The Air Force's Investigations of Dallas UFO Sightings Are the Best

Wikimedia Commons

During the middle part of the 20th century, the U.S. Air Force cataloged 12,618 UFO sightings. It was part of a program, Project Blue Book, that aspired to subject the reports to scientific analysis to see if UFOs posed a threat to national security. In retrospect, such an endeavor seems quixotic (it was shut down in 1969 after a review led by University of Colorado physicist Edward Condon determined it had yielded basically nothing of scientific value) but at the time, with the chill of the Cold War and the bewildering onrush of new technologies, it presumably seemed more reasonable.

The Project Blue Book files were declassified several years back but accessing them has generally required a trip to the National Archives in Washington. Last week, after two decades of battling for their release under the Freedom of Information Act, UFO researcher John Greenwald posted the records, 130,000-plus pages worth, to his online database, The Black Vault.

The documents contain no evidence of extraterrestrial activity. Not in the skies over Dallas, not anywhere else in the country. (Whether this is because the evidence simply doesn't exist or because it has been systematically suppressed by the government is, of course, always open for debate.)

Locally, the reports are more instructive as a glimpse of the mid-century zeitgeist. It was a time when respectable, educated people -- college students, doctors, engineers, etc. -- would become curious or frightened enough about something they spotted in the sky to contact the Air Force. And it was a time when the U.S. government, with a responsiveness foreign to the modern American, would take them seriously.

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Dallas' St. Patrick's Day Celebration Used to Involve Actual Irish People

Danny Hurley
Frank E. McGowan is appalled.
Let's be honest: Apart from some obligatory references to the Emerald Isle's patron saint and the enthusiastic embrace of Ireland's most famous pastime (binge drinking), there's nothing terribly Irish about Dallas' St. Patrick's Day celebration. For revelers, it's about getting hammered; for the Greenville Avenue bars and restaurants that sponsor the event, it's mostly about making money.

Nothing wrong with either of those things, but it's worth remembering that it hasn't always been so. In 1960, for instance, there was real concern -- and a serious dispute -- over the authenticity of Dallas' observance of the holiday.

In one corner you had Fred E. Goodridge, third-generation Irishman, card-carrying member of the Irish-heritage group Sons of Erin and organizer of Dallas' 1960 St. Patrick's Day Parade. In the other was Frank E. McGowan, second-generation Irishman, member of the rival Irish-heritage group the Ancient Order of Hibernians and organizer of an Irish-only ball at the Statler Hilton.

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50 Years Ago, the Mayor Formulated Dozens of "Goals for Dallas." So, How'd We Do?

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson took over as Dallas' mayor at a turbulent time for the city. John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated on Elm Street, and residents and leaders were struggling to come to terms with the event and its aftermath.

Jonsson responded by preaching a forward-thinking optimism, urging constituents to have faith in the city's can-do spirit. This was given fullest expression in Goals for Dallas, a community-sourced enumeration of concrete objectives, both short- and long-term, the city needed to achieve in order to realize its potential.

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Esquire: The Right Hates Obama Like Dallas Hated JFK

Dallas will never be able to completely escape blame for killing JFK. There's simply too much documentation of how reactionary hate-mongering gripped the city.

Esquire's Charlie Pierce dredged up one of those documents yesterday, a leaflet distributed in the streets of Dallas on the day of the assassination. Except that Pierce presents it not as an anti-Kennedy screed but as a "handbill distributed at a major American city in advance of the arrival of the president."

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Nick Beef, Whose Fort Worth Headstone Has Flummoxed JFK Enthusiasts for 15 Years, Is Alive and Living in New York City

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Flickr user Texican Chick
The story, too vague to be quite believable, not sufficiently fanciful to be cut from whole cloth, has for 15 years been whispered to the curious who go to seek the grave of Lee Harvey Oswald and come away wondering "Who's Nick Beef?"

That's the name on the gravestone that abuts Oswald's in a quiet corner of Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth. Word was that it was the stage name of a comedian who bought the plot years back. It was said that he'd imagined it as a way for visitors to get around the cemetery's self-imposed prohibition on disclosing the location of Oswald's grave. Just ask, "Where's the Beef?"

Turns out, the story isn't too far off.

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Dallas' Entire Professional Baseball Club Once Got Arrested For Playing a Ballgame on Sunday

There are still things you can't do on a Texas in Sunday. Buy liquor, for example. Baseball, however, is perfectly fine.

That wasn't always the case. On this day in 1905, the entire Dallas and Fort Worth professional ball teams were arrested for playing a couple of games at what was then Fair Park. Another man was taken into custody for selling lemonade.

The Dallas Police Department Museum, which brings us up this tidbit of historical trivia, posts the article that ran in The Dallas Morning News the next day.

Every member of the Dallas and Fort Worth baseball clubs is under bond to appear in the Corporation Court this morning to answer to a charge of having violated the Sunday law by working on Sunday, the particular case cited being the two baseball games played yesterday afternoon. Charges were also made against J. W. Gardner for violation of the Sunday law for keeping a public amusement running on Sunday and for causing his employees to work on Sunday. The same bond for the players covers that for Mr. Gardner.

The warrants were issued by judge Curtis P. Smith and were served just before the first game began. A bond was already made out and bore the names of C.A. Keating and C.A. Mangold as sureties. There are four cases against Mr. Gardner, two of each kind, or one for each game.

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Can the Alamo Plaza Sign Be Saved?

The iconic Alamo Plaza sign stood sentry over the corner of Fort Worth and Sylvan Avenue for nearly six decades. It remained there even after the roadside motel it identified was demolished to make way for the long-awaited Sylvan 30 development. Then, two weeks ago, it was removed.

The development's representatives have said that it's merely in storage and will return as soon as soon as they figure out what to do with it. But preservationists, as well as more casual fans of mid-century roadside motel architecture, are skeptical. Developer Brent Jackson had long promised the sign would stay put, according to Morning News' Roy Appleton. But there it went.

To ensure that the sign is returned to its rightful place on the side of the road, some concerned architectural enthusiasts have begun an effort to Save the Alamo Sign. Organizers were at the Oak Cliff Earth Day celebration over the weekend gathering signatures.

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Confederate Group Shuns Memphis, Moves Convention to Civil War Hotbed Richardson

There's been a bit of a fuss lately over the Memphis City Council's decision to change the name of three city parks, scrubbing them clean of any reference to the Confederacy in hopes of making them more inviting to residents who may not exactly have felt welcome in early-1860s Tennessee.

Gone are Jefferson Davis Park, named for the CSA's first president; Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, honoring a Confederate lieutenant general and the Klan's first grand wizard; and the straightforward Confederate Park. Temporarily at least, they'll be Memphis Park, Mississippi River Park and Health Sciences Park.

The switch has inspired a backlash from groups that celebrate Confederate heritage. Like the Ku Klux Klan.

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Home of DISD Pioneer Kathlyn Gilliam Could Become a Historic Landmark

By the time she died in December 2011, Kathlyn Gilliam's reputation as a pioneering civil rights advocate had been tarnished somewhat by her role, cemented during 23 years on the DISD board of trustees, in establishing the race-obsessed bureaucracy that has long since stopped benefiting the district or its students.

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But that wasn't erase the decades of good work she did as a community activist and education reformer who served for decades on the front lines of the battle to integrate Dallas schools. It was that legacy that led Dallas ISD to name a collegiate preparatory academy in her honor and prompted fond remembrances from community leaders and Schutze.

Now, the city could make the South Dallas home she lived in for most of her adult life a historic landmark. It's a modest one-story affair at 3717 Wendelkin Street built in 1921 but well kept. The Landmark Commission will meet on Wednesday to discuss whether to grant the designation.

Lee Harvey Oswald's Apartment is Gone

The Oak Cliff Blog
In October of 2010, Jane Bryant auctioned off put up for auction the front door of Lee Harvey and Marina Oswald's one-time apartment at 604 Elsbeth Street in Oak Cliff. (The sale was halted by litigation, and the door was later stolen). The door itself, with glass that had once been punched out by Oswald during an argument with his wife, was a testament to their brief and tumultuous time there. It also foreshadowed the building's ultimate fate.

In recent weeks, as it became clear the city would prevail in its half-decade long effort to tear down the dilapidated apartments, the door was joined on the auction block by various relics: a bathtub; a toilet; some floorboards; cabinets; individual bricks.

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