Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Entertainment

Buried Alive at the Fair Park Midway — 1946

sfot_scotty-scott_buried-alive_coffin_cook-colln_degolyer-library_SMU_1946Welcome to my casket!

by Paula Bosse

In May, 1946 a new Fair Park midway opened with new rides and new attractions to entice entertainment-seekers to Fair Park at a time of the year when the State Fair of Texas wasn’t in session. On opening day a beauty queen was chosen, a new 17-inch telescope was introduced, and a man was buried alive.

That man was C. S. “Scotty” Scott, seen above lounging in a comfy-looking casket in pajamas and robe, looking happy, propping up the lid. On May 11, 1946, Scotty Scott was buried six feet below the midway where he vowed to remain until the last day of the fair — Oct. 20th. That’s five and a half months.

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Countless ads appeared over the weeks offering $500 (the equivalent of about $6,500 in today’s money) to anyone who might stop by his Fair Park lair and find him not there.

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The exact set-up is not fully clear, but, basically, he was buried in a coffin in a very small space, with a ventilation pipe. One report said that visitors were able to see him through a glass partition — another said that people were peeking at him and talking to him via an eight-inch vent pipe. However they were observing him, they weren’t doing it for free — if you wanted to get a look at Scotty doing whatever it was he was doing down there, you had to fork over 25 or 30 cents. All this being-watched and chit-chatting probably helped distract Scotty from the fact that he was buried alive! (I’m getting claustrophobic just typing this.)

Scotty’s tomb was equipped with air conditioning, a radio, a telephone, and an electric razor (which seems unnecessary, but, again, it probably helped pass the time…). (He might have kept up with his shaving, but he let his hair grow, a fact which apparently had the hoi polloi debating about whether Scotty was a man or a woman.) He was able to indulge in the occasional sponge bath and “exercise himself with a vibrator machine.” There was mention somewhere of a feeding tube.

If the thought of being buried alive gives you the willies, Scotty was not completely immune himself. One report mentioned this was probably the last time he would perform this stunt because he was reaching his “breaking point” and “He has to fight himself continuously to keep from being irritable and cross” (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 13, 1946). Luckily, claustrophobia did not seem to be too much of a problem for him as he had been doing this kind of endurance stunt for several years and kept coming back for more — he had, somehow, managed to remain buried in San Francisco for eight months!

Though he considered his main vocation to be a daredevil race driver, he had stumbled into this weird, but lucrative, line of work in 1935 when he had seen a similar stunt being performed in California, and a friend bet him $1,000 he couldn’t do it for 30 days. He won the bet. By the time of this 1946 Dallas stunt, he had been buried alive a LOT — he estimated that he had spent a total of more than four and a half years (!) buried alive.

According to Scotty, the worst part of the buried-alive-thing was the un-burying:

“From past experience the most painful part of the ordeal will come when they dig me up. My circulation will be so bad that my body will turn purple and I will be unable to sit or stand for any length of time. My whole body will feel like a leg or arm that has gone to sleep.” (DMN, Oct. 13, 1946)

Scotty Scott spent 162 days buried alive in Dallas — he even celebrated his 28th birthday underneath Fair Park. He was buried on May 11 and was disinterred on the final day of the fair, Oct. 20. Crowds gathered as men with jack-hammers cracked open the cement-covered tomb. As the coffin was lifted up a woman fainted. He was transported by ambulance to a hospital, and the next day he was interviewed on a national radio program.

Why on earth would anyone do this? More than 75,000 people had paid to take a look at Scotty Scott lying underground. The total amount of money people paid for this creepy privilege works out to almost $300,000 in today’s money. That’s why.

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Sources & Notes

Photo is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info can be found here.

Try not to think about being buried alive. TRY!

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Texas Excitement” — Six Flags Over Texas by Rail

six-flags-over-texas_three-rides_postcard_ken-collierCount ’em…

by Paula Bosse

There’s a lot going on in this postcard! The description, from the back of the card:

TEXAS EXCITEMENT
Three of the most popular rides at SIX FLAGS Over Texas are shown in action. At top is the Runaway Mine Train which annually carries more than 2½ million riders. At center an authentic 1898 steam engine carries passengers over a narrow gauge track which encircles the huge theme park. And, in the foreground is the SIX FLAGS Mini Mine Train, designed for the younger set.

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Sources & Notes

This 1970s-era postcard is from Ken Collier’s fantastic Six Flags Over Texas site, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“I’m No Angel” Packing Them In at The Majestic — 1933

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by Paula Bosse

Mae West was hot in 1933. Dallas moviegoers lined up on Elm Street to see her in “I’m No Angel” at the Majestic Theater. On a Monday afternoon!

mae-west_im-no-angel_1933
via IMDb

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Sources & Notes

Photo from the Spotlight on North Texas collection, UNT Media Library, Portal to Texas History; more info can be found here.

(Check out the brick paving on Elm Street!)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Super-Cool Roger Miller in Dallas — 1960s

roger-miller_venetian-room_oct-1969_wfaa_jones-film_SMURoger Miller on the Venetian Room stage, October, 1969

by Paula Bosse

Who doesn’t love Roger Miller? He was always one of the most effortlessly “cool” entertainers, celebrated as much for his songwriting and singing as he was for his humor and storytelling.

Roger Miller was born in Fort Worth in 1936 but spent most of his childhood in Oklahoma following the death of his father. He launched an entertainment career after a stint in the U.S. Army came to an end. (See an extensive timeline at Wikipedia, here.)

After years of struggling, he finally hit the big-time in 1964 with the hit “Dang Me” and, a few months later, with his biggest hit, the classic “King of the Road.” He won a huge number of Grammys (11 in 1964 and 1965 alone) and was a bona fide star who had incredible crossover appeal for fans of both country music and traditional popular music.

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When he came to Dallas in October, 1969 it was for a 3-week run at the Fairmont Hotel’s swanky Venetian Room, and he apparently packed them in every night. Below is a snippet of an interview with WFAA-Channel 8 News in which Roger answers the burning question of whether he was “serious” when he wrote his hit novelty song “You Can’t Rollerskate In a Buffalo Herd” (listen to the song here). His quipped response (which cracked up the Jerry Gray Orchestra behind him) probably didn’t make it to the local airwaves in 1969:

 

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(As an interesting sidelight, in an interview with Philip Wuntch of The Dallas Morning News (Oct. 19, 1969), Miller said that he and his wife had been in Texas for a few days prior to his Venetian Room engagement looking at houses in both Dallas (his mother was then residing in Fort Worth) and San Antonio (his wife’s hometown). Nothing apparently came of this, but it certainly would have been nice to have been able to claim Roger Miller as a Dallas resident!)

He was in town a couple of years earlier, in 1967, and sat down for a Channel 8 interview which was a bit more sedate — it took place in the American Airlines “Celebrity Room” at Love Field as he was passing through Dallas on his way to San Antonio with his wife and young son, Dean Miller:

 

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On this trip, newspapers reported that he was shuttled about in private Lear Jets and Rolls Royces — a big change from his early days when he picked cotton, hitchhiked, slept in cars, and stole milk off front porches.

Roger Miller died in 1992 at the age of 56 from complications of lung cancer.

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Below are a few ads from Roger Miller’s DFW appearances. He played large venues like the Big D Jamboree in Dallas and Panther Hall and Northside Coliseum in Fort Worth, but he also played a lot of little clubs as he worked his way up to becoming a major recording artist and television personality.

miller-roger_FWST_041259_rosas-western-clubRosa’s Western Club, Fort Worth with Donny Young (aka Johnny Paycheck), April 12, 1959

miller-roger_060863_hi-ho-western-club_grand-prairieHi-Ho Western Club, Grand Prairie, TX, June 8, 1963

miller-roger_FWST_081364_panther-hallPanther Hall, Aug. 13, 1964

miller-roger_101669_fairmont-hotelVenetian Room, Dallas, Oct. 16, 1969

miller-roger_101769_fairmont-hotel_smash-recordsSmash Records ad, Oct. 17, 1969

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Sources & Notes

Film footage of Roger Miller in Dallas (on YouTube here and here) is from the WFAA Collection, G. William Jones Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

