Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

“Political Paranoia” and the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club, feat. Future Governor Ann Richards

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by Paula Bosse

Ann Richards drove my carpool. She and my mother swapped out driving kids to the First Unitarian Church Cooperative Preschool on Preston and Normandy in University Park. I’m not sure anyone in either family was an actual member of the church, but that preschool was one of the only co-ops in Dallas (it might have been the first), and it was a magnet for the more progressive parents in the city. The Unitarian Church was also a major gathering place in the 1960s and 1970s for those involved in women’s issues, liberal activism, and Democratic politics, including my mother and the future governor of Texas, Ann Richards. I remember hearing about Ann (she was always referred to as just “Ann”) throughout my entire childhood. My parents weren’t close friends with the slightly older Richardses, but my mother was a keen admirer of Ann and my father described her as “the funniest woman I’ve ever known.” I remember their home on Lovers Lane which always seemed to be crammed full of kids.

When Ann Richards lived in Dallas she was a self-described “housewife,” who, when she wasn’t busy raising her four children, was volunteering for Democratic candidates and causes. She was an active member of the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club, a group which, in 1963, gained instant attention for the fundraiser show they wrote and performed called “Political Paranoia,” a satirical revue of politics, complete with sharp satire, broad comedy, song parodies, and ridiculous wigs and costumes. The show was such a huge success that follow-up standing-room-only shows were performed in 1964, 1965, 1966, and 1968. The shows were written and directed by Carolyn Choate, Ruthe Winegarten, and Ann Richards, and the cast consisted of the members of the NDDW. Ann’s portrayal of LBJ seems to have made lasting impressions on those who saw it.

I have recently begun working on a project for the G. William Jones Film and Video Archive at SMU, and a reel of 16mm black-and-white film — with sound! — was discovered in the vault recently with no identifying information. Nothing. Nobody knows where it came from or how it ended up at SMU. But there it was: a lightly edited filmed document of the second installment of “Political Paranoia,” presented by the North Dallas Democratic Women in the auditorium of Hillcrest High School on May 16, 1964. I was sure Ann Richards would be in there somewhere — and she was! I was pretty excited by this “discovery” because this show has become something of a legendary touchstone in local Democratic politics. As far as I know, there is no other film footage of any of these shows. Not only that, this may well be the earliest footage of Ann Richards, the woman who would go on to become the governor of Texas (1991-1995) and one of the most celebrated women in politics and Texas culture. This is an amazing heretofore unknown historical document.

The show is full of smart sarcasm and “hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show” enthusiasm. The humor is more amusing than cutting, and these Democratic women were certainly not afraid of making fun of members of their own party. A lot of the hot topics of the day addressed in this show are lost to the mists of time, but that doesn’t take away from its entertainment value. This was a time when women had very little voice, impact, or power in politics, and the women here have firmly taken control of the reins and perform with an exuberance that crackles. 

The 34-minute film — complete with odd jumps and abrupt cuts — has been uploaded by SMU in its entirety here:

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Here are a bunch of screenshots. I don’t know who all of the performers are — I would love feedback and corrections from the public. At the bottom is a list of names of women who were involved with the NDDW, but as they were invariably identified as “Mrs. Husband’s Name,” I have no idea what most of their first names are! I am especially interested in identifying Ruthe Winegarten, one of the prime movers behind these shows (and also a Texas and women’s historian of note).

First, 30-year-old Ann Richards (or as she was identified in newspaper accounts, “Mrs. David Richards”) appearing as Gordon McLendon, Dallas media magnate, owner of KLIF, and one-time wannabe politician — “The Old Scotchman.” That voice is unmistakable.

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And here she is as LBJ:

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Carolyn Choate, one of the writers and directors of “Political Paranoia,” wrote the music and performed many of the song parodies (she was also a contributor to the annual Dallas Press Club Gridiron Show).

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I was really interested to see Betty McKool, Ann’s longtime friend with whom she issued a famous series of annual jokey Christmas cards — I think this is Betty, seen as Nelson Rockefeller at the 1964 Republican National Convention in what I thought was a great, incredibly confident performance.

