A Gaston Avenue Plumbing Company, Its Windmill, and a Water-Whooshing Neon Sign

gaston-ave_strip-shopping_colteraConsumers Plumbing Co., Gaston and Hall

by Paula Bosse

A few years ago I came across this photo, showing the 3200 block of Gaston Avenue, just west of Hall. At the time I was more concerned with whether the deco-esque building still stood (it does not) that, somehow, I don’t think I even noticed the windmill (!). I know I didn’t notice that absolutely fantastic sign at the right, which I only hope was an animated neon sign with water whooshing from a faucet and then bubbling up at the bottom.

The business seen here is a plumbing supply business referred to over the years as both Consumers Supply & Plumbing Co. and as Consumers Plumbing Supply Co. It began in Dallas in 1924 when Sam Glickman opened a location on Main Street; two years later, the company incorporated, with two locations — one in Dallas and one in Fort Worth: the incorporators were Glickman and his wife, Minnie, and Morris Strauss and his wife, Josephine.

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July, 1924 (click for larger image)

In these early years, an incident in July, 1927 involving partner Morris Strauss (who ran the Fort Worth store) led to a highly publicized trial which garnered front-page coverage. Morris was abducted from his house late one night by several men, some of whom may have been wearing masks (which, on its own, was illegal, per the anti-mask law), had a hood placed over his head, and was driven to a deserted country road where he was beaten and flogged with a whip or rope and a tree limb. He was left bloodied, in his robe and pajamas, with a warning that the same fate awaited his partner, Glickman, in Dallas.

Newspaper reports suggested that the masked “floggers” were affiliated with a plumbers’ organization whose members were reportedly unhappy with what they thought was shoddy work and low-ball bidding on city projects by Consumers Plumbing. There was huge interest in the ensuing trial of one of the men implicated in the beating, a former FW police detective with ties to the Ku Klux Klan, but the trial ended anti-climactically in a hung jury. In 1990, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article (“KKK Links Lurk In Tarrant Past” by Hollace Wiener, FWST, Feb. 25, 1990) noted that this incident was precipitated not so much by the fact that Strauss was outselling the competition, but, more importantly, it was because he was Jewish (both Strauss and Glickman were Russian-Jewish immigrants). Not only did the defendant have Klan connections, so did the judge (and probably several members of the jury). Strauss had been granted permission by the city manager to carry a firearm for his protection, and as far as I can tell, there were no further attacks. But the Fort Worth branch of Consumers Plumbing did not make it into the 1930s, and Mr. Strauss appears to have left town.

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Detroit Free Press, Oct. 1, 1927

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Samuel G. Glickman (1898-1967) was born in Russia and, as a boy, immigrated with his family to the United States, settling in New Orleans. He initially trained as a telegraph operator but eventually became a plumber and moved to Dallas to set up his own retail/wholesale plumbing company, offering plumbing services and selling supplies and fixtures.

In 1934 or 1935, he moved into a large building in Old East Dallas at 3207-3211 Gaston, next to the 1890s-era Engine Co. No. 3 firehouse (which stood immediately east of Consumers Plumbing, at the corner of Hall, until about 1963). The building had a second floor, where Glickman lived for a time. In fact, he was sleeping there when a huge early-morning 4-alarm fire broke out in the half-block-long building in January, 1949. Despite being right next door to a fire station, the building was gutted. Glickman rebuilt. And the new building (seen at the top) and THAT SIGN were pretty cool. (All images are larger when clicked.)

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Jan., 1949

consumers-plumbing_gaston_100249Oct., 1949

consumers-plumbing_gaston_oct-1949Oct., 1949

And because everything — no matter how obscure — seems to end up on the internet — here are a couple of random photos from a 1959 Volkswagen trade publication, showing Consumers workers loading plumbing-related things onto the back of a VW pick-up — some copywriter was no doubt ecstatic to have the opportunity to use “Everything goes in, including the kitchen sink!”

consumers_VW-truck_1959

consumers_vw_1959_thesambadotcom_1via TheSamba.com

At some point the Eveready Supply Co. (another of Glickman’s businesses) joined Consumers in the same block. Glickman died in 1967, and the businesses either moved or closed in the 1970s. The building is, unfortunately, long gone, and that block of Gaston is just one of … EVERY SINGLE BLOCK IN THAT AREA which seems to have been swallowed up by the gargantuan, ravenous, real-estate-gobbling machine known as Baylor Hospital (or whatever it’s called these days).

God, I wish I’d seen that neon faucet sign.

Oh, and the windmill? Aside from being an attention-grabber to passersby, Consumers also sold farm and ranch supplies.

consumers-plumbing_gaston_oct-1947
Oct., 1947

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Sources & Notes

Top color photo is from a postcard found several years ago on a Flickr page of superstar user “Coltera,” here.

I love neon signs, and Dallas used to have them everywhere. I haven’t seen another sign with quite this same water-whooshing-out-of-a-faucet design, but the one seen in this video is similar (but not as good!). Dripping faucets are popular — like this one. A great page featuring eccentric vintage neon signs of plumbing establishments is here.

And only because one of those Volkswagen trucks is featured prominently in a previous Flashback Dallas post, check out the floating VW pick-up bobbing along a flooded 4600-block of Gaston (mere blocks from Consumers Plumbing), here. And — why not? — a Clarence Talley Volkswagen ad from 1961 can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.