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, April 26, 2014

Hopalong Cassidy

Hopalong Cassidy

The Gem Theater always offered great western fare for the kids at the Saturday Matinee. Yes, sometimes we found The Bowery Boys or Tarzan, and even Jungle Jim and Bomba, but westerns were a mainstay almost every Saturday morning.

One character was always a good draw for kids, and that was William Boyd’s Hopalong Cassidy and his white horse Topper.

Like most of the movie heroes, Hoppy was also delegated to other medias. He was a product of the pulp magazines, as seen above.

Comic books also his potential.

And later paperbacks and hardbacks.

With television also came product and toys. There were cowboy gun sets, lunch boxes, model statues, and numerous other items. I ended up with a coffee mug from somewhere. Hoppy also visited Wichita Falls and rode Topper in the parade. I missed it, but my mother saw him. As you can see from the picture above, William Boyd also appeared at military bases, even overseas. The shot above was taken in the early 1950s at an Army Post in Germany.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Superman And The Mole Men

Superman And The Mole Men

In 1951 the State Theater on Indiana Street was playing Superman And The Mole Men. I had already seen the 1948 serial and was anxious to see this movie. Somehow I came up with money, and it was my first time to visit the State Theater. Prior to that, my dime was given to either the Gem or Tower Theaters. The State Theater was a little pricey, but I had to see this one.

Superman And The Mole Men starred George Reeves, who would soon be television’s very own Superman. Wichita Falls native, Phylis Coats, played Louis Lane; she was also play Louis Lane on the TV series for a while. The story basically involved an oil well dug deep in the ground, connecting to the underground world of a race human-like small people called Mole Men. When townspeople saw the little creatures everyone took up arms. It was up to Superman to save them and see that they are returned to their underground world. For an eleven-year-old boy it was a fun movie. As you might guess, I watched it again today. It was still a fun movie, but of course not of great quality. Still, it was worth the hour I spent viewing something from my childhood again.

To learn more about the production of the movie, a new book has been released. “Talks Cheap, Actions Expensive: The Films of Robert L. Lippert” by Mark McGee. The cover of the book features a scene from the movie, Superman And The Mole men. By the way, the movie was also used as a two-part episode of the TV series. I believe the only two-part ever aired during the series.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Daredevils of The Red Circle

Daredevils of The Red Circle

This past weekend I watched The Daredevils of The Red Circle; it was an early 12-Chapter serial from Republic, released in 1939. Three circus daredevils perform dangerous stunts for the audience, while one of their young nephews looks on, wishing to be like them when he grows up.  Horace Granville, an elderly man who had once put his partner, Harry Crowl, in prison for criminal acts owns the circus, and other businesses. Crowl escapes, captures Horace Granville, taking over his identity, and holds the old man in a cell beneath his own house. Setting out to sabotage the businesses owned by his captive, he sets fire to the circus and the nephew of the daredevil is killed. Now the daredevils want to help bring the escaped convict to justice, not knowing that they are working for the disguised criminal, who sets traps for them. But a mysterious person is leaving secret messages for the daredevils, using a red circle as a signature.  It’s really no surprise. The mystery person is Blanche Granville, the granddaughter of Horace Granville. She knows the set up, and tries to warn the daredevils each time a trap is set. Crowl uses the alias of his old prison number 39013. The actor playing Crowl is Charles Middelton, who played Ming The Merciless in the three Flash Gordon serials opposite Buster Crabb. But in Daredevils of The Red Circle, his acting is dull, and does not give the impression of menace that he portrayed as Ming. Hermon Brix, one of the early Tarzan actors, is one of the daredevils, and every time we see him in action, I am reminded of Doc Savage. He would have been perfect as Doc in a serial. There are some good cliffhangers, and the chapters flash by way too quick. Reminded me of those long ago days at the Tower and Gem Theaters, being upset when the chapter ended, and I knew it would be a whole week before I found out what happened to our heroes. For a serial, regardless of Mendleton’s lackluster performance, this is a good one, with lots of action and lots of fun. Puppy the dog gets in on the act a lot. Snowflake, a black actor, was the comedy relief, I suppose. He was the servant/cook and whatever.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Drive-In Theater

I would love to see pictures from all over the country of old town theaters and drive-in theaters, and well as popular drive-in restaurants from the 1950s and '60s. Everyone is welcome to send them in.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Manhunt of Mystery Island

This weekend I watched Manhunt On Mystery Island. I was hoping to have the serial in time for the weekend, but my order was late coming in. But better late than never, right?

Manhunt On Mystery Island

This 15-chapter Republic serial from 1945 stars Linda Sterling and Roy Barcroft, with Richard Bailey (sometimes spelled Baily) in the lead roles. Clues lead a young couple to a Pacific Isle where the two find Mystery Island, hoping to rescue the girl’s father. He is a scientist being held prisoner by the evil Captain Mephisto, a pirate from 200 years ago. Mephisto uses a Transformer machine to travel forward in time and disguise himself as one of the four owners of Mystery Island.
Linda Sterling as Tigerwoman

During WWII many of the people involved in serials, including actors, were away from the studio, so lead actors were hard to find. Richard Bailey wasn’t an ideal action hero for the serials, though stunt doubles took care of the action. Linda Sterling was magnificent, as usual. She came to Bailey’s rescue more often than he to hers. And Roy Barcroft was one of the kings of the bad men in serials. Although in this part the character of Mephisto was a bit weak.
Linda Sterling In Zorro’s Black Whip

For some reason a lot of extra cliffhanger scenes from other Republic serials were used in this one, possibly to save writing more scenes. Vehicles going off cliffs, etc. But they weren’t used as the chapter ending, just somewhere within the chapter. It was a fun serial, though possibly lacked some zip due to Richard Bailey, but he tried. He just wasn’t the heroic leading man like, say Clayton Moore.
Roy Barcroft As Captain Mephisto

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tom's Infamous Wall of Heroes

Tom’s Infamous Wall of Heroes

For a change of pace, I thought I would share a couple of pictures with the Group. Above is my infamous wall of heroes. My first two heroes were Batman and Superman, comic book super heroes I discovered in 1947, at age seven. I guess I read comic books for 33 years, giving them up in 1980. I had discovered new heroes, not men wearing tights (LOL). In 1963 & ’64, I discovered Doc Savage and The Shadow, along with REH and ERB, while I was stationed in France with the US Army. From that time onward, my interest in comic books began diminishing, and a love for exciting pulp tales was escalating. On the wall below Superman and Batman you will see Doc Savage, The Shadow, and The Phantom Detective, three of my all-time favorite heroes from the pulp magazines – but certainly not the only ones. The picture below is my den; wall-to-wall pulps, paperbacks, and digest magazines surround the pool table.