Our Town Austin in 1955
By Austin Explorer
Static images sometimes don't adequately convey the changes that a place has gone through over the ages. Some video and commentary from the period are often very enlightening for this purpose. I came across the video below on a local forum and it seemed to strike a cord with people. Many recalled happy memories from childhood or noticed some startling omissions.
Set in 1955, "Our Town" covers a wide range of topics in and around Austin. The commentary is straight out of the Better Business Bureau press releases from the 1950's. Everything is great, modern and getting better. Of course we have more of a jaded view of perpetual sunshine pumping in this day and age, which makes the production all the more entertaining and enlightening.
Of particular interest to us may be the local historic sites that are highlighted throughout the presentation. We've provided a list of some of them following the video with a marker where possible to the specific point in the program that shows or talks about the location in question.
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Some existing locations that you might notice in the video
The Texas Memorial Museum
(0:25) sits on the University of Texas campus and was finished in 1939. It features an art deco design that was all the rage in the 1930's, but it's hard to tell from San Jacinto Street these days. Trees that line the path to the building have grown so large that they cover up much of the facade from that distance. In 1955 the building was still towering over the trees and not the other way around.
O'Henry House (0:56) - I thought that this house had been moved. Is that not the case? Or perhaps it had been moved before 1955?
Austin used to have an Air Force base? Yes, and it wasn't that long ago. Bergstom Air Force Base (18:41) is shown well before it was decommissioned and eventually became the home of Austin Bergstrom International Airport after the city's airport moved from Mueller.
Some footage taken at the Texas Relays (47:35) provides some perspective on what Texas Memorial Stadium looked like before the upper decks were added or the north end zone redone. Also note the high jump technique used prior to the development of the Fosbury Flop universally used today.
Some other interesting locations in our database
And some locations or events not in our database
And some places or things that aren't around
Much of the time in the video is spent on visits to area businesses and serve as infomercials for their products. Nevertheless it's still interesting to ponder the differences in Austin then and now. Large scale food production, furniture making in Austin? Asbestos siding on houses? (3:23) The modern way to insulate! How times have changed.
Economy Furniture (9:15) constructed pieces under the BiltRite and Western Provincial brands. They later may have done mattress contract manufacturing as well. The company was the scene of a long strike by workers from 1968-1971. Economy Furniture's assets were liquidated in 2003
A good deal of information is provided on the recreational possibilities at the Bar K Ranch (19:55). This property seems to have been subdivided up into innumerable lots that make up part of Lago Vista these days. Have any of the buildings or structures from its resort days survived?
Polar Ice Cream (48:52) is just such a great name for ice cream. If for no other reason, it's sad that the brand is no longer available. The company got its start around 1933 though we're not sure when it went into the deep freeze. It looks like some other companies have adopted the name since then.