Wayback Wednesday

Milton Hinnant/The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Cowboys are back in Oxnard, Calif., for their monthlong training camp. The Golden State has long been a base of operations for the Cowboys – California Lutheran College in Thousand Oaks served as the team’s longest-serving venue for camp from 1963 until 1989, and the state’s hosted camps since 2001.

But, before the Cowboys migrated back to California for camp, the team spent its most productive (and controversial) summers right here in Austin, when the team annually descended upon St. Edward’s University during their Super Bowl runs of the 1990s.

US National Archives and Records Administration

In 1967, famed landscape artist Peter Hurd unveiled a portrait of then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. It was to be Johnson's official portrait and would hang in the White House in perpetuity. There was one problem: LBJ hated it. 

Did Texas Host The First Thanksgiving?

Nov 23, 2016
Courtesy of the University of Texas at El Paso Library, via Jose Cisneros

It's common knowledge that in 1621 the first Thanksgiving was celebrated at Plymouth. 

But some say the “real” first Thanksgiving took place more than 20 years earlier near present-day El Paso, when at least 400 Spaniards, in an exploration led by Juan de Oñate, feasted with the Mansos tribe.

Like any good Thanksgiving discussion, there’s a thread of discord sown through that narrative. While everyone recognizes its importance in the history of North America, some argue that, unlike the feast at Plymouth, it’s not a harvest festival.

Courtesy of Jim Nicar

Bevo, the bovine booster of the University of Texas Longhorns, is a nearly century-old institution.

There have been 14 incarnations of the mascot, with the 15th making its game-day debut this Sunday at the Longhorns’ opener against Notre Dame. But Bevo wasn’t always a beloved fixture on the sidelines.

In fact, people kind of hated him.

Austin American-Statesman

In 1966, Gordon Knight quite literally dodged a bullet.

The longtime Austin American-Statesman newspaper salesman should’ve been walking his usual beat on the west side of UT Austin on August 1, when Charles Whitman opened fire from his perch on the UT Tower. But he wasn’t, and late that morning, a bullet from Whitman’s rifle found another newsboy: 17-year-old Alex Hernandez.

Illustration by Tom Lea

One hundred eight years ago, Harper Baylor Lee’s hobby became something more than that.

The 24-year-old worked for the Central Mexican Railroad in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he’d spent most of his life after a move from El Paso. But on a Tuesday in July, after years as an amateur, he started a career in bullfighting and became the first American-born matador. 

Watch: Footage of '58 Barton Springs Flood Surfaces

Jul 20, 2016
Austin History Center, PICA 22684

The “Godzilla” El Niño that brought plenty of rainfall to Austinand record flooding to parts of Central Texas – last year is no more, and Austinites are settling into the oppressive heat that accompanies a dry Central Texas summer. Luckily, Austinites have Barton Springs Pool. But, 60 years ago, waves of floods over two summers shuttered the pool to summertime swimmers, and recently unearthed footage offers a glimpse of one of those deluges. 

Today is the birthday of sorts for Texas’ favorite brain tonic: Dr Pepper.

The first DP was served in 1885 in a Waco pharmacy by proto-soda jerk Charles Alderton, and years later the “King of Beverages” quickly gained a grassroots following throughout the southwest after its recipe began being distributed out of Dublin, Texas.

Austin History Center, PICA 01090

Well, it’s summer. And, if there are any certainties in this life, you’re bound to hear people complaining about the heat – you’re also likely to see a smattering of summer recipes, as well as tips for beating the heat. So what sage wisdom did Austinites of summers past have to offer? What were Victorian-era Austinites' summer complaints?

Why Nobody Knows Who Designed the Texas Flag

Jun 15, 2016
flickr/ctj71081

Well, yesterday was flag day – a day that marks the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. flag, Betsy Ross' famed stars and stripes design.

But, if you’re a Texas history buff, or if you’ve been to a location of a popular, national theme park, you’ll know that Texas has had six flags fly over it. Perhaps the most recognized, however, is the state’s iconic Lone Star Flag, the state’s current flag. 

The problem is, like Betsy Ross’ design, nobody can say for sure who designed the Lone Star flag, and there’s been a fight for decades about whom, if any one person, did.  

Starting in 1869, the timeline below chronicles past floods that hit the Austin area.

Austin History Center, PICA 00916

The dog days of summer are nipping at Austin’s collective heel and – though the shuttered city pools and recent gloomy weather in Austin may tell you differently – it’s pool season. And, while you may not be able to bring a beer or even your dog to a city pool, at least the city’s not still regulating the attire of every single swimmer, like it did when it passed the 1919 bathing suit ordinance.

A Look at Texas Through Russell Lee's Lens

May 25, 2016
Russell Lee, Library of Congress

What do Ada Lovelace, Adolf Hitler, Kanye West, Donald Trump, Elisabet Ney and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson all have in common? At one point, they were all in the running to replace Robert E. Lee as the namesake of a Hyde Park elementary school. 

Earlier this week, the Austin School Board finally decided on someone to replace the Confederate general: Russell Lee, the nationally lauded photographer. He moved to Austin in 1947 and established UT Austin’s photography department, serving as its first instructor. Below are a few of Lee's photographs from his time in Central Texas. 

Austin History Center PICA-26317

Austin’s in a new era of ridesharing. In the exhaust of Uber and Lyft’s departures, a salvo of ride-hailing providers (some app-based and others not) are vying to fill the pothole left by their industry standard-bearing predecessors. Some of those providers and their practices have been questioned, with some calling current options “gypsy cabs” – like the proto-ride-hailer SideCar was in 2013. But in the early 20th century, the unlicensed ride-hailers were called bootleg cabs and the city’s 14-year fight with them helped galvanize its extensive taxi regulations.

A Look Back at Some of Texas' Traffic-Related PSAs

May 11, 2016
Texas Archive of the Moving Image

This week we’re examining Austin’s record-breaking number of traffic fatalities in 2015. But, the issues of pedestrian safety, fatal crashes and roadway engineering are, obviously, not new issues when it comes to public safety on Austin’s roadways.

Here’s a look back at some vintage PSAs involving vehicle, pedestrian and bike safety. 

Austin History Center

Today's Wayback Wednesday looks back at Austin's onetime Victorian-era literary magazine, The Rolling Stone. The DIY-minded rag published short stories, cartoons and other Onion-esque items, but it is largely known as the first creative sandbox for its publisher, William Sydney Porter.

Porter, a North Carolina transplant who moved to Austin in the late 1880s, worked as a druggist and as a clerk at the General Land Office before he took a job at the First National Bank as a teller. It was during his time as a teller that he started The Rolling Stone in 1894. 

Courtesy of Jesse Sublett

Today’s podcast edition of Wayback Wednesday starts, like many Texas stories, with football. It also ends with football, but in the middle it’s got most of the things those other football stories don’t have: an amazing crime spree, with burglaries, bare-knuckle brawling, prostitution, federal investigations and a couple of murders. And it all starts with a kid from East Austin named Timmy Overton.

The Thresher, via Texas Portal to History

Believe it or not, Tuesday was National Deep Dish Pizza Day. Yes, apparently that's a thing. Blink and you miss it, right?

It’s a dish that’s best known as “Chicago-style” pizza for obvious reasons. But, the popular pie didn’t necessarily arise from the town from whence it sprung. Its roots go deeper south, and it wouldn’t have existed without the guiding hand of a former Texas Longhorn: Ike Sewell.

Carlos Lowry via Flickr

Mention the lowly-but-ubiquitous grackle to an Austinite, and you'll likely elicit a binary, typically love/hate, response. Unlike the city’s other winged mascot, the bat, which is more or less tolerated by some and celebrated by others, the grackles of Austin have been hunted, hated, loved and praised since their migration here more than a century ago.

Neal Douglass, via Austin History Center, ND-66-290-01

On Thursday, the next Batman movie will hit screens in Austin. While it’s technically a Superman movie, the Dark Knight’s top billing in “Batman v. Superman” and some of the early reviews intimate otherwise. But, nearly 50 years ago, the Caped Crusader’s first film outing flew into Austin for its premiere.

A Look Back at Austin's Eternal Arguments

Mar 16, 2016
Frank Albrecht, via Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Austin, it seems, is locked in an eternal personality crisis. To some, it’s the greatest city in the world – a wellspring of natural beauty, good food and plenty of live music. To others, it’s an ever-expanding, traffic-plagued, corporate-sponsored city that’s not as good as it used to be.

Texas History Center

In honor of Texas Independence Day, this week we’re looking back at the mystery of the Texas Constitution. 

The mystery being that, after 180 years, it doesn't technically have one in effect, because the State of Texas has never formally recognized one of the many versions of its constitution.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

There’s a war going on. And, like most unnecessarily irksome dustups involving Austin, it centers around tacos – specifically, breakfast tacos.

Austin History Center, PICA 03597

If you’ve ever lived – or even spent a weekend – in Austin, you know we’ve got a thing about street names – namely, mispronouncing them. There’s GWAD-a-loop. BURN-it, MAY-ner and MAN-chack, or Manchaca.

While there have been plenty of debates on pronunciation, there’s a larger debate on who or what exactly the Austin street’s namesake is – whether it’s a memorial to a San Antonio-born Texas revolutionary or a Bayou in Louisiana.

Screenshot via YouTube

In May, Austin voters will decide the future of ride-hailers Uber and Lyft, putting to rest an escalating debate about how the city should regulate these businesses. 

But the city has seen this fight before – 100 years ago.

April King via Wikipedia

Another Groundhog Day has come and gone and, despite the predictable smattering of Bill Murray-related memes, there’s not much solace in the promise of an early spring in a state like Texas. The state has its own version of the holiday based right here in Central Texas and, as one Waco writer put, “the groundhog knows no more about the weather than a man who has only been in Texas two days.”

A Look Back at Austin's Lesser-Known Petitions

Jan 27, 2016
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Petitions are having a moment right now.

But, despite their recent resurgence into the municipal zeitgeist, they’ve shaped the city in ways a lot of Austinites may or may not realize. There are well-known ones like the Save Our Springs ordinance or the 10-1 council reorganization petition, but what about the other times a petition's helped change Austin?

Courtesy of KUTX

KUT, KUTX and the music-loving folks of Austin all lost a luminary last Friday, when long-time DJ Paul Ray passed away at the age of 73. Ray was a fixture in the Austin music scene and his show "Twine Time" was a near-constant in an ever-changing Austin over the past 40 years. 

The Last Dance of David Bowie and Stevie Ray

Jan 13, 2016
Chuck Pulin/Splash News/Corbis, via YouTube

The death of David Bowie has made many an Austinite reflect on the Thin White Duke’s most direct Austin connection: his partnership with Stevie Ray Vaughan that shined an international spotlight on the Austin guitarist. The two met at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1982, where Bowie first took a shine to the Austin guitarist despite a less-than-warm reception from the crowd. 

The Story of the Alamo's Second Siege

Jan 6, 2016
Ernst Wilhelm Raba, San Antonio Conservation Society via Portal to Texas History 2010-0053BR

A militant group is now in day five of its occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. And, perhaps it comes as no surprise that Texas historically has seen its own share of standoffs involving armed militias.

It’s safe to say that every single one of the six flags that have flown over Texas have experienced armed resistance in one way or another over the years. But the state’s most famous siege, the Alamo, spawned yet another siege of its own 70 years later, when a beleaguered Daughter of the Texas Republic barricaded herself in a decrepit, rat-infested building that was once the mission's convent.

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