James Villanueva signs copies of Remembering Slaton, Texas at Barnes and Noble in Lubbock, Texas


Author James Villanueva reads from Remembering Slaton, Texas

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Thank you, Slaton

In 1981, in a small room in Mercy Hospital, in Slaton, I was born.

I was on the cusp of being of that final generation of children born in Mercy Hospital. After the mid-eighties no one else, unless under unusual or dire circumstances, was born in Slaton.

I consider myself lucky.

Since then, the past 21 years out of my 29 on earth, I have had a Slaton address. Those few years away were for college and those, inevitable, self-discovery moments in life. Once again, I consider myself lucky to be back.

For the past year, I have had the honor of writing Slaton’s history.

Upon graduating from college, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I wanted to begin my life as a writer but in the comforts of my hometown. Being born at the right time, in the right place, and under the right circumstances everything fell into place and soon I was the one penning Slaton’s history.

I consider myself lucky.

When it comes to writing history, I used the tried and true, “learn as you go” mentality, which, as it turned out, seemed to be the basic theme of Slaton’s history – sometimes we learned, and sometimes we just continued trying.

Throughout the experience there were stories that saddened me to write. Stories of heartache, loss, grief, and disappointment were very much a part of Slaton’s history. Was I saddened with the idea of having to write these stories? Yes. Do I regret ever writing these stories? No.

It was these moments of tragedy that truly defined Slatonites. It was the stories of people overcoming adversity and those triumphs through heartache that really defined the type of people Slatonites have become over the past one hundred years – resilient.

There were also moments in Slaton’s history that seemed to impact me, personally.

I had read and knew about the years of segregation only through history books and what I had seen in movies and on television. It was a new and eye opening experience to read the stories from 1940s Slaton and the changes in views and opinions in 1960s Slaton and how that social change came with a price.

I can’t help but think, as a minority man, of the many people who sacrificed during the Jim Crow era for me. I have had the opportunity to graduate from high school with the equal opportunity of education as everyone else, to be able to have attended and graduated from the college of my choice, and to be sitting here in my office at The Slatonite.

I was born a few generations after those dark days in American history. I had to write about how that segregated mindset affected Slaton, not to place blame, but to understand why sometimes those hostilities sometimes linger. The past often serves as a compass towards where we need to be heading. When it comes to race relations, it may seem that sometimes, we get turned around. We need reminders to get us back on track to understand that it took all kinds to build Slaton, and it will take all kinds to forge its future.

Then there were the people who were left out of my writings. Sometimes those names weren’t given. Sometimes they didn’t fit into the context or within the direct line of the meaning behind the story. Sometimes, especially during the earlier parts of my journey, there was no one left to talk to. Those people did matter, as did all people who have been a part of Slaton during its entire existence, but it would be impossible to include everyone. What makes small towns so charming, is that civic pride comes before individual ego. Those legacies will last far longer through word of mouth than I could have accorded in my small column series.

From cave men to Constantine, the dark ages to the great enlightenment, it is widely known that storytelling has been the main foundation of any society. No matter the belief structure, be it evolution or creationism, stories have had the ability to transcend humans to the next level of enlightenment.

Now, after a short one hundred years of existence, Slaton has begun its story. We are all a part of that. We are all Slaton. We all belong.

The same quote continued to run through my head as I wrote each and every piece because it, respectfully, defines what it means to be a Slatonite. The quote is by Margaret Mead and it is with these words that I close my column series. Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Thanks for sharing your stories with me but most of all thanks for allowing a young man to return home.

Meet author, James Villanueva, at the official, "Remembering Slaton, Texas: Centennial Stories 1911-2011" Book launch in the summer of 2011!

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Visit the Slaton Chamber of Commerce!


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Remembering Slaton, Texas: Centennial Stories 1911-2011

Coming in May of 2011!

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The Early Years of Girls Basketball

1915 SHS Girls Basketball Team

Only four years after Slaton was incorporated as a town, in 1915, the Slaton Tigresses took to the court wearing long purple sweaters and deep purple skirts. They wore long stockings beneath the heavy skirts. Each player wore a matching crotcheted hat.

The team consisted of eight members; Zona Bean, Rachel Haney, Mae Stewart, Alma Meyers, Pauline Robertson, Beatrice Robertson, Cleo Yantis and Marguerita Hoffman.

Aside from a brief hiatus during the depression, girl’s basketball has always been a popular activity for Slaton girls and by 1932 the Tigresses had won the Lubbock County Championship game and went on to compete at the state tournament held in Celeste.

By the 1970s, girls were obsessed with basketball. Especially when young girls watched the 1974 team capture the attention and approval of many by winning the Texas state championship and were now known as the Slaton Tigerettes.

