50 Reasons to Love Waco (2008)

By Dayna Avery, Lynn Bulmahn, Mary Landon Darden, Robert Darden, Martha Hopkins, Kevin Tankersley and Megan Willome

Pictured: Photographs by Jason Subers

Editor’s Note: Our publication’s first “Reasons to Love Waco” feature is reprinted here in its entirety for your reading and reminiscing pleasure. While looking through each list from the past 14 years to choose our favorites for this issue (see“101 Reasons,” page 94), we couldn’t help but share all of the first 50 with our readers. Enjoy.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” Taking a page from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s book, we asked Wacoan writers to ponder the reasons they love living in Waco. With seven writers contributing, we anticipated some overlapping thoughts but knew each person would provide a unique perspective. Following are 50 ways we love Waco. And even though redundancies were carefully eliminated, Baylor’s Armstrong-Browning Library still ended up with three separate mentions. How’s that for poetic justice?

Lake Shore Drive and Lake Waco. Wouldn’t it be nice to see it again for the first time? So pretend that this is your first visit to the city. You’re driving west on Lake Shore Drive, catching the odd glimpse of Lake Waco between the houses to your right. You pass the Mt. Carmel Water Treatment plant, and the road veers slightly to the southwest. Suddenly, you’re at the top of a steep rise that apparently leads straight down into the lake! For a few too-brief seconds, the lake spreads out before you, shimmering, dancing, sparkling in the afternoon sun. It is an urban vista like few others in Texas, perhaps in the entire country. Lake Shore quickly morphs into Valley Mills Drive, and the view changes to franchise restaurants, dry-cleaners and car washes. But for the heartbeat that the lake filled the horizon, Waco is, indeed, a magical place. — RD

Katie’s Custard. Lord have mercy! This stuff is creamy crazy good. Why do they only serve Butter Pecan on Tuesday nights? I mean, who can remember to go there on Tuesday? Why not Friday? Or every day? I’d like to officially place my vote for a few other flavors like coffee or cinnamon. And I’d like for the chocolatier in Hico to sell his Wiseman House truffles somewhere in Waco as well. While I’m at it, could somebody please open an Indian restaurant? Dream big, I say. — MH

The Baylor Law Library. If you don’t like libraries, you haven’t been to this one. Built by the donations from the tobacco lawsuit fortunes, this architectural beauty offers wide-open views of the Brazos River from the multi-story art-decoesque windows. Warm-wood tables and early 20th century desk lamps make the expansive rooms homey and inviting. When looking for a perfect place to read or study — and of course research every kind of law imaginable — this is it. It has the feel of a contemporary Ivy League library still connected to its roots. I love this place. — MLD

The Circle. I cringe when I hear of efforts every few years to do away with the circle and turn it into another boring intersection with traffic lights. How boring. I love the circle, and it’s not that hard to navigate. If you’re already on the circle, you have right-of-way; if you’re waiting to enter, yield to those already there. It’s not complicated. — KT Poage Park. My favorite spot to have a birthday party for young children. My son celebrated his fifth birthday here, and my daughter celebrated her fourth. The park is just the right size where adults can see the kids. There is equipment suitable for older siblings and younger daredevils. Just arrive early to stake out a picnic table! — MW

Baylor Chamber Singer Concerts in the Armstrong-Browning Library. While I forgo the majority of Christmas carryings-on, I feel warm and soothed and contemplative and alive when I hear the bell-like voices of Baylor’s crème de la crème ring within the walls of one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever visited. I’m sure the Chamber Singers are just as talented when they sing elsewhere, but somehow, I know it must not be as good without the backdrop of the library’s breathtaking wood and stained glass. — MH

The “Jubilee Corner” of Colcord Avenue. At the disjointed intersect of Colcord and North 15th streets, something wonderful is happening. Yes, that’s the home of Mission Waco — where the Rev. Jimmy Dorrell’s ragamuffin gospel has made a difference in the lives of the homeless and the marginalized not just in Waco but across the U.S. It’s also the home of a Mediterranean grill, the Jubilee Theater (where Waco’s wildest, funkiest, most honest bands perform), a divinely retro old school diner, a feisty little grocery store and more. And — all around it — the greatest concentration of new Habitat for Humanity homes in the city. The Jubilee Corner has spurred more development up Colcord, and when the new Providence-sponsored housing complex for low-income elderly people is finished, still more restaurants and services will further reclaim that stretch of pavement. A neighborhood is rising, Phoenix-like, right before our eyes. — RD

Trees. My mom always said pilots knew Waco as “the city of trees.” In the older neighborhoods especially, Waco’s trees are big and beautiful. There’s nothing as nice as a lush green carpet of St. Augustine lawn underneath the deep shade of mature and stately trees. A wide swath of Waco, running from the Brazos River and Cameron Park on down to the Lake Shore Hills area and Woodway, is blessed to have both trees and hills. We’ve got old oaks, pecans and all kinds of species. One of my favorites is the catalpa tree. Some people consider it a “trash tree;” yet if you water it a lot, a catalpa will grow tall and produce wonderful shade. I love its wide leaves and the white blossoms it produces each spring; it looks dressed up for a wedding. And I have so many fond memories of picking up pecans from the giant trees in Grandma’s backyard, I can’t wait to plant my own pecan trees. Time has only improved the local trees: the spindly tree from my childhood front yard is large and stately now, and the puny saplings my parents planted at their retirement home are now a good size and, I trust, producing a lot of shade and fruit for the current owners. — LB

Waco Regional Tennis & Fitness Center. Playing a match on these courts makes me feel like a tennis player. Of course, the lessons and encouragement from the friendly pros don’t hurt either. My first introduction to the center came shortly after moving to town, and it helped make Waco feel like home. A few years later, I wasn’t surprised when the United States Tennis Association named WRT&FC an Outstanding Tennis Facility. — DA

Evening Garden Parties at Art Center Waco. There is an enchanting old ’20s California-mission style house on the top of wooded hills overlooking the Brazos River and the glorious sunsets on perfect 70-degree spring or fall evenings. At the heart of the building is an open-air spacious garden, complete with fountain, flowers and crepe myrtle trees. Far from freeways and the sound of rush hour, it is the perfect place for a relaxing garden party. Be transported back in time to the place where magical tea parties surely happened. — MLD The Dam Hike & Bike Trail. We spent many weekends both hiking and biking this stretch. I park at the entrance by the soccer fields, so that I enter at the midway point of the trail. The little path from the parking lot to the dam is lovely. — MW

The Stained Glass Window at First Presbyterian. It’s more the pity that one of Texas’ great stained glass treasures is so difficult to access, but it is worth the effort. Overlooking Austin Avenue, above the back of the sanctuary at Waco’s First Presbyterian Church, the stunning blue Rotan Window is a marvel. The window was designed by Charles J. Connick (whose credits include the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, the Mellon Church in Pittsburgh and the Armstrong-Browning Library) and it celebrates both the history of the church and the lives of Edward and Kate Rotan. Kate is deservedly honored as one of the founders of the Waco-McLennan County Library. But what makes the Rotan Window all the more special is the sly sense of humor and obscure classical allusions that Connick displays in the sometimes arcane figures that fill this majestic piece of art that seems to radiate a spectrum of deep, dark, royal blues even on cloudy days. — RD

Downtown. Yes, we’ve all heard for years that downtown Waco is on the verge of major development. This time, however, it looks like things are happening. The new Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce building is nearing completion. The Hilton has undergone a $19 million renovation. The old HOTCOG building is scheduled to be leveled, with new construction going up on that spot. Besides all the new goings-on, there are the other amenities that have been around for a while: the suspension bridge, the Alico building, the City’s summer concert series and annual July Fourth celebration. I’m excited about what is happening in downtown, though I would be more excited had I purchased the former Barry’s Coffee Company building when it was available for $35,000 in 1993. But with me being fresh out of college with only substitute teaching money coming in while job-hunting, banks weren’t too keen on making real estate loans to my type. — KT

Book Babes. My book club of eight Waco women with all variety of political views, religious views, ages, incomes, careers, marital status, some with children, some without and all united by a love of books and good food. OK, so I don’t always read the books. But I always help cook the food, which buys me some leniency from the powers that be. — MH

