Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Crime/Law Enforcement

The Ambush of Bonnie and Clyde — 85th Anniversary

la-pistolera-de-texas_DHS-instagram

by Paula Bosse

Today is the 85th anniversary of the 1934 killing of Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, two of Dallas’ most notorious former residents. I’ve written several Bonnie and Clyde-related posts over the years, including the following:

As other Bonnie and Clyde posts are added, they can all be found here.

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Sources & Notes

Top image is the lurid front cover of a rare 1935 Mexican publication about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow titled “La Pistolera de Texas” — it is from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society and was featured on their Instagram feed (more info is here).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The JFK Assassination and Television Firsts — 1963

JFK_ruby-oswald_broadcasting-mag_120263_nbc-screenshot
Ruby shooting Oswald on live TV

by Paula Bosse

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was not only one of the most sobering moments in American history, it was also a turning point for broadcast journalism, particularly in the way television covers breaking news.

The Kennedy assassination and the later captured-live-on-television shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby put broadcast journalists to the test as never before. News coverage was a solid days-long block — with NBC devoting almost 72 straight hours to the assassination and its aftermath. The immediacy of live television and the ability to learn of breaking-at-this-minute news was something that had never been experienced by Americans before — and something which pushed radio and television news reporting to new heights. It was reported that CBS alone used 80 newsmen to cover the story. The Nielsen ratings estimated that an unbelievable 93% of American households with televisions were tuned in to watch live coverage of the President’s funeral procession.

Perhaps the grisliest “first” of this new era of TV news was that millions of Americans watched a murder happen live as they watched from their living rooms: when Jack Ruby lunged from the phalanx of reporters gathered in the parking lot beneath the Municipal Building to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald as he was walking to an armored vehicle to be transported to the county jail, millions witnessed the shooting as it happened, stunned. NBC was the lone network to have broadcast live coverage of this unforgettable moment of 20th-century American history. The other networks followed soon after with recorded footage, but NBC got the scoop.

ad-jfk-assassination-NBC_broadcasting-mag_120263NBC ad in Broadcasting magazine, Dec. 2, 1963

Broadcasting — an industry trade magazine — devoted an entire 25-page “Special Report” on how television had covered — and shaped — JFK’s presidency and his assassination. Below is the article which specifically focused on the wall-to-wall broadcast news coverage, post-Nov. 22.

OSWALD SHOOTING A FIRST IN TELEVISION HISTORY

For the first time in the history of television, a real-life homicide was carried nationally on live TV when millions of NBC-TV viewers saw the Nov. 24 fatal shooting in Dallas of the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy two days earlier.

Less than a minute after the shooting occurred, CBS-TV telecast the episode on tape, which was made as the homicide took place. Network executives in New York viewed the tape and officially directed that it be placed on network immediately.

The setting for the live NBC-TV coverage of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin who died a short time later, was this: Oswald, flanked by detectives, stepped onto a garage ramp in the basement of the Dallas city jail and was taken toward an armored truck that was to take him to the county jail. Suddenly, out of the lower right corner of the TV screen, came the back of a man. A shot rang out and Oswald gasped as he started to fall, clutching his side.

UNBELIEVABLE

NBC News correspondent Tom Pettit, at the scene, exclaimed in disbelief: “He’s been shot! He’s been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot!”

The TV screen showed shock on the faces of police officers as they swarmed over the back of the assailant, Jack Ruby, a Dallas night club operator. The coverage showed Ruby hustled away by policemen and Oswald being sped to the Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the same hospital to which President Kennedy had been taken.

CBS-TV’s coverage of the sudden shooting, relayed a minute after the episode, was reported by Robert Huffaker, staff newsman of KRLD-TV Dallas, the network affiliate. Mr. Huffaker cried: “He’s been shot! Oswald’s been shot!”

ABC-TV did not have live cameras at the scene, having moved them to the Dallas county jail in preparation for Oswald’s planned arrival there. But ABC newsman Jack Lord reported the news flash of the Oswald shooting. The episode also was recorded by film cameras and was telecast subsequently on the network.

JAPAN’S KILLING

Broadcasters were certain the episode marked the first time in 15 years of global television that a homicide was telecast as it happened. It was recalled that in October 1960 Inejiro Asanuma, a Japanese political leader, was knifed on a public stage in Tokyo. Tape recordings of this incident were played back on Japanese TV stations 10 minutes later.

The capturing by TV of the Oswald homicide was one indication of the extensive, though quick, preparations by the networks for coverage of the disaster. Networks had made arrangements for quick switching to Dallas, as well as other focal points of the developing story, and were able to pick up the homicide episode once they had been alerted that Oswald was being ushered out to the garage ramp. (Broadcasting magazine, Dec 2, 1963)


JFK_ruby-oswald_broadcasting-mag_120263
Broadcasting, Dec. 2, 1963 (click to see larger image)

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NBC was the only network to carry Ruby’s shooting of Oswald on live TV. The footage — as it was aired — can be watched in the video below (the Dallas footage begins at about the 5:00 mark).


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KRLD, the local CBS affiliate, captured the shooting live, but it was not broadcast live. Here is the KRLD footage, helmed by Bob Huffaker (the shooting takes place near the 13:00 mark).


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In 2007, Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, Wes Wise, and George Phenix — reporters for CBS-affiliate KRLD-TV news — recalled the blur of days on the beat following the assassination in their book When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963. Watch a panel discussion on those days, below, recorded at the Sixth Floor Museum in 2008. (I found Wise’s recollections, beginning at the 39:00 mark to be most interesting.) (RIP, Bob Huffaker, who died June 25, 2018.)

when-the-news-went-live_cover

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ABC came in late, with reports from affiliate WFAA-Ch. 8 (about the 7:20 mark), but their coverage was certainly no less exciting — in fact, this might be my favorite reporting by local broadcast journalists that day.


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Another “first” in these days immediately following that awful day in Dallas was the very first showing of 8mm home-movie footage showing the assassination of the president. The film was shot by Dallasite Marie Muchmore, who reportedly sold the footage — sight unseen (it hadn’t even been developed) — to UPI for $1,000 (roughly about $8,000 in today’s money); the film was then shown on WNEW-TV in New York on Nov. 26. (The short footage, restored in recent years, can be watched on the Associated Press Archive site, here.)

ad-jfk-assassination-film_UPI_broadcasting-mag_120263
Broadcasting, Dec. 2, 1963

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Sources & Notes

A “Special Report” on the broadcast coverage of the Kennedy assassination and the shooting of Oswald by Ruby appeared in the Dec. 2, 1963 trade magazine Broadcasting; the issue may be read in its entirety here (pp. 36-61); the photo at the top of this post (showing Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald) is from that issue.

More Flashback Dallas posts on the Kennedy assassination can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Santos Rodriguez: The March of Justice — 1973

santos-rodriguez_march_contact-sheet-12_andy-hanson_degolyer_SMUThe March of Justice, July 28, 1973… (photo: Andy Hanson / SMU)

by Paula Bosse

In the wee hours of the morning of Saturday, July 24, 1973, 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez — who was handcuffed in the front seat of a police car — was shot in the head by a Dallas police officer attempting to coerce a confession in a deadly game of Russian roulette. Santos died instantly, as his 13-year-old brother — also handcuffed — watched in horror from the back seat. The shooting (which I wrote about here) set off an explosion of outrage in Dallas, with the bitterest and angriest coming from the Mexican American community.

Four days after Santos was killed, a “March of Justice for Santos Rodriguez” was scheduled to be held in downtown Dallas, beginning at the Kennedy Memorial and ending at City Hall (the old Municipal Building, at Main and Harwood). The event was to be a peaceful march to show the solidarity of the Hispanic community and to protest what many felt was racial prejudice within the Dallas Police Department.

The march down Main Street to City Hall was earnest, and the speeches at City Hall by Dallas activists and concerned civic leaders were impassioned calls to action. After the speeches, many of the marchers headed back to the Kennedy Memorial. About halfway back, they encountered another group of marchers.

At some point, various groups described as “outside agitators” arrived. While the first crowd was listening to speeches at City Hall, a second (and perhaps later even a third) group of protestors assembled and began their own march to City Hall. These new arrivals (many said to be from Fort Worth and Waco) appear to have been the spark that set off what has been described as a “riot,” which erupted back at City Hall, with protesters attacking the police (who had been ordered to refrain from retaliation), breaking windows, and looting several downtown businesses. The image most emblematic of the day was a burning police motorcycle lying in the street just outside City Hall.

…[A]ll was havoc. A motorcycle was burning, a news vehicle was smashed, several officers injured and the sound of shattering glass filled the street… [T]he stench of burning rubber filled the air.” (“Police Taunted By Crowd” by Mitch Lobrovich, Dallas Morning News, July 29, 1973)

Luckily, there were few injuries, and the crowd dispersed after less than an hour.

A couple of days after the protest, the Rodriguez family issued this statement:

The Rodriguez family would only ask that when the people of Dallas hear the name Santos Rodriguez they think not of the unwanted violence that became associated with his name Saturday; but they think of the real Santos Rodriguez, a gentle and well-liked 12-year-old boy who had his life tragically taken from him.

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Below (and above), photos taken that day by Dallas Times Herald photographer Andy Hanson which were recently unearthed by curator Anne Peterson, from the collection of his photographs at SMU’s DeGolyer Library:

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The only footage I’ve found of the actual march is this video, uploaded recently to YouTube by Mountain View College. It was apparently shot by a Dallas police officer. There is no sound. This is great. Thank you, Mountain View, for preserving this important historical moment.


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Sources & Notes

Photos taken by Andy Hanson on July 28, 1973; from the Collection of Photographs by Andy Hanson, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University. See the rest of the photos from this day, here. (Note: this does not appear to be the entirety of Hanson’s photos taken that day.) Read about the full Andy Hanson Collection at SMU, here

Read “Honoring Santos Rodriguez” by Anne E. Peterson, Curator of Photographs at the DeGolyer Library (and the person who unearthed these Andy Hanson photos), here.

The YouTube video is titled “Santo Rodriguez 1973 News Footage,” with the description “Rare news footage taken during the 1973 protests in downtown Dallas following the tragic shooting death of 12 year old Santos Rodriguez by a Dallas Police officer. No audio.” I’d like to know more about the story behind this footage.

The coverage of the march(es) and ensuing riot is confusing. A couple of months after the march, Jose Antonio Gonzales wrote a fascinating and (seemingly) comprehensive report for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram on how the events developed and unfolded, with an almost moment-by-moment timeline and insight into the individuals involved. Read his fantastic job of reporting in the (awkwardly-titled) article “Chicano Leadership Unity Faulted in Study of Boy’s Death” (FWST, Sept. 16, 1973): part one is here; part two is here.

My previous post on Santos Rodriguez — “Santos Rodriguez, 1960-1973” — is here.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Santos Rodriguez, 1960-1973

david-and-santos-rodriguez_austin-american-statesmanDavid and Santos Rodriguez (via Austin American-Statesman)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the 45th anniversary of the tragic shooting of Santos Rodriguez, the 12-year-old boy who was shot in the head by a policeman as he and his 13-year-old brother David sat handcuffed in a police car. It shocked the city of Dallas in 1973, and it is still shocking today.

Santos and David had been awakened and rousted out of bed by Officers Darrell L. Cain and his partner Roy R. Arnold who were investigating a late-night burglary at a nearby gas station where money had been stolen from a cigarette machine — the boys matched a witness’ vague description. The boys said they had nothing to do with the burglary but were taken from their home as their foster-grandfather (an elderly man who spoke no English) watched, helpless, as they were handcuffed and placed in a squad car.

The boys were driven back to the scene of the burglary — a Fina station at Cedar Springs and Bookhout. Santos was in the front passenger seat, and Cain sat behind him in the backseat, next to David. Cain insisted the two boys were guilty and, in an attempt to coerce a confession, held his .357 magnum revolver to Santos’ head. He clicked the gun, as if playing Russian Roulette, telling Santos that the next time he might not be so lucky. The boys continued to insist they were innocent. And then, suddenly, Cain’s gun went off. Santos died instantly. Stunned, Cain said that it had been an accident. He and Arnold got out of the car, leaving 13-year-old David, still handcuffed, in the backseat of the police car — for anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour — alone with his brother’s bloody body. (It was determined through fingerprint evidence that Santos and David did not break into the gas station that night.)

More in-depth articles about this horrible case can be found elsewhere, but, briefly, Cain (who had previously been involved in the fatal shooting of a teenaged African American young man named Michael Moorhead) was charged with committing “murder with malice” and was found guilty. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison but ended up serving only two and a half years in Huntsville.

The killing of Santos Rodriguez sparked outrage from all corners of the city, but particularly in the Mexican American community. All sorts of people — from ordinary citizens to militant Brown Berets — organized and protested, persistently demanding civil rights, social justice, and police reform. If anything positive resulted from this tragic event, perhaps it was a newly energized Hispanic community.

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I am ashamed to say that I was not aware of what had happened to Santos Rodriguez until I began to write about Dallas history a few years ago. This was an important turning-point in the history of Dallas — for many reasons (namely the Chicano movement, race relations, the fight for social justice, and an examination of Dallas Police Department procedure). Over the past week I’ve read a lot of the local coverage of the events of this case, and I’ve watched a lot of interviews of people who were involved, but perhaps the most immediate way I’ve experienced the events and emotions swirling about this case has been to watch television news footage shot as the story was unfolding. Thanks to the incredibly rich collection of TV news footage in the possession of the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection at SMU, I’ve been able to do that.

Below is footage shot by KDFW Channel 4, which has, most likely, not been seen for 45 years. Some of it appeared in news reports and some is just background B-roll footage shot to be edited into news pieces which would eventually air on the nightly news. The finished stories that aired do not (as far as I know) survive, but we have this footage. It’s choppy and chaotic and darts from one thing to the next, which is how a red-hot news story develops. Of particular interest is the short interview with 13-year-old David at 9:16 and the violent aftermath of what began as a peaceful march through downtown at 19:54.

A more comprehensive collection of the events — from just hours after the shooting, to the conviction of Darrell Cain — can be found in this lengthy compilation of WFAA Channel 8 news footage. Heads up to anyone considering a 50th anniversary documentary on Santos Rodriguez — this and the Channel 4 footage are essential sources.

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santos-rodriguez-cropped_smuSantos Rodriguez (Nov. 7, 1960 – July 24, 1973)

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is a family photo, from the Austin American-Statesman article “Is It Time For Dallas To Honor Santos Rodriguez?” by Gissela Santacruz, here.

My sincerest thanks to Jeremy Spracklen at SMU for alerting me to these two collections of important historical news footage from KDFW-TV/Ch. 4 and WFAA-TV/Ch. 8, both of which are held by the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection, Hamon Library, Southern Methodist University. (All screenshots from these two videos.)

An excerpt from the 1982 KERA-produced documentary “Pride and Anger: A Mexican American Perspective of Dallas and Fort Worth” (the Santos Rodriguez case is discussed) is on YouTube here.

“Civil Rights in Black & Brown” is a fantastic oral history project by TCU. I watched several of the interviews focusing on Santos Rodriguez, but I was particularly taken with the oral history of Frances Rizo — her 2015 interview is in two parts, here and here.

More on the events surrounding the killing of Santos Rodriguez can be found at the Handbook of Texas History site, here.

My continuation of this story can be found at the Flashback Dallas post “Santos Rodriguez: The March of Justice” — 1973,” here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Dr. Dante” Dodges Bullets in Dallas — 1970

dante_wfaa_SMU_1The Dr. is in… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I’ve written about the interesting old WFAA Channel 8 news footage which was either never aired or was aired decades ago and hasn’t been seen since (such as newly discovered Jack Ruby footage and a fantastic short interview with Jimi Hendrix at Love Field), which is part of an ongoing digitization project by SMU’s Hamon Arts Library as part of the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection. There are so many (SO MANY!) quirky clips that are being uploaded to the web almost daily that it’s easy to miss the super-quirky.

A week and a half ago the clip below was posted online, featuring an unidentified man who was much groovier-looking than one would normally have seen on the nightly Channel 8 newscast — he said that someone had shot at him from a car, just before dawn, near the Hilton Inn at Mockingbird and Central. He seemed pretty sure they were associates of Frank Sinatra, who was not at all happy that our mystery man had been fraternizing with his daughter, the singer Nancy Sinatra. Take a look at this short (1:43) footage from May, 1970.

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Okay, that was weird. “I’ve been shot at *many* times — for one reason or another….” Add in an unexpected mention of Mrs. Baird’s bakery and, yeah, weird.

Who was that guy? The only information the SMU digitizers had on the out-of-context snippet was that it was filmed on May 21, 1970. It was obvious the guy was not local and, with that voice (and apparent ready access to Nancy Sinatra), he was most likely in the entertainment business. I could find no mention of this incident in The Dallas Morning News archives — I tried using every conceivable keyword I could think of. Nothing. So I checked Newspapers.com and found an AP story about this which had run all over the country — just not in the city where the incident had occurred.

The guy is Ronald Dante, who has gone by a variety of aliases but is generally known as “Dr. Dante,” the stage name he used for decades as a successful nightclub hypnotist. (According to a 1985 Dallas Morning News profile, he had legally changed his name from Ronald Hugh Pellar to “Dr. Dante” — with “Doctor” being his legal first name.) (This may not be true.) (Most of what Dr. Dante has said is not true.) At the time of the shooting described in the video above, he was performing in DFW.

To describe Ron Dante (who was born in Chicago on Feb. 5, 1930) (and is not to be confused with the Ron Dante who was the lead singer of The Archies) as “colorful” is an understatement. His extraordinarily … um … extreme life as a performer, con-man, fraudster, schemer, opportunist, convicted felon, etc., is too much to cover here, but there is a fantastic 2006 profile of him from the San Diego Union-Tribune here (seriously, READ THIS! — the part about him being orphaned in Kuala Lumpur when his family was attacked by Malaysian insurgents is great — in actuality, U.S. Census records from 1930 and 1940 show that he grew up in a nice Chicago neighborhood with his very-much-alive parents and brother).

But back to Dallas in May, 1970. