Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1950s

Rip Torn and Ann Wedgeworth’s Dallas Wedding — 1955

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E. R. “Rip” Torn, the pride of Taylor High School

by Paula Bosse

One of my favorite actors — Rip Torn — has died. My favorite performance of his was as Larry Sanders’ producer, Artie, on The Larry Sanders Show. He was PERFECT in that role. And I loved a little-seen movie he did in the ’70s called Payday in which he played a hard-living country-music singer (watch the trailer here; the full movie is currently on YouTube). But, really, I liked him in everything I saw him in.

A couple of years ago I wrote about Dallas-reared actress Ann Wedgeworth and was surprised to discover that she had been married to fellow Texan Rip Torn (born Elmore Rual Torn) and their wedding had been in Dallas. They had probably met in Austin in 1952 or 1953 when both were members of the University of Texas Curtain Club acting group. They were married in downtown Dallas on Saturday, January 15, 1955 at First Methodist Church on Ross and Harwood, with Rev. Calvin W. Froehner officiating. The 20-year-old bride wore rose-hued lace and satin; the 23-year-old groom probably wore a military uniform as he was then serving in the U.S. Army Military Police.

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Austin American, Jan. 25, 1955

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Taylor (TX) Daily Press, Jan. 23, 1955

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Ann and Rip (who was called “Skip” as a child, which is nowhere near as good as “Rip”) moved to New York later in 1955 when Rip’s army hitch was finished, and both began working in New York theater fairly soon after their arrival. They had a daughter Danae and were married until their divorce in 1961.

Below are a few photos of Rip Torn from high school and college yearbooks. (Most images are larger when clicked.)

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1946, Longview (TX) High School, sophomore

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1947, Longview High School, junior

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1947, Longview High School, Chemistry Club president

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1947, Longview High School, sports editor of the school paper

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1947, Longview High School, Junior Class treasurer

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1948, Taylor (TX) High School, senior

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1948, Taylor High School, yearbook staff, business manager

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1950, Texas A & M, Sophomore Class parliamentarian

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1951, University of Texas, junior, Radio Guild

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1952, University of Texas, senior, Sigma Chi fraternity

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Hollywood glamour shot

RIP, Rip (1931-2019).

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Sources & Notes

Rip Torn had a famous first-cousin, Sissy Spacek — Rip’s mother and Sissy’s father were brother and sister. I checked the Quitman High School yearbook (Sissy’s alma mater) and found her mod and groovy 1968 senior photos. Here’s one, showing her as a class favorite, voted “Cutest Couple” with Jerry Blalock. (And, yes, that really is her.)

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And, since I’m on a roll, here’s a photo of Rip Torn’s mother, Thelma Spacek, when she was a student at Southwestern College (Georgetown, TX) in 1927. Rip had that same profile.

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RIP

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Gloria Vanderbilt’s 4 Husbands… and Their Dallas Connections

cooper-wyatt_gloria-vanderbilt_1970_w-magMr. & Mrs. Wyatt Cooper, 2 months after their royal reign in Dallas

by Paula Bosse

Gloria Vanderbilt died June 17, 2019 at the age of 95. Despite being the subject of one of the most headline-grabbing child-custody trials in 20th-century history, “poor little rich girl” Gloria Vanderbilt grew up to live what appears to have been a full and mostly happy life. There were several Dallas connections in her life, especially regarding each of the four men she married.

One of Gloria’s aunts (her mother’s sister-in-law, or, more confusingly, the ex-wife of Gloria’s mother’s brother) was Ivor O’Connor Morgan, something of a bon vivant socialite who lived primarily in Europe but kept Dallas as her residence of record. She was born in Dallas, the eldest daughter of prominent banker J. C. O’Connor and niece of Mayor J. Waddy Tate. She testified in Gloria’s custody trial in support of Gloria’s mother (who ultimately lost custody).

And now to Gloria’s husbands.

