Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

A. A. Johnston House Moving Co. — 1908

ad-johnston-house-moving_city-directory_1908_sm“Shoring a Specialty”

by Paula Bosse

Imagine what moving entailed before the advent of large motorized moving trucks.

I, myself, will be moving soon, and this will be my last new post for a while. I will probably link to old posts on Twitter and Facebook (see the tab at the top of the page to follow me and “like” me). I’ll be back sometime next week. Maybe by then the rain will have finally stopped!


Ad from the 1908 city directory.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Imagined As an Inland Port


by Paula Bosse

Okay, this will be my last Trinity River post for a while. This is what some clever person imagined Dallas would look like today as an inland port had anyone ever managed to make the Trinity a navigable commercial waterway between DFW and the Gulf. So there you go!


This image was linked to a Reddit post linking to a Flashback Dallas Trinity River post. I have no idea who created this, but the image link is here. If anyone knows the source, I’d love to credit the person responsible.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“How High’s the Water, Mama?” — 1908


by Paula Bosse

A great panoramic photo by Clogenson, showing the old Commerce Street bridge partially submerged by the Trinity River (which is pretty dang high … and rising).


Photograph by Henry Clogenson, from the collection of the Library of Congress; accessible here.

Previous Flashback Dallas posts on the Great Flood of 1908 can be found here and here. And a fantastic photo of what the Trinity looked like before it was straightened and moved is here.

And, really, you MUST hear Johnny Cash sing the pertinent “Five Feet High & Rising,” here.

Click picture for a REALLY big image.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Nellie Maurine: When a Pleasure Boat Became a Rescue Craft During the Great Trinity River Flood of 1908


by Paula Bosse

107 years ago today — after days and days of torrential rains — the Trinity River reached a crest of over 52 feet, and the resulting flooding caused loss of life and property and almost incalculable widespead damage on both sides of the suddenly surging river. Bridges and train trestles were washed out, cutting off any way for Dallasites or travelers heading west on trains and interurbans to get from Dallas to Oak Cliff, and vice versa. Ever the home of the entrepreneurial capitalist, the owner of one of the only large boats in the area, the Nellie Maurine, offered his water vehicle to be used as a ferry for those souls desperate to cross the river. For a price.

In September of 1906, E. L. Gale built a large boat in Dallas. It was designed to carry freight as well as passengers on pleasure trips between the “wharf” at the base of Commerce Street and the under-construction Lock and Dam No. 1 at McCommas Bluff. The boat was named after his daughters Vanelle and Maurine.

“The Nelle Maurine is a model bow, flat-bottomed boat, seventy feet in length, sixteen-foot beam on the water line, and twenty feet including the guard rail. She is a propeller boat, draws twelve inches of water, and is driven by a 40-horsepower engine. In the event it be found that the engine is not of sufficient power to give the boat the required speed, it is so arranged that it can be changed to 80-horsepower with but very little trouble. With full cargo aboard, the vessel will require a depth of about thirty-three inches of water.” (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 29, 1906)

nellie-maurine_dmn_092906DMN, Sept. 29, 1906 (before upper deck/pilot house had been built)

Gale envisioned great success in establishing shipyards and a wharf in Dallas. Though the much hoped-for “navigable Trinity” was still not a reality, many believed a trade route waterway between Dallas and the Gulf of Mexico was inevitable. A person could make a great deal of money by being in on the ground floor of such an industry.

The boat, initially a propeller boat which was converted to a sternwheeler in the summer of 1907, had trouble in operating along the short stretch of river with any kind of regular service — the water level was either too low or too high (when the water was high, the boat could not pass beneath the “Zang boulevard bridge”). The Nellie Maurine was often moored near a large cottonwood tree waiting for the river to cooperate. When it did cooperate, the boat was in demand as a pleasure craft, often offering moonlight treks down the river, complete with onboard dance band. The fare for a daytime round-trip to McCommas Bluff was 50¢; the privately chartered night-time cruises were likely quite a bit higher.

nellie-maurine_dmn_070409-ADAd, DMN, July 4, 1909

nellie-maurine_dmn_051308May 13, 1908 (less than two weeks before the flood)

When the Great Flood of 1908 hit on May 25, there was absolute bedlam, beginning in the middle of the night when one man set off several “dynamite bombs” one after another in order to awaken his neighbors who were unaware of the sudden and unexpected rise of the swollen river and who were in imminent danger. When Dallasites went to bed on May 24, the river was at an already high 28 feet. By 3:00 in the morning, just a few short hours later, it had risen to an incredible — and incredibly dangerous — 41.5 feet. By that afternoon it was over 51 feet, and by nightfall, it had surpassed all records and was at more than 52 feet. West Dallas and downtown were underneath water. Homes and livestock were washed away. Electricity was out. Telephones were out. Roads and railways were impassable. There was absolute panic.

For numerous reasons, people were desperate to cross the river. As all roads and bridges across the Trinity were submerged or destroyed, the only way across was by boat. The Nellie Maurine’s owner saw an opportunity to make a lot of money — by charging people to ferry them back and forth across the Trinity, something that probably rubbed people the wrong way. When city authorities asked permission to use the Nellie Maurine to survey the damage, they were rebuffed when Gale (or his captain) insisted the city pay a fee and the city refused. Dallas County Sheriff Arthur L. Ledbetter and Criminal District Judge W. W. Nelms were having none of that and seized the boat, deputizing the crew and ordering them to set off for the west bank of the river. As it turned out, the damage was far worse than anyone could have expected, and the boat was used to rescue stranded people, some of whom were pulled from treetops. (The account of this survey, titled “West Dallas Trip Proves Thrilling,” is pretty gripping — see link below.)

When the city was done with its search-and-rescue mission, it UN-seized the boat, and the Nellie Maurine began operating as a ferry again, transporting frantic people back and forth across the river. If you wanted to cross the river, you’d have to cough up one dollar — maybe even two, a hefty price to reach safety. (According to the Inflation Calculator, $1 in 1908 would be the equivalent of about $26 in today’s money). It was rumored that this ferry service was generating $1,000 a day (almost $26,000 a day in today’s money!).

nellie-maurine_dmn_052808DMN, May 28, 1908

The Nellie Maurine provided a much-needed service during the Great Dallas Flood — and they also made a substantial profit, which — depending on your business philosophy — is either ingenious or appalling.

Below, a few images of the Nellie Maurine. I’m not sure what ultimately became of her, but I have found no mention of the boat past 1910, a year before E. L. Gale died. (Click pictures for larger images.)

flood_nellie-maurine_1908bA photo of the boat taken during the flood (the boat had lost its pilot house when it was caught under the Commerce Street bridge earlier that day).

nellie-maurine_dmn_011930During the flood (published in the DMN, Jan. 19, 1930).

The photo below was taken during the flood by farmboy S.S. Cumby. (His story can be found in the links below.)

nellie-maurine_dmn_052857-photoDMN, May 28, 1957 (photo by S.S. Cumby)

Below, two post-flood photos, from 1909. The first showing builders and contractors onboard, about to head to Lock and Dam No. 1 to check on its progress. The one below that, a jam-packed Nellie Maurine, charted by the Southern Society for a summertime party-boat excursion to Elam.

nellie-maurine_dmn_022309DMN, Feb. 23, 1909 (photo by Clogenson)

nellie-maurine_dmn_081039DMN, Aug. 10, 1939


Top photo and one farther down are both “real photo” postcards, found a few months ago on eBay.

All other clippings and photos from The Dallas Morning News, as noted.

Read about the introduction of the Nellie Maurine (or the “Nelle Maurine”) to Dallas newspaper readers in an article published in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 29, 1906, here. (The second photo above accompanied this article.)

Read the account of what was seen from the boat when it was commandeered by city officials in “West Dallas Trip Proves Thrilling,” published in the DMN on May 26, 1908, here.

Read “The Trinity’s Swan Song Spree of 1908″ by Gene Wallis — a hair-raising account of the havoc wreaked by the flood — published in the DMN on March 1, 1931, here; the continuation of the article is here.

For several additional articles on the Nellie Maurine (including the account of S. S. Cumby who took one of the above photos as a farmboy who witnessed the flood), see the PDF here.

The Trinity River flood of 1908 was a story that made national headlines. The death-toll reports were all over the place, from 4 to “hundreds.” I think the official number of lives lost was only 4 or 5, which is pretty amazing, considering the the massive destruction caused by the flood. An interesting first-day report can be found in the Wichita (Kansas) Beacon, in a late edition from May 25, 1908, here. “Trinity Is On a Rampage” — indeed.

