It was never really cool to be from P-Grove.
As a kid growing up in Pleasant Grove, a once proud community in the southeast corner of Dallas — I’ve always assumed it was proud at one time, long before I was on the scene —I always knew we weren’t as well off as most everybody else in Dallas. I don’t think I ever lacked for a thing. But it was obvious, especially since my siblings and I went to private Dallas Christian about 15-minutes north, that the cool people lived somewhere else.
I distinctly remember a school-sponsored overnight trip to Camp Deer Run when we were kids. It was pouring down rain and blowing really hard and lightning and thundering and our teachers and counselors gathered us in the dining hall. They told us that a tornado had been reported in Dallas but “it’s OK, there’s no need to worry, the tornado was reported in Pleasant Grove.”
Pleasant Grove has been the butt of the Dallas jokes for at least 35-40 years now, maybe longer. People who live in P-Grove are called Grove Rats. It seems that 90-percent of the shootings reported on the evening news occur in Pleasant Grove. When I’ve driven my kids through the Grove to see my boyhood home, they’ve always reacted with horror. Carrie-Anne clicks the car doors locked as soon as we take the Scyene Road exit.
Can anything good come out of Pleasant Grove?
The Bruton IV theater just west of Bruton Road and Prarie Creek is where I experienced Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Pleasant Grove branch of the Dallas public library, on South Buckner Boulevard, is where I checked out all of Beverly Cleary’s books about Henry Huggins and Ralph, the motorcycle-riding mouse. The Pleasant Oaks recreation center, just about two miles down Jennie Lee Lane, is where we played ping-pong and basketball. That’s where dad pushed us so fast around the merry-go-round we thought we would either die laughing or choking on puke. It’s where I played three sets of tennis in that record 113-degree heat of a summer day in 1980. In my blue jeans. The 7-11 at the corner of Prarie Creek and Bruton is where I spent hours playing Asteroids and slurping Slurpees. The Pleasant Grove Church of Christ, on Conner Drive, is where I was baptized into Christ. Our three-bedroom house on Terra Alta Circle is where I learned how to be a family. The old Gibson’s store where I made my first major purchase: an $89 ten-speed bike, with lawnmowing money. Craving the ninety-nine cent hamburgers at Griff’s. Pulling the levers on the cigarette machines at Dairy Queen where my grandmother worked. The Circle Grill at Buckner and I-30. Doorknocking the apartments off Lake June Road. Learning to drive on Military Parkway. Twilight Time skating rink. (Oops. Sorry. I was only going to list positive memories in this paragraph.)
Jim Martin came out of P-Grove. That’s pretty cool. When he and I get together for our monthly meetings in Waco or run into one another in Austin or Abilene, our conversation inevitably turns to something only Rats like us could appreciate. And when Jim told me a couple of months ago that Stanley Hauerwas, the great American theologian and one of my favorite authors, was born and raised in the Grove, I was skeptical.
But here’s the proof. Today’s Dallas Morning News carries a front-page story (below the fold) about Hauerwas’ roots in Pleasant Grove. He’s just released a memoir, Hannah’s Child, that details a lot of his childhood experiences as the only son of a Pleasant Grove bricklayer, faithful members of the Pleasant Mound Methodist Church. From there, Hauerwas has gone on to lecture and write and teach and preach. Yale Divinity School. Notre Dame. Duke Divinity School. He’s one of the great theological thinkers of our time.
My favorite work of his is Resident Aliens. Living as Christians in a pagan land. The Church as a colony of outsiders in the middle of hostile territory. Read it. It’s challenging. Convicting. You won’t be the same after you’ve digested Resident Aliens. You won’t view God’s Church or God’s mission for his Church the same way. His writings have certainly had a profound impact on shaping my theology. Hauerwas is a genius.
And he’s from the Grove.
The Dallas Morning News article mentions that Hauerwas graduated from Samuell High School in 1958. My dad was a Samuell Spartan, class of 1960! Is there any chance? Could they have known each other? Is it even possible? I took my driver’s education at Samuell. But does my dad know Hauerwas?
He doesn’t. I just called. My dad doesn’t even have a 1958 Samuell year book, only a ’59 and ’60.
That’s allright. Today, it’s a little bit cooler to be from the Grove.
The magic number is 26. Any combination of 26 wins by the Rangers and losses by the A’s gives our baseball team their first division title since 1999. Do you realize that there are only 32 games remaining? If the Rangers go 16-16 the rest of the way — no chance since Cruz comes back tonight and Kinsler’s scheduled to be in the lineup by this weekend — Oakland would have to go 25-8 to win the A.L.West.
I remember well those Red Octobers from the late ’90s. Whitney doesn’t. This is fun.
Were those jeans Braxton or Toughskins?
The only other person I ever heard of that was from the Grove is Blue…
I’m not sure when I transitioned from my double-knee-patched Toughskins to Wranglers. I was 13 in the summer of 1980. It was right around that time.
What’s Braxton? That must be a Seagoville thing.
I was told Braxtons were KMart as opposed to Toughskins which were from Sears. I had to ask around. I was 6 in 1980….
Thanks for the ride down memory lane—with the windows up, doors locked and alarm on.
Hi Allan, I’m in my 50’s and grew up in P Grove. Jim Martin shared this post with me, along with the story about Hauerwas. What a fun, nostalgic read! I could add the occasional trip across the tracks to the Casa Linda El Fenix…I think the only location at the time. I am also enjoying your other writings. Good stuff. Hope you’re doing well.
Ah, Casa Linda. Those were rare trips indeed. I saw “Ghostbusters” in the Casa Linda theater around the corner from that exotic El Fenix.
Ro, I’ve often been tempted to use Patrick Mead’s excellent line about living in Detroit when talking about our experiences in the Grove: “It’s one of the few places where one can legitimately say, ‘I’m going in for milk. Cover me!'”
Your brother just told me about this post because I’m a huge Hauerwas fan. As an Arkansan, it’s difficult for me to acknowledge that anything good could come out of Texas, let alone Pleasant Grove, but my favorite theologian, a friend and colleague, and a very readable blog all apparently have roots there.
I’m glad to hear that Hauerwas is influencing preachers as well as academics in our fellowship. Keep up the good work.
Ha. It’s funny that you don’t think of the skating rink as a positive memory. Googling it is what led me to this blog. good times.
Braxton brings back memories of that clothing store in the shopping center that surrounded Pancho’s.
I enjoyed reading this. Thanks….and it’s always cool to know that you survived the grove….and got out. I practically live in South Dallas now – if you consider south of downtown as south D. The people are real – similar to the Grove.
I just realized you lived on my street.
Great article, I love reading and seeing old photos of anything that came before my time. Especially when it’s my from my family or hometown.
You are about 10 years older than me but our memories sound so much alike. I always find it amazing how people think of Pleasant Grove as if it were Iraq. I know it does have it’s fair share of downfalls but I for one have never been frightened to live there. It puzzles me because I’ve lived a very happy childhood and wouldn’t have changed it for the world. The YMCA behind Hood Middle School was the best. I graduated as a Samuell Spartan in 1995 and those were THE BEST 4 years of my life! Good times and great friends 🙂
I loved your story and enjoyed the walk backwards very much!
I enjoyed reading your article. I grew up in the Grove before it was transformed by HUD subsidized apartments. I graduated as a Spruce Apache in ’70. One of my cousins was a carhop at the Vel Mar Drive In at the SE corner of Lake June Rd and Holcomb Rd. According to the street view photo on Google maps, the Vel Mar building is still there. It is now a used car dealership painted mustard yellow. I have searched for web sites with pictures from Pleasant Grove through time, but I have not found much. Thank you for the article.
I am 60 & grew up in Pleasant Grove on Jacobie. I had a lot of good memories there. Things were slow paced;you could leave your windows open at night. My parents had several friends who would come & play 42 while all of us kids played out in the backyard; either catching lightening bugs, playing hide’n’seek & basketball. My Dad had put a basketball goal up on our backyard. The only bad memory I have is when a neighbor boy (Jimmy Catron) put a bunch of Junebugs down my shorts! Now that was horrifying! But other than that…it was the good life! It’s hard to believe it’s such a dangerous place now.
Wow, the same experiences and the same age (well, not quite 13 the summer of ’80). Everything from astroids at 7-11 to ping pong at the Rec – the author and I probably knew each other at one time.
I too grew up in Pleasant Grove. The center of the universe was Big World Drug Store, Grove Theater and the Army Navy Store operated by Max Goldblatt and, of course, the Dairy Queen. Everything a person could possible need was located at the corner of Buckner Blvd. and Lake June Rd. There was a barbershop, a shoe repair store and the Baptist Church. Those were the days 1950 – 1963. Those were the good days before my youth full days changed.
I was born in the Grove in 1949 and have lived here and loved it all my life. I have a Face Book page called
I’M FROM PLEASANT GROVE AND I’M PROUD.
I have over 75 photo albums with info included on the site. They are all grouped and tabbed for easy reference. There is everything from History Archives to current events and future projects. If you want to know about the Grove, this is the place to be.
I’m a little late to the party, but I just saw this blog entry and wanted to let you know that, although I wasn’t born in the Grove, I grew up there and graduated from WWS in 1973.
I also went to Blanton and Hood. I assume you went to Titche and Florence? My home was on Norvell Drive, just across from Forester Field near the intersection of Pleasant Dr. and Military Pkwy.
I have many fond memories of growing up in the Grove, although I haven’t lived there on a regular basis since I left for the University of Texas in the summer of 1973.
I enjoy reading your blog posts, especially those about the Cowboys.
San Antonio, TX
Fun read down memory lane! Yes, it’s a question every kid from the Grove wonders at some point in their life… can anything good??? Depends on what your definition of “good” is! 🙂
Wow, Allan – I laughed and cried through that…and so much of it is exactly the same for me. Here was one exception – I thought you guys were RICH and had a fancy house – lol – kid perspective. But I lived in the “projects” – Bruton Oaks Apts at Bruton and Masters, and went to Fred F. Florence Middle School, where the Chief of Police had his own office! From one Grove Rat to another…Lots of good can come from the heart of Big D! I especially got choked up when reading the line about your baptism…since Joe Malone baptized me there as a direct result of you and your family & the beautiful vehicle known as a Joy Bus 😉 Blessings, brother! Long live the Hood!
Boy, the grace of God is something, huh? How he works in our lives — constantly, consistently, mercifully — from start to finish. How he puts it all together. I’m so thankful for these lines you’ve written today.
To him belongs all the glory. I pray his richest blessings of grace and peace to you, sister.
I didn’t know you but if your dad is the one who once owned Twilight Time Skating Rink, I did know him. Lived in Mesquite as a kid and my siblings and I used to skate there all the time. My
Siblings were competitive skaters. Loved and miss that place.
Charlie Stanglin, my dad’s uncle, owned Twilight Time. We all called him Uncle Charlie. I didn’t really know him that well; our two particular families didn’t cross paths that often. I do know that I once ventured into the dark corners behind the stands at Twilight Time and was greeted by a bunch of older teenage boys who offered me a cigarette and then started to laugh. When I froze, they cussed me out like a dog. Scared me to death.
In order to have an intelligent conversation about the merits of Pleasant Grove, you need to first identify it.
The city of Dallas contains land in five counties (Dallas, Denton, Collin, Rockwall, Kaufman). Since 1856, Dallas has grown by annexing vacant land and incorporated and unincorporated communities.
There are 18 communities that make up Southeast Dallas. Contrary to past beliefs, Pleasant Grove is only 1 of these communities, not the whole enchilada.
The official borders of Pleasant Grove did not change when it was annexed in 1954. The borders are Bruton Road on the north, Prairie Creek (the creek, not the road) on the east, Rosemont on the south and the Trinity River on the west.
Pleasant Grove covers an area about 2 X 3 miles. All that crime that gets blamed on Pleasant Grove mostly occurs somewhere else, sometimes miles away from Pleasant Grove. I track crimes daily for Southeast Dallas and Pleasant Grove is usually pretty calm. It is really the safest place in the city.
Allan, I knew your Uncle Charlie and considered him a friend. I spent a lot of time at that rink in my youth. By the way, that rink was located in the town of Elam which used to be called Elam Station. It had it’s own post office till 1907. When it closed, they got their mail from Rylie. They were known as Elam till 1963 when they joined Southeast Dallas.
Stranglin, how is it that after five years this post still gets more hits than anything you’ve ever written, preached, or posted in your entire life?
Nostalgia for community combined with increasingly accurate search engines. You can’t go home again; but you can read about it on the internet.
I really enjoyed this. Growing up in tbe Grove (lake June street :)) I always felt different; going to a private Catholic School in Dallas and that there was nothing to be proud of. I felt that change when I switched high schools in the early 2000s to a school in the surbabian sprawl that is Frisco Texas. I have so many fond memories of my childhood…but there are some bad things in living in an area like the Grove. Learning to be prous to be rat took me some time and it’s always great when you see someone else who “made it”(that’s the term I always use when success derives from from more impoverished areas I grew up in). Much love Dallas.
I lived at 1548 Prichard, right behind the Post Office. I was 3 when I moved there. I went to Nathanel hawthorne, John B Hood and W W Samuell high school. I am 67 years old and I had no idea during my childhood that the Grove was a bad place to live. I can remember when the A & P burned, and eating at Panchos. I had more real friends than I can remember. I am proud to be from the Grove….I can remember my first job at Spartans
I grew up in Rylie area and lived on Trewitt St. in the 60s and half of 70s. Went to school at Nathaniel Hawthorne, Nancy Moseley, and a year and a half at Rylie Middle School. I remember Pleasant Grove being somewhat nice with the restaurants and other businesses like Payless shoe store. I went through there on my way home to east texas on military leave in the 80s & just didn’t look the same. It looked like a combat zone that I would soon experience in reality. What a shame!
Still live here Prarie creek / kirven
If anyone lived in the grove in 1991, there’s a guy with a podcast called Truth & Justice looking for information concerning a murder. There’s also a FB group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/TruthandJusticePodFans/
Ther was me and my Brothers lived on fire side across the street from the recreation center they called us the Cobb boys ran around with Jerry ford and Michael woods and dated Pam Hullet from spruce. Some of my Brothers was Troy Randy Gary Eddie Bobby let me know if yall know us