Heritage, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1987 Page: 22
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1932 "Dr. New Deal" helped to a degree
with a list of economic programs attractive
to many Victorians. The Civil Works
Administration allocated $130,000 in
federal funds for completion of several
public projects. NRA, AAA, WPA,
CCC and a host of other bureaucratic acronyms
became part of the jargon of recovery;
some of the new agencies were respected;
others earned disdain-"We
Poke Along." Eleanor Roosevelt's visit to
Victoria included a motorcade allowing
many to see the first lady, who stayed at
the Denver Hotel.
The challenge of a Pacific and European
War after December 7, 1941, created demands
on the national and local economies
which accomplished what federal
agencies had only partially achieved-recovery
from the Great Depression. Preparedness
antedated the attack on Pearl
Harbor, however, and Victoria was a participant
in what was apparently an inevitable
conflict of gigantic proportions.
Victorians learned of their town's nomination
as a site for an Army Air Corps
training base in January 1941. E. J. Dysart
chaired a successful fund-raising campaign
to provide property east of town.
Building began in June, and the first cadets
arrived in September to train at Victoria
Field, designated in 1942 as Foster
Field to commemorate the service of
an instructor killed at Brooks Field in
1925. Gunnery practice was conducted
on Matagorda Island, a target range during
the Korean conflict as well. Aloe
Field was commissioned west of the town
in 1942. An irreversible economic stimulus
was thus provided to one of Texas'
oldest towns, which would never return
to its prewar character. About 3,000 Victoria
County men served in one or another
branch of the armed forces during
World War II. Many Victorian streets are
designated with the names of outstanding
national military and naval leaders of
Six years later, military necessity again
stimulated Victoria's economy when Foster
Field was reactivated for the Korean
War. J. E. Pickering, Albert York, county
judge J. T. Linebaugh, and Fred Stedman
emerged after a public discussion in the
Uptown Theatre as leaders of a movement
to reopen the base.
City Hall Square. A view of the market square, the site of Victoria City Hall since 1900, St. Mary's
Church, and the Nazareth Academy Building from the top of the old Wood Building.
Sabrejets and F-100s were now seen
above Victoria in place of the slower but
honored AT-6s and P-40s. Millions of
dollars poured into an economy no longer
dependent on cotton and cattle. The decision
to again close Foster Field in the
summer of 1957 was as shocking to the
town's economic prospects as it was unexpected.
With the last retreat on December
3, 1958, deactivation was final,
notwithstanding efforts to spare the installation,
and Victoria's business community
anticipated bleak times.
Predictions of a serious local recession
were premature, however. During the
decade of the 1950s a more stabilizing influence
than dependence on federal expenditures
emerged to guarantee Victoria's
future. Du Pont and Union Carbide
chemical plants brought increasing numbers
of new residents from as many states
as had the military bases. Alcoa and Vistron
installations, though later and with
less impact, also expanded employment
opportunities. Foster Field property once
again became a county airport, and Gary
Aircraft, Devereaux Foundation School,
and other enterprises leased the buildings,
filling at least partially the void left
Population within the city increased
from 11,566 (23,741 in the county) in
1940 to 33,047 (46,475) in 1960. In another
decade, Victoria would achieve the
status of a Standard Metropolitan Statis
tical Area, opening numerous opportunities
for federal grant allocations.
In the generation since 1942, when
Life magazine featured Victoria as a town
in transition from primary dependence on
agriculture and ranching to one hosting
two military bases, all those elements of a
vigorous community became evident.
Native Victorians have observed out-ofstate
capital, Sun Belt seekers, improved
surface and air transportation, federal
programs, and other factors transform
In the last thirty years, Victoria grew
from a town with the first traffic signal
light at Main and Rio Grande to one of
multilane highways, loops and bypasses,
two new high schools, an academically
acclaimed community college, a branch
of a major university (on the Victoria
College campus), two television stations,
museums, numerous annual Arts Council
programs, historic preservation societies,
an excellent city park and superb rose
garden, three hospitals, a proliferation of
new banks and elaborate renovation of
older ones, and replacement of downtown
shopping in locally owned stores to
extensive malls and innumerable franchise
Dr. Robert W. Shook is professor of history at
Victoria Community College and co-author of
Victoria: A Pictorial History.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1987, periodical, Spring 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45438/m1/22/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.