Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Beyond DFW

Rip Torn and Ann Wedgeworth’s Dallas Wedding — 1955

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.

Austin American, Jan. 25, 1955

Taylor (TX) Daily Press, Jan. 23, 1955


At some point — probably around the time of his marriage — Rip (and possibly Ann) took acting lessons at the Dallas Institute of Performing Arts on Knox Street. D.I.P.A. was run by Baruch Lumet (father of Hollywood director Sidney Lumet).


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, Longview (TX) High School, sophomore

1947, Longview High School, junior

1947, Longview High School, Chemistry Club president

1947, Longview High School, sports editor of the school paper

1947, Longview High School, Junior Class treasurer

1948, Taylor (TX) High School, senior

1948, Taylor High School, yearbook staff, business manager

1950, Texas A & M, Sophomore Class parliamentarian

1951, University of Texas, junior, Radio Guild

1952, University of Texas, senior, Sigma Chi fraternity

Hollywood glamour shot

RIP, Rip (1931-2019).


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.)


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.





Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Willie’s Picnic Or Bust

willie-nelson-picnic_1980_austin-american-statesman“All’s we need is a ride, man…”  (photo: Austin American-Statesman)

by Paula Bosse

Today is July 4th, 2018 — the 45th anniversary of the first Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic. The photo above — taken by Austin photographer Stanley Farrar — ran in The Austin American-Statesman in 1980 and shows hitchhikers (including a bare-chested Jerry Rundell and his go-with-the-flow cat “Precious”) thumbing it on Highway 71, hoping for a ride to that year’s picnic at Willie’s Pedernales Country Club, near Austin.

Take a look at the full illustrated program for the second Picnic, which was held at the Texas World Speedway in College Station, July 4-6, 1974, in a PDF, here. The huge line-up included Dallas natives Michael Murphey, B. W. Stevenson, Ray Wylie Hubbard (all three of whom attended Adamson High School in Oak Cliff), and singer-turned-DJ-turned-singer, Johnny Dallas (aka Groovey Joe Poovey). To make this a somewhat Dallas-y, I’ve pulled out a few of the local ads (click ’em to see larger images).


willie-nelson-program_1974_kzewKZEW — from the Zoo’s “Progressive Country” years?

willie-nelson-program_1974_wbapWBAP — how much Ray Wylie Hubbard was WBAP playing?

Speaking of Ray Wylie Hubbard:

willie-nelson-program_1974_ray-wylie-hubbard_mother-bluesMother Blues had a one-buck cover charge, and Gertie’s was rocking until 5 a.m.

willie-nelson-program_1974_lyons-pubLyon’s Pub, 5535 Yale Street.

willie-nelson-program_1974_fannie-annsFannie Ann’s, 4714 Greenville Avenue, the lower part of Upper Greenville.

willie-nelson-program_1974_lone-star-opryhouseThe Lone Star Opry House, 1011 S. Industrial, at Cadiz (formerly the Aragon Ballroom). Willie appeared during its first week in business.

willie-nelson-program_iconoclastThe Iconoclast, Dallas’ underground newspaper, which began as Stoney Burns’ Dallas Notes.

willie-nelson-program_1974_ethylsEthyl’s (“Only Bluegrass Club in Dallas”), 3605 McKinney Avenue.


Sources & Notes

Top photo from The Austin American-Statesman (July 4, 1980); photo taken by photographer Stanley Farrar. See many more photos of Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnics in an American-Statesman slideshow, here.

I wonder if Willie’s picnics have their own Wikipedia page? Of COURSE they do! Have at it.

I’ve written about it before, but, hey, it’s the 4th of July, so here’s Willie’s very … um, unusual ode to Dallas:

Happy 4th!


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


San Antonio Extra: The Texas Transportation Co. and the Pearl Brewery Electric Freight Trolley

texas-transportation-co_cook-coll_degolyer_smu_san-antonioT. T. Co. No. 1, at your service… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I come across a lot of interesting Texas photos that have nothing to do with Dallas, so I think I might, on occasion, post them here, knowing that someone else is also likely to find them interesting. Like the one above.

