By Frank Sloan
Just before my 7th birthday 41 years ago, I moved to Fort Worth. My family was brought here by the military. My dad was retiring after 30 years in the United States Air Force, and Carswell Air Force Base was the nearest base to his hometown in northeast Texas.
Fort Worth wasn’t new to my parents. When my dad went to Vietnam the first time in the 1960s, my mum and my three siblings settled in Wedgwood, which at the time was a newly planned neighborhood in southwest Fort Worth. Wedgwood was named after the English pottery that is known for its Jasperware, a colored base ceramic with white neoclassical figures.
When I moved to Wedgwood 15 years later, it was during the summer heat wave of 1980. That summer we had 42 days in a row of 100 degrees or higher and a total of 69 days above 100 degrees. I literally had thought we had moved to hell on Earth.
Wedgwood census breakdown
Total population: 4,034
80 and older: 2%
No degree: 12%
High school: 41%
Some college: 27%
Bachelor’s degree: 17%
My parents bought their very first home, and it was one of the newest homes built in Wedgwood. There were still a few empty lots here and there. At the end of our street, where the original Cousin’s BBQ is now located, was a cattle field, and we could see McCart Avenue from our street. As with any newly built neighborhood, there were no trees or landscaping so that summer felt even worse. I chose my bedroom because I could see the McDonald’s sign at McCart and Altamesa Boulevard from my bedroom. No trees blocked the view.
I grew up in the house we live in now. It was no different than in another “suburbia” neighborhood in DFW at the time. Wedgwood’s history is that of a neighborhood built on white flight from the center city. As was common at that time during desegregation, I was bused in second grade to a historically Black elementary school on the east side of Fort Worth. But then I returned to the southwest side of town to attend neighborhood schools for the remaining grades.
I attended Southwest High School, and it was no coincidence that our mascot was the old Confederate general and our nickname was the Rebels. But, by 1991, the times were changing, and Wedgwood was not isolated from these social changes. After landing up in national headlines for racial tensions, my senior class changed the mascot and nickname to the Raiders and has now been the Raiders longer than it was ever the Rebels.
When I graduated, I was like many other teenagers, and I wanted out of my hometown. I moved to Austin and had no intentions of ever coming back to Fort Worth — let alone Wedgwood. Then on Wednesday Sept 15, 1999, a gunman walked into Wedgwood Baptist
Church, where I was baptized, and killed seven and wounded seven more. For many years, this mass shooting is all people associated with Fort Worth, and I would withhold that I grew up in Wedgwood. It just re-enforced the notation that I would never come home.
Over the next 12 years while I was completing my education, my parents continued to live in their home. I realized that my parents would need me as they were getting older, and I decided to move home. I took a job in Fort Worth, but, when I was looking for a neighborhood to settle down into, I chose to live in the eclectic and up-and-coming neighborhoods of East Dallas and commuted for the next 14 years.
Then four years ago, I got a call from the Fort Worth Fire Department that my mum had fallen and broken her hip. My husband and I knew that she would not move from her beloved home in Wedgwood, but we also knew she could no longer live by herself. So, like many of our age group, we moved in with her to allow her to stay in her home.
For the next year, I got reacquainted with my hometown. Yes, we were the stereotypical multigenerational household that Wedgwood had become known for. However, our neighborhood had changed so much from when I was a kid. Within a year, my mother passed in her sleep, and she got her wish to stay in her home in Wedgwood until the end.
We now had a decision to make on where we wanted to live. We decided that Wedgwood was becoming like the East Dallas neighborhoods we had moved from and decided to stay. I joined the board of the Wedgwood East Neighborhood Association. We discovered a much more diverse neighborhood than I had grown up in. Beyond racial and ethnic diversity, it wasn’t a neighborhood of just senior citizens.
As the home prices have climbed in Fort Worth, Wedgwood has become a more desirable place to live again. Young single professionals, newlyweds and couples with young children were looking for a place to plant their roots, too.
Before COVID, we did many things that other neighborhoods do. We have a thriving mom’s group, a new Wedgwood Garden Club, a neighborhood bicycle club and we’re helping other neighborhood associations to reestablish in Wedgwood. The garden club has adopted two parks and keeps them clean. They’re even working with the city to upgrade the parks’ facilities. The garden club also adopted the Wedgwood library and have been helping to replant and maintain its landscape.
Just a month before COVID, a group of neighbors met to see what we could do to build on the great things going on in all of Wedgwood. We weren’t sure what that would look like, but after our first meeting we had come up with a name: For the Love Of Wedgwood, or FLOW. When COVID hit, we decided to use the name FLOW to create a virtual neighborhood on Facebook. It allowed us to stay in touch with each other and support each other when help was needed.
It has also been the genesis of many other endeavors that may have never formed. One of our neighborhood’s pressing needs was the Vega Place Apartments, a senior citizen facility that we have been delivering food to once a month for the past year. We also worked with the city to get the residents vaccinated when they fell through the cracks of the systems set up by the county health department.
COVID has been hard on us all, but I have seen so many selfless acts of neighbors. It has made me realize that Wedgwood is not just a neighborhood in southwest Fort Worth, but it really is my hometown.
Frank J. Sloan is a general pediatrician in Fort Worth and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Texas Christian University and University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine. Sloan and his husband, Michael Hemby, live in the home in which Sloan grew up in Wedgwood.