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Member Since 02 Dec 2007
Offline Last Active Aug 20 2011 10:39 AM

Topics I've Started

Fish Story

23 July 2011 - 07:50 PM

I found an excellent picture book on the history of Fort Worth today at the library. I stupidly forgot to jot down the title, but it was written by Quentin McGowen (hope I spelled that correctly). It seems rather new. It's full of B&W pictures of various parts of the city, going back to the earliest days. Pictures show the meat-packing plants, the Medical Arts building under construction, Monnig's big store downtown, the '49 flood trying to get into the 7th Street Theatre, aerial views of Casa Manana when it was still an outdoor venue, you name it. Everyone here will enjoy it tremendously.

I grew up near Benbrook Lake and often heard funny stories about it. This book contains a picture that was taken sometime in the late 1960s; it shows four grinning FW firefighters, two of whom are holding up HUGE catfish. One weighed 67 pounds, the other weighed 68 pounds. According to the book, the firefighters were doing routine SCUBA diving as part of their training when they found a 1947 Studebaker at the bottom of the lake. They hauled it to shore to let it dry out (the FW Police Dept. confirmed that the vehicle had been stolen years before.) Then, to everyone's astonishment, they heard weird noises coming from the trunk! Inside they found -- two big catfish, which apparently had been growing in the back of the car for years. "This photograph... hit the wire services and ran worldwide," the caption reads. Each fish was about five feet long.

"Wow! What did you use for bait?"
"A Studebaker!"

Channel 5 is moving.

05 July 2011 - 09:03 PM

I read in the _Star-Telegram_ recently that KXAS-TV (Channel 5) is going to be moving out of their old studios on the east side of Fort Worth soon. They're relocating to a business park close to DFW Airport. One reason they gave was that it's more centrally located to the entire Metroplex. I can't help wondering if another reason could be the age of their current building (circa late 1940s, and expanded).

I visited Channel 5 only a handful of times in my life, but each trip always left a deep impression. I'm wondering what memories others may have of the place.

KXAS began broadcasting when Truman was still president. It was WBAP-TV then (We Bring A Program). WBAP-AM 820 used to be over on Broadcast Hill, too, wasn't it? (WBAP's studios are now on Lamar in Arlington.)

I don't know what will become of the building, but the news story says that the land may be donated to Fort Worth to use as a park.

The first time I visited KXAS was around 1977. My sister was going to appear as part of a youth choir program or some such. I was only about 8 or 9 years old and can't remember exactly what my sister was doing, because I was much more interested in all the technical stuff all around me. Remember those analog dials that Harold Taft used during his forecasts? Wind speed, direction, humidity, etc. I also got to see their old B&W weather radar console. Taft drew his own weather maps each day and he usually game them to school kids and teachers after he was through with them; if your elementary school classroom had a Harold Taft weather map pinned to the wall, you were tuff stuff!

When I was in high school, a friend at L.D. Bell was working as an intern at Channel 5 and he invited me over to the station early one morning to show me around. He operated one of the cameras in the studio for the 6 a.m. news. I stayed well out of the way but learned a great deal about what goes on behind the scenes in a TV studio. I got to see David Finfrock present the weather in front of the blue screen. Another camera operator was a woman, about college age, wearing a bathrobe, cut-offs, and fuzzy pink slippers while she ate corn flakes out of the box -- all while operating the camera.

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, TV stations had to come up with a lot of their own in-house programming. The networks didn't have enough of their own programs to fill up a broadcast day, so that's why there were so many local live shows for kids and housewives. Channel 5 kept a great many pieces of background scenery and props from this period for many years, even after it had long outlived its usefulness.

One of the biggest casualties of the Mayfest Hailstorm was Channel 5 itself. I remember when the storm reached Broadcast Hill, someone at the station placed a video camera in the lobby and pointed it out the front doors towards the parking lot. The images of all those cars and trucks getting destroyed by baseball-sized hailstones was absolutely incredible.

Channel 5 would produce these excellent programs about the history of the station whenever an anniversary would roll around. They showed film footage of news events that are long forgotten by most of us: huge fires in downtown Fort Worth, the doctor who was on trial for poisoning his wife and committed suicide in the courtroom by slipping a cyanide capsule into his mouth and washing it down with a soft drink just before the jury returned its guilty verdict, the tornadoes hitting Dallas, the abandoned car dealership explosion right next to I-30 due to natural gas, and of course... the JFK assassination.

Can you name some of the newscasters who have come and gone from Channel 5 over the stretch of time? Brad Wright, Chip Moody, Lee Elsesser, etc. Pat Boone appeared in live commercials for Foremost Dairies when he was a college student, and he told some funny tales about his experiences in one of these anniversary programs. Other celebrities would appear in the studio to promote movies or local performances (Jimmy Durante, Jane Fonda, etc.)

The last time I was in the Channel 5 studios was about 15 years ago. Their long-time chief engineer had finally retired, and they'd hired a new guy from New Jersey to replace him. This new chief engineer really cleaned house; they threw out a great deal of old TV technology and brought in much more up-to-date stuff. He showed me a room that had been used long ago for developing and editing film for the newscasts; there was a bathtub built into the floor for this purpose, but since the station had long since switched to using videotape exclusively, there was no longer a need for film developing. They covered over that tub and it's probably buried under several miles of computer network cable.

Channel 5 had a terrific B&W still-photograph library when I last visited (I was researching photographs for a book project). I don't know if it's still there of if it's since been relocated to the UTA Library. Some of the pictures I remember seeing there showed the building under construction in the late 1940s.

Not mentioned in the _Star-Telegram_ article was what will happen to the antenna masts that are on the property.

I recall one eventful day long ago (late '70s or early '80s) when a major power failure occurred inside the station building. It may have knocked out the air conditioning (and believe me, with all those hot lights in the studio, there's NO WAY you can do a news broadcast in there without A/C). In any case, KXAS simply moved the 5 o'clock news out into the parking lot, and broadcast it live from there! Harold Taft drew the weather map on a roll-around chalkboard, like old times.

Many of us still remember Harold Taft's long bout with cancer. And I still recall watching that 10 p.m. news broadcast when David Finfrock had to announce that "The Chief" had finally succumbed, just a few minutes previously.

I've always wondered exactly how large and extensive their film and video library is.

What all do YOU remember?

"Jacket Journal"

11 May 2011 - 10:05 PM

I happened upon an eight-page issue of the "Jacket Journal," the newspaper of Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, that was published on Wed. 12 March 1969. I thought folks might be interested in what the Yellow Jackets were talking about that day.

* Congressman Jim Wright gave a speech to the students in a morning assembly in late February. He spoke about Sam Houston.

* The school play was "Harvey."

* Several articles about sports.

* Two entire pages dedicated to the dangers of drugs.

Various Advertisements:

* Bonanza Sirloin Pit (picture of Dan Blocker). University Bonanza. 1700 University Dr. at Forest Park.

* Gibson Products Company. 7900 Highway 80 West

* Wick & Wax. 6100 Camp Bowie

* Ridglea Hills Pharmacy. 3803 Southwest Blvd. "We give & redeem Scottie Stamps."

* Tolson's Modelcraft. 3404 Camp Bowie.

* Griff's Hamburgers. 5900 Camp Bowie.

* Jerry's Junior Shop. "Across the Street from Ridglea Theatre" "Pace-setting styles for the fashion-conscious girl." 6008 Camp Bowie. PE2-2581.
* Ye Olde Bull & Bush Restaurant. 5226 Camp Bowie Blvd. Phone: PE8-7861.

Six Flags Over Texas -- History Exhibit at UTA

06 March 2011 - 01:16 PM

Six Flags Over Texas celebrates its 50th season this year. It opened on August 5, 1961. The central library at the University of Texas at Arlington has set up a free exhibit on the 6th floor (the "Special Collections" area) called "What You Wish the World Could Be: The Early Years of Six Flags Over Texas." It covers about the first 25 years of the park.

I thought I knew a lot about Six Flags already (I worked there for two years in the late 1980s), but this exhibit provided a great many details I was previously unaware of. One of the reasons Six Flags was built was to help finance the infrastructure for the Great Southwest Industrial District. There are plenty of large photographs and captions on display... even a map from the first season. There is an original mannequin from the Spelunker's Cave, and an actual wooden horse from the Carousel. (There's a photograph of a young clerk selling tickets to Six Flags' opening day in Leonard's Department Store!)

An adult ticket during that first year cost $2.75. Employees of Convair, Ling-Temco, and Texas Instruments got to visit the park a few days before the official opening to help employees figure out what needed to be adjusted to make the experience better. [To this day, there are some people in Southern California who have never forgiven Walt Disney for not having "Tomorrowland" ready in time for Opening Day of Disneyland!]

There are a couple of "memory walls" where visitors can write down and submit their memories of Six Flags, and these are quite interesting to read, too. Everybody has fond memories of rides, childhood trips, things that went wrong, etc. You may be surprised to see pictures of rides and exhibits that have long since come and gone: goat-cart rides, helicopter rides, the "Sky Hook," the slide on the Oil Derrick, the "Big Bend" roller coaster, etc. (Do you remember the "Six Flags is What You Wish the World Could Be" jingle from the 1970s? It had an animated character named Cyrus Cosmo.)

There is a picture of Betty Buckley trying out for a singing/performing job at the park. There are also lots of engraved employee name tags from past years. Six Flags had a recreation area behind the scenes that was provided strictly for employees, which included a swimming pool and a softball field (there's an old team jersey on display). A couple of employee yearbooks (similar to high school yearbooks) are also shown. (The park stopped producing those yearbooks long ago, and the swimming pool is long gone.)

You may remember that the park used to slap a bumper sticker onto your car as you departed the parking lot. The color scheme for this sticker was changed each year. My family had a big old station wagon that sported nearly half a dozen of these stickers during the 1970s. At least one of these stickers is on display at the UTA library, with the adhesive backing still attached!

"Seven Seas" gets a mention, too. There are a couple of photographs of that water park, as well as a souvenir collectible teacup with the "Seven Seas" logo on it. There's a big picture of the pirate ship from "Seven Seas"... it was called the _Bona Venture_ and was incorporated into the Sheraton Hotel's swimming area in 1985, where it remained until it burned due to an electrical short in 1992. (One thing I learned about "Seven Seas" here was that the reason it did not have much in the way of rides was because of a non-compete agreement with Six Flags.)

The only complaint I have about this exhibit is, it's not large enough! The attendant in charge said that while the brochure says this will run until the middle of May, it may actually be running even longer due to demand. There will likely be some employee reunions in the near future. I would like to see a small TV showing old TV commercials and other videos, such as the time-exposure film of the construction of the "Shock Wave" roller coaster.

You can find out more about the UTA Library's Special Collections exhibits here:
Hours: Open Mondays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays. (The exhibit is free, but you may have to pay for parking.)

No, they don't stamp your hand as you leave. :)

Fort Worth Zoo photos -- 1966

06 March 2011 - 12:24 PM

We were going through some family mementos recently and my brother found a postcard package from the Fort Worth Zoo that he bought at the gift shop during a trip around 1966. The whole thing folds up like a wallet and can be mailed as a group. I've scanned the color images and posted them to this website:

http://s609.photobuc...th Zoo -- 1966/

Most of the buildings and exhibits in this photo collection no longer exist. I wouldn't be surprised if those particular animals aren't around anymore, either (they'd all be older than I am). We see the Children's Zoo, the Herpetarium (the Snake House), the Aquarium, several static displays, the sign at the entrance on University Drive, the zebra/pentagon logo used at the time, etc. Some of the children in these photos are no doubt parents themselves now.

What all do you remember about the zoo, seeing these pictures?