Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: WFAA

The JFK Assassination and Television Firsts — 1963

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Ruby shooting Oswald on live TV

by Paula Bosse

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was not only one of the most sobering moments in American history, it was also a turning point for broadcast journalism, particularly in the way television covers breaking news.

The Kennedy assassination and the later captured-live-on-television shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby put broadcast journalists to the test as never before. News coverage was a solid days-long block — with NBC devoting almost 72 straight hours to the assassination and its aftermath. The immediacy of live television and the ability to learn of breaking-at-this-minute news was something that had never been experienced by Americans before — and something which pushed radio and television news reporting to new heights. It was reported that CBS alone used 80 newsmen to cover the story. The Nielsen ratings estimated that an unbelievable 93% of American households with televisions were tuned in to watch live coverage of the President’s funeral procession.

Perhaps the grisliest “first” of this new era of TV news was that millions of Americans watched a murder happen live as they watched from their living rooms: when Jack Ruby lunged from the phalanx of reporters gathered in the parking lot beneath the Municipal Building to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald as he was walking to an armored vehicle to be transported to the county jail, millions witnessed the shooting as it happened, stunned. NBC was the lone network to have broadcast live coverage of this unforgettable moment of 20th-century American history. The other networks followed soon after with recorded footage, but NBC got the scoop.

ad-jfk-assassination-NBC_broadcasting-mag_120263NBC ad in Broadcasting magazine, Dec. 2, 1963

Broadcasting — an industry trade magazine — devoted an entire 25-page “Special Report” on how television had covered — and shaped — JFK’s presidency and his assassination. Below is the article which specifically focused on the wall-to-wall broadcast news coverage, post-Nov. 22.

OSWALD SHOOTING A FIRST IN TELEVISION HISTORY

For the first time in the history of television, a real-life homicide was carried nationally on live TV when millions of NBC-TV viewers saw the Nov. 24 fatal shooting in Dallas of the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy two days earlier.

Less than a minute after the shooting occurred, CBS-TV telecast the episode on tape, which was made as the homicide took place. Network executives in New York viewed the tape and officially directed that it be placed on network immediately.

The setting for the live NBC-TV coverage of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin who died a short time later, was this: Oswald, flanked by detectives, stepped onto a garage ramp in the basement of the Dallas city jail and was taken toward an armored truck that was to take him to the county jail. Suddenly, out of the lower right corner of the TV screen, came the back of a man. A shot rang out and Oswald gasped as he started to fall, clutching his side.

UNBELIEVABLE

NBC News correspondent Tom Pettit, at the scene, exclaimed in disbelief: “He’s been shot! He’s been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot!”

The TV screen showed shock on the faces of police officers as they swarmed over the back of the assailant, Jack Ruby, a Dallas night club operator. The coverage showed Ruby hustled away by policemen and Oswald being sped to the Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the same hospital to which President Kennedy had been taken.

CBS-TV’s coverage of the sudden shooting, relayed a minute after the episode, was reported by Robert Huffaker, staff newsman of KRLD-TV Dallas, the network affiliate. Mr. Huffaker cried: “He’s been shot! Oswald’s been shot!”

ABC-TV did not have live cameras at the scene, having moved them to the Dallas county jail in preparation for Oswald’s planned arrival there. But ABC newsman Jack Lord reported the news flash of the Oswald shooting. The episode also was recorded by film cameras and was telecast subsequently on the network.

JAPAN’S KILLING

Broadcasters were certain the episode marked the first time in 15 years of global television that a homicide was telecast as it happened. It was recalled that in October 1960 Inejiro Asanuma, a Japanese political leader, was knifed on a public stage in Tokyo. Tape recordings of this incident were played back on Japanese TV stations 10 minutes later.

The capturing by TV of the Oswald homicide was one indication of the extensive, though quick, preparations by the networks for coverage of the disaster. Networks had made arrangements for quick switching to Dallas, as well as other focal points of the developing story, and were able to pick up the homicide episode once they had been alerted that Oswald was being ushered out to the garage ramp. (Broadcasting magazine, Dec 2, 1963)


JFK_ruby-oswald_broadcasting-mag_120263
Broadcasting, Dec. 2, 1963 (click to see larger image)

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NBC was the only network to carry Ruby’s shooting of Oswald on live TV. The footage — as it was aired — can be watched in the video below (the Dallas footage begins at about the 5:00 mark).


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KRLD, the local CBS affiliate, captured the shooting live, but it was not broadcast live. Here is the KRLD footage, helmed by Bob Huffaker (the shooting takes place near the 13:00 mark).


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In 2007, Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, Wes Wise, and George Phenix — reporters for CBS-affiliate KRLD-TV news — recalled the blur of days on the beat following the assassination in their book When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963. Watch a panel discussion on those days, below, recorded at the Sixth Floor Museum in 2008. (I found Wise’s recollections, beginning at the 39:00 mark to be most interesting.) (RIP, Bob Huffaker, who died June 25, 2018.)

when-the-news-went-live_cover

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ABC came in late, with reports from affiliate WFAA-Ch. 8 (about the 7:20 mark), but their coverage was certainly no less exciting — in fact, this might be my favorite reporting by local broadcast journalists that day.


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Another “first” in these days immediately following that awful day in Dallas was the very first showing of 8mm home-movie footage showing the assassination of the president. The film was shot by Dallasite Marie Muchmore, who reportedly sold the footage — sight unseen (it hadn’t even been developed) — to UPI for $1,000 (roughly about $8,000 in today’s money); the film was then shown on WNEW-TV in New York on Nov. 26. (The short footage, restored in recent years, can be watched on the Associated Press Archive site, here.)

ad-jfk-assassination-film_UPI_broadcasting-mag_120263
Broadcasting, Dec. 2, 1963

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Sources & Notes

A “Special Report” on the broadcast coverage of the Kennedy assassination and the shooting of Oswald by Ruby appeared in the Dec. 2, 1963 trade magazine Broadcasting; the issue may be read in its entirety here (pp. 36-61); the photo at the top of this post (showing Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald) is from that issue.

More Flashback Dallas posts on the Kennedy assassination can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Santos Rodriguez, 1960-1973

david-and-santos-rodriguez_austin-american-statesmanDavid and Santos Rodriguez (via Austin American-Statesman)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the 45th anniversary of the tragic shooting of Santos Rodriguez, the 12-year-old boy who was shot in the head by a policeman as he and his 13-year-old brother David sat handcuffed in a police car. It shocked the city of Dallas in 1973, and it is still shocking today.

Santos and David had been awakened and rousted out of bed by Officers Darrell L. Cain and his partner Roy R. Arnold who were investigating a late-night burglary at a nearby gas station where money had been stolen from a cigarette machine — the boys matched a witness’ vague description. The boys said they had nothing to do with the burglary but were taken from their home as their foster-grandfather (an elderly man who spoke no English) watched, helpless, as they were handcuffed and placed in a squad car.

The boys were driven back to the scene of the burglary — a Fina station at Cedar Springs and Bookhout. Santos was in the front passenger seat, and Cain sat behind him in the backseat, next to David. Cain insisted the two boys were guilty and, in an attempt to coerce a confession, held his .357 magnum revolver to Santos’ head. He clicked the gun, as if playing Russian Roulette, telling Santos that the next time he might not be so lucky. The boys continued to insist they were innocent. And then, suddenly, Cain’s gun went off. Santos died instantly. Stunned, Cain said that it had been an accident. He and Arnold got out of the car, leaving 13-year-old David, still handcuffed, in the backseat of the police car — for anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour — alone with his brother’s bloody body. (It was determined through fingerprint evidence that Santos and David did not break into the gas station that night.)

