Gracie Poor has been part of the Wylie community for a century – literally.
Gracie turns 100 years old on Dec. 31 and is thought to be the oldest living Wylie graduate. About the only two things still remaining in the community that pre-date Gracie’s 1920 birth are the school district and the Wylie United Methodist Church. She graduated from the school in 1938 and has been a member of the church since her birth, except for three years during World War II, when she lived in Kansas.
Gracie is not your typical 100-year old. She still goes to church every Sunday (or at least she did before COVID.) She still drives. She still rides her exercise bike three times a week. And she still plays Mexican Train with a few friends every afternoon.
She said she can’t believe she is about to be 100.
“I think that’s somebody else,” she said. “That’s them old people. It’s not me.”
Gracie, whose maiden name is Farr, was the youngest of seven children. She grew up on a farm on Buffalo Gap Road, where the Fire Station is now. Her family has a long history with Wylie. Her father was a school board trustee in the 20s, and her brother, JA Farr, also served on the school board and is a member of the Wylie Hall of Honor.
“One of my earliest memories was my dad and I use to go up to the store to get the newspaper,” she said. “They were building a new school building. He was a trustee, and he wanted to stop and see if they were doing everything they were supposed to do.”
That new school, built in 1925, stood for almost 90 years. Generations of Wylie students went to school there before they tore it down in 2013 to build the current Early Childhood Center.
The store was where Mr. Burger is now. Most people remember it as either Kirkpatricks or for later generations, Charlie and Mary Davis’s store. But Gracie remembers it even before the Kirkpatricks took it over in 1929.
In those days, there wasn’t much of anything in Wylie except the school on one corner, the Methodist Church on another and the store on the third corner.
“There wasn’t any Fairway Oaks,” Gracie said. “That was a field. It was just country. Just all of it was fields, nearly to McMurry.”
The school also didn’t have 12th grade. Grade school went through 7th grade, and high school was 8th through 11th grade. They didn’t have extracurricular activities like today, but they did have a few sports.
“We played softball in grade school,” Gracie said. “Then in high school we played volleyball. They wouldn’t let us play basketball. It was too rough for girls. We played volleyball on an old gravel court. That was rough. You could get to bleeding from those old gravel rocks.”
She graduated in 1938, the year before they added 12th grade. All of her school years were in that one building.
“We didn’t have a gym or anything,” she said. “We did have an auditorium in that one building. We did plays there. When I was in the 1st and 2nd grade, there were two grades in one room. But after that we went to one grade per classroom.”
Gracie still has lots of memories from her childhood, including one day when she was young and her parents were picking cotton.
“They left me on a palate at the wagon,” she said. “I got up on that wagon, and I got a hold of those lines and I had them going around and around. Here my parents come running. I can just barely remember it.”
She also remembers having some trouble with a rooster.
“We had an old rooster, and every time I started to the barn, here he comes after me,” she said. “My mom said I’ll take care of that. We will have him for dinner.”
She also has fond memories of sitting around playing music with family and friends. She plays piano by ear and others would bring a fiddle or banjo or other instruments.
“We would all get together, and we would sing and play every Saturday night nearly,” she said. “I can also remember when we got our first radio. We loved Amos and Andy.”
Gracie’s husband, Vernon, was older and also went to Wylie, although they did not start dating until after both had graduated. They married in 1942 and moved to Kansas, where he was stationed in the Calvary at Fort Riley. After the war they moved back to Abilene.
“We had to come home,” Gracie said. “Abilene was home. That’s where we had to go.”
Her husband used the saddle making skills that he had developed in the Calvary to work as a saddle maker and eventually opened his own shop. The family moved to a house on Antilley at the bottom of the hill next to the creek going toward the new high school.
“That’s where I lived the whole time I was going to Wylie,” said Gracie’s daughter, Peggy Kennedy. “That’s where I lived until I got married.”
Peggy graduated from Wylie in 1962. Gracie and Vernon also had two sons, Tommy Gene and John Vernon. After Peggy left home, they moved into town and both boys graduated from Cooper. Vernon passed away in 1965.
“It was rough,” Gracie said of his death. “I was lucky because he had his social security and I had it to help take care of the boys until I could get going good.”
Gracie had started working at Timex before he passed away and ended up working there 25 years until the business moved to Mexico. She worked for Texas Instruments for seven years until they moved their operation to Dallas. Then she retired, and she and her sister did a lot of traveling.
“We did a lot of going,” she said. “We went to Colorado. We went to Branson. We got to go and see a lot of things.”
These days she stays closer to home, but she said she tries to stay active. In fact, when asked the secret to living to 100, she says “stay active.”
“I ride my bike three times per week,” she said. “I was walking quite a bit, but my back has gotten kind of bad. I used to walk every day after I retired.”
Another secret is to keep a positive attitude. Gracie said she tries not to get too down about anything. About her only complaint these days is that she doesn’t have a Sunday School class at church that’s her own age.
She said life has certainly changed a whole lot in the 100 years she’s been alive.
“We were in horses and buggies and then we were in Model T’s and Fords,” she said. “We had an old phone on the wall and we cranked it. You had eight or 10 people on your line, and they could all listen if you called someone.”
But as long as 100 years seems, it has just flown by, Gracie said.
“It has gone fast,” she said. “It doesn’t seem possible. Where did it go? It happened just like that.”
Birthday cards can be mailed to Gracie Poor, Wylie United Methodist Church, 3430 Antilley Road, Abilene, TX 79606.