Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tidbits about Belton, Texas (1950s - 1970s)

Tidbits about Belton, Texas (1950s - 1970s)

Some of the places I remember from the 1960s:

The Belton Public Library (now the Bell County Museum on Main street):

The main building in the image was the Carnegie Library in Belton in the 1950's - 1960's.
(View is SW to NE).  The Belton Car Mart and Odell Hyer's gas station were
located directly behind it in the 1960's.  The Post Office was across the street (west).
     a.  Two women who ran the library for many years were Lena Armstrong (who was single) and Edith Pierce (who was married and older than Lena; there is a picture of her in the First Baptist Church church directory).  Pearl (Griffin) Digby's friend, Marge Peckam, also worked there in later years. (Source: Pearl Griffin Digby).

According to Mattie (Digby) Wesson on February 11, 2007, the "Teenage Canteen" was located on the second floor of the Belton Public Library in 1946.  (Billy Blair note: I'm not sure how long the Teenage Canteen was located here.  I do know that around the 1960s, the Teenage Canteen was located at the American Legion Hall on the west side of Yettie Polk Park).

Riverside Swimming Pool:

                                         Riverside swimming pool in Belton, Texas in 1950's - 1960's.                                                                        The Putt-Putt golf  course is behind the white fence on the left.  At the main entrance                        
           was a hamburger/ concession area (pictured) and the area the pay/ pick up your metal
                                   basket to put your clothes in was just past it.  The pool itself is behind the big                          
        fence on the right.   (View is south to north.  Note the gravel parking area).

1960 - Riverside pool in Belton (view is SW to NE)
(View shows the raft, the rings, and the wheel. Diving boards
are to the right and children's pool to the left of this picture).

Riverside pool in Belton - 1960 (view is South to North)
George Baum is diving into the pool from the raft.
(View shows raft, chains, wheel, slide, large children's pool in background,
and dressing areas/ snack bar on left.  During a few years, there was a
Putt-Putt golf course immediately west of the dressing area).
Riverside Pool - 1960 (view is NW to SE)
Picture taken at the south end of the pool at the low dive
on the west side of the pool.  The Leon river is under the
bridge in the background.

Riverside pool - 1960 (view is west to east)
Neale Chaney diving off the high dive.

Riverside pool - 1960 (view is west to east)
Rob with Larry Dean Chaney on low diving board on the
west side of the south end of the pool.
Richard and Martha Meyer managed (or possibly owned) the pool for many years.  He ran an air conditioning business.  (Source: Susan Thornton Blair).  There was a "Putt Putt" golf course immediately west of the swimming pool building which was part of "Riverside"; it was eventually torn down.  The pool had a huge separate (but attached) shallow section on the north end (with a huge pipe running over the top of a portion of it.  There were two low diving boards (one of the east and one on the west end) with a high diving board in between them.  "Rings" to swing across ran from east to west across the pool.  Favorite songs played on the jukebox included "I Can't Get No (Satisfaction)"  by the Rolling Stones, ""Wipeout" by The Surfaris, and "California Girls" and "I Get Around" by the Beach Boys.  Riverside was one of the most popular places in Belton for kids to hang out in the 1960s. (Source: Billy Blair).

(Note: Special thanks to Charles C. Chaney for posting these images on Belton's Facebook page).

"The Beltonian" movie theater:

Beltonian Theater (we think) in 1961.
This is where you got the movie tickets; note the posters advertising future
movies in the glass case behind the woman.

Curtis Light said that in the late 1940's - early 1950's, you could get into the theater for 9 cents.  A coke would cost 5 cents, popcorn was 10 cents, and you would have 1 cent left over for bubblegum.  Judy Cast remembers going every Saturday afternoon.  Mike Herrington remembered that later the price of admission was 50 cents.