Farm Day at World Hunger Relief, Inc. Bunnies, organically raised fruits and vegetables, hay-rides, fresh honey gathered on the property, naturally raised lamb, range-free eggs, live music, a gourmet home-grown lunch, fair trade artisan jewelry, pottery, gifts and organic coffee are among the many treats awaiting the World Hunger Relief International Farm Day visitors. In Waco, the farm is more commonly known as “The Hunger Farm” and was originally conceived to ultimately help train people in Third-World countries to develop sustainable agriculture and livestock. Farm Day is a traditional semi-annual “open house” and fundraiser open with free admission to the public in the fall and spring. This is a must-do event for children from preschool to 90. — MLD

The Heart O’ Texas Coliseum. I have many fun memories of that building: seeing Roy Rogers at the rodeo when I was 3 years old and several rock ’n’ roll bands, such as Paul Revere and the Raiders, when I was a young teen. Everything from boat shows to revivals has been held inside. For years, its exterior was an ugly behemoth. But today, the coliseum is a fun place to drive by. The renovation has dressed it up until it always looks like there’s a festival going on. — LB

Family Bike Rides Around Baylor. We often load up the truck with bikes and head down to Baylor on Sunday afternoons. The kids never tire of seeing all the buildings where Mom and Dad had classes, and all the apartments they called home. My husband and I never tire of seeing the changes to the campus, especially the renovation of Brooks, where he spent his freshman year. — MW

The East Branch Library. I love all libraries — big or small. I think librarians, as a rule, are wonderful. The smell of books, old or new, soothes me. This is the People’s University. Without libraries, we’d be a sorry society indeed. But I must confess a long-standing favorite — the bright, airy, welcoming and frankly just a little edgy East Branch Library on Elm Street. This is an open and accommodating place. It has books the other libraries in town don’t have. It has walls full of homemade announcements for meetings, groups, fund-raisers and events. It has a preternaturally kind and caring staff. And, like all libraries, it has kids. Lots of kids. Lots of kids reading. If you’re worried about the future, the sight of a boisterous pack of young boys and girls sprawled over chairs and tables intent on their reading, engrossed in the words, will make you feel better in very short order. — RD

George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Truett was the primary reason my husband and I moved to Waco. The seminary is relatively young but has become integral to Christian education in Central Texas, regularly hosting speakers from around the globe that share challenging and inspiring messages. As the wife of a Truett grad, I can honestly say the workload is intimidating, but the knowledge gained from professors like Dr. Hulitt Gloer is worth every effort. — DA

Bluebonnets in the Spring. OK, this isn’t strictly a Waco thing but a Texas phenomenon that transforms the entire state into a fragrant sea of blue-and-white blossoms. I will never forget last Easter weekend’s once-in-a-lifetime sight of bluebonnets in the snow. Always, the wildflower once called Buffalo Clover is a miracle to behold. It is so amazing how bluebonnets sprout up in the most neglected acreage, changing it into a wonderland of beauty. Their perfume is incredible. I used to live behind Chimney Hill before it was fully developed. A vacant field of bluebonnets was about a block away. When the warm evening winds blew, the fragrance wafted into my backyard; even in the dark, sitting on my deck, I could tell that spring was here just by smelling the scented breeze. — LB

The Riverwalk and Suspension Bridge. Some people think San Antonio has a great riverwalk and it does, but it can’t touch the expanse and historic beauty of the Waco walk by the Brazos and the suspension bridge. The potential for Waco to develop this area into a natural wonder of tourism is limitless. In the meantime, a person can often travel this walkway without seeing a soul. Until it is discovered by the masses, enjoy! — MLD

Bangkok Royale. Sometimes my cravings are so strong for a bowl of Tom Yum soup or panang curry that I have to call my boyfriend Jeff to meet me there for a fix. The freshness of the food and complexity of flavors yield dishes that could hold their own against any other Thai restaurant in the country. I can hardly wait to eat my first meal in their new digs between Amelia’s Attic and Wingstop. — MH

Kite Flying at Viking Hills Park. If you’ve never had a child at Viking Hills Elementary, you may not know how huge the fields are. They just go on and on! I’ve seen rabbits there in the early mornings. When spring winds come, it’s a great open spot to fly kites. — MW

