Chapter 5 Big D & the High School Years Š Dallas, Texas
In March 1954, our family moved to Dallas for my father to accept a call to become Pastor of the John Knox Presbyterian Church. My family lived there till 1958, when I was in college.
The John Knox Presbyterian Church was established as a New Church Development by Brazos Presbytery in the early 1950s. Its initial pastor was the Rev. Mr. J. C. Foster. Unfortunately, he contracted polio, had to withdraw from the ministry, and ultimately died soon thereafter. There was an Interim Pastor, the Rev. Dr. James Gilmer McMurtry (1870-1954). He served till Dad assumed the pastoral leadership. As Dr. McMurtry relinquished the pastoral duties there, shortly thereafter, he experienced a heart attack or stroke while driving, and died in the subsequent roll-over crash. His age was 84. This was recalled for me by my friend, Judy Shoup Shannon, as Dr. McMurtry had been a friend of her parents, and had dined in their home. His death was when Judy was about age 12. She had fond memories of him as a kind and gentle man, a man with a natural Scottish brogue.
The John Knox Presbyterian Church does not exist today (2018), but rather the physical facilities are used for what is entitled the Pleasant Grove Food Pantry. I believe that for a while, it was a child-care facility. Though unincorporated, the area was known as Pleasant Grove.
HereÕs a history sheet of John Knox Presbyterian Church:
HereÕs an aerial view of the church property:
This is a 2017 view of our churchÕs land
The Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee was one of the Church Elders, Mr. Maurice (Bill) Green. Professionally, he owned an insurance agency, and had dealings in real estate. His real estate connections brought the church into the purchase of the home (Presbyterian PastorÕs church-owned homes are called a Manse) in which we lived at 2207 Major Drive. At the time, the home was newly constructed, as of 1954. This photo below is a 2016 photo, when the neighborhood had become somewhat worn over the years, some 72 years later. The wheel chair ramp did not exist when we lived there. My bedroom was the front left (south) side of the house.
The Green family were stalwart members of John Knox Presbyterian Church. Maurice (Bill) and Louise Green had two children: a daughter in high school at the time, Marcy, and a son, Steve, who was a year younger than me, but who became fast friends with me. Shortly after graduating from Pleasant Grove High School, Marcy married Arvie Martin, the Football player hero of the school at the time. Their wedding was a big deal at our church.
One of the degrading experiences of mine was that, in Dallas, the 9th grade was in the Junior High School level. Remember, the 9th grade had been in the Sweetwater High School. So, coming from a high school back down to a junior high was a humiliating status for me. I certainly would not let any of my former Sweetwater friends know of that demotion!
A positive event for me in entering school was that the Principal of North Dallas High School was a member of John Knox Presbyterian Church, a Mr. Dan Thompson. On the first day for me in my new school, he arranged to come by our home to take me to Alex W. Spence Junior High School. Today, it has changed functions, and is styled as a Talented/Gifted Academy. Mr. Thompson took me into the Spence PrincipalÕs Office to introduce me, so the engrafting was somewhat pleasant.
Mr. Thompson and a son, Dan, who was a year older than me (Daniel Mark Thompson). We became friends through school years, and even Dan was a student ahead of me later at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. I think he worked in hospital management, but have not located him recently. DanÕs motherÕs name is Margaret. Dan was a member of the Hope Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX till about the year 2000. He may now reside out of state of out of this world!
My life began to upgrade, after the necessary last three months of the 9th grade at Spence. That summer enabled me to land a weekend package and stock boy job at the Wyatt Food Store in the Pleasant Grove Shopping Center on South Buckner Boulevard.
In the summer of 1954, I attended the Dallas Presbytery High School Summer Camp up on Lake Dallas. I met a girl, Miss June Wilson, to whom I was attracted soon! This was developing to be the first girlfriend type of relationship IÕd experienced.
She was a new student in South Oak Cliff High School. It was in the far south central part of Dallas. I was a new student at Woodrow Wilson High School, in the Lakewood area of north east Dallas, and our home was near Pleasant Grove, in the far southeast end of Dallas. Without having driverÕs licenses, nor automobiles (our families were one car families in those days, with only the father regularly using the cars, mostly taking them to work), we didnÕt pursue our new-found friendship much, outside of phone calls. The State Fair Day rolled around! That was the School DistrictÕs city-wide holiday to allow students to attend the Texas State Fair on designated day in October. This became the occasion for the first date-ever for me to have with a young lady!
