White Settlement… known as “The Settlement” to those who grew up there.
My parents still live in White Settlement in the same house where I grew up. While the house hasn’t changed all that much through the years, White Settlement certainly has. Cuts in defense spending closed Carswell AFB (now the Joint Reserve Base) and put the brakes on continued growth at Lockheed Martin. They still manufacture planes, but it’s not like it was — and I feel like an old-timer for using this phrase — back in the day when F-16 fever was everywhere. A lot of retail business has moved out of White Settlement. Texas Motors (the only new car dealership that was in White Settlement) and Home Depot are two of the major businesses that have moved outside the city limits. In fact, you can’t find a grocery store within White Settlement proper anymore. You have to go outside the city limits to Westpoint (where there is a Walmart SuperCenter, an Aldi, and an Albertson’s) or over to Alta Mere and the Walmart SuperCenter that’s over there.
The point of this blog post is not to discuss current city politics or to debate the reasons why so much retail business has moved outside the city limits. Some retail business has come to White Settlement fairly recently. The former K-Mart store is occupied by Conn’s Electronics and Academy Sports. And surely other locally owned business have opened in White Settlement. I don’t live there anymore and can’t enumerate them. The point of this blog post is to share some of my random memories of growing up in The Settlement. If you have some, feel free to share.
- The Only Game in Town – K-Mart: Before Walmart came to town, K-Mart was it, and K-Mart in the late 1970s-early 1980s could be a trippy kind of place. They sold just about everything, including major appliances. Sometimes Mom would treat us to a night on the town by taking us down to K-Mart and buying us a cheeseburger in the little grille at the back. We could, more or less, have the run of the store in those safer days. Mom would have us paged on the speaker if we hadn’t caught up with her when she was ready to check out. Sometimes her friend Shirley would come along with us for company and she and Mom would prowl the store. I remember when we didn’t have Ridgmar Mall; K-Mart was truly the only game in town at that point. We had Best Products, but otherwise, that was it as far as shopping was concerned.
- The Cherry Lane Drive-In: Current residents may be surprised to learn that the area off of Cherry Lane behind what was once K-Mart (and is now Academy/Conn’s) was largely occupied by the Cherry Lane Drive-In. It was built in the mid-1960s [editor’s note: I’ve been told that it opened around 1965] and had two screens: East and West. My brother and I (and most kids in town) were mildly envious of anyone who lived close by, because we figured they could watch free movies anytime they wanted. However, they couldn’t hear anything. I remember going to this theater once when I was very young and we watched Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. I’m not sure why we never went back. The Drive-In was razed in the mid 1980s when Walmart moved in. At the end of this post, I’ve attached a picture of the old marquee.
- The Days Before Fireworks Were Illegal: Believe it or not, there was a time when you could pop fireworks in the city of White Settlement. In fact, every July 4th, there was a huge fireworks display at the main city park. We could see it from our front yard, and often neighbors would come over to our yard for a ringside seat.
- Rickey’s: This burger-and-fries place was a local legend. My grandparents lived right next door for many years, and it was so much fun to beg for quarters so we could go get a small Coke. (Small drinks were around 50-60 cents.) Their food was pretty good. I had always liked their burgers. My grandfather would go over there every morning for his coffee and social time with the employees. He’d walk over there in his usual uniform (white t-shirt and overalls) and order a cup of coffee and a cup of ice, which he would slowly stir into his coffee. After visiting for a bit, he’d head back to the house to watch TV or to take a nap. On holidays, they were always closed, so my brother and I could take our bikes up there and ride around all day. We would jump up and down on the rubber cord that rang the bell for drive-thru customers… that is, until a relative would come out and tell us to stop. Rickey’s had the best fountain drinks in town. Cristy’s mom and I used to tool through there every so often for a Rickey’s Coke.
- Home Town Food Store: The building that housed this mom-and-pop grocery store still stands at the corner of White Settlement Road and Saddle Drive. I’m not sure when it opened, but my mom loved shopping there. They didn’t have the widest selection in the world, but they had enough of a selection to get the staples. We loved their toy rack — overpriced as it was — and our uncles worked in the meat market. They always had the best cheese! You could get a soda out of the machine (in glass bottles that you had to return before leaving) for about twenty five cents (or maybe less). They used the old mechanical cash registers and there were only two check out lines. We could run around in that store barefoot, believe it or not. For some reason, I always loved the area where the cleaning supplies were, because you could smell the fabric softener and the laundry detergent. High schoolers often got their first jobs working for Bill as sackers and stock-boys. My grandmother would be irate sometimes because some new sacker would put her eggs or her bread on the bottom.
- Vacation Bible School: When summer came, my mom did what she could to get us out from underfoot, so she sent us to every Vacation Bible School that she could find. If the Manson family had run a Vacation Bible School in the summer, Mom might have given it some thought. For the uninitiated, Vacation Bible School usually ran from 9:00 AM until noon and included Bible stories, missionary films, and (always) kool-aid and butter cookies for snacks. VBS usually ran for about a week and at the end, students had some kind of craft project to take home, such as a cigar box covered with spray-painted macaroni. Mom still has one of those for her jewelry. Vacation Bible School ended around 5th grade. One time, we went to an evening VBS, and we felt so grown-up.
- When Walmart went 24/7: I was older when this happened, but when our Walmart started being open 24 hours a day, it became the rage to go down to Walmart at 3 AM and buy something random just to say you were there. As I mentioned, it was the rage — it wasn’t something that was profound or truly meaningful in any way. Either we were generally silly or things were just that slow in White Settlement at 3 AM.
- Dairy Queen: It seems unholy, in a way, but there is no Dairy Queen in White Settlement anymore. The closest one to White Settlement is a Dairy Queen/Orange Julius place in Ridgmar Mall. Dairy Queen had been in White Settlement since the early 1950s (if not the late 1940s). The original Dairy Queen location was where Duke’s Donuts stands today. Mom remembers being taken across the street from Central Elementary (which no longer exists) to Dairy Queen to get a small ice cream cone. Most small towns in Texas have (or had) a Dairy Queen. It was something you could count on. Sometimes Mom would run us through the Dairy Queen drive-thru to get a hamburger. I remember the old red vinyl booths; the springs were sprung, so you usually sat in a hole.
- Movie Theaters: Two movie theaters opened in White Settlement in the early to mid 1980s, and this might have hastened the demise of the Cherry Lane Drive-in. United Artists (UA 8) and General Cinema (GCC Cinema V) owned these theaters. Both theaters are now closed; Cinema V has been demolished. I believe Cinema V was built first, but I’m not sure exactly when it was built. My guess is the very early 1980s. UA 8 was a newer theater with upgraded seats and sound systems; eventually, they got all the super-hot movies. General Cinema opened a larger theater north of Ridgmar Mall and they got the bigger films distributed in General Cinema theaters. Cinema V started to get the dregs. I got my first job at Cinema V in March of 1988, and the last really big movie we got was Die Hard. We had some interesting films come through before we went to dollar theater status: The Telephone, Picasso Trigger, and Frankenstein General Hospital to name but three. Colors was a surprise hit; we got it twice (once as a full-run house and once as a dollar theater). We were told to expect riots and violence in the theater when it came to town, but nothing happened outside of the usual mess. I didn’t get paid much money, but we had fun that summer. I learned a lot about working and doing a good job. And we got to see free movies around town as long as they weren’t in the first week or so of release. (If the film was advertised as not accepting passes, we couldn’t get in for free.)