Year-End List: My Favorite Posts of 2021

kodachrome_bryan-n-ervay_1954_shorpyBryan and N. Ervay in fabulous color, 1954

by Paula Bosse

Last year I wrote this in the year’s wrap-up: “2020 is, without question, one of the worst years most of us have experienced. COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down and, for many of us, has left us mourning the loss of family, friends, and economic stability. 2021 cannot come too soon.”

Spoke too soon! COVID continues in 2021, and even though we now have vaccines to protect us, it’s still leaving carnage in its wake. And what Texan can forget the Great Freeze of February, which was unbelievable and unbelievably scary for those of us whose power and heat were inconsistent (or non-existent). And then my family had to deal with a loved one spending (so far) 4 months — a third of the year! — in hospitals and physical rehab. Things have taken their toll from every direction. Unsurprisingly, I produced fewer posts in 2021 than in any previous year, by quite a lot. I don’t want to jinx it, but let’s hope 2022 will be the year when our fortunes finally turn around!

Below are my favorite posts from the past year. I’m afraid I didn’t have the time or, in some cases, the energy or inclination, to plunge myself into research as I’ve done in previous years. But I’ll be back! Thank you, everyone, for hanging in there. We all deserve a break! Are you listening, 2022? (Pictures are larger when clicked — read the original posts by clicking the titles.)

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1.  “DOWNTOWN DALLAS IN COLOR — 1940s & 1950s” (August)

This is my favorite post of the year. I love the saturated color of Kodachrome slides, and the photos immediately above and below are just beautiful. Because I’m so used to seeing historical photos in black and white (which I love…), it’s a real shock when I see familiar sites from 70 or 80 years ago in heart-stoppingly warm and vivid color. The photo below, from 1950, shows Commerce Street looking west from Lamar. It is my single favorite photo of the year. I never knew the Dallas seen in these photographs, but, thankfully, someone memorialized this fleeting moment by simply taking a photo of a street scene in downtown Dallas. Just another day. I wish I could escape for a while into the photos included in this post.

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2.  “BLACK DALLAS — 1973” (November)

I work with the fine folks at the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection at SMU, where I do many of the things I do here: researching and writing. My involvement with the Jones Collection explains why I reference their WFAA Collection so often. Recently, footage produced by KERA-Channel 13 has been added to the daily offerings uploaded to the SMU Jones Film YouTube channel, and these clips are great. This one is my favorite: an almost-8-minute-long report titled “KERA Report on Crime in Dallas – June 1973.” What’s incredible about this footage is that it shows places in the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of South Dallas and “North” Dallas (Hall Street, State-Thomas, etc.) which were rarely documented — and many of the places shown no longer exist. I can’t tell you how excited I was to watch this footage for the first time. My resulting post is basically just a heads-up to people, alerting them to cool film footage they might want to watch, with a ton of screenshots. Even without a huge amount of effort of my part, this is still one of my favorite posts of the year.

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3.  “LINDA COFFEE, THE DALLAS ATTORNEY WHO TOOK ROE v. WADE TO THE U.S. SUPREME COURT” (September)

In my job with the Jones Collection, I have been working for several months on WFAA reports from 1970, and when I came across footage of an unidentified young woman discussing a legal case involving abortion, I asked my mother (who was heavily involved in women’s political groups in the ’70s and ’80s) if she recognized the woman, and she did — it was Linda Coffee, the (VERY!) young woman who, along with Sarah Weddington (who died this week), took their Dallas case, Roe v. Wade, to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, securing the constitutional right of women to obtain legal abortions in the United States. I became a little obsessed with Linda Coffee and began to read a lot about this important woman, wondering how she felt living in the shadow of her glamorous, flashy co-counsel, Sarah Weddington, when she (Linda) is the one who filed the case and did the important early work on it. I love this woman, and I’ve loved learning about her — not only did she change modern culture and broaden women’s rights, she also attended the same high school I did (Woodrow Wilson) and lived in a house ONE BLOCK from where I grew up. I can’t believe I had known nothing about her before seeing this Channel 8 clip. I’ve been adding to this post since I wrote it in September — there’s a second Channel 8 interview with her, from 1971, and there’s also one from just a couple of weeks ago (!) in which she discusses the present-day sad state of affairs surrounding her landmark case. She celebrated her 79th birthday on Christmas Day — Happy Belated Birthday, Linda! And thank you.

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4.  “SNIDER PLAZA & THE VARSITY THEATER — 1920s” (July)

I didn’t grow up in the Park Cities, but because of family friends and my mother’s job, I feel like I spent an inordinate amount of time wandering around both Highland Park Village and Snider Plaza as a child, the latter of which was definitely the funkier of the two. Snider Plaza looks and feels a lot different these days, and I don’t go there all that often anymore (RIP, Peggy Sue), but it’s still a place I’m always happy to visit. I love the photos in this post which show Snider Plaza in its earliest days.

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5.  “ROSS GRAVES’ CAFE: 1800 JACKSON — 1947” (May)

Some of my favorite posts have been about people who aren’t really notable figures but are, instead, “just folks” — like Ross Graves, an entrepreneur who owned several businesses, including a cafe on the edge of downtown and a night club. He was something of a bon vivant, and his exploits made the society/gossip pages of prominent Black newspapers (another fascinating bit of history too often overlooked). I loved this.

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6.  “SMU CAMPUS, AN AERIAL VIEW FROM THE NORTH — 1940s” (April)

I had never seen this aerial view of the SMU campus, which was taken by ace photog Squire Haskins with a view toward the south (Hillcrest is at the right). It’s great. As is the second photo with a similar view from a few years later, suggested by a reader. I zoomed in on interesting bits of the Haskins photo, including “Trailerville,” temporary men’s dormitories, and a Texas National Guard Armory (later the site of Mrs. Baird’s Bread).

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7.  “SIMMS SUPER SERVICE STATION, CEDAR SPRINGS & MAPLE — 1930” (October)

Such an incredible photo of a cool building which once stood on land now occupied by the Crescent, at Maple and Cedar Springs. More zooming-in is involved. I’m definitely a sucker for old gas stations.

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8.  “GENE de JEAN LIFTS A CURSE ON DALLAS — 1970” (November)

Another gem from the WFAA archives concerns a “warlock”/prankster who appears on Commerce Street to remove a curse he says was placed on the city in 1963. He’s seen doing his curse-lifting thing, blessing a few confused bystanders, and departing in a velvet-covered Cadillac. This is the sort of thing I live for.

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9.  “SNIDER PLAZA SAFEWAY: HILLCREST & LOVERS — 1930s” (June)

More Snider Plaza. Imagine the whole shopping area looking like this building. Heaven! I love to see old photos of grocery stores, even when the interiors look a little disappointing. But if you love stacks of canned food, these photos are for you! You never know what you’ll stumble across on eBay.

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10.  “LUTHERAN MINISTERS VISIT DALLAS — 1911” (April)

I love learning about a stranger’s life story simply because I’ve stumbled across a random photo on eBay. After seeing this postcard and poking around doing a little research, armed with only the info gleaned from the message, I ended up getting to know the man who sent this long-forgotten 110-year-old card to his sweetheart. There’s also a very nice photo of an open “touring trolley.” Win-win.

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And, a bonus favorite: “DALLAS BOOK SCENE — 1940s” (May)

A look at the top bookstores in Dallas in the 1940s.

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There ends my Top 10 (plus 1) list of personal favorite posts for 2021. Tomorrow… the most popular posts of the year.

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Sources & Notes

See all three 2021 Year-End “best of” lists (as they’re posted) here.

See all Flashback Dallas Year-End lists — past and present — here.

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.