The logistics for this event became a significant effort! First, I boarded a bus in Pleasant Grove, in-bound to the end of the streetcar rail line in southeast Dallas. The streetcar was ridden to downtown Dallas, where a transfer was made to another street car. The second street car route ended about half way to JuneÕs home in south Oak Cliff, so another bus was boarded. After coming to her home, we walked to the bus stop and returned to downtown Dallas, then out the street car line to the State Fair Grounds. We spent the whole day there. In the late afternoon, we began the same entire reverse trip. It was a total of 14 times I boarded a bus or streetcar that day!
Though it was a fun experience going on that first date, our distances living apart did not allow much to develop. Unfortunately, she developed a cancer and died before graduating from high school.
Woodrow Wilson High School was a good experience for me, for the 10th, 11th and 12th grades. In the 10th and 11th grade years, I served in the Army ROTC Corps. That high school, we were told, was unique, in that it was the only public high school in the United States that had required Army ROTC for all male students who did not have some medical or other reason to be exempted. No one there had ever heard of a conscientious objector, so that status was not an element! For my senior year, that military requirement was discontinued, so I waved the third-year service. The major motivation to waive the service was that to be an officer, you needed to be in your senior year and you needed to have attended at least one of the ROTC Summer Camps at near-by Lake Dallas. I had not attended those camps, because I held down full time jobs at the Wyatt Food Stores in the cummers! I did not want to be in the senior year where most of my peers were officers and I was not! Mr. G. L. ŅPopÓ Ashburn was the high school principal my sophomore and junior years. HeÕd been the only principal since its beginning in 1928. His 1956 Retirement coincided with the merger of the Pleasant Grove Independent School District (where our church and many of our friends were) into the Dallas Independent School District. The popular Superintendent of the PGISD was Mr. Dale Brown was made WWW Principal my senior year.
One of the course choices offered us was to take Spanish or Latin foreign language. My immediate attraction was to take Spanish, because there were many Spanish speaking people in Dallas and in Texas! However, with my motherÕs double major in college being in Latin and Greek, she insisted that my choice be the Latin offering! My enthusiasm for taking Latin was sufficiently low that my grades were not the best! Later, I would learn that taking the Latin did have a worthy benefit for me. After becoming a college student, introduction to some of the bigger words in college enabled the Latin experience to give me a good idea about the meaning of those new big words!
One friend at Woodrow was Thomas (Tommy) Flanagan, who turned out to be my dormitory roommate at Austin College for three semesters of 1958 and 1959.
Another course selection in high school affected my later life in a special way. We had typing classes there, but virtually all the students usually were female! That was because in the culture of that day, typing was only needed by secretaries, who always were female! However, my perception was that knowing how to type would be a good skill to have. I became one of only two male students in a class of 30 students taking typing! These all were manual typewriters, as electric typewriters were unusual to see. In retrospect, that course provided the most usefulness to me the rest of my life of any other course in high school! Little did I know at the time, but my first professional employment after graduating from college was to be a salesman for IBM electric typewriters!
A benefit of typing in high school was that the English teacher had a term paper requirement for Senior graduation. Extra credit was given for a typewritten report. In those days, probably 75% of the submitted senior papers were hand-written. Additional extra credit was given for an error-free typewritten paper. That meant no erasures could be seen on a page.
That meant that each time an error was made, the whole page needed to be retyped! To achieve the 15 pages for my report, it may have been 50 or more actual pages that were typed to get 15 error-free pages! With my grades being what they were, I needed all the extra credit that I could earn!
After having my first brief girlfriend experience, my attentions turned to a young lady some 3 years younger, named Judy. Her full name is Jewell Linn Shoup. Her parents were Lin and Wilma Shoup, active people in our church. Her father taught our youth Sunday School class. She became the most frequent date during my high school years. She was a student at W. W. Samuel High School. At first, her boyfriend was Dick White. I had to compete with him for her attraction. The two of them were in a dance club together, and were a dashing couple!
Judy was my date to the Senior Prom for Woodrow Wilson High School, held at the newly opened and fancy Statler-Hilton Hotel in downtown Dallas. We had many social and romantic adventures throughout those years. Dating couples had a sport to conclude social event evenings called watching the submarine races at White Rock Lake! It was that pretty lake in East Dallas with plenty of parking places around the shores.
