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.

Sunday, November 30, 2014



I saw King of The Rocketmen in 1949, and I’m sure it was at the Gem Theater.  Released in 1949 from Republic, as a 12-chapter serial, it starred Tristram Coffin as Jeff King/Rocketman, and Glenda Thomas as Mae Clarke. It was the only Rocketman serial I would see as a child, but I loved it. I even tried to build my own rocket pack out of paper and glue; thankfully, I didn’t kill myself.

Radar Men From The Moon was a 12-chapter serial released in 1952, this time starring George Wallace as Commando Cody, and Aline Towne as Joan Gilbert. The great Roy Barcroft played the villain, Retik. This one, and the rest I would see as an adult when I started collecting the serials many years later.

Zombies of the Stratosphere was released later that same year, again in a 12-chapter serial, this time starring the third actor, Judd Holden to portray Rocketman/Larry Martin. Aline Towne plays Sue Davis instead of Joan Gilbert this time. A young Leonard Nimoy played one of the “zombies”.

A final Rocketman/Commando Cody was filmed for theater release in 1953, and later was released to television in 1955, where it played out in 12-episodes. Sky Marshall of The Universe also starred Judd Holden as Larry Martin. Aline Towne returns as Joan Gilbert. His sidekick this time around is William Schallert for the first few episodes before being replaced.

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