Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Entertainment

Event: “Remixing the News” Screening at SMU

remixing_hamon-library-blog-header

by Paula Bosse

UPDATE: The screening was great! For those of you who might have missed this event — or who would like to see the films again — the one-hour program is airing on KERA-Channel 13’s “Frame of Mind” on Thurs. Nov. 16, 2017 at 10:30 p.m., with another airing at 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 20.

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I’m really late announcing this event — WHICH TAKES PLACE TUESDAY, NOV. 14!! — but it sounds like something that people who are interested in Dallas history and/or video art would really enjoy: “Remixing the News,” presented by the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection at the Hamon Arts Library (SMU), in collaboration with KERA television and Dallas VideoFest.

So what is it?

The Jones Collection at SMU includes the WFAA Newsfilm archive which contains what must be thousands of hours of 16mm film footage from the 1960s and ’70s, originally shot to be used as part of Channel 8 News broadcasts (this includes tons of B-roll footage shot to supplement the stories, but not always used in newscasts). As you can imagine, this is an unusual treasure trove of local news, history, and pop culture. I’ve dipped in and showcased some of the offerings in previous posts about the State Fair of Texas, and on Dallas appearances by Jimi Hendrix, Tiny Tim, and Glen Campbell.

Jeremy Spracklen, head curator of the Jones Collection, describes how this interesting local news archive was “reappropriated, recontextualized, and deconstructed” to become something altogether different:

We went in a unique direction in this — we did an experiment where we gave 10 local filmmakers a hard-drive with several hundred hours’ worth of footage on it and had them create their own interpretation of it. So, it is part history and part new video art.

I love this sort of thing. Eleven short films were produced by ten Texas filmmakers (Spracklen himself contributed two). Here are the films which will be shown Tuesday night, November 14:

  • “2,000 Hours in Dallas” by Jeremy Spracklen
  • “The Story of Jane X” by Christian Vasquez
  • “Dallas Circle” by Justin Wilson
  • “Lawmen & Cowpokes” by Gordon K. Smith
  • “History Lessons” by Steve Baker
  • “Beyond 10” by Carmen Menza
  • “Glass” by Madison McMakin
  • “Poofs are New” by Blaine Dunlap
  • “Divided” by Michael Thomas & Dakota Ford
  • “The Night in the Last Branches” by Michael Alexander Morris
  • “Echoes of the Past” by Jeremy Spracklen

The FREE advance screening of this collection (which will air at a later time on KERA’s long-running “Frame of Mind” series) will be held at SMU in the Owen Art Center on Tuesday, Nov. 14 (which might be TODAY!) — it begins at 7:30 p.m. After the screening, Bart Weiss, artistic director of the Video Association of Dallas, will host a Q&A with several of the filmmakers in attendance.

ALSO, Jeremy Spracklen tells me that those who are interested are invited to tour his very chilly subterranean film-archive lair after the event. So much Texas film history lurks beneath the SMU campus!

This event sounds great. Be there!

remixing-the-news_smu_hamon

“Remixing the News”

Presented by the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, in collaboration with KERA and VideoFest

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Time: 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

O’Donnell Hall, room 2130, Owen Arts Center (see map below)

FREE to the public

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Resources & Notes

More on this event can be found on the SMU website here and on the Hamon Arts Library blog here; the Facebook event page is here.

The event is free, and parking on the SMU campus after 7:00 p.m. is also free. Parking at SMU scares me, but here is what Jeremy advises: “The closest parking is in the meters in front of the Meadows building (they are not active after 7:00), the ‘U’ lot just south of the building, and, if those are full, the Meadows Museum parking garage is open — it is just down Bishop Blvd. and about a 5-minute walk.”

His map is below, with the parking areas highlighted in red. (Click to see larger image.)

SMUCampusMapNamesBLK

More on the WFAA Newsfilm archive can be found in a Flashback Dallas post “How the News Got Made.”

One of the filmmakers who has contributed a film to this event is Blaine Dunlap — I have posted links to two of his films, both of which I really enjoyed: Sunset High School on Film — 1970″ (which he made while he was a Sunset student) and “‘Sometimes I Run’: Dallas Noir — 1973” (about a philosophizing downtown street cleaner).

More on “Frame of Mind” here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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State Fair of Texas Midway — 2017

midway-entrance_sfot_night_100417The State Fair of Texas midway never gets old… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I haven’t been to the State Fair of Texas for several years, so I took a trip out to Fair Park this past Wednesday to see what’s new.

Food. The only thing I ever really want is the traditional Fletcher’s corny dog, and I’m happy to report they’re as good as ever.

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I also tried the Fried Texas Sheet Cake which was — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — too sweet, and just … too much. A bite would have been plenty. The topping of chocolate syrup and pecans was the best part. Maybe someone should offer a bowl of just that. …And then fry the whole thing — bowl and all. I’d probably try it.

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When I saw the sign for “Fried Chicken Skin” I had to try it. I guess it’s something you either really want, or it’s something that makes you recoil in horror. I really wanted it. I was expecting more of a battered-Church’s-fried-chicken experience, but I don’t think there was any batter at all. I still liked it, but it could have been a lot more mouthwatering. It needed a bit more heft. (Speaking of fried skin — there’s a phrase I’ve never uttered — why aren’t there chicharrones at the fair? Done right, those things are incredible. Isn’t pork belly still a thing?) (And someone really should do battered fried chicken skin.)

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It might have been healthier had I just swallowed the cute Big Tex earrings ($10, zero fat grams), which I almost went back for. It takes a special kind of person to be able to pull those off, and I’m afraid I’m not that whimsical. But I bet they make a great conversation-starter and help break the ice at parties.

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Everything was remarkably clean. I mean really clean. …Freakishly clean. This is not the grimy, dirty, cigarette-butt-laden fair I remember as a kid, and I have to admit, I kind of missed the grime and trash. Also, I don’t remember the plush toys being so remarkably colorful. My retinas will never be the same. Click the photo below to get the full neon blast of color.

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Speaking of things I miss, I also miss the seediness of the fairs from my childhood in the ’70s (certainly the seediest decade in modern times): the unkempt carnival barkers who never sounded like they were from Texas, the bored ride operators going about their repetitive jobs with a cigarette hanging from their mouth, the half-eaten candy apple stuck to the asphalt, and, yes the side shows. Without doubt, I think my favorite thing about the annual fair was seeing the huge banners emblazoned with vivid images of freaks and oddities — those banners were works of art and sheer advertising genius. I never wanted to see the shows, but I loved those banners, and I loved listening to the raspy voices of the going-through-the-motions barkers. Now? I saw a teeny booth along the midway wherein was what was purported to be the world’s smallest horse (yawn), and then there was the exhibit below featuring what appeared to be nothing more than a two-headed rattlesnake and a couple of two-headed turtles inside a little building about the size of a portable garden shed. But a kid will always be fascinated by anything with two heads. I realize my interest in two-headed creatures isn’t what it used to be, and I also realize that the day of the brilliant freak show banner art has come and gone.

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When I was a kid, my favorite “ride” was always the German Funhouse. I did see one funhouse, which did not seem to be specific as to country of origin. These haunted houses get high marks for decorative impact. This is what you want to see at a state fair!

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Incidentally, it will cost you 6 coupons to experience the full gory glory of “Scary Park” — that’s HALF the price of one order of fried chicken skin! Seems like a pretty good deal. There are some “extreme” rides that will cost you 150 coupons. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY COUPONS. That’s $75. I watched one of these rides, which began with two teenagers being strapped into some sort of horizontal harness. The second step was the signing of the waivers. Then the boys were raised way, way up and then dropped and flung across the sky from a height which makes me queasy just thinking about it. They swung back and forth a few times and were then lowered to terra firma, no doubt thrilled and nauseous. That makes a whirl on the quaint Kamikaze seem like a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood after a light meal.

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The Texas Star ferris wheel is pretty impressive and deserves a better photo than this, but look at the ground — you could eat off that!

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In case you ever find yourself on Jeopardy and the category is “Amusement Park Rides,” this might be helpful.

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I don’t know how many Fletcher’s stands there are at the fair, but this one on the midway is certainly the brightest. (And if you say “corn dog” in my presence I will be forced to correct you….)

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My favorite sign at the fair was this one, at the beautiful entrance to the beautiful Hall of State: “NO FOOD, NO DRINK, NO BALLOONS.” Don’t even think about it.

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And look at Hall of State at night. Nary a balloon in sight.

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I was actually working in the Hall of State the day I took these photos, so I had a short walk around the park right after it opened (that corny dog was my breakfast!) and a longer walk around the midway at night. A few thoughts:

  • I’m the only person who wishes it weren’t quite so clean.
  • Neon Big Tex is way better than “new” post-flambé Big Tex. Everyone complains about the new Big Tex, and I’m one of them. There’s a new kid in town, Tex, and my allegiance is now firmly with Neon Big Tex, the old Centennial Liquor sign featuring a neon-outlined Big Tex recently planted in Fair Park.
  • I never liked the nightly parade as a kid, but I really enjoyed it this year. The floats were attractive, the cowboy on stilts and the unicyclist on a stuffed pony were fun and goofy, and the Carter High School band was really, really good (and brought memories of my high school marching band days back with a vengeance). Also in the parade were several policemen on horses. I wondered what happened when a horse would leave its … um … byproducts behind them in the (meticulously clean) street, and then I saw a policeman riding behind in a golf cart, with a shovel strapped to the side and a large receptacle in the back. I wonder if the officers draw straws before the parade to see who gets stuck with shovel-duty?
  • I did not visit any buildings. I saw no canned peaches, no automobiles, no butter sculptures, no livestock, no miracle mops, no pig races. I’ll have to leave those for next time.

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The best thing about the fair is that everyone is happy — especially the children, who are often over-stimulated and beside themselves with excitement — and it reminds me how much I used to look forward to my annual visit.

Seeing the fair in the daytime and at nighttime are two completely different experiences. Daytime in general is overrated. Always choose nighttime!

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Sources & Notes

All photos by Paula Bosse. Most are pretty big — click ’em!

The 2017 State Fair of Texas runs from Sept. 29 to Oct. 22. There’s plenty of time left!

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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.

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Fair Park entrance.

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Crowd, baby, binoculars.

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Neuhoff hot dog stand.

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The monorail (with a cameo by Big Tex).

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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.

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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.)

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Everyone needs a corny dog fix.

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Everyone.

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

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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.

“Howdy, Folks! Welcome to the 1959 State Fair of Texas”

big-tex_1959Big Tex and his people… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Big Tex and a crowd of serious-looking adults watch something in the distance at the 1959 State Fair of Texas.

The 2017 State Fair of Texas starts in one week!

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Sources & Notes

Source of photo: unknown!

See a whole passel of Flashback Dallas’ State Fair of Texas posts here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

La Reunion Tower

reunion-tower_skyline_091217Big D from inside the ball… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

On Tuesday night I gave a little talk on the history of the La Reunion colony as part of the Dallas Historical Society’s Pour Yourself Into History series. The event was held in the *very nice* Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck restaurant high atop Reunion Tower — right in the ball. I was a bit of a last-minute fill-in presenter, and I hesitated to accept the invitation because I always feel awkward talking in front of more than, say, two or three people, but I really, really wanted to go up to the top of Reunion Tower.

I hadn’t been to Reunion Tower since a family outing back around 1980 or so. Back then I was most fascinated by the fact that the restaurant slowly revolved to give diners a leisurely 360-degree view of the city (I always imagined it spinning out-of-control, pinning diners — and their meals — against the walls with centrifugal force, like a fine-dining version of the Spindletop ride at Six Flags, or The Rotor ride at the State Fair of Texas); but now, decades later, as an adult, the image of the spinning restaurant was eclipsed by the real star: the VIEW.

As you can imagine, the view is unbelievably spectacular — especially at night when Dallas is at its most glamorous. The ticket price is fairly steep to get up to the observation deck, and a meal and/or cocktails at the restaurant will set you back a goodly amount, but it is, without question, the most fabulous view of the city you’ll ever see. And you see all of it. When I started my talk about the history of the La Reunion colony of the 1850s (which was located about 5 miles due west of Reunion Tower, in West Dallas) the view was pretty much the one seen in the photo above; by the time I finished, we were, serendipitously, looking out over where the plucky colonists of “French Town” had toiled unsuccessfully 160 years ago. (Estimates on the boundary of La Reunion’s 2,000-acre land is the area now bounded by Westmoreland on the west, Hampton on the east, Davis on the south, and the Trinity River on the north — the southwest corner is marked here on Google Maps.)

It was a little noisy at the event Tuesday night, so if you were one of the very nice people who turned out, you might not have been able to hear anything I said! If you’d like to hear more about the history of La Reunion (and about Reunion Tower — and how, if a marketing agency had had its way, it might have been named “Esplanade” Tower), I enthusiastically recommend this very entertaining radio piece from Julia Barton (the La Reunion segment begins at about the 5:15 mark).

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I took photos, but they don’t do justice to the view. The really breathtaking vistas are at night, and, sadly, none of those photos came out. Seriously, if you’ve never been up Reunion Tower — or if you haven’t been since it was opened in 1978 — you should definitely go now. Better still, go at sunset and enjoy the best view in Dallas as you sip delicious cocktails.

The view stretches for miles. Here’s a cropped view of Dealey Plaza (click to see it really big).

reunion-tower_dealey-plaza_triple-underpass_091217a

And, at sunset, the jail has never looked lovelier.

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Back down on terra firma, looking up and saying “goodbye” to the ball.

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Thank you, Dallas Historical Society, for inviting me to be part of your event! And thanks to everyone who came out … and up!

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Sources & Notes*

Photos by Paula Bosse. Click ’em to see ’em bigger.

For more information of the La Reunion colony, see other Flashback Dallas posts here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Square Dancing Craze in Big D — Late 1940s

calamity-jane_premiere_-sam-bass_majestic-theatre_july-1949Hoedown at the Majestic, 1949…

by Paula Bosse

The photo above appeared in a show-biz trade publication showing part of the festivities which swirled around the world premiere of the movie “Calamity Jane and Sam Bass” starring Yvonne DeCarlo and Howard Duff at the Majestic Theatre on June 8, 1949. Several of the film’s stars made personal appearances and were made honorary deputies by Sheriff Bill Decker, sworn in by Judge Lew Sterrett (yes, Lily Munster was an honorary Dallas deputy sheriff!). There was a parade, a live show performed by the actors on the Majestic’s stage before the movie, a block party, and square dancing in Elm Street, with music provided by the Big D Jamboree band.

In 1949, as unlikely as it seems, square dancing was a HUGE fad which swept the country (or at least the Southwest). The peak years of the retro craze were probably 1948 to 1950, and its impact was pretty big locally, not only on the dance floor, but also in the fashion pages. When you see every major Dallas department store — even Neiman’s — selling calico and gingham square dance fashions … well, it’s big.

Not only were there lessons available everywhere, but there were clubs and weekly events all over town — every Wednesday in the summer of 1949, there was a big outdoor square dance held at the Fair Park Midway, with music courtesy of local celeb Jim Boyd.

I’m not sure when it stopped (…I’m assuming it has…), but for decades, a lot of us participated in square dancing as part of gym class in elementary school. This interesting throw-back take on physical fitness seems to have begun around 1950 or ’51. Not everyone was thrilled about this odd-but-charming grade-school rite of passage — some ultra-conservative communities complained, but the wholesome and old-timey dancing won out and became a standard part of Texas schools’ physical education curriculum.  Forget young people’s cotillions — most Texas children had their first experience dancing with a partner to the strain of a cowboy fiddle and a voice telling us to “allemande left” and “do-si-do.” And I’m sure we’re all better for it.

Here are a bunch of ads and things (click pictures to see larger images):

square-dance_la-reunion-place_squire-haskins_dallas-municipal-archivesSquare dance at La Reunion Place (Dallas Municipal Archives)

square-dance_jan-1946_highland-park
1946

square-dance_may-1947_a-harris
1947

square-dance_aug-1948_titches
1948

square-dance_jan-1948_sanger-bros1948

square-dance_oct-1948_neiman-marcus
1948

square-dance_april-1948_a-harris
1948

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1948

square-dance_dec-1950_e-m-kahn
1949

square-dance_june-1949_w-a-green
1949

square-dance_may-1949_fair-park-midway
1949

square-dance_nov-1949_a-harris
1949

square-dance_march-1949_whittles
1949

square-dance_oct-1949_a-harris
1949

dallas_ringandbrewer_1956
1956

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Sources & Notes

Premiere of “Calamity Jane and Sam Bass” was held at the Majestic Theatre on June 8, 1949, and it seems to have been a pretty big deal. There was newsreel footage filmed that night — wonder if it’s floating around anywhere?

square-dance_calamity-jane_majestic_june-1949

Photo of the square dance taken at La Reunion Place is by Squire Haskins and is from the Dallas Municipal Archives; is can be seen on UNT’s Portal to Texas History site, here.

Jim Boyd was a country-western singer who appeared in a few Hollywood films and was a Dallas disc jockey for many years. He also appeared around town often as a performer and personality. Dallas filmmaker Hugh V. Jamieson, Jr. and director Milton M. Agins made a short film called “Saturday Night Square Dance” (made in either 1949 or 1950); it features Boyd and his Men of the West band, plus square dance groups Silver Spur Square Set and Thompson Square Dance Club. I can find nothing on the two groups, but it seems likely that this film was made in Dallas. The quality of the film uploaded to YouTube is not very good, but, who knows — you might see your parents or grandparents in there if they were big square dancers! You can watch it here.

All images larger when clicked.

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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.

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And a photo from the early 1970s.

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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.

 

“Meet Me in Dallas, On June the 23rd…”

jeannie-c-riley_flickrJeannie C. Riley

by Paula Bosse

Until last week, I don’t think I’d ever heard the 1969 song “The Back Side of Dallas,” sung by Jeannie C. Riley, who had had the blockbuster hit “Harper Valley PTA” the previous year. How have I never heard this? I was going to post it last week until I realized that it would be better to wait until today, because of this line from the song: “Meet me in Dallas on June the 23rd, his letter read.” And here we are, June 23rd.

The song, written by Jerry Foster and Bill Rice was released in October, 1969. It wasn’t the huge, crossover, multi-award-winning monster hit that “Harper Valley PTA” was, but it did earn Jeannie another Grammy nomination (she lost to Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” — if you’re going to lose, that’s a pretty great performance to lose to!).

Like “Harper Valley PTA,” it was one of several songs of the era which brought country music into the somewhat seedy realm of 1960s American culture. “The Back Side of Dallas” is about a small-town girl who finds herself a lonesome “working girl” in Dallas, chain-smoking king-size cigarettes, drinking in dingy bars, and popping pills. This ain’t no Kitty Wells song, y’all. (I’d love to hear Miranda Lambert — who also has an incredible country voice — cover this.)

back-side-of-dallas_jeannie-c-riley_label

Jeannie C. Riley — born in Anson, Texas in 1945 — was one of the first certifiable sex symbols in country music, always gorgeous, outfitted in miniskirts and go-go boots, with sky-high hair teased to a fare-thee-well. AND she had an absolutely fantastic voice. Below is video of a 24-year-old Jeannie C. Riley singing “Back Side of Dallas” on Del Reeves’ Country Carnival in 1969 (Del Reeves had some great songs in the ’60s, but his TV persona was a little too Dean Martin-wannabe for my taste … and … oh dear … that set!):

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I prefer the studio version, below. I’ve listened to this song dozens of times now, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet!

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And here’s Jeannie singing it in 2011, still sounding great! (Her thick Texas accent is the absolute best, and her laugh is fantastic.) She talks about the song a bit at the beginning with Jerry Foster, one of the writers of the song — the song itself starts at about the 3:10 mark.

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And, to round out this “June the 23rd” post, a few photos of Jeannie C. — surely one of the most photogenic faces and bad-ass vocalists in the history of country music. As my father used to say, “hot damn.”

jeannie-c-riley_motorcycle

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Sources & Notes

Most, if not all, photos of JCR from Pinterest.

Record label image found here.

A biography of Jeannie C. Riley is here.

“Harper Valley PTA” — you know you want to hear it. This is a great live version she did on, I think, the Wilburn Brothers Show, with Harold Morrison on dobro.

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Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Country Music — Every Saturday Night on Channel 11

country-music_saturday-night_channel-11_ktvt_1969The warm-up for wrestling…

by Paula Bosse

I have a surprisingly deep knowledge of classic country music. And it can all be traced back to sitting with my father every Saturday night as he watched the jam-packed lineup of country music TV shows on KTVT-Channel 11.

Followed by wrestling.

Which I also have a surprisingly deep knowledge of. If only by osmosis.

Thank you, Channel 11, for providing this bonding time with my father, which I didn’t really appreciate as a child, but I do now.

(And, yes, I’m happy that my antiquarian bookseller father and Comparative Literature-degree-holding mother often took our family to the Sportatorium to see both country music package shows and wrestling matches. You can’t say our family wasn’t well-rounded.)

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1969 ad from an odd little local publication (which probably used to belong to my father) called Country and Western — The Sound That Goes Around the World, published in DFW by PegAnn Production.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Praetorian Building and Its 19th-Century Neighbors

empire-imperial-praetorian_1907_cook-collection_SMUIn the shadow of the Praetorian —  Main Street, 1907

by Paula Bosse

The photo above — from the George W. Cook Collection treasure trove at SMU’s DeGolyer Library — shows the Praetorian Building under construction. It appeared on a real-photo postcard which shows a postmark of July 25, 1907. What I found most interesting about this photo are the two buildings standing in its shadow, just west of Stone Street (now Stone Place). Here’s a close-up (click to see a larger image):

empire-imperial-praetorian_1907_cook-collection_SMU_det

I knew that the building with “Imperial Bar” on the side is still standing (the Sol Irlandes restaurant at 1525 Main has occupied it for several years), but I wondered about the one with the “Empire” sign. It took a bit of digging, but I’m happy to report that it was a very early movie theater. I had determined that the address of the building with the Empire sign was 353 Main Street (in what is today the 1500 block of Main) and found this article from 1907 about officials closing down “moving picture shows” which had not complied with fire precautions in the storing and projection of highly flammable celluloid film — one of these movie houses was at 353 Main (clippings and photos are larger when clicked):

fire-code-violations_moving-pictures_dmn_062507
Dallas Morning News, June 25, 1907

Below is a clipping from the Dallas city directory issued in 1907 — the first year a special “Moving Pictures” category was included in the directory.

1907-directory_harris-empire
1907 Dallas directory

These “picture shows” were listed not by theater name (if they had one), but by owner or manager. (This was the era of nickelodeons, which were not so much “theaters” as “viewing rooms” — a great article from 1909 about the sudden surge in popularity of the nickelodeon — what they were and what they were like — can be read here.) The theater at 353 Main was owned by Charles B. Harris (usually referred to as C. B. Harris, who had previously worked as a wholesaler for the Edison Phonograph Co. a couple of doors down the block). When the picture above was taken, the Empire was showing movies at 353 Main, men were playing pool for 45¢ an hour at the New Brunswick Billiard Hall next door at 355 Main, and Bartholomew Lynch was running the Imperial Bar on the corner, at 357 Main.

pool-hall_355_dmn_041307
DMN, April 13, 1907

Construction of the Praetorian Building — Dallas’ first skyscraper (14 stories!) — had begun in September, 1906. Here’s what it looked like in March, 1907:

praetorian_construction_dmn_031707
DMN, March 17, 1907

In January, 1909, C. B. Harris decided to expand up and into the space next door. The Empire Theater stopped showing movies, and in March, 1909, it became a venue for live stage productions.

empire_dmn_032109_opening
DMN, March 21, 1909

Here are a few photos showing the Empire and the finished Praetorian Building, around 1908. The first one may be one of the few to show the short-lived Colonial Theater (352 Main), a vaudeville house, across the street.

empire-imperial-praetorian_flickr_colteravia Flickr

A view similar to the top photo, with the Praetorian completed (apologies for the poor resolution!).

empire_flickr_

Below, a detail of a larger photo, also from around 1908.

empire_ca-1908_parade_flickr

And below, a detail from a larger photo, with spectators watching a parade in August, 1909, showing the Empire with its new construction.

empire_parade-day_1909_degolyer_SMU_close-up

In December, 1909, Harris changed the name of the theater to the Orpheum — it became a vaudeville house.

empire-orpheum_dmn_121409
DMN, Dec. 14, 1909

You can see the Orpheum Theater sign in this detail of a larger photo (click thumbnail on page to see full image). (Note that the Happy Hour Theater has taken over the Colonial’s space.)

orpheum_happy-hour_praetorian_uta_det

By 1914, the building’s address was 1521 Main (or, more specifically, 1521-23 Main), and ownership of the theater (which was now featuring “tabloid musical comedy”) had changed hands (to the Dalton brothers, who owned the Old Mill Theater). In October, 1914, the Daltons sold the theater. It was extensively remodeled and became the Feature Theater, a motion picture house (once again!).

orpheum_dmn_101814_sold
DMN, Oct. 18, 1914

feature-theater_dmn_111514
DMN, Nov. 15, 1914

The Feature hung on through the Great War, but finally sputtered out in 1919. In 1920, Woolworth’s expanded into the space (they were already located on Elm Street, and the expansion afforded them entrances on both Elm and Main — and, I think, Stone. Woolworth’s had already been occupying the old Imperial Bar building on the corner when they took over the old Empire space (1525 Main). That was a big Woolworth’s store.

feature-theater_dmn_122420_woolworths
DMN, Dec. 24, 1920

woolworth_dmn_030421_grand-openingDMN, March 4, 1921

Here’s what our old pal, The Praetorian, and NKOTB, Woolworth’s, looked like around 1930.

praetorian_ca-1930_dallas-rediscovered-cushman-and-wakefield-inc

Here’s Woolworth’s closer up — you can see how the two buildings (the old Empire and the old Imperial Bar) have been joined together a little oddly.

praetorian_ca-1930_dallas-rediscovered_cushman-and-wakefield-inc

Here’s a grainy street-level view from the 1940s (sorry, tried to blow up a thumbnail).

praetorian_william-langley_1940s_DPL
via Dallas Public Library

Fast-forward to 1953: the Shaw Jewelry Company moved into the old Empire Theater space at 1521 Main.

Meanwhile, next door, the old Imperial Bar space had become Texas State Optical. Sadly, someone thought it would be a good idea to wrap the original brick building (which has been estimated as having been built around 1895) in, I don’t know … aluminum siding? Here are before-and-after photos of that corner (Imperial Bar) building. It looked pretty good before TSO took over. (The detail below is from a Squire Haskins photo, via UTA — full photo is here — click thumbnail on UTA page to see a larger image). (I love the delivery boys’ bicycles parked at the curb outside the Western Union office.)

main-and-stone_praetorian_haskins_UTA_det

And here’s the same corner after “improvements” (this is another detail from another of Squire Haskins’ fab photos from the UTA collection — see the full photo here — click on thumbnail), circa 1950s.

tso_praetorian_squire-haskins_UTA_1950s

Oh dear. There should be a law….

tso_1525-main_dmn_102055_texas-state-optical
1955 (ad detail)

Speaking of “oh dear,” a few short years after this, the Praetorian Building expanded and was … argh … “re-clad.” Here’s a shot of it, mid-cladding, about 1961 (Squire Haskins photo info from UTA here).

praetorian_recladding_ca-1961

I believe it was … yellow.

In 1968, the Saint Jude Catholic Chapel moved into 1521 Main — the old Empire Theater space. The front was adorned with a vivid mosaic by Gyorgy Kepes (I wrote about the mosaic here).

gyorgy-kepes_mosaic_st-jude-chapel_website_videovia St. Jude Chapel website

The chapel is still there.

TSO — and later Pearle Vision — lasted at 1525 Main for years. In 2001, renovation and restoration efforts to develop Stone Place began. 1525 Main was restored as closely as possible to its original design and became home to a succession of restaurants (it has been occupied by Sol Irlandes for several years). ArchiTexas did a GREAT job with the building’s restoration!! (Read a 2001 Dallas Morning News article about this project — and about the historic 1525 building: “Historic Downtown Buildings To Be Restored — Shops, Restaurants Will Breathe New Life Into Stone Place,” DMN, Feb. 21, 2001.)

sol-irlandes_panoramio

So. Back to the top photo. There’s good news and bad news. Empire Theater building: still there. Imperial Bar building: still there. But the Praetorian Building — the most historically important of the three? The fabulous “skyscraper” was demolished in 2013 and replaced by a giant eyeball. Here’s a 2012 Dallas Morning News photo of it in mid death spiral, being slowly dismantled.

praetorian-pre-demo_dmn-photo_2012

See what this view looks like in the most recently updated Google Street View, here.

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Interested in seeing the development of this block, as chronicled in Sanborn maps? Of particular interest is the northwest corner of Main and Stone — before 1911 the addresses of these two building were 353-355 Main and 357 Main; after 1911 the addresses changed to 1521-23 Main and 1525 Main. It appears that both buildings were built between 1892 and 1899.

  • 1885 — not a lot in this block yet — but there is a well
  • 1888 — a building has appeared one lot off Stone
  • 1892 — that building from 1888 is now nothing but “ruins” — likely the result of a fire
  • 1899 — the buildings we’ve been looking at in this post have appeared
  • 1905 — C. B. Harris’ Empire would occupy 353 Main by 1907 — possibly by 1906 (in 1905, Harris was working three doors down, at 347 Main, as an agent for the Edison Phonograph Co.)
  • 1921 — This map indicates that the 1521-23 building is two stories. Pictures going back to 1909 (see a couple above) seem to show three stories, but pictures of the building as part of Woolworth’s appear to show two floors (for comparison, the building on the corner at 1525 was two stories). So … what looks like a third floor on 1521-23 Main might be … architectural trompe l’oeil? Either that, or there was demolition and construction and demolition of the two-story building currently occupied by the St. Jude Chapel. This is confusing. Whatever the case, the renovation/restoration of these two buildings in 2001 shows them to look pretty much as they did in the top 1907 photo — once again, that original roofline is present. Below, the 1907 photo is on the left, a 2012 photo is on the right.

praetorian_main-stone_1906-1912

And here the buildings are today, minus the dearly departed Praetorian (RIP).

st-jude-chapel_website_present-day

Pretty cool.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info is here. (I have edited the image slightly — and rather poorly — please see link for original image.)

The photo and detail showing Woolworth’s, circa 1930, is from William L. McDonald’s book Dallas Rediscovered; photo credit cites Cushman & Wakefield, Inc.

Sources of all other images noted, if known.

For an entertaining history of the construction of the Praetorian Building (which had MANY detractors and doubters), read the Dallas Morning News article (Oct. 27, 1948) by Kenneth Foree, here.

More on the Praetorian Building on Wikipedia, here.

Most clippings and images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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