Becky J. remembers a town where everybody knew everyone, the skating rink her daddy owned was almost the only entertainment in town, and 69 of the 169 students in her graduating class had attended school together since first grade.
Though she lived outside of Duncanville city limits proper, Becky lived in Duncanville ISD and attended Duncanville schools, starting at Central Elementary and graduating from the first high school located on Camp Wisdom in 1969. While she attended schools, the population grew and the district expanded into multiple elementary schools and a larger high school. Becky remembers: “School memories — oh so many! When there was only one elementary school (later Central Elementary (grades 1 through 3 or 1957) in the building that had formally been the ENTIRE Duncanville ISD, half or so of the playground was a blacktopped area that was basically what was left after the original high school gymnasium burned. Beyond that was a dirt area with swing sets, metal slides, monkey bars, and space to play tag, bordered by the fence for the army base.”
“Because the town and school district was growing (new housing booms) 5th graders were split, with 2 classes bused daily for the first half of the school year to First Baptist Church while construction on 2 new elementary schools, Fairmeadows and Merrifield, was completed. At mid-term, all the elementary school kids were split between Central and the new schools which housed grades 1-6. Junior high (7-8 grades) went to what was several years later named for J. Herman Reed, but at the time it was just the Junior High. 9th through 12th grades were all in the High School. The class of ’65 was the last to graduate there. Schools were first integrated when the new high school on Camp Wisdom Road opened. Although there were some black soldiers stationed on the base, none of those families lived in the few base houses along Main St.”
School standards were high, Becky remembers; students struggled to maintain a C average, and anyone with a B average and up would likely get scholarship offers from surrounding colleges. Two teachers especially stuck out in her memory: Jerre Simmons and Grace Brandenburg. Jerre Simmons was Becky’ freshman English teacher, and began her students’ high school careers with a dramatic reading of Jabberwocky. Grace Brandenburg, Becky’s senior English teacher, was “the epitome of her name.” Under choir director Ron Bretz, musicals were performed at the high school, with sophomores through seniors allowed to participate. Becky remembers, “The first one I recall was “Oklahoma”, in 1963; my favorite (and first) was “Lil’ Abner” in 1967 (a rollicking production complete with the Sadie Hawkins Day race scene), ’68 was “South Pacific”, and ’69 “Music Man”.”
Little D Roller Rink on Wheatland Road near Cockrell Hill was virtually the only entertainment in town until the late 60s, when the bowling alley was built. Skaters of all ages attended, and many romances bloomed there; “only parents were allowed to sit and watch.” Admission was $.50 with an extra $.25 for skate rental, and the rink also hosted many church and birthday parties. Becky remembers: “The rink was a converted tin quonset hut, no air conditioning, just 2 big exhaust fans at the end opposite from the entrance. My folks owned it from spring ’58 through sprint ’66, “modernizing” it from clamp-on to shoe skates, adding overhead insulation, and changing from wooden half-walls around the floor to a single metal pipe about 4′ high. Nothing fancy, just a safe place for some good clean fun. (Nobody used the word “exercise”, but a Weight Watchers group skated there for a few years during the daytime while their kids were in school).” Becky’s dad loved when boys who grew up at the rink would come back and see him while on leave from the armed forces.