I revisited my hometown – really toured it – for the first time in 20 years. My parents moved away from Van Alstyne, Texas, to East Texas while I was in college in order to be closer to my grandmother, and I hadn’t really been back except for brief drive-throughs for occasional high school reunions. On the last trip, though, I saw two cowboys on horses, and I went through the relatively unchanged main street, with its 1880’s buildings and hitching posts. It reminded me how country I had grown up. I wanted a camera to recapture that. Van Alstyne was small, quaint and rural. It had less than 2000 people when I lived there, we ate at the Dairy Queen, and we drove 20+ miles to the nearest movie theater, 27 miles to the nearest vet. I and others had horses; one of my classmates became a rodeo queen. It wasn’t quite as Western as all that sounds (Dallas was about an hour away and I commuted there some for work in the summer), but VA definitely was Texas country.
And although I knew Dallas sleeper subdivisions were starting to go in to the south, it still felt like it would always be Van Alstyne. Then a friend told me a couple of months ago about how a major power plant was going to be put up between the town itself and the farm on which I had grown up. All of a sudden it became important for me to take photographs to capture the character I knew.
So when in Oklahoma on business, I rented a car, drove south, visited some friends, and tooled around the town pretending I was a great photographer. My photos don’t show the new Van Alstyne of suburbs outside the city limits (especially to the south), a huge elementary school, a new high school, and the McDonald’s, Braum’s, and Subway. (The new nursery was very cute.) Instead I focused on capturing the old character I had known as a kid.
As it seemed like an adventure, I went ahead and counted it as one. I hope you enjoy the photographs. The first three photographs, by the way, are still in Oklahoma, on the drive south.
I love this.
Van Alstyne was 1980 or so folks when I left for college. Anna, just to the south, was only about 500-800, and is now 8000. Dallas continues to grow.
The museum, which has doubled in size, taking over the library where my mother was librarian for years. The library moved when I was in college to another, larger location. — in Van Alstyne, Texas.
A familiar scene, outside the museum, former library.
A hitching post – the only intact one I could find on this trip.
The front of the museum, library, with the paint colors my mother had chosen.
This is new, and rather touristy.
Van Alstyne would benefit greatly from putting those telephone wires underground (if there was money for it!). But I love this block, with the city hall, city drug, hardware store… And a little city park right next to it.
City Drug – I occasionally went in and got ice cream. I wish I had gone in more.
The Hardware Store
The building where my mom’s art/craft gallery/store was located: Preston Junction.
The grocery store, renamed from Barrett’s Grocery.
Van Alstyne appears to be becoming a tourist/shopping destination. This, plus a pie shop, and a bakery. Amazing.
The shop fronts facing the railroad.
In black and white.
This is a new thing, definitely. Public artwork? in Van Alstyne?
Something old. The donut shop is still there! (but was closed)
The junior high building looks so small now. There were only about 40 of us in each grade, about 50 when we were in high school.
Friday night lights. The old high school athletic field, abandoned with the major high school now built to the north. The wooden bleachers are missing.
The farm I grew up on.
The old, beat-up gas station is just way cool now, showing the promise of pulling together the old and the new.