The Doyle Drawing in Armstrong-Browning Library. The Armstrong-Browning Library is worth fighting the precarious, capricious parking situation on the Baylor University campus. It is the world’s great repository of all things related to the English poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But of equal attraction is the building itself, the product of Dr. A.J. Armstrong’s vision (some would say obsession) to bring Europe to Waco. The building, its furnishings, paintings, statues and stained glass (the largest collection of non-religious glass in the U.S.) come from a hundred moments of inspiration as Armstrong scoured the Continent for Browning-ania. But my favorite picture is a small pen and ink wash hidden away in the John Leddy-Jones Research Hall. It’s called “The Pied Piper” and, in the style of Arthur Rackham, it depicts the Pied Piper of Hamlin (but dressed in full Highland Scots kilt and garb, playing a bagpipe) leading the children along a precarious ledge in the mountains. The artist is Dr. Charles Doyle, a Scots physician and the father of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he of Sherlock Holmes fame. Half-hidden elves, gremlins and fairies frolic throughout this charming (and just a tad disturbing) little flight of fantasy. — RD

Waco Cultural Arts Fest. One of our favorite events each fall is the Waco Cultural Arts Fest. Not only is fine art in mediums available for sale (or just browsing), but there’s always great live music (last year, Ruthie Foster put on a tremendous show) and hands-on activities for young artists. Our kids’ finger-painting efforts are hanging on their bedroom walls. — KT

Lover’s Leap. Perched at the top of a steep cliff more than 100 feet above the Brazos River and home to one of the most breathtaking views within several hundred miles is Lover’s Leap in Cameron Park. This romantic remote overlook is a great place for picnics, marriage proposals, quiet moments and observing the horticulture and wildlife on the Brazos River. It is difficult not to notice the feeling of freedom and a spiritual presence at the heart of the Brazos de Dios — the Arms of God. — MLD

The Concession Stand at the HOT Soccer Fields. I don’t know how many hours I have spent at those fields or how much money my daughter has spent at the concession stand. I do know the price was cheap enough that she could afford to use her own allowance to buy something to pass the time while her brother played every fall and spring for nine seasons. — MW

KBGO. In 1964, when I was in elementary school and first falling in love with John, Paul, George and Ringo (and all the other groups of the “British invasion”), my pocket transistor radio was always tuned to 1580 — the old KBGO AM. It was nothing short of a crisis for us teenyboppers at North Junior when the station changed to a country format. Coming back to town, the call letters are now used for a powerhouse FM station that’s equally as “fab.” I have to admit I don’t listen to all the chatter in the morning (sorry, Max), but the vintage rock that’s played later in the day is incredible. — LB

Small, Family-Owned and Operated Mexican Restaurants. This is the way dining out used to be. A family restaurant where everybody knows your name — and you know theirs. You’ve watched a generation — sometimes two! — grow up here, graduate from dish duty, to wait staff, to cook, to owner. The food is fresh, reasonably priced and made to order. You want something cooked a certain way? No problem! Substitute beans a la charra for the refried beans? You got it! They support local Little League teams. (Heck, they coach local Little League teams.) A steady array of locals stream through the doors all day, so you know they’re good. Does the china match? Who cares? Is the picture on the wall a little crooked? Then fix it! After all, you’re family here … This is the American entrepreneurial spirit at its finest. — RD

Neighborlyness. I love that I know my neighbors in Sanger Heights and that we take care of each other and our cats. I love that when I walk into my favorite coffee houses, I’m greeted by name and they know that, 99 percent of the time, I want a nonfat, half-caff latte, easy on the foam. And that 99 percent of the time, they get it right. I love that my favorite postal workers know me and help me figure out the fastest and cheapest way to send my package, even if their coworkers move more slowly than refrigerated molasses. I love that I am genuine and close friends with my business competitors. I love that Roz at FedEx always (and sincerely) wants to know how I’m doing. I love that my favorite butcher at HEB lets me pick out the exact piece of meat I want and tells me when there’s a fabulous cut I didn’t notice. I love Waco because everywhere I go, I see at least three people I know. I also hate Waco for this same reason. Maybe my mother was right: I should always put on lipstick before I leave the house. — MH

