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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Ginger and I wish all of you a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving tomorrow. We will be staying home this year. Kevin and his family live in Kansas, and will not be coming down. Ginger’s niece is bringing us a plate, so we won’t have to do any cooking. I imagine we’ll spend the day reading.  We bought a new iMac computer yesterday, so most likely Ginger will be downloading stuff to it. God Bless, and be safe.

Tom & Ginger

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Views From The Past V #2

Views From The Past: Downtown Wichita Falls V #2
By Julie Coley
ISBN #978-1503078239
110 Pages
Price $15.26
Rating 5-Stars

In this second volume of Views From The Past, Julie Coley has gathered 99 more old photos of early Wichita Falls. Down town scenes, including shots showing the Tower Theater, Strand Theater, and State Theater, as well as the businesses that catered to the city residents from the 1920s through the 1970s. Streets where I walked and played as a kid growing up. There is Ohio Street, Indiana, Scott, Lamar, 7th, 8th, 9th, and many others. Gibson’s department store, the Casa Manana restaurant, and so much more. These pictures compliment the huge volume that precedes it.

Overall, the pictures are clear and detailed, though there were a few faded due to age and wear. As with any project like this, there are so many memories of places lost forever, and half forgotten until viewed once again. Maybe we remember other buildings, other businesses. Cafes, car lots. Theaters. But they are not here, and we hope for yet another volume, and more pictures. I don’t think any building should ever be torn down without first capturing it on film and recording its history. So much is lost to us now, and will never be re-discovered, unless someone finds an old box of memories in a forgotten trunk amongst family snapshots that also capture city scenes in the background. I wish everyone would dig into forgotten boxes stored in a basement or closet. You never know what pictures may bring that forgotten memory to light once more for someone.  

I spent my formative years in Wichita Falls, from 1947 to 1956, and attended San Jacinto and Carrigan elementary schools, as well as Reagan Junior, High. San Jacinto is gone now. Carrigan is a vocational school, and Reagan is an Admin building, though it still stands. We lived in many sections of the city, and I played all over town. Anyone who ever lived in the city will enjoy this book. Highly recommended to current and past residents of Wichita Falls, as well as anyone that enjoys viewing a city’s past.

Tom Johnson
The Gem Theater

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Up Next From Hollywood Cowboy Detectives

Up Next From Hollywood Cowboy Detectives

The Mystery of the Arizona Dragon is currently available on Kindle. The paperback will, hopefully, be out by Christmas with the bonus short story, Mystery of the Dragon’s Revenge. Mystery of the Matinee Murders, along with the bonus short story, Man of the Mist, should be on Kindle at that time and in paperback after the first of the year.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hollywood Cowboy Detectives

Hollywood Cowboy Detectives
By Darryle Purcell

The illustrated Hollywood Cowboy Detectives (HCD) series, published by Page Turner’s Buckskin Editions, embraces the adventurous world of pulp publishing while also saluting the great western movie serials of the 1930s. The first publication, Mystery at Movie Ranch, is comprised of 12 cliffhanger chapters set in the San Fernando Valley area of southern California during the filming of the 1934 Mascot Pictures serial, Mystery Mountain, starring Ken Maynard.
Sean “Curly” Woods, former Los Angeles Examiner crime beat reporter and current studio flack, is the main character who appears in all HCD publications. In Movie Ranch, Woods’ assignment is to write fluff public relations articles about the serial and its stars and keep Maynard out of trouble while looking into the possible sabotage of the Mascot production.
While helping Maynard battle his personal demons, Woods discovers real enemies are not only targeting the western production, but the American way of life. Joined by western movie hero Hoot Gibson, Maynard and Woods engage in a series of deadly encounters with an army of anti-American terrorists ruled by a sinister mastermind known only as the Viper. The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives deal with organized crime, a sniper attack, aerial combat against an experimental German flying machine, interrogation by a sadistic enemy scientist in an underground stronghold, an ungodly creature who is the product of sadistic experiments, and a variety of battles with those who would eliminate all who believe in freedom and justice.
The Kindle version of the Mystery at Movie Ranch can be purchased on Amazon for $1.99. But for those of us who like our pulps printed in ink on paper, a paperback version of Mystery at Movie Ranch can be purchased at for $8.09, which includes the bonus HCD short story, Mystery of the Murdered Badman. In that short story, Woods works to save Maynard from being charged with the murder of a western-movie villain and abduction and possible murder of a former silent-screen vamp. All HCD publications have color covers and black and white internal illustrations in the style of pulps and adventure novels of the 1930s.
The illustrated Mystery of the Arizona Dragon is also currently available as a Kindle download from Amazon. It will soon be a paperback with the bonus HCD short story, Mystery of the Dragon’s Revenge.
In Arizona Dragon, Woods is sent to a western Arizona dude ranch to investigate problems while the cast and crew of Charlie Chan Goes West prepare for filming. Hoot Gibson, Warner Oland and Keye Luke join the HCD hero as he attempts to track down the source of a variety of deadly incidents.
I spent many years working in daily newspapers as everything from an editorial cartoonist to a managing editor. I also toiled as a government flack for a county in Arizona, an illustrator of educational comic books, young reader books and teaching aids, and a layout and character design artist for Saturday morning television cartoons.