What is: The Alamo Village, the remains of the movie set built for John Wayne’s “The Alamo,” then used in numerous other movies, documentaries, commercials and music videos, as well as a tourist attraction

What was: The set was built by James T. “Happy” Shahan of Brackettville, who in 1995 was named the “Father of the Texas movie industry.” Shahan began building the set on his ranch in September, 1957 for John Wayne, who had tried for years to make a movie about the Battle of the Alamo. As Wayne ran out of money and called a halt to construction, Shahan agreed to continue working while Wayne raised more money, if Wayne would agree to building full sets with four walls, floor and roofs, rather than simply facades. Wayne signed on to the deal. Filming began in August, 1959.

The town is a representation of the village of San Antonio de Béxar circa 1836. The building of the set required over 1.5 million adobe bricks (which were manufactured on site), 14 miles of gravel road and a 4,000-foot runway. The $12 million building program involved up to 400 workmen at one time. Artisans from Mexico made adobe bricks as they were made three centuries ago. More than a million bricks were used to construct 200,000 square feet of permanent buildings. The Alamo replica was based on careful research that included obtaining plans sent to Spain by the Catholic priests who built the mission. There were no “false front” streets. Electrical and telephone wiring was concealed in more than ten miles of underground casing.

 

What is: Alamo Village, Bracketville Texas,  was a movie set and tourist attraction north of Brackettville, Texas.

What was: It was the first movie location built in Texas, originally constructed for and best known as the setting for The Alamo (1960), directed by John Wayne and starring Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey and Frankie Avalon.

When James T. “Happy” Shahan began construction of the film set in 1957 the goal was to create a facade of the town. The plan expanded, augmenting buildings with roofs, floors, and four walls, made of real adobe and brick, resulting in a functional replica of a western town. The set included a full-scale re-creation of the Alamo compound as it would have appeared in 1836, as well as a western village including a cantina and restaurant, a trading post, an Indian store, a church, a jail, a blacksmith shop and more. The set won the American Cowboy Culture Award in 1998.

One of the main street buildings would be turned into a John Wayne Western Museum with celebrity galleries since the site was also open as a tourist attraction. As a once thriving Western-style attraction visitors could go on hay rides, watch staged gunfights, trick roping exhibitions and other activities.

For years after the 1960 Alamo production, Shahan preserved the set and, over the years, over a dozen films about the Alamo have been shot there. In addition, over 100 other western movies as well as documentaries, music videos and commercials have been shot using various parts of the set. Frank Thompson, a film historian, noted that each production changed the set in some way, big or small, and that the changes appear in each new movie about the Alamo, documenting the current view of authenticity over time. The 2004 Disney movie about the Alamo was not shot on this set, but in a new set built in Dripping Springs, Texas. films about the Alamo have been shot at this location. In addition, over 100 western movies (eg Bandolero, Barbarosa, Lonesome Dove and Gone to Texas) as well as documentaries, music videos and commercials have been shot using various parts of the set. Source: Wikipedia

In January 2018, there was a liquidations sale of all of the props.

What is: Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park. a sweeping view of the river and mountains along the Grand Loop Road.

What was: Near this location is what is known as Nez Perce Ford which is where Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce tribe crossed the Yellowstone River on August 25, 1877.

In June 1877, several bands of the Nez Perce, numbering about 750 men, women, and children resisted relocation from their native lands on the Wallowa River in northeast Oregon to a reservation in west-central Idaho. They decided to escape to the east through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming over the Rocky Mountains into the Great Plains, at one point in Montana believing if they went North to Canada they could reach safety.

By late August, the Nez Perce had travelled hundreds of miles and fought several battles in which they defeated or held off the U.S. army forces pursuing them. The Nez Perce War was extensively reported in the nation’s press and their leader Chief Joseph became something of a national hero and a military genius in the eyes of many in the American public as he continually outwitted and embarrassed the American Troops.

In getting through what is today’s Yellowstone National Park, the Nez Perce had about 200 fighting men and were up against America army units totaling 2,000 soldiers plus hundreds of Indian scouts. The Nez Perce Indian chiefs attempted to restrain their young men from taking revenge on White non-combatants, but not always with success. The Nez Perce selected an unknown and most difficult route over the Absaroka Mountains reaching an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet. The American commander following them, said it was the roughest country he ever undertook to pass through.

In 1902, Major Hiram M. Chittenden, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Yellowstone’s chief road builder embarked on a campaign to mark all the historic spots in the park from the 1877 Nez Perce war. By 1904, signs marked the locations of all the key encounters during the Nez Perce flight through the park. By the 1930s, the signs were all gone.


What is: A Ford panel sedan delivery truck, at the side of the road, Route 66

What was: Chevrolet is often credited with offering the first true sedan delivery body style in 1928. However, Ford was a leading purveyor of Sedan Delivery vehicles throughout the 1930s. Much of the sheet metal, including the fenders and front doghouse, is shared with the ’37 Ford passenger car. In the 1940s Ford’s Sedan Deliveries carried the styling of Deluxe-series cars — slated “gills” flanking a horizontal-bar grille. Sedan Deliveries also got a larger cargo body that year.

Inside was a beautiful art-deco dashboard, in contrasting colors. Standard equipment included a column gearshift, dual wipers and visors, ashtrays on both sides, full insulation and interior lining — even a clock. Many connoisseurs of design declare it the best-looking sedan delivery ever. There were about 5300 Ford Sedan Delivery models made in 1940. The 1942 Ford Sedan Delivery is rare, as all civilian vehicle manufacturing was halted shortly after Pearl Harbor. Passenger car-based delivery models would not return at Ford until 1952.

Panel trucks were used by construction and maintenance contractors, by farmers for selling fruits and vegetables, delivery vehicles and configured as ambulances and hearses.

The period of time spanning the late 1940’s to the late 1950’s was the golden age of the Sedan Delivery. While Chevrolet and Ford dominated the Sedan Delivery market, a few other manufacturers (such as Pontiac and Studebaker) got in on the action as well. In 1960, Ford’s Sedan Delivery ambitions were transferred from the full-sized Ford line to the brand-new Falcon platform. The Falcon-based vehicle was offered through 1965.

What is: The Nutty Brown Café cowboy neon sign. Driving from Austin on U.S. Highway 290 it was to be easy to recognize the neon cowboy with “Cafe” blazing in his lasso.

What was: The cowboy neon sign tells you that you have reached the Nutty Brown, “where fun is always the order of the day” and where musical acts play several nights a week.

In the 1930s Nutty Brown first opened as a bakery. In 1932 C. Allen Sears developed the mill, which by World War II was making enough low-starch cottonseed flour to bake four million loaves of bread annually . It eventually changed into the Nutty Brown Mill a confectionary and candy store, selling pecan pralines. At that time, the owners lived in this building; the family made candy in the morning and sold it during the day.

Then it became the Nutty Brown Café — a destination for the people of Central Texas. It was a unique local business with food and music. In the 1980s, a new owner wanted to build a zoo on the property and ran into zoning issues. The Nutty Brown building was instead used as a storefront with ever-changing merchandise, including clothes and antiques. In the ‘90s the property was also used as a hair salon and a car lot.

In 2000, the Nutty Brown Café became a restaurant with an outdoor patio and a small stage for artists to perform cover songs on the weekends. The back patio illuminated by string lights and a large raised concrete slab has hosted an array of both local and national icons including headliners like Merle Haggard and Kevin Fowler. Every concert was packed with people eager to experience this legendary Austin locale of good food and great music.

That small stage led to a larger stage and an ongoing music series, which featured local rock and country acts and attracted 700-800 people every Saturday for two years. It closed in the late 2010s and the concert venue will have a new home in Round Rock TX.

What is: a church and a few other buildings with a dirt road, west of Lajitas Texas on Texas Highway 170 (considered one of the most beautiful drives in America)

What was: Contrabando is a ghost town within the Big Bend Ranch State Park. The Contrabando consisted of an original adobe building called ‘La Casita’ and several later additions that became part of the Contrabando during its use as a movie set. The movie set was constructed in 1985 for the Roy Clark film Uphill all the Way. The site has been used as a set for nine movies including John Sayles’ 1996 movie Lone Star; as well as Dead Man’s Walk and Streets of Laredo, which were part of the Lonesome Dove miniseries based upon the novel by Larry McMurtry.

In September 2008, heavy rains and flooding occurred in Ojinaga, Mexico. The rain, and the ensuing release of water from local flood control structures, caused widespread flooding, and resulted in damage to the movie set buildings at the Contrabando. The original Casita was not damaged. In 2015, the buildings, except for the Casita, were removed for safety reasons.

What is: Broyles Mobil Station, Glenrio, NM, at the front is a drive-thru bay with a wood canopy roof extension. This is supported by two original wood posts. On the far right side is an outbuilding which was built as a restrooms.

What was: John Wesley Ferguson constructed the building in 1925ish and it was later owned by Jim Broyles as a franchise of the Mobil Oil Company. The construction of U.S. 66 through Glenrio in the 1920s brought new businesses and a new commercial area evolved along the highway, as the railroad town of Glenrio had started to wane. By the 1960s, the community boasted two motels, three restaurants, and at least seven gas stations

For the past 100 years gas stations have occupied prime locations along main streets, suburban corners, on small town roads and highway. They are one of America’s most commercial building types and over the years have gone through various architectural design iterations. They represent America’s mobility, car culture, pop culture, corporate standardization/branding and the changes in customer service – from staff to fill the tank and clean your windshield, to full service garages, sale of roadmaps, bathrooms, diners and corner stores.

The advent of the Interstate highway network routed traffic away from the once-thriving often family owned gas stations, now located on secondary roads, many falling into disrepair.

In 1969, there were 236,000 gas stations. By 2016, there were 111,000 retail locations in the U.S. that sell fuel to the public. The number of gas stations has been declining over the past ten years due, in part, to increased competition, stricter environmental regulations, and shrinking gasoline profit margins.

