Revisiting the Tragic Tale of Christmas at Porter Chevrolet in '53, For the First Time in Color
Jack Bridges's Santa perched atop Porter Chevrolet on Mockingbird, taken December 27, 1953
Photos by Roy Addis, courtesy Ron Hart
It was around this time last year I stumbled across a photo of a giant Santa Claus sitting atop Porter Chevrolet on Mockingbird, across from the old Dr Pepper plant. Not long after, we discovered the forgotten tragic tale behind the curio: Exactly 58 years tomorrow, 46-year-old Roy Davis plummeted to his death from a crane while trying to take a photo of Santa for his Christmas card. He fell 35 feet and landed between the boots. Not a tale best recounted on Christmas Eve.
But a few days ago, a commercial photographer from Atlanta, Georgia, Ron Hart, wrote to tell me he'd discovered the photo you see above. It has been in his possession for years, but only recently did he attempt to discern what it was. At which point he found my stories from last year.
On the other side, Hart tells the story behind this particular photo, and offers two historic, never-before-seen photos of Big Tex taken in the 1950s by a man from Georgia. Makes sense: Santa and Big Tex, after all, were built by the same man -- Jack Bridges.
Big Tex in 1957 ...
A photo stylist I was working with purchased a metal box with slides at a garage sale about 15 years ago here in Tucker, Georgia. She really wanted the box. I saw the slides that were in the box and purchased them from her. I've had them for about 15 years. As far as I can tell they were shot by a Roy Addis, who lived in Tucker years ago. He and his wife Dolores traveled all over the country on vacations, he taking photos on Kodachrome film. He was meticulous at documenting who, where, when on each of the slide's paper mounts. I assume Roy has passed away.
The shots are mostly from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Florida.
Written on the Giant Santa shot: "Santa Claus holding 1954 Chevrolet in Lap. At Porter Chevrolet Mockingbird Lane, Dallas Texas 12/27/53." (It's a Kodachrome Transparency, or "slide." Kodachrome is a very archival film, so it has kept it's color well over the years.)
The two photos of "Tex" that I have appear to be from different years of the State Fair. (If that's possible.) I'm assuming Tex must have been a regular at the fair for a while? Horizontal photo says "Tex at state fair, Dallas Texas 10/6/57." Vertical photo of Tex says: "'TEX' at Texas State Fair Dallas Texas, 1/50, f6, 50mm,10/12/54."
I couldn't bear to see Roy Addis's photographs get destroyed or lost forever, so I've preserved them.
I think I speak for all of when I say we are eternally gratreful -- to Ron and to Roy. Oh -- and Ron sent another fascinating photo from the State Fair. But I'll save it for later. Because it's spectacular all by its lonesome.
... and as he appeared three years earlier
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