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I’m not sure who the blonde with the glasses and ruffled shirt is, but she gives a spirited performance as Barry Goldwater at the Republican Convention. (Mrs. Ray Pearce portrayed Goldwater in the first “Political Paranoia,” so perhaps this is her revisiting the role.)

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My preschool teacher (and, I believe, the founder of the Unitarian co-op school), Millie Seltzer, is seen below as Lady Bird Johnson. (There’s also a photo of her and Ann as Lady Bird and Lyndon from 1965’s “Political Paranoia III,” which is posted on the blog of Millie’s daughter’s here.)

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Speaking of Lady Bird, here’s Lyndon and Ralph Yarborough (I’m not sure who these women are, but “Lyndon” might be Mary Vogel).

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Possibly Mary Vogel again as “Mrs. GOP.”

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An unknown performer singing about John Connally.

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More unknown performers in “I Dreamed I Dedicated a Federal Center in 1994….”

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…dedicated by Republican congressman Bruce Alger.

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Again, possibly Betty McKool in the straw hat in the center (with someone else playing her husband, Mike McKool).

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The cast, with leggy Joyce Schiff at the microphone (and Ann Richards behind her to the left, holding the cowboy hat).

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“Political Paranoia II”
May 16, 1964
Hillcrest High School auditorium

“Poop and patter from the Pedernales to the Potomac…”
“The most talked-about show from Euless to Balch Springs…”

$1.50 for Democrats
$7.67 for independents
$25.00 for Republicans

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Below is a list of women who were members of the North Dallas Democratic Women who were known to have participated in the 1963 and/or 1964 productions of “Political Paranoia,” either on stage or behind the scenes. If you recognize any of these women in the SMU film footage, please make note of a time-marker and let me know where you see them and I will update the info.

Written and directed by:
Mrs. Alvin Winegarten (RUTHE WINEGARTEN)
Mrs. David Richards (ANN RICHARDS)
Mrs. Jim Choate (CAROLYN CHOATE)

Mrs. Mike McKool (BETTY McKOOL)
Mrs. Holbrook Seltzer (MILLIE SELTZER)
Mrs. Harry Weisbrod (BEA WEISBROD)
Mrs. Herbert Schiff Jr. (JOYCE SCHIFF)
Mrs. Philip Vogel (MARY VOGEL)
Mrs. Frederick Sparks (MERLENE SPARKS)
Mrs. Sam Whitten (VIRGINIA WHITTEN)
Mrs. Harry Hoffman
Mrs. Thomas L. Ford
Mrs. Harold Polunsky
Mrs. Kenneth Parker
Mrs. Charles Webster
Mrs. J. T. Mullenix
Mrs. Forrest West
Mrs. C. A. Hurst
Mrs. Jack Cohan
Mrs. Donald Fielding
Mrs. Don Kise
Mrs. Stanley Kaufman
Mrs. Richard Sandow
Mrs. Irwin Kaim
Mrs. James Taylor
Mrs. Ray Pearce
Mrs. Daniel Rosenthal
Mrs. Oscar M. Wilson Jr.
Mrs. Earl Granberry
Mrs. Jerome Meltzer 

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Sources & Notes

Screenshots are from “Political Paranoia II,” a filmed chronicle of the 1964 political revue written and performed by the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club at Hillcrest High School on May 16, 1964; the origins of the film are unknown, but this copy is held by the G. William Jones Film and Video Archive, Hamon Library, Southern Methodist University. All thanks to Jeremy Spracklen and Scott Martin of the Jones Archive. The direct YouTube link is here.

Thanks also to Margaret Werry and Jean Ball for their help in identifying participants and for taking the time to share their memories of Dallas’ political past.

A good account of Ann Richards’ time in Dallas can be found in her autobiography, Straight from the Heart, My Life in Politics & Other Places (Simon & Schuster, 1989).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Private Education in Dallas — 1916

dallas-educational-center_ursuline_ca-1916_degolyer-library_smu_photoThe looming Ursuline Academy in Old East Dallas

by Paula Bosse

Here is a collection of photos and mini-histories of several of the top private schools that Dallas parents were ponying up their hard-earned cash for in 1916. Some were boarding schools, some were affiliated with churches, some were rooted in military discipline, some were medical schools, and some were places to go to receive instruction on the finer things in life, such as music and art. Sadly, only one of these buildings still stands. But two of the schools in this collection have been operating continuously for over 100 years (Ursuline and Hockaday), and two more are still around, having had a few name changes over the years (St. Mark’s and Jesuit). Here’s where the more well-to-do girls and boys of Dallas (…and Texas — and many other states) were sent to become young ladies and gentlemen. 

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THE URSULINE ACADEMY (above) — Mother Mary Teresa, superioress — the block bounded by Live Oak, Haskell, Bryan, and St. Joseph. This school for girls and young women was established in Dallas by the Ursuline Sisters in about 1874 — and it continues today as one of the city’s finest institutions. The incredible gothic building was… incredible. So of course it was demolished (in 1949, when the school moved its campus to its present-day North Dallas location). See what it looked like at its Gothic, grandiose height in a previous Flashback Dallas post here.

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MISS HOCKADAY’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS — Miss Ela Hockaday, principal — 1206 N. Haskell. Hockaday was (and is) the premier girl’s school of Dallas society — like Ursuline, it is still going strong (and, like Ursuline, it moved away from East Dallas and is now located in North Dallas). In 1919, three years after these photos were taken, Miss Hockaday would buy the former home of Walter Caruth, Bosque Bonita, set in a full block at Belmont and Greenville in the Vickery Place neighborhood — there she built a large campus and cemented her place as one of the legendary educators in Dallas history. (In 1920, Hockaday’s annual tuition for boarding students eclipsed even the hefty tuition of The Terrill School for Boys: Miss Hockaday had parents lined up to pay her $1,000 a year — now the equivalent of about $13,000 — to educate and refine their daughters at her prestigious institution.)

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MISSES HOLLEY’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS — Miss Frances Holley and Miss Josephine Holley, principals — 4528 Ross Avenue (at Annex). Another somewhat exclusive school that catered to young society ladies was the Holley school, established in 1908 by the two Holley sisters, who limited their student body to only 35 girls. The school (which is sometimes referred to as “Miss Holley’s School” and “Holley Hall” — and which was located behind the sisters’ residence) closed in 1926.

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ST. MARY’S COLLEGE — Miss Ethel Middleton, principal — Garrett and Ross Avenue.  This Episcopal-Church-associated boarding and day school for girls and young ladies was one of the Southwest’s leading institutions of learning for young women. When established in 1889, it was built outside the city limits on a “hill” — back then the area around the school was often referred to as “College Hill.”

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THE TERRILL SCHOOL FOR BOYS — M. B. Bogarte, head master — 4217 Swiss Avenue (at Peak). The exclusive boys school in Dallas (which, after several mergers, continues today as St. Mark’s); the cost of a year’s tuition for boarding students in 1920 was $850 — the equivalent of about $11,000 — a very pricey school back then. More on the Terrill School can be found in previous Flashback Dallas posts here and here.

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THE HARDIN SCHOOL FOR BOYS — J. A. Hardin, principal — 4021 Swiss Avenue. This prep school was affiliated with the University of Texas. It was located for a while in downtown Dallas and for a time at the location seen below in Old East Dallas, but in 1917 it either bought out and merged with the Dallas Military Academy or that school went out of business, because the Hardin School settled into the military academy’s location, which had been Walter Caruth’s old home, Bosque Bonita, at Belmont and Greenville, where boys were marching around doing drills until Miss Hockaday moved in two years later in 1919.

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DALLAS MILITARY ACADEMY AND SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING — C. J. Kennerly, superintendent — Belmont & Greenville Ave. This “practical school for manly boys” opened up in 1916 in a large house which had been built by Walter Caruth in the area now known as Lower Greenville. The Dallas Military Academy lasted for only one year until the large house became home to the Hardin School for Boys in 1917 (and, two years later in 1919, it became the longtime home of the Hockaday School). If you didn’t click on the link for it above, now’s your chance to read more about the history of Caruth’s grand house, Bosque Bonita, here.