After my high school graduation, our paths seemed to go in different directions. Interestingly, I am Facebook friends today both with Judy (Judy Shoup Shannon) and with her daughter, Kelly (Kelly Shannon Stranahan). JudyÕs parents retired from Dallas and relocated elsewhere in Texas, but they and my parents kept contact with each other into their mutual retirement days.
I became friends with Dick White, as he also was a friend of Steve Green. With my part time job at Wyatt Food Stores, my recommendations managed to secure work for the two of them. In that context, we became fast friends. In this photo, Steve Green is on the left, Dick White in the middle and I am on the right.
Wyatt Food Stores built a new store in the center area of that Shopping Center, which opened in the fall of 1955. My advancement had been to be a checker (operator of the cash register at the check-out stands!) When the new store opened, I took off from school that Monday, and was the checker to transact the very first purchase in the store! What an honor!
The store manager who hired me was Mr. William (Bill) Inge. He was there the entire time of my part-time employment over those years. I learned a lot from him. He managed that store like an in-charge king! Whatever he said was the last word! I was fortunate to work under him and to learn from him.
In 1955, my cousin from Georgetown, TX, Harry Franklin Sharpe, married his high school girl friend, Barbara Jean Morris. They were young É. ages 18 and 19. They came to Dallas seeking to find work for Harry. My introduction of Harry to Mr. Inge resulted in WyattÕs Food Stores hiring him to work in the storeÕs pharmacy department. The young couple bore a child soon. They didnÕt stay in Dallas long. Perhaps it was two or three years. Then returned to Georgetown. Eventually they had four children, and the marriage ended in divorce in the 1960s. This is a photo from his Georgetown High School annual.
There was another family at our church whose son was Mr. Stephen (Steve) Lester Humphrey. SteveÕs father was Victor (Vic) Humphrey. Steve dated Suzanne Black, both being students at W. W. Samuels High School. As a matter of fact, even I had a couple of dates with Suzanne, but Steve was the winner here, at least for the high school years. I needed to wait for another (and better) Suzanne for my life!
In the W. W. SamuelÕs High School annual in their senior year, Steve was pictured as being voted Class Favorite!
Steven (Steve) Green dated a girl named Charlotte Dial. She lived directly across the street from our home on Major Drive. She was SteveÕs first marriage.
Steve graduated from Tulane Medical School in New Orleans. He was a student there while my first post-college work was with IBM in the 1960s. That gave Steve the opportunity to meet Suzanne. He subsequently spent 27 years on the faculty at East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine . His second marriage was to Fran in 1998. This is a later photo of Steve and Fran.
Dick White and I went to the University of Texas together. His full name is Richard Hall White. He graduated from the University of Texas Medical School. His practice was in Austin, TX, Adolescent, Adult and Geriatric Medicine, Minor Emergencies, FAA Examinations. DickÕs wife, Patricia, is pictured here on the left in a 2009 photo.
One of Judy ShoupÕs best friends in high school days was Jackie Pope, a girl with whom I also became acquainted, through that friendship. Here, Jackie is pictured with Ron Headrick. They were an honored couple in the ValentineÕs Day Court, and was the boy Jackie dated in high school.
Interestingly, after college for Jackie and for Steve Humphrey, both of whom knew each other in high school, began dating. They married and give issue to several children. Together, they built an electrical contractorÕs company, Humphrey & Associates. Some 50 years later, there was an occasion for them to be our contractors for a project at our retirement home in Aurora, Texas! They resided in Fort Worth, and for a time were members of the Baptist church where the Classical Conversations Home Schooling organization held its weekly formal classroom instructions. This is the group in which our Westmoreland children were schooled, and our daughter, Tiffany, taught.
Ann Pickerel was another young lady among the teens at Samuels High School and at John Knox Presbyterian Church. Her parents were active leaders in the congregation. I had a few dates with Ann as well. She married a guy named John White (no relation to Dick White). Ann and John came to the reunions cited below in 2007 and in 2009.
There was a fun activity which Steve Green and I pursued. John Knox Presbyterian Church had Sunday evening services, which included a section of song requests from the congregation. For reasons, I do not fully recall, Steve and I became the leaders at the front of the sanctuary who called upon the people to request a favorite hymn, then the two of us led them in the singing, while the pianist, Mrs. Mathis, provided the music. Her daughter was Margaret Ann Mathis, but IÕve lost track of her. Bill Mathis, her father, had divorced Ruth. Later, Ruth married a widower, Mr. Sanders in the church. His children were Larry and Virginia.
We friends having Pleasant Grove memories have had two reunions in Ņrecent years.Ó They were in Granbury, TX March 17-18, 2007 and at some date in 2009 IÕve missed recording.
Here are some photos from the Granbury 2007 gathering:
There was a 2009 reunion of some of us from Pleasant Grove in Dallas. It was at the home of Dick & Patricia White in Austin, TX.
L to R: John & Ann (Pickrell) White, Dick White (no relation to John), D. A. Sharpe, Judy Shoup Shannon, Jackie & Steve Humphrey, and Suzanne Shape. Ann, Judy, Steve and me all were from our John Knox Presbyterian Church.
Here is a photo use for me in my high school annual, depicting me as a member of the Library Council. ItÕs a photo that had been long lost for me. However, it came back to me through a thought gift of Judy Shoup Shannon to our daughter, Tiffany, much later in life when my family lived in Dallas (1982-2004). WeÕll cover that fun experience in the Chapter, ŅComing Home to Texas.Ó
My senior year included a good number of social occasions and celebrations for the coming of age that we seniors were approaching. Judy Shoup was my escort for most of the events and dances. The Senior Prom for my Woodrow Wilson High School was in downtown Dallas at what then was the new Statler-Hilton hotel. It was the newest and fanciest at the time, but today is a residential facility.
Here is a photo of Judy and me at one of her birthday celebrations. JudyÕs younger brother, David Shoup, is on the right, next to Wilma Shoup, JudyÕs Mom. JudyÕs birthday was Christmas Day, 1941. HereÕs a photo of Wilma in her young years.
Another family who were members at John Knox Presbyterian Church with us was our family physician, Dr. James Sewell. His wifeÕs name was Ruth, and they had several children. Dr. Sewell treated me for asthma about 1955 a couple of times. That being on the record was what caused me to be turned down in joining the U.S. Navy, and the Draft Board classified me as 4F. That meant I would not have military service. After we moved away from Dallas, we heard that Jim and Ruth divorced and Jim married the nurse who worked at his office.
Larry and Virginia Sanders were a brother and sister teenage friends of mine at John Knox Presbyterian Church as well. Their mother died, and their widowed father married Ruth Mathis, the church organist. RuthÕs heritage at that church is that her Mother, Elsie McBee, was sort of a matriarch there. She also was its organist. The original organizing pastor of that church was a minister, whose name IÕve forgotten, but who died from Polio. My father followed him as Pastor.
Here was one of our infrequent winter days. It was taken in Dallas, in 1954. It was at this same spot that I was forced to learn how to change a flat tire on an automobile, this automobile, in fact! One of my duties after becoming licensed to drive was to drive my Father to church early on Sunday mornings for his necessary preparations. I returned home and later, Mom and I would drive to church.
One Sunday morning, it was raining heavily. Just as we were about to depart for taking Dad to church, we discovered that a tire was flat! There was not time for Dad to change into work clothes and back again into his Sunday suit. So, he instructed me to get the spare tire out of the trunk, get the tire tool and figure out how to take off the lugs, change the tire and reassembly it! Not only was this form of self-teaching difficult, doing it in the pouring down rain was simply unimaginable! Finally, the tire was changed, and I drove him to church in my soaking wet clothing! This is not the best way to learn about taking care of cars! My first taste of retirement!
Our Senior Class baccalaureate service was at the First Baptist Church, where the then famous W. A. Chriswell was the senior pastor for around 50 years, some of which that church was the largest membership church in America. Our Commencement Graduation Ceremony was at the State Fair of Texas Auditorium. We were a graduating class of 527, as I recall, which was the largest class ever to graduate from a Dallas High School up to that time. Unfortunately, I was not the valedictorian of my class, nor ever the salutatorian. I landed a spot in the third quarter of my class! Hopefully the later parts of my life can be considered more successful!
We did have one student of somewhat renown. It had taken something like four or four and a half years for him to pass successfully the required three years of high school. When he walked across the stage, with clasped, raised hands above his head, he received what may have been the biggest ovation of clapping from the audience of anyone that day! Good for Paul! I donÕt know what ever became of him, but I imagine he finally was successful!
Later chapters in this autobiography will mention how some of these friends had paths that crossed mine again in other circumstances. It is pleasing, still, to have warm and friendly connections with each other, even after these years, and while there have been long periods of absence from one another. Praise be to God!