September 17, 1957 – Kansas State Fairgrounds Hosts Sprint Car Races

Dale Reed, Heat #2 Winner

On September 17, 1957, the historic half-mile racetrack at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Kansas, hosted six sprint car races contested by nineteen excited drivers and crew.  Five thousand fans were in attendance for three qualifying heats of seven laps, a fast car dash of four laps, a six-lap consolation race, and the featured final race of fifteen laps.  Drivers from nine states – Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, Florida, California, and Minnesota – gathered for the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) event.  Winners of the qualifying heats were Pete Folse of Tampa, Florida, Dale Reed of Wichita, Kansas, and Al “Cotton” Farmer of Ft. Worth, Texas.  Farmer also came in first in the fast car dash and featured final race; Johnny Pouelson of Gardena, California won the consolation event.

Sprint cars are small, powerful race cars with high power-to-weight ratios designed to run on short oval or circular tracks.  Sprint car racing began shortly after World War I, and by the ’50s some sprint cars racers were using larger flathead V8 Ford or Mercury engines, rather than the pre-World War II vintage 4-cylinders of the ’40s.  Featured race champion Farmer was driving a Les Vaughn Offy, #24.  Les Vaughn owned many frontrunning midget, sprint, and stock racecars from 1948 to 1960.  Young A.J. Foyt got his big break in an Offy, winning his first sprint car race in Minot, North Dakota in 1956.

Final-winning racer Al “Cotton” Farmer was 29 on this warm, sunny day in Hutchinson.  His nickname came from the full white head of hair he sported from boyhood until his death in 2004 in his hometown of Ft. Worth.  He was an automobile chemical salesman, active in local professional and charitable organizations throughout his life, the father of four and grandfather of ten.

Image Credit: L.A.Wood/”Big Car Thunder” by Bob Mays/Kansas Racing History website

Mid-Century Modern – Vogue Magazine’s September Issue

Suzy Parker in Vogue Magazine, September 1957. Photo source: Vogue

Suzy Parker in Vogue Magazine, September 1957.

The September 1957 issue of Vogue Magazine was probably not the iconic behemoth that currently arrives at the newsstand with a thud each fall to profile and advertise the season’s couture. But the Conde Nast bible of style, then under the editorial directorship of Jessica Daves, had much to do with guiding the taste and flair of 1950s closets. With mid-century modern bringing back a neo-50s vibe, this editorial image of Suzy Parker from September, 1957 feels right at home with the trends of today (possibly minus the green fuzzy hat).

Texan redhead Suzy Parker was one of the first very-supermodels. In addition to her editorial work for fashion magazines, Parker frequently appeared in advertisements for cosmetics and other consumer products. She was the first model to earn over $100,000 per year. Suzy was also one of the first in a long line of fashion models who made the crossover to movies. Two films released in 1957 slated Suzy for small roles: Kiss Them for Me, with Cary Grant and Jayne Mansfield; and Funny Face, with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. Fashion photography legends Richard Avedon, Horst P. Horst, and Irving Penn were inspired by Parker and their images, in turn, inspired 1950s women to pursue elegance with a flash of Texas sizzle. John, Paul, George, and Ringo – raging adolescents in 1957 – collectively wrote and recorded a tribute to Suzy in 1969, which was included in the soundtrack of the 1970 documentary, Let it Be.

Image Credit: Vogue Magazine

June 27, 1957 – Hurricane Audrey Strikes the Texas-Louisiana Border

Audrey Radar Mosaic

Radar mosaic of Hurricane Audrey, June 27, 1957 at 1:00 PM CST. Eye of the hurricane still intact 60 miles inland, over Beauregard Parish, Louisiana.

On June 27, 1957, Hurricane Audrey made landfall near Bridge City, Texas.  The largest hurricane on record for the month of June, Audrey was a Category 4 storm (later downgraded to Category 3) with peak sustained wind speeds then-measured at 145 mph.  Residents of Texas and Louisiana had very little warning before Audrey took her toll: $147 million in property damage and 416 lives lost.  Audrey’s 8 to 12 foot storm surge was responsible for most of the loss and destruction, spreading as far as 25 miles inland over low-lying southwestern Louisiana.  Massive rainfall and 23 tornadoes followed in the wake of this eighth-deadliest hurricane to hit the United States mainland.  The name Audrey will never be used for a hurricane again.

Image Credit: National Weather Service/NOAA

November 7, 1957 – Record-Setting Deadly Tornadoes in Texas and Louisana

Texas-Louisana Tornado Map

Image: National Weather Service, NOAA

On November 7, 1957, ten people were killed and hundreds more injured when fourteen separate tornadoes struck parts of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana in a ten-hour period.  Additional tornadoes touched down at the same time in other parts of Louisiana and the southeastern United States, causing death, injuries and destruction on this tragic day in weather history.  Despite the relatively small path widths and lengths of the Texas and Louisiana tornadoes, they were large storms as measured on the Fujita scale: an F4 storm hit Orange County, Texas, and several others in the grouping measured F3, including two cutting through Groves, Texas and Alexandria, Louisiana.  Total damage was estimated at $5 million dollars (equivalent to about $40 million today).

Only one tornado to date had been deadlier in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana – the Alexandria tornado of April 4, 1923, which killed 15 people and injured 150.  Making this recent tornado outbreak all the more devastating was the fact that it followed so closely on the heels of massive Hurricane Audrey, the deadliest natural disaster in the area of all time, which struck only a little more than four months earlier on June 27th.