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Christmas rush in downtown Arlington, Texas - 1953

Remembering Arlington

My family moved to Arlington from Weatherford in 1930, when I was seven years old. I am the ninth of ten children, seven boys and three girls. We moved into a farm house at the corner of what is now Lincoln Drive and Beady Road. My father and his sons farmed several acres in the area. My uncle, Will Vaughan, had a cabinet shop at the intersection of East Main and Mesquite Streets, and I think he talked my Daddy into moving to Arlington. We moved our possessions from Weatherford to Arlington in a wagon and a Model T Ford pickup truck.

The Mayor of Arlington at the time was Will G. Hiett. The population was maybe 3,000. I remember the mineral well at Main and Center Streets and the stores on the four corners:

Johnson's Drugstore, Coulter's Drugstore, Terry's Drugstore, First State Bank. Other downtown stores were Caton's Variety Store, Bird's Variety Store, A&P Grocery, Luttrell's Grocery, Ashburn's Ice Cream, Western Auto, Carter Hardware, Albert Austin's Pool Hall, Aggie Theater, Texan Theatre, the old City Hall, and (on Highway 80) Moore Funeral Home, to name a few. All the roads around Arlington were gravel, rub board, and muddy and slick when it rained. The main east-west road in town was U.S. Highway 80, Division St. (now Texas 180).

I could not reflect on Arlington without remembering Hugh Moore and his family at Moore Funeral Home, which was located on West Division. I remember seeing Hugh at one of the theaters on weekends. He made the remark one time that he never turned anyone down for a funeral whether they had the money or not. I was more familiar with Howard (Gumpy) than any of the other Moore children since he was about my age. Gumpy had a pleasing personality and could be comical at times. One time in Mrs. Roark's algebra class in high school, Mrs. Roarke was telling us to bring money for some books. Gumpy told her she would have to wait for his book until someone died. Gumpy and my brother Derrell were big friends. They used to ride around at night with one of the Arlington policemen, which at that time numbered about four or six. Most of them also doubled as firemen since it was a volunteer department. One of the policemen was named Minor Moore, a distant relative of Gumpy's. He and my brother were riding around with Minor one night and were in Parkdale Cemetery where Hugh Moore had bought plots for his family and had erected a monument with the name "Moore" on it. My brother said as they passed the monument that Gumpy told Minor, "Minor, this is where we'll be on Resurrection Morning, waiting for them to get to the Ms." Gumpy Moore was indeed an Arlington legend.

The first school I went to in what is now Arlington was Harrison School, which was located on North Davis near Randol Mill Road. It was a one-room white schoolhouse which was also used as a church on Sunday. It was a long walk from Lincoln and Beady Rd. to school, probably a mile and a half, especially if it was 20 degrees. The teacher was Margaret Bradford, who had a class in each corner of the room. We later moved to Pantego, where I spent most of my grade school years. We had good teachers, like R. N. Riddel, Ann Heit, Lillian Miller, and Mr. Townsend.

As a teenager, I worked at any job where I could make some money. I milked cows, picked peas and cantaloupes, worked flower beds, helped dig water wells, picked blackberries, etc. If I had a quarter to spend on weekends, I would usually come to Arlington and see a Western at the old Texan or Aggie Theatre. With a quarter, I could go to the movie for a dime, buy a sack of popcorn for a nickel, and get out and go down to the Rockyfeller Hamburger place and get a burger and a drink for the dime I had left. At the time, Rockyfeller's had a sign that said, "Buy them by the sack, six for a quarter." Sometimes I had enough money to go down to the Ashburn Ice Cream Store and buy me a big cone of Hawaiian Pineapple. Man, that was better than Blue Bell!

An article appeared recently in the Star-Telegram about Arlington Downs Race Track. This was owned by W. T. Waggoner, who owned thousands of acres in Arlington and other places in Texas. This was the place where the affluent people of Dallas and Fort Worth came to socialize. Mr. Waggoner's influence was felt in Arlington through business transactions, local employment, etc. However, some businessmen in Arlington were not happy about the track. In later years one man told me people went out there and lost their money and didn't pay their bills. It was also the cause of one bank president committing suicide. It was later revealed that he was taking bank money and betting it on the horses.

Another place closely allied with Arlington Downs was Top O' Hill Terrace, on West Division (now the site of Arlington Baptist College). During the Depression years it was owned by Fred Browning and entertained celebrities from near and far. It was a gambling establishment disguised as a restaurant. The Texas Rangers raided it several times, but they had a guard at the gate (which was a quarter of a mile from the building) and by the time the Rangers got to the building, all gaming equipment had disappeared behind movable walls. I had two brothers who worked there as grounds keepers. Any job in those days was a good job. Finally, the Rangers discovered the underground escape tunnels and, in 1947, a group of Rangers led by "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas raided and closed the place and prosecuted the owners.

Albert Austin's Pool Hall was a favorite place for teenagers back in the 1930s. It was located at the southwest corner of East Main and Mesquite. Albert was a very nice person. He had a number of pool tables and domino and "Moon" tables. Pool was a nickel a game, and Albert controlled the ball rack so he was assured of getting his nickel. Many an hour was spent here with friends and playing pool.

O. S. Gray, owner of O. S. Gray Nursery, was certainly an asset to the City of Arlington. He owned a lot of acreage on West Park Row, where he planted and sold paper shell pecan trees around the world. They are still visible as you drive down Park Row. My brothers worked for him by digging and packaging pecan trees for shipment. Mr. Gray also grew his nursery stock on property between Norwood St. and the RR tracks. The City recently dedicated a park to him on part of that land (off West Abram St.), which he surely deserved.

In conclusion, I would like to recognize the doctors who practiced medicine in Arlington. I remember Dr. Zack Bobo, Dr. McKissack, Dr. Hollingworth, Dr. Harvey, and Dr. Nesbit. These men made house calls and treated the ills of the citizens of Arlington when times were rough and people had little money. You paid what you could afford and the Doctors accepted IOUs.

These are some of my precious memories of Arlington. I could cite many more; there are too many to enumerate for this article. To me, the saddest time I can remember was when the old downtown was torn down in the first half of the 1970s. The old buildings were torn down and replaced, first by the Central Library, and then the current City Hall. Old Arlington, as I knew it as a child and growing up, doesn't exist anymore. Seeing as how Arlington has progressed as a tourist attraction, old downtown might have been renovated to become an attraction for visitors, like other towns have done. But at least, the City and UTA are cooperating and have already made progress in planning and seeing a new downtown rise in Arlington. It won't be like the one I fondly remember, but perhaps new generations growing up in Arlington will be forming their own fond memories because of our new downtown.