Five Bizarre Fair Park Oddities, from the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition

3.) Davy Crockett Went to War In a Suit
When walking through the Great Hall, you're greeted by a mural of the battle of the Alamo. Just try to find Davy Crockett. You'll search indefinitely, scanning the scene for his signature backwoods garb. Then, you'll give up.

Here's what happened: Yale artist Eugene Savage was hired to oversee the murals in the Great Hall, which meant recreating the famous San Antonio battle as a visual narrative. But he wasn't from the south. He didn't know what Davy Crockett looked like, so he dug around until he found a picture to work off of.

What he scraped up showed the Alamo defender when he was serving as a congressman. For that reason, Savage painted Crockett into the battle scene wearing a very formal suit.

thelights.jpg
4.) What Impressed People Most? The Lights.
Despite the multi-million dollar structures, air conditioning demos, works of art and other newfangled additions to the space, when people left the Centennial Exposition one thing was on everyone's tongues, according to historical pollsters: the lights.

Positioned behind the Hall of State were 24 searchlights scaffolding into a crowned fan shape. "They all moved and were different colors," says Parsons. "It sounds gaudy, but people loved it." The lights, he goes on to tell, were visible up to 20 miles away.

Considering most of the people who were visiting the fairgrounds were coming from rural farming communities with no electricity, the inspiring nature of those far-reaching beams makes a lot of sense.

fresconorthtexas.jpg
Photo by Jim Parsons and David Bush
5.) A Mural in the North Texas Room has a Dedication Page
There's a fresco spanning a wall of the North Texas Room inside the State of Texas Building (now the Hall of State) that carries a secret love letter. It was painted by Arthur Starr Niendorff and features a large painted in plaster rendering of Old Man Texas, who was a local illustration favorite among Dallas Morning News readers of the time.

But look past the symbolic images of livestock, bank vaults and train/airplane hybrid and focus on the book in the lower right hand corner. It's filled with acknowledgment text, and was left behind as a thank you gift by the painting's author. It's a little love note, recognizing those who helped him get to where he was.

Learn more interesting footnotes of the area's history on Thursday, November 8 at 6 p.m. when Parsons and Bush reveal their book in Dallas. It's composed of more than 300 photos, from past and present.


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10 comments
Don_O
Don_O

How can you forget The Woofus??   Yes, the original disappeared, but there is a fine reproduction there now.  When it comes to Fair Park oddities, The Woofus is right up there.

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

No mention of the village of little people called either "Midget City" or "Midget Town"?

 

I would love to be able to travel back in time and visit the Centennial. My grandmother was a young girl in 1936 and remembers every relative they knew coming to town to stay with them and visit the Centennial.

 

You can also see some neat footage of the Centennial in the 1936 Gene Autry movie "The Big Show" including some behind the scenes footage of the Cavalcade of Texas historical pageant.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08WyMoemfCs

LDR4
LDR4

A few things of note: If by "what's now the Women's Museum" you mean a bankrupt entity and an empty building mostly used for storage, then yes, you are correct. And how could the muralist paint Crockett later in life as a congressman as he died at the Alamo well after he served in congress? I didn't know there was a congress in Texas Hero Heaven. If there is, though, he gets my vote. And the building is still actually called the State of Texas Building. The Hall of State is just the main hall in the building that holds the great seal.

Mixmaster
Mixmaster

Thanks Emma--should be up and running now

wrw22
wrw22

So are we ever going to find out if the "Jim Parsons" who wrote this book is the same guy as Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory?

kwomack
kwomack

Really interesting, Jamie. Obviously, my band will be called "Katie and the Kollege of Knowledge." Gotta love an alliteration with a silent "k".

Jamie_L.
Jamie_L.

 @wrw22 I looked into it. Both are from Houston, so it's extra weird, but no. This one works for Preservation Houston and writes books on deco literature in his spare time. If we merged the two we'd have a super human.

Jamie_L.
Jamie_L.

Can I play the spoons? Georgia Carroll was a hottie. She passed away last year. (I'll add a link)

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