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Category: Christmas

The Legendary Christmas Cards of Ann Richards and Betty McKool

xmas_ann-richards_betty-mckool_1973_detFrom the personal collection of Mike McKool Jr., used with permission

by Paula Bosse

Ann Richards and Betty McKool were close friends in Dallas in the 1960s, sharing an offbeat sense of humor and a dedication to Democratic-party politics. They were founders of the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club which was widely known for its revue of political humor and song parodies called “Political Paranoia” which Ann and Betty both performed in, wowing audiences with their larger-than-life charisma.

In the late ’60s, Ann and Betty — who loved dressing in ridiculous costumes and cracking each other up — began to issue satirical Christmas cards which featured photographs of themselves in outrageous situations accompanied by pithy captions and greetings, usually referencing a political hot-topic of the past year. The cards were sent out unsigned, and, as Ann Richards wrote in her autobiography Straight from Heart, not everyone knew who had sent them.

We mailed these to a lot of people, maybe a hundred, and we didn’t sign them. And we had such a good time thinking about people getting this weird card and trying to figure out who it could possibly be from, thinking maybe it was their wives’ relatives. Oh, we laughed about that. And we kept thinking of some guy opening it and drawling, “Mildred come here, look at this card we got in the mail.” No more than half our friends recognized us, maybe not that many.

Ann and Betty enjoyed doing the first card so much that they did it every year — it became something of an institution, and people on the Christmas card list waited expectantly each Christmas to get the latest crazy card. It was definitely a high point of the holiday season and the most anticipated Christmas card of the year. I certainly remember hearing about them throughout my childhood, as my parents were lucky enough to be on The List.

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In her autobiography, Ann wrote that “our Christmas photo album lasted nine years” which is incorrect. After I wrote the post “‘Political Paranoia’ and the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club, feat. Future Governor Ann Richards,” (which contains the newly unearthed film of “Political Paranoia II” from 1964 in which both Ann and Betty have standout performances), I received an email from Vicki Byers who is the Executive Assistant to Mike McKool Jr. (Betty’s son). That email contained scans of 12 of the Christmas cards from Mr. McKool’s personal collection! Wow! And he has allowed me to share these cards which have attained something of an almost mythic status — followers and fans of Gov. Richards have read about them, but not a lot of them have actually ever seen them. So thank you, Vicki, and thank you, Mike, for allowing access to this little treasure trove!

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I’m not sure on the exact chronology of these cards. In her book, Ann writes about the “Temperance” card as being the first one that she and Betty did, but Mr. McKool has that card as being from 1976. It’s parodying a 1964 quote from Barry Goldwater, so it seems more likely to have been issued in the ’60s than in the ’70s — possibly in 1968. The cards were issued as late as 1983, and at some point the cards became posters. Ann moved from Dallas to Austin in 1969 or 1970, so she and Betty would have had to meet up during the year to plan and pose for their annual Christmas card, and from all accounts, the two women truly enjoyed creating the irreverent cards as much as people enjoyed receiving them. Here they are (all images are larger when clicked).

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1969: “Merry Christmas… From the Silent Majority”

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1970: “Wishing You Season’s Greetings from the Valley Forge Chapter of Women’s Liberation and a Gay Holiday… From the Boys in the Band”

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1971: “Hark!… It’s a Girl!”

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1972: “Adoremus (Let Us Adore Him)… Four More Years”

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1973: “Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear… — You’re getting the same thing for Christmas that you’ve been getting all year!”

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1974: “And it came to pass… — Wisepersons????”

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1976 [?]: “From Our House To Your House — A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year… Extremism in the pursuit of a Merry Christmas is no sin.” (In her autobiography, Ann describes this “Temperance” card as being the first one she and Betty made — it’s possible this might be from 1968.)

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1977: ‘Twas the night before Christmas…When what to my wondering eyes should appear but… Bella Abzug!”

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1978: “Good grief! …WHO CAN WE TURN TO FOR HELP?”

