Before Texas Changed: A Fort Worth Boyhood

Before Texas Changed: A Fort Worth Boyhood

Before Texas Changed: A Fort Worth Boyhood

Before Texas Changed: A Fort Worth Boyhood


Growing up in Fort Worth during the 1950s never lacked in excitement for David Murph. In his memoir, Murph recalls a mischievous childhood punctuated by adventures in driving, occasional acts of accidental arson, more than one trip to the jailhouse, and countless other tales. The cast of characters includes not only friends and family but also famous figures such as John Scopes, Bobby Morrow, and Frankie Avalon. Murph details an early interest in politics and an unintentional affinity for troublemaking that had more to do with an active imagination and intense curiosity than any ill will. His adventures included broken windows, brushes with blindness, bull riding, and a pet spider monkey, alongside lessons about life and death and the importance of family. Murph's story brings to life a time when television was new and exciting, parents sided with the law, and people were to be trusted more often than not. As a close friend wrote in his senior yearbook, "it would take a book to recall our adventures." Murph fondly recalls his active youth with clarity and humor.

In many ways, though, Murph's childhood was not all that unusual. Born in 1943 in Shreveport Louisiana, Murph moved to Tyler, Texas, at the age of two with his family. He recalls moving to Fort Worth at the age of seven, feeling excited about his new home, and making new friends in the neighborhood and at school. In a neighborhood established around the time of World War II, he and his friends played war in their backyards. The child of a geologist and a homemaker, Murph vividly recalls the strong influence they were in his life.

Murph's story follows him from early childhood through high school graduation and leaving for college at the University of Texas. His enthusiasm for leaving home is tempered by the reality of what it means to leave his parents and younger brother behind--a sentiment familiar to any college-bound student.


Fathers aren’t supposed to die. At least not mine.

But there he was, lying peacefully in a casket, this man who, through many ups and downs and changes of life, had been my father. His hands, touching at the fingertips, looked a lot like mine. So did his face, that face I had seen in so many expressions and from which had often come one of the world’s best laughs. Now he was still. So still.

“Doesn’t he look good?” said my mother. “He looks so handsome.” She always thought that.

“No doubt about whose father he was,” someone said over my shoulder.

Two days earlier, breaking several speed limits, I had raced to a Cleburne hospital, run through the emergency room door, and announced to a nurse: “I’m here to see Rupert Murph.”

She looked at me for a few seconds and then asked: “Are you his son?”


“I’m sorry.”

That’s all she said. “I’m sorry.”

Anyone who had not known him had missed something. When he entered the world in 1918, the guns of the Civil War had been silent for a little more than fifty years, but those of World War I were blazing in Europe. He was given quite a name—Rupert Quentin Murph. His mother said a hog salesman named Rupert came to the house one day, and she liked the name so much she gave it to her next-born son. He, in turn, passed it to me as a middle name. His story was the story of the early Texas oil fields. His father, Richard . . .

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