Written by: 
Betty Ann Fladger Williams Barrow

I started out majoring in journalism at North Texas, but I ended up having enough credits in drama to later declare a major in theatre. As it turns out, theatre became one of my lifelong passions, and North Texas has been the common thread that has connected many of my life’s journeys.

I met my first husband, Welby Williams (’46), at North Texas in the early ’40s. Choc Sportsman was the track coach, and Welby was a star runner who competed with the Rideout and Brown twins. He was dubbed “Wee Welby Williams the Wolfe City Whippet” by a Dallas reporter at the Border Olympics in South Texas. From then on, he was known as “Whip.”

Whip and I had the good fortune to be elected campus favorites in 1941. We were married three years later, after he enlisted in the U.S. Navy Air Corps.


Back to Denton

When Whip returned from World War II, we moved back to Denton with our 2-year-old daughter, Wendy, so he could re-enroll at North Texas and finish his bachelor’s degree. He was one of the first to take advantage of the G.I. Bill, and we moved into the Vet Village hutments on Bradley Street. The year he graduated, Wendy was featured in the yearbook as the Yucca Sweetheart, honoring Whip and other returning veterans. We left Denton for Whip’s job as an assistant coach and history teacher.

In the late ’40s, we returned to North Texas — now with a second daughter, Candy — to allow Whip to pursue his master’s degree. While in graduate school, he worked part time for Frank Barrow, my best friend from Denton High School, who also attended North Texas.

During the Korean War, Whip was called back to active duty. We moved to Maryland where our daughter Darby and son Mark were born. Tragically, Whip was killed when his plane crashed during the conflict.


A new start

The children and I returned to Denton and I received a lot of press when I re-enrolled at North Texas as a single mother with the goal of finishing my degree. I wrote, directed and produced a play for the College Players called Carry the Melody, about two Navy couples who married during the war. I also was chosen for Who’s Who. But with my young children’s needs so important, I finished my college career 11 hours short of my degree.

Frank was my greatest support at this difficult time. When the children and I first returned to town and I had trouble unlocking the door of our rent house, he had come right over and saved the day. He continued to be my rock. We married, he adopted my daughters, and our two sons, David and Mike, were born.

We didn’t stray far from campus. Frank and I owned the Varsity Shop on Avenue A, helping to outfit many Denton residents as well as college faculty, staff and students. Mean Joe Greene (’69) was one of our faithful customers. I also owned a boutique two doors down from the shop where I employed many fashion design students. They sewed for me and dressed the windows. I sold their designs in the shop, took them to market and taught them everything I knew about retail.


The theatre world

In 1970, Frank got the main part in the play Harvey, which was performed at Denton’s Firehouse Theatre. From that time on, my passion for theatre was renewed. I jumped right back into the theatre world — acting, directing, costuming, and cleaning the bathrooms, whatever needed to be done.

After Frank and I retired, we went on the road with Donna Trammell’s production of A Slice of Texas Toast. With more than 50 performances throughout Texas and Colorado, we raised nearly $1 million for nonprofits. We met so many wonderful people. In almost every city and production, we recruited UNT alums to be in the performances. Back at home, in 2007, I won a national award for best costume design for the millinery work I did for the one-act play Crowns.

And this summer, I have another acting opportunity. In 1959, when Frank was mayor of Denton, we hosted a reception for Lyndon Baines Johnson and Ladybird Johnson at what was the Pat Boone Inn on University Drive — Highway 24, as it was called then. This was right before LBJ announced his run for national office. Now 52 years later at 89 years old, I am playing the part of an elderly nursing home resident who thinks she’s Ladybird Johnson in the Denton Community Theatre production of Daughters of the Lone Star State by Del Shores.

My passion for theatre that began so many years ago at North Texas ended up being a big part of how my life is defined. And North Texas has been a continual thread woven through it.

Barrow and her husband, Frank, were longtime leaders of Denton Community Theatre. Two of her children, Wendy Williams Barrow (’67) and David Barrow (’83, ’86 M.A.), earned UNT degrees. Her son, Mike Barrow, who studied theatre at UNT, is now the managing director of the Denton Community Theatre.

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