Monday, April 30, 2018

Episode 15: Longview Grows 1976-1980

Lobos, Blue Devils, and Mustangs presents:
Episode 15
Longview Grows, 1976-1980


The city of Longview went through some MAJOR changes in the late 1970s. The exodus north from the middle of town was beginning to take place. Everything went from being situated in downtown, along Mobberly and High Streets, and along Highway 80/Marshall Avenue to Judson Road, McCann Road, and the Loop. When we lived on Young Street, we very seldom went on the northside of Longview, because there wasn’t all that much on the northside. (At least, that’s what we thought.) Everything was on the southside, or south of Marshall Avenue. Longview’s population would go from 40,000 (est.) in 1960 to approximately 45,000 in 1970 to 62,000 in 1980. Let’s look at some of the changes which occurred in Longview at this time.

1. Longview High School moves from downtown on Whaley Street to the Loop in the Fall of 1976.

I cannot imagine LHS still being in downtown today; that would probably be a mess right now. So, this was a move which needed to be made at the time. The school was built basically near the intersection of the Loop and Airline Road, which, back then, Airline was basically a two-lane barely-paved road, and the Loop was being widened from two lanes to four lanes in certain spots. Hawkins Parkway didn’t exist back then. Airline just curved around a couple times before going north, so there was plenty of space for LHS to grow and expand in the future. At the time it was built, only the main building was in place. The rest wouldn’t come until later.

2. The Longview Mall opens in 1978 on McCann Road and the Loop.

Unknown fact: The original spot considered for the Longview Mall was the corner of Eastman Road and Whaley Street, north of the railroad track, across from where UPS is today. Again, I don’t know how well that would have worked- obviously, there was more space in its current location, but those of us who lived on the southside at the time wanted the mall built there off of Eastman Road. If the mall had actually been built right there, I doubt it would have lasted too long at that location, and ultimately, it probably would’ve moved further north in the long run anyway. The opening of the mall was the beginning of the end of Longview’s downtown being a major shopping area. JC Penney’s, Dillards’, Sears, and Bealls would move into the mall from the start, and with the exception of Bealls, the stores are still major parts of the mall to this day. Chick-Fil-A is the only restaurant which is still in the mall and which has been there from the beginning. The building and opening of the mall would mark the beginning of the Loop becoming a major source of shopping centers, restaurants, and major businesses. And this would lead to more people moving into northern Longview.

3. Regional Hospital is built on the corner of North 4th Street and Hollybrook Drive.

Longview for a long time only had one major hospital, that being Good Shepherd, so when Regional Hospital was built, due to the growth of the city, it was badly needed.

4. A Target store is built across from the mall on the Loop.

After the high school and mall was built, different businesses started appearing on the Loop in between Judson Road and McCann Road. Businesses such as Target, Hobby Lobby, Long John Silver’s, Burger King, Hastings, Barron’s Book Store, and Albertson’s started making their marks at this time. Also, a shopping center consisting of Brookshire’s and Howard’s (Gibson’s) opened on Judson Road right off the Loop.

5. Different streets are widened, lengthened, built, or had a name change, bringing about even more growth.

a. Judson Road was widened from a 2-lane road to a 4-lane road in 1978-79.
b. 16th Street (MLK Jr. Blvd) was widened from 2 lanes to 4 lanes.
c. Birdsong Street was lengthened from High Street out to FM 1845 (Loop 281).
d. US Highway 259 became Texas 31 from Interstate 20 to South Street, connecting with Spur 63 and ending at Highway 80. Instead of going through town down Highway 80 which it did in the 1970s, US Highway 259 was rerouted coming out of Kilgore down Interstate 20 and connecting to Eastman Road heading north.
e. FM 1845 became South Loop 281.
f. Gilmer Road became a major spot for businesses, apartments, and restaurants.
g. Fairmont Street is lengthened from McCann Road all the way to the Loop.
h. Bill Owens Parkway is lengthened from the Loop to Highway 80.
i. North 4th Street is lengthened from Hollybrook Drive to the Loop (and later all the way to Eastman Road).
j. Whaley Street is lengthened from downtown all the way to Eastman Road.

6. Maude Cobb Convention Center’s groundbreaking ceremony takes place on September 7, 1982 and opens January 20, 1984 after much controversy of where to build it. 

Originally it was to be built on (or in) the southside of Longview in an area where a lot of houses would’ve been torn down, but the majority of the citizens of Longview voted against that idea, so it was built instead right next to the fairgrounds, and it has been there ever since.

7. There were some businesses on the northside, however, which had been there for a long while:

1. There were at least three Brookshire’s grocery stores on the northside: There was one located on Judson Road, at the corner of Judson and Johnston Street. There was another one on McCann Road in the Brookwood Village Shopping Center. And there was one on Pine Tree Road off of the Loop.
2. The Kroger’s on Highway 80 was built and opened in the early 1970s, after the Spur was built from McCann Road to South Street.
3. A second Bodacious Barbecue opened on North 4th Street in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
4. A Buddies/Winn Dixie opened on the corner of Eastman Road and Alpine Road.
5. Walmart was on Judson Road also, about a block from Brookshire’s.
6. A K-Mart was built on the corner of McCann Road and Glencrest Lane.
7. There were, of course, Dairy Queens everywhere, on McCann Road, Alpine Road, Highway 80 in Pine Tree, and North Eastman Road to name a few. However, Longview would not get their 2nd McDonald’s until the 1980s, when one was built on the Loop next to the mall.

8. Finally, many manufacturing industries grew and prospered during this time, marking a period of high employment and employment opportunities abound. 

Eastman Kodak was probably the top paying job available during this period, but there were other plants either continuing their runs of success or making a name for themselves: Stroh’s, Marathon LeTourneau, Trailmobile, Trinity, Fleetwood, Stemco, Data Com, and LeBus.
These are probably just a few of the changes Longview went through in the 1970s into the early 1980s. There were probably many more around this time, but these are the ones I can recall. Next, I will begin my look back at the Judson Middle School years, and why did I have to go there in the first place?

Texas Eastman

Longview from the County Fairgrounds

North Longview from Lobo Stadium