Saturday, March 31, 2007

Box News: Plano - Not So Plano

In the eyes of a ranger,
The unsuspected stranger
Had better know the truth of wrong from right,
Cuz the eyes of a ranger are upon you,
Any wrong you do he's gonna see,
When youre in Texas look behind you,
Cuz that's where the rangers are gonna be

Lyrics of the Walker, Texas Ranger Theme Song

Texas Legislature Online lists the City of Plano, as the Hot Air Balloon Capital of Texas. The peice of legislation officially decreeing this illustrious designation was signed in 1999 by none other than the then Governor of Texas, George "Dubya" Bush.

Officially incorporated in 1873, the city of PlanoTexas, USA, is a suburb of Dallas, located predominantly within Collin County and extending partially into Denton County. A part of what is colloquially referred to as theMetroplex, Plano, (at last count - 2005 US census estimate) boasts a population of 250,096, making it the ninth largest city in Texas [1]. According to the 2000 US census, Texas has approximately 30 identifiable ethnic groups and has the third-largest Asian population of the 50 US states [4]. Many of the 134,961 Vietnamese living in Texas in 2000 were refugees who resettled there since 1975 [4]. Also at the 2000 census 118,362 Native American "Indians" were living in Texas [4]. Plano's own demogrphic breakdown, according to the 2000 US census, was 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.36% Native American, 2.28% from two or more races, 5.02% African American, 10.07% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 10.18% Asian, and 78.26% "White" [10].

Plano, having a thriving residential economy and reputation as an international business Mecca, is the proverbialAll-American City and home to the corporate headquarters of Cadbury SchweppesEricsson, Electronic Data SystemsFrito-LayCinemark Theatres, and JCPenney. Traditionally a "blue" state, like other Collin County cities, Plano's Republican vote increased as its resident number of farmers and native Texans decreased, resulting in the city being what it is today, a reliable source of "red" votes for both state and national party tickets [2].

From the point of view of its flat topography and grid layout Plano could be said to have much in common withSkanky Jane's home city of Adelaide, South Australia. In fact, Port Adelaide Enfield (home of the Parks Community Centre) is one of Plano's five sister cities. The flat terrain, and a misunderstanding, earned Plano its name. "Plano" is a Spanish word for "flat" however Dr. Henry Dye suggested the name because he thought it meant "plain" and considered this a fitting description of the surrounding landscape [2]. (Actually there are varying accounts as to how Plano got it's name but I prefer this version). As a young Surgeon in the Army of the Confederate States of America Dr. Dye has another historical footnote to offer, this time to the annuals of Modern Science. Dr. Dye left to historians a medical casebook, unique because, replete with detailed sketches and written accounts of the injuries and illnesses he encountered and his treatment of them, it chronicles Confederate medical practices of the period. In doing so the casebook illustrates the shift from an 18th Century medical paradigm toward a modern one of pragmatic empiricism [3] - or the belief that knowledge (wisdom, truth etc.) begins with reason and is attained via the senses.

Mrs. Laura Bush Announces
First Preserve America
Grant Recipients

Plano's history again came to the fore in 2006 when Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States and Honorary Chair of Preserve America,bestowed yet another designation upon Plano, that of being a Preserve America Community. “Historic preservation has an important place in America. Preserve America promotes education, historic preservation and economic development while encouraging a greater appreciation of our national treasures—from monuments and buildings to landscapes and main streets. President Bush and I want every American, especially our children, to discover and learn about our nation’s heritage,” Mrs. Bush said [7].

The Douglass Community, one of the oldest communities in Plano, thrives as a resilient and significant part of that heritage. Ben Thomas, son of Plano’s first African American fireman, humanitarian James Thomas, is the author of Plano, Texas, the Early Years. Thomas writes that the Douglass Community area, originally known as Kendrick’s Alley and Southside but later renamed after abolitionistFrederick Douglass, was established in the 18oo's by the many African Americans who originally arrived in Plano as slaves [8]. Slaves who did not enjoy the fruits of their emancipation until June 19, 1865, that is two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 [6]June 19th thus became an annual celebration in Texas and as former slaves moved about the country and took that celebratory tradition with them so it became that today "Juneteenth" is celebrated all over America [6].

(Below) Ben Thomas, son
of the "poor philanthropist", James Thomas,
thus named because, with his wife Willie Mae,
James distributed donated clothing
to impoverished locals.

In 2006 Juneteenth Ben Thomas and Plano Mayor, Pat Evans, formally unveiled the 76 foot-long and 6 foot-high public wall mural commissioned by the Douglass Community Arts Advisory Council celebrating the theme “Tracks of our Past and Future”. Constructed from glass mosaic tiles such as Bisazza, Trend, and Mille Fiori from Italy, L’Opio from France and Hakatai from China, the mural design was a collaborative effort forged between Shug JonesJulie Dilling and Lynn Chinn of Tesserae Mosaic Studio. Ben Thomas, who died suddenly in January of 2007, attended the Juneteenth ceremony with his daughter Dollie Thomas sharing the proud moment with her when the image of his father, and Dollie's grandfather, James Thomas, was revealed. The monumental art wall, adjacent to the DART light rail line, includes representations of many other notable members of the historic community as well as nationally recognised figures significant to the area, such as Harlem artistFaith Ringold, whose designs are referenced in the quilt pattern beginning the mural; Andy Drake, the first free African-American to own property in Plano; abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Jewel Roberts, a well known community member who died in 2005 at 114 years of age.

Significant historic landmarks such as the house of "Old Charity" an African-American who provided food and solace to those in need within her own home; the first three, (still active) churches established in the Community; the Pioneer Cemetery, a State of Texas historical landmark where many of Plano’s founding settlers rest in peace; The Blue Room, a legendary vegetable store by day and honky tonk by night that provided valuable social and cultural space to local residents and the Interurban Rail Car, referencing the original 1930’s electric rail transport and commerce link from Denton to Dallas. The images of four children from theBoys and Girls Club of Collin County signify the community's future and last, but by no means least, the American flag, representing patriotism and service to country, is depicted together with the "hands of God" which, posited at either end of the mural, encompass all.

Quick to highlight shared experiences, Mayor Pat Evans said “This is a very proud day in the City of Plano. This wall is going to stand for decades to come as a celebration of the strength of our community and all of Plano. With over 254,000 residents and over 80 languages spoken in our Plano schools, it is easy to look at our cultural differences and not our similarities. This work makes note of the values we all hold dear, family, fellowship and faith, the strong threads that run through the tapestry of American life. As we look at this mural we are all connected by these threads and realize that our strength as a people depends on the appreciation of that connection [9].”

Ms Representation is an academic, freelance journalist, writer and now chief editor of Skanky Jane's Box News Edition. Writing under a psuedonym Ms Representation has been published in newspapers, magazines and respected academic journals all over the world. Now for the first time ever Ms Representation will write for the B.Box under her real name.


[1] Plano, Texas, Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia, retrieved from,_Texas, 31/12/06.
[2] Schell, Shirley & Wells, Frances B., The Texas Handbook Online, retrieved from, 4/2/06.
[3] Dehaven Pitcock, Cynthia 2006, "A Young Doctor's Military Case Book, 1860 - 1865", paper presented at the 40th International Congress on the History of Medicine, 28 August, 2006, retrieved from, 4/2/06.
[4] "Texas - Ethnic groups", retrieved from,, 4/2/06.
[5] Tracks of Our Past and Future: Discovering the Art Wall, City of Plano website, Part Two, June 16, 2006, retrieved from, 28/10/06.
[6] Juneteenth Celebration Includes Art Wall Dedication, City of Plano website, June 16, 2006, retrieved from, 28/10/06.
[7] Laura Bush Designates Plano a Preserve America Community, City of Plano website, May 3, 2006, retrieved from, 28/10/06.
[8] Morenz, Amy 2006, "Mural reflects history", Plano Insider, Monday, June 5, 2006, retrieved from, 28/10/06.
[9] Tracks of Our Past And Future: Art Wall Unveiled, City of Plano website, June 26, 2006, retrieved from, 28/10/06.
[10] 'Plano, Texas', Wikipedia, 'Demographics', 
retrieved from, 1/4/07.

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