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Amarillo boomed in the first half of the 20th century. Starting in the early 1920s, the discoveries of helium, oil and natural gas in the Texas Panhandle brought a surge of social, economic and educational activity. Life in and around the city would never be the same.  

Historian Paul H. Carlson chronicled that period in his book Amarillo: The Story of a Western Town. “Madness followed,” he writes about that long-ago petroleum boom. “New housing subdivisions opened. New businesses appeared, and older ones grew larger. The country club expanded. Job opportunities increased. The population increased. Bank deposits increased. Wealth proliferated. Amarillo became an exciting place.”

The population would triple over the next decade. Oil money gave the city a legitimate downtown skyline. And thanks to that “madness” a century ago, the coming years will mean acknowledging dozens of major milestone anniversaries. Many organizations are celebrating 100 years, and trace their origins to the 1920s. Last fall, we celebrated the 100th birthdays of the Tri-State Fair and Amarillo Symphony. This year, we’re observing the 100th anniversaries of organizations like the United Way, the Amarillo Children’s Home and Northwest Texas Hospital. Other organizations, like Boys Ranch (80 years) and Clarendon College (125 years) observe milestones that reflect the early ambitions of the region.

According to the old Greek proverb, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Did local leaders think 80, 90 or 100 years into the future when they launched these ideas? Possibly so. Probably not. But the cluster of anniversaries in the present moment testifies to their vision, to the resilience of the city, and to the optimism present during a period of rapid growth.

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