Sometimes a game isn’t just a game, like when it involves the championship of a beloved sport. My recent "Whole Other Country" observations created more spinoff story opportunities than I would have imagined. For instance, it led me to Buffalo, Texas, a town named for large bovine that still roamed the plains when a railroad came through in 1872. Those creatures were actually bison although I promised to ignore that issue and let it slide. Thus the settlement in Texas came to be known as Buffalo.
What I didn’t mention was that Buffalo also changed its name temporarily in the late 20th Century not once, not twice, but three times due to championship games in two different sports. It reminded me a little of the time that Ismay, Montana became Joe, Montana for awhile in honor of an American Football quarterback. I noted the situation simply to stress that people took this stuff seriously. Sports fandom(¹) can lead to odd behaviors in its extreme forms.
Buffalo (aka Blue Star, Green Star), TX
Twelve Mile Circle felt compelled to examine the situation from an historical perspective, although not going back as far as usual this time. This story began in January 1993 with Super Bowl XXVII, the American Football championship between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills. There was a problem. Buffalo, Texas, barely a hundred miles south of Dallas and certainly within the strong pull of Cowboys country, shared a name with its Super Bowl rival. The Bills even featured a buffalo (bison, whatever) on their helmets as a visual connection to their home. The name of the city in New York, by the way, had a disputed etymology although I didn’t want to get into that today. There were never grazing herds of wild bovine near the eastern edge of Lake Erie in post-Columbian times however let’s not confuse the story any further. Rabid Cowboys fans from Buffalo, TX couldn’t stand to share a name with their opponents vying for a Super Bowl title.
Buffalo, the one in Texas, changed temporarily to Blue Star to reflect a key feature of the Cowboys logo. The Cowboys beat the Bills 52–17 in Super Bowl XXVII. Consequently, I guess the town felt emboldened or compelled to do it again the very next year when the Cowboys met the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII for a rematch. Buffalo, TX switched to Blue Star for a couple of weeks and once again Dallas claimed the Super Bowl championship, this time 30–13.
Dallas and Buffalo haven’t met in a Super Bowl since then. However, the municipal sports rivalry continued. The Dallas Stars opposed the Buffalo Sabres in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup championship series in 1999. Texas doesn’t come to mind immediately when I think of a stereotypical place where ice hockey might dominate the local sports culture. Am I right, Canadian 12MC audience? Buffalo, TX probably wouldn’t have blinked had Dallas fought for the Stanley Cup before those two Super Bowl titles. Dallas didn’t even have an NHL major league hockey team until 1993. Nonetheless, Buffalo, TX renamed itself Green Star this time (Texas does love its Lone Star, regardless of color), and the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup series four games to two.
They Weren’t the Only Ones
Washington (aka Steeler), PA
I stumbled upon a similar situation as I continued to research Buffalo further. This one happened a little more recently in Super Bowl XL, February 2006. The Pittsburgh Steelers went up against the Seattle (Washington) Seahawks. As described by the Seattle Times,
WASHINGTON, Pa. — Just to make sure there’s no confusion about which team they are pulling for in Super Bowl XL, the mayor and council voted unanimously to change this city’s name. Welcome to Steeler, Pa. The name change for the city of about 15,000 people south of Pittsburgh will last through Super Bowl Sunday.
The result? The Steelers won 21-10. Apparently towns should change their names temporarily if they wish to guarantee a home team victory (ignoring the issue of small sample size). Genius! Why haven’t more places tried this? Well, for the Super Bowl at least, there were surprisingly few opportunities to do that. I went back through the list and didn’t find much. These would have been some of the more promising opportunities:
- XLVII (2013): Baltimore (Maryland) Ravens vs. San Francisco (California) 49ers. I found California, Maryland (map) although it fell within territory more appropraite to the Washington, DC football team that must not be named.
- XXXVII (2003): Tampa Bay (Florida) Buccaneers vs. Oakland Raiders. There’s an Oakland, FL outside of Orlando about a hundred miles from Tampa (map).
- XXXV (2001): Baltimore (Maryland, again) Ravens vs. New York Giants. A rare double opportunity! I found a New Baltimore, NY south of Albany and a Maryland, NY west of Albany (map).
- XXX (1996) and XIII (1979): Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys. The Pittsburg (no h), Texas that I also mentioned in "Whole Other Country" (map) versus Dallas, Pennsylvania (map).
