Local 21's 100 year history...........
As we look to the East, Dallas roots started in 1839. As John Neely Bryan had come to the three forks area of the Trinity River, to survey a spot for possible trading, the site was the easiest way to cross the river. In 1841, he shifted his trading post idea to that of a permanent community. On April 18, 1846, Dallas became the temporary county seat and a tiny log cabin served as the first courthouse. In 1849, many men passed through Dallas on there way to California during the Gold Rush. By this time Dallas’ population was 430 and was incorporated as a town in 1856. Two thousand people lived in Dallas by 1860. One year later, Dallas County voted for secession. That same year, a state of war was declared thus beginning the Civil War. Time were rough, prices for basic household necessities rose dramatically. Cloth was impossible to purchase and the newspaper ceased printing for a year. Reconstruction brought its own set of challenges. Many southerners came to the Dallas area to rebuild their fortunes after the war. Dallas continued to grow and became the center of the buffalo market. With the arrival of trains, population soared from 3,000 in early 1872 to more than 7,000 that same year. The intense growth did not come without problems. Outlaws were common during this period. Belle Starr began her adventures in Dallas as a dance hall singer and dancer, and later sold stolen horses and harbored outlaws. Doc Holliday came to Dallas to restore his health. He opened a dental office, but soon turned to gambling. After he killed a man in 1875 he left Dallas. Sam Bass robbed four trains in two months during the spring of 1877. Three months later, Bass was killed in an ambush. In 1890, Dallas annexed the city of East Dallas. 13 years later, Oak Cliff, a city on the other side was also annexed.
Local 21 was first organized on October 23, 1907. At that time, the cost of the Elevator Constructor was 10 cents per copy or $1 per year. Thomas Edison was still perfecting his favorite invention, the “disc phonograph”. An article in the Elevator Constructor, dating back to November 1907, states G.H. Richards as our first recording secretary. Our first president, J.T. Tyson, was elected in January 1908. By April 1908, Local 21’s membership was up to 10 members. The union meetings were held at Phoenix Hall, off Jackson Street in Dallas, on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month. No one will ever forget the disastrous Trinity River flood in May 1908. The river was 52.6 feet deep and a mile and a half wide. Five people died, four thousand homeless, and property damages estimated at $2.5 million. Dallas was completely dark for three days with no telephone or telegraph service. Oak Cliff could only be reached by boat. By October 1908, in the Elevator Constructor, correspondence from the International Executive Board meeting, states three new locals as being organized; Dallas, Texas, Montreal, Canada and Portland Oregon. In 1911, Dallas became the location of one of 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks. The bank’s arrival assured Dallas’ place as a financial center. Our first correspondence letter in the Constructor states “We are doing fairly well here, and I think it will be better in a few days. We have only a small body of members here, but like the Irishman’s mule, we are small but terribly loud. Dallas is a fast growing city; water is our only drawback.” In 1910, Adolphus Busch of the Anheuser-Bush Brewing Association proposed to the city to build a 20-story luxury hotel. The city took him up on the offer. The following year, the union hall was moved to N.A.S.E. at 1617½ Main Street, Dallas.
In 1912, Houston Street Viaduct connects Oak Cliff to Dallas, the longest concrete structure in the world; also the landmark Adolphus Hotel was completed. The American Institute of Architects called it “the most beautiful building west of Venice.” It not only was the tallest building in Dallas, but in the entire state as well. This continued for a number of years. The tower at the corner of the building is said to be modeled after a Busch beer stein. One of the major international headlines of 1912, was of the ocean liner Titanic, sinking. In September 1917, the hall again moved to the Labor Temple off of Young and Evergreen Streets. In the June issue of the Elevator Constructor, an article states the annual cost of living for a family of five was $1,486.75. In the July issue, correspondence writes about the installation of four passenger elevators and one freight elevator in the Adolphus Annex, and of several elevators in the new Jefferson Hotel which was 10-stories high. One year later Dallas, the world’s largest inland cotton market, leads the world in cotton gin manufacturing. The November 1919 issue of the Elevator Constructor had an article about the Flu Pandemic Epidemic. It stated 1% of the world’s population or 15,000,000 people died as a result of this, which was a greater disaster than World War I.