In the 1960s, they would show two full length movies, a cartoon, and an episode of "Congo Bill" (similar to Tarzan-type brief films which would leave Bill in some deadly situation and you would have to return the next Saturday to see if he got out of the situation) for a 25 cent admission price.  Everyone usually got a Dr. Pepper and either a large Butterfinger candy bar, a giant dill pickle or popcorn before the movies began.

On February 10, 2007, Jeannine (Digby) Blair said that Mr. Swaim ran the Beltonian theater.  His nickname was "Slim".  (Billy Blair Note: I'm not sure of the years that Mr. Swaim ran the theater).

Gladys' Hamburgers: (just south of Griggs Equipment Company).  This was a small, square, wooden-frame building.  Gladys Eliott, who owned and ran the place, sold hamburgers primarily to the employees of Griggs Equipment Company.  She called it the "Snack Shack".  Charlie and Clarence Griggs took a few of their school friends there one day and it rapidly became a lunch "hangout" for several Belton Junior High/ High School students.  It was located just southeast of the old Tiger field.  Gladys drove a blue truck for years.  I ate her BBQ sandwiches; you could get a ham & cheese sandwich for a quarter.  Someone remembered there being wrapping paper from the hamburgers all over the place on the ground.

Band practices next to Griggs Equipment Company building (view is NW to SE).
Glady's Hamburgers was just to the left of this picture.  Photo taken in 1962.
Photo taken at same time as above image.  This picture shows Griggs
Equipment Company on the left (where trucks were loaded) and Gladys
Hamburgers (just behind the tree in center of image).  Gladys was
primarily a place for Griggs Equipment Company employees to eat lunch,
but was "discovered" by some students from Belton Jr. High and Belton
High School just a few hundred yards west.

2015 Obituary for Gladys M. Elliott, who ran "Gladys Snack Shack".

(Note: Special thanks to Charlie Griggs for posting these images on Belton's Facebook page).

Tiger's Den: This was a "Dairy Queen" type restaurant in the early 1960's.  Before school, we would often see a kid smoking a cigarette or making out with a girl behind it.  Because of this, a lot of kids avoided going there because they didn't want to get associated with that kind of reputation.  It was located just north of the practice football field by the Jr. High locker rooms.  (Note: There was also another "Tiger's Den" cafe at Digby Auto Sales just south of Pittman's Cleaners back around the 1940s).

Avenue Cafe: The favorite local "hang out" cafe where you kept up with the town gossip.  It was a great place to go and was filled with cowboys, shop owners, and the ladies who worked at the courthouse across the street.  Avenue Cafe was located at the northeast corner of the town square.  Everyone enjoyed going to the smoke-filled cafe to get a cup of coffee or have some lunch.

Griggs Equipment Company


The Natatorium in Belton, Texas (1940's?)
In the mid- 1950's, the A-framed front did not exist.  The entrance in the
1950's - 1960's was just to the right of this front.

Belton Natatorium Information.

Belton Natatorium advertisement.

1932 modernization and renovation of the Belton Natatorium.  Built in the
1880s, this was the first public bath house and indoor swimming pool in Texas.
In 1932, the west wall was removed and a sand beach was created on the
Nolan Creek bank opposite Yettie Polk Park.  (Marvin Crow Collection).
(The view is SW to NE from Yettie Polk Park.  Beyond the pool is the intersection
of Main Street and Central Avenue).

The front of the Natatorium as I remember it in the late 1950s - 1960s.  The
entrance is the open area behind the woman posing on the July 4th float; the
actual pool is to the left.  The sand beach (which would have been to the right of
this image) was no longer in use and the stairs to access this area were locked.
Seating areas were on both the east and west side of the pool and dressing areas/
showers were at the back wall (south) of the pool.  Vending  machines were
on the back, right side of this image.

Billy Blair and Tommy Thornton faintly remember there being 2 or 3 submerged columns running north/ south between the rafts and west side of the pool.  Billy remembers how much fun it was to be able to swim out to one of the columns and stand on it in the deep water (The columns were only a few inches under the water).

The Natatorium ("the Nat"): 1950's - 1960's
(As remembered by Billy & Susan Blair, Lee & Jeannie Pittman, and
Tommy & Kay Thornton).

Smith Brothers grocery:

Jacksons Barber Shop: Ernest and Wayne Jackson ran the barber shop.  There was a nice black man who ran the shoe shine stand, which was inside next to the front door.  I don't know the man's name, but he told me once that his fingers had been cut off at the joint when a train ran over them.  I remember him dipping the stubs of his fingers into the shoe polish and applying the polish with his hand.  I believe there were either 3 or 4 barber chairs on the right side of the room.  Chairs (with a long series of mirrors over them) were on the left side of the room.  Ernest manned the chair furtherest away from the front door and Wayne, who always cut my hair, was nearest the front door.  I remember that Wayne Jackson later went across the street (west) to cut hair; I don't remember if he opened his own shop or if he worked for someone else here.

Dr. Elker's office: Dr. Elker was my optometrist; his office was directly across (west) the street from Jackson's Barber Shop.

Hamburger King: This was a small, very popular hamburger stand, which was built onto the stone wall of the building directly across the street (south) of First National Bank on Central Avenue.  I remember this place being here during the 1960s and early 1970s when I was in Jr. high and  high school.  They served a great hamburger!

The Hamburger King in Belton, Texas
(This is the way it looked in the 1960's).

A walk-up serving window, which opened onto the sidewalk of the
busiest street in Belton was the unique way in which Wesley Coppin, "The
Hamburger King", sold hamburgers for many years.

The "Hamburger King" was located between the two trees in this image.
(Location: East side of courthouse square on Central Avenue. North side of bldg.).

Butch's Restaurant: Butch's had great custard cones, hamburgers, malts, shakes, and pies.  In the 1950's - 1960's, the Lions Club would have their meetings in the back room of Butch's (Note the Lions Club sign out front in the image below).

Butch's Restaurant, Belton, Texas
Butch's is the front, right building in this image taken during a flood.  The view
is east to west on Central Avenue just west of IH-35 intersection.
(Source of image: Belton Museum).

Butch's Barbeque in Belton, Texas.

Butch Wilson, owner of Butch's Restaurant in the 1960's.
You would always see him in his white apron at the restaurant.
(Image provided by Charlie Griggs).

Dairy Queen: The Dairy Queen was located on Central Avenue, a few blocks south of the old high school.  I remember football players going there in between "2 a-day" football workouts in the summer to get something to drink.  "Circling" the Dairy Queen in your car (if you were lucky enough to have one) was almost a rite of passage.  The building is still there, but a pharmacy named "The Medicine Shop" is located inside.  Don King said, "Walked there in Junior High; drove there in High School..."  People would listen to Wolf Man Jack on the radio while hanging out there with friends. Some of the kids figured out how to use the tall phone booth on the corner for free (When you put a nickel in, if you could hit the coin return button at the same time, you could get your money back and a dial tone as well).  People would buy something and then share it with others.  Some of the memorable treats included their Barbeque sandwich, Vanilla Dr. Pepper, Chocolate Coke, and Coke Floats.  Frances Barkely Willess said, "We used to go to Hilltop Cafe or Crow's Cafe.  The Dairy Queen didn't come along until after I was married, and then it was on Main street just north of 2nd Avenue, next to a service station on the corner".  The road which was just to the left of the  picture below led north, straight to the High School and Junior High School (in the 1960's-1970's).

The Belton Dairy Queen in the 1960's. (View is SW to NE).

Belton Dairy Queen (View is SE to NW).

Duke & Ayers:

Clements Drug Store: (had a soda fountain).  The pharmacist who worked for Mr. Clements was Mr. Charleston Jerign.

Britts Drug Store:

Minimax grocery store:

A & P Food Store:

First National Bank:

First National Bank in Belton (View is SW to NE).
(Note the bank drive-through on the right and Jackson Barber Shop on left side of bank).

People's National Bank:

Pittmans Cleaners:

The Belton Journal:

Cochran, Blair, & Potts department store:


Glazner's Garage:

Belton Car Mart:

The Bargain Barn: There is a small office room on the right as you enter the building.  The rest of the building is open with an open-style ceiling.  Large items would be loaded out of the door on the right.  Items included furniture, household items, washers/ dryers, old clocks, fans, and an assortment of other items.  Pearl (Griffin) Digby ran The Bargain Barn in the early 1960's.

The Bargain Barn in Belton (View is SW to NE).
(Image by Billy Blair in 2007, but same appearance as in 1960's).

Potts Hardware:

Leon Valley Golf Course: I remember the hole numbers being changed, probably in the 1980s.  The front 9 became the back nine and the back 9 holes became the front nine.  The old hole # 10 became the new first hole.  The whole time I played the course (into the early 1970s), the old numbering system was being used.

1960's Map of course from a Leon Valley Golf Course scorecard.
(This was the original hole numbering system of the course).

1960's postcard of Leon Valley Golf Course (View is SE to NW).
(This view is taken from the #1 tee box looking back toward the old Clubhouse
on the hill with the large, practice putting green below).

Glenn Blair (left) and good friend, Alton Martin at #4 tee box
in the 1960's (the old numbering system).

           Source of Image: The Belton Journal in the late 1960's or 1970's.

The last official golfer at Leon Valley Golf Course was Mark Hessing on August 23, 2009.

Yettie Polk Park:

Sewell-Long Hospital:

Quick drawing of the Sewell-Long hospital in Belton, Texas by
Kay (Cearley) Thornton (when trying to re-construct what it looked
like with Billy Blair). Top of drawing faces east.

Frank's Lakeview Inn: This was a great place to eat overlooking Lake Belton.  It was located on the southeast end of the lake, just west of the road going across the dam.  It was more of a formal dining place on weekends or for Sunday lunch.  They had a round, rocked-in pond on the back, east end in which they would  put large catfish they caught out of Lake Belton (They would usually have one giant catfish of about 100 lbs. and 2-3 smaller catfish that would weigh 5-10 lbs.  They would also have several smaller goldfish in the pond).  Fish bait would be sold at the counter when you first entered the restaurant. There was also a monkey in a cage out back by the catfish pond.

Frank's Lakeview Inn in the 1950's.  View is SE to NW over Lake Belton.

Frank's Lakeview Inn, 1960's. (View is east to west).

Continental baseball field:

Team photo at Continental Field, Belton, Texas.
(View is NW to SE).

The picture above shows the dugout (higher fenced-in area behind the team), the stands, and the concession stand (back right).  The concession stand was directly behind home plate.  

                             Interesting Misc. Information:

Phone exchanges:  In the 1950's - 1960's, Belton's phone exchange was "Webster" (WE9), so the phone numbers in Belton would be WE9- (any four other numbers) (the same as 939-any four numbers).  The phone exchange for Temple was "Prospect" (PR3), so the phone numbers in Temple would be PR3- (any four numbers) (same as 773- any four numbers).

The "WE - 9" system began in 1956.  Before using the prefix "WE9" with the dial system, they had 3 digits in the phone number and went through the operator.  The "party line" had several people on it: You would pick up the phone and hear someone talking to someone else.  If you needed to make a call, you either had to wait or interrupt if it was an emergency.  The dial system was supposed to begin at midnight.  For many years you just had to dial the "9" before the number.  Now you have to dial "9 - area code", then the number.  (Source: Frances Barkley Willess on Belton's Facebook page).

Temple's phone exchange was Prospect (7), then changed to 773.  (Source: Julie Stewart Griggs on Belton's Facebook page).

