Tarrant County, TXGenWeb

Foster's Grocery and Ice House
(Published Dec. 12, 2002, NW Times-Record)

Contributed by Kenneth Klein
Staff Writer, NW Times-Record


It is common knowledge that fish don't always bite, but people are always hungry! In short order, several grocery stores sprang up in Lake Worth, providing a positive impact on the growth of the area. Many of these stores opened because they saw this scenic area as fertile ground for opportunities. It certainly was! Lake Worth was the "recreation Mecca" for Fort Worth. Many of these businesses supported the needs of the growing population, and they put back into the community.

Foster Drive, which intersects Jacksboro Highway and Azle Avenue, was named in honor of James Richard "Rich" Foster. He was born on May 29, 1881 in Hood County. He moved to North Fort Worth approximately 20 years later. He and some business partners established a thriving Ice House business in North Fort Worth, but Mr. Foster decided to go into business for himself, moving to Lake Worth in 1922 because it was new territory. There he opened a grocery store on the intersection of Foster Drive and Rench Road, which was the original gateway to the bridge across the lake. But the wooden planked bridge could not keep up with the "technology" of the day. It was not designed to handle the amount of wear and tear that was projected by the increasing popular automobile. When plans were made to build a new bridge across the lake on Jacksboro Highway, he moved his business to the new Jacksboro Highway accommodate the changing needs of the time. Location, location, location!

In addition to selling groceries, he had an Ice House that delivered to many other businesses and residences in the area. Ice? Delivered? In this Era, an Ice House was a very lucrative business. Few homes of the day had electricity, and those with a "mechanical refrigerator" were small in number. Refrigerators were not the freon-based units that we all have in our kitchen today; rather, they were more like a sealed box packed with a big block of ice to keep everything cool. If you wanted some ice cubes, you generally had to carve it out of the block with an ice pick.

Ice delivery was literally back breaking work. Although the ice could be picked up at the Ice House, deliveries by truck were the usual practice - because the ice blocks were cold and wet, they could also weigh between 75 to 100 pounds each! The deliveryman would take the order from the customer, chopping the ice at a specific "groove" that was in the ice. This groove was molded at the time the ice was made and told the deliveryman the weight and what to charge the customer. He would then put that block in a leather papoose, and hoist it on his back and deliver it from the truck to the business or residence.

Lake Worth was filled with a variety of fish, including Black Bass, Crappie, Perch and Yellow Cat. To accommodate the avid fisherman, Mr. Foster had a large tank filled with minnows and crayfish behind the store. Inside, fishing supplies and tackle of every kind - from rods, reels, and baits could satisfy any fisherman's needs. It was not difficult to find a place to stay and fish around the Lake. Many 'Camps' such as "Baby Reds", "El Campo", "Frenchy's", "Gettings", "Huffman's", "Joe's Place", "Morehead's, "Murrell's", "Red Bank", "Shady Grove", "Sunset", "Walker's" and "Wildwood Park" provided affordable cottages for the family's recreation and fishing needs. Some of these camps had their own scaled down grocery to meet the needs of the rented cabins. A feed store was also a part of Foster's, and carried the usual hay, feed and grain. As automobiles began to become more affordable for the public, Mr. Foster added 4 gas pumps for cars and marine use. There was a race track on the property behind Mr. Fosters store, where they raced greyhounds for a time.

He married Tessie Ella Bird in 1902, and they had 4 daughters. In 1935, Mr. Foster built a beautiful house, which still stands today, in the shadow of the road expansion of Hwy 199, a lone reminder to all of us of what once was. The 7-room residence, made of native stone and petrified wood, was made to compliment his store. At the height of it's glory, the house was surrounded by hundreds of flowers, sculpted lawns and a fish pool.

He was an avid hunter, often hunting in the Davis Mountains. His hunting trophies lined one wall of his store as silent testimonial to his success. He was nicknamed "Lucky" Foster by many other hunters because on one hunt, he not only shot the biggest deer, but won two $20 pots for bagging the heaviest deer with the widest spread of antlers.

Even with running the store and the occasional hunting trip, Foster still found time for the community. He was active in many civic-related roles; a member of the Lake Worth School Board and of the Church of Christ. He was also a Mason in the Tarrant Masonic Lodge. At one time he even ran for Precinct County Commissioner. Mr. Foster retired and sold the store in 1945 to Buster Little and Basil Martin.

Our special thanks to David Woodall (grandson of J.R. Foster) for his contribution to this article.


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