Atascocita Branch Library Beginnings

By Odell Dryer

The Atascocita Hi Neighbor group became interested in supporting libraries in 1986, working with The Friends of Octavia Fields Library which was formed in 1985. That Friends group grew rapidly with many members from the Atascocita community. Book sales and help with Mrs. Baucum’s children’s programs were the principle activities.

On March 31, 1987, Jan Dawes and Odell Dreyer visited the office of the late Commissioner E.A. “Squatty” Lyons and suggested to him the need for an additional library in Atascocita and urged him to support funding in the county. By August 31, 1987, The Friends group in Humble had grown to 47 members, mostly residents of Atascocita. Elizabeth Gable, Kathleen Stephens, and Odell Dreyer held offices in that organization. The search was on to acquire land on which a library could be built to serve both Humble and Atascocita.

In November, 1987, Odell Dreyer contacted David Foster, land manager for Gibraltar Savings & Loan, and asked if land could be donated for a library. He invited her and Cathy Park, County Librarian, to lunch to discuss this possibility. By March, 1988, Gibraltar had included land for a library in the master plan for the Atascocita area.  Cathy Park accepted a site on the corner of West Lake Houston Parkway and Upper Lake Drive. She said she would recommend that Commissioners Court accept the land offered by Gibraltar. She would also recommend to keep Octavia Fields library open.  (May 10, 1988, minutes of Octavia Fields Library)  Atascocita would form a new group when groundbreaking began at the location donated by Gibraltar.  Time passed.

When Gibraltar merged with another lending institution, its assets went into receivership to first Gibraltar Bank. The original library site was abandoned, but Brad Dill, asset manager at Gibraltar Bank, sought approval of a 1.5 acre site on West Lake Houston Parkway, south of Pine Forest Elementary school. After lengthy consideration, title searches, and soil samples, among other complications, this site was rejected as unsuitable and inadequate for the plans for the library.  More time passed.

When Jerry Eversole was elected Precinct 4 County Commissioner in November, 1990, he said: “I think my biggest challenge will be to communicate with the people of Precinct 4.” (Houston Chronicle,  “This Week”, December 5, 1990) Taking him at his word, Odell Dreyer made an appointment to visit with him at his office in the Humble Chamber of Commerce building to discuss problems with library funding and alert him to the need for a county library in the rapidly growing Atascocita area.

Encouraged by that interview, she next visited Mr. George Dow, president of Merchants Bank in Atascocita Town Center, and asked for his help. He agreed to allow a library support group to meet at the bank. A notice in the local papers brought 22 people to an organizational meeting on February 20, 1991. The purpose was to discuss ways the community could help with the library effort and to elect officers. Richard Turner and Odell Dreyer became co-chairs with Elizabeth Gable and Kathleen Stephens as secretary and treasurer. The temporary name became Patrons of Atascocita Library (PAL).

Cathy Park and a representative from Jerry Eversole’s office attended the next meeting of PAL. Park suggested guidelines for forming and maintaining a library support group. Mr. Lee are volunteered to act as attorney. Mr. George Dow offered free banking services at Merchant’s bank. Margaret Curry asked to be the first to make a donation. John Paris pledged to donate the entire library that had belonged to his late wife, Kay. The prevailing attitude of excitement indicated that the dream would be carried forward by the community.

The organization became “Friends of the Atascocita Library” (FOAL). The first officers were Margaret Curry, President; Janet Hunt, Vice President; Elizabeth Gable, Secretary; and Kathleen Stephens, Treasurer. The county selected Dansby and Miller to plan the library and sold some bonds. Atascocita residents Janet Hunt, Max Petty, Joan Moudry, Al McCarthy and Jack Tarver explored at length existing buildings and land in the area that might be suitable. They found nothing that was acceptable. The possibility of obtaining a 4 acre site on Pinehurst Trail Dr. was rumored. FOAL quickly raised $1,050 for earnest money should it be acquired.

FOAL was by now incorporated as a non-profit organization with a tax exempt number. Kathleen Stephens, Priscilla Petty, and Anne Curry wrote by-laws with the help of David Stephens, an international attorney. Children in Pine Forest, Timbers, and Whispering Pines Elementary Schools wrote letters to First Lady Barbara Bush asking for her influence and support for the library. She graciously responded, but, of course, could not become personally involved in a local project at that time.

At the August, 1992 FOAL meeting, Commissioner Eversole announced that acquisition of the 4 acre Pinehurst Trail site was in progress. Fundraising began in earnest. With Becky Berry’s leadership and wide support in the community, money was raised with 2 book sales, 2 fashion shows, a golf tournament, McDonald’s pancake breakfast and value meals, and donations and remembrances from individuals and businesses. On September 24, 1993, a sign dedication ceremony was held on the property, giving tangible evidence to all who passed that the library would become a reality.

At the groundbreaking ceremony on October 27, 1994, Margaret Curry, FOAL President, presented a $20,000 check from FOAL to Jerry Eversole, to be used for books for the Atascocita Library. Commissioner’s court recognized FOAL’s achievements with a resolution proclaiming its next meeting, November 1, 1994, as “Friends of the Atascocita Library Day”