My grandparents came to the United States back in the 1960s and moved into a house on Dahlgreen Avenue just a stone’s throw away from Thompson. A year after my parents married and shortly after I came into this world, they moved into the Billy Mitchel Apartments, now the Preserve at the Port Apartments. We lived there up until the late ’90s when we moved to a house in a small neighborhood just around the corner. It’s the place we’ve called home ever since.
Many of the homes in Thompson Community are well over 70 years old, some over 100. Many of them have changed hands from family member to family member over the years, each doing their best to preserve what history slowly tries to take. They’re the legacy homes I’ve spent the last two years protecting alongside our association’s president and my mentor, Rudy Lopez.
When I worked on Rudy’s City Council campaign this past year, I was amazed by the number of people who were somehow connected to our community. People from all corners of the city either went to one of our schools or have friends or family who lived in the neighborhood. Each of them was glad to share with me how they were a part of the history of our little world.
History is an important part of our Thompson Community’s culture, specifically military history. When I joined the Thompson Neighborhood Association in 2013, my neighbors were eager to let me know just how much there was to learn about the community I would eventually lead as vice president.
Thompson’s history goes all the way back to World War I with the establishment of Camp Kelly in 1917, later named Kelly Field, and eventually Kelly Air Force Base. At the time, the entire area was rich farmland. The government bought the land from local farmers to build the airstrip that ultimately trained thousands of airmen. Many of those commanders who served at Kelly have streets named after them. The most famous of them is General McMullen.
As the base became home to members of the military and San Antonio evolved into Military City, USA, many of those servicemen and their families decided to stay in Thompson. Countless veterans live in our neighborhood, and our football stadium is named in their honor: Veterans Memorial Stadium.
John F. Kennedy High School, one of the major focal points in our neighborhood, was the first high school in the nation to ever be named after a living president. The story goes, President Kennedy was supposed to be part of the opening of the school, but a change in plans caused him to leave early and head to Dallas. He famously said, “Tell the students of Kennedy I will be back.” The next day, he was assassinated
From the first Edgewood ISD schoolhouse on Cupples Road to the Funtown at General McMullen Drive, there are golden nuggets of history all over the neighborhood and no shortage of funny stories from Kennedy alumni if you ask the right people.
Today, Thompson Community is experiencing a much-needed revival. Back in the early ’90s, the closing of Kelly AFB demolished the local economy. Families who lived and worked in Thompson had their worlds turned upside down. For some, it meant leaving our community completely. What was once a thriving middle class for decades thanks to hundreds of civilian jobs at Kelly, became a forgotten neighborhood struggling for representation and economic development.
But things are slowly changing for the better with the success of Port San Antonio, their Tech Port vision, and the new Center of Innovation featuring a massive e-sports gaming arena.
While Thompson Community doesn’t have restaurants like a Starbucks or Chick-Fil-A, no massive stores like H-E-B or Walmart, it won’t take you very long to get to one from Thompson. General McMullen is our runway out to things that are only a short drive away.
But if you’re craving a carne guisada taco with cheese at two in the morning, Rocky’s Taco House on Cupples is open 24-hours. If you want to get a drink with some friends, the Squeeze Inn is a long-time favorite. If you’re looking for a neighborhood with schools within walking distance, we have three that practically share the same parking lot. And if you’re in the mood for live music, Funtown is nearly ready to bring the fun all over again.
Thompson Community may not be an affluent neighborhood, but it’s our neighborhood. And that pride is what makes me proud to continue to serve as vice president of our association. When the pandemic prevented our neighborhood association from getting together for a year, the residents asked us to find a way for us to meet safely again. We decided to take our meetings to their front yards so that neighbors could see each other again.
I don’t know what is on the horizon for our hidden community, but I’m excited to know that big things are coming. I see the beautiful buildings being constructed at Port San Antonio and know we’ll have new neighbors soon. And while no neighborhood is truly perfect, like any good neighborhood we’ll work together as neighbors to get it there.