The official Roger Miller website is here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Dallas Day” at the State Fair of Texas

state-fair_dallas-day_100956
Hey, Big D — don’t forget “Dallas Day”!

by Paula Bosse

“Dallas Day” used to be an important day at the State Fair of Texas. Like really important. Like national-holiday-important. Below is a typical mayoral proclamation announcing the sweeping closures of public and private businesses and institutions on “Dallas Day,” from 1899 (click to see a larger image; transcription follows):

1899_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101099Dallas Morning News, Oct. 10, 1899

THE GREAT TEXAS STATE FAIR

PROCLAMATION

Wednesday, Oct. 11, is hereby declared to be, and is to be, a full, free and public holiday within the corporate limits of our good city of Dallas, on account of Dallas Day at the Great Texas State Fair.

All business, public and private, the postoffice, the courts, the banks, and public schools, will close from Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, until Thursday morning, Oct. 12, to the end that all may turn out and have one full day’s benefit of this great educational institution.

Every employer in Dallas is charged to be loyal to this, our proclamation, for his own good, for the good of those he employs, for the good of their wives and families and of their sweethearts.

No loyal concern in Dallas will fail to observe this, our annual holiday, or fail to render to their employes every facility for observing it.

Every citizen of Dallas having in his possession a complimentary ticket to the Fair is hereby requested to keep his ticket in his pocket and to pay his way at the gate. Children in arms will be admitted to the Fair free. School children, accompanied by their teachers, at half price.

Done at Dallas this 9th day of October, 1899.

Signed:
John H. Traylor, Mayor

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For decades, it was expected that most Dallas businesses and government offices would close on “Dallas Day.” The central business district must have been a ghost town. Woe be to anyone needing a new frock, a replacement gasket, a bank draft, or even a postage stamp on “Dallas Day.” The city had bigger fish they wanted its citizens to fry.

1906_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101806Oct. 18, 1906

Here’s an early “Dallas Day” ad from 1889 with pointing fingers:

1889_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101489Oct. 14, 1889

The State Fair of Texas was (and continues to be) so filled with other ubiquitous “days” (such as old favorites “Hard Money Day” and “Chrysanthemum Day,” as seen in the ad below from 1895) that if Dallas weren’t Dallas, “Dallas Day” might run the risk of getting lost in the jam-packed fair schedule.

1895_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_102495Oct. 24, 1895

There were, of course, “Dallas Day” parades:

parade_state-fair_dallas-day_come-to-dallas_degolyer_SMU_ca1905ca. 1905, via DeGolyer Library, SMU

“Dallas Day” may still be a thing, for all I know (I guess I think of “Dallas Day” as the day Dallas’ elementary school kids get off to go to the fair, a tradition I hope never dies), but it had lost a lot of steam after those early days. Some businesses continued to close or shorten their hours to let employees enjoy the fair, but the era of a city shutting down so that everyone could flock to the State Fair began to fade after those early decades of the 20th century. But imagine how exciting that must have been, with all of Dallas descending on Fair Park en masse.

state-fair_dallas-day_101056Oct. 10, 1956

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

State Fair of Texas, Miscellaneous Tidbits from Its History

state-fair-of-texas_pennant_ebay_crop

by Paula Bosse

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

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

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

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

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

state-fair_exposition-bldg_ca-1890s

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

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

fairgrounds_racetrack_bohemian_1900_fwpl

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

state-fair_opening-day_1903_tx-almanac_1941-42_portal
Main Street, looking west, via Portal to Texas History

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

state-fair_street-scene_john-minor_1911_cook-colln_degolyer
via George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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

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

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

sfot_concessionaires_coke_unt_portal_1936via Portal to Texas History

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

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

state-fair_texas-week-mag_100446_portal_cover
via Portal to Texas History

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

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

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

sfot_little-bobs-bbq_baptist-convention-program_1967_photo

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

state-fair_swiss-sky-ride_tinkle-key-to-dallas_1965_replaced-monorail_
via Lon Tinkle’s children’s book Key to Dallas (1965)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Beautiful Lake Cliff — ca. 1906

lake-cliff_cook-colln_degolyer_smu

by Paula Bosse

Enjoy these images of Lake Cliff, which, 100 years ago, was “the greatest amusement park in the Southwest.” The slogan “It’s in Dallas” should really have read “It’s in Oak Cliff” — and back then Oak Cliff had everything!

  • Mystic River
  • Shoot-the-Chutes (read this!)
  • Open-Air Circus
  • Roller Coaster
  • Casino
  • Natatorium
  • Carousel
  • Tennis Courts
  • Restaurant
  • Baseball Grounds
  • Skating Rink
  • Trolley Cars
  • Penny Vaudeville
  • Casino Band and Orchestra
  • Circle Swing (see it here)
  • Japanese Village
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Ferris Wheel

Whew.

Below, some wonderful postcards and photos. (Click to see larger images.)

lake-cliff_c1910_postcard_degolyervia DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

lake-cliff-bathing_1910s_postcard_degolyervia DeGolyer Library, SMU

swim_lake-cliff-pool_ca-1907_flickr_coltera

lake-cliff_flickr_coltera

lake-cliff_postcard

lake-cliff_shoot-the-chutes_1908

skating-rink_lake-cliff_cook-colln_degolyer_1via Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

lake-cliff_sunday-afternoon-concert_1906_portal

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lake-cliff-pavilion_oak-cliff-high-school-yrbk_1925Oak Cliff High School yearbook, 1925

lake-cliff_clogenson_1908_LOCPhoto by Clogenson, ca. 1908, via Library of Congress

lake-cliff_1906_portal_attractions-1

lake-cliff_1906_portal_attractions-2From 1906 promotional brochure, via Portal to Texas History

Jump forward to the 1940s — when it was more of a big pool, without all the flash and filigree:

swim_lake-cliff-pool_1947_flickr_coltera

Take a look at it now in this stunningly beautiful drone video by Matthew Armstrong:

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Sources & Notes

Top image is from a postcard in the George W. Cook Collection at SMU’s DeGolyer Library, here.

Most other uncredited images were found around the internet, several from Coltera’s Flickr stream.

More on Lake Cliff can be found in this article by Rachel Stone from the Oak Cliff Advocate (be sure to click the link to see the full 1906 promotional brochure on “the Southwest’s greatest playground” (it’s “Clean, Cool, Delightful”)).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Rip Torn and Ann Wedgeworth’s Dallas Wedding — 1955

1948_torn-rip_taylor-high-school_1948-yrbk_senior-photo
E. R. “Rip” Torn, the pride of Taylor High School

by Paula Bosse

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

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

torn-rip_ann-wedgeworth_wedding_austin-american_012555
Austin American, Jan. 25, 1955

torn-rip_ann-wedgeworth_wedding_taylor-daily-press_012355
Taylor (TX) Daily Press, Jan. 23, 1955

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

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

1946_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1946-yrbk_sophomore-photo
1946, Longview (TX) High School, sophomore

1947_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1947-yrbk_junior-photo
1947, Longview High School, junior

1947_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1947-chemistry-club-president
1947, Longview High School, Chemistry Club president

1947_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1947-school-paper-sports-editor
1947, Longview High School, sports editor of the school paper

1947_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1947-yrbk_junior-class-treasurer
1947, Longview High School, Junior Class treasurer

1948_torn-rip_taylor-high-school_1948-yrbk_senior-photo
1948, Taylor (TX) High School, senior

1948_torn-rip_taylor-high-school_1948-yrbk_annual-business-mgr
1948, Taylor High School, yearbook staff, business manager

1950_rip-torn_tx-a-and-m_soph_class-officer
1950, Texas A & M, Sophomore Class parliamentarian

1951_torn-rip_radio-guild_UT_1951-yrbk
1951, University of Texas, junior, Radio Guild

1952_torn-rip_UT_yrbk_1952_sigma-chi
1952, University of Texas, senior, Sigma Chi fraternity

rip-torn_glamor-shot
Hollywood glamour shot

RIP, Rip (1931-2019).

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Sources & Notes

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

spacek-sissy_quitman-high-school_senior-photo_1968_cutest-couple

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

torn-rip_mother_thelma-spacek_southwestern-univ_georgetown_1927

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RIP

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Theaters at 1517 Elm: The Garden, The Jefferson, The Pantages, The Ritz, and The Mirror — 1912-1941

garden-theatre_ca-1912_ebayThe Garden Theatre, ca. 1912

by Paula Bosse

The photo above shows the Garden Theatre, located at 1517 Elm, on the north side of the street, between Akard and Stone Street. It was opened in the fall of 1912 by partners W. J. Brown and R. J. (Ray) Stinnett (who also operated the Cycle Park Theatre at Fair Park). The Garden was a vaudeville stop for touring companies.

1912_garden-theatre_variety_sept-1912Variety, Sept. 1912

It was one of many local theaters which simulcast World Series baseball games via telegraph updates, in the days before radio and TV (I wrote more about this fascinating subject here).

1912_garden-theatre_101612Oct. 16, 1912

As seen in the top photo, the Garden Theatre sat between the Pratt Paint & Paper Co. and the Roderick-Alderson Hardware Co.

garden-theatre_1913-directory_1517-elm1913 Dallas city directory

The photo at the top was found on eBay, with the seller-provided date of 1912. Zooming in, one can see a placard in front of the theater advertising the appearance of the Hendrix Belle Isle Musical Comedy Company (misspelled on the sign as “Henndrix”) — for many years this troupe toured with a production called “The School-Master”/”School Days,” the very production seen here on offer to audiences at the Garden. (Read a review of a 1912 Coffeyville, Kansas performance of the troupe’s bread-and-butter act here.)

garden-theatre_ebay_det

In April, 1913 Brown and Stinnett split, with Brown taking the Cycle Park action and Stinnett keeping the Garden (and a handful of other theaters).

On March 8, 1915 the theater changed its name and reopened as the Jefferson Theater. As the ad below stated, “This is the only theater in Dallas presenting popular players in repertoire […] Not moving pictures.”

1915_jeffersosn-theater-opens_dmn_030715March 7, 1915

I’m not sure where the “Jefferson” name came from, but….

jefferson-theater_061115June 11, 1915

There were a few back-and-forths as far as operators and leases of the Jefferson, but in 1923, Ray Stinnett “sold” (or probably more accurately sub-leased) the theater in order to concentrate on his other (bigger! better! brighter!) venture, the next-door Capitol Theater, but he reacquired it in 1925 and renamed it the Pantages. (This has caused confusion, with some thinking it had become the Pantages earlier — the confusion is understandable, as the Jefferson was affiliated with the Pantages vaudeville circuit between 1917 and 1920, and during that time the word “Pantages” appeared prominently on the theater’s marquee, but it was still the Jefferson. See a photo from May, 1925, showing the Jefferson from the Pacific side here, after it had become a Loew’s-affiliated theater.)

The Jefferson became the Pantages Theater on December 27, 1928 when Stinnett opened the newly remodeled venue which offered vaudeville stage acts as well as motion pictures. (All images are larger when clicked.)

pantages-opening_122725Dec. 27, 1925

That incarnation didn’t last too long. Goodbye, Pantages, hello, Ritz. The Ritz Theater opened on October 14, 1928, operated by the R & R (Robb & Rowley) chain but leased from Stinnett. The first film shown was “The Lights of New York,” the first all-talking feature-length movie.

1928_ritz_101028Oct. 10, 1928

1928_ritz_101328
Oct. 13, 1928

1928_ritz_101528Oct. 15, 1928

Below, a 1929 photo showing the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Elm Street, the heart of Theater Row: seen here are the Ritz, Capitol, Old Mill, and Palace theaters (the regal Queen was a few doors west of the Ritz, at the corner of Elm and Akard).

ritz_capitol_old-mill_palace_photo_sherrodphoto from “Historic Dallas Theatres” by D. Troy Sherrod

A postcard showing the Ritz (and neighbors) a couple of years later, in 1931:

ritz_capitol_old-mill_palace_postcard_cinematreasures

But the Ritz didn’t last all that long either — a little over three years.

1931_ritz-mirror_120831Dec. 8, 1931

In 1931 the theater was acquired by the Hughes-Franklin company (as in Howard Hughes, the super-rich Texan who had an obsession with Hollywood). The plan was to renovate the building and rename it the Mirror, “a duplicate, in so far as possible, of the famous Mirror Theater of Hollywood. A feature will be the extensive use of mirrors in the lobby and foyer” (Dallas Morning News, Nov. 29, 1931).

mirror_motion-picture-times_122931Motion Picture Times, Dec. 29, 1931

The Mirror Theater opened at 1517 Elm on Christmas Day, 1931.

1931_mirror_122531
Dec. 25, 1931

Theater Row, 1936:

theater-row_mirror_march-1936

More Elm Street:

mirror-capitol-rialto-palace-melba-majestic_theater_row_night_big

The Mirror chugged on for several years as a second-run house, apparently less and less profitable as the years passed. On August 4, 1941 the theater burned down in an early-morning fire. The property owner, Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews, decided against rebuilding.

mirror-fire_variety_081341Variety, Aug. 13, 1941

Here’s the same view as seen above, only now the space next to the Capitol is a nondescript one-story retail building. (The Telenews, a theater showing newsreels, opened in November, 1941.)

telenews_missing-mirror-post-fire_capitol_postcard

Below, a photo from around 1942, the first time in 30 years without a theater at 1517 Elm Street.

theater-row_by-george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUphoto via the DeGolyer Library, SMU

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of the Garden Theatre is from an old eBay listing.

More Flashback Dallas posts on Dallas theaters can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Esquire Theater — 1969

esquire-theater_1969_portal“Midnight Cowboy” at the Esquire, 1969… (click for  larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This is a really great photo of the still-missed Esquire Theater in Oak Lawn. Here we see it in 1969, showing the X-rated film Midnight Cowboy, which went on to win several Academy Awards, including Best Picture (the only X-rated film to receive the Best Picture Oscar), Best Director (John Schlesinger), and Best Adapted Screenplay (by Waldo Salt, based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy).

Midnight Cowboy opened at the Esquire in July, 1969 and ran for several months. One of the featured actors in this American classic is Dallas’ own Brenda Vaccaro (Thomas Jefferson High School Class of 1958, daughter of Mario Vaccaro who owned Mario’s Italian restaurant) — I’ve loved her in everything I’ve ever seen her in. (Here’s one of her scenes from Midnight Cowboy.)

vaccaro-brenda_thomas-jefferson_1958_seniorThomas Jefferson High School, 1958

“Whatever you hear about Midnight Cowboy is true!” … “A reeking masterpiece. It will kick you all over town.” … “A nasty but unforgettable screen experience.”

midnight-cowboy_072369_opening_esquire
Opening day, July 23, 1969

It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie. I had forgotten how much I liked the opening in which Joe Buck leaves Texas to head to New York. Here it is, overflowing with small-town Texas flavor (filmed in Big Spring). Cameo by an evocative Mrs. Baird’s paper hat.

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Sources & Notes

Photo titled “[‘Midnight Cowboy’ at Esquire Theatre]” is from the Spotlight on North Texas collection, provided by UNT Media Library to The Portal to Texas History; more on this photo can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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