Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Alphabe-Thursday Summer School...The Color Orange

Welcome once again to Alphabe-Thursday sponsored by Ms. Jenny over at Jenny Matlock..."off on my tangent."  For Summer School we are studying the colors of the rainbow and today's color is orange.

In Houston there is something called The Orange Show.  Years ago, my husband and I decided to pay a visit to The Orange Show only to find that it was closed.  We never made it back and when I realized I needed something for today's post I decided we should pay another visit to The Orange Show.  We just made it.  We went last Saturday only to discover that they were closing on Sunday for the month of August for renovations.

You're probably wondering why there would be a tourist attraction in Houston about orange.  I'll give you a brief background.  In 1952 a man named Jeff McKissack moved to Houston from Georgia.  He worked as a mailman and bought a small home on Munger Street.  Two years later he bought the empty lot across the street and began building a nursery while he continued delivering mail.  After a short while he decided operating a nursery was more bother than it was worth and took out a permit to build a beauty salon instead.  Before he got that going he decided beauty salons were becoming a thing of the past and women would probably no longer be using them, so he abandoned that idea too.

Jeff always believed in the health benefits of oranges.  His parents had grown them and he had even worked for a while delivering oranges.  He believed that in order to have a long life it was necessary to eat an orange each day, not smoke or drink, and to exercise.  He decided to have a show dedicated to oranges on the lot across the street.  He began in the 1950's and spent hours working on his show which is made almost entirely of found objects that he collected his entire life.  Many of the items he found along his mail route.  The Orange Show opened to the public in 1979.

This is the entrance to The Orange Show.  The rocks were brought back to Houston from Arkansas.  (We don't have any rock in the soil here.)  Click on photos to enlarge and use your browser back button to return to this page.

And this is what you see when you first enter.  The U.S. map  toward the left indicates where oranges are grown in this country.

You see a lot of unusual things.

Jeff envisioned having "stages" with shows.  In fact, he thought his Orange Show was going to be a bigger Houston attraction than the Astrodome.  This is one of the "stages" and it's supposed to be a pond.  That big orange thing is a steamboat and the pond is symbolic of the Chattahoochee River.  The sides are labeled with the four major steamboat stops...Columbus, GA, Eufaula, AL, Fort Gaines, GA, and Apalachicola, FL.  Jeff sure had an imagination.  Do you see the seats overlooking the "stage" in the lower front of the picture and the upper left?  They're tractor seats.  I have no idea where Jeff found so many tractor seats.

Here's a close up of his steamboat.

Here's another view of his "stage" and you can see all the seats surrounding it...both bench type seating and tractor seats.

They still use the "stage" today for shows.  I found this one from a couple of years ago on YouTube.

He made a lot of signs and used small tiles for the lettering.  He was actually ahead of his time with the No Smoking signs.

He wasn't kidding when he said Watch Your Step.  Some of the staircases he built were a little treacherous.

Of course, this place was going to be more popular than the Astrodome, so it required two stages for shows.  This is the smaller stage.  I noticed a lot of rebar (I think that's what it's called) throughout The Orange Show in addition to wagon wheels and the tractor seats.  I can only imagine how long it must have taken him to drag all this stuff home.

This show is in a residential neighborhood.  Houston has never been big on zoning.  That's the house
next door in the background.

Here's another sign dedicated to his love of oranges and belief in their health benefits.

Some more of his designs...

Another one of his signs that you see when exiting.

Don't be fooled by any misspellings.  Jeff graduated from Mercer University in Macon, GA and was working on his Master's Degree at Columbia when he dropped out after a disagreement with a professor.

Jeff died eight months after he opened his Orange Show to the public.  The crowds he had expected never materialized.  He believed that 8 out of every 10 Americans would come to The Orange Show making it more popular than the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, or Astroworld. 

