Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

The Dallas Cowboys’ Horrible Inaugural Year — 1960

dallas-cowboys-logo_1960

by Paula Bosse

Thanksgiving means different things to different people. For some it’s about spending time with family, for some it’s about ingesting an unimaginable amount of good food, and for others it’s all about watching the Cowboys’ game.

Here’s a look back at the inaugural season of the Dallas Cowboys, 1960:

  • Head coach: Tom Landry.
  • Home field: Cotton Bowl.
  • Results: 0 wins, 11 losses, 1 tie.
  • They were ranked last in the Western Conference.
  • They had the worst record of any team in the NFL that season.

The team got better, but as far as the Cowboys, there was absolutely nothing for Dallas to be thankful for that year — except that they’d never have to re-live Season 1 again.

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Yep, Wikipedia. Read it and weep, sports fans.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Encouraging Dallasites to Observe Thanksgiving — 1874

thanksgiving

by Paula Bosse

After the Civil War many (if not all) Southern states refused to celebrate Thanksgiving, as it felt like a “Yankee abolitionist holiday,” but by 1874, Southerners — and Texans — were willing to give it a go.

A letter to the editor of the Dallas Daily Herald that year encouraged the people of Dallas to observe the holiday — that it was a patriotic (rather than a political) thing to do:

“Our southern people have not been in the habit of observing [Thanksgiving] since the late war, for causes known to themselves and the nation. But now […] it becomes us to specially observe this day long set apart by our people for feasting, thanksgiving and prayer. By so doing we will give evidence of our faith in permanent government, and rebuke the idea of disloyalty to the union of the states.”

thanksgiving_dallas-herald_112674Dallas Daily Herald, Nov. 26, 1874 (click for larger image)

Richard Coke, the governor of Texas, proclaimed Thursday, November 26, 1874 as a day of thanksgiving, noting that “Neither plague, pestilence nor famine has visited our beloved State,” and that, hey, things were actually going pretty well:

thanksgiving_dallas-herald_112174a

thanksgiving_dallas-herald_112174bDallas Daily Herald, Nov. 21, 1874

140 years later, it’s still going strong. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Texas Dashboard Organizer

tx-dashboard_diffee_new-yorker_2006 New Yorker cartoon by DIFFEE, 2006

by Paula Bosse

Not really retro and not specifically Dallas-related, but … close enough.

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Cartoon by Matthew Diffee (a Texan, who grew up in the Dallas area); appeared in the Nov. 13, 2006 issue of The New Yorker. Suitable for framing? Why yes, it is. Condé Nast would love to set you up with one of your own, here.

And, WOW, check out Diffee’s homage to Big Tex — it’s GREAT! — and it’s here! Click through all four parts!

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

David Wade, Gourmet: Have Ascot, Will Travel

david-wade_dining-with_cover

by Paula Bosse

A few years ago, when I was a bookseller, I posted the following on a personal blog — it turned out to be the most commented-on and most clicked-on post I’d ever written. I wrote it a bit snarky, but I was amazed by the response it elicited: people (both in Texas and beyond) apparently have a strong affection for — and a seemingly deeply personal attachment to — local TV gourmand David Wade.

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I just received an order for a David Wade cookbook I’ve had listed for four years:

DAVID WADE’S KITCHEN CLASSICS (Dallas: David Wade Industries, 1969). 300pp. Photographs, index. The ascot-clad TV gourmet presents recipes as well as photos of himself with celebrities such as Mickey Mantle (page 99, opposite the recipe for Crabmeat Tetrazzini). A couple of small splotches to fore-edge; one rubbed spot on cover. No dust jacket. Inscribed by Wade. $12.50

I don’t know if people outside of Texas (and maybe outside of Dallas) would be familiar with David Wade, described, tellingly, not as a “chef” but as a “food demonstrator.” He had a local TV show that must have started in the ’50s or ’60s, but I saw him in the ’70s and into the ’80s. And, yes, he DID wear an ascot, and a blazer, as seen above, from the front cover of another cookbook from the David Wade oeuvre.

He had a catchy theme song (which compared him to Rembrandt and Edison) and he had his very own coat of arms, which I have vivid, rather frightening memories of from my childhood (I always imagined that poor pig being whacked over the head with the rolling pin and then hacked apart by the cleaver — Bon Appetit, little piggie!):

david-wade_logo

I was just a kid, but I remember cringing a bit at his deep-voiced cheesiness. I don’t actually remember much about the food or the actual program, but I can still hear that unnaturally calm, deep voice oozing around inside my head. But what did I know? He was an incredibly popular local TV personality. Yeah, he might have used an over-abundance of big words (…words like “over-abundance”), but, to be fair, he also had a folksy charm and was pleasantly inoffensive.

I’m not sure the same can be said for his food, however. Here are a few of the recipes which some lucky lady in South Carolina who bought the cookbook might be whipping up in a few days:

  • Squash Loaf
  • Citrus Surprise Steak
  • Liver Yucatan (featuring grated American cheese (can you actually grate American cheese?), macaroni, canned mushrooms, and sugar)
  • Baked Stuffed Fish with Pecan Grape Sauce
  • Deep Sea Loaf (made with canned tuna, gelatin, sweet pickle juice, avocado, and three tablespoons of sugar … among other equally distressing ingredients)
  • Salmon & Green Olive Casserole (with cream and “salmon liquid” straight from the can)
  • Apple & Banana Soup (these are the ingredients: chicken stock, apple, banana, potato, onion, cream, curry powder, chives)
  • Kidney Bean Tuna Salad
  • Meat Loaf Pizza
  • Pineapple Mint Cake
  • Quick Clove Jelly Cake
  • Sahib Eight Boy Chicken Curry (…I have no idea…)
  • Yam Peanut Puffs

Bon Appetit!

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After I wrote that post, I was inundated by people looking for information on where to find all sorts of much-loved David Wade recipes (especially his famed “Turkey in a Sack”) and where they could find his apparently quite popular Worcestershire Powder (links are at the bottom of this post). There were also many, many comments from people who just wanted to share personal memories of David Wade, invariably describing him as a warm and gracious, down-to-earth, gentle man. “Classy, but not pretentious.”

Wade began his TV career in Dallas at WFAA in 1949, hosting a 15-minute show about dogs (?!) called “Canine Comments” — it became so popular that it was syndicated around the country. He won awards for that show. It was VERY popular. In 1952, Wade was also appearing on WFAA radio as “The Hymn Singer,” singing religious songs and talking about each song’s history and composer. Along the line he made the switch to food.

He was “demonstrating” food preparation at personal appearances and on local television by 1957, and in the early 1960s he became a nationally-known figure when he commuted to New York from Dallas to tape regular spots for a show called “Flair” in which he frequently appeared with celebrities, guiding them through the preparation of a dish.

david-wade-gregory-peckWith Gregory Peck, 1960s

Eventually his Dallas-based TV shows were syndicated all over the U.S., and he was so popular locally that he decided to run for mayor in 1971 (he lost to Wes Wise). He continued in his role as a cooking instructor and media figure until his retirement.

David Wade, a much-beloved man who lived and worked in Dallas for the bulk of his career — died in Tyler in March of 2001 at the age of 77. He had been a fixture on Texas television and had published numerous cookbooks. And in between rhapsodizing on good food and wine, he even taught untold thousands how to cook fish in the dishwasher and how to roast a turkey in a paper sack.

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One of David Wade’s most famous recipes was for Tukey-In-A-Sack. The recipe (from DavidWadeGourmet.com) is in a PDF, here.

The famed David Wade Worcestershire Powder can be purchased from the above website, here. (It may also be available at Brookshire’s groceries in Tyler.) UPDATE: I’ve just been alerted that it is also available at Central Market in the bulk spice area.

David Wade’s obituary is here.

A warm and fuzzy nostalgic look back at Wade can be read at CraveDFW, here; a super-snarky (and kind of amusing) LA Weekly post critiquing Wade’s recipes can be read here.

An interview with Wade conducted by Carolyn Barta during his mayoral campaign — in which he expounds on his vision for the future of Dallas — can be read in a Dallas Morning News article (March 21, 1971), here.

Coming next: The little-known devastating and traumatic childhood event that resulted in David Wade becoming an orphan at the age of 5.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

JFK Aftermath: Chaos at the City Desk — 1963

JFK_DTH_newsroom2_portalIt was all-hands-on-deck for a shocked and solemn Times Herald staff, 11/22/63.

by Paula Bosse

Photos of Dallas Times Herald reporters in the newsroom on November 22, 1963, scrambling for information after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the biggest news story of their careers — the biggest news story in the history of Dallas.

JFK_DTH_newsroom3_portal

JFK_DTH_newsroom1_portal

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Photos (by an unidentified DTH staff photographer) are from the Sixth Floor Museum’s Dallas Times Herald Collection, accessible through the Portal to Texas History. Other photos of no doubt shocked reporters in the DTH newsroom who were probably running completely on instinct and adrenaline that day are here (click thumbnails for larger images).

Identification of DTH reporters and other staff pictured above is welcomed.

Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

JFK’s “Last Hour In Dallas” — 1963

JFK_poster

by Paula Bosse

How is a city supposed to respond when it is suddenly plunged into the international spotlight? Does it grieve and try to forget, or does it grieve and capitalize? Dallas has had over 50 years to deal with/come to terms with the assassination of President Kennedy, but sometimes it seems as if the City of Dallas is still shell-shocked and isn’t quite sure how to acknowledge it on an official level. Let’s face it, Dallas is known to the rest of the world for one thing: the Kennedy assassination (and perhaps the TV show, and maybe the Cowboys). Yes, we have the justly-renowned Sixth Floor Museum, but it took 26 years to open it!

The cottage industry that sprang up in the wake of the Kennedy assassination has been big business for decades, some of it generated by people who live in Dallas, but most of it by people who have probably never even been to Texas. Since 1963, the “assassination literature” (…and, yes, it’s called that) has mushroomed, with local contributions coming from Dallasites whose brush with the President before, during, or after the events of November 22, 1963 have probably been pored over by numerous people either trying to understand why what happened happened or by people searching for hidden conspiracy clues to explain what really happened.

One local resident who added to the assassination literature was John E. Miller who took photos of the arrival of President and Mrs. Kennedy at Love Field and then apparently hot-footed it over to Parkland when the news of the shooting broke. These photos were issued as postcards in 1964 in a packet of 12. (Click pictures for larger images.)

JFK_envelope_frontAbove, the front of the envelope containing the cards; on the back: “A Real Picture Treat For Years To Come.”

JFK_card_01From the back of the card: “No. 1, Arrival of President’s Escort Plane at Love Field, Dallas, Texas.”

JFK_card_02“No. 2, Presidential and Escort Planes at Dallas’ Love Field landed shortly after this picture was taken.”

JFK_card_03“No. 3, President John F. Kennedy and party leaving airplane at Love Field. (Mrs. Kennedy — pink hat.)”

(UPDATE: The two little girls in the photos above and below are most likely Carolyn Jacquess, in blue, and Debby Massie, in red. Their little group arrived at the airport before the president’s plane arrived, walked through the terminal and out onto the tarmac, right to where the plane taxied up to the small crowd of about 100 people. Just like that. There was no special invitation, and, other than the chain-link fence, no real security.)

JFK_card_04“No. 4, President John F. Kennedy and Party in foreground at Dallas’ Love Field.”

JFK_card_05“No. 5, Vice-President Johnson, Governor Connally, Mrs. Kennedy (pink hat), other members of party at Dallas Love Field.”

JFK_card_06“No. 6, Vice-President Johnson, Governor Connally, Presidential Party and Newspaper Men, Love Field, Dallas.”

JFK_card_07“No. 7, Forming of Presidential Parade, Love Field, Dallas.”

JFK_card_08“No. 8, After Assassination, TV Unit arrives at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.”

JFK_card_09“No. 9, Blood Bank Unit at Parkland Hospital on fatal day. Dallas, Texas.”

JFK_card_10“No. 10, Hearse carrying President John F. Kennedy’s body and Mrs. Kennedy from Parkland Hospital back to airplane at Love Field, Dallas.”

JFK_card_11“No. 11, Presidential plane awaiting President Kennedy’s body, Vice-President Johnson and Mrs. Kennedy, for return to Washington, D.C. (Note Presidential seal.)”

JFK_card_12“No. 12, Texas School Book Depository building from which authorities believe fatal shots were fired. (Note second window down on right corner of building.)”

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Photos and captions © John E. Miller 1964, 3500 W. Davis, Dallas, Texas 75211. (Mr. Miller was a Dallas businessman who sold motor homes and trailers in Oak Cliff between 1945 and 1976. A photo of Mr. Miller is here).

Many thanks to “amyfromdallas” for scanning and contributing the images in this post. Thanks, Amy!

For other Flashback Dallas JFK-related posts, see here.

Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

El Presidente y Su Sombrero — 1975

Pres. Ford In SombreroEl Prez at SMU, Sept. 13, 1975  /  ©Bettmann/CORBIS

by Paula Bosse

Politicians have to do a lot of silly things at public appearances, and some of them handle the baby-kissing and tedious chit-chat more gracefully than others. President Gerald R. Ford seems to have been pretty good-natured about this sort of thing, even in the wake of the Nixon impeachment and even while being incessantly lampooned by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live every week.

For reasons I’ve never understood, politicians and foreign dignitaries always seem to be presented with hats when the make an official visit somewhere, and when they come to Texas, they almost always get a cowboy hat. But on President Ford’s 1975 visit to Dallas and the SMU campus, he was made an “honorary Mexican-American” and was presented with a (very large) sombrero by Andrea Cervantes of the Mexican-American Bicentennial Parade Committee. He looks ridiculous, but it’s a fun ridiculous. I think he liked it — Mrs. Cervantes even got a kiss for her gift.

ford-sombrero_FWST_091475Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sept. 14, 1975

The sombrero re-appeared a few months later, autographed and on display at Pike Park. It never left Dallas. What a shame. I would have liked to imagine the President and First Lady relaxing at Camp David, Jerry wearing his sombrero, smoking a pipe, and watching college football on TV, while Betty sat at the other end of the couch, chuckling to herself, and shaking her head.

ford-sombrero_dmn_121575-photo

ford-sombrero_dmn_121575DMN, Dec. 15, 1975 (click for larger image)

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Top photo from CorbisImages, here.

Newspaper clippings as noted.

This sombrero-donning was just seven months before the now-legendary “Great Tamale Incident” in San Antonio. Read how NOT to eat a tamale here.

Ford took his gaffes in stride, even going so far as to appear on the show that made note of his every stumble, literal and figurative. Read a behind-the-scenes account of Ford’s 1976 Oval Office taping of one-liners for SNL — including his “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” show opener (although I’m pretty sure he did it without the exclamation mark) — here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas News Hustler — 1908

newsboy-horse_dmn_012608_lgErnest d’Ablemont, 13, newspaper carrier aboard his trusty steed, 1908

by Paula Bosse

The photo above appeared in the pages of The Dallas Morning News on Jan. 26, 1908 under the headline “One of the Dallas News Hustlers.” The caption:

“Ernest A. d’Ablemont is one of the hustlers selling The Dallas News. He began selling the paper in March, 1905, on Sundays at the age of 11 years. He is now 14, or will reach that age on his birthday, March 16, 1908. Since he began, he has never missed a Sunday, rain or shine, hot or cold. Since his business career began he has clothed himself and has accumulated sufficient money to enable him to make a loan of $150 at 10 per cent.”

Quite the business-minded newsboy — the Inflation Calculator estimates that $150 in 1908 would be equivalent to almost $4,000 today! In 1909 — just a year later — he had his own entry in the Worley’s city directory, but he had jumped ship from the News and was working for The Dallas Dispatch.

dablemont_worleys_1909

Ernest d’Ablemont was born in Dallas in 1894 to immigrant parents — his father, Felix, was French, and his mother, Inga, was Norwegian. One wonders what could possibly have enticed a Parisian to come to Dallas, but Felix had been in the city since about 1883, working first in a meat market, then spending most of his life as a produce man. Felix was a “truck farmer” (he grew vegetables to sell locally), and he had a small piece of land off 2nd Avenue in the old Lagow Settlement area, south of Fair Park, about where S. 2nd Ave. intersects with Hatcher. Felix placed this ad in 1903:

dablemont_dmn_110103

“German, Swede, Norwegian or French preferred.”

Ernest followed in the footsteps of his farmer father. After his early entrepreneurial foray into the world of newspaper delivery and a couple of years of service in World War I (which took him overseas where he was assigned to a field hospital and a “sanitary train”), he returned to Dallas and worked the family’s truck farm until he retired. He died in 1954 at the age of 60.

dablemont_obit_dmn_091554

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Top image of young Ernest on horseback from The Dallas Morning News, Jan. 26, 1908; photo by Clogenson.

Want-ad from the DMN, Nov. 1, 1903.

Ernest D’Ablemont’s obituary from the DMN, Sept. 15, 1954.

WWI “sanitary trains”? I’d never heard the term. Find out what they were and see what one looked like in this GREAT photo from Shorpy, here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Babe Didrikson, Oak Cliff Typist

babe-corbis_102132Babe Didrikson at a desk she was probably pretty unfamiliar with, 1932

by Paula Bosse

Mildred “Babe” Didrikson has been called the greatest athlete of the 20th century — male or female. She was an All-American basketball player, she set a number of world records in a wide variety of track and field events (she was so good at all of individual sports that she was entered at least once as an entire TEAM — a team of one!), she won two gold medals and one silver (which should have been three gold medals…) at the 1932 Olympics, and she was, perhaps most famously, a champion golfer who was a founder of the LPGA. She was also highly proficient in softball, bowling, diving, swimming, roller skating, and tennis, and she dabbled in hockey, skeet-shooting, billiards, and even football. There was no sport she didn’t try — and even if she had never tried it before, she was probably pretty good at it.

babe_dmn_080231(click for larger image)

babe_dmn_080231-caption(DMN, Aug. 2, 1931 — click for larger image)

How did she find her way to Dallas?