This photo is from the incredible gift that just keeps giving, the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, held by the DeGolyer Library at SMU. Most of the items in the collection have a Dallas connection, but there are several others of general Texas interest.

When I saw this photo I wasn’t sure what it was. It looked like an electric trolley, but I’d never seen a shape like that before. It turns out it was, indeed, an electric freight locomotive. It was one of two locomotives that belonged to the Texas Transportation Co.’s tiny fleet of two — this was engine No. 1. The T.T.C. operated a freight service on their very short 1.3-mile track for 113 years (1887-2000), serving primarily the Pearl and Lone Star breweries of San Antonio, running freight to and from the breweries and the Southern Pacific rail yard. (More at Wikipedia, here.)

Here’s a later photo of the locomotive (October, 1928), now emblazoned with the Pearl Beer logo.


As hard as it is to believe, this electric freight trolley ran along the streets of San Antonio until the year 2000, when it became a victim of the Pabst Brewing Company’s acquisition and shuttering of the Pearl Brewery. Without the brewery, there was no need for the trolley to continue to run. A month before it stopped running, a man shot video footage of the locomotive(s) trundling through San Antonio. I particularly liked seeing the locos push freight cars as well as pull them (seen at about the 12:50 mark). (Read the notes of the man who shot the video on the YouTube page under “Show More.”)



Sources & Notes

Top photo — titled “T. T. Co. No. 1. Texas Transportation Co.” — is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist Unviersity; more information about this photo can be found here.

Second photo — titled “Texas Transportation Co. locomotive, engine number 1, engine type Electric” — is from the Otto C. Perry Memorial Collection of Railroad Photographs, Western History Department, Denver Public Library; more information on this photo can be found here.

A great short, illustrated history of the Texas Transportation Co. and the various locomotives that ran on its rails can be found at the Don Ross Group website, here (be sure to read the reminiscences of a man who worked at the Pearl Brewery as a college student in 1960 at the bottom of the page).

I wrote about electric interurban freight-hauling locomotives in the Flashback Dallas post “Interurbans: Freight Movers?”

Click photos to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“Greetings From Dallas, Texas” — 1955

greetings-from-dallas-texasDallas? (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse


Somehow Anna Belle and her family found the Cotton Bowl.



Postcard from eBay.


UPDATE: A person commenting on Facebook says that he thinks this shows “Cedar Mountain, near where Joe Pool Lake was built” — an area which actually is within the Dallas city limits. I’m not familiar with that area. Does this postcard show this view? Read about the Cedar Mountain Preserve here; and about Joe Pool Lake here. Check out a map that shows the City of Dallas boundary, here.

Read about Cedar Mountain (“…that wooded white rock ridge that runs from Eagle Ford to Cedar Hill…”) in the Dallas Morning News article “Bear Slapped Him But He Survived” by Kenneth Foree (Sept. 1, 1948).

Apologies, Cedar Mountain and Rembrant (sic) Post Card Company, if I have made unfounded sarcastic comments.


UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: I have to admit, nothing I’ve posted before has stirred up quite so much controversy. This post has been shared quite a bit, and I’ve dipped into Facebook pages where members are discussing this idyllic photo. Half swear up and down there’s no way this could be anywhere near Dallas, and the other half are pretty certain it’s in the Cedar Hill area.

The  more I look into it, the  more it seems possible that this IS in the Cedar Hill area (aka “The Hill Country of the Metroplex”). The highest point in North Texas is just a stone’s throw from Dallas. According to the Wikipedia entry, it “stands at an elevation of about 800 feet (240 m) above sea level — the highest point in a straight line from the Red River at the Texas-Oklahoma border to the Gulf Coast.”

