Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1940s

Texlite, Borich, Pegasus

texlite_feb-1949_ad_pegasus-det

by Paula Bosse

Texlite. If you’re a lover of all-things-Dallas, you should know that name. Texlite made many, many, many, many, MANY enamel, electric, and neon signs, including, most famously, the rotating Flying Red Horse — Pegasus — which arrived in Dallas in 1934 to sit atop the city’s tallest building, the Magnolia Petroleum Building, serving as a beacon, a landmark, and as a sort of city mascot.

Texlite’s  roots went back to 1879 when Italian immigrant Peter Samuel Borich (1849-1932) arrived in Dallas. His obituary noted that he was a graduate of the Royal Italian Naval School and that he served in the Italian Merchant Marine before he arrived in Dallas, where he established the Borich Sign Co. A very early site of his shop is said to have been either the current site of the Adolphus Hotel or the current site of the Magnolia Building (and Pegasus), on Sycamore Street (now Akard). He appears to have been the go-to sign-painter for decades and was a very successful businessman.

The Borich company eventually branched out (and eventually became Texlite, a separate entitity) to became a pioneer in electric and neon signs: in 1926 Texlite built and sold the first neon sign west of the Mississippi, in St. Louis (their first neon sign in Dallas was a sign for the Zinke shoe repair store (1809 Main) which depicted an animated hammer tapping on a shoe heel). 

The Borich sign company focused on painted or printed signs while Texlite handled the electric signs. P. S. Borich retired in the 1920s and moved to Los Angeles after the death of his wife. The last time the Borich company name appeared in the Dallas directory was 1930 (when it looks like it became United Advertising Corporation of Texas, owned by Harold H. Wineburgh, who was also a Texlite partner/owner). 

During World War II, Texlite, like many manufacturers, jumped into war-production work, making airplane and ship parts; during the Korean War they made bomber fuselages. 

I don’t know when Texlite went out of business (or was acquired and merged into another company). As successful as Texlite was (and it was incredibly successful), what more important achievement could it have had than to have been the maker of our iconic Pegasus? 

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Here are a few random images from the Borich/Texlite history. First, a great ad from 1949, when Pegasus was a fresh 15-year-old. “It’s Time For a Spring Sign Cleaning.” (Click to see a larger image.)

texlite_feb-1949-ad1949 ad

And another ad, this one with a wonderful photo, from 1954.

texlite_pegasus_ad_ca-1954_heather-david_flickr1954 ad, via Flickr

In 1949 Texlite built a huge new factory in an industrial area near Love Field, at 3305 Manor Way. Below is the architectural rendering. The caption: “New home of Texlite, Inc. is being completed at 3305 Manor Way at a total of $1,000,000. The new, two-story plant, providing 114,000 square feet of factory and office space, will provide facilities for trebling Texlite’s output. Grayson Gill is the architect, and O’Rourke Construction Company are the general contractors.” (Dallas magazine, Feb. 1949)

texlite-new-bldg_dallas-chamber-of-commerce-mag_feb-1949

Below, the previous factory, located at 2900 Factory Street, also near Love Field:

texlite-sign_1940

I assume this 1940 sign was made by Texlite. Below are a couple of details, showing playful hints of Pegasus.

texlite-sign_1940_det-1

texlite-sign_1940_det-2via Mecum Auctions

I wondered where Factory Street was — here it is on a 1952 map — it looks like it was absorbed into a growing Love Field.

texlite_factory-st_mapsco-19521952 Mapsco

One of Texlite’s many theater clients was the Palace Theatre for whom they designed and installed a new electric sign in January, 1929 (at which time, by the way, the theater’s name was “officially” changed — however briefly — to the Greater Palace; the theater was renovated and enlarged, with a new emphasis on the Elm Street entrance rather than the entrance on Pacific). 

texlite_palace_jan-1929Jan., 1929

Going back a couple of years, with the separate companies sharing ad space in the 1927 city directory:

borich-texlite_dallas-directory_19271927 Dallas directory

The first ad I found which had both the “Borich” and “Texlite” names together was this one from 1923 for the Cloud-George Co., a women’s clothing boutique (1705 Elm) run by the somewhat notorious Miss A. B. Cloud.

texlite_borich-sign_sept-1923Sept., 1923

The company occupied several locations over the years — the location in 1902 can be seen here, at the right, looking west on Pacific (from the Flashback Dallas post “Views from a Passing Train — 1902”).

