Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Announcements/News/PSAs

Have You Emailed Me Recently?

nancy_anxiety-x-4

by Paula Bosse

Oh no! I just discovered that my Flashback Dallas emails have not been auto-forwarding to my main email account!! There are MONTHS of emails I never received. I will start going back through the eye-wateringly large number of what I’m sure are very nice emails which are sitting unopened in their dark little Gmail dungeon. If you have written to me in the past I-don’t-know-how-many-months (!!) and have wondered why I never deigned to respond, now you know why. I apologize for this oversight. And, yes, like Nancy, there is anxiety-perspiration shooting off my fevered brow with great force. Argh.

*

Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Thank You, Candy’s Dirt! Thank You, Preservation Dallas!

candys-dirt_website_header

by Paula Bosse

Thank you so much to Candy’s Dirt — the popular Dallas real estate website and blog — for publishing Deb R. Brimer’s article on me, “Writer Paula Bosse Wins Preservation Dallas Award.” Deb wrote the article as a result of my having recently received Preservation Dallas’ 2019 Education Award, an occasion which, though hugely flattering and wonderfully gratifying, I hadn’t written about here, because, well, it seemed a little embarrassing for me to write about receiving an award. But now that someone else has written about it….

Thanks again to Candy’s Dirt and Deb Brimer!

And, officially, thank you, Preservation Dallas, for the honor of including me in your 2019 Preservation Achievement Awards!

preservation-dallas_education-award_2019_bosse

*

Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The “Blue House” Lives

blue-house_google_july-2016July, 2016 / Google Street View

by Paula Bosse

In January, 2016, news of an endangered 19th-century house in The Cedars, the area just south of downtown, was in the news: it was to be torn down in order to put in a parking lot. I followed Robert Wilonsky’s stories on it in The Dallas Morning News and read about it in online history and preservation groups, but there didn’t seem to be a lot mentioned about the history of the house. Who built it? And when? I decided to see if I could find the answers. I’d written about the history of houses and buildings and figured it wouldn’t take that long to find the answers, but it actually took a lot longer than I’d thought. But the detective work was fun, and I was surprised by how much research one can do without ever needing to walk away from one’s computer. So much now is within our digital reach: historical city directories, maps, newspaper archives, and genealogical information.

After a marathon session of using everything mentioned above, plus referring to a couple of Dallas-history-related books, I eventually traced real estate transfers back to the man who appears to have built the house: Max Rosenfield, around 1885. I excitedly messaged Robert Wilonsky at 4:58 a.m., knowing that he would be interested to learn this new info (especially as the man who built the house was the father of one of the most noteworthy arts critics in The Dallas News’ long history), and he passed the news on to his readers. (My step-by-step process of researching the house which once stood in a posh residential area of the city is in the post “The Blue House on Browder,” here.)

The house’s fate has been in limbo for a couple of years, but now the 133-year-old “Blue House” will be moved in pieces to its new home half a mile away (at Browder and Beaumont) where it will be reassembled and restored.

The move begins TOMORROW — April 3, 2018. The public is invited to a ceremony in which comments will be made and then the house will begin the move to its new home. For Preservation Dallas’ details on when and where, information on the event can be found here.

Enjoy your new home, Blue House!

blue-house_then-and-now

browder-house_bing

**

UPDATED: More on how the actual move went and an interview with the new owner of the house can be found at Candy’s Dirt, here.

Below is footage of the first part of the move — the disassembly — captured by D Magazine:

***

Sources & Notes

Top photo from Google Street View, July, 2016. (This view from Griffin is actually the side of the house — the front originally faced Browder Street, which no longer continues at that block.) Aerial view from Bing Maps.

Black-and-white photo of the house is from Preservation Dallas; color photo below it is from Homeward Bound, Inc. (used with permission), taken in about 2000.

Read the saga of the fight to save the house and how it will be moved in Robert Wilonsky’s Dallas Morning News article “One of Dallas’ oldest homes, built in the Cedars in the 1880s, ready for its new life on a new lot” (DMN, March 29, 2018), here.

My original step-by-step post on tracking down the history of the house — “The Blue House on Browder” — is here.

Click pictures to see larger images.

