SFA Story: The History of Stephen F. Austin State University

The Coming of War and Changes

Growing up at SFA, before the war

My sister and I were born in Nacogdoches into the SFA family, and our childhood memories entwine with the college. Our parent’s wedding trip was a journey from San Marcos to Nacogdoches for the opening of SFA in 1923. Our father was the first athletic director and coach of the new school. As faculty children, we grew up feeling that SFA was our home.

I was born in 1927, Dorothy in 1931. Some our earliest memories were on campus. Aikman Gym, where our father coached, was our second home, and the current basketball players were part of our family. I entered SFA in 1933 and Dorothy entered in 1937; we entered the Demonstration School, that is, and this strengthened our sense of identity with SFA. We, as students, had the best of both worlds - we had the best teachers available anywhere, we were constantly being exposed to new theories of effective teaching, and we had young, attractive practice teachers who were lots of fun and who seemed to us to be our contemporaries. We also became a bunch of little “hams” because of our constant exposure to the observation classes; we loved to perform.

We shared in many of the advantages of a college campus as we grew up. We attended lyceum programs, came to the fine arts productions, and were exposure to many of the famous people who spoke on the campus. I transferred to Nacogdoches High School in the 1941, but every visit to the SFA campus, it was as if we were returning home.

There was a strong feeling of family on the campus among the students and between the students and faculty. The school was small enough for everyone to know each other, but the most important factor was that the Birdwells were the kind of leaders to set this tone. President Birdwell had great personal concern for his faculty and his students, and everyone felt that. In my opinion, SFA has remained a strong teaching institution because our main focus and personal concern from the beginning was the welfare and success of our students . Birdwell’s sense of purpose, to bring an opportunity for higher education to the people of this area, was sensed by all.

We grew up on Faculty Row, a group of houses near the present-day intersection of Raguet Street and East Austin. It was farmland when SFA moved to its campus. Five faculty families bought five-acre lots on the east side of a little dirt road (now Raguet Street) that ran north of Aikman Gym. Our parents built in 1929, about a mile north of the college. The Street, officially named North Mound at the time, was unofficially called Lover’s Lane; my parents frequently had to chase off parked cars to get into their own driveway.

W. R. Davis, head of the Education Department, lived north of us, and C. C. Johnson in the Chemistry Department lived to the south. Gladys Johnson had been on the staff at SFA, too. Dean of Men and math professor C. E. Ferguson lived just south of the Johnsons, and M. H. (Jimmy) Hinds built on the next lot south. Hinds, the head of the Agriculture Department, lived adjacent to what was then called Blount Woods, where the Turker House was later built. Mrs. Birdwell’s sister, Miss Columbia Shipe (Miss Lum) lived across the street from the Hinds property, on the corner of Pine Street and North Mound.

W.W. Dossey, who joined the faculty in 1924, to teach chemistry and to coach baseball with our father, moved into their house on East Austin in 1931. R. B. Pinson of the math department and Miss Josephine Brooks in Home Economics also lived in the area on Pecan and East Austin, respectively. In the mid-Thirties, Miss Thelma Jagoe built a duplex on the south­west corner of East Austin and North Mound, right across from the Fergusons; Jagoe, and later her husband L.C. (Red) Harling of the History Department, lived there. In 1938, Miss Mildred Wyatt, Librarian at SFA, and her mother moved into the other side of the duplex.

Dr. William T. Chambers, Head of the Geography Department, and others started a move in 1936 into the cornfields and pasture lands about four blocks further north in the area of Zeno Street. R. R. Harvin from Education, also built in that area. There was a large pecan orchard north of the college, east of North Stree, where residential development had begun earlier to develop; this develpment moved continuously north and gradually east.

We were a rather isolated little community, with limited city services, and some distance from the campus, but we were a very close neighborhood. It was such an isolated road–nothing but the college farm, Blount Woods, and a pecan orchard–that mother would have us call her before we left the SFA campus if we were walking or riding our bicycles, and then she would stand out in the middle of the road in front of our house so that she could see us all the way home. Most of the time she came after us in the car or had us wait for Daddy at Aikman Gym until basketball practice was over.

The war changed many things; it was a struggle to keep the school open when all of the men departed. Some college faculty, including our father and Dr. Chambers, had to also teach classes some semesters in the Demonstration school to maintain their jobs. My memories of a childhood bounded by SFA, the Demonstration School, and a faculty neighborhood in the pre-war years were of a warm, loving, safe, and secure world. While SFA continued to feel this way to me even during the war, the world, however, was no longer safe and secure. Changes were rapidly taking their toll. We lost so many friends from our SFA family.

My sister, Dorothy Shelton Morgan, is a co-author with me in these reflections. We remember these pre-war days with such nostalgia.