Marfa, Texas: Land Of Creatives

Our neighbor, Marfa, Texas, once a hustling and bustling ranching community, eventually became just another small fading west Texas town along the Southern Pacific railroad tracks. But over the last decade, thanks to the minimal artist, Donald Judd, Marfa has had a renaissance. Now it is a hip and happin’ spot. In her latest magazine, Martha Stewart (who featured the town in an article the mid 90’s) did a “how to” article on making vacation memory jars. Along with jars labeled with names of exotic vacation spots, was a jar with rocks and gems inside titled, “Marfa, Texas”.

I asked John about his childhood memories of Marfa, and his favorite was of the Palace Theater.

During the early 70?s Marfa was the only town with a movie theater within a three hour driving radius of Alpine. The Palace Theater was by no means a palace… we used to call it the last picture show. John says he remember watching Dr. Zhivago, and thinking Julie Christie had a bad tracheotomy scar until he realized it was duct tape over the screen to patch a hole in the screen.

In those days there was always an intermission in which the old projectionist would toddle up on stage, and from an old wire cage, would draw out a ticket stub, in a game called Wahoo. If he drew your stub, you would yell “Wahoo”, race to the front of the theater, and up the rickety steps to play your game of chance.

A large round board was covered with balloons and each balloon had one through twenty dollar bills…. with the exception of one balloon which contained a hundred dollar bill. John said “This was in the day when gas was 29.9 cents a gallon so a hundred dollars was a lot of money! You would choose a balloon while the projectionist masked a look of fear with a smile since I’m sure losing $100 would put the Palace in the red for the week.”

“But you know, in all those years, I never saw anyone win big money.”