Monday, May 29, 2017

Tour of Duty

Sad Sack was a wartime comic strip about the misadventures of a well meaning goofball in the U.S. Army.  The strip was originally published in the military magazine Yank before becoming a comic book published by Harvey Comics.  I don't have a lot of info but at some point in the 70's Harvey published "Sad Sack U.S.A." featuring issues that focused on individual U.S. states...including Texas!

Again, I don't have a ton of info on the series.  I'm not sure how long it ran or how many states were featured.  Texas was issue #4 and other states like New York, Illinois, Washington and Michigan got their own issues.  I'd like to think they got around to all 50 states but for today we're just focused on their Lone Star State road trip:

There isn't much of a story.  The premise seems to be that Sack, Sarge and Sadie have car trouble in the middle of Texas and need to walk to Dallas.  They weren't sticklers for geography in this book since they seem to start in the dessert and after a brisk hike end up in Big D:

I guess they showed up in October because Big Tex is out to welcome them.  No mention of the rest of the State Fair but from this point the locations are fast and furious, many of them only getting one panel.  After a quick stop to ride a nondescript roller coaster at Six Flags, the gang takes in the Fort Worth Convention Center and then decides it would be a good idea to head to Denison:

If you've never visited, you should.  Mainly because it's an important piece of Texas history but also so you can decide for yourself how good the likeness from this issue is.  Or you can just check out the pic from my last visit:

Not too shabby.  For some reason the crew heads right back to Fort Worth to see the Log Cabin village and then off to the panhandle for some Palo Duro Canyon sightseeing.   While they're up there they stop by Lubbock, Muleshoe and Happy, TX before heading south to San Antonio:

Like many of us do, Sack and his pals took some time to relax on the River Walk.  Now did this 1972 comic book inspire the filmmakers of the 1984 Dabney Coleman/Henry Thomas film Cloak & Dagger to set a scene on the River Walk?

Probably not, but I'd like to think so.  After a few drinks and some mariachi music, our intrepid explorers were finally willing to brave the humidity of Houston.  Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker who lets them know that Houston has a few surprises in store for them:

After a quick stop at the Battleship Texas it was beach time!  Sun, surf and sand greeting our weary travelers.

These guys just can't seem to sit still though because after a few beach shenanigans they began the long trek towards West Texas.  Anyone who's done that trip knows what a long haul it is.  Luckily, the gang found some interesting stuff along the way:

Just like Big Tex, the World's Largest Jackrabbit is colored all white in the comic.  I assume it's some weird publishing thing or a cost cutting measure or maybe they just mistakenly thought it was white.  For the record, here's what it looked like on my last trip:

Galveston, El Paso, Glen Rose and on and on.  Our trio or sightseers weren't slowing down and the cities, landmarks and attractions were piling up.  What could possibly bring this trip to its conclusion, you ask?

Yep, apparently Texas is so big that they ran out of pages before the gang could see it all.  I guarantee you don't see that kid of thing happen in New Hampshire comics.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jake and Elwood Tour Texas

If you've traveled around any, you may have noticed that your old pals the Blues Brothers tend too hang out from place to place.  For some reason (don't ask me), tons of Jake and Elwood statues were commissioned and distributed across the country.  They pop up in bars, restaurants and places that can only be described as "miscellaneous." 

You can even still buy a pair if you've got an extra two grand lying around or try to get a better deal on eBay.  But for the thrifty sight seer that just wants to catch a glimpse of the boys, you're in luck.  They're no strangers to the Lone Star State.

Stroker's Ice House is biker bar in Dallas housed at the custom bike shop of Rick Fairless.  You might have seen it on TruTV's "Ma's Roadhouse."  It's got a ton of bizarre statues on top including dinosaurs, a hot dog man guessed it:

There they are crooning to the bikers in some custom polka dotted threads.  The boys hold their own among other celebrity statues like Frankenstein, Dracula and Betty Boop.  It's getting crowded up there so let's head to the next stop.

I'm not exactly sure what "America's Vice Stop" is.  I had assumed that it's one of those places that sells vaping stuff to horrible people but their Facebook page seems to indicate that they sell fresh fruit and vegetables.  I don't know why that would be considered a "vice" though.  Regardless, though, our pals make an appearance:

The guys are atop a great big storage container (which is apparently for sale) from time to time but recently they've been M.I.A.  I don't know if it got too windy to be safe or maybe the store owners are just temporarily storing the boys while they come up with a better way to display them.  The Blues Brothers come and go at their own discretion and they're missing from our next stop:

A few years back there was a restaurant housed in the historic Collin County prison in downtown McKinney.  In keeping with the theme, the outside was decorated with our friendly felons.  The "Prison Bars & Grill" closed down and afterward the statues left for parts unknown.  But while they were there we shot video of the place:

I wouldn't be surprised to come across the guys again at some point in the future.  So keep your eyes out and maybe you'll see the them too.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dallas Strip Club

The Dallas Morning News was founded in 1885 and, despite a downturn of the newspaper industry in recent years, continues publication to this day.  A little simple math tells us that the paper celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1985 and, of course, they released a special celebratory issue.  And if we turn directly to the comics page (as we frequently do) we get a special surprise.

Several cartoonist whose work was published in the hundred year old publication drew some custom congratulatory doodles for the big event.

