A few memories of growing up in Poly…..
There was a block in downtown Poly, on Rosedale Street, that I remember well. Mainly because for a few years when I was in elementary school, S.S. Dillow, my father rented The Varsity Theater. Our whole family was involved in renovating it and running the day to day operations. Mom sold tickets among many other duties while my brothers did everything from running the concession stand to sweeping floors. I was too young to do much except slide down the banister from the balcony and play next door at Mott’s Five and Dime. Mr. Baldrich was the manager and he would let me play with the toys in the store, especially after hours when the store closed. The Varsity was open at night only on the weekends and later on Wednesday nights too. I remember on Saturday we would run the old serials (The Adventures of Jungle Jim starring Johnny Weissmuller was one I remember) and our very first movie shown at the grand opening was “Stop, Look and Laugh” starring The Three Stooges. When we finally got a copy of “Cleopatra” starring Elizabeth Taylor, we were sold out for every show.
Next door to Mott’s Five and Dime was another favorite place, Ashburn’s Ice Cream. Man, was that stuff delicious! They were famous for their coconut and peach ice cream. Next to them was a photo studio, then a dentist office (which later moved across the street) and finally on the corner, a Rexall Drug Store. They had a real old fashioned soda fountain and I would go there to eat lunch many times. Back then it was safe for an 8 year old to wander the block.
On the other side of the theater was the old Polytechnic Post Office. One block further west was The Big Top, a hamburger joint that made the most wonderful hamburgers and fries. It was shaped like a circus tent and had carousel horses on the poles that surrounded it. This was just down the street from William James Junior High. (No middle schools back then.) Across from the school was the Poly Bank. I remember that the last four digits of their phone number was 2811 and our home phone was 1128. We got calls all the time from people trying to call the bank.
The only other block in downtown Poly had several stores but the only one I can remember is Martin’s Department Store. It was a small store but sold clothes and shoes much like Cox’s on East Lancaster. The reason I remember this store is because that was where I met Mr. Peppermint (Jerry Haynes) a local kid’s show host. I was in awe and when they held a drawing, I won a “Mr. Kelley’s Car Wash” toy. Also on Rosedale was the old Amon Carter Mansion. Amon Carter did much to improve Ft. Worth. It wasn’t a really big house but I guess at the time it seemed like a mansion to everyone in town.
I ended up going to Poly High School at 1300 Conner Ave. as did my brothers before me. Go Poly Parrots!! The school colors were black and orange. It always made me think of Halloween. Often times after school we would head on over to the Jolly Time Roller Rink.
I remember if you ventured off of Rosedale onto Vaughn Blvd. You could eat at The Griddle. They too had wonderful food. There was another Griddle on E. Lancaster next to the old Clover Drive In. It didn’t show movies, it was an eating place with the very first carhops I can remember. Speaking of drive-ins, my Mom worked at the Meadowbrook Drive-In for many years. You guessed it, selling tickets at the gate. Further down on Vaughn Blvd was another favorite movie theater, The Poly.
East Lancaster was one of my favorite streets. There were nightclubs, (Hungry I, Savvy’s) shops and department stores, (Spartan’s, and in another part of town, Atlantic Mills) food places (Griff’s Hamburgers, The Lone Star Café, The Charbroiler, Smokey’s Ribs and the very first McDonald’s in town) and anything else you needed to buy. Right by Panther Hall was the Meadowbrook Bowling Lanes which is now demolished.
One more thing I have to mention even though it was outside of the poly area. I hope you were lucky enough to venture over to E. Belknap and eat at the original Clown Burger. It was a little taste of Heaven!