Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1940s

1400 Block of Main Street, ca. 1946

main-street_century-room_ca-1946_bell-collection_DHS_detThe Century Club, the Adolphus Bar, and the Manhattan Cafe await…

by Paula Bosse

A few years ago, I went in to the Dallas Historical Society a few times a week to volunteer. I ended up basically cataloging an entire collection of photos taken by a man named James H. Bell — and I really enjoyed it. Bell wasn’t a professional photographer, he was just a guy who liked to take a lot of photographs. The photos were all taken, as I recall, in 1946 and 1947, when he was apparently visiting Dallas — which I gather was his hometown — on a trip from his new home in California. He took a lot of pictures of places around Dallas that no one really bothered to document: businesses, street life, houses. He was also something of a pinball and jukebox aficionado, because a large number of his photos had coin-operated machines in them. Like a LOT. He also liked buses. And he seemed to always have his camera with him.

The photo above (which, sadly, I’ve had to crop because of image issues) shows the south side of the 1400 block of Main Street. I’ve never seen a photo from this period of the Main Street entrance to the Adolphus Hotel. That cool 1936 deco sign for the Century Room is great (even though it looks a little out of place next to the overly ornate early-20th-century arch next to it). (See the full wonky image — apologies for the low resolution — all my fault — here.)

I can tell you exactly why Bell took this photo: he saw a coin-operated machine being unloaded from a truck (or loaded into a truck). There were others photos in this collection taken in similar circumstances. I don’t know whether he was following jukebox and pinball trucks around town (a very definite possibility…), or whether he just happened upon these coin-op machine deliveries, camera at the ready. Whatever the case, he got a nice action-photo of a jukebox delivery in the wild, while, at the same time, he secured for posterity a nice historical image of everyday life on Main Street. And, we have the added bonus of seeing the long-gone sign for the swanky Century Room nightclub.

This was the Dallas Historical Society description I wrote for the full photo:

Downtown Dallas, 1400 block of Main Street. South side of Main, with Akard intersecting at left. Partial view of the Southwestern Life Building (southeast corner of Main and Akard, with Travis cigar stand at street level); Andrews Building (southwest corner of Main and Akard); C C Liquor Store (1412-B Main); Elko Camera Store (1410 Main); Ragir’s (1412 Main); Adolphus Hotel, rear entrance (with Century Room nightclub sign); Adolphus Bar (1406 Main); the Marquee restaurant (1404 1/2 Main); Paul R. Brown’s Restaurant. Also: a sign for Manhattan Cafe or Cafe Manhattan, pedestrians, 1940s vehicles, workman securing a pinball or other coin-operated machine into back of pickup truck.

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Sources & Notes

This photo was taken by James H. Bell in about 1946, and it is from the James H. Bell Collection at the Dallas Historical Society. The Accession Number is 2017.48, and the Object ID is V.2017.48.531. For some reason, an image is not on the DHS online database, but the link to the photo description is here.

main-street_century-room_ca-1946_bell-collection_DHS_det_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“It’s Big, It’s Fantastic!” — State Fair of Texas, 1949

sfot_1949_ebay_aWhen dinosaurs roamed Fair Park…

by Paula Bosse

Uh, hmm. Let’s see….

Dinosaur? Check.

Wearing a cowboy hat? Check.

Wearing a bandana? Check.

Wearing spurs? (!) Check.

With buck teeth? Check.

Looming over an art deco building? Check.

It must be time for the fair!

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Sources & Notes

Postcard found on eBay.

sfot_1949_ebay_a_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, 1926-1942

baker-hotel-book-shop_1934Eula Wolcott: bookseller, librarian (Publishers Weekly, 1934)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, Dick Bosse, owner of the Aldredge Book Store. I always try to post something bookstore-related on his birthday. This year: Miss Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, located inside the Baker Hotel.