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UNIVERSITY OF DALLAS — Very Rev. P. A. Finney, president — Oak Lawn Ave. & Gilbert. When it opened in 1906, this school was known as Holy Trinity College; its name was changed to the University of Dallas in 1910. The University of Dallas closed in 1928 because of lack of money; it was later known as Jesuit High School until Jesuit moved to North Dallas — the grand building was demolished in 1963. (See an aerial view of this huge building here.)

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THE MORGAN SCHOOL (formerly the Highland Park Academy) — Mrs. Joseph Morgan, principal — 4608 Abbott. A co-ed school.

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POWELL TRAINING SCHOOL — Nathan Powell, president — Binkley & Atkins (now Hillcrest) in University Park. I believe this is the only building in this post still standing — more can be read in the earlier post “Send Your Kids to Prep School ‘Under the Shadow of SMU’ — 1915,” here. (That is, in fact, a bit of the very, very young SMU campus seen in the distance at the bottom right.)

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BAYLOR MEDICAL COLLEGE — E. H. Cary, dean — 720 College Ave. (now Hall Street).

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DALLAS POLYCLINIC/POST-GRADUATE MEDICAL SCHOOL — John S. Turner, president — S. Ervay & Marilla (affiliated with Baylor Medical College).

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STATE DENTAL COLLEGE — 1409 ½ South Ervay, across from the Park Hotel (more recently known as the Ambassador Hotel).

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HAHN MUSIC SCHOOL — Charles D. Hahn, director — 3419 Junius. 

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AUNSPAUGH ART SCHOOL — VIvian Aunspaugh, director — 3409 Bryan. A well-established Dallas art school for 60 years. Miss Aunspaugh died in 1960 at the age of 90 and was said to have been giving lessons until shortly before her death. (The photo below of the exterior is the only one here not from about 1916 — that photo is from 1944.)

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aunspaugh-art-school_james-bell_1944_DHSvia Dallas Historical Society

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Sources & Notes

All images (but one) from the booklet “Dallas, The Educational Center of the Southwest” (published by the Educational Committee, Dallas Chamber of Commerce, and Manufacturers Association, Dallas, ca. 1916), from the collection of the DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on this publication — and a full digital scan of it — can be found at the SMU site, here.

The exterior photo of the Aunspaugh Art School is from the Dallas Historical Society, taken in 1944 by Dallas resident James H. Bell; more information on this photo is at the DHS site, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

A Few Random Postcards

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by Paula Bosse

Here are a few totally random postcard images, pulled from bulging digital file folders.

Above, an unusual postcard for Methodist Hospital — “An Autumn View From a Window.” The hospital was located in Oak Cliff at 301 Colorado Street — built in 1927, demolished in 1994. The card is postmarked 1944. Below are two other images.

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Below, the Lemly Chiropractic Clinic of Dr. F. Lee Lemly at 808 N. Bishop in Oak Cliff (this was also the residence of his family). The house is still standing.

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A circa-1910s pretty view of City Park (part of which still hangs on as the site of Dallas Heritage Village in The Cedars):

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Another postcard from The Cedars/South Dallas, once home to a large, vibrant Jewish community, this one shows the Colonial Hill home of insurance man Sidney Reinhardt (1864-1924) at 277 South Boulevard (now renumbered as 1825 South Blvd.). The house was built around 1907, and this postcard appeared before 1911. The house — in what is now designated as the South Boulevard-Park Row Historic District — still stands.

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Here’s the Flower-A-Day Shop at the corner of Knox and Travis; the building is still there, but it’s nowhere near as charming today as it was when this postcard was mailed in 1955.

