Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

What’s Playing at the Palace? — 1950s

elm-street_ten-commandments_1957_flickr_coltera.JPGFilm Row: Elm & Ervay, looking west… (click for large image)

by Paula Bosse

In the 1950s, the two prestige movie theaters in Dallas were the Majestic and the Palace, mainstays of “Theater Row” and just a few blocks apart on Elm Street. The Palace Theater (at Elm and Ervay, across from the Wilson Building) is seen in the two postcards featured here. The one above shows Elm Street looking west. “The Ten Commandments” is playing, placing the date that photo was taken sometime between February and May, 1957. The postcard below shows an eastward-looking view with “The Caine Mutiny” on the marquee, dating that photo to the latter half of July, 1954.


“The Ten Commandments” was a huge, huge hit and ran for 11 weeks — no movie had ever run that long in the history of Dallas theaters. (Click article to see a larger image.)

Dallas Morning News, April 24, 1957

It was also one of the longest movies to ever play in Dallas. We’re talking a running time of almost 4 hours (with an intermission), something which not only tested the endurance of audiences but also severely limited the number of showings per day. It was an “event” picture, and, accordingly, prices were higher and reserved seats were offered.

ten-commandments_palace_dmn_021457_ad_det_reserved-seatsDMN, Feb. 14, 1957

The number of people in Dallas who saw that movie at the Palace is staggering: over 100,000!

DMN, April 26, 1957

Even after its run at the Palace ended, it continued to draw crowds when it moved down the street to the Tower.

The ad for the movie, which appeared in the newspaper on opening day, Feb. 14, 1957:

DMN, Feb. 14, 1957

There were a couple of things I found interesting about this ad. One was that it had a blurb by First Baptist Church of Dallas’ chief Baptist,  W. A. Criswell.


The second was that patrons could park behind the theater — on Pacific — at the Dunlap-Swain station. (Parking downtown for large crowds in those days must have been challenging —  not everyone took streetcars or, later, buses.)



caine-mutiny_palace_dmn_071654_opening-nightDMN, July 16, 1954


Both postcards found on Flickr, posted by the unstoppable Coltera: the top one here, the bottom one here.

“The Ten Commandments” ran at the Palace Theater from Feb. 14, 1957 to May 2, 1957. The film that followed was “Boy On a Dolphin,” which featured the debut of Sophia Loren in a U.S. movie. Which is an interesting counterpoint.

“The Caine Mutiny” ran from July 16, 1954 to July 29, 1954.

A previous post about the Palace — “Next-Door Neighbors: The Palace Theater and Lone Star Seed & Floral — 1926” — can be found here.

Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A Rainy Day at Main and Akard — 1932

main-akard_frank-rogers_011632_legacies_fall-2013Fedoras, cloches, umbrellas… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A nice photo of a rainy day downtown, almost 85 years ago. The photo — taken on January 16, 1932 by Dallas photographer Frank Rogers — shows the intersection of Main and Akard (the people with umbrellas are crossing Akard Street, heading east). Marvin’s Drug Store (which occupied the ground floor of what was later known as the Gulf States Building) was on the northwest corner, and the A. Harris department store occupied the first five floors of the Kirby Building (originally the Busch Building) on the northeast corner — both buildings are still standing. A similar view of this intersection today, via Bing, can be seen here.


Photo from the Fall, 2013 issue of Legacies, viewable at the Portal to Texas History, here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

From the Vault: The Terrill School’s Favorite Ice Cream Peddler — 1916


by Paula Bosse

George Cacas was a Greek immigrant who peddled snacks to the prep school boys of The Terrill School in Old East Dallas 100 years ago (ice cream in the summer and popcorn in the winter). Read about him in my post from last year, “George Cacas, The Terrill School’s Greek Ice Cream Man — 1916.”


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Sam Houston Zephyr Leaving Union Station, Crossing Over the Triple Underpass — 1950

zephyr_triple-underpass_1950_portalThe SHZ chugging through Dallas… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The title pretty much says it all. The Sam Houston Zephyr passenger train is seen crossing over the Triple Underpass, heading out of Dallas. Next stop: Fort Worth. The Post Office Terminal Annex is the tall white building, the Jefferson Hotel is behind it (with the sign on its roof), and Union Station is in the background, just right of center, with the Dallas Morning News building peeking over its roofline. The Old Red Courthouse would be out of frame to the left.

Below, a view of downtown from the west, with the Triple Underpass partially cut off at the very bottom, and Union Station just out of frame at the right.


In asking members of Facebook’s Texas Railroad History group about the top photo, Gerald Preas, one of the members, made this comment, full of interesting little tidbits (slightly edited by me):

The large building in the center is the USPO Terminal Annex. I started working there in August 1963. The buildings between TA and Union Station were part of Railway Express, used for sorting mail to and from RPO cars. That stack in back was the power station for Union Station — it had its own electric and water system, maybe sewage, too. I drank many times that cool sweet well-water. Notice cars around TA loading dock. I supervised that dock 1968/69 — we had to keep the area open. Now look where train is bending, people would park off ballast, but cars turning would swing out further and hit parked cars. That tree on the upper right led down grade to vacant parting lot. I was coming up that path when the President was shot.


Top photo shows the Fort Worth and Denver’s Sam Houston Zephyr train No. 4, northbound from Houston, leaving the Dallas Union Terminal Station, heading to Fort Worth. The photo was taken by Roger S. Plummer in 1950; photo from the Museum of the American Railroad, via UNT’s Portal to Texas History, here.

(Other photos of the Sam Houston Zephyr taken in Dallas — and one in Fort Worth — by Roger S. Plummer between 1949 and 1955 can be found on the Portal to Texas History site, here.)

Bottom image titled simply “Dallas, Texas” is an Aerial Photo Service postcard, from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University. I’ve edited the image a bit — see the original image and description here.

An aerial view of the same area today can be seen here, via Google.

A previous Flashback Dallas post on the stunningly beautiful Texas Zephyr can be found here.

Thanks to the members of the Texas Railroad History group on Facebook for their comments and help.

Both photos are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The 1957 Tornado, Seen From Old East Dallas

tornado_live-oak_040257_rusty-williams_dplThe view from Liberty & Live Oak… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Great shot of the historic Dallas tornado (which killed 10, injured at least 200, and left about 500 people homeless) as it was plowing through Oak Cliff and West Dallas on April 2, 1957, seen from the 2800 block of Live Oak.

Aside from the tornado, this is an interesting view looking toward downtown, the Medical Arts Building, and the Republic Bank Building (that rocket must have been Dallas’ tallest lightning rod at the time!). The building containing the strip of businesses at the right still stands (I love these buildings — there are a lot of them in the older parts of town) — a present-day view can be seen on Google, here. What stood out to me was a Burger House — I didn’t know of any other than the one on Hillcrest, but this one stood at 2811 Live Oak from 1950 or ’51 until about 1976.

Below, the businesses in the 2800  block of Live Oak — between Texas and Liberty — from the 1956 city directory (click for larger image):


Also, here is one of many of the newspaper reports on the tornado and its aftermath. This one captures the terror felt by those in the twister’s path. Of particular interest is the story of T. M. Davisson who hid with a customer in a large empty steel tank on his property.

Dallas Morning News, April 3, 1957


Top photo from the book Historic Photos of Dallas in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s by Rusty Williams (Nashville: Turner Publishing Company, 2010); from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Film footage of the tornado can be found in several videos on YouTube, here.

A previous Flashback Dallas post — “Tornado As Learning Tool — 1957” — is here.