The Old Penn Farmstead was a working family farm/ranch from the 1850s until the 1970s (remaining in the Penn family the entire time). Photos show that the fence construction on the Penn property is the same as that seen behind the horsies in the postcard. The photo may have been taken on Penn land or other land in the same area. There were several large-ish farms and ranches nearby, several of which had horses. There were even a couple of “retreats” operating in the area in the late-1940s and ’50s (notably, the 520-acre retreat sponsored by the Dallas Baptist Association).

Even though it’s possible this was just some sort of stock Western-looking photo used by the postcard company, I’m leaning toward it showing the unexpected beauty around what is now the Cedar Hill State Park, Cedar Ridge Preserve, Cedar Mountain Preserve, Dogwood Canyon Audobon Center, Joe Pool Lake, Mountain Creek Lake, etc.

Watch a short Texas Parks & Wildlife video about Cedar Hill State Park here; the Penn Farmstead is located here and is seen in the video.

Here’s a 1985 article about the 11,000 nearby acres which would soon be inundated in the construction of Joe Pool Lake. (Click article to see larger image.)


Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 6, 1985


UPDATE TO THE UPDATE OF THE UPDATE: It appears that the Rembrant Post Card people will tell you whatever you want to believe! The same image has been found without “Dallas” but with “Colorado” on it (see link in comments section). Horrors! So, anyway. After all that, my original sarcastic tone stands. Always trust your inner cynic! At least I learned about Cedar Hill!

UPDATE, ETC.: And now this saga has been taken on by intrepid Dallas Morning News reporter Charlie Scudder! Read his coverage, here.

UPDATES, INCORPORATED: And, somehow, this story ended up in the pages of the actual paper edition of The Dallas Morning News. Lordy.

DMN, Aug. 3, 2016


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Mouse and the Traps: ’60s Garage Rock, Texas-Style

mouse_photo_5Mouse in the center, Bugs top right (click for even larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Last Tuesday, my friend Carlos Guajardo and I were each asked to present a favorite vinyl album at the Tuesday Night Record Club, a monthly event organized by Brian McKay and held at the historic Texas Theatre. My choice was a French import called Public Execution by Mouse and the Traps, a collection of the Texas band’s singles issued during their fairly short career (roughly 1965 to 1970). I bought this at a time when all of my disposable income was going to alternative record stores Metamorphosis and VVV, and I feel fairly certain that I bought this album at Metamorphosis. ’60s garage rock may be my favorite genre of music, and Texas garage rock is, for whatever reason, usually the best.


Mouse and the Traps was a band formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, with Ronnie Weiss (whose nickname was “Mouse”) on vocals and  guitar, Bugs Henderson on lead guitar, David Stanley on bass, Ken “Nardo” Murray on drums, and Jerry Howell on keyboards. Even though most of the band members grew up in Tyler and almost all of their singles were recorded there (recordings produced by the great Robin Hood Brians, who was only a couple of years older than the band), the band pretty much moved to Dallas when they began to get a lot of airplay on local stations, notably KLIF. I actually always thought they were a Dallas band, and, damn it, I’m still considering them a Dallas band.

Mouse and the Traps toured around the state feverishly, playing clubs, colleges, parties, and even proms. There were occasional forays beyond Texas, but, for the most part, they remained a (very popular) regional band. Their first single — the unapologetically Dylan-esque “A Public Execution,” was released at the end of 1965 on the Fraternity label; it was their only record to show up on the Billboard charts, as a “bubbling under” track, not quite reaching the Top 100. After a couple of years, Bugs Henderson (who later became “guitar legend Bugs Henderson”) left the band and was replaced by Bobby Delk. Their personnel history is a little fuzzy, but I think Bugs re-joined the band briefly before the group finally disbanded sometime in 1970, after releasing a series of well-regarded singles and after almost five years of endless live dates. For most bands that had found little commercial success, that would have been the last most people would have heard of them. But most bands weren’t “Nugget” bands.

In 1972, Lenny Kaye included Mouse and the Traps on his revered (and influential) “Nuggets” compilation, propelling the band from “slowly-fading memory” to “newly-appreciated cult band” and introducing them to a whole new international audience. The band is now regarded as “proto-punk” and an important Texas garage band.

