POM traces its roots to Carlton C. Magee, lawyer, newspaper editor and, most importantly, inventor of the world’s first parking meter.
Magee moved to Oklahoma City, OK in 1927, a year before the 1928 opening of the Oklahoma City Oil Field. With the newfound oil came people, and with people came cars — lots of cars. Between 1913 and 1930, the number of cars registered in Oklahoma rose from 3,000 to a staggering 500,000, with most emanating from Oklahoma City and the surrounding area.
Numerous oil related businesses sprang up in downtown Oklahoma City, bringing an influx of workers clamoring for parking spaces. However, oil wasn’t the only business downtown and retailers soon found their fortunes dwindling because customers had nowhere to park.
By January 1933, the problem had come to a head. At the request of downtown retailers, the local government and chamber of commerce formed a joint traffic committee and appointed Magee, then editor of the Oklahoma City News, as its chair.
Magee decided the best solution was to charge for parking using a small, mechanical timer in each space. He soon built a crude prototype and applied for a patent on December 21, 1932.
To refine his design, Magee sponsored a contest within Oklahoma State College’s Department of Engineering. Prizes were to be awarded for a winning design and production of a working prototype. Although various designs were submitted, the students were unable to produce a working model.
Ultimately, Magee recruited H.G. Thuesen and Gerald A. Hale, both instructors from OSC’s Department of Engineering, to produce a working model. By late 1933, Thuesen and Hale had developed an operable prototype they dubbed “Black Maria,” slang for “paddy wagon.”
Magee, Thuesen and Hale then joined forces with George E. Nicholson and J.B. McGay from the Macnick Company in Tulsa, OK. Macnick, which had produced detonation timers for nitroglycerin used in oil well construction, was well suited to manufacture a production version of Magee’s product.
In early 1935, the Dual Parking Meter Company was organized in Oklahoma City. Magee, Nicholson, and McGay were among Dual’s principal backers. Thuesen and Hale were also given stock in exchange for their early development work. Dual contracted with Macnick for production of 150 meters, which were installed in Oklahoma City in 1935.
To determine their effectiveness, meters were first installed only on one side of the street. The meters were so effective in providing parking spaces that, within three days, merchants from the other side of the street petitioned the local government to install meters on their side of the street as well.
From the first installation in Oklahoma City until the war shutdown in early 1940, Dual sold between 50 and 75 thousand parking meters, all of which were manufactured in Tulsa by Macnick. During World War II, Magee, Hale, McGay and Nicholson founded a second company, the Magee-Hale Park-O-Meter Company, where Magee served as president until his death in 1946.
After a series of mergers and acquisitions, Rockwell Manufacturing Company ultimately acquired Dual, Macnick and Magee-Hale. In 1964, Rockwell ceased producing the then outdated Dual parking meter and moved production of the Magee-Hale meters from Oklahoma to Russellville, AR.
In the spring of 1975, Rockwell decided to actively enter the international market to compete with VDO and Kienzle of Germany, Schlumberger of France, and Venner of England. By summer, the Rockwell Model “EN” had been tested and tooled for production. Shipments of early production meters were sent to Sweden, Jamaica, and Holland, where they were met with excellent acceptance.
On October 1, 1976, seven key Rockwell employees, along with four other Arkansas investors, formed POM Incorporated, which purchased Rockwell’s parking meter business. Exactly four years later on October 1, 1981, POM was purchased by Seth “Skeeter” Ward II of Little Rock, AR. Ward owned and operated POM until his death in May of 2013. Today, POM remains part of the Ward family and is operated by Skeeter Ward’s son, Seth Ward III.
POM has produced millions of parking meters since the first 150 were installed in 1935. POM meters are located throughout the United States and have been sold in 45 different countries. POM meters are still produced in Russellville, AR, in an ISO 9001:2008 accredited facility. POM has won numerous local and national awards, including Presidential “E” and “E-Star” awards for excellence in exporting.
Disclaimer: A few brief images of non-POM meters were not authorized by POM nor meant to depict POM meters.