Eula Wolcott (1881-1962) was born in Waxahachie and had moved to Dallas by 1910. She appears to have had theatrical ambitions and studied voice and expression (she was billed as an “Experienced Concert Reader and Story Teller”). She opened a little book store and library in the early 1920s — the Booklovers Shop and Library was first on West Jefferson and later on Swiss Avenue. In 1926, she opened a similar shop inside the glamorous Baker Hotel, an enterprise she ran successfully until at least 1942 when another owner took over (she also apparently had a book shop inside the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells). In 1931 she opened the rather confusingly-named “Baker Hotel Book Shop and Rental Library” in Highland Park — in the new “Spanish Village” (the original name for Highland Park Village). Below is a very enthusiastic profile from Publishers Weekly (click to see a larger image).

baker-hotel-book-shop_publishers-weekly_032434_eula-wolcott_textPublishers Weekly, March 24, 1934

I wish the photo at the top had been better, because I’d love to get a good look at the decor. And Eula. I managed to find a photo of her.

wolcott-eula_ancestryEula Wolcott, via Ancestry.com

Here are a few ads:

booklovers_0420241924

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-24-1926Two shops, one owner — 1926

baker-hotel_book-shop_1009271927

baker-hotel-book-shop_19371937

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-25-19401940

She was active as a bookseller for many years and was also a familiar voice to radio listeners who tuned in to hear her book reviews on WFAA. 

One interesting piece of trivia about Eula’s hotel bookshop, shared with me by a former bookstore client of mine: the Baker Hotel Book Shop was the very first American bookstore that British author H. G. Wells ever visited. A lecture tour brought him to Dallas in 1940 — like many of the celebs of the day, he stayed at the Baker. I’m sure Eula was very happy to have Mr. Wells, a literary powerhouse, in her shop. Let’s hope he exhibited proper bookstore etiquette and purchased something!

baker-hotel_mural-room_dallas-directory_1942Baker Hotel, circa 1940

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Sources & Notes

Top photo and article from the trade magazine Publishers Weekly, March 24, 1934.

Read more Flashback Dallas articles on the Dallas bookstore scene here.

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The University Park Brown Books — An Unbelievable Resource!

snider-plaza_brown-bks_university-park_6600-1934_sinclalirFill ‘er up in Snider Plaza, 1934

by Paula Bosse

You know how sometimes someone nonchalantly mentions something to you which should have been introduced by a fireworks display? That’s what happened when my friend Rod Hargrave sent me a link he had come across about a new online resource from the University Park Public Library: the city’s “Brown Books,” fully digitized. I made a note to check out the link when I had time but didn’t get to it for a week. I’m not the kind of person who uses “OMG,” but… O..M..G !! This is just unbelievably fantastic. 

Here’s the blurb form the University Park Public Library post

Brown Books at UP Public Library
March 2, 2022

Spend some time with one of the library’s newest resources! The City’s Brown Books contain thousands of subdivision records of individual construction permits for homes and some businesses across several decades. In these pages, you can find interesting and helpful information about the original structure. Data includes notations about square footage, construction date, original building price, along with details about the interior of the building and more. Over 98 percent of all documents include a photograph of the original structure.

PHOTOGRAPHS! Almost everything I looked up had a photo. I looked up addresses of places I’d written about – photos! I looked up businesses along Preston, Hillcrest, and Lovers Lane — photos! I looked at just about every business in Snider Plaza — photos! I even looked up the still-standing house my family lived in for a couple of years on Milton — photo! The earliest photos I found were from 1931. And all of this available to anyone with a computer — for free! Thank you, University Park Public Library!

And as the blurb says, not only are there photographs of the properties, but there is a whole history of the building, complete with renovation info, builder info, a drawing of the original footprint, etc. This includes tons of buildings which have been torn down — nothing ever dies in city/county records.

Below are some of the photos I found. Scroll down below them for instructions on how to access these records yourself on your computer.

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Here are a few photos of businesses on “the drag” — Hillcrest Avenue, across from SMU. (Click pictures to see larger images.)

6200 block of Hillcrest, at Granada (in 1931). (See this property’s Brown Books page here.)

6200-block-hillcrest_brown-bks_university park_1931

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6209 Hillcrest (1959) — Jackson Arms, once my father’s home-away-from-home. (Brown Books page is here.)

6209-hillcrest_brown-bks_university park_1959_jackson-arms

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6401 Hillcrest, at McFarlin (1931). The Couch Building, which burned down a few years ago — I wrote about that building here. (Brown Books page is here.) I **LOVE** this photo. I love the billboards on top of the building.

6401-hillcrest_brown-bks_university park_1931_couch-bldg

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6407 Hillcrest (1948). Luby’s! What an interesting design. (Brown Books page is here.)

6407-hillcrest_brown-bks_univeristy-park_1948_lubys

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6601 Hillcrest (1931). The Mustang Garage — but instantly recognizable today as the home of JD’s Chippery and Cotton Island. (Brown Books page is here.)

6601-hillcrest_mustang-garage_brown-bks_university-park_1931

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And, a few Snider Plaza highlights. First, the photo at the top of this post, the Sinclair service station at 6600 Snider Plaza (1934). (Brown Books page is here.)

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6600 Snider Plaza #313 (no date). The Beef Bar. (Brown Books page is here.) Another fantastic photo! BBQ in UP, before Peggy Sue (RIP).

snider-plaza_brown-bks_university-park_6600-313_nd_beef-bar-pit-barbecue

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6701 Snider Plaza (1931). Including the Varsity Theater (at the far left) — I wrote about this cool building here. (Brown Books page is here.)

snider-plaza_brown-bks_university-park_6713_1931_movie-theater

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6730 Snider Plaza (1931). A sandwich shop and a Hires Root Beer stand. (Brown Books page is here.)

snider-plaza_brown-bks_university-park_6730_1931_sandwich-shop_hires-root-beer

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6828 Snider Plaza (1941). Skillern’s Drugs and M. E. Moses. (Brown Books page is here. After a facelift, another photo is here.) I remember spending a lot of time in that dime store when I was a kid — it had a weird change in floor level, which looks like it must have been where a wall had once separated it from the space Skillern’s occupied.

snider-plaza_brown-bks_university-park_6828_1941_moses_skillerns

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7001 Snider Plaza (1946). Cabell’s. (Brown Books page is here.)

snider-plaza_brown-bks_university-park_7001__1946_cabells

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A quick jog over to 6001 Preston Road, at Normandy (1931). Country Club Pharmacy (it later moved to Inwood Road). (Brown Books page is here.) My mother worked for a few years as the office manager for the First Unitarian Church diagonally across from this drug store. When I was a kid hanging out waiting for my mother to finish work, I dropped a LOT of cash at the drug store on Archie comic books.

6001-preston_brown-bks_university-park_1931_drug-store

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And, lastly, 4129 Lovers Lane (1947). A post-war duplex. (Brown Books page is here.) Every single time I drive down Lovers Lane, I always look forward to seeing this little house which has somehow managed to evade bulldozers. I love this house so much. And this is one of the very few times when I think that it has actually improved in appearance from its original design (see it today on Google Maps here). Hang in there, little house!

4129-lovers-lane_brown-bks_university-park_1947

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FIND YOUR HOUSE! OR ANOTHER (AT LEAST PRE-1970s) BUILDING IN UNIVERSITY PARK.

  1. Go here. (This is the “welcome page” — if this doesn’t load, go to the UP Public Library blog post here and click through. If you get an error message, go back to “welcome page” and you should see the search page.)
  2. Enter the address (number + street name) you want to find in the search box. You can also just type in a street name, and it will bring up all addresses on that street. (I typed in “Binkley” and got 18 pages of results — seems like overkill, but they’re all in chronological address order.) This works if you enter “Snider Plaza” — take a tour through the Snider Plaza of yesteryear. Some addresses will have more than one sheet. And there’s TONS of info on each property. 

And that’s it! You’ve lost a day! Or several! 

UPDATE: It appears this resource is no longer accessible by the general public. I haven’t checked, but my guess is that it is available only to University Park residents who have a library card. Please say it isn’t so, UP Public Library!

Not 100% sure where the boundaries for University Park are? See a City of University Park map here.

Enjoy!

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Sources & Notes

Absolutely everything you see here is from the University Park Public Library and the Brown Books in their collection. This is such an amazing resource. Thank you, UPPL and the City of University Park for digitizing these records and putting them online for all of us to use!

And thank you, Rod, for alerting me to this resource which I will be using constantly!

DOES DALLAS HAVE ANYTHING LIKE THIS??? IMAGINE!

snider-plaza_brown-bks_university-park_6600-1934_sinclalir_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Valentine’s Day Wishes from Dallas Railway — 1949

valentiines-day_dallas-railway_dallas-mag_feb-1949

by Paula Bosse

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Dallas:

You ride with us the long year through,

You smile through rain or shine,

That is why we’re picking you

To be our Valentine!

