The Store That Doak Built

by Paula Bosse

doak-walker-sport-center

by Paula Bosse

Doak Walker, the Heisman-winning superstar football player for SMU from 1945 to 1949, was, for a good forty-odd years, a partner in a successful sporting goods business that bore his name: the Doak Walker Sports Center. When it opened in Highland Park Village on August 23, 1951, the 24-year old — then playing pro ball with the Detroit Lions — was a bona fide celebrity, both locally and nationally. Predictably, the grand opening drew large crowds of sports fans eager to see their homegrown hero and check out the new place in town to get tennis balls and baseball bats (and, who knows, there might even have been some who showed up to see those unnamed Lions teammates the ads said he’d bring with him). The promise of “souvenirs for everyone!” was merely icing on the cake.

At the same time that the Sports Center was opening, Doak’s name was also on a Gulf station that he and former Mustangs teammate Raleigh Blakely owned on Hillcrest across from the SMU campus. And while both of those business concerns were chugging along, he was also appearing in local and national ads for everything from chewing gum to Vitalis (with a name like “Doak” you’re going to have instant name recognition). Oh, and he was also playing football. Doak Walker was a force to be reckoned with — on the field, on Madison Avenue, and in the dang Park Cities.

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Postcard of Doak Walker Sports Center from the Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection on Flickr, here.

Dallas Morning News article from Aug. 19, 1951; grand opening ad from Aug. 23, 1951. (Walker’s partner — the guy who really ran the place — was Dub Boyer. Imagine a store in Highland Park Village these days run by a couple of guys named “Dub” and “Doak.”)

Life magazine from Sept. 27, 1948. The cover story on Doak Walker and the SMU team can be accessed here.

Signed issued of Sport magazine is currently available for sale here.

Triangle Motors ad from a 1951 program for an SMU-Rice game at the Cotton Bowl.

Doak Walker bio on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website is here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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