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And, lastly, “Highland Park Lake,” now Exall Lake. In fact, it was originally Exall Lake, as it was on the property of Henry Exall, who created the lake by damming Turtle Creek. The lake was a favorite recreation spot way out of town. It seems to have become “Highland Park Lake” after John Armstrong had taken over the property with an eye to developing what eventually became Highland Park. I’ve actually never heard of “Highland Park Lake,” but it was still being referred to as that in the 1960s — I’m not sure when it reverted to “Exall Lake” (or where exactly this photo was taken), but it remains one of Highland Park’s beauty spots. 

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Sources & Notes

Most of these postcards were found on eBay.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

First Presbyterian Church — 1960

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by Paula Bosse

Above is another wonderful photo by Dallas photographer Squire Haskins. It captures an interesting view of the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas (Harwood and Wood streets), with background cameos by bits of the Statler Hilton, the Lone Star Gas Building, whatever the building is next to the Lone Star Gas Building, and the Southland Life Building.

I’m not sure why Haskins took this particular photo (on February 29, 1960), which seems to focus on the church’s parking lot, but a few days after this photo was taken the church celebrated the 47th anniversary of the move from their previous location at the northeast corner of Main and Harwood by recreating the two-block march which the 1,000-member-strong congregation took back in 1913 from the old church to the brand new one. The recreated march included participation of 88 church members who had made the original march in 1913. The first services were held in the new church on March 2, 1913.

And it still looks beautiful.

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Below, the previous home of the First Presbyterian Church, built in the 1880s, at the  northeast corner of Main and Harwood.

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via the Library of Congress

The dome-less new church in December, 1911 (construction of the copper dome was “almost complete” in March, 1912):

presbyterian_first-presbyterian-church_under-construction_dmn_123111_clogensonDallas Morning News, Dec. 31, 1911

Completed, and wowing them on picture-postcard stands.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo — “First Presbyterian Church, downtown Dallas, Texas” — by Squire Haskins, taken on Feb. 29, 1960; it is from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections, UTA. More info on this photo (and a larger image) is here.

Read an exhaustive account of the new church’s design features in the Dallas Morning News article “First Presbyterian Church Completed” (DMN, March 2, 1913), here.

Read a history of the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, from 1856 to 1913, in an article which is dominated by a photo of the Main and Harwood building and titled “Will Be Abandoned As Church Property After Sunday Services” (DMN, Feb. 21, 1913), here.

Two more very early photos of the First Presbyterian Church can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “Dallas in “The Western Architect,” 1914: City Buildings and Churches” (scroll down to #6).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Michael G. Owen Jr., Dallas Artist

owen-michael_painting_david-dike-fine-artUntitled painting by Michael G. Owen Jr. (David Dike Fine Art)

by Paula Bosse

I’ve written about Michael G. Owen Jr. previously (see links at the bottom of this page for the three Flashback Dallas posts about Owen) but only in terms of his artistic achievements as a sculptor. I knew he had been a student of painters Jerry Bywaters and Olin Travis, and I had seen a couple of prints by him, but I was surprised to see the painting above which is currently offered at auction by David Dike Fine Art here in Dallas. Dike himself was surprised to see this large painting with stylistic echoes of the Dallas Nine group, of which Owen was a peripheral figure.

The untitled painting, estimated to have been painted around 1943, shows a man playing a guitar who resembles blues legend Lead Belly (whom Owen sculpted in 1943) surrounded by a black woman and child, by a white woman and child, and by a white man, presumed to be a self-portrait of Michael Owen. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that if the male figure standing at the right is Michael Owen, then the white woman and child are his wife Lois Schwarzwaelder Owen and his oldest son Michael Gordon Owen III (born in November, 1940).

This is quite an accomplished painting for an artist known primarily as a sculptor, and its discovery will surely boost Owen’s importance as a Texas regionalist artist.

Mike Owen was born in Oak Cliff in 1915 but lived in the 3500 block of Normandy Avenue in Highland Park for most of his life in Dallas, from at least 1923. His birth certificate has his father’s occupation as “lawyer,” but something must have happened between then and 1920 when census reports and city directories had his occupation listed variously as a farmer, an automobile painter with the Ford Motor Co., a sand and gravel merchant, a “laborer” with the Town of Highland Park, a roustabout, and when he and his wife (and most of their family, including the young, married Mike) moved to El Paso around 1941, his occupation was listed as “pipe-fitter.” Mike attended Highland Park High School, but the large family (there were at least six children) was not well-to-do. Olin Travis, the noted Dallas artist who was one of Mike’s art teachers, described Mike as “very poor” — he was able to take art lessons by winning scholarships, and he often scrounged for materials wherever he could (including a discarded block of red granite from an old Maple Avenue home which he used for an early sculpture).

Owen was something of a prodigy in Dallas art circles (he received a scholarship to the Dallas Art Institute when he was 14), and he was certainly a known figure in the exploding local art scene of the 1930s which was led by fellow artists such as Jerry Bywaters and Alexandre Hogue.

Mike Owen seems to have left Dallas sometime in 1936 for New York (see the photo below), but he was back in town in 1937 when he was commissioned to do the wonderful Peruna memorial which still stands on the SMU campus.

owen_peruna_monument_flickrphoto by David Steele

He continued to work and exhibit in Dallas until about 1939, when he seems to have left the city for good.

After having lived in El Paso and the Washington, DC suburbs of Maryland for a time in the 1940s, he and his wife and their two young sons moved to the Pacific Northwest where Mike paid the bills by working as a draftsman at an engineering firm in Corvallis, Oregon while continuing to create art.

Mike Owen suffered what must have been a debilitating series of setbacks, particularly in his later years. In 1942 in El Paso, his 16-year-old sister Sue was killed when a car she was riding in was hit by a train; in 1960 his wife sued him for divorce; in 1964 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; in 1965 his 18-year-old son William was killed in a motorcycle accident; in 1970 his father died; and in 1971 he had to abandon his artistic pursuits because the progression of the MS has made it impossible to shape clay with his numb hands.

Mike Owen died in Kennewick, Washington in April, 1976 after a twelve-year battle with MS. Even though he was not widely known, his obituary ran in newspapers around the country, possibly because of the lurid circumstances. The first two sentences read: “Noted artist and sculptor Michael Owen, 60, lost a 12-year battle with multiple sclerosis last week and, it was reported, died in a filthy trailer. He was buried at his own request without services in an unmarked grave at Desert Lawn Memorial Park with only his 90-year-old mother and a friend to mourn him” (UPI wire story May 5, 1976).

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UPI wire story, May 5, 1976 (click for larger image)

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April 29, 1976

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In a 1969 interview, Olin Travis, Mike’s childhood art teacher, said (possibly with some exaggeration) that Mike was “as good as Rodin…. Yet Dallas has never recognized this man” (DMN, Aug. 23, 1969).

The painting at the top of this post will be offered in Dallas at auction on November 9, 2019. It has an estimate of $80,000-$150,000.

UPDATE, Nov. 9, 2019: Dallas has recognized Mike Owen now — the painting at the top of the page sold at auction for $228,000.

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1930

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Highland Park High School senior photo, 1933

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From an application for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate, 1936

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ca. 1938

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Sources & Notes

See the auction listing in the David Dike Fine Art Fall 2019 catalog here — the painting is Lot 128 on page 37. The auction will be held Saturday, November 9, 2019 in Dallas at noon. UPDATE: The painting sold at auction for $228,000 (including the buyer’s premium).

Read about the painting and how it was brought to Mr. Dike’s attention in a Sept. 25, 2019 article from The Dallas Morning News here.

Read the previous Flashback Dallas posts on Michael G. Owen Jr.:

More Flashback Dallas posts on the local art scene can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

From the Vault: Teen Life at Highland Park High School — 1966

HPHS_1966_juniors_snowball-fight

by Paula Bosse

High school yearbooks are a great source of cultural history. I really enjoyed browsing through the 1966 Highland Park High School Highlander. I liked it so much I wrote two posts in 2017 featuring fab HPHS photos and ads. Check them out in the posts below:

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Buried Alive at the Fair Park Midway — 1946

sfot_scotty-scott_buried-alive_coffin_cook-colln_degolyer-library_SMU_1946Welcome to my casket!

by Paula Bosse

In May, 1946 a new Fair Park midway opened with new rides and new attractions to entice entertainment-seekers to Fair Park at a time of the year when the State Fair of Texas wasn’t in session. On opening day a beauty queen was chosen, a new 17-inch telescope was introduced, and a man was buried alive.

That man was C. S. “Scotty” Scott, seen above lounging in a comfy-looking casket in pajamas and robe, looking happy, propping up the lid. On May 11, 1946, Scotty Scott was buried six feet below the midway where he vowed to remain until the last day of the fair — Oct. 20th. That’s five and a half months.

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Countless ads appeared over the weeks offering $500 (the equivalent of about $6,500 in today’s money) to anyone who might stop by his Fair Park lair and find him not there.

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The exact set-up is not fully clear, but, basically, he was buried in a coffin in a very small space, with a ventilation pipe. One report said that visitors were able to see him through a glass partition — another said that people were peeking at him and talking to him via an eight-inch vent pipe. However they were observing him, they weren’t doing it for free — if you wanted to get a look at Scotty doing whatever it was he was doing down there, you had to fork over 25 or 30 cents. All this being-watched and chit-chatting probably helped distract Scotty from the fact that he was buried alive! (I’m getting claustrophobic just typing this.)

Scotty’s tomb was equipped with air conditioning, a radio, a telephone, and an electric razor (which seems unnecessary, but, again, it probably helped pass the time…). (He might have kept up with his shaving, but he let his hair grow, a fact which apparently had the hoi polloi debating about whether Scotty was a man or a woman.) He was able to indulge in the occasional sponge bath and “exercise himself with a vibrator machine.” There was mention somewhere of a feeding tube.

If the thought of being buried alive gives you the willies, Scotty was not completely immune himself. One report mentioned this was probably the last time he would perform this stunt because he was reaching his “breaking point” and “He has to fight himself continuously to keep from being irritable and cross” (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 13, 1946). Luckily, claustrophobia did not seem to be too much of a problem for him as he had been doing this kind of endurance stunt for several years and kept coming back for more — he had, somehow, managed to remain buried in San Francisco for eight months!

Though he considered his main vocation to be a daredevil race driver, he had stumbled into this weird, but lucrative, line of work in 1935 when he had seen a similar stunt being performed in California, and a friend bet him $1,000 he couldn’t do it for 30 days. He won the bet. By the time of this 1946 Dallas stunt, he had been buried alive a LOT — he estimated that he had spent a total of more than four and a half years (!) buried alive.

According to Scotty, the worst part of the buried-alive-thing was the un-burying:

“From past experience the most painful part of the ordeal will come when they dig me up. My circulation will be so bad that my body will turn purple and I will be unable to sit or stand for any length of time. My whole body will feel like a leg or arm that has gone to sleep.” (DMN, Oct. 13, 1946)

Scotty Scott spent 162 days buried alive in Dallas — he even celebrated his 28th birthday underneath Fair Park. He was buried on May 11 and was disinterred on the final day of the fair, Oct. 20. Crowds gathered as men with jack-hammers cracked open the cement-covered tomb. As the coffin was lifted up a woman fainted. He was transported by ambulance to a hospital, and the next day he was interviewed on a national radio program.

Why on earth would anyone do this? More than 75,000 people had paid to take a look at Scotty Scott lying underground. The total amount of money people paid for this creepy privilege works out to almost $300,000 in today’s money. That’s why.

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Sources & Notes

Photo is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info can be found here.

Try not to think about being buried alive. TRY!

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Texas Excitement” — Six Flags Over Texas by Rail

six-flags-over-texas_three-rides_postcard_ken-collierCount ’em…

by Paula Bosse

There’s a lot going on in this postcard! The description, from the back of the card:

TEXAS EXCITEMENT
Three of the most popular rides at SIX FLAGS Over Texas are shown in action. At top is the Runaway Mine Train which annually carries more than 2½ million riders. At center an authentic 1898 steam engine carries passengers over a narrow gauge track which encircles the huge theme park. And, in the foreground is the SIX FLAGS Mini Mine Train, designed for the younger set.

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Sources & Notes

This 1970s-era postcard is from Ken Collier’s fantastic Six Flags Over Texas site, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“I’m No Angel” Packing Them In at The Majestic — 1933

majestic-theatre_im-no-angel_elm-street_1933_portal

by Paula Bosse

Mae West was hot in 1933. Dallas moviegoers lined up on Elm Street to see her in “I’m No Angel” at the Majestic Theater. On a Monday afternoon!

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via IMDb

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Sources & Notes

Photo from the Spotlight on North Texas collection, UNT Media Library, Portal to Texas History; more info can be found here.

(Check out the brick paving on Elm Street!)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Super-Cool Roger Miller in Dallas — 1960s

roger-miller_venetian-room_oct-1969_wfaa_jones-film_SMURoger Miller on the Venetian Room stage, October, 1969

by Paula Bosse

Who doesn’t love Roger Miller? He was always one of the most effortlessly “cool” entertainers, celebrated as much for his songwriting and singing as he was for his humor and storytelling.

Roger Miller was born in Fort Worth in 1936 but spent most of his childhood in Oklahoma following the death of his father. He launched an entertainment career after a stint in the U.S. Army came to an end. (See an extensive timeline at Wikipedia, here.)

After years of struggling, he finally hit the big-time in 1964 with the hit “Dang Me” and, a few months later, with his biggest hit, the classic “King of the Road.” He won a huge number of Grammys (11 in 1964 and 1965 alone) and was a bona fide star who had incredible crossover appeal for fans of both country music and traditional popular music.

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When he came to Dallas in October, 1969 it was for a 3-week run at the Fairmont Hotel’s swanky Venetian Room, and he apparently packed them in every night. Below is a snippet of an interview with WFAA-Channel 8 News in which Roger answers the burning question of whether he was “serious” when he wrote his hit novelty song “You Can’t Rollerskate In a Buffalo Herd” (listen to the song here). His quipped response (which cracked up the Jerry Gray Orchestra behind him) probably didn’t make it to the local airwaves in 1969:

 

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(As an interesting sidelight, in an interview with Philip Wuntch of The Dallas Morning News (Oct. 19, 1969), Miller said that he and his wife had been in Texas for a few days prior to his Venetian Room engagement looking at houses in both Dallas (his mother was then residing in Fort Worth) and San Antonio (his wife’s hometown). Nothing apparently came of this, but it certainly would have been nice to have been able to claim Roger Miller as a Dallas resident!)

He was in town a couple of years earlier, in 1967, and sat down for a Channel 8 interview which was a bit more sedate — it took place in the American Airlines “Celebrity Room” at Love Field as he was passing through Dallas on his way to San Antonio with his wife and young son, Dean Miller:

 

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On this trip, newspapers reported that he was shuttled about in private Lear Jets and Rolls Royces — a big change from his early days when he picked cotton, hitchhiked, slept in cars, and stole milk off front porches.

Roger Miller died in 1992 at the age of 56 from complications of lung cancer.

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Below are a few ads from Roger Miller’s DFW appearances. He played large venues like the Big D Jamboree in Dallas and Panther Hall and Northside Coliseum in Fort Worth, but he also played a lot of little clubs as he worked his way up to becoming a major recording artist and television personality.

miller-roger_FWST_041259_rosas-western-clubRosa’s Western Club, Fort Worth with Donny Young (aka Johnny Paycheck), April 12, 1959

miller-roger_060863_hi-ho-western-club_grand-prairieHi-Ho Western Club, Grand Prairie, TX, June 8, 1963

miller-roger_FWST_081364_panther-hallPanther Hall, Aug. 13, 1964

miller-roger_101669_fairmont-hotelVenetian Room, Dallas, Oct. 16, 1969

miller-roger_101769_fairmont-hotel_smash-recordsSmash Records ad, Oct. 17, 1969

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Sources & Notes

Film footage of Roger Miller in Dallas (on YouTube here and here) is from the WFAA Collection, G. William Jones Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

The official Roger Miller website is here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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