Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1940s

West Jefferson Blvd. at Night

oak-cliff_jefferson-blvd_night_oldoakclifflodge_flickrW. Jefferson & S. Madison (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I love night-time views of a lit-up city, and this circa-1949 bird’s-eye view of West Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff, looking east, is pretty cool. If this photo had a soundtrack, it would be moody and atmospheric saxophone music.

Hunt’s department store was at 303 W. Jefferson, and the Oak Cliff Bank & Trust Co. was at 250 W. Jefferson — S. Madison is the intersecting street in the center of the photo. At the upper left you can see the bright lights and triangular marquee of the Texas Theatre. Below is a view of the same street today, still recognizable.

oak-cliff_jefferson-blvd_google-aerialGoogle Maps

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the Flickr photostream of OldOakCliffLodge, here.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Two Color Home Movies Featuring Downtown Dallas and Love Field — 1940s

love-field_dallas-aviation-school_perisccope_croppedDallas Aviation School, Love Field

by Paula Bosse

I’m a sucker for old home movies, and these two circa-1940s films are pretty cool — the first one has shots taken around Love Field and the second one has views of Main Street and Elm Street, full of traffic, pedestrians, and streetcars. Best of all, both are in color!

The Love Field film shows several of the businesses operating in Love Field, including the Dallas Aviation School, seen above in a screenshot from the film. Also seen is the building below, which appears to have housed offices for Delta Air Lines, Braniff Airways, and American Airlines. I’ve never seen this odd-looking building.

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Also seen are these two signs:

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Below is the two-minute silent video:


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The second video contains a lot of non-Dallas things (imagine!), but the first minute and a half were shot moving east down Main and Elm streets. (The Elm Street footage is, for some reason, really sped up — if you want to be able to focus on anything, I suggest fiddling with the YouTube settings and slowing the playback speed to .25.)

Here are a few screenshots — first, looking east down Main, approaching Akard:

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And here’s a view of Elm Street, also shot from just west of Akard:

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And here’s a stretch of Elm you don’t see all that often in historical shots of downtown — Elm east of Harwood (the “camel” sign is for the Campbell House hotel on the southeast corner of Elm and Harwood):

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The video is here, with the first minute and a half shot in Dallas (and, seriously, turn the playback speed down!):

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Sources & Notes

All images are cropped screenshots from home movies from the Periscope Films archive — the Periscope page with more info on the Love Field film is here; the page with more info on the downtown Dallas film is here.

Thanks to Dallas author Rusty Williams for pointing me to the Periscope website! Check out Rusty’s history books here.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Bright Lights, Big City — ca. 1948

elm-ervay-live-oak_weather-sign_ca-1948“Forget all your troubles, forget all your cares…”

by Paula Bosse

I think present-day downtown Dallas looks really great at night. But it pales in comparison to what downtown Dallas — especially Elm Street — used to look like at night. It was bursting with lights and signs and people. The scene above shows Elm Street looking east from Ervay around 1948. The Coca-Cola weather-forecast sign at the left is one of my favorite by-gone downtown landmarks (other photos of the sign can be seen here and here).

I wouldn’t really encourage anyone to click the link to see what this part of Elm Street looks like today, but if you must, it’s here.

Whenever I imagine times in Dallas history that I’d like to time-travel to, for some reason I always wish I could walk around downtown Dallas in the 1940s. It must have been quite something to have seen this pulsating view in person. 

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Elm Street, 1948 directory (click to see larger image)

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Sources & Notes

I’m unsure of the source of this photo, but there is one almost identical to it in the collection of the Dallas Public Library, but the library’s copy is over-exposed and dated 1930 (it is titled “[Intersection of Elm, N. Ervay, and Live Oak streets]” and has the call number PA82-00324).

This photo was taken sometime between the end of 1947 and very early 1949. Mangel’s department store opened in its brand new building at 1700 Elm in September, 1947, and the Artificial Flower Shop (… “the artificial flower shop”?) lost its lease in early 1949. I can’t make out the lettering on the “Welcome” banners along the street, but there was a large hardware convention in Dallas in January, 1948.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Orphaned Factoids: Year-End Grab Bag, 2019

cyclone-twister_tornado_cigars_1928_ebay“Looks crooked but smokes straight…”

by Paula Bosse

As another year crawls to an end, it’s time to collect the odd bits and pieces that have  piled up over the past few months which struck me as interesting or funny or… whatever. I had nowhere else to put them, so they’re going here! (Most images are larger when clicked.)

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First up, the ad above for the “Cyclone Twister” 5-cent cigar, distributed by Dallas wholesaler Martin L. Richards in 1928. Note the shape of the cigar. “Looks crooked but smokes straight.” Probably looked a little strange when smoked. I guess it might help break the ice at parties. Found on eBay.

