Flashback : Dallas

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Category: Politics

The Legendary Christmas Cards of Ann Richards and Betty McKool

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

by Paula Bosse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1969: “Merry Christmas… From the Silent Majority”

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

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1971: “Hark!… It’s a Girl!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Betty as Nelson Rockefeller, “Political Paranoia,” Dallas, 1964

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

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Sources & Notes

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

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

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

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

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Political Paranoia” and the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club, feat. Future Governor Ann Richards

political-paranoia-2_1964_jones-collection_SMU_cast

by Paula Bosse

Ann Richards drove my carpool. She and my mother swapped out driving kids to the First Unitarian Church Cooperative Preschool on Preston and Normandy in University Park. I’m not sure anyone in either family was an actual member of the church, but that preschool was one of the only co-ops in Dallas (it might have been the first), and it was a magnet for the more progressive parents in the city. The Unitarian Church was also a major gathering place in the 1960s and 1970s for those involved in women’s issues, liberal activism, and Democratic politics, including my mother and the future governor of Texas, Ann Richards. I remember hearing about Ann (she was always referred to as just “Ann”) throughout my entire childhood. My parents weren’t close friends with the slightly older Richardses, but my mother was a keen admirer of Ann and my father described her as “the funniest woman I’ve ever known.” I remember their home on Lovers Lane which always seemed to be crammed full of kids.

When Ann Richards lived in Dallas she was a self-described “housewife,” who, when she wasn’t busy raising her four children, was volunteering for Democratic candidates and causes. She was an active member of the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club, a group which, in 1963, gained instant attention for the fundraiser show they wrote and performed called “Political Paranoia,” a satirical revue of politics, complete with sharp satire, broad comedy, song parodies, and ridiculous wigs and costumes. The show was such a huge success that follow-up standing-room-only shows were performed in 1964, 1965, 1966, and 1968. The shows were written and directed by Carolyn Choate, Ruthe Winegarten, and Ann Richards, and the cast consisted of the members of the NDDW. Ann’s portrayal of LBJ seems to have made lasting impressions on those who saw it.

I have recently begun working on a project for the G. William Jones Film and Video Archive at SMU, and a reel of 16mm black-and-white film — with sound! — was discovered in the vault recently with no identifying information. Nothing. Nobody knows where it came from or how it ended up at SMU. But there it was: a lightly edited filmed document of the second installment of “Political Paranoia,” presented by the North Dallas Democratic Women in the auditorium of Hillcrest High School on May 16, 1964. I was sure Ann Richards would be in there somewhere — and she was! I was pretty excited by this “discovery” because this show has become something of a legendary touchstone in local Democratic politics. As far as I know, there is no other film footage of any of these shows. Not only that, this may well be the earliest footage of Ann Richards, the woman who would go on to become the governor of Texas (1991-1995) and one of the most celebrated women in politics and Texas culture. This is an amazing heretofore unknown historical document.

The show is full of smart sarcasm and “hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show” enthusiasm. The humor is more amusing than cutting, and these Democratic women were certainly not afraid of making fun of members of their own party. A lot of the hot topics of the day addressed in this show are lost to the mists of time, but that doesn’t take away from its entertainment value. This was a time when women had very little voice, impact, or power in politics, and the women here have firmly taken control of the reins and perform with an exuberance that crackles. 

The 34-minute film — complete with odd jumps and abrupt cuts — has been uploaded by SMU in its entirety here:

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Here are a bunch of screenshots. I don’t know who all of the performers are — I would love feedback and corrections from the public. At the bottom is a list of names of women who were involved with the NDDW, but as they were invariably identified as “Mrs. Husband’s Name,” I have no idea what most of their first names are! I am especially interested in identifying Ruthe Winegarten, one of the prime movers behind these shows (and also a Texas and women’s historian of note).

First, 30-year-old Ann Richards (or as she was identified in newspaper accounts, “Mrs. David Richards”) appearing as Gordon McLendon, Dallas media magnate, owner of KLIF, and one-time wannabe politician — “The Old Scotchman.” That voice is unmistakable.

