YEARS OF EXPANSION (1950-1955)
"M" Day Marks Metropolitan Population of 1,000,000
A feature of 1954 was the activity, under sponsorship of the Chamber of Commerce, marking the passage of the million mark in population in metropolitan Houston, or Harris County. A week-long inventory of Houston achievements was organized for the period from June 28th to July 4th. Each day featured a different phase of the life of Houston—including schools, culture, distribution and service industries, manufacturing industries, agriculture, transportation, and churches.
Statisticians determined that the millionth resident became a reality on July 3, 1954, and through an involved procedure, "Mr. Million" was selected. The July 3rd "M" Day observance and the Houston Inventory Week were called by an official of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States "the most outstanding Chamber of Commerce promotion in the country". Many regional and national publications carried features on Houston’s "M" Day, and "Mr. Million" not only received thousands of dollars in gifts but toured the nation’s other metropolitan areas of one million population or more, extending greetings from Houston to the mayors of those cities and to the presidents of their Chambers of Commerce. "Houston Inventory Week" was a home-consumption observance to give local citizens a better understanding of their city and area. The purpose of the program was to call attention to the fact that Houston had taken its place with the major cities of the nation.
Some of Houston’s leaders commented on the outlook for the city’s future in connection with the "M" Day observance. Howard T. Tellepsen, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said: "Houston can become as great as the vision and vigor of her leaders who inspire the responsible citizens to support sound leadership. The competence of our leaders, with the strength of our citizenry, working with our wealth of natural resources, assures for metropolitan Houston a future comparing favorably with our productive past." Other comments included these:
Col. W. B. Bates: "Houston is destined to be one of the truly great cities of the world."
George R. Brown: "We must look a long way down the road and plan the future needs of the city to insure that Houston never strangles itself in its own growth—that expansion is never halted by lack of space and utilities."
J. A. Elkins: "Faith in Houston’s future gave me the courage to start a law firm here in 1917 and a bank in 1924. It has been most gratifying to see this faith justified, many times over, during my lifetime."
Gov. W. P. Hobby: "Nowhere have the people of a community worked together more purposefully and harmoniously; and no city owes its progress more to the aggressive, forward-looking endeavors of its citizenry."
F. M. Law: "We will do well to remember that whatever we do in the next ten years, as adequate as it may seem as we plan for it now, will prove to be not big enough. We must not let Houston’s onward rush run over us.
Jesse H. Jones: "With the fine spirit of citizenship and driving ambition with which Houston is so amply possessed, there is no limit to its future greatness."
Early in 1954, the Chamber of Commerce moved from the eighth floor to new and improved quarters on the eleventh floor of the Tennessee Building. Successful activities for the public good during the year included: the Houston Beautiful campaign, the observance of Texas Industrial Week, Oil Progress Week, Fire Prevention Week, World Trade Week, the Gift and Housewares Show, Dairy Day, Vegetable Day, Business-Education Day, and an Industrial Health Conference.
National recognition was achieved during 1954 by two special activity committees of the Chamber of Commerce. The Jury Service Committee was presented the Freedoms Foundation award, and Chairman M. I. Koppel went to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to receive the award from Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower. The Jury Service program was started in the fall of 1953 and continued for several years. And for the fourth consecutive year, the Oil Progress Week observance was acclaimed nationally. The "Explaining Your Business program was another highly successful special activity of the Chamber of Commerce.
The $3,500,000 Houston Produce Terminal Market for which the Agricultural Committee of the Chamber of Commerce did much of the basic planning was completed and dedicated during 1954. The San Jacinto Dam and Reservoir were completed, and the Water Supply Committee of the Chamber of Commerce recognized this event by pointing out the need to begin plans for a much larger supply to insure the future growth and development of metropolitan Houston. The $5,000,000 terminal complex at the Houston International Airport was dedicated, although its actual use was still some months away. Under the chairmanship of J. Brian Eby, the Aviation Committee of the Chamber of Commerce was already busy with plans to develop a second major airport. The year also marked the completion of the Baytown-La Porte Tunnel, the Memorial Professional Building, the Schlumberger Well Surveying Corporation plant, the M. D. Anderson Hospital, the University of Texas Dental Branch, and the Texas National Bank Building.
With the opening of the new Houston International Airport terminal, it was estimated that 1,000,000 passengers would use the facility the first year. This was an important milepost in efforts over a period of many years to establish Houston as an aviation center. Through the years, the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Houston worked together on airport facilities, airline service, and accommodations for private flying. The beginning was modest.
In June 24, 1927, the "Houston Chronicle" reported: "Houston now has an airport and within a few months planes will be arriving and leaving as regularly as trains." That airport had no runways, no lights, no drainage. Three or four private planes, the 111th National Guard Squadron, and one mail plane daily used the cow pasture airport with its one small "terminal" building and a tiny hangar huddled in the northwest corner while the southwest corner of the 193-acre field contained the frame office building, two small metal hangars and the supply building of the National Guard Unit.
Airline service was inaugurated by Braniff in 1935 and by Eastern in 1936. In 1940, an administration building and a nearby hangar were completed at a cost of $250,000. These were used until the modern terminal was opened in 1954. Year after year additional service was started, and in 1946 Houston was recognized as an International Air Gateway, culminating long efforts by the Chamber of Commerce.
The opening of the $7,000,000 push-button, gravity-switching Englewood Yards by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1954 marked another of an even longer line of achievements in the field of Houston’s transportation. On August 22, 1853, the little wood-burning engine "General Sherman" chugged out of Harrisburg, trailing smoke from its funnel-shaped stack, pulling a few small coaches and making history as the first train to operate in Texas- the second west of the Mississippi River by only a few months.
The end of the track was at Stafford’s Point, about 20 miles to the west. This early line is now a part of the Southern Pacific system. At that time, Harris County had a population of 5,000. By 1954, after Houston had long since been acclaimed as the city "Where 17 Railroads Meet the Sea", the railroads operating in the Houston area were paying over $44,000,000 annually in salaries to 12,864 employees.
Local transportation was becoming an increasing problem. On the basis of several traffic studies, a comprehensive transportation plan was developed for Houston. This included controls for on-street parking, one-way streets, improvement of traffic-control signals, restrictions on turning movements at major intersections, regulation of bus and truck loading and unloading, elimination of angle parking, and regulation and control of pedestrian movements.
During 1954, a new television station, KTRK-TV, Channel 13,went on the air. Convention activity reached an all-time high, and a Foreign Trade Institute was sponsored by the World Trade Committee of the Chamber of Commerce. Sharpstown was projected as the nation’s largest subdivision, with its 6,500 acres forecast to become a $400,000,000 city of 25,000 homes. The twelve-month period showed increases in automobile and truck registrations in Harris County from 382,315 to 426,059; bank deposits from $ 1,674,000,000 to $1,775,075,000; non-residential construction from $151,977,965 to $173,349,152, and residential construction from $134,504,000 to $156,468,000.
Summarizing the leadership of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, President Howard T. Tellepsen said: "Bringing into close cooperation all the economic and cultural elements soundly striving for a better as well as a bigger Houston, this active Chamber of Commerce finds and develops local leadership and organizes unified local effort to follow that leadership through a coordinated and comprehensive program of work to take maximum advantage of opportunities while successfully solving problems of growth.
"Leadership brought industries to transform natural resources into useful products. Leadership dug a 50-mile deepwater ship channel along a twisting bayou and through a shallow bay to reach the Gulf of Mexico and connect with the shipping lanes of the world. Leadership brought to focus in Houston a far-reaching network of railroads and roads and airways and inland waterways to capitalize on Houston’s geographic advantage. Leadership looks ahead and plans for the future.