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NAMES, ARTHUR ANDREW

NAMES, ARTHUR ANDREW (1891–1945). Arthur "Art" Andrew Names, tent repertory theater operator in the 1930s and 1940s, son of Andrew Beard and Mary (Hicks) Names, was born in Hoisington, Kansas, on November 13, 1891. He grew up in Hoisington and later called McCracken, Kansas, his home. He attended schools in McCracken and Lyons and later Washburn Law School in Topeka. He became interested in dramatics and studied theater at the University of Kansas. After that he taught school in McCracken for a few years and began to write his own plays and perform them in neighboring communities. He served during World War I as a lieutenant in the Aeronautics Branch of the United States Army. After the war he organized his own stock company and began playing a circuit in Kansas. He operated from a tent and provided live stage dramas. In the late 1920s he met and married Maurine Allen, the young daughter of a vaudeville show-business family. They had three sons, Arthur, Jr., and twins, Jack and Jean. The late 1920s was a good time for the company, which went by various names, including Art and Maurine and Art Names Shows. During his early days Names had an actor in his cast named Milburn Stone, who later became famous as "Doc" on the Gunsmoke television series.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression brought hard times to the company. The stress of the times caused the marriage to fail, and divorce followed. Names continued to run his operation, but during the 1930s it became more difficult. In the late 1930s Names played the small West Texas town of Meadow. By this time he was reduced to a one-man operation. He had his ragged tent, a 16mm movie projector, and few grade B western movies that he showed over and over. During a winter in Meadow he became acquainted with a local resident, William A. "Bill" Whisenhunt, and they became fast friends. Whisenhunt operated a pool room in Meadow, but after the United States entered World War II in 1941, local law enforcement officials closed it down as not appropriate for the war effort. Whisenhunt now was without employment, but he had a few hundred dollars in savings. He and Names decided to become partners and reopen the tent show with live actors. Names convinced his former wife to return from California with the three sons and her new husband to be actors in the show. Whisenhunt brought his three teenage sons into the operation. For about three years the Art Names Shows was back on the road and played a circuit through the Panhandle of Texas as far north as Kansas, and occasionally Nebraska and Colorado. The show prospered until 1944, when a fire destroyed the tent in Muleshoe, Texas. At that point, Whisenhunt, who had wearied of life on the road, sold what was left of his interest to Names and returned to Meadow seeking other opportunities. The oldest sons of both Names and Whisenhunt had been drafted into the military for World War II, and the shortages of wartime had made the effort to stay on the road a struggle. Names's former wife and her husband took the twins and went back to California to take advantage of opportunities presented by defense work. Names moved to Lueders, Texas, with a new tent and showed motion pictures again. This time he had more recent films and was doing well enough that he was able to open a second tent that he placed in the crossroads community of Old Glory. He got one of his sons to return and assist him in the operation. Names became ill and after a period of treatment died on November 8, 1945, in the hospital in Stamford, Texas. He was buried in Highland Cemetery in Stamford. Names was a significant cultural force in the small communities where his show played. He usually played the same towns each year, and he was eagerly awaited by the local residents who had little other diversion. The arrival of Art Names Shows was like the coming of the circus. Names wrote his own plays to avoid royalty payments. He was also a poet of some achievement.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Donald W. Whisenhunt, "Art Names: West Texas Showman," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 70 (1994).

Donald W. Whisenhunt

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Donald W. Whisenhunt, "NAMES, ARTHUR ANDREW," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fna12), accessed December 24, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 15, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.