Cowtown Yoostabes, Vaughn Boulevard Edition: Don’t Be Afraid of . . . The Dark

Time for a final trip down Memory Lane, better known as Vaughn Boulevard, the Middle-Class Mile (see Part 1, Part 2).

vaughn 1957 cdThe business mile of Vaughn Boulevard in the 1957 city directory.

yoostabe vaughn kissinger no 3 at 1616 in 68peacockWhere this church stands at Avenue I yoostabe Kissinger auto parts store no. 3.

yoostabe vaughn rox-exAt Avenue J, Rox-Ex exterminating company. Rox-Ex sponsored a Little League team at Del Murray Field.

yoostabe vaughn beyer clinicAt Avenue J, Beyer Clinic. Dr. Daniel D. Beyer came here from Iowa.

yoostabe vaughn poly feedAt Millet Avenue, Poly Feedstore. A few people in Poly still kept livestock.

yoostabe vaughn anderson blockJust north of the feedstore, behind that fence yoostabe Anderson’s Bicycle Shop. Schwinn, Huffy, Raleigh, Roadmaster, Murray, Columbia. Bicycles then had but one speed. Bendix coaster brake. Chain guard. Fenders. A basket. Rear carrier rack. Horn tank. Generator and light. Handlebar grips with streamers. Seat wide enough for three cheeks.

yoostabe vaughn peacockAt Hanger Avenue, Ed Peacock’s Radio and TV Service. Peacock’s was the nearest source of 45-rpm records. Ed Peacock was a coach in East Side youth baseball.

yoostabe vaughn cosdenAt Ada Avenue, Kemp’s Cosden service station.

yoostabe vaughn 2411 slabOn this foundation slab between Ada and Hanger yoostabe the Twenty-Four Eleven Club and One-Day Cleaners.

yoostabe vaughn homelessNow the lot is the temporary home of a person experiencing homelessness.

vaughn tunnel panelAcross the street from the Twenty-Four Eleven Club was my favorite place on all of Vaughn Boulevard. Two hundred feet west of Vaughn, at the beginning of a strip of woods that stretches almost a mile to Beach Street, stands a humble chinaberry tree. And in the shade of that tree is the mouth of a storm drain tunnel. The tunnel has been there since at least 1952. Rainwater flows into storm drains along the curbs of area streets and is channeled via a network of tributary tunnels into the big Vaughn mother tunnel. Water from the Vaughn tunnel then flows out at its mouth, which serves as the headwaters of a creek that meanders through that strip of woods to Sycamore Creek near Maddox Avenue.

The mouth of the Vaughn storm drain tunnel was the jumping-off point for two very different kinds of adventure: the western expedition and the eastern expedition. For the western expedition we boys would follow the creek from the mouth of the tunnel to Maddox Avenue, exploring the creek and woods as urban Huck Finns, catching crawdads and turtles and even fish, flipping over flat rocks, wading in water littered with broken glass and over algae-slippery rocks, sticking our hands into mysterious holes in the bank, and just generally flirting with a trip to the emergency room.

For the eastern expedition we would go into the tunnel—as far as we dared—to experience . . . The Dark.

vaughn tunnel jackThe late Jack Hotchkiss told me that when we attended nearby D. McRae Elementary School, after class let out in the afternoons he actually would go home via The Dark—the Vaughn tunnel and its tributary tunnels. Jack would enter the mouth of the Vaughn tunnel and zig and zag his way through the network of tunnels, tacking ever southeastward until he popped up from a curb storm drain—Jack the mole—near his home on Fitzhugh Avenue. His own personal subterranean express lane. Jack lived about ten blocks (by surface route) from the mouth of the tunnel. The Vaughn tunnel’s ceiling is high enough to allow upright walking, but navigating the tributary tunnels is strictly hands and knees. Jack was compact enough (and brash enough) to make such a commute.

For the rest of us boys the eastern expedition into the mother tunnel and its tributary tunnels was just a way to be inner-city spelunkers, and, hey, if we scared ourselves silly in the process, so much the better. But the network of tunnels, although pure-dee pitch dark, was clean and cool, with a rivulet of clear water trickling down the center of each tunnel. Sounds from the surface world filtered down to us from curb storm drains: cars passing, people hollering, dogs barking. The sounds were distant and hollow.

An eastern expedition didn’t count for much unless we ventured into at least the first tributary tunnel and left the mother tunnel behind, proceeding on hands and knees, our voices reverberating, our eyes switched to high beam in a vain effort to see ahead into The Dark. To light our way after we left behind the semicircle of light at the mouth of the mother tunnel on Vaughn, we would bring candles and matches. Also rubbing alcohol. We would pour alcohol into a pit in the concrete floor of the tunnel and light it. As the alcohol burned, its eerie blue flame danced in the draft and cast our distorted silhouettes onto the curved tunnel wall of The Dark.

And, lo, we were deliciously afraid.

Take the eastern expedition—via video—into . . . The Dark:

This entry was posted in Cowtown in Motion, Cowtown Yoostabes, Downtown, All Around, East Side, Fort Worth Underfoot, Life in the Past Lane. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Cowtown Yoostabes, Vaughn Boulevard Edition: Don’t Be Afraid of . . . The Dark

  1. Dan Washmon says:

    Stephen King and his storm drain clown have made the idea of exploring the tunnel a bit quease-inducing….

    • hometown says:

      Dan, I was surprised by how much more uneasy I was in that tunnel than I had been fifty years earlier.

  2. Chandler Slater says:

    On Camp Bowie Blvd. near the strip mall where Tom Thumb and Dollar Tree are, you will find an old abandoned supermarket. Krogers and Win Dixie used to be there.

  3. Cherry Wilson Jones says:

    Graduated Poly ’63. Grew up on Wilbarger. We were up and down Vaughn all the time. Photos bring back memories. Wilbarger used to end at Shackleford, then there was a field and crawdad holes. Had 3 younger brothers: Gene (about ’68), Teddy, Richard (Richie).

    • hometown says:

      We used to take Vaughn from Burton to Wilbarger and then east to what is now south Arlington before the lake got in the way in 1957. I think we drove past that old silo that stood forlorn in the lake for so many years.

  4. Bill Melton says:

    Do you have any information on the history of Sycamore Park. There used to be an concrete platform off of Earnest Street not far from Vickery Blvd. I always wondered how it was used.

    My family spent lots of fun times in that park.

  5. Bill Melton says:

    I grew up in Poly. We lived on the 3700 block of Ave K until 1976. Where did you live?

    These stories have brought back some great memories!

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Bill. I lived at 3230 Burton just a few houses off Vaughn near Poly Hardware. Walked to D. McRae via Collard Street, then unpaved.

  6. steve plnkett says:

    WOW….such old memories. Been in that storm drain many many times. Once we ventured as far as S.S.Dillow Elem….that was a long way. On the western venture we would run the creek all the way down to Atlantic Mills. Near the creek was on old barn and horse pens. We used to have bb gun fights, gourd fights, slide off the barn roof, build tree houses and mush more. Life was easy. Just have fun.

    • hometown says:

      From D. Mc to Dillow! I am impressed. That puts you at the Jack Hotchkiss level. I really had intended to go a lot farther into the tunnel when I shot the video the other day, but the adult in me overruled the kid in me and asked if the risks were worth a YouTube video that few will ever see.

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