Steve Canyon was your standard square-jawed adventure strip that had a great long run from 1947 to 1988.  Here, Steve takes a moment to slap a potential assassin and salute the DMN!  (Fun Fact: In Poteet, TX you can see a mural of Steve Canyon character "Poteet Canyon" and while you're there stop in for the Strawberry Festival.)

Prince Valiant started in 1937 and continues to this day.  It's known for its sprawling, ambitious artwork supplied by a variety of artists over its impressive run.  John Cullen Murphy is the artist for this piece and started on the strip in 1970.  (Fun Fact: If you've ever heard the term "Prince Valiant Haircut," this is what it looks like.)

In the words of the Gilligan's Island season one theme song, "...and the rest!"  At the top we have Betty Boop and Felix the Cat in black tie to send their regards.  The two cartoon icons shared a comic strip in the 80's to cash in on nostalgia and the popularity of "funny animal" strips like Garfield.

Next is Hartland.  Remember Harltand?  Me neither.  And there is VERY little information about it online aside from the website of the strip's creator Richard Torrey who seems to have moved on to drawing children's books.  So don't expect a Fun Fact about this one.

And finally we have well wishes "On the Fastrack" which I think I remember.  It was around for almost two decades and seems to still exist in a modified form online but with cast changes and characters who age.  So it's kind of like Funky Winkerbean, except...well I guess it's just like Funky Winkerbean.

Sure, funny page superstars like Snoopy or Cathy or Garfield might not have put in an appearance but I think we can appreciate this eclectic group of heroes and goofs who took time out of their busy day to congratulate our hometown paper.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Cele Store

Behold the Cele Store!

It's located in the middle of nowhere in Manor, TX and has been featured in several films like a few of the Texas Chainsaw Massacres although since there have been several sequels and remakes, I'm not particularly sure which ones.

Its rustic exteriors and interiors make it perfect for period pieces like the Clint Eastwood/Kevin Costner film "A Perfect World":

And for the film "Secondhand Lions":

Both films also shot interiors at the store but when I visited it was closed so I couldn't take any inside shots. You'll just have to wait until I make my way out there again. Both films also happen to be very good and have the rarity of getting thumbs up on the blog!

So whenever you have some free time on your hands rent them both and have a Cele Store Double Feature!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Wooden Stone

The Petrified Wood Gas Station in Decatur holds a place in the pantheon of Texas roadside attractions.  It's got the triple threat pedigree that we are always on the lookout for:  Science, History and Culture.  We'll start, as we frequently do, with the historical marker:

     "Local businessman E. F. Boydston (1888-1945) purchased this site, a former feed lot, in 1927 for $400. Recognizing a potential business opportunity in offering services to the traveling public, he built a wooden shed and gas station in 1927. Travelers were allowed to build campfires during overnight stays, and by 1931 Boydston added three wooden cabins with garages to the camp complex. The buildings later were faced with rock, and more cabins and garages were added in 1935. The original wooden gas station was covered with petrified wood in 1935 when the highway was widened and remained in operation by the Boydston family until 1988.
     The Texas Lunchroom, a one-room frame building, was built in 1929. Renamed the Texas Cafe in 1935 and faced with stone to match other buildings in the complex, it was enlarged to provide second-floor living quarters. Popular with local high school and college students, as well as families and the traveling public, it was closed in the 1960s after a highway bypass built west of town diverted traffic from this area. The cafe reopened in 1993. One of the few intact examples of tourist camps built throughout Texas in the mid-20th century, this property is significant for its association with the early development of automobile tourism."

 And we move on, as we frequently do, to the video.  Devin explains the awesomeness of this location:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mad About Dallas


We've covered the TV phenomenon Dallas several times before and will continue to do so.  With a world wide reach, a long network run, multiple series, TV movies and tons of merchandise, there's no limit to the amount of acclaim and celebration generated by the franchise.

But in the 70's and 80's there was one honor that stood out above the rest.  Dallas became a genuine legend when it was not only parodied, but made the cover of MAD Magazine:

At the time, very few movies, TV shows and celebrities would find themselves safe from being skewered by the popular lampoon magazine.  The Dallas parody was written by Lou Silverstone with art by Mort Drucker, both of them Mad Magazine legends.  As usual, it begins with the main cast introducing themselves:

The "plot," such as it is, involves J.R. (or "J.D." rather) trying to pull off a land swindle while being stymied by his wife and mother.  All the while, he's being chastised by hie family, pondering the paternity of his son, "interviewing" new secretaries and firing his six shooter in the air as display of his dominance.

During the course of plotting his scheme "J.D." is constantly being told what a slimy schemer he is by just about everyone he sees.   After getting "Sullen" (Sue Ellen) committed, he then proceeds to send "Jerk" (Jock) and "Miss Nelly" (Miss Ellie) on a fake vacation ("Fakation"?)  so that he'll be free to develop that land that's he's trying to buy (or whatever).

A few gags later, "J.D." ends up on top, as usual.  With his schemes successful and his enemies thwarted, there's nothing left to do but aim higher.  Looks like some politicians of the day want to court him for a presidential run:

As a post script to this story, I'll add that the idea of J.R. Ewing running for president was considered a few other times.  It was a great promotional stunt for the show if you're lucky, maybe you'll run across a campaign button or one of these old matchbook covers: