Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Entertainment

“All the Beer You Can Drink In an Hour For 60 Cents” — 1935

beer_60-cents_AP_1935LOOK! (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Summertime in Big D. It’s hot. REAL hot. For some, the only way to properly slake that nagging thirst is with a tall frosty mug of beer. In the summer of 1935, the management of the Texan Hotel Drug Store (at the northeast corner of S. Houston and Jackson streets) decided to offer a headline-grabbing promotion: “ALL THE SCHEPPS BEER YOU CAN DRINK: 60¢ PER HOUR!” (60¢ in 1935 would be the equivalent of about $11.00 today.) Sounds like a bargain, right? Maybe. Depends on your constitution — it meant that you would have to consume over a gallon of beer in one hour to save any money. (Not a problem for some, I realize.)

This made national news — there’s even newsreel footage. The photo above is from an AP wire story, accompanied by this caption: “A Dallas beer parlor offered ‘all the beer you can drink’ for 60 cents an hour. There were plenty of takers, but the proprietor said none had beaten him. The drinker would have to consume more than nine pints an hour to show a profit.”

beer_scranton-PA-repubican_072935
Scranton (PA) Republican, July 29, 1935

Speaking of newsreel footage, you can watch it below. As you can see, there certainly were a lot of very enthusiastic Dallas beer-drinkers doing their very best to surpass that gallon hurdle in order to feel they’d spent their money (and their hour) wisely.

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Ah, back when you could guzzle beer in a drugstore. (Several drugstores that same year — including this one — were routinely getting busted for selling illicit whiskey.)

The promotion appears to have been a hit, both publicity-wise and beer-sales-wise. The Dallas proprietor said no drinker had managed to come out ahead, but in Fort Worth, men appear to be made of stronger stuff. Cafe operator Byron Gaines hadn’t anticipated Chauncey C. Brown, a hops-loving patron described as “heavy-set” and “amiable.”

beer_FW_olean-NY-times-herald_081235Olean (NY) Times Herald, Aug. 12, 1935

According to United Press reports (this made national news, too), Brown took 58 minutes (rather than 53), but that “seven minutes of that time was spent in playing a slot machine.” It’s good to have hobbies.

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Sources & Notes

AP photo, taken in July, 1935, from the Press of Atlantic City site, here

Newsreel footage is from Critical Past, on YouTube here, and, for sale, here.

The Texan Hotel Drug Store was located at 218 S. Houston St. (northeast corner of Houston and Jackson) — see what the corner looks like today, here.

texan-hotel_south-houston_1936-directory
1936 Dallas directory

And … Schepps Beer? I was familiar with Schepps dairies, but not a Schepps brewery. But, yes, the Schepps family produced highly guzzleable beer: the Schepps Brewing Co. launched in 1933 and lasted into the early ’40s. (Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.)

schepps-beer_nov-1933Nov., 1933

schepps-beer_aug-1934Aug., 1934

schepps-beer-bottle-cap

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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The Cabana Motor Hotel of Dallas

cabana-motor-hotel_portal_postmarked-1967“Elegant and luxurious…” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The Cabaña Motor Hotel is remembered mostly for being where the Beatles stayed when they came to Dallas in 1964 and for being a hotel with high hopes but which fizzled out fairly quickly. …But mostly for being where the Beatles stayed. When the Cabaña opened in 1963 on Stemmons Freeway, it was a big deal. It was swanky and even had a very show-bizzy lounge. Celebrities stayed there. The Beatles stayed there.

cabana-motor-hotel_portal_info

The Dallas Cabaña was actually the third in a proposed chain of hotels, following locations in Atlanta and Palo Alto. It even had some Hollywood star-power attached to it: Doris Day’s then-husband Marty Melcher was an investor in the company (turned out it was Doris’ money, and she wasn’t thrilled that he was investing so much of her money in this chain of hotels).

It was fab for a while — but the high point really was John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Before the ’60s had ended, the place was shuttered and mired in litigation. Melcher had died and left Doris $500,000 in debt. Ownership changed hands several times over the years, and each time, more and more of its original hep luster was lost. The building has never really recovered. For a few years it was a rather bizarre site for a minimum-security jail! In recent months it was announced that it has been acquired by the company that has recently renovated the long-moribund Statler Hilton — so there’s hope! It needs a lot of work, but it might actually turn out to be cool again.

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Sources & Notes

The postcard at the top is from the Texas History Collection, provided by Dallas Heritage Village to the Portal to Texas History, where I found it, here.

I have to admit that I’ve never really been a fan of this building until I saw this postcard. It’s like a Dallas version of a subdued Vegas hotel.

For more history of the Cabaña (…whenever I hear reporters in historic footage pronouncing the “n” in “cabana” with that tilde, it’s a bit jarring…), read the informative article “Lost + Found: Cabana Motor Hotel” by Preservation Dallas Executive Director David Preziosi on the AIA Dallas website, here. It’s got some great photos.

Images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Mr. Wiggly Worm Does Much More Than Wiggle”

mr-peppermint_sponsor-mag_112061-det

by Paula Bosse

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

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

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

mr-peppermint_sponsor-mag_021163Sponsor, Feb. 11, 1963

Here he is again:

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Sponsor, Nov. 20, 1961

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

mr-peppermint_broadcasting-mag_061063
Broadcasting, June 10, 1963

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

communications-center_sponsor-mag_112061_det1961

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Sources & Notes

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

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Ann Wedgeworth: 1934-2017

wedgeworth_ann

by Paula Bosse

The actress Ann Wedgeworth has died. If you don’t know her by her name, you probably know her by her face, or, even more likely, by her voice. I’m always impressed when actors are able to retain their natural accents without having to homogenize them to meet Hollywood standards, and Wedgeworth’s Texas accent was pretty thick. I would bet hard cash she reminds you of someone you know or someone in your own family.

Even though she had worked as an actor since she was a teenager — in school productions, small regional theaters, off-Broadway, Broadway, TV, soap operas, and movies — it was probably her short-lived role as Lana on Three’s Company which brought her to the attention of the widest audience.

Elizabeth Ann Wedgeworth was born in 1934 in Taylor County and spent her early years in Snyder and Perryton, Texas, where her father had been the superintendent of schools (her mother died when she was 2); she arrived in Dallas around 1946 when she was about 12 years old. Her father worked in conjunction with SMU and the Veteran’s Administration for a time before becoming a longtime employee of the City of Dallas; her stepmother was a student counselor at Highland Park Junior High School.

She attended high school in Highland Park, graduating from HPHS in 1950 (the same year as her school friend, Jayne Mansfield). She began her acting career when she was a teenager, racking up quite a lot of experience in Dallas theater productions and in a Colorado stock company. She focused on acting during college, which included both SMU and the University of Texas — she probably met her future husband Rip Torn in Austin, where he was a fellow actor who had been active in the UT theater program (and who was, incidentally, the cousin of future actress Sissy Spacek). The couple was married in Dallas in 1955, at the First Methodist Church. They lived in Killeen briefly until Torn’s military stint at Ford Hood was up, then they headed to New York City, where the couple began to find acting work fairly quickly. The two had one daughter and divorced in 1961; she remarried and had another daughter. (More about Ann Wedgeworth can be read in the Wikipedia entry here.)

Ann worked a lot, and, as I said, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen her in something. Though known mostly for her work in TV and movies, she won a Tony Award in 1978 for her role in Neil Simon’s Broadway play Chapter Two. Her breathlessly exuberant (and charmingly ditzy) acceptance speech is amusing (I am such a sucker for that accent!):


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Ann Wedgeworth died on November 16, 2017; she was 83 years old.

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wedgeworth-ann_HPHS_sophomore-1948Highland Park High School sophomore, 1948

wedgeworth-ann_HPHS_junior_1949HPHS junior, 1949

wedgeworth-ann_HPHS_senior_1950
wedgeworth-ann_HPHS_senior_1950_info
HPHS senior, 1950

wedgeworth-ann_smu_freshman_1951SMU freshman, 1951

wedgeworth-ann_smu_campus_022252_photo
SMU sophomore, 1952

wedgeworth-ann_smu_campus_030552_cronyn
Appearing on national radio with Hume Cronyn, 1952

wedgeworth-torn_longview-news-journal_020655

wedgeworth-torn_longview-news-journal_020655_caption1955 announcement of her marriage to Rip Torn

wedgeworth-ann_scarecrow_1973Publicity photo for the 1973 movie “Scarecrow”

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wedgeworth-ann

ann-wedgeworth
photo via Lipstick Alley

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Sources & Notes

Ann Wedgeworth’s obituary in The Washington Post can be found here.

School photos are from Highland Park High School and Southern Methodist University yearbooks.

The photo of 18-year-old Ann with Hume Cronyn appeared in the SMU Campus newspaper on March 5, 1952. (I believe Ann came in second in the competition.)

The wedding announcement of Ann and Rip Torn appeared in the Longview Daily News  on Feb. 6, 1955. (Rip Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr. — as a kid he was actually known as “Skip” Torn. …Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it….)

Most photos and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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.

 

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.

corny-dog_sfot-100417

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.

fried-tx-sheetcake_sfot_100417

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.)

fried-chicken-skin_sfot_100417

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.

big-tex-earrings_sfot_100417

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.

midway_prizes_sfot_100417

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.

midway_alive_sfot_100417

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!

haunted-house_sfot_midway_100417

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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.

texas-star_ferris-wheel_history_sfot_100417

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….)

fletchers-corny-dog-stand_sfot_midway_100417

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.

parade_neon-big-tex_lasso-stilts_sfot_100417

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!

super-midway_sfot_100417

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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).

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_monorail_big-tex

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

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_guess-your-weight

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

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

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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

square-dance_oct-1948
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.

 

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