by Paula Bosse
I always wonder about those old, decaying buildings — sometimes they’re little more than shacks — which are somehow still standing, in areas that will probably never be gentrified. Like Samuell Boulevard, just south of Tenison Golf Course, two or three miles south of White Rock Lake. The north side of Samuell is a lovely, manicured golf course. The south side? Rough, man.
Before Samuell Blvd. was Samuell Blvd., it was known as East Pike, and it served as the highway to Terrell. This explains the large number of tourist courts and motels which dotted the road. Also, the Tenison golf course was right about at the very edge of the city limits — which explains the large number of bars, taverns, liquor stores, and other assorted dens of iniquity all clustered together at the wet/dry line (wet in Big D, dry beyond).
The local papers were full of a veritable pu pu platter of crimes and offenses committed along the East Pike, almost all of which were generally traced back to alcohol consumption. Police and city inspectors spent a lot of time in the area, called to various of these joints to handle reports of public intoxication, selling alcohol to minors, selling alcohol to those already drunk, general rowdiness, unsanitary conditions, noise, brawls, “suggestive dancing,” gambling, hold-ups, shootings, suicides, and murder.
One of those rural drinking establishments was Red’s Turnpike Open-Air Dance, which appears to have opened in 1946 in the 3700-block of Samuell (even though it didn’t have an actual street address in city directories), between the Belt railway and White Rock Creek. In1948, the tavern burned down in an early morning fire (a not-uncommon fate for these types of businesses). The Dallas Morning News reported that “firemen were hampered by a lack of fire hydrants in the vicinity and pumped water from White Rock Creek to fight the blaze” (DMN, May 3, 1948). …Wasn’t enough.
From its ashes sprang Keller’s drive-in, in 1950, in the same general spot. In a 2015 Lakewood Advocate interview, Jack Keller described the location of his first drive-in as being “the last wet spot going into East Texas, right across from hole number two” of the golf course. “We had a lot of fun down there.”
Who doesn’t love hamburgers? Keller’s probably helped the area’s reputation, as its arrival eventually ushered in a less seedy clientele than the old East Pike of the ’30s and ’40s was known for. Less riff-raff, better food.
Sources & Notes
Photo of Red’s Turnpike from the Dec. 14, 1946 issue of Texas Week magazine.
Here’s what the spot where Red’s once stood looks like now (the Keller’s location here closed in 2000):
Take a virtual look at the area on Google Street View, here.
Most images larger when clicked.
Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.