I Remember When Plano was a Sleepy Town

When I was a child in the 1960s, old men would gather around the wood stove at Plano Implement Co. in the old railroad depot and shoot the bull, or meet up at a tiny store in the little community of Renner to play a heated game of dominoes.

These are the old men I remember growing up as a fourth-generation citizen in this once sleepy town. Times have changed and Plano has followed suit. Now I’m one of those old men, but gone are the days when everyone knew everyone else’s business.

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Plano Implement Co. in the old H&TC Railroad Depot // photo from Frances Bates Wells Collection, Genealogy Center, Plano Public Library System, Plano, Texas

Still, when your roots run deep in a city, you tend to know what’s going on. My great-grandmother’s house, which was purchased by the City of Plano, is being renovated to house the ArtCentre of Plano, providing a home for events in the downtown area. Three schools in Plano have been named in honor of my relatives: Andrews, Forman and Saigling elementary schools, and I feel honored for these gestures.

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The author as a boy in 1961

For those who grew up in Plano and for those who’ve recently planted roots in our community, let me share some of my memories of the city. These represent just a sampling, as the pages of this fine publication could not hold all my recollections of our community.

1960: Plano’s movie theater, The Palace at K Avenue and 15th Street, would allow us to enjoy an afternoon movie and snack for less than 50 cents. Mr. Joe ran the movie house, more commonly known as the “Rat Palace.”

1960: Moore’s Variety Store on 15th Street was every child’s dream—toys galore and Archie comic books, which we all collected.

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Moore’s Variety Store around 1950 // photos courtesy of Skipper Wilson

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1960: My church, First Christian Church in downtown Plano, had its 100th anniversary. It was quite the celebration.

1960: Co-op Grocery on J Avenue had the friendliest employees who made you feel like their store was the only place to shop.

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Co-op Grocery // photo courtesy of Barbara Taylor Bennie

1961: I learned a lot in the bedroom in the first grade! Plano was growing so rapidly that the only elementary in town, now Mendenhall Elementary School, was bursting at the seams. The district acquired three new houses in a new development sprouting up just west of Collin Creek Mall to house the first-graders. Mrs. Funderburgh served up steaming tuna casserole on Fridays and other palatable lunches in our cafeteria—the garage.

1961: Harrington’s and Allen’s drug stores in downtown offered afternoon soda fountain spots for the teens to gather, just like in Happy Days.

1963: When JFK was assassinated, life as we knew it came to a halt. At Mendenhall Elementary, Mr. Jolly placed the PA microphone next to the radio broadcasting KLIF. The announcement of the President’s death shocked us all, and our teachers wept in the hallways. The radio and TV stations only broadcasted information about his assassination—no Saturday morning cartoons and no music on our AM transistor radios. A memorial service in the Plano High School auditorium, which is now Williams High School, attracted a standing room-only crowd to honor our deceased President. That was true Plano pride.

1963: During the Cold War, we brought pillows and canned food to school to be prepared in case the Soviets attacked us. We were so fearful of that possibility, but it was tempered by our pride at seeing our astronauts make America proud, which we observed while gathered in the cafeteria around a tiny black-and-white TV.

1965: The entire town closed and everyone headed to Austin in freezing rain to see the Plano Wildcats edge Edna, 20-17, for the AA Texas State Football Championship.

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Rodney Haggard making a tackle during the AA Texas State Football Championship game // photo from December 22, 1965, Plano Star Courier

1971: I worked at Bob Davis Food Store on 15th St. I had to stack crates of Coke bottles to the ceiling in the back room. One time, they all fell over, crashing on my nose and creating the biggest mess of glass ever. I didn’t even get fired.

1973: Our current congressman, Sam Johnson, returned from Vietnam after being held as a POW in the Vietnam War. Citizens wore Sam Johnson POW bracelets all over town. A welcoming parade was planned. School was dismissed early and all the businesses closed to welcome home this hero.

These are historic, often forgotten, memories of old Plano. No matter how my city changes, it will always be home, sweet home, to me.

What are your past memories of Plano? Leave your comments below.

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17 Comments

  • Thanks for the memories, Rick! Here are a few more. Dances at the community center. I had to bring my portable record player and we all brought our records to play. Cherry limes and tater tots at Dude’s Drive-In after school. Pancakes at Hayes Motel restaurant.

  • Nice article, Rick. We’ve always enjoyed hearing Margaret’s stories of what the old Plano was like. I see you enjoy telling them, too. I particularly loved the pics of the dime store. I miss those so much!

  • Rick is my first cousin. I used to spend some summer vacation time with Diane and Margaret and Rick back in the 1960’s. One of the things I remember is going swimming at the country club. It was located west of Hwy 75 and north of 15th on that corner. There was a golf course there also. I do t remember anything else being west of 75 other than the country. It is just amazing how it has changed since that time.

    • I think that was called City Park, and the golf course was miniature golf. We moved to west Plano in ’65. Some of the other attractions on the west side then included Springbrook Apartments, Jere’s Dairy, the Texas swimming pool, the University of Plano, an airport, and Plano Bank and Trust.

  • Great article! I was at school in the houses when Kennedy was killed. During recess, the teacher rang her handbell and we all gathered around her car and listened to the radio. Sad day.
    After Sigler houses, I went to Mendenhall, Memorial, Bowman and graduated from what is now Williams.

  • My family moved to the Dallas area in 1965 from Florida as Texas Instruments had a major hiring, and then we bought a home in Plano in August 1966. There were only two houses in the whole town for sale at that time, one on the east side and one on the west. I thought my parents had uprooted me to the ends of the earth. I miss those simpler days!
    Diane Saigling was my shorthand teacher and also my friend. Even to this day, I will see some old shorthand, and be able to read most of it. Thanks Diane!
    Thanks also too, to Rick for this article. It was very well written! Brings back a lot of good memories!

  • I was born in Plano in 1941 and home delivery by Dr, Jerry Thompson. I attended all 12 grades at the school on ave H across from now Haggard Park. I graduated in 1959. We had moved from 15th street to the Haggard addition in 1958. My aunt, Maxine Davis had the D&D flower shop in downtown across from the Palace Theater. What a wonderful place to grow up! I am from the David & Bush families. I am still in Plano.

  • I really enjoyed your article! My family moved to Plano in 1966 when I wasn’t yet 1 year old. We lived on Sherrye Dr on the east side for several years before building a house on the west side. It seemed like a very long drive back then! I have many wonderful memories of Plano and always will!

  • My memories are very similar to Rick’s. Grape sodas at the soda fountain in my grandparents’ drug store, shopping for school clothes at Kiddie Korner, Sunday school at First Christian church and attending first grade in those houses are but a few of my memories. My favorite thing in the world was spending Sunday afternoons at the Spurlin’s farm. Life’s pace was very slow compared to now. In many ways I wish it hadn’t changed. My family moved to Dallas in 1968 and I thought I was going to become a city boy. In 1988, with my new family, I moved back to Plano and bought my grandmother’s house which coincidentally was two doors away from Rick’s old home.

  • Anita Funderburgh
    My family has lived in plano for many years. My father went to plano high ( I went to school there and we new it as Cox Jr high)
    I always wanted to go to the basement where my dad played basket ball. I had so many good time with the kids i went to school with from the 2nd grade to high school.

  • Great article. Moved to Plano in mid 60’s. Mendenhall, and even better memories of Cox Jr. High School and Rice Field. There there were all the memories of Shell park , when at the time we all played ball there, it seemed so far out in the middle of nowhere! Plano was a great place to grow up!

  • I loved the soda fountain at Allen’s Drug Store, those tables with the swing out seats. My favorite was a hot donut with ice cream topping. My grandmother’s house was on Ave K and it was a short walk to up town.

  • Great article Ricky ! Brought back a lot of memories! Plano was a great place to grow up!

    Jamie Taylor McRae

  • In early 1969, due to several business-related difficulties, I came to Richardson for an extended visit with relatives. They were aware that I was searching for a new home town environment for my wife and four children. My main focus was to find a superior school district where our four young ones could learn and live life’s better moments among a new circle of friends. I scoped out Mesquite, Garland, Richardson, Carrollton, Allen, McKinney, and finally Plano. My visit in Plano came at an opportune moment. Dr. Hendrick was about to leave his office (probably a lunch appointment) around mid-day; when I approached his secretary’s desk. He kindly deferred lunch and asked me to come in. If you ever had the privilege of a one to one visit with him; you know how and why my decision was suddenly clear and final. Plano has been kind to our family beyond my ability to define; and the teachers, coaches and administrators surpassed my fondest hopes for our children’s education. All four graduated from Plano Senior High School. The winning attitude in Plano athletics was just part of an entire community’s pursuit of excellence. There is no better place for a family to live.
    The Clowe family will always be grateful for that fragile element of lunch time, when Dr. Hendrick brought my search to a life-changing conclusion. Thanks.
    Gene Clowe

    I

  • DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THE DINER WHERE A LADY COOKED A CHANGING MENU OF SOUTHERN FOOD DAILY? WAS THE NAME MAYS? I HAVE GOOD MEMORIES OF SUNDAY LUNCH THERE AFTER CHURCH.

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