Today in Texas History – May 9

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From the Annals of Folk Art – In 1979, The Orange Show on 2401 Munger Street in Houston was opened to the public.  TOS was conceived and built over a period of twenty-five years by Houston postman Jefferson D. McKissack.  1979. McKissack’s interest in oranges began while working as truck driver during the Depression.  He developed a strong belief  in the benefits of oranges and good nutrition and privately published How You Can Live 100 Years And Still Be Spry in 1960.  Beginning in the mid-1950’s, McKissack built the exterior walls of what became TOS as part of his plant nursery on two vacant lots across the street from his bungalow.  The real work began in 1962 when McKissack began work on his decades long project to create a folk art masterpiece around the orange theme.  McKissack primarily used found objects and relics purchased from junk stores for his creations.   Numerous signs and displays convey McKissack’s messages about the miraculous powers of the orange as a pure form of energy that “grows right out of the bloom, protected by the rind.”

McKissack believed that his creation would be a major tourist attractions because it “represents the entire multi-billion dollar orange industry.”  He predicted that some 90 percent of the population of the U.S. would want to visit TOS.   He was disappointed by the initial lack of enthusiasm and died of a stroke just seven months after the opening.  Some of the earliest visitors, however, were members of Houston’s art community who became determined to preserve McKissack’s creation.  In 1981 a group of twenty-two concerned citizens led by Marilyn Lubetkin, former president of CAM established the Orange Show Foundation and purchased McKissack’s creation from his heir.  TOSF extensively restored and “improved” the site.  The Orange Show is open to the public on weekends and holidays from March through December.

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