Broyles in 2022

What is: the abandoned (and now torn down) Cactus Motel, Route 66, Tucumcari, New mexico

What was: The town of Tucumcari, New Mexico is located approximately forty miles west of the Texas border and was the first substantial town in New Mexico for westbound travelers on Route 66. The arrival of Route 66 in Tucumcari in the late 1920s both improved transportation and economic opportunity in the community. The increased flow of traffic through the area brought automobile tourists and commerce. By the late 1940s motels, restaurants, shops and gas stations dominated the main part of Route 66 running through Tucumcari. At one point the town advertised that it offered travelers over 2,200 rooms for overnight accommodations.

The most common type of lodging facility in Tucumcari along Route 66 was the tourist court. These complexes of individual cottages or rows of connected individual units came into vogue in the late 1920s. The Cactus Motor Lodge is representative of what was an up-scale motel built along Route 66 in the mid 20th century. The motel was the first motel westbound travelers would find as they entered the town.  It was built directly facing U.S. 66, and remained in continuous operation from 1941 until the 1990s.

I.E. and Edna Perry built the Cactus lodge in 1941. The original buildings were constructed in the Pueblo Revival Style and featured tile tub and shower baths, each with individual heating unit Box springs, Sealy mattresses, double insulated walls, carpeted floors, steam heat and Car-by-door garages and free radios. The motel’s western theme played upon the regional culture, which was popular with tourists.  The motel’s modern amenities revealed that it was more than a tourist court, but a motor lodge – a term connoting higher class of lodging. Its advertising noted that it Duncan Hines and AAA Recommended

The motel included three wings of units forming a “U” shape and an office, the latter of which was a dance hall when the motel opened. Local myth says that people gambled in the basement of the Dance Hall and that it had a tunnel with an outside exit in case of a police raid.  Originally the Cactus Motor Lodge featured small landscaped park and children’s playground in the middle of the court.

The Cactus Motor Lodge became member of the Best Western referral chain. The Best Western referral chain began in the 1940s and was one of the most successful of referral systemsMotel referral chains were an effort by groups of small motel owners to maintain standards and create networks.

In 1952, Norm Wegner purchased the motel. Wegner added an artificial stone exterior to the buildings and converted the dance hall to an office. The addition of Perma-Stone, a synthetic siding, was considered a trendy way to update older buildings. He also added a swimming pool just to the west of the office/manger’s residence. Wegner and his wife lived on site and raised five children in their residence at the motel in the 1960s.

After Route 66 was decommissioned, the motel lost much of its business.  It went through several different ownership changes and in the 1990s the motel units were closed. The courtyard was converted into an RV Park for a period of time.

The postcard shown below, had the following text printed the back of the card: “Duncan Hines and AAA Recommended Located at the East Entrance of TUCUMCARI, NEW MEXICO on Hiway 66 Tile tub and shower baths, each with individual heating unit. Double insulated walls. Carpeted floors. Steam heat. Enclosed and locked garages. Free radios, Phone 600 Member Best Western Motels Mrs. I E Perry, Owner“.  The Cactus Motor Lodge on Highway 66 in Tucumcari, NM … “A Western Welcome Awaits You”

 

 

What is: World War II Protection as you are taking a walk in a wildlife preserve on the Eastern shore of Virginia — a haven for millions of songbirds, monarch butterflies and thousands of raptors with views of the Chesapeake Bay.

What was: a strategic location at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay that during World War II included large bunkers that housed 16-inch guns designed to protect naval bases and shipyards in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

What is: St Agnes Chapel, Terlingua, TX…the ghost town of Terlingua Texas, a small single and simple one room adobe church,  in some disrepair, with plain hard wooden benches, a worn pine floor, simple altar and stain glass windows. Apparently in 2016, the church got some repair work done to its adobe walls

 

What was: The ghost town of Terlingua is in the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert, one of the most rugged and hostile environments in Texas. The discovery of quicksilver in the mid-1880s turned Terlingua from a sleepy little village into a town of a thousand-plus residents. Cinnabar is a red stone from which using a chemical process, mercury is extracted.  By 1913, Terlingua had a dependable water supply, mail delivery, somewhat reliable telephone service, a hotel, and a physician. As the mining continued, by the 1930s, the town was home to 3,000 people and became the leading producer of mercury.  Slowly, however, the mines ran out of ore and closed and the town began its decline in the 1940s. In 2010 census there were 60 people officially living in the town.

In 1914, St. Agnes Church, also known as Chisos Mission, was established and became a focal point of the Terlingua mining town. The adobe building was constructed on a raised stone foundation on the side of a hill overlooking the town. The building has survived the ravages of time and remains an iconic symbol of the importance of faith in this remote place.

Itinerant priests held services at the church once a month and also officiated at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. Church records indicate the priests adopted the Terlingua Cemetery. Although the burial ground is listed as St. Agnes Chisos Cemetery on church records, the official death records continued to list it as the Terlingua Cemetery. While the town was once segregated with Mexican families living east of the company store and Anglo families to the west, both Mexicans and Anglos were laid to rest in the same cemetery.