In 1979, hard-living Oscar winner Broderick Crawford lit up St. Ed’s

Longtime photojournalist Robert Godwin has been going through his archives to rescue an abundance of Austin history.

This arresting image catches Hollywood actor Broderick Crawford, who won an Academy Award in 1949 for his role as populist politician Willie Stark in “All the King’s Men,” in half light.

“I remember wanting to move his drink,” Godwin says, “but thought I’d pull back a stub if I reached a hand towards it. It was about 9 or 10 in the morning and he finished his third Bloody Mary — that only had a splash of tomato juice — and then started on martinis that came in a tumbler instead of a martini glass! Never blinked or slurred a word while I was there.”

So why was hard-working, hard-living Crawford in town? He was best known at the time for the syndicated TV crime series, “Highway Patrol.” Yet he came to Austin in November 1979 to reprise his role in “Born Yesterday.” Almost 30 years earlier, in 1950, Crawford had played the bullying boyfriend of Judy Holliday in the film version.

In Austin, he worked with Mary Moody Northen Theatre founder Ed Mangum, who fertilized his budding Equity acting union program at St. Edward’s University with the stars of stage, screen and television. So Crawford joined the ranks of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Mercedes McCambridge and Sal Mineo as a guest star.

“During the 1950s, Crawford became known for his large appetite for food and alcohol,” writes actor, teacher and writer Ev Lunning, Jr. “He brought these appetites to Austin, along with his crusty personality.”

Lunning recently released “Stars over St. Edward’s: The SEU Theater Arts Program, 1962-1982,” a thorough and invaluable online resource published by the Munday Library.

Zelma Richardson, in charge of Crawford’s publicity appearances, was so put off by his brusqueness that she as Bill McMillan to accompany Crawford on one day’s publicity itinerary. When McMillan reported to the hotel, he found Crawford beginning his breakfast Bloody Mary. After each appearance and interview, Crawford suggested a stop at a tavern.”

The long day did not end well for McMillan.

Crawford’s co-star, Susan Loughran, remembered one of Crawford’s first evenings in Austin.
“He drank,” she says. “Tom Graves, who also drank, and Broderick and I went out to talk about the show. We went to — I don’t think it’s there anymore — there was a bar at the corner of Oltorf and Interstate 35 and it had a second story, and it was dark, and the reputation was that there were a lot of divorcees and it would be a good place to meet if you wanted to have an affair. And we went up there to have drinks.”
She recalls that Crawford ordered scotches on the rocks.
“Some manly drink — he was a very manly man, a big rumbling voice, and he wore this hat, a hat that he got from Bear Bryant,” Loughran says. “I probably had maybe two drinks but the bar bill was something like $150. You know, when drinks were maybe $2 apiece. … So that was my introduction to Broderick.”

 

1940-2018: Joe Lung of longtime Austin eatery family is dead at 77

Joe Lung, whose family operated popular Austin eateries for three generations, died of complications from a stroke at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House on Wednesday evening. He was 77.

Joe Lung’s family came to Austin in the 1880s. They owned a series of diners, restaurants and sandwich shops. Late in life, Lung welcomed visitors from around the world at the State Capitol gift shop. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

New life for a 1939 Austin gem of an apartment building

Reader Elayne Lansford invited us to an unusual party, which turned into a time machine to the a personal past.

“It is about an old building at 1105 Nueces St., built in 1939, one of many examples of little apartment buildings in that time, offering ‘modern’ places for people to live rather than boarding houses,” Lansford wrote us. “These apartments were once all around the center of town, but now only a tiny handful survive in Austin.”

Elayne Lansford inherited the four-unit 1939 apartment building in downtown Austin from her uncle. She fixed it up. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

She had me at “1939.”

By the time I had arrived on a steamy Friday afternoon, a crowd had gathered outside the recently renovated four-unit brick apartment house. Lansford, dressed period attire, addressed a crowed that included Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, neighborhood organizer Ted Siff and project historian Terri Meyers.

RELATED: Ransom Williams farmstead unearthed.

“I call them the missing middle,” Meyers told me later about the 1930s and ’40s housing options in the downtown area for professional women. “They were not boarding houses or Victorians broken up into apartments. They were modern but with homey touches in a residential scale with revival styles. There were schools and jobs nearby and each unit probably went for $100 a month.”

A small crowd cheered the city and federal historic designations for the building on Nueces Street. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Lansford and Meyers worked with designer Tere O’Connell to bring it back to life. The city and federal governments have recognized the historic value of these once ordinary homes.

“My grandmother, a Jewish immigrant and widow who made her living as a landlady after the death of her husband, bought it in 1945 when she moved to Austin for my mother and uncle to attend the University of Texas,” Lansford says. “It was the height of modernity at that time, fully furnished, with full kitchens, wood floors, faux fireplaces, attic fans for cooling, and a shower and tub both in each apartment. It was largely untouched for 70 years, until I inherited it from my late uncle and decided to do a historical renovation of it.”

This four-unit apartment house on Nueces Street was built in 1939 for professional women. It has been restored and honored by the city and federal government. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Why did it serve as a time machine for me? My first grown-up apartments in the early 1970s were created in almost the same mold — same fixtures, same tiles, etc. — during the same period in Houston.

Time travel to 1973 Austin Artists Market on the Drag

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.

 

 

I’m from Oatmeal or Nameless or Radiance or Mud City, Texas

The Lone Star Library has released a second edition in paperback of “Texas Towns: From Abner to Zipperlandville,” revised by Paris Parmenter and John Bigley from the late Don Blevins‘ nifty thematic guide to name origins, settlement dates and driving directions for hamlets, villages and towns all over the state.

Here are some choice, out-of-the-way spots in the greater Austin area. Although the authors have researched their entries assiduously, their versions of civic origin myths might differ from what locals claim.

Remains of a windmill in Oatmeal, Texas. Helen Anders/American-Statesman

Nameless (Travis County) off FM 1431, five miles northeast of Lago Vista. “Settlers were on the grounds by 1869. When residents of the new established community applied for a post office, officials rejected every name the proposed for the facility. After half a dozen names were turned back, somebody it on him- or herself to write the Post Office Department, “Let the post office be nameless and be damned!” Apparently, taking the writer at his words, Nameless became official in 1880.

Oatmeal (Burnet County) on FM 243 eight miles southeast of Burnet. “This is the second oldest community in Burnet County. A German family, reportedly named Habermill, came into the region in 1849 and settled on what is now Oatmeal Creek (near the headwaters of the San Gabriel River). Some believe the name of the stream and ultimately the settlement, came from that of Othneil, a mill owner, or a supposed translation of the name Habermill (haber is a German dialect word for hafer, “oats”).”

Mud City (Travis County) on FM 969 four miles southeast of Austin. “The settlement date is unknown. Little is left of this hamlet, whose claim to fame is that FBI agents once hid out here waiting for 1920s outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (they didn’t show). The hamlet acquired its designation becaus when Cottonwood Creek flooded, the roads became so muddy that walking on them was virtually impossible.”

Radiance (Travis County) on FM 1826 south of Oak Hill. “Developed in the 1970s as a commune for practitioners of transcendental meditation. The name Radiance comes from Super Radiance Effect, the theory that communal meditation brings peace and understanding and will ultimately serve to cure many social ills.”

 

Revisiting the Continental Club in the 1960s

A reader asks our Austin Answered project: “Was the Continental Club a sleazy topless bar back in the early 1960s? I remember having a roommate in 1963 who danced there.”

Yes. What was founded by Morin Scott in 1957 on South Congress Avenue as a swanky jazz supper club became by the early ’60s what has been variously described as a “burlesque,” “strip club” or “topless bar.”

