Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1930s

The State Fair of Texas Over the Decades

state-fair-of-tx_midway_kodachrome_1961_ebaySFOT midway, 1961… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The history of the State Fair of Texas is also the history of Dallas — if you live in Dallas, you know a lot about the fair, if only by osmosis. Here are a few images from the decades since the fair began in 1886.

Below, from 1889, a sedate advertisement for the Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition (from The Immigrant’s Guide to Texas, 1889). (All images are larger when clicked.)

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A great-looking poster from 1890, colorful and exciting:

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A midway in its infancy, in the aughts. (I wrote about the “The Chute” water ride, here.)

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Here’s a group photo showing the food vendors at the 1910 fair. No corny dogs in 1910, but plenty of candy, peanuts, popcorn, ice cream, and, sure, why not, cigars and tobacco.

state-fair-concessionaires_1910_cook-colln_degolyervia George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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In the 1920s, Fair Park looked a lot smaller:

fair-park_mcafee_degolyer_SMU_ca-1920s
via George A. McAfee Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

Here’s a handy 1922 map of the grounds, from the fine folks at Caterpillar (don’t miss those tractors!) — you can see where the people in the photo above are walking.

state-fair-map_caterpillar_ad_1922

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If it’s 1936, it’s gotta be the Texas Centennial — and here’s an exhibit I’d never heard of: Jerusalem, The Holy City. This was one of many exhibits at the Texas Centennial previously seen at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, where it apparently had attracted more than one million visitors. In the weeks leading up to the Centennial’s opening, it was described thusly: “The Holy City will contain a collection of religious artworks and other material. The entrance will represent the Damascus gate of Jerusalem. No admission will be charged but donations will be asked visitors” (Dallas Morning News, May 17, 1936).

tx-centennial_jerusalem-the-holy-city_postcard

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The State Fair of Texas was not held during much of World War II, but it was back in 1946, with Tommy Dorsey, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Jackie Gleason.

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Sept., 1946

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Neiman-Marcus was at-the-ready in 1950 with suggestions on stylish footwear for ladies wanting to trudge around the Fair Park midway in heels.

For the Million-Dollar Midway — For taking in this famous “main drag” of the State Fair — get into our famous-maker midway heel shoes. Most everybody — after walking a block or two in them — says they’re worth a million! Have all the comfort of low heels, plus the high-heel’s way of making your ankles look prettier.

sfot-neiman-marcus_ad_101650October, 1950

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The 1960s were certainly colorful, and this is a great color photo from 1961 (currently available on eBay as a 35mm Kodachrome slide) — it’s the photo at the top of this post, but in order to cut down on unnecessary scrolling, I’ll slide it in again right here:

state-fair-of-tx_midway_kodachrome_1961_ebay

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The 1970s was a weird decade, and what better way to start off a weird decade than with 80-something-year-old oil tycoon (and eccentric Dallas resident) H. L. Hunt handing out cosmetics at a booth at the State Fair? Hunt — whom Frank X. Tolbert described as “probably the world’s only billionaire health freak” — manufactured a line of cosmetics and other products containing aloe vera, the wonder elixir. Imagine seeing the world’s richest man handing out plastic goodie-bags to awe-struck passersby. Like I said, weird.

h-l-hunt_state-fair_1971

hunt_state-fair_pomona-progress-bulletin_CA_111471Pomona (CA) Progress-Bulletin, Nov. 14, 1971 (click to read)

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And, finally, the 1980s. A century after the State Fair of Texas began, the X-Men came to Big D to do whatever it is they do — and The Dallas Times Herald got a cool little advertising supplement out of it. (If this appeals to you, check out when Captain Marvel came to Dallas in 1944, here, and when Spider-Man came to Dallas in 1983, here.)

sfot_xmen_comic-book_1983

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Sources & Notes

Sources (if known) are noted.

All images are larger when clicked.

I wrote a similar State-Fair-of-Texas-through-the-ages post a few years ago: “So Sorry, Bill, But Albert Is Taking Me to the State Fair of Texas,” here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Prepping for the 1932 State Fair of Texas Midway

state-fair-of-texas_1932_gimarcBackstage” at the SFOT… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

We usually see photos of the State Fair of Texas as the fair is underway, with everything already built, assembled, painted, and manned. But what happens before the gates open each year? Here’s a great photo (from pack rat George Gimarc, of Dallas dj fame) showing what things looked like in 1932 as workers prepped midway attractions for the fair’s opening. Let’s zoom in and look at a few details (all images are larger when clicked).

sfot_1932_gimarc_det-3Axle problem?

sfot_1932_jungle-killers-det_gimarc“ALIVE. Jungle Killers from the Wilds of Sumatra.” And someone — or some creature — named “Big Ben.”

sfot_1932_beckman-gerety-det_gimarcAbove, in the background at the right you can see a partial sign for Beckman & Gerety, providers of midway entertainment for fairs and carnivals around the country. (I don’t  know who these two men are, but they do not appear to be Fred Beckman and Barney Gerety, who can be seen here.)

When George Gimarc sent me this photo, he also sent me images of the State Fair of Texas envelope he found it in (see the envelope here). Below are details from the front and back.

sfot_1932_envelope_logo_gimarc

sfot_1932_envelope_back_det_gimarc

“Alice Joy in ‘Dream Girl Follies’ with Henry Santrey’s Band in the Auditorium.” Alice Joy was fresh from two years as NBC’s “radio dream girl” and was the namesake-headliner of this spectacular three-and-a-half-hour revue at the Music Hall which featured a bevy of chorus girls, acts-a-plenty, and “hot jazz novelties.” 4,000 people witnessed the show’s opening night. Probably gave those jungle killers from the wilds of the Sumatra a run for their money.

There was a lot going on at the 1932 State Fair of Texas. Check out this (comprehensive) ad from the opening weekend (click it!). Cars! Football! Alligator wrestling! Hoot Gibson’s Rodeo (“famous outlaw broncs”)! An aviation show! Everything!

sfot-1932_oct-9-1932_adOct. 9, 1932 (click to see large image)

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Sources  & Notes

Photo and color images from the collection of George Gimarc, used with permission (thank you, George!).

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Oak Cliff: “A City Within a City” — 1929

oak-cliff-city-within-a-city_cover_ca-1929_SMU

by Paula Bosse

Publications like Oak Cliff, A City Within a City (“Stop and Shop — Buy it from your neighbors!”) are wonderful glimpses into a city’s proud self-promotion. This little booklet is for the newcomer to Oak Cliff — to show that it is its own self-contained community, full of friendly, neighborhood businesses; even better, each ad is accompanied by a photograph. Though undated, the photo of the famed Cliff Queen movie theater features movies released in 1929. (All photos are larger when clicked.)

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CLIFF QUEEN THEATRE (L. L. Dunbar, proprietor), 616 E. Jefferson. On the marquee: “South Sea Rose,” starring Charles Bickford and Lenore Ulric (1929). Talking pictures — “clean entertainment” for the whole family.

cliff-queen-theater_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

cliff-queen-theater_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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BARRETT’S CLEANERS (E. B. Tipton, prop.), 607 E. Jefferson (building still stands, here). “We clean everything but a guilty conscience.”

barretts-cleaners_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

barretts-cleaners_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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OAK CLIFF BANK & TRUST (aka Jefferson Bank & Trust), 106-108 W. Jefferson (with the Texas State Mutual Life Insurance Co. upstairs). “Plenty of parking space.”

oak-cliff-bank-and-trust_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

oak-cliff-bank-and-trust_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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CAMERON MAN SHOP (prop. C. C. Cameron), 115 W. Jefferson. Stop in and say howdy to “Oak Cliff’s dress-up man.”

camerons-mans-shop_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

camerons-mans-shop_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca_1929_SMU

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LAKESIDE LAUNDRY & CLEANING CO., 1454 N. Zang (at Marsalis). “Let the biggest washwoman in Oak Cliff do your laundry.”

lakeside-laundry_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

lakeside-laundry_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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H. BOEDEKER & SONS, Grocery and Hardware (Huber Boedeker, Oscar Boedeker, and W. C. Boedeker), 113 N. Lancaster. “The store complete.”

boedeker_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

boedeker_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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LAMAR & SMITH, Funeral Directors and Ambulance Service, 800 W. Jefferson. “Keep Oak Cliff safe!” (…or there will be unfortunate consequences you will be calling us to deal with).

lamar-and-smith_ambulance_funeral-directors_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

lamar-and-smith_ambulance_funeral-directors_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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RICK FURNITURE CO. (Louis F. Rick, prop.), 418 N. Bishop. “More than 50 years in Dallas.”

rick-furniture_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

rick-furniture_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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OAK CLIFF PHARMACY, various locations. “Candy, soda, cigars, sick-room supplies.”

oak-cliff-pharmacy_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

oak-cliff-pharmacy_ad_OC-city-within-a-city__ca-1929_SMU

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SKINNIE & JIMMIE SERVICE STATION, W. Jefferson and Madison (northeast corner). A free grease job awaits the coupon-bearing newcomer.

skinnie-and-jimmie_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

skinnie-and-jimmie_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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OAK CLIFF ICE DELIVERY CO., 1027 S. Beckley (building may still be standing, here). “We help to make Oak Cliff a cooler place.”

oak-cliff-ice_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

oak-cliff-ice_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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KIDD SPRINGS, 715 W. Canty (see the amusement area on a 1922 Sanborn map, here). “Where Dallas plays.”

kidd-springs_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

kidd-springs_ad_OC-city-within-a-city_ca-1929_SMU

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Sources & Notes

“Oak Cliff, A City Within a City,” published by The Welcome Wagon, Dallas, ca. 1929, is from the collection of the DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information may be accessed here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Elm & Akard, Photographer J. C. Deane, and The Crash at Crush

elm-and-akard_george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUYessirree! Elm & Akard, 1936/1937… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

One of the best collections of historical Dallas photos — and certainly one of the easiest to access online — can be found in SMU’s DeGolyer Library. I can’t say enough good things about the astounding quality of their vast collection or the willingness to make large scans of their photos available online, free to share, without watermarks (higher resolution images are available for a fee, for publication, etc.). I love you, DeGolyer Library (and all the people and entities behind your impressive digitization process)!

When going through recently uploaded photos, I came across three showing the same intersection in three different decades: the southeast corner of Elm and Akard streets (now the 1500 block). The building appears to be the same in each of the photos, and that is interesting in itself — but I was excited to find a connection in one of them to one of my favorite weird Texas historical events.

And that is the photo below. It’s a cool photo — there’s some sort of parade underway, but it’s weird to say I didn’t even really notice that right away — there’s so much else to look at. This is Elm street looking toward the east (or, I guess, the southeast). The photographer is just west of Akard Street. At the bottom left of the photo is the United States Coffee & Tea Co. (which I wrote about here); in the background at the right is the Praetorian Building on Main; and just left of center is the Wilson Building addition under construction (which dates this photo to 1911). But the building that interested me the most is the one at the bottom right, the one at the southeast corner of Elm and Akard. I noticed “Deane’s Photo Studio” on the exterior of the upper part of the building. I recognized the name, having seen it on various Dallas portraits over the years, but now I realize there were two photographers named Deane in Dallas in the first half of the 20th century: Granville M. Deane (who had a longer career here) and his brother, Jervis C. Deane — J. C. Deane was the photographer who occupied the upper-floor studio at 334 Elm (later 1502 Elm) between 1906 and 1911. His studio was above T. J. Britton’s drugstore.

elm-east-from-akard_deane-photography_ca1912_degolyer_SMUElm Street, looking east from Akard, 1911  (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

J. C. Deane (born in Virginia in 1860) worked as an award-winning photographer around Texas, based for much of his career in Waco. He was in Dallas only a decade or so, leaving around 1911, after a divorce, noting in ads that he had to sell his business as he was “sick in sanitarium.” After leaving Dallas he bounced around Texas, working as a studio photographer in cities such as Waco and San Antonio. I have been unable to find any information on his death.

The reason that J. C. Deane holds a place in the annals of weird Texas history? He was one of the photographers commissioned to photograph the supremely bizarre publicity stunt now known as The Crash at Crush, wherein a crowd upwards of 30,000 people gathered in the middle of nowhere, near the tiny town of West, Texas, in September, 1896, to watch the planned head-on collision of two locomotives (read more about this here). Long story short: things did not go as planned, and several people were injured (a couple were killed) when locomotive shrapnel shot into the crowd — one of those badly injured was J. C. Deane who was on a special platform with other photographers. For the sake of the squeamish, I will refrain from the details, but Deane lost his right eye and was apparently known affectionately thereafter as “One Eye Deane.” (For those of you not squeamish, I invite you to read all the gory details, related by Deane’s wife, in an interview with The Dallas Morning News which appeared on October 1, 1896, here.) The photos below are generally credited to Deane, back when he was just good ol’ happy-go-lucky “Two-Eye Jervis.” (All these photos are larger when clicked.)

deane_crash-at-crush_1_austin-american-statesman_091662Before…

deane_crash-at-crush_2_austin-american-statesman_091662During…

deane_crash-at-crush_3_austin-american-statesman_091662And after…

I’ve been fascinated by the Crash at Crush ever since I heard about it several years ago, and now I know there’s a Dallas connection — and there’s even a photo of the building where he worked.

Back to Elm Street.

The photo at the top…. Here it is again so you don’t have to scroll all the way back up:

elm-and-akard_george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUSoutheast corner of Elm & Akard, 1937/1937  (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

What the heck kind of craziness is this?! I mean I LOVE it, but… it’s very… unusual. I would absolutely never have guessed that this building had been in downtown Dallas. And it appears to be the same building seen in the 1911 photo, just with a very fashion-forward new face. Those little hexagonal windows! Along with that fabulous B & G Hosiery sign, there was a nice little bit of art deco oddness sitting there at the corner of Elm and Akard. The Kirby Building, seen at the far right, seems like a creaky older statesman compared to this overly enthusiastic teenager. The businesses seen here — Ellan’s hat shop, B & G Hosiery, and Berwald’s — were at this corner together only in 1936 and 1937. I could find nothing about this very modern facelift — if anyone knows who the architect is behind this, please let me know! (See a postcard which features a tiny bit of this fabulous building here — if the colors are correct, the building was green and white.)

In November, 1941, Elm Street’s Theater Row welcomed a new occupant, the Telenews theater, which showed only newsreels and short documentaries. By that time the A. Harris Co. had purchased the building at the southeast corner of Elm and Akard and expanded into its upper floors. Telenews opened at the end of 1941 and Linen Palace was gone from this Elm Street location by 1943, dating this photo to 1941 or 1942.

theater-row_by-george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUElm Street, 1941/1942  (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

All of these are such great photos. Thanks for making them available to us, SMU!

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Sources & Notes

The three Dallas photos are from the George A. McAfee collection of photographs at the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University — some of the photos in this large and wonderful collection were taken by McAfee, some were merely photos he had personally collected. The top photo (taken by McAfee) is listed on the SMU database with the title “[Looking Southeast, Corner of Elm and Akard, Kirby Building at Right]” — more info on this photo is here. The second photo, “[Looking East on Elm West of Akard / Praetorian Building (Main at Stone) Upper Right Center]” is not attributed to a specific photographer; this photo is listed twice in the SMU database, here and here. The third photo, “[Looking East on Elm from Akard on “Theatre Row” (Including on North Side on Elm from Left to Right — Telenews, Capitol, Rialto, Palace, Tower, Melba and Majestic],” appears to have been taken by McAfee, and it, too, appears twice in the online digital database, here and here.

The three photos from the “Crash at Crush” event are attributed to Jervis C. Deane, and were taken on September 15, 1896 along the MKT railroad line between West and Waco; the images seen above appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on Sept. 16, 1962. More on the Crash at Crush from Wikipedia, here — there is a photo there of the historical marker and, sadly, Jervis Deane’s name is misspelled. Sorry, Jervis!

Read the Dallas Morning News story of the train collision aftermath in the exciting article lumberingly titled “CRUSH COLLISION: The Force of the Blow and Damage Done. Boilers Exploded with Terrific Force, Scattering Fragments of the Wreckage Over a Large Area. The Showers of Missiles Fell on the Photographer’s Platform Almost as Thick as Hail – Description of the Scene,” here.

The southeast corner of Elm and Akard is currently home to a 7-Eleven topped by an exceedingly unattractive parking garage — see the corner on Google Street View here.

There is a handy Flashback Dallas post which has TONS of photos of Akard Street, several of which have this building in it: check out the post “Akard Street Looking South, 1887-2015,” here.

All photos larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Sam Ventura’s Italian Village, Oak Lawn

italian-village_photo-holder_PEB

by Paula Bosse

In amongst photos and belongings of my mother’s aunt, I recently came across this wonderful graphic of Oak Lawn’s Italian Village (3211 Oak Lawn, at Hall). It was on the cover of one of those cardboard photo holders which contained photos of diners and club-goers captured by photographers wanting to capture celebrants’ special occasions — they would take your photo and you would later purchase prints, which would be tucked inside the souvenir folder. (I don’t recognize any of the people in the photo which was  inside — the photo is here.)

The Italian Village complex (which contained all its various tangential enterprises over he years) was an Oak Lawn fixture for over 45 years — it was apparently still around during my lifetime, but I have no memory of ever seeing it. But by the time I would have been aware of it, things had begun to get a little weird and its profile had definitely dipped. (More on that later.)

Italian Village began its life in 1934 when Sam Ventura (1907-1997) bought a popular drive-in restaurant in Oak Lawn from a man named Levi F. “Speck” Harper. In Ventura’s obituary in The Dallas Morning News, his wife said: “He bought it from a man named Speck Harper who told him, ‘Give me $250 and my hat, and you’ll never see me again.’ Sam had to go and borrow the money.” (DMN, June 1, 1997) ($250 in today’s money would be about $4,700.)

speck-harper_july-1934July, 1934

Not only did $250 start Ventura on a very successful career as a restaurateur, it also assured him ownership of what would quickly become a primo piece of real estate. (Ventura dabbled in real estate and, in 1937, along with fellow restaurant man Sam Lobello, he purchased land at Preston Road and Northwest Highway which would one day become Preston Center.) (It might be worth noting here that Sam Ventura was not affiliated with the very popular Sammy’s restaurants, run by Dallas’ Messina family.)

italian-village_matchbook_front_ebay        italian-village_matchbook_back_ebay
Matchbook, via eBay

Italian Village — a restaurant which operated for many years as a private club in order to sell liquor — was originally co-owned by brothers-in-law Sam Ventura and Nick DeGeorge (DeGeorge was later married to Ventura’s sister Lucille). By the time the ad below appeared in 1939, the place had been newly remodeled and was on its ninth (!) expansion. There were lots of new “rooms”: the Can-Can Room, the Plaid Room, the Hunter’s Room, the Gazelle Room, and the Marionette Room, the latter of which featured entertainment in the form of a marionette show with puppets made in likenesses of the owners. (All images are larger when clicked.)

1939_italian-village_feb-1939Feb., 1939

In June, 1940, Italy entered the War in Europe as a member of the Axis forces. As a result, Ventura and DeGeorge immediately asserted their patriotism and their American-ness (both were born in the United States to Italian immigrants) by changing the name of their restaurant: arrivederci, Italian Village, hello, Oak Lawn Village. The owners placed an ad in Dallas newspapers explaining their decision (see ad below) — this made news across the country, garnering both positive national publicity as well as fervent local support.

italian-village_ad_june-1940
June, 1940

Not only did the restaurant’s name change in 1940, so did its ownership. Nick DeGeorge and his wife (the sister of Sam Ventura) embarked on a very lengthy, very bitter divorce (newspapers reported that Nick and Lucille were each on their fourth marriages). The result of this marital split spilled over and also caused a business split: Ventura became the sole owner of Italian Oak Lawn Village, and DeGeorge left to start his own (very successful) restaurant career (DeGeorge’s, Town & Country, etc.). Sam announced that he was “sole owner” in a September, 1940 ad. (I hope Nick at least got custody of his mini-me marionette….)

1940_oak-lawn-village-ad_sept-1950Sept., 1940

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Oak Lawn Village matchbook cover, via Flickr

In June, 1941 yet another remodeling/expansion was announced, with architectural design by longtime friend of Ventura and DeGeorge, Charles Dilbeck, and murals by Russ Ellis. In addition to the Gazelle Room (“for comfort”) and the Hunter’s Room (“for private parties”), there was now the San Juan Capistrano Room (“follow the swallows”), the 42nd & Broadway Room (“for luxury”), the South American Room (“for romance”), the Dude Ranch Room (“where the west begins”), the Rain Room (“for private parties”), the Banquet Room (“seating capacity 150 guests”), and an outdoor Italian Garden Terrace (“beneath the stars”).

1941_oak-lawn-village_dmn_june-41June, 1941

That $20,000 remodel (which would have been equivalent to about $350,000 in today’s money) went up in smoke — literally — in April, 1944, when the restaurant was “virtually destroyed” by fire. Ventura said he would rebuild when war-time government regulations would permit him to do so. At the end of the year he announced that he would build a new restaurant, of shell stone and marble construction, lit in front by decorative tower lights. The new place was built and in full swing — and back with its original name — in the summer of 1945.

1945_italian-village_aug-1945Aug., 1945

An ad for Dallas’ S. H. Lynch & Co.’s Seeburg Scientific Sound Distribution system appeared in the Aug. 10, 1946 issue of Billboard magazine, showing photos of Sam Ventura, the exterior of the new building, and an interior shot showing a Seeburg jukebox. (See full ad here.)

1946_italian-village_billboard_081046_ad-det-1Sam D. Ventura, 1946 (ad detail, Billboard magazine)

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1946_italian-village_billboard_081046_ad-det-3Italian Village exterior and interior, 1946 (ad detail, Billboard magazine)

In January, 1951 another remodeling (to the tune of $75,000!) introduced the 300-seat Flamingo Room, which meant the entire Italian Village now had a seating capacity of more than 700 (Ventura had said that the original post-Speck’s restaurant seated only 40 or 50 people). The “modernistic styling” was the work of architect J. N. McCammon.

1951_italian-village_flamingo-room_jan-1951Jan., 1951

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Front and back of 1955 menu, via eBay

Further changes came to 3211 Oak Lawn in the fall of 1954 with the arrival of the Village Club, which featured live entertainment (including a rotating piano) and shared a kitchen with Italian Village. It was also a “private locker club” with personal liquor lockers available to members to keep their bottles in at a time when it was not legal for restaurants in Dallas to sell liquor-by-the-drink — “set-ups” were sold and the demon alcohol was poured from the member’s stash (or, more likely, from the communal stash).

In 1961 there was yet another remodel, which enlarged the club — now called Club Village — and shrank the restaurant. The swanky new club was designed by Charles Dilbeck and had a sort of Olde English theme (and, for some reason, featured a waterfall, a glass cage behind the bar containing live monkeys, and two live flamingos named Lancelot and Guenevere).

1965_club-village_oct-1965Oct., 1965

Around this time the (apparently short-lived) Francisca Restaurant appeared.

francisca-restaurant_menu_1961_ebayvia eBay

club-village_francisca_new-years-eve_dec-1961New Year’s Eve, Dec., 1961

1961 also marked the club’s debut on national television, appearing in scenes of the hit show Route 66, which were filmed in November. Below is a screen-capture from the episode “A Long Piece of Mischief,” with the waterfall in the background. (The entire episode, shot around the Mesquite Rodeo, can be watched on YouTube here — the two Club Village scenes begin at the 26:42 and 38:15 marks.)

1961_club-village_route-66Route 66 (screen capture) — Nov., 1961

In late 1966, Dallas filmmaker Larry Buchanan shot his cult classic Mars Needs Women in various locations all over town. I’m pretty sure one of the very first scenes was shot inside the club, after yet another remodel. (Incidentally, see what the lively neon-ified corner of Oak Lawn and Lemmon, a couple of blocks away, looked like in Buchanan’s film, here.)

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Mars Needs Women (screen capture) — 1966

In August, 1964 a new club opened: Gringos (sometimes spelled Gringo’s). This public club, featuring mostly rock bands, was the brainchild of Sam Ventura, Jr. (who said in an interview that he had rather brazenly sprung the whole thing as a big surprise on his father, who had been out of town on a lengthy vacation — luckily, the club was a hit and Sam, Sr. was pleased). Club Village continued as a private club, but from newspaper accounts it seems that the new discotheque displaced the Italian Village and/or Francisca restaurant completely. So now on one side you had the long-running “sophisticated” private club, and on the other side, the “new concept in continuous entertainment,” with its Mexican-themed decor and Watusi-dancing waitresses (“Las Mata-Dollies…”), which catered to a younger set. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram described Gringos thusly:

Newest “port of call” for Dallas revelers on the bistro beat is the just-opened and lavishly-done Gringos Club on Oak Lawn Ave. near the Melrose Hotel and in the location formerly occupied by the Italian Village Restaurant and Village Club. Open to the public, this night time Camelot with Mexican decor features, among other flings, Jesse (brother of Trini) Lopez and his handful of musical consorts on the bandstand and a covey of revealing young handmaidens called “Las Matta-Dollies” [sic], sort of Spanish-type Playboy Bunnies who are worthy of your scrutiny. (Chris Hobson, FWST, Aug. 27, 1964)

1964_gringos_aug-1964Aug., 1964

In May, 1967, Sam Ventura, Jr. (“Sammy,” who had taken over the family business when Sam, Sr. retired in 1966) declared that Gringos was dead: “There will be absolutely no rock-and-roll in this room anymore. It’s dead. Our whole concept [now] is for sophistication, for adult entertainment” (DMN, May 24, 1967). So adios, Gringos, hello an even bigger Club Village. (In 1968 a club described as a “new” Gringos  opened a block away, at 3118 Oak Lawn — it’s unclear whether this was affiliated in any way with the Ventura family.)

In June, 1968, the never-ending improvements, remodelings, and reconfigurings of 3211 Oak Lawn continued with Sammy’s announcement of a new (public) restaurant, the Wood ‘N Rail. This steakhouse featured a revolving “ice bar” (the old revolving piano bar, repurposed), which contained a display of raw meat — from this, customers would choose whichever cut of beef called to them, and before the meat was escorted into the kitchen, the patron would sear his or her initials into it with a “red-hot branding iron.” The restaurant’s slogan was “Personalized Beef.” The unstoppable Club Village continued as a private club and restaurant in the adjoining complex.

1968_wood-n-rail_oct-1968Oct., 1968

1971 began with a fire. The (once) unstoppable Club Village was destroyed. The adjacent Wood ‘N Rail emerged unscathed. So, yes, more remodeling! By 1972, 3211 Oak Lawn boasted three (three!) restaurants at one address: the continuing Wood ‘N Rail (steakhouse), Fisherman’s Cove (seafood), and — hey! — the return of Italian Village. As the ads said: “3 RESTAURANTS UNDER ONE ROOF!”