*

Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Flashback Dallas in D Magazine: “The Trinity Bridge-Jumpers”

d-mag_lost-dallas-cover_mar-2018

by Paula Bosse

I was flattered to be asked to contribute something to the “Lost Dallas” issue of D Magazine (great stories and photos, by the way — it’s on newsstands now!). When asked for a topic that might be interesting or offbeat, I remembered a story I had come across a few years ago which I had always meant to write about: an 1897 event in which a professional diver and an amateur “jumper” crossed paths at the old Commerce Street Bridge in front of a crowd of several thousand. The thought of diving/jumping from a Dallas bridge into the Trinity River — unless it’s at flood-stage — is, frankly, something I would never have considered, but it happened. There is a short overview of the event in the print edition of the magazine, but my full version — “The 1897 Battle of the Trinity Bridge Jumpers” — is available to read online at D’s website, here.

I won’t repeat the story here, but for you faithful lovers of history who read the full story (and who sneer at the very concept of tl;dr), here are a few images and bits of background info to flesh out the story a bit.

WILSON & SEXTON

It all began with a small announcement in The Dallas Morning News:

bridge-jumper_wilson_dmn_031797DMN, March 17, 1897

No photographs of the main characters are available, but drawings of the two men were featured in the pages of The News on March 22, 1897. First, J. B. Wilson, the “professional” bridge-diver who traveled from town to town plying his trade. As the drawing below shows, Wilson personally walked through the large crowd in his special diving costume, carrying a cigar box, soliciting “donations” from the crowd (one man attempted to slip in a live water snake he had in his pocket — Wilson was not amused).

trinity-bridge-jumper_wilson_drawing

Secondly, the unexpected hero of the day, young Arch Sexton: candy-maker, thrill-seeker. Sexton had this to say of the drawing: “That was an excellent picture of me in The News this morning. The artist knows a good-looking man when he sees him” (DMN, March 23, 1897).

trinity-bridge-jumper_sexton_drawing

THE COMMERCE STREET BRIDGE

The centerpiece of this story is the old Commerce Street Bridge, built around 1890 (it weathered the great flood of 1908 and was eventually replaced by a new bridge in 1915). This was before the Trinity River had been straightened and moved. This is what the bridge looked like on a typical day:

commerce-street-bridge_legacies_fall-1995photo via Legacies

And, below, the course of the river in 1897. The jump would have happened only a couple of blocks from the Old Red Courthouse, very close to what is now the edge of Dealey Plaza.

map_1898_trinity-det_portal
1898 map detail, via Portal to Texas History

STEVE BRODIE

Lastly, because I started the D magazine article with a look at the idol of bridge-jumpers everywhere (and because of this guy bridge-jumping became a whole thing), I should mention Steve Brodie, the man who attained worldwide fame and became massively wealthy as a result of claiming to have jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886 (the first person to have done so and survived). His claim of having jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge was disputed from the very beginning, but charges of fakery did not affect his celebrity — in fact, it might even have sharpened his mastery of constant self-promotion (which, in turn, inspired thousands of copycat bridge-jumpers across the country who hoped to cash in on some of that sweet Brodie moolah). When he wasn’t entertaining legions of fans at his well-known Bowery saloon, he kept his name in the headlines by devising other (also disputed) feats of daredevilry, promoting prize fights, and even appearing onstage in a version of his life’s story (complete with a nightly reenactment of the famed bridge jump). Watch a short but informative video about him here.

brodie-business-card_1897

brodie-saloon_postcard

He was so famous that his name became a slang term: “took a Brodie” or “pulled a Brodie” meant “made a dangerous leap” or, more broadly, “took a chance.” Here’s a slang-filled cartoon from 1936 which featured the term fifty years after Brodie’s jump.

slang_do-a-brodie-1936-cartoon

*

That’s the background. If you haven’t already, please mosey on over to D Magazine to read the full-length article I wrote about the Dallas bridge-jumpers of 1897! (And try to work “Steve Brodie” into a conversation today….)

***

Sources & Notes

The main reason this story stuck with me was that the original Dallas Morning News report was so amusingly written. I have no idea who wrote it — he identified himself only as “the News’ marine reporter” — but I hope his literary talents led him to bigger and better gigs than an un-bylined newspaper writer scouring the Dallas docks for morsels of news. His sarcastically bemused reports on this long-forgotten exhibition of bridge-jumping (and the follow-ups) can be found in the following entertaining articles:

  • “A Tale of the Trinity: ‘High Diver’ Wilson and ‘High Jumper’ Sexton Split the River Wide Open; Steve Brodie Outdone” (DMN, March 22, 1897), here
  • “A Day With the Divers: The Marine Reporter of The News Passes a Few Hours In Haunts of Jolly Jack Tar” (DMN, March 23, 1897), here
  • “A Day With High Divers: A. B. Sexton and Nick M. Miller Created a Commotion In Marine Circles” (DMN, April 19, 1897), here

Thanks for the opportunity to share this odd tale, D Magazine! See all of the “Lost Dallas” articles (and photos) here.

All images are larger when clicked.

*

Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Happy 4th Anniversary, Flashback Dallas!

tx-centennial_stamp_cook-coll_degolyer_SMU

by Paula Bosse

This weekend marks the fourth anniversary of this blog. It’s hard to believe, but, completely coincidentally, this is my 1,000th post! That’s a lotta Dallas. (Some might argue that’s too MUCH Dallas….) There are now just over 9,000 Flashback Dallas followers across various social media platforms, and it’s always nice to know there are others out there who share my interest in Dallas history. Thank you to all who read, follow, share, and comment. It wouldn’t be as much fun if I were just typing for myself.

Thank you! And now, Year 5!

–Paula

***

Sources & Notes

“Texas Centennial Exposition Stamp” from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on this image can be found here.

*

Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

George Dahl’s Downtown Public Library Is Now the Home of The Dallas Morning News

14DPL_schiwetzcrop

by Paula Bosse

Today is the official beginning of the next step in the history of the George Dahl-designed building at Commerce and Harwood which once housed the Dallas Public Library: after years of abandonment and deterioration, it is now the miraculously preserved and spiffed-up home of The Dallas Morning News! Read Robert Wilonsky’s valentine to the beautiful building — along with photos old and new — on the News site, here.

And while we’re at it, let’s look back to the beginnings of the building as the wonderfully modern Dallas Public Library in one of my very first Flashback Dallas posts, “George Dahl’s Sleek Downtown Library — 1955,” here.

Thank you, DMN, for saving and resuscitating this landmark Dallas building!

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Event: “Remixing the News” Screening at SMU

remixing_hamon-library-blog-header

by Paula Bosse

UPDATE: The screening was great! For those of you who might have missed this event — or who would like to see the films again — the one-hour program is airing on KERA-Channel 13’s “Frame of Mind” on Thurs. Nov. 16, 2017 at 10:30 p.m., with another airing at 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 20.

*

I’m really late announcing this event — WHICH TAKES PLACE TUESDAY, NOV. 14!! — but it sounds like something that people who are interested in Dallas history and/or video art would really enjoy: “Remixing the News,” presented by the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection at the Hamon Arts Library (SMU), in collaboration with KERA television and Dallas VideoFest.

So what is it?

The Jones Collection at SMU includes the WFAA Newsfilm archive which contains what must be thousands of hours of 16mm film footage from the 1960s and ’70s, originally shot to be used as part of Channel 8 News broadcasts (this includes tons of B-roll footage shot to supplement the stories, but not always used in newscasts). As you can imagine, this is an unusual treasure trove of local news, history, and pop culture. I’ve dipped in and showcased some of the offerings in previous posts about the State Fair of Texas, and on Dallas appearances by Jimi Hendrix, Tiny Tim, and Glen Campbell.

Jeremy Spracklen, head curator of the Jones Collection, describes how this interesting local news archive was “reappropriated, recontextualized, and deconstructed” to become something altogether different:

We went in a unique direction in this — we did an experiment where we gave 10 local filmmakers a hard-drive with several hundred hours’ worth of footage on it and had them create their own interpretation of it. So, it is part history and part new video art.

I love this sort of thing. Eleven short films were produced by ten Texas filmmakers (Spracklen himself contributed two). Here are the films which will be shown Tuesday night, November 14:

  • “2,000 Hours in Dallas” by Jeremy Spracklen
  • “The Story of Jane X” by Christian Vasquez
  • “Dallas Circle” by Justin Wilson
  • “Lawmen & Cowpokes” by Gordon K. Smith
  • “History Lessons” by Steve Baker
  • “Beyond 10” by Carmen Menza
  • “Glass” by Madison McMakin
  • “Poofs are New” by Blaine Dunlap
  • “Divided” by Michael Thomas & Dakota Ford
  • “The Night in the Last Branches” by Michael Alexander Morris
  • “Echoes of the Past” by Jeremy Spracklen

The FREE advance screening of this collection (which will air at a later time on KERA’s long-running “Frame of Mind” series) will be held at SMU in the Owen Art Center on Tuesday, Nov. 14 (which might be TODAY!) — it begins at 7:30 p.m. After the screening, Bart Weiss, artistic director of the Video Association of Dallas, will host a Q&A with several of the filmmakers in attendance.

ALSO, Jeremy Spracklen tells me that those who are interested are invited to tour his very chilly subterranean film-archive lair after the event. So much Texas film history lurks beneath the SMU campus!

This event sounds great. Be there!

remixing-the-news_smu_hamon

“Remixing the News”

Presented by the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, in collaboration with KERA and VideoFest

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Time: 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

O’Donnell Hall, room 2130, Owen Arts Center (see map below)

FREE to the public

***

Resources & Notes

More on this event can be found on the SMU website here and on the Hamon Arts Library blog here; the Facebook event page is here.

The event is free, and parking on the SMU campus after 7:00 p.m. is also free. Parking at SMU scares me, but here is what Jeremy advises: “The closest parking is in the meters in front of the Meadows building (they are not active after 7:00), the ‘U’ lot just south of the building, and, if those are full, the Meadows Museum parking garage is open — it is just down Bishop Blvd. and about a 5-minute walk.”

His map is below, with the parking areas highlighted in red. (Click to see larger image.)

SMUCampusMapNamesBLK

More on the WFAA Newsfilm archive can be found in a Flashback Dallas post “How the News Got Made.”

One of the filmmakers who has contributed a film to this event is Blaine Dunlap — I have posted links to two of his films, both of which I really enjoyed: Sunset High School on Film — 1970″ (which he made while he was a Sunset student) and “‘Sometimes I Run’: Dallas Noir — 1973” (about a philosophizing downtown street cleaner).

More on “Frame of Mind” here.

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Flashback Dallas on the Radio: La Reunion

la-reunion-marker_today_bigdhistoryThe La Reunion marker today… (photo by Big D History)

by Paula Bosse

Today a short and informative radio piece on the La Reunion French colony was aired across the state on the public radio program Texas Standard. The story was produced by Stephanie Kuo of KERA News, who was nice enough to invite me to participate as one of the interviewees (along with Dallas historian and storyteller Rose-Mary Rumbley and developer John Scovell). Listen to the 5-and-a-half-minute story here on the KERA site, or here on the Texas Standard site, via Soundcloud.

I’ve written about La Reunion before, but here are a few photos I took last year when I trekked over to all that remains of the original colony, its cemetery (known as both “La Reunion Cemetery” and the less romantic “Fish Trap Cemetery”). It’s fenced off to protect the few remaining historic grave markers, which have been eroding in the elements for over 160 years. Somehow I walked away having taken photos only of grape leaves and flowers and not the cemetery. (There are several photos online of the cemetery, including this one, from the Dallas Parks department; read the Texas Historical Commission marker here. You’ll note that 20th-century headstones can be seen: the cemetery was an active cemetery well after the colonists had moved away; in fact, Bonnie Parker was originally buried there until her remains were moved to the Crown Hill Cemetery.)

There are surprisingly few monuments or plaques in Dallas recognizing the historically important colony. In April, 1924, the Jane Douglas Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated the very first monument to the La Reunion settlement. The site of this granite marker was originally at Westmoreland and Fort Worth Avenue, but the marker (seen at top) was moved at some point to its current home, on the golf course of Stevens Park.

la-reunion-cemetery_grape-leaves_peb_052116

la-reunion-cemetery_flowers_peb_052116

la-reunion-cemetery_peb_052116

***

Sources & Notes

Photo of the 1924 marker, relocated to Stevens Park, is used with permission of Big D History.

All other photos were taken at La Reunion Cemetery/Fish Trap Cemetery in West Dallas by Paula Bosse on May 21, 2016. The location of the cemetery can be seen on Google Maps here.

An interesting tidbit about the grapevines: when the French colonists prepared to venture to Texas, several took cuttings of plants to take with them, with the intention of planting them in their new home and being able to enjoy wine made from the grape varieties of their homeland. When the colonists arrived in Texas, they planted/propagated the cuttings in Houston, unsure if the plants would survive the month-long walk (!) to Dallas after the lengthy ocean crossing. The flourishing plants were uprooted and transported to La Reunion by later arrivals. It is not inconceivable that the grape leaves seen growing today at the colony’s old cemetery might be descendants of the colonists’ imported grapevines.

The location of the La Reunion land was, more or less, 2,000 acres in West Dallas, with modern-day boundaries being Westmoreland on the west, N. Hampton on the east, the south bank of the Trinity on the north, and W. Davis Street on the south.