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And here she is as LBJ:

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Carolyn Choate, one of the writers and directors of “Political Paranoia,” wrote the music and performed many of the song parodies (she was also a contributor to the annual Dallas Press Club Gridiron Show).

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I was really interested to see Betty McKool, Ann’s longtime friend with whom she issued a famous series of annual jokey Christmas cards (which I wrote about in the post “The Legendary Christmas Cards of Ann Richards and Betty McKool”) — and here she is as Nelson Rockefeller at the 1964 Republican National Convention in what I thought was a really great, incredibly confident performance.

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I’m not sure who the blonde with the glasses and ruffled shirt is, but she gives a spirited performance as Barry Goldwater at the Republican Convention. (Mrs. Ray Pearce portrayed Goldwater in the first “Political Paranoia,” so perhaps this is her revisiting the role.)

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My preschool teacher (and, I believe, the founder of the Unitarian co-op school), Millie Seltzer, is seen below as Lady Bird Johnson. (There’s also a photo of her and Ann as Lady Bird and Lyndon from 1965’s “Political Paranoia III,” which is posted on the blog of Millie’s daughter’s here.)

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Speaking of Lady Bird, here’s Lyndon and Ralph Yarborough (I’m not sure who these women are, but “Lyndon” might be Mary Vogel).

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Possibly Mary Vogel again as “Mrs. GOP.”

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An unknown performer singing about John Connally.

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More unknown performers in “I Dreamed I Dedicated a Federal Center in 1994….”

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…dedicated by Republican congressman Bruce Alger.

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Again, possibly Betty McKool in the straw hat in the center (with someone else playing her husband, Mike McKool).

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The cast, with leggy Joyce Schiff at the microphone (and Ann Richards behind her to the left, holding the cowboy hat).

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“Political Paranoia II”
May 16, 1964
Hillcrest High School auditorium

“Poop and patter from the Pedernales to the Potomac…”
“The most talked-about show from Euless to Balch Springs…”

$1.50 for Democrats
$7.67 for independents
$25.00 for Republicans

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Below is a list of women who were members of the North Dallas Democratic Women who were known to have participated in the 1963 and/or 1964 productions of “Political Paranoia,” either on stage or behind the scenes. If you recognize any of these women in the SMU film footage, please make note of a time-marker and let me know where you see them and I will update the info.

Written and directed by:
Mrs. Alvin Winegarten (RUTHE WINEGARTEN)
Mrs. David Richards (ANN RICHARDS)
Mrs. Jim Choate (CAROLYN CHOATE)

Mrs. Mike McKool (BETTY McKOOL)
Mrs. Holbrook Seltzer (MILLIE SELTZER)
Mrs. Harry Weisbrod (BEA WEISBROD)
Mrs. Herbert Schiff Jr. (JOYCE SCHIFF)
Mrs. Philip Vogel (MARY VOGEL)
Mrs. Frederick Sparks (MERLENE SPARKS)
Mrs. Sam Whitten (VIRGINIA WHITTEN)
Mrs. Harry Hoffman
Mrs. Thomas L. Ford
Mrs. Harold Polunsky
Mrs. Kenneth Parker
Mrs. Charles Webster
Mrs. J. T. Mullenix
Mrs. Forrest West
Mrs. C. A. Hurst
Mrs. Jack Cohan
Mrs. Donald Fielding
Mrs. Don Kise
Mrs. Stanley Kaufman
Mrs. Richard Sandow
Mrs. Irwin Kaim
Mrs. James Taylor
Mrs. Ray Pearce
Mrs. Daniel Rosenthal
Mrs. Oscar M. Wilson Jr.
Mrs. Earl Granberry
Mrs. Jerome Meltzer 

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Sources & Notes

Screenshots are from “Political Paranoia II,” a filmed chronicle of the 1964 political revue written and performed by the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club at Hillcrest High School on May 16, 1964; the origins of the film are unknown, but this copy is held by the G. William Jones Film and Video Archive, Hamon Library, Southern Methodist University. All thanks to Jeremy Spracklen and Scott Martin of the Jones Archive. The direct YouTube link is here.

Thanks also to Margaret Werry and Jean Ball for their help in identifying participants and for taking the time to share their memories of Dallas’ political past.

A good account of Ann Richards’ time in Dallas can be found in her autobiography, Straight from the Heart, My Life in Politics & Other Places (Simon & Schuster, 1989).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

NAACP Southwest Conference in Dallas — 1950

NAACP-conference_the-crisi_june-1950Top delegates of the NAACP regional conference in Dallas, 1950

by Paula Bosse

The third annual NAACP Southwest Region Conference was held in Dallas, March 24-26, 1950. Above we see the top delegates (out of about 200 attendees), standing in front of the Salem Baptist Church, then located at 710 Bourbon in South Dallas. One of their main objectives was to increase NAACP membership in order to more effectively tackle issues of civil rights and social injustice.

The conference’s main speaker was special counsel to the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall. During the conference, he stated that, although there was slow and steady progress being made by African-Americans in American society, he did not expect to see racial segregation abolished in his lifetime. 17 years after this statement, Thurgood Marshall was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to serve as a justice on the United States Supreme Court.

NAACP_thurgood-marshall_FWST_032750Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 27, 1950

Below, the review of the conference that appeared in the April, 1950 issue of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis (click to see larger image).

NAACP-SW-conference_the-crisi_april-1950The Crisis, April, 1950

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Sources & Notes

Top photo from the June, 1950 issue of The Crisis, the magazine published by the NAACP. Many decades’ worth of scanned issues of the magazine are viewable via Google Books, here.

The Salem Baptist Church was, at the time of the photo above, located at 710 Bourbon in South Dallas. According to the church’s website, the church moved from that location in the early 1960s when the site was one of many purchased by the Texas Highway Department to be demolished for highway construction.

Click photo and news clippings for larger images.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“A Woman Knows Real Live News When She Sees It” — 1915

womens-news_dmn_070815_knott-cartoon“Oh goody!” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This editorial cartoonist’s take on what was really important to Dallas women is one that probably caused some Dallasites to chuckle and some to fume. The date of this Dallas Morning News cartoon was July 8, 1915. In 1915 women had no constitutional right to vote in the United States and were barred from voting in local, state, and national elections. The Nineteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution (which gave women the right to vote) was ratified in Texas in June, 1919.

The woman’s suffrage movement in Dallas had been active since at least the 1890s, but it really began to catch fire in the early ‘teens when the Dallas Equal Suffrage Association (DESA) was formed in 1913. The second president of this organization (who was one of the state’s leading suffragists when this cartoon appeared) was Texas Erwin Armstrong (Mrs. Volney E. Armstrong). (Yes, her first name was “Texas” — her friends called her “Tex.”)

I have to admit, I was not aware of Mrs. Armstrong until today, but she was one of many laudable women who helped forge the way for those of us who followed. I like this quote of hers from 1918, commenting on the support (or lack thereof) of politicians during the slow but sure path to ratification:

“Any Democrat who failed to vote for this measure is a man without a party and soon will be a man without a country.” (DMN, Jan. 12, 1918)

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Dallas Morning News, March 15, 1915 (photo and profile)

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More suffrage news from Dallas (click articles to see larger images).

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DMN, Nov. 11, 1915

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DMN, March 8, 1918

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Sources & Notes

Dallas Morning News editorial cartoon “A Woman Knows Real Live News When She Sees It” (by staff cartoonist John Knott) appeared in the July 8, 1915 edition of the paper.

For more on the history of Dallas women and women’s causes, check out the book Women and the Creation of Urban Life: Dallas, Texas, 1843-1920 by Elizabeth York Enstam (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1998); a large portion of the chapter “Suffragists and the City” can be read here.

The history of the women’s suffrage movement in Texas can be found at the Handbook of Texas site, here.