Photo and clippings are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Knox Street Fire — 1961

knox-street-fire_3100-block_052161_unt_portal_dallas-firefighters-museum3100 block of Knox, after a 4-alarm fire… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I often run across photos that aren’t particularly historical, but they’re interesting because they show a part of town with which I’m familiar but which looks very different today. The photo above shows the 3100 block of Knox Street, between McKinney and Cole, looking toward Cole (seen at the stoplight). It shows the aftermath of a 4-alarm fire that broke out on May 21, 1951 and destroyed three businesses: George’s Cafe (at 3124 Knox), the Knox Street Barber Shop (3128 Knox), and Foster’s Food Store (3122 Knox) — the building housing these business survived, but it is long-gone; the land is now occupied by On The Border.

A firefighter was briefly overcome by smoke, as seen in the Dallas Morning News photo below (click for larger image). The caption: “Emergency Corpsman Bill Wheless administers oxygen to Fire Capt. J. R. Montgomery, who was overcome by smoke while fighting a 4-alarm blaze in the 3100 block of Knox Sunday morning.” (I am forever running across weird connections. I grew up a few doors down from Mr. Wheless in the 1970s and was in his house quite a bit — I never knew he had once been a fireman.)

Dallas Morning News, May 22, 1961

There were no fatalities at the scene, but, sadly, Charles William Layne, a 13-year-old neighborhood boy who suffered from a heart condition, collapsed while while running to see what the commotion was and later died.

I looked up one of the businesses affected by the fire: George’s Cafe, owned by George Bartlett, who opened the business at 3124 Knox in 1937. Apparently those early days were difficult, and Bartlett barely kept the business afloat. The only thing that seemed to keep him going was the fear of losing the money his widowed mother had loaned him after she had mortgaged her home. A heartwarming rags-to-riches article by Kenneth Foree appeared in The Dallas Morning News in 1946.

DMN, Nov. 28, 1946

Digging a bit, I saw that Bartlett had tried to sell the cafe several times but never seems to have found a buyer. The for-sale ads stopped after 1964. The last appearance of the cafe in the Dallas directory was in 1965. Bartlett died in 1966.

But Bartlett wasn’t kidding when he was interviewed by Kenneth Foree in that Dallas News article: it was very hard making money running the place. So hard, in fact, that in order to keep from going under he had to take on a side job: he became a bookie, taking bets on basketball games, football games, and horse races. He was arrested twice (in 1959 and 1963) and spent 90 days in jail after being convicted on bookmaking charges. When arrested in 1963 after having been caught flushing receipts down the toilet as the vice squad broke down his door (a case which was later no-billed), the 57-year-old Bartlett told the arresting officer, “I just can’t make any money in the cafe business” (DMN, Nov. 17, 1963).

Oh, George. What would your mother have said?


DMN, May 26, 1961

DMN, June 22, 1945

Below, the businesses in the 3100 block of Knox Street at the time of the fire. The businesses that burned were located in a building torn down many years ago and replaced by On The Border (the view today is here).

1962 Dallas directory


The photo at the top was taken by Dallas Morning News staff photographer Joe Laird and appeared on the front page of The News on May 22, 1961; it is from the Dallas Firefighters Museum, via the Portal to Texas History — more info is here.

Pictures and clippings larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Thanksgiving, 1891: The First Turkey-Day Football Game in Dallas


by Paula Bosse

Thanksgiving is a holiday known for eating until you’re full as a tick and football — the highlight for many is the traditional Dallas Cowboys game. But when was the very first Thanksgiving Day football game played in Dallas? 125 years ago — in 1891. It was played on November 26, 1891 in Oak Cliff (…which wasn’t strictly part of Dallas at the time, but… yeah, 1891). The game was between teams from Dallas and Fort Worth, teams which had been organized only a few months previously. The sport of “rugby football” had been gaining popularity around the United States, particularly as a college sport. One of the biggest games of the young sport was the university game played on Thanksgiving Day. In 1891, the Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving game was played in New York before thousands and thousands of spectators. Yale won that year, 19-0 (see the exciting illustration below in which helmets for players are non-existent, but a man who appears to be the referee is wearing a stylish bowler hat). (Click for larger image.)


This Ivy League game was almost more of a society event than a sporting event. To get a feel for the atmosphere of these university games, read this really great contemporary article — “The Man of Fashion, We Observe Thanksgiving Day with Great Eclat” by Albert Edward Tyrrell — on the fashions and behavior of these generally well-heeled crowds (it also contains an interesting look at how Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1891, by the swells as well as the non-swells). My favorite piece of minutiae was that young ladies were not above sneaking flasks of liquor into games, hidden in their fashionable hand-warmers. I give you “the loaded muff”:


But I digress. However much those early Texas football enthusiasts might have hoped for similar large, flask-sipping crowds, the first Thanksgiving football game held in Dallas (and possibly in Texas) attracted a smaller crowd of hundreds rather than thousands (including “about 100 ladies”). Though the crowd was miniscule compared to the one up in New York that day, it did not lack in boisterousness and excited appreciation.

Dallas Morning News, Nov. 25, 1891

Dallas and Fort Worth had met twice before their matchup in Oak Cliff — both times with Dallas emerging victorious, and … not to be too anti-climactic, but the big inaugural Thanksgiving Day game on November 26, 1891 resulted in another Dallas win (24-11). (This shouldn’t be too surprising, seeing as the overwhelming majority of the players on the Dallas team of 15 grew up playing rugby in rugby-playing countries: 7 were British and 5 were Canadian —  only 3 were native-born Americans. Still. Whatever it takes.) (The dullish play-by-play of the game can be read  below.)

So what else was going on in Dallas in the Thanksgiving season of 1891? Here are a few morsels.

Men might have contemplated getting a new $12.50 suit from M. Benedikt & Co. (a suit which would cost about $335.00 today) — especially after seeing this eye-catching Uncle-Sam-riding-a-(scrawny)-turkey ad. (Click pictures to see larger images.)

DMN, Nov. 21, 1891

Ladies were kept up-to-date on the millinery, dress, and hairstyle fashions of the season by reading newspaper articles such as “What Is Really Worn, The Fashions That Find Favor at Thanksgiving” (which can be read here).

DMN, Nov. 22, 1891

And stores that sold cookware, bakeware, and china took out ads to inform Dallasites that they really needed some new items in order to properly prepare for the big day — one’s guests shouldn’t be forced to be served a feast from tacky serving dishes or eat from chipped plates.

DMN, Nov. 25, 1891

If one wasn’t spending Thanksgiving Day attending one of the city’s many church services, feeding the children at the Buckner Orphans Home, feeding one’s guests and one’s family, visiting friends, or trekking over to Oak Cliff to see that football game, he or she might have considered attending a matinee at the Dallas Opera House — Maude Granger (“The Peerless Emotional Actress”) was back in town and raring to emote.

DMN, Nov. 24, 1891

Almost everyone had the day off from work, but, oddly enough, most postal workers had to work at least part of the day. Neither rain nor sleet nor tender turkey breasts and cranberry sauce stayed those couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, I guess.

DMN, Nov. 25, 1891

At least no one was dreading/eagerly anticipating Black Friday back in ’91.


Back to football. First, a friendly D-FW practice run before the Big Game.

DMN, Nov. 14, 1891

The pre-game article.

DMN, Nov. 25, 1891

The post-game article.

DMN, Nov. 27, 1891

And an article from a proud Canadian newspaper, boasting of the number of Queen Victoria’s faithful subjects playing for the Dallas team.

The Manitoba Free Press, Dec. 11, 1891


Thanksgiving card found on Pinterest.

Illustration of the 1891 Yale-Princeton game is from the Lost Century of Sports website, here. (I’m not really a sports fan, but if I were, this website of 19th-century sports might be one of my favorites!)