1. PASQUALE (“PAT”) DiCICCO was Gloria’s first husband. He was a Hollywood agent and the ex-husband of film star Thelma Todd (who died under mysterious circumstances, with many wondering if Pat might have been involved in what many suspected had been a murder). They married in 1941 when Gloria was only 17 (Pat was 32). Gloria described the marriage as an unhappy and abusive one. They divorced in 1945. 

di-cicco_dec-1941_APDiCicco and Gloria in 1941

Their honeymoon road trip brought them to Dallas for a day where they took a breather from their motoring to be entertained at a luncheon held in their honor in the Mural Room of the Baker Hotel.

In 1947 — a couple of years after their divorce — DiCicco moved to Dallas to assume a vice-president position with the Dallas-based Robb & Rowley theater chain. He appears to have returned to Hollywood at the beginning of 1949.

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2. LEOPOLD STOKOWKSI, the noted classical music conductor, was Gloria’s second husband. They married one day after her divorce with DiCicco was finalized; Gloria was 21, Stokowski was 63. They were married for 10 years and had two sons.

stokowski_vanderbilt_1950_pinterestThe Stokowskis, with their first son, 1950, via Pinterest

In December, 1950 (about the time of the photo above), Leopold Stokowski appeared in Dallas as a guest conductor with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He and Gloria drove up from Houston and spent their time here at the Stoneleigh Hotel. Stokowski had been invited by DSO conductor Walter Hendl, with whom he had worked at the New York Philharmonic Symphony.

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Dec., 1950

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3. SIDNEY LUMET, the TV and movie director, was husband #3. They married in 1956 and divorced seven years later. He was known for critically acclaimed films such as 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and Serpico.

lumet-sidney_vanderbilt_wedding_w-mag Mr. and Mrs. Lumet, 1956

Sidney Lumet’s father, Baruch Lumet, was a Warsaw-born actor who was had started in Yiddish theater. Somehow he ended up in Dallas, where he founded an acting school and was the director of the Dallas Institute of Performing Arts, whose home-base was the Knox Street Theatre. Baruch plied his craft in Big D for about ten years, beginning in 1952. Among his students was then-Dallas resident Vera Jane Palmer, better known as Hollywood glam-star Jayne Mansfield.

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Speaking of the theater world, it’s interesting to note that while Gloria was married to Sidney Lumet, she had written a play (untitled) which had been sent by her agent to Paul Baker at the Dallas Theater Center for consideration. The play was described as “a dance drama, written partly in poetic style” (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 24, 1959).

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4. WYATT COOPER was Gloria’s last husband; they were married from 1963 until his death in 1988, and together they had two sons, one of which is journalist Anderson Cooper. From most accounts, the years with Cooper were among her happiest.

gloria-vanderbilt_wyatt-cooper_wikipedia_ebay-photo_101170The Coopers, dressed in matching Adolfo, 1970, via WikiMedia

In 1970, it was announced that Neiman-Marcus’ annual extravagant Fortnight festivities would celebrate the culture and commerce of Australia, but at the last minute, the country pulled out, leaving Neiman’s in the lurch. It was too late to get another country on board, but the show must go on – and Stanley Marcus made the executive decision to feature a fictional country: “Ruritania.”

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The store created the country’s history, designed its money and postage stamps, and even commissioned a national anthem. There was even a king and queen of the principality: King Rudolph and Queen Flavia, embodied by the striking couple of Wyatt Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt, who presided over a grand ball in formal-wear designed by Gloria’s favorite designer, Adolfo. The photo at the top of this post (and directly below) was taken in December, 1970, just a few weeks after the Neiman’s Fortnight — the Coopers were attending the high-society Winter Ball at the Plaza Hotel in New York, with Gloria in another Adolfo creation. It gives you an idea of the royal costumes they wore in Dallas as the faux monarchs of Ruritania. It also shows what a game, happy couple they were and why Stanley Marcus chose them to be the king and queen of his mythical kingdom .

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RIP, Gloria. We should all be lucky enough to have a life as full as yours.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of Gloria Vanderbilt and husband Wyatt Cooper shows the couple in December, 1970, attending the Imperial Russia-themed Winter Ball in New York City, with Gloria in a costume designed by Adolfo; that photo (as well as the photo of her and Sidney Lumet on their wedding day) appeared in a well-worth-clicking-through W magazine slideshow.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Zodiac Room

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by Paula Bosse

The tastefully swanky Zodiac Room opened at the downtown Neiman-Marcus store on April 27, 1953. (Interestingly, there was an earlier — and presumably unrelated — Zodiac Room, in the Jefferson Hotel, from at least 1950 to 1952.)

