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The Port Arthur Story (1954)

Sound | 1954


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  •  According to J.J. Pickle, whose firm Syers, Pickle and Winn produced the film, the streets were deserted because the camera crew filmed the scenes at 6am on a Sunday morning. 
 
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Transcript
  •  This is a city in Texas: Port Arthur. A year ago it was a thriving city. Children played. Women shopped. Business men drank coffee in the restaurants.  That was one year ago. Today, it is deserted. Children don't play anymore. Women don't shop. Business men make coffee in their own offices. Nobody smiles.  Ghost City, Texas. 
  •  Operation CIO, part of a communist dominated plot to take over Texas industry, out of state CIO labor leaders poured into Port Arthur twelve months ago to personally supervise the death of a city. 
  •  Nobody knew it was coming, but it did, and it can come to your town, Anytown, Texas. It can come tomorrow, not out of the night but out of the clear Texas sunshine, any day  1954. You won't know it. They give no warning. You don't realize the importance of the call until it happens. Then it's too late. 
  •  The process of economic death is firmly established.  This is what has happened to Port Arthur, a city strangled, but true Texans in Port Arthur are fighting back building the defenses for Texas against the foreign invasion of grasping control.  Will Texans hold Texas? Fannon did, Bowie and Crockett, Sam Houston and Travis did. Will you? Will you? 
  •  Reporter: This is a typical hometown business in Port Arthur, the Home Laundry. I want you to meet Ed Lowman and his son George who run this business.  Mr. Lowman and George are going to tell us in their own words exactly what has happened to their business and their town over the last twelve months. Mr. Lowman, how long have you been in business? 
  •  Ed Lowman: 51 years Home Laundry has been in business, and going that time we've never known what a labor strike was. 
  •  R: In other words you never had any employee trouble up to now?Ed L: We've always maintained a good, happy organization who were satisfied, and we made a special point to keep them satisfied. 
  •  R: Well George I'd like to talk to you for just a moment. Are the pickets outside your door right now your employees? 
  •  George Lowman: Most of the pickets were not our employees at the time they began picketing. Many we had never seen before. Others had been employees in many years past. 
  •  R: Tell us how your customers have been influenced. 
  •  GL: There are two aspects to the situation. First, to eliminate our employees and second, toeliminate our business. The second is just as important as the first. Every effort is made to force people to quit giving us business even though most of them want to continue. The professional business people are threatened with the loss of business, and those who are not in business are threatened with the loss of friendship and church associations. 
  •  R: Here is another chapter in the Port Arthur Story. On my left we have Mr. Frank Goodson who is manager of the Three Bell Brother's Department Store here in Port Arthur. 
  •  Frank Goodson: I wish that I could tell the Port Arthur to all the people of Texas. This struggle that's going on here, we feel is between the liberal and conservative elements throughout Texas that are fighting for control of our state. We business men here are fighting for our liberties, our God given rights to run our businesses as we see fit, and we feel that if we should withdraw from our stand that we could possibly lose the liberties not only from ourselves but for our children. 
  •  R: How has this organized labor affected your business? 
  •  FG: Well that would be very hard to say. That's something they would like to know themselves, but we feel that this is a fight to the finish, and it's a very rugged and drastic battle, and we do not intend to give up our rights very easy.  
  •  R: Fred Miller, owner-operator of the Miller stores in Port Arthur has been running a successful business for the past 35 years. 
  •  Fred Miller: I was until about a year ago when a DPOW union moved in on us. Everything was peaceful and quiet, and a month before this happened my employees took me down, gave me a surprise birthday party and a $15 hat, told me what a wonderful boss I was, and since that time everything has been topsy-turvy. Former employees walking out in front of my store. 
  •  R: Have you had any phone calls or threats? 
  •  FM: Yes sir, on the average of three, four times a week they would call me up in the middle of the night, threaten me, said I had a price on my head. 
  •  R: Anybody violence, physical violence? 
  •  FM: Well one time of the picket's father caught me across the street and gave me a black eye. We don't see no end to this thing because the first people who came in, they were definitely communist and the other people took them over, didn't change nothing but the name, and I'd feel like a traitor if I ever signed up with them. So we just have to hang on until they liquidate us, until we get help from the other people to keep this thing going. As it is I have two-thirds gone now, but I think I can hold out for another year though.R: Thank you Mr. Miller. 
  •  R: This is Bill Hastings the manager of the Goodhue Hotel in Port Arthur. He has a thought or two he'd like to pass along to you regarding conditions before the strike and conditions as they are now, Bill. 
  •  Bill Hastings: Prior to the strike we had 85 employees here who were working together harmoniously and in friendship. I didn't know of any dissatisfactions among them. Some of them have worked here for ten years, and they got mixed up in this union and all walked out. I knew nothing whatever of any dissatisfactions among them as to working conditions or as to pay or anything else. 
  •  R: Any personal experiences with employees that you'd like to recall.BH: Why yes. We had one family working here, a mother and two daughters who at 9:30 of the night before the strike called me and said they had joined the union but that they learned they would be required to picket the hotel the next morning with signs declaring the hotel was unfair. They said we had never been unfair to them, and they did not want to picket and wanted to know how to get out of the union. I told them how they could get out, they got out of an organization the same way they got in. I said "You got in by joining. All you have to do to get out is to unjoin." Between that and the next afternoon something happened. I don't know what, but the next afternoon they were on the picket line. 
  •  R: Any evidence of outside control.BH: Why yes sir, yes sir. Mr. Fred Piper, the Vice-President of CIO, came here from Atlanta, Georgia, which coincidentally is my hometown, and his mission was to form a merger of some kind since DPOWA had been proved to the satisfaction of Texas authorities to communist dominated, so he set up a local 18 and 14. He was the ramrod of the strike at that town-- time from out of town. Since then he has been twice quoted. Once in the Dallas news and once to the Port Arthur news to the effect that the strike was a mistake and never should have been called. Nevertheless the strike goes on and has gone on now for ten months. 
  •  R: This is Mrs. Anthony Landry who along with her husband own and operate the Farm Royale Restaurant here in Port Arthur. Mrs. Landry, you've owned this business for how long? 
  •  Mrs. Anthony Landry: Eleven years. We've worked very hard for this business. 
  •  R: The pickets that are out here today, are they former employees of yours?AL: No, these pickets that are on the picket line today are not mine. I don't know who they are. I don't know if they are Port Arthur people or where they've worked. 
  •  R: Well Mrs. Landry, have you ever considered closing up your business and giving up this fight?AL: Yes, at first we thought we would, and then we felt maybe it was best to fight because we feel like if we do, if we wouldn't then this fight would spread all over the state of Texas. 
  •  R: In other words you're holding the line.AL: I'm holding the line, and I'll never sign up. 
  •  You have just seen and heard the story of Port Arthur, a Texas city strangled, almost plunged into economic ruin by the plot of a red-tinged union who invaded Texas. Like residents of most Texas towns and cities, I suppose the good people of Port Arthur thought "This can't happen here." I know that's the way I thought. I'm Jay Smith of Austin. 
  •  Now after learning the Port Arthur story I know it can happen anywhere, even in the capital of the Lone Star State. If it hadn't been for our governor Allan Shivers, the plot of these eastern and northern left-wingers to invade Texas would have succeeded immediately. Port Arthur is just a test tube for them. If they win there, they plan to spread down the Texas coast and inland, but Allan Shivers and the Texas attorney general John Ben Shepperd are stopping them cold. 
  •  Now it's up to the rest of us to drive them out for good and all. These organizers from the north and east, these unprincipled men, who tried to destroy the free businessmen of a Texas town, their henchmen, and their pickets are backing the opponent of Allan Shivers. I don't say that his opponent of one of them, but he's right in bed with them. We know that Allan Shivers is for Texas and Texas freedom. We have seen him fighting for Texas and for Texas schoolchildren. So fellow Texans, as just a plain businessman, I urge you as good Americans, as men and women of principled integrity, to go to the polls Saturday August 28 and help hold Texas for Texans by keeping Allan Shivers in office. 
 