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There’s more to this image than meets the eye. ©Andrew Shapter

According to the Handbook of Texas, Martin Schuler took over the lease in the late 1960s and turned it into a neighborhood tavern. He purchased the club in the 1970s and leased it out. That’s when it became a music venue again. Mark Pratz and J’nette Ward operated it during the 1980s before it was made over by Steve Wertheimer, the current owner, in 1987 as part of an effort to revive some of the club’s ’50s allure.

MORE OLD AUSTIN SPOTS: Stallion Drive Inn

On his Austin Clubland website, music journalist and historian Michael Corcoran reports that the building had an earlier history as a laundromat in 1947. He also reminds us that during the tawdry ’60s, happy hour ran from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. — “That’s not a misprint” — and that it briefly served as a disco.

Now about the striking image that accompanies this story. It is not what it seems. And there’s a great story to go with it.

“It was spring of 1993, almost exactly 25 years ago from today,” wrote Andrew Shapter, photographer and documentary maker, when we asked to republish it. “It was a Sunday and at that time, very few people were around (unlike today). I was doing a portrait session on South Congress when rain interrupted the session and forced me to reschedule my client.”

The roll of black and white film in his camera had a single frame left.

“I was aiming my camera up towards the Continental Club sign just as the sun had broken through the clouds. It was a near perfect photo,” Shapter wrote. “But just before I snapped the picture, a guy named Steve, the iconic club owner, popped out and said ‘You’d get a much better picture from the roof.’”

Next thing he knew, Wertheimer escorted him to the roof.

“Just seconds before I snapped it, a lone vintage motorcycle pulled out from a side street into the center of the shot,” Shapter says. “Flash forward to years later, The New York Times was doing a travel story on South Austin. The photo caption read ‘The Continental Club, circa 1960.’

“I took it as a compliment.”

Honoring Austin patron saint Roberta Reed Crenshaw

Roberta Reed Crenshaw was an Austin patron saint with a double halo. She permanently blessed both the environment and the arts.

On Friday, city leaders honored Crenshaw, who died in 2005, with the dedication of the Roberta Reed Crenshaw Overlook, an arced terrace above Lady Bird Lake near the southwest corner of West Cesar Chavez and Congress Avenue.

Phoebe Allen and Mary Arnold, motivated by Shudde Fath, pushed for the Roberta Reed Crenshaw Overlook. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

The most revered among the present dignitaries was Shudde Fath, 102, herself a framer of Austin’s culture in the areas of ecology, affordability, transparency and social justice. And of course Fath stole the show with her personal memories of “Bobbie” Crenshaw.

RELATED: Activist Shudde Fath at 100.

Others present on or off the dais under a giant cedar elm were Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, historian Phoebe Allen, open-space activist Mary Arnold, architects Evan Taniguchi and Sinclair Black, parks historian Kim McKnight, Paramount leaders past and present John Bernadoni and Jim Ritts, Austin Parks Foundation captain Colin Wallis and many others.

So you are new to town and you didn’t know Crenshaw? Thrice married, she was one of those charismatic civic leaders that didn’t take “no” for an answer. If she wanted it done, it got done almost every time.

She was crucial in the founding of Ballet Austin and the nonprofit chapter of the Paramount Theatre‘s 100+ year history. An early appointee to the Parks and Recreation board, she led the way for Pease ParkRoy Guererro ParkReed Park and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. Almost always, she rolled up her sleeves, forged ahead, and let the city staff and politicians follow in line. On more than one occasion, she gifted the land for the parks.

RELATED: How Roberta Crenshaw became the Paramount’s patron saint.

But the reason why the Overlook sits high above the lake and the trail below: Crenshaw was among the first to promote the idea of a trail soon after the body of water was impounded in 1960. She fought off a commercial amusement park and motorboat races on the lake.

And she discovered that, by state law, anything below the high water mark on Texas rivers was deemed public. So she had both sides of the lake declared parkland and, by doing so, prevented an expressway that would have severed the lakefront from downtown. For that alone, she deserves our eternal praise.

