Throwback Thursday: How Bangs became what it is Today

Downtown Bangs
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson

Bangs, Texas lies just 9 miles west of Brownwood at the intersection of US 67/84 and FM 586. Bangs boasts a vibrant night life, great schools, and is on the cutting edge of new development. But Bangs wasn’t always the thriving metropolis that it is today.

Bangs was founded in the 1880’s and named for Samuel Bangs. When it was first founded, it wasn’t near what it is today. Bangs had few residents, 136 to be exact in the 1900 US Census. The community steadily grew over the next century, and in the year 2000, the population of Bangs had climbed to 1,620.

Bangs started out as an alternative to living in the thriving metropolis of Brownwood. Upon the founding of Bangs, early settlers anticipated the two towns becoming one, almost like Dallas and Fort Worth have. In these days, Early did not exist, and Bangs was the second largest town in the county. The stage was set for dramatic growth between Brownwood and Bangs. When Brownwood saw it’s boom during World War II and a housing shortage developed (some accounts say Brownwood’s wartime population pushed close to 50,000), Bangs was right there to take in residents that didn’t have a place in the county seat. Bangs experienced a boom, and the Brownwood-Bangs metropolis was born.

After the war, Brownwood saw a decline, and Early, TX was born. Due to it’s closer proximity to Brownwood, Early quickly outpaced Bangs in growth, and Bangs was set back to the third largest city in the county. The leaders of Bangs decided that they needed a new identity.

Bangs began to distance itself from Brownwood and Early as it wanted to stand on it’s own. Some doubted that this would prove beneficial, but Bangs has seen record development over the last 10-15 years. The Dairy Queen closed, freeing up a desirable commercial location along US 67/84. Another restaurant quickly jumped at the opportunity to open up in the former Dairy Queen, but it too failed. It turned out that the citizens of Bangs were enjoying the nightlife too much to stop and eat a Hamburger or a Blizzard.

Dollar General then built a store at the corner of US 67/84 and FM 586, and the nightlife in Bangs had been born. Now residents could shop well in to the night. Animal food, toiletry items, snacks and drinks all became available from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Patrons began gathering in the parking lot to rejoice and discuss their purchases. They especially enjoyed not having to make the 18 mile round trip to Wal-Mart anymore. Citizens began organizing get-togethers called ‘Shop-a-Longs’ where a group of friends would all shop together. Teenagers began purchasing discounted DVDs from the Dollar General, eliminating the need for a drive to Heartland Mall to the theater. The absence of late night trips to Heartland Mall increased student performance both academically and athletically. Test scores went up, and Bangs saw two state championship game appearances in football.

Most would feel that a downtown nightlife in a town with a Dollar General would be as mythical as the school’s mascot (Dragon). Bangs has proven otherwise. With a pharmacy, a small grocery store, city hall, and a new street light, Bangs downtown is as vibrant and active as ever. Resident Terry Denise Keller thinks the town’s development is great, “no, you won’t see any panhandlers or street gangs down here, all you’ll see is good ole fashioned people having a good time, carrying their snacks with them that they purchased over at the Dollar General.” Keller summed up the community’s appreciation of the Dollar General, “before they were here, we had nothing, we had to drive everywhere to get anything, downtown was dead, and now look at us. Our population has stayed the same the last 10 years, I don’t know if people quit leaving or people quit dying, but either way, we’ll take it.”

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