Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Bars

Stoneleigh Pharmacy / Stoneleigh P

stoneleigh-pharmacy_fountain_ebay_2The pharmacy’s soda fountain… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I’m pretty sure I was in the old Stoneleigh Pharmacy before it became the Stoneleigh P, but if so, I have no memory of it other than sitting at the fountain. I might have had a grilled cheese sandwich and a milkshake. I’ve definitely been in the “P” post-1980 — in fact, my father’s bookstore used to be across the street from it, and it was definitely a mainstay for great hamburgers.

Despite the location being so familiar, I didn’t know about the history of the old Stoneleigh Pharmacy, so when I came across the (slightly blurry) photo above and the one immediately below, I thought I should look into what was happening at 2926 Maple Avenue before the arrival of the Stoneleigh P.

stoneleigh-pharmacy_fountain_ebay_1

The Stoneleigh Pharmacy was the anchor of a small strip of shops which were built in 1923 at Maple and Wolf, directly across from the brand-new Stoneleigh Court, which, though now a hotel, began life as a very fashionable apartment-hotel (an apartment house with hotel amenities). There were concerns about a shopping strip in what was then a residential area, and the city tried to stop the construction. (Most images are larger when clicked.)

maple-and-wolf_dmn_022523_constructionDallas Morning News, Feb. 25, 1923

But the city lost and the building was completed.

maple-and-wolf_dmn_070823_for-lease
DMN, July 8, 1923

I looked everywhere to find a period photo, and this is the best I could do — it appeared in a special section of The Dallas Morning News which coincided with the opening week of the Stoneleigh Court.

stoneleigh-drug-store_stoneleigh-court-adv-supp_101423_croppedDMN, Oct. 14, 1923

Here’s a drawing:

stoneleigh-drug-store_101423_adv-supp-det
DMN, Oct. 14, 1923

The interior of what was originally called the Stoneleigh Drug Store, at 2926 Maple Avenue:

stoneleigh-drug-store_101423_det_drawing
DMN, Oct. 14, 1923

And a description of what sounds like a showplace of a drugstore, including Circassian-walnut fixtures inlaid with ebony:

stoneleigh-drug-store_101423_pharmacy-det
DMN, Oct. 14, 1923

stoneleigh-pharmacy-label_jim-wheat

Its neighbors, in 1927:

stoneleigh-pharmacy_1927-directoryMaple Ave., 1927 Dallas directory

The drug store was owned by a company presided over by Royal A. Ferris, Jr., whose banker father had, until 1913, owned what many considered to be the most beautiful house in Dallas — Ivy Hall (which was situated at Maple and Wolf, diagonally across from the pharmacy, and which would become the site of the Maple Terrace Apartments in 1924).

The drug store changed hands several times, until 1931 when pharmacist Henry C. Burroughs acquired it — and he was there for the long-haul, owning it until 1970. (H. C. Burroughs is also notable for having served on the very first Dallas City Council, having been elected in 1931 when the city of Dallas adopted the city council-city manager form of government.)

burroughs-h-c_1950sHenry C. Burroughs, 1950s

stoneleigh-pharmacy_fountain_matchbook_ebay_a        stoneleigh-pharmacy_fountain_matchbook_ebay_b

stoneleigh-pharmacy_fountain_matchbook_ebay_inside

In 1973, the pharmacy stopped being a pharmacy when it was purchased by a group of investors including Tom Garrison, who renovated the old drugstore into a neighborhood bar/pub, while still retaining a drugstore “theme” and naming the new endeavor the Stoneleigh P. It was an immediate hit with the intellectual/artistic crowd, attracting denizens of the (then-funky) McKinney Avenue and Oak Lawn neighborhoods, Stoneleigh Hotel guests, Maple Terrace residents, and staffers from nearby KERA.

It was “happening” but not obnoxious — although the Lou Lattimore ad below — featuring a “glitter jeans” “knockoutfit” (yes, “knockoutfit”) which “can make you outsparkle the gang at the Stoneleigh P” — might have one thinking otherwise. (It was the ’70s, man.)

stoneleigh-p_lou-lattimore-ad_jan-1974
Lou Lattimore ad, January, 1974

Everything seemed to be going along swimmingly when, in the early hours of January 26, 1980 a huge fire engulfed the group of buildings on the southeast corner of Maple and Wolf — according to newspaper reports, at least 15 “major pieces of equipment” and 75 firefighters responded to the multi-alarm fire. The 57-year-old building burned to the ground. Watch the WBAP-Ch. 5 News report here (with additional footage here).

