Saturday, March 28, 2020

Small Towns in the Texas Panhandle: Chillicothe (Panhandle 2019-03)

28 Mar 2020 Coronavirus note

Dear Readers, the United States is undergoing an almost unique medical and leadership crisis. Over a century ago, we endured another pandemic, the flu. Read The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry to see how the world coped with the 1917-1918 influenza outbreak. This may have killed over 50 million people, many of whom were in India, where the total number of deaths will never be known.

I wrote these Texas articles several months ago. I will keep posting them with the hope that they help take your minds, if only temporarily, off the miserable virus news. Conditions will get better.

Heading west in the Panhandle

Heading northwest out of Wichita Falls, you enter the big prairie country, with seemingly endless farms and lonely country farm roads. US 287 does pass through an occasional town, most of which, I assume, were built during the railroad era of the late-1800s.
Chillicothe looked interesting and I pulled off for a rest. It is in Hardeman County, Texas, and had a population of only 707 at the 2010 census. The BNSF trains thunder through town on a regular basis.
Full Stop! Was it possible? The Turquoise Coffee Shop at 901 S. 2nd Street. Nice place, friendly baristas, and good coffee.
These two lonely early-20th century commercial stores caught my eye. I wonder what they once sold? They are on FM (Farm-to-Market) 91, which leads north out to the fields beyond the railroad tracks.
Heading west out of town, I saw an old farm house bravely standing up to the elements. How sad.
Big farm country, Chillicothe, Texas (Moto G5 digital image)
The square photographs are from Kodak Tri-X 400 film, exposed with a Hasselblad 501CM camera. Praus Productions in Rochester, NY, developed the film in Xtol developer. The rectangle frame of the two square shops is Fuji Acros 100 film from a Yashica Electro 35CC camera.

In the next article, the journey west continues!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Towns in the Texas Panhandle: Nocona and Wichita Falls (Panhandle 2019-02)

On my ambitious road trip to Flagstaff, I drove through north Texas to avoid the Dallas/Fort Worth traffic nightmare. For my first night, I stayed in the town of Denison (see the previous post). From there, it was an easy drive west on US 82 through rolling farms and forests. Compared to driving through Dallas, it was relaxing and scenic.
Nocona is a small town Montague County, Texas. I stopped to look for a coffee shop but without luck. However, a few sights on side roads caught my eye. Woody's garage looked old-fashioned, but from Google Maps, I could see that it was only a few years old. Fooled me when I was there. The old Chevrolet needed a bit of work; the gorgeous example in the showroom in Denison was a bit (big bit) better.
6th Street view east, Wichita Falls, Texas
Continuing west, I finally reached Wichita Falls in mid-afternoon. I took the exit from US 287 down 6th Street towards the tracks. This is the "big city" of the northeast Panhandle. A friend who has been there on business described it as a quiet, old fashioned, somewhat shabby little city that seems stuck back in mid-20th century. She said generally the people were friendly and nice.
Wichita Falls is not very inspiring photographically. Because big open spaces and big skies are a defining characteristic of Texas, I took some frames near the BNSF railroad tracks. The clouds were puffy, and I used yellow or orange filters to exaggerate the skies.
7th Street view west, Wichita Falls, Texas
On the Saturday that I stopped, the downtown was pretty dead. A coffee shop was open, but the coffee was rather mediocre. I wonder if the town is more exciting on weekdays?

I stretched, bought some petrol, and headed northwest on US 287. To be continued....

These photographs are from Kodak Tri-X film exposed through a Hasselblad 501CM camera with 50mm ƒ/4  Distagon and 80mm ƒ/2.8 Planar-CB lenses. Praus Productions in Rochester developed the film in Xtol. I scanned the negatives with a Minolta Scan Multi medium format film scanner.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Fire: Historic Trace Theater, Port Gibson, Mississippi

Bad news. The Vicksburg Post reported that a fire broke out at the Trace Theater in Post Gibson on March 13, 2020. I photographed it in 2012 and had driven by several times since then, but did not see any activity. According to the Post:
The Trace Theater is located at the corner of Market Street and Carroll Street in Port Gibson and is considered a landmark in the city. 
According to cinematreasures.org, the Trace Theatre was owned and operated by the Ewings of Fayette as was the Fay Theatre in Fayette and the AutoVue Drive-In in Lorman. 
Other records show the building suffered a fire in 1948 and another in 1968 that reportedly caused the business to shut down for good.
The theater had been closed for 52 years? Amazing.

I previously wrote about Port Gibson in 2016, 2019, and again in 2019.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Small Towns in the Texas Panhandle with Ektar 25 film (Panhandle 2019-01)

Introduction

The Texas Panhandle is the land of big skies, big farms, big men and women, enormous pickup trucks, and fading towns and farm houses. The Panhandle is the northern rectangle of the state, bordered by Oklahoma and New Mexico and northwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis. Most people drive through in a hurry, but the area offers a wealth of photographic topics. The famous Route 66 crosses the northern Panhandle (type "Route 66" in the search box to see posts on this topic).

Highway US 287 takes you from Dallas to Amarillo and passes through a number of small towns. These were bustling and active up through the mid-20th century but today are slowly fading. I drove east on US 287 in 2017, and numerous abandoned farm houses caught my eye. I promised to return and record them before they disappeared. For a trip west in September of 2019, I loaded my Hasselblad medium-format camera and Tri-X film into my camera bag, but at the last minute added my little Yashica Electro 35CC rangefinder camera with one of my remaining rolls of discontinued Kodak Ektar 25. Long-term readers may recall that I have experimented with Ektar 25 before and concluded that it is well past its prime. Of course, I ignored my own advice and decided to use it for this trip.

Future articles will include black and white photographs from many of these towns.

In the Panhandle

For my September 2019 road trip, I took my time, stayed in seedy motels long past their prime, and enjoyed warm summery weather (and almost stepped on a rattlesnake in my sandals). A month later, an ice storm was threatening and I drove back east in a hurry. We will start in Quanah, a town west of Wichita Falls and proceed northwest on US 287. Click any picture to see it enlarged to 1600 pixels wide.
Dinner at eight, Quanah, Texas
A bit fast-food-like, but OK. The staff were very friendly. Breakfast the next morning was great.
Repair shop and Cadillac, Spur 133, Quanah, Texas. The Cadillac was in surprisingly good condition.
Attack of the giant chickens, Rustic Relics, Quanah, Texas
Even the chickens in Texas are big. Rusty Relics, Quanah, Texas
Nash Metropolitan automobile, US 287 east of Childress
No lunch any more, Estelline, Texas
This cute little building in Estelline may have been a Valentine Diner. Mr. Arthur Valentine formed Valentine Manufacturing Company in Wichita, Kansas, in 1947 to build small lunch buildings. He sold many to veterans who wanted to start their own businesses in the booming post-war years. The Kansas Historical Society has an interesting history. I photographed another Valentine Diner in Chandler, Oklahoma, in 2017.
Commercial building, 704 Cleveland St., Estelline, Texas
Abandoned farmhouse near Memphis, Texas
Benitez Tire, Hedley, Texas
Taqueria Tijuana, Hedley, Texas
Lonely farmhouse near Clarendon
Abandoned house near Goodnight
The largest number of these abandoned farmhouses are between Childress and Amarillo. It is sad that the families who once lived in these homes moved out. Do they now live in towns? Did the old folks die and their kids moved to sophisticated cities? There may be more derelict houses like these on side roads, but it is possible that they typically clustered along the rail corridor, which is now followed by US 287. I will later post black and white film photographs of these lonely farmhouses.
Gas station, Claude, Texas
My last stop on 287 was in Claude at an odd little gas station with zinc or zinc-coated steel roof shingles. These shingles were popular early in the 20th century because they looked like clay tiles but were lighter and cheaper. I photographed this station in 2017 with a digital camera (Panhandle article no. 01).

