And Now You Know: New Year 1950 brought Parking Meters to Orange

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, September 5, 2018

By Mike Louviere

When 1950 came roaring into Orange it brought, among other things, parking meters. The meters were installed on Fifth Street from Green Avenue to Division Street on both sides of the street, also anywhere else there was parking for shopping downtown. The city council had voted to install 254 meters on a six month “purchase on approval” program.

City Treasurer Charles Cottle reported that in the first three weeks of installation and operation there had been $1,300 collected in nickels and dimes from the meters. For the first six months, half of the collected money went to the company that had installed the meters to pay for the meters.

The city council had set up a special meter fund for the collected money. After the meters had been paid for the money went toward the purchase of off street parking and street improvements. Meter collections added nothing to anyone’s salary. It created a new source of money for street improvements without adding any new taxes or expense.

Captain L.B. Hayden and one traffic patrolman collected the coins from the meters once each week. The collection procedure was designed so that the coins were not handled during the collection process. The officers took the top off the meter, then removed the coin collecting box. The box was placed in a slot in a specially designed leather bag. The box was turned over and the coins fell into the bag. The coin box had to be closed before it could be removed from the bag.

The bag was taken to Cottle’s office to be counted. The key to the leather bag was kept in Cottle’s desk. In his office, the bag would be unlocked and the money counted and then taken to be deposited.

After collecting about $100 in nickels and dimes the bag became heavy. Hayden was concerned about carrying the heavy bag. He found that Port Arthur had a special wagon to carry their bag, so he ordered one for Orange.

Officer Morris Collier was the officer that patrolled the meters and issued tickets, when needed, for expired meters. The fine for overdue parking was usually one dollar. The money from fines went into the city’s general fund with fines for other misdemeanor offenses. Fine money was kept separate from the money collected from the meters.

Parking meters were a fixture in downtown Orange for about 20 years. In time, there would be two ladies hired by the police department as “Meter Maids”. They would do a foot patrol checking for expired meters. Possibly there were more than 254 meters installed by the time they were removed from the downtown streets.

The death knell for downtown Orange was a one-two punch. The MacArthur Shopping Center was built offering several hundred free parking spaces. A person could park in one spot in the large parking lot and shop about a dozen stores. Shoppers no longer had to worry about putting a nickel or dime in a meter to pay to park to shop. At MacArthur they could shop for free.

In May1963, there was a fire that destroyed the east side of the businesses on the east side of Fifth Street from Main to Front Streets.

Free parking out of town and a fire downtown started the decline of the downtown business district in Orange.

“And now you know”