Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1950s

The Zodiac Room

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by Paula Bosse

The tastefully swanky Zodiac Room opened at the downtown Neiman-Marcus store on April 27, 1953. (Interestingly, there was an earlier — and presumably unrelated — Zodiac Room, in the Jefferson Hotel, from at least 1950 to 1952.)

The Zodiac, a fashionable restaurant and tearoom featuring select foods, will open Monday on the sixth floor of Neiman-Marcus Company’s downtown store. Designed by Eleanor LeMaire of New York, the restaurant’s décor will suggest the roof of the world with signs of the Zodiac represented in both the main dining area and the terrace. (The Dallas Morning News, April 26, 1953)

Stanley Marcus wanted a restaurant in the store in which customers could take a break from shopping by having lunch or afternoon tea on-site, without having to leave the premises. Customers could continue to “shop” while dining as models walked around modeling fashions from the store’s inventory.

“[W]e installed a large restaurant, the Zodiac Room, to attract more people to the downtown area and as a service to those customers from out of town who were spending the day in the store.” (Stanley Marcus, in his book Minding the Store)

Below are a few ads from the Zodiac’s first week (click to see larger images).

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April 26, 1953

COME AND SEE DALLAS’ NEW AND DISTINCTIVE RESTAURANT — THE ZODIAC.

Just completed on our new sixth floor, the Zodiac Restaurant is another step in our downtown expansion program to bring to Dallas the most luxurious and elegant store in America.

The star studded atmosphere of the Zodiac will give you an out of this world feeling. The walls are a wonderful cerulean blue, the carpet’s deep enough for snowshoes and an Italian tile pool sprouts water lilies for the occasion. Informal modeling every day at luncheon.

Plan to have lunch with us this week and bring your guests. We think you’ll be enchanted with the atmosphere as well as the excellent cuisine. Luncheon 11:00 to 2:30, tea 2:30 to 5:00, dinner Thursday night 5:00 to 8:00. NEIMAN-MARCUS

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April 27, 1953

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April 28, 1953 (N-M ad, detail)

You could even get a Zodiac-inspired hair-do, the Zodiac Cut: “Sophisticated, spherical — without a hint of a part.”

zodiac-cut_nm-ad_042953April 29, 1953

Other than the fact that this elegant dining space was part of the world-famous Neiman-Marcus department store, its main draw was its food. According to Stanley Marcus, in his book Minding the Store, the Zodiac struggled for the first year or two and didn’t find its footing until he hired the now-legendary Helen Corbitt as the restaurant’s director. He wrote the following in a guest column in The Dallas Morning News in 1979:

“A landmark in the culinary history of Dallas was the arrival of Helen Corbitt, who made a monumental contribution to improvement of food and service standards in the community. The Neiman-Marcus Zodiac Room became famous under her direction.” (Stanley Marcus, DMN, April 12, 1979)

Below is an example of the fare favored by the Ladies Who Lunch (and the occasional Men Who Lunch), seen in a menu from 1956. (The most expensive item on the menu was the Roast Prime Rib of Beef, which came with a Baked Idaho Potato, a salad from the “Salad Wagon,” and a choice of coffee, milk, or “exquisite tea” — the price was $2.25, which in today’s money was a shockingly affordable $21.00.)

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A dessert menu (a bit hard to read, I’m afraid) is below:

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There was also a children’s menu, which was so charmingly designed by Neiman’s gift-wrap designer, Alma Shon, that I don’t blame a customer for having spirited away a copy of the menu as a holiday-time souvenir of what was no doubt a very special occasion (the date penciled at the top is Dec. 23, 1966). (More information about Ms. Shon is in the “Sources & Notes” section at the bottom of this post.) Below, the front and back of the children’s menu, illustrated with the signs of the zodiac:

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Inside, meal options for well-appointed kiddies and a “Zodiac game” to keep them occupied.

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A few years later, this Stanley Marcus-penned letter appeared as a 1976 N-M ad — it was a personal reply to a nine-year-old Zodiac patron who had apparently written to Neiman’s inquiring about the children’s menu, which she was distressed to see had disappeared on her last visit:

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May 17, 1976

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Lastly, a memory of the downtown Zodiac, from the Department Store Museum website:

The downtown Dallas store was in its entirety a magic store. Every step and turn off the escalators to the top floor was amazing. The Zodiac room with its floor-to-ceiling diaphanous curtains that filtered the bright Texas sky made for a dreamlike atmosphere along with the slender long-legged models in evening gowns and furs and the Andre Previn-inspired piano player. The popovers with strawberry and cinnamon butter weren’t bad either. Thank you, Dallas and Neiman-Marcus, for such a rich time in my life.