Summary

Texas is fun for a photographer. The people are friendly and travel is easy. The roads are in good condition and there are plenty of gasoline stations along the way. But beware, other than fast food offal, the Panhandle is a rough place for food outside of Amarillo and Wichita Falls. It is even more of a coffee desert. Take a thermos and brew your own. Also, watch out for rattlesnakes.

Techical Notes

I took these photographs with a Yashica Electro 35CC camera with a fixed 35mm ƒ/1.8 Color-Yashinon DX lens. This is a handy compact camera with an excellent 6-element lens and a genuine rangefinder. “Color” was the advertising buzzword in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, it would be “digital.” I suppose some people are fooled. I scanned the film at 3,600 dpi with a Plustek 7600i film scanner using Silverfast Ai software to control the unit. I saved the scans as 16-bit TIFF files. Silverfast does not have an Ektar 25 profile, but the Royal Gold 1000 profile worked reasonably well. The colors were off, and I sometimes used the grey dropper to select a grey area on the frame as a reference. Some of the colors are slightly odd, but it suits the subject matter (and if I wanted boring perfection, I could use a digital camera or mobile phone). A few frames needed some cleaning or scratch removal; Pixelmator 3.8.8 has one of the best healing tools that I have tried. To resize for this article, I used an old version of ACDSee Pro 2.5 running under Windows XP.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Small Towns in Texas: Denison

Introduction

Dear Readers, as I noted in the previous article, in August/September of 2019, I drove to Flagstaff, Arizona. I headed west across Louisiana and then northwest across east Texas. The town of Denison was a convenient overnight.

In this article, I will show a few frames from Denison. In future updates, I will continue west to Wichita Falls and then northwest on US 287 towards Amarillo. This will form a "Texas Panhandle" series. Once you reach Amarillo, you are back on the Mother Road, Route 66. I will add some more articles to my 2016 and 2017 series on Route 66. To see these older articles, type "Route 66" in the search box.

Denison

Denison is a mid-size town north of Dallas near the Arkansas border. It may be best known for its famous son: Ike Eisenhower, the army general and statesman who served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961. He served honorably and with utmost respect and honor by all. And he treated his party members, party opponents, and even the Soviets with respect - contemplate and contrast with the illegitimate occupant of the White House today.

Some more background information on Denison is at the Lost, Texas blog.
The morning view from the Best Western was rather inauspicious. Strip America, billboards, and parking lots. Yuck.
I drove downtown to the historic neighborhood at Morton Street. This was more interesting. There were plenty of early-20th century cottages - some restored, some derelict. A square old-time commercial building contained a plumbing supply company.
A block away, at 614 W. Sears, a Victorian mansion. And it was for sale! Just what I need, another fixer-upper. The roof was modern, so I assume the structure was sound. But it still needed a lot of work (= serious $$).
Approaching storm, Main Street, Denison, Texas (Fuji Acros 100 film, Yashica Electro 35CC camera, Nikon yellow filter)
My destination that morning was CJ's Coffee Cafe on Main Street. The view out the front was classic small-town Main Street: square-front early 20th century commercial buildings and Jeeps with big tires. My ordinary sedan with its 16" wheels is so inadequate in comparison.
Eiffel Boutique, Main Street, Denison (Moto G5 digital file)
The Chevrolet that tempted me, Main Street Motors, Denison, Texas (50mm Distagon lens)
Main Street in Denison looks pretty good. It was clean, and many of the stores had tenants, although I could not tell if the upper floors were occupied. Main Street Motors offered some beautifully-restored classic cars. Maybe I should have bought this gorgeous Chevrolet for my trip west towards Route 66. The little Volkswagen cabriolet in the back was a beauty, too.
Most of the major brands had stores here at one time, such as Kress, Sears, and Woolworth's. The Kress premises now house Revolution Coffee Company.
Art Deco seating, balcony, Realto Theater, Main Street, Denison (Moto G5 digital file)
The Realto Theater was hosting a Ghost Investigation and Psychic Fair. Incense wafted through the air. People came and went in odd costumes. The Rialto was one of many cinemas and vaudeville theaters that once lined Main Street. Howard Hawk's epic drama, Red River, had its premier at the Realto.
Around the corner on Barrett, an artist was painting a mural on the side of a building. Nice work, indeed!