Babe Didrikson was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1911 and grew up in nearby Beaumont. She excelled in sports in school, especially basketball. In the late-’20s, a man named Col. M. J. McCombs, who was the head of the women’s athletic program for an insurance company, saw Babe in action and recruited her to play for his company’s basketball team in Dallas. She was offered a job to do vague secretarial work for the Employers’ Casualty Company (which had offices in the old Interurban Building downtown), with the understanding that she was really being taken on in order to play on the company team. With the blessing of her Norwegian immigrant parents, she interrupted her high school education in Beaumont to accept the $75-a-month job and was moved into a Haines Avenue rooming house in Oak Cliff.

Babe soon became the star of the Golden Cyclones, her company’s championship-winning team which participated in an “industrial” league governed by the national Amateur Athletic Union (the AAU). In the off-season she was introduced to track and field events by McCombs, and she quickly mastered them all.

babe_emp-cas-coFlying the company colors

Before she knew it, it was the summer of 1932, and the Olympics were being held in Los Angeles — the 21-year old won three medals, emerged as the star of the games (she was frequently referred to as “the wonder girl from Dallas”) and began her climb up the ladder of celebrity.

After the Olympics, the city of Dallas gave her a victory homecoming, with a parade, a luncheon, and various presentations, all covered widely in the local press, etc. The Dallas Morning News described it as “a demonstration the magnitude of which has never before been accorded a son or daughter of this city” (DMN, Aug. 12, 1932), bigger even, they said, than the reception that had greeted Charles Lindbergh on his Dallas visit.

U625776INPBabe’s post-Olympics parade through downtown Dallas — Aug. 11, 1932

After the celebrations had settled down, Babe Didrikson, sports superstar, was back at “work” — at least long enough to have photographs of her taken at the most uncluttered desk imaginable. (Though to be fair, Babe did claim to have been a typing champion in high school. Even if that were true — and she was known to be something of an exaggerator — it’s still almost impossible to imagine this world champion athlete typing up an afternoon’s dictation on insurance matters.)

babe_insuranceEmployers’ Casualty Co.’s casual employee — Oct. 21, 1932

Babe eventually turned pro, left Dallas, married wrestler George Zaharias, and became an incredibly successful golfer. She died from cancer in 1956 at the early age of 45, but her legacy lives on as one of the greatest and most versatile athletes of all time (…who, for a few short years, also happened to do a bit of light secretarial work for an insurance company in Dallas).

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Below are a few of my favorite random Babe-related tidbits.

babe_dmn_071732(DMN, July 17, 1932)

Some of her contemporaries thought she was abrasive and arrogant. It might just  have been that she was confident. Either way, she was an intimidating competitor.

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babe_hat_dmn_071232(DMN, July 12, 1932)

Babe was often ridiculed by male sportswriters for her bearing and physique, which they thought were not feminine enough for their tastes. This ridiculous criticism must have stung, because she made efforts to placate them, some of which seemed very awkward, such as this. The caption: “Mildred (Babe) Didrikson (left) and her chaperon, Mrs. Henry Wood, are pictured above as they appeared Monday afternoon just before boarding a train for Chicago, Ill. for the national AAU track and field championships in which Babe…hopes to carry off high honors and win a berth on the American Olympic team. This is the first picture ever taken of Babe with a hat on. She has never worn one before” (DMN, July 12, 1932).

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babe_insurance_ad_dmn_081132(DMN, Aug. 11, 1932)

babe_insurance_ad_dmn_081132-det(DMN, Aug. 11, 1932 — ad inset)

Ad taken out by the Dallas company Babe worked for, welcoming her back home from her Olympic triumph. Drawing by Jack Patton. (Even though Babe had buckled to pressure with the whole hat thing, I can’t quite picture her wearing gloves.)

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babe_olympic-homecoming_wfaa_dmn_081232Yes, *that* Ownby (DMN, Aug. 12, 1932)

Babe, just off the plane from the Olympics. Caption: “Jordan C. Ownby, chairman of the chamber of commerce athletic committee, is broadcasting […] a welcome home speech from the American Airways office at Love Field. Babe is standing by the microphone” (DMN, Aug. 12, 1932).

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babe-and-babe_081247

Babe and the other Babe, August 12, 1947. I love this photo.

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babe_vanity-fair_1933

Fantastic photo of Babe in her prime by Lusha Nelson, from the January, 1933 issue of Vanity Fair. More photos from this shoot, here.

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babe

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The two photos of Babe Didrikson at her desk, the photo of the parade in Dallas, and the photo with Babe Ruth are from the huge selection of photographs of Babe at CorbisImages. See 161 photos of her throughout her career, here. The photos of her training and in action are exhilarating, but it’s nice seeing her looking so happy and relaxed in her later golfing days. She definitely smiled a lot more after she started making more than the measly $75 a month she was making in Dallas.

Other images and quotes from The Dallas Morning News, as noted.

For more on Babe’s time in Dallas and Oak Cliff, she writes about it in her autobiography, This Life I’ve Led (1955), here. (The entire book can be read for free at the link.) Also, check out this article by Gayla Brooks that appeared in the Oak Cliff Advocate.

A really well done, comprehensive overview of Babe Didrikson Zaharias’ career (with lots of great photos), can be found at Pop History Dig, here.

One of my favorite weird Babe things is the record she made with her “golf protege” Betty Dodd. Betty sings (not very well) and is accompanied by Babe on harmonica, an instrument she loved all of her life and which she taught herself to play as a child. The song — and a bit of backstory on Babe and Betty’s relationship — is here (click the arrow at the left of the strip beneath the record label to hear the song “I Felt a Little Teardrop”). Babe’s solo starts at about the 1:06 mark.

And, lastly, newsreel footage of Babe over the years, from the early track meets and the Olympics, to her later career as a golf superstar (including footage of her with Babe Ruth). The 3-minute film is here.

Several images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Theater Row Block Party! — 1948

theater-row-block-party_082648_preservation-dallasDallas premiere, “Red River” — Aug. 26, 1948 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

On a rainy night in August, 1948, United Artists premiered the movie “Red River” in Dallas at the Majestic Theatre. The now-classic Western about a Chisholm Trail cattle drive, directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne and newcomer Montgomery Clift, was actually “premiered” simultaneously on August 26, 1948 in 250 theaters in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico, the four southwestern states most closely associated with the Chisholm Trail.

red-river_ad_dmn_082648(DMN, Aug. 26, 1948)

In Dallas, the publicity machine was cranked up. The main attraction was a free-to-the-public street party in which the 1900 block of Elm Street was closed to traffic for a slate of western-themed festivities. The “jamboree” included square dancing, a musical set by cowboy singer Jim Boyd and his band, “cowboys and cowgirls from the Pleasant Mound Rodeo,” the Dallas Mounted Quadrille, and the Sheriff’s Posse. Or, as the ad said more succinctly, “Cowboys! Horses! Lights! Music!”

red-river_block-party_dmn_082648Great ad! Click to see it bigger! (DMN, Aug. 26, 1948)

red-river_premiere_dmn_082648(DMN, Aug. 26, 1948)

No Hollywood celebrities were there, but the big Western Jamboree was apparently well-attended, even in the rain:

“Despite showers Thursday night the crowds gathered in the roped off space in front of the Majestic for square dancing in the rain.” (DMN, Aug. 27, 1948)

(Wow. “Square dancing in the rain.”)

As for the movie itself, local critic John Rosenfield generally liked it (“So as westerns go, it is a not-to-be-missed item. You may have seen a better western but never a bigger one.”), but he was particularly taken with the screen debut of Montgomery Clift:

“The most interesting performer is Montgomery Clift…a rare combination of thespic sensitivity and swoonereal good looks. … Mr. Clift, along with Marlon Brando of Broadway’s ‘Streetcar Named Desire,’ is the hope for a great actor from the under-thirty generation.” (DMN, Aug. 27, 1948)

The movie was a huge hit, so much so that the Majestic added showings, including one at 9:30 in the morning (!). It had a record week in Dallas, and, nationally, by the end of that first week it was reported to be the biggest-grossing picture in the history of United Artists.

The “world premiere” is interesting and all, but that photo of a brightly lit-up Theater Row is even better!

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The original source of the photograph is not known, but I stumbled across it on a Preservation Dallas page, here.

Clippings and ads from The Dallas Morning News as noted.

“Red River” is a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. Even if you think you don’t like Westerns. Roger Ebert’s review/analysis is here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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