The State Fair is Taking Donations to Pay For Big Tex, Who Sends Along a Slightly Morbid Holiday Greeting

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State Fair of Texas

For now, the State Fair of Texas is sticking to its story that Big Tex wasn't reduced to a scorched metal frame during this summer's conflagration but instead is recuperating at an undisclosed Texas spa. Not only that, but he's well enough to send a holiday greeting that the fair passed along this morning.

See also:
-The Tragic Tale of That Giant Santa Who Once Sat Upon Porter Chevrolet on Mockingbird

From the Christmas missive, we learn that Big Tex thinks enough of himself to write in the third person, is fond of making macabre references to his "accident" ("Thanks also to those at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas who are giving Big Tex a helping hand to get this message delivered. Big Tex needs that hand because right now his own hands are not real useful, know what he means?") and believes, falsely, that he once had a laugh with Elvis ("Big Tex reminded him his first name is still Big, and that nobody much knew or cared about Elvis' last name. 'You're just Elvis,' Big Tex said. Well, Elvis must have thought that was pretty funny. He laughed and said, 'We ain't nothing but a couple of hound dogs, you know it?")

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Conspiracy Theorists Will Leave Their Mark on Dallas' Kennedy Commemoration, at Least According to the Wall Street Journal

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Robert Groden, who won't be allowed in Dealey Plaza on November 22.
From the outset, Mayor Rawlings and the city of Dallas have made it clear that they intend to control the narrative on November 22, 2013 when they mark what they're simply calling The 50th. The 50th what? Never mind that. Just remember that this is about celebrating the life of a president, not dwelling on what happened five decades ago as his motorcade crept through Dealey Plaza.

Rawlings' narrative is already starting to buckle under its own wait as the measures intended to buttress it -- the security lockdown, the sweeping away of conspiracy theorists, the obsessive insistence on classiness -- instead paint a portrait of a city that still hasn't fully come to grips with the fact that it was party to one of the darkest days in American history.

Earlier this month came Mimi Schwartz's piece in Texas Monthly. Now it's the Wall Street Journal, which published a Christmas Day piece on the city's preparations for the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination.

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RIP Ed Landrum, the Man Who Founded McKinney Avenue Trolley

It was while pounding the pavement of Old Preston Hollow in search of a certain lost chicken that I noticed some train tracks running through the back yard of a an aging but stately house on Park Lane.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Preston Hollow, that isn't normal.

No one was home, but when I came back later I met Ed Landrum. He moved gingerly and had an oxygen tank in tow -- his health was the reason the tracks were empty -- but he took me to his backyard shop and showed me what usually went there: a three-ton Cagney locomotive he'd rescued from Kidd Springs Park back when it stopped being an amusement park.

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JFK Assassination Docs Won't Be Released By 50th Anniversary After All

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The National Archives says we'll be waiting at least 'til 2017 for the rest of the CIA's file.

One thing the city of Dallas won't have to deal with in its attempt to keep the 50th Anniversary of JFK's assassination classy is a lot of new information that complicates our picture of November 22, 1963.

Salon reported yesterday that the National Archives is refusing to release 1,171 classified CIA documents related to the assassination in time for the anniversary as it had promised.

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Sixth Floor Museum Restores Texas School Book Depository Sign. Then Hangs It Inside.

Photo at right courtesy Dallas Times Herald Collection/Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Got a note today from the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza's Liza Collins saying that the museum has restored and just re-hung the old 2.5-foot-by-17-foot Texas School Book Depository sign once displayed above the Elm Street entrance to the building. Removed n the '70s and stored by the museum since '83, it's been restored courtesy an American Heritage Preservation Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Per its website, the IMLS gave the Sixth Floor folks $150,000 last year to "implement a comprehensive two-year cataloguing project that will improve intellectual control of its collections and make them available to the broadest possible audience." But Museum curator Gary Mack says this was covered by a separate, much smaller grant.

Says Nicola Longford, executive director of The Sixth Floor Museum, in today's announcement: "As one of the few remaining signature architectural elements from the building's 1960s-era decorative facade, this sign is an important part of the Museum's collection. The sign's prominence in many well-known images is sure to captivate visitors and encourage interest in the building's history."

I was curious, though: Was there ever any thought given to putting the sign back in its original spot? Not really, says Mack, in part because Dallas County owns the building, after all. "And their name is in that spot. When Oliver Stone made his movie, he had to recreate the sign out of wood, and we've been preserving it since we got it in the '80s, so it's not going outside. Artifacts don't get treated that way. It's such a neat-looking sign -- very clean, very classic."

What about the Hertz sign, which came down in 1979 and is in the museum's possession? "We'd love to put it on exhibit," he says. "But it's huge. And we don't have the support structure. We're taking care of it. But who knows."

Today in Old Map Porn: A 112-Year Old Look at Who Owned What in Dallas County

Our own Nick Rallo, who knows of my fondness for old maps of Dallas, directs my attention this morning to today's posting on the Big Map Blog: Sam Street's Map of Dallas County, which dates back to 1900. It's especially interesting in that it details who owned what and where all the way up to Carrollton, including some quite-familiar names for whom streets and schools would one day be named. And today's post, culled from the archives of the Texas Historical Commission, also points us toward another one on the Big Map Blog last month: A Literary Map of Dallas, created by the Dallas Public Library in '55. Hmmm, needs an update.

Fret Not, as Plans to Renovate Old Dallas High School Downtown Remain on Track

Sunday's supposed to be my last day 'round here, but I just may stick around till Monday. The reason: The just-posted agenda for Monday's meeting of the council's Economic Development Committee promises that Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city's Office of Economic Development, will walk council through a PowerPoint titled "Dallas High School Redevelopment." And I was just saying the other day ... Anyway. I really don't want to miss that.

I just called Michael Jackson -- vice president at Wynne/Jackson and son of Plaza of the Americas developer Clyde Jackson -- to see if he could shed any light on the proposed redo before next week. Last we spoke was in August, when Jackson confirmed that they had the landmark 104-year-old building under contract.

No specifics, he said today, if only because the property's still under contract and the deal's not quite yet done. But, he said, "We're moving forward," meaning: By week's end Wynne/Jackson will send the appropriate documents to the Landmark Commission and Economic Development.

"We are submitting an application to Economic Development because we need some help on this project," Jackson said. "It's complicated and expensive, and we think there's great potential there." Again, for what he's not quite yet ready to say. "And we're submitting to the Landmark Commission since you have to them to them for approval for renovation. They want to know how you're cleaning up the brick, repairing the mortal, the facade, landscaping -- everything. So we're moving forward. That stuff just takes time to see what works and what doesn't and get it right."

Jackson also said he's been meeting with the Crozier Tech Alumni Association, making sure that very active and very vocal group's pleased with Wynne/Jackson's plans for the building. "There are so many groups involved," he said of the process. But, you know, nothing specific. Not yet. Except, he said: "I think you'll be pleased with what you see."

600 Elsbeth, Site of Rotting Apartment Complex In Which Lee Oswald Once Lived, Is For Sale

Speaking of the assassination of John F. Kennedy ...

For a long while now we've written about the ongoing fight between the city of Dallas and Jane Bryant, owner of the decaying apartment complex on 600 Elsbeth near Bishop Arts where, in 1962, Lee Harvey Oswald and wife Marina briefly lived. Just last summer, matter of fact, Bryant and First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers traded blows on Unfair Park, with Bryant insisting the city was attempting to raze the building so it could hand over the parcel to a private developer. Bowers said that wasn't the case at all, reiterating the city's long-held contention that the circa-1925 complex "is structurally unsound, has had at least one fire already and constitutes a public nuisance."

Now, this: A swim through LoopNet reveals that 600 Elsbeth is for sale at an undisclosed price. I've called Realtor Joe Lumbley for further details, but he's out till later in the day. So we'll let the listing speak for itself:
This 12,870 SF of land has a 8668 SF 10-unit on it. The building is just a shell. The value is in the land and in its historical significance. The property is under a demolition order from the City of Dallas and is priced just slightly above land value. Lee Harvey Oswald lived in the building for several months and it's mentioned five times in the Warren Commission Report. Whether that's a pro or a con is up to the market, but it certainly makes the property interesting.

Located with 130 feet of frontage on Davis a block from the Bishop Arts District, this property is zoned Multipurpose District 3. Buyer needs to investigate zoning as the Bishop Arts District gets a lot of political interest. Possible uses could be to restore as an apartment with historical significance, convert to office, retail, or restaurant, or to use as parking in the booming district. Property is located next to a Sonic.
I see on the Dallas County's website there hasn't been much action in Bryant's case against the city since December. Attorney Michael Jung, who's repping Bryant in the fight with the city to keep the wrecking ball stashed till further notice, tells Unfair Park "they've kinda slowed the litigation while she tries to sell it, but we're still in court" with an October 15 trial date currently on the court's docket. He doesn't know how much Bryant's asking for the property currently on the tax rolls for $65,350. But you're free to make an offer. Just keep in mind: It's missing a door, though it never sold, per Heritage Auctions' policy of not selling off items tied up in litigation. The door was returned to Bryant.

On Its 85th Anniversary, Local Big Brothers Big Sisters Reunited With a Historic Piece of Paper

Click to expand the historic document.
Out of nowhere, moments ago, I got an email from Dan Stuchal, on the executive team at the local Big Brothers Big Sisters. He's a Friend of Unfair Park, he explained, and well aware of my affection for historic relics. He said he had something at which I might want to take a peek. It would arrive in the in-box soon, he said, but first I might want to read up on the history of the first Big Brothers chapter in the state of Texas. And so I did.

Says here:
In 1926, Ms. Jessie A. White, a young probation officer of the Dallas Juvenile Court, was distraught at the futures that awaited the boys filing through the court system. "When a child is brought to us there are only two things to do with him," she said. "We can send him to the reform school or we can send him back to the same conditions from which he came." What these boys need is a friend that the boy can count on, who can give him the feeling that some one is especially interested in him. Upon this realization, Ms. White took a step which would forever change the futures of North Texas children.

Ms. White visited civic organizations, churches and clubs to recruit mentors and generate support for the Big Brother movement which began in New York City 23 years earlier. Through the support Judge F.H. Alexander and the Dallas Rotary Club Boys Committee which began the process of recruiting businessmen to serve as mentors, the Dallas Big Brothers Club was ultimately born on February 24, 1927.
That, of course, was 85 years ago today. And today -- today -- Stuchal explained, Big Brothers Big Sisters was presented with the very letter Alexander gave White as she went 'round town drumming up support for her endeavor. It's even framed, courtesy the long-gone Van Winkle's downtown.More »

For Sale: "Most Complete, Correct Map Ever Compiled and Drawn" of Dallas. From 1882.

Courtesy Heritage Auctions
Back in October 2010 Schutze and I really did spend a good half hour poring over The Official Map of Dallas from 1875, which Heritage Auctions never did did sell off; guess the $1,500 asking price was a bit steep, though I see here you're still free to make the owner an offer. I also see Heritage now has a companion piece up for grabs: another historic map of Dallas prepared for Morrison & Fourmy's City Directory in 1882. Says the description:
Black and white map, measuring 31" x 23", giving a bird's eye view of the city of Dallas with land divided into lots which are numerically designated. Also includes several rail lines that serviced the Dallas area, streets, cemeteries, parks, and the Old Fair Grounds. Certified that "this is the most complete and correct Map ever compiled and drawn of the City of Dallas ... from field-notes and actual surveys Dallas. April 22d A. D. 1878" with three facsimile signatures of the City Engineer and two "Late" City Engineers.
More beautiful than its fancier predecessor, this map's sitting at a $500 bid at present as part of Heritage's next Texana Signature Auction. Click here to enlarge. Is that big enough for you?

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