Mannings reflect on Cactus Lodge and growth in Copperas Cove
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Curtis and Joyce Manning opened the Cactus Lodge Motel, currently named the Cactus Inn and Suites, back in 1950. When they first opened the motel, located on the corner of Avenue D and U.S. 190, they were one of the few businesses in Copperas Cove at the time.
Highway 190 was a simple two-lane road that went east from Copperas Cove to Killeen, and west to Lampasas. There was nothing else there that drivers now see day to day.
Joyce said that the two had been living in Waco, and she had been working as a registered nurse at Hillcrest Hospital, when Curtis came home one day and said that he bought a plot of land in Copperas Cove.
“I said, ‘You did what?’” Joyce said. “He said, ‘I think I want to start a motel. Fort Hood’s growing, everything looks good.’”
They moved into the motel in the latter part of 1950 and began their lives in Copperas Cove.
“I was surprised whenever I found out I was going to be a Copperas Covite,” Joyce said. Joyce added that she had several memories of seeing Lovett Ledger driving through as she swept outside the motel.
After opening the motel, the Mannings waited for their first customer to book a room.
“We didn’t have a customer for about two weeks,” Curtis said.
Eventually, they began to get customers, especially construction workers that rented by the week.
“We had a good business. Copperas Cove was good to us,” Joyce said.
The Cactus Lodge started with six rooms, and Joyce said she cleaned them all. They later added the Cactus Service Station and then the restaurant. Joyce said one time they hosted hosted a dinner for 100 people at the restaurant, and Joyce cooked everyone’s meal.
The restaurant had lots of customers and served as a good place for people to grab a bite to eat on Copperas Cove’s main thoroughfare as time went on.
“Curtis said we always want to keep the meal under $1 because men will always have a dollar in their pocket,” Joyce said.
The city of Copperas Cove has gone through many changes as businesses have opened and closed and moved and been renovated Since she Mannings opened their motel on what is now Business Highway 190.
“(The property) was just a patch down there with lots of weeds this high, and it was down there on that Y, and we thought it was a good place to do something,” Joyce said. “It’s been real good to us.”
In recent years, the area along Business Highway 190 has seen changes as new businesses moved in, and some later moved out.
“I’ve always fussed because we had all of our business in Killeen, that we need to have business in Copperas Cove,” Joyce said about the changes in Copperas Cove.
The Mannings operated the motel and raised their four children in Copperas Cove, and Joyce said that the kids loved growing up in Copperas Cove. The couple has been married for 72 years and attribute their successful business and long lives together to a strong faith in God.
While Joyce worked the motel rooms, Curtis went into the plumbing business, getting his Master Plumbing License in 1961.
After selling the motel in the early 1970s, Curtis became a builder, constructing apartments and houses in Copperas Cove. Curtis built the home that the couple currently lives in on Robertson Avenue back in 1985.
Curtis even helped build Eastside Baptist Church, located on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The Mannings attended First Baptist Church, on West Avenue B, and the church decided to branch off with a church located on the east side of Copperas Cove. Eastside Baptist Church was incorporated on March 31, 1978.
Their son, Jay, took over the family business and now runs Manning Homes with his two sons, Jason and Jonathan, out of the same building that Curtis built so many years ago.
The Mannings have definitely left their impact on the city, which Joyce said felt good.
“We wanted to do that,” Joyce said. “We just thought about helping Copperas Cove grow and grow up to be a good town. It has lots of people who will tell you they wouldn’t have lived anywhere else. I’ll always root for Copperas Cove.”