Saturday, November 23, 2019

2019 1123 Teatro Victoria Dedicated to Theater Pioneers Viola and Ramon II Ruenes

Cover photo includes full-page ad announcing the opening of the theater 24 November 1946.  The classic beauty is Ana Berta Lepe who this blogger first saw on cover of Bellezas Del Cine Mexicano / Beauties of Mexican Cinema by friend and author  Rogelio Agrasanchez of Harlingen, Texas.
Entering from the side of Harrison St one enters the area where the theater once was.  
Mr Zamora with Ricardo and Carmen Ruenes.
Juan Velez 
Hilda Ledezma and Roman Gonzalez of the Carlotta K. Petrina Cultural Center presented a sombrero gifted to the Ruenes family by charro Miguel Aceves Mejía (a.k.a. "the King of the falsetto")
Mr Zamora was  the grand Master of Ceremonies in his tuxedo.  Left to right on wall, Mario Moreno as "Cantinflas". Pedro Armendariz, Luis Aguilar and Germán Genaro Cipriano Gómez Valdés de Castillo a.k.a. Tin-Tan
Another sombrero was unveiled by Ricardo and Carmen.  It once belonged to Pedro Infante who is Mexico’s most popular screen legend.
This lady recounted many happy memories of visiting the Victoria.

Many vintage photos, some personally signed and autographed by the movie stars who visited the Victoria were put on display.
Mrs Zamora shows a 1987 Valley Morning Start newspaper article with photos of Ramon Ruenes of Asturias, Spain and his wife Ester Ramirez who began showing silent movies in San Benito in the 1920s.  By the 1950s they, along with the Brady family, operated theaters and drive-in throughout south Texas with some theaters in Corpus Christi and San Antonio.  
This man is holding a full-page rendering of the 1946 Brownsville Herald ad that marked the beginning of an era for this small close-knit community that raised generations of family around it.
c2004 Photo taken by myself before hurricane Dolly broke the sign in half.  The Zamora family has been making inquiries to determine what it will take to create a replica of the neon sign.  A scale rendering will created using some of the photos and illustrations by yours truly.
2019 - photo taken while the plaque was being applied to the former theater
The Manley model 67 Vista Pop was the first of the Vista Pop machines. It was introduced in 1955. The Vista Pops feature a see-through Pyrex kettle that allows you to see the popcorn popping.  It was restored by the historical association's best mechanic on hand - Gene Balch with a li'l help from his friends too.
Some of the amenities include a billiard room with awesome pool tables but what totally surprised me was the amazing collection of wrestling masks covering the walls.  I think those are massage chairs or something....  The office space retains the original tiles that marked the space of the lobby or reception room where Ramon and Viola welcomed many visitors entering the Victoria.
A before/after look from the 14th St side to corner of E Harrison St.
Carmen and Ricardo experience the moment after unveiling the memorial with granddaughter Ali.
All the wonderful folks I was able to fit-in this photo shot from a tight corner.  

Business card and vintage photos courtesy of Ricardo Ruenes

Saturday, November 9, 2019

1978 Historical "Eyesore" article is Proof Positive that C.o.B. Repeats Mistakes

Here's a treat from the Brownsville Herald archives our friend Juan Montoya (Rrun Rrun) wrote in 1978 when he was pulling double-duty as writer and photographer for the local newspaper.  The most earnest / curious researcher might tell us more about who built the house and other fun-facts if they might be so inclined.  I spent some time on it by adding a few tidbits of of related items after the article.  That's all I'm going to do for now but will repost if I ever decide to update this post.

Location of house shown in red in this overview merged from several digitized Sanborn Maps (1930-1949)

c1949 E Adams & 7th St

Who was George Willman?  Click THIS and find out!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A. Rogers Photography Studio - Brownsville, Texas

