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And Now You Know: The New Year, sixty years ago

By Mike Louviere

The Orange Leader

After World War II ended and the shipyards lost so many contracts, Orange went into an economic slump. There was a gradual recovery over the next few years. The predictions for 1957 were optimistic. An article on page one of the Orange Leader for January 1, 1957 was titled, “What Will the New Year Bring?”

It listed as one of the top benefits, the new hotel. It would be large and modern and would give Orange the ability to host conventions. There was a lot of excitement about the Jack Tar Hotel chain deciding to locate in Orange.

Next on the list was that after over six years of work by “a large segment of citizens throughout the county”, there was going to be a new hospital. County leadership and the citizens of Orange were looking forward to the modern hospital that would replace the old City Hospital.

The new addition to Chemical Row, Firestone, had completed the first phase of construction and was expected to start production early in the New Year.

The Texas Highway Department announced that the new Ballville-Vidor bypass on the superhighway would reduce travel time between Orange and Beaumont. The new superhighway was expected to open large sections of western Orange County to residential development. Speculation was that there would be people moving from Beaumont to Orange County.

In early 1957, construction was going to start on Lutcher Drive. The new road would pass through the northern part of Orange County. It was designed to relieve the through traffic on Simmons Drive and Green Avenue. “When Lutcher Drive is opened it will serve as an anchor for further commercial development such as cafes and service stations.”

“West Orange will grow as the developers of Winnona Park start erecting houses north of the intersection of Highway 87 and the Orangefield road. Many of the streets have been paved and construction should start soon.”

The article concluded by saying: “We all know Orange suffered an economic slump immediately after WWII. But during the recovery period since that time the climb back up the economic ladder is at a much faster pace as each year passes.”

The first baby born in Orange in 1957 was a six pound 15 ounce boy born at City Hospital. As was the custom of the time, local businesses gave gifts to the new baby and parents. Belile’s Men’s Wear gave a dress shirt to the father. Floye’s provided a new blouse for the mother. Claybar Funeral Home provided a ride home in one of their ambulances at no charge. The ABC Store gave a case of baby food. Conn’s Furniture provided “a crisp new dollar bill.” General Finance Company gave $5 in cash to start a savings program. First National Bank deposited $5 in a new savings account for the baby. Dallas-Beadle Furniture Company gave a “Babe Strolee”. Goldfine’s provided a new pair of baby shoes. The Goodyear store thought that a set of bathroom scales would be useful, and Case-McGee Furniture gave the family a new play pen.

As interesting as it was to read about the new developments for 1957 in Orange, it was also interesting to see the list of local businesses that made donations for the first baby of 1957. It is somewhat sad to realize that they are all a part of Orange history and no longer open for business.

“And now you know”