edmunds_pacific-bryan_free-lib-phil_19021902, via Free Library of Philadelphia

borich_dallas-directory_1902Dallas directory, 1902

P. S. Borich’s sign-painting wasn’t restricted only to businesses — he was also regularly retained by the city to paint street signs.

borich_dmn_080686Dallas Herald, Aug. 6, 1886

And, below, the earliest ad I could find — from 1879, the year Borich arrived in Dallas. (Thanks to this ad, I can now add “calsomining” to my vocabulary.)

borich_nortons-union-intelligencer_110179Norton’s Union Intelligencer, Nov. 1, 1879

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Here’s an interesting little bonus: a Pegasus “mini-me” in Billings, Montana, created with help from the Pegasus experts in Dallas (click for larger image).

texlite_pegasus-in-montana_billings-MT-gazette_052255Billings Gazette, May 22, 1955

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Sources & Notes

Top image is a detail from a 1949 ad found in the Feb., 1949 issue of Dallas, the magazine published by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

Check out another Texlite sign which I wrote about in the Flashback Dallas post “Neon Refreshment: The Giant Dr Pepper Sign.”

I’m always excited to see places I write about show up in old film footage. Watch a short (20-second) silent clip of Texlite workers striking in June, 1951 at the 3305 Manor Way location in WBAP-Channel 5 footage here (the workers were on strike in a wage dispute — more info is in the news script here); film and script from the KXAS-NBC 5 News Collection, University of North Texas, via the Portal to Texas History.

The company made tons of signs and exteriors for movie theaters around the country, including the Lakewood Theater (whose sign was recently re-neonized!).

Thank you, Signor Borich!

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Interurban Miscellany

interurban_dallas_photo_ebay_redWooden, red… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Just a few miscellaneous photos from the days of the Interurban, the electric railway which ran through Dallas from 1908 to 1948.

The photograph above has the following written on the back: “The Texas Electric has a whole flock of fast interurbans. Most are steel and painted blue. This older wooden car is red and was used on the Dallas-Denison run. Dallas, Tex.”

Below, “Evolution of Transportation,” a postcard featuring “Miniature Interurban Exhibit, Showing a Model Suburban Home and the Splendid Service Between Dallas, Fort Worth and Cleburne.”

interurban_evolution-of-transportation_postcard_ca-1916_ebayvia eBay

An Interurban mishap:

interurban_mishap_ebayvia eBay

A couple of pleasant waiting-shelters, circa 1925:

interurban-stop_neighbors-pamphlet_portal_1925via Portal to Texas History

interurban-shelter_neighbors_1925via Portal to Texas History

Another stop, with a sign (“ALL INTERURBAN CARS STOP ON SIGNAL”):

interurban-stop_flickr-lynneslensvia Lynne’s Lens Flickr photostream

And the Interurban Terminal, downtown, ca. 1925 (located at 1500 Jackson St. at Browder, still standing, converted to residences):

interurban-terminal_1925_neighbors-pamphlet_portalvia Portal to Texas History

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Sources & Notes

Top photo found on eBay. “Robert M. Hanft, Brainerd, Minn.” is printed on the back. Hanft (1914-2004) was a rail enthusiast and photographer — his obituary is here.

The Texas Interurban route connected with Dallas in 1908 and continued for 40 years until being discontinued in 1948. More at the Handbook of Texas here, and at Wikipedia here; a look at the stops can be seen in an illustration here.

Check out these two Interurban pamphlets with lots of great photographs, scanned in their entirety by UNT’s Portal to Texas History:

  • Making Neighbors of the People of Dallas and Kaufman Counties, and the Towns of Terrell, Forney, Mesquite and Dallas (20 pages, Texas Interurban Railway) — read it here.
  • Making Neighbors of the People of Dallas and Denton Counties, and the Towns of Denton, Garza, Lewisville, Carrollton, Farmers Branch and Dallas (24 pages, Texas Interurban Railway) — read it here.

More Flashback Dallas posts on the Interurban can be found here.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

West Jefferson Blvd. at Night

oak-cliff_jefferson-blvd_night_oldoakclifflodge_flickrW. Jefferson & S. Madison (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I love night-time views of a lit-up city, and this circa-1949 bird’s-eye view of West Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff, looking east, is pretty cool. If this photo had a soundtrack, it would be moody and atmospheric saxophone music.

