Parking Hogs, Meet Your Nemesis: The Parking Meter — 1935

by Paula Bosse

parking-meter_dmn_120135a

by Paula Bosse

The caption to the above photo:

“Parking meters are something new in the United States. The Texas Centennial exposition plans to add a little local color by having pretty girls in Texas ranger costume explain to the 10,000,000 visitors expected here next year just how the meters work. The photo shows Miss Blanche McAbee, who will be one of the downtown hostesses during the exposition period. She is investigating the mysteries of the nickel parking register. Her horse is Texas, the pony which will be ridden by Leonard Pack, chief of exposition police during the big show of 1936.” (Dallas Morning News, Dec. 10, 1935)

Yes, in 1935, parking meters were virtually unknown beyond Oklahoma City, where they originated. Dallas, saddled with some heavy-duty traffic congestion, was considering following OKC’s lead, but the idea was a controversial one. The writing was on the wall, however, because the City Manager was being wooed — and wood hard — by the Oklahoma manufacturer of the dreaded “nickel extractors.”

parking-meters_dmn_080235(DMN, Aug. 02, 1935)

Traffic was a big problem in the downtown business district, especially at late-afternoon rush hour when cars would idle at curbside waiting to pick up friends and family from work. Double- and triple-parking was common. There were also persistent problems with “parking hogs” — people who would find a primo space and then leave their car parked in it all day long. These parking hogs were reviled by business owners as well as by those who needed to park briefly to shop or transact business. But the idea of the city charging a fee to park — on city streets! — was met with outrage by a large chunk of the population who railed against the “billiard-headed smart guys” who thought this was a good idea.

parking-meters_dmn-092035(DMN, Sept. 20, 1935)

Despite many a citizen’s opinion that this was a “lousy and rotten idea,” the city plunged in and ordered a whopping 1,000 meters (!) and became only the second city — in the world! — to install parking meters.

parking-meters_dmn_092135(DMN, Sept, 21, 1935)

On Nov. 4, 1935, the meters opened for business along Elm, Main, and Commerce, between Houston and Harwood. And, according to The Dallas Morning News, motorists had very few first-day complaints.

parking-meters_dmn_110535(DMN, Nov. 5, 1935)

In fact, after the installation of the meters, the response was generally favorable.

parking-hog_dmn_111935(DMN, Nov. 19, 1935)

parking-hog_dmn_112935(DMN, Nov. 29, 1935) (Click for slightly larger view)

parking-hog_dmn_122537(DMN, Dec. 25, 1937)

The biggest surprise to everyone involved was the absolute avalanche of revenue generated for the city from these meters. The original $30,000 outlay was recouped in only three months (that’s a lot of nickels…) — and the city immediately placed a firm order for 1,000 more. At Christmastime, after only a couple of months of operation, daily receipts were nearing $600 a day. Cities around Texas, the U.S., and even the world (London made inquiries) took notice and consulted with the City Manager on how they, too, could jump on the parking-meter-bonanza bandwagon.

Here’s a light-hearted look at Dallas’ new income-generating curiosity from a Chevrolet promotional newsreel, showing one in action:

 

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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