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.

A Lightweight EXIF Data Viewer

If you’ve read the title of this post and are wondering “what is this EXIF thing?”, then here’s a bit of information. EXIF is an acronym for EXchangeable Image File Format. And, no, I don’t know why it’s not “EXIFF”. Basically, it’s metadata tagged onto a digital image that contains information about that image. This, along with another group of metadata, IPTC, is used by digital photographers to keep track of information about such things as camera/lens settings, geographic information and copyright of a given photo. 

Some photographers post their images online with this information intact, while others will strip it out when posting, keeping their secret sauce to themselves. For myself, I keep it intact as I hope it might be helpful to other photographers to understand how a photo was capture as well as being an aid in enforcing copyright. Most, if not all, photos on my photography site have this data tagged onto them and the basic data can be viewed by clicking the “View Photo Data and Location” button under the photo:

Basic EXIF data on 75CentralPhotography.Com

However, there are a lot of times that I want to view this data locally for unpublished photos on my PC. To make this easy, I wrote a simple Windows application that will display this data for a selected photo:

Main Interface

It displays the most-commonly used EXIF data on the main interface; and, if there’s GPS information embedded in the metadata, it shows a button to view the photo’s location on Google Maps. If you want all the EXIF data, you can click “File→Show All EXIF Data…” and a dialog will appear showing everything:

Everything, Everything

This application is written in VB.NET and the source code is available on GitHub. If you want to install it, you’re welcome to download it here

A couple of installation notes:

When downloading the installer, you may get this warning:

Because this app hasn’t been installed enough times for Windows to “trust” it, Windows Defender wants you to really think about it before installing. To continue, click the three dots and choose “Keep”.

You might then get another warning:

Go ahead and click the down arrow next to “Show more” and click “Keep Anyway”. Then, navigate to your download location and doubleclick EXIFViewer.msi to install. You might get another warning:

Click More info and you’ll get the option to run anyway. At this point, the installer will launch and you can install the application.

A lot of rigmarole to install an app, but it’s for most people’s own good, as Windows tries its best to prevent you from installing malicious software using Defender Smartscreen. In this case, you’re going to have to trust me that this isn’t malicious. You have the option, of course, to review the source code at the Github repository listed above. And you know where to find me. If enough people install, Windows will eventually allow it past Smartscreen without complaint.

If you download and use the EXIFViewer and have any feedback or find any bugs, please submit an issue here or send me an email at matt@75central.com.

 

Communicating With the Past

My wife and I are both working from home these days, much like a lot of other people, forced to make do in home offices. Fortunately (I guess, depending on your definition of “fortune”), we’re a childless couple, so we’re able to have our own separate offices, converted from the extra bedrooms of our typical suburban 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. 

Unfortunately, this means that if we need to communicate with each other, we either need to send text messages or shout. And, despite our spare bedroom/offices being adjacent to each other, more often than not, we can’t hear each other even if our voices are raised.

As a solution, I suggested we get intercoms. Which reminded me of the intercoms we had growing up in the 70s and 80s.

A lot of houses at the time had nifty built-in intercoms from the NuTone Corporation, with a little panel in each room.

NuTone Room Station

These were tied to a central unit, typically in the kitchen:

NuTone Panel

This featured an AM/FM radio to broadcast music throughout the house. Because nothing sounds as great as tinny speakers blaring shitty 70s music wherever you go in your domicile.

You don’t see these in houses anymore. They don’t seem to be popular in new builds, though it does look like you can still get modern versions, and most people rip them out when they renovate older homes. 

Growing up, however, we weren’t fortunate-enough to have a built-in system. Instead, we made do with a couple of these units that dad picked up at the local Radio Shack:

Plug 'n Talk

Pressing the Call button would ping the other unit. Talk would allow you to speak to the other person (you’d stop pressing the button to hear the response—this was strictly half-duplex). And Lock would lock down the Talk button so you could just keep talking without having to hold the button or wait for the other person to answer (though I suppose you could use this a baby monitor so you didn’t have to rely on your baby remembering to hold the Talk button himself).

After that wave of nostalgia, I’m tempted to pick up this pair on Ebay to solve our household communications issues. 

Wax Works?

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting a waxworks (or wax museum), I hope you went to one of the more-legitimate ones, such as London’s Madame Tussaud’s and not one of the poorer instances, such as the unnamed one I visited with my family a few years back.

I’ve chosen not to name this museum as I don’t want to directly call out the sheer awfulness of their celebrity wax models, but suffice to say that if you know where I live (near Dallas) and you know that it’s within an hour’s driving distance of where I live (near Dallas), you can use your Google skills to determine that it’s the only wax museum near Dallas.

I’ve chosen to share some of the more-outlandish or monstrous takes on celebrities we saw that day (forgive the photo quality—these were taken with whatever the current iPhone model was in January 2015 and it was dark).

First off, we have the crew of the original NCC-1701 Enterprise. It looks like that “five year mission” wasn’t too kind to William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, DeForrest Kelly, George Takei and James Doohan. Do Sulu and Bones have mop-top haircuts? Is Scotty constipated? What’s up with Kirk’s hairline? And why is there a studio light on the bridge?

Star Trek

Next up, we have then-President Barack Obama (halcyon days, those were). I’m convinced that this isn’t supposed to be a direct facsimile of Obama, but rather what Obama would look like as a puppet caricature if Spitting Image was still on the air.

Obama?

Speaking of ex-Presidents, this museum featured an ersatz Hall of Presidents, but a Hall of Presidents wherein Disney Land had suffered a horrible fire.

All the Presidents

And a closer look at our more-recent Commanders-in-Chief:

Recent Office-Holders

What’s going on with Nixon’s floppy hair? Are Johnson’s pants the right size? Why is Reagan’s face twisted into a ghoulish grin? Where is Clinton’s hand wandering to?

Next, we have “funny” man Jay Leno. Not only is his visage terrifying, the designers of this wax model missed the mark in that they neglected to dress it completely in denim.

Funny, if by "funny", you mean "terrifying"

And, speaking of comedians, we encountered LGBT pioneer, talk show host and supposedly horrible person, Ellen DeGeneres.

Eek

Sorry, Portia, if this is a true-to-life representation of your wife.

We also came across The Duke: Marion Morrison. You might know him as the more-manly-sounding John Wayne, legendary actor and chain smoker. Once again, the wax modelers just gave up when it came to the hair.

The Duke

Along the same lines, we have the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. But this is Johnny Cash suffering the first stages of of a rare connective tissue disorder:

Here comes the Man in Black

Of all the well-known people depicted in this museum, I think the only one that came remotely close to looking like its real-life counterpart was actually the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. 

Ayatollah Assahola

I like to think that when the Ayatollah learned that a wax figure of him had been made and placed alongside the horrific caricatures of others at this particular museum, it was then that he declared the United States to be “The Great Satan”.

Stupid Photoshops

Sometimes, late at night, while I’m trying to go to sleep, ridiculous thoughts rise up in my mind. I’ll smirk at them in my half-asleep stupor and my mind will wander on, searching for elusive slumber. 

If I’m lucky, I’ll remember them the next morning. If I still find them funny and am suitably inspired, I’ll fire up Photoshop and bring them to life.

Here are a couple of them for your enjoyment (legal disclaimer: enjoyment not guaranteed).

Buddy vs. DuffThe inspiration for this one came last year when Food Network was heavily promoting the premier of their series Buddy vs. Duff, which pits celebrity pastry chef Duff Goldman versus Carlo’s Bakery owner Buddy Valastro in a series of baking-related challenges.

The real Buddy vs. Duff

However, being a good student of pop culture, I immediately thought of former Cricket Buddy Holly and former Guns N’ Roses member Duff McKagan. It wasn’t until later that I considered that comedian Buddy Hackett might’ve been a funnier alternative.

 

The Ex-Pants

Last year, I started watching the science fiction show The Expanse. However, in my twisted mind, I heard “expanse” as “ex-pants” and immediately thought of a pair of cutoff shorts as formerly being a pair of jeans, or “ex-pants”.

The Expanse

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…

 

Swinging 70s

I recently came across an article about a 1943 exhibition of Alexander Calder‘s work at MoMA that jumpstarted his career and had a massive impact on the America art scene. 

If you’re not familiar with Calder, you’ve probably seen some of his well-known work throughout the years without even knowing it, such as in the parade scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which features his 1974 sculpture, Flamingo:

 

*note to whoever posted this video: it’s “Bueller”, not “Buller”. Also, the apostrophe is unnecessary

This reminded me of long-gone Dallas-based airline Braniff International Airways.

The connection probably sounds tenuous at best, but that’s probably because Braniff has long-since-faded from your memory (or, if you’re on the younger-side, you’ve never even heard of it). But the connection is real.

In the mid-60s, Braniff began to undertake a decade-long rebranding, embracing the spirit of the times (space age, swinging, cocaine) and commissioned a few well-known designers to bring their image out of the staid 50s and into the modern era. 

Fashion designer Emilio Pucci was hired to design new uniforms for the flight crews:

Space Age Helmet Mod! Both Groovy and Far Out!

And the (in retrospect, sexist) AirStrip was introduced, in which flight attendants (or, in keeping with the times, “stewardesses”) would, over the course of the flight, remove their Pucci uniforms in favor of something more-comfortable.

AirStripper

 

In addition, Braniff built a swanky “Hostess College” adjacent to their home airport, Dallas’ Love Field.

Braniff Hostess College

It featured this of-the-times conversation pit:

Orgy-Ready!

Noted architect and designer Alexander Girard was hired to completely rebrand the airline, from sugar packets, to airport gates to jet interiors, as part of the “End of the Plain Plane” campaign.

Colors of the 60s

Too bright!

And, finally, getting back to Calder, he was invited to use Braniff jets as giant canvasses for his art, resulting in some of the most bold, exciting jet liveries to ever grace the sky:

Boeing 707

Boeing 727

Boeing 727

Unfortunately for Braniff, these undertakings were not enough to keep the airline alive. Due to mounting debt and a threatened pilots strike, the airline ceased operations on May 12, 1982. The daily nonstop from Honolulu to DFW, was the airline’s last flight, undertaken by the 747SP named “747 Braniff Place”, but more affectionately-known as “Big Orange”:

Flying Pumpkin - Boeing 747SP

The designs of the 60s and 70s had a certain optimism to them, no doubt inspired by unease over the Vietnam War and the Cold War, and percolated by men walking on the Moon, that it gives me hope that great art will emerge from the current coronavirus-stricken world. 

A Sketch from My Father

I was recently digging through some of the previously-mentioned effects and memorabilia that I’d inherited from my father and found this sketch of a Victorian house he’d made in 1976. 

At the time, I would’ve been less-than-a-year-old as I’d been born in late 1975 and we were living in the South Texas city of Kingsville, home of the King Ranch and not much else, and decidedly not home to much Victorian architecture.

A sketch from my father

Unfortunately, time hasn’t been too kind to this sketch…it’s been torn and faded to a vague yellow. It seems to have been taped onto something at one time…perhaps a portfolio or a frame. That said, I might have to frame it sometime as a small item 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

Japanese Star Wars

I recently came into possession of a set of totally-random Japanese Star Wars stickers and thought I’d share some of them here. To start off, here are a few of the sheets. (And, of course, all content is both © and ™ Lucasfilm Ltd.)