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013 SERVER A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South July 2Z 1973 250 Plunk your magic twanger, Tommy By Joe Wayne Taylor “There is a bond issue on your immediate horizon. It may seem monumental in size. It may seem frightening. But not meeting our responsibilities would be even more frightening. We ‘may be thinking big but I’m convinced that it would be folly to think anything but big.” Tom Vandergriff, 1951 Arlington Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich was wrong when she wrote that Arlington was some “jerk town with the single boast it is equidistant, between Dallas and Fort Worth.” Some really bizarre things have been going on here lately. Tom Vandergriff, 46, millionaire car dealer’s son, mayor and a sort of one man Chamber of Commerce, has gotten the city interested in the entertainment business. Arlington now owns a major league baseball park and the world’s largest inland sea-life oceanarium. The ball park houses the biggest losers in professional baseball. The fish, park features Newtka the Killer Whale and a bunch of rollerskating penguins. And the citizens of Arlington are $40 million in debt for these municipal splendors. To understand how Arlington has been transformed from a lazy, oak-shaded fanning town into a debt-ridden imitation of Southern California, one must know something of Mayor Vanderg,riff. He is to Arlington what Richard Daley is to Chicago. Vandergriff and his father, Hooker, have built a little kingdom here, financed by’ their big Buick and Chevrolet dealerships. For years, they’ve enjoyed running the city, and their forays into what they call “community service” have provided both civic and financial benefits. When it comes time to buy a new car, Arlington residents may well remember that the Vandergriffs donated land for the new hospital, the First Methodist new uniforms and instruments for the high school band, the FFA and drivers’ ed vehicles and the electric basketball scoreboards \(“Vandergriff Enterprises” “The actual work I do selling cars,” Vandergriff once admitted, “wouldn’t begin to pay my salary. Only the other day a young farmer came in to buy a truck and told us he came here because he wanted a chance to pay us back for what we had done for him while he was in school. We do a lot of work for the youth and although it is a long range proposition, it pays off.” Hooker Vandergriff moved his family from Carrollton, Tex., to Arlington in 1937. Sensing that the area would grow, he invested in well-situated land and soon became rich. Most people in Arlington place his wealth at about $10 million. Tom \(Tommy or TJV, as the papers schools and then to the University of Southern California for a degree in speech. The younger Vandergriff couldn’t find a job in California as a radio announcer ; so he came home, Joe Wayne Taylor is a graduate of UT at Arlington. He worked for the student paper there and spent a summer at the Austin American-Statesman. After a stint at a Texaco station and a few weeks mowing lawns, Taylor was hired by the Dallas Times-Herald, where he works even now. Rumor has it that he’s about to go to work for a Texas politician in Washington.