The population of Dime Box, Texas has remained fairly consistent over the last hundred years, peaking at around five hundred in the Roaring Twenties. If you’re driving up what used to be the Old San Antonio Road (now SH 21), you’ll even miss the town by about three miles, though you will drive right through the original site of the town, now known as “Old Dime Box.”
But in 1944*, a crew from CBS showed up and folks across the United States tuned into their live broadcast. Soon pretty much every household in the country knew the name of Dime Box, Texas.
The story of how that live broadcast came to be started twenty-three years earlier in 1921. That’s when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had just finished his seven-and-a-half-year stint as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (he was still eleven years away from being president) was diagnosed with polio**.
Now of course in those days polio was a much more common illness. FDR’s diagnosis changed the direction of polio treatment, though, because he utilized the resources he had at his disposal to bring attention to the disease. From 1929 through 1932, he served as Governor of New York and following that he was elected president four times, so those resources grew more substantial by the year.
A few years after his polio diagnosis, FDR founded the Warm Springs Foundation. Within a few years, the organization had morphed into the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and began working to raise money to eradicate polio. That organization came to be known as the March of Dimes in 1938 after Eddie Cantor appealed to the public to send dimes to the president at a fundraiser. It was a joke, but folks across the United States took his advice to heart, and for some time after that dimes arrived at the White House by the truckload.
And so when that CBS crew set up shop in Dime Box, Texas, it was to kick off the 1944 March of Dimes campaign. I mean, what better place to promote that campaign than a town with “dime” in the name? The folks in Dime Box enthusiastically contributed to the campaign that year (and not just that year; the following year, one-hundred-percent of the citizens of Dime Box participated in the campaign), and a ceremonial mailbox of dimes was shipped to President Roosevelt care of the White House (you can see that mailbox at the Dime Box Heritage Museum).
Today if you take the time to drive into “New Dime Box” you’ll see a ginormous dime encased in plexiglass at the corner of Ramsey and Bowers streets, in front of the Prosperity Bank. That dime looks a little different than one of the dimes you might have in your pocket today (if you even carry coins at all). It’s a “Mercury Dime,” which was the sort of time the US Mint had been producing since 1916.
Only two years after that CBS broadcast, the design of the dime would change, though. After President Roosevelt died in 1945, Congressman Ralph Daughton of Virginia introduced legislation to memorialize the man who had inspired so many people to mail dimes to the White House to combat polio… by putting his face on the dime.
* A few sources say 1946, but I believe the 1944 date to be correct, mainly because it would be hard to send a mailbox full of dimes to FDR when he was already dead.
** It’s now thought that FDR was suffering from Guillain–Barré syndrome.
If you’d like to hear about what life in Dime Box, Texas was like, pick up a copy of Pr. Ray Spitzenberger’s book “It Must Be the Noodles”– available on Amazon for $9.99 for paperback, and $8.99 for the Kindle edition:
You can read a little more about the history of Dime Box here: