I’m interested to know when the Legacies Dallas History Conference will occur this year. What are the topics being covered?

The 18th Annual Legacies Dallas History Conference will be held on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at The Hall of State, Fair Park between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. The Dallas History & Archives Division of the Dallas Public Library is one of several proud sponsors of the conference, which examines the historical, socio-economic and cultural factors that influenced the Dallas area over the centuries as it developed into the modern Metroplex it is today. Researchers, archivists, and scholars are brought together to share their insights into local Dallas history with each other and the public.

This year’s theme is “Dallas Rediscovered,” and will include the following presentations:

  • Carol Roark – “The Story of the Knights of Pythias Building”
  • Mark Rice – “The Other Expo: The 1937 Greater Texas and Pan American Exposition”
  • Nancy McCoy – “Dallas and the Drive-In”
  • Linda East – “Thomas Stell’s Ceramic Murals for Texas Instruments”

A special feature at the conference, “Conversation with a History Maker: Lindalyn Adams,” will be conducted by Gary N. Smith.

Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase items from conference vendors such as books on local history, and more. The Dallas History & Archives Division will have books on Texas history as well as photographic prints of selected images from our photograph collections.

The annual Legacies conference shares its mission with the biannual journal publication from which it was born: Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas. The journal, first published in 1989, is a joint venture between The Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture, Dallas Historical Society, Dallas Heritage Village, and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Past issues of Legacies can be viewed in digital form through The Portal to Texas History.

For those interested learning about topics presented at this year’s conference, the Dallas History & Archives Division has a variety of materials that may prove useful.

The Dallas History & Archives Division has a vertical clipping file of the Knights of Pythias Building as well as a Knights of Pythias manuscript collection (MA86.11), which contains records related to that organization. There are also related images in the Archives Division photograph collections.

Material related to the 1937 Greater Texas and Pan American Exposition includes several reference resources such as: Texas through 250,000,000 years : a story of oil and geology told by the geologic exhibits in Humble’s Hall of Texas History, the greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition, Dallas, Texas, 1937.

Another unique item from our collections is Pan American casino revue : program, presented by George Preston Marshall. This 1937 program includes information on music and dance staged by Chester Hale.

Resources on the drive-in movie theater phenomena and cinema can be found in our non-circulating reference book collection. Drive-in movie memories : popcorn and romance under the starsby Don and Susan Sanders, provides a history of the drive-in movie theater in the United States.

The undated image at left, titled [Aerial view of drive-in theatre] by Squire Haskins, is from the Interstate Theatre Collection (MA77.1). It depicts a Dallas-Fort Worth area drive-in as seen from the air.

For those interested in the history of drive-in movie theaters in the context of Texas, Cinema Houston : from Nickelodeon to Megaplex, by David Welling ; foreword by Jack Valenti, focuses on the evolution of Houston’s movie theaters. Theater Row : Movie Palaces of Denison, Texas, by Billy Holcomb ; edited by Mavis Anne Bryant, focuses on the history of movie theaters in the town of Denison, Texas.

The history of Texas Instruments can be studied using a number of our resources, such as books like Engineering the World : Stories from the First 75 Years of Texas Instruments, by Caleb Pirtle, III, as well as photographs, vertical clipping files, and more.

To learn more about various murals in general, the Archives Division has a number of materials that may be of use. A prime example is The Texas Post Office Murals : Art for the People, by Philip Parisi, which is a reference book that addresses different murals found in post offices in Texas.

J. Erik Jonsson, one of Texas Instrument’s founders, became a Dallas mayor and is the namesake of the Central Library in downtown Dallas. The image at left, titled [J. Erik Jonsson with downtown Dallas in background], was taken by Ray Adler on March 4, 1971 and is part of the Dallas History & Archives Division’s Dallas Times Herald Collection (PA83.41).

For more information about the conference and to register, visit Dallas Heritage Village online, or contact Conference Coordinator Michael V. Hazel at 214-413-3665, or email: molsen@dallasheritagevillage.org.

To view reference books and other materials on topics such as these, visit us on the 7th floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library.

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Have a Documentary — Hey, Have Four!

Here’s a snapshot of some new documentary DVDs, recently received at the Dallas Public Library.

Tower, directed by Keith Maitland.

On August 1, 1966, I was 12 and living in Brooklyn, NY. Charles Whitman’s noon hour mass shooting that day from the University of Texas/Austin’s Tower – a way-foreign locale to me back then – was something probably beyond all our comprehension at the time. I would always remember Whitman’s name, though little did America know that his rampage was only the beginning of a decades-long siege of carnage for this nation.

This unique documentary combines animated recreations of that day’s event – yes, animated – with authentic footage and personal interviews of campus survivors. That animation may seem jarring at first, but it is so skillfully done, and the words of witnesses and victims (both real and cartoonish) so compelling that I soon grew accustomed to the film’s “gimmick”.

What viewers will take away from this memorable work are instances of amazing heroism from that day. Before the era of campus-wide Twitter warnings, SWAT teams, and “shelter in place,” Whitman was finally stopped by two Austin policemen and a deputized private citizen, using only standard-issue firearms along with adrenaline, keen ears, and courage.

During the 90-minute rampage, Claire, a wounded eight-months-pregnant student, was completely alone on the 100-degree pavement – until Rita, a fellow student and total stranger, willingly lay next to her on the concrete. They could only wait and hope for rescue as they chatted, but Rita helped save Claire’s life by keeping her conscious, until other brave young people risked death by breaking cover and carrying Claire to safety, in full view of the sniper. (She would survive; her baby would not.)

Stories like these make Tower quite amazing. It’s both a testament to the human spirit in moments of senseless crisis, and a powerful portrayal of America’s baptism by fire that day, in arguably the first instance of what would become an all-too-familiar national ritual.

Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, directed by Deborah Riley Draper.

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, African-American Jesse Owens won four gold medals, disproving Adolf Hitler’s assumptions about Aryan superiority. However, as this fascinating film shows, Owens was not the only black member of America’s team that year: there were 18 such athletes, in track & field, and boxing. Some of Owens’s teammates would also win medals, while others failed to reach their event finals, but all represented this nation with dignity – which they often failed to find upon their return home.

While they were treated well in Germany, Jim Crow America would largely stymie the athletes’ lives and careers after the Games. Among several powerful post-Berlin stories: one runner worked as a street sweeper, and always wore his official U.S. team jacket while on duty. Anyone interested in sports/Olympic history will find this documentary enlightening and moving.

What happened, Miss Simone? directed by Liz Garbus.

This Oscar-nominated biography of outspoken jazz singer/civil rights activist Nina Simone includes extensive performance footage, plus interviews with Simone and her family, associates and contemporaries, in a close look at the career and private life of one of the 20th century’s most compelling artists. Trained as a classical pianist hoping to perform Bach at Carnegie Hall someday, Simone fell into jazz by chance, and became enmeshed in the civil rights movement after the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, after which she wrote and performed hard-hitting, sometimes banned, songs like “Mississippi Goddam”.

Unfortunately, Simone’s undiagnosed bipolar disorder eventually led to unpredictable behavior both onstage and off. Her final years were spent abroad in scattershot “comeback” attempts, isolated from family and the audiences who had revered her for decades. This film offers an engrossing portrait of a fascinating woman who was both somewhat a product of her time, and ahead of the curve. (The DVD set also includes a CD of Simone recordings.)

Florence Foster Jenkins: A World Of Her Own, produced by Donald Collup.

The legend of “FFJ” was resurrected in 2016, thanks in part to the feature biopic starring Meryl Streep. But in this film, Fort Worth native Collup blends archival photographs, 1936excerpts from memoirs and personal reminiscences, plus, of course, copious samples of Jenkins’s vocal prowess (??) to illustrate, with tongue lightly in cheek, the life of this unique woman.

Born in 1868, Jenkins was both moneyed and passionate about music. As a New York society “club woman,” she oversaw much musical entertainment for that city’s elite masses over several decades. Yet she herself always longed to be a singer and took lessons to that end. Though it had to have been apparent to her brave teachers that the talent was simply not there, nary a negative word was evidently tossed her way and thus she soldiered on, making recordings that actually sold well, and achieving a dream by renting out Carnegie Hall for a sold-out concert in October 1944 – an event at which thousands cheered and also laughed in disbelief. When a few courageous music critics dared offer scathing opinions of the event in print, the shock to Jenkins’s system precipitated a heart attack, from which she died a month later.

Just how bad a singer was she? This film’s soundtrack confirms that she was astonishingly awful. But its largely straightforward narrative takes a “just the facts” approach to her story, reminding us that while Jenkins may have been seriously delusional, she sincerely desired to bring pleasure to one and all. To paraphrase her most famous remark: “People may have said I couldn’t sing, but no one could say that I didn’t sing.” And so she did. (For an additional view of her life and times, look for the book Florence! Foster!! Jenkins!!! by Darryl Bullock.)

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My friend told me I could copyright my poetry by sealing it in an envelope and mailing it to myself. She called it a “poor man’s copyright.” I want to make sure no one else can steal my work. Does this really work?

Thanks for the question! This is one we hear about all the time, and you’re smart to do some research before going ahead. Your creative work is important, and it’s a good idea to make sure you get to decide when it gets used, and how.

According to copyright.gov, the official website of the United States Copyright Office, the long-held belief that sending your work to yourself through the postal service is just a myth. The stamped date on an unopened envelope doesn’t prove that you created the document. To quote the experts:

“The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a ‘poor man’s copyright.’ There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.”

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section on copyright.gov  answers a lot of basic questions about how to protect your work. It’s a great place to start looking for information. They cover what copyright protects, the difference between a copyright and a patent, how copyright works internationally, and what benefits registering your copyright gives.

There’s also a subject guide on the Library website that can take you to some great resources on copyright. The subject guide can help you investigate an existing copyright to find out who owns the rights to the work or, more importantly for you, how to file for copyright yourself.

If the online information doesn’t cut it, you can request a book through our catalog, or just drop by the Central Library Downtown. The 6th floor maintains a Patent & Trademark Resource Center that includes a bunch of materials on Copyright and intellectual property. We aren’t lawyers, but we can point you to good information, and our staff can help point you to the next step. 

And of course the Patent & Trademark Resource Center also sponsors workshops that cover information about the difference between patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Check with the 6th floor staff, or call 214-670-1468 to register for classes.

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William Faulkner’s Favorite TV Show!

I’ve got a tough sell ahead of me. I’m going to recommend a TV series that lasted only two seasons and featured a homely cast, stagey acting, and choppy editing. The show is Car 54, Where Are You?, a half-hour police-precinct-based sitcom which aired from 1961 to 1963. But William Faulkner liked it.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read, But Believe Some of It
William Faulkner reputedly hated television, but made an exception in the case of Car 54, never missing an episode. Believe that, but please don’t believe the descriptions of the series that say things like “misadventures of a pair of bumbling policemen, Gunther Toody and Francis Muldoon, from New York’s 53rd precinct in the Bronx.” That makes the show sound utterly conventional.

Oh, those are their names, all right, and that’s where they work, but Toody and Muldoon’s Bronx universe simply won’t accommodate the word “bumbling.” Car 54’s universe in one in which the richest woman in the precinct got that way by peddling pretzels and not paying for a peddler’s license; in which a habitual drunk doesn’t need to touch a drop—he talks himself drunk; in which people try to make plaster casts of your feet without your knowing it; in which every bird in the Bronx says “I hate Captain Block;” and in which the cops make elaborate preparations to celebrate something, but none of them know what it is they’re celebrating or where the celebration is.