The Waco Hippodrome. Aside from the world-class entertainment that can be witnessed here on a regular basis, the Hippodrome is a nostalgic historic masterpiece that offers its own entertainment to visitors. Although a bit in need of a touch-up, the show begins with the old-style, multi-story lighted sign; the plaster walls; velvet curtains and an old Broadway charm. This is a Waco gem that needs to be restored and prized. — MLD

Texas State Technical College. To find a school that’s any more attuned to the future, you’d have to turn to Star Fleet Academy. But since the Star Trek universe doesn’t yet exist, the place to get trained for our increasingly high-tech futuristic world is right along I-35. New millennium careers ranging from laser technology to Recreational Vehicle repair are launched at TSTC Waco, which was built on the former James Connally Air Force Base. The state school has gotten numerous awards for its cutting-edge technology and its grads are well prepared for top-paying careers that won’t become obsolete in only a few years. — LB

The Sing-Along Messiah at Seventh and James. The Baylor Chamber Singers doubtless consider the Sing-Along Messiah the antithesis of their precision performances. To be sure, it’s a melange of voices and abilities joining together in an unrehearsed cacaphony. But what fun it is! Each singer probably knows only one or two of the songs by heart. Thank goodness there are enough of us to make it sound like we almost know what we’re doing. The “choir” sits in the pews according to their vocal range, with the orchestra, soloists and conductor holding fort on stage. I’m convinced the orchestra knows to play more loudly on the runs, where we’re all singing up and down the scale, many of us clueless as to the exact notes. When we stop, the paid soloists step in, bringing order with them and voices that move you. My favorite soloist, hands down, is a big black guy named Glenn Beals. When he opens his mouth, the most beautiful notes come out — the kind that give you chills and a sense of the sacredness and awe that should be Christmas. You close your eyes so you can hear him completely, without distraction. — MH

The Wacky and Wonderful Museums of Waco. It’s said that Waco has more museums per capita than any city in America. Most of them you probably know — Strecker Museum, The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, The Lee Lockwood Museum and Library, The Texas Sports Hall of Fame and more. But there are other museums worth a mention and a detour or two. North of town on I-35, hundreds of thousands of cars daily pass the “Porcelain Dog Museum,” hidden in an antique shop just off the interstate. The sign boasts 10,000 of the little goobers. And yes, there are porcelain, crystal, wooden, china and semi-precious dogs a’plenty, along with a stuffed bulldog who has seen better days. Even more unpredictable is the Red Man Museum, on Speight Avenue near the WISD football stadium. In addition to Cochise’s moccasins and Geronimo’s blanket, there is a single painting by a certain Adolph Hitler. It dates from a time when the little Austrian wanted more than anything in the world just to be a painter. And, with that knowledge, the painting exerts an unsettling fascination that belies its simple, placid arrangement of flowers in a vase. — RD

Kiddieland at Lion’s Park. For six bucks, our family can take a ride on the merry-go-round and then travel around the park a couple of times in the miniature train. For some quick after-dinner entertainment in the summer, it can’t be beat. Yes, some attractions at Kiddieland could use a coat of paint or minor repairs, but our kids love it. — KT

Jesse’s Chips and Hot Sauce. They are simply the best in the world, and they are made right here in Waco. — MLD

Neighborhood revitalization. I may be jumping the gun on this one, but I’m excited about the new plans for downtown. It’s a wish come true for me: when my pal Mindy and I had a night on the town in downtown Orlando, and I saw the apartments and lofts above the businesses and the vibrant life there, I could only dream of being single and living in such an unique environment. Elsewhere, I’m saddened by the blight I see creeping into my old haunts but encouraged by the neighborhood associations that spring up to spruce up whole areas of town. Castle Heights has now been declared a historic neighborhood, which was long overdue, and younger couples are moving in to the Brookview area. I’m seeing a lot more landscaping and pretty exteriors. — LB

