Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

When Jacob Marcus Offers You Candy, Kid … Take It

Jacob Marcus (1846-1929)

by Paula Bosse

When you think of legendary Dallas retailers known for employing retirees as “greeters,” chances are you might think of Elliott’s Hardware. But decades before Elliott’s even appeared on the hardware horizon, “Grampy” Marcus was welcoming customers to the department store founded by his daughter, her ex-husband, and his son: Neiman-Marcus.

The headline and caption for the photo above:

Friend of Shoppers’ Kids Dies

The familiar figure of Jacob Marcus seated in his chair near the Main street entrance to the Neiman-Marcus store will recall his personality to many Dallas shoppers. Mr. Marcus died Saturday at the home of a daughter, Mrs. J. M. Schultz, 3522 Wendelken street.

Jacob Marcus was a German-Jewish immigrant, born in 1846 in Germany near the Polish border. He settled in Louisville, Kentucky where he worked as a cotton broker and raised a family. In the 1890s, the family relocated to Texas, a logical move for a man in the cotton trade. In 1907 Neiman’s opened, and before you knew it — cue montage of calendar pages ripping away and sand falling through an hourglass —  Jacob had retired and was ensconced inside the front entrance, greeting customers and plying children with candy. As his grandson Stanly Marcus wrote:

My grandfather Marcus, a retired cotton merchant, was given a seat of honor at the front door, where he greeted customers cheerfully and supplied any accompanying children with candy from his coat pocket.

Different times.

Marcus was, by all accounts, a sweet old man. Seems like the newspaper could have run a happier picture of him!

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jacob-marcus_dmn_052629-ADNeiman-Marcus memorial advertisement (DMN, May 26, 1929)

jacob-marcus_dmn_052729(DMN, May 27, 1929)

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Photograph and caption from The Dallas Morning News, May 26, 1929.

Stanley Marcus quote from his book Minding the Store.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Oak Cliff Is To Dallas What Brooklyn Is To New York” — 1891

ad-oak-cliff_mercury_031291The Southern Mercury, March 12, 1891 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Oak Cliff and the whole “Brooklyn” comparison is not a new one. Developers were using it to lure people to the “soft green cliffs” of the newly-incorporated area where “there is not a night in the hot months of summer when discomfort is felt from the heat” and where “people from all parts of the United States can be observed enjoying the delights of the seaside in the interior of Texas.” A veritable paradise. Just like Brooklyn.

Hats off to the enthusiastic scribe who penned this incredibly wordy advertisement beckoning the “live and progressive” readership of The Southern Mercury to invest in the ground-floor of Dallas’ Brooklyn.

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OAK CLIFF, THE BEAUTIFUL RESIDENCE AND EDUCATIONAL CITY OF THE SOUTHWEST

The city of Oak Cliff derives its name from the massive oaks that crown the soft green cliffs and stands about two hundred and fifty feet above and to the southward and westward of the city of Dallas, overlooking the city, and the view is carried away over the city proper. Cool and healthful breezes prevail during the heated term, and there is not a night in the hot months of summer when discomfort is felt from the heat, and sound and refreshing sleep is not possible. To the south and southwest for hundreds of miles stretches level and unobstructed prairie, over whose bosom these breezes sweep from the gulf without infection from any unsalubrious conditions.

The Oak Cliff Elevated railway, substantially constructed, forms a belt of ten miles, encircling Oak Cliff, but at no place more than three miles from the business section of Dallas. Cars run every ten minutes day and night from either side of the court house, Dallas. Fare, five cents.

Oak Cliff is a wonderful and well-nigh magical growth of two years; the first house was completed at Oak Cliff twenty-seven months ago. It now has a population of about seven thousand, a large proportion of whom are from amongst the best people of the different towns of the state of Texas. They are a live and progressive people. Oak Cliff has just incorporated, and one of the first moves of the city government will be the building of several large, commodious fine brick and stone public school buildings, and provide for a large free school fund.

Oak Cliff contains a strictly moral people; intoxicating liquors cannot be found anywhere within her limits, – in keeping with this general policy, no sort of questionable resorts are tolerated.

Oak Cliff now has 1,500 to 2,000 residences, costing from $1,500 to $50,000. It has thirty miles of paved streets and avenues; is now building about six miles of cross-town street railway, to be operated by electricity. It has a successful water system, affording pure, clear spring water. A hotel costing $100,000 has been in successful operation since last June.

Oak Cliff has a park of about 150 acres of natural rustic beauty, diversified with hill and dale, and set off with clumps of royal trees. In the park is a beautiful lake with an average depth of 20 feet, equipped with good boats, where people from all parts of the United States can be observed enjoying the delights of the seaside in the interior of Texas.

Oak Cliff is to Dallas what Brooklyn is to New York.

For further information, address,

Dallas Land & Loan Co., Dallas, Texas.

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Ad from the pages of The Southern Mercury, March 12, 1891.

A previous come-on from the developers of Oak Cliff can be found here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church, Organized 1890

oak-cliff-presbyterian_smOak Cliff Presbyterian Church, circa 1897 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I came across this photograph of a church a couple of days ago and was mesmerized by its charming woodiness. According to its caption, it was the Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Ninth Street and St. George (now Patton). Its first pastor was the Rev. W. L. Lowrance who had organized the church in 1890 with fewer than twenty members. Church membership grew steadily, and in 1923, having finally outgrown the small wood frame building, the congregation moved to their next location at Tenth and Madison (contributing to Tenth Street’s appearance in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as the street having more churches per mile than any other street in the world). At some point this lovely church was razed.

I’ve found little else on its earliest history. but I came across this advertisement placed in The Dallas Morning News in 1891:

simpson_oak-cliff-land-donation_dmn_031491(DMN, March 14, 1891)

Col. James B. Simpson was something of a learned Renaissance-man around Dallas. He had been the editor of The Dallas Herald for many years and was a civic leader with real estate interests. I’m not sure if this ad has anything to do with the establishment of the Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church, but it’s interesting to note that construction of the new church was mentioned as being under construction one month after this ad’s appearance. Time was running out for those Oak Cliff sinners (even though one newspaper report stated that the building wasn’t occupied until 1893).

Rev. Lowrance, an apparently well-like and respected pastor, retired at the end of 1903.

lowrance_dmn_122903-photo“Dr. W. L. Lowrance of Oak Cliff”

lowrance_dmn_dmn_122903(DMN, Dec. 29, 1903 — click for larger image)

The Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church lives on, now on S. Hampton. One can only assume that the building it occupies today is not quite as charming as the little woody one that was built 120 years ago.

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Top photo (by the Rogers Photo Studio, circa 1897) appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Legacies magazine.

Though the first Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church was on Ninth St., the second one was on Tenth St., and that seems reason enough to direct attention to the article “Road to Glory: Tenth Street Becomes Church Street” by René Schmidt — it appeared in the same issue of Legacies as the church photo, and you can read it here.

Also, “Street of Churches” (Dallas Morning News, May 1, 1950) is another article about Tenth St. and its staggering fourteen churches (!) — see it in a PDF here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Twilight…Rest” by Frank Reaugh

reaugh_twilight-rest_ut-ransom

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“Twilight…Rest” by Frank Reaugh (1860-1945). Pastel on cardboard; undated.

From the Frank Reaugh Art Collection, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas; painting and info can be viewed here.

Handbook of Texas entry on Frank Reaugh (a Dallas resident for most of his life) is here.

Click picture for larger image.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Henry Stark’s “Bird’s Eye View of Dallas” — 1895/96

stark_downtown_1895-96_hpl(Click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In the winter of 1895-1896, a St. Louis photographer named Henry Stark traveled to Texas, photographing scenes and vistas across the state. According to The Handbook of Texas, he is believed to be “the first photographer to have made an extensive photographic record of Texas.” A collection of his photos was published under the title Views in Texas.