And it’s still going strong.

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Sources & Notes

Top image and other (non-children’s) menu images from eBay.

The four images of the Zodiac Room children’s menu are the reason I decided to do this post. My whimsy-threshold is pretty low, but I love the utterly charming drawings which grace the front and back covers. I saw them posted on the Instagram account @reflectionofaman (a cool account — here, for the desktop site — which features the photographs of Stanley Marcus, curated by his granddaughter, photographer Allison V. Smith); it had been shared there by Babs Bern (@mullett7665.manor). The menu’s artist — Alma Shon — was identified by her daughter Kate Heyhoe (@StarkRavingCat) in the comments. According to a 1953 Dallas Morning News profile, Shon was born in California in the early 1920s to Korean refugees who had fled Korea in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. She grew up in Los Angeles but made her way to Dallas by at least 1948; she began working for Neiman Marcus in 1948 or 1949. She was in charge of Neiman’s giftwrap design, but also designed other merchandising elements — she was with the store for several decades. More on Ms. Shon (including a photo of her from the ’50s) can be found in a post by her daughter Kate, here.

Color postcard of the Zodiac Room was found on Flickr, here. I used this same card in a previous Flashback Dallas post, “Luncheon at The Zodiac Room, Darling.”

Image of the  blue matchbox at the bottom is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries; more info is here.

More on Helen Corbitt can be found in articles in Texas Monthly and in Legacies; a couple of her recipes — including her famous Poppy-Seed Dressing — can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A Flooded Sportatorium

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Boys gotta do what boys gotta do… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Imagine it has flooded around the Sportatorium: what would you expect seven boys and their dog to do? Well, here they are doing about what you’d expect. (The image above is a detail from the undated photo below, by Squire Haskins — see this photo really big on the UTA website here.)

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Another photo, this one with a Huck-Finn-meets-Iwo-Jima-Memorial vibe (full-size on the UTA site here):

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My closer-up detail (click to see larger image):

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Another view (original full-size image here):

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Closer up, with a Grand Prize Beer billboard, cars (on Industrial?), and a sign for the next-door Plantation nightspot:

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No wrasslin’ tonight, y’all.

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Sources & Notes

All photos by Squire Haskins, from the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections. More info can be found on the first photo here, the second photo here, and the last photo here.

The Sportatorium was located at 1000 S. Industrial (now Riverfront), at Cadiz (see map here). Maybe a little too close to the Trinity….

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

 

Temple Emanu-El, At the “Northern Limits of Dallas” — 1957

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Temple Emanu-El, 1957… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, the new, not-yet-landscaped Temple Emanu-El in 1957, at the northeast corner of Hillcrest and Northwest Highway; this aerial view is looking north from Northwest Highway. (The view today, via Google Earth, is here.)

In 1952 Temple Emanu-El’s congregation purchased eighteen rolling acres of Caruth farmland from Earle Clark Caruth, at what was then described as “the northern limits of Dallas.” This was after a lengthy period of consideration by leaders of the congregation over whether they should accept the gift of developer and artist Sylvan T. Baer of eleven “wooded and rolling” acres in Oak Lawn along Turtle Creek which he had offered as the site of a new temple. Even though Baer’s attractive site was more centrally located than their long-time South Dallas location (a definite bonus, as the congregation wished to move closer to the North Dallas area where most of their members now lived), the Turtle Creek site was ultimately deemed to be too small, too far from the North Dallas area they preferred, and too restrictive as far as the ability to finance construction. (Though rejected as a religious site, Baer’s very pretty land eventually became the home of the Dallas Theater Center.)

Temple Emanu-El — home to the largest reform Jewish congregation in the South — hired Dallas architects Howard R. Meyer and Max M. Sandfield to design their new home (with William W. Wurster of the University of California serving as consultant); the project was announced in 1954, and dedication ceremonies of the finished building(s) took place in February, 1957, probably around the time the photos below and above were taken.

