Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Conversation with Senior Activity Center Member Glen Burgess

Getting the chance to sit down and learn from our Senior Center members is the best part of our jobs.

The City of Southlake has a rich history. Its proximity to DFW airport, access to Lake Grapevine, and thriving Town Square made Southlake a highly sought-after community. But what was this area like before it was officially Southlake? Senior Center staff sat down with long-time member and lifetime Southlake resident, Glen Burgess, to get a first-hand account of Southlake before its incorporation in 1956.

Glen Burgess“I didn’t move to Southlake. Southlake moved to me.” Glen Burgess often tells this to those who inquire about his history with the City. Born in 1930, Burgess is native to this area and grew up when it was still called Precinct 19. One of seven children, his family were sharecroppers when this area was “nothing but farmland.”

Southlake was a very different scene in the mid-1900s than it is today. From Glen’s recollections, there wasn’t any electricity, running water, bicycle lanes, or paved roads when he was growing up. Open spaces were everywhere, and Highway 114 was a gravel road that connected Grapevine to Roanoke.

Glen attended five area schools before graduating from High School in Grapevine, including spending some time in Carroll ISD. Burgess attended the Florence school, a one-room schoolhouse in Roanoke before attending Carroll. Carroll only had five rooms at the time—one room to accommodate two classes. After 10th grade, children had to move to Grapevine to graduate.

Education looked different during those times. Children had to walk to school. In the fall, kids were often late to school as they had to help with the harvest: cotton, tomatoes, blackberries, and turnips. Glen only had three subjects: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. There weren’t any sports teams, and the only decoration in the classroom was the alphabet written above the chalkboard. Glen mentioned how the water fountain was outside, and the outhouse was in the woods. During his freshman year of high school, Glen remembers that 12th grade became a graduation requirement for the first time.

After high school, Glen spent two years in Germany with the Military. It was there that he met his future wife, Alice. Despite not seeing each other for ten years and corresponding solely via letters, Alice moved to Texas to be with Glen in 1963.

“I asked Alice to come over here [the U.S.], and that if she didn’t like it, she could go home,” Glen recalled jokingly.

Glen and Alice have been married for 58 years and have witnessed the rapid changes in Southlake during that time. What is now 1709 was a gravel road called Keller Road. Alice reminisced about having to drive to Grapevine to go grocery shopping and visit the doctor. When he was growing up, people had their own wells for water and septic tanks. Before gas lines were installed in the early 1960s, each house had a Butan tank for gas. Glen also mentioned how his property taxes were only $25 a year when he first bought a 3-acre property in 1954!

Despite the many developments during their lifetime, Glen and Alice Burgess played a vital role in this community. They remodeled and helped start the first Montessori school in Southlake back in 1970 with other local volunteers. Back then, the school only had 12-15 kids. That Montessori school is now in Colleyville. The Burgesses were also one of six couples to see the opening of the Southlake Senior Center in 1993.

Since then, both Glen and Alice have been active Senior Center members. Alice comes to the Senior Center every day to exercise, play Mah Jongg and dominos, and socialize with friends.

It’s no secret that Southlake has grown enormously in the last 65 years. We are grateful to have life-long residents like Glen Burgess to remind us of where we were and how far we’ve come. Thank you to the Burgess’s for taking the time to reminisce with us!