More in-depth articles about this horrible case can be found elsewhere, but, briefly, Cain (who had previously been involved in the fatal shooting of a teenaged African American young man named Michael Moorhead) was charged with committing “murder with malice” and was found guilty. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison but ended up serving only two and a half years in Huntsville.

The killing of Santos Rodriguez sparked outrage from all corners of the city, but particularly in the Mexican American community. All sorts of people — from ordinary citizens to militant Brown Berets — organized and protested, persistently demanding civil rights, social justice, and police reform. If anything positive resulted from this tragic event, perhaps it was a newly energized Hispanic community.

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I am ashamed to say that I was not aware of what had happened to Santos Rodriguez until I began to write about Dallas history a few years ago. This was an important turning-point in the history of Dallas — for many reasons (namely the Chicano movement, race relations, the fight for social justice, and an examination of Dallas Police Department procedure). Over the past week I’ve read a lot of the local coverage of the events of this case, and I’ve watched a lot of interviews of people who were involved, but perhaps the most immediate way I’ve experienced the events and emotions swirling about this case has been to watch television news footage shot as the story was unfolding. Thanks to the incredibly rich collection of TV news footage in the possession of the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection at SMU, I’ve been able to do that.

Below is footage shot by KDFW Channel 4, which has, most likely, not been seen for 45 years. Some of it appeared in news reports and some is just background B-roll footage shot to be edited into news pieces which would eventually air on the nightly news. The finished stories that aired do not (as far as I know) survive, but we have this footage. It’s choppy and chaotic and darts from one thing to the next, which is how a red-hot news story develops. Of particular interest is the short interview with 13-year-old David at 9:16 and the violent aftermath of what began as a peaceful march through downtown at 19:54.

A more comprehensive collection of the events — from just hours after the shooting, to the conviction of Darrell Cain — can be found in this lengthy compilation of WFAA Channel 8 news footage. Heads up to anyone considering a 50th anniversary documentary on Santos Rodriguez — this and the Channel 4 footage are essential sources.

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santos-rodriguez-cropped_smuSantos Rodriguez (Nov. 7, 1960 – July 24, 1973)

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is a family photo, from the Austin American-Statesman article “Is It Time For Dallas To Honor Santos Rodriguez?” by Gissela Santacruz, here.

My sincerest thanks to Jeremy Spracklen at SMU for alerting me to these two collections of important historical news footage from KDFW-TV/Ch. 4 and WFAA-TV/Ch. 8, both of which are held by the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection, Hamon Library, Southern Methodist University. (All screenshots from these two videos.)

An excerpt from the 1982 KERA-produced documentary “Pride and Anger: A Mexican American Perspective of Dallas and Fort Worth” (the Santos Rodriguez case is discussed) is on YouTube here.

“Civil Rights in Black & Brown” is a fantastic oral history project by TCU. I watched several of the interviews focusing on Santos Rodriguez, but I was particularly taken with the oral history of Frances Rizo — her 2015 interview is in two parts, here and here.

More on the events surrounding the killing of Santos Rodriguez can be found at the Handbook of Texas History site, here.

My continuation of this story can be found at the Flashback Dallas post “Santos Rodriguez: The March of Justice” — 1973,” here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Mr. Wiggly Worm Does Much More Than Wiggle”

mr-peppermint_sponsor-mag_112061-det

by Paula Bosse

My first crush was on Mr. Peppermint, and I really, really, really loved Mr. Wiggly Worm.

This is a rather unfortunate depiction of my childhood TV pal, but how can you not love a smiling wiggly worm with a mailbox?

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WFAA understood the appeal of Mr. W. W. They even built a whole broadcasting-trade-magazine ad around him. (Click to see it larger.)

mr-peppermint_sponsor-mag_021163Sponsor, Feb. 11, 1963

Here he is again:

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Sponsor, Nov. 20, 1961

Mr. W. W. stayed at home for this one, but here we see Mr. Peppermint out mingling with his adoring public.