The photograph above shows Commerce Street looking east, with the post office and its tall clock tower dominating the scene (the clock shows that it is 9:35 in the morning). The Old Post Office was bounded by Main, Ervay, Commerce, and St. Paul. This is a great photo, showing Dallas as I’ve never seen it before. I’ve zoomed in to see the “hidden” details. (All photos are much larger when clicked.)

stark_det1What is the building on the left? It’s very unusual-looking. (UPDATE: See the comments below. This appears to be the adjoining Bookhout and Middleton Buildings at Ervay and Main.)

stark_det2This is my favorite detail. All that trash. And vacant lots. And a haphazard, meandering fence. Are those steps leading to rear entrances of buildings facing Main? And those utility poles! That block looks kind of squalid. Not Dallas at its best. I think this would be around Akard.

stark_det3Houses just a few steps from the giant post office building. Horse-drawn buggies parked at the curb. People on the sidewalk. What looks like a man with his hands on his hips looking down at a child. Or maybe a dog.

stark_det4A bustling Commerce Street at the intersection of Ervay, with trollies in the distance.

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This photograph shows almost exactly the same view as one I posted earlier under the title “Something Like N.Y.” — check out the 1904 version here.

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The photograph, by Henry Stark, is from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library. The resolution is a bit grainy when trying to enlarge the details — to explore the photo for yourself, see it here.

What little is known of Henry Stark can be read in the brief Handbook of Texas bio, here.

For other examples of photographs I’ve zoomed in on to reveal unintended vignettes, see here.

All images MUCH larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Jim Conner, Not-So-Mild-Mannered RFD Mail Carrier

jim-conner_dmn_092240

by Paula Bosse

The man in the photo above looks like every character actor working in Hollywood in the 1940s. But he was a retired Dallas postal worker who began his career in 1901 as a rural mail carrier when the Rural Free Delivery (RFD) system was implemented in Dallas. (Before this, those who lived beyond the city limits — generally farmers — had to trek to a sometimes distant outpost — such as a general store — to pick up their mail.) RFD service began locally on October 1, 1901, and an 18-year old Jim Conner was one of six men hired to work the new mail routes beyond the city.

conner_FWregister_090101(Fort Worth Register, Sept. 1, 1901)

In 1940, The Dallas Morning News ran an interview with Conner in which he talked about his early postal route:

Snow and Ducks Added Thrills to Mail-Carrying Job for Jim Conner Way Back in 1901

“Giddap, Fiddler, it looks like rain.”

Familiar words those, back on Oct. 1, 1901, when the first rural free delivery was started on six routes out of the Dallas post office and Jim Conner, on Route 5, clucked to his horse, Fiddler, and started out.

Jim Conner, then an 18-year-old boy, had to fudge a little on his age to get the job, and chuckled considerably this week while here visiting from his home in Athens as he told some of his post office friends of his experiences.

Conner said that when the routes first started his No. 5 was a thirty-two-mile jaunt. Sometimes he went by horse cart, sometimes on horseback. He has made it on a bicycle and he reached the height of perfection one year when he chugged out of the post office in one of the first one-lunged, chain-drive Brush automobiles in Dallas County.

Familiar words and scenes then to many but to few today who can remember when the establishment of Route 5 closed the independent post office at Bachman’s Branch called Rawlins, and ran within a half mile of another post office called Letot.

“I used to go out Cedar Springs Road to Cochran’s Chapel,” Conner said. “Then on out to within a mile of Farmers Branch, over to Webb’s Chapel by way of the famous Midway Church and School corner which is now Glad Acres Farm, and then back in on Lemmon Avenue.”

It was an eight-hour trip in fine weather, but on bad days it took from twelve to fifteen hours. J.M. Haynes was postmaster in those days and only once did Conner fail to go. That was the year of the big snow. He remembers it as about four inches, but badly drafted over roads.

His pay was $500 a year and he had to keep two horses, a cart, a buggy and saddles, and often he rode the route on horseback as much as five months straight.

He remembers one year, 1905 he believes, when there was a great duck flight over the Southwest. Ducks flew in huge droves and once, when a large flock of geese headed straight for him, he fired his pistol into the air to scare them, and accidentally killed a goose.

