Metroplexed

The ravaging rush of technology is shoving another facet of our personal identity into the pages of the Book of Antiquity. Right into that chapter entitled “Obsolete Terminology.” And, as usual, we’re just sitting here wide-eyed while the author, under the pen name of Progress, reads it out to us, a litany of lost language.

One day in the not-too-distant future, the old folks (declining personages) will gather on the front porch (anterior domicilic structural protrusion), lean back in their rockers (oscillating repositories), gaze wistfully out across the yard (sectionalized tract) and say, ” ’Member when this here part of town was called Dallas?”

One day in the not-too-distant past, in December of 1971 to be exact, Har-vie Chapman was sitting at his desk at the Dallas advertising firm of Tracy-Locke. He was working on the account of the recently created North Texas Commission, whose goal it was to generate new commerce by luring business and industry out of their old cold homes in such places as New York and Chicago and into the bright and shiny North Texas region.

At the time, the highly-touted DFW Airport was becoming a reality. The U.S. Census Bureau was in the process of redefining the two Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas of Dallas and Ft. Worth. (SMSA is a significant marketing term that defines the consumer population in a given area.) Under consideration (and resultantly approved officially in April of 1973) was the merger of the Dallas SMSA (ranked 16th on the national list with the Ft. Worth SMSA (ranked 42) to create a single 11-county SMSA which would thus become the 10th largest official U.S. population center. There was no quantitative difference, but as an advertising device it meant a bundle. The Dallas-Ft. Worth area was Boom Town, bug-eyed with the prospects of a river of new dollars flowing in from the North.

It was Harvie’s job to sell it. Researchers had been sent to Chicago and New York to test the responses of various corporate executives to the slogan “North Texas-The Good Life,” only to discover that a good many of the execs thought they were talking about the Panhandle. And who the hell wants to relocate in Amarillo? A lot of the others didn’t have the foggiest notion where “North Texas” was. So Harvie needed something different.



He was staring at a piece of paper where he’d written the words “Metropolitan Complex.” Suddenly he saw it. He threw out a few letters, squeezed the two words together, and The Metroplex was born. Dallas/Fort Worth-The Southwest MetroplexR, to put it precisely, first saw the public light of day a few short weeks later in a two page advertising spread in the February 1973 issue of Fortune Magazine. The die was cast.



Little did Harvie know the monster he’d created. Never did he suspect that a few short years later the local landscape would be covered like a skin disease with the likes of Metroplex Auto Supply, Metroplex Electric Co., Metroplex Carpet and Furniture Center, Metroplex Methodist Church, Metroplex Equities, Inc., Metroplex Tires and Appliance, Metroplex Travel Service, Metroplex Sanitation, Inc. Never did he dream that soon the airwaves would drone with Metroplex news, Metroplex weather, Metroplex sports.

But you can’t really blame Harvie any more than you can blame the guy who invented instant mashed potatoes. We’ve only ourselves to blame. As one long-time Dallas resident remarked, “Oh, I know it’s sort of a dehumanizing word, but it’s so easy to use.”

Harvie himself has no regrets. “I just love to talk to people about Met-roplex,” he beams. “The acceptance of the word has been amazing, especially on the local and regional level rather than on the national level where it was intended. The most surprising thing is the way the local media have picked it up. I don’t know why.”

Why indeed?

There are some who suggest it was a vicious, underhanded, backroom plot by Ft. Worth radicals to forever remove the stigma of second-rate status of being the tag-along half of “Dallas-Ft. Worth.” There’s a vast dearth of evidence to substantiate that charge.

There is also the notion that Dallas is a city without roots. With an unspectacular historical past and a somehow baseless present, with such insubstantial raison d’etre (a non-industrial, non-governmental, inland city on an unnavigable river with no tourist trade), its residents have always had to wonder in the backs of their minds, “Why is it here?” Now they can answer, “Because of the future.” “Metroplex” is a slogan; the banner; a tangible, readable, sayable reason.

That rationale is certainly understandable and perhaps justified. But the word itself is not. It lacks the very character that the rootless residents are looking for. It’s … well, it’s blah.

Not that anyone was ever too taken with being called a Dallasite (which was the wrong word from the start-in keeping with the reputation of the “cultural center of the South,” it should have been Dallasians; after all, they don’t call them Parisites, do they?). But to be “from the Metroplex” is to be from nowhere. And the prospect of becoming a Metroplexan is humiliating. And boring.

“Where you from?”

“Metroplex Grove.”

“That’s down by Metroplex Cliff, isn’t it?”

“Right. Just south of the Lower Metroplex Loop. How about yourself?”

“I’m from Metroplex Branch, up in North Metroplex. We’re actually only about a mile from Lake Metroplex.”

“What business you in?”

“I’m with Northwest Metroplex Savings and Loan. Yourself?”

“I do P.R. work for the South Metroplex Magnetos.”

“Hey, I’m a basketball fan myself. Gotta admit, though, I pull for your crosstown rivals.”

“The Mid-Metroplex Mergers? Good ball club. Got that big center from West Metroplex College.”

“Did you see their game last week with Far West Metroplex Tech?”

“No, I missed it. I was deep sea fishing last week.”

“Oh yeah? Where’d you go?”

“Gulf of Metroplex.”

Not so farfetched. There have already been references to the “Houston Metroplex.” (Which makes you wonder about the effectiveness of the word’s original purpose of identifying the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.) Can it be long before we’re all a part of the Great State of Metroplexas?

Perhaps Harvie can yet redeem himself. We should encourage him to enter politics. He could be elected Mayor of Metroplex and in his first official act, in a spirit of great retribution, could change the name. To something like Dallas And Fort Worth And All Their Neighbors. Probably wouldn’t sell, but it’s got a nice ring to it.

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