At the ceremony, Fath recalled what she had said about Crenshaw at her funeral.

“She was responsible for starting more good things in this city than almost anyone else,” Fath said. “She was my hero. She never gave up.”

Austin has more to say about Stallion Drive Inn

Our story about the Stallion Drive Inn, a comfort food spot on North Lamar Boulevard, stirred strong memories among our readers.

The Stallion Drive Inn on North Lamar Boulevard. Contributed

Steve Hamlett remembers cheap, good food and lots of it. He describes a sign on the side of the building that read: “Flash Your Lights.”

“Were diners supposed to flash their car lights to let the people inside know that more customers were arriving?” Hamlett writes. “Seemed very strange.  I don’t think I ever actually did it or saw anyone else do it.”

Might have been a relic of the Stallion’s curb service days. Hamlett also remembers a Stallion jingle set to the tune of the “Bonanza” theme.

During the 1960s and ’70s, Don Valk usually stopped by the Stallion on the way to the Skyline Club.

“They had a special: For 35 cents got you a couple of chicken wings, small salad and a couple of french fries,” Volk writes. “To get in the Skyline was around 50 cents and there was 10 cent beer from 8 to 9:30 plus plenty of fine looking ladies to dance with.”

Mike Steele dropped into the Stallion often.

“There was a cook there named Willis Earls who had been a professional boxer,” Steele writes. “He had an intimidating presence but was super nice. Biggest hands I’ve ever seen. You could pass a quarter through one of his rings. Not only did he cook, he kept the peace there.”

The color of the cream gravy concerned several readers.

“I remember the gravy being a little green, not orange,” writes Jake Lorfing. “But I ate lots of it!”

“The gravy was yellow green and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen gravy that color again,” writes Mark Peppard. “Just remember how good it was.”

“The gravy wasn’t orange,” Harry Thompson writes. “It was the light from the beer signs.”

As for exactly when the Stallion closed, we received three crucial messages.

Jeanette Breelove recalls that her husband, Mack Breedlove, was the commercial broker who talked the owners, Bill Joseph‘s family, into selling the tract to Macdonalds in the early ’80s But she did have a specific date.

Bill Joseph, son of the owner, said his father operated the Stallion from 1949 until his death in December 18, 1981. His mother kept place open for another year, then it was managed by an uncle, E.C. Mowdy.

Retired and living in Fredericksburg, Joseph, part of the extended Lebanese-Texan family, recalls the spot as a place where World War II veterans gathered to tell stories they wouldn’t talk about elsewhere. (He kept notes!)

Stewart Smiley says the Stallion closed unexpectedly the day before Thanksgiving 1984. “No notice was given ahead of time,” Smiley told us. “It just closed and that was it.”

Mixed memories of the Stallion Drive Inn eatery on North Lamar

Reader Gary Vliet asks of our Answered Answered project: “In the 1970s there was a great restaurant on North Lamar, the Stallion. Could you give a little history and when and why it closed?”

Night view of Stallion Drive Inn Restaurant and parking lot as photographed by Neal Douglass in 1950. Contributed by Austin History Center ND-50-235-01

The Stallion Drive Inn Restaurant was located at 5534 Dallas Highway (now North Lamar Boulevard).

We know that the Stallion, which served comfort food such as chicken fried steak, veal cutlets, hamburgers, malts and liver and onions, went back at least as far as 1950. That’s because of a fine Neal Douglass photo taken Oct. 4, 1950. It was part of a strip of highway businesses — the Chief Drive-In Theater, which opened in 1947, road houses, diners, etc. — that served the new suburbs or Allandale, Crestview and Brentwood, etc.

Austin Answered: You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

“It was still open in the mid-1980s (’83-’85),” says beloved broadcaster Fred Cantu, “because I used to join in as Sammy Allred did live radio spots for the Stallion when we did mornings at KTXZ’s ‘All Star Rock & Roll.’”

