Volunteer to shift her focus to history
The longtime community worker plans to update the historical society's Web site with stories about all historical markers in the Birdville area.
In The Know
Birdville Historical Society
To join the Birdville Historical Society,
write to P.O. Box 14246, Haltom City,
TX 76117. A one-year membership is $15
per individual or $25 per couple.
By Ellen Schroeder
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
It was a dirty job, but Betty Porter didn't seem to mind.
She picked up trash along the road, landscaped in 20-degree temperatures and dragged her own mower to City Hall to cut the grass.
"It makes you feel good, and there's only so much the city can do," Porter said. "Funds are limited. The more volunteers you use, the less money they have to spend."
The longtime volunteer recently resigned from the Haltom City Beautification Board, where she has spruced up the city since 1991, including two stints as chairwoman. Her volunteering began in 1987 as a charter member of the Haltom City Garden Club.
But she's not bowing out.
Instead, the 58-year-old plans to devote more time to the Birdville Historical Society, which she founded in 1996.
"In the back of my mind, I've wanted to do all this stuff and never could because I've been elsewhere," said Porter, who has served as president of the historical society since its inception.
She started the group when she noticed unused money for historical preservation in the city's budget. Eager to keep the past from slipping away, she put the money to use, with the city's permission.
She has watched old rock houses in the Birdville area tumble down to make way for bigger, newer homes. So she wants to preserve the memories of all Birdville-area rock houses in a book, which she hopes will be published within the next 12 to 18 months.
"There aren't very many structures left in this area, and I want to be able to document what we have before they are gone," she said.
Her to-do list goes on.
Porter has a plan to update the historical society's Web site with stories about all historical markers in the Birdville area, encompassing Haltom City, North Richland Hills, Richland Hills, and Watauga.
She also wants to conduct video interviews of longtime residents to add to about 25 interviews already shown on Charter Channel 7 in Haltom City.
And she hopes to establish a historical district along Belknap Street, where some of the buildings date to the 1930s, she said. Doing so would require researching the area's history and applying for a historical designation, she said.
"That is probably our only retail area left that is that old," she said.
The former manicurist juggles her volunteer work with baby-sitting her 17-month-old granddaughter during the day.
Someday, she hopes to hand over the reins of the historical society to someone else, assuming she can find a willing volunteer.
The historical society has about 110 members, some of whom live out of state and even one living in England who grew up in the area, she said.
The group meets four times a year, including an outdoor dinner among the gravestones of Birdville Cemetery.
Fellow historical society members credit Porter with keeping the group alive.
"It probably wouldn't be going if it weren't for her. She devotes all the time and energy to it," said Laura Hunter, a North Richland Hills resident and one of the original historical society members in 1996.
The effects of her efforts will be long-standing, said Mayor Calvin White.
"For any of us to appreciate who we are, we have to know how we got here. Betty has that burning desire to know," White said. "It just gives us a longer view other than this little window we happen to be living in now, and hopefully help to define the future."