George Dennis, 87, (left) listens to his brother Howard,
95, talk about the past. Staff photos by RUTH HAESEMEYER/neighborsgo.
George Dennis said he was born in the Gilbert House, which is now part
of Farmers Branch Historical Park.
‘A Great Little Town’: Brothers George and Howard Dennis
share stories of Farmers Branch
By Kelly Baker
Howard Wayne Dennis, 95, says he is the oldest resident of Farmers Branch who
was born there. His brother, George Dibrel Dennis Jr., the baby of the family at
87, is hard on his heels.
The two brothers helped each other fill in details about their youth as they sat
at a table on the very spot where their father's cotton fields once were.
“This area here was the longest cotton rows that was anywhere,” Howard said. “It
was a half-mile long. And when we’d pick cotton, we’d have to put the wagon
halfway, because you’d have a full sack before you got to the end of it.”
Their father farmed for 44 years, the brothers said, raising cotton, corn,
wheat, oats and cane for hay.
George said he was born in the old rock house known as the Gilbert House, which
is now part of Farmers Branch Historical Park. The two have lived in the
community most of their lives.
The family included the boys’ sister, Maurine Dennis McKay, 93, and siblings
Claudine and Horace, who died before their teens. The Dennises had three or four
cows and some hogs, the brothers said. They raised everything they needed except
for coffee, sugar and flour.
Farmers Branch had a population of about 400 to 500 then, with five grocery
The family had a horse and buggy when Howard was young, but they got a Model-T
They used to load up the Model-T with gallons of buttermilk, eggs, and chickens
packed in chipped ice. They’d then drive the food to sell in the neighborhood
near Love Field. In the winter, their father would put a candle next to the
windshield of the Model-T to melt a spot in the ice big enough to see out of.
Howard said that their mother used to raise calves. She bought them from the
dairies for $1 each, tied their legs together and drove them home in the back of
the Model-T. His father thought it was a stupid idea, though, Howard said, so
when she started bringing in a little money from the endeavor, she hid it under
the rug. No one found it, George said, until she passed away in 1954 at the age
They endured the Great Depression during their school days.
Two weeks before Howard would have graduated from Dallas Technical High School
in 1941, he became one of the first people in Farmers Branch to be drafted to
fight in World War II. He was a tank mechanic with the 7th Armored Division and
won two Bronze Stars, he said, one for helping to pull a tank out of the ice
after the Battle of the Bulge.
George joined the Coast Guard in 1943, when he was 19.
“I remember when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,” he said. “There was five
of us in a car sitting on Carrollton square. We said, ‘Well, it’s time to go.’
We all played football together. We all left in different branches. And we were
lucky; we all came back.”
After the war, Howard worked as a mechanic for Consolidated Freightways for 30
years. He was married for 59 years and has two daughters. He now lives at the
Bentley Manor Assisted Living Center, where the brothers were chatting.
George worked for Miss Baird’s Bread for 30 years, retiring in 1978 and later
working for ADP for 15 years. He has three children, two from his first
marriage, which ended in divorce, and one from his wife of 48 years, who died 8
years ago. He’s now lived in the same house on Marietta Street for 52 years.
He said what he likes most about Farmers Branch is the people.
“There’s some great people here,” George said. “We all kind of grew up together.
The kids were taught to help, and they just kept going that way. It’s really a
great little town.”
THE GREAT DEPRESSION IN FARMERS BRANCH
Howard Wayne Dennis remembers when The Great Depression hit Farmers Branch.
“The bank went broke in ’29,” he said. “It was called Riddle Banking Company. My
dad had $200 in there, and he got 75 of it back.”
George Dibrel Dennis Jr. said The Depression affected the whole community.
“Everybody was poor, and nobody knew it,” he said. “But everybody helped each
One year, in about 1935, the family had eight acres on which they had already
planted and harvested cane, and their father decided they had time to re-plow
and plant black-eyed peas.
“Eight acres of black-eyed peas!” George said. “We canned and we canned. And
finally Daddy went up to Farmers Branch and told the people, ‘Tell everybody to
come get these peas.’ ”
Things changed in the 1940s.
“When the war started, everybody went to work and people had money. Everything
began to kind of come to life,” George said.