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, February 8, 2014

The Durango Kid

The Durango Kid

When The Durango Kid was playing at the Gem Theater that’s where I went on Saturday morning. In truth, the Gem Theater played a lot of the great cowboy movies, like Lash LaRue, Hopalong Cassidy, and The Durango Kid.  The Durango Kid was very popular among the kids, probably because he wore a mask and all black. But we always knew he was Charles Starrett, or so the movie posters claimed. And when he took the mask off, he was Charles Starrett. Only later did we learn that a stunt double portrayed Durango in the action scenes.

Ted Mapes was the early stunt double for Durango, but was later replaced by Jock Mahoney. Mahoney had come out of the circus as a trapeze performer, and went into movies as a stuntman. He performed some really amazing feats while masked as Durango, too.

There were over 60 films of Durango between 1940 and 1950. Besides the movies, we also had The Durango Kid comic books. He was a natural to draw young readers to the comic books. His white horse was named Raider, while Charles Starrett rode Bullet when not in the mask.

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