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Feb. 2, 1957

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Below, the first Temple Emanu-El, built in 1876 at Commerce and Field, designed by architect Carl G. DeGrote. It was dedicated May 28, 1876 (read the extensive coverage of the ceremonies as printed in the Dallas Herald here — click “zoom” to read). After a move to their next location, the old temple became the University of Dallas Medical Department in 1900; it was demolished around 1906.

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Temple Emanu-El, first location

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Later, as a medical school (DHS photo via NIH)

The second site was at the corner of S. Ervay and St. Louis, in The Cedars, built around 1898, designed by architects J. Reilly Gordon, H. A. Overbeck, and Roy Overbeck. Following another move in the ‘teens, the building was converted into a Unitarian Church; it was demolished in 1961 to make room for R. L. Thornton Freeway.

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The congregation moved into its third location about 1917: a new Hubbell & Greene-designed building at South Boulevard and S. Harwood, where they remained until the move to the new Hillcrest location. This building was demolished in 1972.

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The congregation officially moved to their fourth (and current) location, in North Dallas, at the beginning of 1957, led by Rabbi Levi A. Olan.

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Texas Jewish Post, Sept. 30, 1954 (click to read)

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Sources & Notes

First three photos by Life magazine photographer Joe Scherschel, © Time Inc. More than 100 photos from this assignment can be found here and here. Supposedly there was a cover-story on the new building, but all I’ve found is this one-page photo-with-caption from the Feb. 25, 1957 issue. If anyone has info on a lengthier Life story, please let me know.

Drawing and article announcing the new Temple Emanu-El are from the Texas Jewish Post (Sept. 30, 1954), here. (UNT’s Portal to Texas History has fully-scanned issues of the DFW-centric Texas Jewish Post — 1950-2011 — accessible here. All issues are searchable, and all have articles, photos, and ads — it is a fantastic resource.)

Read a description of the just-completed first Dallas synagogue from the Dallas Herald (May 28, 1876), here (column 4); read the surprisingly lengthy coverage of the official opening ceremonies, which includes a history of the events which led to the building’s construction, in the May 30, 1876 Herald, here (columns 1-4). (To read the articles, click the “zoom” tab above the scanned page.)

Read the Temple Emanu-El entry in the Handbook of Texas here.

The history page of the Temple Emanu–El website is here.

Head to the Dallas Morning News archives to read about the art and architecture of Temple Emanu-El in the article “A Temple of Art, Architecture — The Forms Merge In Well-Designed Emanu-El” by architecture critic David Dillon (DMN, Dec. 24, 1984).

A comprehensive history of Temple Emanu-El and Jewish life in Dallas (well-illustrated with photographs) can be found in the book A Light in the Prairie, Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, 1872-1997 by Gerry Cristol (Fort Worth: TCU Press, 1998).

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Enjoy That Dallas, Texas Hospitality”

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by Paula Bosse

…Or else!

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“Easy to reach … hard to leave.”

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Sources & Notes

Images from a great 1950s matchbook, found on eBay — like these.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Republic Bank Branding — 1955

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When the uniforms match the exterior of the building…

by Paula Bosse

Republic National Bank opened its dazzling new building on N. Ervay in December, 1954. It was the tallest building in the city, the interior boasted gold leaf everywhere, and the exterior was covered with thousands of aluminum panels embossed with a distinctive four-pointed “star” shape.

The building’s opening was quite the PR extravaganza — so much so that Life magazine sent photographer Joe Scherschel to take photos for the Feb. 28, 1955 article “Dazzler For Dallas.” Scherschel took a ton of photos, but only a handful made it into the article — one that didn’t make it is the one above which shows five young women on a staircase, all of whom are wearing dresses with those Republic Bank “stars” on them! I have to admit, I was a little more excited than I should have been to have noticed what I assume must have been a (fairly stylish) uniform (hostesses? elevator girls?). Kudos to whomever came up with that clever way to celebrate the bank’s home by incorporating one of the most distinctive elements of one of the city’s most distinctive buildings into something as easily overlooked as an employee’s uniform. That is attention to detail!

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Sources & Notes

All photos were taken by Joe Scherschel for Life magazine, ©Time, Inc. A large collection of the photos Scherschel took while on assignment in Dallas for this article can be viewed here.

