Red Ball

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Excerpt from:
Red Ball Motor Freight, Dallas Texas, 1928-1982

Story and Photos by Gary Fancher, Edgewood, Texax

Unreliable passenger service between his home in Hopkins County, Texas, and his job in Oklahoma caused Henry English, at the age of 17, to strike upon the idea of beginning a bus service, which ultimately grew into one of the largest common carriers in the United States. He turned $150 in cash and a $100 loan into a company that he sold in 1968 for over fifteen million dollars. The original $100 loan was repaid within ten days. The Red Ball Bus Line, which linked communities in North Central Texas to Dallas, began in 1919 and was named for the through freight trains upon which he remembered his father shipping cattle from Hopkins County. The red ball marking the cattle cars meant that they were not to be delayed; that speed was essential. When he sold his bus line in 1927 it had reportedly grown to a value of $60,000. With part of that money Henry founded Red Ball Motor Freight.

In 1928 Henry English purchased two trucks and a franchise owned by a friend. Red Ball Motor Freight was born. Red Ball offered pickup and delivery at the doors of businesses, carrying commodities between Lufkin and Houston, Texas, a distance of 140 miles. Red Ball soon gained a reputation for reliability and “Smiling Service,” which caused the company to expand rapidly. To take advantage of the booming oil industry in East Texas in the early 1930s, routes were extended to serve Longview, Dallas, Shreveport, Beaumont and all town towns along these routes with overnight service. The general office in Lufkin, Texas, was the hub of company and by 1936 Red Ball employed about 200 people. With the passage of the Texas Motor Carrier Act in 1931 and part 2 of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1935, Red Ball was granted “grandfather” certificates to cover its existing service area. Through purchase and by proof of public convenience and necessity, by 1938 Red Ball’s routes had grown to include southeastern Texas, northwestern Louisiana, and areas west to Fort Worth. Also in 1938, the general offices were moved to the 2500 block of Swiss Avenue in Dallas.

For the whole story, subscribe to Old Time Trucks® and read the Oct04/Nov04 2004 issue.


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