The name Robert Runyon is associated with photographs of Brownsville, Texas and surrounding cities of the Rio Grande Valley during the early 1900’s into the 1920’s.  There were others but they are not as well remembered since much of their work has lost to time.  A fraction of Runyon’s work  survived but has been an invaluable resource to preservationists and historians.  They give a glimpse of a prosperous Brownsville experiencing an economic boom of expansion and development of businesses.  Robert Runyon eventually gave up his successful career as a photographer to devote more time to his interest of botany and local politics.  The 1930s would herald a new generation of photographers who adapted to new technologies specifically developed to ensure that the record of their work would have a better chance of survival.
The era from the 1930s to early 1960s was filled by a few photographers and as of this writing, there is no living person who can name who they were and worse yet, what happened to all the photographs they took.  This article will examine the work of one who up to today, was only known as “A. Rogers.” Manuel J. Morales, a contemporary of Robert Runyon, was still in business by 1950 but much of his work has been lost or stored away in private collections which may perhaps never be seen by the public.  Photographers still in operation by 1950 were:  Rogers Studio, Burgess Studio, Holm Studio, K. Welch Studio, Alex Studio and Morales Studio.  Old family portraits from the era might have a stamp on the backs of old photos to identify where they were made.

Bronsbil Estacion was shown a collection of 4” x 5” film negatives which were found by a collector in Austin, Texas when she made a chance visit to a storage business which was selling off items stored away by customers who forfeited their possessions by not paying overdue rental charges.  We’ll take a brief look at who A. Pat Rogers was with future articles about the subjects of his work taken from the collection which, for now, we’re calling the Brownsville Treasure Collection of Photographs from the A. Rogers Studio (late 1940s- early 1950’s).

Waldron, Arkansas was the birthplace of A. “Pat” Rogers in either 1902 or 1904.  He took an interest in photography at an early age and gained ten years of commercial experience in Greenville and Dallas before arriving in Brownsville, Texas to start on his own in 1931.  It took him a month to scout the lower Rio Grande area before deciding on Brownsville and opened a studio on the second floor of the Putegnat Building (1140 ½ ) E Elizabeth St.  While portrait photography was the mainstay of his business, he also offered services in commercial photography, photo restoration, aerial photography and expanded his talents as he adapted to newer technologies over time such as motion pictures.  In 1935 he was credited with having filmed the “Tarpon Rodeo and the Brownsville shots of Flying the Lindbergh Trail for Pan-American.” 

Rogers was civically active in the community as a member of the Methodist Church and local Lions Club.  He enjoyed hunting and fishing in Mexico with his best friend Bob Burns who was also from Arkansas.  He and his wife had one child; a daughter.  He quickly adapted to advances in photography and joined the boards of the Southwestern and Texas Professional Photographers Association as an advisory member and was elected as vice-president that same year for the states organization based in Fort Worth.  By 1940 he relocated to E Levee St and expanded his services to include blueprinting and selling of photo supplies to amateur photographers.  By 1942 he became president of the Texas Professional Photographers Association and was also a member of the Civil Air Patrol, having learned to fly under the instruction of Les Mauldin who we know built the first municipal airport and private landing field in Brownsville, Texas.  By 1945 he purchased a building at 1336 E Elizabeth St and used it to open a music store.  Out of his own studio, Rogers offered to produce sound recordings on phonograph records for his customers by late 1946 and by 1948, the studio was serviced by John H. and Earl Hunter, names synonymous with air conditioning.  Next door to the music business he had a new building erected to lease office space on the second floor and house a men’s clothing store on the first floor.  Many new downtown buildings came about during this era after building restrictions were lifted following World War II.  By 1957 he discontinued the portrait department and added the sales of greeting cards and small electronics.  Selling cameras and supplying materials to the growing number of amateur photographers sustained his business while the demand for portrait photography was met by other local photographers.  His professional staff was invaluable to him and able to continue the business a few years after his sudden death in October of 1963.

This brief overview covers what we need to know about A Rogers Studio for the time being.  Future posts will focus on his work and include additional details about the times and brief histories about the businesses which will include H-E-B downtown, Fisher’s Café, Cisneros Rocket service station No.5 on West Elizabeth St, to name a few.  The majority of the source information was derived from (you can gain free access from your local library), Brownsville Historical Association archives, Ebay  and the “Brownsville Treasure” collection which includes some aerials, commercial photographs of businesses and street scenes from 1948 to the mid-1950s.  We are eternally grateful to Nora Vasquez of Junk –N- Treasure antique store in Brownsville, Texas for rescuing these precious images.