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1979: “The honour of your presence is requested for Christmas Luncheon at The Governor’s Mansion”

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1980: “The White House Cookbook — Nancy Reagan’s All American Turkey”

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1981 [No image available, but in a mention in the Austin American-Statesman, Ann and Betty are described as being “dressed as old hoboes, looking aghast” in a “poster-sized card,” commenting on the theory of trickle-down economics]: “Behold, I Bring You Tidings of Great Joy… In other words, the rich get richer and we get trickled down on!”

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1982: “The good new is We Won! — The bad news is… You got to dance with them that brung ya!”

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1983: “Dear Ronnie: I would have put the gender gap in your stocking but it was too big. Love, Mrs. Claus” (issued as a poster; from the collection of Frances Murrah, Betty’s sister)

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There was also a card about which Ann wrote this: “Another year we donned cowboy hats and glittering western wear, and sent ‘Greetings from the Rhinestone Cow Chips.'” The Glen Campbell song “Rhinestone Cowboy” came out in 1975. The photo below appeared in Jan Reid’s book Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards, and I suspect it might have been sent out as the 1975 card.

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And one other card was described by Ann in her book: “One of my favorites was when we hung a bunch of stuffed deer heads, like you see on the wall of a lodge, and cut holes where we could stick our heads through and put on these antlers. And the message was, ‘If you think I’m gonna pull that damned old sleigh one more year….'” (Could this perhaps have been issued in 1976?)

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So that’s at least 16 Christmas cards (a few were posters) sent out by Ann Richards and Betty McKool. And people are still talking about them! (I would love to be able to add other Ann-and-Betty cards to this post — if you have scans of any of the missing cards/posters, or any additional information, please let me know!)

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Dorothy Ann Willis Richards was born in McLennan County in 1933 and grew up in Waco. Here is a lovely photo of her from 1950, from the “Favorites” section of the Waco High School yearbook. She was in the class play and was a debate champion. She lived in Dallas for several years where she was very active in Democratic politics as an activist and volunteer; after moving to Austin she entered politics as an elected official and ultimately became Governor of Texas in 1991. She died in 2006.

richards-ann_waco-high-school_1950_favoritesAnn, Waco High School, 1950

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Ann as LBJ, “Political Paranoia,” Dallas, 1964

Elizabeth Ann “Betty” Raney McKool was born in Dallas in 1929. She attended Crozier Tech High School (below is a class photo from the 1946 yearbook) where she was a cheerleader. She married Mike McKool when she was only 16, and the two were extremely well known in political circles. Mike McKool, an attorney, served as a State Senator in Austin and was a Democratic Party leader in Dallas. Betty died in 2018 (read her obituary here). There is a fantastic interview with her from a 1971 “Legislative Wives” series in the Austin American-Statesman here.

mckool-betty-raney_crozier-tech_1946Betty, Crozier Tech, 1946

political-paranoia-2_1964_jones-collection_SMU_rockefeller-2
Betty as Nelson Rockefeller, “Political Paranoia,” Dallas, 1964

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On behalf of Ann Richards and Betty McKool, I wish you all a (bemused and slightly aghast) very Merry Christmas!

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Sources & Notes

Thanks to Mike McKool Jr. and Vicki Byers for sending me the color images; these Christmas cards are from Mr. McKool’s personal collection, and I am grateful for his permission to share them here.

Also, many thanks to the family of Betty’s sister Frances Murrah, who allowed me to share the “Nutcracker” poster from 1983; Frances worked with Senator Lloyd Bentsen in Washington, DC for several years.

Quoted passages are from Chapter 7 of the book Straight from the Heart, My Life in Politics & Other Places by Ann Richards (Simon & Schuster, 1989). You can read these pages on Google Books here.

