A Look Back: Celebrating Arlington’s History During National Preservation Month
By O.K. Carter, Landmark Preservation Commission
Posted on May 15, 2020, May 15, 2020
Mineral Well, UTA Library Special Collections

In celebration of National Preservation Month, please enjoy this collection of Arlington stories from author and historian O.K. Carter, who serves on the Landmark Preservation Commission.

Points of Compass Were City’s Initial Limits

Early Arlington planners (essentially the Texas Pacific Railroad, which surveyed the original town), were somewhat limited in their vision.

The downtown streets named “North,” “South,” “East” and “West” were first envisioned as being the outer limits of the city, essentially a village-like railroad stop. This would have made Arlington about a half-mile square, six blocks wide and six blocks deep.

Clearly that original vision didn’t quite work out, today’s Arlington now occupying nearly 100 square miles.

The Creation of the Arlington Kiwanis Club

Civic clubs form a critical fabric of a city’s life, one such example being the Arlington Kiwanis Club–formed in 1952 when the city’s population was an estimated 9,000 (the official 1950 census two years earlier was at 7,692).

The new club was sponsored jointly by the North and West Side Kiwanis Clubs of Fort Worth, the first meeting taking place this month (October) of 1952 with a meeting at the now long-gone Branding Iron Grill on Division Street. Dr. Earl McDonald was elected the first president.

Early in the club’s history, members created the Key Club–civic service in high schools. And also Circle K, a comparable organization for college youths.

Over the years, Kiwanis have become noted for another popular fund-raising event, the pancake supper, which has in turn funded a litany of community service activities almost always aimed at benefiting the city’s youth.

City's First Master Plan Formalized in 1951

City leader’s typically always look to the future, but formalizing the process tends to evolve over time.

In Arlington, for example, the first City Planning Commission was created in the fall of 1951 and was charged with coming up with a “master plan” for the city.

Bob Cooke was named the first chairman. The master plan has evolved steadily over the years and over almost seven decades has become quite a complex and ambitious document.

That first master plan, however, was relatively straight forward and only a few pages: Growth was expected and the general idea was to build downtown-like shopping centers adjacent to public services like schools and libraries, around which new homes would be built. In short, what might be termed a suburban model.

Model T Trip Sets a Record. Sort of.

In what was widely believed to be a Texas record at the time, three Arlington boys set a speed record.

There’s a proviso: It was 1937.

The deed: Traveling from Arlington to Galveston and back in a Ford Model T in only 32 hours, driving in shifts.

According to the Arlington Citizen the three boys – C.G. Brower Jr., Bob McKnight and Billie Curry (really, they were more like young men) – accomplished the deed without having to walk or repair their vehicle.

Though the Citizen article was unclear exactly what record was at stake, the original goal of the three was to break 30 hours round-trip, a goal that fell short when the Model T drowned out in Hillsboro, resulting in three hours lost time. Even so, the Model-T set an average blazing speed of 18.75 miles-per-hour.

Hot Enough to Fry an Egg on the Sidewalk. Or Not.

Texas is always hot in the summer but it seemed especially so in June of 1950 when temperatures were already hitting 100 or more degrees – the beginnings of what turned out to be a long drought.

Some young men who were destined to become prominent in Arlington endeavors ranging from real estate and politics to lawyering and banking, decided to test the fabled “Hot enough to fry an egg” premise on the asphalt blacktop surrounding Arlington’s old mineral well – Center and Main streets.

It was 102 degrees, the asphalt even hotter as it absorbed the sun’s energy – too hot to touch. Local residents Carl Pulley, James Knapp, C.H. Wilemon Sr. and (future county commissioner) Jerry Mebus assigned Edgar Bird to be the official egg tender, and armed with a bit of Crisco they watched and waited as Bird cracked a couple of egg shells and deposited the eggs on the smoldering sidewalk.

And they waited. And they waited. Net result was that though the eggs did indeed dry up a bit, they did not fry. Ergo, the hypothesis about it being hot enough in Texas to fry an egg was scientifically incorrect – but it did draw a good crowd, which retired to a nearby Main Street drug store after the experiment to re-hydrate with sodas and malts.

50,000th Resident Shows Up in 1962

Though Arlington’s population is around 400,000 today, it took a while to arrive at that point, resident No. 50,000 showing up somewhere around, approximately around, about around March 17, 1962.

Or that was the Chamber of Commerce’s premise, the more-or-less exact identity of that lucky newcomer being determined by an analysis of utility applications.,

Mr. 50,000 was determined to be Jake Whitworth, an architectural designer, who showed up with his family of three, there to be honored with a parade and a variety of prizes.

The Whitworth’s weren’t the only one recognized. Mr. and Mrs. Ken Sambell had also recently moved to Arlington, relocating from Australia – ergo they were cited for moving here from the furthest distance.
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