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:

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.

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. 

Looking for the Lost

It’s 1979. In the midst of the malaise of the Carter Administration, the Dallas Cowboys are two years removed from their second Super Bowl victory and are at the height of their reign as “America’s Team”.

In attempt to capitalize on the popularity of The ‘Boys, a vanity film is put into production: Squezze Play.

(Not to be confused with 1979’s correctly-spelled “Squeeze Play!“)

This movie has haunted me for years for silly reasons. Back in the day (what a vague term!), in my hometown of Tyler, Texas, we’d go out to Bennigan’s (RIP) for drinks and, once the bar closed, we’d take our hungered selves to the local Whataburger for late night breakfast tacos. Hanging in the location we frequented was a movie poster for a film we’d never heard of and were always unsure of why it was hanging there. We’d remark on the questionable spelling of “squeeze” (was it pronounced correctly or was it actually “squezzay”?).

Starring people you’ve probably heard of (assuming you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan), Hollywood Henderson, Too Tall Jones, Jay Saldi and Drew Pearson; along with people you haven’t heard of, Dawn Chapman, Gary Vazza and Eddie Thomas, the film was a strange mystery.

Eventually, we stopped going to Bennigan’s and Whataburger…our little drinking gang moved on, got married and grew up. I forgot about “Squezze Play” until a few months ago when I was at my local 7-11 here in the far northern suburbs of Dallas (practically Oklahoma). Waiting in line, I noticed that the guy in front of me looked remarkably like an older Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Knowing that he lives in the area and that this fellow customer was wearing an NFL Players Association hat and that he got into a Mercedes G-Wagen with a Dallas Cowboys decal on the back window when he left, I’m 98% certain it was, in fact, Too Tall Jones. Getting into my car (decidedly not a G-Wagen), I suddenly remembered “Squezze Play” and regretted not taking the opportunity to ask him about it.

I later mentioned this occurence to my brother and the kind of forgot about it.

Until earlier this week. My brother randomly texted me with a link to an old UPI story about the producer, Bill Chaffin, getting convicted of fraud for selling securities to finance the film. Further research led me to Chaffin’s site and it appears that he became a motivational speaker after serving his prison sentence (note that the endorsement is from Nextel, which ceased to exist in 2005). I submitted a question asking about the film on that site’s contact page, but have not heard back.

I also found this clipping from a 1979 Irving Daily News issue that highlights the film’s premier at Texas Stadium (RIP).

Part of my curiosity about this film is wanting to know what the plot is. Neither the poster nor the press clipping give any information beyond letting us know that their style does not including “backing down”.

The film’s plot synopsis on the IMDB is an indictment of the unprofessionalism of the cast and crew rather than the actual story of the film:

Troubled production starring four prominent Dallas Cowboys in the late 70s: Jay Saldi, Drew Pearson, Thomas Henderson and Ed Jones. Barely screened around Texas. In the words of director Anthony Lanza: “It was a bad movie, just a bad movie. It had four Dallas Cowboys in it. At the time, they were very popular. It had two or three people that were starlets that were just starting out, didn’t really have any background, didn’t want to be told what to do or how should I direct them and the action. It was just very unprofessional, and I didn’t enjoy putting that together at all.”

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10950080/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

That the move was “barely screened around Texas” and there is scant information on the web about it, I’m afraid that this is an example of a lost film. Occasionally, lost films are rediscovered…the most-famous recent example is the 1980 short “Black Angel“, shown around Europe before “The Empire Strikes Back”, it disappeared for decades and it was assumed that no prints existed until 2011 when an archivist found a print in the Universal Studios collection and was subsequently restored and re-released.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there will be a rediscovery of “Squezze Play”. Without the backing of a major studio that might’ve squirreled away a copy or two in a climate controlled archive, any print that exists has probably rotted away into oblivion on a forgotten shelf in a garage or attic. That said, I continue to hold out hope that one day a print will be rediscovered and shared with the world. Or at least with me.

This Week in Boring Postcards – Tok, Alaska

Quick post today. Back in the 1970s, my grandparents visited The Last Frontier—Alaska. Amongst the memorabilia of their voyage was this postcard, featuring the tiny hamlet of Tok.

Tok

And the reverse, informing us that this another “Alaska Joe” original (which makes me wonder about his other originals…)

Alaska Joe

Tok, in case you’re wondering, is a town of ~1300 people in the southeast of Alaska, with several theories about the origin of the name. From Wikipedia:

In one version, the name Tok is derived from the Athabascan word for “peaceful crossing.” The U.S. Geological Survey notes that the name “Tok River” was in use for the nearby river around 1901, and the Athabascan name of “Tokai” had been reported for the same river by Lt. Allen in 1887. In another version the name is derived from the English words “Tokyo camp”, although the major war benefit was supporting the transfer of airplanes to the Soviet Union. Another version claims the name was derived from the canine mascot for one of the Engineer units that built the highways. The name has no connection to the western Alaskan community of Newtok.

Another version comes from the proposed road construction of the highway to Richardson Highway. In the 1940s and 1950s, another highway, the Tok Cut-Off was constructed and connected Tok with the Richardson Highway at Glennallen. It was a “cut-off” because it allowed motor travelers from the lower United States to travel to Valdez and Anchorage in south-central Alaska without going further north to Delta Junction and then traveling south on the Richardson Highway. When originally being surveyed from the air, the map marking showed the “T” intersection, and the letters “OK” to confirm the location was suitable.

Having been to Alaska a couple of times, I can confidently say there are much more interesting things to make postcards of, so I’m kind of at a loss as to why my grandparents chose this one. Though, since it was never sent, I can only assume they decided after purchasing it that it wasn’t worthy of sharing.

Bonus: Download your own “Alaska Joe” graphic in JPG or SVG format!

Hula Honey History

Years ago, I picked up a pack of postcards entitled “Hula Honeys”, which featured reproductions of posters and ads for Hawaii and Hawaiian-themed nightclubs from the mid-Twentieth Century, when the country was going through a weird fascination with all things Polynesia and South Seas, such as Trader Vic’s.

I recently rediscovered these in a box I unpacked from our last move (it was only 18 months ago!) and took another look at them and one caught my eye:

Century Room

The name “Adolphus” jumped out at me, and not only because it reminded me of Hitler.

The Adolphus is a historic Hotel here in Dallas, opened in 1912 and built by the founder of Anheuser-Busch, Adolphus Busch. Today it’s one of the most-luxurious hotels in America, but back in the day, in the time of the Century Room, it was a hotbed of Southern Racism, including ties to the KKK. But it’s not the racism that intrigued me…there was, and still is, plenty of that going around; but rather it was the Century Room itself. 

The Century Room was a (whites-only!) swanky ballroom that featured Herman Waldman & His Orchestra playing the tunes of the day while couples danced, drank martinis and smoked cigarettes. The most-interesting part, to me at least, is that the dancefloor could retract, revealing a skating rink for ice shows, featuring flashy ice dancers performing choreographed routines. 

Eventually, the Adolphus was integrated in the 1950s. The Century Room stuck around for a few more decades, as the Adolphus lost it’s luster. In the 1980s, it came under new ownership and a massive remodel took place, adding luxury, painting over the past and reducing the Century Room to a parking lot.

Texas, Renowned for Cigars

When you think of cigars, I bet you think of Cuba; the fields of tobacco drying in the Caribbean sun or Los Lectores, reading the day’s headlines from Granma as workers roll the tobacco leaves into H. Uppmans or Cohibas.

But, if you’re a good Texan like me, you think of San Antonio’s own Travis Club cigars. 

Travis Club Senators Box Side

“Wut?”, I can hear you asking. 

My childhood memories include vivid images of my late grandfather chewing cigars (he never smoked them, only chewed), not unlike Hannibal from the A-Team.

Cigar Gnawing

And his preferred (and only?) brand was Travis Club; in particular, their Senator line of fine cigars. 

As a kid, the best part about this was that there was always a ready supply of Travis Club cigar boxes lying around their house (I’ll save memories of their house, in particular the “back room”—which sounds nefarious but isn’t—for a later day). I’m not sure why, but it was always strangely-exciting to get a cigar box. You could pack it with your Hot Wheels or Star Wars guys, or use it to store your baseball card collection. Sometimes, you’d even be able to snag a purple velvet Crown Royal bag to go along with it. 

Recently, I was going through some old stuff from their house and came across one of these boxes. 

I’ve posted the side of the box up above, but here’s the top:

Travis Club Senators Box Top

Somewhat stately, with a nice faux-woodgrain pattern. However, the inside flap was always the most-interesting part:

Travis Club Senators Box Inside

What was this old building with the cars out front? As a child, it was interesting, but as an adult, it’s intriguing.

As it turns out, this is the Travis Club building in San Antonio. And while that may seem obvious, it’s still an interesting discovery. Unfortunately, there’s little history or information about the Travis Club available online. I found a postcard available for sale on Amazon:

Travis Club Postcard

And an old photo of the groundbreaking of the building in 1911 in the collection of UTSA:

Travis Club Groundbreaking

As for the cigars themselves, Mark Louis Rybczyk has a short write-up in his excellent book San Antonio Uncovered: Fun Facts and Hidden Histories, the gist of which is that the Finck Cigar Company of San Antonio came up with this special blend cigar exclusively for members of the Travis Club and then later released it the general public. In fact, Rybczyk even wrote a book called The Travis Club that I’m now embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read, but will soon.

Which leads us to the makers themselves, the Finck Cigar Company. As it turns out, they’re still around and still selling the Travis Club cigars. Unfortunately, while the company is still based in San Antonio, the cigars are now made in such places as the Dominican Republic and Honduras. 

I like to think that, if he were still with us, my grandfather would still be chewing his Travis Club cigars and drinking Crown Royal at 100+ years old. Maybe I’ll have a drink tonight to remember him by…

 

Greetings from Austin

I recently came across a cache of old postcards while going through some of the photos and other memorabilia that I inherited from my late father (who, in turn, had inherited them from his parents—my grandparents). 

Greetings from Austin

 

Among these was a curious item that was titled a “Souvenir Folder of Austin”. It’s an accordion-folded collection of various sights (or sites?) around Austin. I can’t put a solid date on it, though there is a couple of good clues. First, the suggested postage is 1½¢, which corresponds to postage rates in 1938. Second, one of the postcards is of the Littlefield Fountain on the campus of the University of Texas. This fountain, by noted sculptor Pompeo Coppini, was completed in 1933, so this is from no-earlier than that date. Suffice to say, I’m comfortable saying that this dates from the very-late 1930s.

 

Littlefield Fountain

The postcards are credited to “Ellison”, which seems to be the Ellison Photo Company which, according to this site, was in business from 1900 through the 1980s. These are ostensibly photographs, but they’ve obviously been hand-colored and touched-up to the point that they look more like paintings or even hand-drawn architectural renderings.

 

Souvenir Folder of Austin