by Johnny Stucco
and a Paper Historical Marker
Photos Courtesy of Lou Ann Herda, April 2005
the skin on a cooked pudding.
continues to be one of my favorite towns that I never saw. I fully
intended to drop by during my last trip to West
Texas, but like multitudes before me, I was drawn like a helpless
moth to the bright lights of Mentone.
life can only be compared to the more remote destinations of the Ozarks.)
But I'm always hungry for news "West of the Pecos" as they are fond
of saying, so I was delighted when the "assignment" phone
rang in the employee's lounge and Brewster handed me the receiver.
It was a call from volunteer correspondent Lou Ann Herda calling from
downtown Wink to ask if I needed anything
from Winkler County.
Although West Texas
is normally Brewster's turf, he didn't argue when I told him the subject
was sidewalks. Brewster has trouble with concrete thought; so the
story was mine.
I had personal interest in Wink's sidewalks
since 2001 when I read an article in 1968 Time Magazine (I'm really
behind with current events). The piece was written when Urban Renewal
was going full tilt and was going to solve all of the country's domestic
problems (even while Vietnam was solving our foreign problems). The
Government let it be known that funds were available for property
buyouts and the demolition of old buildings - anywhere they could
be found. The details of replacing these buildings hadn't quite been
worked out yet; but that certainly wasn't any reason not to get started.
The offer caught the eye of an alert West Texan who applied for some
of these funds. He had to have been surprised when he heard that Wink
qualified as a perfect example - the "poster child" for Urban Renewal
in Texas. $1,000,000 was awarded to
raze dilapidated and/ or dangerous structures plus install new infrastructure
for future growth.
in Winkler County is often done without flagmen or pilot cars.
sidewalk leads to another urban renewal success story.
When the day
arrived for the cash buyout - nearly everyone who owned a building
in Wink took the money and (predictably)
ran. Since there was nothing criminal about it - they didn't run
far. (Most of them moved to nearby Kermit
from what I heard.)
It's not to
say that the money was wasted. Many of the demolished buildings
were little more than ramshackle corrugated tin-roofed structures
with shared walls (leftovers from Wink's
oil-driven heyday). There was nothing wrong with the installation
of infrastructure, either. Fire hydrants arrived all bright and
shiny and were unwrapped like so many Christmas presents. Everything
arrived as promised. And being 1968 - everything was made in USA
- no Bangalore manhole covers here. The whole operation was a tremendous
success - except for one minor point. Nearly the whole town had
untried iron sentinel.
of Wink's Chamber of Commerce.
the moneys were given out, all that was left was a few blocks of buildings.
These included the Rig
Theater, the chamber of commerce and the building that was to
become the Roy Orbison Museum.
These buildings now form the core of present-day downtown Wink.
It may have become a ghost town; but it had the best sidewalks money
could buy. They're as flat as slate pool tables and as unblemished
as any sidewalk that ever appeared in a Disney cartoon.
nature has provided specimen examples of West Texas flora.
it being a less than optimum time of day, Lou Ann's photos show that
these satin-smooth sidewalks seem to extend to the horizon. Mother
Nature has decorated some cracks with specimen West Texas flora, but
other than those little "bumps in the road" it's a skateboarder's
paradise. Two words to the Wink chamber: "Championship Skateboarding."
notice from the Texas Historical Commission.
Theater (a handsome survivor of Wink's heyday and one of the rare
Texas theaters from the 20s) has been listed on the National Register
of Historic Places. The plaque may be on order, but until it arrives,
an official paper notification has been stapled to the plywood.
Next time you're in West
Texas take a little time to visit Wink.
Call ahead and they might open the museum for you. It's a chance to
go back in time and walk sidewalks that have remained virtually untrodden
since they were installed.
See Wink, Texas
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