His bondsman was James M Cochran, known as Uncle Jim, and said to be the first white child born in Dallas County. Conner retired in 1935 because of a new law covering thirty years’ service, but still in middle-aged vigor.

He remembers many of his patrons as well as if he had seen them yesterday.

“There with Dr. Arch Cochran; Bill Cochran, once chairman of the Dallas County Democratic Committee; Bill and Bud Taylor,” he said, reviewing his route again with Sam Berry in the mail supervisor’s office. “There was the Bachman family, J.W. Slaughter and Mack Dooley, the best hog raiser I ever saw. The Cool family, J.M. Merrill, Albert Latham, the Cox family, the Lively family and Bob Harrison, that I remember offhand.”

In those days, too, rural carriers were permitted to write subscriptions to newspapers and periodicals and many a time he has written subscriptions for the Dallas Morning News. There were several persons on the route to have been taking it before he started carrying the mail, he said.

Many months he made his feed bill by writing subscriptions, but later the Post Office Department ruled against further solicitation by the carriers.

Since his retirement Conner has moved to a farm near Athens, where he spends most of his time. However, during spare time, and whenever he comes to Dallas, he goes by the post office to visit with old friends.

Below is what those early RFD mail wagons looked like (click for larger image).

rfd_real-photo_1907-ebay

So. A delightfully nostalgic walk down memory lane with an avuncular-looking guy we all kind of feel we know. I thought I’d do a quick search to see if there was an obituary — there was: he died in 1956 at the age of 73, survived by his wife, 11 children (!), 22 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. But I also found something else: a report of a shooting, an arrest, and a charge with “assault to murder.”

conner-charged_dmn_010218(DMN, Jan. 2, 1918)

What?!!

Though the account of the incident is described as being “somewhat vague,” on New Year’s Eve, 1918, Jim Conner shot a soldier named Jesse Clay after “words” were exchanged at the corner of Beacon and Columbia in Old East Dallas. There had been bad blood between the two in the past, and the situation apparently escalated quickly. Clay had been walking down the street with a lady friend when Conner’s car came to a stop. Clay (described as being drunk) forced his way into the car, and Conner, fearful of being attacked, reached for a gun in the back seat. The two tussled and, after they were both out of the car, Conner saw that Clay also had a gun. This was when Conner shot him three times, intending, he said, to merely wound him. Clay shot back but missed. (The entire account, as it appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Jan. 1, 1918 can be read in a PDF here.)

The soldier was badly injured, with two of the three shots hitting his chest. He was not expected to live. Conner had surrendered to police at the scene and was charged with “assault to murder.” The last report on this incident that I could find was on Jan. 3, in which Clay was described as being in “very critical condition.”

So what happened? As Conner spent a full career as a post office employee, it seems unlikely he was tried for murder. I used every possible combination of search words I could think of but found nothing more on this case. I did find a 1943 obituary for a Jesse P. Clay, and it seems like it was probably the same guy — he was about the right age, he was a career military man, he lived in Dallas, and he was born in Kentucky. I assume the soldier in question (who would have been 37 at the time of the shooting) survived his gunshot wounds and that charges against Conner were either dismissed (with Conner pleading self-defense?) or that some sort of lesser charge was filed. Whatever actually happened, it seems that both men were able to move on from that really, really bad New Year’s Eve, a night I’m sure neither forgot.

My favorite little detail in the story of this sordid shooting was the line in the initial newspaper report that one of the (potentially deadly) bullets was “deflected by a packet of letters and a steel comb.” How appropriate that the thing that probably saved mailman Jim Conner from a murder rap was “a packet of letters.” (…And a steel comb, but that doesn’t fit in with my narrative as well.  Although Mr. Conner does look quite well-groomed.)

packet-of-letters_dmn_010118(DMN, Jan. 1, 1918)

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Article titled “Snow and Ducks a Added Thrills” and the accompanying photo appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 22, 1940.

Real-photo postcard of Hillsboro, Wisconsin RFD mail wagon is from Ebay (currently for sale, here).

The DMN account of the bizarre 1918 shooting can be read in a PDF, here.

An informative site on history of Rural Free Delivery — with lots of photos — can be found here.

RFD Wiki here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

From Dull to Spectacular — How a Picture Postcard Evolves

theater-row_before_tsha

by Paula Bosse

You know how you look at some of those fantastic postcards from the ’40s that don’t look real and you wonder, “Is that from a photograph, or is that just an artistic interpretation?” Well, it’s both.

In the above “before” and the below “after,” it’s interesting to note what’s been kept in and what’s been taken out. And how a fairly ho-hum daytime view becomes a dazzling night-time scene. Either way, it’s an Elm Street I’ll — sadly — never experience.

theater-row_after

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Black-and-white photograph of Elm Street’s “Theater Row” from the Texas State Historical Association.

Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Jim Nasium” Can Teach You a Thing Or Two About Baseball Heckling — 1908

baseball-hecklers_dmn_050308Cartoon by “Jim Nasium” — 1908 (click for larger image, you sap-head)

by Paula Bosse

If you were a die-hard baseball fan in 1908, you were no doubt familiar with many of the jeers featured in the cartoon above by one Mr. “Jim Nasium,” a sportswriter and cartoonist who was given almost half a page of primo newsprint each Sunday in many newspapers around the country. Feel free to incorporate some of these exhortations into your next enthusiastic visit to the ballpark. ANY ballpark. Those kids can take it….

dallas-tx-league_dmn_050608The Dallas Giants, 1908

The photo of the 1908 Dallas Giants team appeared in The Dallas Morning News a few days after the cartoon. Bottom row–Slattery, Fletcher, Kerns, Tullos, Maloney. Middle row–Maag, Hole, Moore, Whittaker, Cooper, Loudell. Top row–Burnett, Peters, Hay, Storch, Miller.

baseball_gaston-park_dmn_050508

Here’s where they played that week, Gaston Park. Mayor Hay threw out the first ball. (DMN, May, 5, 1908)

baseball_gaston-park_grandstand_dmn_050508And here is where the cat-calls would come from. “What’re you tryin’ to bunt for, you sap-head!”

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The cartoons of “Jim Nasium” appeared in The Dallas Morning News alongside his weekly column, “Conversations With an Old Sport,” a humorous syndicated series by Edgar F. Wolfe, who would later go on to edit Sporting Life.

Photo of the Dallas Giants by Clogenson, DMN, May 6, 1908.

Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Telephone Operators Sweating at the Switchboard — 1951

summer_telephone-operators_1951

by Paula Bosse

Let’s hope your work conditions are a bit better this summer!

“Dallas, Tex. Aug. 10 [1951] — BEATING THE HEAT — Both ice and fans are brought into play by telephone operators at an exchange here today as the city continued to swelter under 100-degree or over temperatures. The thermometer reached a high of 102-degrees to run the consecutive days of 100-degree readings to ten. It is the longest period of such reading since 1925 when a record 11 straight days was set. High mark for the present heat wave was 107 on August 6.”

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Wire service photograph from the Southern Labor Archives of the Georgia State University Library Special Collections. Also included in the description of the photo was this additional information: “Photograph of a line of telephone operators keeping cool using fans and ice. These women were working during a Communications Workers of America strike.”

Click photo for larger image.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Giant Zeppelin Balloons, Straight Outta Big D

ryan-rubber-co-zeppelin

by Paula Bosse

Bet you didn’t know that giant Zeppelin balloons were made in Dallas (or maybe Forney…). They were. The Ryan Rubber Company’s balloon factory opened in Forney in 1946, managed by Lester G. Norris with the help of his wife, Gladys. As you can see below, those are two balloon-loving people who really enjoyed their job.

ryan-rubber_dmn_112849

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Source of Zeppelin ad unknown.

Photograph from The Dallas Morning News, Nov. 28, 1949. The article that accompanies the photo includes an interview with a very-happy-to-be-in-the-balloon-biz Lester G. Norris — you can read it in a PDF, here.

Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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