Arlington, Bad Königshofen Celebrate 72 Years of Friendship ‘Solid as a Rock’ with Recommitment Ceremony
By Susan Schrock, Office of Communications
Posted on September 29, 2023, September 29, 2023

With the sweep of a pen and a warm handshake, Mayors Jim Ross and Thomas Helbling formalized the Sister Cities relationship between the City of Arlington and Bad Königshofen, Germany, that began out of an act of kindness 72 years earlier.

The recommitment ceremony, which included an exchanging of gifts and the dedication of a state historical marker, was held Sept. 27 beside the historic train depot platform in Downtown where Arlington residents first gathered in 1952 to begin shipping off supplies to help refugees in the small north Bavarian town. More than two dozen delegates visiting from Bad Königshofen attended Wednesday’s event, which celebrated one of the longest-lasting Sister Cities relationships that exists in the world today and a friendship “solid as a rock.”

“We are delighted to have attended this special occasion. On behalf of the city of Bad Königshofen and our entire delegation, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the longstanding partnership,” Bürgermeister Helbling said. “We hope for many more years of friendship. May this partnership continue to flourish and strengthen the bond between our two cities.”

The friendship between The American Dream City and the West Germany town started in 1951 when German town manager Kurt Zühlke visited Arlington during a study tour of the United States. Local historians say the town manager made an unscheduled stop in the city because Irene von Falkenried, a German tour participant, had a pen pal in Arlington, Theda Howell. Through this pen pal relationship, the town manager had an opportunity to meet and visit with then Arlington Mayor Tom Vandergriff.

During their meeting, the visiting town manager told Vandergriff about the difficulties his town was facing because of its location at the border between West and East Germany. Hundreds of people from the communist east had overwhelmed his small German town, and there was a shortage of food and clothing.

Moved by the plight of the town, Mayor Vandergriff and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce decided to “adopt” Königshofen and coordinated a community drive to collect food, clothing and gifts. In 1952, the first of four railroad boxcar shipments left Arlington. Click here to read more about the history of the friendship.

During the recommitment ceremony, the Texas Historical Commission unveiled a state historical marker beside the wooden platform that is all that remains of Arlington’s former Texas & Pacific railroad depot. The new marker, which became Tarrant County’s 49th official state historical marker, is located just north of the George W. Hawkes Downtown Library.

“The THC is honored to assist Texans in documenting and preserving important places and stories that make us who we are. Real places telling real stories,” Texas Historical Commission Representative Alicia Costello said. “These markers benefit not only residents of these counties but visitors and researchers as we seek to discover and understand the world and ourselves.”

Former Arlington City Councilman Doland Maner, now 101, said he still vividly recalls attending the send-off ceremony at the Texas & Pacific railroad depot on Feb. 1, 1952. The Arlington community’s act of generosity, even by families who had lost loved ones during the World War, led a lasting and valuable friendship between the two cities and a shining example of peace despite cultural differences, he said.

“We have proven that being friends, and being able to drink beer together, is a lot better than fighting,” Maner said.

Mayor Ross agreed. “It’s so critically important for us to have an understanding our rich history here in Arlington,” Ross said. “Our Sister City relationship with Bad Königshofen exemplifies what that history is all about. We’ve had a wonderful 72-year history, and having an understanding of how that happened, how that came about, helps us understand how we want to move forward in today’s world.”

Wednesday’s ceremony was attended by numerous leaders, including former Mayor Richard Greene, Texas State Representative Chris Turner and Tarrant County Commissioner Precinct 2 Representative Alisa Simmons, as well as Sister Cities International Vice Chair Carlo Capua, Texas Historical Commission Representative Alicia Costello, members of the Sister Cities of Arlington, Texas, and other special guests. The Arlington High School Alumni Band, which originally played at the train station during the sendoff in 1952, performed the national anthems for America and Germany during the recommitment ceremony.

Though both cities have remained in touch and visited each other over the decades, Arlington and Bad Königshofen never formalized their Sister City agreement in an official document, Arlington Sister Cities Program Director Sheri Capehart said. It wasn’t until 1956 that President Dwight Eisenhower created Sister Cities International in a White House summit on citizen diplomacy, where he envisioned a network that would be a champion for peace and prosperity by fostering bonds between people from different communities around the world.

“It’s important for documentation in history, but in our case, we had no vehicle to do that when it was created in 1951. We were five years into a relationship with Bad Königshofen before such a program was ever invented. So that is why we refer to it as a recommitment of the signing of the relationship,” Capehart said.

As part of this year’s cultural exchange with Bad Königshofen, delegates visited various city departments, parks, schools, restaurants, and entertainment venues during their stay. After the recommitment agreement was signed, the City presented the delegation with a brass train station bell inscribed with the motto Friendship: Solid as a Rock to take back home.

On Sept. 27, 2023, Mayors Jim Ross and Thomas Helbling formalized the Sister Cities relationship between the City of Arlington and Bad Königshofen, Germany.

History, Bad Königshofen, Sister City
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