Remember(ing) the Alamo (City)

 

I recently found an old postcard of the skyline of San Antonio, Texas–home of the Alamo, Whataburger and Rodney Alcala–from 1937.

I thought, of course, it would be interesting to compare the Skyline of 85 years ago to today (during which the population of the city proper–not including the ‘burbs–grew from ~240K to 1.5 million people).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a free photo from this exact angle, but did find this Creative Commons photo on Wikimedia:

Source and license: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Downtown_San_Antonio_Skyline_Panorama.jpg

That’s a bit big with a lot of sky, so let’s crop and zoom:

More skyscrapers, obviously. And higher urban density. The Tower of the Americas, on the far right, wasn’t built until the late Sixties for the Hemisfair ’68 World’s Fair.

But the Tower Life Building is still standing

And the Alamo National Bank building:

Milam Building:

As well as the Emily Morgan Hotel

 

The rest of the skyline seems to have faded into history–though, unlike, for instance, Dallas or Houston–San Antonio seems to be pretty good about preserving its historical buildings (after all, they did preserve and restore the Alamo); unfortunately, unlike our European friends, we Americans are all-too-often eager to default to a New Years Mindset–”Out with the Old, In with the New”.

To add a bit of further information, this postcard is copyrighted by Summerville Photo, which refers to H.L. Summerville, a photographer local so San Antonio but who otherwise seems to have very little information available online, save for this MySanAntonio article.

Cable Television, 1989

I was rummaging through some old boxes recently and found a cable channel guide from 1989 amongst the other treasures that had been packed away and unseen since the first Bush administration. 

This particular card was United Cable Television’s lineup in the city I grew up in–Tyler, Texas, a somewhat-backwards place in East Texas.

First, a bit of history:

United Cable Television’s roots go back to 1953. Gene Schneider, his brother, Richard, and Bill Daniels built a community antenna[1]incidentally, Community Antenna is where we get the abbreviation for cable TV as CATV system (what we’d later call a cable system) in Casper, Wyoming. It was the first cable system in the country to use microwave to import broadcast signals from a distant city (in this case Denver). Schneider bought out Daniels in 1960 as well as other original investors and continued to expand the company. In 1966, GenCoE was formed with Ben Conroy, Jack Crosby, Glenn Flinn and others. In the late 60’s, GenCoE merged with Livingston Oil Company  and in 1970, the cable company became independent through an IPO and was named LVO Cable; in 1974 it became United Cable Television Corporation (United). In 1979, it merged with United Artists, which later merged with TCI, which branded some of their markets as the New United Cable Television, including the Tyler, Texas, market.

I thought I’d make a quick rundown of what channels were available to watch and if they’re still around today.

2. Local Time, Weather, Message

My memories of channel 2 was that it was a multi-lined feed of character-generator created text showing the time, temperature and other information, each line being a different color, kind of, but not completely like this retro image I found online from Winnipeg:

3. CNN is still going strong

4. KDFW is now a Fox affiliate

5. KXAS is still NBC

6. Cable Value Network was bought-out by QVC in July 1989, so either this card hadn’t been updated or, more-likely, it’s operations hadn’t yet been merged into its new owner’s.

7. KLTV is still the ABC affiliate in East Texas

8. WFAA is still the Dallas-area ABC affiliate

9. WGN’s superstation feed was later converted into a conventional basic cable channel called WGN America, which eventually became NewsNation. However, when it was WGN, we got to watch the local Chicago news, Cubs games and the Illinois lottery drawings!

10. KETK is still the local NBC affiliate.

11. KTVT became the DFW CBS affiliate when KDFW switched to Fox

14. Arts & Entertainment now just goes by A&E and focuses much more on the Entertainment part rather than the Arts, though in the early days, it broadcast classical music performances, plays and other high-brow entertainment.

16. ‘Memba this?

17. TBS was a superstation, carrying local Atlanta-area content, but has now split into a conventional basic cable channel along with a separate Atlanta-only feed.

18. *yawn*

19. FNN was purchased by NBC in 1991, and operations were integrated with rival cable financial news network, CNBC, on May 21, 1991.

21. VISN was the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network, a religious broadcaster. It was eventually bought out and became the Hallmark Channel in 2001.

23. CBN Family Channel started as the Christian Broadcasting Network Satellite Service, which became The Family Channel, then Fox Family, then ABC Family and finally Freeform.

24. Fun fact: MTV used to show music videos.

25. The Nashville Network was originally country music focused. In an attempt to broaden its appeal, it de-emphasized country music and renamed itself to The National Network, followed by a rebranding to Spike TV and finally the Paramount Network in 2018.