The obituary of Mrs. Texas Erwin Armstrong (1878-1960) can be found in the archives of The Dallas Morning News: “Campaigner For Women’s Suffrage Dies” (DMN, March 7, 1960).

Click clippings and pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Voting Day

voting-instructions-for-youth_marion-butts_dpl_1965Lever-pulling behind the curtain, 1965 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

It’s here, y’all. Get out and get it done.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo from 1965 by Marion Butts, from the Dallas Public Library’s Marion Butts Collection: “Young woman demonstrates the use of a voting machine” — more here (you may have to be logged into to your Dallas Public Library account to reach this page).

Second photo is undated and has no photographer info: “Early voter, Mrs. Gene Savage, looking at long Democratic party ballot,” from UTA Libraries, Special Collections — more info here.

Third photo is from 1972: “Students voting in Fall Elections, University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), 1972,” from UTA Libraries, Special Collections — more info here.

More on Dallas elections can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “How Dallas Used to Get Election Returns,” here.

Click photos to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

How Dallas Used to Get Election Returns

election-returns_1928_frank-rogers_dplA Dallas crowd waits for returns in 1928 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I think there’s some sort of political thing going on? Like most every other human being in the United States (…and beyond), I’m pretty sick of hearing about politics and politicians. Like nauseous sick. So why not write about elections! Below are some fun facts about how Dallasites used to get their election returns — share them with your fellow voters while standing in line at the polling station. They will think you are either very interesting or very annoying.

Forget the issues and the personalities, let’s look at election results: how were they passed along to the public in the days before radio and television? Other than newspapers (the primary source of all things informational), there was a time when results were “bulletined” by throwing images onto stretched canvases or even onto the sides of  buildings by a powerful stereopticon or “magic lantern.” These results were continuously updated as manual counts in local races were tabulated; farther-flung races were updated via tallies received by telegraph or telephone. Crowds gathered in front of buildings — usually newspaper offices — to watch the returns. Some accounts have this form of information dissemination beginning in the 1860s (see an illustration from 1872 here), with the practice becoming more widespread by the 1880s and more technologically advanced by the 1890s.

Below, an illustration showing jubilant crowds watching congressional returns in Columbus, Ohio in 1884.

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Columbus, Ohio, 1884

Things had been refined by 1896, as this illustration from the Atlanta Constitution shows. The caption: “Flashing out the returns in front of the Constitution office. Thousands of people gathered in front of the Constitution Building last night and watched the returns come in.” In the rain! That’s dedication.

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Atlanta, Georgia, 1896

Also in 1896 — things got crazy in New York, with a ridiculously large “screen” hung from a very tall building.

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NYC, 1896

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from “Film and the American Presidency”

The first mention I found in The Dallas Morning News about projecting election results before a large crowd was in 1891. Not only did the newspaper have a large bulletin board (maybe like a large chalk board?), they also used the stereopticon. (The full article about the results of the 1891 election can be read here.) (All pictures and clippings are larger when clicked.)

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Dallas Morning News, April 8, 1891

The magic lantern was called back into service the next year (read an entertaining DMN article about an 1892 election here in which the crowd huddled in front of the screen watching the returns despite rain and open saloons) — in fact, this “electric bulletin board” was so popular it was used for at least 40 more years.

In 1896, interest was really intense — an unbelievable 94% of Dallas’ registered voters had turned out to cast ballots. (It took four days to tally the votes!) A huge crowd gathered around the News building at Commerce and Lamar to watch the bulletins which were “flashed by means of a powerful stereopticon on a large canvas screen stretched across the street” (“Republicans Doubled Votes in ’96” by Sam Acheson, DMN, Jan. 1, 1968).

By 1900 this stereopticon thing was getting to be standard operating procedure.

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DMN, Nov. 6, 1900

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DMN, May 2, 1908

By 1911, “25,000 or 30,000 persons” were showing up to watch the returns.

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DMN, July 23, 1911

I guess people used to just phone the papers after elections to ask about the results. The News would rather you didn’t, thanks.

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DMN, July 21, 1916

1918 was an interesting year for a few reasons: (1) WWI was underway, (2) the polls opened — for some reason — at 9:27 AM and closed at 8:27 PM (?), and … (3) it was the first election in Dallas in which women were allowed to vote. There was suddenly a huge number of registered voters to have to deal with. Newspaper reports showed registration of women outnumbering men in several precincts. The large number of new voters meant that votes began to be counted “one hour after the polls are opened and will continue until the work is concluded” (DMN, July 19, 1918). Which seems odd. Also, women were encouraged to vote early in the day so as to avoid long lines and men were instructed to watch their behavior if there were women present.

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DMN, July 26, 1918

It’s surprising that the use of projectors to display election returns was used as late as 1930, well after the advent of radio. Apparently the Texas Election Bureau and Press Association had rules forbidding radio stations from announcing election results over the air until they had been printed in the newspaper — they were, however, allowed to give “relative standings” to their audiences at fifteen-minute intervals (DMN, July 27, 1930).

Seems like the newspapers held all the power (probably not a huge problem for radio stations since most of them were owned by the newspapers, and, of course, no problem at all for the papers who printed oodles of “extra” editions). By 1930, though, crowds had gotten so large downtown that they were diverting people to Fair Park where they could sit and enjoy the cool breezes as they listened to see if their candidates had won or lost. (“Sitting” seems to be the operative word here.) But soon radio would wrest the “instant news bulletin” power away from the newspapers, and these quaint magic lantern watching-parties would be unnecessary. Eventually people wouldn’t know they’d ever even existed.

Fast-forward to today. I can’t even imagine trekking downtown to watch election results come in at a snail’s pace, magic lantern or not. It’s the 21st century, man, and I’ll be plopped in front of my TV, channel-hopping, stress-eating and stress-drinking, and wondering what friendly country I might consider “visiting” for a while.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo shows crowds of Dallasites watching election returns. This Frank Rogers photo — a Dallas Public Library photo reproduced in A. C. Greene’s book Dallas, The Deciding Years — shows a crowd (which seems to be devoid of women) watching the 1928 presidential election returns on Elm Street. Another Rogers photo from the DPL, undated, probably taken 5 or 6 years earlier:

election-returns_elm-street_dpl_frank-rogers

It’s convenient that he was able to include his studio in the background! The photograph is undated, but Frank Rogers and the Adam Schaaf Piano Store shared a building — at 1303 Elm — between 1922 and 1923. The building to the right is the Dallas Times Herald Building, and it would make sense that the crowd was looking toward the other side of the street. In fact, this may have been the night that the KKK famously marched through downtown, past the large crowds gathered in front of both the Dallas Times Herald and Dallas Morning News offices, to celebrate that their candidates had won … and won big.

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DMN, Aug. 27, 1922

The illustration showing Ohio returns in Columbus being projected on the night of Oct. 14, 1884 is from Frank Leslie’s Weekly (this illustration was featured in the book Politicking and Emergent Media: U.S. Presidential Elections of the 1890s by Charles Musser).

The 1896 illustration is from the Atlanta Constitution, found on Twitter.

The 1896 photograph of the World Building in New York is from the trade journal The Electrical Engineer, Nov. 11, 1896. The paragraph below it is from the book Film and the American Presidency by Jeff Menne and Christian B. Long.

Further reading from the archives of The Dallas Morning News (regarding the July 26, 1930 election):

  • “News and Journal To Give Two Election Count Parties” (DMN, July 25, 1930) — an announcement to voters where they could get the “flashed” returns of the next day’s voting (in front of the News building “as usual,” and at Fair Park “where results will also be thrown on a screen at the moving picture booth near the grand stand”
  • “Fates of Favorites Watched on News and Journal Screens” (DMN, July 27, 1930) — two photos showing crowds at Commerce and Lamar and at Fair Park watching the returns

Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Fair Park Bond Issue — 1934

centennial-bond-issue_front-cover_cook-collection_degolyer_SMU_sm“Forward 1936…”  (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

by Paula Bosse

With all the heated discussion currently going on about what the city is going to do with Fair Park, I thought this little pamphlet from 1934 seemed timely. Published by the “Centennial Fair Park Bond Committee” (comprised of all the Dallas movers and shakers one would expect), the get-out-the-vote brochure was issued to explain the $3,000,000 (about $54,000,000 in today’s money, adjusted for inflation) bond issue, the approval of which was essential in order to clinch the honor of hosting the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. The entire pamphlet — part of the George W. Cook Collection in the DeGolyer Library — may be read on SMU’s website, here.

centennial-bond-issue_back-cover_cook-collection_degolyer_SMU

A couple of excerpts:

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The issue passed, overwhelmingly, by a 5-1 margin. It’s interesting to note that the voting restrictions on this referendum were … pretty restrictive. Not only was payment of a poll tax required to vote (…one had to pay for the “privilege” of voting…), but one also had to be a property owner — and that property owner was not allowed to vote until a “rendition” was signed downtown in the tax assessor’s office. Many property owners who had signed the necessary paperwork were still unable to vote as they had not paid (or could not afford) the poll tax. It’s pretty obvious here that a substantial number of lower income residents (i.e. non-property owners or property owners unable to afford the poll tax) — including many who lived in the area immediately surrounding Fair Park — were legally prohibited from casting a vote.

6,550 ballots were cast (5462-1088), which represented “little more than one-third of the 18,000 supposed qualified to decide this important issue” (Dallas  Morning News, Nov. 1, 1934). It was declared to be “the largest majority ever cast for a bond issue in [the] history of Dallas” (DMN, Oct. 31, 1934).

The passage of the October, 1934 bond issue assured that Dallas would host the Texas Centennial Exposition, a statewide celebration which proved to be a huge success and was a tremendous economic boon to the city.

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Sources & Notes

The pamphlet “Texas and Dallas … Forward 1936: Why We Should Vote For Centennial Fair Park Bonds, Tuesday, October 30, 1934” is part of the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; the entire pamphlet is contained in a PDF which may be read and/or downloaded here.

More on this vote can be found in these two Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “OK on Bonds For Huge Fair Up to Voters” (DMN, Oct. 30, 1934) — published on voting day, this article includes the particulars of the voting restrictions
  • “Five-to-One Majority Scored As City Favors Centennial Bonds to Assure Huge Fair” (DMN, Oct. 31, 1934) — the results

Payment of a poll tax was still required to vote in Texas elections until 1966, when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled such taxes were unconstitutional. More about that from the Dallas Public Library, here.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Dallas Chapter of “The Women of the Ku Klux Klan” — 1920s

kkk-women_1920s_cook-degolyer

by Paula Bosse

I’ve managed to avoid mention of the Ku Klux Klan since starting this blog a couple of years ago, which is saying something, because the KKK pretty much ruled this city for a good chunk of the 1920s. The Dallas chapter — Klan No. 66 — had more than 13,000 men as members; it was one of the largest chapters in the nation (by some accounts, THE largest chapter). Members included politicians, judges, and law enforcement officials. But what of the Klan-leaning ladies who were not allowed to join? Before I plunge into that, let’s look at what’s going on in this weird, be-robed group shot, a photo taken around 1924 in Ferris Plaza with poor Union Station as a backdrop. (Click these for much larger images.)

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In the early 1920s, women — who had led the temperance movement and whom had recently been given the right to vote — began to form groups that tackled social issues. Some of these groups espoused the same general rhetoric as the KKK. One of these groups was formed in Dallas in 1922 — the “American Women” group was the brainchild of three women, including Alma B. Cloud, who appears to have been only 21 years old. One of the other founders was her partner in a short-lived ladies’ clothing boutique. Cloud immediately hit the lecture circuit, giving free lectures on “Americanism” to (white Protestant) women around Texas.

cloud_taylor-tx-daily-press-08222Taylor Daily Press, Aug. 22, 1922

By the following summer, the male leadership of the Klan allowed a “Women of the Ku Klux Klan” to be created; its national headquarters was in Little Rock.

wkkk_letterhead_olemiss

They were not officially part of the KKK but were, in theory, a separate entity. While not, perhaps, as outwardly extreme as their male counterparts, they were certainly as virulently racist and intolerant. They might not have been lynching people and threatening violence, but they were busy pushing their exclusionary, white supremacy agenda. And both the men and the women liked to dress up in white robes and hoods. Here’s what the women looked like when they added masks to the ensemble (not Dallas — location of photo unknown).

wkkk

Several of the independent women’s groups founded previously were happily absorbed by the WKKK — including Miss A. B. Cloud’s group. In fact, Miss Cloud became the leader of the Dallas chapter. The “Klaliff.” The headquarters for this group — which campaigned for “progressive morality”– was in a little space on North Harwood.

WKKK_1924-directory1924 Dallas directory

1924 seems to have been the big year for both the KKK and the WKKK. The women found themselves at lots of parades with burning crosses and other … “functions” — so why not form a drum corps? A few clippings. (Click for larger images.)

kkk-women_amarillo-globe-times_031624Amarillo Globe-Times, March 16, 1924

klan-women_dmn_073124Dallas News, July 31, 1924

kkk-women_mckinney-courier-gazette_111224McKinney Courier-Gazette, Nov. 12,1924

By 1926, the KKK was starting to lose its power, and the fear and intimidation they had instilled in much of the pubic began to wane. The (men’s) KKK had had to downsize and move into the women’s headquarters, and their candidates began losing elections. Even worse, you know things were getting bad if someone was suing the KKK for delinquent robe-payment!

KU KLUX KLAN WOMEN SUED FOR ROBES BILL: Suit for $4,463.80 was filed in the Forty-Fourth District Court on Friday afternoon by John F. Pruitt against the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc. The petition alleges that the plaintiff sold the defendant, a corporation, 6,000 robes at $2.50 each during the two years preceding the filing of the suit, for which the defendant agreed to pay $15,000 to the plaintiff. It is alleged that $4,463.80 remains unpaid. (DMN, Nov. 28, 1925)

The power once exerted by the Ku Klux Klan had diminished greatly by the end of the 1920s, and while the Klan has never disappeared completely, it will never again reach the heights it had attained in the 1920s.

Whatever happened to Miss A. B. Cloud? After having been ousted from her “imperial” position (for reasons I don’t really care enough about to investigate), she had a few sales jobs and eventually began to present motivational sales talks. There was an Alma B. Cloud in California who was mentioned in several news stories from the 1930s — she presented motivational lectures to students on how best to plan their future adult lives. Um, yes. I’m not 100% sure this was the same A. B. Cloud who was the former WKKK gal from Big D, but it seems likely. I wonder what those students would have thought had they known of her pointy-hooded past?

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Sources & Notes

Links-a-plenty.

Top photo is titled “Ku Klux Klan Women’s Drum Corps Dallas in Front of Union Station,” taken by Frank Rogers; it is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University — it can be accessed here. I have manipulated the color.

Women of the Ku Klux Klan letterhead comes from the Women of the Ku Klux Klan Collection, Archives and Special Collections, University of Mississippi Libraries; the collection can be accessed here.

The photo of the masked WKKK women is all over the internet — I don’t know its original source or any details behind it, but it’s creepy.

“Women of the Ku Klux Klan” on Wikipedia, is here.

“Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s” by Kathleen M. Blee, is here.

“Charity by Day, Punishment by Night: The Ku Klux Klan in Fort Worth” — from the great FW history blog Hometown by Handlebar — is here.

And, probably best of all, the Dallas Morning News article “At Its Peak, Ku Klux Klan Gripped Dallas,” by the wonderful and much-missed Bryan Woolley, can be read here. This article contains facts and figures, describes the sort of “madness of crowds” atmosphere in the city at the time, and details some of the horrible atrocities committed by the KKK in Dallas. Woolley cites historian Darwin Payne’s assertion that if one considered every adult man in Dallas who would have been eligible to have joined the Klan (this excludes, of course, those of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Catholic, or Jewish descent), one in three of them was a member of the Dallas chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. ONE IN THREE.

