Episode 6 The City of Longview 1974-1975
The city of Longview in 1974-76 was totally, totally different compared to today. Of course, it was smaller population-wise and territory-wise, but also, places that exist today didn't exist back then, and vice versa. The main part of the town was in the middle and in the south, and as far as I was concerned back then, there wasn't anything on the northside but houses and Pine Tree.
When I was little, we (my mom, sister, and I) went to basically the same stores and shopping centers every week, so I learned about my general area pretty quickly and could find my way back home from anywhere on the southside of Longview. The northside? I would've been lost. We lived on Young Street, which ran east and west from Eastman Road to Green Street. We could connect to at least four of the five or six major streets which ran north and south in Longview in Eastman Road, 16th Street, Mobberly Avenue, and Green Street. And these streets had plenty of grocery stores, department stores, gas stations, and restaurants to choose from. The only street we didn't connect to was High Street, so we didn't spend much time on High. (Another reason we didn't hardly travel on High Street back then was the fact that during this time they were working on reconstructing the railroad overpass on said street, and it was closed the entire time we lived in Longview during this period. More on this later.) As far as the other east/west thoroughfares we traveled on during this period were concerned, we would go to places on Marshall Avenue, or Highway 80, Birdsong Street, which originally ran from Lilly Street to just a couple of blocks pass High Street, and all the main downtown streets which ran east to west such as Cotton Street, the longest street in Longview at the time, Tyler Street, Methvin Street, and Whaley Street. We also would travel on Nelson Street a lot, notorious for its clubs, lounges, and liquor stores back then.
When we wanted to buy some groceries, we usually went to Brookshire's on Mobberly or Safeway on Green. Of course, none of these stores exist in these spots today, and considering it's been 40+ years which have gone by, it'd be a miracle if some of these places were still in operation in the same spot today. For instance, Brookshire's on High Street became the Super Ones' grocery store of today that's in the same spot, and that's the only store on the southside which is in its same spot today that it was back in 1974-76. Other stores that existed in South Longview back then that disappeared and became furniture stores, beauty stores, workforce centers, jails, empty buildings, etc., include Kroger's, which used to be on Mobberly, the Safeway which was on the corner of High and Whaley, and Winn Dixie (or Buddies, its name back in the day), which used to be on High Street. We didn't go to Buddies, we didn't go to the Safeway on High, we went to the Kroger's on Mobberly maybe once or twice, and the rest we went to almost every week. Of course, there were places on the northside which existed back then, that I didn't know about at the time- there was a Kroger's on the Spur, a Brookshire's on McCann Road, a Brookshire's on Judson Road, and a Brookshire's on the corner of Alpine Road and Highway 80. Interestingly, only the Kroger's on the Spur is still there today, and the Brookshire's on Alpine became Super Ones.
Whenever we wanted to buy something really fast, like gingerbread cakes, candy bars, or small drinks or sodas, we'd usually walk up Young Street to the small store which was on the western corner of Young and 16th. I think it was called Dairy Mart, or something like that; My sister and I called it the Icee Store, because we were little and we always bought icees there. It's kinda amazing I didn't call it "the comic book store" or "gingerbread cake store" because I think I bought way more comic books and gingerbread cakes than I did icees in all the times I went there. This was our favorite store. Back then, I could have a dollar and be able to get an icee, gingerbread cake, and a comic book, and have change left over. (I wish those days would come back!) Of course, that store doesn't exist anymore, but I really wish it did.
My mom used to take me to the barber shop, which back then was in the building on the southeastern corner of Young and 16th, where a lady named Dorothy would usually give me a haircut. The first time we went to her, I was a little scared, but I quickly got over it and used to look forward to getting haircuts from her. Momma used to try and use these old clippers Daddy kept in his drawer, but they would pull more than cut and ultimately and legitimately hurt, so I was glad to be able to go to a barber. To be honest, even though I know there were some somewhere in Longview, I don't remember seeing any male barbers.
Our second favorite store to go and shop was the M.E. Moses department store on Mobberly right next to the Gibson's department store. Gibson's was the Wal-mart of the 70s in Longview. We liked going to Gibson's, but we liked M.E. Moses a hundred times better. M.E. Moses had toys from one end of the store to the other, and it seemed to have the most toys of anyplace in Longview. In fact, with the exception of TG&Y on Highway 80, we seemed to get the majority of our toys from M.E. Moses. TG&Y also had a great selection of toys, clothes, etc., and though we didn't go there very much, when we did go, I'd want to go straight to the toy section. Of course, M.E. Moses and TG&Y don't exist in Longview today; now we have a bunch of dollar stores.
