Reader Sean Massey was going through a stack of family photos and found a series of undated black-and-white images related to his father, Austin counterculture jeweler Jerry Massey.
Two possibilities presented themselves right away, the what is now known as the open-air Austin Renaissance Market on the Drag, or possibly the City Wide Garage Sale at the since-demolished City Coliseum. The former seemed more likely, especially since the garage sale did not take off until 1977, and this outdoor scene looks very early ’70s. The checkered vest is a clue.
“It appears to be the 23rd Street Artists Market, if that’s the Tower in the background and the Union in front of it,” determined Sam Sargent right away on Facebook. “The building to the upper right should be on the Architecture Building. That’s my guess.”
Sargent had plenty of company on three Facebook pages where we subsequently posted the query: “Austin As It Used to Be,” “Old Austin Dives, Greasy Spoons, etc.,” and “Dazed and Confused/Keeping Our Austin Memories Alive with Its Rich History.”
Journalist and cultural historian Joe Nick Patoski pegged the date circa 1973. Laurence Eighner Hexamer agreed and pointed out the stripes on the pavement that defined the stalls.
“That would have happened about 1972,” Hexamer writes on “Old Austin Dives.” “I think we should see a scrap of the mural if it was there, but it won’t be until 1974. The customer looks familiar, but I cannot name him — note slightly flared pants. I don’t recognize the vendors at all.”
The picture attracted more than 50 comments and replies on “Dazed and Confused,” a good number devoted to the displayed watercolors by Walter Falk, who still has plenty of fans. Others detailed the history of the market, including its slight move away from the Drag proper in 1974, while still others wondered whether they had met up there more than 40 years ago.
The apparent presence of the high-rise Dobie Center in the upper right corner offers another dating clue since it opened in 1972.
“It’s pretty much where all the street venders have been for decades,” writes Gary Klusczinski on “Austin As It Used to Be.” I’d say the timeframe would be somewhere in the early seventies.