Defining Shady Shores

Defining Shady Shores

By Olive Stephens

After 19 terms and 48 years serving Shady Shores, the woman who helped settle the town decided it was time for a break.
In early 2011, Olive Stephens stepped down as mayor of Shady Shores, but only because her age was catching up with her. At 94, Stephens had almost single handedly made the town what it has become in modern years.

Now, approaching 100 years old, Stephens makes her home a rehab center in Corinth, but that definitely doesn’t stop her from identifying with the place she loves best.

“It is always great to see your name and picture in the newspaper,” she said in a recent interview. “It made me feel like people noticed the things that got accomplished.

“All the awards and recognition I got right after retiring from the mayor’s job really was a thrilling experience. But that is all over now and I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories as well as the satisfaction of seeing my town grown in an orderly fashion.”
Shady Shores was incorporated in 1960, and Stephens was paramount in that, said Mindy Grimes, a longtime resident. In the 1920s, the area was a little fishing camp with about 10 wood-shingle cabins on the north shore of Lake Dallas. In the 1930s, many of them were demolished and permanent homes built in their stead.

Stephens’ husband Fred was born and raised in Shady Shores. He and Grimes’ husband’s great uncle used to fish together. Olive moved to the area
in 1957.

“It’s kind of difficult to talk about Shady Shores without talking about [Stephens],” Grimes said. “Basically she gave birth to the town. When they moved out here there was nothing but a fishing camp. They kind of founded the organization
of the town.”

Born in Clayton in Panola County in 1916, there was no high school so in 1930, her parents and three younger siblings moved to Marshall. During the Great Depression, Stephens worked at a beauty salon.

After graduation, Stephens moved to Henderson and in 1935 she married Clyde Cecil Carter. During World War II, the family moved to Dallas for Clyde’s work. The two divorced in 1944 and Olive married Fred Stephens in 1950.

The Stephens’ once operated a general store in town and that was where they began to hold town meetings.

“I think that’s what drove her to do everything,” Grimes said. “I guarantee you there is nothing about the town that she has forgotten. That was pretty much all she did.”

Stephens brought the 9-1-1 service to Shady Shores. It wasn’t until 2000 that the town had to levy taxes. Stephens organized pancake breakfasts, ceramics classes, garage sales and Friday night dominoes to subsidize town income. When she left office, the town had money in the bank and zero debt.

She also led the charge to get a new fire truck for the town, collecting $2,100 for a down payment. Through her fundraising work, the town was able to build a community center and pay for it in cash.

“She truly is like a pioneer kind of person,” Grimes said. “She just takes whatever circumstances are in front of her and she just barrels right through them.”

Olive Stephens Elementary School was named for the beloved ex-mayor when it opened in 2008. To honor her, Shady Shores residents designed and built Olive’s Garden.

Her legacy continues through her two children, 7 grandchildren and several great grandchildren.

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