1972_fishermans-cove_march-1972March, 1972

1972_three-restaurants_may-1972May, 1972

Also big news in 1971: it finally became legal to order liquor and mixed drinks in bars and restaurants — the whole “private club-membership” thing in order to get around liquor laws was mostly a thing of the past (unless you lived in a dry area of the city…).

Then, in 1974, things really changed. After a “profound religious conversion,” Sammy Ventura stopped all sales of alcohol and told the TABC he didn’t need or want that ol’ liquor license. This made news around the country.

1974_kings-village_panama-city-FL-news-herald_081274UPI wire story, Panama City [FL] News Herald, Aug, 1974

Unsurprisingly, business plummeted. Two of the three restaurants closed. Italian Village continued to limp along, even weathering the introduction of the King’s Village, “Dallas’ first Christian dinner theater.”

1976_kings-village_june-1976June, 1976

This change in direction of the the 40-plus-year-old family business caused a huge rift between Sammy and his father. Sam, Sr. put his foot down, and The King’s Village (“the nation’s first non-liquor, Christian nightclub”) closed in June, 1977.

1977_kings-village_pampa-daily-news_062177
AP wire story, Pampa Daily News, June 21, 1977

Oak Lawn’s decades-old Italian Village was no more (although Sammy appears to have opened his own Italian Village restaurant in Richardson’s Spanish Village for a while). The last mention I found of Italian Village was in Feb., 1979:

After 45 years, the Italian Village restaurant has changed to another venture, the Crazy Crab. Sam Ventura opened the Italian Village in 1934 and the last event before the changeover was a surprise birthday party honoring Sam. (DMN, Feb. 23, 1979)

It’s a shame Italian Village’s last incarnation was a mere shadow of its former go-go glory, but it’s almost unbelievable that a restaurant in Dallas was in business for 45 years. Sam Ventura’s $250 gamble in 1934 paid off very, very well.

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Sources & Notes

Top image is the front cover of a cardstock photo-holder (with linked photo by the Gilbert Studios, 4121 Gaston); collection of Paula Bosse.

All clippings and images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Last Traces of Vickery Park Are Now Definitely Gone

vickery-park_demo_062118_d_PEBThe last vestige of a one-time summer destination… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Driving along Greenville Avenue this morning, I noticed a pile of rubble where Vickery Park once stood (just south of Walnut Hill, across from Presbyterian Hospital). It seemed sadly ironic that the land which was once occupied by a fondly-remembered swimming pool and picnic area was heaped with demolished buildings on the first day of summer.

I never saw the huge swimming pool myself, but from everything I’ve read about it over the years, it seems to have been very, very popular with generations of Dallasites. It was built in the then-rural community of Vickery as far back as the 1930s (well before Vickery was annexed by the city of Dallas), and it was still open at least through the ’60s.

The pool and amusement park were long gone when the (now-demolished) small shopping and restaurant area was built in the mid-1970s on a very pretty wooded site alongside White Rock Creek. Initially, the developer envisioned lots of quaint little boutiques and cafes (similar to those found in the Quadrangle) dotting the banks of White Rock Creek, creating Dallas’ version of San Antonio’s River Walk. …No one has ever accused real estate developers of dreaming small.

It’s sad to see this anachronistic, funky little area go away. My vague memories of childhood games of miniature golf in the ’70s are about to get vaguer.

vickery-park_demo_062118_a_PEB

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vickery-park_demo_062118_b_PEB

I’ve never known exactly where the pool was, but I think it might have been at the back right of the photo above, just off Pineland.

vickery-park-pool_dpl_pinterest

vickery-park-swimming-pool_1950s

vickery-park-swimming-pool_legacies_fall-2002

vickery-park-pool_19461946

swim_vickery-park_19651965

1978_vickery-park_sept-1978Sept., 1978

vickery_google_may-2017Google Street View

Above is a Google Street View from May, 2017. If you’d like to take a little virtual “drive” through the parking lot, hie yourself over to Google, here.

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Here are two pieces of film footage showing the pool. The first one is from June, 1964 and is (silent) news footage shown on WBAP Channel 5. It’s a little unsettling, as it shows a boy being rushed off by ambulance after an accident, but it does have some interesting shots of the pool and the park, which I’ve certainly never seen before. I am unable to embed the video, but you can watch it here. (The script for the story is here.) (Footage is from the WBAP-TV News collection, UNT Libraries Special Collections.) Here is a screen capture:

vickery-pool_WBAP_portal_062364

The second is undated, but the clips are from home movies.

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Sources & Notes

Rubble photos taken by me on June 21, 2018 — construction was underway. And it was extremely HOT.

The first historic photo appears to be a Dallas Public Library photo, with most of the watermark cropped off. I found it on Pinterest, here.

The third photo, showing two boys, was found in the Fall 2002 issue of Legacies.

There are memories-galore of Vickery here.

A couple of interesting tidbits:

  • The Vickery pool was used as an officers’ recreation club during World War II by the Fifth Ferrying Group; an aquatic meet was held there in June, 1945 which featured a variety of exhibitions, including a water ballet performed by “half a dozen mermaids from University Park.”
  • In the early 1970s, Vickery Park (…not to be confused with Vickery Place…) was owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. They reopened the park as a “family recreation center” — unlike the earlier days, alcohol was no longer sold. They sold the land to developers around 1974 or 1975; in the summer of 1975, the recreation center was bulldozed and the pool was paved over (and became a parking lot).

Articles on the disappearing community of Vickery can be found in the archives of The Dallas Morning News:

  • “Progress Overtakes Old Vickery” by Rena Pederson, with photos by Eli Grothe (DMN, August 3, 1975)
  • “Store Provides Feed For Thought On Town’s Past” (Vickery Feed Store) by Steve Kenny (DMN, Nov. 18, 1979)

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

No Necking Along Country Roads Until Bonnie & Clyde Are Killed Or Captured — 1934

la-pistolera-de-texas_DHS-instagramNo parking! (image: Dallas Historical Society)

by Paula Bosse

In April, 1934, at the height of Bonnie and Clyde’s murderous crime spree, Dallas County Sheriff Smoot Schmid issued a warning to amorous Dallasites to curtail their necking in cars parked along dark, deserted country roads — at least while the Barrow Gang was at large. He even asked school superintendent Norman Crozier to make a special broadcast to high school students, warning that such behavior could be dangerous, if not life-threatening. A Dallas Morning News article advised people from “parking” “until after Clyde Barrow is killed or captured.”

“It’s a request that all citizens should observe,” Sheriff Schmid said. “There are many officers taking part in the hunt for Barrow. Some of them are young and inexperienced. All of them are very anxious to catch Barrow. If someone should mistake one of them for a hijacker he might get killed, or kill the officer. Either way it would be a terrible thing. I just want to prevent any unnecessary trouble if I can.” (“Sheriff Warns Against Parking,” DMN, April 13, 1934)

A few weeks later, Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed and killed in Louisiana. Once their deadly rampage had ended, Dallasites were, presumably, free to resume their “nocturnal necking.”

bonnie-clyde_no-necking_austin-american_d_041334 Austin American, April 13, 1934 (click for larger image)

necking_shreveport-times_041334_headline

necking_shreveport-times_041334
Shreveport Times, April 13, 1934

bonnie-clyde_no-parking_cuero-record_041834Cuero (TX) Record, April 18, 1934

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Sources & Notes

Top image is the lurid front cover of a rare 1935 Mexican publication about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow titled “La Pistolera de Texas” — it is from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society and was featured on their Instagram feed (more info is here).

More Flashback Dallas posts on Bonnie & Clyde can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Oak Lawn Ice & Fuel Co.

oak-lawn-ice-and-fuel-co_krystal-morrisThe fleet… (click to see larger image) / Photo: Krystal Morris

by Paula Bosse

Above, another great Dallas photo shared by a reader — this one shows the Oak Lawn Ice & Fuel Co., which sold ice to independent dealers and to retail customers. Krystal Morris sent in the family photo — her great-great-grandfather J. F. Finney is standing next to the horse-drawn wagon.

The first mention I found of the Oak Lawn Ice & Fuel Co. was in a notice of “New Texas Charters” in Dec., 1912 (there was a classified ad from Dec., 1909, but that appears to be either another company with the same name or an earlier incarnation of the business seen above). Below, an ad from 1913:

1913_oak-lawn-ice_19131913

The company was located at 3307 Lemmon Avenue, at the MKT railroad track (now the Katy Trail) — on Lemmon between the railroad tracks and Travis Street (see the location on a map composed of two badly-cobbled-together Sanborn maps from 1921 here). The location is marked on a present-day Google map below (click to see a larger image):

lemmon-and-katy-trail_google-map

In 1917, the City of Dallas, in partnership with the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad began to eliminate grade crossings in the Oak Lawn area — one of those crossings was at Lemmon Avenue: Lemmon was to be lowered and the MKT tracks were to be raised. Oak Lawn Ice & Fuel Co. General Manager Clarence E. Kennemer (who, along with his brothers, operated something of an ice empire in Texas) was concerned about the negative impact of this construction on his business. (All images are larger when clicked.)

1917_oak-lawn-ice_dmn_013117_katy-crossing     Dallas Morning News, Jan. 31, 1917

To the surprise of many, the ice company was awarded damages by the city.

1917_oak-lawn-ice_dmn_120617_katy-crossingDMN, Dec. 6, 1917

Things apparently continued fairly well until 1920 when the company began to experience tensions with its residential neighbors. Early in the year, city building inspectors responded to nuisance complaints and ordered the company to move its horse stables as they were too close to adjoining residences (ice delivery even into the 1940s and possibly 1950s was often done via horse-drawn wagons). Later the same year, still-unhappy neighbors filed suit to “force the company to remove its plant from the thickly settled residence district” (DMN, Dec. 1, 1920). The ice company appears to have won the lawsuit, since the company (under various names) was at 3307 Lemmon until at least 1939 or ’40, but these problems might have led them to build a new plant at Cole and what is now Monticello in 1922 (as with the Lemmon location, this new plant was also built alongside the MKT tracks). The mere prospect of this new icehouse was met with loud protests by the new neighborhood — before construction even began — but a judge ruled in favor of the ice people. Construction went ahead, and the plant was a neighborhood fixture for many years. (See the location on a 1921 Sanborn map here; “Gertrude” — near the top edge — was the original name of Monticello Avenue.)

In 1923, ads for the Oak Lawn Ice & Fuel Co. began displaying both addresses: the original location, 3307 Lemmon, was now being referred to as “Plant No. 2,” and the new location, 4901 Cole, was being referred to as the “Main Office/Plant No. 1.”

1923_oak-lawn-ice_1923-directory
1923 Dallas city directory

By 1924 the company expanded as it absorbed other ice companies.

1924_oak-lawn-ice_sept-19241924

By 1925, “Oak Lawn Ice & Fuel Company” had become “American Ice Co.” (another C. E. Kennemer enterprise).

1925_american-ice-co_aug-19251925

By 1933, American Ice Co. was swallowed up by City Ice Delivery Co.

city-ice-delivery_1934-directory1934 Dallas city directory

In the late 1930s or early 1940s City Ice Delivery Co. was acquired by Southland Ice (the forerunner of the Southland Corp., owners of 7-Eleven convenience stores). The Lemmon Avenue location became a meat-packing plant sometime in the mid-’40s (if neighbors were bent out of shape by an ice company, imagine how they felt about a meat-packing plant!); the Cole location became a 7-Eleven store and later a Southland Corp. division office.

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But back to Jonathan F. Finney, the man standing next to the ice wagon in the top photo. He came to Dallas from Alabama around 1916 and bought a house at 3001 Carlisle Street, where he lived for most of his life in Dallas. His occupation was “ice dealer,” and he seems to have worked in both the wholesale and retail areas, as a driver, a salesman, and even for a while the owner of his own company. His great-great-granddaughter Krystal Morris (supplier of these wonderful family photos) says she believes he was the manager of the Oak Lawn Ice & Fuel Co. The 1932 directory lists him as foreman of the City Ice Delivery Co., and as he lived at 3001 Carlisle, it seems to make more sense he was working at the Lemmon Ave. location (which was less than half a mile away from his home) rather the Cole Ave. location. The actual address of the photo at the top is unknown, but it may show the Lemmon Ave. location when Finney was working as an independent ice dealer, standing beside his own wagon.

Below, the Finney family around 1920 (J. F., daughters Thelma and Viva Sue, and wife Wenona), and below that, their house at 3001 Carlisle (which was at the corner of Carlisle and Sneed — seen in a 1921 Sanborn map here).

finney-family_krystal-morris-photoFinney family, circa 1920 / Photo: Krystal Morris

finney-home_3001-carlisle_krystal-morris-photo3001 Carlisle, Finney family home / Photo: Krystal Morris

J. F. Finney, born in 1885, died in Dallas in 1962, long after the era of necessary daily ice deliveries to residences and businesses. The occupation listed on his death certificate was “painter” but I have a feeling “once an iceman, always an iceman.”

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Sources & Notes

All photographs are from the family photos of Krystal Morris and are used with her permission. Thank you, Krystal!

