Saturday, December 3, 2022 Dec 3, 2022
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EDITOR’S PAGE Why Highland Park Matters

By Chris Tucker |

(To the Rest of Us, That Is)

YOU CAN’T GROW UP IN OR AROUND DALlas and be unaware of Highland Park, My father, who played football at Garland High School in the 1930s, always told me that for the coaches and players of his era there was nothing sweeter than beating Highland Park. He recalled those games as titanic struggles between the sons of salt-of-the-earth working folks and the pampered scions of caviar-nibbling plutocrats. By his recollection, the good guys from Garland always triumphed over the blue(b!ood)-and-gold. (Out of reverence to his memory, I have refrained from looking up the actual scores of the games.)

The same spirit prevailed when I went to junior high and high school in Garland more than 30 years later. Whatever the sport, whatever the season, a game against the Scots seemed to kindle a special kind of fervor. Urban legends sprang up over the years: Highland Park had indoor swimming pools in all the schools; they hired members of the Dallas Cowboys to help key players hone their skills; their teams rode to games in plush, air-conditioned buses with reclining seats; and so on.

There’s no denying that a certain amount of class envy heated those rivalries and gilded those legends. It’s as easy to stereotype and pigeonhole the affluent as it is the poor, and our mutterings about the privileged HP crowd distorted both their reality and ours. After all, we were the college-bound sons and daughters of accountants, pharmacists, VPs of small companies, and teachers. It wasn’t as if we were fighting our way off the graveyard shift at a coal mine.

Still, while we shouldn ’t exaggerate the gulf between “The Bubble” and the rest of Dallas, there are differences we can’t overlook.

When I taught English at Highland Park High School in the late 70s, I was surrounded by students who, by and large, took their education far more seriously than I’d taken mine. As Garrison Keillor says of the kids in his mythical Lake Woebegone, the average student at Highland Park seemed well above average. Of course some of them were unhealthily driven to overachieve, and it was painful to watch them suffer during exams. “I just don’t understand how I messed up so badly,” one sophomore girl would say, eyes misting with tears. I would stare at her grade of B-minus for a moment, thinking, Hey, I’ll take that, and then I’d remember where I was. On the whole, however, they were smart, pleasant kids who came from homes where education mattered. Their parents cared, and so they cared, about learning. And if some of my students were more interested in the financial than the intellectual rewards of education-well, believe me, teachers will settle for any motivation they can get.

HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: BUT FOR A FEW hundred votes 50 years ago, we wouldn’t even be talking about Highland Park or University Park as separate cities. As Southern Methodist University professor Darwin Payne recalls in his excellent history of Dallas, Big D, annexing the Park Cities was the dream of Mayor Woodall Rodgers, who believed that Dallas’ “manifest destiny”-its northward growth-was thwarted by the two municipalities. “There is no north Dallas because of the Park Cities on the north drawing the blood from the heart of Dallas,” Rodgers declared in a 1944 speech to the Chamber of Commerce.

To woo reluctant Park Cities voters, Dallas civic leaders promised that the two suburbs would retain their own schools and their own police and fire departments. But on April 3, 1945, after an intense campaign marked by dire warnings that Dallas could not survive as a “divided city, ” Highland Park citizens rejected the merger with Dallas, 1,619-1,122. The margin was even slimmer in University Park, which by 291 votes decided to remain independent. (The one victory for annexationists that day came as the little village of Preston Hollow voted 300 to 76 to become part of Dallas.)

THIS HISTORY, PERSONAL AND COLLECTIVE, is by way of introducing Prudence Mackintosh’s cover story, “Who Ruined Highland Park? ” (page 58). You may be startled to learn that the town’s supposedly cloistered denizens are subject to many of the same pressures that degrade the quality of life elsewhere in Dallas-increased mobility, loss of community ties. It is much too soon to say, with Yeats, that “things fall apart, the center cannot hold,” but Prudence’s perceptive account of the changes in and around her neighborhood may give you pause. Longtime readers of this magazine know Prudence’s insight and her powers of observation; many of her stories that first appeared here were later collected in her book, Thundering Sneakers. We welcome Prudence back to our pages.

I’d also like to welcome veteran journalist Mariana Greene, who starting this month will bring her voluminous knowledge of home and design to the magazine (page 20). Dallas, of course, is the major design center of the Southwest, and reader surveys over the years have shown that you’re keenly interested in ways of living imaginatively in the city. For the past nine years, Mariana, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on decorating, architecture, and gardening, has been the mainstay of The Dallas Morning News’ home and design staff. For D Magazine, she’ll be seeking out the shops, artists, craftsmen, and design professionals whose efforts contribute to a stylish life in Dallas.

Last year I spent several months working with Dallas doctor Jeffrey Thurston on his just-released book. Death of Compassion: How Managed Care and Bureaucracy are Strangling the Heart of Medicine. Lost in the recent debate over health care reform was a truth that Jeff and other doctors live with every day: Our medical system is already being radically reshaped-and government has had almost nothing to do with it. The resulting frustration for doctors, and the very real danger to patients, is the focus of the book. We’re proud to present an excerpt from it starting on page 78.