YEARS OF CONSOLIDATION (1955-1960)
During the 1950’s, a new pattern of urban development became apparent in Houston, as the city’s population pressures pushed outward, with the city limits attempting through a sound annexation program to keep step with the dispersion of residential areas. During the decade, the population within the city limits grew from 596,163 to 938,219, and Harris County grew from 806,701 to 1,243,158. In 1950, with a labor force of 340,000, unemployment was at 5.3 percent, but in 1960 with a labor force of 520,000, the unemployed represented only 4.4 percent. There were 66,250 employed in manufacturing in 1950, with 93,650 ten years later. Houston was learning to live with a new pattern of urban development.
Beginning the diversification that was to characterize Houston’s development during the first half of the 1960 decade, the Chamber of Commerce expanded its convention activities and inaugurated a tourism program on an area-wide basis. "In addition to being important producers of new income for the area," said President Jaworski, "tourism and conventions are of direct value in our industrial and commercial development program. The Houston area sells itself best to those who come here and see what is going on and what the long-range opportunities are here."
In the April issue of "Houston Magazine", President Jaworski urged Houston to meet the challenge of the "surging sixties." He said: "Houston now has the potential to profit from an entirely new type of major industrial development, but to do so it must design a dynamic program and expand consumer-goods and end-product industries. This requires a shift in attitude and action.
Because this area enjoys the greatest concentration of natural resources in any comparable area in the world, complemented by the Ship Channel’s magnetic pull on world commerce, much of Houston’s remarkable past development was a natural result of a favorable combination of advantages. But these conditions are changing. Do not expect any automatic development. Competition is growing, already increasingly keen across the country as cities seek consumer-goods and end-product industries. Communities are conducting intense promotional programs of major magnitude and are making concessions of all sorts to secure the new-payroll job-generating industries essential to assure their future.
"Houston must capitalize on its opportunities or, just as any other city, it can be overtaken by the competition. With adequate industrial water indicated in the foreseeable future, the Chamber of Commerce must accelerate its intensive planning program to make this new water supply a decisive factor in driving the Houston area economy forward faster toward an even more prosperous destiny."
Some years before, the Chamber of Commerce had become aware of the uncomfortably over-crowded work areas in the obsolete structure which housed Houston’s main post office. Air conditioning was urgently needed to increase operating efficiency. Working through Congressman Albert Thomas, the Chamber of Commerce brought these conditions to the attention of the proper officials in Washington. After a series of promises without performance, air conditioning was finally installed at the downtown post office, which had been built originally for a community of 50,000 people.
The Chamber of Commerce recognized this work as being merely a temporary and stop-gap measure; and as the city’s demand for postal service piled up and back-logged, the Chamber of Commerce supported Postmaster Granville Elder and—again working through Congressman Thomas—presented a complete analysis of the post office situation in Houston to the Post Office Department. Years of unflagging perseverance finally paid off, and by 1960 plans were under way for a new and modern postal facility on the site of the Southern Pacific Railroad station at the north end of the expanded Civic Center.
From the time of the founding of Houston, its post office was relocated periodically in various buildings according to the fancy of each new postmaster. The first permanent address was the building still in use in 1960 that was built in 1912 at a cost of $450,000. The last major addition had come in 1936.
By June of 1960, preliminary figures for the decennial census showed that Houston had moved from 14th place in the nation in 1950 to 6th place in 1960. Only three of the 15 largest cities reported by the 1950 census were still growing in 1960, according to the preliminary reports of the Census Bureau—Houston, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee. Houston’s growth was 56.4 percent, while that for Los Angeles was 24.2 percent, and Milwaukee’s substantially smaller. "Houston in the past 10 years has grown almost seven times as fast as the average of American big cities," a Washington source said.
Houston was surpassed only by New York’s 7,660,000, Chicago’s 3,492,954, Los Angeles’ 2,448,018, Philadelphia’s 1,959,966, and Detroit’s 1,672,574. Some months later, when the headcount had been made overseas and these figures added to the preliminary figures released earlier, Baltimore, which ranked seventh in the earlier count with 921,363, had moved back into sixth place with a much larger overseas figure. However, by the time this was determined, the difference in the rate of growth of the two cities had already put Houston back in 6th place.
A huge billboard wrote "Houston" high in the sky in letters 14 feet tall in New York City’s Times Square to tell the story of Houston’s population growth and newly achieved status as the nation’s 6th largest city. Calling a truce to customarily keen day-to-day competition, a Houston newspaper, with three television stations and seven radio stations, financed the joint venture. A 62-foot billboard, 41 feet high, was set up on top of a building in Times Square where millions of people read the message identifying Houston as America’s No. 6 city. Advertisements for the same group of media were published in a selected list of six different national periodicals, tying in with a program being sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce urging local firms who advertised nationally to promote Houston.
In December, 1960, it was announced by Maurice Hirsch, president of the Houston Symphony Society, that Sir John Barbirolli would become principal conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra succeeding Leopold Stokowski, who had resigned after six years as director of the Houston Symphony. Houston’s orchestra had finally made the major league.
A new era in Houston’s transportation history opened September 25 when a gleaming, golden-tailed Continental Air Lines Boeing 707 jet liner roared off the runway at Houston International Airport. This marked another milepost after a tumultuous history of effort by the City of Houston and the Chamber of Commerce. While decision was still being awaited in the Southern Service to the West Case, after much urging from local interests, Continental and American Air Lines agreed to inaugurate jet service on their interchange route to the West Coast. President Jaworski next turned his attention to National Air Lines, and received assurance of the early inauguration of jet service between Miami and Houston, to give Houston its first all-jet southern transcontinental service, although by three separate corners.
In the meantime, Braniff Airways started jet service between Houston and Chicago, and Delta Airlines instituted jet service also from Houston to Chicago, with Eastern Airlines and Delta both operating jets between Houston and New York, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines operating jet service to Europe. Pan American World Airways started jet service to Mexico December 1st. Thus, almost overnight, Houston became one of the nation’s principal jet air-transportation centers. Plans were already under way to establish Houston’s position in the supersonic age whenever it might come, and the new airport north of the city was already being designed for supersonic planes.
Recognizing the growing volume of tourist business, the Chamber of Commerce became more active in this field. President Jaworski appointed a top-level committee to recommend the direction the Chamber of Commerce should take in a program to attract more tourists. The matter was approached on a long-range basis, and from an area-wide point of view. Members of the committee were: W. B. Bates, Herman Brown, George Carmack, Morgan J. Davis, James A. Elkins, Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby, John T. Jones, Jr., J. W. McLean, P. H. Robinson, Gardiner Symonds, and Gus S. Wortham, with Ben C. Belt as chairman. This committee decided:
1. That the Chamber of Commerce should launch as soon as possible a long-range, area-wide program to attract more tourists to the Houston area.
2. That President Jaworski should appoint a representative committee to find out what local groups are now interested in tourist promotion and what they are doing; to determine on some priority basis the major tourist-attraction assets of the Houston area; to coordinate the efforts of those interests in tourism development and to get them to selling major tourist assets more effectively; to brief those who have the initial contacts with tourists (such as hotel and motel and restaurant employees, retail clerks, policemen, etc.) on handling visitors; and to develop other steps for later consideration by the Special Tourism Committee.
In April, the Chamber of Commerce again urged the city to proceed with the purchase of the site for the new Intercontinental Airport, and such action was taken by the city council within a few days. By official action, the Chamber of Commerce paid tribute to the 18 local businessmen who had bought the land and held it for the city’s purchase at the price they paid, even though by this time they could have sold the land for three times as much as they paid for it. At long last, Houston’s second major airport was under way.
President Jaworski headed a trade trip to Central America on January 16-30, visiting all of the Central American countries, meeting with public officials, and exchanging trade information with the business leaders of those countries.
During 1960, President Jaworski negotiated a new financial arrangements between the Greater Houston Bowl Association and The Rice Institute to help alleviate the budget problems of the post-season football game sponsors. He negotiated several matters in connection with the liquidation of the Houston Buff franchise to clear the way for a National League franchise. And he sought to resolve the differences between the City of Houston and some of its adjacent municipalities over annexation conflicts. This controversy delayed announcements for the development of its West Ranch property by the Humble Oil & Refining Company.
During the year, the services of a Washington representative were engaged. Contacts were made in connection with the United States and Mexican bilateral treaty on air service. Long-range planning by the Chamber of Commerce, working in close cooperation with public officials in all units of local government, paid handsome dividends to the community during 1960. A number of projects of major significance to the city’s well-being came to fruition during the year, or reached a stage of firm assurance, to emphasize anew the basic role of the Chamber of Commerce in the community’s development along sound and proper lines.