PECOS COUNTY PEOPLE: A look at people and business in Pecos County

1955 Water Carnival received a 'Giant' visitor


The Water Carnival has created many memories over its 83 editions in Fort Stockton. For long-time Fort Stockton resident John Lannom, the 1955 edition holds special memories as the epic American film “Giant” was being filmed nearby in Marfa – leading to an unexpected meeting.

His sister, Margaret Bowles, 82, was crowned Miss Fort Stockton at the event in 1955.

Bowles received her crown from one of the “Giant” actors – Theodore Wills – whose acting name was Chill Wills. The actor played Uncle Bawley in the movie. He came over to Fort Stockton from the Marfa set for the competition.

“Water carnival is really close to my heart,” said Bowles.

The water carnival that year came just two years after the pool was built over the Comanche Springs.

Bowles said that Wills invited the pageant girls to Marfa, where they had lunch and visited the movie set.

“It's very special,” Bowles said. “That long-term memory will never go away.”

“Giant” is on many lists of the top 100 movies of American cinema. The movie starred three of Hollywood's biggest stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean – who would die in car crash in California just two months after that Water Carnival.

The film hit on the theme of racism, as well as the treatment and living conditions of people of Mexican heritage in Texas.

Lannom remembers going to the Pecos Theatre and not understanding why all of the Mexicans had to sit on the upper level.

“It was natural, you just accepted that,” he said.

Looking back, Lannom said that it is unfortunate that he is seeing a lot of the same things he did almost 65 years ago.

“We're exactly in the same spot we were in 1955,” said Lannom. “It's so sad to see it.”

Lannom said that since the movie was filmed so close to home, he hopes people rent it and watch the iconic film.

“I just thought it would be interesting if the rest of Fort Stockton new about it,” said Lannom.

Lannom, 72, graduated from Fort Stockton High School, and now heads custom ranch builder Lannom Industries.

Lannom also builds popular buggies, which he has used to raise money for charities.

He helped raise $120,000 for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children by donating several custom buggies for auction.

Lannom's buggies are also a big hit at the various parades in the city.

He won first place in both the water carnival parade and the rodeo parade with various customers who have purchased his creations.