This home movie captures scenes of the Burtons throughout the 1930s and early 40s at work, on vacation, and at home. Notable footage includes a sandstorm in Andrews, Texas, a trip to the Texas Centennial Exposition at the World's Fair in Dallas, and a scrap metal drive for the war effort in Freeport in 1943.
Raiford Harold Burton was born on October 7, 1907 in Magnolia, Arkansas. He attended Southern State College (now Southern Arkansas University) before moving to Texas to do extension work at the University of Texas. Before entering the geophysics field, he served in the United States Navy and worked as a radio operator for the Radio Corporation of America in the late 1920s. Burton left RCA in 1929 to join Geophysical Research Corporation. From there he moved to the Amerada Petroleum Corporation where he quickly rose to the rank of party chief, heading geophysical crews throughout the U.S., most notably in the Permian Basin and the Gulf Coast of Texas. Burton left Amerada in 1946 and founded the Burton Geophysical Company in 1948. The company was successful in making several important petroleum discoveries, including the Headlee Field in Ector County, Texas, about 5 miles outside of Odessa, Texas in the Permian Basin. The Headlee discovery remains a major and historic oil field. Burton continued field work with his company in Texas and surrounding states until he retired for health reasons in 1958. He remained a member of the Board of Directors until his death in 1962. His legacy stays alive through the Raiford H. Burton Memorial SEG Scholarship fund for geophysics students and young professionals.
The Texas Centennial was a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of Texas independence from Mexico. Events all over the state commemorated the milestone, such as the Texas Frontier Centennial in Fort Worth and Galveston's Mardi Gras. Several existing buildings were commissioned for the centennial, including the Texas Memorial Museum, The Sam Houston Memorial Museum, The Panhandle-Plains Memorial Museum, and the Alamo Museum, among others. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio all vied for the chance to host the main exposition, but Dallas won due to its financial commitment.
The Centennial Exposition in Dallas was heralded as the first World's Fair held in the Southwest. It ran from June 6 to November 29, 1936, and again from June 12 to October 31, 1937. The festival's most visited attraction was the "Cavalcade of Texas," a pageant of Texas history. Another draw was the Hall of Negro Life, which was the first acknowledgement of black culture at any World's Fair. In the midst of moralistic and educational efforts, the midway also served as a space for drinking, gambling, and strippers, a sure way to make money at the height of the Great Depression. One of the most appealing parts of the exposition was the nightly lightshow where 24 multicolored searchlights that could be seen from miles away.
Famous visitors included President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gene Autry. The exposition served as a filming location for The Big Show, a 1936 western in which Gene Autry played himself. Over 6 million people attended the fair, and while that was below the projected figures, organizers were ultimately pleased with the boost to the economy and the recognition it brought Dallas.