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Call to Arms

Rockin' 1960s saw growth as Lubbock managed to keep values

BY Doug Hensley
For the Avalanche-Journal

While Lubbock made the journey from town to city, Tom Brown traveled from West Texas to Vietnam. And each grew up a little bit during a decade of transition and turmoil.

"A lot of the colleges had protests and things like that, " said Brown, who has called Lubbock home since 1961. "But (Texas) Tech was pretty low key. When you came back as a veteran, you kept your mouth shut and went to class. You didn't say anything."

Upheaval and change were hallmarks of the 1960s, but Lubbock fiercely held onto its values, said local historian Don Abbe.

"First, it was pretty much a small-town atmosphere at that time, " he said. "Lubbock probably was not thinking of itself as a city yet. A lot of small-town ideology was still pervasive as far as people not locking their cars, walking to school or riding bikes to school. People felt safe."

Brown said life was safe and simple. He graduated from Plainview and moved to Lubbock to attend Texas Technological College, which would undergo a name change and become Texas Tech University by decade's end.

"You didn't have all the distractions, " he said. "When I started at Tech, I was living in Gaston Hall, which at that time was one of the more modern dorms. It had a switchboard, where if you got a phone call, a little dot would appear in your room, and you would go down to the middle of the hall where there were two phones for the whole wing. I think the next year, we got phones in our rooms. It was kind of like World War II."

During his years at Tech, Brown said former Red Raider all-America football player Donny Anderson was hot topic of conversation, and he crossed paths with several other students who went on to achieve stardom.

"A guy who lived in my dorm was G.W. Bailey, " he said, referring to the actor who had a recurring role in the "M*A*S*H" television series. "(Actor) Barry Corbin was out at Tech, and (singer) John Denver lived across the hall from me."

Lubbock was reaching new heights as well. Loop 289 was completed by the mid-1960s, and the school board approved the site for what would become Lowrey Field. It was part of an impressive decade of school expansion that saw the addition of two high schools (Coronado in 1965 and Estacado two years later), three junior highs (Alderson, the first air-conditioned building in the system, Evans and Mackenzie) and 10 elementary schools, culminating with the opening of Murfee Elementary in 1968.

"The town was spreading out, " Abbe said. "The logistics came into play.

You could drive a short distance to a shopping center rather than driving downtown. Parking was becoming a problem downtown. Developers took advantage of that and of the fact the city was already growing to the southwest anyhow."

The realization that Lubbock would become a city took root at this time, Abbe said.

"They started building the loop with the final parts finished in the 1960s, " he said. "They were starting to plan for the city to be bigger than it was at the time. At the end of the decade is when a lot of the commercial movement to the southwest began."

Abbe said two of the first commercial developments to emerge outside of the downtown shopping district were the Caprock and Monterey shopping centers that stretched roughly from Boston Avenue to Indiana Avenue on 50th Street.

Texas Tech began the decade as a member of the Southwest Conference, and the Red Raider basketball team christened the experience by winning the 1961 league title. Brown remembered the college announcing that it has surpassed the 10, 000-student barrier during his time at Tech.

"The enrollment began to skyrocket during the 1960s, " Abbe said. "People didn't realize that in the 1960s and early '70s, Tech was the second largest college in the state. It experienced tremendous growth at that time."

Brown recalled the business community, with retailers that included Hemphill-Wells and Dunlaps and eateries such as the White Pig, was mostly local.

"They were almost all basically mom-and-pop-type businesses, " he said. "The chains started coming in the next decade."

Life changed for Brown, though, when he was drafted in 1966 and served in the Vietnam War.

"I was a machinist before I went into the Army, " he said. "I worked at a machine shop at 19th and Avenue H. Most of the guys I worked with were World War II veterans. I remember asking the boss for a raise, and he said he couldn't afford it. That week I got my draft notice. I told my buddies not to ask for a raise or they'd get drafted. Of course, when I got in the Army, I got a raise."

Protests regarding U.S. involvement in Vietnam were commonplace on college campuses in the late 1960s and early '70s, although not that prevalent at Tech.

"You wouldn't have seen much of that, " Abbe said. "You would have seen some on campus, but not anything like what was on the East or West Coast. There was long hair, bare feet, that kind of thing. It was there, but not prevalent. Most of the kids were still middle of the road, there to take care of business."

Other changes were afoot at Tech as well. Educational programming began at KTXT on campus in 1962. The school of law opened in 1966, and Gov. Preston Smith, a Tech graduate, signed a bill creating the school of medicine in 1969.

"The big thing when I started in college was the button-down Ivy League look, " said Brown, whose career path took him to the Lubbock school district and spanned more than three decades.

"It was interesting how it changed through the hippie era. There weren't too many hippies in Lubbock, though." That's not to say the city was without agents of change during the decade.

"Pretty much what happened in the 1960s set the tone for the next 40 years, " Abbe said. "The return of the veterans, economic development, political change that took place and is still taking place. All of those things and many others can trace their roots to the 1960s."


Previous A-J Remembers:

 

The A-J Remembers The Most Important People in Lubbock's History
 
 


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