The Zodiac, a fashionable restaurant and tearoom featuring select foods, will open Monday on the sixth floor of Neiman-Marcus Company’s downtown store. Designed by Eleanor LeMaire of New York, the restaurant’s décor will suggest the roof of the world with signs of the Zodiac represented in both the main dining area and the terrace. (The Dallas Morning News, April 26, 1953)

Stanley Marcus wanted a restaurant in the store in which customers could take a break from shopping by having lunch or afternoon tea on-site, without having to leave the premises. Customers could continue to “shop” while dining as models walked around modeling fashions from the store’s inventory.

“[W]e installed a large restaurant, the Zodiac Room, to attract more people to the downtown area and as a service to those customers from out of town who were spending the day in the store.” (Stanley Marcus, in his book Minding the Store)

Below are a few ads from the Zodiac’s first week (click to see larger images).

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April 26, 1953

COME AND SEE DALLAS’ NEW AND DISTINCTIVE RESTAURANT — THE ZODIAC.

Just completed on our new sixth floor, the Zodiac Restaurant is another step in our downtown expansion program to bring to Dallas the most luxurious and elegant store in America.

The star studded atmosphere of the Zodiac will give you an out of this world feeling. The walls are a wonderful cerulean blue, the carpet’s deep enough for snowshoes and an Italian tile pool sprouts water lilies for the occasion. Informal modeling every day at luncheon.

Plan to have lunch with us this week and bring your guests. We think you’ll be enchanted with the atmosphere as well as the excellent cuisine. Luncheon 11:00 to 2:30, tea 2:30 to 5:00, dinner Thursday night 5:00 to 8:00. NEIMAN-MARCUS

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April 27, 1953

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April 28, 1953 (N-M ad, detail)

You could even get a Zodiac-inspired hair-do, the Zodiac Cut: “Sophisticated, spherical — without a hint of a part.”

zodiac-cut_nm-ad_042953April 29, 1953

Other than the fact that this elegant dining space was part of the world-famous Neiman-Marcus department store, its main draw was its food. According to Stanley Marcus, in his book Minding the Store, the Zodiac struggled for the first year or two and didn’t find its footing until he hired the now-legendary Helen Corbitt as the restaurant’s director. He wrote the following in a guest column in The Dallas Morning News in 1979:

“A landmark in the culinary history of Dallas was the arrival of Helen Corbitt, who made a monumental contribution to improvement of food and service standards in the community. The Neiman-Marcus Zodiac Room became famous under her direction.” (Stanley Marcus, DMN, April 12, 1979)

Below is an example of the fare favored by the Ladies Who Lunch (and the occasional Men Who Lunch), seen in a menu from 1956. (The most expensive item on the menu was the Roast Prime Rib of Beef, which came with a Baked Idaho Potato, a salad from the “Salad Wagon,” and a choice of coffee, milk, or “exquisite tea” — the price was $2.25, which in today’s money was a shockingly affordable $21.00.)

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A dessert menu (a bit hard to read, I’m afraid) is below:

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There was also a children’s menu, which was so charmingly designed by Neiman’s gift-wrap designer, Alma Shon, that I don’t blame a customer for having spirited away a copy of the menu as a holiday-time souvenir of what was no doubt a very special occasion (the date penciled at the top is Dec. 23, 1966). (More information about Ms. Shon is in the “Sources & Notes” section at the bottom of this post.) Below, the front and back of the children’s menu, illustrated with the signs of the zodiac:

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Inside, meal options for well-appointed kiddies and a “Zodiac game” to keep them occupied.

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A few years later, this Stanley Marcus-penned letter appeared as a 1976 N-M ad — it was a personal reply to a nine-year-old Zodiac patron who had apparently written to Neiman’s inquiring about the children’s menu, which she was distressed to see had disappeared on her last visit:

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May 17, 1976

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Lastly, a memory of the downtown Zodiac, from the Department Store Museum website:

The downtown Dallas store was in its entirety a magic store. Every step and turn off the escalators to the top floor was amazing. The Zodiac room with its floor-to-ceiling diaphanous curtains that filtered the bright Texas sky made for a dreamlike atmosphere along with the slender long-legged models in evening gowns and furs and the Andre Previn-inspired piano player. The popovers with strawberry and cinnamon butter weren’t bad either. Thank you, Dallas and Neiman-Marcus, for such a rich time in my life.

