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Munn, W.T. Jr. Printing Company. A Little Bit of Czechoslovakia. Lester Strother Collection (AR0327), University of North Texas Special Collections

The Lester Strother collection not only contains information about the growth and development of the Southwest Metroplex, but also surrounding communities and other regions throughout Texas. Many small towns that were just beginning to grow would send information to the Texas Metro Magazine about upcoming events to attract people from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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A Little Bit of Czechoslovakia, May 6-7 1971. Lester Strother Collection (AR0327), University of North Texas Special Collections.

One such event is the National Polka Festival in Ennis, debuting in 1967.  The festival was started by a group of men (Raymond Zapletal, Len Gehrig, and Joe Liska), who got the idea after visiting other Czechoslovakian communities around the United States who had a large interest in polka bands. Figuring they would be able to bring these people to the small town of Ennis, they proposed their idea to Ennis Chamber of Commerce manager Jack McKay in 1967.

In the beginning the festival was held on the first weekend in May (later it was moved to Memorial Day weekend). The festival gathered people from Czechoslovakian communities all over Texas as well as other areas of the United States, to indulge in traditional Czechoslovakian festivities and food, and of course the main attraction, polka music.

The festival was a two day event, starting with a parade (now one of the largest parades in the DFW Metroplex) Saturday morning, followed by dancers adorned in traditional Czech costumes dancing in the streets and the Czech fraternal halls: KJT Hall (Katolická Jednota Texaská – Catholic Union of Texas), the KC Hall (Knights of Columbus), and Sokol. The Beseda Dancers would also perform with the official dance of ancient Czechoslovakia. Events throughout the two days would consist of polka music from bands such as the Lee Roy Matocha Orchestra from the small town of Fayetteville Texas, and the Vrazel Polka Band from Buckholts Texas. Traditional klabase (sausage) could be found everyday along with sauerkraut and homemade kolaches.

Within the first few years the festival was already a success, attracting over 30,000 people. It grew to become the largest Czech festival in the United States, bringing such bands as Grammy award winning Brave Combo, Czech and Then Some, and others from across the United States and the Czech Republic. Now spanning over three days, the festival brings over 50,000 people.

-by Jaime Janda

 

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Artist’s Rendition of Flower Mound. Lester Strother Collection (AR0327), University of North Texas Special Collections

With a population hovering around 63,000 today, the city of Flower Mound is a vibrant and prosperous Dallas suburb. However, the city at one time hoped to harbor a population of 100,000 before the start of the 21st century. This lofty goal sprung from a 1968 decision, in which the town was chosen to take part in the New Communities Act under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The new communities chosen were expected to act as model cities in aspects of transportation, education, healthcare, environmental control, community safety, and cultural diversity.

Flower Mound was selected to take part in the New Communities Act for several reasons. The small agricultural town was in close proximity to both Dallas and Fort Worth, and it was expected to appeal to those that wanted to avoid the big cities. Developers even thought that the establishment of Flower Mound New Town would prevent the urban sprawl of other metropolitan areas. Population in the region was also expected to rise due to the construction of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport, located only four miles southeast of town.

Partners in the development of Flower Mound New Town were Edward S. Marcus (chairman of the board of Neiman-Marcus) and Raymond D. Nasher (president of the Raymond D. Nasher Company). New Town would encompass 6,156 acres within the existing town limits of Flower Mound, which consisted of 17,588 acres. 48% of land was destined for residential use, which would be broken up into fourteen neighborhoods to be built within 20 years. Each neighborhood was expected to house approximately 5,000 people and contain 1,400 housing units, a shopping center, and an elementary school. Junior high and high schools, as well as other commercial establishments, would be developed within four village centers. Following housing, parks and open landscape were planned to take up the most space–an entire 24%.

By the mid 1970’s, however, the New Town project was let go. The recession in 1973-1975, changing federal policy, and slow land sales were all partially to blame. In 1974, partners Marcus and Nash left the venture. In 1976, Housing and Urban Development decided to foreclose on the project.

More information about Flower Mound New Town can be found in the Lester Strother collection, which contains a development proposal and plans for the community by the Raymond D. Nasher Company. The Model Cities collection also contains information about the project in Flower Mound, as well as the development of the program in the rest of America’s southwest region. The collection houses documents examining the sixteen communities chosen to take part in the program in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

-by Alexandra Traxinger Schütz

 

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In 1992, the Trinity Route, an idea born in 1967, was granted a new chance at life. Dallas political leaders began promoting a plan to build a section of the planned toll road around downtown, from SH 183 to US 175. This stretch of road would connect the northwest and southeast parts of the city. The Trinity Route was now dubbed the Trinity Parkway, and it would eventually be adopted by the behemoth Trinity Corridor plan (which features an enhanced natural landscape, new recreational areas, and other transportation improvements for cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians) as part of a much greater project. In 2015, construction of the toll road has yet to begin, and Dallas voters will be heavily weighing their opinions on the project when they head to the polls this May.

When Ron Kirk became Dallas mayor in 1995, his top priority was to see the Trinity Corridor plan succeed. Three years later, Dallas voters narrowly approved a Trinity Corridor bond issue, which allocated 246 million dollars toward the entire Corridor project, 84 million dollars of which was designated for construction of the Parkway. In 2007, voters turned out again to approve construction of the parkway after opponents, led by city council member Angela Hunt, forced a referendum on the project. Concerns about the safety of the highway, which included sand being found beneath the levees by the Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina, were key factors this time around. However, many have cited this vote as unfairly confusing, because a vote of “No” on the proposition was a vote in favor of the Parkway.

In the time since, opponents have picked up on several drawbacks of the toll road. Currently, the Parkway is planned to run for 8.5 miles, much of it in between the Trinity River levees and alongside a floodwall. However, flooding is still possible, which would result in expensive evacuation efforts and repairs on the road. Many citizens worry about the dangers the highway poses to the natural land around the river. Additionally, current studies show that the Parkway would have a minimal impact on traffic conditions, only increasing speed in the area by 2 MPH. Perhaps most important, the majority of funding for the Parkway has yet to be identified.

This year, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings runs against Marcos Ronquillo, a Dallas attorney. Ronquillo believes that the Parkway will bring more prosperity to the suburbs, ignoring Dallas’ urban core. Rawlings continues to advocate for the entire Corridor plan.

UNT’s Lester Strother and Texas Metro Magazine collection contain grey literature pertaining to the history of the Trinity Route as it was envisioned by the Texas Turnpike Authority. Texas Metro Magazine was established largely to promote the development of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport and was headed by publisher Lester Strother. Because the new toll road was expected to bring traffic to the airport, the magazine highly favored the venture.The collection features over 20 linear feet of photographs, as well as correspondence with contractors seeking advertising space within the magazine and other articles about the airport’s development.

-by Alexandra Traxinger Schütz

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trinityroute01It may be difficult to believe that, until 1966, a non-stop route between eastern Dallas and western Fort Worth didn’t exist. Today, the highways connecting the two cities, as well as all the cities in between them, make Dallas-Fort Worth inseparable. The two stretches of road that contributed most to this feat are the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike, which opened in 1957, and Interstate 20, which was completed in early 1966.

The relatively young Texas Turnpike Authority (TTA) had overseen two successful projects since its establishment in 1953: the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike, which opened in 1957, and the Dallas North Tollway, which opened in 1968, when it decided to embark on a new venture. In 1967, the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Transportation Study published a map featuring the “River Freeway” as part of its long-term plan for highway construction in North Texas. The route connected Dallas with Grand Prairie. The TTA began considering this new River Freeway following a one-year study in which it was determined that a new highway system was necessary to support the region’s growth predictions. An estimated daily increase of 200,000 vehicles, combined with the impending completion of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport, were high motivators to build the toll road. With these needs in mind, the TTA created a plan for the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike Trinity Route, a 25-mile long road north of the current turnpike, along the Trinity River. As had been done with the original turnpike, the TTA expected to fund much of the project through toll revenue.

The TTA envisioned nothing but success for the Trinity Route. Its six-lane structure with a 70 MPH speed limit would provide ample room for the region’s mushrooming population, and it would support the booming economic growth Dallas was experiencing. To support its stance on the need for the tollway, the TTA cited the population growth in Arlington and other mid-cities. (After completing the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike, Arlington’s population jumped from 7,000 to 100,000.) In general, Dallas citizens and leaders believed that the Trinity Route would eventually be necessary, but support for the project weakened due to rising construction costs and other budgetary restrictions. Though the project was again popularized in the mid-1980’s as a means of reducing traffic on Stemmons Freeway, the project continued to be financially impossible.

 

Grey literature included in UNT’s Lester Strother and Texas Metro Magazine collection highlights news regarding the TTA’s plans for the Trinity Route. This literature includes unpublished, but finished, articles written for the magazine, studies conducted by the TTA, as well as photographs and artist’s renderings of the highway. The Texas Metro Magazine was established largely to promote the development of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport and was headed by publisher Lester Strother. Because the new toll road was expected to bring traffic to the airport, the magazine highly favored the venture.The collection features over 20 linear feet of photographs, as well as correspondence with contractors seeking advertising space within the magazine and other articles about the airport’s development.

-by Alexandra Traxinger Schütz

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Fans enjoying watching the Texas Rangers play a home game during their first ever season in 1972.

Texas Rangers Game. Lester Strother Collection (AR0327), University of North Texas Special Collections

The Texas Rangers will be starting their 2015 Spring Training Season coming up on March 4th, a little over a month before the their 2015 Season opener game against the Houston Astros on April 10th. This will be the Rangers 43rd season playing in Arlington, the first being in the Arlington Stadium on April 21, 1972 against the Angels, wining 7-6.  This game was the first Major League game to be played in the Arlington Stadium and in North Texas.  This was the only other Major League Baseball stadium apart from Colt Stadium, which housed the Houston Colt .45s temporarily from 1962-1964; and the Astrodome, where in 1965, the team moved to and was renamed as the Houston Astros.

Before the Arlington Stadium was home to the Texas Rangers, the stadium was home to the minor league team, Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, and the stadium itself was called Turnpike Stadium.  Construction on Turnpike Stadium began in September of 1964 and held its first game in 1965. Even though it originally seated only 10,000, it was built so that the seating could be expanded up to 50,000 (it also was originally built to attract a Major League team).  The Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs played in the Turnpike Stadium for 7 years, until in 1972 when a new franchise moved in from Washington, DC. The Washington Senators majority was purchased by Robert E. Short in December of 1968, and finally moved to Arlington in 1971.

With the coming of Major League Baseball to the Turnpike Stadium, it was enlarged from 20,000 seats (first seat enlargement occurred in October 1970) to seat a little over 35,500, and was also renamed as Arlington Stadium. After the Texas Rangers played in the Arlington Stadium for a little over four years, the City of Arlington and the Texas Rangers agreed on a plan in December of 1976 to enlarge the stadium to seat 42, 000, and be renovated over the next two years.  They continued to play in the Arlington Stadium throughout the next 17 years, during which time the Rangers purchased the Stadium from the City of Arlington, and with the City announced plans to build a new ballpark and complex adjacent to the old stadium. The Arlington Stadium saw its final game on October 3, 1993 with over 41,000 attending.  The 1994 season opened in “The Ballpark in Arlington” stadium (Ameriquest Field), which much of us know today, on April 1st (in 2007 it was renamed as Rangers Ballpark).

When the original Stadium was built in 1964, the only other attractions in the vicinity was Six Flags over Texas (1961-present), the Seven Seas (1972-1976), the Globe Life Park (1994), and finally the AT&T Stadium in 2009.  Other than that the area surrounding didn’t see much development in these 43 years and was mostly surrounded by parking lots, open fields, and highways. The building of AT&T Stadium did however provide over thousands of jobs, and expanded the tax revenue.  Today, there are a plethora of hotels, restaurants, shopping and office spaces, and nearby residential communities. Anywhere there are residential communities, there is a need for retail stores and so on.  The development around the Rangers Ballpark may have not been growing as rapidly as the City of Arlington had originally hoped, but in recent years the growth has made up for that slack.