An incredible photo of the washed-out T & P railroad trestle can be found in a previous post here.

Stay dry, y’all!

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

World War II: The Homefront — 1944

WWII-mother_dmn_051444Mrs. A. H. Curry

by Paula Bosse

This touching photo appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Mother’s Day. The caption:

“HER DAY — Sons are scattered all over the world in a fight for a deep cause. Mother’s Day, 1944, isn’t the brightest we have ever had, but it is the most hopeful for the future. And it serves to call attention again to the fact that Mothers are still the greatest heroes of all. In Dallas, Mrs. A. H. Curry, 3719 Miramar, a Mother with six sons in the service — one of them missing in action — looks over the pictures of the men she reared who now fight for her safety at home.”


Photo and text appeared in The Dallas Morning News on May 14, 1944, Mother’s Day. Photo by E. W. Odom.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Used Books and Guns” — 1967

used-books-and-guns_SASEKJust your typical Texas bookshop….

by Paula Bosse

In honor of my father’s birthday, I give you this great illustration by M. Sasek from his book This Is Texas, an amusing children’s book featuring a tour around Texas. The above is one of the offerings from San Antonio, and it’s accompanied by the following caption:

“San Antonio bookstore. There is all you need if you want to start a long literary argument — or to end one quickly.”

(I don’t know what bookshop this was, but it was real. If anyone knows its identity, please let me know!)

As this book was in my house growing up, I’m sure my father — a bookseller with a great sense of humor and an enthusiasm for firearms — must have seen this and laughed — and seriously considered whether the used books-and-guns combo-shop was feasible.


Miroslav Sasek (1916-1980) was a Czech author and illustrator best known for his fantastic “This Is…” series of books, many of which have been reprinted. More on Sasek here and here.

A previous post I wrote about my father, Dick Bosse, owner of The Aldredge Book Store, is here.

Yes, there WAS a similar bookstore envisioned in a “King of the Hill” episode; read about it here.

I love this book, and even though it was reprinted in 2006, I think it is out-of-print again. There are several for sale here (I’d avoid the copies listed as “fair” or “good.” And make sure you get a dust jacket!)

Click picture for larger image.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“The Walls Are Rising” (1967): Watch It Online!

mercury-dealership-6110-lemmon_wallsDallasites love their cars…. (photo from “The Walls Are Rising”/AIA Dallas)

by Paula Bosse

Late last year I stumbled across mention of a 1967 film about Dallas called “The Walls Are Rising.” It was made by the American Institute of Architects, Dallas Chapter, and was sponsored by the Greater Dallas Planning Council as a sort of warning to the people of Dallas about the dangers of auto-centric sprawl and uncontrolled urban planning. I searched and searched for the whereabouts of the film, but it seemed to have disappeared without a trace. I contacted AIA Dallas, and after much searching, they found the film, still on an old reel. They digitized the film and screened it before a large and enthusiastic crowd in January, and after viewing the film and listening to a panel discussion, audience members launched into a lively and concerned discussion about the state of Dallas today. It turns out that most of the topics of grave concern in 1967 continue to be topics of grave concern today, almost 50 years later.

AIA Dallas has uploaded the 27-minute film to Vimeo, and it is now available for all to watch online. Made to emphasize the dangers of out-of-control urban blight brought on by an over-reliance on automobiles, a lack of green spaces, and depressing expanses of visual clutter, the film is a sardonic look at a claustrophobically “modern” Dallas. It’s a hip documentary — absolutely a product of its era — made by a filmmaker with avant-garde tendencies; imagine what an industrial film would have been like had it been made by “with-it” ad men who were given free-rein to get their message across (and who may have indulged in illicit substances during the editing phase). Not as weird as the film itself (though still plenty weird) are some of the proposals from architects and planners on ways to improve the city’s “livability.”

Best of all, though, are all the photos of the city. It’s great being able to hit “pause” and take a look at each and every 1967 photo of Dallas, from a jam-packed downtown, to a cluttered Oak Lawn, to a serene Turtle Creek.

Thanks again to AIA Dallas for finding the film and uploading this weird little slice of Dallas history!

