THE END AND THE BEGINNING (1940-1945)
These were some of the factors that could be listed on the asset side of Houston’s ledger in 1945. The building of a city involves the anticipation of its problems and the development of solutions for them before they reach such an emergency stage that they create barriers to growth and development. While it was not obvious at the time, indications were already manifesting themselves that the continued growth and improvement of Houston as a great and dynamic city would depend upon meeting many challenges. In 1945, Jesse H. Jones, while in Washington said:
"Houston is going to continue to grow. The job of the Chamber of Commerce will be to do those things that will make Houston a great city as well as a big city."
Developments since that time have indicated very clearly that most of the steps necessary to achieve the goal stated by Mr. Jones rest with the vision, the initiative and the action of the people of Houston. As I see it now, the more important goals for Houston in 1945 included these:
Job creation through the greater utilization of natural resources and the broader diversification of the area’s economy.
Rebuilding and expanding the trade and tonnage volume flowing through the Port of Houston from the low levels to which it had dropped during the war years.
Provision of a large, dependable and long-range supply of fresh water for both domestic and industrial use.
Development of more adequate hospital and other health facilities.
Expansion of the public educational system in step with the growing scholastic population and extensions in the field of higher education.
Rounding out the transportation facilities of Houston by elevating it to its more rightful place in aviation.
Expansion of research and development activities as a step toward the attraction of the science-oriented industries of the coming generation.
Upgrading the physical plant of the city with particular emphasis on downtown renewal.
Recognition of the new pattern of urban growth with a power balance between central city and shopping centers. Development of freeways, thoroughfares and parking facilities.
More adequate development in the fine arts to make the community more culturally attractive.
Expansion of recreational facilities and sports activities.
Provision of adequate flood protection for all parts of Harris County.
Proper attention to the development of church structures and programs to serve the spiritual needs of the growing population.
Houston draws on built-in strength, emphasized Research Department Manager Howard N. Martin of the Chamber of Commerce in air-service testimony before the Civil Aeronautics Board. "The Houston economy is complex and diversified, drawing its strength from many lines of endeavor. By nearly all economic yardsticks, Houston is the top-ranking center of industrial and business activity in the Southwest which, in turn, is one of the fastest-growing areas of the United States."
Thus in Houston and elsewhere, the surging vitality of America during the last twenty decisive years has brought sensational change in a period of phenomenal growth that has altered the face of this country and of our area. Millions of people have moved into new suburban areas, while ribbons of superhighways and whole new patterns of air service have sought to provide physical means for national unity. During this period, the face of Houston has been completely remade, as the urbanized area has reached into the countryside in every direction, as freeways thread their way outward from the inner loop, as thousands of acres north of the city are being transformed from grazing lands into a new intercontinental airport designed to accommodate the supersonic jets of the future, and as thousands of acres southeast of the city are being developed into the nation’s headquarters for man’s exploration of space.
With the nation now spending as much every five years on research as it did in the entire first 200 years of its history, the prospect of even more amazing accomplishments lies ahead. This outlook takes on significance as we review the achievements since 1945. Television was new, and the four-engine piston-powered airplane was being introduced for service on domestic airlines. The superhighways existed largely in planners dreams, with some preliminary planning being done on the Gulf Freeway to Galveston. The ranch-type house was being introduced, and air-conditioning was included only in the most expensive homes. Most passenger automobiles still had six-cylinder engines and lacked air-conditioning, automatic transmissions, power steering and power brakes as well as tubeless tires. Company pensions, hospital insurance and long vacations were still the exception rather than the rule.
Home ownership has increased and the physical comforts of family homes have reached a level not even approached in the palaces of the past. Products that have come into general use in the last two decades include automatic dishwashers, freezers, garbage disposals, high-fidelity phonographs and tape-recorders, power lawn-mowers, glass-fiber boats, instant foods, detergents, and filtered cigarettes.
The decisive decades since the end of World War II have been an age of miracles, a period of unprecedented change and growth; but we are also seeing a technological revolution that forecasts even greater miracles and more revolutionary changes in the decades that lie immediately ahead. From 1836 to 1945, the primary emphasis in Houston was on growth, but the emphasis in the years ahead has to be on the factors that will make this growth—that is destined to come—livable, wholesome, and inspiring. The transition from war to peace in 1945 marked the beginning of twenty dynamic years that have been decisive in their impact on Houston. It is to be hoped that a study of this period will help us chart an even more constructive course for Houston’s future.