Believable, Or At Least Acceptable
Some of these plot points may seem just too weird, but that’s because I’ve isolated them. In context, the weirdness of the show is rendered watchable—even believable, if taken on its own terms—by what must have been a hand-picked lot of thoroughly unbeautiful comic actors. Joe E. Ross (Car 54’s Officer Gunther Toody) was a stand-up comic with a craggy face and ears like you wouldn’t believe; Fred Gwynne (Officer Francis Muldoon, later Herman Munster on The Munsters) describes himself as “6-foot-3, and 5-foot-3 of me is face.” Al Lewis (Officer Leo Schnauser, later The Munsters’s Grandpa) is the only actor I’ve ever seen who squints with his entire head; the brilliant Charlotte Rae (Schnauser’s wife, Sylvia) often yells her lines while performing facial contortions that look like someone’s pulling taffy.

Actually, everyone in the show yells their lines, or at least gives every word full voice and extra expression; this mannered delivery combined with the actors’ tendency always to face the camera gives the show an air of operatic staginess that works especially well with the fast, often complicated verbal humor. The speed and sharpness of the satire is further enhanced by the editing—which sometimes looks kind of rough, but that roughness often fits perfectly with the alternate world that the show operates in.

Hmmm. It seems that I’ve unwittingly spun the negatives I listed at the outset so that they’ve become positives—everything that looks like a shortcoming ends up serving the cockeyed landscape of Car 54’s comedy. And the show’s mere sixty-episode run means you can binge-watch the entire series of half hour installments over the course of a single weekend. Twice, if you want to.

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This year, my resolution is to get into better shape, eat better and live a healthy lifestyle that I can maintain. I’ve been struggling for years with an unhealthy lifestyle, and I want to learn from other people who have been in the same boat as me. Can the library help find resources to help me achieve my goals?

Yes, we can! The 5th floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library wants to help you reach your healthy lifestyle goals for 2017, especially when you start to lose momentum from the New Year’s push for making healthy changes. Whether you are a college student looking to avoid the “freshman 15,” a workaholic with little free time, or someone who is interested in making sure your diet is free-trade and organically certified to be a more socially and ecologically conscious consumer, we have resources to guide, encourage, and inspire you along your journey to a healthier you.

Are you starting a specific diet? We have information for check-out on diets from Atkins to the Zone! You can search by subject on the online catalog search to see availability or have materials sent to your home branch for pickup. Also, navigate to the Online Health Resources information page through the Locations tab of the library homepage and select 5th floor Business and Technology from the Central Units pull-down. The Consumer Health and Resources section has links to the USDA National Nutrition Database for Standard Reference as well as the USDA Food Access Research Atlas. Both are tools to understand nutritional data and food access. Or if you prefer to come see us in person, please come by the 5th floor either by elevator or stairs (it’s definitely an exercise opportunity) and we can be your guide to checking out what we have on the floor.

Many of our healthy lifestyle resources are grouped together on the shelves. Discover interesting titles like  The Smart Student’s Guide to Healthy Living, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition,  Designed to Move: the Science-Backed Program to Fight Sitting Disease and Enjoy Lifelong Health, or The Diet Myth: Why the Secret to Health and Weight Loss is Already in Your Gut. And we won’t send you on your way until you have found some supplemental cookbooks that are geared toward healthy, nutritious food to complement the healthy lifestyles that you will be learning about, too.

Following an active lifestyle and nutritious diet plan often make great New Year’s resolutions, but after a few months, people lose interest or give up. Finding an author to inspire you at those low points will help push you through those difficult times and carry some momentum through plateaus in progress. For some people, inspiration comes from learning about others overcoming similar problems; for others, it’s getting clearly-planned activities laid out over the course of weeks and months. Whatever style motivates you, we have those stories and guides available for check-out. Come and learn about what can work for you!


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