The Cowboys Come to Town!

Dallas Cowboys running back, Walt Garrison, stepped out of a train in February of 1972

One month after beating the Miami Dolphins for a Super Bowl Championship title, the Dallas Cowboys star, wearing a sport coat and slacks, took in the fresh crisp mid day air moments before being surrounded by hundreds of Slatonites.

On an excursion train from Amarillo, Garrison and two other players; defensive tackle for the Cowboys, Bob Lilly, and Baltimore Colts defensive lineman Bob McKay made a brief stop to sign autographs and meet with the approximately 400 citizens who greeted them with signs welcoming them to Slaton.

As the players waved at the cheerful crowd, little did they know that Slaton in 1972 was a city on the verge of progress.

“A brighter tomorrow,” The Slatonite reported in January of 1972. “It’s possible because of today’s accomplishments. The great potential of concerned individuals has kept the wheels of progress in motion. Business, industry, technology, and the people of our fine community assure our future.”

In a year when the average gas price was .35 a gallon, the cable channel HBO was launched, and teeny boppers were still humming the tune to the 1971 hit American Pie, Slatonites could, at last, call their Lubbock neighbors toll free.

Although progress was looming, Slaton was in the midst of trying to save one of the most respected and historical institutions to come about during the Depression era years, Mercy Hospital.

In January of 1972, the Sisters of Mercy signed over the deeds of Mercy Hospital to the City of Slaton. The Sisters of Mercy were no longer capable of completely administering the hospital that was built in 1929.

According to The Slatonite, a committee was established to raise $70,000 so the hospital could continue its operation. The committee started a fundraising campaign entitled, “Have Mercy, Keep Mercy.”

Within weeks, the committee began a series of fundraisers that included a popular benefit dinner that helped sustain the hospital. In February of 1972 The Slatonite reported, “last Sunday’s chili and beef stew dinner for the benefit of Mercy Hospital succeeded beyond the expectations of the sponsoring VFW Auxiliary.”

That same year, the year devoted to progress, more than 300 people gathered at the 600 block of South 4th Street as the Catholic Priest blessed the grounds where a new Catholic Church would be built.

The Slatonite reported that the building would be erected to, “replace the present building which was moved in 1951 after having been used for many years by parishioners of St. Joseph Church.”

On a hot July afternoon, Felipe Estrada led the group that had gathered in prayer for the future of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. The building was finished and dedicated to the public on December 10, 1972.

As the city progressed. So too did business.

Citizens gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony as Loyd Ledbetter lead the city in opening the popular chain restaurant, Dairy Queen a month after Our Lady of Guadalupe broke ground..

However, the excitement of the early seventies left by train early in the winter of 1972 when members of the Dallas Cowboys football team greeted their Slaton fans.

The Slatonite reported that one of the signs in the audience read, “Slaton, your kind of town.”

“Slaton is my kind of town,” the hefty running back, Garrison said in response to the sign. He then continued to sign autographs.

Since it was during the lunch hour, students from Slaton High School had the opportunity to drive down to the railroad tracks to witness the commotion. Garrison was pleased to see the students as he wanted to personally congratulate the Slaton Tigerettes for winning the bi-district championship game earlier that year.


About slatontx

The ramblings of one of the few remaining small town newspaper reporters left in the world!
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