Alice Embree :
METRO | Remembering Frank Erwin and the Waller Creek trees

This feature is in the book ‘Celebrating The Rag’ to be released during festivities, set for Oct. 13-16, honoring Austin’s iconic underground newspaper.

frank-erwin-fkln-trees-rag

Frank Erwin, former chairman of the UT-Austin Board of Regents. Art by Jim Franklin / The Rag / October 28, 1969.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | September 20, 2016

AUSTIN — The following post, is a brief description that accompanies Jim Franklin’s cover art for the October 28, 1969 issue of The Rag.  It will be included in a book, Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, scheduled for release in October 2016.  The book will be available at the upcoming Rag Reunion and Public Celebration of Austin’s historic underground newspaper, The Rag, that published from 1966-1977.

The Rag: 50 years and still raising hell! ©Furry Freak Brothers illustration by Gilbert SheltonCelebrating The Rag includes more than 100 articles from the original Rag, accompanied by art and photography, including work by artists Jim Franklin, Gilbert Shelton, Kerry Awn, Trudy Minkoff, and Marie Valleroy and photographers Alan Pogue and Danny Schweers, as well as several contemporary essays reflecting on the history and impact of the paper.  This is the third Rag Blog post of material to be published in the Rag book.

The Rag Reunion and Public Celebration, scheduled for October 13-16, 2016, will include exhibits, presentations and discussions, parties, a Gentle Thursday reunion, a concert at Threadgill’s restaurant and music venue, a live Rag Radio interview with historian Doug Rossinow, and much more. Learn more about it on our Rag Reunion page.

Jim Franklin’s iconic image of a tree growing out of the head of Frank Erwin was on the cover of the October 28, 1969 issue of The Rag. UT’s Frank Erwin, Chairman of the Board of Regents, was hell-bent on a massive expansion plan for the UT stadium that bordered the creek. Students, architecture faculty, and environmentalists drew up an alternate plan.

An injunction was filed against the construction plans. The university prevailed in court; the injunction was dissolved. Some 300 protestors massed to stop the bulldozers, many climbing into the trees. On the morning of October 22, 1969, protestors were pulled from the trees and 27 were arrested. Frank Erwin, with a hardhat and bullhorn, presided over the demolition as the bulldozers took down the trees.


Read more articles by Alice Embree on The Rag Blog.

[Rag Blog associate editor Alice Embree is an editor of the book, Celebrating The Rag, and an organizer of the October 13-16, 2016, Rag Reunion and Public Celebration in Austin. A veteran of SDS, the original Rag, and the Women’s Liberation Movement, Alice is a long-time Austin activist, organizer, and member of the Texas State Employees Union.]

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6 Responses to Alice Embree :
METRO | Remembering Frank Erwin and the Waller Creek trees

  1. Building anything in the secondary or even tertiary flood plain is well… stupid. That was my first and second reaction. The trees being slaughtered hangs over that too. It’s “tree strikes”, he’s out. Let me guess, the dude had delusions of conservatism. But that would imply actual conservation of something. My God, even Teddy Roosevelt had at least flashes of conservation.

    Dude wasn’t even conservative with money. In Euless, almost due north of the New Dallas Cowboys stadium, and straight west from their old one, they built some McMansions in the flood plains. For more than two decades the land had stood “vacant” except for wetland grasses and trees and grapevines and those vines with the tiny thorns all over them and deer and not really antelopes playing and so forth. Nobody was buying it, 20 years. If you look just to the southwest of the McMansions there’s a confluence of three creeks and two forks of the Trinity. Kind of like the 9th Ward only without even levees. The trees are our levees and they did the job for thousands of years not flooding any settlements, crops and whatever other tokens of wealth one can imagine. They’re building their own destruction. (not the trees, they’re too smart for that crap) And Euless has on the street signs “Tree City USA”.