Hunt’s department store was at 303 W. Jefferson, and the Oak Cliff Bank & Trust Co. was at 250 W. Jefferson — S. Madison is the intersecting street in the center of the photo. At the upper left you can see the bright lights and triangular marquee of the Texas Theatre. Below is a view of the same street today, still recognizable.

oak-cliff_jefferson-blvd_google-aerialGoogle Maps

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the Flickr photostream of OldOakCliffLodge, here.

oak-cliff_jefferson-blvd_night_oldoakclifflodge_flickr_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Two Color Home Movies Featuring Downtown Dallas and Love Field — 1940s

love-field_dallas-aviation-school_perisccope_croppedDallas Aviation School, Love Field

by Paula Bosse

I’m a sucker for old home movies, and these two circa-1940s films are pretty cool — the first one has shots taken around Love Field and the second one has views of Main Street and Elm Street, full of traffic, pedestrians, and streetcars. Best of all, both are in color!

The Love Field film shows several of the businesses operating in Love Field, including the Dallas Aviation School, seen above in a screenshot from the film. Also seen is the building below, which appears to have housed offices for Delta Air Lines, Braniff Airways, and American Airlines. I’ve never seen this odd-looking building.

love-field_delta-braniff-american_periscope_ext_cropped

Also seen are these two signs:

love-field_periscope-screenshot_dallas-texas-terminal_cropped

love-field_sign_periscope_cropped

Below is the two-minute silent video:


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The second video contains a lot of non-Dallas things (imagine!), but the first minute and a half were shot moving east down Main and Elm streets. (The Elm Street footage is, for some reason, really sped up — if you want to be able to focus on anything, I suggest fiddling with the YouTube settings and slowing the playback speed to .25.)

Here are a few screenshots — first, looking east down Main, approaching Akard:

downtown_main-street_periscope_cropped_a

And here’s a view of Elm Street, also shot from just west of Akard:

downtown_elm-street_periscope_cropped

And here’s a stretch of Elm you don’t see all that often in historical shots of downtown — Elm east of Harwood (the “camel” sign is for the Campbell House hotel on the southeast corner of Elm and Harwood):

downtown_elm-street_periscope_campbell-house-cropped

The video is here, with the first minute and a half shot in Dallas (and, seriously, turn the playback speed down!):

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Sources & Notes

All images are cropped screenshots from home movies from the Periscope Films archive — the Periscope page with more info on the Love Field film is here; the page with more info on the downtown Dallas film is here.

Thanks to Dallas author Rusty Williams for pointing me to the Periscope website! Check out Rusty’s history books here.

love-field_dallas-aviation-school_perisccope_cropped_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Bright Lights, Big City — ca. 1948

elm-ervay-live-oak_weather-sign_ca-1948“Forget all your troubles, forget all your cares…”

by Paula Bosse

I think present-day downtown Dallas looks really great at night. But it pales in comparison to what downtown Dallas — especially Elm Street — used to look like at night. It was bursting with lights and signs and people. The scene above shows Elm Street looking east from Ervay around 1948. The Coca-Cola weather-forecast sign at the left is one of my favorite by-gone downtown landmarks (other photos of the sign can be seen here and here).

I wouldn’t really encourage anyone to click the link to see what this part of Elm Street looks like today, but if you must, it’s here.

Whenever I imagine times in Dallas history that I’d like to time-travel to, for some reason I always wish I could walk around downtown Dallas in the 1940s. It must have been quite something to have seen this pulsating view in person. 

elm-street_from-ervay-live-oak_1948-directory
Elm Street, 1948 directory (click to see larger image)

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Sources & Notes

I’m unsure of the source of this photo, but there is one almost identical to it in the collection of the Dallas Public Library, but the library’s copy is over-exposed and dated 1930 (it is titled “[Intersection of Elm, N. Ervay, and Live Oak streets]” and has the call number PA82-00324).

This photo was taken sometime between the end of 1947 and very early 1949. Mangel’s department store opened in its brand new building at 1700 Elm in September, 1947, and the Artificial Flower Shop (… “the artificial flower shop”?) lost its lease in early 1949. I can’t make out the lettering on the “Welcome” banners along the street, but there was a large hardware convention in Dallas in January, 1948.

elm-ervay-live-oak_weather-sign_ca-1948_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Orphaned Factoids: Year-End Grab Bag, 2019

cyclone-twister_tornado_cigars_1928_ebay“Looks crooked but smokes straight…”

by Paula Bosse

As another year crawls to an end, it’s time to collect the odd bits and pieces that have  piled up over the past few months which struck me as interesting or funny or… whatever. I had nowhere else to put them, so they’re going here! (Most images are larger when clicked.)

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First up, the ad above for the “Cyclone Twister” 5-cent cigar, distributed by Dallas wholesaler Martin L. Richards in 1928. Note the shape of the cigar. “Looks crooked but smokes straight.” Probably looked a little strange when smoked. I guess it might help break the ice at parties. Found on eBay.

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Here’s a nice little crest for SMU I’ve never seen — I’m not sure how long this lasted. From the 1916 Rotunda yearbook.

smu_crest_1916-rotunda

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M. Benedikt & Co. was the “Headquarters for Hard-to-fit-men” — in other words, they specialized in “Right-Shape clothing for Odd-Shape Men.” Here are a couple of examples of what they might consider “odd-shape men” in an ad from 1899.

benedikt-clothiers_odd-shape-men_dallas-fire-dept-souvenir_1899_degolyer-lib_SMU

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This is an interesting selection of ads from a 1968 edition of the Yellow Pages: Dewey Groom’s Longhorn Ballroom, Louanns, El Zarape Ballroom, the It’ll Do Club, the Bamboo Room at the Tower Hotel Courts, the Chalet Club, and the Tamlo Show Lounge (a couple of these show up in the…um… informative story “The Meanest Bars in Dallas” (D Magazine, July, 1975).

clubs_yellow-pages_1968_ebay

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I’ve been working in the G. William Jones Film and Video Archives at SMU for the past few months, and this was something I came across while viewing a 1960 WFAA-Channel 8 News clip which made me really excited (it’s an awful screenshot, but, what the heck): while covering a car wreck at Corinth and Industrial, the Ch. 8 camera panned across the scene, and in the background, just left of center, was a very tall sign for the Longhorn Ranch, which I’d never seen before. Before it was the Longhorn Ranch it was Bob Wills’ Ranch House, and after it was the Longhorn Ranch it was the Longhorn Ballroom (more history of the legendary honky-tonk is in a Texas Monthly article here). So, anyway, it’s a fuzzy screenshot, but I think it’s cool. (The footage is from June, 1960 but the clip hasn’t yet been uploaded online.)

longhorn-ranch_wfaa-june-1960_jones-film_SMU

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Speaking of WFAA footage in the Jones Film collection, there was some sort of story about comely young women in skimpy outfits handing out samples of some sort of food to passing pedestrians on Commerce Street (the one-minute clip is here). In addition to seeing sights associated with downtown streets in 1962 (including businesses such as Sigel’s and the Horseshoe Bar, as well as a large sign advertising the Theatre Lounge), I was really happy to see a few Braniff Airways posters in a window — I love those late-’50s/early-’60s Braniff travel posters! So here’s another screenshot and, below that, the Texas-kitsch poster I was so happy to see in color.

braniff-poser_oil-well_jones-film_SMU_041262

braniff-poser_oil-well_ebayBraniff Airways, Inc., Copyright 1926 2019

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I don’t have an image for it, but I was amused to learn that in 1969 the powers-that-be at the Texas Turnpike Authority nixed the suggestion that the Dallas North Tollway be renamed in honor of president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had recently died — the idea was turned down because 1) new signage would have been very expensive, and 2) officials were afraid that “irreverent motorists” would inevitably refer to the toll road as the “Ike Pike” (I know I would have!).

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Not Dallas, but there’s always time for a little love for Fort Worth: here’s a nice ad from 1955 for a 22-year-old Fort Worth DJ named Willie Nelson, back when he was gigging out on the Jacksboro Highway with his band the Dumplin’ Eaters.

nelson-wilie_FWST_090955Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sept. 9, 1955

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Apparently there was a time when ladies were uncomfortable patronizing an establishment in which m*n served them ice cream, so this ad from 1899 made sure to note that “lady clerks” were in attendance. (See the back side of the Willett & Haney Confectioners parlor a couple of years before this ad, when the “cool and cozy parlor” was located on Main Street — it’s at the far left in this circa-1895 photo detail from this post.) The parlor was owned by John B. Willett and John S. Haney, and in addition to ice cream and candy, their specialty was oysters, and I can only hope that there was some experimenting with new food combos involving mollusks, ice cream sodas, and crushed fruit.

willett-and-haney_ice-cream-parlor_dallas-fire-dept-souvenir_1899_degolyer-lib_SMU

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This is an odd little tidbit from The Dallas Morning News about a couple of cadets from Camp Dick (at Fair Park) and what happened to them when they attended a lecture on “social diseases.” (The jokes write themselves….) Who knew singing and whistling were so therapeutic”

camp-dick_dmn_081718DMN, Aug. 17, 1918

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The caption for this photo (which appeared in the article “Going Downtown to Shop” by Jackie McElhaney, from the Spring, 2009 issue of Legacies): “In 1946, Sanger’s introduced a portable drapery shop. Two seamstresses sewed draperies in this truck while parked in the customer’s driveway.” Now that’s service!

sangers_drapes_legacies_2009

sangers_logo_1947_forward-with-tx
“Forward with Texas,” 1947 ad detail

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Two more. This first was a real-photo postcard I found on eBay. It shows the Pink Elephant cafe on Hwy. 80 in Forney (not Dallas, but pretty close!). I love the idea of Forney having a place called the Pink Elephant — it was quite popular and was in business from at least the 1930s to the 1950s. The card below was postmarked in 1936.

pink-elephant-bbq_forney_ebay_mailed-1936

This photo of the interior is from the Spellman Museum of Forney Museum Facebook page.

pink-elephant-bbq_forney_FB_spellman-museum-forney-history

I wondered if the place was still around (sadly, it is not), and in looking for info about it found this interesting article from 1934 about outlaw Raymond Hamilton, the escaped killer who grew up in Dallas (…there’s the Dallas connection!) and was notorious for having been a member of Bonnie and Clyde’s “Barrow Gang.” (Click to read.)

pink-elephant-bbq_forney_austin-american_102234Austin American, Oct. 22, 1934

pink-elephant_forney_matchbook_pinterest

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And, lastly, a photo of a young woman which appeared in a German-language magazine, captioned simply “Eine Texas Schönheit (A Texas Beauty).” Is the hair wearing the hat, or is the hat wearing the hair?

texas-beauty_1902

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Previous installments of Flashback Dallas “Orphaned Factoids” can be found here.

Until next year!

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

A Few Random Postcards

methodist-hospital_postcard_1944_ebay

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.

methodist-hospital_rppc_ebay

methodist-hospital

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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.

lemley-chiropractic_808-n-bishop_ebay

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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):

city-park_postcard_clogenson_ebay

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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.

south-blvd_now-1825_sidney-reinhardt_postcard_1910_ebay

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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.

flower-a-day_knox-and-travis_postmarked-1950_ebay

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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. 

highland-park-lake_postcard

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Sources & Notes

Most of these postcards were found on eBay.

methodist-hospital_postcard_1944_ebay_sm

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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).

owen-michael_obit_upi-wire_050576
UPI wire story, May 5, 1976 (click for larger image)

owen_obit_042976
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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owen-michael_soap_1930

owen-michael_soap_1930a
1930

owen-mike_hphs_1933_sr-photo
Highland Park High School senior photo, 1933

owen-michael_seamans-protection-certificate_application-photo_1936

owen-michael_seamans-protection-certificate_application-photo_1936_sig
From an application for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate, 1936

owen-michael_1930s
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.

 

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.

State Fair of Texas, Miscellaneous Tidbits from Its History

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by Paula Bosse

The State Fair of Texas is, once again, in full swing. Here are a few random SFOT images and ads from the past.

First up, an ad for the very first state fair in Dallas, in 1886. Almost unbelievably, this “Dallas State Fair” (held on 80 acres of land now known as Fair Park) was one of two competing state fairs held in the city that year — the other one was the “Texas State Fair,” which was held about three miles northeast of the courthouse on a 100-acre site roughly about where Cole Park is near present-day North Dallas High School. The two state fairs ran concurrently, and both were smash hits. The “Dallas State Fair and Exposition” eventually became the State Fair of Texas in 1904. Below are the ads for those competing two fairs. (Click to see a larger image.)

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The East Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 9, 1886

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The North Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 20, 1886

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One of the original buildings built for the 1886 Dallas State Fair was the massive Exposition Building, designed by architect James Flanders. On a site devoted to the career of Flanders, the architect recalled this project many years later: “The progress of the work on the structure was watched by most people with a degree of curiosity far more intense than is excited by the loftiest skyscraper in these days when people have no time to wonder. Such an apparition on the bald prairie attracted crowds of the curious from far and near on Sundays.”

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Above, the huge Exposition Hall, enlarged from its initial design, which, in 1886 was reported to contain 92,000 square feet of unrivaled exhibition space. Unfortunately, the wooden buildings seen above burned to the ground in the early hours of July 20, 1902. The blaze was so intense that “the whole of the city was lit up with the brilliancy of the sunrise” and that “flames rose to such great height that they were seen as far west as Fort Worth, where it was thought the whole city of Dallas was burning” (Dallas Morning News, July 21, 1902). More on this building can be found on the Watermelon Kid site, here.

Below, the Exposition Building can be seen from the fairgrounds racetrack in a photo published in 1900 in an issue of The Bohemian magazine (via the Fort Worth Public Library).

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A moment from the opening day parade festivities of the 1903 fair is captured in the photo below, with the following caption from the 1941-42 edition of the Texas Almanac: “Gov. S. W. T. Lanham (in rear seat of pioneer horseless carriage) in opening day parade for 1903 State Fair of Texas formed on Main Street. Fair President C. A. Keating was seated beside him, and Secretary John G. Hunter of Board of Trade is seen standing beside the gasoline buggy.”

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Main Street, looking west, via Portal to Texas History

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Here is a 1911 view of the state fair midway taken by John R. Minor, Jr. in a real-photo postcard. (More on Mr. Minor is here; more images of the Shoot the Chutes water ride can be found here.)

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via George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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From the 1920s, an ad for Clayco Red Ball gasoline (“It’s RED in color”). I’m always a sucker for ads containing photos or drawings of Dallas landmarks, and here we see the entrance to Fair Park. (Why was the gas red? Why not? It was the brainchild of Dallas advertising man Wilson W. Crook, Sr. who needed a way to make this Oklahoma gas different. He remembered that during his WWI days in France that higher quality airplane fuel was colored red to distinguish it from regular gasoline. When the gas was introduced to Dallas in August, 1924, he devised a promotion that gave away 5 gallons of this gas to every red-headed person who showed up at participating service stations.)

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ad-red-ball-gas_state-fair_dmn_101224Clayco Red Ball ad, Oct. 1924

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If we’re talking about the State Fair of Texas and we’ve come to the 1930s, there’s a pretty good chance there’s going to be a photo from the Texas Centennial. And, looky here: a nice shot of concessionaires waiting for thirsty patrons at the Centennial Exposition in 1936. A couple of nickels could get you a Coke and a phone call.

sfot_concessionaires_coke_unt_portal_1936via Portal to Texas History

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During World War II the State Fair was on hiatus. Here’s an ad from the 1941-42 Texas Almanac pre-closure, with a nice pencil sketch of the Esplanade and Hall of State:

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And a 1946 magazine cover story on the imminent reopening of the fair:

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via Portal to Texas History

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In 1956 Big Tex warned/assured you that the Esplanade lights would “knock your eyes out.”

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Speaking of Big Tex and lights knocking your eyes out, in the 1960s Big Tex was memorialized on the side of a downtown building, like a giant bow-legged Lite-Brite.

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Back at Fair Park, Huey P. Nash was supplying fair throngs with barbecue from his Little Bob’s Bar-B-Q stand. In 1964, Nash was the first African-American vendor to be granted a food concession at the State Fair. Little Bob’s (which I believe is still in business) was, at the time of this 1967 ad, located in South Dallas at 4203 S. Oakland (now Malcom X), at the corner of Pine. (Ad is from the 1967 Souvenir Program of the 74th Annual Session of the Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas; more photos from this publication can be seen here.)

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The 1960s also gave us the Swiss Skyride, which replaced the Monorail (which, when it was introduced in 1956, was the first commercially operated monorail in the United States). The Swiss Skyride was erected in Fair Park in August, 1964, and the 6-minute ride debuted a few months later at the 1964 State Fair of Texas.

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via Lon Tinkle’s children’s book Key to Dallas (1965)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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