Revisiting the Tragic Tale of Christmas at Porter Chevrolet in '53, For the First Time in Color

ColorPhotoofSantaAtopPorterChevorlet.jpg
Photos by Roy Addis, courtesy Ron Hart
Jack Bridges's Santa perched atop Porter Chevrolet on Mockingbird, taken December 27, 1953
It was around this time last year I stumbled across a photo of a giant Santa Claus sitting atop Porter Chevrolet on Mockingbird, across from the old Dr Pepper plant. Not long after, we discovered the forgotten tragic tale behind the curio: Exactly 58 years tomorrow, 46-year-old Roy Davis plummeted to his death from a crane while trying to take a photo of Santa for his Christmas card. He fell 35 feet and landed between the boots. Not a tale best recounted on Christmas Eve.

But a few days ago, a commercial photographer from Atlanta, Georgia, Ron Hart, wrote to tell me he'd discovered the photo you see above. It has been in his possession for years, but only recently did he attempt to discern what it was. At which point he found my stories from last year.

On the other side, Hart tells the story behind this particular photo, and offers two historic, never-before-seen photos of Big Tex taken in the 1950s by a man from Georgia. Makes sense: Santa and Big Tex, after all, were built by the same man -- Jack Bridges.

BigTex10657.jpg
Big Tex in 1957 ...
Writes Hart:
A photo stylist I was working with purchased a metal box with slides at a garage sale about 15 years ago here in Tucker, Georgia. She really wanted the box. I saw the slides that were in the box and purchased them from her. I've had them for about 15 years. As far as I can tell they were shot by a Roy Addis, who lived in Tucker years ago. He and his wife Dolores traveled all over the country on vacations, he taking photos on Kodachrome film. He was meticulous at documenting who, where, when on each of the slide's paper mounts. I assume Roy has passed away.

The shots are mostly from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Florida.

Written on the Giant Santa shot: "Santa Claus holding 1954 Chevrolet in Lap. At Porter Chevrolet Mockingbird Lane, Dallas Texas 12/27/53." (It's a Kodachrome Transparency, or "slide." Kodachrome is a very archival film, so it has kept it's color well over the years.)

The two photos of "Tex" that I have appear to be from different years of the State Fair. (If that's possible.) I'm assuming Tex must have been a regular at the fair for a while? Horizontal photo says "Tex at state fair, Dallas Texas 10/6/57." Vertical photo of Tex says: "'TEX' at Texas State Fair Dallas Texas, 1/50, f6, 50mm,10/12/54."

... I couldn't bear to see Roy Addis's photographs get destroyed or lost forever, so I've preserved them.
I think I speak for all of when I say we are eternally gratreful -- to Ron and to Roy. Oh -- and Ron sent another fascinating photo from the State Fair. But I'll save it for later. Because it's spectacular all by its lonesome.
... and as he appeared three years earlier

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21 comments
Letthemwin
Letthemwin

I'm currently going through 50+ years of my Grandmothers Kodachrome Slides. I cant wait to get back to them now that the holidays are over. She visited Dallas every Christmas from the 60's to the 80's. Maybe I will find a few gems like these.

Anne-on-a-mouse
Anne-on-a-mouse

You do know that before Big Tex was Big Tex, he was Santa in a small town to the south of Dallas, down the freeway a bit.  I forget the name of the town but they had a tourism booth at the State Fair a few years back.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Big Tex's inseem appears all wrong..it's making his eyes bulge.  Dang Dallassites and their skinny jeans.

POW!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Cool stories like this and others that you come across and find the backstory to are the reason I love coming to Unfair Park.  The big Bob

kandea
kandea

what a sad story.. but yay for uncovering some dallas history!

Dcmdfw
Dcmdfw

Oh, these are great....thanks for posting 

readlarrypowell.com
readlarrypowell.com

Anybody got any idea what the slogan was across the front of the dealership? You'll (Santa's knees) at Porter?

T-Bone
T-Bone

For some reason that scares the shit out of me. Creepy.....

Robert
Robert

And that is a Ford parked in front of Porter Chevrolet.

Ray
Ray

I once met Jack Bridges and went to his studio. To start, he looked like Santa. White beard, twinkle in the eye. Incredibly talented, quirky, funny, dirty, smart, inventive. His place was like walking into da Vinci's studio. Crap everywhere, cool stuff hanging from the rafters, really cool stuff in production, smell of lead paint, spray glue, and the like.They don't make them like Jack any more. Thanks for posting this. So happy that you continue to show the way Dallas 'was cool' as opposed to what we have now.

Zaner
Zaner

Santa's legs are green.  Who knew?

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

Very interesting. I started going to the Fair (and never missed one) before age one in a stroller, not long after these photos.  I never realized Big Tex was in a different spot. I also don't remember the Cotton Bowl before the upper decks. 

pbluett
pbluett

One wonders if Jack's creations  inspired Bob "Daddy-O" Wade (of Tango-Frog fame).

pbluett
pbluett

Big Tex had Grave's Disease in 1954.  Who knew?

G-TEX
G-TEX

I'm not totally sure that he is in a different spot, but he may be a bit further East (towards Hall of State) than his usual spot. Tough to discern without all of the "modern" attractions around. I too am of the "never missed a fair" crowd and neither have my children...which they will know one day when they see the airbrushed portraits from each year...

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