Tag Archives: Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum

A newspaper museum in our future … perhaps?

One of the many cool aspects of running a blog is that I get to toss ideas out there for discussion purposes.

With that, here’s one I hope sticks to the proverbial wall.

The Amarillo Globe-News has vacated its longstanding home at the corner of Ninth and Harrison in downtown Amarillo. It’s going to produce a newspaper in a sterile bank tower down the street and around the corner.

The Harrison Street building need not stay dark. Has anyone begun pondering the idea of turning that venerable structure into a museum honoring the accomplishments of a once-great community institution?

The Texas Panhandle already is home to one of the great historical museums in the state: the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, based at West Texas A&M University in Canyon.

I throw this idea out there not knowing a damn thing about the practicality of such a notion, or even if there is the slightest bit of community interest in it becoming a reality.

The PPHM would need to negotiate the transfer of the property from the former owners of the Globe-News, Morris Communications, which a few months ago got out of the newspaper publishing business. Yes, the company sold its newspapers to GateHouse Media, but it retains ownership — from what I understand — of the physical property.

The company chairman, William Morris III, always talked about giving back to the community when he owned the paper. Here’s a chance for Old Man Morris to deliver on that noble rhetoric.

How does one fill such a building with artifacts from the grand old days of newspaper publishing? Well, PPHM has a staff of well-educated folks who make a living looking for such memorabilia.

My suggestion? Turn ’em loose to find hot-lead presses, manual typewriters, typesetting devices used for offset presses, cameras that used actual film. Somewhere in the bowels of the darkened building are bound volumes of every edition ever published by the Daily News, the Globe-Times, the Sunday News-Globe — all of which were published under the name of Amarillo Globe-News.

The families of longtime Globe-News legends — the likes of Wes Izzard, Gene Howe, Tommy Thompson, Putt Powell, S.B. Whittenberg — undoubtedly have treasures they might be willing to put on display.

There. That’s my thought.

Oh, I also have a pica pole and a proportion wheel — the ink-stained wretches of the industry know what they are — that I would be happy to donate to a new museum.

Putting our troubles into perspective

Michael Grauer is a well-read student of history, which is a good thing, given his standing at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas.

The curator of art at the PPHM came to our Rotary Club today and delivered an enthusiastic talk about World War I, which he calls “the forgotten war.” Grauer has worked at the PPHM since 1987. That’s 30 years chronicling the Panhandle’s history and its contributions to global progress.

WWI was called “The Great War,” or just “The War,” because no one ever thought there would be a second world war, Grauer said. How wrong they all war.

But he added some details about the nature of the conflict that consumed Europe from 1914 until 1918 when, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, they signed the Treaty of Versailles.

He told us that the Texas Panhandle contributed thousands of horses and mules to the war. The animals were used to haul artillery pieces, supplies and ambulance wagons. The average life span of the animals on the battlefield, Grauer said, was 10 days. They would be shot in the heat of battle and then left to rot on the field. “The stench of death was everywhere,” he said.

The men who fought in the trenches had their boots rot off their feet as they slogged through mud for weeks and months on end.

The wagons used to carry supplies and evacuate the wounded from the field of battle would break down in the mud.

You want some perspective? “When you drive your car and you’re 20 minutes late to where you want to be,” he said, “think of what those men went through.”

All our WWI vets are gone now. I wish I could tell just one of them how much I appreciate what they did and salute them for the utter hell they endured fighting a 20th-century war with 19th-century technology.

Grauer is right. I don’t think I’m going to grouse any longer about traffic holdups.

Searching for ‘Roadside Attractions’


One of my favorite answers to the question “How are you doing?” is one I heard years ago … but it bears repeating.

“If I were any better, I’d be twins.”

There you have it. Life is good.

One of the highlights of my recent life has been the opportunity to continue writing and reporting on the community where I live. My full-time job in print journalism ended four years ago, but I’ve stayed busy.

One of the gigs has been with KFDA-TV NewsChannel 10. The folks at the Amarillo CBS affiliate gave me the title of “special projects reporter” when I started writing a feature for NewsChannel10.com. We called it “Whatever Happened  To … ?” It told stories about the status of big stories and big promises.

My bosses at News Channel 10 decided that feature had played itself out. So, together we came up with another idea.

“Roadside Attractions” is its name.

You’ve seen those historical markers scattered throughout the Texas Panhandle, yes? They tell motorists about events that happened at those sites. If not precisely at those locations, then they point you to where the event took place.

We’re going to tell the stories of historical markers. The idea is to give us all a glimpse back at our past. They’ll tell us how this region has arrived at this point. We’ll post the stories on NewsChannel10.com each Wednesday as the station airs the segment telling viewers about the markers profiled that week.

The Texas Historical Commission says the state has about 15,000 such markers. The Panhandle alone has hundreds of them posted along our farm-to-market roads, our state highways and our two interstate thoroughfares.

I’m going to search them out.

I’ll have some help in telling those stories. My friends at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon have been helpful in the extreme so far. They have pointed me toward local historians and have given me plenty of background on the markers.

You won’t mistake these pieces as being a version of “On the Road” series that the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt made famous many years ago. I’m not nearly that good a story teller.

I’ll do my best, though, to bring you slices of local history as told through these markers. They’re everywhere, man. I’ll find as many of them as I can.

Michael Grauer, associate director for curatorial affairs at PPHM, calls himself a “stopper and reader” of these markers. Perhaps we can entice more of our viewers to become stoppers and readers, too.

I want to thank my friends at NewsChannel 10 for allowing me to keep doing what I love to do. It’s been a blast so far.

Let’s enjoy the ride together.

Panhandle-Plains museum in good ‘interim’ hands


I was heartened to hear the news about the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, one of the great assets of this part of the state.

The news was that Carol Vahue Lovelady had been named interim director of the PPHM. She succeeds, for the time being, another good friend of mine. Cliff Vanderpool has gone on to become director of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth.

I wish Cliff all the very best. And Carol, too.

Lovelady has a long history of philanthropy and civic involvement in the Panhandle. Indeed, she comes to it through her family heritage.

Her dad was Ray Vahue, a former Amarillo mayor. Her mom, Helen made her mark through many civic activities.

The PPHM sits on a street corner at West Texas A&M University and tells a compelling story about the history of this region. It has been in good hands under Vanderpool’s leadership.

I am not in the loop at PPHM, so I don’t know whether Lovelady would be a candidate for the permanent directorship.

I know her well enough, though, to believe the museum — a true treasure for the region — will be in good hands during this interim period while the PPHM board searches for a permanent replacement.

Carol Lovelady’s philanthropic contacts well could be brought to bear on behalf of the PPHM. Not a bad resource to have on hand.


Amarillo would benefit from arts/culture designation


It took me some time to get my arms around it, but it finally happened.

Amarillo officials want the Texas Commission on the Arts to designate a portion of the city as an arts and culture district.

It won’t happen overnight. It might take a year or even longer for the arts folks in Austin to make that designation. From what I’ve been able to learn about it, the district’s creation will contribute to the city’s evolution into what some groups and leaders believe could turn the city into an arts destination.

I met recently with my good friend Beth Duke, the executive director of Center City, which is spearheading this effort. Duke knows the city inside and out, up and down, in and out. You name it, she knows it. She’s lived here all her life and for 30 years she covered the city in several capacities as a reporter and editor for the Amarillo Globe-News.

She transitioned years ago into her new role as an effective and articulate spokesman/advocate for her hometown.

Duke told me she has heard over many years how surprised visitors to Amarillo are when they learn about the art that is offered here.

She talked about all the performing arts: symphony, opera, theater, Broadway play series. She talked also about the visual arts: museums, art galleries and outdoor art exhibits such as, say, Cadillac Ranch.

The Cadillacs? I know what you’re thinking. The exhibit just west of the city is little more than a conversation piece. But take a look on a sunny day at the number of vehicles parked on the access road next to The Ranch. Duke thinks the Cadillacs can become a major draw for visitors.

The district encompasses a good chunk of downtown Amarillo, Sixth Avenue, Wolflin and the San Jacinto neighborhood.

What does it mean for the city in tangible terms?

It means the city could apply for grants to promote certain exhibits or performances that come to town.

In the longer term, though, it means, according to Duke, that visitors who come here might be enticed into staying an extra day or two once they discover what they can enjoy. They might want to tour the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, on the West Texas A&M University campus. They might discover Palo Duro Canyon just a bit east of there and south of Amarillo. They might want to tour the Amarillo Museum of Art, or take a gander at the galleries that occupy what used to be a significant shopping mall at the Sunset Center.

It’s impossible, it appears, to put a precise dollar amount on the impact such a designation would have on Amarillo. I happen to believe the impact could be significant.

It is important to note, though, that Amarillo isn’t exactly blazing a trail in this regard. The state already has established 26 such districts — including one in Lubbock, which has its share of events annually that bring significant tourist revenue to that city.

OK, so we’re not the first to climb onto the arts and culture district bandwagon.

The way I figure it, though, there’s still plenty of room aboard it.