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A photo essay by Grady McAllister

As I explain in greater detail elsewhere, my photography prior to 1980 was done with an $11 camera. I don't claim that the photos below are major art or technically brilliant. Nor do they do they capture well known events. These are just some personal impressions of life during those two decades.

Tennis Court, 1964

Above: Tennis court at dusk, Freeway Manor Park, June, 1964. This is probably my oldest surviving photo.

I was crossing the park, probably riding my bike on a sidewalk, when I came across this scene. I grabbed this image and kept on moving.

The park is next to Freeman Elementary School on Theta Street off Edgebrook in Houston. In those days, I threw away about 90% of everything I shot, including a few slides I now wish I had kept. Although this image is underexposed -- my 126 Instamatic only had two exposures -- I held on to it because I liked the way the tennis court, the setting sun, the wire mesh fence, the lights on the pole, and the tennis players all fit together.

Below: Another shot of Freeway Manor Park, March, 1965. I recorded this foggy sunrise by aiming my camera out my bedroom window. A few months later, we moved to another house on the other side of Edgebrook.

Sun rises through the fog at Freeway Manor Park, Houston, Texas, 1965. Photo by Grady McAllister.

Below: A lone car on Edgebrook after a late afternoon storm. March, 1965. I deliberately placed the sun behind the speed limit sign and waited for a car to appear. Notice the lack of commercialization on this part of Edgebrook, located between Theta and Rodney Streets.

By the way, this image looks like the original slide. Unlike some of the other images in this column, this photo does not involve any computer special effects. Watch for this kind of yellow glow whenever there are dark clouds overhead and a band of clear sky appears along the horizon.

Sunset after a thunderstorm on Edgebrook. Houston, Texas, 1965. Photo by Grady McAllister.

I shot the next two photos in Austin. I was at the University of Texas campus to attend a Texas Association of Broadcasters seminar for students interested in broadcasting.

Below: The famous UT Texas Tower, June, 1965. As I took this picture, I thought about how tranquil the tower and the campus looked in the summer twilight. The mood there was far less tranquil on August 1, 1966.

University of Texas Tower, 1965. Photo by Grady McAllister.

Below: The studios of KTBC in Austin, a radio-TV combination which later became KLBJ. June, 1965.

I'm sure I don't have to explain who the owner was. For many years KTBC had a TV monopoly which allowed it to cherry pick the top shows from CBS, NBC, and ABC. Sometimes good luck just chooses to shine warmly on a business enterprise. I once heard the LBJ broadcasting venture acerbically described as "the success story of the decade."

KTBC, Austin, Texas, 1965. Photo by Grady McAllister.

The two photos below : The downtown Houston skyline at sundown, November 12, 1967. The gold building with the radio tower was the Tenneco Building. It is now the El Paso Energy Building.

The Gulf Building is easy to spot. Notice the lighted Gulf Oil sign. It was the King Kong version of the gas station sign. It marred the Houston skyline for only a brief time. I think nowadays the city has laws against putting a huge commercial display on a skyscraper.

During most of its history, the Gulf Building was an asset to the Houston skyline, and it was Houston's tallest building for over three decades. It is now Chase Bank Building.

The Gulf Building was the home of KXYZ before it moved to the Fannin Bank Building.

I took this picture from the observatory of the Humble (now ExxonMobile) Building. During 1963, the Humble building had surpassed the Gulf Building as Houston's tallest skyscraper. For a time, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

The observatory closed when the Humble Building was exceeded in height by One Shell Plaza.

Click on either image below for a larger view.

Downtown Houston, 1967. Photo by Grady McAllister.

Gulf Oil sign on Gulf Building, 1967. Photo by Grady McAllister.

Below: The sun also rises at Gulfgate, August 26, 1968. This is from the same roll of film as my two Galveston sunrises that month. (The Galveston sunrises are on the Album Rock page.)

