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).

 

 

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.

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.

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