I’m sure similar analyses could be conducted for other major sports. I did take a quick glance at the ("other" or "real" depending on one’s point of view) football, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup™. The problem here involved the multitude of languages. Nonetheless, examples might include Uruguay vs. Argentina (1930), with a border area of Argentina called Uruguay (map); or England vs. West Germany (1966), with a small hamlet labelled as England (at least according to Google Maps) in what was then part of West Germany.
Then I got bored with the whole concept and gave up.
(¹) Portmanteau alert! Fandom = FANatic + kingDOM; a subculture of particularly devoted followers.
I remained vague when I discussed Boston — the Boston in Texas — in Named Like a Whole Other Country. I kept it to "the man who opened the first store in the area was W. J. Boston." Otherwise I might have tipped my hand that I’d discovered three Texas Bostons all within about four miles of each other in Bowie County. To wit,
- Boston was always Boston, and it’s newer than New Boston, although it’s now part of New Boston. Probably.
- Old Boston was the original Boston.
- New Boston was named for Old Boston back when Old Boston was still Boston.
- They’re all New Boston for postal purposes (Zip Code 75570) so maybe it doesn’t matter.
Got all that? It confused me too. Fortunately the Geographic Names Information System or GNIS provided precise locations for each location and the Handbook of Texas Online provided context and history.
(A) = Old Boston, (B) = New Boston, (C) = Boston
Notice the tight clustering of the Boston trio. This proximity would tend to justify a single town with a single name just about anywhere else. Maybe that would have happened here too except for several extenuating events. I took all three town histories from the Handbook, sorted through their intricacies and developed a timeline.
1830′s: Early settlers founded Boston and named it for the guy I mentioned earlier.
1841: Boston became the initial government seat for newly-founded Bowie County. That was while Texas was still an independent nation, the Republic of Texas.
1846: Boston gained a post office. Yes, it’s important to the story.
Some of the Railroad has been Decommissioned
1876: The new Texas and Pacific Railway laid track through Bowie County, and it skipped Boston. Residents feared Boston’s stagnation, a sad situation for many towns bypassed by railroads, so residents met with railroad officials to see what could be done about it. They agreed upon a station at the closest place possible along the line, about four miles north of Boston. Many Bostonians packed-up and platted a town around the new station, calling it New Boston because they lacked originality.
Mid 1880′s: The Bowie county seat moved from Boston to Texarkana which had become the largest town in the county by that time. Even so, Texarkana sat at the far eastern edge of Bowie County which inconvenienced just about everyone else. The county seat moved again about five year later, this time to the exact geographic center of Bowie. It corresponded to a spot about a mile south of New Boston.
1890: Bowie County started building a new courthouse at its nameless, centralized spot. The location lacked a post office and it needed to have one because of a quirk in the law that required a post office at every county seat. The Boston post office would move to the nameless spot — no issue there — although what should they call it? The Postal Service rejected several alternatives because they were already taken, otherwise Center, Hood or Glass would have sufficed. With preferred options unavailable, the county transferred the Boston name along with the Boston post office. Thus Boston became the county seat and the original Boston became Old Boston. Meanwhile, New Boston was still New Boston.
That’s the way things remained geographically and administratively for the next century even though the economics changed. New Boston, with its proximity to a railroad and later an interstate highway, expanded in size and influence.
1986: Bowie County built a modern courthouse in New Boston, on the edge of town near Interstate 30 and a Wal-Mart (map). The courthouse moved although Boston remained the legal county seat.
The Old Courthouse is Gone. Only the Abandoned Jail Remains
1987: An arsonist burned the old courthouse building in Boston, completely gutting it.
The story had an interesting postscript. An article in the Chicago Tribune reported on a suspicious situation in 1988.
The torching of one of Texas’ oldest courthouses has sparked a controversy nearly as hot as the flames that gutted the structure a year ago. At issue is whether to raze or restore the 99-year-old Bowie County Courthouse, one of the 10 oldest in Texas. An equally popular topic of discussion at local coffee shops is the timing of the fire, which was quickly ruled arson; it occurred two weeks after county officials increased insurance coverage on the building, at a time when the county budget was in the red. Another vexing question is whether the location of the new courthouse is legal.
