War for a Methodist Campground nearby. Where the name Crescent came from I do not know, but by 1875 the town had a store, church, gin, blacksmith shop and school as well as a Woodmen of the World group. Family names of residents were Mock, Lovingood, Alderson, Love, Bland, Collins, and Milton.

The community did not always use the name Crescent. The school was known as Lone Cottonwood District number 23. The store went by the name Alliance and the church was known as Harrell’s Chapel. It was served by a Methodist circuit rider that held services there once a month. However, the young people met at the church every Sunday evening.

The school hired four teachers for grades one through six. It continued until 1945. Two years later Crescent School merged with Merit, Floyd, Wagner, McCloud, and Dulaney to form Bland School District. F. B. Bland was the generous, kind person for whom the school district was named.
In 1947 Crescent Community Center Club organized along with a Sunday School and church that held services twice a month. They met in the old Crescent School House. In 1948 the Rural Progress Club organized an annual Crescent Reunion.

By 1951 the ladies in the area formed Crescent Home Demonstration Club. My mother-in-law found the minutes of the club in her mother’s things and let me copy them. At least thirteen women joined the group, many of them related. The ladies met in members’ homes or the Community Center twice each month. They had a business session first, followed by a devotional, then program and/or games, and finally refreshments. The club was part of Hunt County Home Demonstration Clubs. They were allowed to have a representative and frequently invited the County Home Demonstration Agent to meetings. Since this was during the Cold War, one of the women served as Civil Defense Leader.

Today the school/Community Center are gone. No stores exist but there are several nice homes in the area. It is a quiet, lovely part of Hunt County. Many descendants of early settlers live in the vicinity and commute to work in Greenville, McKinney, Dallas, and other urban areas. Yet they have the rural peace and quiet when they come home.

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Dark Cottons

Dark Cottons were a necessity for every woman, schoolgirl, and matron in the South. Plaids and solids in heavier fabrics were worn, no matter the temperature.

Labor Day arrives in a few days.  Now it’s a time to get one more day at the lake or pool, a respite before football season, the State Fair, and Thanksgiving.  No more three-day weekends for a while.  Labor Day arrives in a few days.  Now it’s a time to get one more day at the lake or pool, a respite before football season, the State Fair, and Thanksgiving.  No more three-day weekends for a while.
However, it wasn’t that way a few decades ago when Labor Day was a Red Letter Day.  Women and girls put away white shoes and handbags, as well as straw hats and patent shoes.  Fall began, and no self-respecting lady would be seen in summer attire, even if the temperatures were still in the high 90s.  As late as the 1960s, fashion was the dictator of style, not the weather.
In the 1960s or 1970s Princess Margaret of Great Britain arrived the first full week of September in Houston clad in white pumps.  Every woman in the state if not in the nation was aghast!  Didn’t the Princess know it was time for Dark Cottons?  Someone should have told her.  But Margaret had a mind of her own and could care less.  It was hot in Houston.
Dark Cottons were a necessity for every woman, schoolgirl, and matron in the South.  In the North where the temperature began to dip, Dark Cottons were replaced with tweed skirts and jackets and woolen sweaters.  High school girls and college co-eds lived by fashion codes found in Seventeen Magazine.
Dark Cottons were made of heavier cotton fabrics dyed in dark colors.  The usual attire had a skirt (no pants on respectable ladies), a long-sleeved jacket, and a sweater or long-sleeved cotton shirt underneath.  Stockings were requisite as were close-toed black or brown shoes, preferably with at least an inch heel.  Accessories included a black or brown small handbag, a perky pillbox hat like Jackie Kennedy wore, and a strand of pearls.  Jeans were relegated to the back of the closet, only to come out when no one was around.
The strict fashion guidelines were the result of World War II rations and Depression era lack of funds to foolishly spend on stylish clothing.  Women were ready to think about new clothes.  Department stores loved the new looks.  Newspapers loved them also.  Fashionable ads were constantly catching the eyes of well-dressed females.  The new fall styles each year were just enough to make last year’s attire terribly dated.
Teenagers and co-eds weren’t the only stylish females in dark cottons.  My mother and grandmother were exceptional seamstresses and always dressed me in the latest fashions, even as a first grader.  I dearly remember a darling navy plaid dress they made me.  I thought I was the best-dressed kid in school.
As you can tell, I lived in a small town where poverty could be seen not far from home.  There were many children in my school not so well dressed.  They rode the school bus for over an hour each way to school.  While we think the 1950s and 1960s were so splendid for many they weren’t for everyone.
Thanks goodness, fashion styles are more democratic and less class based now.

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Give Away Books

Bull Durham Tobacco Pouch

Every cowboy had a pouch of Bull Durham smoking tobacco in his pocket along with papers to wrap his own cigarettes. But for a while, every pouch came with a coupon for a Give-Away Book. (Courtesy Google)

Towards the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century, the nation experienced an obsession with reading. Andrew Carnegie built libraries throughout his adopted country. One stood at the corner of Stonewall and Crockett Streets. Now the site of Greenville Chamber of Commerce, the classic Carnegie Building was razed in the 1950s. Today the concept still exists in Greenville. Several Little Libraries can be found throughout town. And of course, the W. Walworth Harrison Public Library in Lou Finney Park serves citizens six days a week.

But several years ago I heard about the Bull Durham books. No, they had nothing to do with the movie, but were early marketing gimmicks of the Bull Durham Tobacco Company in Durham, North Carolina. Attached to each package of Bull Durham tobacco was a yellow coupon redeemable for one paperbound book. Three hundred and three books, mostly fiction, but all classics were redeemable at local stores. Because the choices were classics, they were not copyrighted, and therefore cheaper to reproduce.

Those who grew up in ranching country know all cowboys or drovers rolled their own cigarettes with Bull Durham tobacco and paper. Those tough men could only work about nineteen hours per day. That left five hours to sleep and find something to occupy their time. Staying at a lonely line camp in the middle of nowhere, they must do something. After all, one could only listen to so many coyotes and howling winds, or watch so many sunrises and sunsets. So cowboys began to read the Bull Durham books and found they really liked them.

Many of the line camps provided a wood frame shack with a window and door on the south side for shelter. Inside was a bunk bed, a wood burning stove, maybe a cane bottom chair and table. A cabinet filled with canned food, an iron skillet or Dutch oven and maybe a spoon or fork provided meals. No running water, no plumbing, and no electricity existed but a coal oil lamp provided artificial light. Under the bunk bed was usually an old wooden box, once containing canned food but now used to stow Bull Durham books.

When a cowboy finished a book, he dropped it into the box and chose another one to read. Staying at the line camp was a long and tedious process. In daylight he rode fences looking for holes in barbed wire or fixing water gaps, found old cows with new baby calves, pulled livestock out of mud holes, and routinely counted livestock. At night he read and slept. There were no radios, no telephones, and definitely no Internet. Most of the time, the drover was alone. Going to town was not an option for weeks at a time. Occasionally the chuck wagon brought new supplies. The driver brought all the news to the isolated cowboy. So the old cowboy worked, read, cooked his meals, and waited for relief drover to arrive so he could move on to the next line camp.

The Bull Durham books lasted about a decade. Since there were 303 titles, the books took up valuable space in the local store. Merchants began to complain. Soon the books began to disappear. They were made of low-grade paper so few survive today. But what a unique American custom.

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The War Comes to America

American Pilot in France in 1919

American pilot with 91st Aero Squadron in France in 1919. (commons.wikimedia.org)

When I began to post tidbits of local news on Facebook in 2014, I wasn’t certain how long it would last. I’m fascinated with the past, but was there others who might be interested? Well, my posts have never gone viral but I know they are read.

At the end of every month, I scan newspapers throughout North Texas. I use a website, GenealogyBank.com, for most of my research. One hundred years ago, newspapers had small staffs so they borrowed materials from other towns. The Dallas, Fort Worth, and Corsicana newspapers were filled with interesting news from Greenville and Hunt County. The Commerce Journal has been digitized and can be found at Ancestry.com for the period from 1901 to 1977. Some issues are missing but it is a great source for my project.

For August 1917 everything I post will be from the Commerce Journal. I chose to do that because I wanted to see what local communities were reading and found interesting. The college had just been accepted as part of Texas college system with very stable financial support. Cotton and the boll weevil made news. But the largest amount of news items related to the war and its effect on local residents.

The Hart brothers who owned the Commerce Journal had been outspoken about the war in 1914, and how the United States should stay out and let the European royalty fight their own battles. But with the announcement of the Zimmerman Telegram and the Mexican Revolution conflict along the U.S.- Mexican border, the Harts changed their attitude.

The first U. S. military to land in France were aviators and airplane mechanics. J. D. Jernigin, Jr., wrote home with a scant amount of news. The location was simply “Somewhere in France.” His parents and other parents shared their sons’ letters in the Commerce Journal, as did most newspapers throughout the United States. Parents went to training bases to see their sons off. Mothers cried.

The Red Cross was organized in Commerce, duly wrapping bandages that would be used by the thousands. The ladies had several social events to send off local young men. Women found new employment as mechanics, elevator operators, and telephone operators. And in Commerce as in Greenville and most other towns in Texas, canning and preserving food for allies in Europe and to feed U. S. troops were hot items. The Board of Trade in Commerce offered a new National Canner with all the equipment to the first person willing to work it.

Once the United States declared war on the Axis countries, Woodrow Wilson hired George Creel, a publicity mogul to convince Americans the war was the right thing to do. Creel, in turn hired a cadre of reporters to fill American newspapers with propaganda. Part was Uncle Sam’s Thrift Thought for Today. I suspect few people today would be interested in trying the recipes. I know I wouldn’t.

Looking at World War I from a century later is unique. Americans were in for rough times ahead. Join me at my Facebook page for news from the war, the Influenza epidemic, and the Paris Peace Talks. Nothing was smooth sailing.

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Treasures on Our Doorstep

TAMUC Stadium

Memorial Stadium began as a project of the Ex-Students Association in the fall of 1945. Construction was started in 1949. The opening ceremony on September 23, 1950 featured U. S. Speaker of the House and former student Sam Rayburn. (Photo by Jesse)

Earlier this summer Heather Goodson asked me to do a historic resources survey on Live Oak Street and Maple Street in Commerce as part of the preparation for the downtown Commerce renovation project. Commerce has always been a special place for me; my husband and I met there and years later I received a Masters of Science in History from Texas A&M University Commerce, two great events in my life.

On one of the hottest days we have endured so far this summer, I drove to Commerce with notepad, camera on my phone, and ideas I had gathered from research sources I had available at my house. The adventure did not start well. Campus police pulled me over when I parked in a No-Parking zone behind the goal posts at Memorial Field. The friendly policemen thought I was lost, but wished me well when I told them of my mission.

That was my first source for the survey. The stadium was originally built on that site in 1950. It was dedicated to the seventy-eight (78) students who lost their lived in World War II. Ironically, Professor Mayo who owned the college did not approve of football until his son wanted to play.

An old house at 1803 Live Oak has an interesting past. For as long as I can remember it was a fraternity house but now appears to be abandoned. A large For Sale sits in the front yard. From an old photograph in Pictorial History of Commerce 1885-2010 by Cheryl Westhafer and Dr. James H. Conrad, I learned that the house was built in the 1920s as a hospital/clinic for Dr. Clarence Allen, longtime doctor for the college, the railroads, as well as citizens of Commerce.

At 1509 Live Oak Street is an old gas station probably built in the 1930s or 1940s. It appears the owner or operator just locked up one night and never returned. I really wanted to see inside but I didn’t want to annoy the nice campus police.

A vacant lot is all that remains of Union Church at 1301 Live Oak. Most small towns had a Union Church in their earliest days for all worshippers to share church services. Later it was the home of William M. Rhew, an early photographer.

Across the Live Oak Street to the north was the first school in Commerce, built in 1910 also on a vacant lot.

Somewhere in the vicinity Live Oak Street and Pecan Street intersect. Very early Pecan Street was known as Buttermilk Alley. No reason found, but it could make a great tale.

A large Colonial Revival house occupies 1209 Live Oak Street. Built in 1940 it served as a family residence and funeral home. In 1942 it was sold to Houston Jones who turned it into a funeral home and moved his family elsewhere. In 1990 the Richard Ward family purchased it and members of the family still operate the seventy-seven year old facility.

My other street to explore was Maple Street, a short street near City Park with several fairly new apartment complexes. However, where Maple and Washington Streets I found a real gem, or gems I should say. Three “Shotgun” houses faced Washington Street, all in various conditions. The middle one appeared to be occupied. If you don’t know what a “Shotgun” house is let me explain like my father explained it to me. They were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. If you wanted to get rid of someone, you walked up on the porch, aimed your shotgun at the door, and most likely since the bullet went straight through the house, you killed that someone. Three small rooms made up the house, one behind the other. Railroad workers likely occupied these cottages since Commerce was a fairly large railroad town.

And my final find was not really a find. I knew an old 1950s era drive-in soda shop was there at one time; right across the street from the swimming pool in the park. Like the old gas station, the drive-in appears to have closed one summer, never to open again.

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