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TCU Magazine "Class Notes"

You can't get there from here

By Joan Hewatt Swaim

IN EVERY Horned Frog annual from at least the mid-1940s to 1971, in the back where local companies indicated their support for the University by buying ads, there is a full or half-page spread from the Fort Worth Transit Company. The page usually shows TCU students boarding a bus at the corner of University and Cantey, where stands the University Christian Church, or the corner of Bowie and University, where stood the old TCU Drugstore. Back in those days, few students had a car, and the bus was our means of getting around to places removed from the immediate campus. Called the "T" now, the Transit Company ran the city buses then.

Having no malls and only the TCU Theatre close, students regularly took the bus to the main shopping district in downtown Fort Worth and to the movie theatres on 7th Street -- the Hollywood and Worth -- and farther east, to the Palace and Majestic. It was considered a pretty special date if your boyfriend took you to town via bus, treated you to dinner at Anders Cafe, then walked the block-and-a-half to the Hollywood to see a first-run film starring Dana Andrews, Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, or Cornel Wilde, along with the beauteous stars, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, or Deborah Kerr.

I was certainly no stranger to the TCU bus route, even before I entered the freshman class of 1952. Growing up on the TCU hill in a faculty family that had known the Depression, the deprivations of World War II, and financial crises at the University, our one Chevy was an extravagance and was used sparingly. The Hewatt girls walked to Alice Carlson Elementary School and McLean Junior High School (where Paschal is now), and rode the bus to and from Paschal High School (where Trimble Tech is now). The Hewatt girls rode the bus to their "lessons" -- ballet at Frances Burgess' Dance Studio downtown, to their Aunt Tare's "expression lessons" on South Lake Street near what is now the hospital district, and to piano lessons on Mistletoe Ave., about a mile or so south of the TCU hill in Mistletoe Heights. The Hewatt girls regularly rode the bus with their mother on shopping trips to Leonard Bros., Stripling's, Monnig's, Penney's, and to Meacham's and The Fair in the heart of downtown. Being given to visiting the scenes of my childhood and youth with fond recollection, I had thought recently to take a nostalgic trip on a city bus from TCU to town and back, and one day last June I found my opportunity.

I boarded at the stop in front of the TCU library with a mix of emotions -- anticipation and trepidation among them. I hadn't ridden a Fort Worth bus in years, perhaps 35 or more, and didn't know the fare, or the procedure to pay, or the general decorum of bus riding anymore.

I also had a certain confidence, for I had known the old bus route as well as the backyard of my home on Rogers Road. It ran north on University from the Bluebonnet Circle turnaround to Park Hill Drive, where it made a turn toward the east and on to Forest Park Blvd. From thence, north all the way to Mistletoe Blvd., where I disembarked for the 2-block walk to my piano lesson on Mistletoe Drive. (Lest you become confused, or think I am, there are three Mistletoes, the third one a Street. Each connects with the other.) East again then on Mistletoe Blvd. to Eighth Ave.; north on Eighth to Pennsylvania; a short jog east on Pennsylvania to the Scott Mansion (now Thistle Hill), then north on Summit past the good smells of Mrs. Baird's Bakery (removed several years ago to the far south of Fort Worth), then east on Texas Street to Henderson. North on Henderson to W. Seventh, where we turned onto the downtown streets. I guess I didn't pay much attention once we entered that area; the sure and certain memory gets fuzzy here.

To add credence to my memory route, I tried finding archival evidence, to no avail. But surely, I reasoned, the neighborhoods we used to go through as we wound toward town were much the same, so today's way would not have been altered too much. Guessing the fare was less than a dollar (was it 10 cents in the long ago?), I handed my dollar bill to the driver. He indicated that I was to deposit it in the elevated "box" to his right. That much was familiar. However, there was obviously not to be any change. There was no move on the driver's part, nor was there the old metal change dispenser hanging on the box, as of yore. I assumed, then, the fare to be a dollar, and found out only later that it is 80 cents, and one should have correct change.

Taking a seat in the first forward-facing twosome, I subtly looked around. There were two other passengers, both looking like they knew what they were doing and where they were going. A sign by the door told me that "L. Tribble" was my driver. I looked up to see the advertising that had always been in slots above the windows. No advertising. Air conditioning ducts had taken their place. That modern miracle (as I write, it is the 20th day of over 100-degree temperatures) we did without, in the ago. On days such as this, we lowered the window to let in at least a hot wind. Now, with conditioned air, windows that open are obsolete. Straps to hold on to if you have to stand up while riding may be obsolete, too; there were none on this bus.

Mr. L. Tribble pulled our bus away from the curb, and off we headed north on University past Cantey toward Park Hill, just as I knew we would. But, he didn't turn at Park Hill, as I thought he must. Instead, we continued on University toward the zoo and the Trinity River in Forest Park. Well, he must be going to turn at the zoo and get to Forest Park Blvd. that way. But no, we just kept right on going up University past I-30 and Trinity Park, straight on to Bailey, then White Settlement, and so to town. Perhaps I was on the wrong bus?

Moving up to the side-facing front seat across from the driver, I confirmed with him that I was, indeed, on the TCU bus to town and yes, if I stayed on it, he would deposit me where he had picked me up. Answering another query, he said that there was no bus now, that followed the old route down Forest Park Blvd. to Mistletoe. So again, as often goes with memory dredging, "you can't get there from here, anymore."

I can't get to my piano lesson by bus anymore, nor take the winding way through old neighborhoods with stately homes, anymore. But then, Mrs. Baird's is misplaced, and the Hollywood and Worth and Anders Cafe aren't there anymore, either. All of that would have to forever remain in the corners of the mind where forgotten things are kept until you miss them and go looking for them.

I would venture to guess that a very small percentage of the current student body at TCU has ever ridden a city bus. Affluence has put a car at nearly everyone's disposal, with the independence and supposed prestige that goes along with that. If we had had our own cars in my student days, we probably would not have taken the bus either. But I remember the old bus trips fondly, and although it didn't go my way this time, I enjoyed the attempt to once again ride around in the past.

Joan Hewatt Swaim '56, author of Walking TCU: A Historical Perspective, retired in 1995 as coordinator of bibliographic control for the Mary Couts Burnett Library after 18 years of service. She now lives in Granbury, working part-time as an office manager for an oil company and playing full-time with her grandson, Asher, who is 6.