At McCall's sandwich shop on Commercial Circle one recent afternoon, Sonny Watson sat in a booth and recalled a historic event that happened 75 years ago.
A few yards away, somewhere just beyond the restroom as best he could remember, the city of Warner Robins came to life.
On March 5, 1943, Warner Robins was incorporated as a city. The first meeting of the City Council was held on the front porch of the new mayor's home. That was C.B. "Boss" Watson, who was Sonny Watson's grandfather.
Sonny Watson was just shy of his 6th birthday. He and his parents had moved in with his grandfather in 1938 after C.B.'s wife died. His grandfather lived in a large house in the center of the lot where McCall's is now located.
Sonny Watson didn't really understand much about what was happening on the front porch that day, but he wanted to see. He was one of the first residents to attend a council meeting — and was the first one to get kicked out.
"I remember me going out trying to find out what was going on, as an inquisitive 6-year-old would normally do, and my granddaddy made me leave, said I was making too much noise," Watson recalled. "That was my first involvement in politics."
Sonny Watson went on to become a state representative and now serves as chairman of the Houston Healthcare board of trustees.
Watson Boulevard was named after C.B. Watson. It's a five-lane major thoroughfare today, but it was just a dirt road when Sonny Watson was a boy. The area around his grandfather's house was all rural, and the only businesses were his grandfather's general store, which held the post office, and a service station.
Asked what he might have thought if he could have seen 75 years into the future back then, Watson responded, "Wow. That would be the only word I would know of."
For one, the city had about 1,000 residents when it was incorporated. Today, it has about 75,000.
His grandfather and the first council members were appointed by the General Assembly as a part of the incorporation. His grandfather was later elected and served as mayor until 1950, when he resigned due to health reasons.
Contrary to common belief, C.B.'s nickname, "Boss," isn't a reference to his political influence, Watson said. The nickname comes from his grandfather's middle name, "Bostick."
The council met at that house a few times in the city's early days. That was until the federal government gave the city a barracks building to serve as the first city hall.
The town had formerly been called Wellston, but it changed its name at the wishes of Col. Charles Thomas, the first commander of the new base. He wanted to name the base after his mentor, Gen. Augustine Warner Robins, but regulations said it had to be named after the town. Thomas persuaded C.B. Watson to rename the town, which was actually done before the city was incorporated. The base then became Warner Robins Army Air Depot. Later, after the creation of the Air Force, the base would take on the name it holds today: Robins Air Force Base.
In the early days of the city, Watson said, there really was no city. Warner Robins had no police, fire or any other service. The mayor and council were mainly concerned with preparing for the growth that was to come from the base.
The Warner Robins Convention & Visitors Bureau is organizing a celebration of the birth of city. It will be held Sunday at the E.L. Greenway Center on Watson Boulevard next to the railroad tracks, from 1-4 p.m. It will include a ribbon cutting, live music and other entertainment.
The Warner Robins Heritage Society had planned a parade celebrating the anniversary for March 24, but that has been canceled. Art Howard, president of the society, said it was called off because local VFW and American Legion posts are planning a parade for Nov. 11 as a part of Veterans Day. Since the anniversary parade is intended to honor World War II veterans, Howard said Heritage Society organizers decided to participate in the Veterans Day parade rather than have a separate one.
A USO-style dance planned for March 24 at the Wellston Senior Citizens Center is still on. An event honoring World War II vets is also planned for 10 a.m. March 23 at City Hall. The city's anniversary and recognition of World War II vets are linked together, he said.
"There are fewer and fewer veterans each year, so it’s a way to acknowledge them because Warner Robins is the city that World War II built," he said. "If there hadn’t been a base, there wouldn't be Warner Robins. It would still be Wellston."