A few short mentions of the Dallas WKKK have been compiled here.

UPDATE: For a look at racism in modern Dallas, watch the half-hour film “Hate Mail,” made in 1992 by Mark Birnbaum and Bart Weiss, here. It includes interviews with several prominent Dallasites, as well as interviews with a couple of Klan leaders.

Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Gay Activism in Dallas and the Fight for Equality

gay-pride-parade_062572_portal_smDallas’ first gay pride march, June 24, 1972 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today’s historic ruling by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of marriage equality comes after decades of civil rights activism from the LGBT community. The push for acceptance and equality began for many after the historic Stonewall Riots in New York City, which happened 47 years ago this week. The political fight began in Dallas — as it did in most major US cities — in the early 1970s. Dallas’ first Gay Pride march was held downtown on June 24, 1972, at a time when “out” homosexuals and lesbians were often blacklisted or denied basic civil rights without legal recourse. Below, the coverage of that first march by The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

gay-pride-parade-FWST_062572Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 25, 1972

And now, a long, long 43 years later — almost to the day — the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is now legal in every state in the union, a landmark victory not only for those early political and social activists who marched in the streets of Dallas and fought for their basic human rights, but also a victory for those of us who are their friends and family.

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A wonderful history of the gay community in Dallas — from the days of secret “speak-easy”-type clubs to political organization to the AIDS fight — is contained in the KERA-produced documentary “Finding Our Voice: The Dallas Gay & Lesbian Community” (2000), which can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube, here.

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Sources & Notes

Photograph of Dallas’ first Gay Pride march is from the LGBT Collection of the UNT Libraries; it and other photos of the parade can be found on UNT’s Portal to Texas History website, here.

Coverage of the first Dallas march can be found in the Dallas Morning News article “Gays March Proudly” by Marc Bernabo (June 25, 1972).

Other Flashback Dallas posts on LGBTQ issues can be found here.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

El Presidente y Su Sombrero — 1975

Pres. Ford In SombreroEl Prez at SMU, Sept. 13, 1975  /  ©Bettmann/CORBIS

by Paula Bosse

Politicians have to do a lot of silly things at public appearances, and some of them handle the baby-kissing and tedious chit-chat more gracefully than others. President Gerald R. Ford seems to have been pretty good-natured about this sort of thing, even in the wake of the Nixon impeachment and even while being incessantly lampooned by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live every week.

For reasons I’ve never understood, politicians and foreign dignitaries always seem to be presented with hats when they make an official visit somewhere, and when they come to Texas, they almost always get a cowboy hat. But on President Ford’s 1975 visit to Dallas and the SMU campus, he was made an “honorary Mexican-American” and was presented with a (very large) sombrero by Andrea Cervantes of the Mexican-American Bicentennial Parade Committee. He looks ridiculous, but it’s a fun ridiculous. I think he liked it — Mrs. Cervantes even got a kiss for her gift.

ford-sombrero_FWST_091475Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sept. 14, 1975

The sombrero re-appeared a few months later, autographed and on display at Pike Park. It never left Dallas. What a shame. I would have liked to imagine the President and First Lady relaxing at Camp David, Jerry wearing his sombrero, smoking a pipe, and watching college football on TV, while Betty sat at the other end of the couch, chuckling to herself, and shaking her head.

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Top photo from CorbisImages, here.

More on this in the Dallas Morning News article (with photo) “Ford Commends Group for ‘Feliz Cumpleanos'” (Dec. 15, 1975).

This sombrero-donning was just seven months before the now-legendary “Great Tamale Incident” in San Antonio. Read how NOT to eat a tamale here.

Ford took his gaffes in stride, even going so far as to appear on the show that made note of his every stumble, literal and figurative. Read a behind-the-scenes account of Ford’s 1976 Oval Office taping of one-liners for SNL — including his “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” show opener (although I’m pretty sure he did it without the exclamation mark) — here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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