The Bear Trail. When Baylor’s out of session. Now that they’ve finally rerouted the sprinklers, you can enjoy a brisk stroll around Baylor’s well-lit, well-groomed trail without getting wet. When students are around, you may have to fight for a parking space (may the biggest Hummer win) and you’ll be dodging runners, packs of sorority girls catching up on the weekend and students with dogs. Come Thursday night (or spring break), it’ll be all yours again. — MH

Waco Crepe Myrtles in Summer. There is not much to celebrate in Waco in the summer. The sun parboils the landscape. Citizens dash nervously from air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office to air-conditioned home. The unrelenting heat drains the color from the landscape. (If the earliest settlers here had visited what would become Waco in August, they would have skedaddled for more temperate climes, like British Columbia.) And that’s why the Waco crepe myrtle is so special. The Waco crepe myrtle is tough, drought-resistant and apparently heat-resistant. It’s the Teflon of trees. Along dusty side roads and busy interstates, the Waco crepe myrtle defies the blistering heat. It doesn’t need sunblock. It never wears shades. It just spreads its blossoms, bushels of brilliant reds, pinks, whites and purples and taunts the sun: “Bring it on, big guy. We’re still standing.” — RD

The Armstrong-Browning Library. Towering elegantly detailed stained-glass windows define the perimeter of this seems-to-be ancient building that looks as though it was transplanted from Cambridge University. The colors of the windows linger in the beams of sunlight. It is a mystical place, celebrating a great love story, housing famous poetry and literature and reminding us of a long-gone past that still haunts our memories and inspires eternal wonder. — MLD

The Baylor Bear Pit. In my mind, Waco will forever be connected to the Baylor Bear Pit. Every trip here to visit my grandparents included at least one stop. Countless photos of Baylor bears fill my childhood albums! As my daughter grows up, we’ll have to continue the tradition of taking pictures of the bears in their newer, larger pit. — DA

First Cool Front. There is nothing like the first cool front in Waco. September stays hot, usually waning slightly after Labor Day. All October I wonder whether to ice down soft drinks or to put out hot chocolate for the trick-or-treaters. Then sometime, usually in early November, the thermometer drops. We sleep with the bedroom windows open. We pull out jackets for the morning ride to school. By Thanksgiving the trees in my yard are turning, and I think: What a great place to live! — MW

HEB. When I moved out of state, I found just how cutting edge this food store truly is! It was like going back 30 years in a time machine to shop at the Florida supermarkets, and I’m sure the Publix cashiers were weary of my muttering about all we could get at HEB. — LB

Patricia Sharpe. I love that the food editor of Texas Monthly is such a snob that she refuses to cover any restaurant in the city of Waco, save a mention of Siete Mares after Ari Fleischer ate there. Good. She doesn’t deserve even a single chip dipped in Lolita’s queso, a slice of Mary’s mushroom+Italian sausage+pepperoni pizza at Baris or one flaky bite of D’s honey-soaked baklava. — MH

McLennan Community College Campus. Among the many college campuses in Central Texas, one is strewn over the hills and dales of the northwest side of Cameron Park. Thousands of 100-year-old giant live oaks dominate the now-tamed Waco wilderness. For a peaceful weekend nature walk, this campus — and the wooded trails between the campus and the river — offer both sanctuary and adventure. — MLD

The “Heart” of Texas. Tell Waco area people about a need in the community, and they will certainly turn out to help. This wasn’t the case where I lived in Florida; in fact, I thought a lot of residents there were downright stingy. But here, people gladly collect canned goods for the needy or warm coats or children’s books — we have truly a sharing community. Volunteers are always ready with a helping hand to do whatever it takes to assist the less fortunate, whether they’re across town or in another country. — LB

The Sidewalks of the Brookview and Sanger Heights Neighborhoods. Waco has the fewest miles of sidewalks of any city in Texas. That’s a shame — sidewalks make good neighbors and good neighborhoods. My favorite walks are in these wonderfully eclectic neighborhoods, an area bounded by Valley Mills Drive, West Waco Drive, Bosque Avenue, and 18th Street — all built back when the city required sidewalks. The sidewalks take me past grand old mansions and quirky cottages. There are petrified rock gardens, hidden arbors with romantic statues, elementary schools, Art Deco survivors, elaborate cacti arrangements, miniature farms (complete with tall stalks of corn in the summer) and family restaurants amid the city’s most culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. And every block or so, stamped proudly in the concrete, these words: “J.K. Swigert, Union Cementer Contractor 1928.” In the cool of early summer mornings, before heat defines who we are and what we do, I nod a little whisper of thanks to Mr. Swigert and scurry home before the temperature buckles the asphalt in the streets. — RD

