Plaza holds memories of times gone by

By Lyn Moncus: Comments from the Canyon

Not long ago, Mrs. Donah Cooper and I read an article about the San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso and exchanged some of our memories of what to us had been a very exciting place. Most of us just referred to it as The Plaza and often spent hours in that vicinity when we had a chance to go to El Paso. It was a meeting place for people who liked to visit and watch other people or for those of us to meet after shopping in some of the surrounding stores. It was also a fairly short walk from Union Station and the bus station, depending upon which mode of transportation we were using at the time.

Many of us from our county would ride the train to El Paso to spend the day or a few days and would usually stop in the Plaza first. When I was a child, Mother would take me there to see the alligators several times during our stay because I was fascinated by those creatures and just had to see them as often as possible. Although we rarely had much money to spend, we would wander through The Popular and The White House to see the latest fashions and to buy an item or two.

After we were in college at New Mexico A&M, Norma Jean Crellin and I would sometimes ride the bus to El Paso to spend the weekend with my aunt and would usually wander around The Plaza to window shop, to see the alligators, and to look for people from home because we rarely went there without seeing someone we knew. Because Norma Jean had traveled to other cities, she knew a lot more about progress than I. Just ask her about talking me into getting on the first escalator I had ever seen. She had enough trouble getting me to ride the fast elevators, much less to stand on moving stairs! Next, she had problems teaching me to “jay walk” when “scramble corners” became popular. Cars would be stopped in all directions by the lights so the pedestrians could jay walk and be able to cross the streets in a hurry and in safety. As a law abiding teenager, I wasn’t about to change my ways until I watched others and could see that we really could get around more rapidly by dashing in any direction we desired.

Sometimes, we would attend a movie at the Plaza Theater, not only to enjoy the show, but also to enjoy the beauty of the theater with its starry ceiling, fancy stage curtains and the quiet surroundings. When I was a child, I stared at the ceiling instead of watching the movie because I was fascinated by that night sky effect. Besides, I was usually homesick when we were down there and could imagine the night sky at home. Later, I enjoyed going there because the air-conditioning chilled us after being in the hot sun and gave us chance to cool off before returning to the blasting heat.

Once the shopping centers came into being and large malls began to appear elsewhere, The Plaza was not the safest place of visit because the people who made it relatively safe were no longer there. After the alligators were attacked by some local hoodlums, they had to be sent to another home, so we could no longer see them. A major part of history disappeared when The Plaza became deserted, but those of us who used to spend a lot of time there surely collected a lot of fond memories of another time and another place.