Local Boy Making Good
In working on this series of stories—and also as a newcomer to the city—it occurred to me: What do you call someone from College Station?
Of course, there’s a thread about that on TexAgs.com. The question came up back in 2007.
Here are some of the replies.
—“Whoop! (to ‘Aggies’)”
—“I second the Aggies, unless you are one of ‘those’ people.” (The secondary quotation marks are mine, as I think I fall into the “those people” category.)
Some of the other responses lack...shall we say, “decorum.”
In addition, there are other suggestions: “Brazos Vallans,” “locals,” “townies,” and “Aggielanders.” All of which, in my mind, lack…shall we say, “imagination.”
I’ve concluded: Maybe this is a question that can’t be answered. Or maybe it’s an answer only known by those who’ve lived here their entire lives.
William Wright was born in Tyler, Texas, on October 30, 1988, but he moved to College Station with his family when he was six months old. And he has never left.
Not even to visit the Hill Country or to see the Dallas Cowboys play.
Okay, that’s not quite true, but Wright, who was student-body president at A&M Consolidated High School and graduated from Texas A&M University in the Class of 2011, is now both locally employed and a family man with a wife and a seven-year-old son.
He has spent virtually his entire life in College Station, which makes him a “native” as far as I’m concerned and perhaps privy to the perplexing matter mentioned above.
What do YOU call someone from College Station?
Sadly, I use “College Station-ite,” but that’s sort of boring. Somewhat related, the quickest way to see if someone is from here originally is to ask them to pronounce “Wellborn.” If you’re new, it’s, “well-born.” If you’re from here, it’s “well-burn.”
How did your parents wind up in College Station?
My dad, Lanny Wright, was transferred here working for Walmart. My mom, Paula, worked from home, selling electronics between dealers and Radio Shack. They were both originally from Tyler.
Did you have brothers and sisters growing up here?
We moved to College Station from East Texas. I have three brothers and a sister, all older than me. We were a bit like the “Brady Bunch” growing up in that we were mostly step-siblings to each another. All my brothers and sisters eventually moved back to the Tyler area to attend high school. That left just my mom, my dad, and me here in College Station.
What are your earliest memories of College Station?
The first ones that come to mind are Christmas in the Park at Central Park, now Steve Beachy Park. I remember the flagpole at one of the entrances, all the lights strung up to the top of the pole and spinning under those lights until I got dizzy and fell down. I remember meeting Santa Claus in the Parks & Recreation Department’s log cabin there. The last few years, my son has met Santa in that same spot.
Where did you attend elementary school?
I went to South Knoll Elementary. We lived in the South Knoll neighborhood and I walked to school. I think at the time, the early ’90’s, there were just three or four elementary schools in town. For some reason, I remember when the Oklahoma City Bombing took place in 1995. I was six years old at the time and went to kindergarten in the afternoon. The Price Is Right was my favorite show. I think it came on at 9 o’clock in the morning. I remember when they broke in with news about the bombing. I just couldn’t understand how anything could be more important than Bob Barker, who was the long-time host of The Price Is Right.
How did you spend your summers growing up?
I played all the different city sports: soccer, baseball, and basketball. Dad and I did a lot of Cub Scout things. I helped him do chores around the house. I also did all the summer camps they had here—and still have. I especially remember when the Cinemark movie theater opened here. That was great. I think it opened in around 1994. My brothers took me to see Forrest Gump, although being only five years old, I was probably a little young for that movie at the time.
Do you remember your first A&M football game at Kyle Field?
I do! I remember every detail about that experience! I won tickets to the game from Jason’s Deli. I was in fifth grade. The game was on October 23, 1999, just a week before my 11th birthday. We played Oklahoma State and won 21-3. (Note: Those facts check out. In fact, William witnessed an historic Aggie game that day, even though it was a wet one. R.C. Slocum notched his 100th win as A&M head coach, and for the school, it was victory number 600.) I also remember that the Aggie Bonfire Stack fell less than a month later.
Talk about your time at A&M Consolidated High School.
Consol was the only high school in College Station at the time. We had private schools here, but I was really excited to be going to Consolidated because it was such a good school. I was involved in a lot of things. I had started playing football in junior high school, but I had scoliosis and after back surgery in the eighth grade, I couldn’t play anymore. I wound up being a manager on the Consol football team and that was a lot of fun. I got really involved in student council and became student body president when I was a senior.
What made growing up in College Station so special?
One thing that sticks out is that I got to meet some pretty important people. In high school, I met Robert Gates, the former CIA director who was president at Texas A&M. When I was younger, I got to meet another president: H.W. Bush! My parents knew someone who worked at the Bush Library and we got to go to the dedication in ’97. My dad took me around in my Cub Scout uniform and all of a sudden, there he was! It was President Bush! I said something to him, but he didn’t hear me. I was a little dejected, but then he turned around and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m just getting old and am a little hard of hearing.” You couldn’t live anywhere else and have that kind of experience!
And you stayed close to home to go to college.
I’m a bit of a “homebody” and I like it here, so why go anywhere else to college? Because I was from here, I didn’t go to Fish Camp. I didn’t live at home, but I didn’t live in the dorms, either. I moved in with a friend of mine who lived not far from where I lived with my parents. For a while there was a moratorium on new apartment complexes. When that was lifted, there was a real boom in construction, but I never got distracted by all that. I’m the kind of person that just wants to get my work done. At first I wanted to own my own record label, but that eventually seemed sort of impractical, so I majored in history instead.
And now you work in College Station.
That’s right, for Reynolds and Reynolds. I started working there the week after I graduated from high school and I continued to work there all through college. They have very flexible hours for college kids! I met my wife at A&M. She wanted to get her master’s degree in English, so while she was going to graduate school, I kept working at Reynolds and Reynolds. We then had our son, Logan. It’s funny because I think at some point I had every intention of trying to “get out of here,” but nothing clicked and now I’m glad it didn’t.
So now, your son is growing up an only child, much in the same manner that you were after your siblings moved back to East Texas. What’s College Station like for him compared to when you grew up here?
For one thing, there’s so much more to do here now. Logan really likes to go see plays and he enjoys visiting the Bush Library. In fact, I think he’s been to more theatrical productions than movies at this point of his life. We live in south College Station, in the Creek Meadows subdivision, where there are a lot of families like us. Where I grew up is now sort of “central” College Station and, funny thing, we try to avoid that part of town now as much as possible. In fact, if we lived there, most of our neighbors would be college students!
So as an adult living in College Station, what issues are on your mind today?
I really love this city so, when I look at the growth, I’m asking, “Where’s it going to go?” Is my son’s experience going to be the same as mine, having that “big little-town feel?” I think the way the city has managed growth has been good. I want my son to have as many experiences as possible. I want him to have the best life possible.
To that end, you’re getting involved with the city, giving back here.
I took a class through the city a couple years ago called “Citizen’s University,” where they walk you through the ins and outs of the city. It was a 13-week class and maybe some people would find it boring, but I loved every second of it. I’m 30 years old now and this seems to be a good point of entry for me to get involved in local government. I’ve volunteered with the Historic Preservation Committee. That’s a group of people that want to help preserve the history of College Station because there is a lot of history here.
You say you’re considering making a run for political office at some point. How would you change politics today?
I would ask everyone to have empathy and just take a moment to think about what that person across from you is saying and feeling. I think it would be good if we could lose some of our cynicism about the world. Politics today seems to have become much more about “rooting for the home team,” instead of actually talking about the issues and how they affect us all.
Finally, what would you say to someone considering a move to College Station?
I love it here. I think you will, too. Ours is a great community because people “show up” and give a lot back. If you take, take, take, you might not get the same experience as someone who gives back. “Showing up,” as I like to call it, is always appreciated, and it makes the city a better place in which to live.
(Author’s note: I’ve determined that when people ask me who I am, as a resident of College Station, I’m going to tell them, “I’m a ‘Colletion.’” That’s a mash up of “college” and “station” and yes, it’s going to sound like “collegian” being mispronounced. Given that I’m 62 years of age, the thought of calling myself a “collegian” is someplace I can’t really go to. But “call-ee-shun” has a nice ring to it if you pronounce it distinctly. Try it. Practice it in front of a mirror a hundred times. If we all get behind this idea, “show up,” as William suggests, I think we can give the “Colletion” thing some traction and put an end to the troubling matter of who we are.)