“Slaton’s little girls forsake dolls early, for basketballs,” The Slatonite reported in 1975.

“Beginning at age 9 or 10, when most girls are still playing with dolls,” Sandy Martin wrote in an article for The Slatonite in 1975, “Many Slaton girls forsake the fairy tale world of toys for the drive and competition of basketball.”

By February of 1975, according to The Slatonite, the defending state champions had won their fifth district championship title and were well on their way to another state title.

“Locally,’ Sandy Martin wrote, “they’re known as Benson’s Bunch but throughout the state of Texas, Slaton’s Tigerettes are known as a winning team.”

“The defending state champion Slaton Tigerettes wrapped up the district title for the fifth straight year,” The Slatonite reported on February 13, 1975. “This week they will begin the playoff trail to what hopefully will be another trip to Austin.”

However, 1975 would not be a winning year on the state level. The team fell short in the regional finals.

It wasn’t until three years later when the Tigerettes had another chance to capture a state title.

In 1978, coming off of many heartbreaking upsets in the regional championships for the 1975-1977 school years Slaton had one focus, state champions – again.

The team, that year consisted of; Lynn Webb, Cynthia Robinson, Chris Kennedy, Linda Lewis, Debbie Heinrich, Jill Basinger, Roxanne McDonald, Debbie Bednarz, Janee’ Jenson, Esoleta Whaley, Sherrie Eakin, Teri Huckabee, Barbara Anzley and Peggy Alspaugh.

The 1978 2AA State champions beat Granbury High School in a dramatic 55-45 win to prove that Slaton Tigerette basketball was, indeed, the best in Texas.



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A Girls Basketball Dynasty Begins!

Mrs. Bourn looked at a clock in the administrative offices of Slaton Independent School District.

It was 10 a.m. It was a typical January morning in 1974.

Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang.

“At 11 o’clock this morning,” an emotionless voice of a male caller said, “a bomb will go off at Slaton High School.”

Mrs. Bourn reported to The Slatonite that, “the caller’s voice was calm, he did not sound excited.”

Within minutes the high school was evacuated.

“Slaton High School was evacuated Tuesday and students had an unscheduled two and a half hours out of classes after a caller said a bomb would go off at the school,” The Slatonite reported on January 31, 1974.

Fortunately, the call turned out to be a hoax for which the caller, once apprehended, faced jail time.

The excitement had faded, briefly, but a different sort of excitement enveloped the halls of Slaton High School in ’74.

In January of 1974 members of the Tigerette basketball team; Patti Melton, Jan Davis, Kay Stephens, Ann Partain, Becky Culver, Doris Meurer, Rosemary Scott, Angela Kitten, Susan Hopper, Pam Howard, Frana Gass, LuAnne Fondy, Kimmy Cooper, along with their coach, Gay Benson, were, once again, on their way to winning a district championship title.

By February of 1974, they had reached their goal.

“Slaton’s sharp shooting girls basketball team and coach, Gay Benson, have done it again,” The Slatonite reported on February 7, 1974. “For the fourth straight year, Slaton has won the district championship.”

Making their way into the state playoffs, the Tigerettes faced Hamlin and on Valentine’s Day of 1974, The Slatonite reported that they had beaten Hamlin 69-56.

The Tigerettes were well on their way to the regional championship tournament.

Of course, the regional tournament proved to be a walk in the park for the very experienced and very determined Tigerettes.

After many years qualifying for the playoffs, their time had come.

The Tigerettes beat Coahoma during the first round of the regional tournament and made their way to the final game of the tournament; a regional championship was on the line, and the team was only two wins away from that ultimate high school goal – a Texas state title.

“We’re number 1! We’re number 1!” Slaton fans chanted as the Tigerettes made their way onto the court for the regional championship game against Stratford.

The cheers became only livelier and more bousterious as the Tigerettes left no room for Stratford to deter their goal.

“We’re number 1!” the Slaton fans continued chanting as the final buzzer approached and Slaton was on top. “We’re number 1!” They shouted long after the final buzzer went off and Slaton was on their way, for the first time since 1932, to a state championship game.

In a special Saturday edition of The Slatonite on February 23, 1974, the headlines blared from the front page, “Tigerettes Win State!”

Team member, Jan Davis, reported to The Tiger’s Cage student newspaper, “It’s one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me – A dream come true.”

“They’re great. They’re Beautiful. They’re magnificent. They’re #1!” The Slatonite reported.

Of course, the path to a state championship title began many years prior.

Players in long skirts and on an outdoor basketball court, in 1915, the town was introduced to a new phenomenon – girl’s basketball.

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Remembering Slaton, Texas

The book cover for the book written by James Villanueva about Slaton's past!

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