The history of ice delivery is very interesting, especially to those of us who have never lived in a house without an electric refrigerator. Here are links-a-plenty on the subject:

  • “Icehouses — Vintage Spaces with a Cool History” by Randy Mallory (Texas Highways, Aug., 2000) here (additional photos can be found in the scanned issue on the Portal to Texas History site, here)
  • “Keeping Your (Food) Cool: From Ice Harvesting to Electric Refrigeration” by Emma Grahn on the Smithsonian National Museum of American History blog, here
  • “Delivering the Ice: Ice Wagons” — from an online exhibit based on an exhibit that was on display at the Woods Hole Historical Museum in Woods Hole, Massachusetts during the summer of 2015, here
  • “Portals to the Past: Golden Days of Home Delivery (ice, as well as bread, milk, groceries, etc.) by Waco historian Claire Masters, here
  • “The Iceman Cometh” by Dick Sheaff from the Ephemera Society of America blog, here

Here’s a fantastic little clip of a woman ice deliverer manning the tongs (and wearing heels):


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And, lastly, the Southland Corp. to the rescue with an ad from Dec., 1948 with news of the arrival in Dallas of “genuine” ice cubes! “Now for the first time in Dallas: Genuine Taste-Free, Hard Frozen, Crystal Clear Ice Cubes delivered to your home!”

city-ice-delivery_southland-ice_dec-1948
1948

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

State Fair Coliseum / Centennial Administration Building / Women’s Museum / Women’s Building

tx-centennial_armstrong-linoleum-ad_1936_detAdministration Building interior, 1936… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Thursday night I attended a very entertaining Dallas Historical Society presentation at the Hall of State in Fair Park: “An Evening With Jim Parsons: Lost Fair Park,” in which the author of Fair Park Deco and DFW Deco talked about many of the buildings constructed for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936 which are no longer with us.

One of Jim’s asides was that there are very, very few color photos of the Centennial buildings and murals taken in 1936. If you’ve seen a Centennial view in color, it’s probably a colorized postcard. Kodachrome film was introduced in 1935 and was, sadly, not in wide use by visitors to Fair Park in 1936 (or by the Centennial organization).

When he said that, though, I remembered an ad I had come across that I thought was pretty cool, simply because it shows the interior of one of the Centennial buildings when it was brand new (…well, it was sort of new — more on that below). The ad is for Armstrong Linoleum and it features a color photo showing one of their custom linoleum floors installed in the Centennial Administration Building, an interior I’d never seen. And it’s in color! (Check out the furniture and the recessed lighting!) Here’s the full ad, which appeared in national magazines in 1936 (click for larger image).

ad- tx-centennial_armstrong-linoleum_19361936 ad

And — hallelujah — I found another photo of the interior — also from the helpful Armstrong people (I don’t know if they had the concession to outfit all the Centennial buildings, but, if so, I’d love to see all of their designs). Unfortunately this one is not in color, but it shows a fantastic Texas-centric custom design, laid down in fabulous linoleum.

tx-centennial_armstrong-linoleum_admin-bldg_texas-floor

Imagine that floor in Cadet Blue, White, Orange, and Dark Gray. This is from a trade publication called Armstrong’s Floors and Walls for Homes and Public Buildings, published around 1950 (and fully scanned here). A cropped version of the photo of the top is also included here (that floor, by the way, is in White, Dark Gray, and Cadet Blue), with handy swatches (which, reproduced below, lose some accuracy in color).

tx-centennial_armstrong-linoleum_admin-bldg_colors

The Centennial Administration Building — which housed the hundreds of office workers and executives behind the running of the Texas Centennial Exposition — was actually the very first Centennial building completed (at the end of December, 1935). Most of the Centennial buildings were newly built in 1936, but the Administration Building was actually an old building given a new stucco façade and completely remodeled — it even acquired a second floor inside the huge structure. This building was originally known as the State Fair Coliseum, built in 1910, designed by architect C. D. Hill (who designed many buildings in Dallas, including the still-standing Municipal Building downtown (built in 1914) and the Melrose Hotel (1924).

state-fair-coliseum_dmn_062009_drawingDallas Morning News, June 20, 1909

state-fair-coliseum_dmn_050710_constructionDMN, May 7, 1910

It was BIG. It had a seating capacity of 7,500.

state-fair-coliseum_flickr_coltera

state-fair-coliseum_dmn_030413DMN, March 4, 1913

This was the first building you’d see as you entered Fair Park, as it was right inside the front entrance on Parry Avenue (after you entered, the building would be on your left).

Coliseum Building, State Fair Dallas, TX

park-board-bk_fair-park-coliseum_1914

It was the city’s first official municipal auditorium, and it hosted everything from livestock shows, conventions, large civic gatherings, and the occasional opera.

Fast-forward a few decades: in 2000 the building became the home of the Women’s Museum. The museum closed in 2011 and is now called the Women’s Building and is used for special events.

A photo of the building from 2014:

womens-museum_fair-park_2014_carol-highsmith_library-of-congressphoto: Carol Highsmith, Library of Congress

See a Wikimedia photo of this building in 2016 here — click it again (and again) to see it really big, and linger on the mural by Carlo Ciampaglia and the sculpture by Raoul Josset. See interior photos of the space in 2009 during its time as the Women’s Museum here and here. I’m not sure if the exposed brick and steel are from the original 1910 building, but I certainly hope so! And, lastly, exterior photos from 2009 showing the side of the building here, and here

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Sources & Notes

This building can be seen on this aerial Google view, here. It is currently the Women’s Building, and it is available for special events — more about this building from the Friends of Fair Park, here.

Black-and-white postcard showing the interior of the Coliseum is from Flickr.

Black-and-white photo “Coliseum and Art Building” is from Report for the Year 1914-1915 of the Park Board of the City of Dallas, With a Sketch of the Park System (Dallas: Park Board, 1915), which can be accessed as part of the Dallas Municipal Archives via the Portal to Texas History, here.

And since this whole post was spurred by Jim Parsons’ talk the other night, here’s a link to the book he and David Bush wrote: Fair Park Deco: Art & Architecture of the Texas Centennial Exposition.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ghost Rails of the Belmont Streetcar Line

matilda-richmond_dan-parr-photo_FB-dallas-history-guild_april-2018Matilda & Richmond, April, 2018… (photo: Dan Parr)

by Paula Bosse

I grew up on Ellsworth, between Greenville Avenue and Matilda — just south of Mockingbird, just north of the M Streets. When I was a child, Matilda was only partially paved — in my neighborhood, maybe only from Mockingbird down to Kenwood? Otherwise, it was a dirt street (!) — and this was in the ’70s! Right around Kenwood was a weird mound which might not have looked like much to an adult, but to a child it was pretty strange. I can’t remember if the rails were visible — I’m pretty sure they were.

That line was the Belmont Line, which ended (began?) at Mockingbird (I think there was a later extension of sorts, but I think Mockingbird was the end of the line for streetcar passengers). As a kid, I knew that Matilda had been a long-gone streetcar line, but never having seen a streetcar outside of a movie, I couldn’t really imagine what it must have been like to have streetcars (and an interurban! — more on that below) moving up and down a street which was less than a block from my house.

