In the present, Lake Highlands is a bustling, thriving community with residents that care about the well-being and future of the area. The Lake Highlands Town Center, as soon as it can secure an anchor store, is poised to become the heart of the neighborhood. It’s a good time to settle down in the Lake Highlands area.
But, 56 years ago, when the Keathley family first moved into Lake Highlands in 1955, the area was nothing but farmland and cotton. The family, only the second to call Lake Highlands home, settled along Lockhaven Drive, which was the first street being developed for the new community.
“People drive out on Northwest Highway and they got to this little street, Lockhaven, and that was the entry to all that area,” Helen Keathley said. “The first little house to the right was the model home. We went to that little home there that the builders had and selected our plan and we bought the house and it was the last one on Lockhaven.
“It’s grown so much now that you would wonder how it all developed. But Lockhaven was an important street right then.”
Their son, Frank Keathley, Jr., couldn’t attend elementary school in Lake Highlands during his first year because Lake Highlands Elementary wasn’t yet completed. Instead, he and all the other students had to catch a bus to the Richardson ISD administration building, which doubled as the school for all grades at the time. The superintendent at the time was Dr. J.J. Pearce.
The elementary school was completed the following year in 1956 and the first principal was Bill Passmore, who was called the “Father of Lake Highlands” by the Lake Highlands Historical Association. He passed away in August 2007.
“Bill Passmore was the principal of the elementary school, and he was the bus driver also,” Keathley, Jr. said. “He’d pick them up, take them to school and take them home. Later on, years later, he married Sue McCaffree, and she was everybody’s English teacher.”
Frank and Helen Keathley were heavily involved in the Lake Highlands school system. Helen was the secretary at Lake Highlands Junior High and eventually the secretary at Berkner High School. The two of them were co-presidents of the first Lake Highlands High School PTA back in the early 1960s. And Frank was part of a group that was instrumental in bringing Wildcat-Ram stadium to Lake Highlands.
“There was talk in Richardson about building a new football stadium because the school system was growing, and I know my dad and a couple other of my friends’ dads went out and lobbied Dr. Pearce and the board,” Keathley, Jr. said. “They said, ‘Your area is pretty much grown. Lake Highlands, here, is growing fast. Don’t build something else out there that everybody is going to go to. Put it over here where it’s developing,’ which was the right thing to do as it turns out.”
Of course, at that time, televisions weren’t as common as they are today and the Internet hadn’t been invented yet. People were forced to get off their couches and go outside for entertainment. And even that wasn’t always a feasible option.
“Now, I’ll say one thing: people didn’t go much as far as we were concerned because people didn’t have much money,” Helen Keathley said. “They were moving out here, and they were young couples getting together.
“I’m sure there were a lot of people that probably knew something about big, fancy places to go but you didn’t have anything fancy around here. And that’s the reason, I think, that we made friends because we were sort of all in the same boat together trying to make a living, buy a house and raise a family.”
Instead, families opted to have low key “garage parties” and even managed to convince the Lake Highlands Elementary school principal, J. Alvin Smith, to let them use the gymnasium to hang out and play volleyball in. Of course, it’s doubtful that schools will allow residents to use their gyms, and it’s even more doubtful that people nowadays would want to but it was activities like that that made the Keathley family fall in love with Lake Highlands.
“I think the friendly atmosphere is a really good feature, and I think people are so friendly,” Helen Keathley said. “They want to meet new people and like their old friends too.
“I would say that I feel like it’s a good quality of life.”