I had to stand in the feeder road for this shot. Don't try that yourself. The grassy area to the right would eventually become part of the South Loop 610.

If you look past the footbridge to the spot below the sun, you'll see a big sign. I believe it is the sign for the Carousel Motel.

Below: The sign of the Plaza Hotel on Montrose glows in the pre dawn hours beneath a rare Houston snowfall. January 10, 1973. Click for a more realistic image.

Simuation of Plaza Hotel at night under a snowfall. Photo by Grady McAllister.

Below: More from the first Houston snowfall of 1973. This is not a joke. My recollection is that there were three snowfalls that year with the last one in March.

Two girls play in snow, January 10, 1973. Photo by Grady McAllister.


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Unless otherwise indicated, all commentary and photography on this site are by Grady McAllister.

Added August 21, 2008

The Gene Arnold Collection

I received the items below from long time Houston broadcaster Gene Arnold. He recorded most of these items in connection with his work at KODA (1010 AM and 99.1 FM) during the 60's and 70's.

Please let me know if you notice any errors such as links which don't work or are not properly matched to the content.

After these recordings, you will find my own assembly of airchecks, "A Month in the Life of KODA." It includes recordings of Mr. Arnold and other KODA personalities of the mid 60's. You will also be able to read Arnold's recollections of the late Mel Pennington (later an Austin TV personality) and of the helicopter crash which took the lives of two fellow KODA staff members.

Kennedy assassination materials:

ABC News, November 22, 1963
Recorded shortly before the John Kennedy assassination, the newscast features his last speech in Fort Worth.

"The Day the President Was Shot,"
ABC, November 22, 1963
Features the voice of Fred Foy, best known as the narrator in the Lone Ranger radio and television series. Foy lived from March 21, 1921 to December 22, 2010.

Ted Lawrence, ABC ,
November 26, 1963

ABC News, 1963,
four days after JFK assassination

ABC Flair, November 26, 1963
Recorded four days after the John Kennedy assassination, a Flair Report compares the JFK death to the death of FDR eighteen years earlier.

Flair normally featured lighter topics. Flair was an hour long afternoon show on ABC which featured a still young Dick Van Dyke.

Flair was comparable to NBC's Monitor, heard weekends on KPRC. I would like to get an unscoped recording of Flair, even if it wasn't recorded in the Houston market. For more about Flair, see the "ABC sales demo" below.

WABC, November 26, 1963

More news and public affairs:

Some of these recordings include DJ airchecks along with news and pubic affairs materials.

ABC coverage of UT sniper,
Austin, Texas, August 1, 1966

Oddly enough, a now forgotten airline strike is the lead story. The University of Texas story is second.

For more about the massacre, please see the caption above my picture of the UT Tower in the right column. Included is a link to an article on the tragedy.

I took the picture of the tower while I was attending a radio-TV seminar during the summer of the previous year. I believe that Gordon Smith, the professor interviewed in the newscast, was one of the main people involved in that seminar.

Actualities from 1967
Gene Arnold introduces each track

ABC News, 1960s riot excerpt

ABC On NASA, 1960s

ABC Paul Harvey, 1960's excerpt

American Airline's appeal to expand service to Houston

Gene Arnold on Heart Transplants

Don Gardner OOPS

Gene Arnold Cancer Research etc.

Gene Arnold KODA news 60s.

Gene Arnold, KREL, Baytown, 1957
Includes Night Train, newscast, and sign off.

Hurricane Gladys and Apollo missions
Mutual coverage on KODA. Includes Gene Arnold reports from Houston.

KODA, Houston, Gene Arnold
unscoped, November 4, 1970

Mutual News January, 1969.
Couple freed from Iraq

Mutual on eye transplant

National Airline hijackers give up

Paul Harvey on UFOs

Sports broadcasts:

The following ABC items include Houston sports reports by Gene Arnold, recorded September 3, 1967 to October 8, 1967.

