YEARS OF EXPANSION (1950-1955)
While the advent of the future space program, which was to play such an important role in the development of Houston, was little expected here at the time, the "Dawn of the Space Age" was actually hailed in 1955. On July 29th of that year, the White House and the National Academy of Science with the National Science Foundation announced joint plans to "study the utility of a vehicle revolving endlessly about the earth, high above the atmosphere, as an artificial satellite". Our scientists began to realize for the first time how close we are to "space", how tenuous the atmosphere layer really is. For three decades, discussion of space travel had been under way. This had brought a realization that space science involved astronomy, zoology, mathematics, metallurgy, mechanical engineering and medicine.
Already the 20th Century had brought the beginning of heavier-than-air flight, the revolutionary theory of relativity, and the release of atomic energy. It was forecast that the accelerating pace of technology seemed to assure that during the last half of the 20th Century there might be at least one-way flights to the moon by unmanned rockets.
Other highlights were noted in 1955. Argentina overthrew Juan Peron from his dictatorship. A "summit conference" at Geneva resulted in a marked easing of the cold war. Racial segregation on interstate trains and buses and racial segregation in the public schools of the nation were banned by the United States Supreme Court. Financial aid to South Vietnam began. Tranquilizers came into widespread use, and the effectiveness of Salk vaccine was established. The federal minimum wage was raised from 75 per hour to $1.00.
Riding an economic updraft, which gained acceleration during the last half of 1954, metropolitan Houston started 1955 with all major economic indicators trending upward. Ben C. Belt began his unprecedented four year term as president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce. On January 1, 1955, it was estimated that metropolitan Houston, or Harris County, had 1,023,000 population, with 714,000 in Houstonís incorporated area alone. The Research Department of the Chamber of Commerce used a mathematical formula to forecast metropolitan Houstonís growth, as follows: 1960-1,230,000; 1970-1,780,000; 1975-2,308,000; and 1980-2,850,000. The actual population of Harris County (metropolitan Houston), as tabulated by the U. S. Bureau of the Census in 1960 was 1,243,158.
The Research Department explained when these projections were made that the rate of growth would have to be sustained if these mathematical projections were to be firm. Said Dr. F. A. Buechel:
"Rate of growth is directly dependent on the rate of industrial expansion. Houston must grow industrially if it is to grow in any other dimensions. Manufacturing has been-now is-and in the future must be the dynamic factor in the Houston economy.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 1955, the Y.W.C.A. recalled its founding in Houston in 1907, with Mrs. M. A. McDowell as president of the Board. The associationís first home was at 805 Main Street, where six rooms and a barn were rented for a lunch room and tea room. In 1908, a fully equipped gymnasium was operated. The following year, Mrs. Harris Masterson was elected president, and Mrs. E. A. Peden was a Board member. Junior Achievement Week was also observed in January, 1955. This youth program was introduced to Houston in 1946 and began with seven companies, advised by 25 local business men.
Magazine Has 25th Anniversary
The "Houston Magazine" observed its 25th anniversary in 1955 with the February issue. Its publication began in February, 1930, when Houston had a population of 292,352. The first issue had 32 pages, including covers. There were 17 advertisements, and one of these was a "house ad" for the magazine itself. Writing in the first issue were Judge W. O. Higgins, then editor of the "Houston Chronicle", F. M. Law, C. S. E. Holland, A. D. Simpson, Hugh Potter, and Col. R. C. Kuldell. The magazine began under the editorship of Burt Rule, with Jeff Barnette as business manager. A few years later, in 1935, Charles E. Gilbert, Jr., began a term as editor that was to continue until June, 1954.
In these days when a high percentage of Harris Countyís 800,000 automobiles and trucks are air conditioned, it is interesting to read in the March, 1955, issue of the "Houston Magazine" that there were 8,000 air-conditioned automobiles in use in southeastern Texas, with approximately 100,000 in the entire United States. "It seems probable," said the editor, "that in time, optional air conditioning will be a factory-or auto-assembly point-installation as are other major accessories.
The Houston Symphony Orchestra began to achieve new stature in 1955 when world-famed Leopold Stokowski was appointed as resident conductor. He came to Houston from 29 years as conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony. He wired Miss Ima Hogg, Symphony Society president, "I am certain we can develop a great instrument of which Houston and Texas can be proud and an orchestra that can express every kind of music. I shall enjoy devoting all my experience and energy to this ideal."
The World Trade Show as a part of the Houston observance of World Trade Week was started in 1954 by the World Trade Committee of the Chamber of Commerce with an exhibit taking one room in the Navigation District Building and with about 3,000 visiting the show. It was materially enlarged in 1955 and moved to the exhibit hall of the Shamrock Hotel.
In a report updating its earlier surveys, the Water Supply Committee of the Chamber of Commerce again stressed the importance of providing a long-range water supply. Further development of the San Jacinto River, with concurrent consideration of the Trinity River, and of additional well fields, was recommended for a balanced program of development.
The Public Health Committee of the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a program during 1955 to help meet the growing need for nurses in the Houston area. Harris County showed 34 hospitals, with 5,423 beds and 621 bassinets, representing assets of more than $52,000,000, and with a combined annual payroll of $19,000,000 and total operating expenses of $31,000,000. A special program was inaugurated to encourage retired nurses to become active again and to popularize nurse training.
Among the important personalities visiting Houston during 1955 were: Prince Albert of Belgium; President Carlos Castillo Armas of Guatemala and his wife; British Parliament Member William M. Fletcher-Vane; Yusuke Tsurumi, representative of the Japanese Prime Minister; and A. D. T. Heeney, Canadian Ambassador to the United States.
Climaxing a year of achievement, the Chamber of Commerce held its 115th annual banquet, with Boyd Campbell, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, as the speaker. He said that business was increasingly meeting its responsibilities to community life, but that there was still a long way to go because of the lag between the advances of science-technology and the progress of our moral-spiritual development.