Year-End List! My Favorite Posts of 2016

by Paula Bosse

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by Paula Bosse

As 2016 winds down, it’s time to take a look back. Below are some of my favorite Flashback Dallas posts from the past year. I tend to get lost in the sheer joy of researching things, and, inevitably, I discover ten other interesting, unrelated things while wading through newspaper articles and city directories. I can truthfully say I’m never bored. So here is a sampling of the 220-or-so posts I wrote this year which I particularly enjoying researching and writing. (To see the original full-length posts, click the titles.)

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1. THE BLUE  HOUSE ON BROWDER

In January, the house seen above was in the news because it was in the crosshairs of a bulldozer (if a bulldozer had crosshairs). What was one of the last remaining 19th-century houses in The Cedars area was slated to be torn down in order to make way for a parking lot. I first read about the outcry from preservationists in Robert Wilonsky’s Dallas Morning News reports. There wasn’t a lot of historical information about the house, so I set out to see if I could find out when and by whom the house was built. And I think I did (in short, 1885-ish, by Max Rosenfield). I don’t know if my research had any role at all in helping to save the house, but last I heard, the house was to be moved from its original spot to a new place nearby. I just checked Google Street View (here) and, as of July, 2016, the house was still there. I haven’t been down to the area since this all erupted — was it ever moved?

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I tackled the research as a big puzzle, and it shows how much research one can do without ever leaving home. It was a marathon research project, and after hours and hours of working to figure the puzzle out, I sent a message to Robert Wilonsky at 4:58 a.m., and he passed the info on to his readers. This kind of historical detective work can be a lot of fun.

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2. BELMONT & GREENVILLE: FROM CARUTH FARMLAND TO HUB OF LOWER GREENVILLE

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A look at everything that has ever occupied one Lower Greenville block, from a Caruth family homestead, to Miss Hockaday’s School for Girls, to a swingin’ ’60s apartment complex, to a retirement community, to an empty lot that’s been waiting for development for a surprisingly long time.

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3. DALLAS FIRE STATIONS — 1901

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A collection of absolutely WONDERFUL photographs of Dallas’ turn-of-the-century firehouses.

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4. BEAUTIFUL SOUTH ERVAY STREET — ca. 1910

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Postcard proof that the area south of downtown was once a fashionable and desirable part of town in which to live. Read it and weep.

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5. “DELUSIONS OF AFFABILITY” — MARIJUANA IN 1930s DALLAS

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Yep, that’s right. Wrote about weed.

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6. UNDER THE PAW OF THE TIGER: TAKING THE COCAINE, MORPHINE, AND OPIUM “CURE” — 1890s

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I’m sensing a theme here. Speaking of illicit substances, Dallas had a big cocaine problem in the 1890s — find out where addicts went to take the cure.

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7. ZAP THOSE EXTRA POUNDS AWAY IN MRS. RODGERS’ ELECTRIC CHAIR — 1921

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I don’t know why I enjoyed writing this one so much. But I did.

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8. THOMAS MARSALIS’ SPECTACULAR OAK CLIFF HOTEL: 1890-1945

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Marsalis’ hotel was an immense show-stopper. How is it possible that it stood until 1945, only to be replaced by a Southwestern Bell building?

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9. HOW DALLAS USED TO GET ELECTION RETURNS

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I loved this one. And I finally found the photo I had searched for forEVER — a photo showing a crowd looking up to the unseen magic screen of returns. I’ve just added it as the lead photo. Closure!

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10. COLD SMUT: HENRY MILLER’S “TROPIC OF CANCER” BANNED IN DALLAS — 1961

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In 1961 it was illegal for booksellers in Dallas (and Boston) to sell a copy of Henry Miller’s notorious book, which was originally published in 1934. I didn’t know about this until I ran across a sarcastically amusing Letter to the Editor, written by my father, a bookseller, in the Dallas Morning News archives.