I wrote about those fantastic embossed aluminum panels in the Flashback Dallas post “The Republic Bank Building and Spain’s ‘Casa de Los Picos,'” here.

All photos are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Merry Christmas from Dallas Artist Bud Biggs

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The bright lights of Christmas in downtown Dallas…

by Paula Bosse

An evening in downtown Dallas at Christmastime — alive with traffic and lights and energy — by Dallas artist Bud Biggs.

The painting appeared on the cover of the Christmas, 1959 issue of The Shamrock, a magazine published by the Shamrock Oil and Gas Corporation. The magazine’s description:

On the sidewalks, shoppers dart to and fro. On the street, autos dash by, leaving streaks of light in their haste. Gay lights and laughing Santas swing gayly overhead, festooning the area in a holiday glow. Above all this man-made madness, stars twinkle in contrast, reflecting a serenity reminiscent of a night nineteen hundred years ago. This is what The Shamrock staff sees in this vivid water color of Downtown Dallas at Christmastime by Artist Bud Biggs.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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Sources & Notes

This work by artist Bud Biggs appeared on the cover of the Christmas, 1959 edition of The Shamrock; this magazine is part of the Southwest Collection, Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University — the entire issue has been scanned and may be viewed as a PDF here.

My guess is that the title of the original painting is “Main Street, Christmas Night” and that it was one of the 12 paintings produced by Biggs in the mid 1950s as cover art for Dallas Magazine, a Dallas Chamber of Commerce publication. These paintings of Dallas scenes appeared as cover art for the monthly issues of 1956, in honor of the city’s centennial. The series won the “Best Covers of 1956” award from the American Association of Commerce Publications, and in 1958 all 12 of the original watercolors were purchased by Southwest Airmotive Company to be displayed in their new Love Field terminal. The 12 covers featured Biggs’ depictions of the following Dallas scenes and landmarks:

  • “Aerial View of Downtown Dallas”
  • “Ervay Street”
  • “Ground-breaking, Dallas University”
  • “Midway, State Fair of Texas”
  • “Trinity Industrial District”
  • “Central Expressway”
  • “Commerce Street”
  • “City Auditorium”
  • “Looking Up Pacific”
  • “Main Street, Christmas Night”
  • “SMU Legal Center”
  • “The Katy Round House”

More on this series of paintings can be found in the Dallas Morning News article “Art & Artists: Biggs Series Bought by Firm” by Rual Askew, Feb. 20, 1958.

Dallas native Bancroft Putnam “Bud” Biggs (1906-1985) attended Forest Ave. High School, SMU, and the St. Louis School of Fine Arts. He was primarily a commercial artist, working first for Dallas artist Guy Cahoon before opening his own advertising studio. He produced fine art as well, specializing in watercolors, and was a respected art instructor.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Christmas Window Shopping — 1950

xmas-shoppers_121650_hayes-collection_DPLHappy Santa fans…

by Paula Bosse

Here are a couple enjoying a Christmas display. Haven’t finished your shopping? There’s still time!

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Sources & Notes

Taken on Dec. 16, 1950, this photo is from the Hayes Collection, Dallas Public Library Dallas History & Archives Division, Dallas Public Library (“[Christmas storefront shoppers],” PA76-1/43.3).

More Flashback Dallas posts on Christmas can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Pat Boone, Host of Channel 5’s “Teen Times” — 1954

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“Handsome teen-ager” Pat Boone, host of WBAP’s “Teen Times”

by Paula Bosse

In January, 1954, soon-to-be pop-star Pat Boone transferred from a college in Nashville to North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas) in Denton — he was 19 years old and recently married with a baby on the way. An entertainer since childhood, he had recently appeared on (and won) Ted Mack’s nationally televised “Amateur Hour” and had a few minor recordings under his  belt. He entered the Denton college in the middle of the school year, majoring in speech and minoring in music.

In an interview with the college newspaper, The Campus Chat, student reporter Bill Moyers (yes, that Bill Moyers) asked the scrupulously clean-cut Boone what career he saw for himself. His answer: “I want to preach on Sundays at churches that can’t afford pastors, and perhaps I’ll even become a full-time pastor.” He said that even though he had devoted years to being an entertainer and his father-in-law was a bona fide star, he did not envision a career as a professional singer because, for one reason, he did not approve of night clubs, on moral grounds: “I don’t want to sing at night clubs, and that’s where most of the singers do much of their work” (Campus Chat, Feb. 24, 1954).

The reason he was being interviewed in the first place — after only a couple of months in town — was because he had been named as the host of a Dallas-Fort Worth television show called “Teen Times,” sponsored by Foremost Dairies and broadcast on Saturday afternoons on WBAP-Ch. 5; the show premiered in February, 1954. Boone acted as host, dressed as a soda jerk behind a drugstore soda fountain, with teenaged guests who represented one Dallas school and one Fort Worth school (the schools changed each week), competing in a sort of talent show. Boone kept things moving, performed a few songs, and, in between, sang the praises of Foremost milk and ice cream.

Boone hosted the show through the spring of 1955. During the run of this local show, his popularity grew quickly on a national level, the result of several national TV appearances and ever-increasing record sales. After his year-and-a-half time in Denton, he moved to New York in the summer of 1955 and enrolled at Columbia University; before the end of the year, Pat Boone’s fame exploded: he had a huge hit with a cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” and was appearing regularly on national TV. By the late ’50s his record sales were reportedly second only to Elvis Presley’s, even though Boone’s squeaky-clean and sincere wholesomeness was the polar opposite of the suggestive, hep-cat abandon of Elvis’ earthier style.

Even though Pat Boone was a North Texas student for only a short time, whenever he has returned to Denton over the years he has always received something of a hero’s welcome. With formative years spent here, and with his star-turn in the 1962 filmed-at-Fair-Park movie State Fair, Pat Boone has every right to be considered an honorary Texan.

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During his time in Denton, Pat Boone hosted two television shows for WBAP-Channel 5: the Foremost Dairies-sponsored “Teen Times” (often referred to as “Teen Time”) on Saturday afternoons, and the Bewley Mills-sponsored “Barn Dance” on Friday nights. (It looks like “Teen Times” was revamped a few years later and returned to Channel 5 in a somewhat similar format as “Teen-Age Downbeat” in January, 1958.)

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1954

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Feb. 7, 1954 (click to read)

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Feb. 13, 1954

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FWST, Feb. 12, 1954

Below, a super-blurry excerpt from Bill Moyers’ article in The Campus Chat (read the full interview here):

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Campus Chat (North Texas State College newspaper), Feb. 24, 1954

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FWST, June 20, 1954

In June, 1955, Les Handy — a voice teacher at Texas Wesleyan College — took over as emcee at “Teen Times.” 

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1955

And in September, 1955, Pat and Shirley and their new baby moved from Denton to New York City.

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Denton Record-Chronicle, Sept. 11, 1955

Pat Boone photos from the 1955 NTSC yearbook, The Yucca:

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Junior class photo, 1955

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Kappa Alpha fraternity photo

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Student Religious Council (detail from group photo)

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of Pat Boone behind a soda fountain holding a microphone appeared in the Feb. 24, 1954 edition of Campus Chat, the college paper of what was then North Texas State College; it is from the UNT Libraries Special Collections, and may be accessed on UNT’s Portal to Texas History, here.

Pat Boone’s wife, Shirley, was the daughter of the legendary Nashville “hillbilly” singer, Red Foley. Here’s a video of a nervous Boone and his father-in-law on Foley’s “Ozark Jubilee” TV show, two weeks after Pat and Shirley had left Denton for New York. They are singing “Tennessee Saturday Night,” Red Foley’s big hit from 1949 (hear his great original hillbilly boogie version here).

Because it involves Pat Boone and UNT, check out the 20-minute informational film all about the college, made for students by students in 1963, available to watch on the Portal to Texas History, here — Pat Boone offers a few enthusiastic bits of narration.