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Here’s a nice little crest for SMU I’ve never seen — I’m not sure how long this lasted. From the 1916 Rotunda yearbook.

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M. Benedikt & Co. was the “Headquarters for Hard-to-fit-men” — in other words, they specialized in “Right-Shape clothing for Odd-Shape Men.” Here are a couple of examples of what they might consider “odd-shape men” in an ad from 1899.

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This is an interesting selection of ads from a 1968 edition of the Yellow Pages: Dewey Groom’s Longhorn Ballroom, Louanns, El Zarape Ballroom, the It’ll Do Club, the Bamboo Room at the Tower Hotel Courts, the Chalet Club, and the Tamlo Show Lounge (a couple of these show up in the…um… informative story “The Meanest Bars in Dallas” (D Magazine, July, 1975).

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I’ve been working in the G. William Jones Film and Video Archives at SMU for the past few months, and this was something I came across while viewing a 1960 WFAA-Channel 8 News clip which made me really excited (it’s an awful screenshot, but, what the heck): while covering a car wreck at Corinth and Industrial, the Ch. 8 camera panned across the scene, and in the background, just left of center, was a very tall sign for the Longhorn Ranch, which I’d never seen before. Before it was the Longhorn Ranch it was Bob Wills’ Ranch House, and after it was the Longhorn Ranch it was the Longhorn Ballroom (more history of the legendary honky-tonk is in a Texas Monthly article here). So, anyway, it’s a fuzzy screenshot, but I think it’s cool. (The footage is from June, 1960 but the clip hasn’t yet been uploaded online.)

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Speaking of WFAA footage in the Jones Film collection, there was some sort of story about comely young women in skimpy outfits handing out samples of some sort of food to passing pedestrians on Commerce Street (the one-minute clip is here). In addition to seeing sights associated with downtown streets in 1962 (including businesses such as Sigel’s and the Horseshoe Bar, as well as a large sign advertising the Theatre Lounge), I was really happy to see a few Braniff Airways posters in a window — I love those late-’50s/early-’60s Braniff travel posters! So here’s another screenshot and, below that, the Texas-kitsch poster I was so happy to see in color.

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braniff-poser_oil-well_ebayBraniff Airways, Inc., Copyright 1926 2019

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I don’t have an image for it, but I was amused to learn that in 1969 the powers-that-be at the Texas Turnpike Authority nixed the suggestion that the Dallas North Tollway be renamed in honor of president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had recently died — the idea was turned down because 1) new signage would have been very expensive, and 2) officials were afraid that “irreverent motorists” would inevitably refer to the toll road as the “Ike Pike” (I know I would have!).

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Not Dallas, but there’s always time for a little love for Fort Worth: here’s a nice ad from 1955 for a 22-year-old Fort Worth DJ named Willie Nelson, back when he was gigging out on the Jacksboro Highway with his band the Dumplin’ Eaters.

nelson-wilie_FWST_090955Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sept. 9, 1955

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Apparently there was a time when ladies were uncomfortable patronizing an establishment in which m*n served them ice cream, so this ad from 1899 made sure to note that “lady clerks” were in attendance. (See the back side of the Willett & Haney Confectioners parlor a couple of years before this ad, when the “cool and cozy parlor” was located on Main Street — it’s at the far left in this circa-1895 photo detail from this post.) The parlor was owned by John B. Willett and John S. Haney, and in addition to ice cream and candy, their specialty was oysters, and I can only hope that there was some experimenting with new food combos involving mollusks, ice cream sodas, and crushed fruit.

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This is an odd little tidbit from The Dallas Morning News about a couple of cadets from Camp Dick (at Fair Park) and what happened to them when they attended a lecture on “social diseases.” (The jokes write themselves….) Who knew singing and whistling were so therapeutic”

camp-dick_dmn_081718DMN, Aug. 17, 1918

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The caption for this photo (which appeared in the article “Going Downtown to Shop” by Jackie McElhaney, from the Spring, 2009 issue of Legacies): “In 1946, Sanger’s introduced a portable drapery shop. Two seamstresses sewed draperies in this truck while parked in the customer’s driveway.” Now that’s service!

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“Forward with Texas,” 1947 ad detail

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Two more. This first was a real-photo postcard I found on eBay. It shows the Pink Elephant cafe on Hwy. 80 in Forney (not Dallas, but pretty close!). I love the idea of Forney having a place called the Pink Elephant — it was quite popular and was in business from at least the 1930s to the 1950s. The card below was postmarked in 1936.