A few screenshots from the above-linked news report:

stoneleigh-p-fire_012680_ch-5-news_portal

stoneleigh-p-fire_012680_ch-5-news_portal_intersection

stoneleigh-p-fire_012680_ch-5-news_portal_sign

Garrison rebuilt, and the new Stoneleigh P opened in the summer of 1981. It still stands and is something of a Dallas institution. It’s now an unbelievable 46 years old. Here’s how it celebrated its 18th anniversary:

stoneleigh-p_ad_1991
1991 ad

I’m certainly glad it’s still around. I’ve got some great memories of the Stoneleigh P (except, maybe, for that one New Year’s Eve in the ’80s…).

stoneleigh-p_aug-2015_bosse-photo

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Sources & Notes

Top two photos found on eBay. They appear to have been taken by the Liquid Carbonic Corporation, manufacturers of soda fountains — read all about the company here.

Stoneleigh Pharmacy label (with red letters) is from Jim Wheat’s Dallas County Texas Archives site. (J. T. Covington was associated with the pharmacy from about 1925 to 1927.)

Videotape screenshots are from the WBAP-Ch. 5 News report on the 1980 fire; footage is from the KXAS-NBC 5 News Collection, UNT Libraries Special Collections, Portal to Texas History.

Photo showing the interior of the Stoneleigh P was taken in 2015 by Paula Bosse.

An entertaining interview with Stoneleigh P owner Tom Garrison can be found in the 2017 D Magazine article “History of Dallas Food: Tom Garrison’s Stoneleigh P” by Nancy Nichols, here.

Stoneleigh P website is here.

stoneleigh-p-fire_sign_012680_ch-5-news_portal

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Jefferson Dagnal’s Saloon, Deep Ellum — 1906

fritts-and-dagnal_brent-burton
“Fritts & Dagnal,” Deep Ellum saloon… (photo: Brent Burton)

by Paula Bosse

Reader Brent Burton commented on one of my tweets on Twitter to say that he had an old photo showing his great-great-grandfather standing in a saloon he had owned in Dallas around the turn-of-the-century and wanted to know how he might access old Dallas directories in order to try to determine where the bar had been. I told him that online scans of city directories are available for free from the Dallas Public Library and the Portal to Texas History (more on this is in my post How to Access Historical Dallas City Directories Online”). I also offered to see what I could find out.

The photo is the one above (click it to see a larger image). All he knew was that it was taken in a bar owned by his great-great-grandfather Jefferson Davis Dagnall (whose last name is most often spelled “Dagnal” in various documents such as census records, directories, and his death certificate, so I will refer to him with this spelling) and that the photo was taken in the late 1800s or early 1900s. I figured it would be pretty easy to find the info because his name was so uncommon, but that was complicated by the fact that his name was spelled and misspelled many different ways — I think I came across five or six permutations. It took a long time to figure out where that photo was most likely taken — mainly by going through census records and looking at all the city directories — year by year — to pin down where he was working each year. And he got around — he lived at a new address almost every year, and changed jobs almost as frequently.

Jefferson Davis Dagnal was born in 1861, probably in Fort Bend, Texas. His father, a South Carolina native, appears to have died fighting in the Civil War; Jeff (…I call him Jeff…) was 3 years old when his father died. By 1880 he was a teenager, working on a Dallas-area farm. In 1883, Jeff was working as a blacksmith. According to city directories, he held the following jobs: store clerk, laborer, streetcar driver, house-mover, electrician, and bartender.

1905 was the year he seems to have settled into bartending, a job he held in various establishments in Deep Ellum for a decade, until his death in 1915. He appears to have owned (or co-owned) only one of these bars: Fritts & Dagnal. It seems the venture with partner E. G. Fritts was short-lived: its only listing is in the 1906 directory — by 1907 Jeff had moved on, tending bar elsewhere.

1906-directory_dagnal_saloon_fritts-and-dagnal_673-elm

The saloon was listed in the 1906 city directory as being at 673 Elm — that address was changed in 1911 and became 2603 ½ Elm. This was in Deep Ellum, at the northeast corner of Elm and Good (possibly on the second floor). Below is a 1905 Sanborn map showing the location (the full map is here).

673-elm_fritts-and-dagnal_sanborn_sheet-42_1905_det
1905 Sanborn map, detail

The lot that building stood on at Elm and what is now Good-Latimer is empty, but a current-ish look at the location, from Google Street View, can be seen here (I am attempting to post a view from 2015, before all the construction work was going on near the Elm and Good-Latimer intersection — but just move up or down Elm a bit on Google and you’ll see construction images take over).

Below, a couple of ads from around the time Jeff Dagnal and E. G. Fritts decided to start up their short-lived saloon at 673 Elm: the first ad shows that it was not unusual in 1905 for large livestock to be kept in Deep Ellum (where they might even have been “rustled”), and the second ad shows that both the upstairs and downstairs spaces of the building at 673 Elm were available to rent:

1905_673-elm_strayed_dmn_051305Dallas Morning News, May 13, 1905

1906_673-elm_for-rent_dmn_050606DMN, May 6, 1906

(According to the Inflation Calculator, those 1906 rents of $20 and $40 would be about $550 and $1,100 in today’s money.)

