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Coming Out and Going Out Since 1940

Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Technical Services

Update: Coming Out Day has been postponed due to rain and will be happening October 27th.

Photos, a card for a dance club, a clipping from a newspaper.
A page in the scrapbook dedicated to nightlife in New Orleans.

In celebration of Coming Out Day on October 11th, I would like to introduce our blog readers to a special scrapbook. Recently, the Rubenstein Library acquired and digitized the Joe H. Hernandez scrapbook. We do not know many biographical details about Hernandez. My esteemed colleague Allie Poffinberger cataloged the scrapbook and discovered that Hernandez “was born in 1924 and worked in the San Antonio General Depot between 1951-1954.” Other facts: he was an Army veteran; he attended night clubs and dance halls; he dressed in feminine and masculine clothing (I am using male pronouns here, though I do not know what this person’s preference might have been); he was probably a member of the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities.

A photo of Vine Street in Hollywood.
Billy Berg’s flyer, 1948.

Hernandez’s scrapbook is both intimate and wide in its scope. It shows a life full of friendship, romance, glamour, and travel. Early on in the scrapbook there is a souvenir flyer from Billy Berg’s, a night club in Hollywood. The flyer is dated 1948 and signed by musician and showman Slim Gaillard. After a little sleuthing, I found out that the club was known for being racially integrated and for being the first club on the West Coast to host Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Billy Holiday also performed there.

Photos and a matchbook.
A page in the scrapbook that features The Colony Bar in Kansas City.

Another souvenir in the scrapbook is a matchbook from The Colony Bar, an openly gay bar that existed in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1960s. It was the kind of place that threw Tea Dances and flashed the lights on and off when they were about to get busted. Oh, how I wish I knew more!

The ticket stubs, matchbooks, flyers, and signed photographs are enough to create a national map of LGBTQ life in the U.S. from the late 1940s to the 1960s. I wish that I had the time to create this map and to describe the nightlife in detail. I also want to know more about Joe H. Hernandez and his friends and family. So, if anyone’s out there, reading this, and you would like to do further research on this scrapbook, please do and please share your findings!

Also, I want to take a moment to appreciate all of my colleagues who acquired, described, preserved, and digitized this scrapbook. Thanks to you all, this scrapbook is now available for anyone in the world (who has internet access and/or can visit the reading room) to research.

And, Happy Coming Out Day! To learn more about the Rubenstein Library’s LGBTQ materials, please stop by and say hello at our table at the Bryan Center.

Two dancers.
A flyer from Club Babalu in Los Angeles.
Postcards, photographs, matchbooks.
A page in the scrapbook dedicated to Los Angeles.

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