ABC World Of Sports 67-1
ABC World Of Sports 67-2
ABC World Of Sports 67-3
ABC World Of Sports 67-4
ABC World Of Sports 67-5
ABC World Of Sports 67-6

Texas-Arkansas Southwest Conference Championship game, 1969

Oilers Vs Saints, September 12, 1971
Play by play featuring Dan Lovett and Gene Arnold

More materials from Gene Arnold are on the Ads, Promos, PSA's page.

A month in the life of KODA

KODA, Houston,
October & November, 1964

Remastered May 20, 2008.

This stop and go recording covers about a month in the history of KODA and KODA-FM, running from early October to early November, 1964. I recorded each of these items myself.

You will find the crash of the KODAbird of particular interest. Carried by KODA-AM, the October 12 recordings feature Ted Carr broadcasting from the helicopter.

Carr and Don Leblanc joke about buses. Carr jokes about flying. Carr jokes about Columbus Day. You hear the Dreamliner bus jingle.

Later, you hear KXYZ cover the October 14 KODAbird crash and somber announcements on KODA and KODA-FM.

At the time, Joe Coffer was news director, and Gene Arnold did both news and sports. In a 2008 email to this web site, Gene Arnold wrote:

I was on the air that fateful morning the KODABIRD went down. One of our listeners called to tell us what had happened. We kept trying to contact Ted Carr for his next report and couldn't reach him. We didn't think too much about it at the time. We thought we would hear from him as soon as he was ready to give the next traffic update. When we found out they had gone down, Joe and I immediately drove to the location where the chopper went down. It was a horrifying scene and I almost threw up. Ted and the pilot were still strapped inside the remains of the KODABIRD, but their bodies were burned beyond recognition. That is a sight that remains with me to this day.

The same audio file includes KODA coverage of national and international news, including a Soviet space spectacular, the 1964 presidential race, and the departure of Khrushchev from the Kremlin.

These recordings include KODA broadcasters Ted Carr, Don La Blanc, Mel Pennington, Dave McQueen, Gene Arnold, and Joe Coffer. Also heard are Richard Fulghum (of KXYZ), Paul Berlin (of KNUZ), Clymer Wright (of the Houston Tribune) and Paul Harvey (of ABC Radio). Please advise me of any errors in these names.

Do you know why Mel Pennington laughs at the Houston Astros? It doesn't have anything to do with the performance of the team on the field. In 2008, Gene Arnold explained it like this:

I was in the control room with him when he did that. They had just announced that the Houston Colts were changing their name to the Houston Astros. At the time, Astros sounded like a weird and funny name to all of us. Mel, especially thought so. Shortly after the name change was announced, Mel got out some sound effects of people laughing. He then kept repeating the name ASTROS over and over again, and each time he did, he raised the laughter sound track even higher. He broke me up when he did it. It was all in good fun. Of course, after a while everyone got used to the name and the jokes and laughter about it stopped. But, anyway, that's what that was all about. I remember just like it happened yesterday.

The attentive listener might also wonder: Why is a KNUZ news intro (including a sponsor tag from Paul Berlin) included in a collection of KODA material?

My memory goes like this: On the morning of the KODAbird crash, I had tuned to KODA-AM. I knew something had disrupted their programming, but I didn't know what. They were letting albums of orchestra music run all the way through.

I then decided to record some news intros on the other stations. I recorded the KNUZ news intro. I immediately switched to KXYZ. As I recorded the KXYZ news intro, I first learned of the KODAbird crash.

That, at least, is my recollection. However, the KNUZ intro may have actually been recorded at the start of an earlier hour or even on the previous day. The Soviet space flight that KNUZ mentions landed October 13, 1964. 07:47:04 UTC.

So, again, why is the KNUZ news intro included in my KODA related material? The main reason is that after all these years I am used to having it right before the KODAbird crash story. Also, by including it with the KODA material, it keeps the KNUZ space headline near the KODA news stories on the same subject.

Semi-technical dissertation

These technical considerations apply to all of my material recorded in 1964 and 1965.

The audio quality can only be described as "fair." This material was recorded on a half track mono recorder which had just been purchased for about $65. Although the machine was new, the audio quality was poor. The problems are especially noticeable for items recorded near the end of a reel.

The material was recorded on 1 mil or 1.5 mil Scotch acetate-backed reel to reel tape. This type of tape has a tendency to break easily, and you hear an unwanted splice during the stock market report.

Later, the material was dubbed down an extra generation from half track mono to quarter track mono, further weakening the audio quality.

I have a challenge for computer geeks who know about audio tweeking and geeking. Please take short segments of this material and send me improved versions of the recordings.

Bonus item: Paul Harvey reports on the departure of Santa's sleigh

KODA, Houston, December 24, 1964

KODA accidentally let some outdated cueing material go out over the air. This must have thoroughly confused the kiddies who were listening.


News & Talk

The Kennedy material below appeared here for the first time anywhere on September 24, 2006.

President Kennedy shot dead in Dallas!

KILT, Houston, November 22, 1963

This is a compilation of the KILT coverage of the death of John F. Kennedy. The tape sounds like it was edited shortly after the assassination. Marv Miller, a former engineer at KILT, sent the recording.

The material arrived on a Scotch reel to reel tape that was in need of splicing. It had a one mil acetate backing, a type of tape which tended to break easily even when it was new. (By the end of the 60's, most tapes had polyester or PVC backings.)

Thanks to Bob Parker for repairing the recording and for converting it to digital form. Thanks also to Marv Miller for sharing this historically valuable material.

KILT's sister station in Dallas, KLIF, is widely remembered for its coverage of the shootings. As I recall, even KLIF DJ Russ Knight (who was later at KILT) is mentioned in the Warren Commission Report.

This is the first time the KILT version of the breaking story has been available. It was first posted on this web site on September 24, 2006.


KILT Promos: October 1, 1970, Frank Haley

The above file contains three promos for a KILT documentary on marijuana and LSD. The material was copied directly from a cart at the KILT studios.

I provided all the interviews for the program.

Frank Haley produced my program using interviews I had recorded in 1969 and 1970.

One exception was the Timothy Leary interview at Rice University. It had broadcast on the KILT Alex Bennett program for April 26, 1967. KILT had not kept a copy, so I gave them my recording of their own material.

Christian comic John Jackshaw was another UH student who created a KILT documentary on the counter culture. His show took a lighter approach and was called, "You Can't Stop It, It Just grows." The "It" referred to long hair.

My fulll, one-hour dope show follows below.

"Wow, this is really beautiful... We must be dead"

KILT, Houston, October 4, 1970

"It's a Nice Place To Visit, But . . ." That was the station's title for this broadcast. On a flyer I put out myself, I added the subtitle "Acid Heads Meet Acid Mouth."

Produced by KILT Public Affairs Director Frank Haley, the program centers around interviews with drug users that I conducted in 1969 and 1970. Recorded at the University of Houston during the height of the student rebellions, signs of drug use were everywhere, and many students were all too willing to speak into a microphone about their drug habits.

Compare the sensationalism of this drug show to the syndicated public affairs program which begins after it. At the time, the style at KILT was to try make the public affairs programs more relevant to youth and to have them blend in with their music programs.

At times, you make have trouble hearing the interviews under the music. Persist in listening, and you'll be amazed by some of the things on the show. Of particular interest is a young woman's lurid description of her LSD freak-out while driving on a bridge near Surfside Beach, Texas.

Altogether, I hold the copyright to about two hours of vintage interviews with marijuana, LSD, and heroin users. Only about half of the material made it into the KILT broadcast. I'll post the raw interviews at a later date. They were all recorded on location, and many of them are in stereo.

Election night, 1964

KXYZ-FM, Houston, November 3, 1964

KXYZ had quit carrying Mutual newscasts when it switched to beautiful music in 1961. However, that didn't keep them from making an ad hoc arrangement with the network for election night coverage in 1964.

As I recall, Mutual went a long time without a regular affiliation in Houston. They tended to specialize in stations in small markets.

More about Mutual

KIOX, Bay City, Texas, November, 1975

I sympathized with Mutual as the perennial underdog of the four original radio networks.

However, I got my fill of the Mutual Broadcasting System when I worked at KIOX in Bay City. We ran their newscasts every half hour day and night all the way till midnight.

We even taped the 10:30 PM newscast and replayed it at 11:30. On one occasion, a listener phoned me about this. She was perplexed because a political figure who had died just before the live 11:00 PM broadcast was alive again at 11:30.

I recorded this while working at KIOX. Recorded on a portable cassette radio, the audio quality is poor, but presentable. One thing you can't help but notice is that there are some similar news stories being heard today.

I would like to get some clean airchecks of Mutual even if they weren't recorded in the Houston area.

Added November 24, 2007 . . .

Two quick air checks and something about metrics

KULF, 1974, Everything Metric in Ten Years?

KPRC-TV, 1978, High Oil Prices!

I'll let the writer who contributed these items describe them:

I enjoy listening to your web site. You’ve done a nice job preserving a bit of history.

I don’t know why I recorded this . . . or why I still have it . . . but I thought you might like to hear it. It’s a short (1:18) clip from KULF AM circa 1974. It’s mostly a Jack-in-the-Box ad ( I guess I liked the jingle), but it also has a bit of news, including the pronouncement that the US would be on the metric system within ten years!

You might also like to hear the Big 2 News theme from 1978 …and hear Ron Stone talk about something we’re still grappling with today.

Thanks again!

Charles Hadlock (Dallas . . . but still missing Houston)

Web master's commentary: We have all heard since high school that the metric system was inevitable in order to "get in step with the rest of the world." The metric system is one of those things which the corporate world has imposed on consumers without any thought for how people really live.

For example, have you ever tried to work the word "kilometer" into a country and western song? It doesn't have quite the flavor of a word like "mile" or "league." Imagine if Jules Verne had written 20 Thousand Kilometers Under the Sea. Would you buy a Disney DVD with a title like that?

Also, take a look at the Celsius temperature scale. It seems like it was during the 70's that the Celsius scale got its biggest push. That was when KTRH started giving temperatures in degrees Celsius as well as Fahrenheit.

They thought it was cute to announce, "The temperature is 20 degrees," then, pause a little, and finally add, "Celsius!" They might as well have announced that it was 20 degrees and yelled, "April Fool!!!" even if the month was October.

Have you ever had this happen: You drive by a bank. The bank has a flashing sign that gives you the time and the Celsius temperature. By the time the Fahrenheit appears, you are too far down the road. Thanks a lot, bank!

My big problem with the Celsius scale is that it is too easy to go into minus degrees. The zero temperature is the point where water freezes. Even in a warm climate like Houston, it will normally go below freezing now and then. With a Celsius temperature anywhere near freezing, you have to start asking, "Was that temperature above or below?" We're not used to that in Houston.

Another problem is that the degrees are too big. In the Fahrenheit scale, you can quickly say that the temperature is "in the 70's," and people have a good idea what you mean. In Celsius, to say, "The temperature is in the 20's" covers far too much territory.

Check out my personal Houston area weather display.

I purposefully left out the Celsius readings. That not only eliminated the Celsius clutter, but it made the Fahrenheit temperatures appear in a bigger font.

You may spot the Houston Celsius temperature on a few pages on The Vasthead. When you do, I am not trying to impose the Celsius scale on Americans but to accommodate people oversees who may not understand Fahrenheit temperatures.

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KIKK'S Richard Dobbyn in 1966: Rape victim's throat cut "ear to ear" in Jersey Village!