I just celebrated my ninety-ninth birthday, and I would like to invite you to come along with me as I look back over some of the major, minor and personal events of those years.
I was born February 1, 1921, at home in Frisco. There was no hospital in Frisco (population 733), so Dr. Saye came to my home on Williams Avenue to do the job. By the way, he delivered my first child 22 years later, also at home in Frisco. I would say that is a little unusual!
Other events in the 1920s: In 1922, a fire destroyed most of the businesses in downtown Frisco. The buildings were mostly wooden structures and were soon replaced with brick and mortar buildings. Next, an adventure! In October 1927, a friend took me to McKinney to see the first talking picture, “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson. Then, came “Black Monday,” on October 28, 1929, which was the start of the Great Depression in the U.S., triggering a world-wide economic crisis that lasted until the 1930s. Banks failed, farmers lost their land and people lost their life savings. On a personal note, I, at age eight, had saved $20 toward the price of a bicycle. The bank closed, and I lost my savings – had to start over. A friend told me of a used bicycle which was for sale for $9, so I proceeded to pick cotton as fast as I could to earn the needed amount. Picking cotton at that time paid 50 cents per 100 pounds picked, and, at my age, I could pick 100 pounds in one day if I worked hard from morning to evening. It took me almost two months to earn the price of the bike, and you can be sure I was proud to get it.
The 1930s: The census showed only 618 people lived in Frisco. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt took office and started his New Deal to stabilize the economy. The Social Security Act was passed in 1935, and President Roosevelt’s acts such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the National Youth Administration and Agricultural Adjustment Administration passed. A new school building built in Frisco by WPA labor was opened on Maple Street in 1939 to house all 11 grades. Meanwhile, in the criminal world, from 1931 to 1934, Dallas natives Bonnie and Clyde, a couple that traveled the central U.S. robbing banks and killing people, were ambushed and killed in La.
As for me, the 1930s were a “launching pad.” In 1938, I graduated from Frisco High School – the only school in Frisco. There were 20 students in my graduating class and I am the only survivor. I left home for the first time and enrolled at Texas A&M College (it reached university status in 1963). At that time, Texas A&M, a land grant school, was all-male with military training required the first two years. My four years there were very pleasant and fruitful. Unlike today’s high costs for education, my four years of college cost me a measly $2,100 as I worked my way through.
The 1940s were some of the most eventful years for all of us. President Roosevelt was elected for a third term, becoming the first president to hold office for three terms. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. We declared war on Japan the next day and on Germany the eleventh, putting us in World War II.
June 6, 1944, was D-Day – the Normandy invasion. On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died. On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered. On August 6, 1945, the U.S. “nuked” Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. On September 2, 1945, Japan surrendered, ending World War II. On October 24, 1945, the United Nations was formed. And, on a lighter note, television began to replace radio in Frisco.
Personally, I would say the decade of the 1940s was the most dramatic ever for me. My first wife and I married in May, just before I graduated from Texas A&M in June of 1942. With our country at war and the military draft in effect, I had to make plans in a hurry. Knowing I would soon be drafted, I enlisted in the Army Air Corps pilot training program. After completing pilot training, I was assigned to a Troop Carrier Squadron in England. A Troop Carrier’s primary role was to deliver airborne infantry personnel into enemy territory either by parachute or by glider. My squadron participated in several invasions such as Normandy, Southern France, Bastogne, Operation Market Garden and the Crossing of the Rhine. Through all of that, the Lord allowed me to escape unscathed and to return to the U.S. after the war. With little time to celebrate, I found a job in the oil industry and spent the next 36 years with a company that is now Exxon.
Next came the 1950s. Frisco’s population was still a low 736. The big news was the Korean War which lasted from 1950 to 1953. At home, in 1954, Frisco’s telephone system became a dial operation, hence no more “number please.” A very welcome announcement came in the spring of 1955 when a cure for the dreaded and rampant disease polio was announced. Then, on January 31, 1958, the first American satellite was put in orbit. In rapid succession, two states joined the Union. Alaska joined in January 1959, and in August of the same year, Hawaii came in.
In 1960, Frisco’s population was up to 1,184 people. The war in Vietnam, a very unpopular war in America, was raging. The war continued until 1975, and our homecoming veterans were met with criticism rather than being welcomed as other returning veterans have been. And, there was tragedy. On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. But, then there was some good news. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon and spoke the famous words, “That’s one small step for man – one giant leap for mankind.”
By 1970, Frisco’s population was at 1,845 people, and our country saw an oil crisis as we became dependent on foreign oil. There were gasoline shortages causing lines at service stations. In August of 1974, the Watergate incident eventually caused President Nixon’s resignation. In this decade, the “Tech Revolution” began with the introduction of some of the first video games.
The 1980s saw rapid growth in Frisco – from 3,499 people in January to more than 5,000 people by 1987. On a personal note, in 1981, I retired after 36 years with Exxon and moved back to Frisco, planning to travel and play golf. Those plans went awry when friends persuaded me to get into city politics. I spent the next 13 years on the City Council with the last six-and-a-half years as Mayor of Frisco – a very busy, but interesting time.
By 1987, the city had reached a population of 5,000 people and voted to adopt a “Home Rule Charter.” We then hired our first City Manager, George Purefoy. He is still on the job today and is a fine gentleman whose hiring, in my opinion, is one of the best things ever to happen to Frisco.
The 1990 Census showed 6,138 people in Frisco. The next year, the Internet became available for commercial use. In 1992, President Bill Clinton took office, and in 1998, the search engine Google was founded. The 1990s decade saw the beginning of a series of sports headquarters coming to Frisco with the soccer franchise FC Dallas’ move here.
Then, the year 2000, the start of a new century, brought several major events. One of the greatest for Frisco was, in 2000, the opening of Stonebriar Centre, which has been called “the economic engine that propelled Frisco forward.” Next came more sports headquarters. Baseball’s RoughRiders came to a new Dr Pepper Ballpark, the Dallas Stars hockey team built a practice facility here, and, biggest of all, the Dallas Cowboys moved their headquarters to Frisco at The Star. Recently, the PGA announced they are also moving their headquarters to Frisco. At this rate, we may soon become the sports capital of the world.
And there you have it … 99 years and counting! By the way, the latest population estimate for our city is a booming 193,228. No more “little Frisco.”