Making Change

Like it or not, Tarrant County's population grew by more than 30,000 during the past year.

That was the eighth largest increase in the nation. Of course, growth in Fort Worth and Arlington has always been on the increase, especially over the last 40 to 50 years. Having lived in Fort Worth most of my life, I've noticed that the growth is really reflected in the change of the major corridors that run in, out and through the city.
       Back in the late ’50s, I can remember standing in the backyard of a friend's house that sat up high on Westcliff Road West overlooking the Tanglewood subdivision near TCU. Just past that subdivision to the west, all you could see was vacant land and scrub brush. But then came the expansion of Hulen. Now, development along that road didn't take off immediately. Even in the early to mid-’70s, if your only job was to deliver the mail along Hulen, all you'd have to do was swing by Cullen Davis's joint, then pretty much call it a day. Things are a little different now.
       Loop 820 was another major project that took a while to complete. Back when I was in high school, the southwest portion was just being built. It was so desolate on the frontage roads, we were able to have drag races up and down them almost every Friday night. It was finally completed in 1982 and is about 35 miles around. Back then, you could easily drive it in less than 30 minutes. Not anymore. If you try it these days, be sure to pack a lunch and take a paperback. You'll have plenty of time to finish both once you hit that never-ending logjam in the northeast quadrant.
       Except for Bruce Jenner, nothing has gone through more changes in the original design than I-30, particularly on the west side of Fort Worth. But even on the east side, a few of us can still remember the old Dallas/Fort Worth Turnpike, which preceded the interstate. Hard to believe it's been 37 years since the old tollway closed.
       A few of us were arguing the other day about the amount of the toll. Well, I knew exactly how much it was in 1972. I had just finished a rather unsuccessful trip to Las Vegas and had to write a 60-cent check for it. It bounced. (True story.)
       Then there's I-35. It used to be one of the worst highways in Texas. But now, after years of endless widening and new construction, it's the worst highway in the world. And the passage of time has showed us that it may never be finished. I'm pretty sure they've been working on that short stretch from Hillsboro to Waco since the fall of Rome.
       Yep. Every major thoroughfare has seen some change. Except one. It's a piece of state highway 199 that runs north from downtown to Lake Worth and has as rich a history as almost any other noteworthy place in Texas. The Jacksboro Highway. A number of books and articles have been written about it. Most recall all the gambling and shady characters associated with that area in its heyday. I didn't spend much time there, but I do recall a couple of things from the ’60s. One was the rough bars. You certainly didn't want to be the first guy with long hair to wander into one. It wasn't uncommon to find bathroom stalls trashed by off-season rodeo clowns or to step out into the parking lot and see someone trying to lift a car off a friend. The other was watching legendary bluesman Jimmy Reed at the old Skyliner Ballroom. He was great, even though it appeared some woman was whispering the lyrics in his ear while he played.
       But for a number of years, it's been pretty quiet along the old highway. Until now. Developers are preparing to rebuild one of Jacksboro Highway’s most famous landmarks. Casino Beach. Opened originally in the 1920s as a municipal beach, its popularity was the reason a recreation park was soon developed around it, which included a roller coaster, a boardwalk and an 11,000-square-foot ballroom. However, interest began to wane in the ’40s and ’50s, and it finally closed for good. The structures were demolished in 1973.
       The new Casino Beach will be rebuilt on the same spot as the old one. It will include restaurants, a recreation area and a new concert hall. And I just bet one of the first performers will be Delbert McClinton, somebody who knew Jacksboro Highway better than anybody else. I really think this is going to work because everybody who lives in the area wants it to work.
       I'm definitely heading out there for the grand opening. I might even stop along the way at one of the old bars. I'll probably borrow my daughter's Mini Cooper, just in case somebody has to lift it off of me.