Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Saving Magic 11th Street" now available on YouTube and on DVDs

I am pleased to share with my readers that the 25-minute documentary, Saving Magic 11th Street, is now available on YouTube. That link is below.

As requested, we also have DVDs available for $5.00 each plus $3.00 shipping for those who prefer this method of viewing the documentary. Please call me at 800-747-0738, ext. 1, for more details.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Renewal, history, civic call-to-arms combine in trailblazing documentary with message for all

Garland's South 11th Street--oh, wasn't that the place that got the Pace House?

Isn't that where the neighbors had the street closed?

A Texas Historical Marker--didn't one get installed there last year?

Aren't a bunch of pretty restored homes situated there?

Many people by now may have heard something about our little street--only two blocks long at its core in the Travis College Hill historic district. But they may not know the full picture about how ridding the town of "Marijuana Avenue" (our nickname for a portion of West Avenue C that ran by our house) relates to historic preservation in an area that one sympathetic official once identified as "going nowhere" and that another community leader once called "that slum". Or how a major neighborhood re-invention was kick-started when Garland's Pace House was featured in Time Inc.'s 1.1 million-circulation This Old House magazine.

And how in the world did two retirement-age folks whose daily calendar now is governed by grandkids' carpools get so deeply involved in all of this—something so far removed from our globe-trotting days as journalists with a keen interest in all things religious?

 And what about this would be considered "magic", anyway? 

 All of those questions and more are answered in a new 25-minute documentary video, Saving Magic 11th Street, slated to premiere free at 2 p.m. Friday, April 22, at Garland's Plaza Theater on the city's historic downtown Square. The video will then be played continuously in the parlor of one of the 103-year-old homes (401 S. 11th Street) in Travis College Hill during the noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 23, historic home tour. Both events are part of Garland's 125th "birthday party" Heritage Celebration.

Afterward we plan to share the short film with troubled neighborhoods, wannabe historic districts, and other interested parties all across Texas and the U.S. that we believe need to hear the call-to-arms message the documentary has to offer.

Many neighborhoods in lots of cities across our country—and even overseas—could benefit from lessons we and our resourceful neighbors have learned—and the skills we all have developed—along the way as we watched, at first helplessly, as our beloved neighborhood slipped from respect and honor into neglect and abuse and then moved back again to well-deserved honor and regard in our community today.

As Garland Mayor Douglas Athas throws out the gauntlet on camera so aptly, "If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere." The principles are the same, though the geographic locations may vary!

This is a "neighborhood documentary" like few others you will ever have the opportunity to see. It shows a special glimpse of what can happen when resourceful neighbors, responsible government entities, and others who "get it" cooperate in such an ambitious civic venture. It features duplicatable how-to's for taking your neighborhood back, insights from citizens and city leaders, lavish aerial footage, and glimpses of past glory days that will strike a deep chord with many recalling their own hometowns. It shows the concurrent track between Travis College Hill's refurbishment and the downtown Garland rebirth just blocks away. 

A documentary of this caliber and magnitude would be too costly for us, or for other average citizens, to produce, despite high intentions. To hire an outside firm to chronicle such detailed and personal highlights over a three-year period of time while these events were taking shape would have had a price tag into the stratosphere.

But our son, Matthew J. Moore, whose work-life has been blessed with some exceptional professional opportunities, has been deeply committed to following and telling this phenomenal story, though he lives two states away. Thanks to his video-production talents (and those of his sweet-spirited colleagues), plus his devotion to his parents and to the memory of his grandparents (11th Street residents for nearly 50 years), Kay and I have had to invest only a modest sum for this magnificent short film. We have no intention whatsoever of ever even trying to earn back our costs.

The video is our gift to all the Garland movers and shakers, past and present—including mayors, city councilmembers, a Dallas County commissioner, a school-board president, doctors, preachers, school administrators, postmasters, small-business owners, and many others but especially to Kay's parents, J.D. and Mable Wheeler—who ever lived in Travis College Hill or who will come after us in this quaint 103-year-old vintage neighborhood.

It is also our gift to all the citizens of Garland who live in an aging, inner-ring Dallas community facing numerous hurdles as the city tries to reinvent itself for a brighter tomorrow alongside many other competitor-cities in the DFW Metroplex who are striving—sometimes with more wealth and resources—for the same thing.

Please join us for the premiere at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 22, at the Plaza Theater (the beautifully spruced-up movie house where, incidentally, my wife watched Saturday-afternoon flickers during her childhood)—and then participate with us in trumpeting forth the message that decay and ultimately the wrecking ball aren't the best answers for aging neighborhoods and downtown areas.