The Walls are Rising from AIA Dallas on Vimeo.


A few screengrabs (click for larger images):







The video can be found on Vimeo here.

All photos by Ronald Perryman, from his film “The Walls Are Rising” (1967), “produced by Greater Dallas Planning Council in collaboration with Dallas Chapter of American Institute of Architects.”

The AIA Dallas website is here.

Robert Wilonsky’s Dallas Morning News blog post (May 21, 2015) on the uploading of this film is here.

My previous posts on “The Walls Are Rising” can be found here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Harley-Davidson Sales Co. Ad — 1929

ad-harley-davidson_directory_1929-smBeyond sidecars…

by Paula Bosse

I have to say, I love this delivery vehicle!


Advertisement from the 1929 city directory. Harley-Davidson — 2700 Commerce Street, at Henry — was in Deep Ellum, in the same block currently occupied by Angry Dog.

Click picture for larger image.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

(Obscure) Country Music Radio Stations — 1969

KYAL-1600“Home of the Tall Texans” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Okay, maybe they’re not obscure to people who listened to country stations in Dallas in the 1960s, but to someone who grew up in the ’70s in a household in which country stalwarts KBOX and WBAP were always on, these three stations are unknown to me.

Of these, my favorite call letters are KYAL, as seen in the ad above — that’s right, “K-y’all.” Disc jockey “Johnny Dallas” was none other than local rockabilly fave, Groovey Joe Poovey.


KBUY was out of Fort Worth and had quite the daytime signal.


There was also KCWM (for “Country & Western Music”). This one was an FM station. Legendary DJ Bill Mack was hired by the station to get its country format going, and he even suggested the call letters.


I came across these ads in some sort of local country music publication called “Country and Western — The Sound That Goes Around the World” (1969). Sprinkled amongst bios and photos of country stars are lots of local ads. One of the (non-radio) ads that caught my attention was one for the Saturday night lineup of country music television shows on KTVT Channel 11. Some of these shows were still on in the ’70s when I used to watch them with my father. (I’m not sure I knew there was ever a live television broadcast from Panther Hall in Fort Worth — “Cowtown Jamboree” — that would have been cool to see.)

country-music-saturday-night_ch-11-1969(click for larger image)


The best source for the history of Dallas-Fort Worth radio is, without question, Mike Shannon’s DFWRetroplex.com site.

KBOX was the station that really started it all for country music radio in Dallas; read about its history here.

Info on KYAL 1600 AM is on this page.

Info on KBUY 1540 AM and KCWM 99.5 FM is on this page.

Read about Groovey Joe Poovey here and here and here. See a slideshow of photos of him while listening to his GREAT version of “Deep Ellum Blues,” here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Cole Park Storm Water Detention Vault

water-detention-vaultWhy, yes, this IS in Uptown… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Underneath Cole Park (which is behind North Dallas High School and between Cole and McKinney), is a “storm water detention vault” — a cavernous space where storm water runoff goes when the capacity of the Mill Creek storm sewer system has been exceeded. It can hold 71 million gallons of storm water. …71 million gallons!

From a 2014 Facebook post from the Turtle Creek Association:

“Completed in 1993, the vault’s 13 chambers, each of which rises five stories tall and runs the length of more than two football fields, are designed to fill with water during extreme rainfall. These massive vaults capture the storm water from Central Expressway and slowly release it into Turtle Creek via the Mill Creek Outfall by the footbridge in William B. Dean Park (next to the Kalita Humphrey Theater).”

I had no idea that Dallas had anything like this until I saw the short film, below, in which Gilbert Aguilar, Assistant Director of the City of Dallas’ Department of Street Services, takes us on a tour of the “detention vault.” This is an absolutely mind-blowing look at something very, very few Dallasites know about. The City of Dallas probably wouldn’t be willing to grant access to movie-makers, but, seriously, this would make an INCREDIBLE movie set — perhaps less aesthetically appealing than the sewers of Vienna featured in The Third Man, but what it lacks in character it makes up for in sheer gigantic-ness.


The video, “Living With the Trinity: Cole Park Vault,” is on YouTube, here. Though not credited in the video itself, it is, presumably, a production of local filmmaker, Mark Birnbaum, whose website is here.

Top image is a screengrab from the video.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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