Liquor Doctors Prescribe “Beer by the Case — All You Want”

by Paula Bosse

liquor-doctors_neon-sign_dmn-video_1939

by Paula Bosse

If you have an interest in the Dallas of yesterday, you’ve probably seen the great color film footage shot in downtown in 1939, presented to us by Robert Wilonsky of The Dallas Morning News (link below). One of my favorite things from that wonderful footage is a neon sign for a business called Liquor Doctors, with “Good & Bad Liquors” below it. That would be good enough on its own, but it’s even better as seen in the film, because the “Good” and the “Bad” flash back and forth. Great.

Liquor Doctors (what a great name) seems to have started in late 1937 and eventually had at least three locations: 509 Jackson St., Commerce & Houston, and Cedar Springs & Harwood. Info is limited on these stores — I found a classified ad looking for “salesladies” for the Jackson St. store (“must be over 21”) and a report of a hold-up at the Commerce St. location (the manager was forced, at gun point, to turn over $41.86 from the cash register). Not that interesting. Until I found this tidbit from the great-granddaughter of the owner, describing the utterly ridiculous (and thoroughly entertaining) operating procedure of the Cedar Springs location:

“Later he opened another Liquor Doctors on Cedar Springs that offered curbside service. The employees, dressed as doctors and nurses, would stroll out to the cars and dispense ‘medicine’ six days a week.”

Depending on your threshold for silliness, this is either clever or hokey. (I vote “clever.”)

For some reason the owner changed the name of the business (but why?!), and the next incarnation was simply his name, “Bob Ablin” (where, thankfully, you could still get “good and bad liquors”). I think he might have sold the liquor businesses and opened a soda fountain on Cedar Springs, a venture that lasted until January of 1948.

Below is an ad placed during a WWII whiskey shortage. There was a strict limit of one bottle per person. But beer? Until the cows came home. Bob sounds like a fun guy.

liquor-doctors_dmn_011244

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Screen capture of the Liquor Doctors flashing neon sign from the really wonderful 1939 film footage purchased from Ebay by Robert Wilonsky (of The Dallas Morning News) and several others who joined together to share a cool slice of the city’s history with us. Watch the video and read Wilonsky’s Dallas Morning News article from April 23, 2014 here.

Quote about the Cedar Springs costumed curb service from the essay “Old Testament” — about growing up Jewish in Dallas — by Megan Giller-Dupe, Bob’s great-granddaughter. You can find the essay in Texas Monthly (June 2010), here. It includes a nice photo of Bob.

Bob Ablin ad from the DMN, Jan. 12, 1944.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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