    Cut cat-a-corner of the county line and the confluence of Johnson, Bear, and a couple other creeks and the Trinity, there was an open-air drive-thru zoo called International Wildlife Park (bringing out the beast in you) which had to close because it got flooded too many times and they couldn’t get insurance anymore. The animals were in enclosures, sure it was BIG enclosures, but a lot of them had the unfortunate fate of being trapped between Rising Creeks and 14-foot chain link. The Wowboyz were moving their operation because the City of Irving got a bad case of the ass about subsidizing a corporate entertainment franchise who made beaucoup d’argent for themselves having millionaires prance around on the grass about 8 times a year and the stadium being an empty crime magnet the rest of the year. At Taxpayer Expense.

    Now it’s Arlington’s problem. Because the Grand Prairie location had flood issues. Lots of flood issues. So now the Dallas Cowboys, who never played in Dallas city limits, aren’t even in Dallas County anymore. The Bush-masters have proposed building a newer Ballpark for the Rangers to play around in it. Like the one that bankrupted Arlington less than 20 years ago. And got together the bread needed for George Junior to launch his political career. My fingers rebel at the act of typing anything less than outright profanity about that.

    The point being, killing all the trees just (apparently) for the fun of it winds up costing Them lots of bread. Not just loaves, mind you. Whole bakeries worth of bread. And they pushed themselves into a corner now because the taxpayers ain’t going to be able to pony up more bread for Them.

    And the corporates don’t pay taxes. My brother lives around the corner from the AT&T stadium, hates the ‘boyz and the Rangers, and paid 11000 yankee dollars more than General Electric last year. And that’s just the feds.

    If, and this is a bizarrely unlikely IF, but if they were building water purification plants and maybe homes for the homeless I could almost but not quite understand. 9th Ward, you know.

    Just more places for people to watch pampered millionaires prancing around chasing a ball across the grass and hitting each other with their bodies. Not environmental, fiscal nor social “conservation”. Tree strikes, they’re out.

    I mixed the metaphors a lot. Did y’all notice? The one thing that’s good about it is that the East Euless McMansions are going to get hit with the flooding. But they’ll make sure the owners of the glorified swamp land get (unlike 9th Ward) compensated. Vermin. In an enlightened and advanced society it would be legal to hunt them.

  2. PS the Wildlife Park swampland was the Boyz first choice when Irving kicked their over privileged collective ass out.

    I wish your stadium nightmare had been alleviated with a victory over the tree-killers. The remaining trees will outlive the Empire, though.

  3. Alan Locklear says:

    My estranged then-wife, Ann Pearson, was one of the people arrested for sitting in the trees. I was there with a sign, but I chose not to tempt Texas law enforcement. A bunch of us, including Architecture students who had the know-how, set up a home-made silk screening rig and made the first decorated T-shirt I ever wore. It featured a brown fist clutching a green branch — looked good on a plain white T-shirt. I wore it till it wore out and then I clipped off the image and saved it.

  4. Steve Russell says:

    I too had one of those shirts Alan Locklear describes and I wore it until it disintegrated.

    Two things about the action I remember fondly.

    One of the arrestees plucked out of the trees was Guy Herman who, like me, would go on to become a Travis County judge.

    When we decided to pick up pieces of the trees and march up to the President’s office in the Main Building, the look on the faces of some of the cops was priceless as they tried to understand the meaning of our chant:

    “Birnam Wood to Dunsinane! Birnam Wood to Dunsinane!”

  5. Steve Russell says:

    I too had one of those shirts Alan Locklear describes and I wore it until it disintegrated.

    Two things about the action I remember fondly.

    One of the arrestees plucked out of the trees was Guy Herman who, like me, would go on to become a Travis County judge.

    When we decided to pick up pieces of the trees and march up to the President’s office in the Main Building, the look on the faces of some of the cops was priceless as they tried to understand the meaning of our chant:

    “Birnam Wood to Dunsinane!”

  6. Philip Russell says:

    The Waller Creek Tree Massacre reflects two Texas obsessions—football and cars. The event is usually attributed—correctly—to the stadium expansion. Yet there remained a sizable space between the expanded stadium and the trees. Why then were the trees cut down? To leave space for four lanes of traffic on San Jacinto Street. There wasn’t space for the trees and four lanes, so the trees had to go. Ironically not long after the massacre University officials realized it was down right stupid to have a four-lane street running through campus, and so they restricted access to UT permit holders and reduced the street to two lanes. That realization unfortunately was too late for the trees.

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