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This photo of the interior is from the Spellman Museum of Forney Museum Facebook page.

pink-elephant-bbq_forney_FB_spellman-museum-forney-history

I wondered if the place was still around (sadly, it is not), and in looking for info about it found this interesting article from 1934 about outlaw Raymond Hamilton, the escaped killer who grew up in Dallas (…there’s the Dallas connection!) and was notorious for having been a member of Bonnie and Clyde’s “Barrow Gang.” (Click to read.)

pink-elephant-bbq_forney_austin-american_102234Austin American, Oct. 22, 1934

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And, lastly, a photo of a young woman which appeared in a German-language magazine, captioned simply “Eine Texas Schönheit (A Texas Beauty).” Is the hair wearing the hat, or is the hat wearing the hair?

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Previous installments of Flashback Dallas “Orphaned Factoids” can be found here.

Until next year!

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

A Few Random Postcards

methodist-hospital_postcard_1944_ebay

by Paula Bosse

Here are a few totally random postcard images, pulled from bulging digital file folders.

Above, an unusual postcard for Methodist Hospital — “An Autumn View From a Window.” The hospital was located in Oak Cliff at 301 Colorado Street — built in 1927, demolished in 1994. The card is postmarked 1944. Below are two other images.

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Below, the Lemly Chiropractic Clinic of Dr. F. Lee Lemly at 808 N. Bishop in Oak Cliff (this was also the residence of his family). The house is still standing.

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A circa-1910s pretty view of City Park (part of which still hangs on as the site of Dallas Heritage Village in The Cedars):

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Another postcard from The Cedars/South Dallas, once home to a large, vibrant Jewish community, this one shows the Colonial Hill home of insurance man Sidney Reinhardt (1864-1924) at 277 South Boulevard (now renumbered as 1825 South Blvd.). The house was built around 1907, and this postcard appeared before 1911. The house — in what is now designated as the South Boulevard-Park Row Historic District — still stands.

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Here’s the Flower-A-Day Shop at the corner of Knox and Travis; the building is still there, but it’s nowhere near as charming today as it was when this postcard was mailed in 1955.

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And, lastly, “Highland Park Lake,” now Exall Lake. In fact, it was originally Exall Lake, as it was on the property of Henry Exall, who created the lake by damming Turtle Creek. The lake was a favorite recreation spot way out of town. It seems to have become “Highland Park Lake” after John Armstrong had taken over the property with an eye to developing what eventually became Highland Park. I’ve actually never heard of “Highland Park Lake,” but it was still being referred to as that in the 1960s — I’m not sure when it reverted to “Exall Lake” (or where exactly this photo was taken), but it remains one of Highland Park’s beauty spots. 

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Sources & Notes

Most of these postcards were found on eBay.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Michael G. Owen Jr., Dallas Artist

owen-michael_painting_david-dike-fine-artUntitled painting by Michael G. Owen Jr. (David Dike Fine Art)

by Paula Bosse

I’ve written about Michael G. Owen Jr. previously (see links at the bottom of this page for the three Flashback Dallas posts about Owen) but only in terms of his artistic achievements as a sculptor. I knew he had been a student of painters Jerry Bywaters and Olin Travis, and I had seen a couple of prints by him, but I was surprised to see the painting above which is currently offered at auction by David Dike Fine Art here in Dallas. Dike himself was surprised to see this large painting with stylistic echoes of the Dallas Nine group, of which Owen was a peripheral figure.

The untitled painting, estimated to have been painted around 1943, shows a man playing a guitar who resembles blues legend Lead Belly (whom Owen sculpted in 1943) surrounded by a black woman and child, by a white woman and child, and by a white man, presumed to be a self-portrait of Michael Owen. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that if the male figure standing at the right is Michael Owen, then the white woman and child are his wife Lois Schwarzwaelder Owen and his oldest son Michael Gordon Owen III (born in November, 1940).

This is quite an accomplished painting for an artist known primarily as a sculptor, and its discovery will surely boost Owen’s importance as a Texas regionalist artist.

Mike Owen was born in Oak Cliff in 1915 but lived in the 3500 block of Normandy Avenue in Highland Park for most of his life in Dallas, from at least 1923. His birth certificate has his father’s occupation as “lawyer,” but something must have happened between then and 1920 when census reports and city directories had his occupation listed variously as a farmer, an automobile painter with the Ford Motor Co., a sand and gravel merchant, a “laborer” with the Town of Highland Park, a roustabout, and when he and his wife (and most of their family, including the young, married Mike) moved to El Paso around 1941, his occupation was listed as “pipe-fitter.” Mike attended Highland Park High School, but the large family (there were at least six children) was not well-to-do. Olin Travis, the noted Dallas artist who was one of Mike’s art teachers, described Mike as “very poor” — he was able to take art lessons by winning scholarships, and he often scrounged for materials wherever he could (including a discarded block of red granite from an old Maple Avenue home which he used for an early sculpture).

Owen was something of a prodigy in Dallas art circles (he received a scholarship to the Dallas Art Institute when he was 14), and he was certainly a known figure in the exploding local art scene of the 1930s which was led by fellow artists such as Jerry Bywaters and Alexandre Hogue.

Mike Owen seems to have left Dallas sometime in 1936 for New York (see the photo below), but he was back in town in 1937 when he was commissioned to do the wonderful Peruna memorial which still stands on the SMU campus.

owen_peruna_monument_flickrphoto by David Steele

He continued to work and exhibit in Dallas until about 1939, when he seems to have left the city for good.

After having lived in El Paso and the Washington, DC suburbs of Maryland for a time in the 1940s, he and his wife and their two young sons moved to the Pacific Northwest where Mike paid the bills by working as a draftsman at an engineering firm in Corvallis, Oregon while continuing to create art.

Mike Owen suffered what must have been a debilitating series of setbacks, particularly in his later years. In 1942 in El Paso, his 16-year-old sister Sue was killed when a car she was riding in was hit by a train; in 1960 his wife sued him for divorce; in 1964 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; in 1965 his 18-year-old son William was killed in a motorcycle accident; in 1970 his father died; and in 1971 he had to abandon his artistic pursuits because the progression of the MS has made it impossible to shape clay with his numb hands.

Mike Owen died in Kennewick, Washington in April, 1976 after a twelve-year battle with MS. Even though he was not widely known, his obituary ran in newspapers around the country, possibly because of the lurid circumstances. The first two sentences read: “Noted artist and sculptor Michael Owen, 60, lost a 12-year battle with multiple sclerosis last week and, it was reported, died in a filthy trailer. He was buried at his own request without services in an unmarked grave at Desert Lawn Memorial Park with only his 90-year-old mother and a friend to mourn him” (UPI wire story May 5, 1976).

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UPI wire story, May 5, 1976 (click for larger image)

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April 29, 1976

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In a 1969 interview, Olin Travis, Mike’s childhood art teacher, said (possibly with some exaggeration) that Mike was “as good as Rodin…. Yet Dallas has never recognized this man” (DMN, Aug. 23, 1969).

The painting at the top of this post will be offered in Dallas at auction on November 9, 2019. It has an estimate of $80,000-$150,000.

UPDATE, Nov. 9, 2019: Dallas has recognized Mike Owen now — the painting at the top of the page sold at auction for $228,000.

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owen-michael_soap_1930a
1930

owen-mike_hphs_1933_sr-photo
Highland Park High School senior photo, 1933

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From an application for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate, 1936

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ca. 1938

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Sources & Notes

See the auction listing in the David Dike Fine Art Fall 2019 catalog here — the painting is Lot 128 on page 37. The auction will be held Saturday, November 9, 2019 in Dallas at noon. UPDATE: The painting sold at auction for $228,000 (including the buyer’s premium).

Read about the painting and how it was brought to Mr. Dike’s attention in a Sept. 25, 2019 article from The Dallas Morning News here.

Read the previous Flashback Dallas posts on Michael G. Owen Jr.:

More Flashback Dallas posts on the local art scene can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Buried Alive at the Fair Park Midway — 1946

sfot_scotty-scott_buried-alive_coffin_cook-colln_degolyer-library_SMU_1946Welcome to my casket!

by Paula Bosse

In May, 1946 a new Fair Park midway opened with new rides and new attractions to entice entertainment-seekers to Fair Park at a time of the year when the State Fair of Texas wasn’t in session. On opening day a beauty queen was chosen, a new 17-inch telescope was introduced, and a man was buried alive.

That man was C. S. “Scotty” Scott, seen above lounging in a comfy-looking casket in pajamas and robe, looking happy, propping up the lid. On May 11, 1946, Scotty Scott was buried six feet below the midway where he vowed to remain until the last day of the fair — Oct. 20th. That’s five and a half months.

sfot_scotty-scott_buried-alive_050946

Countless ads appeared over the weeks offering $500 (the equivalent of about $6,500 in today’s money) to anyone who might stop by his Fair Park lair and find him not there.

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The exact set-up is not fully clear, but, basically, he was buried in a coffin in a very small space, with a ventilation pipe. One report said that visitors were able to see him through a glass partition — another said that people were peeking at him and talking to him via an eight-inch vent pipe. However they were observing him, they weren’t doing it for free — if you wanted to get a look at Scotty doing whatever it was he was doing down there, you had to fork over 25 or 30 cents. All this being-watched and chit-chatting probably helped distract Scotty from the fact that he was buried alive! (I’m getting claustrophobic just typing this.)

Scotty’s tomb was equipped with air conditioning, a radio, a telephone, and an electric razor (which seems unnecessary, but, again, it probably helped pass the time…). (He might have kept up with his shaving, but he let his hair grow, a fact which apparently had the hoi polloi debating about whether Scotty was a man or a woman.) He was able to indulge in the occasional sponge bath and “exercise himself with a vibrator machine.” There was mention somewhere of a feeding tube.

If the thought of being buried alive gives you the willies, Scotty was not completely immune himself. One report mentioned this was probably the last time he would perform this stunt because he was reaching his “breaking point” and “He has to fight himself continuously to keep from being irritable and cross” (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 13, 1946). Luckily, claustrophobia did not seem to be too much of a problem for him as he had been doing this kind of endurance stunt for several years and kept coming back for more — he had, somehow, managed to remain buried in San Francisco for eight months!

Though he considered his main vocation to be a daredevil race driver, he had stumbled into this weird, but lucrative, line of work in 1935 when he had seen a similar stunt being performed in California, and a friend bet him $1,000 he couldn’t do it for 30 days. He won the bet. By the time of this 1946 Dallas stunt, he had been buried alive a LOT — he estimated that he had spent a total of more than four and a half years (!) buried alive.

According to Scotty, the worst part of the buried-alive-thing was the un-burying:

“From past experience the most painful part of the ordeal will come when they dig me up. My circulation will be so bad that my body will turn purple and I will be unable to sit or stand for any length of time. My whole body will feel like a leg or arm that has gone to sleep.” (DMN, Oct. 13, 1946)

Scotty Scott spent 162 days buried alive in Dallas — he even celebrated his 28th birthday underneath Fair Park. He was buried on May 11 and was disinterred on the final day of the fair, Oct. 20. Crowds gathered as men with jack-hammers cracked open the cement-covered tomb. As the coffin was lifted up a woman fainted. He was transported by ambulance to a hospital, and the next day he was interviewed on a national radio program.

Why on earth would anyone do this? More than 75,000 people had paid to take a look at Scotty Scott lying underground. The total amount of money people paid for this creepy privilege works out to almost $300,000 in today’s money. That’s why.

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Sources & Notes

Photo is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info can be found here.

Try not to think about being buried alive. TRY!

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

State Fair of Texas, Miscellaneous Tidbits from Its History

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by Paula Bosse

The State Fair of Texas is, once again, in full swing. Here are a few random SFOT images and ads from the past.

First up, an ad for the very first state fair in Dallas, in 1886. Almost unbelievably, this “Dallas State Fair” (held on 80 acres of land now known as Fair Park) was one of two competing state fairs held in the city that year — the other one was the “Texas State Fair,” which was held about three miles northeast of the courthouse on a 100-acre site roughly about where Cole Park is near present-day North Dallas High School. The two state fairs ran concurrently, and both were smash hits. The “Dallas State Fair and Exposition” eventually became the State Fair of Texas in 1904. Below are the ads for those competing two fairs. (Click to see a larger image.)

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The East Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 9, 1886

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The North Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 20, 1886

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One of the original buildings built for the 1886 Dallas State Fair was the massive Exposition Building, designed by architect James Flanders. On a site devoted to the career of Flanders, the architect recalled this project many years later: “The progress of the work on the structure was watched by most people with a degree of curiosity far more intense than is excited by the loftiest skyscraper in these days when people have no time to wonder. Such an apparition on the bald prairie attracted crowds of the curious from far and near on Sundays.”

state-fair_exposition-bldg_ca-1890s

Above, the huge Exposition Hall, enlarged from its initial design, which, in 1886 was reported to contain 92,000 square feet of unrivaled exhibition space. Unfortunately, the wooden buildings seen above burned to the ground in the early hours of July 20, 1902. The blaze was so intense that “the whole of the city was lit up with the brilliancy of the sunrise” and that “flames rose to such great height that they were seen as far west as Fort Worth, where it was thought the whole city of Dallas was burning” (Dallas Morning News, July 21, 1902). More on this building can be found on the Watermelon Kid site, here.

Below, the Exposition Building can be seen from the fairgrounds racetrack in a photo published in 1900 in an issue of The Bohemian magazine (via the Fort Worth Public Library).

fairgrounds_racetrack_bohemian_1900_fwpl

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A moment from the opening day parade festivities of the 1903 fair is captured in the photo below, with the following caption from the 1941-42 edition of the Texas Almanac: “Gov. S. W. T. Lanham (in rear seat of pioneer horseless carriage) in opening day parade for 1903 State Fair of Texas formed on Main Street. Fair President C. A. Keating was seated beside him, and Secretary John G. Hunter of Board of Trade is seen standing beside the gasoline buggy.”

state-fair_opening-day_1903_tx-almanac_1941-42_portal
Main Street, looking west, via Portal to Texas History

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Here is a 1911 view of the state fair midway taken by John R. Minor, Jr. in a real-photo postcard. (More on Mr. Minor is here; more images of the Shoot the Chutes water ride can be found here.)

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via George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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From the 1920s, an ad for Clayco Red Ball gasoline (“It’s RED in color”). I’m always a sucker for ads containing photos or drawings of Dallas landmarks, and here we see the entrance to Fair Park. (Why was the gas red? Why not? It was the brainchild of Dallas advertising man Wilson W. Crook, Sr. who needed a way to make this Oklahoma gas different. He remembered that during his WWI days in France that higher quality airplane fuel was colored red to distinguish it from regular gasoline. When the gas was introduced to Dallas in August, 1924, he devised a promotion that gave away 5 gallons of this gas to every red-headed person who showed up at participating service stations.)

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ad-red-ball-gas_state-fair_dmn_101224Clayco Red Ball ad, Oct. 1924

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If we’re talking about the State Fair of Texas and we’ve come to the 1930s, there’s a pretty good chance there’s going to be a photo from the Texas Centennial. And, looky here: a nice shot of concessionaires waiting for thirsty patrons at the Centennial Exposition in 1936. A couple of nickels could get you a Coke and a phone call.

sfot_concessionaires_coke_unt_portal_1936via Portal to Texas History

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During World War II the State Fair was on hiatus. Here’s an ad from the 1941-42 Texas Almanac pre-closure, with a nice pencil sketch of the Esplanade and Hall of State:

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And a 1946 magazine cover story on the imminent reopening of the fair:

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via Portal to Texas History

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In 1956 Big Tex warned/assured you that the Esplanade lights would “knock your eyes out.”

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Speaking of Big Tex and lights knocking your eyes out, in the 1960s Big Tex was memorialized on the side of a downtown building, like a giant bow-legged Lite-Brite.

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Back at Fair Park, Huey P. Nash was supplying fair throngs with barbecue from his Little Bob’s Bar-B-Q stand. In 1964, Nash was the first African-American vendor to be granted a food concession at the State Fair. Little Bob’s (which I believe is still in business) was, at the time of this 1967 ad, located in South Dallas at 4203 S. Oakland (now Malcom X), at the corner of Pine. (Ad is from the 1967 Souvenir Program of the 74th Annual Session of the Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas; more photos from this publication can be seen here.)

sfot_little-bobs-bbq_baptist-convention-program_1967_photo

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The 1960s also gave us the Swiss Skyride, which replaced the Monorail (which, when it was introduced in 1956, was the first commercially operated monorail in the United States). The Swiss Skyride was erected in Fair Park in August, 1964, and the 6-minute ride debuted a few months later at the 1964 State Fair of Texas.

state-fair_swiss-sky-ride_tinkle-key-to-dallas_1965_replaced-monorail_
via Lon Tinkle’s children’s book Key to Dallas (1965)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Gloria Vanderbilt’s 4 Husbands… and Their Dallas Connections

cooper-wyatt_gloria-vanderbilt_1970_w-magMr. & Mrs. Wyatt Cooper, 2 months after their royal reign in Dallas

by Paula Bosse

Gloria Vanderbilt died June 17, 2019 at the age of 95. Despite being the subject of one of the most headline-grabbing child-custody trials in 20th-century history, “poor little rich girl” Gloria Vanderbilt grew up to live what appears to have been a full and mostly happy life. There were several Dallas connections in her life, especially regarding each of the four men she married.

One of Gloria’s aunts (her mother’s sister-in-law, or, more confusingly, the ex-wife of Gloria’s mother’s brother) was Ivor O’Connor Morgan, something of a bon vivant socialite who lived primarily in Europe but kept Dallas as her residence of record. She was born in Dallas, the eldest daughter of prominent banker J. C. O’Connor and niece of Mayor J. Waddy Tate. She testified in Gloria’s custody trial in support of Gloria’s mother (who ultimately lost custody).

And now to Gloria’s husbands.

1. PASQUALE (“PAT”) DiCICCO was Gloria’s first husband. He was a Hollywood agent and the ex-husband of film star Thelma Todd (who died under mysterious circumstances, with many wondering if Pat might have been involved in what many suspected had been a murder). They married in 1941 when Gloria was only 17 (Pat was 32). Gloria described the marriage as an unhappy and abusive one. They divorced in 1945. 

di-cicco_dec-1941_APDiCicco and Gloria in 1941

Their honeymoon road trip brought them to Dallas for a day where they took a breather from their motoring to be entertained at a luncheon held in their honor in the Mural Room of the Baker Hotel.

In 1947 — a couple of years after their divorce — DiCicco moved to Dallas to assume a vice-president position with the Dallas-based Robb & Rowley theater chain. He appears to have returned to Hollywood at the beginning of 1949.

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2. LEOPOLD STOKOWKSI, the noted classical music conductor, was Gloria’s second husband. They married one day after her divorce with DiCicco was finalized; Gloria was 21, Stokowski was 63. They were married for 10 years and had two sons.

stokowski_vanderbilt_1950_pinterestThe Stokowskis, with their first son, 1950, via Pinterest

In December, 1950 (about the time of the photo above), Leopold Stokowski appeared in Dallas as a guest conductor with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He and Gloria drove up from Houston and spent their time here at the Stoneleigh Hotel. Stokowski had been invited by DSO conductor Walter Hendl, with whom he had worked at the New York Philharmonic Symphony.

stokowski_DSO_dec-1950
Dec., 1950

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3. SIDNEY LUMET, the TV and movie director, was husband #3. They married in 1956 and divorced seven years later. He was known for critically acclaimed films such as 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and Serpico.

lumet-sidney_vanderbilt_wedding_w-mag Mr. and Mrs. Lumet, 1956

Sidney Lumet’s father, Baruch Lumet, was a Warsaw-born actor who was had started in Yiddish theater. Somehow he ended up in Dallas, where he founded an acting school and was the director of the Dallas Institute of Performing Arts, whose home-base was the Knox Street Theatre. Baruch plied his craft in Big D for about ten years, beginning in 1952. Among his students was then-Dallas resident Vera Jane Palmer, better known as Hollywood glam-star Jayne Mansfield, and the fabulous actor Rip Torn, who married Dallas actress Ann Wedgeworth in 1955.

lumet-baruch_apr-1960_ad1960

Speaking of the theater world, it’s interesting to note that while Gloria was married to Sidney Lumet, she had written a play (untitled) which had been sent by her agent to Paul Baker at the Dallas Theater Center for consideration. The play was described as “a dance drama, written partly in poetic style” (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 24, 1959).

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4. WYATT COOPER was Gloria’s last husband; they were married from 1963 until his death in 1988, and together they had two sons, one of whom is journalist Anderson Cooper. From most accounts, the years with Cooper were among her happiest.

gloria-vanderbilt_wyatt-cooper_wikipedia_ebay-photo_101170The Coopers, dressed in matching Adolfo, 1970, via WikiMedia

In 1970, it was announced that Neiman-Marcus’ annual extravagant Fortnight festivities would celebrate the culture and commerce of Australia, but at the last minute, the country pulled out, leaving Neiman’s in the lurch. It was too late to get another country on board, but the show must go on – and Stanley Marcus made the executive decision to feature a fictional country: “Ruritania.”

n-m-fortnight_ruritania_1970_postcard

The store created the country’s history, designed its money and postage stamps, and even commissioned a national anthem. There was even a king and queen of the principality: King Rudolph and Queen Flavia, embodied by the striking couple of Wyatt Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt, who presided over a grand ball in formal-wear designed by Gloria’s favorite designer, Adolfo. The photo at the top of this post (and directly below) was taken in December, 1970, just a few weeks after the Neiman’s Fortnight — the Coopers were attending the high-society Winter Ball at the Plaza Hotel in New York, with Gloria in another Adolfo creation. It gives you an idea of the royal costumes they wore in Dallas as the faux monarchs of Ruritania. It also shows what a game, happy couple they were and why Stanley Marcus chose them to be the king and queen of his mythical kingdom .

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RIP, Gloria. We should all be lucky enough to have a life as full as yours.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of Gloria Vanderbilt and husband Wyatt Cooper shows the couple in December, 1970, attending the Imperial Russia-themed Winter Ball in New York City, with Gloria in a costume designed by Adolfo; that photo (as well as the photo of her and Sidney Lumet on their wedding day) appeared in a well-worth-clicking-through W magazine slideshow.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Theaters at 1517 Elm: The Garden, The Jefferson, The Pantages, The Ritz, and The Mirror — 1912-1941

garden-theatre_ca-1912_ebayThe Garden Theatre, ca. 1912

by Paula Bosse

The photo above shows the Garden Theatre, located at 1517 Elm, on the north side of the street, between Akard and Stone Street. It was opened in the fall of 1912 by partners W. J. Brown and R. J. (Ray) Stinnett (who also operated the Cycle Park Theatre at Fair Park). The Garden was a vaudeville stop for touring companies.

1912_garden-theatre_variety_sept-1912Variety, Sept. 1912

It was one of many local theaters which simulcast World Series baseball games via telegraph updates, in the days before radio and TV (I wrote more about this fascinating subject here).

1912_garden-theatre_101612Oct. 16, 1912

As seen in the top photo, the Garden Theatre sat between the Pratt Paint & Paper Co. and the Roderick-Alderson Hardware Co.

garden-theatre_1913-directory_1517-elm1913 Dallas city directory

The photo at the top was found on eBay, with the seller-provided date of 1912. Zooming in, one can see a placard in front of the theater advertising the appearance of the Hendrix Belle Isle Musical Comedy Company (misspelled on the sign as “Henndrix”) — for many years this troupe toured with a production called “The School-Master”/”School Days,” the very production seen here on offer to audiences at the Garden. (Read a review of a 1912 Coffeyville, Kansas performance of the troupe’s bread-and-butter act here.)

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In April, 1913 Brown and Stinnett split, with Brown taking the Cycle Park action and Stinnett keeping the Garden (and a handful of other theaters).

On March 8, 1915 the theater changed its name and reopened as the Jefferson Theater. As the ad below stated, “This is the only theater in Dallas presenting popular players in repertoire […] Not moving pictures.”

1915_jeffersosn-theater-opens_dmn_030715March 7, 1915

I’m not sure where the “Jefferson” name came from, but….

jefferson-theater_061115June 11, 1915

There were a few back-and-forths as far as operators and leases of the Jefferson, but in 1923, Ray Stinnett “sold” (or probably more accurately sub-leased) the theater in order to concentrate on his other (bigger! better! brighter!) venture, the next-door Capitol Theater, but he reacquired it in 1925 and renamed it the Pantages. (This has caused confusion, with some thinking it had become the Pantages earlier — the confusion is understandable, as the Jefferson was affiliated with the Pantages vaudeville circuit between 1917 and 1920, and during that time the word “Pantages” appeared prominently on the theater’s marquee, but it was still the Jefferson. See a photo from May, 1925, showing the Jefferson from the Pacific side here, after it had become a Loew’s-affiliated theater.)

The Jefferson became the Pantages Theater on December 27, 1928 when Stinnett opened the newly remodeled venue which offered vaudeville stage acts as well as motion pictures. (All images are larger when clicked.)

pantages-opening_122725Dec. 27, 1925

That incarnation didn’t last too long. Goodbye, Pantages, hello, Ritz. The Ritz Theater opened on October 14, 1928, operated by the R & R (Robb & Rowley) chain but leased from Stinnett. The first film shown was “The Lights of New York,” the first all-talking feature-length movie.

1928_ritz_101028Oct. 10, 1928

1928_ritz_101328
Oct. 13, 1928

1928_ritz_101528Oct. 15, 1928

Below, a 1929 photo showing the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Elm Street, the heart of Theater Row: seen here are the Ritz, Capitol, Old Mill, and Palace theaters (the regal Queen was a few doors west of the Ritz, at the corner of Elm and Akard).

ritz_capitol_old-mill_palace_photo_sherrodphoto from “Historic Dallas Theatres” by D. Troy Sherrod

A postcard showing the Ritz (and neighbors) a couple of years later, in 1931:

ritz_capitol_old-mill_palace_postcard_cinematreasures

But the Ritz didn’t last all that long either — a little over three years.

1931_ritz-mirror_120831Dec. 8, 1931

In 1931 the theater was acquired by the Hughes-Franklin company (as in Howard Hughes, the super-rich Texan who had an obsession with Hollywood). The plan was to renovate the building and rename it the Mirror, “a duplicate, in so far as possible, of the famous Mirror Theater of Hollywood. A feature will be the extensive use of mirrors in the lobby and foyer” (Dallas Morning News, Nov. 29, 1931).

mirror_motion-picture-times_122931Motion Picture Times, Dec. 29, 1931

The Mirror Theater opened at 1517 Elm on Christmas Day, 1931.

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Dec. 25, 1931

Theater Row, 1936:

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More Elm Street:

mirror-capitol-rialto-palace-melba-majestic_theater_row_night_big

The Mirror chugged on for several years as a second-run house, apparently less and less profitable as the years passed. On August 4, 1941 the theater burned down in an early-morning fire. The property owner, Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews, decided against rebuilding.

mirror-fire_variety_081341Variety, Aug. 13, 1941

Here’s the same view as seen above, only now the space next to the Capitol is a nondescript one-story retail building. (The Telenews, a theater showing newsreels, opened in November, 1941.)

telenews_missing-mirror-post-fire_capitol_postcard

Below, a photo from around 1942, the first time in 30 years without a theater at 1517 Elm Street.

theater-row_by-george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUphoto via the DeGolyer Library, SMU

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of the Garden Theatre is from an old eBay listing.

More Flashback Dallas posts on Dallas theaters can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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