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11. GIRLS SOFTBALL IN DALLAS, HUGELY POPULAR

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I have no real interest in sports, but each time I’ve written about sports I’ve enjoyed it. I had no idea how popular amateur girls’ softball was in Dallas in the late 1930s and early 1940s — so popular that attendance to those games was putting a dent in attendance at the professional (men’s) games. Best thing about this story? The names of some of the star players — names like Tinker Tarker, Mutt McFanning, and Pud Adams.

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12. PRESTON STURGES: CAMP DICK’S MOST FAMOUS FORMER CADET? — 1918

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I love the witty and fast-paced movies of writer-director Preston Sturges (“The Lady Eve,” “The Palm Beach Story,” “Sullivan’s Travels,” etc.). Who knew he had spent some very sweaty days at the WWI aviation boot camp at Fair Park. He wrote about his brief time in Dallas in his memoirs — this is my favorite line: “Nights we would climb up the shaky apex of the large roller coaster in the corner of the fairgrounds to try to find a breeze.”

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13. THE JEFFERSON HOTEL AND ITS “WIRELESS TELEGRAPH” ROOFTOP TOWER — 1921

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I had planned merely to post a great photo taken from Union Station showing Houston Street and the Jefferson Hotel — and then I noticed a tower on top of the hotel and wondered what it was. And so I dug in, and it was unexpectedly interesting!

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14. THE UNION DEPOT HOTEL BUILDING, DEEP ELLUM — 1898-1968

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A couple of years ago I ran across an interesting article about an old depot-adjacent hotel and wanted to write about it, but I could never find any mention of it anywhere. Eventually I realized the article had the hotel’s name wrong and decided to find out more about the real hotel which stood across from the once-crazy-busy Union Depot in the area we now call Deep Ellum. The man who built the hotel was … large. Over 400 pounds. And because of him, I now know that Dallas had a popular Fat Men’s Club.

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15. THE GATEWAY TO JUNIUS HEIGHTS

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I’m sure I’ve seen the two large East Dallas pillars which now stand across from each other on Abrams, near the Lakewood Library where I spent big chunks of my childhood, but I knew absolutely nothing about them until I decided to see why they existed in the first place: they were the entrance to the new “Top O’ Junius Heights” development. I’ve added several new images, including a great early photo from a 1909 real estate ad.

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Runners-Up!

1. MURIEL WINDHAM — AN OAK CLIFF TEENAGER’S 1940s DIARY

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Muriel was a precocious teenager, obsessed with movies and Bob Hope, and her diary — transcribed by her son — is wonderful. I’ve read through the entire thing twice. There are occasional references to her Oak Cliff neighborhood and Dallas happenings, but it’s more of a cozy look at a time which I wish I had experienced. Muriel’s writing is the best thing about this. I attempted to flesh out her later life a bit, but the star is Muriel all the way.

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2. BONNIE PARKER: “BURIED IN AN ICE-BLUE NEGLIGEE” — 1934

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My first sentence pretty much sums it up: “This amazing (and amazingly gruesome) first-hand account of an unnamed McKamy-Campbell Funeral Home undertaker details the incredible amount of work required to prepare the bullet-ridden body of celebrity outlaw Bonnie Parker for burial.” It’ll widen some eyes and raise some eyebrows.

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3. HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT: A PHOTO HISTORY OF DALLAS’ GAY BARS OF THE 1970s

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I wrote about Dallas’ gay-bar-scene for the online Dallas publication Central Track, using many photos from the early 1970s. These photos show the exteriors of clubs and bars which were meeting places for LGBT Dallasites at a time when being gay was either illegal, dangerous, or just widely frowned-upon. I would guess that many of the photos are the only documentation of these places (and many of these neighborhoods are now gone). Not a Flashback Dallas post, per se, but close enough. I really enjoyed researching and writing about an under-reported part of Dallas culture and history. (And, hey! It was one of Central Track’s 15 Most Read Stories of 2016!)

A related post — GENE’S MUSIC BAR, THE LASSO BAR, AND THE ZOO BAR — was also fun to write. Both of these articles have great photos.

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More ahead in 2017! Thanks for reading!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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