Old phone booths: The early phone booths were wooden; later, they were metal.  There was a light in the top of them with a fan that came on when the folding door was shut.  There was a metal, pie-shaped seat attached to the side next to the phone.  The earliest phones were black and were rotary "pay" phones which had slots for nickels, dimes, and quarters.  Local calls were a quarter. Long distance calls costs more, depending on how long you wanted to talk.  There was a little metal stand beneath the phone so that you could set the phone book on it to look up addresses.  The phone books dangled from a metal cord and usually had pages torn out of them soon after being installed.  Most of the walls of the phone booth were glass, except for the wooden or metal frames.

Body Odor: In the middle 1950s, I remember that many people sprinkled baking soda under their arms for deodorant or used nothing at all.  You could identify several people in town by their consistent smell.

Full Service Gas Stations: All gas stations were full service and most of them had 2-3 attendants.  One would fill your gas tank, one would wash ALL of your windows, and one would check the air pressure in all of your tires as well as check your oil, water in your radiator, and windshield wiper fluid.

Racism: (I detest racist remarks, but do feel as though it's part of our history and shows how far we've come in only a few years. That's the reason I include these comments).  Although I don't remember our town being particularly racist, I do remember the occasional child call a slingshot a "nigger shooter" and an older relative said that Mexican Hat flowers were called "nigger toes" when she was growing up.  I once heard a man in a barber shop call a black man outside a "step and fetch nigger".

Misc. Memories:
1.  "Thunder" in the afternoon with a clear sky was just the big guns firing at Fort Hood Army Base.
2.  The "Marching 100" high school band in Belton would march through the school hallways playing on the way to the gym prior to pep rallies there.
3.  The great snow cones in Yettie Polk Park.

Shooting Marbles:  I remember "shooting marbles" in Junior High School.  We would make a circle with a stick or our shoe in the dirt about 10' in diameter.  Each boy would toss in a handful of their marbles.  Each boy would take their turn using one of their favorite "shooter" marbles.  You had to shoot outside the circle and had to knock one of the marbles outside the circle; if you did, it was yours.  The trick was to get the other marble out without losing your favorite "shooter" inside the circle (which was usually the case).  If the marble stayed inside the circle, it was fair game for others to try to shoot it to the outside.  Besides "shooters", we had "cat eyes", "yellow jackets", "steelies",  "boulders" and "aggies" (made from agate).  The "steelies" and "boulders" (which you could chunk instead of shoot) could do a lot of damage to a marble as well as knock the other marbles out more easily.  I still have several of my old marbles with chips out of them or ones that have broken in half.  If it was just you and one other person playing, the circle would be much smaller.  Phrases I remember during the game included "fudging" (cheating by crossing the line when you're shooting the marble), "playing for keeps" (when you keep the marbles you knock out of the  circle), and "dead duck" (You call the marble you are aiming for a "dead duck").


  1. Billy, My daughter was born at Sewell-Long Hospital July 11, 1964. Her father was a soldier at Ft. Hood. Do you know of any existing photos? I would love to see it. We plan to visit Belton for the first time since she was born next summer. Thanks, Sharon Gregory..sharon0771@gmail.com

  2. Sharon, Thanks for your comment. I wish I had a photo of the hospital, but I do not. The Bell County Museum may have a photo in their files or the Belton library might have one in their nice genealogy room. I was also born at this hospital on March 19, 1953 and would love for someone to post a photo of the hospital on Facebook for us. I'm truly sorry that I'm not able to help you. Keep on hoping; things have a way of turning up.

  3. Hi. There was an all you eat bbq place my parents used to take us in the early 70's. Do you know? I am pretty sure it was in Belton. I grew up in Copperas Cove. The restaurant may have been in Temple. Thanks!

    1. Donn, It could have been at River Forest as Chris has suggested. Another favorite was at Clem Mekeska's Barbeque in Temple, Texas.

  4. RiverForrest Smorasbord