Memory of SFA's now-gone Gibbs Hall lives on in 2 lifelong frien - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Memory of SFA's now-gone Gibbs Hall lives on in 2 lifelong friends

Dr. Thomas Franks, SFA Class of 1951, and Harold Hanson SFA Class of 1952 overlook the sight where Gibbs Hall once stood. The building will survive in the memories of all those it served. (Source: KTRE Staff) Dr. Thomas Franks, SFA Class of 1951, and Harold Hanson SFA Class of 1952 overlook the sight where Gibbs Hall once stood. The building will survive in the memories of all those it served. (Source: KTRE Staff)
A photo showing Dr. Franks as a waiter at Gibbs Hall. He and Hanson served meals in formal attire equally for ‘girl’ residents and university dignitaries. (Source: KTRE Staff) A photo showing Dr. Franks as a waiter at Gibbs Hall. He and Hanson served meals in formal attire equally for ‘girl’ residents and university dignitaries. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Franks and Hanson stand in front of one of the few surviving buildings at SFA, Wisely Hall, where they both lived as students. The SFA alum consider themselves grateful survivors of an era gone by.  (Source: KTRE Staff) Franks and Hanson stand in front of one of the few surviving buildings at SFA, Wisely Hall, where they both lived as students. The SFA alum consider themselves grateful survivors of an era gone by. (Source: KTRE Staff)
NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) -

Last month one of the oldest buildings at Stephen F. Austin State University, Gibbs Hall, was demolished to make room for a science, technology engineering, and math building.

The 77 year old structure is no more, but its survival is in the memories of all those who it benefited. East Texas News talked to two survivors of an era gone by.

SFA's Gibbs Hall stood tall since 1939. It was called a “girls dorm” back then. The building's demolition last month tugged at the heartstrings of 1951 SFA alumnus Thomas Franks.

"I said to myself, 'Goodbye Gibbs Hall and thanks for the memories,” Franks said.

Franks and college friend Harold Hanson have the stories that will keep Gibbs alive in history. They gaze over an empty hole, but their thoughts are returning to the site where they worked as food service waiters to 140 women.

We had the best job on campus, serving meals to the girls,” said Harold Hanson, an SFA alumnus with the Class of 1952.

They also served university dignitaries. No matter the diner, Franks and Hanson changed into formal white jackets and provided individual service.

"We got paid 12-cents a meal,” Hanson said. “Made 36-cents a day, which was just about enough to pay our room rent."

The Post-Depression era was a time when boys became men fast. Franks was a 16-year-old freshman and a graduate at 19. They were rough years to survive, but young students managed thru unique friendships.

"I made my best friends for life here by either people who lived in the dormitory or primarily people who were waiters in Gibbs Hall,” Franks said. “Those are the ones I've been in touch with over the years."

"I remember when the tennis courts were over here on the right,” Hanson said. “You remember that? I was out there a lot. Franks-"I remember that."

A stroll across campus leads to one of the oldest buildings to survive, Wisely Hall, once the “boys dorm.”

"My room was right up here. Number 216,” Hanson said.

The halls were shared with another kind of survivor during the post war era.

"We had two age groups,” Hanson said. “Kids right out of high school and grown men from the World War II."

There were few mental health services. Counseling for any issue came primarily from caring professors, friends and family.

Like Wisely Hall, the ones who grew up there influenced thousands of lives.
 
Hanson is a retired minister. Franks is retired dean of elementary education.
 
Both gentlemen are pleased Wisely survived, but accept the loss of Gibbs Hall. 

"There's sadness to see the building go, but there was joy knowing it was going to be replaced by a building that will house programs that are vital programs,” Franks said.

"They can demolish buildings, but they can't demolish memories we have,” Hanson said.

Dr. Thomas Franks wrote an essay about his years working at Gibbs Hall. An excerpt will soon be published in the SFA publication, Sawdust.

Remember, if you have a Survivor story, send an e-mail to survivors@ktre.com.
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