For more on how Thanksgiving finally came to be celebrated in Texas in 1874 (it took a long time for the Southern states to agree to celebrate what many thought was a “Yankee abolitionist holiday”), see my post “Encouraging Dallasites to Observe Thanksgiving — 1874,” here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Most pictures and clippings larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

From the Vault: A Warm and Cozy Look at a 1950s Dallas Skyline


by Paula Bosse

As Thanksgiving approaches, a nice cozy and nostalgic rendering of our city’s skyline seems to be in order. See this image much larger at my original post “‘Dallas Skyline’ by Ed Bearden — 1958” here.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

November 22, 1963: Will Fritz and the Investigation

jfk_dpd_post-assassination_ebayThe men of the Homicide & Robbery Bureau at work (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

After the unthinkable had happened on the streets of Dallas — the assassination of a U.S. president — the Homicide and Robbery Bureau of the Dallas Police Department, led by Will Fritz, Captain of Detectives, sprang into action and quickly apprehended Lee Harvey Oswald as a suspect in the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. The FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and the whole of the Dallas Police Department worked together, but Fritz was the face of the investigation.

Will Fritz (1895-1984) was born in Dublin, Texas and grew up in New Mexico. He joined the Dallas Police Department in 1921 and remained on the force for 49 years, retiring in 1970 at the age of 74. He was considered one of the top police interrogators in the state and was a dedicated lawman — so dedicated he lived just steps away from police headquarters in the White Plaza Hotel (originally the Hilton Hotel, now the Indigo).

The success rate of Fritz’s detectives was impressive:

The record of Fritz and the Police Department’s Homicide and Robbery Bureau — which he has led since its formation — is a nationally enviable one. Over the past quarter century, he and his aides have solved roughly 98 per cent of the 54 to 98 homicides committed each year. (Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1959)

Fritz served for almost half a century with the DPD, involved in all sorts of colorful cases, but he’ll always be most remembered for the events surrounding the JFK assassination. The photo above shows his detectives at work in the Homicide office in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination; the photo below shows him exiting the Texas School Book Depository with DPD detective Elmer Boyd (carrying rifle).



Below, a few clippings (click to see larger images).




Above photo and clippings from the Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 24, 1963

Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1959


Top photo showing a Dallas police officer standing outside the Homicide and Robbery Bureau is from a 2015 eBay listing. The reverse of the photo is stamped “Paris Match/Marie Claire.”

Photo showing Fritz walking down the steps of the Texas School Book Depository, taken on November 22, 1963 by Dallas Times Herald staff photographer William Allen. It is from the Sixth Floor Museum’s Dallas Times Herald Collection, which is hosted online by the University of North Texas Libraries, via the Portal to Texas History, here (with additional information here).

More about Capt. Will Fritz from the Handbook of Texas History, here.

Other Flashback Dallas posts related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy can be found here.

Click on photos and clippings to see larger images.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Holy Blues: Blind Willie Johnson and Arizona Dranes — 1920s


by Paula Bosse

Today a little Sunday-go-to-meetin’ music, courtesy of two powerful singers who recorded at about the same time — late 1920s — and who both spent time in Dallas. Blind Willie Johnson was from Marlin, Texas, but he recorded much of his music in Dallas and regularly played street corners in Deep Ellum. Arizona Dranes, also a native Texan, lived in Dallas for several years and was, like Johnson, blind. Listening to both of them, you can hear their influence in the gospel and blues music that came after them. Read about the short life and career of Blind Willie Johnson here. Read about the life and career of Arizona Dranes from Michael Corcoran, here and here. And listen to their music below. It’s fantastic. (All of the tracks by Johnson were recorded in Dallas.)

Blind Willie Johnson, 1927-ish?

That guitar!



Here he is with his wife singing behind him.


Johnson’s song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” was included on the Voyager Gold Record, a collection of music chosen to represent Earth’s culture and diversity, carried into space aboard the Voyager.



Arizona Dranes in 1953

That voice!


The song below starts off deceptively “plinky” but picks up considerably when Arizona starts to sing.


Want to know more about Arizona Dranes? Michael Corcoran can tell you what you need to know.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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