West side of Brazos Street in downtown Whitney, just south of Washington Avenue.

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In 1922, D. Scarborough, a local druggist, placed a long cedar bench in downtown Whitney for elderly gentlemen to sit, whittle, chew tobacco and discuss news of the day. In 1949, some ladies asked Mayor Fred Basham to remove the bench, complaining about the spitting and language used by the old men. The Mayor complied by having the Chief of Police move the bench into an alley nearby. The “spit and whittlers” were outraged. They brought nail kegs to sit on where the bench had been. The city removed the kegs.

The “spit and whittlers” were outraged. They brought nail kegs to sit on where the bench had been. The city removed the kegs. Upset senior citizens presented a petition to the City Council requesting their bench be returned “where it belonged.” The City called a special election, which was held in August, 1949.

The old men won 124 to 67, and the Mayor announced the outcome while standing on a nail keg. New benches were built on the Brazos Street site, and a water fountain added. The benches have been refurbished, and all are welcome to have a seat themselves, where history was made. They are on the west side of Brazos Street in downtown Whitney, just south of Washington Avenue. benches03

The “Battle of the Benches” received nationwide publicity and really put Whitney, the best town by a dam site, on the map. Life magazine, in its August 15, 1949 issue, ran a picture spread and other magazines and newspapers carried articles. The Life magazine article is now on display at the Whitney Area Museum in town.

Mayor Basham survived the criticism and lived to be an “old man” himself, enjoying retirement in Whitney.