- A People, A Place: The Story of Abilene, Volume 2: The Modern City, 1940-2010
Robert W. Sledge completes the work begun in the first volume of A People, A Place with this installment. He follows the same format and incorporates the same features that he did in the first book, bringing the reader to the present day.
As he did in the first volume, Sledge bases each chapter around specific world events but ties those events to local happenings. For example, in Chapter 3, "Peace 1945-1956," he discusses the post-World War II prosperity experienced by the people of Abilene, asserting that they had lacked economic well-being since the outbreak of the Great Depression in 1929 and describes the growth brought to Abilene by pent-up consumer demand. He tells of the loss of Camp Barkeley and its effect on the economy of the city and explores the beginnings of Dyess Air Force Base as a location of the Strategic Air Command. He recounts the efforts by city leaders to prepare for postwar growth by implementing a city master plan in 1943 and the establishment of Abilene Incorporated.
As an example of the effects of the postwar inflation, he tells of the problems encountered at McMurry University in building its Radford Building. The original grant from Mrs. J. M. Radford was made in 1947 and totaled $300,000. The grant was made to build a student life center on campus. The center was to house a library, auditorium, and student social facilities. Inflation drove the cost the final cost to $700,000 and required the abandonment of the library portion of the building.
A particularly interesting segment of the chapter is "A Portrait of Abilene, 1948." In it he discusses the availability and location of such basics to urban life as restaurants, grocery stores, schools, doctor's offices, and hotels. He tells of the changes brought by the car and dispersion of commerce away from the downtown area. Sledge concludes the chapter with one of the portraits that distinguish the book from most other local histories. This one tells of country and western singer-songwriter Winston Lee Moore, aka Slim Willett, who wrote and sang "Don't let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" and who first brought Elvis Presley to Abilene in 1955. The book is well done and should be on the reading list of anyone studying Abilene or West Texas. [End Page 341]