Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Six Flags Over Texas

Casa Magnetica

six-flags_casa-magnetica_postcard_flickrHow often is juggling mind-blowing? It was here! (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Every year my aunt and her fun friend Shirley took my brother and me to Six Flags Over Texas. This was the ’70s, so some of the original hard-to-believe attractions were already gone (helicopter and stagecoach rides?! — see a promotional video of the park from 1965 here), but it was still when the place was an actual “theme” park — an amusement park originally suggested by aspects of Texas history. The sections of the park represented the six flags that have flown over Texas (see a map here). One of those sections was the Spanish section, the location of two of my favorite Six Flags attractions: the log ride and Casa Magnetica.

Casa Magnetica was the hard-to-wrap-your-brain-around tilted house (newspaper articles reported it was built at either a 24.6-degree angle or a 34-degree angle) which made you feel completely disoriented, especially if you’d just stepped in from the blinding blast of 110-degree heat and were feeling a bit queasy from one too many Pink Things. I loved it. Things rolled uphill, you couldn’t stand up straight, and your brain was mighty confused. The text from the back of the postcard seen above:

six-flags_casa-magnetica_postcard_back

Casa Magnetica was introduced very early in Six Flags’ history — it debuted in the second season, 1962, and it was a huge hit. Here is how the SFOT marketing team described it in press releases at the time. (Clippings and images are larger when clicked.) Imagine what it would have been like to have been the architect of this place!

six-flags_casa-magnetica_daily-news-texan_042262Six Flags Gazette, April 22, 1962

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Six Flags Gazette, April 29, 1962

As far as new attractions, the weird little house was the biggest hit of the 1962 season.

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Six Flags Gazette, April 20, 1963

Here it is, under construction, in late 1961 or early 1962:

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And, later, with a teenage “hostess” sitting under its Spanish-mission-inspired arch.

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The caption of the photo above: “WHICH ONE’S STRAIGHT? — It’s hard to tell in the Casa Magnetica in the Spanish section. It’s difficult to keep from leaning the wrong way in this house where water seems to run uphill. Notice in the lower left of the picture how the basketful of goodies seems to be hanging instead of sitting.” (Six Flags Gazette, May 27, 1962)

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Caption: “SOMETHING WRONG? — Six Flags hostesses find that the law of gravity doesn’t seem to apply in Casa Magnetica.” (Six Flags Gazette, April 29, 1962)

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Caption: “LEMME OUT! — In Casa Magnetica, a house in the Spanish Section of Six Flags which defies gravity, this hostess gets a little panicky when the 34-degree slant proves too much for her.” (Six Flags Gazette, April 26, 1962)

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Sources & Notes

Postcard at top from Flickr.

Articles and captioned photos are from the Six Flags Gazette, a seasonal supplement that appeared in both the Grand Prairie Daily News-Texan and the Irving Daily News-Texan during the early years of Six Flags.

Photo of Casa Magnetica under construction in the scrubby Arlington landscape is from the History of Six Flags Facebook group, posted there by the administrator Michael Hicks, submitted to Flashback Dallas by reader Brian Gunn (thank you, Brian!).

The photo of the Six Flags “hostess” sitting outside the entrance to Casa Magnetica is from the Six Flags Over Texas Facebook page, here (it appears with a photo of the Chaparral Antique Cars, the second-most popular attraction introduced in the 1962 season).

Read the “spiel” you’d hear when you visited Casa Magnetica, here.

And, in case you missed it above, I highly encourage you to watch the 6-minute Six Flags Over Texas promotional film from 1965 at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) website here (Casa Magnetica is seen briefly at the :45 mark). Watch it full-screen!

More Flashback Dallas posts on Six Flags Over Texas can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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The Over-the-Top University Park Christmas Display Featuring Big Tex and a Six Flags Spee-lunker

xmas-wayne-smith_university-park_2015_big-tex_speelunkerBig Tex on the roof, a “Spee” to the right (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

You may have heard about Wayne Smith’s annual spectacular Christmas display in the 3600 block of Southwestern in University Park — the one with a cast of thousands, including a previous head of Big Tex, what seems like hundreds of illuminated Santas, Dracula, Moe Howard, and a former denizen of Six Flags Over Texas’ “Cave”/Spee-lunker ride. Before I get back to the “Spees” (the name the creatures have been given by their surprisingly enthusiastic fan-following), here’s a wider shot of a photo I took during last year’s holiday season. (Click it!)

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(And this gives you only an inkling of what’s actually there. I LOVED it! I waited until after Christmas — in fact, after New Year’s — to wander around — I can only imagine how backed up with looky-loos the street gets closer to Christmas.)

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Back to the Spees. The Cave water ride debuted in 1964 and was an immediate hit. When it opened, there were 28 of these creatures who, according to the original marketing, “came from innerspace.”

They are 30 inches high and they play harps, do the Twist, play cards, hammer cave crystals into rock candy and engage in a shell game — turtle racing.

This ride was always one of my favorites (probably because it provided a brief, cool respite from the glaring sun and the blasting heat that plagued my annual summer visits to Six Flags).

The Spee-lunkers left Six Flags a long time ago, so it’s nice to see that one of them is still entertaining local crowds, right next to another beloved DFW icon, Big Tex … along with a phalanx of festive Santas!

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Lest you think the publicity mill wasn’t working all angles of this new attraction, we see below that one of the Spees got a visit from, of all people, TV-darling Donna Douglas who played Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.

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photo and article, Hood County News Tablet, June 4, 1964

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August, 1964

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Grand Prairie Daily News, May 25, 1977

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Sources & Notes

Photo of Wayne Smith’s Christmas display taken by me on January 2, 2016. The house is in the 3600 block of Southwestern, between Baltimore and Thackery. Since the display is probably visible from space, there’s no way you can miss it.

Postcards found on eBay and Google.

Every year TV crews descend on Smith’s house to do a story. Watch one from this year — from CW33 News — here.

For those who might like more info on the Spee-lunker attraction/ride (which, by the way, is classified as a “dark ride” in amusement park lingo) at Six Flags Over Texas, here’s a bunch of links:

  • Weird video and music (and history!) by a superfan, here
  • Article by the same guy who put the above video together, here
  • Spee-lunker vignettes described here
  • Google images aplenty, here

More on the new ride can be found in the Dallas Morning News archives in the article “$300,000 Hole: Six Flags To Open Cave Ride” (DMN, May 24, 1964) — accompanying the article is an amusing photo captioned “Gail Powers yelps in mock fear as lobster seizes her hand.”

A shout-out to Wendy Cook who, when I posted the top picture to the Flashback Dallas Instagram feed in January, pointed out to me that the Spee-lunker was even in there. She recognized him right away, but with so much visual overload, I hadn’t even noticed him! Thanks, Wendy!

See stuff bigger — when in doubt, click it!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Six Flags: The Mexican Section — 1961

six-flags_mexican-section-lights_1962_ebayBienvenidos! (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The image above is from a Six Flags Over Texas postcard. The description on the back reads:

Geometric Patterns — Mexican Section
Multi-colored lighting effects reveal a fascinating and beautiful picture of the Canopied Garden Walkway leading into the Mexican Section at this new 105-acre $10,000,000 family entertainment center.

Here it is in the daytime, still kind of attention-grabbing, but nowhere near as cool-looking:

six-flags_canopied-entrance_colliervia Ken Collier

I just wanted to post this Six Flags picture I’d never seen and move along, but why not add a few more postcards showing attractions in this part of the theme park: the “Mexican Section.”

There was the Fiesta Train (which I was surprised to see was originally called Ferrocarril Fiesta), which was topped with colorful sombreros and chugged by all sorts of “festive” scenes which might seem a little culturally eyebrow-raising today.

six-flags_mexican-section-fiesta-train_colliervia Ken Collier

six-flags_mexican-section_burro-ridervia Ken Collier

There were animatronic bull fights. “Olé!”

six-flags_mexican-section_bull-fightvia Gorillas Don’t Blog

There were … dancing tamales. DANCING TAMALES! (Designed by Peter Wolf.)