Musical Talent. I know of no other town the size of Waco that has anywhere near the musical talent. We are blessed by songwriters, musicians, singers, conductors and scholars the likes of which might only be found in a place like New York City. Composer Kurt Kaiser, Waco Symphony Orchestra, the Baylor University choirs and ensembles, MCC performing arts department, country western’s own Gimble family, Ruthie Foster, world-renowned organist Joyce Jones, Pat Greene, the world’s best accompanist Lydia Bratcher, home of High Five and dozens of individual performance stars — just to name a few. I often feel as if I have had a privileged glimpse and listened to the choirs of angels in heaven. We are blessed. — MLD

Meaningful Restaurants. Many of our family’s significant life events occurred at meals eaten out. Nick’s – 1992. I married five months before I graduated from Baylor, so I had not given much thought to a graduation dinner. At the last minute we chose Nick’s and enjoyed a leisurely Greek meal and fantastic service. Heitmiller’s – 1993. When we were first married, this was our dinner spot. We fondly remember K.K. shaking hands with every table. Cathay House – June 28, 1996, my ob/gyn told me to meet him at the hospital in two hours to induce labor. We called the ’rents, then had dinner at Cathay. My son was born at 11:34 p.m. Outback Steakhouse – 1997. We learned that Word, Inc. would be moving to Tennessee. My husband and I went out to dinner and debated Nashville vs. Waco. We fought all the way home. Eventually we decided to stay, and we remained another eight years. Northwood Inn – 1999. I only ate at this lovely house once, on my birthday. I had delicious bison but no wine because I was pregnant with my daughter. Shipley’s – 2002. On the last day of my son’s kindergarten, we went out for doughnuts at 6:30 a.m. Thus began a tradition of going to Shipley’s the morning of the last day of school. Siete Mares – 2003. We celebrated our 11th anniversary dinner with the best ceviche ever. After a long day of reflooring our house, we found that Siete Mares was reflooring their restaurant. Didn’t affect the food one bit. Poppa Rollo’s – 2005. Some close friends were moving overseas, and they had their goodbye party in the big room. Adults and kids came together over pizza, iced tea and “The Three Stooges.” Marble Slab Creamery – 2005. My husband found out he did not get the job he wanted. We were so depressed that we went out for ice cream. I had coffee with Heath Bar. Fuddruckers – 2005. Last meal in Waco. After the U-Haul was loaded, we took one last look around the house we had called home for 10 years, then went to Fuddrucker’s. Afterward we drove 200 miles to our new home. Fredericksburg has many restaurants, but none with a burger like Fuddrucker’s. — MW

The Past is Never Far Away. What the tornado of 1953 didn’t destroy, Waco itself has cheerfully leveled. Great homes, impressive buildings, irreplaceable landmarks, have all fallen to the bulldozer of indifference and neglect. As a city, it seems we’re in a hurry to leave our past behind. But the past isn’t so easily erased. If you look carefully — and you’re not in too much of a hurry — Old Waco peeks through. You can see it in the trolley tracks that poke through the pavement at 28th and Maple. It’s the fading sign for long-gone businesses next to the 25th Street Theater (“Peek’s Grocery”) and 18th and West Waco Drive (“Robertson’s”). It’s the sole remaining pillar from the Dallas/Waco Interurban Line at FM 933/Gholson Road. It’s in the names of the streets between Vanguard High School and Valley Mills Drive — names which commemorate the original Davidian families who followed Victor Houteff from Southern California to Waco in the 1930s. It’s in the half-hidden markers of long-lost military bases found near Richfield and MacArthur drives. It’s the ancient oaks that rustled over Native Americans, early settlers, Spanish, Anglo and African American alike, and all the generations of Wacoans who came before us — and whisper over us still. — RD

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