Don’t yet know exactly when and why it closed. Hold that thought for another column.

Two Facebook pages, “Old Austin Dives, Greasy Spoons, Etc.” and “Dazed and Confused/Keeping Our Austin Memories Alive w/Its Rich History,” regularly feature the Stallion. While some contributors relish memories of certain dishes as well as employees and other guests, others walked away from the Drive Inn perplexed by the food, which included cream gravy poured over salad.

“I never figured out how they got the gravy to be that orange color,” posts Bubba Stark. “Great cheap food, though.”

The atmosphere sounds pure Austin

“I loved the Stallion!” posts Mark Lind. “The most eclectic mix of clientele of any restaurant in old Austin: hippies, bikers, ‘kickers,’ families, etc. Bar downstairs, restaurant upstairs. And a great neon sign.”

“It was good, cheap eating,” posts Frank Tomicek. “Had triple-patties there on many occasions with a three-buck pitcher of Lone Star. I miss that place.”

UPDATE: Fred Cantu’s memories were added to the original post.

The Statesman has had more than a dozen homes

Ben Sargent, political cartoonist, printer and history advocate, asks: “Has anyone ever listed all the various places from which the Statesman has been published in its nearly 150 years?”a

“My curiosity was prompted while looking at a 1900 Sanborn (fire insurance) map of downtown Austin, and I noticed that in that year, apparently the paper was occupying the Millett Opera House,” writes Sargent, who is retired from the American-Statesman. “There is even a little structure out back that appeared to be a boiler house and labeled ‘type foundry.'”

 

This detail from the 1900 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the Austin Statesman’s printing facility inside the old Millett Opera House on East Ninth Street.

The Millett Opera House, built in 1878 at 110 E. Ninth St., has played many roles, including as the city’s leading theater. It now serves as home for the Austin Club.

“Anyway, I know of the famous upstairs-from-the-saloon location at 10th and Congress, the wonderful ‘old building’ at Seventh and Colorado (shamefully razed by the University of Texas), and of course the Guadalupe Street and the Riverside buildings where we worked,” Sargent writes, “but there appear to have been some unknown number of other venues.”

I did a spot check among the Austin City Directories at the Austin History Center and found a lot of locations. Apparently printing presses were much lighter and equipped with wheels by the time the tri-weekly Democratic Statesman was founded in 1871. It was listed at Congress Avenue between Hickory (Eighth) and Ash (Ninth) streets in the 1872-73 directory. (Numeral addresses were not uniformly used well into the 20th century.)

It had moved to the northeast corner of Congress and Ash by 1877-1878. The directory lists three other papers including the Texas Stern (German). In 1887-1888, the Statesman (no longer Democratic), was at 126 W. Pecan (Sixth) St. and trundled over to 122 W. Sixth by 1891-92. It was listed at 713 Congress in 1907.

Now here’s where it gets complicated: In 1914, it merged with the Austin Tribune (which had been 400-2 Congress), the same year it earned competition from the morning Austin American (813 Congress).

The Austin Statesman and Tribune didn’t last long as a name and by 1916, the evening Austin Statesman was found on the southwest corner of Brazos and East Seventh and remained there after it merged with the American. The same company put out both papers and the combined Sunday American-Statesman for decades there, and its next home at West Seventh and Colorado streets, until they were combined into one paper with four daily editions in 1973.

Exterior view of The American Statesman building which was located at West Seventh and Colorado Streets in 1947 as photographed by Neal Douglass. Contributed by Austin History Center ND-47-171-05
By this time, it had moved to the location at West Fourth and Guadalupe Streets. It is finally listed at its current location in 1981. At first the address “166 Riverside Dr.” was used for our campus, but we later turned our faces westward for today’s address: 305 South Congress Ave.
UPDATE: The Riverside Drive address was rendered incorrectly in an earlier version of this post.