And it’s still going strong.

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Sources & Notes

Top image and other (non-children’s) menu images from eBay.

The four images of the Zodiac Room children’s menu are the reason I decided to do this post. My whimsy-threshold is pretty low, but I love the utterly charming drawings which grace the front and back covers. I saw them posted on the Instagram account @reflectionofaman (a cool account — here, for the desktop site — which features the photographs of Stanley Marcus, curated by his granddaughter, photographer Allison V. Smith); it had been shared there by Babs Bern (@mullett7665.manor). The menu’s artist — Alma Shon — was identified by her daughter Kate Heyhoe (@StarkRavingCat) in the comments. According to a 1953 Dallas Morning News profile, Shon was born in California in the early 1920s to Korean refugees who had fled Korea in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. She grew up in Los Angeles but made her way to Dallas by at least 1948; she began working for Neiman Marcus in 1948 or 1949. She was in charge of Neiman’s giftwrap design, but also designed other merchandising elements — she was with the store for several decades. More on Ms. Shon (including a photo of her from the ’50s) can be found in a post by her daughter Kate, here.

Color postcard of the Zodiac Room was found on Flickr, here. I used this same card in a previous Flashback Dallas post, “Luncheon at The Zodiac Room, Darling.”

Image of the  blue matchbox at the bottom is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries; more info is here.

More on Helen Corbitt can be found in articles in Texas Monthly and in Legacies; a couple of her recipes — including her famous Poppy-Seed Dressing — can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A Flooded Sportatorium

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Boys gotta do what boys gotta do… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Imagine it has flooded around the Sportatorium: what would you expect seven boys and their dog to do? Well, here they are doing about what you’d expect. (The image above is a detail from the undated photo below, by Squire Haskins — see this photo really big on the UTA website here.)

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Another photo, this one with a Huck-Finn-meets-Iwo-Jima-Memorial vibe (full-size on the UTA site here):

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My closer-up detail (click to see larger image):

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Another view (original full-size image here):

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Closer up, with a Grand Prize Beer billboard, cars (on Industrial?), and a sign for the next-door Plantation nightspot:

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No wrasslin’ tonight, y’all.

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Sources & Notes

All photos by Squire Haskins, from the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections. More info can be found on the first photo here, the second photo here, and the last photo here.

The Sportatorium was located at 1000 S. Industrial (now Riverfront), at Cadiz (see map here). Maybe a little too close to the Trinity….

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

 

Temple Emanu-El, At the “Northern Limits of Dallas” — 1957

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Temple Emanu-El, 1957… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, the new, not-yet-landscaped Temple Emanu-El in 1957, at the northeast corner of Hillcrest and Northwest Highway; this aerial view is looking north from Northwest Highway. (The view today, via Google Earth, is here.)

In 1952 Temple Emanu-El’s congregation purchased eighteen rolling acres of Caruth farmland from Earle Clark Caruth, at what was then described as “the northern limits of Dallas.” This was after a lengthy period of consideration by leaders of the congregation over whether they should accept the gift of developer and artist Sylvan T. Baer of eleven “wooded and rolling” acres in Oak Lawn along Turtle Creek which he had offered as the site of a new temple. Even though Baer’s attractive site was more centrally located than their long-time South Dallas location (a definite bonus, as the congregation wished to move closer to the North Dallas area where most of their members now lived), the Turtle Creek site was ultimately deemed to be too small, too far from the North Dallas area they preferred, and too restrictive as far as the ability to finance construction. (Though rejected as a religious site, Baer’s very pretty land eventually became the home of the Dallas Theater Center.)

Temple Emanu-El — home to the largest reform Jewish congregation in the South — hired Dallas architects Howard R. Meyer and Max M. Sandfield to design their new home (with William W. Wurster of the University of California serving as consultant); the project was announced in 1954, and dedication ceremonies of the finished building(s) took place in February, 1957, probably around the time the photos below and above were taken.

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Feb. 2, 1957

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Below, the first Temple Emanu-El, built in 1876 at Commerce and Field, designed by architect Carl G. DeGrote. It was dedicated May 28, 1876 (read the extensive coverage of the ceremonies as printed in the Dallas Herald here — click “zoom” to read). After a move to their next location, the old temple became the University of Dallas Medical Department in 1900; it was demolished around 1906.

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Temple Emanu-El, first location

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Later, as a medical school (DHS photo via NIH)

The second site was at the corner of S. Ervay and St. Louis, in The Cedars, built around 1898, designed by architects J. Reilly Gordon, H. A. Overbeck, and Roy Overbeck. Following another move in the ‘teens, the building was converted into a Unitarian Church; it was demolished in 1961 to make room for R. L. Thornton Freeway.

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The congregation moved into its third location about 1917: a new Hubbell & Greene-designed building at South Boulevard and S. Harwood, where they remained until the move to the new Hillcrest location. This building was demolished in 1972.

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The congregation officially moved to their fourth (and current) location, in North Dallas, at the beginning of 1957, led by Rabbi Levi A. Olan.

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Texas Jewish Post, Sept. 30, 1954 (click to read)

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Sources & Notes

First three photos by Life magazine photographer Joe Scherschel, © Time Inc. More than 100 photos from this assignment can be found here and here. Supposedly there was a cover-story on the new building, but all I’ve found is this one-page photo-with-caption from the Feb. 25, 1957 issue. If anyone has info on a lengthier Life story, please let me know.

Drawing and article announcing the new Temple Emanu-El are from the Texas Jewish Post (Sept. 30, 1954), here. (UNT’s Portal to Texas History has fully-scanned issues of the DFW-centric Texas Jewish Post — 1950-2011 — accessible here. All issues are searchable, and all have articles, photos, and ads — it is a fantastic resource.)

Read a description of the just-completed first Dallas synagogue from the Dallas Herald (May 28, 1876), here (column 4); read the surprisingly lengthy coverage of the official opening ceremonies, which includes a history of the events which led to the building’s construction, in the May 30, 1876 Herald, here (columns 1-4). (To read the articles, click the “zoom” tab above the scanned page.)

Read the Temple Emanu-El entry in the Handbook of Texas here.

The history page of the Temple Emanu–El website is here.

Head to the Dallas Morning News archives to read about the art and architecture of Temple Emanu-El in the article “A Temple of Art, Architecture — The Forms Merge In Well-Designed Emanu-El” by architecture critic David Dillon (DMN, Dec. 24, 1984).

A comprehensive history of Temple Emanu-El and Jewish life in Dallas (well-illustrated with photographs) can be found in the book A Light in the Prairie, Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, 1872-1997 by Gerry Cristol (Fort Worth: TCU Press, 1998).

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Enjoy That Dallas, Texas Hospitality”

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by Paula Bosse

…Or else!

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“Easy to reach … hard to leave.”

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Sources & Notes

Images from a great 1950s matchbook, found on eBay — like these.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Republic Bank Branding — 1955

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When the uniforms match the exterior of the building…

by Paula Bosse

Republic National Bank opened its dazzling new building on N. Ervay in December, 1954. It was the tallest building in the city, the interior boasted gold leaf everywhere, and the exterior was covered with thousands of aluminum panels embossed with a distinctive four-pointed “star” shape.

The building’s opening was quite the PR extravaganza — so much so that Life magazine sent photographer Joe Scherschel to take photos for the Feb. 28, 1955 article “Dazzler For Dallas.” Scherschel took a ton of photos, but only a handful made it into the article — one that didn’t make it is the one above which shows five young women on a staircase, all of whom are wearing dresses with those Republic Bank “stars” on them! I have to admit, I was a little more excited than I should have been to have noticed what I assume must have been a (fairly stylish) uniform (hostesses? elevator girls?). Kudos to whomever came up with that clever way to celebrate the bank’s home by incorporating one of the most distinctive elements of one of the city’s most distinctive buildings into something as easily overlooked as an employee’s uniform. That is attention to detail!

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Sources & Notes

All photos were taken by Joe Scherschel for Life magazine, ©Time, Inc. A large collection of the photos Scherschel took while on assignment in Dallas for this article can be viewed here.

I wrote about those fantastic embossed aluminum panels in the Flashback Dallas post “The Republic Bank Building and Spain’s ‘Casa de Los Picos,'” here.

All photos are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Merry Christmas from Dallas Artist Bud Biggs

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The bright lights of Christmas in downtown Dallas…

by Paula Bosse

An evening in downtown Dallas at Christmastime — alive with traffic and lights and energy — by Dallas artist Bud Biggs.

The painting appeared on the cover of the Christmas, 1959 issue of The Shamrock, a magazine published by the Shamrock Oil and Gas Corporation. The magazine’s description:

On the sidewalks, shoppers dart to and fro. On the street, autos dash by, leaving streaks of light in their haste. Gay lights and laughing Santas swing gayly overhead, festooning the area in a holiday glow. Above all this man-made madness, stars twinkle in contrast, reflecting a serenity reminiscent of a night nineteen hundred years ago. This is what The Shamrock staff sees in this vivid water color of Downtown Dallas at Christmastime by Artist Bud Biggs.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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Sources & Notes

This work by artist Bud Biggs appeared on the cover of the Christmas, 1959 edition of The Shamrock; this magazine is part of the Southwest Collection, Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University — the entire issue has been scanned and may be viewed as a PDF here.

My guess is that the title of the original painting is “Main Street, Christmas Night” and that it was one of the 12 paintings produced by Biggs in the mid 1950s as cover art for Dallas Magazine, a Dallas Chamber of Commerce publication. These paintings of Dallas scenes appeared as cover art for the monthly issues of 1956, in honor of the city’s centennial. The series won the “Best Covers of 1956” award from the American Association of Commerce Publications, and in 1958 all 12 of the original watercolors were purchased by Southwest Airmotive Company to be displayed in their new Love Field terminal. The 12 covers featured Biggs’ depictions of the following Dallas scenes and landmarks:

  • “Aerial View of Downtown Dallas”
  • “Ervay Street”
  • “Ground-breaking, Dallas University”
  • “Midway, State Fair of Texas”
  • “Trinity Industrial District”
  • “Central Expressway”
  • “Commerce Street”
  • “City Auditorium”
  • “Looking Up Pacific”
  • “Main Street, Christmas Night”
  • “SMU Legal Center”
  • “The Katy Round House”

More on this series of paintings can be found in the Dallas Morning News article “Art & Artists: Biggs Series Bought by Firm” by Rual Askew, Feb. 20, 1958.

Dallas native Bancroft Putnam “Bud” Biggs (1906-1985) attended Forest Ave. High School, SMU, and the St. Louis School of Fine Arts. He was primarily a commercial artist, working first for Dallas artist Guy Cahoon before opening his own advertising studio. He produced fine art as well, specializing in watercolors, and was a respected art instructor.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Christmas Window Shopping — 1950

xmas-shoppers_121650_hayes-collection_DPLHappy Santa fans…

by Paula Bosse

Here are a couple enjoying a Christmas display. Haven’t finished your shopping? There’s still time!

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Sources & Notes

Taken on Dec. 16, 1950, this photo is from the Hayes Collection, Dallas Public Library Dallas History & Archives Division, Dallas Public Library (“[Christmas storefront shoppers],” PA76-1/43.3).

More Flashback Dallas posts on Christmas can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Pat Boone, Host of Channel 5’s “Teen Times” — 1954

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“Handsome teen-ager” Pat Boone, host of WBAP’s “Teen Times”

by Paula Bosse

In January, 1954, soon-to-be pop-star Pat Boone transferred from a college in Nashville to North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas) in Denton — he was 19 years old and recently married with a baby on the way. An entertainer since childhood, he had recently appeared on (and won) Ted Mack’s nationally televised “Amateur Hour” and had a few minor recordings under his  belt. He entered the Denton college in the middle of the school year, majoring in speech and minoring in music.

