It was in the summer of 1951 that Mr. Kurt Zühlke, city manager of the German town then called Königshofen (later Bad Königshofen), visited Arlington, Texas, at the end of a 3-month, 26-state study tour of the United States. Mr. Zühlke was in the U.S. as a participant in an adult education exchange program, but because he was a city official he was also given opportunities to learn about American municipal government.A visit to Texas Christian University was planned at the end of the tour, but Mr. Zühlke decided to come to Arlington as well because he was on the U.S. tour with Ms. Irene von Falkenried (who was from Marburg, Germany) and she happened to have a pen pal in Arlington whom she wanted to visit. The Arlington pen pal, Ms. Theda Howell, and her parents, J.T. and Grethal Howell, invited Mr. Zühlke and Ms. von Falkenried into their home, where they stayed for a couple weeks. Mr. Howell was a station agent with the Texas & Pacific Railroad and Mrs. Howell was active in many community organizations.While visiting with the Howell family, Mr. Zühlke told them about his home town of Königshofen, a small Bavarian town about the same size as Arlington at that time, and about problems Königshofen was having. Because Königshofen was located just a few miles west of what had become the border between East and West Germany, hundreds of refugees from the communist East had overwhelmed the town. There was a real shortage of food and clothing.
Mrs. Howell decided to take Mr. Zühlke to meet then-Mayor Tom Vandergriff and also took him to various community clubs and churches. Thus Mayor Vandergriff and many residents of Arlington learned about Königshofen’s difficulties brought about by the stream of refugees, and many who heard Mr. Zühlke’s story were moved by it and even expressed their willingness to help. In fact, the City of Arlington and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce decided to “adopt” Königshofen and began a drive among local organizations and individuals to collect clothing, food and gifts for the people in need in that German town.On September 17, 1951, Mayor Vandergriff wrote to Königshofen’s Mayor Kaspar Lurz about Arlington’s decision to help out the residents of Königshofen and about the fact that the people of Arlington were anxious to strengthen the bonds between the United States and Germany and especially the bonds between the two cities. Then on November 29 Mayor Vandergriff wrote to Mr. Zühlke that they “will be interested to know that we already have several thousand pounds of clothing, bedding, canned goods, thread, needles, etc…” and that “over 100 people are actively working on our committees.”An article in The Fort Worth Press on January 31, 1952, reported:
“The city of Arlington, the schools, the chamber of commerce and citizens individually have adopted the 1532-year-old German town…On the cultural exchange front, every Arlington school room is compiling a scrap book about Arlington and its people. A deluge of letters from people in all walks of Königshofen life have come to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.”
Indeed, many letters, pictures and handmade gifts were sent to Arlington by people of Königshofen to thank the Texans for the adoption of their town.
A railroad boxcar filled with items for Königshofen was ready for shipment from Arlington on February 1, 1952. A send-off ceremony was held at the Texas & Pacific railroad depot that day, and Mayor Vandergriff, other city officials, Chamber of Commerce members, the Arlington high school band, other school children, committee members, and the public were on hand. The Texas & Pacific Railroad transported the load free of charge to New Orleans, from where it was shipped, also free of charge, by Lykes Steamship Co. to Germany. The Mayor of Königshofen made the arrangements for transporting the food and clothing from the German port of Bremerhaven to Königshofen.
On April 1, 1952, the shipment was ready for distribution to the refugees and other needy residents of Königshofen, where local charities and organizations made sure all of those in need received their share. This shipment was the first of four from Arlington. The second shipment was received in Königshofen in April 1953, the third one in January 1954 and the fourth in January 1955.