A look at Warner Robins’ early days

July 17, 2013 

Recently, somebody let me borrow a copy of The Daily Sun’s 25th Anniversary Progress Report, a special edition of about 125 pages published in March 1968 that detailed the first 25 years of Warner Robins’ history. It was beyond fascinating.

Did you know that our first mayor, C.B. Watson was called “Boss,” a childhood nickname derived from his middle name, Bostick, that stuck with him his entire life? He was a native of the area, born in his family home located in the middle of what is now Commercial Circle.

Women were busy, busy, busy in Warner Robins in the first 25 years. From the Civilian Wives Club to the Woman’s Club to the Business and Professional Women’s Club, they did everything from donate their time to run the library to mentoring young girls at the high schools.

President Lyndon B. Johnson visited Warner Robins in 1964. Years before speech therapy became a norm in public school, Warner Robins had the Houston Speech and Hearing School, which in 1968 served 25 deaf students and 35 with speech difficulties. A football program was started at the recreation department in 1958, and in 10 years it had grown from 60 boys to 675.

Even the ads were interesting, with portrait type pictures of the owners and write-ups of how the businesses got started. Many of those businesses have not survived the passage of time such as Manor Pharmacy and the Rama Theater. Glancing at a yellowed, 45-year-old newspaper, the pictures and descriptions of the Biff-Burger made me hungry.

An entire page was dedicated to the Warner Robins Fire Department. Did you know that the WRFD was the first in the state to be certified by the Red Cross for 100 percent personnel training in advanced first aid? Two fires were mentioned: the burning of Warner Robins High School and the bowling alley in Williams Plaza, at the time the worst two fires in the city’s history, according to the article.

The first baby born in Warner Robins was Bill M. Ulmer, born on March 11, 1943, at 12:25 a.m. His family had moved to the area a few months before he was born, and during the 25th anniversary celebration he was honored as the first “native” of Warner Robins.

Many of us are aware of the tornado that hit Warner Robins in 1953; 18 people were killed. The write-up in the anniversary edition details the carnage and the deaths, but it was the last few lines of that article that really struck me.

“In a city of about 5,000 people who had little in common other than their jobs at Robins AFB, this tragedy seemed to be the catalyst that actually created a city where people came to know each other as neighbors and fellows sufferers. At the time it was said that out of the terror, suffering and destruction of this tornado came the spirit and determination that gave Warner Robins a sense of destiny and determination to build a permanent city.”

Powerful words about a city that was created to be temporary.

Contact Alline Kent at 396-2467 or allinekent@cox.net.

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