In the summer of 1982 Bobbye Combs sat in the lobby of the Gainesville, Texas, Chamber of Commerce waiting for her husband to finish a meeting. There, on a coffee table, lay a magazine with a long but intriguing name, “All Around Gainesville and The Red River Valley.”
After her husband’s meeting, she handed him a copy of the magazine and said, “This is what I want to do!” The publisher happened to have been in attendance at the meeting. Bobbye’s husband introduced the two and the first mental images of FOCUS, The Magazine for the Top O’ Texas, were formed. By December the first copy . . . Volume 1 No. 1., was published and the magazine has been in continuous publication for the last 29 years with Mrs. Combs, a Gray County resident since 1942, as owner-publisher.
The quarterly magazine’s “Statement of Purpose” in the beginning is still its guiding philosophy today . . . to “focus” on the positive events of the past, chronicle some of the positive people and events of the present and point to a dynamic future for the Top O’ Texas, and in particular Pampa, the Panhandle, and the state of Texas. It is valued for its historical perspective and its attractive presentation of the area, its people, culture, and hopes for the future. It can be found in professional offices, schools, universities, history archives, museums, libraries, and private homes throughout the area where it is read and referred to many times. It is available by subscription and on news stands. Many people retain each issue and have for over two decades to provide for themselves a “living library” of the area in which they live . . . a truly positive presentation of the great Texas Panhandle area.
Aletha Smith-Davis served as the magazine’s first editor and continued in that capacity until just a year before her premature death in 1991. Dennis Dehn worked in merchandising the publication from its first issue until his death in 2007. Darlene Birkes is presently serving as Executive Editor and has been for twenty-three years. She has written articles in each issue since the magazine’s inception and provides her own professional quality photographs.
Numerous local and area persons have contributed to the publications’ success through their voluntary submission of articles, poetry, photographs and art and a number of local businesses have been advertisers in FOCUS Magazine each issue since number one 27 years ago.
Some of those who have contributed to the magazine editorially over the years include amateur photographer extraordinaire Larry Cross, Lee Cornelison (Looking Back), the late hardy woman rancher, Cleo Tom Terry (who submitted poetry and excerpts from her book, ‘Cow Brands and Cowhands’), Eloise Lane (historical events editor for a while), Mary Fatheree (Food Editor), Elizabeth Carter (Pet and Tell poetry), Betty Hallerberg, Elaine Ledbetter (articles and poetry), Lou Dean Cotten (poetry), Linda Haynes, Nancy Coffee (poetry), James Wariner (Frank and Me), Lisa Putman (‘Loose Marbles”), Thelma Bray and Dr. Ruth Morgan. Joel R. Combs, a Gray County native, has been advisor to the publisher and editorial director since its beginning.
Cover artists have included Cile Taylor, Evelyne Epps, Kenneth Wyatt, La Nelle Poling, Gerald Sanders, Richard Steele, Darlene Holmes, Mary Cook, and others.
In 1987 and again in 2007 the magazine was awarded the prestigious “Golden Nail” Award by the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce for its support of the arts in the Texas Panhandle. It has been nominated several other years for the same award. Mrs. Birkes was awarded the “Golden Nail” too, for her extensive volunteer efforts in the community including working with foreign exchange students, outdoor arts, Clarendon College and many other undertakings. She was the chairman of Gray County’s 100th Anniversary Celebration, and was also named one of the first “Citizens of the Year” in Pampa in 1982.
Covers of the magazine have featured outstanding individuals, works of art, outstanding photographs, etc, and have spotlighted special folks such as the late legendary sheriff of Gray County Rufe Jordan (after whom the Texas Criminal Justice Department’s Rufe Jordan Unit is named, east of Pampa); Dallas Cowboys linebacker and former Pampa Harvester and Texas Tech University football player Zach Thomas; The Coney Island Cafe’s widely known Gikas brothers, Ted and John; Perryton’s major league baseball player and manager Mike Hargrove; Warren Hasse, Metropolitan Opera star, Pampa’s Mary Jane Johnson; Misty Neef, Miss Top ‘O Texas; J.C. Daniels; Katina Thomas/Taylor, Miss Amarillo; Jeanne Willingham, outstanding local families, artists, doctors, and many other notable personalities.
Future issues of FOCUS Magazine will ” push the envelope” concerning a positive presentation of Pampa, the Panhandle and the state of Texas and now . . . thanks to the interest, support and helpfulness of Clarendon College Pampa Center, will be read around the world, spreading a very favorable portrait of our area to all who have access to the internet.
Pampa, Texas may be one of the smallest towns in the world to have its own magazine!!