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1947_11_29--022-Houston

Robert E. Lee once rode these plains, ornamented here by members of the Buckeroo Club of the University of Houston. HOUSTON By GEORGE SESSIONS PERRY THE CITIES OF AMERICA Its weather. is atrocious; its conversation largely devoted to money and business. But the big thing about raw, sprawling and turbulent Houston is its almost incredible energy and growth. This is the forty-first of a series of articles on America's most colorful cities. The next, dealing with Louisville, Kentucky, will appear in our December 20th issue. THE FACT that Houston, which lies fifty miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, has cut so huge a ditch to the sea that it has become the world's leading oil port is by no means its most remarkable characteristic. Neither is the almost heavenly beauty of its azaleas and camellias, nor the unlikely facts that Houston's industrialized Harris County, hundreds of miles from the great West Texas ranching region, contains more cattle than any other county in the champion cattleproducing state in the nation, and imports a major portion of its milk from Wisconsin and Minnesota. The thing about Houston that really knocks your breath out is its fabulous, hardly believable growth. Not much more than 100 years ago, Houston was an uninhabited marsh. In 1850 it had a little more than 1000 citizens. Twenty years later it had eight times as many, and at the turn of the century fortyfour times as many. In each succeeding decade to 1930 it virtually doubled, and in the years between 1930, when it contained about a third of a million, and the present it has doubled yet again. And instead of settling down, as most other American cities now are doing, it is growing and expanding faster than ever. Lloyd's of London, who make a business of not letting their enthusiasm run away with their judgment, are of the opinion that the population of Houston in 1983 will have reached 3,000,000. None of this has happened or will happen without the turbulence and growing pains, the hurried purposefulness that make living in Houston today a strenuous experience. As some Houstonians say, " It's necessary to run full speed to hold still." Houston is a raw, sprawling, incomplete city that is uncommonly blessed with secondhand-car lots, junk yards and supermarkets. Its general messiness is founded in law, or the absence of law, since it has no over-all zoning ordinances whatever. Its flat, bayou-striped acres are improperly drained, and the sight of barefooted big shots, their limousines drowned out and their britches rolled high, wading down a flooded street, is a recurrent Houston phenomenon when the sky opens up and lets drive. And this it often does in the big town which the Houston Chamber of Commerce once, in one of its more imaginative moments, touted as "The Sunshine City." Houston's weather is atrocious. With summer temperatures that frequently flirt with the 100 mark and with an annual rainfall of a little less than a yard and a half, the city is pretty thoroughly steamheated the year round. Much of the ocean of land that surrounds it is too poor and waterlogged to grow anything besides loblolly pine, gallinipper mosquitoes and, until fairly recently, some of the homeliest scrub cattle to be found. Houston civilization, for a cultivated person whose interests extend beyond money and business, is generally conceded to be aril and monotonous. It has little of San Antonio'; 3iti3fying gaudiness, the high-hearted whoopdedo of Fort Worth or the actual chic and at least partially valid erudition of Dallas. In Houston, if the after-dinner conversation ceases to deal in hundreds of millions of dollars, people begin to yawn. When you have told how much money a man has, you have more or less completed his biography. The town's multimillionaires, many of them very fresh-caught, but owning fortunes that make Barbara Hutton's look like an income-tax deduction, are its heroes. And why not? Houston is going through a dazzling and exciting experience which few cities ever know. It is in a phase that Chicago was undergoing about 1850, when everybody there was certain Chicago was destined for greatness. The only difference is that Houston isn't so dirty, ugly, and, despite its paper mills, so evil-smelling. It is an incipient heavyweight champion in its pimply-faced adolescence, virile, disordered; in selected spots beautiful, but primarily awesome and unstoppable. It's a city in which Nervous


1947_11_29--022-Houston
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