A few years ago I stumbled across the YouTube video below and was surprised to see actual footage of that streetcar rolling up Matilda. The first five minutes of the video contains 16mm footage (both black-and-white and color) shot around Dallas in 1953 and 1954 by Gene Schmidt. It’s GREAT! You’ll see streetcars-galore moving past all sorts of familiar and vaguely familiar sights around the city, from Oak Cliff to downtown to way out to Mockingbird and Matilda. It ends with the Belmont-Seventh car (car 603) pulling to the end of the line — the view is looking south down an unpaved Matilda Street from Mockingbird, with a glimpse of the Stonewall Jackson playing field at the left, on the other side of the fence. (The Matilda footage begins at 4:17.)

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belmont-line_matilda-from-mockingbird_youtube-cap_ca1954Matilda, south from Mockingbird, ca. 1954 (Gene Schmidt)

Above, a screen capture from the video showing Matilda looking south from just south of Mockingbird. Stonewall Jackson Elementary School is at the left. Today the view looks like this.

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Before the streetcar arrived, Matilda was the artery that led the Texas Traction Company’s Sherman/Denison interurban into Dallas. This electric interurban service from the north, which closely followed the H&TC railroad line, arrived in Dallas in 1908, back when the official entry-point into the Dallas city limits was just off Matilda, near Greenville Avenue and Bryan Street.

1908_interurban_sherman-dallas_dmn_011608
DMN, Jan. 16, 1908 (click to read)

The interurban route connecting Sherman/Denison with Dallas opened on July 1, 1908 and lasted for 40 years, until its final run on December 31, 1948. (Read the Dallas Morning News article on the 1908 inaugural trip for big-wigs, “Many Make Trip Over Interurban,” July 1, 1908, here. Below is the accompanying photo. Image that running up and down Matilda — and, later, along other streets in Dallas — several times a day!)

interurban_sherman-dallas_dmn_070108
DMN, July 1, 1908

Dallas’ ever-increasing population began to move northward and eastward, necessitating public transportation which would connect these developing areas with the rest of the city. One of the early “suburban” lines was the Belmont Line, which branched off the Bryan Street line and served the Belmont Addition and beyond; it opened in 1913, but these early days appear to have been more of a private “dinky” service (see SMU’s dinky car on the beyond-the-city-limits tracks at Hillcrest and McFarlin, here). The Belmont line — as well as the Vickery Place and Mount Auburn lines — became part of the city’s official streetcar system in 1922.

Before the dinky service, riders were able to get on and off the large interurban cars at stops between Mockingbird and the area around Bryan and Greenville Ave. Even though interurbans and streetcars were able to travel on the same rails, it took years for dedicated streetcar tracks to be laid along Matilda.

This detail of a real estate ad shows that the Belmont line had reached at least as far as Richmond by 1914 (I felt I had to include this because the finger is pointing at the exact location of the exposed rails in the photo at the top!):

1914_matilda-richmond_lakewood-heights-ad_det_050314
May, 1914 (detail from Lakewood Heights real estate ad — see full ad here)

By 1922 the Belmont line had extended north to Velasco; by 1925 it had gotten to McCommas; by 1936 it had made it up to Penrose; and by 1939 it had finally reached Mockingbird (in time for the opening that year of Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, located at Mockingbird and Matilda).

Dallas streetcars began to be phased out in 1955, and the Belmont line was one of the first to go — its last run was March 6, 1955: “The Belmont-Seventh streetcar line will go out of existence Sunday to be replaced by service with new Diesel buses” (Dallas Morning News, March 6, 1955). The new bus route in the Lower Greenville area would, for the most part, be along Greenville Avenue, one block west of unpaved Matilda Street.

In March, 1955, it was reported that the abandoned Belmont-Seventh streetcar tracks were deeded to the city by the Dallas Railway and Terminal Co., with the understanding that they would eventually be paved over. The tracks were on Matilda, Bryan, Cantegral, Live Oak, St. Paul, King’s Highway, Edgefield, Seventh, Bishop, and Colorado. In April, 1956, it was reported that the City Council had approved the sale of the streetcar viaduct over the Trinity River and the Matilda street right-of-way.

But what about that paving of Matilda? Mrs. K. E. Slaughter had thoughts on the matter in a letter-to-the editor in April, 1955:

Since removal of the Belmont streetcar line in part — Matilda and Bryan streets — would it not be advantageous to develop this section into an important use to the heavy automobile traffic? Matilda now is no more than useless tracks built up between a cow path. (DMN, April 7, 1955)

“Cow path” — ha!

Another annoyed News reader wrote in 1963 — eight years after the tracks had been abandoned — about the useless unpaved thoroughfare:

The abandoned almost-private right of ways, such as Matilda, nearly two miles south from Mockingbird, received by the city in a deal to permit an all-bus operation, have not yet been paved or otherwise improved. (DMN, Oct. 21, 1963)

I’m not sure when that paving finally happened — early ’70s? — I think it must have been done in stages. I don’t remember a time when the stretch between Mockingbird and Kenwood wasn’t paved, but I do remember Matilda being a dirt road south of Kenwood. I don’t have a good recollection of the year, but kids remember all sorts of weird things, and those mysterious mounds were pretty memorable. (UPDATE: See photos of Matilda being paved at Goodwin in 1971 here.) I wish I’d known what an interurban was when I was a child. That would have made my neighborhood seem a whole lot more interesting! Heck, it used to the Gateway to Sherman!

I’ve long despaired of having missed the streetcar age. But it’s nice to know that one ran so close to the house I grew up in.

belmont-line_matilda-mockingbird_youtube-cap_ca1954End of the line, ca. 1954… (Gene Schmidt)

belmont-car_lakewood-heights-ad-det_050314

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Sources & Notes

Top photo taken by Dan Parr on April 15, 2018; it was originally posted to the Facebook group Dallas History Guild and is used here with permission. (Thanks, Dan!) The photo was taken at Matilda and Richmond, looking south on Matilda. See it on Google Street View, here. (Roadwork along Matilda is awful at the moment, but much-needed. Apparently it is being reduced to three lanes for automobiles with two bike lanes being added — read about it in the Lakewood Advocate, here.)

YouTube video shot by Gene Schmidt in 1953 and 1954; the direct link is here.

Another interesting video on YouTube was made by the City of Allen and contains period footage of the interurban that served North Texas. It’s a breezy 6-and-a-half  minutes, and it includes some cool shots of Dallas.

If you want to see a whole bunch of North Texas interurban photos, check out this great 83-page PDF compiled by DART, “History of the Interurban Railway System and Monroe Shops,” here.

Speaking of DART, they posted a cool 1925 map of streetcar and interurban lines, here — click the map to see a larger image. (In 1925, the Belmont line ended on Matilda at McCommas).

ALSO extremely cool is a Google map showing Dallas’ Historical Streetcar (and Interurban) Lines laid over a present-day Google map, here. Zoom in and out. Very useful!

Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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