In an interview with the college newspaper, The Campus Chat, student reporter Bill Moyers (yes, that Bill Moyers) asked the scrupulously clean-cut Boone what career he saw for himself. His answer: “I want to preach on Sundays at churches that can’t afford pastors, and perhaps I’ll even become a full-time pastor.” He said that even though he had devoted years to being an entertainer and his father-in-law was a bona fide star, he did not envision a career as a professional singer because, for one reason, he did not approve of night clubs, on moral grounds: “I don’t want to sing at night clubs, and that’s where most of the singers do much of their work” (Campus Chat, Feb. 24, 1954).

The reason he was being interviewed in the first place — after only a couple of months in town — was because he had been named as the host of a Dallas-Fort Worth television show called “Teen Times,” sponsored by Foremost Dairies and broadcast on Saturday afternoons on WBAP-Ch. 5; the show premiered in February, 1954. Boone acted as host, dressed as a soda jerk behind a drugstore soda fountain, with teenaged guests who represented one Dallas school and one Fort Worth school (the schools changed each week), competing in a sort of talent show. Boone kept things moving, performed a few songs, and, in between, sang the praises of Foremost milk and ice cream.

Boone hosted the show through the spring of 1955. During the run of this local show, his popularity grew quickly on a national level, the result of several national TV appearances and ever-increasing record sales. After his year-and-a-half time in Denton, he moved to New York in the summer of 1955 and enrolled at Columbia University; before the end of the year, Pat Boone’s fame exploded: he had a huge hit with a cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” and was appearing regularly on national TV. By the late ’50s his record sales were reportedly second only to Elvis Presley’s, even though Boone’s squeaky-clean and sincere wholesomeness was the polar opposite of the suggestive, hep-cat abandon of Elvis’ earthier style.

Even though Pat Boone was a North Texas student for only a short time, whenever he has returned to Denton over the years he has always received something of a hero’s welcome. With formative years spent here, and with his star-turn in the 1962 filmed-at-Fair-Park movie State Fair, Pat Boone has every right to be considered an honorary Texan.

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During his time in Denton, Pat Boone hosted two television shows for WBAP-Channel 5: the Foremost Dairies-sponsored “Teen Times” (often referred to as “Teen Time”) on Saturday afternoons, and the Bewley Mills-sponsored “Barn Dance” on Friday nights. (It looks like “Teen Times” was revamped a few years later and returned to Channel 5 in a somewhat similar format as “Teen-Age Downbeat” in January, 1958.)

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1954

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Feb. 7, 1954 (click to read)

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Feb. 13, 1954

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FWST, Feb. 12, 1954

Below, a super-blurry excerpt from Bill Moyers’ article in The Campus Chat (read the full interview here):

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Campus Chat (North Texas State College newspaper), Feb. 24, 1954

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FWST, June 20, 1954

In June, 1955, Les Handy — a voice teacher at Texas Wesleyan College — took over as emcee at “Teen Times.” 

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1955

And in September, 1955, Pat and Shirley and their new baby moved from Denton to New York City.

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Denton Record-Chronicle, Sept. 11, 1955

Pat Boone photos from the 1955 NTSC yearbook, The Yucca:

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Junior class photo, 1955

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Kappa Alpha fraternity photo

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Student Religious Council (detail from group photo)

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of Pat Boone behind a soda fountain holding a microphone appeared in the Feb. 24, 1954 edition of Campus Chat, the college paper of what was then North Texas State College; it is from the UNT Libraries Special Collections, and may be accessed on UNT’s Portal to Texas History, here.

Pat Boone’s wife, Shirley, was the daughter of the legendary Nashville “hillbilly” singer, Red Foley. Here’s a video of a nervous Boone and his father-in-law on Foley’s “Ozark Jubilee” TV show, two weeks after Pat and Shirley had left Denton for New York. They are singing “Tennessee Saturday Night,” Red Foley’s big hit from 1949 (hear his great original hillbilly boogie version here).

Because it involves Pat Boone and UNT, check out the 20-minute informational film all about the college, made for students by students in 1963, available to watch on the Portal to Texas History, here — Pat Boone offers a few enthusiastic bits of narration.

And, why not, here’s a photo of journalist Bill Moyers from the 1953 North Texas yearbook.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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