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Before Texas Changed

A Fort Worth Boyhood

David Murph

Publication Year: 2006

Growing up in Fort Worth during the 1950s never lacked in excitement for David Murph. In his memoir, Murph recalls a mischievous childhood punctuated by adventures in driving, occasional acts of accidental arson, more than one trip to the jailhouse, and countless other tales. The cast of characters includes not only friends and family but also famous figures such as John Scopes, Bobby Morrow, and Frankie Avalon. Murph details an early interest in politics and an unintentional affinity for troublemaking that had more to do with an active imagination and intense curiosity than any ill will. His adventures included broken windows, brushes with blindness, bull riding, and a pet spider monkey, alongside lessons about life and death and the importance of family. Murph’s story brings to life a time when television was new and exciting, parents sided with the law, and people were to be trusted more often than not. As a close friend wrote in his senior yearbook, “it would take a book to recall our adventures.” Murph fondly recalls his active youth with clarity and humor. In many ways, though, Murph’s childhood was not all that unusual. Born in 1943 in Shreveport Louisiana, Murph moved to Tyler, Texas at the age of two with his family. He recalls moving to Fort Worth at the age of seven, feeling excited about his new home, and making new friends in the neighborhood and at school. In a neighborhood established around the time of World War II, he and his friends played war in their backyards. The child of a geologist and a homemaker, Murph vividly recalls the strong influence they were in his life. Murph’s story follows him from early childhood through high school graduation and leaving for college at the University of Texas. His enthusiasm for leaving home is tempered by the reality of what it means to leave his parents and younger brother behind—a sentiment familiar to any college-bound student.

Published by: TCU Press

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-18

Fathers aren’t supposed to die. At least not mine. But there he was, lying peacefully in a casket, this man who, through many ups and downs and changes of life, had been my father. His hands, touching at the fingertips, looked a lot like mine. So did his face, that face I had seen in so many expressions and from ...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 19-33

Although we had left East Texas, my parents continued to take Jim and me on frequent visits back that way, especially to Grandma and Grandpa Murph's house in Gladewater. Years earlier, one of my grandmother’s younger sisters had died giving birth to a daughter. The little girl, named Carol, was taken in by my ...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 34-50

As season followed season, my classmates and I were growing and changing in irregular, varied ways. Once every year we gathered on the west steps of the school, outside the auditorium, to have our picture made. A look at those pictures shows us shooting up at different ...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 51-71

Despite some of these extracurricular problems, I was actually doing fairly well in school and was even encouraged to enter the spelling bee competition. This was no great honor. Most students were given the same encouragement but, nevertheless, I did try. I studied ...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 72-86

Something about our family seemed small and self-contained. I knew other people with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who were a regular part of their lives. Not so with us. Oh, I had other family members, but our lives rarely seemed to touch. My ...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 87-101

There must be some growing-up rituals that happen almost simultaneously—like smoking and dancing. Around the time I was hiding cigarettes, my mother thought it was a good idea for me to learn to dance. Several other mothers were thinking the same thing ...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 102-120

While my friends and I were smoking, dancing, following our sports heroes, grabbing our ankles, and dusting erasers, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West was dominating the news—especially atomic weapons. One of the benefits of this otherwise ...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 121-132

A number of subjects were never discussed in our home, because we pretended they did not exist. For instance, no one ever farted at our house. On rare occasions someone might “break wind,” but even those words were not spoken unless the reality was so ...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 133-153

Despite my father’s penchant for work and a busy schedule, he loved orchestrating and taking summer vacations. For him, these were a must. Long before summer he and my mother decided where we were going and began planning. We often wound up in the same ...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 154-168

“Come with me, David.” “What’s wrong?” I asked him. “What’s happened?” “Just come on,” he said. “I need to take you home.” It was three days after Christmas, late in the afternoon. Mr. Bourland had come to get me with news which would change not only that day but many to come. ...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 169-184

In addition to sports, music was also becoming a big part of my days. Though still unable to play anything, I was an avid listener. Music was a constant. The record store was next door to Ernie’s and had almost as much business. Its windows were covered with posters ...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 185-214

Much around me might have been changing, but the one constant seemed to be trouble. It made an easy transition from one school to the next. For reasons still unclear, Murchison and I were not content with ordinary, run-of-the-mill activities. We were forever ...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 215-229

Summer was only a few days old when Charlie, glad to be out of school and wanting to share his exuberance, borrowed his mother’s Ford and picked upMurchison and me for a ride around our part of town. We had the windows down, the radio blaring, and were ...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 230-244

The small town of Benbrook, on the southwest edge of Fort Worth, was the namesake of the lake and dam created to prevent another flood like the 1949 disaster. In its fieldsMurchison and I had camped and killed a box full of field mice. Benbrook also boasted a ...

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Chapter 15

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pp. 245-259

One of the most repeated messages about life’s journey has to do with young people believing they are immortal. Maybe it is repeated so often because there is so much truth to it. I was living from one event to the next. My friends and I rarely spoke of death ...

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Chapter 16

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pp. 260-271

That fall, while I was backfiring my way around Fort Worth, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon were campaigning their way around the nation. My parents supported Nixon. They had never been highly political, but they liked Eisenhower, thought he was ...


E-ISBN-13: 9780875654546
E-ISBN-10: 0875654541
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875653334
Print-ISBN-10: 0875653332

Page Count: 283
Publication Year: 2006

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Fort Worth (Tex.) -- Biography.
  • Murph, David, 1943- -- Childhood and youth.
  • Texas -- Biography.
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