On Sunday, October 23, 1960, the Texas Prison Rodeo performance in Huntsville was slated to have a personal appearance by actor John Wayne, in Texas to promote the release of his film “The Alamo” in Houston the following week. Scheduled to appear with Wayne was pop singer Frankie Avalon, who had been cast as the character known as “Smitty” in the film. Wayne’s production was only the fourth of fifty-one film or television projects that Avalon appeared in, but he was at a peak of his career in pop music. The previous year, his recording “Venus” was Number 1 for five weeks. Between 1958 and 1962 between two and three dozen of his recordings hit the Billboard chart. The rodeo arena was expected to be filled to capacity at around 30,000.
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Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, Potter County, Texas on March 8, 1921 to Ernest Enos and Lela Norwood Finklea. Ernest was a well known Amarillo jeweler of French descent, though he was born in Texas. Ernest was the proprietor of E. E. Finklea Jewelers at 410 South Polk Street in downtown Amarillo. Finklea’s billed itself as “The Jewelry Store of the Panhandle.” The name Cyd is a respelling of the nickname her brother gave her when he could not pronounce “sister” and she adopted it as her stage name. The last name Charisse was actually her married name.
(Image credit: Playbill)
An eight foot tall bronze statue of Peter Pan was dedicated to Mary Martin on July 4, 1976 and is located on the south side of the Weatherford Public Library at 1014 Charles Street, near Soldier Spring Park in Weatherford, Texas. It was dedicated as part of Weatherford’s American Bicentennial celebration. Martin was depicted in a pose as Peter Pan, her 1954 Broadway character. An earlier stylized statue of Peter Pan was dedicated in her honor in Weatherford’s Cherry Park recreation area, 300 S. Alamo Street, not far from her childhood home.
Josefa “Chepita” Rodriguez ran an inn on the old Cotton Road between Refugio and Aransas Pass around the time of the Civil War. Sometimes her name is spelled Chapita or Chipita, but Chepita appears to be the most common spelling. Her story began when John Savage, a cotton dealer and horse trader, was found dead, his body wrapped in burlap in the Aransas River near San Patricio.
Standing on the dome of the beautiful Texas Capitol Building in Austin is a statue known as the Goddess of Liberty. Installed in 1888, she carries a sword in her right hand and her upright left hand holds a star. The figure which stands 15 feet 7 1/2 inches tall and weighs one and one half tons was designed by the architect of the Capitol, Elijah E. Myers. Texans were proud to boast that the statue made the Texas Capitol Building several feet taller than the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
Eddie Stinson had begun his career in aviation in San Antonio, Texas and was the brother of pioneer aviatrix, Katherine Stinson. Katherine was a prodigy in the new world of aviation. The youngest of four children, she had been captivated by the lure of airplanes, so much so that she sold her piano to raise the money for flying lessons. The year was 1912, only a few short years after the Wright Brothers made their first powered flight in 1903. Her first solo flight was in a similar-looking aircraft to the Kitty Hawk plane, which more nearly resembled a box kite than what we know as an aircraft. She said that at the time, it was supposed to take 250 minutes of flying lessons to learn how to fly. Katherine quickly took to it and indeed soloed after four hours of flying lessons. Licensing requirements were not as strict back then. Katherine said that all she had to do was climb to 800 feet, do some figure-eights, glide with the power off and make a smooth landing. She was the fourth woman ever to obtain a pilot’s license.
Kate Ross Padgett was born January 6, 1851 and was the first white child born in Waco. Her parents were Shapley Prince and Catherine Fulkerson Ross and they lived in a log cabin built near the Brazos River. Her older brother was Lawrence Sullivan (Sul) Ross who was a young child when the family moved to Texas. The exact location of the home is thought to be on the west side of the Brazos near downtown Waco, near the intersection of what was then Bridge Street and First Street, roughly where the Waco Suspension Bridge meets the river today. There was a natural spring nearby. The cabin was later replaced by a hotel, the first hotel in Waco, when the Ross family moved to a home near 12th and Dutton streets.