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Broadcasting, June 10, 1963

And, look, “Communications Center” — bet you haven’t heard that in a while!

communications-center_sponsor-mag_112061_det1961

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Sources & Notes

These Mr. Peppermint advertisements were part of a series of WFAA-Channel 8 ads which ran for several years in television trade magazines.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Halloween Party? Don’t Forget the Dr Pepper! — 1947

dr-pepper_halloween_1947_flickr“‘Twill add zest to your buffet foods…”

by Paula Bosse

(While searching for a Halloween advertisement, I unexpectedly came across reports of a federal grand jury case brought against Dallas-based Dr Pepper for violating strict wartime sugar-rationing. Scroll down to read about the legal case.)

Happy Halloween! Might I propose an eye-catching party suggestion? The “Frosty-Pepper Pumpkin”! Hollow out a pumpkin, fill it with cracked ice, and load it up with bottles of Dr Pepper. Voilà!

The text of the ad, from the fall of 1947:

EASILY DUPLICATE THIS “frosty-Pepper” PUMPKIN!

Smart, original; more decorative and eye appealing than a bowl of giant ‘mums. Fashion this “Frosty-Pepper” Pumpkin and serve as photo shows. Pre-chill bottles and bury deep in cracked ice. Dr. Pepper! So keen, so cold, so sparklingly alive! A smart lift for active people. ‘Twill add zest to your buffet foods … add laurels to your “rep” as a clever hostess. Keep plenty in your home refrigerator … for party hospitality … for good cheer and a quick lift, at 10, 2 and 4 o’clock, or anytime you’re hungry, thirsty or tired. 

NOTE: Dr Pepper availability in a few markets has been delayed by continuing shortages. These will be opened by new, franchised Dr. Pepper bottling plants as rapidly as supplies will permit.

HANDY CARRY HOME CARTONS
Carry Dr Pepper home from the stores 
“sixes,” “twelves” and “twenty-fours.”
 
“DARTS FOR DOUGH”
NEW TIME: Thursday Night, ABC Network
9:30 EST, 8:30 CST, 7:30 MST, 6:30 PST

Drink Dr. Pepper
GOOD FOR LIFE!

DRINK A BITE TO EAT at 10, 2 and 4 o’clock

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Sources & Notes

Ad found on Flickr, here.

“Darts for Dough”? I had to look that up. It was a radio game show involving quizzes and dart-throwing, created by Orval Anderson and Bert Mitchell at WFAA radio. It debuted in the summer of 1943 as a strictly local program, but it’s popularity was such that it moved to Hollywood in August, 1944 and — still run by the WFAA creators — it began to be broadcast “coast to coast” for several years, moving to television by 1950. It was originally developed in Dallas as a sponsorship vehicle for Dallas-based Dr Pepper and was frequently advertised as “Darts for Dough — The Dr Pepper Show.”

1947 was a big year for Dr Pepper — that was the year their beautiful (and sorely missed) plant opened at Mockingbird and Greenville.

dr-pepper-plant_pinterest

1947 was also a noteworthy year for the company, because of a large federal grand jury indictment which charged several corporations and individuals — including Dr Pepper and some of its bottlers and employees — with sugar-rationing violations (these “irregularities” appear to have begun in the last months of World War II, when wartime food rationing was still serious business). Black-market sugar! A district representative of Dr Pepper was assessed a small fine, but charges of conspiring to violate sugar-rationing regulations which were brought against the DP parent-company were ultimately dismissed, a ruling which angered Federal Judge Alfred P. Murrah, who seems to have been extremely unhappy about the dismissals, as can be read in his blistering statement below.

dr-pepper_sugar-rationing-case_waco-news-tribune_073047
AP story, via Waco News-Tribune, July 30, 1947

Two of the individuals charged in the case — New Mexico residents — received prison sentences in what was described as “the largest black market sugar operation on record,” involving over a million pounds of sugar.

This “Happy Halloween!” post took a bit of an unexpected dark detour. Let’s cleanse our palate with something happier: another party idea with Dr Pepper and a hollowed-out pumpkin (found on eBay).

halloween_dr-pepper_booklet_ebay

More Halloween posts from Flashback Dallas can be found here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Film Footage: “The State Fair of Texas in the 1960s”

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_men-in-suits_ice-creamEveryone likes ice cream…. (G. William Jones Collection, SMU)

by Paula Bosse

Thanks to Twitter, I discovered this cool video of film clips of the State Fair of Texas, shot throughout the 1960s, courtesy of SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm Collection/G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, put together by Moving Image Curator Jeremy Spracklen. There are 15 or so clips, some in black and white, some in color, some silent, some with sound. This compilation runs about 24 minutes. Watch it. You’ll enjoy it — especially the montage of fair food at the end! (Make sure you watch in fullscreen.)

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Here are a few screengrabs I took, to give you an idea of the content (images are much cleaner in the video!).

Getting ready for the fair.

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_midway

Fair Park entrance.

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_entrance

Crowd, baby, binoculars.

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_crowd

Neuhoff hot dog stand.

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_neuhoff-hot-dogs

The monorail (with a cameo by Big Tex).

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_monorail_big-tex

I don’ t know who this guy is, but he’s in several shots and I love him! Here he is losing out to the woman who correctly guessed his weight.

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_guess-your-weight

Kids eating … Pink Things! “Made famous at Six Flags.”

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Aqua Net and Moët. (I have to say, I’ve never seen champagne at the fair, but perhaps those are circles I don’t travel in.)

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_aqua-net-and-moet

Everyone needs a corny dog fix.

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Everyone.

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_corny-dog

Have a groovy time at this year’s State Fair of Texas!

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_groovy-poster

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Sources & Notes

Film clips from Southern Methodist University’s WFAA Newsfilm Collection/G. William Jones Film and Video Collection; the video has been edited by SMU’s Moving Image Curator, Jeremy Spracklen. The direct link to the video on Vimeo is here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The WFAA Studios, Designed by George Dahl, Rendered by Ed Bearden — 1961

wfaa_george-dahl_ed-bearden_postcard“Communications Center…”  (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, the WFAA studios, seen in a wonderful painting by Dallas artist Ed Bearden. The image is from a postcard touting the brand new ultra-modern building designed by one of Dallas’ top architects, the prolific George L. Dahl. The building still stands at Young and Record streets, next to the home of its then-sister-company, The Dallas Morning News (appropriately, the News building was also designed by Dahl … as was the soon-to-be HQ of The News, the old Dallas Public Library at Commerce and Harwood).

The super-cool mid-century “WFAA AM-FM-TV broadcasting plant” was completed in 1961. It opened to much fanfare in April of that year, with star-studded festivities featuring personal appearances by a host of ABC stars such as Connie Stevens, Johnny Crawford, and Nick Adams. If catching a glimpse of “Cricket” or the Rifleman’s son didn’t wow you, the public was also invited to tour the building and gawk at its state-of-the-art radio and television studios. This large 68,000-square-foot building allowed WFAA radio and WFAA-TV to be housed under the same roof. Before this, the AM and FM radio stations were broadcasting from studios atop the Santa Fe Building, and Channel 8 was broadcasting from their television studios on Harry Hines, at Wolf (studios which they sold to KERA at the end of 1959).

Aside from the innovative “folded-plate” concrete roof, one of the first things I noticed about this building was the staircase behind a “wall” of plate glass — I was instantly reminded of the staircase from the old Rogers Electric building (now Steinway Hall) on the Central Expressway service road at McCommas — all it needed was a gigantic ficus tree. (Unsurprisingly, that building — built in 1959 — was also designed by the very, very busy George Dahl.)

Cool building, cool architectural design, cool artistic rendering.

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Below is an early pre-construction rendering of the WFAA building, from 1959.

wfaa_bw_rendering_1959

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And a photo from the early 1970s.

wfaa_texas-almanac_1974-75

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And here’s a view taken from the side of the building in 1963, looking toward Young Street.

wfaa_news-vehicles_belo-records_degolyer_smu_1963

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The early-’70s photo above was taken from this ad from the 1974-75 Texas Almanac. Ah, “Communications Center.” (I have to say, I’ve never heard of “WFAA-FM Stereo 98” nor their slogan “The Velvet Sound of Beautiful Music.” In fact, by the time this edition of the Almanac was published, WFAA-FM no longer existed — it had changed both its name — to KZEW — and its format — to rock.)

wfaa_texas-almanac_1974-75_portal

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Sources & Notes

Color postcard found on the entertaining blog Texas Pop Culture; see the post — which includes scans of the reverse side of the card — here.

Bearden’s signature is a bit hard to make out — the slightly distorted magnified signature can be seen here.

The more I see of Ed Bearden’s work, the more I like it. See his Dallas skyline from 1958 here; see his Dallas skyline from 1959 here.

Photo of the Channel 8 news vehicles is from the Belo Records collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photo is here.

More on architect George L. Dahl can be found at the Handbook of Texas, here, and at Wikipedia, here.

Read more about the history of FM radio in Dallas — including histories of WFAA-FM and KZEW — at the indispensable website of local broadcasting history — DFW Retroplex, here.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“How the News Got Made” — SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm Collection Spotlighted at the Dallas VideoFest

wfaa-newsfilm_thumbnails_hamon_cul_smu(G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, SMU)

by Paula Bosse

The Dallas VideoFest is in full swing this weekend, and one of the events on the schedule is How the News Got Made: A Rare Look at SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm and a Conversation with the People who Created It.” This screening and panel discussion will include WFAA news clips and B-roll footage on 16mm film from the 1960s and ’70s, selected from the large WFAA Newsfilm Collection (part of the moving image holdings of the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University).

A few months ago I saw a screening at SMU of some of these clips — which had been selected by the collection’s curator, Jeremy Spracklen, who has also, I believe, compiled the clips for the VideoFest presentation — and I really enjoyed it. Being able to watch 45- or 50-year-old news clips — of subjects both newsworthy and not-so-newsworthy — is an interesting way to study moments in the history of Dallas. It’s certainly more immediate and “flavorful” than reading old black and white newspaper clippings. I mean … you can listen to people actually talking. (With actual ACCENTS!) And see them move! SMU is in the process of identifying people and places seen in these clips and may soon request crowdsourced assistance from the public. It’s a large undertaking, further complicated by the fact that much of the footage was received by SMU randomly spliced together, some of it raw footage without sound. The hope is to identify subjects and subject matter in order to assist researchers, historians, and documentarians.

At present, almost two decades’ worth of these film reels are slowly being digitized; when the transfers are complete, they are uploaded to SMU’s Central University Libraries site and are free to be viewed by the public. Check what’s up now, here, and watch a few yourself.

There is a great Dallas Observer article by Jamie Laughlin on this collection. You must make sure to scroll down and watch the clip of fresh-faced Channel 8 newsboy Bill O’Reilly (yes, that Bill O’Reilly) interview the only slightly younger-looking future superstar ventriloquist (…two words I’ve never typed one right after the other before…) Jeff Dunham, who, at 14, seems really excited to be talking about his craft on TV.

And, if only a sliver of what I saw of the hilariously bizarre and wonderfully entertaining footage from about 1969 of mini-skirt-and-sideburn-hating Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Sadler — who was reported to have grabbed and choked a political critic in a dispute over Spanish galleon treasure recovered off the Texas coast (…yes, that’s what I said…) —  is shown at the VideoFest, it will be WELL worth your time!

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Sources & Notes

The top image is a collection of thumbnail images of WFAA digital files which have been uploaded to the Central University Libraries’ site, here.

Read about this WFAA Newsfilm Collection in the Hamon Arts Library digital collection here.

For more information on the collection, contact filmarchive@smu.edu.

The Dallas VideoFest program, “How the News Got Made: A Rare Look at SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm and a Conversation with the People who Created It,” takes place this weekend, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, 5:15-6:45 PM at the Angelika Film Center. More information on the event and the panel participants is here.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Radio Mobile Units — ca. 1940

kfaa_mobile-unit_wfaa-fam-albumWhat? You’ve never heard of KFAA? (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Check out these pre-war mobile units for radio stations WFAA and WBAP. The unit above actually had its own call letters — KFAA — and was licensed as a separate station. (That logo!) The caption, from a 1941 promotional booklet issued by stations WFAA (Dallas), WBAP (Fort Worth), and KGKO (Wichita Falls):

The WFAA Mobile Unit shown here is a complete short wave broadcasting station on wheels. The unit has its own call letters, KFAA, because it is a self-contained and separately licensed station. The amazing array of facilities contained in this one-and-one-half-ton truck includes a transmitter, generator, receiving equipment, public address system and pre–amplifiers. The transmitter tower on top of the truck can be raised to a height of 35 feet, making it possible to pick up the mobile unit’s signals for re-broadcast from a distance of 50 miles.

Here’s the WBAP/KGKO unit:

wbap-mobile-unit

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Mobile Radio Unit – with Chief Engineer R. C. “Super” Stinson, left, and A. M. Woodford, production man, handling a remote or “nemo” pickup from Burnett Park, Fort Worth. The WBAP-KGKO Mobile Unit carries six short wave transmitters and receivers besides a power plant capable of generating electricity for a small town of 500 people. This unit “swam” through a recent flood in Brady, Texas, established communication from the stricken area and received the congratulations of the Texas Highway Patrol. It also played a star role in the Amarillo storm.

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Photos from the booklet WFAA, WBAP, KGKO Combined Family Album (Dallas-Fort Worth, 1941).

Why were arch-rivals WFAA (owned by The Dallas Morning News) and WBAP (owned by The Fort Worth Star-Telegram) co-publishing a promotional booklet? Because they shared the same transmitter and had an extremely odd broadcasting agreement. Read about it in my previous post “WFAA & WBAP’s Unusual Broadcasting Alliance,” here.

Click those photos!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Radio Broadcasting, 1922-Style

wfaa-control-room_belo_smu_1922WFAA “newsreader,” 1922 (click for larger image) Belo Collection, SMU

by Paula Bosse

This fantastic photo shows the interior of a little shack-like building on top of the old Dallas Morning News building at Commerce & Lamar, soon after WFAA radio had begun broadcasting in the summer of 1922. There are so many things I love about this photo. Let’s explore the details. (All pictures are larger when clicked.)

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The Magnavox speaker/monitor.

wfaa-control-room_belo_smu_det1

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The booster seat and the shoes that need a shine.

wfaa-control-room_belo_smu_det2

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The announcer at work. (I’m assuming this telephone was being used as an early microphone?) The newspaper is The Dallas Journal, sister publication of The Dallas Morning News which owned WFAA radio. The headlines appear to be about the nationwide railroad and coalminers’ strikes, both of which had been getting more and more violent throughout July of 1922 (violence surrounding the railroad strike led to Texas Governor Pat Neff declaring martial law in Denison that month).

wfaa-control-room_belo_smu_det3

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The control panel (which has its own fan).

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And an open window around the corner, in the supervisor’s office. Cross-ventilation and oscillating fans might not have been hugely effective in keeping operators and machinery cool in the summertime.

wfaa-control-room_belo_smu_det5

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Here’s another view of the “Operating Room,” as published in the DMN on June 25, 1922, the day before WFAA began broadcasting.

wfaa_operating-room_dmn_062522DMN, June 25, 1922

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Photo titled “WFAA Radio Original Control Panel” from the Belo Papers collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; it can be viewed here.

A companion post to this, “WFAA’s ‘Altitudinous Antenna System'” — which contains a background of WFAA’s debut and several photographs — is here.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on Dallas Radio and TV are here.

Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Getting Married on the Radio — 1922

radio-wedding_corbis_062922Inez & John, exchanging vows on Dallas radio, 1922 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

An early radio stunt happened in Dallas on the night of June 29, 1922 when a couple exchanged wedding vows over the air, with the bride, the groom, and the minister each broadcasting from the studios of different Dallas radio stations: WDAO, WRR, and WFAA. These were the very early days of radio, and when the wedding was broadcast, WDAO had been on the air for a little over a month, and WFAA for less than a week! (WRR, Dallas’ first radio station had been on the air for about a year, but most of that time it had been operating as a one-way radio dispatcher for the city’s fire and police departments). In June of 1922, these were the only three Dallas-based radio stations, and they all worked together in this “historic” broadcast. (This early media stunt was a full 47 years before Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki got hitched on the Tonight Show.)

DALLAS COUPLE TO WED BY RADIO THURSDAY NIGHT

DALLAS — The first wireless marriage ceremony ever performed in which neither the bride, the groom, nor the officiating minister will be at the same place is to be solemnized here Thursday night when Miss Inez Mabel Brady, Dallas society girl, becomes the bride of John H. Stone, operator at WRR, the municipal broadcasting station.

It is estimated that more than 25,000 radio fans will “witness” the tying of the radio nuptial knot.

Three Dallas broadcasting stations will be used in the ceremony. Rev. Thomas Harper, pastor of the Central Congregational Church, who has been asked to officiate, will repeat the marriage ritual into the transmitter of [WFAA,] the broadcasting station on the roof of [the Dallas Morning News] building. The bride and her attendants will be at the Automotive Electric Company’s radio station [WDAO, on South Ervay], while the groom will make his responses from WRR, the station of which he is in charge.

Operating staffs of the three stations are working out the details of the ceremony, which will include a broadcasted wedding march.

(– Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 28, 1922)

Obviously new to the hustle of radio promotion, The Dallas Morning News (owner of WFAA) mentioned the event only a couple of times — fleetingly. They did note that “This probably will be audible to one of the largest audiences ever ‘hearing’ a wedding ceremony” (DMN, June 28, 1922). It’s not known just how many people tuned in to listen to the ceremony (probably a considerable number), but the story made news around the country, as can be seen in this article from The Durham Morning Herald in Durham, North Carolina:

radio-wedding_durham_071322a

radio-wedding_durham_071322-bDurham (NC) Morning Herald, July 13, 1922 (click for larger image)

The broadcast had only a tiny hiccup:

radio-wedding_winfield-daily-press_kansas_063022Winfield (Kansas) Daily Press, June 30, 1922

As successful as the radio wedding was, the marriage between Inez Brady and John H. Stone does not appear to have lasted very long. At the time of the wedding, Inez was just out of school and was only 16 or 17 years old (the descriptions of her as a “society girl” and “debutante” were, I think, a bit of an exaggeration). According to the news stories surrounding the wedding, she “fell in love” with Mr. Stone’s voice on the radio. None of that bodes well for a lasting marriage. The 1923 city directory had the newlyweds renting rooms on McMillan, off Lower Greenville, but the 1924 directory had John in Oak Cliff and Inez in Old East Dallas. She re-married in 1928 at the creaky old age of 22, and he seems to have left WRR to work in some capacity for RCA. The marriage might not have lasted, but they both had a “brush-with-celebrity” story to tell (and re-tell) for the rest of their lives.

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Top photo from CorbisImages, ©Bettmann/CORBIS.

I’m not sure which ended first — Mr. and Mrs. Stone’s wedded bliss or the radio station WDAO, which ceased operation sometime in 1923. A good look at the history of early local radio can be found at DFW Radio Archives, here. (WRR and WFAA continue to march forward, just a few years shy of their 100th anniversaries!)

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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