The Lubbock Tornado: May 11, 1970

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On May 11, 1970, a category F5 tornado tore across the city of Lubbock, Texas (home of the Southwest Collection,) affecting roughly a quarter of the town. Thousands of homes sustained damage and several hundred were completely destroyed. The damage totaled $250 million (approximately $1.5 billion if it had occurred in 2014,) 26 people lost their lives, and many more were injured. Not until an F5 tornado struck Joplin, Missouri, in 2011 was a town’s central business district so devastated. Last Sunday was the 44th anniversary of the disaster, and with that in mind we’re sharing images from our collections that relate to the event, such as this photograph of downtown’s Metro Tower. One of the tallest structures in Lubbock, it was easy prey for the high winds as you can tell by the section of façade that was sheared off.

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Almost all of the issues of Lubbock’s newspaper, the Avalanche-Journal, dating from that time can be found among our collections. This issue from the day after, May 12th, describes the disaster in detail, including a rough sketch of the tornado’s path. As more details emerged over the next several weeks, the Avalanche-Journal would share them. In fact, the bulk of its coverage understandably centered around the tornadoes, their aftermath, and the resulting national attention that Lubbock received.

Letter from Fujita

Scientific interest in this phenomenon ran high, drawing the attention of none other than Dr. Ted Fujita, the renowned severe storms researcher who created the F-scale for measuring tornadic intensity (in fact, the F in the scale is an abbreviation for Fujita.) The data he collected in Lubbock helped inform his theories about dual-vortex tornadoes, refine the F-scale, and better understand other meteorological causes and consequences of tornadoes. This letter expressing Dr. Fujita’s concerns about the spread of misinformation and the dangers it posed for safety during future storms is one of many items documenting his continued awareness of events in Lubbock.

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Among the data Fujita gathered were photographs, pieces of debris, and wind speed measurements from meteorological stations as far away as Odessa and Amarillo, Texas. Using those, he was able to assemble detailed diagrams such as this one, which shows the path and complex wind patterns of Lubbock’s two vortices. This is the final draft of a chart he used in his nationally-published Satellite & Mesometeorology Research Project report, Lubbock Tornadoes of 11 May 1970.

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We’re ending with an aerial picture of the corner of Avenue Q and 4th Street (now the corner of Avenue Q and the Marsha Sharp Freeway.) This hotel was torn apart by the storm, as was much of that side of town, but as folks who drive through that intersection in recent years may have seen, a hotel can still be found there: the Inn of the South Plains. The buildings to either side of it, however, were never rebuilt. A tour of Lubbock’s affected areas today shows similar evidence of an effort to recover from one of the most devastating tornadoes in U.S. history. For those who want to see more of the Fujita Papers, or any of our other collections, weather-related or otherwise, our Reference Staff is always happy to arrange a visit.

Organized Crime and Texas’ Crime Investigating Committee in the 1950s

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In the words of Wichita Falls Mayor and Judge of the Corporate Court, T. Leo Moore, his city had ”bounced” infamous California gangster Mickey Cohen ”out of town” on August 30, 1950.  Later, Texas state officials held a hearing to assess whether or not Cohen had been looking to set up illegal gambling operations during his visit. The gangster had been subpoenaed, but as you can see from the documents above, he kindly explained why he was unable to attend. Soon after these events, in 1953 the Texas Legislature formed its Crime Investigating Committee. The Southwest Collection holds the entirety of their records, which offer an interesting perspective on “organized crime” throughout the state.

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Consisting of nearly 40 pages of summarized evidence and testimony, the Final Report of the Crime Investigating Committee details the large scale of their investigation. Gambling in Houston and Galveston, general vice in Waco and Dallas, and bootlegging in West Texas were among the topics and regions that they examined. In our opinion, the bootlegging side of things was the most interesting because its legacy is still visible in the West Texas (home of the Southwest Collection, incidentally.)

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For example, these minutes of a hearing held in Amarillo, Texas in November 1952 concern, among other things, the activities of alleged Odessa, Texas bootlegger Pinkie Roden. As further examination of the Crime Investigating Committee Records shows, Pinkie was the object of much of their scrutiny. He had constructed a regional crime empire. Elaborate procedures were in place to get booze into the hands of bootleggers, launder the money that rolled in, and protect Pinkie and his associates from reprisals. He was so successful that his stores are still in business today in Odessa, Midland, Lubbock, and elsewhere—albeit legally, now that those areas approach liquor sales more leniently.discs001

With hundreds of pages of evidence, testimony, and hearings to keep track of, surely the stenographers were hard-pressed to keep up. Not so! By the 1950s, sound recording media such as these Soundscriber discs were fairly popular. Although Dictabelt and Soundscribe recordings might now be perceived as of lower fidelity than more recent magnetic tape and LP discs, they are sometimes the only record of very pivotal moments in history (one of the most notable being Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration on Air Force One just after Kennedy’s assassination!) The discs pictured here are a sample of dozens created during the course of the Committee’s statewide proceedings. Transcriptions of their contents are present in our records, but it’s a unique (and very cool) experience to actually hear the events playing out over sixty years ago.

The items shared here represent only a fraction of the entertainment that these records hold. In fact, when combined with our dozens of oral histories with local bootleggers and their families, statewide criminals, and the police and judges who pursued them, the SWC might just have a gold mine of research material about Texas crime. Give our Reference Staff a shout and they will help you get your hands on them!

The Small Collection Rundown, Part I

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While roaming through the Southwest Collection stacks the other day, I noticed something. We have a large number of very small but unique collections. They don’t cover a wide variety of research topics, and as a result they might not always get the attention they deserve. That’s a shame, because they’re informative, interesting, and sometimes a little offbeat. Therefore today, in this blog, at least a handful of them have found their time to shine.

First off, the promised ‘offbeat’ item. Among the papers of Vaughn Monigold lie six buttons (six may seem like a little much, but as an archive we preserve everything.) They celebrate local underground celebrity Prairie Dog Pete, who some claim had a groundhog-like ability to predict the weather. The rest of Monigold’s papers are standard stuff, consisting primarily of photographs of prominent sights in Lubbock and the surrounding region. Our Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Records also mention a bit about Pete, but honestly, this folder full of prairie dog buttons? Surely that should make some researcher’s day.

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The Alpha Lambda Delta Records, 1962-2008, are far more pedestrian than Monigold’s pile of rodent buttons. Alpha Lambda Delta was founded in 1924 at the University of Illinois to recognize academic excellence among freshmen women. The organization became co-educational in the 1970s in response to Title IX, and is still active today, having initiated over 850,000 students among its 260 chapters. All that being said, our collection of their materials is very small, consisting of only 2 boxes and assorted artifacts. In that small space, however, it documents much of the organizational and financial infrastructure of the group both locally and nationally. It also boasts a nearly-complete run of their publication, The Flame, from 1963 onward, the covers of which we’ve provided here.

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The last sampling of our smaller collections comes from our  South Plains Quilters Guild Records. In July of 1976, an all-day quilting bee was held at the Mahon Library in Lubbock, Texas. Area quilt makers brought quilts for display and demonstrated methods of quilt making. The event aroused so much interest that several of those present decided to organize a quilting group. Originally named ‘The Quilting B’s’, in 1978 the group later changed the name to the South Plains Quilters Guild (SPQG). Many of its members competed in local and state competitions, contributing items such as a Hacienda Rose patterned-quilt that took home this ribbon from a Dallas-area event in 1996.

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We have a host of correspondence, financial records, scrapbooks, and photographs of the SPQG’s activities for a span of nearly 40 years. We also have a sizable run of their Year Books, which contain member and event information for each year. I’m going to be honest: before scanning these Year Books, I arranged them in this vaguely quilt-like pattern on purpose.

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We’ve saved the best of the SPQG records for last: actual quilts! Check out the one with the dragon on it. That’s some serious quilting, right there. Although these are only photographs of the organization’s creations, we have a couple of actual quilts carefully preserved among our other textile artifacts.

As always, our Reference Staff can get these collections into your hands if you’d like to give us a visit!

Cook Bookery!

Cook Bookery!

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Junior Welfare League of Amarillo. Junior Welfare League Recipe Book. Amarillo, Tex.: Russell Stationary Co., 1942. (Published for the benefit of the Junior Welfare League, Free Clinic for Children).

The Southwest Collection contains a lot of books. Thousands, in fact, collected over several decades. They range in topic from ranching to the JFK assassination to sports history, with generous helpings of Texas, western, and United States history thrown in. A portion of that library contains over 800 cookbooks! That may sound a little surprising at first, but upon closer examination it makes archival sense.

SWC’s cookbook collecting began as a supplement to the history portion of the archive. There was, at that time, no real historical information about many of the organizations that produced cookbooks. Why did the group start? Who were its members, and why? The answers lay within. Many of our cookbooks come also come from small communities that used to be much larger, or which in some cases no longer exist. These contain not only recipes (which unfailingly sound delicious,) but also often relate stories about the community. Some tell of the founding of the town, while others contain recipes passed down through families. This might bring to light otherwise undocumented genealogical information such as a family’s roots in other parts of the country, or even the world. As a result the publications were collected more for their historical value than for the recipes inside. Now, while we still collect the cookbooks of many organizations, the SWC also acquires the more traditional, professionally published cookbooks.

The cookbook above was an early publication of the organization now known as the Junior League of Amarillo. As indicated in its bibliographic information, the sale of the cookbook helped to support the Junior Welfare League’s Free Clinic for Children in 1942. It also contained some historical information about the League. Perhaps most interesting are the illustrations that accompany each recipe. Many are humorous, while others simply depict an interesting aspect of its corresponding recipe. There were many contributing illustrators to this publication listed in the back of the book.

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Baptist Workers’ Band of the First Baptist Church, Bay City, Texas, eds. Baptist Ladies Cook Book. Bay City, Tex.: Excello Printing Co., 1911.

This particular book was donated to the Southwest Collection, and we are always grateful for such gifts. This rare and out of print item is owned by only three libraries in the United States. If not for the generosity of the donor, this item would not be available to researchers at the archive. It was authored by the First Baptist Church in Bay City, Texas, in 1911. The book contains recipes submitted by members of the church, but the book also serves as a historical reminder of past church members. Genealogists and researchers alike may see a relative’s name next to one of the many recipes. It is truly a source of both food recipes as well as a historical resource.

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National Guard Auxiliary of Austin. Ready to Serve: A Texas Cookbook. Austin: The Auxiliary, 1984.

This cookbook was compiled by the National Guard Auxiliary of Austin. Once again, it gives a short history of the group along with excellent recipes. Much like the First Baptist Church cookbook above, its recipes come from the National Guard’s members. The purpose of this cookbook is to ‘reflect the diversity of the state’s heritage’ as well as the heritage of the Texas National Guard. The cover of the book is particularly interesting because it illustrates a soldier going off to serve even as his wife and child offer him a final home-cooked treat.

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Barbour, Judy. Cowboy Chow. Bay City, Tex.: Barbour Books, 1988.

Some of our books have been acquired simply for the charm of the book itself, such as Cowboy Chow, which was produced in the shape of a cowboy boot and serves as a tribute to the American cowboys of the past and present. The cookbook contains many typical food and drink recipes that cowboys used such as beans, sour dough bread, and strong, hot coffee; just a few among many foods available at the chuckwagon. The cookbook shows that while the foods that cowboys ate were not fancy or complicated, they were always there to keep trail drivers going during the rough days that they often encountered.

These cookbooks are just a sample of the hundreds at the SWC. For a peek at these, or any of our other books (which can be searched for here or here), please contact our Reference Department.

By Freedonia Paschall & Austin Allison, Southwest Collection Cataloging Department

Hanukkah, History, and Lubbock, Texas

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This year Hanukkah, an eight-day Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication, began on November 27th and will continue until sundown December 5th. The Jewish community of Lubbock, Texas (the city in which the Southwest Collection is located) has been celebrating this holiday at its Congregation Shaareth Israel since 1934. From 1960 to 1980, Rabbi Alexander Kline presided over this event, and his papers at the Southwest Collection contain a tremendous amount of his research into and personal thoughts about the holiday. These culminated in the sermons he would share with the congregation.

An art historian well as a rabbi, Alexander S. Kline was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1903. He emigrated to the United States in 1921 to study art history at the University of Cincinnati, and was ordained as a Rabbi in 1933. He received his Doctor of Divinity from the Hebrew Union College in 1958. While Rabbi of Congregation Shaareth Israel, Kline was known for his art lectures at the Museum of Texas Tech University. But his thoroughly-researched, scholarly sermons were what touched the heart of the Lubbock Jewish community. Each piece was written by hand on the back of memos, bulletins, correspondence with other religious groups, and a host of other documents that are an interesting set of research materials unto themselves! The image above is the first page of his sermon on Hanukkah delivered in 1978.

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Before composing his sermons, Rabbi Kline would review all of the information he had gathered throughout decades of rabbinical service. The sermon about Hanukkah was no exception. One of its themes addressed ignorance. During the holiday season, Jews often found themselves being asked about their Christmas plans. At the bottom of the image above, taken from the December, 1978 issue of Amarillo, Texas’ Temple B’Nai Israel Bulletin, an anecdote that Kline cited to address this phenomenon can be seen (although the explanations of Hanukkah by 2nd and 3rd graders, located along the side of the paper, deliver their own amusing message.)

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This image is not only a great example of why none of us should store newspaper clippings atop other documents (they emit hydrochloric gas, resulting in the brown rectangles across the middle of the paper,) but is also one of the bases for Kline’s other theme: tolerance. This is the first page of a document describing an incident that occurred in White Plains in 1950. Although the event transpired nearly three decades before Kline’s sermon, examples like this helped Kline outline the historical tension between two religious groups that had long struggled to negotiate a relationship within the bounds of the freedom that America provided.

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What then could Jews do to combat ignorance and encourage tolerance? Rabbi Kline proposed many answers, but above excerpt from The Southern Israelite on November, 30, 1956, was one that he adhered to closely. Take pride in your Jewishness, he counseled, and emphasize the magnificent holidays in the Jewish calendar, namely Hanukkah, that young Jews could enjoy while surrounded by Christian’s festivities.

Rabbi Alexander Kline’s papers are full of intriguing lectures granting insight not only into his rabbinical mind, but also into the unique needs of a West Texas Jewish congregation. We’ve published other blogs about the Congregation Shaareth Israel as well as our other Judaic materials, and we encourage you to take a look at those as well. And, as always, curious researchers may contact our Reference department to arrange to view any of our collections.