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UNIVERSAL CITY, TX

UNIVERSAL CITY, TEXAS. Universal City is located across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks from the main gate of Randolph Air Force Base in northeast Bexar County. Covering 5.7 square miles, the city is enclosed by Randolph and the cities of Converse, Live Oak, Selma, and Schertz. The genesis of Universal City occurred when three San Antonio doctors, Henry H. Ogilvie (1885–1945), Witten B. Russ (1874–1964), and Samuel P. Cunningham (1876–1930), bought farmland in late 1929 in speculation that the future military airfield across the tracks would attract businesses and homeowners. Developer Aubrey Milner named the tract Universal City in 1931 to recognize what he hoped would be the universal importance of the neighboring airfield.

Randolph Field opened on October 25, 1931, and the first business to open across the railroad tracks was a service station in 1932. Another early business was Randolph Cleaners (then called Post Tailors), which was still in operation in 2013. Pat Booker Road (State Highway 218), which is the main street of Universal City and connects Interstate 35 to the main gate of Randolph AFB, was built in 1935 and named a year later in honor of Air Corps captain and San Antonio native Francis P. “Pat” Booker, a pilot who served at Randolph and was later killed in an airplane crash at Maxwell Field, Alabama. The first restaurant, Beaty's, opened in 1939.

Until the late 1950s the town grew slowly; the population after twenty-five years was only a few hundred. The catalyst that fueled Universal City’s tremendous growth was when Headquarters, Air Training Command moved from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to Randolph in 1957. The influx of officers and enlisted could not be absorbed by on-base housing, as it had since World War II. Recognizing this, the owner of Acme Lumber Company, Johnnie Chuoke, began in late 1957 Rose Garden, the first profitable housing development of Universal City. Soon other builders followed, and the race was on. Some citizens were concerned that burgeoning San Antonio would soon attempt to annex unincorporated Universal City, so in March 1960 voters approved incorporation. The first mayor, Franklin Bless, along with five aldermen were elected on June 4, 1960, and the first city council meeting was held two days later. On September 6, 1960, the city council officially adopted the Texas code that made it a general law city. After months of holding meetings wherever space could be found, the city government occupied its new permanent city hall in March 1962. Small police and fire stations were added to the city hall later to create a municipal building. Also in 1962 the city’s first church, Universal City Methodist, was organized, and construction began on a building. Although the town was already growing rapidly, the transfer of the Air Force Military Personnel function from the Pentagon to Randolph, beginning in June 1963 and continuing over the next few years, accelerated the growth. In January 1964 the city got its first bank, and in 1965 its first shopping center Randolph Plaza opened, featuring a Piggly Wiggly supermarket.

After a decade of having just a rural post office, Universal City received a full-fledged U. S. post office in 1970. Also in 1970 the town gained its own newspaper, the Weekly Herald (the newspaper relocated in 1998), and an H-E-B supermarket opened on the edge of town. McDonald’s arrived in Universal City in January 1972. A Sears catalog store opened later in the year. At the general election on April 1, 1972, citizens chose to be governed under a home rule charter, which provided for a council-manager form of city government. The city’s first school, Rose Garden Elementary, opened in 1960 and was followed by Northview Elementary, which opened in 1967 but later closed. Coronado Village Elementary School opened in 1971, Kitty Hawk Junior High (now Middle School) in 1976, and Olympia Elementary in 1980. The newest and probably last school within the city limits, Salinas Elementary, opened in 2007. In 1979 the town became the first community in Bexar County to have cable television service. A new municipal building that housed the city government and police department opened in September 1984, and a city library opened in June 1985 in the former city hall. The city gained a new fire station in September 1986, and the library expanded into the space of the old fire station. Olympia Hills, the city’s municipal golf course and conference center opened in March 2000. A new public works building was dedicated in July 2005, and a new animal shelter opened in August 2008. The permanent campus of Northeast Lakeview Community College, located on land shared by Universal City and Live Oak, opened in the fall of 2008. The city’s dog park opened in June 2011.

At the time of its incorporation, the population of Universal City was estimated to be about 1,800, but that may have been generous. At one time known as the fastest growing city in Texas, the city’s population skyrocketed to 7,613 by 1970. Since then growth has been less phenomenal, with the population reaching 10,720 by 1980, 13,057 by 1990, 14,849 by 2000, and 18,530 by 2010. Universal City has two major parks, several smaller ones, and has acquired land for several future parks, including a linear one beside Cibolo Creek. The city has two annual civic events—a Snowfest in February and a Veterans' Day parade in November.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Economic Development Committee of the Randolph Metrocom Chamber of Commerce, Comprehensive Economic Profile of the Randolph Metrocom (1988). Universal City Herald, August 31, 1978. Universal City, Texas (http://www.universalcitytexas.com/), accessed February 9, 2014.

Michael P. Hoffman
Michael P. Hoffman

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Michael P. Hoffman, "UNIVERSAL CITY, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/heu01), accessed August 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 20, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.