In a 1933 letter to The Dallas Morning News, Dallas resident George Cretien — who was born in 1856 in La Reunion (“Frenchtown to the native”) — disputed the location of the colony being near Westmoreland, where the old Delord ruins still stood at the time:

“The village of the colonists was located about a mile northeast of the Delord place on the bluff that the cement company has mostly destroyed for the making of its product.” (DMN, Sept. 17, 1933)

So there. In other words, Cement City: The Early Years.

Thanks again to Stephanie Kuo of KERA for inviting me to participate!

Click photos to see larger images.

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

La Reunion Tower

reunion-tower_skyline_091217Big D from inside the ball… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

On Tuesday night I gave a little talk on the history of the La Reunion colony as part of the Dallas Historical Society’s Pour Yourself Into History series. The event was held in the *very nice* Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck restaurant high atop Reunion Tower — right in the ball. I was a bit of a last-minute fill-in presenter, and I hesitated to accept the invitation because I always feel awkward talking in front of more than, say, two or three people, but I really, really wanted to go up to the top of Reunion Tower.

I hadn’t been to Reunion Tower since a family outing back around 1980 or so. Back then I was most fascinated by the fact that the restaurant slowly revolved to give diners a leisurely 360-degree view of the city (I always imagined it spinning out-of-control, pinning diners — and their meals — against the walls with centrifugal force, like a fine-dining version of the Spindletop ride at Six Flags, or The Rotor ride at the State Fair of Texas); but now, decades later, as an adult, the image of the spinning restaurant was eclipsed by the real star: the VIEW.

As you can imagine, the view is unbelievably spectacular — especially at night when Dallas is at its most glamorous. The ticket price is fairly steep to get up to the observation deck, and a meal and/or cocktails at the restaurant will set you back a goodly amount, but it is, without question, the most fabulous view of the city you’ll ever see. And you see all of it. When I started my talk about the history of the La Reunion colony of the 1850s (which was located about 5 miles due west of Reunion Tower, in West Dallas) the view was pretty much the one seen in the photo above; by the time I finished, we were, serendipitously, looking out over where the plucky colonists of “French Town” had toiled unsuccessfully 160 years ago. (Estimates on the boundary of La Reunion’s 2,000-acre land is the area now bounded by Westmoreland on the west, Hampton on the east, Davis on the south, and the Trinity River on the north — the southwest corner is marked here on Google Maps.)

It was a little noisy at the event Tuesday night, so if you were one of the very nice people who turned out, you might not have been able to hear anything I said! If you’d like to hear more about the history of La Reunion (and about Reunion Tower — and how, if a marketing agency had had its way, it might have been named “Esplanade” Tower), I enthusiastically recommend this very entertaining radio piece from Julia Barton (the La Reunion segment begins at about the 5:15 mark).

**

I took photos, but they don’t do justice to the view. The really breathtaking vistas are at night, and, sadly, none of those photos came out. Seriously, if you’ve never been up Reunion Tower — or if you haven’t been since it was opened in 1978 — you should definitely go now. Better still, go at sunset and enjoy the best view in Dallas as you sip delicious cocktails.

The view stretches for miles. Here’s a cropped view of Dealey Plaza (click to see it really big).

reunion-tower_dealey-plaza_triple-underpass_091217a

And, at sunset, the jail has never looked lovelier.

reunion-tower_sunset_jail_091217

Back down on terra firma, looking up and saying “goodbye” to the ball.

reunion-tower_the-ball_091217

Thank you, Dallas Historical Society, for inviting me to be part of your event! And thanks to everyone who came out … and up!

***

Sources & Notes*

Photos by Paula Bosse. Click ’em to see ’em bigger.

For more information of the La Reunion colony, see other Flashback Dallas posts here.

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Broken Links Are Driving Me to Drink

dallas-brewery_rusted-sign

by Paula Bosse

A couple of months ago I wrote about the arduous task of having to manually migrate files from one cloud to another cloud. Well, I haven’t quite finished, and there are now several links that when clicked will get you to one of those confoundingly cutesy “Oopsie! That file doesn’t seem to be here anymore!” 404 pages.

I’m slogging through the last 40 or so files — I hope to have everything moved by the coming week. If you get one of these error messages, hold tight and check back soon — equilibrium will be restored forthwith!

In the meantime, enjoy the photo of a rusted sign for Dallas Beer above. This is how I currently feel after having spent weeks moving hundreds and hundreds of digital files from here to there, one by one. When I started, I felt a bit fresher, like this:

dallas-brewery_sign

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll be fresh as a cynical daisy in no time!

***

Dallas Beer signs are from somewhere on the internet. That’s the best I can do. I’m really tired….

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

%d bloggers like this: