Val Verde County Historical Commission
Southwest Texas Junior College, 207 Wildcat, Del Rio, Texas 78840
(830) 703-1554 firstname.lastname@example.org
Among the "quacks" and "spooks" on Dr. John R. Brinkley's nationally famous borderblaster radio station were an astrologer named Rose Dawn, the "Star Girl of Radio XERA" and a mystic conjurer named Koran.
William Perry Taylor was born in Dayton, Ohio, and his bride, Anna Morofsky Taylor, in Chicago. In the early years of their marriage, their lives were rather ordinary; he worked as a common laborer and she as a housewife. But then they went to Hollywood and got into show business. Anna became Rose Dawn who performed as a singer, showgirl and dancer--dancing at some of the hottest night spots. William became Koran, who worked "wonders of mental magic" and conjured the ghosts of the dearly departed. Each had a reasonably successful career but then Rose Dawn got into astrology and the two of them came to Del Rio.1
The pair came to Del Rio in the 1930s to perform and advertise on Brinkley's Radio XERA, the world's most powerful broadcasting facilities. All sorts of characters advertised on the Del Rio/Villa Acuña (across the Rio Grande in Mexico) station because of its national reach and because early American radio rules prohibited many practices (such as asking for donations) now considered normal.
Rose Dawn and Koran lived in the house on Griner Street next to the Madre Canal. The house then had a very large back yard where they threw lavish parites and entertained friends from the West Coast and elsewhere. She drove a large, pink LaSalle automobile, a very prominent and visible display of their wealth. Other brightly colored Cadillacs were used to drive visitors around town or up to the couple's Bandera ranch.2
Rose Dawn's Del Rio operation was as simple as it was profitable. She developed astrological charts and put them on sheets of paper three inches wide and twelve to fourteen inches long. They were stored on floor-to-ceiling wall shelves. There was one for each day of the year, but she also took into account place and time of birth. If a person had been born on a ship at sea, the place of birth was to be written in longitude and latitude. She would then chart where the various astronomical bodies were at the time of birth. With this information, she would describe a person's character and main events of the person's life. She was careful enough to describe things in vague terms.3
When a person sent in a dollar, she sent out one of these strips. The mail truck arrived at least once per day with five or six bags of mail. "Practically every letter had a dollar bill in it." All of the mail went by Dawn's desk where one or two long-time entrusted employees opened the letters and took out the dollar bills. They passed the requests and return addresses on to other employees who checked the birthdates and places, found the appropriate charts, put the charts in the envelopes and addressed them to the senders.4 This went on hour after hour, day after day; several people were kept busy full-time. For six or eight years, this went on in Del Rio in the building that now houses Time-Warner, the cable television company.5
Some of the requests were broadcast on Brinkley's station. Her radio show was in the afternoon, around four or five. Dawn would read the selected requests and give the astrological predictions. But she also mixed in some Christianity by saying things like "We will pray for you." This statement led to another like "We will pray for you in our chapel," which led people to believe that Rose Dawn had a chapel. When some visitors came to Del Rio to visit the chapel, she had to set aside part of the office building and make one.6
Rose Dawn's partner and husband Koran is not as well remembered, and his full career has not been recorded. In his early days he was a practitioner of stage magic and was known as "The Novel Conjurer" and "That Conjuring Cuss." Advertisements later called him "The International Forecaster" and "The Mediumistic Sensation of Europe." These last titles give an idea of his stage presentation with crystal balls, spirit séances and the "actual visible materialization of spirit forms." He also made claims of predicting the future, a talent that coordinated well with the Star Girl's astrological activities.7
Rose Dawn was also the "Patroness of the Sacred Order of Maya." She and her husband Koran were unmistakable driving through the streets of Del Rio, which, they said, just happened to be the center of ancient Mayan culture. In pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, they bought a dude ranch at Bandera, Texas. There they revived the secrets of the Mayan order. At the ranch several stones were erected in such a manner as to resemble Mayan or Aztec structures. There were even altars, though no blood-shedding occurred. Rather, after the short ceremonies, a party atmosphere prevailed. Regular dude ranch activities, such as horse-riding, were common as well, but it was spiritual enlightenment that Koran advertised on "Air Brinkley."8
Among their other projects Rose Dawn and Koran published their secrets of success, a book called The Revelation Secret. In those sacred pages, readers could learn the secrets of mind and spirit, of fulfilling their wishes and increasing their incomes--all for the minimal cost of one dollar (to cover costs of printing and postage). The booklet seems to be a combination of generic Christian doctrine and self-help ideas. Corinthians and the Gospel of Mark are quoted along with material like
"Do every practical thing, no matter how little, to bring about fulfillment of your desire. It is the formulae of Joan of Arc, of Napoleon, of Kublai Khan, of every self-made person who has accomplished great things"and
"Don't reject any good desires because it seems unattainable."The book also includes a short "history" of the Maya and an explanation of their secrets of life. The Order operates today in San Antonio as a self-help organization; letters from the Order still bear Rose Dawn's signature even though she has been dead for some time.9
The Taylors' Del Rio radio business did not last as long. After eight years or so, the radio operations ended, and in fact, in 1941, the Mexican government closed XERA entirely. Rose Dawn and Koran moved to San Antonio where they managed the ranch a more limited astrological operation.10
Koran died August 17, 1953 at the age of 55; Rose Dawn died August 21, 1957, at the age of 58.11 The Taylors are gone, but they are not forgotten. They brought a measure of prosperity to Del Rio during the years of the Great Depression, and more broadly, they kicked off a whole industry of psychic hotlines (Dionne Warwick), self-improvements books (Dr. Phil) and the things that make up a large and economically important part of the modern, media industry.
Clippings from various sources in the possession of Doug Braudaway: newspaper and magazine advertisements, birth certificate and obituaries.
Bill Crawford, Gene Fowler and Paul Kallinger, "Border Radio," Presentation at Val Verde County Library, January 24, 1998.
Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford, Border Radio, Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1987.
The Mayans, The Revelation Secret, San Antonio: Naylor Press, 1935 (or 1936).
Leslie Schmidt, former employee of the Taylors, to Doug Braudaway, interview on April 15, 1998.
|1||Leslie Schmidt, interview on April 15, 1998 (tape 1); newspaper clippings in possession of the author.|
|2||Clippings in the possession of the author: obituaries and birth certificate; Leslie Schmidt, interview on April 15, 1998 (tape 1). The house in which Rose Dawn and Koran resided was built by a man named Patton, probably in the 1920s. Patton bought the lot and built the house, which is still on the lot currently. Patton had come to Del Rio to build the Roswell Hotel.|
|3||Leslie Schmidt, interview on April 15, 1998 (tape 1).|
|4||Leslie Schmidt states that he was hired to send ou the astrological charts because of his excellent penmanship, which was needed to address the outgoing letters. Typewriters were used elsewhere in the operation, but the address writers were never offered typewriters to use.|
|5||Leslie Schmidt, interview on April 15, 1998 (tape 1). This is an irregularly-shaped building located in Del Rio's Main Street District, and the facade offers no clue to its flamboyant past.|
|6||Leslie Schmidt, interview on April 15, 1998 (tape 1).|
|7||Clippings in the possession of the author.|
|8||Fowler and Crawford, Border Radio, page 39; Crawford, Fowler and Kallinger, "Border Radio," January 24, 1998. Leslie Schmidt, interview on April 15, 1998 (tape 1).|
|9||The Mayans, The Revelation Secret, San Antonio: Naylor Press, 1935; Crawford. Fowler and Kallinger, "Border Radio," January 24, 1998.|
|10||Leslie Schmidt, interview on April 15, 1998 (tape 1).|
|11||Clippings in the possession of the author: obituaries and birth certificate.|