[This is a five part story that explains the Rosedale Renaissance project in various stages. Please read all the stories to fully understand this process.]
Despite how it may look today, the Polytechnic Heights area was once an affluent neighborhood.
What students of Texas Wesleyan University see along Rosedale Street and the neighborhood known by locals as “Poly,” was quite a different scene when many of the faculty and staff at Texas Wesleyan were high school and college students themselves.
Kenneth Dunson, director of facilities operations, said he grew up in the Polytechnic area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He attended Polytechnic Elementary School, William James Jr. High School and Texas Wesleyan. He remembers Poly being a safe area and nice place to live in.
“Poly was a very safe and enjoyable place to live,” Dunson said. “Everyone left their doors unlocked and open.”
Dunson said Rosedale was a family friendly environment with many businesses.
“You would see families strolling to Rosedale Street to enjoy the many thriving establishments, especially on Friday and Saturday nights,” Dunson said.
Dunson still remembers the exact placement of many businesses that are no longer apart of the Polytechnic area. He recalls the bookstore being a Mott’s Five and Ten Cent store. The block west of the bookstore had a Big Top Drive-in, similar to our present day Sonic Drive-in.
The parking lot of the bookstore was once a Varsity theater where I watched all the early James Bond movies,” Dunson said.
Other Wesleyan staff that grew up in the area have memories of Polytechnic Heights as well.
Gary Brunner, information technology and vendor manager at Texas Wesleyan, grew up in the Polytechnic area and graduated from Polytechnic High School in 1961. He has memories of businesses that are no longer part of the area. He also remembers places he frequented when he was a teenager.
Though he lived farther south of Poly, he still recalls the affluence of the area.
“It was once a thriving community,” Brunner said. “It was an older area of middle-income families and people who had been there a long time.”
Brunner recalls stores where he and his friends hung out such as Ashburn’s Ice cream and a hobby store, once located in the storefront strip on Rosedale in front of Wesleyan. Other past-time hangouts included Cobb Park and the drive-in theater further down Rosedale which is now a bank.
“Rosedale was a central street,” Brunner said. “One area that was of interest to me was the Clover Drive Inn.”
Brunner compares the ambiance of the area in his time to that of the 1973 George Lucas movie American Graffiti.
“If you’ve ever seen the movie American Graffiti, it was much like that,” Brunner said. “To be seen, drive your car and have your girl.” “If you can relate to those times we lived it right here on Rosedale.”