Screenshots are from the 1964 film “Political Paranoia II” from the G. William Jones Film and Video Archive, Hamon Library, Southern Methodist University; this film may be viewed on YouTube in its entirety here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Christmastime at Booker T. Washington High School — 1950s

booker-t-wash_xmas-decDecking the halls…

by Paula Bosse

Most of us have fond memories of holiday-themed activities in school — here are a few photos from the Christmas season at Booker T. Washington High School in the early ’50s.

Above, girls hang decorations on the office door.

Below, the Library Club poses for a photo at a Christmas party (all photos are larger when clicked).

booker-t-wash_xmas-party_1952via John Leslie Patton Papers, Dallas Historical Society

And the bottom two photos show members of the Booker T. Washington chapter of the American Junior Red Cross standing with the articles they’ve made and/or collected for distribution to various hospitals and institutions — a couple of girls can be seen crocheting and knitting items which will be added to the collection of things destined for grateful recipients.

booker-t-wash_xmas-red-crossvia John Leslie Patton Papers, Dallas Historical Society

And below, Mrs. Catherine Robinson, the organization’s sponsor, stands with students and their gift-wrapped presents which are ready to be delivered to places such as the Hutchins Home for Convalescent Patients, Woodlawn and Parkland Hospitals, orphanages, boarding homes for juvenile wards of the state, and even to the leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana (a hospital which treated leprosy patients — a 1953 newspaper article reported that most of the then-current 400 patients were from Texas).

booker-t-wash_xmas-red-cross2via John Leslie Patton Papers, Dallas Historical Society

Organized in 1917, the American Junior Red Cross had Dallas chapters in most — if not all — schools by 1918, including Booker T. Washington. By 1949 Dallas County had Jr. Red Cross chapters in 183 schools, with more than 78,000 students taking part; they made and/or collected 30,000 items that year which were distributed to active servicemen, to hospitalized veterans and children, to the needy, and to the aged. There were regular collection drives for reading material (elementary kids donated a LOT of comic books!), and there were regular visits to hospitals, etc., to entertain and perform (“except in times of polio epidemics”). Students also wrote letters to military personnel and to children in other countries and were trained in safety and first-aid procedures..

american-junior-red-cross_poster_1952_vintageposterworksvia Vintage Poster Works

Because of the efforts of Junior Red Cross members like these from Booker T. Washington High School, many who were convalescing, lonely, or in need were assured a happier Christmas than they might otherwise have had.

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Sources & Notes

All photos of Booker T. Washington High School students are from the John Leslie Patton Papers collection of the Dallas Historical Society. (More on Patton, the legendary principal of Booker T. Washington for 30 years can be found at the Handbook of Texas site here.)

More on the American Junior Red Cross can be found in these articles:

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

A Holiday Chat Outside Neiman’s

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by Paula Bosse

I love this photo of two men exchanging a quick word outside Neiman-Marcus, with bustling streets and Christmas decorations in the background. And those cowboy boots!

Merry Christmas, y’all!

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Sources & Notes

Photo “Outside Neiman Marcus, Christmas” is by Andy Hanson, from the Collection of Photographs by Andy Hanson, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photo is here.

Hanson was one of Dallas’ busiest newspaper photographers, and as luck would have it, the DeGolyer Library at SMU is currently hosting the exhibit “Andy Hanson: Picturing Dallas, 1960-2008,” which runs until Jan. 29, 2020; more info on the exhibit is here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Merry Christmas from Dallas Artist Bud Biggs

xmas_bud-biggs_shamrock-mag_1959_texas-tech
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.

Christmas Along the Esplanade

xmas_esplanade_dusk_pegasus_121918_paula-bosseA festive Pegasus…

by Paula Bosse

The holiday lights and “dancing waters” of the Esplanade in Fair Park are always worth a visit. I took these photos the other day after doing some volunteer research at the Dallas Historical Society, based in the beautiful Hall of State. I’m particularly fond of dusk, but nighttime is the really the time to see the lights and fountains at their best.

Above, the Pegasus pylon, by French artist Pierre Bourdelle, one of the many artists who worked on the Centennial Exposition in 1936, the year the Esplanade and many of the buildings in Fair Park were built. (All photos are larger when clicked.)

Below, a look toward the Hall of State from the end of the Esplanade.

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One of the six sculptures along the Esplanade, this one represents Texas, by artist Lawrence Tenney Stevens:

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The Automobile Building with the statue representing France, by French sculptor Raoul Josset:

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A closer look, after the sun has gone down, showing the impressive lighting design:

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Impressive even from the side:

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“Texas” again, lit up and in silhouette:

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The illuminated “dancing waters”:

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Another view toward the Hall of State:

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The jewel of Fair Park, the Hall of State:

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Below are two images of the Esplanade from 1936, when all of this was brand new:

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Sources & Notes

All photos by Paula Bosse.

More information on the statues along the Esplanade can be found at the French Sculpture Census page highlighting “Fair Park, 1936” here, and “The Six Ladies of Fair Park” page from the Texas Escapes site, here.

A very large aerial photo of Fair Park from 1936 can be seen here. Zoom in on the Esplanade.

More Flashback Dallas posts about Christmas can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

From El Chico and the Cuellar Family: Feliz Navidad!

xmas_el-chico_cook-collection_degolyer_SMU

by Paula Bosse

…y Prospero Año Nuevo!

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Sources & Notes

Images from a matchbook cover in the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more on the item can be found on the SMU site here.

A couple of super-folksy El Chico commercials can be watched here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Texas Instruments Semiconductor Crystal Christmas Tree

xmas-tree_texas-instruments-records_degolyer-lib_smu_ca-1959-smThe semiconductor tree… (click to see a larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a Christmas tree made from models of semiconductor crystals. I can’t even begin to understand this, so I’ll hand it over to the “explanation” seen on the card in the photo and pretend to nod knowingly. (Click picture to see larger image; transcription is below.)

xmas-tree_texas-instruments-records_degolyer-lib_smu_ca-1959_descr

SEMICONDUCTOR CRYSTAL CHRISTMAS TREE

In a 12-step cycle, the crystalline atoms light in sequence, illustrating the many planes in which they are oriented in a semiconductor crystal.

This demonstrator applies to Germanium, Silicon – both of which TI uses in its semiconductor products – Diamond, and compound semiconductors such as Indium Antimonide, Gallium Arsenide, Silicon Carbide and Zinc Sulfide.

The central yellow and blue round atoms form a “unit cell,” or basic crystalline building block.

The white round and blue conical atoms represent alloying elements producing semiconductor action and occurring only once in a thousand crystal segments this size.

Green and red atoms would be of different elements in the case of a compound crystal, or the same element in the case of a simple crystal.

MAGNIFICATION – 500 MILLION TIMES LIFE SIZE

Model manufactured by: The Thermoelectric Materials Group, Central Research Laboratory

TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INCORPORATED

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So … yeah. Merry Christmas from the fine folks at TI’s Thermoelectric Materials Group!

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Sources & Notes

This circa-1959 photo — titled “Semiconductor Christmas Tree” — is from the RG-06 Semiconductor Group, Texas Instruments records, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photo can be found on the SMU site, here.

Speaking of germanium (…there’s a phrase I’ve never used before…), SMU also has another TI photo showing a close-up of “a germanium crystal being pulled (grown) out of a crucible of molten germanium material” here. In fact, SMU’s DeGolyer Library has a whole slew of material in their Texas Instruments records — browse through the collection here.

Semiconductors, single-crystal germanium, silicon, and transistors … the world owes Dallas’ Texas Instruments a huge “thank you” for their cannot-be-overstated contribution to the development of the technology that, dare I say, changed life on earth.

texas-instruments_AP_051054AP wire story, May 10, 1954 (click for larger image)

One of the inventors of “single-crystal germanium” was Dr. Gordon K. Teal (1907-2003), a Dallas native whom Texas Instruments snapped up from his previous employer, Bell Laboratories. Read more about Dr. Teal’s remarkable career in an Engineering and Technology History Wiki, here, and in a portrait (literal and figurative) from Baylor University (his alma mater), here.

More about the importance and applications of “single-crystal germanium” in the new Transistor Age can be found in an interview with Dr. Teal in the Dallas Morning News article “Mighty Transistor: Dr. Gordon Teal ‘Grows’ A Gadget” by Robert Miller (DMN, Feb. 8, 1953).

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Holiday Greetings!

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by Paula Bosse

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and Season’s Greetings! I hope this holiday season is a happy and safe one for us all.

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“Noel” card appears to have been a Neiman-Marcus Christmas card; the flap of the envelope is below. Both images are from eBay.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Over-the-Top University Park Christmas Display Featuring Big Tex and a Six Flags Spee-lunker

xmas-wayne-smith_university-park_2015_big-tex_speelunkerBig Tex on the roof, a “Spee” to the right (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

You may have heard about Wayne Smith’s annual spectacular Christmas display in the 3600 block of Southwestern in University Park — the one with a cast of thousands, including a previous head of Big Tex, what seems like hundreds of illuminated Santas, Dracula, Moe Howard, and a former denizen of Six Flags Over Texas’ “Cave”/Spee-lunker ride. Before I get back to the “Spees” (the name the creatures have been given by their surprisingly enthusiastic fan-following), here’s a wider shot of a photo I took during last year’s holiday season. (Click it!)

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(And this gives you only an inkling of what’s actually there. I LOVED it! I waited until after Christmas — in fact, after New Year’s — to wander around — I can only imagine how backed up with looky-loos the street gets closer to Christmas.)

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Back to the Spees. The Cave water ride debuted in 1964 and was an immediate hit. When it opened, there were 28 of these creatures who, according to the original marketing, “came from innerspace.”

They are 30 inches high and they play harps, do the Twist, play cards, hammer cave crystals into rock candy and engage in a shell game — turtle racing.

This ride was always one of my favorites (probably because it provided a brief, cool respite from the glaring sun and the blasting heat that plagued my annual summer visits to Six Flags).

The Spee-lunkers left Six Flags a long time ago, so it’s nice to see that one of them is still entertaining local crowds, right next to another beloved DFW icon, Big Tex … along with a phalanx of festive Santas!

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Lest you think the publicity mill wasn’t working all angles of this new attraction, we see below that one of the Spees got a visit from, of all people, TV-darling Donna Douglas who played Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.

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photo and article, Hood County News Tablet, June 4, 1964

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August, 1964

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Grand Prairie Daily News, May 25, 1977

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Sources & Notes

Photo of Wayne Smith’s Christmas display taken by me on January 2, 2016. The house is in the 3600 block of Southwestern, between Baltimore and Thackery. Since the display is probably visible from space, there’s no way you can miss it.

Postcards found on eBay and Google.

Every year TV crews descend on Smith’s house to do a story. Watch one from this year — from CW33 News — here.

For those who might like more info on the Spee-lunker attraction/ride (which, by the way, is classified as a “dark ride” in amusement park lingo) at Six Flags Over Texas, here’s a bunch of links:

  • Weird video and music (and history!) by a superfan, here
  • Article by the same guy who put the above video together, here
  • Spee-lunker vignettes described here
  • Google images aplenty, here

More on the new ride can be found in the Dallas Morning News archives in the article “$300,000 Hole: Six Flags To Open Cave Ride” (DMN, May 24, 1964) — accompanying the article is an amusing photo captioned “Gail Powers yelps in mock fear as lobster seizes her hand.”

A shout-out to Wendy Cook who, when I posted the top picture to the Flashback Dallas Instagram feed in January, pointed out to me that the Spee-lunker was even in there. She recognized him right away, but with so much visual overload, I hadn’t even noticed him! Thanks, Wendy!

See stuff bigger — when in doubt, click it!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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