On this page in our May edition I wrote about the approaching 60th anniversary of the opening of Six Flags Over Texas and how that event launched Arlington’s largest economy.
Aug. 5, 1961, was the exact day when dignitaries throughout the region showed up for the grand opening as history was made that would forever change the face of our city.
I mentioned in my earlier commentary how Sylvia and I had chosen Six Flags as the destination for our 1964 wedding trip – a decision that would significantly shape our lives.
From our hometown of Monroe, La., there was just enough in our checking account to take us as far as what had become known as some sort of little Disneyland.
It was a trip of about 300 miles, and I convinced my dad that he should let me borrow his Buick for the journey because my 1957 Chevy was not in shape for the round trip.
Since Six Flags advertised itself as being in Dallas, we really hadn’t noticed that the adventure we had planned was actually some distance west along the DFW Turnpike and in another town altogether.
On the way from Dallas, we traversed high bridges across what appeared to be a stream that we later learned was the Trinity River, something we would be involved with in significant ways years later.
In any event, we entered the park, paid the 50 cents for parking, the $2.75 entrance fee and set out to discover all the wonders of Mexico, France, Spain, The Confederacy, Texas and the USA.
Two years later after making a name for myself as a top producer for the mortgage company I was working for, my bosses wanted to know if I was interested in opening a branch office in Texas.
The plan was to find a location in either the Houston or Dallas-Fort Worth growing markets. That’s when I contributed to the discussion saying I knew of a place that was squarely in between the two big cities in North Texas.
My office colleagues provided a big send off and gifted me a cowboy hat they insisted I needed. I proudly put it on my head as my wife, her sister, Penny (along to help with the move) and our eight-month old son Brian crossed the state line and were welcomed to Texas by a big billboard.
We found an apartment near Cooper Street and Park Row and added ourselves to the 80,000 or so who called Arlington their home. I had also found a strategic office location next door to the Arlington Board of Realtors and across the street from the post office.
From there I set out on my daily calls to the city’s real estate offices declaring that I was the new mortgage loan professional in town and prepared to provide superior service for them and their home buyers.
Among my earliest contacts was Realtor, builder, and soon-to-be developer, Ralph Shelton. He was instrumental in getting me acquainted with his industry’s colleagues and opened those doors for me to form lasting business ties.
Ralph later had the idea that Arlington needed an active consortium of active members of the city to advance the ideals of a better community and launched the organization known as Young Men For Arlington and became its first president. I would follow as its third.
In the ensuing years, Ralph was elected to the city council and from that post nominated me to serve on the planning and zoning commission.
All the while, Sylvia had become an active PTA member, rising to the presidency of Key Elementary, Gunn Junior High, Arlington Council of PTAs and then Regional VP in the Texas PTA – a position she relinquished after becoming Arlington’s First Lady when I was elected mayor.
Our life in the city now spans 54 years and can be traced to that wedding trip we decided to take to Arlington’s first attraction in the city’s remarkable entertainment district now hosting some 15 million visitors annually and destined for many more.