Gertrude Arlean graduated from Kokomo High School in 1940, just before America entered into World War II. In the summer of 1947, Gertrude had been listening to WLW, a radio station in Cincinnati, when she heard about the station’s “Builders of Destiny” program. They invited listeners to write about why their city should be called the “City of Firsts.” She entered Kokomo into the competition with a list of the city’s contributions to society.
The original “list of firsts” was rather lengthy. It included the first commercially built automobile in 1894 by Elwood Haynes, the first pneumatic rubber tire in 1894 by D.C. Spraker and Kokomo Rubber Tire Co., the first aluminum casting in 1895 by William “Billy” Johnson of Ford & Donnelly Foundry, the first carburetor in 1902 by George Kingston, the first Stellite cobalt-based alloy in 1906 by Elwood Haynes, the first stainless steel in 1912 by Elwood Haynes, the first American Howitzer shell in 1918 by Superior Machine Tool Co., the first aerial bombs with fins in 1918 by Liberty Pressed Metal Co., the first mechanical corn-picker in the 1920s by John Powell, the first dirilyte golden-hued tableware in 1926 by Carl Molin, the first canned tomato juice in 1928 by Walter Kemp, Kemp Brothers Canning Co., the first push-button car radio in 1938 by Delco Radio Division of General Motors, the first all-metal lifeboats and rafts in 1941 and 1943 by Globe America Stove Co. and finally the first signal-seeking car radio in 1947 by Delco Radio Division of General Motors. A later list also included the 1957 invention of the first all-transistor car radio, also by Delco.
Gertrude sent off her entry and received a Western Union telegram on July 16, 1947. It read: “Miss Arlean Weaver, 2200 North Jay St. Kokomo Ind., please listen to Builders of Destiny Monday, July 21, 10 p.m. Katherine Fox Radio Station WLW.”
She tuned in that night and heard them announce that Kokomo had won. The “City of Firsts” title caught on immediately.