26. VH1 was the more-adult companion to MTV, but like that channel, eventually drifted into showing more reality TV than anything else.

29. When I was a kid, KXTX was an independent station that mostly showed old movies, Rockford Files reruns and westerns. Today, it’s the DFW area Telemundo affiliate.

31. KLMG has since changed their callsign to KFXK and is now a Fox affiliate.

35. Movietime changed to E!: Entertainment Television (now just E!) in 1990.

42. American Movie Classics was originally a pay channel that focused on showing classic films. It’s since drifted to original programming (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc.), became basic cable and changed its name to just AMC.

43. HSE dropped out of premium cable as Fox Sports Southwest and eventually became Bally Sports Southwest

49. The Playboy Channel is still sort-of around as Playboy TV, but is no longer operated by Playboy; instead, it’s operated by MindGeek, operators of such fine websites as Pornhub, RedTube and Brazzers.

 

References

References
1 incidentally, Community Antenna is where we get the abbreviation for cable TV as CATV

Las Vegas Hooker Cards: A NSFW Gallery

Sorry…not hookers, but rather “Adult Entertainers”, since prostitution is, of course, illegal in Clark County.

At any rate, if you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, you’ve no doubt seen day-laborers passing out cards on the Strip advertising these “adult entertainers”. Maybe you’ve even taken a few–either out of curiosity or politeness or even to hire an entertainer (I’m not judging you). My wife and I used to go to Vegas fairly often, maybe one or two times a year, until 2018, which was the last time we were in Nevada (thanks, pandemic). However, when we’d go, we’d collect as many of these cards as we could…we found them to be hilarious, in that private couples-humor sort of way. 

I recently came across a stack of these cards in a box of random ephemera that I’d collected over the years and thought “why not digitize and share for prosperity?” So, if you’re interested in seeing some of these cards and you’re not at work (or you work at an adult entertainment business), then please enjoy this Not Safe For Work gallery.

Discover America

Among the ephemera I inherited from my grandparents was a 1967 Humble Oil Company Touring Guide. From my understanding, you could contact Humble Oil’s travel division and ask them to prepare a map for your travels with the route from your departure point to your destination marked, including alternatives (if available) for fastest route, a scenic route and a different return route (which would make me happy as I often return a different way than the outbound trip to see different things, much to my wife’s chagrin). Accompanying this map would be the Touring Guide booklet outlining travel tips, how to read maps and other information the intrepid traveler might need. I’ll include a link to a PDF of the entire booklet at the end of this article, but thought I’d point out a few interesting items first.

A sample map showing the three possible permutations of a route that could be provided by the prepared map

 

I, too, often hold a roadmap while fishing for salmon

 

Thanks for clarifying

 

“Hey kids! Let’s plan our vacation and have some Purple Drank!”

 

The current roster of National Parks is 63, so either this list is incomplete or the last 55 years have blessed us with a lot more

Interestingly, this list includes Oklahoma’s long-gone Platt National Park, which I previously wrote a bit about here.

Nothing like going on vacation and touring factories! (Though I’d probably enjoy it, once again to my wife’s chagrin).

 

“…completion by 1972”

 

This seems like too much math for me to do while planning a vacation

 

As a resident of Texas, I can assure you that global warming has ensured there’d be some red on this map if it were from this century

 

“Smile son, for Old Sol is coming to take us to our eternal reward!”

 

That’s about $311 in 2022 money, which seems like you could do better than today (unless you stay in an AirBNB where the owner charges as much as the room for a “cleaning fee”)

 

If you have a station wagon, you can turn the rear into a dangerous playground for your kids!

 

Were they just ignoring the fact that Hawaii also became a state in 1959 after Alaska and would thus be the newest state? Did they refuse to acknowledge it because you can’t get there by car?

 

Canada hadn’t bought into that whole “metric” thing yet

 

Canada was still using Her Majesty’s Gallons

 

Canada didn’t change to the metric system until 1975. The United States didn’t change until never.

 

You can download the complete PDF for your nostalgic enjoyment here.

Old Photo Sleeves, Part 1

I’ve recently been spending some time scanning and archiving the rather-large set of photographic negatives and prints, along with other materials, that I inherited from my grandparents and father. Among the more-interesting items are the sleeves that the prints and negatives were returned to the customer by the photo labs after processing. Below are a few that I’ve archived so far.

Cheetah Photo is a bit of a mystery to me…I can’t seem to find any reference to it online, but my best guess is that it was a local photo lab in East Texas as that’s where the negatives that were in this sleeve were shot (and where I grew up).

 

Many of you might remember Eckerd Drugs. This chain went out of business in 2007, but their photo lab was pretty popular. This sleeve seems to be from when someone ordered new prints from negatives that they already had.

Fox Photo was a chain that was probably best-known for their small photo pick-up/drop-off huts in parking lots across America:

Fox hung on, somehow, until 2001, but I assume that some locations were converted to Taco Huts:

And, as a bonus, here some Fox Photo coupons that are probably no-longer valid:

Vintage Playboy Ads #2

I recently posted some old-school-ridiculous ads from vintage Playboy magazines here and thought “Why not make this a regular thing?”, so today I present to you more vintage Playboy ads. This time, we’re setting the time machine’s controls to take us back to March 1977.

Wrangler really tried to step back from that rugged cowboy image in favor of something more “Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie and Clyde Meets Captain Fantastic”. Incidentally, 350 Fifth Avenue is the Empire State Building, but, alas, Wrangler has moved their headquarters to Greensboro, NC since this ad ran. Also, the slogan “Wremember, the ‘W’ is Silent”?

Gross. Nothing, in my mind, says “1970s Venereal Disease Vector” quite like these wooden hot tubs. Or, as I call them, “The Devil’s Chowder”.

 

I knew that ITT had scammed a lot of gullible people via their tech schools and that they’d overthrown the government of Chile, but I didn’t know that they made camera flashes. So, there, I learned something new today.

“Panasonic says you should violate FCC regulations”

Stop! Your creepy smoker’s eyes are staring into my soul!

 

Vintage Playboy Ads #1

People kid themselves when they say “I only read Playboy for the articles”, so I’m going to modify that a bit and say “I only read vintage Playboys for the ads”. 

I recently came across a trove of vintage issues of Playboys and its been fun to flip through them and appreciate the ridiculousness of the ads more than anything else (though I must admit that the “boomer humor” comics occasionally elicit a groan from me, when they’re not making me cringe).

So, today, I present to you, some weird/ridiculous/strange/whatever ads from the August 1979 issue of Playboy.

A full 42 years before Apple introduced Spatial Audio, Bose was giving it to us via this fake-wood-grained box.

From back in the day when Canadian Mist (which I admit to occasionally drinking) came in a glass bottle, and not the plastic bottles that it comes in now.

I’m sorry, but I’m not drinking something called “Dry Sack”. And to be juvenile, I feel like this might be related to the two different jock itch ads in the issue:

The reverend should’ve stuck with VW. Also, I can’t imagine that the good reverend would be pleased to know he appeared in Playboy.

“Row on row of precision gauges”…”husky” wheels…”12,000-mile/12-month warranty”. The AMX had it all!

If you drink too much Canadian Mist or…um…”Dry Sack”, you too could be an olive-dropper!

Who is this Bruce Jenner you speak of?

Hope you like film grain.

When you’re finished shooting your grainy photos on your Minolta, take your film down to the Fotomat in the parking lot at the Woolworths! In a week or so, return to pick up your prints and prepare to be disappointed.

Greetings from Memorial Stadium

A while back, I shared that I’d found a souvenir set of postcards from late 1930s Austin, Texas, amongst my grandparents’ cache o’ stuff.

One of the items in there was a postcard of the University of Texas’ Memorial Stadium:

Which is a far cry from how it looks today:

(but it still has arches!)

Built in 1924 with a capacity of 27,000, Memorial Stadium was dedicated to the nearly 200,000 Texans who fought in the Great War (as it was called then, since WWII and the forthcoming WWIII hadn’t happened yet). Over the years, it was steadily expanded to today’s 100,000 fan capacity. And, in 1996, was renamed after legendary Longhorn coach Darrell K. Royal to “Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium”, which was confusing if you didn’t know the origin of the name as Royal was still very much alive at the time of the rename, but it sounded like it was a memorial to him.

It’s an impressive venue, for sure, but my favorite on the UT campus is the Frank Erwin Center, mainly because of its bizarre architecture (bizarchitecture?):

Built in 1977 in a modern style I like to call “Loganism” after the set design and locations in the classic sci-fi film Logan’s Run, I’ve always loved the way this edifice has loomed over I-35 as one drives through Austin. 

Unfortunately, this fine building is being replaced with a new, less-bizarre structure, the Moody Center:

Light and airy, the Moody Center might be more-attractive to visitors, but it lacks the imposing presence of the Erwin Center. And I think that’s a loss. (My inability to visualize structures as people-friendly or approachable is probably part of the reason I dropped out of the architecture program in college in favor of computer science/engineering).

 

 

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: