Just a year after a ceremony on the USS Missouri ended six years of war among the world’s great powers, a ceremony was scheduled at a former racetrack in Arlington to end a century of cold war between the two great powers of the Metroplex.
Yes, in 1946 longtime rivals Fort Worth and Dallas, through their diplomats (the Junior Chamber of Commerce of each town) were going to bury the hatchet.
And not in each other’s back, as had been the case so many times in the past.
Fort Worth and Dallas are twins joined by the umbilical of the Trinity River, two siblings suffusing the Metroplex with their special brand of brotherly love (think Cain and Abel).
Seems the two towns have competed with—and cussed at—each other from the git-go. For example, in the 1850s Dallasites supposedly warned passing migrants headed westward that they’d be scalped by Indians if they continued on to Fort Worth. Early Fort Worth booster B. B. Paddock supposedly once went to Dallas and escorted back to Fort Worth some visiting eastern financiers, persuading them to invest their money in Fort Worth, not Dallas. (Fort Worth’s Amon Carter would continue that practice in the twentieth century.)
A few high (or low) points in the rivalry: The two cities got crossways over railroads in the 1870s, packing plants in the 1900s, sewage in the 1910s, college football and the Texas centennial celebration in the 1930s, and airports in the 1940s.
Most recently, after months of negotiation, Dallas and Fort Worth had agreed to build an airport midway between the two cities. But then, the Dallas Morning News claimed in an editorial, Fort Worth, behind Dallas’s back, changed the airport blueprints to locate the administration building closer to Fort Worth. Fort Worth, the Morning News claimed, refused to revert to the original blueprints, and Dallas backed out of the deal.
But on November 8, 1946 the Dallas Morning News reported that Fort Worth and Dallas were on the verge of peace as the Jaycees of each town had agreed to bury the hatchet. But note that the News could not resist tweaking Panther City’s whiskers with that “western suburb” crack.
Nonetheless, the mayors of the two cities made nice. Dallas Mayor Woodall Rodgers proclaimed November 15 as “Bury the Hatchet Day”; Fort Worth Mayor Roscoe Carnrike proclaimed “Hatchet Armistice Day.”
To conduct the last rites on neutral ground, the Fort Worth Jaycees had the Tarrant County surveyor determine that Arlington Downs, the former racetrack, was exactly midway between the two cities. (Fort Worth and Dallas always insist on midway.) Trust but verify: Dallas dispatched a representative to confirm the Tarrant County surveyor’s findings.
WBAP radio would cover the hatchet-burying ceremony, as would WFAA radio in Dallas.
But wait! International News Service reported that prior to the ceremony, Fort Worth Jaycees “paraded downtown in a jeep-drawn hearse.” In a casket inside the hearse was a dummy labeled “Dallas” with a hatchet in its back.
Fort Worth Jaycees insisted that they were just joshing.
Then funeral processions conveying hatchets to the racetrack began from Dallas city hall and the Tarrant County courthouse. The Fort Worth procession through downtown was led by a horse-drawn hearse. The hatchet was then conveyed to the racetrack in an automobile.
At Arlington Downs the ceremony included the signing of a pact by the Jaycees of the two cities. The pact included the proviso that “citizens of one city” should not “take their lunch when visiting in the other.” Amon Carter occasionally—as a joke—carried a sack lunch with him to Dallas rather than spend money in Dallas. No one—but no one—promoted (and enjoyed) the Rivalry on the River more than Amon Carter did.
Bob McKinley (western attire), president of the Fort Worth Jaycees, and Ed Sammons (black hat), president of the Dallas Jaycees, place a veritable arsenal of hatchets into a “casket” at Arlington Downs. Behind the two men is WBAP radio broadcaster Bob Everson. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
The ceremony was reported by United Press syndicate in addition to Associated Press and International News Service. Life magazine and Universal newsreel also were at the scene.
“North Texas is big enough for both Dallas and Fort Worth, serious minded young men of both cities agreed Friday afternoon,” the Morning News reported after the ceremony.
But wait! Don’t go all warm and fuzzy just yet. Don’t picture Fort Worth and Dallas holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” as they toast s’mores over a campfire.
In that same article the Dallas Morning News let the panther out of the bag: After this elaborate kissy-kissy rigmarole by both cities, at the last, final, ultimate, “we solemnly commit this feud to the ground, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” minute, just as the “casket” was about to be covered with dirt, the Jaycees removed the hatchets from the casket and did not bury them.
According to the Morning News, the Jaycees representing the two cities cited “a shortage of such implements.”
After decades of sibling rivalry, the Jaycees of Dallas and Fort Worth followed the faux funeral with some sibling revelry: a “stag party” by one account. By another account, a “floor show” followed.
Dallas: “Are y’all ready to raise some Cain, brother Cowtown?”
Fort Worth: “Brother Big D, we’re ready if you’re Abel.”
Dallas: “You’ll see. Come on, y’all.”
Fort Worth: “After you, bro. We’ve got your back.”
(Thanks to Dennis Hogan for the tip.)