This renewal project has made us better citizens. We believe viewers will become better for having learned about it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Like Historic Home Tours? Then please put April 11 in Garland's Travis College Hill on your calendar

Excited about April 11 and racing like crazy to get things company-ready! Hope you'll put this event on your calendar--noon to 5 p.m., with a 3 p.m. ceremony awarding our Interurban Land Company's Travis College Hill neighborhood's Texas Historical Marker.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Day by day the Pace House looks more like a home and less like a meeting place

Day by day, week by week, the Pace House is being transformed from a public events center back to its original role as a single-family residence.

Walking through the house this afternoon, I marveled that two bedrooms (both with closets) that have been carved out of what had been a large meeting room are nearly finished and the tiny pass-through kitchen for the community center has been expanded into a perfect-sized kitchen for full-time occupants--even spacious enough to fit in a breakfast table.

This week's schedule includes:

1. Painting the enlarged kitchen and installing its dishwasher and countertops. Maybe just maybe, we can even get the new kitchen floor installed, too.

2.  Finishing the plumbing in the king-sized and the half bathrooms. We literally had to rip out everything in the "men's" and "women's" restrooms in the events center and start all over with the space. Our architect came up with a great design with one enormous bathroom and one small half bath.

With the April 11 Heritage Day fast approaching, we're starting to think about what's tops on our priority list for that event. Having a fully functioning bathroom for our tour hosts and hostesses is at the top of the list.

For the crowds who will be in our neighborhood that day from noon to 5 p.m. to tour the five historic open houses on our street, including the Pace House, and the dedication at 3 p.m. of Travis College Hill's new Texas Historical Marker, the City of Garland is graciously providing a high-quality portable restroom complete with real sinks and all.

We will even have a giant 30-by-50 tent set up in front of the Pace House and in front of the new neighborhood Texas Historical Marker. The tent will seat 200 comfortably.

In 1985-86, as part of the City of Garland's Texas Sesquicentennial celebration, the turn-of-the-century Queen Anne-inspired Garland residence was remodeled from a family home into a meeting place where weddings, bridal showers, anniversaries, and other social and political events were celebrated. Now, almost two years after the city decided it no longer needed the historic facility and five months after we obtained ownership, the house is being returned to its original purpose. The Pace House will be re-dedicated as part of the April 11 ceremony.

It's going to be a glorious day! But until then, for me it will be paint, hammer, drive to Home Depot and back, then paint, hammer and drive to Home Depot and back again!

Please join us on Saturday afternoon, April 11, to witness the transformation of this historical beauty.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Saga of church's dumpster shows the difference between institutionalized religion and doing unto others as Jesus taught

Nine years. Nine long years.

That's the number of years since I first sat down at the dais for my inaugural Garland Plan Commission meeting as a city-appointed representative from District 2. At that time, my colleague and friend, Stan Luckie, the at-large representative on the Plan Commission, leaned over to me and asked softly, "When are you and your neighbors going to do something about that illegal dumpster in the MAC parking lot at First Baptist Church?"

"You mean that dumpster really IS illegal?" I replied. I had been studying that dumpster for several years and wondering—

* why is it situated so close to our neighborhood;
* why does it look so ugly and smell so bad;
* who allowed it to be placed in that location in the first place;
* why wasn't it placed in the proper enclosure the city requires of all dumpsters situated near residential neighborhoods; and
* why did city garbage trucks that emptied it always arrive so early in the mornings six days a week and make so much noise, especially on Saturday mornings, when we and our neighbors were trying to sleep?

Thus began an odyssey that is almost too unbelievable (and embarrassing) to write about, except that it is true. Such a simple thing as getting that church dumpster properly housed in a legal, gated and locked enclosure (the same requirement as made of other commercial entities in Garland) should never have taken nine long years. But it did. And along the way I learned more about the politics of a neighboring church and our city—and their strange dance together—than I ever cared to learn.

Thinking it would be a simple matter to get the dumpster either removed or placed in a legal structure, shortly after Stan made his comment I conferred with my City Councilwoman at that time, Laura Perkins Cox, of District 2. Perky, as we all called her, dutifully raced over to our neighborhood, took pictures of the dumpster, and made a few notes about it. Of course the unprotected dumpster was illegal and violated city code, she said. She promised to get the matter taken care of promptly.

A few weeks later after nothing had happened, Perky rather quietly told me the matter was taking longer than she had expected and that she was running into more opposition than she had anticipated.

I firmly believe the whole matter boiled down to two basic issues:

1. City personnel were scared to confront this particular church about a wrongdoing.
2. The church didn't want to listen to anyone trying to tell it that it had done something wrong.

Complicating the matter is the kingmaker role that First Baptist Garland has played for many years in Garland city politics. For too many decades to recount, many Garland politicians (mayor and city council wannabe's) believed the myth that they couldn't get elected without the blessings of First Baptist. Such was—and still is—the exaggerated political clout of this one congregation.

Also complicating the matter was the fact that many of the city's employees are good, solid Christian, church-going, God-fearing men and women who truly want to believe the best about a church and about people. I'm glad the city hires these kinds of workers , but . . . sometimes this kind of blind adoration can cause a church's shortcomings to be overlooked and excused.

Churches are finite institutions composed of human beings capable of error. Certainly the U.S. constitution gives individuals freedom to worship as they please. But that freedom doesn't give a church the right to impose a health and safety nuisance on its neighbors. Freedom of religion has no greater champion than I am. But just being a church doesn't by any means give it a pass on health, safety, and building codes and any other laws established to protect the public good and which must be honored by all citizens in a city.

In my professional career as a journalist who spent decades writing about organized religion in every form, I have seen many church institutions up close. I have never lost my faith in God despite my seeing the warts of many houses of worship of all stripes. My wife and I are believers, regular church attenders, and contributors. But I am certainly glad that long ago I learned the difference between faith in God Almighty and the actions of institutionalized religion! They definitely are not one and the same.

Finally, one city department head took up the gauntlet. He may have been motivated by some pictures I took of uninvited individuals prowling inside the church's dumpster—throwing Christmas ornaments, papers, and even an old printer on to the sidewalk and street and then hauling off materials, leaving trash in their wake. The pictures clearly showed that the open and ungated dumpster was luring an unwanted element to the neighborhood. It also was allowing litter to blow into the neighborhood and create a nuisance for nearby homes. Whatever it was, I'm grateful that finally after nine years someone was able to muster the courage to stand up and say flatly, "This is wrong! This is not being a good neighbor. This will not continue. The church will become law-abiding. This church will abide by the same set of standards as is required for everyone else in Garland including other churches." How I and our neighbors deeply appreciate this city department and this man and his associates who firmly pursued this matter day after day despite all obstacles.

Sadly, the church dragged its heels to the bitter end. On the last hour of the last day before the city was set to move legally against the church, a church leader agreed to do the right thing. But even then, the foot-dragging continued. Though the church is busy planning a $22-million building expansion, the leader is reported to have said he didn't know a contractor who could build the legally required shelter for the dumpster. At that point the city produced a list of six contractors and basically instructed him, "Pick one!"

I am really proud of this city employee, who under the special encouragement of current District 2 Councilmember Anita Goebel, deserves a special commendation for his courage, skill, ethics, and sense of rightness. I've chosen not to name him publicly, because as I have seen, institutionalized religion doesn't always do the right thing to people that hold it accountable.

Maybe, just maybe, someone wanting to defend the unChristian attitude we encountered for nine long years will remember two basic teachings of Christ:

1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Every year this particular church tosses a cookout advertised as being for the community. It invites neighbors surrounding the church and others for an evening of complimentary burgers and the trimmings. This is commendable, but it can come across as merely shallow window-dressing when the church doesn't take responsibility for its actions that damage its neighbors just one block away.

Today, after all this wrangling, an attractive, compliant dumpster enclosure that is an asset to the church and a much better witness to its neighbors is almost ready for use. Yesterday workers poured the final concrete needed for the structure. Now only gates and a proper lock remain to be added.

But the question lingers: Why, oh why, did it take so long?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Waiting for the concrete to dry. Then more yet to do!

All 56 piers now have been filled with concrete. We are waiting for them to dry. Because of the cold weather our contractor said "to be on the safe side" we need to wait until Monday (Nov. 17) or Tuesday (Nov. 18).

Two iron rods protrude about a foot above ground out of each pier. This is definitely not a place where anyone except the workers would want to walk, especially at night!

Next, the forms have to be put in place to pour the concrete for the beams, leaving a pathway for the truck and tire wheels which will pass over everything to position the house. The contractor said he also will have to "bend" the iron rods on the path the truck and tire wheels will move, then straighten them back up after the house is in place.

This next phase definitely will be rather complicated! But also lots of fun to watch. Glad we can stand at our bedroom window and from the warmth of the house watch all that is going on next door.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Drill, baby, drill!"

Despite the frigid temperatures, "them Rogers boys", as their sign says, are busy drilling the final holes for the 56 piers on which our newly acquired Pace House will sit.

Some piers vary in depth but most are at least 8-feet deep—a far better and more expensive foundation than the bois d'arc posts on which the house and most of Garland's oldest homes were originally built.

Several houses in the Garland's Travis College Hill Historic District still have at least some, if not all, of their original bois d'arc foundation posts, which have survived nearly 100 years.

The crew expects to finish all the drilling and have the iron bars inserted into the holes by noon today.

Next: inspections. Then: filling the holes with concrete. After that we move to Phase 2: concrete beams and Phase 3: the moving and final lowering of the house.

Nothing easy or inexpensive about this project!

UPDATE: At 3:30 p.m. today, the City of Garland building inspector approved everything (green carded us!), so pouring the concrete starts at 11 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday).