Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1960s

Historic Neon: The Super-Cool Sigel’s Sign

sigels-neon-sign_greenville-ave_072717One of Dallas’ favorite neon signs… (photo: Paula Bosse)

by Paula Bosse

I stopped by Sigel’s liquor store the other day (as one does…) and saw this legendary Sigel’s sign, recently installed in its new home in the parking lot of the Sigel’s store on Greenville Avenue, between Lovers Lane and Southwestern Boulevard, across from the Old Town Shopping Center. I love this neon sign. (See a very large image of it here.)

The sign’s design can be traced back to Dallas artist Marvin M. Sigel (whose great-uncle Harry Sigel founded the business in 1905) — this Fabulous Fifties design was created around 1953 specifically for the then-new store at 5636 Lemmon Avenue (at Inwood). When that store closed in 2009, the sign was refurbished and moved up to the company’s Addison location until that store fell victim to the company’s bankruptcy and was closed. Here’s a video of the fabulous sign when it was in Addison, with close-ups of its flashing neon and dancing bubbles:


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Marvin Meyer Sigel was born in Poland in 1932 and settled in Dallas in 1937 with his immigrant parents, both of whom had been doctors in Poland (his mother a dentist, his father an M.D.), although only his father continued to practice medicine in the United States. He lived in the vibrant Jewish enclave of South Dallas and went to Forest Avenue High School where he seems to have been a popular kid, interested in art, drumming, and ROTC. Below, a photo from the 1949 yearbook with the caption “Marvin ‘Hot Drums’ Sigel plays with the Swing Band.”

sigel-marvin_forest-avenue-high-school_drums_1949

His Forest Avenue High School senior photo, from 1949:

sigel-marvin_forest-avenue-high-school_1949

And his 1953 senior photo from the University of Texas:

sigel-marvin_university-of-tx_1953_senior

After studying art at both SMU (under Ed Bearden and DeForrest Judd) and the University of Texas and receiving his B.F.A. from UT in 1953, Sigel served a stint in the Eighth Army in Korea. Back in Dallas, he was remarkably active in the local art community — for decades — as both a fine artist and as an art instructor. He also worked for a while at Peter Wolf Associates, in advertising (on projects for companies like Braniff), and he even did a lot of the tedious paste-up work for Sigel’s ads (back when every picture of a bottle of wine or spirits had to be cut out individually and pasted into one of those huge ads!). But his passion was art, and at the same time he had those regular-paycheck gigs, he also managed to maintain a furious pace of painting new pieces to exhibit at a dizzying number of art shows. Below is an example of one of his watercolors, from 1957 (which was recently offered at auction by David Dike Fine Art). The title? “Cocktail Abstraction” — appropriate subject matter for a member of the Sigel family!

sigel-marvin_cocktail-abstraction_1957_david-dike-fine-art_jan-2016
“Cocktail Abstraction” by Marvin Sigel (1957)

When the Sigel’s Liquor store No. 7 opened at Lemmon & Inwood, it was suggested by family members that, hey, we have an artist in the family, let’s get Marvin to design a sign for us. According to Marvin, his cousin Sidney Sigel, who ran the company, probably just wanted a “rectangular sign with block letters,” but other family members wanted something newer and more exciting — something modern that would jump out of a sea of boring rectangular signs with block letters and draw attention. And it certainly did just that. If, as reports have it, that dazzling neon sign was designed in 1953, Marvin Sigel was only 21 years old!

When news broke 56 years later, in 2009, that the Lemmon & Inwood store was closing, there was a concerned uproar from the public about what would happen to the sign. Mr. Sigel was a bit taken aback by how much the people of Dallas had grown to love that sign and considered it a city landmark. Marvin Sigel, then 77 years old, said in a 2009 Dallas Morning News interview, “It was clever, but I figured it would be replaced by something more clever in a half-dozen years.”

The sign was built by the venerable Dallas firm of J. F. Zimmerman & Sons (est. 1901) who for generations had installed decorative neon elements all around town and had built innumerable lighted signs for companies big and small — their work could be seen on the Mercantile Building’s wonderful tower, on the exterior of the downtown Titche’s store on Main Street, and in the instantly recognizable signs for places as varied as the Cotton Bowl, Big Town, and, presumably, various other Sigel’s stores around the city.

The sign which was moved from Store No. 7 at Lemmon & Inwood to Addison had on its pole a small plaque (seen here) which said:

This Non-Conforming Sign designed by Marvin Sigel was built in the early 1950s. It was moved from Dallas, TX at Lemmon Ave. & Inwood. After being granted a variance it was refurbished to Code and installed here in June of 2009. Sign refurbished and installed by Starlite Sign of Denton, TX.

Interestingly, the plaque on the new location of the sign has a slightly different text:

sigels-sign-plaque_greenville-ave_072717

It appears that this is a different Sigel’s sign. In 1965, there were two Sigel’s stores on Lovers Lane: Store No. 8 was along the Miracle Mile on West Lovers Lane, near what is now the Dallas North Tollway, and Store No. 12 was on East Lovers Lane at Greenville (then near Louanns nightclub).

sigels-stores_1965-dallas-directory
1965 Dallas directory

In an April 22, 2009 Dallas Morning News article by Jeffrey Weiss (“The Story Behind That Sigel’s Sign”), is this quote from Mr. Sigel’s son, David S. Z. Sigel, about the original sign at Lemmon & Inwood, with mention of another similar sign: “He created the designs for this sign, as well as a similar but smaller sign which stood outside the Lovers Lane store (where Central Market now stands) for many years.” Here’s a map from a November, 1964 grand opening ad for the new store at 5744 E. Lovers Lane:

lovers-lane_new-store_110664
Detail from a grand opening ad, Nov. 6, 1964

So is the sign currently standing in the parking lot of the Sigel’s Fine Wines & Great Spirits at 5757 Greenville Avenue the sign which originally stood only a short four-tenths of a mile away? I hope so! And if it is, welcome back to the neighborhood, cool sign!

Whichever sign this is, it is one of the greatest neon designs Dallas has ever had, and I’m so happy it’s survived for over a half-century, through phenomenal city growth, physical displacement, and even company bankruptcy.

Thanks, Marvin, for designing this wonderful sign! And thanks, Starlite Sign of Denton, for the beautiful refurbishing!

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Sources & Notes
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Top photo and photo of blue plaque taken by me on July 27, 2017 at the Sigel’s store at 5757 Greenville Avenue.

YouTube video by Andrew F. Wood, shot in Addison in 2013.

Sources for other images as noted.

The Zimmerman & Sons nameplate can be seen on the original Lemmon & Inwood sign here (click to enlarge), posted on Flickr by Tim Anderson (a detail of his photo can be seen below) (there is another Zimmerman nameplate posted in the comments on that Flickr page); what appears to be a Zimmerman plate is on the side of the sign at the Greenville Avenue location facing the store’s entrance, not on the side seen in my photo at the top.

zimmerman-nameplate_sigels-sign_lemmon-inwood_flickr-det

Please check out the Dallas Morning News article in the DMN archives titled “Sigel’s Sign Designer Surprised by Its Fame — Project for Family’s Liquor Store Wasn’t a Hit with Boss, He Recalls” by Jeffrey Weiss (April 28, 2009) in which Marvin Sigel discusses his famous sign.

Also, check out these related (online) DMN articles:

  • “Sigel’s Beverages, A 111-Year-Old Dallas Chain, Filed for Bankruptcy; Wants to Close 5 Stores” by Maria Halkias (Oct. 21, 2016), here
  • “Sigel’s Iconic Neon Sign Returning to Dallas After Years Wasting Away in Addison” by Robert Wilonsky (March 27, 2017), here

If anyone can verify that this sign is, in fact, the sign from Store No. 12 (Lovers & Greenville), please let me know!

Most images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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Map of Downtown Dallas, For the Curious Conventioneer — 1962

big-d_aia-convention_aia-journal_aprill-1962Welcome to Convention City! (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In May, 1962, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) had their national convention in Dallas. The April, 1962 edition of the AIA Journal contained a boosterific article on Big D’s exciting architecture, a handy bibliography of previous Journal articles on specific Dallas projects and architects, a few photos, and a helpful map of downtown, containing, I suppose, the Big City sites that the visiting architect might find worth a look. In addition to your staples like Neiman-Marcus, the relatively new Statler Hilton, and the Republic Bank Building, it also contained a lot of … odd things. Like Magicland, M & M Leathercraft, and Ring and Brewer Western Wear. AND a lot of bars. A lot. Some of them pretty seedy. And several of which employed the talents of “exotic” dancers. (Hey, what happens in Dallas stays in Dallas.)

The map is actually pretty good — even though many of the simply-drawn buildings look absolutely nothing like their real counterparts (I mean … come on, architects!) — it’s helpful because it shows exactly where so many of these off-the-beaten-path bars and restaurants and shops were located. For instance, I’ve heard my aunt talk for years about her favorite Happy Hour destination back in the ’60s, but it wasn’t until I saw this map that I actually knew where Victor’s Lounge was: across Commerce from the Statler Hilton (right next to the architect’s favorite Dallas stop, Warehouse Cut-Rate Liquors).

Check it out. The alphabetical key is printed on the map, the numerical key is below. Click the map so you, too, can find out where exactly Sol’s Turf Bar was and which thoroughfare one needed to take to reach the Sportatorium (’cause if there’s anything architects love more than magic tricks, it’s professional wrestling!).

downtown-dallas-map_aia-journal_april-1962_convention

1. YMCA
2. Magicland; Phil’s Delicatessen
3. Rheinishcherhoff Restaurant
4. Cattlemen’s Restaurant
5. Majestic Theatre
6. Capri Theater
7. Tower Theater; Sigel’s Liquors
8. Corrigan Tower
9. Tower Petroleum Bldg.
10. Miller Bros. Jewelry
11. Ring & Brewer Western Wear
12. Filet Restaurant
13. Mexico City Restaurant
14. First National Motor Bank
15. Rio Grande Life Bldg.
16. National Bank of Commerce
17. E. M. Kahn Department Store
18. Texas Bank Bldg.
19. Wholesale Merchants Bldg.
20. James K. Wilson Co.
21. Santa Fe Bldg.
22. WFAA Radio Station
23. Oriental Cafe
24. Davis Bldg.
25. First National Bank
26. Cullum & Boren Sporting Goods
27. Palace Theater
28. 211 North Ervay Bldg.; Forget-Me-Not Gift Shop
29. Praetorian Bldg.; Shoe Center
30. Eatwell Cafe
31. Black Angus Restaurant
32. Mobil Bldg. (Magnolia Bldg.)
33. Golden Pheasant Restaurant; Hoffman’s Men’s Wear
34. Melody Shop; Shoe Center
35. Sol’s Turf Bar
36. Copper Cow Restaurant
37. Reynolds-Penland Department Store
38. E. M. Kahn Co.
39. Dreyfuss & Son
40. Volk’s Department Store; Rogers Factory Shoe Store
41. Mercantile Security Bldg.
42. Dallas Mercantile Bldg.; Tall Fashions
43. Victor’s Lounge
44. Warehouse Liquors
45. Town & Country Restaurant
46. Skeffington’s Men’s Wear
47. Lone Star Gas Co.
48. M & M Leathercraft
49. National Bankers Life Bldg.
50. Zoo Bar
51. Steak House Unique
52. Dallas Power and Light
53. 209 Browder Bldg.
54. Bell Telephone Co.
55. Federal Reserve Bank
56. Community Chest
57. Employers Insurance
58. Reserve Life Bldg.
59. Life Bldg.; Moore-DeGrazier Jewelry Co.
60. Theater Lounge (burlesque)
61. Horseshoe Lounge
62. Carousel Club (burlesque)
63. Colony Club (burlesque)
64. Brockles Restaurant

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Photo and map from the April, 1962 issue of AIA Journal. The entire issue is contained in a PDF, here. The Dallas content begins on page 39 of the PDF. The bibliography — which contains articles that I’d actually love to read! — can be found on page 83 of the PDF.

Images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The “Akard Street Canyon” — ca. 1962

downtown-dallas_aia-journal-april-1962Looking north toward Main, and beyond… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A view of the dowtown “canyon” — looking north on Akard from just south of Main, published in 1962, but probably taken in 1961 — possibly from the Baker Hotel.

A few of the tall buildings which made up the walls of the “canyon“:

Adolphus Hotel — northwest corner of Commerce and Akard, built in 1911/12, designed by architects Barnett, Haynes & Barnett. The Adolphus — the oldest building in this group and the tallest building in the city when it was built — is definitely one the canyon’s anchors, but in the photo above it is mostly — if not entirely — out of frame at the left foreground.

adolphus_1910s_postcard

Magnolia Building — northeast corner of Commerce and Akard (seen at right foreground of photo); called the “Mobil Building” in the 1962 Dallas directory, built in 1922; Alfred C. Bossom, architect. Now the Magnolia Hotel.

magnolia-building_postcard_pre-pegasus

Adolphus Tower — southwest corner of Main and Akard, built in 1954; Wyatt Hedrick, architect (click pictures to see larger images). The building is currently being remodeled for office use.

adolphus-tower_jan-1955_ad-det_sm

Southwestern Life Building — southeast corner of Main and Akard, built in 1911/12; Otto H. Lang, architect. Bill Clements (before he became Governor of Texas) bought the building on spec in 1965, then had it demolished in 1972. It was a parking lot for many years. It is now Pegasus Plaza, an attractive open area.

southwestern-life-bldg_1913-directory

Gulf States Building — northwest corner of Main and Akard; originally known as the Marvin Building, built in 1927, with a later addition of upper stories designed by Lang and Witchell. Converted to lofts.

gulf-states-bldg_dpl

Kirby Building — northeast corner of Main and Akard. The Kirby Building — the beautiful white building at center right in the top photo — was designed by the same architects who designed the Adolphus Hotel, Barnett, Haynes & Barnett, with a 1924 annex designed by Lang and Witchell. When construction began in 1912, the building was originally called the Busch Building, named after Adolphus Busch, whose hotel was just a stone’s throw away (it was called the Great Southern Life Building from 1918 to 1922 and was renamed “Kirby” when it was purchased in 1922 by John H. Kirby). When the building opened in 1913, its most prominent tenant was the A. Harris department store, which occupied the first five floors and the basement. On December 31, 1960, it was announced that the parent company of pioneer Dallas department store Sanger’s (which, at the time of this announcement was part of the Federated Stores chain, but which had opened as Sanger Bros. in Dallas in 1872) had acquired another pioneer Dallas department store, A. Harris & Co. (established in 1892, though Adolph Harris had been in business in Dallas since 1887). The newly christened “Sanger-Harris” store settled into the old Harris space in the Kirby in 1961. It’s hard to tell, but it looks as if there is both an “S” on the corner of the building in this photo (for “Sanger’s”?) as well as the “A. Harris & Co.” sign affixed to the Akard side of the building. The A. Harris store had been a Dallas landmark at Main and Akard for almost 50 years, but it seems the sign would have come down by the time of the official change in name (which happened on July 10, 1961). So perhaps this photo was taken between January and July of 1961, when both stores were actually operating under the same roof and accepting either store’s credit card. The Kirby is now a snazzy apartment building.

busch_bldg_postcard

Mayfair Department Store — 1414 Elm, southwest corner of Elm and Akard. Built in 1946, this Dallas outpost of a department store chain was designed by George L. Dahl and has been converted to apartments.

mayfair-dept-store_dahl_feb-1947

Dallas Federal Savings and Loan Building  —  1505 Elm, northeast corner of Elm and Akard. This blue, gray, and white building was built in 1956/57 and was designed by George Dahl. One of Dallas’ earliest movie theaters — the Queen Theater, built in 1912 — was demolished in 1955 to make way for the new office building. (A brand new parking garage was built at the same time.) Converted to condos and apartments.

dallas-federal-savings-and-loan_1505-elm_1957_sm     dallas-federal-savings_parking-garage_1957_ad-det

Fidelity Union Tower — northeast corner of Pacific and Akard, built in 1959/60, designed by Hedrick & Stanley; called the Mayflower Building for a short time. Now the Mosaic, converted to residences.

fidelity-union-tower-mayflower-bldg_hedrick-and-stanley_1958

511 North Akard — between Patterson and San Jacinto, built in 1958/59, designed for the Relief and Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention by architects Thomas, Jameson & Merrill. Currently apartments, with a 7-Eleven at street-level.

511-akard_1958-rendering_advance-leasing_ad-det

All but one of these buildings are still standing, and most have been converted into apartments and condos. The view up Akard today (here) doesn’t look as much like a canyon as it did 55 years ago, due mainly to the loss of the Southwestern Life Building at Main and Akard.

Below is a photo looking south on Akard, with the Baker Hotel (on Commerce) straight ahead. That “third wall” formed by the Baker makes things a little more “canyon-esque.” (Note the Queen Theater at the left.)

akard_mayfair_pinterest

And, finally, a postcard of “The Akard Street Canyon” which tourists could share with the family back in Poughkeepsie.

akard-canyon_ebay

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Top photo from the April, 1962 issue of AIA Journal (which is scanned in its entirety in a PDF, here).

Adolphus Hotel postcard from the Portal to Texas History.

Bird’s-eye view of the Gulf States Building from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Photo looking south on Akard from Pinterest.

Sketches and renderings of buildings mostly from ads, almost all of which appeared when the building in question opened.

For several photos showing the view south on Akard over the years, see the Flashback Dallas post “Akard Street Looking South, 1887-2015,” here.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The WFAA Studios, Designed by George Dahl, Rendered by Ed Bearden — 1961

wfaa_george-dahl_ed-bearden_postcard“Communications Center…”  (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, the WFAA studios, seen in a wonderful painting by Dallas artist Ed Bearden. The image is from a postcard touting the brand new ultra-modern building designed by one of Dallas’ top architects, the prolific George L. Dahl. The building still stands at Young and Record streets, next to the home of its then-sister-company, The Dallas Morning News (appropriately, the News building was also designed by Dahl … as was the soon-to-be HQ of The News, the old Dallas Public Library at Commerce and Harwood).

The super-cool mid-century “WFAA AM-FM-TV broadcasting plant” was completed in 1961. It opened to much fanfare in April of that year, with star-studded festivities featuring personal appearances by a host of ABC stars such as Connie Stevens, Johnny Crawford, and Nick Adams. If catching a glimpse of “Cricket” or the Rifleman’s son didn’t wow you, the public was also invited to tour the building and gawk at its state-of-the-art radio and television studios. This large 68,000-square-foot building allowed WFAA radio and WFAA-TV to be housed under the same roof. Before this, the AM and FM radio stations were broadcasting from studios atop the Santa Fe Building, and Channel 8 was broadcasting from their television studios on Harry Hines, at Wolf (studios which they sold to KERA at the end of 1959).

Aside from the innovative “folded-plate” concrete roof, one of the first things I noticed about this building was the staircase behind a “wall” of plate glass — I was instantly reminded of the staircase from the old Rogers Electric building (now Steinway Hall) on the Central Expressway service road at McCommas — all it needed was a gigantic ficus tree. (Unsurprisingly, that building — built in 1959 — was also designed by the very, very busy George Dahl.)

Cool building, cool architectural design, cool artistic rendering.

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Below is an early pre-construction rendering of the WFAA building, from 1959.

wfaa_bw_rendering_1959

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And a photo from the early 1970s.

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And here’s a view taken from the side of the building in 1963, looking toward Young Street.

wfaa_news-vehicles_belo-records_degolyer_smu_1963

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The early-’70s photo above was taken from this ad from the 1974-75 Texas Almanac. Ah, “Communications Center.” (I have to say, I’ve never heard of “WFAA-FM Stereo 98” nor their slogan “The Velvet Sound of Beautiful Music.” In fact, by the time this edition of the Almanac was published, WFAA-FM no longer existed — it had changed both its name — to KZEW — and its format — to rock.)

wfaa_texas-almanac_1974-75_portal

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Color postcard found on the entertaining blog Texas Pop Culture; see the post — which includes scans of the reverse side of the card — here.

Bearden’s signature is a bit hard to make out — the slightly distorted magnified signature can be seen here.

The more I see of Ed Bearden’s work, the more I like it. See his Dallas skyline from 1958 here; see his Dallas skyline from 1959 here.

Photo of the Channel 8 news vehicles is from the Belo Records collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photo is here.

More on architect George L. Dahl can be found at the Handbook of Texas, here, and at Wikipedia, here.

Read more about the history of FM radio in Dallas — including histories of WFAA-FM and KZEW — at the indispensable website of local broadcasting history — DFW Retroplex, here.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Meet Me in Dallas, On June the 23rd…”

jeannie-c-riley_flickrJeannie C. Riley

by Paula Bosse

Until last week, I don’t think I’d ever heard the 1969 song “The Back Side of Dallas,” sung by Jeannie C. Riley, who had had the blockbuster hit “Harper Valley PTA” the previous year. How have I never heard this? I was going to post it last week until I realized that it would be better to wait until today, because of this line from the song: “Meet me in Dallas on June the 23rd, his letter read.” And here we are, June 23rd.

The song, written by Jerry Foster and Bill Rice was released in October, 1969. It wasn’t the huge, crossover, multi-award-winning monster hit that “Harper Valley PTA” was, but it did earn Jeannie another Grammy nomination (she lost to Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” — if you’re going to lose, that’s a pretty great performance to lose to!).

Like “Harper Valley PTA,” it was one of several songs of the era which brought country music into the somewhat seedy realm of 1960s American culture. “The Back Side of Dallas” is about a small-town girl who finds herself a lonesome “working girl” in Dallas, chain-smoking king-size cigarettes, drinking in dingy bars, and popping pills. This ain’t no Kitty Wells song, y’all. (I’d love to hear Miranda Lambert — who also has an incredible country voice — cover this.)

back-side-of-dallas_jeannie-c-riley_label

Jeannie C. Riley — born in Anson, Texas in 1945 — was one of the first certifiable sex symbols in country music, always gorgeous, outfitted in miniskirts and go-go boots, with sky-high hair teased to a fare-thee-well. AND she had an absolutely fantastic voice. Below is video of a 24-year-old Jeannie C. Riley singing “Back Side of Dallas” on Del Reeves’ Country Carnival in 1969 (Del Reeves had some great songs in the ’60s, but his TV persona was a little too Dean Martin-wannabe for my taste … and … oh dear … that set!):

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I prefer the studio version, below. I’ve listened to this song dozens of times now, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet!

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And here’s Jeannie singing it in 2011, still sounding great! (Her thick Texas accent is the absolute best, and her laugh is fantastic.) She talks about the song a bit at the beginning with Jerry Foster, one of the writers of the song — the song itself starts at about the 3:10 mark.

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And, to round out this “June the 23rd” post, a few photos of Jeannie C. — surely one of the most photogenic faces and bad-ass vocalists in the history of country music. As my father used to say, “hot damn.”

jeannie-c-riley_motorcycle

jeannie-c-riley_3

jeannie-c-riley

jeannie-c-riley_2

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Most, if not all, photos of JCR from Pinterest.

Record label image found here.

A biography of Jeannie C. Riley is here.

“Harper Valley PTA” — you know you want to hear it. This is a great live version she did on, I think, the Wilburn Brothers Show, with Harold Morrison on dobro.

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Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Pickle Brine Ryan” — 1968

baseball_nolan-ryan_pickle-juice_1968_corbisBrining the blisters away….

by Paula Bosse

I give you a 21-year-old Nolan Ryan soaking his pitching finger in pickle juice. As one does.

Years before the future Baseball Hall of Famer made it to DFW, young Nolan was the star pitcher of the New York Mets. He was prone to blisters on the middle finger of his pitching hand, so Mets trainer Gus Mauch put him on a strict pickle juice regimen of soaking the affected finger between innings to toughen the skin and prevent blisters from popping up at inopportune moments. And, of course, this weird pickle juice thing became really big news in May, 1968. Sportswriters jumped all over it, and a few began calling him “Pickle Brine Ryan,” because it sort of rhymes.

The delicatessen where Ryan’s pickle juice of choice was purchased tried to cash in on what they hoped would become a fad by placing jars of the brine in the window with a sign proudly proclaiming that they were the source of the famous “Mets’ Pitching Juice.” According to a UPI story, when another pickle company offered the Mets five gallons of their pickle juice, trainer Mauch responded, “Gosh, you could embalm a whole swimming team with five gallons!”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

pickle-brine-ryan_may-1968

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Photo ©Bettmann/CORBIS, from May 6, 1968; it appeared in newspapers with the following caption:

While teammates relax before a game, using anything handy for a pillow, New York Mets’ pitcher Nolan Ryan (left) soaks his pitching fingers in pickle juice. That’s right — pickle juice! Ryan says the juice toughens his fingers so that he doesn’t get blisters.

I wonder if he kept it up? By the time he got back home to Texas and signed with the Rangers, I’d love to know that he upped his brine game by using pickled jalapeño juice.

An earlier Nolan Ryan-related Flashback Dallas post — “Nolan Ryan’s Celebratory Pancake Breakfast — 1972” — is here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Country Music — Every Saturday Night on Channel 11

country-music_saturday-night_channel-11_ktvt_1969The warm-up for wrestling…

by Paula Bosse

I have a surprisingly deep knowledge of classic country music. And it can all be traced back to sitting with my father every Saturday night as he watched the jam-packed lineup of country music TV shows on KTVT-Channel 11.

Followed by wrestling.

Which I also have a surprisingly deep knowledge of. If only by osmosis.

Thank you, Channel 11, for providing this bonding time with my father, which I didn’t really appreciate as a child, but I do now.

(And, yes, I’m happy that my antiquarian bookseller father and Comparative Literature-degree-holding mother often took our family to the Sportatorium to see both country music package shows and wrestling matches. You can’t say our family wasn’t well-rounded.)

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1969 ad from an odd little local publication (which probably used to belong to my father) called Country and Western — The Sound That Goes Around the World, published in DFW by PegAnn Production.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Mosaic Restoration at Downtown’s St. Jude Chapel

st-jude-chapel_scaffold_052417_bosse_bosseTile by tile by tile… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A couple of weeks ago I went downtown to check out the restoration of the large mosaic above the entrance to the St Jude Chapel on Main Street. The 1968 Gyorgy Kepes mosaic (which I wrote about here) is undergoing needed repair work, restoration, and cleaning, in preparation for next year’s 50th anniversary of the downtown chapel. The work on mosaics inside the chapel as well as the large one outside is being done by artist and preservationist Julie Richey of Julie Richey Mosaics in association with Art Restorations, Inc.

As you can imagine, the outdoor mosaic overlooking Main Street has, for 50 years, weathered everything from intense summer heat, freezing temperatures, automobile exhaust, slight shifting of the building’s structure, damage to individual tiles, mildew, grout decomposition, and a host of other factors, all of which led to the much-needed restoration work.

A couple of things that I found interesting, in talking with Julie Richey and Cher Goodson (of Art Restorations, Inc.) was that there are over 800,000 glass smalti tiles (or tesserae) forming the sunburst mosaic. 800,000! I had no idea it was so large until I was standing right below it. After missing or damaged tiles have been replaced, all 800,000-plus will be cleaned — by hand, I think — with, as Cher told me, Dawn dishwashing liquid (good for cleaning greasy dishes, oil-soaked waterfowl, and Venetian glass tiles). Speaking of those tiles, one of the most serendipitous moments in this project was when Julie was able to track down slabs of smalti in New York which were the very same smalti used in the original 1968 mosaic — they had been kept in storage for 50 years, and they look brand new. That means that the tesserae being used to replace the damaged or missing tiles are from the exact same batch as the originals, which means the vivid colors, the composition, the opacity, and the surface texture are the same. That is an incredible stroke of luck!

The work should be wrapping up soon — if you’d like to catch the last few days of this project, hop downtown and say hello to the women doing such great work! (UPDATE: The project actually ended Friday. But you should still go down and take a look at it!) While you’re there, you should step inside to see the little chapel, a calm and peaceful oasis in the heart of downtown. There are several other mosaics inside — Julie and company did work on some of those as well, most notably the very large, striking “Risen Christ” above the altar.

Below are some photos I took inside and outside the chapel on May 24, 2017 — most are larger when clicked.

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St. Jude Chapel is in the 1500 block of Main, between Ervay and Akard.

Here it is, seen from Neiman’s, across the street.

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Below is part of the mosaic by Gyorgy Kepes — seeing it up close, you begin to realize that, yeah, there probably are more than 800,000 glass tiles up there. (Definitely click the photo to see a very large image.)

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The photo at the top of the post shows the lift used to tackle the job; looking on is Dallas filmmaker Mark Birnbaum who is documenting the project. Below, Julie Richey and Lynne Chinn are raised up on the lift to do their torturously tedious and very, very detailed work (imagine working on this huge thing using tweezers!). Julie can be seen snipping “new” smalti to replace the damaged or missing tiles, working from photos, diagrams, grids, graphs, and guides to make sure the restoration is as close as possible to the original mosaic: the colors must match, the shapes must match, the placement must match.

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You really have to be focused to do work like this. Here, Julie is setting a tiny piece into that giant mosaic (the marked vertical strips of tape help map the mosaic and insure that everything goes back in exactly as it was originally placed in 1968.

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Speaking of snipping the smalti (which sounds like a naughty euphemism used amongst naughty mosaicists), here’s what’s left over, below. I talked to conservator Callie Heimburger, who gave me a lot of interesting information on how the whole intricate process worked — she was set up at a table on the sidewalk and had containers full of these beautiful discarded glass shards in front of her. I really wanted to scoop up a handful and sneak them into a pocket, but I managed to control myself.

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Everything is meticulously color-coded.

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And smalti? Here are bags of “new” bagged tiles — not shown are the slabs or the larger pieces which look a little like brightly colored peanut brittle.

