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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

King of The Rocket Men

King of The Rocket Men was a 12-chapter Republic serial with Tristram Coffin and Mae Clarke, released in 1949. I saw this great serial at the Gem Theater in Wichita Falls, Texas as a nine-year-old boy. It was the first of three serials featuring the Rocket Man/Commando Cody, plus a 12-episode TV series. What wonderful memories.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Clutching Hand

The Clutching Hand was a 15 Chapter Serial released from Stage & Screen in 1936: Scientist Dr. Paul Gironda discovers the formula for creating synthetic gold. The Clutching Hand, a notorious criminal who has foiled the government agents before, now has Dr. Gironda and wants the secret to the gold himself. Government agent Craig Kennedy enters the case after reporter Walter Jameson reports the missing scientist. The government is also interested in the gold. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of the better serials of the period. The acting was terrible, as was the dialogue. The old cars were a treat, of course, and The Clutching Hand had a wonderfully evil laugh. The cliffhangers weren’t too bad, but the actors must have came right out of the silent films, and they weren’t ready for talkies in my opinion.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Secret Agent X-9

Secret Agent X-9, a 13-chapter serial from Universal from 1945, starring Lloyd Bridges as an American agent and his Chinese (agent?) helper on Shadow Island, a gateway to Asia and a gathering of international spies. Japan is planning on hiring a crooked American to take over the identity of an American scientist, to learn the secret of a special fuel that will help Japan and Germany win the war. This was an above average serial, with good acting, and some nice cliffhangers. Lloyd Bridges is perfect as Secret Agent X-9, and Keye Luke as Ah Fong. Jan Wiley is okay as an Australian spy pretending to be working with Japan, though an accent would have improved her performance more. The only downside was the blatant need to repeat what everything was about in the beginning of each chapter. This would have been overlooked in the weekly installments at the theaters, but watching it in one or two setting, it became repetitive. Still, it’s a darn good serial. I haven’t watched the special features yet, but will do so this afternoon.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mandrake The Magician

MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN: I watched this over the weekend. Released from Columbia in 1939, it is a 12-chapter serial starring Warren Hull as Mandrake. Although Columbia had some fairly good serials, I didn’t care much for Mandrake. Lots of lesser cliffhangers in every chapter, but none of them very good, even the chapter ending. Some cliffhangers were actually repeated, like the airplane crash. But serials are a lot of fun, and Warren Hull also played The Spider and Green Hornet in serials, so he was chosen well as Mandrake. And you’ve got to like the magic acts Mandrake performs.