-by Jaime Janda

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RichardsonNBCScriptAs odd as it may sound today to describe Richardson as a sleepy farm village, this is exactly how it was viewed less than 70 years ago. Boasting a population of just 1,300 in 1950, the town would soon experience rapid growth as Central Expressway-a main Dallas transportation artery-neared completion only a few years later.

This news footage from 1956 digitized from the KXAS/NBC 5 News Collection documents the early stages of Richardson’s building boom as a new city hall and post office are built to keep up with the increasing population. Highlights of the video include shots of Richardson’s old water tower; the opening of a new post office; the construction of a new City Hall; and the addition of a new fire station next to the old City Hall. The news script used to describe the contents of the footage as it aired on television is also included in the collection.

Acquired by UNT Special Collections earlier this year, the KXAS/NBC 5 News Collection is comprised of thousands of reels of tapes, scripts, log books, and other materials from Texas’s first television station, WBAP-TV (later known as KXAS NBC 5). Covering the decades of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the collection documents the local political, social, and cultural landscapes of DFW during the postwar years and includes footage pertaining to everything from weather-related events to city councils meetings, segregation and racial strife, county fairs and parades, and local crime. A small portion of footage that has already been digitized can be found in the The Portal to Texas History.

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convention_0As the number of visitor friendly attractions, venues, and businesses continue to rise in the DFW area, so too does the stature of the city of Dallas as a major player in the convention business game. Now competing with the likes of major convention cities such as Las Vegas, Orlando, and Chicago, Dallas has begun cracking many top ten lists of convention destinations. The number of citywide conventions-those in which 2,500 rooms are booked on the peak night-that Dallas hosts each year has jumped from 8 to 31 over the past 11 years resulting in big business for the metroplex. The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated convention business accounted for $1.6 in economic impact for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

An early proponent of Dallas as a convention destination was prominent Dallasite Alvin Owsley (1888-1967). A former National Commander of the American Legion and United States Ambassador to Romania, Ireland, and Denmark, Owsley was instrumental in bringing the 1964 American Legion National Convention to Dallas. Owsley and other city leaders believed Dallas to be on the verge of becoming a world-class city and wished to attract national attention in order to increase the city’s stature. Planning for the 1964 American Legion National Convention commenced in 1963 amidst much excitement. Something that could not be anticipated by Owsley and event organizers, however, was the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas’s own Dealey Plaza in the fall of 1963.

As a result of the assassination, the national profile of Dallas was dealt a major blow with many expressing misgivings, fear, or even hatred of the city in the days, weeks, and months that followed. Due to the highly emotionally charged atmosphere permeating the nation at the time, Owsley hurriedly engaged in a flurry of letter writing to assure Legionnaires and other planners that Dallas was committed to democratic ideas and principles and that the events of November 22, 1963 should not forever taint the city and its residents.

These letters as well as other materials such as programs, signs, parade routes, photos, and clippings related to the 1964 American Legion National Convention comprise part of the Owsley Collection and document the planning and organizing of one of Dallas’s earliest large scale conventions. Shown above is a photograph pulled from the collection of a booth advertising the convention featuring a cardboard cutout of Owsley standing before a large photo of the Dallas skyline.

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Big TexThe annual celebration of all things fried, also known as the State Fair of Texas, wrapped up its 2014 season with record breaking numbers last weekend. According to published reports, the nation’s largest state fair generated a whopping 42 million dollars this year, smashing the previous record of 37.3 million dollars set in 2010. The event held each year at Dallas’s Fair Park attracts Texas-sized crowds from far and wide to ride the rides, chow down on some fried (insert most any edible concoction imaginable here), and, of course, proffer Big Tex a hospitable howdy.

Pulled from the Lester Strother Texas Metro Records Collection, the accompanying photos of the Texas State Fair during the 1960s highlight just how much the Midway has changed-and remained the same-over the years. Standing tall to welcome the crowds to the fair in the above image is the beloved figure of Big Tex.