In March of 1920, Fort Worth organized its first local, #56. Local 21 had its first Labor Day parade September of 1921. More than 6,500 members of organized labor paraded through Dallas. Local 21, along with members of Local 56 and also International officers, paraded through Dallas. After the parade, members went to Fair Park for a chicken dinner and later that evening, attended a ball at Lake Cliff Pavilion.
In 1923, the construction of the Magnolia Hotel was completed. It took the title of the “tallest building in Texas” from the Waggoner building in Fort Worth. It was also billed as the tallest south of Washington, D.C. and west of the Mississippi. In 1934, a large oil derrick was erected on the roof to support two large red neon signs that are the image of Pegasus, the flying red horse. Over the years the flying red horse came to be adopted as the city’s unofficial logo. An article in the August 1923 Constructor reads as follows: “Within 10 years airplane travel will have increased as rapidly as automobiles from 1905 to 1915. The effect of the airplane, if developed as is expected, will permit commuting of distances up to 100 miles.” In the February 1925 issue, it states that building figures for 1924 indicate that construction in Dallas was millions greater than in any other city in the South/Southwest. There also was a special meeting held Thanksgiving night with I.U.E.C. Vice President Snow. Several new measures were discussed and adopted. In that article, it complained of low attendance at the meetings. Doesn’t this sound familiar? In the August issue, it talks of the large amount of elevator work being performed. Some of the buildings under construction were the Athletic Club and the Republic Bank buildings and preparatory work for the Baker and Genera Hotels were completed.
In September 1925, the Labor Day picnic took place at Kidd Springs and was honored by the attendance of Local 56 members. Employees of the Dallas and Fort Worth offices also attended. An article from Local 21, February 1926, tells of “Slim” Lunsford having to ride a goat for initiation, prior to being sworn in as a member. A year later, correspondence from Local 56 tells of “Dutch” also riding a goat. And to think most
Everyone thought this to be a rumor! So now the true history of the goat during initiation ceremonies is known.
In April 1929, Local 21 sends their first delegate to the convention in San Francisco. The Great Depression gave Dallas a new set of challenges. By 1931, more that 18,000 people were unemployed. Work for the elevator constructor was slow, yet stable. The main reason Dallas did not suffer, as other cities did during the Depression, was the discovery of oil. In the 1st two months of 1931, 28 businesses either formed or moved to Dallas for the oil. Banks made loans to develop the oil fields and Dallas became the financial center for oil fields in East Texas, the Permian Basin, the Panhandle, the Gulf Coast, and Oklahoma. Public sentiment and officials turned against labor in the 1930’s and early ‘40’s as Texas politics were taken over by a loosely-knit alliance of oilmen, bankers and lawyers. During their heyday in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, these leaders were dedicated to a regressive tax structure, oppression of minorities, avoidance of state services and the use of organized labor as a whipping post. Times were difficult at best to be a Union Elevator Constructor. The next year in December of 1933, Otis has its first advertisement proposing “modernization” in the Elevator Constructor. Membership of Local 21 grew to a pre-depression peak of 70 in 1929 and dropped off to a total of 28 in 1933. In February 1940, membership was at 46. National events in 1938 were Orson Wells’ radio thriller, War of the Worlds, which panicked the nation. 1939 brought on the start of World War II. A quote from the February 1940 article could probably be applied today. It states “this department is anxious to learn how a man lives on $7.00 per week, expense money; and how he lives with himself after hauling a load of tools, parts, and tackle three hundred miles in this own car for three or four dollars – not even bus fare!”
Seven years later in August 1941, an article in the Constructor tells of “excuses” members give for not attending meetings, which sounds very familiar with the excuses one hears nowadays. One year later, the Ford Motor Plant converts to wartime production building jeeps and military trucks. In 1945, WW II officially ends. Following the 1946 mid-term election defeats, even the presidential veto could not stop the anti-union, two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress. In 1947, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act that was aimed at inhibiting activities of the building trade’s unions. An article in the September 1948 Constructor talks of members from Local 21 who have moved to El Paso and will be forming their own local soon. In the next few weeks, it’s stated as Local 21’s Business Representative will go to El Paso to present the charter and receive the oaths of office from the new officers. The same year, the Labor Day picnic was held at Flag Pole Hill. In the February issue, an article talks of the start of a change at Republic National Bank and of a winter dance at Pappy’s Showland that was attended by many. One year later, Local 21 had its mid-winter dance at the Sky-W Club in Dallas. Thinking elevators replaced elevators attendants and operators in the 1950’s. The first such system was the Otis “Autotronic” elevator, and went into the Atlantic Refining building in Dallas. These were the first fully automatic elevators installed in the U.S. The Constructor’s February 1958 correspondence talks of an increase for mileage. It was raised to 8 cents per mile. Further along in the article there is discussion about the attendance at the meetings……sounding familiar? April’s issue talks of the new multi-million dollar Southland Center being constructed and even having some brothers from Local 31 working on it. A quote from July’s issue states “The fellows in Local 21 don’t know just what to do with a paid vacation. Those that have taken their vacation say it is a wonderful experience.”
Two years later in the 1960 journal an article states that the new increase in wages are as follows: Mechanics $3.67 per hour and Helpers $2.75 per hour. In September 1961’s article from Local 21, talks of much modernization, such as, Southwestern Bell Telephone, Dallas Power and Light and also the T & P buildings. The membership also voted to have the annual Labor Day Picnic at Cedar Canyon on Houston School Road. Three months later in the December issue, an article talks about a fire that broke out at the Mercantile Bank building. Apparently it started on the 28th floor and gutted the entire floor. Six of the seven elevator controllers on the 29th floor were burnt beyond repair. In 1962, Local 21 had a dinner dance, attended by 42 couples, at the Tower Hotel Courts Key Room. The first mention of a high rise was one year later in an article from Local 21. It stated “there is much talk about the Republic Bank Tower which will be a 50-story giant with 17 elevators and 16 escalators.” The annual Labor Day picnic in September was held at Snug Harbor Resort in Carrollton with 400 attending. November 22, 1963, brought a defining moment for Dallas and the nation. Near the spot where John Neely Bryan had first settled, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Dallas and the nation grieved then moved on. But Dallas never forgot. In 1970, the Kennedy Memorial was erected. In March of 1964, Local 56 of Fort Worth merged with Local 21 of Dallas. This created a much larger membership base and improved our collective bargaining status. The annual Labor Day picnic was held at Lucas Park in Arlington and had 429 people who attended. In June of 1965, the dinner dance honoring retired members was held at the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth with 225 people attending. In February of 1967 a nation wide strike was called against N.E.M.I. On March 23rd, an agreement was reached that modified our wage structure. It was a hardship on some members, but a worthwhile fight. In 1969 the nation witnessed the Apollo 11 moon landing. March of ’72, we experienced a three month lockout/strike during negotiations for a new contract. This same month, Local 21 moved its offices to the Lynch Building on North Central Expressway. The move couldn’t have come at a worst time. Trying to conduct business with the lockout going on, the office had their hands full, to say the least. In November, we had our last meeting at the Dallas Labor Temple. In December of ’75, we had a Christmas dinner for honorary members, 150 people attended. While much of the nation suffered an economic recession during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dallas enjoyed unprecedented growth as northern factories were idled, a rush to the “Sun Belt” created new business, industry, and elevator jobs in Dallas. The downtown skyline changed rapidly as construction boomed. Local 21’s membership started to increase rapidly as the demand for elevator constructors grew. It not only benefited the construction dept., but also the service dept. as well. In the 1980s, Dallas witnessed a real estate bust that drove prices so low that in time many thriving businesses began to move in and take advantage of the bargain real estate. By 1990, Dallas ranked first in the country for the number of its new or expanded corporate facilities. Dallas posted its strongest economic growth in 1994. Closing in on the 21st century, Dallas/Fort Worth continued to thrive in a vast array of industries, corporations, and businesses.
In July of 2007, Local 21 purchased our own building, located at Baird Farm Road, Arlington, Texas.
With all due respect, thanks to all our retired members. Without your hard work, dedication and sacrifices we would not be where we are today!
Page Last Updated: Apr 15, 2014 (08:09:51)