I’ve been watching a wall go up in Allen. No! The wall isn’t to keep illegal immigrants out. It’s to protect folks that bought homes in old Allen near the Central Expressway from traffic noise.

Now there’s a development underway whereby most of those homes the wall would’ve protected from traffic noise have been demolished. Replacing them will be high-rise apartments with retail business space at ground level.

It looks as though the Central Expressway is gonna be lined with shopping and dining venues topped with five-story apartment complexes.

Today there isn’t much left of old Allen – just a few houses and some old brick buildings on both sides of Main Street.

I believe there’s a feeling of continuity that comes with old buildings and landmarks. They connect folks to the past, giving them a sense of time and place.

But nothing looks more forlorn than an old empty building. An empty building with broken windows and the wind whispering through empty rooms conjures up visions of spirits lurking in the dusty shadows.

I’m reminded of the choices we had in Allen when my bride and I got married in 1952. There were no apartments. For $17 a month, we rented a three-room house behind the bank next to the railroad tracks. As with nearly half the houses in town, toilet privileges were conducted in a little house out back.

A simple little outhouse reduced life’s amenities to the bare minimum. It was a place where you could listen to the dirt daubers drone while you read the pages of last year’s Sears Roebuck catalog. 

In the summertime outhouses were like saunas, and all manner of vermin and varmints could be lurking inside … copperheads, wasps, yellow jackets, black widows and stingin’ lizards.

In the wintertime folks fought the cold north wind to sit, shiver and shake while listening to their teeth chatter in an outhouse. Sometimes outhouses were so cold inside that folks forgot why they went in them.

The closest thing to apartment accommodations in Allen in 1952 was Mrs. Wilson’s boarding house.

Nearly all of Allen’s lady school teachers lived at Mrs. Wilson’s at one time or another. Though he lived only about a mile north of town, Mr. Stacy, the owner of the cotton gin, boarded at Mrs. Wilson’s house during ginning season.

Wilson’s boarding house has been gone for years now. Where it once stood is now a parking lot.

There was a time when if you climbed to the top of Allen’s water tower and gazed west you could see Frisco 10 miles away.

But it appears that for many cities, progress is measured mostly by how many taxpayers can be crowded into the city limits.

If the old water tower was still standing today and you climbed it, you wouldn’t be able to see beyond the expressway.

But you could see a lot of nice five- and six-story apartments.

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