As the most recognizable symbol of the State Fair, the 55 ft. structure known as Big Tex was heartily welcomed back to the fairgrounds last year after his spectacularly crackling demise in 2012. (For those unfamiliar with the fiery calamity, Big Tex sadly succumbed to injuries sustained when he inadvertently doubled as bonfire kindling and went up in flames during the final week of the 2012 State Fair.)

Big Tex’s triumphant return to the fairgrounds last year marked only one of a number of transformations the giant cowboy has undergone since his original manifestation as a 49 ft. Santa Claus built by the city of Kerens, Texas in 1949. After only two years spreading holiday cheer in Kerens, the looming iron and paper-mache Santa decided to trade in his white beard and red suit for a cowboy hat and boots when he was sold to the Texas State Fair. Since his fairground debut in 1952, Big Tex has continuously undergone several outfit, structural, and voice changes. Of course, the biggest transformation to occur to the colossal cowboy since his early conversion from jolly old Santa was in 2013 when he re-emerged from the ashes of 2012 3 feet taller and sporting a nifty fire suppression system should he start to feel a little hot under the collar again. And this year witnessed even further enhancements to the re-incarnation of Big Tex: a brand new outfit and 9 additional movements, including the entertaining (or somewhat terrifying) ability to raise his arm and point down at fair-goers.

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Stockyards Mag CoverAffectionately known as Cowtown, the city of Fort Worth has enjoyed a long and colorful association with cattle and livestock throughout its history. Originally a cattle driving stop along the famed Chisolm Trail, the arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railway in 1876 transformed both the city and the livestock business. Boston businessmen Greenleif Simpson and Louville Niles recognized the potential of the city as a major cattle shipment hub and, along with other investors, purchased the Fort Worth Stockyards Company in 1893. Other businesses were soon lured to the Stockyards sparking a boom in business and construction in the area.

In 1944, at the height of business for the Stockyards, 5,277,496 head of livestock were processed. This would signal the peak of the livestock business for the Stockyards, however, as the following years began to witness a long and steady decline. Many attribute the decline to the explosion of highway growth that occurred during the postwar years across America and the rise of the trucking industry as a cheaper and more flexible alternative to the rail transport of livestock.

The Fort Worth Stockyards now serves as mainly a historical district and major tourist destination, although some livestock business is still conducted there. The Fort Worth Stockyards Company Records Collection contains extensive holdings documenting the business records and activities of the Stockyards and several Commission houses from 1923-1973. Also contained within the collection are materials pertaining to the growth of the city of Ft. Worth during the early and mid-twentieth century.

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In the 1960s, the times, they were a-changin’. Amidst the cultural upheavals and social movements lay two very real problems that President Lyndon B. Johnson sought to address with his Great Society Programs. Johnson’s ultimate goal was to eliminate racial injustices and poverty. Because the two often went hand-in-hand, 1966 legislation led to the creation of the Model Cities Programs, a federal urban aid program that sought to generate funds and create jobs while also fostering a new generation of black, urban leaders.

Model Cities was to be a five-year program that not only coordinated with previous-standing Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs such as urban renewal, but also worked to rehabilitate cities, not just rebuild them, through citizen participation and social service delivery. Several cities across the country were part of the program, such as Detroit, Houston, Santa Fe, and Little Rock. Many revenue-generating structures and buildings were established under Model Cities Program, such as county courthouses, city halls, hospitals, and highway extensions.

The program officially ended in 1974 under President Richard Nixon. Many went on to say that Model Cities was a failure of Johnson’s Great Society Programs, but many effects of the program’s innovative rehabilitation approach have lasted through to today, such as community involvement and a refocusing of decision-making at the municipal level.

The Model Cities Program Records in UNT’s Special Collections Department includes hundreds of primary documents from when the program was active. It includes not only federal documents concerning the implementation of the program, but also specific plans for each city/many cities that was/were targeted. Come check out the collection that sought to change – and in many ways, did change – urban areas across the country.

(written by Chelsea Stallings)UNTA_HM8-007-001_0

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