Denison played a small part in the twisted and arcane art world in the late-1990s. For a short while, the First National Bank stored the famous Quedlinburg Treasures in its vault. During World War II, the Lutheran Church of St. Servatius in Quedlinburg, Germany, placed manuscripts and other 800-year-old objects in a mineshaft for safekeeping. At the end of World War II, an American officer with an art background, Mr. Joe Meador, took some of the art works and mailed them to his family in Whitewright, Texas. He died in 1980, and family members tried to sell some of the items. There followed an international search, convoluted lawsuits, and the final return of most of the art to the Lutheran Church.

A documentary filmmaker from Denison, Cassie Hay, wrote and produced a documentary about the Quedlinburg Treasures, "The Liberators." I thought the film was a bit choppy and confusing, but it documents how a German art historian tracked the treasures to a small town in Texas. Two of the stolen items have never been recovered, and one family member in the movie surmised that they may have been given to the Goodwill store (wow!).

This ends our short stopover in Denison. It is a cheerful town, and I would enjoy visiting again. The square black and white photographs are from Kodak Tri-X 400 film, exposed at EI = 320 in a Hasselblad 501CM camera with 50mm and 80mm Zeiss lenses. I used yellow or green filters on some frames. Click any picture to expand if you want to see more details.

The next article will be a quick color film trip through the Texas Panhandle.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

On the Way Out West: East Texas (B&W film)

Introduction

Road trip! In August/September of 2019, I drove to Flagstaff, Arizona. This is serious mileage from Vicksburg, and I wanted to take my time, explore rural America on the way, and take photographs. I packed a Hasselblad medium format kit as well as my little Yashica Electro 35CC 35mm camera.

I headed west across Louisiana and then northwest across east Texas. My goal was to bypass the Dallas/Fort Worth urban area. The traffic there is so bad anytime of day and night, I wanted to totally avoid that mess. My first destination was Denison.

This is the first of many heading-out-west articles. In this article, I will show a few frames from east Texas. In future updates, I will continue to Denison, then west to Wichita Falls, and then northwest on US 287 towards Amarillo. This will form a "Texas Panhandle" series. Once you reach Amarillo, you are back on the Mother Road, Route 66. I will add some more articles to my 2016 and 2017 series on Route 66. To see these older articles, type "Route 66" in the search box.

Many people try to cross Texas as quickly as possible, but really there is a lot of rewarding photographic subject matter; just take your time and stop when you see something interesting.
OK, so I packed a lot of junk, including a tripod, hiking equipment, Polartec, tools, and more. Cameras, day pack, and munchies stayed in the body of the car. I put film in an insulated cooler bag.

Mineola

On the first day, I drove west quickly across Louisiana and crossed into Texas. I stopped in Mineola, a small town just off I-20.
Mineola looked busy with a lot of traffic. I saw only a few interesting sights, and after a few photographs, pushed on.

Emory

In Emory, I stopped at Pott's Feed Store for a snack and restroom. I met a cow. The proprietors said they would be glad to put some foam on the top of my car and tie the cow up there. Then she could make the trip to Flagstaff and keep me company. Maybe next time. In case I made a big mistake in not picking up a friendly chicken, I saw some similar ones further west in Quanah, Texas.

Sherman

Finally, some real Texas BBQ at the Cackle & Oink in Sherman, just south of Denison. It's nice to get into BBQ country again. I usually look for the locally-owned places and avoid the chains.

These photographs are from Fuji Acros 100 film exposed in my Yashica Electro 35CC camera with a 35mm ƒ/1.8 Color Yashinon-DX lens. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner, controlled with Silverfast Ai software.