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 or leave a comment. We could use old pictures of movie houses, drive-in theaters, and other nostalgic pictures related to our youths.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Memorial Auditorium & Serials

I’m just getting over a cold, but still a bit weak. Sorry it’s been awhile since my last post on the Blog. I thought I would include a couple items today.

First up is a 12-chapter serial from 1943, “The Masked Marvel.” This was one of the war period’s fun action serials about Japanese sabotage, with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter. As always, there are lots of exciting action sequences, and the required fistfights per chapter as only Republic could produce them. The hero wears a mask, and you don’t find out his identity until the very end.
I have collected about 100 of the greatest Saturday Matinee serials over the last twenty years, and though they may be a bit dated today, they are still a lot of fun to watch.
And second, when I lived across the street from the Memorial Auditorium, I enjoyed the many stage shows they brought in. I’ve already talked about the evening I went to see Lash LaRue and Fuzzy. But there were other shows that peaked my interest as a young boy. We had a hypnotist send about a week (maybe five days, I’m not sure). On the first night he hypnotized a woman, and left her in a casket until his last night’s performance, at which time he brought her out of the hypnotism. Supposedly. I’ve never been so sure she was kept in that coffin all week. But it was his gimmick. He also performed the regular acts most hypnotists do, like making the audience make sounds like a chicken or pig.
Tom At Ten

One week there was a Christian Science speaker, and his poster proclaimed that at the end of the week he would stand on a platform with thousands of bolts of electricity dancing over his body. Wow, we all wanted to see that. Well, at the end of the week, he broke the sad news; the Memorial Auditorium would not allow him to perform the dangerous act due to liability. Ho hum. Then my Sunday School teacher took me to see Billy Graham. Well, Mr. Graham wasn’t really there, but they were showing his movie, “World Aflame,” I think it was.
Tom at 73

I would visit the Memorial Auditorium even after I left the area. As a teenager, I went to see a Rock & Roll show (was it Alan Freed’s Summer Spectacular, or something like that?), with Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Laverne Baker, Carl Perkins, Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, maybe others, around 1957. Then, about 1968, my wife and I went to see Loretta Lynn, Bill Anderson, and their C&W show. The Memorial Auditorium could always be counted on to bring great entertainment to Wichita Falls. A shame they didn’t keep all those wonderful posters.

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