Love and kisses, Dallas Railway & Terminal Company

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Sources & Notes

Ad is from the February 1949 issue of Dallas magazine.

valentiines-day_dallas-railway_dallas-mag_feb-1949_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Downtown Dallas in Color — 1940s & 1950s

kodachrome_commerce-lamar_trolleydodger_twitterColorful Commerce St. (via trolleydodger.com)

by Paula Bosse

After seeing so many pictures of historic downtown Dallas in black and white, it’s pretty thrilling to see color photos — even better, super-saturated Kodachrome slides. Here are a few.

Above, a photo taken on July 31, 1950: a view of Commerce Street, taken from Lamar looking east. I LOVE this photo! Sadly, I really don’t love what this same block looks like today: brace yourselves — click here! (For reference, Padgitt Bros. was at 1018 Commerce.) 

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Below, a photo from 1954: the 300 block of N. Ervay, taken from Bryan looking southeast toward Pacific. The Republic Bank Building (at the left) is still there, but those buildings on the right? Gone, gone, gone. That space is now taken up with Thanksgiving Square. I may be in the minority, but I would rather have those buildings back. That crazy-looking building housing businesses such as Arcadia Liquor (309 N. Ervay)? I have been all-but-obsessed with that weird building for years. Personally, I prefer its bizarro architecture to that of Philip Johnson. See what this block looks like now, here.

kodachrome_bryan-n-ervay_1954_shorpyvia Shorpy.com

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Below, from 1950: Main Street, looking east toward St. Paul (and Titche’s). This is fantastic! The view now is here

kodachrome_main_1950_noah-jeppsonvia Noah Jeppson, Flickr

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Another great photo from the collection of Noah Jeppson (seriously, check out his Flickr stream here!), this is one I’ve posted before — everyone posts this because it’s such an amazing photo, from 1945 (!): Elm Street, looking east from the 1400 block. See it today, here

elm-street-color_1940s_jeppson-flickrvia Noah Jeppson

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Despite the watermark, this is a cool September, 1940 view of the gas station/service station which once held down the Preston Road entrance to Highland Park Village: looking northwesterly toward Mockingbird. The view today is here

kodachrome_highland-park-village_gas-stations_sept-1940_color-slide_ebay_watermarkvia eBay

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Another downtown view, this one showing the Walgreens at Commerce & Akard (at the Adolphus Hotel); the view is looking north up Akard (see it today here).

kodachrome_downtown_ebayvia eBay

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If you’ve got color photos/slides from this era, I’d love to see them!

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Sources & Notes

Links to all sources can be found beneath the photos.

Special shout-out to Michael T. Jackson (@memj83) for tagging me on Twitter to a post by @Kodakforever — a heart-stoppingly great collection of Kodachrome photos where I first saw a few of the photos posted above.

kodachrome_commerce-lamar_trolleydodger_twitter_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Soldier Fishing from a Viaduct — 1948

soldier-fishing-viaduct_feb-28-1948_DPLHope this isn’t dinner…

by Paula Bosse

A soldier in uniform, sitting on the concrete railing of a viaduct, casting into the Trinity. 

When I posted this in a Dallas history group several years ago and asked which viaduct is shown, there was no consensus — Houston Street was mentioned most often, but just about all of them got several votes!

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Sources & Notes

I can’t remember where I came across this photo (which is dated Feb. 28, 1948), but it is from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

soldier-fishing-viaduct_feb-28-1948_DPL_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Book Scene — 1940s

cokesbury_legaciesBrowsing at Cokesbury’s

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, and as a little tribute to his profession, I usually try to post something bookstore-related on his birthday.

A few weeks ago historian Rusty Williams (check out his books) sent me a great article from 1947 by publisher and bon vivant Bennett Cerf who wrote giddily about the Dallas book scene (and about Dallas in general). It’s a little over-the-top, enthusiasm-wise (Cerf was a master publicist and promoter), but he writes with genuine affection about notable bookstores and book people, including Cokesbury and its legendary manager Bliss Albright, McMurray’s Book Store and its legendary owner Elizabeth Ann McMurray, and big-time book collectors Everette Lee DeGolyer and Stanley Marcus. The article was published in the April 26, 1947 issue of Saturday Review, and it can be read here.

