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A Prominent 1940 Arlington Citizen, Not Willing to "Take It" Anymore, Did Something Unusual!

This article appeared in an issue of the Arlington Journal.

That citizen was R. L. Zerwer, Vice President and General Manager of Southern Ornamental Iron Works. Southern Ornamental Iron Works was one of Arlington’s largest employers in 1940. The plant and offices were located at 201 N. Cooper St., on the east side of Cooper, between the railroad tracks and W. Division St. The central Arlington Police Station is now on the southeast corner of Cooper and W. Division Streets.

A conversation held in Mr. Zerwer’s office in late May 1940 somehow led to rumors that Mr. Zerwer felt reflected on his “character and integrity.” So some two weeks after that conversation, Mr. Zerwer purchased space in the Arlington Journal of June 7, 1940.

Mr. Zerwer tells us that the conversation was ”with regard to the present European conflict.” Recall that on May 10, 1940, Germany had invaded France and the Low Countries in a “Blitzkrieg” operation that very quickly overcame all opposition. In trying to understand what was said that Mr. Zerwer felt reflected on his “character and integrity,” remember that “Zerwer” is of German origin.

The full text of the paid advertisement Mr. Zerwer took out in the June 7, 1940 issue of the Arlington Journal follows:

To Whom it may Concern:

The undersigned has been requested to make a statement regarding numerous and sundry rumors that have been floating around Arlington for the past two weeks that reflect on my character and integrity. All of these rumors have grown out of a very small incident which took place in my private office at Southern Ornamental Iron Works’ plant, which office, by the way, is sound-proof. A gentleman from Fort Worth, whom I have known for twenty years, entered my private office and started a conversation with regard to the present European conflict. He plainly stated his views and I plainly stated mine. The conversation took place at about five o’clock p.m. and lasted not over two minutes, and was heard by no one except the two of us.

Out of this two-minute conversation have grown rumors, statements, and misstatements that would fill volumes, that would implicate not only the two participants, but several foreign powers as well. Such rumors as have been circulated around Arlington are gross insults to the writer and his family. They are a blot and stain on a decent community and are cancerous in effect. The person or persons responsible for these rumors seem to have one ambition, and that, to make the City of Arlington the Gossip Center of the Southwest. If this condition continues to flourish, then it will not be long until the cancer has eaten everything except the bones and no one will care to live in such a community.

A good many of my friends in Arlington have come to me with these rumors and I have told them briefly of the incident mentioned above and they have laughed at the ridiculous tales and rumors that have spread all over Arlington and surrounding cities and towns. I have invited Mayor Altman, as well as some fifteen or twenty of our leading business men in Arlington, to investigate these rumors to the limit and if I am guilty of any of them, I stand ready to be convicted; if I am innocent, then I most certainly expect to be acquitted.

I will not mention here any of the rumors that have been going around during the past several days as all of them would just about fill the Arlington Journal, and Mr. Perry would not have room for worthwhile news, but I sincerely invite any citizen or citizens of Arlington or elsewhere to feel free to come to my office or my residence and I will explain in detail just what it is all about.

Now, with regard to my status as a loyal citizen of the United States: I was born on a farm in Ellis County in 1900. My father was German and my mother was Polish. They married and came to the United States in 1881 and settled in Chicago, Illinois. Shortly thereafter, my father took out naturalization papers and became a citizen of the United States. He reared five boys and one girl. One of my brothers served his country overseas in the First World War, and was wounded for life; the other brother was in New York ready to sail for Europe when the Armistice was signed. When I was two years old, my mother died and left my father with three or four rather small children to raise. This meant that each one had to look out for himself the best he could and make his or her own way in the world. I was forced to make my own living from the time I was eight years old. I completed my high school education and saved enough pennies working on my father’s farm and elsewhere to pay for a business education. As soon as my stenographic and bookkeeping course was finished, I began work for Mr. Frank E. Austin, President of Austin Brothers Steel Company in Dallas, the man by whom I am now employed. I have worked for Mr. Austin for the past twenty-one years in one capacity or another. If there is anyone who doubts my honesty and integrity let that person call on Mr. Austin at 621 Republic Bank Building in Dallas, and he will supply any information that might be desired. I have never spent a minute in jail nor have I had a fight with anyone; and incidentally, I pay my bills when due.

I would be willing to lay down my life in defense of the United States. Like many other American citizens, I do not feel that we should, as a nation, defend our country by sending our expeditionary forces across to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Neither do I feel that we, as American citizens, should be too quick to accuse our neighbors of Un-American activities. Most certainly, we should not participate in idle gossip and cause rumors to be circulated that would be harmful and cause embarrassment to those unjustly accused.

Again, in conclusion, if there is anyone in Arlington or elsewhere who doubts my honesty and sincerity, let that person or persons submit facts properly substantiated to back up his or her accusations. These facts, if any, should be reported to Mayor Altman or some committee for proper investigation. I would gladly appear before Mayor Altman or such a committee to face the accuser or accusers, which the case might be. Lies and rumors can do much harm and I sincerely hope that my case will have a lot to do with suppressing such idle gossip that has been running rampant in our fair city for a good many days, weeks, months, and even years. Other rumors regarding the Southern Ornamental Iron Works and its employee have been circulated at various times that had no truth or facts back of them and have been originated from sources unknown.

In order to quiet any further rumors about my having been arrested and placed in jail on Friday of last week, I wish to inform my friends, my fellow employees, and others who might be interested, that my wife and I were attending the funeral of her mother, Mrs. Agnes E. Orr, in Texarkana, Texas, and I was not spending a quiet weekend in jail.

May God forgive those who have a guilty conscience and a “waggin tung.”

R. L. Zerwer Vice-President & Gen. Manager
Southern Ornamental Iron Works