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Julie asked if I wanted to go up on the lift and take a closer look. It was even more impressive (and a little overwhelming) to be right next to it. I also got to take a look over the top of the building. There Julie pointed out all that remains of one of downtown’s biggest and busiest retail stores, W. A. Green. I didn’t have the presence of mind to get a good photo up there, but here’s the “ghost sign,” seen from across the street.

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Since I was there, I had to step inside to see what the little chapel looked like. It’s very charming. And the mosaics inside are also impressive.

Here’s what you see as you step in.

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To your left is the altar. This lovely mosaic was also restored and cleaned. Also: curved walls, a stained glass skylight, and a light fixture that is one of my very favorite decorative elements of this chapel.

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A closer look at “Risen Christ.”

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Turn around, and from the pulpit you can see the choir loft.

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A wonderful depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

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A detail.

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I’m afraid I’m not very well-versed on my saint iconography, but this might be St. Martin de Porres, with a broom, and mice at his feet.

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Leave it to me to find these little mosaic mice, my favorite tiny discovery of the day.

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And here’s the view from the chapel toward Main Street.

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The St. Jude Chapel offers a nice, tranquil respite from a loud and busy downtown Dallas. You should visit sometime. All are welcome.

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UPDATE: Dallas filmmaker Mark Birnbaum was working on a short documentary of the project when I stopped by the site (you can see the back of his head in the top photo). His 10-minute film, “Genesis Mosaic,” can be viewed here.

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Thanks so much to Julie Richey, Callie Heimburger, Cher Goodson, and Lynne Chinn for taking the time to chat with me. Julie Richey Mosaics website is here; Art Restorations, Inc. website is here.

You can see more on this project (including photos and video) on Julie’s Facebook page, here, and Art Restorations’ Facebook page, here; see photos from the Risen Christ restoration on Julie’s blog, here.

The St. Jude Chapel (Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas) website is here; videos on the history of the downtown chapel are here.

All photos by Paula Bosse.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Neiman-Marcus Corporate Flag, Designed by Emilio Pucci — 1966

neiman-marcus-corporate-flag_emilio-pucci_1966_dallas-public-library“Emilio Pucci was our Betsy Ross…”

by Paula Bosse

While looking through the Neiman Marcus Collection at the downtown Dallas Public Library, I stumbled across this perhaps long-forgotten part of Neiman-Marcus history: the “corporate flag” designed by Italian fashion legend Emilio Pucci. The image was featured on a Neiman’s postcard; the text on the back of the card reads:

Flying high over the fashion land of Neiman-Marcus: our new corporate flag, the Lone-Star-and-Stripes. Emilio Pucci was our Betsy Ross.

Betsy Ross and Emilio Pucci mentioned in the same breath! An 18th-century American seamstress who became a patriotic icon, and an Italian fashion designer whose vividly colorful, boldly patterned designs came to symbolize the youth and energy of the 1960s… talk about your strange bedfellows!

The only thing I could find about this unusually colorful flag was a brief mention in a Dallas Morning News fashion article about Neiman’s 28th Neiman-Marcus Exposition Award in early February of 1966. Gay Simpson wrote in The News that the luncheon centerpieces “carried the colors of the new Neiman-Marcus house flag. The flag, designed by Emilio Pucci, Italian couturier, has the colors of a Texas sunset dramatized with the Lone Star and stripes” (DMN, Feb. 9, 1966).

Stanley Marcus wrote in his 1974 memoir Minding the Store that his business relationship with Pucci (“the most copied designer of our time, aside from Chanel”) began in Italy in 1948 when Marcus met with the struggling young designer and placed an order for several of his scarves. Though Neiman-Marcus had not yet expanded beyond their single department store in Dallas, the store’s reputation and influence were certainly known in fashionable circles around the world, and this N-M “stamp of approval” must have been immensely important to Pucci, whose name was not yet known. This friendship and business relationship blossomed into a mutually beneficial and very profitable partnership, and it seems perfectly reasonable that Pucci would design a flag for his friend and early supporter, Stanley Marcus. (Read more of Marcus’ thoughts on Pucci here.)

There you have it. Who knew?

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As a postscript, any Dallas blog worth its salt cannot let a mention of Emilio Pucci go by without noting his main connection to the city: Pucci will forever be remembered as the man who brought outrageously colorful and super groovy mod designs to the stewardess uniforms of Dallas-based Braniff International Airways (designs so retinally exciting that they make that little Neiman’s flag look a little dowdy in comparison!).

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The image of the corporate flag is from a Neiman’s postcard, which can be found in the extensive (!) Neiman Marcus Collection of the Dallas Public Library (the back of the card can be seen here); it is used with permission. Thanks to the incredibly helpful staff of the Dallas History & Archives division of the downtown Dallas Public Library. (Much thanks, particularly, to Digital Archivist Misty Maberry!)

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Roth’s, Fort Worth Avenue

roths_cook-collection_smuSign me up, Mr. Roth… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

When I see a building like this, I always hope I can find a photo of it somewhere, but all I’ve been able to come up with is this energetic rendering from a 1940s matchbook cover. Roth’s (which was advertised variously as Roth’s Cafe, Roth’s Restaurant, and Roth’s Drive-In) was in Oak Cliff, on Fort Worth Avenue. It opened in about 1940 or ’41 and operated a surprisingly long time — until about 1967. When Roth’s opened, its address was 2701 Fort Worth Avenue, but around 1952 or ’53 the address became 2601. (I think the numbering might have changed rather than the business moving to a new location a block down the street.)

During World War II, Mustang Village — a large housing development originally built for wartime workers (and, later, for returning veterans) — sprang up across Fort Worth Avenue from the restaurant. It was intended to be temporary housing only, but because Dallas suffered such a severe post-war housing shortage, Mustang Village (as well as its sister Oak Cliff “villages” La Reunion and Texan Courts) ended up being occupied into the ’50s. Suddenly there were a lot more people in that part of town, living, working, and, presumably, visiting restaurants.

As the 1960s dawned, Mustang Village was just a memory, and Roth’s new across-the-street neighbor was the enormous, brand new, headline-grabbing Bronco Bowl, which opened to much fanfare in September, 1961. I don’t know whether such close proximity to that huge self-contained entertainment complex hurt or helped Roth’s business, but it certainly must have increased traffic along Fort Worth Avenue.

Roth’s continued operations until it closed in 1967, perhaps not so coincidentally the same year that Oak Cliff’s beloved Sivils closed. Ernest Roth, like J. D. Sivils, most likely threw in the towel when a series of “wet” vs. “dry” votes in Oak Cliff continued to go against frustrated restaurant owners who insisted that their inability to sell beer and wine not only damaged their own businesses but also adversely affected the Oak Cliff economy. The last straw for Sivils and Roth may have been the unsuccessful petition drive in 1966/1967 to force a “beer election” — read about it here in a Morning News article from Aug. 17, 1966).

As far as that super-cool building seen at the top — I don’t know how long it remained standing, but when Roth’s closed, a mobile home dealer set up shop at 2601 Fort Worth Avenue, and mobile homes need a lot of parking space….

The building on the matchbook cover above is, unfortunately, long gone (as is the much-missed Bronco Bowl); the area today is occupied by asphalt, bland strip malls, and soulless corporate “architecture” (see what 2701 Fort Worth Avenue looks like today, here).

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The man behind Roth’s was Ernest W. Roth, a Hungarian immigrant who had worked for many years as maître-d’ at the Adolphus Hotel’s tony Century Room. He decided to go out on his own, and around 1940 he and his business partner Joseph Weintraub (who was also his brother-in-law) opened the Oak Cliff restaurant which boasted two dining rooms (with a seating capacity of 350, suitable for parties and banquets), fine steaks, and a live band and dancing on the weekends. Ernest’s wife Martha and their son Milton were also part of the family business. When the restaurant opened, there wasn’t much more out there on the “Fort Worth cut-off,” but the place must have been doing something right, because Roth’s lasted for at least 27 years — an eternity in the restaurant business. It seems to have remained a popular Oak Cliff dining destination until it closed around 1967.

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The real story, though, is the Roth family, especially Ernest’s mother, Johanna Roth, and even more especially, his older sister, Bertha Weintraub.

Johanna Rose Roth was born in 1863 in Budapest, where her father served as a member of the King’s Guard for Emperor Franz Josef. She and her husband and young children came to the United States about 1906 and, by 1913, eventually made their way to San Antonio. In the ’40s and ’50s she traveled by airplane back and forth between San Antonio and Dallas, visiting her five children and their families — she was known to the airlines as one of their most frequent customers (and one of their oldest). She died in Dallas in 1956 at the age of 92. (Click article below to see larger image.)

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Dallas  Morning News, Sept. 27, 1953

Johanna’s daughter Bertha had a very interesting life. She, too was born in Hungary — in 1890. After her husband Joe’s death in the mid ’40s, a regular at her brother’s restaurant, Abe Weinstein — big-time entertainment promoter and burlesque club empresario — offered Bertha a job as cashier at the Colony Club, his “classy” burlesque nightclub located across from the Adolphus. She accepted and, amazingly, worked there for 28 years, retiring only when the club closed in 1972 — when she was 82 years old! It sounds like she led a full life, which took her from Budapest to New York to San Francisco to San Antonio to Austin and to Dallas; she bluffed her way into a job as a dress designer, ran a boarding house in a house once owned by former Texas governor James Hogg, hobnobbed with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Liberace, was a friend of Candy Barr, and, as a child, was consoled by the queen of Hungary. She died in Dallas in 1997, a week and a half before her 107th birthday. The story Larry Powell wrote about her in The Dallas Morning News (Nov. 17, 1987) is very entertaining (you can read it here).

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Bertha Roth Weintraub

I feel certain that the extended Roth family found themselves entertained by quite a few unexpected stories around holiday dinner tables!

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Matchbook cover (top image) is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info is here.

Photo of Bertha Weintraub is from The Texas Jewish Post (Feb. 15, 1990), via the Portal to Texas History, here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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