YEARS OF EXPANSION (1950-1955)
The annual report of the Chamber of Commerce pointed out that the tumultuous election year of 1952 had seen many developments contributing to the health, happiness and prosperity of the people of Houston. Among these were bond issues approved by the citizens to provide parks and playgrounds, new and modernized schools, a city-county hospital, improved roads, better municipal airport facilities, and increased sanitation. The Texas Medical Center had shown marked advancement. The magnificent M. D. Anderson Cancer Hospital was well under way and nearing completion as was the multi-million-dollar Texas Children’s Hospital, the University of Texas Dental School, and the Medical Center Library. A warm interest in the promotion of cultural activities had provided a brilliant season for the Houston Symphony Orchestra and for the theatre and other arts.
More than 20,000 people took part in a year-long Houston Beautiful Campaign, and Houston again, as it had been in 1951, was judged the cleanest city in the nation in its population class. An International Flower Show was held successfully in March under direction of the Civic Affairs Department of the Chamber of Commerce. Network television came to Houston on July 1, 1952, when Gov. W. P. Hobby opened the coaxial cable circuit for KPRC-TV.
Bond moneys voted in 1944 and again in 1950 financed construction on a San Jacinto Dam project to give Houston a major source of surface water at a cost of $20,000,000. Work on this was started in August, 1952. This marked the first significant achievement of the long-range efforts of the Water Supply Committee of the Chamber of Commerce to assure the people and industries of the Houston area of an adequate and dependable water supply.
In 1952, there were 654 churches of all faiths in Houston, and 55 percent of the people of the city were church members, with 88 percent being members of a religious family group. During the prior two years, 104 congregations had built new church buildings, and another 32 had built additions to their church structures. Church membership totaled 360,155, including 243,000 Protestants, 102,355 Catholics and 14,800 Jews. Church property was valued at $75,000,000. In 1940, there were 475 churches in Houston with a membership of 251,945, and with property valued at $32,000,000.
With the coming of 1953, the "Houston Magazine" proclaimed editorially: "Not for many years has America viewed the inauguration of a new year with more optimism. And no other city in the nation has a brighter outlook for a year of great progress than the City of Houston."
In his State of the Union message, President Truman declared that the United States had entered a new age of atomic power and warned the USSR that if it provoked war that would be its ruin. Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as 34th president of the United States on January 20th, with Richard M. Nixon as vice president. The new president set the domestic theme of an incentive economy under a thrifty but responsible government. A high level of business activity with rising trends characterized the nation’s economy. The new administration sought to counter Russian expansion and to foster an equitable armistice in Korea. War news continued to dominate interest during the early part of 1953, with secondary position being given to the armistice negotiations that continued at Panmunjom, reaching a climax in the "Big Switch" story when prisoners were exchanged beginning August 17th. Hostilities in Korea had ended in July.
The year saw the death of Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator for 29 years, with George M. Malenkov being named as his successor. Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England on June 2nd. This, with the presidential election in November, 1952, and the inauguration of President Eisenhower, made television coverage history. Mountain climbers conquered Mount Everest for the first time in 1953. The first coast-to-coast scheduled nonstop service in airline history was inaugurated by Trans World Airlines, using Super-Constellations for the flight, which took eight hours each way. This was particularly significant since 1953 marked the 50th anniversary of powered flight. During the year, commercial aviation passengers in the United States increased from 45,000,000 to 50,000,000.
The big news for Texas came on May 22nd when President Eisenhower signed the quitclaim bill, giving Texas and other states title to their submerged coastal lands, thus ending several years of controversy reaching into the highest political and judicial channels of the nation. Houston’s Oveta Culp Hobby was named to the newly created post as Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. She was the second woman to hold cabinet rank, since Frances Perkins had served as Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945.
Widespread drought during the year in the state caused a drastic decline in the number of cattle, sheep and goats on the ranches of West Texas and created serious water-supply problems in more than 100 Texas cities and towns. Nature also struck a crippling blow on May 11, 1953, when a tornado crashed into downtown Waco, killing 114 and injuring 597. On the same day, another tornado hit San Angelo, killing 11 and injuring 159.
The growing importance placed on long-range planning was recognized to signal a new policy emphasis by the Houston Chamber of Commerce during 1953. The piecemeal construction of freeways and thoroughfares had proven inadequate for the new age of automobiles, and plans were integrated for a master system of freeways, thoroughfares, major streets and roadways throughout Harris County. City and county representatives joined members of the Chamber of Commerce Highway Committee in presentations to the State Highway Commission. To that time, only 40.2 miles of freeway had been approved by the Texas Highway Department for Harris County, but these efforts increased the number of miles with official sanction to 158.5.
Although a major supply of water was under development on the San Jacinto River to provide a dependable yield of 150,000,000 gallons per day, the Water Supply Committee of the Chamber of Commerce started looking toward a significantly larger program to meet the city’s needs for the next half century. The committee had under consideration the possibilities of the Colorado, Brazos, San Jacinto and Trinity Rivers as potential sources of this long-range supply.
Although the new terminal building at the Houston International Airport was still under construction, the Aviation Committee of the Chamber of Commerce already had studies under way for the location and construction of a second major airport.
John C. Flanagan served as president of the Chamber of Commerce during 1953, and on January 2nd, Roy Hofheinz, former county judge, was inaugurated as Houston’s mayor. At that time, he outlined a program covering proposed major improvements. This included the paving of 456 miles of shelled streets and 156 miles of dirt streets at a cost of $9,000,000. He advocated re-organization of the city purchasing department.
In early in 1953, the Texas Gulf Coast area, with 43,000 square miles, was larger than any one of 16 of the nation’s states; and that its population of two and one-half million in the 45 counties gave it more residents than any one of 26 of the states of the Union, with Harris County alone having more than any one of 14 entire states.
"Research is the key that is unlocking new development possibilities for this area," I said. "Our billion-dollar chemical industry is growing at a phenomenal rate. The Defense Production Administration during 1952 approved certificates of necessity calling for almost four hundred million dollars in new chemical facilities for the Texas Gulf Coast. The total since the outbreak of the Korean War is approaching a billion dollars. The petroleum-refining industry has been issued certificates of necessity for almost three hundred million dollars during the same period.
"Of increasing importance to the area is the production of basic metals—steel at Houston and Daingerfield; magnesium at Freeport; and aluminum in the Corpus Christi area and at Rockdale. Here again is the basis for an entire new cycle of industries.
"When all factors are evaluated, however, we come to the conclusion that even now we are still in a pioneer stage of our economic development—still primarily in a raw-materials stage of our economic history.
"These mass-production manufacturing industries are primarily population-supporting industries; and, by virtue of that fact, a large and growing market for consumer goods has arisen. The market for capital-goods industries is and will continue to be an accompaniment of the utilization of our natural resources and of the processing and manufacture of raw materials obtained in this utilization. Oilfield supplies and refinery equipment serve as examples.
"The market for consumer goods, built upon population-supporting industries, is already attracting considerable attention from enterprises supplying the retail markets of the area. Trends in these population-following manufacturing and processing plants will be watched and encouraged with increasing interest and effort. Examples of population-following manufacturing plants already represented in the Houston area are: coffee roasting and packaging; making of detergents, insecticides and germicides; production of fine chemicals; the manufacture of glass, pottery and ceramic products; metal fabrication; cane-sugar refining; and the fabrication of plastics and rubber products.
"There are still many gaps to be filled in the development of a well-balanced industrial economy in the Gulf Coast. Industrialization in its more complete aspects requires the development of integrated, interconnected enterprises, wherein the finished commodities of one group of industries become the raw materials of other industries in an organized sequence until the final products come into being. The attainment of this objective represents an impressive challenge to the people of the Gulf Coast area.