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  • About the video
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This campaign film for the re-election of Governor Allan Shivers is one of the most notorious political spots to ever appear on television sets across Texas. Produced during a time of internal turmoil and fracture within the Texas Democratic party, especially between the supporters of the conservative pro-business Shivers and the more liberal, pro-labor Yarborough, the film invokes McCarthyist Red-Scare fears, equating pro-union support with a pro-communist agenda. The film goes so far as to suggest that Port Arthur was merely the entrance point of a larger plot by northern and eastern left-wingers and union-organized African-Americans to destroy business throughout Texas. The only salvation was that Governor Shivers had discovered the invasion and was fighting against the subversive elements. To reinforce the idea of Shivers as a savior, at one point the camera rests on a campaign placard of Allan Shivers in a shop window as the narrator calls upon the heroes of the Alamo.
Allan Shivers was a Texas politician who held several offices spanning the legislative and executive branch.  Born in Lufkin, Texas in 1907, he entered the University of Texas after high school hoping to become a lawyer like his father. Shivers dropped out a year later but returned after a brief stint working at an oil refinery.  Ever determined to the make the most of his college career, he joined several student groups and became president of the Student's Association.  He practiced law in Port Arthur after graduation until 1934 when the 27-year-old ran for his first position in public office: state senator.  His campaign was successful, making him the youngest member of the Texas Senate.
 
After serving in the U.S. military during World War II, Shivers was elected as state lieutenant governor in 1946 and again as an incumbent in 1948.  He is credited with consolidating much of the executive branch's power into this position with roles including the choice of which senators serve on particular committees to setting daily agendas.  Shivers succeeded Governor Beauford Jester upon the latter's death in 1949 and held the position for the next 7 and 1/2 years.  Under this new position he helped create the Legislation Council, the Legislative Budget Board alongside other pieces of legislature, including tax increases that served to expand state services.
 
Shivers took on several controversial positions that marred his image in later years.  He supported Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower's bid for Presidency in 1952, seen as a traitorous move by his Democratic party.  Opposing Brown v. Board of Education and scandals involving his administration (such as the Veteran's Land Board Scandal) lost further support.
 
With his political life coming to an end, Shivers took on several leading roles at banks in Texas until gaining a six-year appointment to the University of Texas Board of Regents.  He helped raise funds for both the Law school and College of Communications (a $5 million grant) during this time.  Shivers passed away on January 14, 1985 after suffering from a heart attack.