The Idle American: When a Texas tall tale came up short
February 23, 2020
Dreams were drained, and the Wichita Falls building would become known as the world’s “Littlest Skyscraper.
Locals already were “big-eyed” by massive oil discoveries in the Wichita Falls area about a century ago.
Money flowed, and for many folks, life was good, might near the land-of-milk-and-honey status. For the oil people, it was even better. If they wanted milk and honey, they could yawn while signing checks to buy cows from a thousand hills. And, it mattered not how much cash might be required to buy as many bees as might be needed to produce enough honey for the masses, including the most gluttonous diners.
Investors were ripe for ‘pert-near anything being sold, so when invited to invest in the construction of a 480-foot skyscraper touted to easily be Texas’ tallest building, they lined up to sign up. Soon, more than $200,000 (three million-plus in today’s dollars) was amassed. And, a con artist named J. D. McMahon was happier than a fox in a henhouse….
The documents looked “official” and were quickly signed. None of the investors noticed that a single apostrophe was omitted. After all, excitement about the “tallest building in Texas” greatly exceeded the need for a “fine-toothed” examination of financial documents. Soon, though, reality set in.
They had affixed signatures to build a 480” (yep, inches, not feet) structure. Instead of being almost half as tall as Houston’s JPMorgan Chase Tower (currently the tallest structure in Texas), the “skyscraper”–four stories high–was constructed in record time.
Investors fumed into the wee hours fore and aft legal proceedings, but the judge ruled that the blueprints were followed exactly as presented. Only McMahon profited, and the building– with interior measurements of nine feet by twelve feet–looked like an elevator shaft. An elevator, though, would have been like a bridge to nowhere….
Wichitans were embarrassed. What could they do? Sure, they could raze the structure, but what would that prove?
Luckily, Ripley’s Believe It or Not gave the new structure life, dubbing it the “world’s littlest skyscraper” in its syndicated newspaper column.
No doubt, it is the shortest one, too, this tiny structure which is now “pitched” as an international tourist attraction. (I’m not sure about the “international” claim. I have visited Wichita Falls many times, but not once have been invited to see it.”…..
Credit daytripper Chet Garner for this “find.” He has “nooked and crannied” the entire Lone Star State in his “Texplorations,” and his TV show is featured regularly on PBS. The “littlest skyscraper” piece is featured in the February issue of Texas Coop Power magazine.
It also may be accessed at TexasCoopPower.com–website for the popular magazine that has been in continuous publication for 76 years–or Garner’s website, thedaytripper.com.
When you visit Wichita Falls, you might want to take the tiny stairway to the fourth floor “mini-museum.” Or, you might not….
If you want to view the city’s tallest buildings, four of them are “skyscrapers” only on days when cloud ceilings are low enough to keep aircraft grounded.
They have a combined total of 49 floors. Hamilton and City National buildings are 13 stories each, First Wichita has 12 and Wichita Tower, 11.
For the record, the “littlest skyscraper” is 40 feet tall….
While on the subject of records, surely a new volleyball recruit at The University of Texas at El Paso has the longest last name in intercollegiate athletics. Maybe we should check with Guinness World Records.
Coach Ben Wallis will likely call her by the nickname of “Lulu.” Talking heads on sports shows probably will take the easy way out. Pronunciation of “Lulu” presents no challenge.
Her last name doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so readily. Her first name has 52 characters, and her last, 10. Okay, assuming drum rolls are fading, here is the new player’s full name:
Ha’ahulakaleikai-manapo’aikalakahikikapuihoaneikeku’ina Crisostomo. At least, that’s the way her name appears in a recent edition of the El Paso Times. (“Lulu” is from Hawaii.)…
Dr. Newbury is a former educator who writes weekly and is a longtime public speaker. Comments/speaking inquiries to: [email protected]. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.
Don Newbury is the author of the humorous and inspirational memoir When the Porch Light’s On. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.