Italy's Good Neighbor Day

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Italy's Good Neighbor Day


This information was  taken from "Main Street Musings" a collection of editorial comments made by Russell W Bryant during his 23 years as editor of the Italy News-Herald,  There was extensive coverage by state and national media - some of which will follow this initial account.

In April 1947, Wick Fowler, reporter for the Dallas Morning News,  spoke at a meeting of the Italy Chamber of Commerce, and  suggested  that a  'city wide clean up day' be observed as a memorial to those who did not come back from cleaning up the world in World War II."

"The suggestion caught on like brush fire....all businesses were closed, school dismissed and neighbor joined neighbor in cleaning up ......." hence the  title of the project - "Good Neighbor Day."

All but two businesses agreed to paint their store fronts white as did the  Italy station of the Katy railroad. H. M. Warden, vice president of the Katy, came down in  his private car and painted right along with the regular Katy work crew.

Governor Beauford Jester flew up from Austin and spent most of the day, also applying his portion of paint to some of the store fronts. Numerous other dignitaries and visitors were also present.  Two remote broadcasts originated here from WFAA in Dallas. The Dallas News took hundreds of photographs including aerial views of crowds at work.

"Some things - such as changing the color of the Katy depot - were started more in a spirit of fun than with hopes of success, but the men who head this organization see the potential value in cooperation."

"A reporter from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wanted the names of people taking part - I asked her if she had room for 1286 - she then wanted to know about committees - I asked her if she could use 83 names. At that she finally quit trying, firmly convinced that this was indeed an Italy community project."

"The J. W M. Wood Manufacturing Company of Waco offered to furnish coveralls for the leading business men. The reply to their letter stated that we had no leading business men but about five dozen coveralls would outfit all the business men."

"Italy people are  inclined to believe that prayers of the righteous are answered since, after five days of rainy weather the clouds rolled away - the Rev. E. C. Cargill, pastor of the Park Presbyterian Church had been one of the most ardent supporters of "Good Neighbor Day" and in his Sunday morning prayer asked that the community be favored with good weather.  His prayers were indeed answered.

Raymond Vanlandingham won the News Herald award for naming the day which was presented by Governor Jester in his radio address - Raymond plans to turn it over to the scout cabin fund.

June 1947. Billy McNeeley, stationed on one of the Pacific islands has some Yankees in his outfit who have been riding him about being from a small Texas town.  Now he asks if the governor of their state ever came to their town to help paint.

Italy Day in Texas

The Dallas Morning News, May 20, 1947

Governor Beauford H. Jester has proclaimed Wednesday as Italy Day in Texas.  The proclamation hailed the community spirit displayed by this town of 1,258 who have set aside Wednesday for all out cleaning and painting.  "Civic pride is a cornerstone of world respectability....a Texas town has boasted for years that it was the biggest little town in Texas. Now that town proposes to set an example for Texas, for the nation, for the is a fitting restoration of a fine old community custom."

Governor Jester will be introduced at the radio broadcast kickoff by Italy's Mayor W.R. Wallace and will apply the first brush of white paint to the Main Street store fronts. H. M. Warden, vice-president and general manager for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Lines, will also be on hand to supervise crews changing the color of their station from orange to white. The Main Street kickoff will be the first of three broadcasts over WFAA at 10:30 a.m., followed by a farm program at 11:45 and at 12:15 the Lone Star Gas Company will present the Dude Ranch Buckaroos.

Bull Pen for any Loafer

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 15, 1947

Although other plans are almost complete for Italy's cleanup, plans have also been made to take care of any loafers. A "bull pen" will be erected on Main Street and any able-bodied citizen who fails to respond to the call will be  placed therein! Workers will meet at 7 a.m. on the outskirts of town and work their way into town where they will stage a parade with their hoes, rakes brooms and paint brushes. Governor Jester will lead the parade and apply the first paint. All business places with the exception of three restrauants will be closed. School children will assemble as usual and be dismissed at 10 am to clean up the premises of aged or disabled persons unable to participate.

Home-Coming Set For Friday by Re-Painted Town

The Dallas Morning News July 13, 1947

Italy, the town that gained nation-wide fame for closing up and painting up last May, has decided to show former residents what they missed by moving away with a homecoming on Friday. There will be no set program until late that afternoon when visitors will be guests at a barbecue supper. A special motion picture will be showed that night - "The Trespasser". It is the first starring role for Dale Evans, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hillman Smith of Italy and former singer on the WFAA Early Bird program. Miss Evans will be present if at all possible.


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