Their garage recordings are probably the most admired, but they dabbled in every ’60s style imaginable, including psychedelia, folk rock, breezy pop, and West Coast country, with hints of Dylan, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, Them, Donovan, and the Sir Douglas Quintet. There’s even a “Get Smart”-inspired novelty song in there. My favorite song of theirs, “Maid of Sugar, Maid of Spice,” is generally considered their finest single, assuring them a place in the pantheon of great garage songs. The stinging, electrifying guitar of Bugs Henderson is fantastic.

The band re-formed for several reunion shows over the years, but, sadly, Bugs Henderson died in 2012. No more reunion shows featuring the original line-up.

As far as the Dallas connection during the height of their career, there is precious little I’ve been able to find, as far as contemporary local photos, ads, or newspaper mentions. Despite the cultural revolution which began with the explosive arrival of the Beatles to the U.S. in 1964, “teenage” music in the ’60s was not taken seriously enough at the time to warrant much coverage in the major newspapers.

One of the few mentions of the band I found was as a support act on a Sonny and Cher show at the Fair Park Music Hall in early 1966. Also on the bill: The Outcasts from San Antonio, and Scotty McKay from Dallas (who can be seen performing two pretty good songs in a clip from one of Dallas director Larry Buchanan’s “schlock” movies, “Creature of Destruction,” here).

mouse_dmn_022466_sonny-cherFeb., 1966

They also appeared on the TV music show “Sump’n Else” “Upbeat” (in 1968, post-Bugs). (Thanks to Jim for pointing out in the comments that these two color photos actually show the band on the Cleveland-based syndicated teen show “Upbeat,” hosted by Don Webster. TV listings show that the band appeared on the show in April, 1968, along with the Boxtops and several other performers.)


sumpn-else_2Photos: Robin Hood Brians

They also played a memorable show at Louanns in 1966 where they appeared on a double-bill as two separate bands. In 1966 Jimmy Rabbit, a popular DJ on KLIF who was a big supporter of the band, asked them to perform as his backing band on a (great!) recording of “Psychotic Reaction” — a very early cover (perhaps the first) of the song by the Count Five. The song was recorded in Tyler by Robin Hood Brians with Rabbit on vocals and was released under the name Positively Thirteen O’clock. Unsurprisingly, with Rabbit being a DJ on the top station in town, it became a huge local hit. Ken “Nardo” Murray talked about it in a 1988 interview (read the full interview here). Click for larger image.

mouse_FWST_051788-detFort Worth Star-Telegram, May 17, 1988 

And here they are at Louanns, with Rabbit at the mic, backed up by Dave Stanley, Bugs Henderson (he has “Bugs” and a picture of Bugs Bunny on his guitar!), and Jerry Howell:


If anyone has any Dallas-related photos or memorabilia of Mouse and the Traps, I’d love to see them! I’d also love to hear from people who saw them perform in the ’60s.


Billboard, May 21, 1966


Waco Tribune Herald, Aug. 11, 1966


Grand Prairie Daily News, May 9, 1968

Weimar Mercury, Jan. 16, 1969


mouse_campus-chat_NTSU_020769-captionNorth Texas State University newspaper, Feb. 7, 1969

Waco Tribune Herald, Aug. 30, 1969

Waco Citizen, April 13, 1970


Sources & Notes

A few Mouse and the Traps tidbits:

The band was originally called “Mouse.” “The Traps” was added when the second single, “Maid of Sugar, Maid of Spice” came out in 1966.

The “Henderson” listed as co-writer with Ronnie Weiss of a few of the early Mouse and the Traps songs (including the first two singles) was not Bugs Henderson (who was born Harry Fisher Henderson but was known as “Buddy” in the pre-“Bugs” days) — it was Knox Henderson, a high school pal from Tyler, seen below from a 1955 John Tyler High School (Tyler, TX) yearbook.


More on the band — including photos and newspaper articles — can be found here. Also included is additional information on Robin Hood Brians who has produced artists as diverse as ZZ Top, the Five Americans, James Brown, David Houston, and John Fred and His Playboy Band (whose “Judy In Disguise” knocked the Beatles out of the #1 spot on the national charts).

Mouse and the Traps on Wikipedia, here.

More on Dallas-area ’60s garage bands on GarageHangover.com, here.

Thanks again to Brian McKay for inviting me to play these great songs at the Tuesday Night Record Club!

Pictures and clippings are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Goodbye, Merle

merle_lefty_corsicanaMerle and Lefty, in Corsicana

by Paula Bosse

The great Merle Haggard died today, on his 79th birthday. My earliest music memories are hearing his songs on the radio. Even people who don’t listen to country  music know who Merle Haggard is (and are probably fans).

One of his idols was Lefty Frizzell, the Corsicana-born legend whose first hits were recorded in Dallas. Merle helped raise the funds in the late ’80s and early ’90s for the wonderful statue of Lefty which now stands in Jester Park in Corsicana. The picture above shows Merle visiting the statue. (Whenever I’m in Corsicana, I always drop by Jester Park to spend some time with Lefty.)

As far as Merle and Dallas, the earliest mention I could find was from January, 1965. Country music was covered only sporadically in the pages of The Dallas Morning News back then, but his early-’65 stop at the Sportatorium may have been Merle’s first appearance in Dallas — appropriately enough, it was at the Big D Jamboree. “California country music team” Merle and Bonnie Owens were guest performers, along with Billy Grammer and James O’Gwynn of the Grand Ole Opry, and the regular Jamboree cast of thirty, for the Jan. 30, 1965 Saturday-night Big D Jamboree show.

RIP, Merle. Thanks for everything.


The top picture is a photo I took of an original photograph which is hanging in the Lefty Frizzell Museum, which is also in Corsicana’s Jester Park (as part of the Pioneer Village).

Merle’s obituary in Variety — which includes entertaining salty quotes from the man himself — is here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The “Dallas” Theme Song You’ve Never Heard — En Français

paris-texas_eiffel-towerNo, not Paris, TEXAS…. (via anatravels.org)

by Paula Bosse

You know that theme music for the TV show Dallas? Actually, that should just be a statement of fact: you KNOW that theme music for the TV show Dallas. We all do. But you know what you DON’T know? You don’t know what the French did to “improve” the J.R.-watching experience. For reasons which I don’t exactly understand, they had someone (Jean Renard) write a theme song for the show. A song. Une chanson. With lyrics. To all-new music. Sounds crazy and unnecessary, but it was a big hit on the French pop charts. And it’s so gloriously awful and fabulously weird that it must be shared. This is not a joke. This is the actual music that accompanied Dallas when it was shown on French television.

I give you a rough approximation of the lyrics (the French lyrics are here).

Dallas, your ruthless world,
Dallas, where might is right,
Dallas, and under your relentless sun,
Dallas, only death is feared.

Dallas, home of the oil dollar,
Dallas, you do not know pity;
Dallas, the revolver is your idol,
Dallas, you cling to the past.

Dallas, woe to him who does not understand,
Dallas, one day he will lose his life.
Dallas, your ruthless world,
Dallas, where might is right.

And here it is. Sing along!


Catchy, huh? What could be better than hearing it sung? Watching it being sung! I’m not sure who the singer is, but he’s attacking this song with a rock attitude that totally isn’t warranted.


Nice hat!

This was a big, big hit in France. I’ve even seen the word “beloved” used to describe it. Remember this the next time you might feel a lack of confidence or a twinge of inadequacy in the presence of a chic and sophisticated Parisian. Stand tall, my fellow Texans, and remember OUR Dallas theme.


Silly Frenchmen.



UPDATE: Julia Barton has hipped me to her segment about “Dallas” which aired on public radio’s “Studio 360” in 2011, focusing on the sometimes surprising global and sociopolitical impact of this pop-culture juggernaut. I went to college in the UK, and there wasn’t a day that passed without several people gleefully asking me about J.R. Ewing. It was weird. Had the TV show never existed, I’m sure I would have been queried endlessly (and possibly angrily) about JFK, and I might well have been shunned — yes, shunned! (I remember when people embarking on international trips pre-Southfork were advised to respond to the question “Where are you from?” with the somewhat vague answer “Texas” rather than the explosively specific “Dallas,” because, post-assassination, we were “the city of hate” around the planet.) I’d much rather have had people ask me about a soap opera character than blaming my hometown for killing an American president. So, um, thanks, Lorimar!

Listen to Julia Barton’s 15-minute “Studio 360” segment here (audio plays above J.R.’s silhouette).


Read about this odd practice the French have of concocting whole new TV theme songs for American television shows, here.

I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this. All thanks to my friend Carlos Guajardo for passing along this very entertaining nugget of Dallas kitsch! Thanks, Carlos!


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Interurban Parlor Car: Perusing the News in Comfy Chairs

interurban-interior_tx-historian_jan81(Click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The height of comfort!

You know this photo was taken for promotional purposes, because none of the men has a reeking cigar clenched between his teeth.


Texas Electric Railway Interurban ad reprinted in Texas Historian, Jan. 1981.

Interurbans were great. I wish we still had them. Read about what they were, here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Earthquake! — 1925


by Paula Bosse

I think, perhaps, the reporter was incorrect on the earthquake of July 30, 1925 being the “first in history” to hit the Texas Panhandle, but it makes a great Page One headline.



Okay, so it’s not Dallas (…but only because I couldn’t find any historic articles about earthquakes in Dallas!), but it seems applicable, as today I experienced my first-ever earthquake — and it was in Dallas! Actually, the official tally for the day so far is four. FOUR! Eight. EIGHT! (Actually, we’re all losing count at this point.)

A 1983 article in The Dallas Morning News (“Quake Never Struck City, but SMU Prof Studies Them Anyway,” by Jane Wolfe, July 10, 1983) reported on earthquake-study being done at SMU. The very idea of this was amusing back then, because anyone who grew up here knows (and has boasted) “there are no earthquakes in Dallas.” My, how things change.


Sources & Notes

Top headline and snippet of first article from The Dallas Morning News, July 31, 1925. The full report of broken crockery from around the Panhandle and Oklahoma can be read in a PDF, here

An interesting Handbook of Texas article, “Notable Earthquakes Shake Texas on Occasion,” can be read here.

In case you’re preparing for a Jeopardy try-out, here are a couple of handy factoids on historic seismic activity in the Lone Star State (from another Handbook of Texas entry, “Earthquakes”): “The first known earthquake in Texas occurred in Seguin and New Braunfels on February 13, 1847. The largest earthquake in Texas occurred on August 16, 1931, near Valentine in Jeff Davis County; it measured about 6.0 on the Richter Scale.” And earthquakes never happen in Dallas. And it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

David Wade: Overcoming Childhood Trauma

david-wade_waco-high-school-194117-year-old David Wade, Waco High School, 1941

by Paula Bosse

For many Texans, the name David Wade brings to mind a gentle and convivial, deep-voiced TV cooking show host who, for decades, shared his love of food with a legion of faithful fans. Dallas was Wade’s home base — it was where he lived, where he established his business empire, and, for the most part, where he recorded his television programs. He seemed like the kind of guy who had it all. But many of his fans would be shocked to learn that David Wade’s most searing childhood memory was the impossible-to-forget day his father killed his mother.

In 1929 Eugene and Ora Lee Wade lived in Cameron, Texas, about 50 miles south of Waco. They had four daughters, ranging in age from twelve to twenty-one, and one son, five-year old David. Eugene worked as an engineer at the local cotton gin, and Ora Lee raised the children and was a popular and active member of her church.

On the afternoon of Sept. 30, 1929, Eugene came home drunk. Very drunk. He began to argue with Ora Lee, and, as things escalated, she ran to the nearby house of her brother. An angry Eugene lurched after her. A gun was drawn, and Eugene drunkenly threatened his wife with it. In an ensuing physical altercation, the gun went off. Mrs. Wade had been shot in the thigh. She attempted to run away but collapsed after only a few steps. She died soon after being rushed to the hospital — her femoral artery had been severed, and she bled to death. Before the police arrived, Eugene Wade had slashed his throat with a razor, and though not initially expected to live, he survived and was charged with the murder of his wife. The horrible, violent, bloody scene had been witnessed by at least one daughter (and, in all likelihood, probably by five-year old David as well).

wade_bryan-eagle_100129The Bryan Eagle, Oct. 1, 1929

wade_cameron-herald-100329The Cameron Herald, Oct. 3, 1929 (click for slightly larger image)

A distraught Eugene Wade pleaded guilty, was sentenced to life in prison, and by the end of the year, he was on his way to Huntsville. Before he left Cameron, he gave a lengthy, sincere, and heartbreaking interview to The Cameron Herald. In it, he expressed his sorrow, his regret, and his love for his wife and children.

“Whiskey was the cause of it all. I am to blame for what has happened to my family and to myself. I can lay it all to drink. I loved my wife as well as any man ever loved his wife and I love my children. My home is destroyed and my wife is dead. My children will suffer the humiliation of this terrible thing. Time may heal their wounds but mine will bleed for all time. I can never escape the horror of it though I should live a thousand years. Nothing but sorrow is left for me, still I might come out of the trouble some day, maybe an old man and broken but maybe I can still do some good in the world.” (Cameron Herald, Dec. 19, 1929)

Five-year old David had been left, basically, an orphan. He spent some time at the Juliette Fowler home for orphans in Dallas and was later moved around between family members and foster families. He went to Waco High School where he was a popular student (the yearbook photo above was accompanied by the motto supplied by the Senior Band, of which he was a member: “And he is oft the wisest man”), and he received arts degrees from Baylor and the University of Texas (he studied music and had a short career as a singer). He seems to have done well in school, despite the terrible incident in his past.

But after college he spent time in California as a “test pilot,” a nerve-wracking job that apparently stressed him out so much that he sought medical treatment (an amateur psychologist might assume that his anxiety was triggered by post-traumatic stress). According to later newspaper profiles, instead of sedatives, the doctors suggested he focus on an enjoyable hobby to settle his nerves. A hobby like cooking. …And the rest is history.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, he rarely — if ever — talked about the tragedy he experienced in his youth. When one knows the details of his past, some of his quotes from interviews carry more weight:

“Any time you have a problem and you overcome it, you have a muscle. You never build a personality unless you have a lot of troubles.” (David Wade in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 25, 1976)

When I was growing up and would frequently come across one of David Wade’s shows on TV, I usually clicked on past it unless there was absolutely nothing else to watch. He and the show felt a little corny and were a little too laid back for my taste. Now, though, having learned about his past — and having always felt that Mr. Wade seemed to be a genuinely nice person — I definitely have a more positive and respectful opinion of the man. Ascot, crest-emblazoned blazer, and all.

david-wade_FWST_042576-photoBon Appétit!


Sources & Notes

Top photo of a 17-year-old David Lloyd Wade from the 1941 Waco High School yearbook.

The coverage of Ora Lee Wade’s funeral in the Cameron Herald (Oct. 3, 1929) — which includes quite a bit of genealogical information — can be found here (click for larger image).

The full “jailhouse interview” with Eugene Wade in the Cameron Herald (Dec. 19, 1929) is available in a PDF, here.

Incidentally, Eugene Wade’s “life sentence” lasted four years. He was the recipient of one of Governor Ma Ferguson’s notorious “conditional pardons.” He appears to have lived around the Cameron area until his death in 1967. I don’t know whether he ever re-established relationships with his children.

A nice overview of David Wade’s very successful career can be found in an article from the April 25, 1976 issue of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, in a PDF, here.

My previous post, “David Wade, Gourmet: Have Ascot, Will Travel” — about his happier days as a successful TV personality — can be read here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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