Monday, July 23, 2012


Remember that panel discussion last week at the Stateside about historic Austin movie theaters? The evening was capped off with the premiere public screening of a short promotional film about Austin entitled "The Friendly City". The film was made in 1947 by the Austin Chamber of Commerce to promote the attractions of the city to newcomers and potential residents.

The film was rescued from oblivion by the Austin History Center and the company that did the restoration reportedly said that if they had waited another six months, the film could not have been saved. 

"The Friendly City" is corny and full of homespun charm but it does provide a window into a lost world of old, post-war Austin. There are many familiar sights: the Capitol, the UT tower, St. Edwards University, the old, original Austin High, moonlight towers, Mt. Bonnell, a full Lake Travis (the surrounding hills completely devoid of development), the State Highway Department, the State Land Office, the State Health Department, St. David's Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Seminary, the French Legation, the O.Henry Museum, the Elizabet Ney Museum, the Texas Memorial Museum, the original Concordia University, the old Brackenridge Hospital, Deep Eddy, Barton Springs, Zilker Park,15th Street, East Avenue (now IH-35), a much smaller Memorial Stadium, etc.

Few of these places and buildings remain today as they were then. Many have undergone significant changes, still others are long gone.

It's a fascinating trip down memory lane. I wasn't born until l956 but I do recall a lot of these places and many others that are not included in the film.

The thing I like best about the film? The title. "The Friendly City" has a nice ring to it. It's certainly preferable to "Keep Austin Weird." Anyone want to join me in a quest to restore this old slogan to our city?

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