Cokesbury was described as being the largest bookstore in the world at one time. After a sizable expansion, it covered six floors and had 18,000 square feet of room for books. The building, designed by Mark Lemmon, was at 1910 Main Street, at St. Paul, with entrances on both Main and Commerce. (And those rounded bookcases are cool.)

cokesbury_int

cokesbury_ext_postcard_ebay

cokesbury_1966

cokesbury_bliss-albright_1953_detManager J. F. “Bliss” Albright, 1953

The other bookstore mentioned in the article is McMurray’s, a bookstore which is generally written about with impassioned reverence and awe — it may well be Dallas’ most highly regarded bookstore ever. Wish I could have seen it. Where Cokesbury was a massively large bookstore carrying a wide variety of new books, McMurray’s was definitely more of a “curated” small shop, which, from what I gather, served almost as much of a place for literary elites to gather for informal salons as it did as a retail bookstore. If you were a writer of any heft visiting Dallas, you made the pilgrimage to Commerce Street to check out McMurray’s.

mcmurray-elizabeth-ann_1951Owner Elizabeth Ann McMurray, 1951

mcmurrays_dobie_et-al_1949Texas literary titans J. Frank Dobie & Tom Lea (in hats), McMurray’s, 1949

mcmurrays_logo

Read about the history of both Cokesbury and McMurray’s (and other Dallas bookstores) (except, oddly, the Aldredge Book Store, the store my father was associated with for decades!) in the article “The Personal Touch: Bookselling in Dallas, 1920-1955” by David Farmer, which appeared in the Fall 1993 issue of Legacies. There are some great photos.

Another informative article (with even more great photos!) is “Cokesbury Book Store: The Premiere Book Store in the Southwest” by Jane Lenz Elder, which appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Legacies.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the Jane Lenz Elder Legacies article.

The Cokesbury postcards were found randomly on the internet.

The photos are from David Farmer’s book Stanley Marcus: A Life with Books (TCU Press).

Thanks again to Rusty Williams for sharing the Bennett Cerf article. Rusty’s newest book, Deadly Dallas: A History of Unfortunate Incidents and Grisly Fatalities, will be published in June, 2021.

More on Dallas bookstores can be found in a bunch of Flashback Dallas posts here.

cokesbury_legacies_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Squire Haskins — The Right Picture For Every Purpose (1949)

haskins-squire_dallas-mag_feb-1949_det
Have flashbulbs, will travel…

by Paula Bosse

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading this blog, you’ve absolutely seen photos by Lewis Benjamin “Squire” Haskins Jr. (1913-1985), one of Dallas’ busiest photographers, known for his aerial photography (taking photos as he piloted the plane!). Seeing this ad from 1949 made me happy — especially because it featured a photo of the man himself, and, even better, a photo of him holding a “this means business” camera (click to see a larger image).

haskins-squire_dallas-mag_feb-19491949

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THE RIGHT PICTURE FOR EVERY PURPOSE

Your story, convincingly told with expert photography … anywhere … under all conditions … in your office, showroom, plant, in the field or in the air.

One of the finest collections of Modern Dallas’ Skyline is available.

For the best in News or Commercial Photography call Squire Haskins, 24-hour service

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If you’re looking for a way to completely lose days of your life — pleasantly — you need to check out the unbelievable trove of Haskins’ photos at the Squire Haskins Photography Inc. Collection held by the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Take a deep breath… and click here.

There’s also a short bio of Haskins and more info on the collection here.

I’ll leave you with a self-portrait, from the UTA collection:

haskins-squire_self-portrait_n.d._UTA

Thank you, Squire for all that you captured.

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Sources & Notes

Ad is from Dallas magazine, a publication of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, February, 1949.

Self-portrait of Squire Haskins is from the Squire Haskins Photography Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries; more info on this photo can be found here.

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Showtime on Elm Street

theater-row_night_majestic-melba-tower-palace_portalLit up like Broadway… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Who doesn’t love nighttime photos of Dallas’ Theater Row, generating enough electricity to be seen from space. The Majestic, the Melba, the Palace. And a buck a night at the Majestic Hotel across the street, the window shades of which could not possibly have been enough to block out the blinding, strobing neon. This is a similar view to the fabulous photo from 1942 by Arthur Rothstein seen here. This is absolutely the period of Dallas’ history I wish I could have experienced first-hand.

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Sources & Notes

Photo titled “[Businesses on theatre row at night]” is from the Spotlight on North Texas Collection, UNT Media Library, UNT Libraries — more information can be found on the Portal to Texas History site here.

theater-row_night_majestic-melba-tower-palace_portal_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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