‘Dallas’ and Me

Me, summer 1980

My earliest memory of “Dallas” isn’t watching it – it’s wearing it.

In the summer of 1980, when I was 6, I was one of the millions of people swept up in the hysteria over J.R. Ewing’s shooting. I begged my mom to get me one of the “I Shot J.R.” t-shirts everyone seemed to be sporting – a tough request for her to fulfill since finding the shirts in kids’ sizes wasn’t easy.

Of course, she somehow got the job done – moms always do, don’t they? – and I proudly wore my shirt during our family’s outing that summer to the local amusement park, where I remember getting my share of strange looks.

I now understand why. I mean, what 6-year-old wears a shirt declaring he shot someone? For that matter, what kind of parent allows their kid to watch a show like “Dallas?” Most baffling of all: Why did I want to watch it?

I’m guessing I became a “Dallas” fan out of inertia. In its early years, the show followed two of my other childhood favorites – “The Incredible Hulk” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” – in CBS’s Friday night lineup, so the first time I encountered the Ewings, my eyes were probably so glazed over, I didn’t notice the absence of green monsters and car chases at Southfork.

I must have started paying attention to “Dallas” around the time J.R. was shot. Once I did, the show captured my imagination and never let go.

At that young age, I was too young to understand everything I saw on “Dallas,” and I suppose that’s why my parents didn’t mind me watching it. Besides, “Dallas” was one show everyone in our house could agree on. Appropriate or not, we watched together. (And as I’ve since discovered, lots of people watched the show when they were kids.)

Today, “Dallas” is like an alternate set of home movies from my childhood.

The show debuted a year before I started kindergarten and ended a year before my high school graduation, so whenever I recall moments from that 13-year span, I can’t help but associate them with what was happening to the Ewings at the time.

My older sister got married and left home a month before J.R.’s shooter was revealed. I started middle school three weeks before Bobby’s “funeral.” Bobby married his second wife April on the night my grandmother suffered a heart attack.

As I got older, I drifted away from “Dallas” – until last year, when TNT announced plans to revive the series with all-new episodes. My DVDs came off the shelf and I rekindled my love affair with the Ewings.

Now, I’m starting Dallas Decoder to relive my “Dallas” memories and maybe figure out, once and for all, why I love the show as much as I do.

This project is proving more fun than I could have dreamed. I’m discovering things about “Dallas” I never noticed before, and my husband Andrew recently began watching the show for the first time, so now I get to see it through his eyes.

Andrew recently watched the “Who Shot J.R.?” storyline play out without already knowing the shooter’s identity. Can you imagine?

Come to think of it, Andrew’s birthday is tomorrow. (He was born 365 days before “Dallas” debuted, which I’ve always considered a sign we were destined to be together.)

An “I Shot J.R.” t-shirt would make a nice birthday gift, but where could I get one on such short notice?

Mom, help!

Why do you love “Dallas”? Share your comments below and read more opinions from Dallas Decoder.


  1. I’m so excited to see that Dallas Decoder has finally launched! I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say. I love the picture of you in your “I Shot J.R.” shirt.

  2. Love this blog, for more than one reason. This picture brings back many memories for me. Yes, my son has always loved “Dallas”, and I know how excited everyone is for the new series to begin. Another memory for me…my computer screen name is “msellie”. My son’s suggestion.
    The mom is once again looking for a “I Shot J.R. T Shirt”

  3. I think I had that same shirt and I wore it all that summer, too, we were around the same age as well, but I was around 10. “Dallas” was an accident for me, I would watch “Man from Atlantis” from Patrick Duffy the year before Dallas started and I hoped it was the somewhat the same show because they both were on Friday nights, but it wasn’t- but I kept watching anyway. I was pretty young, as well, and wonder how these adult themes appeared to me, I don’t remember what I thought, only I know enjoyed and loved the show eventually, though I didn’t like the fact at first it was not “Man from Atlantis.” One reason was I knew I was gay even then, and I think I liked Patrick Duffy in that little swimsuit he would wear on “Atlantis.” He was wasn’t nearly as almost naked on this new show- but he certainly spent time at the pool.

    • You’re a man after my own heart! For a long time, I thought *I* was the only kid in the world who watched “Dallas.” Since starting this blog, it’s been really nice to discover lots of people my age watched when they were kids, too.

      And believe it or not, I’ve never seen “The Man From Atlantis.” I should really get those DVDs!

      As always, thanks for commenting, Archie. I appreciate it!


      • The Man from Atlantis – is or was at his time a fun watching show (never saw it again) and scared me also a little bit in any few scenes. Its one of my earliest TV memories I have. And now, you’re NOT the only kid who watched Dallas. I remember when Dallas started on the Germany (We got german TV channel here in Switzerland) around 1983 – I was 7 years old and loved the show since then and still remember any scenes from that show. And today: I know people today who never watching TV (with all those reality-crap we’ve) but they watching exclusive again the “new” Dallas and they love it.
        I’m just looking around for a “I shot JR” or “Who shot JR”-T-Shirt (or thinking about to create one by myself).
        By the way: I had the incredible luck to meet Larry Hagman in May 2012 dring his visiting in Lucerne. It was just amazing and I’ll keep it always in my memories.

  4. barbara fan says:

    I just discovered this on your great site! so cute/lovely pic!! I was a schoolgirl when dallas started and still have my 3 JR t shirts bought in 1980 – I love JR, I hate JR and JR for President!
    happy days! BF x The original series and cast rocked!

    • Happy days indeed! Oh, how I wish I still had my boyhood “I Shot J.R.” t-shirt. I wish I had my hair too, but that’s another story. As always, thanks for commenting BF!

  5. Destinee says:

    Just read this, I missed this entry before! It’s neat to hear how people get into Dallas because fans are from all walks of life as I soon discovered. I wish I had been able to watch Dallas as a child but I was just slightly too young I think. I was born the summer hiatus before we found Kristin the pool 🙂

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