Of course, in 1974-75, the high school was not on the northside of town and neither was the mall. There wasn't anything in that area on the Loop; one wouldn't see any stores or shopping centers on the Loop until they reached the Pine Tree area, and I'm told that there was a TG&Y out there on the corner of Gilmer Road and the Loop. So where were all the major department stores? Downtown, of course. Where was the high school? Downtown on Whaley, Magrill, and the surrounding area. I know I visited Longview High School once while it was on Whaley, but I can't recall why- I don't know if we were picking somebody up or what, but I do remember going there and somebody gave me a Peanuts book from the school library which I still have to this very day. (I hope they didn't steal it though- oh well-) Back then, we went to all the major stores- JC Penney's, Sears, Dillard's, Perry's, and Anthony's. JC Penney's, Perry's, Anthony's, and Dillard's were all on Tyler Street. Sears was where Kilgore College is currently, on the corner of High and South Street. I think there was a Montgomery Ward on High Street, also. I have two main memories of going to these places- First, I remember that since they were working on the High Street underpass during this time and had it blocked off, we had to park in the large parking lot off of Cotton Street, and walk across the railroad tracks to get to the stores. I'm ashamed to say that I had a fear of trains and railroad tracks back then because of a tragic accident which happened in Hallsville that they graphically showed on the news which I happened to watch. After that, I couldn't stand trains and railroads, much less crossing them, and it seemed every time we went downtown, a train would come down the tracks, and I'd be afraid to cross them until the train had passed. Momma didn't want to wait sometimes and she would just about drag me across the tracks even though I swear I could hear a train coming, so that was not exactly fun.
The second memory I have is during Christmas time, we'd go to see Santa Claus sitting right there in Sears, and we usually went with Jennifer Anderson and her family. Somehow, Santa Claus didn't exactly scare me back then, and I had no problem sitting in his lap and telling him what I wanted for Christmas. Poinsettia, however, refused to do so. I also remember this was the first time we went to the Christmas parade in Longview, and after running across the tracks, we enjoyed viewing the parade as it came down Tyler Street.
As far as going out to eat, we very seldom went out to eat during this period. Longview had some pretty good places, too- places I wouldn't discover until I was much older. Places such as Pizza King, on Highway 80, which has probably the best pizza bar none; Dairy Creme, formerly on High Street, which had a great variety of food which tasted really good; Fisherman's Market, on Judson Road, which was just opening around this time; and Bodacious Bar-b-q on Mobberly, which back in the day was the standard all the other bar-b-q establishments measured itself. In 1974-75, we never went to any of these places, even though they had good reputations. Whenever we did go out to eat, it was usually to a Dairy Queen, which back then, there seemed to be one at every corner. In fact, I'm sure Longview had at least 10 Dairy Queens within the city limits in 1975. I wouldn't be surprised if there had been 20 of them in the town. Now there's probably no more than two or three of them. I don't think there was a Burger King in Longview back then; Wendy's also came later, and the only McDonald's that existed then was on Highway 80, where it's still there today. We went there for my 7th birthday, and I don't think I ate anything (because I hated their food back then); I just played on their brand-new playground. There was (and still is) Whataburger on the Spur, but we just didn't go there. There was a Kentucky Fried Chicken (the 12 herbs and spices version) on Highway 80 and on Estes Parkway, but we may have went to the one on Highway 80 a couple of times. Other restaurants which existed back then which definitely don't exist now were Alfie's Fish & Chips, Bonanza Steakhouse, Ken's Fried Chicken, Jim Dandy's Fried Chicken, Burger Chef, and K & N. We went to Jim Dandy's a few times and Burger Chef more than a few (they had the best burgers to me back then), but eating out just wasn't our thing back then. The food, however, was a thousand times better then compared to now.
Longview still had all of its elementary schools and middle schools back then, only difference was elementary school was Kindergarten-6th grade and middle school was 7th grade-9th grade. By the time we moved back to Longview in 1978, it had changed to the way it is today. Back then, there was a Valley View Elementary, Pinewood Park Elementary, and a Jodie McClure Elementary. Those schools no longer exist. East Ward would become Everhart Elementary and move to the northside. Mozelle Johnston would become Johnston McQueen and move further north off of Highway 259. South Ward, Bramlette Elementary, and Ware Elementary would be torn down and rebuilt. So would Hudson PEP and Judson Middle School. Forest Park Middle School would move to Eastman Road. Foster Middle School would move to MLK Jr. Blvd., which was the aforementioned 16th Street.
But the first big move as far as schools was concerned was the moving of Longview High School from downtown to the northside off the Loop. This would occur in 1976 for the 1976-77 school year, and it signalled the beginning of major changes for the city during the next few years. To be sure, the Longview we left in June of 1976 and the Longview we returned to in July 1978 were two very different places. And to be honest, I was a very different person when we returned. Next time, I will start to look back at the summer of 1978 leading into my 5th grade school year which, along with my senior year in high school, was probably my best and the most fun I ever had during a school year. Although I didn't know it at the time, thankfully I didn't spend it in Marshall or Fort Worth, because it very easily could've happened that way.