The legal situation focused on whether the courthouse should have been allowed to move to its new location. By that time New Boston had annexed all of Boston except for the single block with the old courthouse. Apparently the move violated a Texas law about locating a courthouse too far away from the center of a county without adequate voter approval, or so it was alleged. Then there were the mysterious circumstances surrounding the arson. I couldn’t find out what happened after that time although eventually New Boston annexed the remaining vestige of Boston even though it continued to serve as the official Bowie County seat. That would make Boston a neighborhood of New Boston, and seemingly legitimize the new courthouse location.
I learned about an interesting tool from Twitter user @OsmQcCapNat as a result of the recent 12MC article on Trap Streets. The tool, Map Compare, displays the same location on several online maps simultaneously. That would have made my side-by-side comparison of OSM, Google Maps and Bing Maps so much easier. I’ll file that one away for future use.
I have an abundance of half-formed story ideas, an overflowing mailbag and a cornucopia of reader suggestions. That means it must be time once again for Odds and Ends, my recurring series of features and topics not quite large enough to fill an entire article on their own.
A couple of interesting items came to my attention via the @TheReal12MC Twitter account, undoubtedly an increasingly important way to share geo-oddities. The first one was a tweet from @wikitravel that linked to an article in Travel and Leisure,
New Zipline Connects Spain and Portugal
This one struck a lot of my interests simultaneously. First, it was a zip-line. Need I say more?
The company Límite Zero made the adventure so much more interesting though. The line crosses the Guadiana River, the international border between Spain and Portugal. Even better, the two nations are located in different time zones. Adventurers go back in time by an hour as they zip from east to west. At the far end in Portugal, riders then take a ferry for the return trip to Spain.
A zip line, an international border, a time zone anomaly and a ferry? I need to include this adventure near the top of my international travel plans.
@Clarker sent a tweet with a photo that he found from Twelve Mile, Indiana. I’ve simulated the approximate scene in Google Street View.
Twelve Mile, Indiana
That brought back some great memories. Twelve Mile, Indiana, made an appearance in the very early days of 12MC. It’s the renowned location of the annual Twelve Mile 500 lawnmower race.
I also received input from a more traditional route, the 12MC email box. Case in point, "Joe" sent an article link, The Forgotten Giant Arrows that Guide you Across America
Go Thata Way
It was a fascinating story focused at the intersection of the U.S. Postal Service and the early days of flight in the 1920′s. As the article explained, "… the federal government funded enormous concrete arrows to be built every 10 miles or so along established airmail routes to help the pilots trace their way across America in bad weather conditions and particularly at night, which was a more efficient time to fly." Some of those arrows continued to exist nearly a century later, as confirmed by the Google Satellite Image provided in the article, and reproduced above.
I can never predict when an article will become popular. I’m almost certain that I noticed these same arrows in another article from a different source several years ago. This time however it seemed to catch-on with the public. I’ve now seen several other people reference the giant arrows although Joe was the first to tell me about it so I’m giving him credit for passing it along.
Reader "Nigel" had a question and it confounded me as well. I would have created an entire article around it if I could have solved the mystery. Reluctantly, I’ll turn it over to the 12MC community to see if anyone out there may be able to provide an explanation for the mysterious and repeated appearance of Heterodox View Avenue.
Heterodox View Ave., Houston, TX
Nigel asked, "I noticed this odd street name first as what appears to be a driveway behind a hospital in Houston. But when typing it into Google Maps, I see others all over the country. Any guesses what this could be a reference to?"
I found the same thing. Heterodox View Avenue — and it was always Heterodox View Avenue; not street, not drive, not boulevard, only avenue — appeared in various random places throughout the United States. Only rarely did it run through a residential neighborhood. Generally it led either to a park or to a shopping center. Often it seemed to be cloaked, not necessarily appearing as a named street in Google and seemingly more an access road. Nigel’s example followed a similar pattern. The avenue ran along the edge of the hospital parking lot and next to a helicopter pad.
Heterodoxy refers to beliefs that are out of alignment with prevailing opinions or interpretations, often religious. The term also turns up in the vocabulary of economists. Thus, a heterodox view would be considered unorthodox or unconventional, although not so extreme as to be heresy. I considered this an odd choice for a street name at the very least. In addition, the use of Heterodox View Avenue (and only avenue) seemed too coincidental; a single individual or organization must have had a hand in it. However I could not find any logical connection between the occurrences. That disappointed me because I think there could be an interesting story hidden behind those heterodox views.
Thank you everyone for the great suggestions. Please keep them coming by tweet, by email, or even by by carrier pigeon if you like.