Dancing Tamales — Mexican Section
One of the most popular of the many colorful and comical animations on the Fiesta Train ride, this group of Dancing Tamales perform to the gay strains of Mexican music that fills the air.

six-flags_dancing-tamales_flickrvia Flickr

And speaking of Mexican music, there were strolling mariachis.

six-flags_mexican-section_mariachis-flickrvia Flickr

And there was an even an El Chico restaurant.

el-chico_six-flags-gazette_091061Six Flags Gazette, Sept. 10, 1961

Here is an interesting article about what visitors to the brand new amusement park could expect to encounter on their visit to the Mexican Section, written by the Six Flags promotion department (click for larger image).

six-flags_mexican-section_six-flags-gazette_080661a   six-flags_mexican-section_six-flags-gazette_080661b
Six Flags Gazette, Aug. 6, 1961

And, no, I couldn’t find a 1961 photo of the sombrero ride!

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Sources & Notes

Top postcard is currently offered on eBay, here.

Info about the Six Flags Railroad is here; more about the Ferrocarril Fiesta Train is here.

Apparently those tamales (with a face lift) are still around? I LOVE THESE GUYS!

six-flags_dancing-tamalesvia GuideToSFOT.com

Ken Collier is The Man for all things Six Flags. See his great site, here.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on Six Flags Over Texas can be found here.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including these pictures and clippings — click ’em!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

When a Ten-Spot Could Get a Family of Four Into Six Flags — 1962

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by Paula Bosse

Six Flags Over Texas is about to open up again. In 1962 — the theme park’s second year — the admission price for one adult was $2.75 (approximately $22.00 in today’s money), and the price for children under 12 was $2.25 (approximately $18.00 in today’s money). A family of two adults and two children would pay $10.00 for admission — that would be a little under $80.00 in 2016 money, which was still a lot back then, until you compare it to today’s Six Flags ticket prices: $250 for a family of four (as long as both of those children are under 48″ tall). (Pink Things not included.) And you probably won’t even see a dad wearing a suit and tie and a porkpie hat. And you certainly won’t get to see ANY of this! I think you got a lot more bang for your buck 50 years ago.

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Never leave home without the Inflation Calculator.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Six Flags’ Historical Press Bookshop — 1965

six-flags-bookshop

by Paula Bosse

Six Flags Over Texas had a bookstore: the Historical Press Bookshop, located in the “Confederate Section.” Who knew? I was surprised when I ran across this postcard, but I figured it was a place to buy gum, film (remember film?), giant combs emblazoned with the Six Flags logo, and this very postcard. But no. It was a bookstore that sold rare Texana, including historic books, prints, and documents. At Six Flags. …Over Texas. …Land of Pink Things and Log Rides.

The description from the back of the postcard:

six-flags-bookshop_back

The store was ostensibly owned by Six Flags developer Angus Wynne, Jr., but the contents were owned by Ted W. Mayborn, wealthy petroleum trade journal publisher, writer, and Texas history aficionado. In a playful bow to having an antiquarian bookstore inside a theme park (!), he hired female family members to dress up in cowgirl outfits and brandish six-shooters in a bid to “protect” the (probably very expensive) merchandise.

I’m not really sure how this worked — or why anyone would think this was a good idea. Would one find oneself enjoying a day at Six Flags only to stumble across this unexpected cache of rare books and feel compelled to pick up a leather-bound first edition or a fragile broadside? Or would one go to Six Flags expressly to visit the bookstore and browse the stock — despite the fact that it was in an amusement park? Would one have one’s purchase shipped, or would one lug it around the park, through Casa Magnetica, past Skull Island, and into the Spelunker’s Cave?

There has to be a story behind this unusual business endeavor. Did Ted save Angus from choking one time? Did he win the franchise in a poker game?

I’m not sure how long the Historical Press Bookshop lasted. My guess? Longer than it should have.

Weirder than discovering that a bookshop was once part of the Six Flags experience was learning that Mr. Mayborn owned a real bookshop called the Red Barn Bookstore and that my father worked for him for a few months, a time my mother described as being brief but stressful. I think I can understand why.

Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Candy Stripers Moonlighting as Six Flags Map Sellers — ca. 1961

six-flags_map-sellers_c1961

by Paula Bosse

“Yes, sir, you absolutely must have a map!”

When going to an amusement park meant going in a suit and tie. …And hat.

I see maybe a couple of teenagers. Otherwise … rather ominously … no children.

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Six Flags Over Texas, probably in its opening year, 1961.

Click for larger image.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Six Flags-Inspired Recipes for the (Gluten-Tolerant) Superfan — 1966

six-flags-ckbk_USA

by Paula Bosse

Did you know there was a Six Flages-themed cookbook? Well, there was! Issued in 1966 by the Gladiola Flour company (every recipe — rather unsurprisingly — contains flour), the Six Flags aficionado was presented with dishes such as “Casa Magnetica Churros,” “Log Flume Log Cake,” “Skull Island Treasure Cookies,” and “Sky Hook Snickerdoodles.” From the introduction:

“Names of the recipes have been inspired by attractions and rides at Six Flags Over Texas, the exciting adventureland located midway between Dallas and Fort Worth. Look to the Six Flags Over Texas Cookbook when you want something different — a dish your guests will remember.”

That “Log Flume Log Cake”? Mosey on over here and whip one up this weekend for your gluten-tolerant friends and family.

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All images from The Six Flags Over Texas Cookbook by Gladiola (Sherman: Fant Milling Co., 1966). These images (and the entire cookbook) from Ken Collier’s great Six Flags Over Texas collection. The cookbook can be viewed here; and check out his other Six Flags pages here.

For other Flashback Dallas posts on the early days of Six Flags Over Texas, see here.

Click oblong pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Angus Wynne, Jr.’s “Texas Disneyland” — 1961

six-flags_stagecoach

by Paula Bosse

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been to Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Depending on your age, you may pine for those glorious days of yesteryear when Six Flags was a truly unique theme park. Today it is not. Back then, there was only one Six Flags, and it was a great, weird place. A theme park based on Texas history! Who would come up with such a far-fetched idea? Angus Wynne, Jr. did. Some of it must have sunk in, because, to this day, the way I can remember the “six flags” that have flown over Texas is by remembering rides and attractions at Six Flags Over Texas.

I wasn’t going regularly to Six Flags until the ’70s, when it was still definitely all about Texas, but looking at old postcards that were issued to celebrate the opening of the park in 1961, I was shocked by some of the great stuff that was retired before my annual visits. Like … helicopter rides! Actual helicopter rides that took off from an area near (in?) the parking lot: five minutes for five dollars (this was back when admission was $2.25 for kids and $2.75 for adults — those days are long-gone…).

And … a stagecoach ride! I would have LOVED that! Looks kind of dangerous, though — which might be why it didn’t last. The description on the back of the postcard:

“Bridge Out — Confederate Section: Butterfield Overland Stagecoach pulled by a team of four matched white horses cuts past washed out bridge on its way to deliver passengers and the U.S. mail back to the safety of the depot — always plenty of exciting action taking place at the multi-million dollar Six Flags Over Texas entertainment park.”

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And, yes, the problematic “Confederate” section. The description on the back of this postcard reads:

“Call To Arms — Confederate Section: Confederate Drill Team at Six Flags Over Texas. To these men in gray, the South is still ‘a-fightin’ them Yankees.’ Frequent enlistment rallies are held where youngsters join up and receive papers proving their military status in Terry’s Texas Rangers, 8th Texas Cavalry.”

Don’t remember seeing that. It probably started to lose its luster somewhere back around the Vietnam War.

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six-flags_spanish_mule

Jack Maguire, in his great Alcalde article (link below) describes this … um … “ride” thusly:

“The Spanish section is next. Here guests board pack mules to venture forth with Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, greatest of the conquistadores, as he descends into Palo Duro Canyon searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola.”

With the mules and the stagecoach team, Six Flags must have had a busy corral somewhere in the park.

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six-flags_hanging

And, well, this is my favorite: a hanging. …At an amusement park. Maybe they’re just a-funnin’. This took place in the “Texas Section,” where the bank was robbed every hour on the hour and there was the show-stopping gunfight in the middle of the street. I remember that. I don’t remember some guy getting strung up, though. I like the fact that this photo was used to promote an amusement park.

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And here’s the whole of it, in 1961. I guess there must have been other things in Arlington back then. But it looks pretty empty once you’ve ventured past Skull Island and left the park.

six-flags_map_mid-1960s(Click for much larger image!)

Thank you, Angus Wynne, Jr. — I had so much fun in your park — I wish I had seen it when it opened!

wynne_angus-jr_legacies_fall-2002

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Top two postcards from the jumble of stuff I own.

All other postcards from the INCREDIBLE Six Flags Over Texas postcard collection of Ken Collier, which you can see — page after page after page — here.

I’m not sure where I found the map, but it gets pretty big when clicked.

Photo of Angus Wynne, Jr. from the Fall, 2002 issue of Legacies.

Memories of the helicopter ride by a former park employee (who says it lasted only until 1962 when it was discontinued due to a “hard landing” incident) can be read here.

And for a truly enjoyable look at the then-new theme park, I HIGHLY recommend Jack Maguire’s “The Wynne Who Waves Six Flags” in the November, 1961 issue of The Alcalde, the University of Texas alumni magazine — read it and look at the photos of a Six Flags *I* certainly never knew (but wish I had), here.

For my follow-up post on The Six Flags Over Texas Cookbook (1966) — with a link to the entire booklet and all the Six Flags-inspired recipes — see here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Throw Me a Pink Thing, Mister!” — 1967

mardi-gras_1967_doubloon-a

mardi-gras_1967_doubloon-b1967 Mardi Gras doubloon (click for larger images)

by Paula Bosse

“THROW ME SOMETHING, MISTER.”

Pictures of these are all over the internet, but I found only ONE reference explaining why “Six Flags Over Texas” was on a Krewe of Freret Mardi Gras doubloon — and it was in this Jan. 31, 1967 AP article from the Monroe (Louisiana) News Star (transcription below):

mardi-gras_six-flags_monroe-louisiana-news-star_013167

NEW ORLEANS (AP)-King Freret XII abdicated today after a successful one night reign wildly cheered by his loyal carnival subjects. Pegasus, the winged horse, will rule tonight, rolling through the crowded streets in the second night parade of the season. The torch-lit procession of the Krewe of Freret, with 14 floats and 37 marching units stretching for 28 blocks, was inspired by the “Six Flags Over Texas” amusement park. Mild temperatures — the readings were in the high 50s as the parade wound through downtown New Orleans — brought thousands of residents and visitors to clamor for trinkets tossed from the glittering floats. When the parade reached the reviewing stand at Gallier Hall, the old city hall on St. Charles Avenue, Mayor Victor Schiro welcomed King Freret, Charles L. Villemeur Jr., and wished him a successful reign. Villemeur’s daughter, Miss Kay Ann Villemeur, who ruled as queen, stood beside Schiro. Both then joined in toasting the king. Carnival will reach its climax one week from today with Mardi Gras, preceding the 40 solemn days of Lent.

I wonder if there actually IS any connection to the amusement park? It might just be a friendly nod to neighboring Texas and not to the Arlington park we all know and love. But who am I to doubt the fine folks at the Biloxi Daily Herald?

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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Click the doubloons to get those suckers big. REAL big.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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