Corner Column

Posted 6/22/23

It’s not my hometown anymore, at least, not the one where I grew up.

It took half a century to come to that conclusion, but the recent news that Denton County Texas has a population of …

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Corner Column


It’s not my hometown anymore, at least, not the one where I grew up.

It took half a century to come to that conclusion, but the recent news that Denton County Texas has a population of more than one million was frankly the last straw.

I’ll go back in September for our 50th class reunion and likely be absorbed with reminiscing.

They say you can’t go home again, and when we tour the monstrous new high school that opened last year to replace the one where we graduated, I’m sure it will be bittersweet.

Denton was certainly not a small town when we moved there in 1962. More like a small city, which had benefits like plenty of shopping, entertainment and professional services.

Served by two universities, it had a more enlightened vibe than many towns of the time.

With school, church, Scouts, summer ball and more, our family was certainly plugged into a lot of that.

I got a kick out of a recent police report here. Someone was concerned about some kids playing in a drainage ditch.

Our local drainage ditch (actually a creek) was a window to the world. One day we took off on our bikes to see how far we could ride its concreted bottom and wound up downtown, miles away from home.

We pulled many a crawdad from its muddy holes with string and bacon and once discovered a wooden raft in a pool upstream that we could pole around. My friend fell in and thought he was in trouble when he came home sopping wet. His folks just laughed.

I’ve spent much of my professional career in places like Mineola. I have always had a relationship with my adopted hometowns that ranges from envy to relief.

There are times I have been envious of those who grew up here, especially those who never left, and other times when the outsiders’ perspective has given me a better view of, and relationship with, the place.

To put that one million population figure into perspective, consider this.

When we moved there, the entire population of the county was about 50,000 (similar to what Wood County is today). More than half that figure lived within the city limits of Denton. The county was a wide open rural expanse.

Wood County had around 18,000 people in 1962 and is certainly still quite rural today.

By 1970 the count here was 18,589 and in 1980 24,697.

Denton County was a whopping 75,633 in 1970 when I entered high school and nearly doubled by 1980 to 143,126.

The spread of the Metroplex was the key driver, especially with the opening of the DFW International Airport – an economic engine of generational proportions in 1973.

The growth has continued at a 50% clip per decade, more or less.

The smallest county we ever called home, Clay, has around 10,000 folks and isn’t growing.

There, and points west, are having trouble holding population.

That was once true of East Texas as well, but events of the past several years have led to a resurgence, as folks in the Metro-mess seek a way out, and folks from other states have discovered our beauty and lifestyle.

Funny thing about growth, everyone wants to be the last one in, and then slam the door shut.

Denton County’s one million population testifies to the fallacy of that mindset.

I’m not predicting a million people in Wood County in 60 years and won’t be around to see it. We have a buffer of a couple counties to the west to prevent that.

I’m sure the 1973 graduates of local high schools look around and don’t see much that’s familiar, only those wonderful memories of growing up in a place that was relatively safe and comfortable. That Denton is gone, and that Mineola is gone, too.

We can debate whether it’s better now. I know how I feel.