Breaking News

A weirdly-defining memory of my childhood was how much I hated watching the news. Every night, my parents would turn on the news and I’d hate it. It wasn’t entertaining to five-year-old me. It had no relevance…I was too young to understand that whatever was happening outside my immediate surroundings affected others and could, potentially, affect me. It was boring.

Ronald Reagan shot? Wall-to-wall coverage on the three channels we got (cable hadn’t come to our town yet) and no cartoons. (Even worse was Sunday mornings, when the local affiliates ran church services). 

Even when there wasn’t breaking news, they’d sneak it in to the middle of your watching with a “news break”. The three networks (no Fox yet…just NBC, ABC and  CBS) would, a couple of times a night, forego commercial time with quick newscasts before getting you back to watching Lou Grant or Alice.

A while back, I uploaded a CBS Newsbreak from February 26, 1984 sourced from an old VHS tape to my Youtube channel:


 

A quick breakdown:

This newsbreak is presented by Charles Osgood, who only just retired in 2016 after a very long career at CBS, starting in 1971. 

Story 1

In 1982, a multinational force entered Beirut for peacekeeping to oversee the withdrawal of the PLO-backed forces from Lebanon as part of a cease-fire agreement between the PLO and Israel. After 17 months of mixed results that included a terrorist bombing of a barracks that killed 241 US Marines and 58 French paratroopers, the MNF withdrew in late February.

Story 2

More war: The Iran-Iraq War lasted from 1980-88 and resulted in over 1,000,000 dead. The US supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and was complicit in his use of chemical weapons, and we all know how he repaid our help…

Story 3

Used to be that merchants had to charge the same to customers paying with cash or credit cards, the S. 2335 (98th): Credit Card Protection Act was supposed to extend these protections if passed. Spoiler alert: it didn’t pass. And to this day, you are still occasionally charged a “convenience fee” for using your credit card or still see gas stations that charge higher prices for card use:

Ad break:

This spot supposes that Heineken is the best beer. Spoiler alert: it isn’t.

Story 4:

The New Hampshire primary is the first election primary of the presidential election cycle and, thus, has mostly-unwarranted importance in the eyes of the American media and electorate. In 1984, the Democratic front-runner, Walter “Fritz” Mondale was confident he’d win the primary and chose to campaign  in neighboring states instead. Spoiler alert: he didn’t. Gary Hart, now mostly-remembered for destroying his 1988 presidential campaign by having an affair (remember when politicians were held to a moral standard?) won. But we got this photo out of it, so yay?

Mondale did go on to win the nomination, however. Then spectacularly lost in a landslide to incumbent Ronald Reagan (who’d recovered from his assassination attempt by this time).

Story 5:

I can’t find anything definitive as to when the networks phased out newsbreaks. I can’t recall seeing one in the last 15 years, but it’s probably been much longer. Now that we have always-on internet access in our pockets and 24/7 news channels, these are a relic of the past. And could you imagine a network today passing up a couple of minutes of ad revenue to inform their viewers of world events? Hell no.

Forgotten Airlines

As you probably know by now, I inherited a collection of ephemera—old postcards, photos, negatives, maps, etc.—from my grandparents that they’d collected on their travels. Some items are interesting, others weird and some are mundane. Falling into this last category is this particularly-boring postcard:

The reverse of which tells us that this is a DC-8 belonging to World Airways:

As to why this postcard was in their possession, I can only assume that they once flew World Airways and this was a freebie—my grandfather wasn’t one to pass up on something free and would’ve taken it without intent to send it.

As for World Airways, I wasn’t familiar with it…which is weird, because I’m somewhat of a commercial aviation buff.

So a little research led me to find out that World Airways was still in existence as recently as 2014, though the reason I probably wasn’t familiar with them is that for most of my lifetime, they didn’t offer scheduled passenger service, but instead offered charter and leasing services to other airlines and the government. 

But that made me think of other airlines that are long gone. I previously talked about Braniff, but there were others that I dredged up from memory:

TWA

Everyone remembers TWA. Whether it’s that they were once passengers on a TWA flight or because of the airline’s many crashes or hijackings, this airline is part of American history. It was founded in 1930, once controlled by crazed billionaire Howard Hughes, and was put of out its misery by then-owner American Airlines in 2001 (thanks 9/11!).

Hughes Airwest

Known for their “flying banana” livery, this airline was formed in 1968 former TWA owner Howard Hughes and was absorbed into Republic Airlines in 1980.

Which leads us to 

Republic Airlines

Formed in 1979 by the merger of North Central Airlines, based in Minneapolis, and Southern Airways, from Atlanta, they bought out AirWest a year later. And then in 1986, were in-turn bought by Northwest.

of course, Northwest was eaten by Delta in 2008, but not before bestowing on the world a livery that looked like a bowling shoe:

Air Florida

I have to admit that I only knew this airline because of their crash into the Potomac in Washington in 1982 (and I only remember that crash because I vaguely-remember watching the made-for-TV movie, “Flight 90: Disaster on the Potomac” as a kid). They only lasted from 1971-84, but that livery is striking:

We’re Serious About Success…

…because you weren’t in high school.

A lot of criticism is (rightfully) thrown at the for-profit college industry. Most gladly take money from students and leave them deep in debt and unprepared for promised careers.

Surely, there are some success stories, but I suspect that these are people who would’ve succeeded on their own—naturally smart, very motivated and quite amiable people who just needed some sort of degree to get them in the door. But for everyone of these individuals, there must be hundreds that aren’t working in the career they trained for and are struggling to pay back the massive amounts of loans they took out to get their wasted education. 

Thankfully, one of the worst offenders, ITT Tech, shut down a few years ago after years of fraudulent activities against both students and the government.

As a interviewer and hiring manager in my day job in information technology, I’ve never once interviewed someone from either ITT or any of the other technical for-profit colleges that was “hire-able”. Technical interviews would show they lacked even basic skills for their chosen career, some even to the point of not being able to write and compile a “Hello World” program in their chosen language. Or they lacked soft skills, inabilities to communicate their ideas or thoughts or even to hold a conversation.

But that’s only my experience…like I said earlier, surely there are those that have found success via the for-profit education route. And, to be clear, my criticism here is leveled at the technical school genre of these colleges.  I can’t speak to experiences with online, for-profit universities such as WGU, Strayer or University of Phoenix (though these three do have regional accreditation, which is “more legit” than national accreditation).

That said, all this is just a long lead-in for a stupid photoshop that I made years ago that subtly mocks DeVry Institute of Technology, which now calls itself DeVry University:

My advice for anyone that wants to get into a technical job without going to a traditional university: Get an associates degree at a community college…it’s cheap and will be much-more-likely to get your foot in the door in a company as community colleges are usually seen as “legit” compared to for-profit technical schools. 

Land of the Lost

I was going through more of my grandparents’ old postcards and found this one:

A bit boring, but otherwise unremarkable at first glance. But then I read the description and thought “Huh?”

The problem I noticed is that there isn’t a Platt National Park. Or at least I was pretty sure there wasn’t one. I’ve lived in Texas all my life and have spent a fair amount of time  “north of the border” in Oklahoma and was pretty sure I’d remember a national park lurking nearby. 

Turns out that there was a Platt National Park at one time, but not any longer.

Established in 1902, it was the 7th national park and was carved out of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations (and for once, the feds actually bought the land from the Native Americans rather than taking it by fiat) in order to protect mineral springs in the area. 

During the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps built out a very large amount of infrastructure in the park, including campgrounds, trails and roads; as well as planting over a half-million trees and other plants.

It remained fairly-popular until the 1970s, when the National Park Service combined it with the neighboring Arbuckle Recreation Area to become the Chickasaw National Recreation Area

As for the park, it seems that it’s been wiped from the collective memory of the nation. There are few resources or images of it online and the NPS barely mentions it on their website.

That said, having done this little bit of research, I think a day trip to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is in my future.

Star Wars Distillations, Part 1: The Prequels

A few weeks back, I shared what I called a “Movie QR Code” for Blade Runner, that I’d made. After posting that, I thought about some of the other movies I wanted to do, thinking that maybe I’d get some interesting prints made for my office. Being a kid of the 80s, by far the most-influential films in my life have to be the Star Wars films, so I started with them. 

For the first installment, I did the much-anticipated but ultimately-disappointing prequels. However, to make it interesting, I’ve annotated the films as you can clearly recognize acts and scenes within the movie if you’re familiar with the plot. (If you click on an image, it will open larger. Also, forgive my handwriting).

First, we have The Phantom Menace.

Next up is Attack of the Clones.

And, finally, Revenge of the Sith.

Defunct Theme Parks From My Childhood, Part 1 – The Smiling Genie

I’m sure it’s happened to everyone: you’re lying in bed, late at night, trying to go to sleep and, suddenly, a random, fuzzy memory pops into your head. 

This happens to me a lot. Almost unnervingly so. Last week it was the time I randomly drove to Galveston in the middle of the night with my two college roommates so one of them could try to patch things up with his ex-girlfriend (spoiler alert: it didn’t work. But we did end up drinking beer on the beach until first light, so that was a bonus). 

Last night, it was a vague memory of a long-forgotten amusement park that we went to a couple of times as a kid. I didn’t remember much, except that it was in Corpus Christi, Texas, and that it had a genie on the sign. I struggled for a bit, rummaging around in the dungeons of my mind trying to remember what it was called, but all I could remember was that genie, beckoning passersby to stop for some amusements. 

Giving up, I rolled over and grabbed my iPhone off my nightstand and, one quick Google search later, I’d found the name: Magic Isles, along with some other interesting tidbits.

Magic Isles was only in existence for six short years—1978 to 1984, yet somehow we managed to visit it at least once if not twice (my memory is good, but not that good). Since we didn’t live in Corpus Christi, it would’ve had to have been on a trip to visit my mother’s father in the time between him moving from near Houston to South Texas, which would’ve been in the very early 80s, so the sliver of time where us going to Corpus fairly-regularly and Magic Isles being open was pretty narrow. My memories of Magic Isles are pretty limited: I only really remember the smiling genie on the sign. 

Luckily, someone online had saves this image of the logo. The sign was pretty similar, featuring the smiling (yet kind-of-unnerving) genie with the Magic Isles logotype below.

It was located at Flour Bluff Road and South Padre Island Drive. Luckily, Google Maps gives us a location via historical imagery:

2020
2020
2020
1982
1982

It’s good to see that even though Magic Isles is gone, there’s still entertainment to be had: the location is now In the Game Funtrackers.

I also found a fairly-recent write-up in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that gives a bit more background on the park, but basically it’s demise came down to our old frenemy, money.

Which seems to be a theme with small, regional parks. You don’t see very many local amusement parks anymore…most of them are owned by big corporations such as Six Flags. I kind of miss the days that you could go to a poorly-maintained local park and risk life-and-limb to have a thrill. The closest you get now are the parking lot carnivals that pop-up at dying malls on occasion, but I always feel like those are a little too-unmaintained as they’re moved town-to-town regularly, like a WKRP disc jockey.

If you’re interested in other out-of-business theme parks, I suggest perusing the excellent Defunctland on Youtube.

Photos from Pre-War* Europe

*Because we unfortunately have to specify which war this concerns, these are photos from prior to World War II

Before the Jet Age, traveling from the United States to Europe was a big deal. It usually involved a long voyage via ocean liner or several short airplane hops from New York to Newfoundland to Ireland to London and onward. The continent itself was recovering from the First World War, but the sense of dread of the upcoming World War II must have been in the air. 

In the days before digital cameras, smartphones and Instagram, people still took photos to document their experiences…they just didn’t have a way to share with the world. So, in most cases, these snapshots languished in albums tucked away in bookcases, shoeboxes on the top shelf of closets or envelopes in the back of desk drawers, only seen on occasion and rarely by anyone but the possessor. 

Several years ago, at the estate sale of Mrs. D.K. Caldwell of my hometown, Tyler, Texas, I came across a small collection of these forgotten photos from pre-War Europe.

Side note: D.K. Caldwell was a businessman who started a small zoo in his backyard in the late 1940s that eventually grew into the present-day Caldwell Zoo

Some of these photos are pretty amazing, so I’ve decided to share them over the coming weeks to give them the exposure that they never had.

If a note is written on the back of any photo, I’ve included it as the caption.

Fascist Girl Scouts
Fascisti Girl Scouts

Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the above photo except that it does depict what the note on the back states. An interesting Wikipedia article on Italian Fascist scouts and youth groups can be found here.

The following two photos, however, are of the Colosseum in Rome. The first seems to depict either archaeologists or grave robbers…your guess is as good as mine. 

Make Believe, IN SPACE!!!

When I was a kid, I had a vivid imagination. As, I suppose, most kids do. Except for the particularly dull ones. 

One of my favorite things to imaging was spaceships. Fueled by a steady diet of late 70s-early 80s science fiction (Star WarsBattlestar GalacticaBuck Rogers!) along with the optimism of the early days of NASA’s shuttle program (“we’ll be sending astronauts into space weekly and a moonbase is only years away” was the promise), I loved imaging space-based stories of distant planets, their bizarre denizens and the starships that would take us to meet them. 

I thought of these imaginary storylines and vehicles again over the weekend, as SpaceX made their first manned launch to the International Space Station (we still don’t have that moonbase, but we do have a space station!). This is, hopefully, the first step for private enterprise to pick up where NASA gave up on space exploration. Hell, Elon Musk even imagined a starship and is building it. 

But just because I thought of these imaginary interstellar ships again over the weekend doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought of them since I was an awkward little kid growing up East Texas…I actually think about imaginary space ships on a regular basis. 

One of my favorite sites to peruse is Concept Ships, a site filled with user-submitted spaceships. Users with much-better artistic talent than myself (seriously, you’ve seen the limits of my sketching skills). Some of these are so good, that I yearn to see them on TV or in a movie, just to see the adventures that they are engaged in.

I also regularly flip through the ImaginaryStarships subreddit. It’s strangely-reassuring to see that I’m not the only one that imagines spaceships on occasion. 

However, my new favorite place to see imagined spaceships is the Instagram feed of Eric Geusz, more popularly known as spacegoose. His specialty is taking everyday objects and reimagining them as spaceships (not unlike how, as a kid, I’d imagine the TV remote as a starcruiser or my Bic pen as a rocket).

I’m in awe of his abilities and creativity:

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by @spacegooose on

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by @spacegooose on

Maybe one day, I’ll have the artistic talent to share my own imaginings…

On Texas Courthouses, and the Loss Thereof

A while back, I posted “Greetings from Austin“, an introductory article on the souvenir postcard booklet from 1930s Austin, Texas. One of the cards features a view of the PWA Moderne-style Travis County Courthouse:

I have to say, PWA Moderne is one of my favorite architectural styles. Descended from Art Deco, to me it signifies the optimistic interbellum years between the (first two, hopefully) World Wars. Also, it’s closely-related to another of my favorite, Zigzag Moderne, as shown in this shot of the T&P Station in Fort Worth, Texas:

Curious about the Travis County Courthouse, I had to check if it was still standing, which it is (Google Streetview to the rescue!)

Which is fortunate, as Texas counties have a nasty habit of tearing down old courthouses to replace them with monstrosities.

Some examples:

Austin County replaced this lovely old building:

With this garbage:

Brazos County took down this:

In favor of this bit of misfortune:

Galveston County got rid of this:

In favor of whatever is going on here:

And in my hometown of Tyler, Smith County thought this grand old edifice was not worth keeping around:

And tore it down in favor of this horrendousness:

Some counties do it right, however; they keep the old building around for historical reasons while moving the functions of the court to a newer building.

For example, my current county, Collin, still has the old courthouse:

(which, admittedly, isn’t very attractive)

But they’ve since moved the courts and related functions to this bit of weirdness:

Dallas County kept around “Old Red” as a museum:

But did replace it with whatever this is :

Even Travis County is building a new building rather than tearing down their old courthouse:

While a striking building, it just doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi that makes a courthouse a courthouse. To me, this looks like another generic office building. But I’m not an architect, so what do I know?

If you’re interested in Texas courthouses, there’s a whole website that documents all 254 of them at texascourthouses.com. Go visit and take a look at some lovely buildings along with a fair-helping of architectural misadventures.