And, why not, here’s a photo of journalist Bill Moyers from the 1953 North Texas yearbook.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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

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

by Paula Bosse

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

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

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July, 1924 (click for larger image)

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

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

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Detroit Free Press, Oct. 1, 1927

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

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

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Jan., 1949

consumers-plumbing_gaston_100249Oct., 1949

consumers-plumbing_gaston_oct-1949Oct., 1949

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

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consumers_vw_1959_thesambadotcom_1via TheSamba.com

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

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

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

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Oct., 1947

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Sources & Notes

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

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

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

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas History on the BBC

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“Howdy, chaps!”

by Paula Bosse

A few years ago, when writing about one of the many attempts in the never-ending saga of trying to make the Trinity River a navigable waterway, I stumbled across the 99% Invisible podcast website where I discovered Julia Barton and her long audio piece on the very same topic. I was surprised — and excited — to find someone with a similar background to mine tackling Dallas’ history and looking at it from a thoroughly 21st-century perspective. I felt she and I had been separated at birth, and I enthusiastically contacted her via Twitter. Since then we’ve met a couple of times, chatted back and forth online, and, this year, she asked if I would help with research for a radio piece about Dallas she was preparing for BBC Radio. Of course I would!

Julia Barton is a radio and podcast editor and has worked extensively in public radio; she is currently working on Malcolm Gladwell’s hugely successful Revisionist History podcast. She also presents stories, some of which are about Dallas, a city she seems to have a lingering fascination with, even though she hasn’t lived here in decades. Though born in Minnesota, Julia spent most of her childhood in Dallas, growing up in the Little Forest Hills area, attending Alex Sanger Elementary, Gaston Middle School, and Skyline High School (Class of ’87) where she appears to have been an overachieving student journalist. She lives in New York City now, where she puts those journalism tools to good use.

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Julia Barton, 1987 Skyline High School yearbook

The first tidbit I heard about Julia’s story for the BBC involved another former Dallas resident, Dennis Rodman (of basketball and North Korea diplomacy fame), who grew up in both South Dallas and South Oak Cliff and attended Sunset High School for a couple of years before transferring to South Oak Cliff High School, where he graduated in 1979.

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Senior photo, South Oak Cliff High School, 1979

I’m not sure about the chronology of the piecing-together of the various aspects of Dallas history which comprise the finished half-hour BBC program, but an important kernel was Rodman’s childhood memory of hiking for miles with friends through underground sewage tunnels to Fair Park in order to get into the State Fair of Texas without the burden of paying — they just popped up a manhole cover when they’d reached their destination and … voilà! — they were inside Fair Park. He wrote about this in his autobiography Bad As I Wanna Be, and you can read this passage here (if bad language offends you, buckle up). I really love Rodman’s story about these tunnels — so much so that after Julia shared it with me, it got to the point where I was asking everyone I ran into if they’d ever heard about what I assumed was an apocryphal story. But the tunnel-to-Fair-Park-legend was true. And that weird kernel snowballed into a half-hour personal narrative about Dallas, race, inequality, education, school desegregation, and, yes, Big Tex. History isn’t always pretty, but let’s hope we can learn from past mistakes.

Listen to Julia Barton’s “Big Tex,” here.

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Sources & Notes

“Big Tex” was presented by Julia Barton for the UK’s BBC Radio 4. It features Julia’s classmates Sam Franklin (Class of ’86) and Nikki Benson (Class of ’87), her former teacher at Skyline Leonard Davis (an all-around great guy and fellow Dallas Historical Society volunteer — hi, Leonard!), as well as former teenage tunneller Melvin Qualls, local historian Donald Payton, and sixth graders from Julia’s alma mater, Alex Sanger Elementary School. It is a Falling Tree production, produced by Hannah Dean and Alan Hall. The link to the audio — and background on the production — is here. (Top photo is from the BBC page.)

Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer wrote a great piece on this radio program (“Before Desegregation, Black Kids Had a Secret Tunnel Into the State Fair. Truth!”) — read it here (it includes a few production photos taken as Julia researched the story in Dallas).

Julia Barton’s website is here; a collection of her stories for Public Radio International (PRI) is here.

Two of Julia’s Dallas narratives:

  • “Port of Dallas” — history of the attempt to navigate (and monetize) the Trinity River: as an audio-only podcast, and as a video presentation done as a TEDx Talk at SMU
  • “The Failed Socialist Utopian Dream That Helped Dallas Become a Major City” — a look at the La Réunion community of the 1850s, from the PRI “World in Words” podcast (starts at about the 5:30 mark)

Thanks for asking me to help with research, Julia — I particularly enjoyed fact-checking the question “was-Mussolini-*really*-invited-to-the-Texas-Centennial?” (He was!)

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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