He never married, but his Orange Show is now preserved by the non-profit Orange Show Center for Visionary Art.  Since his death more than half a million people have visited his show.  The Orange Show sponsors the Art Car Parade each year in Houston.  Here's a short YouTube video of one of the 2010 entries.  It's an excellent example of what you can expect at the Art Car Parade.  I think Jeff would have been very pleased.

To visit my classmates and see other posts about the color orange stop by Jenny's blog for a list of participants.  I might have to miss school next week because there's a good chance I'm going to Austin to visit my son for a few days.  I'll be back shortly.

I'd like to publicly thank my husband for accompanying me to The Orange Show and making this post possible.


  1. I am always amazed at how creative humans get...the car --- now that is a scary vehicle....great orange post hope you enjoyed that show...bkm

  2. Betty, this is definitely a place I'd visit just to wander around and see all of these things up close. Unbelievable man.

  3. Wow! This is really pretty amazing. He really didn't need to go all the way to Arkansas for the rock, we've got PLENTY in Central Texas that we would have been happy to donate LOL. I've heard of the Art Car Parade, but not the Orange Show. What a neat post, thanks for sharing this! Kat
    (and the line about not being big on zoning cracked me up)

  4. What a crazy attraction - the man must have had a touch of crazy orange in him.

  5. Betty that looks like such a fun attraction! My boys would love that!

  6. oh my goodness...this is a riot. i will have to check it out next time i am in houston...i know my husband would get a kick out of it too!

  7. Wow! I am in utter amazement. Can you imagine what it would be like to talk to him and have him show you around? What a lot of fun.

  8. That was nice of your husband to go to that with you, Betty. Jeff was kind of a, well, nut, wasn't he, but it's kind of sweet the way it's been preserved all these years in the same spirit of fun. And isn't the next-door neighbor lucky? I need to go eat an orange.

  9. This would be a great place to explore.

  10. I'd like to be able to visit and look at all these things really close up! Great infotainment!

    Have a great Rainbow Orange day,


    PS Mine this time is HERE. Hope you can stop by!

  11. See a 20 min. video on YouTube (5 parts) of a rare guided tour of the Orange Show by the real Jeff McKissack in his own words. It's called "Jeff's Tour" and it's a MUST SEE for those interested in the OS and folk art:

  12. lovely place to be for a day,
    have fun in the orange show.
    Happy Thursday!

  13. What an incredible I couldn't even have imagined!

    Thanks for sharing...


  14. Wow, this was so interesting and it looks like a really neat place to visit. Thanks for sharing this.

  15. What an unusual place! I can't imagine why he thought it would be so popular but constructing it all must have been a dream come true for Jeff.

  16. interesting and unusual and quirky and it looks like total fun!

  17. I'm always amazed at the things that people will think up. This was obviously a labour of love - but what a weird one!

  18. That sounds like fun!!!!

  19. what an interesting story - I am sure the place has it's appeal too but Jeff's story is what had me!

  20. This is such an informative post, and history! What a wonderful place to see, and your photos are just fantastic..

  21. I don't even know what to say about this post. I have never seen anything so strange....yet I find myself admiring this man who went for matter what. Wonder what he planned to be the main attraction to so many people? Did he have a particular type of show in mind on these stages, I wonder? Anyway, now I want to go see it...ha. Loved the other strange thing....the lobster car. Now really....there are strange people in this world. That is all I can say. Some might say I am one of them...ha.

  22. Wow, this was definitely something that must've been very interesting to see! The Orange Show...never even knew such a place existed and it looks quite quirky :) I wonder what the neighbors think of the place. They're probably glad that it doesn't attract the numbers that Disneyland attracts.

  23. Oh, I love this post!

    I am always writing the little side story behind the story in my head when I read things like this.

    What a cool, cool, orange post!

    I think this is my definite favorite this week, even though I do have 8 more to read!

    This is really a neat place.

    I love when someone has a dream!

    Thank you for linking!


  24. I love that it started with a dream.....what a great orange post!


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