Pleasant Grove was named for its beautiful trees, but much deeper than that is the magical effect it has had on so many lives. It features a cohesiveness and neighborliness that many communities lack. I was born and raised here and have traveled the world, but I could never imagine any place lovelier to call home.
Pleasant Grove started out in 1886 with a little one-room schoolhouse built in a picturesque grove of trees for which the community was named. Annexed by Dallas in 1954, what was a 6-square-mile town centered on Buckner Boulevard and Lake June Road became the heart of Southeast Dallas. Often many of the adjacent communities are mistakenly referred to as Pleasant Grove, though we do embrace these nearby neighborhoods and include them in our celebrations and everyday life.
I spent many days of my youth involved in community activities, following the example of my parents. My father served as president of the Southeast Dallas Chamber of Commerce, and they both were on the board of the local YMCA and tutored students at San Jacinto Elementary. Mother taught art lessons for free at the Y and even sometimes just right out on our front yard, spreading a blanket on which the neighborhood kids could settle down to take part.
The Grove has always been alive with activities that bond the people together. Parades have been an annual tradition. I relished helping with floats for the Christmas event at the Buckner Children’s Home. We had a tractor and a trailer to haul them on. What fun it was to toss candy to the crowds of eager children. I remember one year Daddy was working a booth at the Cinco de Mayo festival for the Chamber of Commerce, serving snow cones. They ran out of syrup, so he began pouring Dr Pepper over the ice, and everyone loved it. By the end of the day they were out of Dr Pepper too.
Once a year we have a huge block party attended by hundreds, complete with face painting, bounce houses, and loads of food and music. The police and fire departments would bring a squad car and fire truck to let the children explore. Families set up tables and chairs in their yards and serve whatever their specialty is, and you can stroll from one end of the block to the other, sampling all the goodies. Some of the local food vendors show up and give out samples from their menus.
One of my favorite houses to visit during these events was the home of the late Gloria Hogg, a beautiful lady with a giving heart that did so much for the community. Gloria was instrumental in organizing the block parties. She was an excellent cook, and everyone always looked forward to her fried fish and slaw. The evening’s fun would end with a gigantic balloon release in honor of someone or something. One year it was for Gloria.
I love that Pleasant Grove neighbors know and help each other, usually stopping to chat as we take our daily walks. Sometimes Mother would mow the neighbor’s yards if they were sick. If Daddy was first out to collect the garbage cans, he would bring theirs in also. When Mother was sick, the neighbors would bring food.
A lot has changed since Pleasant Grove’s beginnings. We have gone from a rural town to a bustling urban community. The landscape has changed, the faces have changed, but one thing remains the same: our community spirit. Through volunteer beautification projects, such as cleaning up litter and planting flowers, to charitable efforts like Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels, this neighborhood is blessed.
That spirit crosses the boundaries into the other communities of Southeast Dallas as well. Beyond the glamour of the nearby Great Trinity Forest and its treasures, and all the physical amenities that Pleasant Grove has to offer, the loving and giving people here are what I cherish most.
Norma Davis is a 65-year resident of Pleasant Grove.