Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1950s

“Dallas Day” at the State Fair of Texas

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Hey, Big D — don’t forget “Dallas Day”!

by Paula Bosse

“Dallas Day” used to be an important day at the State Fair of Texas. Like really important. Like national-holiday-important. Below is a typical mayoral proclamation announcing the sweeping closures of public and private businesses and institutions on “Dallas Day,” from 1899 (click to see a larger image; transcription follows):

1899_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101099Dallas Morning News, Oct. 10, 1899

THE GREAT TEXAS STATE FAIR

PROCLAMATION

Wednesday, Oct. 11, is hereby declared to be, and is to be, a full, free and public holiday within the corporate limits of our good city of Dallas, on account of Dallas Day at the Great Texas State Fair.

All business, public and private, the postoffice, the courts, the banks, and public schools, will close from Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, until Thursday morning, Oct. 12, to the end that all may turn out and have one full day’s benefit of this great educational institution.

Every employer in Dallas is charged to be loyal to this, our proclamation, for his own good, for the good of those he employs, for the good of their wives and families and of their sweethearts.

No loyal concern in Dallas will fail to observe this, our annual holiday, or fail to render to their employes every facility for observing it.

Every citizen of Dallas having in his possession a complimentary ticket to the Fair is hereby requested to keep his ticket in his pocket and to pay his way at the gate. Children in arms will be admitted to the Fair free. School children, accompanied by their teachers, at half price.

Done at Dallas this 9th day of October, 1899.

Signed:
John H. Traylor, Mayor

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For decades, it was expected that most Dallas businesses and government offices would close on “Dallas Day.” The central business district must have been a ghost town. Woe be to anyone needing a new frock, a replacement gasket, a bank draft, or even a postage stamp on “Dallas Day.” The city had bigger fish they wanted its citizens to fry.

1906_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101806Oct. 18, 1906

Here’s an early “Dallas Day” ad from 1889 with pointing fingers:

1889_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101489Oct. 14, 1889

The State Fair of Texas was (and continues to be) so filled with other ubiquitous “days” (such as old favorites “Hard Money Day” and “Chrysanthemum Day,” as seen in the ad below from 1895) that if Dallas weren’t Dallas, “Dallas Day” might run the risk of getting lost in the jam-packed fair schedule.

1895_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_102495Oct. 24, 1895

There were, of course, “Dallas Day” parades:

parade_state-fair_dallas-day_come-to-dallas_degolyer_SMU_ca1905ca. 1905, via DeGolyer Library, SMU

“Dallas Day” may still be a thing, for all I know (I guess I think of “Dallas Day” as the day Dallas’ elementary school kids get off to go to the fair, a tradition I hope never dies), but it had lost a lot of steam after those early days. Some businesses continued to close or shorten their hours to let employees enjoy the fair, but the era of a city shutting down so that everyone could flock to the State Fair began to fade after those early decades of the 20th century. But imagine how exciting that must have been, with all of Dallas descending on Fair Park en masse.

state-fair_dallas-day_101056Oct. 10, 1956

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

State Fair of Texas, Miscellaneous Tidbits from Its History

state-fair-of-texas_pennant_ebay_crop

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.)

state-fair_first_dallas-herald_100986
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.)

state-fair_street-scene_john-minor_1911_cook-colln_degolyer
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.)

ad-red-ball-gas_state-fair_dmn_101224-det

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:

state-fair_tx-almanac_1941-42

state-fair_tx-almanac_1941-42_det

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

state-fair_texas-week-mag_100446_portal_cover
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.”

state-fair_big-tex-ad_092456

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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.

sfot_big-tex_illuminated_1960s

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

sfot_little-bobs-bbq_baptist-convention-program_oct-1967

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)

sfot_swiss-skyride_FWST_101864

sfot_swiss-skyride_FWST_100964

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

My Dream House at the Greenville Avenue Reservoir

little-house_waterwoks_greenville-ave_bosseAll it needs is a little paint, a few flowers, maybe some curtains…

by Paula Bosse

I have  been fascinated by this little house-like structure which sits just north of the intersection of Mockingbird and Greenville my entire life. I grew up just a few blocks away, and I’ve passed this little house thousands of times. And every time I pass it, I look at it longingly, even though it’s certainly in a worse-for-wear condition. It was once (and may well STILL be) part of Dallas Water Utilities, housing machinery or equipment. 

A large underground reservoir was built on 16 acres at this location in 1929 on what was then generally touted as the city’s highest point of elevation — height equal to the 20th story of downtown’s Magnolia Building, according to newspaper reports at the time. The city’s plan was that the ground above this large “suburban” outpost of the Dallas water department would eventually become a park, but, sadly, those plans never materialized.

Below are a couple of images of the little building, from a 1950s-era silent short film on the City of Dallas Department of Waterworks, from the collection of the Dallas Municipal Archives (which you can watch on the Texas Archive of the Moving Image site here) (see pertinent footage at about the 6-minute mark).

The first screen-capture shows Greenville Avenue, looking north. If the camera panned to the left, you’d see the old Dr Pepper plant.

dallas-water_little-house_greenville-ave_north_tami-film_6.22

And here’s the little house from the front:

dallas-water_little-house_greenville-ave_tami-film

And here it is today, as seen in a moody April, 2019 Google Street View capture:

waterworks_greenville-ave_google_april-2019Google Street View, 2019

I can’t believe I’ve never actually bothered to look for this, but check out this aerial view showing the water department property, looking to the east, with Greenville Avenue running horizontally at the bottom and Mockingbird Lane at the right, via Google Maps:

dallas-water-utilities_greenville-and-mockingbird_google-aerialGoogle Maps

If anyone knows what’s inside the charming little house, I’d love to know. I’d also love to see other photos of it through the years, inside and out.

I still kind of want to live there. But I’d really do something about that poor metal awning over the door (come on, DWU!). Plant a few flowers. And maybe hang some cheerful curtains.

So. Much. Potential!

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Sources & Notes

Top photo taken by me in 2011.

All thanks to John Botefuhr for posting the link to the Department of Waterworks film on the Lakewood 1925-1985 Facebook group. The film is from the Dallas Municipal Archives and is posted on the website of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI), here

stand-pipes_lakewood_department of waterworks _TAMI

The silent film is just over 10 minutes long and has a lot of interesting footage of what the Dept. of Waterworks was doing around the city at the time. There are a lot of familiar (and unfamiliar) landmarks sprinkled throughout. If someone you know was a waterworks employee, you might see a familiar face.

Even though it appears to have been abandoned, I’m glad “my” little house still stands — it makes me happy every time I pass by.

little-house_waterwoks_greenville-ave_bosse_sm

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Dallas, Texas Blues” (via St. Louis) — 1958

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by Paula Bosse

Just stumbled across this slow, low-down-and-dirty Dixieland-influenced instrumental track called “Dallas, Texas Blues.” It comes from the 1958 album Dixieland from St. Louis by Sammy Gardner and His Mound City Six. I can’t find any information on this song or what it has to do with Big D, but it’s good. Take a listen:

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dixieland-gardner_matchbook_ebay

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Sources & Notes

More info on the track — and a 99-cent download — can be found here.

Read the liner notes by Nat Hentoff on the back of the original LP here.

dixieland-from-st-louis_cover_sm

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Rip Torn and Ann Wedgeworth’s Dallas Wedding — 1955

1948_torn-rip_taylor-high-school_1948-yrbk_senior-photo
E. R. “Rip” Torn, the pride of Taylor High School

by Paula Bosse

One of my favorite actors — Rip Torn — has died. My favorite performance of his was as Larry Sanders’ producer, Artie, on The Larry Sanders Show. He was PERFECT in that role. And I loved a little-seen movie he did in the ’70s called Payday in which he played a hard-living country-music singer (watch the trailer here; the full movie is currently on YouTube). But, really, I liked him in everything I saw him in.

A couple of years ago I wrote about Dallas-reared actress Ann Wedgeworth and was surprised to discover that she had been married to fellow Texan Rip Torn (born Elmore Rual Torn) and their wedding had been in Dallas. They had probably met in Austin in 1952 or 1953 when both were members of the University of Texas Curtain Club acting group. They were married in downtown Dallas on Saturday, January 15, 1955 at First Methodist Church on Ross and Harwood, with Rev. Calvin W. Froehner officiating. The 20-year-old bride wore rose-hued lace and satin; the 23-year-old groom probably wore a military uniform as he was then serving in the U.S. Army Military Police.

torn-rip_ann-wedgeworth_wedding_austin-american_012555
Austin American, Jan. 25, 1955

torn-rip_ann-wedgeworth_wedding_taylor-daily-press_012355
Taylor (TX) Daily Press, Jan. 23, 1955

methodist_first-methodist-church_ebay

Ann and Rip (who was called “Skip” as a child, which is nowhere near as good as “Rip”) moved to New York later in 1955 when Rip’s army hitch was finished, and both began working in New York theater fairly soon after their arrival. They had a daughter Danae and were married until their divorce in 1961.

Below are a few photos of Rip Torn from high school and college yearbooks. (Most images are larger when clicked.)

1946_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1946-yrbk_sophomore-photo
1946, Longview (TX) High School, sophomore

1947_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1947-yrbk_junior-photo
1947, Longview High School, junior

1947_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1947-chemistry-club-president
1947, Longview High School, Chemistry Club president

1947_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1947-school-paper-sports-editor
1947, Longview High School, sports editor of the school paper

1947_torn-rip_longview-high-school_1947-yrbk_junior-class-treasurer
1947, Longview High School, Junior Class treasurer

1948_torn-rip_taylor-high-school_1948-yrbk_senior-photo
1948, Taylor (TX) High School, senior

1948_torn-rip_taylor-high-school_1948-yrbk_annual-business-mgr
1948, Taylor High School, yearbook staff, business manager

1950_rip-torn_tx-a-and-m_soph_class-officer
1950, Texas A & M, Sophomore Class parliamentarian

1951_torn-rip_radio-guild_UT_1951-yrbk
1951, University of Texas, junior, Radio Guild

1952_torn-rip_UT_yrbk_1952_sigma-chi
1952, University of Texas, senior, Sigma Chi fraternity

rip-torn_glamor-shot
Hollywood glamour shot

RIP, Rip (1931-2019).

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Sources & Notes

Rip Torn had a famous first-cousin, Sissy Spacek — Rip’s mother and Sissy’s father were brother and sister. I checked the Quitman High School yearbook (Sissy’s alma mater) and found her mod and groovy 1968 senior photos. Here’s one, showing her as a class favorite, voted “Cutest Couple” with Jerry Blalock. (And, yes, that really is her.)

spacek-sissy_quitman-high-school_senior-photo_1968_cutest-couple

And, since I’m on a roll, here’s a photo of Rip Torn’s mother, Thelma Spacek, when she was a student at Southwestern College (Georgetown, TX) in 1927. Rip had that same profile.

torn-rip_mother_thelma-spacek_southwestern-univ_georgetown_1927

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RIP

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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.

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 which 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 .

cooper-wyatt_gloria-vanderbilt_1970_w-mag_sm

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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.

 

The Zodiac Room

zodiac-room_ebay_menu_cover

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).

zodiac_opening-ad_042653
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

zodiac_opening-today-ad_042753
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.)

zodiac-1956-menu_inside_ebay

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

zodiac-menu-2_ebay_dessert-menu

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:

zodiac-room_childrens-menu_instagram_front

zodiac-room_childrens-menu_instagram_back

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

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zodiac-room_childrens-menu_instagram_zodiac-game

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:

zodiac-room_051776_ad-det_childrens-menu
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.

zodiac_matchbox_cook-collection_degolyer-library_SMU

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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.

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