Opinion > Star Staff
A Tale of Time and Chance
By Ken Byler
A recent visit in Westminster brought to mind thoughts of long gone days and bits of irony.
Along with the old "Bank" building, the few brick structures that weren't demolished to supply "antique bricks" for the home building boom still stand in "downtown" Westminster.
The old brick schoolhouse is still there. But you have to look behind vain attempts to make it look like a manufacturing enterprise to see it.
The football field is there next to the schoolhouse. Rusty iron goal posts still stand at each end of a 100-yard long, drought-deadened weed patch.
1950 was the year the "Drought of Record" in Texas began. Allen's population numbered near 400. The football field at Allen School was watered not to keep the grass green, but to keep the dust down. Texas was different back then. Collin County was home to only 20,000 citizens and amongst them was counted the folks in Westminster and Allen.
Westminster was founded in 1860, when it was called Seven Points. In 1888 a college was established as a preparatory school to educate prospective Methodist ministers. It was named Westminster College, after Westminster, Md., a stronghold of Methodism in Maryland. Less than a year later, the citizens of Seven Points decided Westminster was a good name for their town.
At one time the Westminster population was 600, but by 1950 that number had dropped to around 300. Westminster citizens were struggling to keep their school open so students like Pate Parks wouldn't have to ride a bus to Anna for their schooling.
Pate Parks..... Six-foot-four, 225 pounds of muscle.... the pride of Westminster Texas.
For four years running, the Allen Eagles had to get past Pate Parks and five other country boys on the Westminster six-man football team to claim the title of champions.
In Allen, the new principal and football coach, Gene Curtis, was also fighting to keep the school open. Curtis had played on champion Allen teams with his brothers and folks with names like Dugger, Bolin, Miller, Morrow, Thomas and Bridges.
The year before, in 1949, the Allen Eagles had gone as far as a six-man football team could go in Texas. Allen was coached by principal "Pete" Moseley. The Eagles played Oklaunion, a little town up in Wilbarger County, for the state championship.
But in 1950, Westminster and Pate Parks stood in the way of a repeat. What's more, standout players for the 1949 Eagles such as James Doyle Marion, Donald Ray Dugger, Floyd Davidson and Rob Stratton wouldn't be in an Allen uniform.
The 1950 Eagles would be Perry Orlds, Robert Pierce Fraze, Robert Doyle Angel, Sammy Ereckson, Billy Stratton, Billy Frank Howlett and 5 other skinny kids, including me, in and out of the game from the sideline bench.
The Allen players met at the schoolhouse, donned their pads and uniforms, and then boarded the school bus. The school bus served as the "visitors" locker room in "away" games.
Allen won the game that night and some of those skinny kids like Chester Story, Billy Lloyd Dugger, Billy Don Jones and Henry Hedgecoxe would captain championship Allen teams ... and meet Pate Parks again. But from that night on, fate would treat Allen and Westminster differently.
By 1954, two-lane State Highway 121 between Lewisville and McKinney had been completed. But southwest out of Bonham, Highway 121 ended in the community of Randolph, leaving Westminster sitting at the crossing of two no-name winding country roads in far northeast Collin County.
Had it not been for Central Expressway, Allen might have suffered the same fate. It wouldn't be until 1964 that Highway 121 from McKinney to Randolph would be completed, but by that time, Central Expressway had reached McKinney, and Allen was growing.
1988 saw Allen reaching towards what the population of Collin County had been in 1950. But only 388 folks called Westminster home.
By 1989 there was a conscious effort by the citizens of Allen to keep the city a one high school town. One high school would unite the town and the entire citizenry could rally behind one high school football team.
Conversely, in 1989 Westminster citizens voted to abolish their Independent School District, and Westminster became the last town in Texas to field an eight-man high school football team.
Finally, Westminster citizens voted to abolish their town charter in 2005. Allen continues to grow, and with a population of 85,000, it's the largest city in Texas with one high school.
I'm reminded of the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastics 9:11 ..."The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong ... Nor wealth to the brilliant, or favor to the learned ... But time and chance happen to them all."
Ken Byler is an author, artist and Star Newspapers columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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