I was researching when I found an interesting article in the Sylacauga Advance of February 3, 1949, that shows differences in the way our city leaders worked together back in that day and today. As Barney Fife put it, my twig is not bent toward politics; but I think you might like to remember that time with me. It seems that a proposal to construct a new swimming pool was placed before the city council on a Tuesday night. Mayor Ed Howard included in his remarks the hope that the pool be constructed in time for the coming summer (swimming) season. Mayor Howard stated that the present pool had been declared to be unsanitary and a menace to health and would soon be condemned. Nothing is mentioned about calling in an expensive consultant to tell us what we need for our city because of a plan that worked well somewhere else. The article went on to say, “As proposed the new pool would cost between $45,000 to $50,000. A modern tile bath house would be constructed next year. Location of the proposed pool has not yet been decided.”
Several things stand out about this article. First and foremost that pool was built in those hard times of the 1940’s, but there was frugality in the proposal of building what they could afford to build at once; and the rest, would be built the next year. The concern that the pool be built before summer showed the mayor’s heart for the people he served. We live still (for how much longer we are not sure) in a democracy where the people’s voices matter. Ed Howard was a family man with two daughters, and as I remember them, they made good use of Municipal Pool.
Other noteworthy events happened during Ed Howard’s terms of service. One which seems a little strange to us now is noted in a March 29, 1949, Daily Home article concerning showing motion pictures on Sunday. A special referendum was held on March 28, 1949, in which only qualified registered voters in the city approved the legalization of Sunday motion pictures by a vote of two to one. Following the vote, Mayor Howard reminded the voters that the next meeting was April 5th and that “..at that time we will follow the expressed wishes of the citizenship and pass an ordinance beginning Sunday motion picture shows, but we will strictly regulate hours of operation so that there can be no possibility of conflict with services of worship in our churches.”
On May 23, 1949, the Talladega Daily Home reports how Mayor Howard moved on to another controversial issue. The installation of 300 parking meters along the streets of Sylacauga was done on a 6 month trial basis. Three free parking areas were designated for business owners who needed all day parking. Mayor Howard encouraged the public, especially store owners, to be patient with this experiment, the proceeds from it going to a new white way for the Sylacauga business district. This was a buzz word in that day for all of the lighting arrangements for a city’s downtown area including ornamental light posts, frosted and colored lights and globes, including conduits and other equipment needed to improve a city as far as beauty and safety are concerned.
Mayor Howard had a legacy of service. He became Mayor of Sylacauga in 1948 and according to the Daily Home of October 13, 1984 served the longest term as mayor in the city’s history—10 years. Sylacauga had voted to change the length of the mayoral terms from two to four years in 1948. Ed Howard was a man who had made his mark in business with a friendly good-will that made him well respected with the people. When he resigned after eleven years, never completing his third term, the City Council recognized him with a commendation for his good work, giving their unanimous approval and thanks for a job well done. His resignation came for health reasons on the advice of his doctor, and Joe Dark was sworn in as Mayor on June 4, 1959.
Currently the Mayor of Sylacauga is very limited in the power to make a difference in issues in this city. The Mayor has no vote, and the council is “stuck” in a three-two-voting- block, and the citizens are the losers. Like so many things in our country, common sense and kindness have virtually disappeared. Remembering Mayor of Sylacauga, Ed Howard has reminded me of wonderful days growing up in Sylacauga. It was a time when people cared about each other and tried to work together for the good of the city, and it was not so long ago at that.
Special thanks to Samantha Machen at B.B. Comer Library, Sylacauga Advance, Daily Home, Paul Stepp, and especially Carol Howard Collins (Ray) for good information.