Introduction

Downtown Wichita Falls, Texas, in the mid 1940’s was a bustling metropolis for a boy of 7 just away from the farm and ranch community where he was born. My father, a cook and cowboy by trade, had just started as one of the first cooks for the Casa Manana restaurant in 1947. He moved us to an apartment on Ohio Street, right across from the Gem Theater, between 7th and 8th Streets. It’s here that we would stay for the next three years. The Gem Theater became a magic palace for a young mind. But it had to share that distinction with the rest of the magic that was Wichita Falls. I attended San Jacinto and Carrigan elementary schools, as well as Reagan Junior High, and belonged to the Boys Club on 6th Street. Please join, and share your stories and pictures through a Guest Blog, of early Wichita Falls - or your home town. Contact me at fadingshadows40@gmail.com or leave a comment. We could use old pictures of movie houses, drive-in theaters, and other nostalgic pictures related to our youths.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Day The Earth Stood Still


The Day The Earth Stood Still. I saw this great science fiction movie at the either The Strand or The State Theater in Wichita Falls in 1951. I think every kid in Wichita Falls made went to see it, because it was all the talk at San Jacinto elementary that year, as I’m sure it was at all the other schools. One of the best from the period, though today we can see the problems with it. However, it remains one of my favorite to this day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Desert Legion


Desert Legion with Alan Ladd and Arlene Dahl, from Universal in 1953. Like Lost Horizons, this film has a hidden valley paradise with its leader growing old and looking for a replacement. Captain Paul Lartal (Alan Ladd) serving with the French Foreign Legion in North Africa leads his men in search of the notorious outlaw, Omar Ben Khalif. His men are ambushed in the mountains, and he’s left for dead, but awakes in a tent treated by the beautiful Morjana (Arlene Dahl). He is later found wondering in the desert by the Legion, and tells the story of the beautiful woman. He wants to return to the mountains and capture Khalif, but is refused orders to do so, and takes a corporal with him, returning to find Morjana. It is a good movie with plenty of action, but not as powerful as his portrayal in Shane, from Paramount in the same year.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Drive-In Theaters


Drive-In Theaters were part of American history. Every town had one or more, many of them were twin screens. Most with interesting names, though many were just named from the town or owner. The one above, Flamingo Drive In, is a fine example. I wish others would share their town movie houses and drive-in theaters with us.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

King of The Congo


King of The Congo, a 15-Chapter Serial from Columbia in 1952: With Buster Crabb as Thunda/Roger Drum, and Gloria Dea as Pha, the Queen of the Rock People. Roger Drum is sent to Africa as a spy where enemies of America are trying to bully the local natives and locate an important radioactive ore. When Drum’s plane crashes, Pha and her warriors rescue Drum and take him to their caves. The enemy is searching for him too, as he is supposed to be carrying an important message to them. While in the cave the enemy attacks, and Drum lifts a heavy club to strike the warning gong for Pha’s warriors. By lifting the great club the Rock People believe he is Thunda, the only one capable of the feat, thus they make him king of their tribe. I believe this was the seventh and last serial Buster Crabb made, and possibly the weakest. He appeared still in good shape and all, but the acting and directing was just weak. The growling Cave Men tribe and Rock People have numerous battles, and there was a lot of fake growling. Thunda’s fight with the gorilla is the best scene in the film, I think. This was the only serial that Gloria Dea was in, and she just wasn’t very good in the part. Jungle Drums of Africa, the 12-Chapter Serial from Republic, would follow in 1953 with a similar plot (minus the muscular jungle man), but with better acting and directing. Even with the awful giant claw monsters, it is a better serial than King of The Congo. But then anything with Clayton Moore and Phyllis Coates is going to be good. Still, it was fun finally getting the chance to see this serial thanks to my friend Ralph Grasso. And it did provide a serial weekend for me. So that can’t be all bad.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Jungle Jim


Pygmy Island, a Jungle Jim film with Johnny Weissmuller. Jungle Jim always played at the Gem Theater. At least I never saw the movies anywhere else when I lived in Wichita Falls. Thankfully, I lived right across the street from the Gem, and if there was a Jungle Jim showing, I didn’t go anywhere else. I loved the character, and Johnny Weissmuller was great – of course, he was great in all those Tarzan films too! I have all of the Jungle Jim movies, including the serial that featured another actor in the part, but I prefer Weissmuller. I recently watched Pygmy Island again, and still found the thrill of the kid in me as I watched it once more.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

DC Comics


DC Comics: Superman changed comic books forever. I remember discovering my first comic books when we moved to Wichita Falls in 1947. I was seven years old and had never seen such wonders before. Although Superman was fantastic, Batman and Wonder Woman became my early favorites – until Captain Marvel and The Marvel Family came along and I discovered Mary Marvel (Sigh). But those were wonderful days. I read comics for 33 years before finally giving them up. Either they had lost their appeal, or more likely I just didn’t care where they were going by 1980. Next year at this time, if I’m still around, I plan on watching the 1948 Superman serial with Kirk Alyn one more time, seventy years after first seeing the serial at the Tower Theater in Wichita Falls in 1948.