Jefferson Davis Dagnal died in Dallas on Feb. 25, 1915. His death certificate — with information provided by his daughter, Cora — listed his occupation as “blacksmith,” even though he had been a bartender (and, briefly, a saloon owner) for at least the last ten years of his life.

1915_dagnal_death_dmn_022615
DMN, Feb. 26, 1915

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One interesting thing about Mr. Dagnal, was his relationship with his wife Alice, the mother of his second child, Clarence, who was born in 1893. Alice and Jeff appear to have hit a rough patch in their marriage pretty early on. In the 1900 census, they were living in different cities, and each claimed to be widowed. I don’t know if they ever officially divorced (or even if they officially married), but I suppose it was easier in that era to claim a spouse had died rather than admit the shame of divorce or abandonment. By 1903 both were living in Dallas — at the same address. But by 1904 they were living apart, and Alice was, again, claiming to be a widow — even though an alive-and-kicking Jeff was listed in the directory right under her name!

1904-directory_dagnal_alice-and-jeff1904 Dallas directory

I have come across this phenomenon so frequently that I now question every “widow” or “widowed” claim I come across. Information from the U. S. Census (where people give false ages and incorrect marital status ALL THE TIME) should be taken with a grain of salt!

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Sources & Notes

Photo of Jefferson Dagnal’s saloon was shared with me by Dagnal’s great-great-grandson, Brent Burton and is used here with his permission. Jeff is probably in the photo — in 1906 he would have been 45 years old. Thank you for the great photo, Brent!

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The 101 Bar: Patrick Hannon, Prop. — ca. 1917

101-bar_ca-1917Pat Hannon’s dreams are about to be dashed… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The 101 Bar was located at 323 North Ervay, on the southwest corner of Ervay and Bryan — it is now the site of Thanksgiving Square. The owner was Patrick Hannon who had worked in saloons in Dallas from at least 1908. The bar pictured above opened around 1917 but lasted only a few months — by the time the 1918 directories were printed, 323 N. Ervay was listed as “vacant.” Pat had worked his way up the competitive saloon trade in Dallas, from bartender to owner, only to be cut down by Prohibition. Had Prohibition not gone into effect in 1918 (with Dallas County voting to start even earlier, in October, 1917), this fine-looking  bar might have had a long, boozy life. Pat disappeared from the directory completely in 1918, but he was back in 1919, with a new occupation: butcher. Meat-cutting is all well and good and certainly pays the bills, but I bet in his idle moments, Pat’s thoughts turned to daydreams of his old Ervay St. bar.

The 1917 Dallas directory showed 183 bars operating in Dallas; the next year, zero.

Bad timing, Pat.

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Sources & Notes

I’m not sure where the photo came from — some random web page, I think.

Why did Dallas County go dry so early? Because of a “local option” vote in September, 1917. The city of Dallas voted against it, but the surrounding communities voted overwhelmingly FOR it. (You could still drive over to Fort Worth for legal beer and hooch, though.) Election results below (click for larger image). 

prohibition_local-option_dmn_102017Dallas Morning News, Oct. 20, 1917

How were things faring a year later?

probibition_dallas-co_dmn_102018DMN, Oct. 20, 1918

This has been a rather tenuously-associated St. Patrick’s Day post (Irish name, bar, green border), but … Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Gypsy Tea Room, Central Avenue, and The Darensbourg Brothers

gypsy-tea-room_dallas-public-libraryThe 200 block of Central Ave., about 1937…  (Dallas Public Library photo)

by Paula Bosse

I’ve seen this photograph of Deep Ellum for years, and I’ve always loved it. But for some reason, I always thought this showed Elm Street — across from the Knights of Pythias Temple, just west of Good-Latimer (probably because that’s where a recent club with the same name was located). In fact, this scene was captured a couple of blocks west, just north of Elm, on Central Avenue, sometimes referred to as Central Track, along the Houston & Texas Central railroad tracks — a part of Deep Ellum that’s been gone for more than 60 years.

gypsy-tea-room-location_1952-map.jpgAfter Central Expwy. replaced Central Ave. (1952 Mapsco)

This area — which many have described as being the very heart of Deep Ellum in the 1920s through the 1940s (and which was somewhat ironically referred to as “the gay white way of the Negro in Dallas” by an uncredited WPA writer) — was demolished to make way for the construction of North Central Expressway (which closely followed the H&TC Railway tracks). This photo was taken in the 200 block of North Central Avenue, looking south toward Elm (the building farthest in the background, jutting out to the left, is across Elm, on the south side of the street).

You can see that the Sanborn map from 1921 shows that same building jutting out. (See the full Sanborn map here; it might be more helpful to see this detail rotated to show the same view as the photo, here.)

sanborn-map_1921_sheet-17-det1921 Sanborn map, detail (click for larger image)

Information about The Gypsy Tea Room is scant. The proprietor was a man named Irvin Darensbourg, whose family was from the black community of Killona, Louisiana in St. Charles Parish; they appear to have been of French Creole extraction, and the family’s last name was probably correctly spelled as D’Arensbourg.

The Darensbourgs were an interesting family (and not just  because their mother’s maiden name was Louise Jupiter!). There were several children, and at least two of them were professional musicians: Percy Darensbourg (1899-1950) and Caffery (often spelled “Caffrey”) Darensbourg (1901-1940). Both played with several jazz bands, and Percy even made a few recordings, playing banjo with various bands. Below are a couple of promotional photos showing them at work in the 1920s, when they still were based in New Orleans, before they settled in Dallas. (These are cropped details — click pictures to see the full photos.)

Percy Darensbourg, with Lee Collins‘ band, 1925 or 1926:

percy-darensbourg_duke_det

Listen to Percy on banjo, here:

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And, below, Caffery Darensbourg, with Manuel Perez’s Garden of Joy Orchestra (click photo to see full band — the other band members are identified here):

caffery-darensbourg_tulane-library

The first of the brothers to arrive in Dallas from New Orleans was Percy, in about 1929, and for the next few years he continued to make his living as a professional musician. Caffery followed in 1932 and opened the short-lived Frenchie’s Creole Inn on Boll Street. Their non-musician brother Irvin was here by 1935 and promptly opened the Green Tavern at 217 Central Avenue, just a few doors down from Percy’s drinking establishment, the Central Tavern Inn, at 223 Central. At about this same time, Percy was also running a club at 3120 Thomas called The Gay Paree — which The Dallas Morning News described as a “swanky negro night club” (April 12, 1938) in a short mention of Percy’s being fined for selling alcohol to an already-inebriated customer.

But back to that 200 block of Central Avenue — the one pictured in the photo at the top. Between 1937 and 1939, Irvin also owned/ran a small restaurant or cafe — and later a pool hall — out of 219½ Central. The Darensbourgs had that block locked up.

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In 1935, a song called “In a Little Gypsy Tea Room” by Bob Crosby swept the country. It was a huge hit. Suddenly there were scads of places popping up all over calling themselves The Gypsy Tea Room or The Little Gypsy Tea Room. Some might have been actual tearooms, but there were also a lot of clubs and bars with the “tea room” name — the most famous of these was The Gypsy Tea Room in the Tremé district of New Orleans, at Villere & St. Ann, which opened the same year the song was being played incessantly by every dance band in the nation. This famous New Orleans nightclub booked the biggest jazz bands around and was a legendary musician’s hangout.

gypsy-tea-room_new-orleans_1942_tulane-libNew Orleans’ Gypsy Tea Room, 1942 (via Tulane University)

gypsy-tea-room_NOLA_myneworleansNew Orleans’ Gypsy Tea Room, 1930s (via MyNewOrleans.com)

The Darensbourgs most likely knew the club, its owner, its patrons, and the musicians who played there. Perhaps Irvin Darensbourg decided to name his own little Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas in honor of the New Orleans landmark. Whatever the case, Deep Ellum’s Gypsy Tea Room appears to have come and gone fairly quickly (and one assumes there was more than tea being sipped inside).

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The life of a tavern and club operator could be a hard one, especially in those days, especially in the black neighborhoods of Deep Ellum and North Dallas. Irvin seemed to forever be sleeping on a relative’s couch, with a different address every few months. By 1940 he had moved to Fort Worth to open another bar, and after that … I’m not sure what became of him — but one hopes that he met a less violent end than his brothers did here in Dallas. According to  Caffery’s death certificate, he died in 1940 after having been shot in the abdomen while “in a public place.” His death was ruled a homicide. Percy, who by all indications was the most stable and successful of the brothers, was also killed — in 1950 he was stabbed in the neck (!) while out on the street at 4:20 AM.

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As for the original photograph, I’ve pored over it and looked through directories, but I can’t pinpoint the exact year this photo was taken or determine what the actual address of the Gypsy Tea Room was. Since it was mentioned in the WPA Dallas Guide and History, which was written and compiled between 1936 and 1940 and contains the only contemporary mention of the Tea Room, my guess is that this was taken about 1937, as this was the last year that Old Tom’s Tavern (209 ½ Central) seems to have been in business (although the bar that replaced it was owned by the same person, and the sign seen in this photograph could well have remained up for a while).

Craig’s Cafe, at 213 Central, was in business between 1929 and at least 1946 when property began to be demolished in order to begin construction on the expressway. The Gypsy Tea Room looks to be either two or three doors down from Craig’s place. My guess is that it’s 219 Central. The 1937 street directory has Irvin Darensbourg (whose name is constantly mangled and misspelled everywhere) listed as being the proprietor of both the Green Tavern (at 217 Central) as well as an unnamed restaurant at 219-A (sometimes written as 219 ½) Central. The 1938 and 1939 directories specify Darensbourg’s business at this address in those years is a pool hall, not a restaurant. So I’m going to venture that Irvin Darensbourg ran the Gypsy Tea Room at 219 Central Avenue in 1937. 

1937_gypsy-tea-room_central_1937-directory
1937 Dallas directory

That was exhausting!

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Sources & Notes

Photo of the Gypsy Tea Room at the top of this post is from the Texas/Dallas History & Archives Division of the Dallas Public Library. The photo here (scroll to the bottom) identifies it as being from the WPA Dallas Guide & History Collection.

Thanks to Bob Dunn of the Lone Star Library Annex for deciphering “Darensbourg” from this badly garbled printed name on the Gypsy Tea Room sign.

gypsy-tea-room-sign

Here are a few of the numerous ways this Darensbourg’s family’s name is misspelled across the internet:

D’Arensbourg
Darensbourg
Darensburg
Darenbourg
Darenburg
Darnburg
Darnsberg
Dansberg

Darensborough

And I’m still not actually sure whether it’s “Irvin” or “Irving,” or “Caffery” or “Caffrey.”

When clicked, the photo of Percy Darensbourg above opens up to show the full band — the personnel is identified in a caption from the book Oh, Didn’t He Ramble: The Life Story of Lee Collins: “Lee’s band in Dallas, 1925 or 1926. From the left: Coke Eye Bob (Arthur Joseph?), Mary Brown, Freddie ‘Boo-Boo’ Miller, Octave Crosby, Henry Julien, ‘Professor’ Sherman Cook, Lee, and Percy Darensburg [sic].”

A couple of other versions of “In a Little Gypsy Tea Room,” if you must:

  • The version by The Light Crust Doughboys (no strangers to Deep Ellum), recorded in 1935 in Dallas at 508 Park, is here.
  • The at-least-peppier version by Louis Prima and His  New Orleans Gang, also recorded in 1935, is here.

See what the area once occupied by the vibrant street life of Central Track looks like now, here. The expressway overpass is now planted about where the photo was taken. It’s a shame this important part of town — in a way it was Dallas’ second downtown — was bulldozed into oblivion.

 Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Dewey Groom and The Longhorn Ballroom

longhorn-ballroom-logo

by Paula Bosse

Growing up in Dallas with a father who was a classic country music fan, I’d always heard of The Longhorn Ballroom. And I’d always heard of Dewey Groom. You can’t have one without the other. The place is still around, but it keeps opening and closing and opening and closing. I don’t even know if it’s active at the moment, which is a real shame, because that place is COOL. I came too late to have seen the place at its glorious height as one of the country’s premiere country ballrooms. And I also came too late to witness the infamous Sex Pistols appearance there in the ’70s. I DID make it once or twice when it was going through its “alternative” period, booking bands that normally played in Deep Ellum. And I loved it. It was HUGE. Western kitsch everywhere. And a regular clientele comprised of people you’d either want to sit down and talk with for three hours or do your best to avoid completely — mostly the former. Below is a transcribed interview with Dewey Groom as it appeared (typos and all) in an old, obscure country music magazine that must have belonged to my father. At the end of this post are a few Dewey-factoids.

Even though his contributions are often overlooked, Dewey Groom was an important figure in the history of entertainment in Dallas. He died in 1997 at the age of 78. Thanks, Dewey!

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deweygroom_mag-cover-1971-sm(click for larger image)
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COUNTRY MUSIC REPORTER (Grand Prairie, Texas) – July 1971
“Dewey Groom: From the Mabank Flash To Big Daddy of Country Music”
(writer uncredited — presumably Wayne Beckham, the magazine’s editor)

Back before he combined dancehall-keeping with his country singing, Dewey Groom was known on Dallas radio as the Mabank Flash – a reference to his Van Zandt County origins. He likes to talk of those origins, but he won’t complain nowadays if you call him the Lawrence Welk of country music.

I found him happy about his success as owner of the million-dollar Longhorn Ballroom on Corinth off Lamar [in Dallas, Texas]. But he was more inclined to talk of Angels Inc., the school for retarded children he helped found and hopes to see housed in a big new structure off Buckner, in East Dallas.

If he succeeds, it will be due to the middle-aged faithful who regularly go in thousands to the Longhorn to hear celebrities like Charley Pride or Jerry Lee Lewis, or simply to reassure themselves that the Mabank Flash of Dallas’ immediate postwar years is still in voice.

“I can’t yodel anymore,” Groom told me in the quiet-before-the-storm of a Friday afternoon, “but I still put in my 30 minutes singing and laughing up there with my band every working night – and I’m still hopeful that I don’t have an enemy in the world.”

Likely, he doesn’t; he’s climbed high in his 23 years of dancehall-keeping since he opened at 1925 1/2 Main in the old Bounty Ballroom. He’s on the phone steadily to Nashville picking the talent that makes the Longhorn one of the biggest sound chambers anywhere for the Nashville Sound.

Only big name he’s missed is Johnny Cash – and he, Groom avows, is the biggest: a real philosopher and humanist.

dewey-groom_color

Back in Groom’s youth the big name, he says, was Jimmie Rodgers, the old blues singer who started country music. But even before Rodgers became famous in the ’20s, the Groom family was a gospel singing crowd for certain.

“Daddy sang and my uncle was a singing schoolteacher,” he says. “In Deep East Texas, singing schools were everywhere. I joined. They taught you to read music and keep time. Gospel singing is pretty close to country music; so evenings we’d go across the fields to Uncle Bert Wise’s and listen to Jimmie Rodgers. Uncle Bert had the only phonograph around and got all the new records.”

Dewey imitated what he heard, but his friends said everything came out like Gene Autry. He believed them and went to look for a wider audience. He landed in Dallas at 10 with his guitar, but instead of instant fame, found work in a garage.

“I’d get up in the night and hang around a midnight radio show – I’d drop in on Bill Boyd’s old live 6 a.m. program on WRR,” he recalls. “Sometimes he’d let me sing on that show – the big time.”

But it wasn’t until he donned a uniform in 1941 that Groom had a real chance to stretch his lungs. He started singing in army rec halls and when he got overseas became the “Western part” of a divisional GI band which entertained for 42 months in the New Guinea area and Australia.

“I guess I became a professional then,” he reminisces, “but it was Hal ‘Pappy’ Horton that got me going in civilian life. I won $50 first prize on Pappy’s old Hillbilly Hit Parade in 1946. Then when he started his noon-time Cornbread Matinee, I was the singer. The show was a tremendous hit for 200 miles around Dallas. Pappy brought in Gene Autry and Roy Acuff. I was a hit, too. I played school shows and they used to tear the buttons off my clothes. Nobody knew it, but the Mabank Flash’s wife was making those pretty clothes I wore. I was the biggest thing in country singing around here, but she was the biggest thing in keeping me going.”

But Pappy died and the school shows Groom loved petered out. Too many bands were vying for a chance to put on shows in the schools. So Groom went to playing dances.

He ended up with Jack Ruby at the Silver Spur.

“I made Jack a lot of money,” he recalls, “at the time when he was deep in debt.”

“What kind of man was he?” I asked.

“A driver, and a talker – very emotional. Everybody liked him. He’d do anything in the world for you. But he didn’t understand country music. He wanted a sophisticated place, which you can’t have. He ran away my followers as fast as they turned up. Finally, the police that hung around the place told me I ought to get into business for myself. I borrowed $500 and opened up.”

dewey-groom_bw

It’s been a rough haul, says Groom, and he’s made it through several locations only because he understands the business – and that takes years.

Too many men rise and fall. Bob Wills, for instance, was the biggest bandleader in the world at one time – he outdrew Tommy Dorsey. Now – well, Groom will have a “tribute” dance for Wills, a man whom, next to Pappy Horton (whom he reveres as a great and good man), Groom admires most.

He cut his professional teeth on Wills’ songs – especially San Antonio Rose which, he confides, is simply an earlier Wills hit, Spanish Two Step, played backwards. Groom also has a taped narrative of Wills’ life, which has been a big radio hit. He expects the Wills Tribute Night to be a success.

“You can squeeze 2,000 people into the Longhorn,” he says, “and I guarantee the top guest stars from $1,500 to more than $2,000. They always make more than the guarantee. This week, it’s Ray Price. Other big names are Charley Pride, the Negro country singer, who I rank next to Johnny Cash, and people like George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Harold Morrison and Conway Twitty.”

As a lifetime member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Groom is certain that another gospel-singer-type – Jimmy Davis, former governor of Louisiana – will go in the Hall of Fame this year.

Groom is sentimental about the old times and old-timers, but he knows it’s harder to please people nowadays. Variety is demanded. Even a little pop gets mixed with country music.

“People think I’m rich and I guess sometimes I want them to think so,” he confides, “but I don’t want to be. I want friends and I want to finish that school for Angel Inc. If I can do these two things, I’ll be happier even than I was when I was the Mabank Flash.”

“Daddy Dewey,” as he is known by many artists and fans, knows practically all the stars. He has had many of them on his stage. Dewey has contributed much to many artists in helping to get them started. Through the years he has recorded many records and written many songs as well.

The Longhorn Ballroom came about in October, 1968. Since then he has also purchased the old Guthrie Club and torn out the wall to increase the seating capacity to over 2,000, on a 4 1/2 acre plot that cost nearly $500,000.

Dewey Groom has become an authority on country music. He is often called upon for informative opinions on new country clubs or organizations. Many fellow club owners are personal friends and often obtain information about artists and business – [there’s no] bitterness that often comes in competition.

It’s been a long way since Dewey first traded a bull-calf for a guitar to the present-day Longhorn Ballroom. It is without doubt “America’s Most Unique Ballroom.” A landmark in Dallas, and one of the few western ballrooms in America. Hand-painted murals cover the walls and country decor prevails. Top country artists appear here weekly [and] Dewey’s own 12-piece band appear[s] nightly.

dewey-groom_longhorn-ballroom_intPartial view of the sprawling interior, kitschy cactus pillars and all. (Click for larger image.)

dewey-groom_longhorn-ballroom_ext1Western street scene outside the club — in a horseshoe around the parking lot.

dewey-groom_longhorn-ballroom_ext2

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Incidentally, I have moved this post from another blog I had a long time ago. Without question, this got more hits and more comments (…more than 50!) than anything else I’ve ever posted. People loved the Longhorn Ballroom, and a lot of them miss the days of dancing and drinking at the legendary dancehall (which just happened to be in a very seedy part of town, at Corinth and Industrial). Long live the Longhorn! (Also, I think it’s high time we bring “Dewey” back into the baby-name pool. Along with “Roscoe.” … And maybe “Lon.” Pass it on.)

A short interview with Dewey on his retirement — “Adios, Longhorn Ballroom” by Mike Shropshire — was printed in Texas Monthly (March 1986) and can be found here.

Dewey Groom’s record label, Longhorn Records, was fairy active. He even put out some recordings of himself. I just listened to “Butane Blues” and I realized it was the first time I’d ever heard his voice (Dave Dudley meets Malcolm Yelvington). Listen to his recording on YouTube here.

Check out a cool photo of Dewey and his band in the early ’50s here.

A weird little detour into Dewey’s 8-page Jack Ruby-related file in the Kennedy assassination investigation (in which “barber” is listed as his profession”) can be found here.

Below a short piece from Billboard (Nov. 21, 1970).

dewey-groom-billboard-112170adewey-groom-billboard-112170b

And, finally, a nice history of the Longhorn Ballroom by Jeff Liles (who booked bands there for a while in the post-Dewey era) can be read on the Dallas Observer website here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Hoisting a Few in the Basement Speakeasy

speakeasy_greene

by Paula Bosse

It’s tax day. Here’s a photo of men drinking illegally and gambling. Cheers!

“Dallas voted for Prohibition October 1917 — but it didn’t go dry, as this workingman’s speakeasy (a word not developed then) shows. One sign assures drinkers ‘No Neer Beer Served.’ This is a basement of some downtown building, address unknown.”

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Photo and caption from Dallas, The Deciding Years by A. C. Greene (Austin: Encino Press, 1973).

Click picture for larger image.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

L. Craddock & Co. — Pioneer Whiskey Purveyors

L. Craddock ad, 1912 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

L. Craddock, an Alabama native born in 1847, arrived in Dallas in 1875 and opened a liquor business at Main and Austin streets in a building built by the Odd Fellows. It was a success, becoming one of the largest such businesses in a young, thirsty city.

Feeling a flush of civic pride, Mr. Craddock branched out beyond the retail world of alcohol sales, and in the late 1870s he opened the city’s second theatrical “opera house,” conveniently housed on the second floor of his liquor emporium, above his saloon and retail business. The theater was immensely popular and hosted the important performers and lecturers of the day, until the much larger Dallas Opera House arrived on the scene and siphoned off Craddock’s audiences. He closed the second-floor theater in the mid-1880s (a space which, presumably, continued to be used as an IOOF meeting hall) but kept the business on the ground floor.

The first location, at Main & Austin, with theater on second floor (1880s)The first location, at Main & Austin, with theater on second floor (1880s)

In 1887 Craddock decided to change careers. He sold his company to Messrs. Swope and Mangold (more on them later) and retired from the liquor trade — if only temporarily. I’m not sure what prompted this somewhat unexpected decision (I’d like to think there was some juicy, illicit reason), but, for whatever reason, he decided to give real estate a whirl. Craddock was certainly a savvy wheeler-dealer and he probably did well buying and selling properties in booming Dallas, but (again, for whatever reason) he seems to have tired of real estate, and, by at least 1894 (if not sooner), he had returned to the whiskey trade and had built up an even more massive wholesale liquor business than before.

ad_craddock-liquors-19061907 (click for much larger image)

He had a new, larger building, this time on Elm, between N. Lamar and Griffin. In the company’s incessant barrage of advertising, he touted the company’s unequaled, unstoppable success as purveyors of the finest alcohol available. One ad even took on something of a hectoring, lecturing tone as it admonished the reader with this snappy tagline:

“We are the Largest Shippers of Whiskey to the Consumer in the South. Does it not seem Plain to you that the reason for this is that we sell the Best Goods for the Money.”

1906

Arrogant or just supremely confident, Craddock was rolling in the dough for many, many years. Until … disaster struck. Prohibition. With the inevitable apocalypse about to hit the alcoholic beverage industry, L. Craddock threw in the towel and retired. For good this time. I’m sure many a faithful L. Craddock & Co. customer stocked up on as much as they could hoard in the final weeks of the prices-way-WAY-higher-than-normal going-out-of-business sale.

Craddock retired to Colorado, but in 1922, he returned to present to the city a valuable ten-acre tract of land in the old Cedar Springs area — land he asked be used as a park. Craddock Park remains a part of the Dallas Parks system today.

craddock_dmn_120322Dallas Morning News, Dec. 3, 1922

It’s interesting to note that in every article about Mr. Craddock that appeared during and after Prohibition — such as the articles reporting his generous gift to the city — there was never any mention of what kind of business he had been in or how he had made his great fortune. Even in his obituary. He was always vaguely described as a “pioneer businessman.”

Speaking of his obituary (which, by the way, was the place I actually saw his first name finally revealed — it was Lemuel), L. Craddock — Dallas’ great retailer of beer, wine, and spirits — died on December 2, 1933. Three days before the repeal of Prohibition. THREE DAYS. O, cruel fate.

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ADDED: Interesting tidbit about a legal matter brought by Federal prosecutors. In 1914, Craddock was found guilty of “illicit liquor dealing” — shipping barrels of whiskey (labeled “floor sweep”) into the former Indian Territory of Oklahoma. Craddock wrote a check for the fine of $5,000 right there in the courtroom. The three men who actually did the deed were sentenced to a year and a day at Leavenworth. (I’m never sure how much faith to put in the Inflation Calculator, but according to said calculator, $5,000 in today’s money would be approaching $115,000. I think ol’ Lemuel was doing all right, money-wise. I’m guessing this “floor sweep” thing was not an isolated incident.)

craddock_FWST_061914Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 19, 1914

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Sources & Notes

Top L. Craddock & Co. ad from 1912.

Photograph of first location, with theater, from Historic Dallas Theaters by Troy Sherrod (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2014).

Ad featuring rendering of second Craddock location at Elm & Poydras, signed Fishburn Co. Dallas, from 1906.

Photograph of L. Craddock from a Dallas Morning News interview in which he reminisces about the Craddock Opera House, published December 3, 1925. It’s an informative interview about early Dallas (like REALLY early Dallas) — the article can be read here.

Update: I’ve wondered if this building downtown is the Craddock building, cut down and uglified. The current address is 911 Elm (I assume that the addresses for that stretch of Elm changed when the cross-street configuration changed). The Dallas Central Appraisal District gives the construction date of that building as 1937, but the DCAD dates are frequently not accurate. I don’t know. It’s very similar (missing the third floor…) and in about the exact same spot. Looks like it to me. That poor 100-plus-year-old building needs some loving attention. Here is a Google street view from early 2014:

craddock_google_feb-2014

Most images in this post are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Meet Me at the Kitten Lounge — 1968

kitten-lounge_1968

by Paula Bosse

KITTEN LOUNGE
Best Place in Dallas to Party and Dance
“Best Service West of Mississippi”
Pretty Go-Go Girls
Curley Smith, Manager
TA 3-0576
4100 Elm Street
Dallas, Texas

From the manly, go-go-girl-loving pages of a 1968 issue of Texas Peace Officer magazine. No doubt a happening place, at Elm & Haskell. Peace officers welcome!

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Earl’s Continental Buffet Has Got it ALL — 1947

earls-continental-buffet_shuffleboard_dmn_1947

by Paula Bosse

Earl’s Continental Buffet Announces the Opening of
Dallas’ First Shuffleboard Parlor
Serving Buffet Lunches and Sandwiches in Our Taproom
Also Announcing the Opening of
Dallas’ Finest Chili Parlor and Barbecue Bar
Serving Straight Chili — Chili with Spaghetti –
Chili with Beans — Chili with Tamales
Open Evenings, 1515 Commerce

This place has EVERYTHING!

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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