EDITOR’S NOTE:This is the first entry of a new column that will be published called “Looking Back 50 Years.” The series will appear monthly in the Wharton Journal-Spectator and East Bernard Express. The following article takes information from county newspapers as it was reported in 1969. 

March 1969

Newgulf’s Texas Gulf Sulphur Co [largest tax payer in Wharton County] set record sales and net income for 1968 with over $70 million – 14% increase over 1967’s $62 million net earnings.  Equivalent of $2.33 per share 1968 v/s $2.05 per 1967 share.  Sales increased by 22%.  [Newgulf sulphur dome largest $$$ sulphur producing site in the world in 1969]

Hwy 59 By-Pass 6.6 mile section to circumvent Hungerford near completion.  TxDot’s paving machine can lay one-half mile x 24 feet wide pavement per day.  Access roads feeding into By-Pass should be completed this July, opening new section from just north of Hungerford to just south of new bridge over Colorado River at Wharton.  [No cross over bridge built for FM 1161.  Farmers/ ranchers needing to move equipment/cattle or residents traveling E-W caused numerous accidents with cars traveling N-S on Hwy 59, including death of Elizabeth Rugeley.]

Brown & Root given largest single contract ever awarded by City of Wharton to pave streets and improve drainage.  First bid turned down as too expensive; second bid just over $13 per linear foot cheaper.  [first paved city street in Wharton contracted to Mr Brown prior to partnership with Mr Root.  It ran from corner Richmond Rd/Hwy 59 (former Hwy 12) west to Sunset St with banking curve at that junction, south along railroad track past SP depot, then east down Milam.  Original concrete still in place – including banking curve.]

Wharton Industrial Park sells 2.5 ac tract to The Western Co to construct a $150,000 building and bulk plant for oil well cementing and acidizing materials.  Plant will serve 60-mile radius area being developed by oil and gas drilling activity.  Wharton expecting minimum of 10 new families to move here.

Wharton County’s newest business, Bay Prairie Aggregate, given contract by county to top .7 mile section of county road with over 1,000 lbs of synthetic road material on Kreigal Road near Burr.  Plant currently employs 27.  

Rev. H. H. Fletcher joins KANI radio staff.  His radio career began 23 years ago in Louisiana and now a top radio Negro personality.  He and Bill Cole are the only licensed Negro radio announcers between Houston and Brownsville – both now at KANI.  Cole’s programs 10-11:30 a.m. Saturdays; Fletcher’s 7-9 a.m. Sundays.  [Martin Broadcasting acquired KANI in 1990 now known as Great Gospel 1500] 

Leroy Mitchell, former outstanding Wharton Wolves football player who went on to play for TSU, has been traded to Oilers by Boston Patriots.  Mitchell, aka “Cat”, a pass defender will team with Oiler player Miller Farr as cornerbacks.  Mitchell clocked at speed of 9.8 in 100 yd dash and voted Boston Patriots Most Valuable Player in 1968.  

Boy Scout Troop 499 oldest accredited troop in Wharton County; continuously sponsored by Wharton Lions Club for over 40 years (now 90+ years).  They will join other scout troops to march path taken by Sam Houston and his army of 400 men between Gonzales-San Jacinto.  This endeavor began last year with over 500 Boy Scouts participating.  Special patches will be given to every Scout who makes trek in special ceremony aboard Battleship Texas.  [unlike Sam Houston’s army, Boy Scouts will have boats/bridges escort them across the many streams on route]

Barbie McMillian represented Texas at National Rural Electrification Beauty Contest in Atlanta, Georgia.  When asked how she kept such a lovely tan, Barbie replied “By picking cotton in a bathing suit on my parent’s farm.”  

WCJC Pioneer basketball team to play in Region XIV South Zone NJCAA Regional tourney.  They have a 27-6 season and 17-3 conference record, 2nd behind San Jac college team’s record 35-1 for this year.  

Hawkins Homes can build you a new home on your lot.  Brick shell home can be yours for $45.65 per month for 15 years.  Select 1,726 sq. ft. home built for $8.50 sq. ft. only $14,752 – 3 bedrooms, family room, walk-in closets, built-in kitchen appliances, and central heat/air. [2019: sq. ft. cost of new house $110-$120 – do the math – avg. hourly wage $1-$1.35 in 1969] *when hourly wage increases so does everything else. 


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