Couple in H-E-B area put plenty of love into The Lot

When Roger and Betty Ruch built their H-E-B home in 1974, they also bought the empty lot next door.

They figured that it might be nice for the neighborhood kids to have a safe spot to play.

The Ruches, who were both employed by American Airlines, put up a volleyball net first. But the children kept pushing the net aside and playing soccer. So Roger Ruch put temporary soccer goals on each end.

Before long, dozens of children gathered each day to kick around the ball.

"We just loved kids," Betty Ruch said. "I'd sit down there and watch them run around and play. It made me so happy."

The Lot, as it became known, became a neighborhood gem. Generations of Hurst-Euless-Bedford children have gathered there after school and on weekends to play soccer on the lush grass.

"All you had to tell your parents was 'I'm going to The Lot,'" said Matt Bowles, who started playing there at age 8 in 1974. "They knew you were going to a safe place and that they didn't have to worry."

Although Roger Ruch had two children from a previous marriage, he and Betty never had children of their own. They filled their home with exchange students, hosting 28 over time.

Their pingpong table, basketball goal and swimming pool were available to the neighborhood children, Bowles said. But it was The Lot that drew most children.

The temporary goals wore out so often that Roger Ruch got tired of repairing them and spent several hundred dollars on permanent goals.

"About 15 to 20 of us would show up sometimes to play," said Stewart McCoy, who played there as a child. "We all lived close enough that our parents could step outside, call our names and tell us to come home for dinner. It was a great place."

There were a few rules: Try not to break any windows with errant kicks, and don't let the games get too big. Betty Ruch asked that neither the location of the lot nor even the city it is in not be printed in the newspaper. The Lot is for neighborhood children, she said.

The Ruches have had plenty of opportunities to sell The Lot. Betty Ruch estimates that, for a time, people came to the door once a month offering to buy the property. The Ruches' answer was always: "Sorry, it's not for sale. It's for the kids."

In time, Bowles and McCoy and their friends grew up and moved away. New children played on The Lot. They grew up, moved away and new children appeared. Roger Ruch died a few years ago.

Today, the neighborhood has aged. There are fewer children. Nowadays, they are as likely to settle down in front of a video game than go run around outside.

But a few still show up, Betty Ruch said. Bowles has brought his children there to play.

For those who played there as children, the memories remain. On Sept.18, Bowles and McCoy organized a reunion of about 20 of their original group of friends who spent time at The Lot. They raised money, bought a stone marker with the words "Ruch's Lot" written on it.

"We wanted to do something to say thank you to the Ruches," Bowles said. "They never asked anything of us, just wanted us to have fun. The Lot was a big part of our childhood."

The adults brought their own children to the reunion. They grilled food and reminisced with Betty Ruch.

The adults and the children squared off on The Lot for a game of soccer. Betty Ruch sat in her chair and watched.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689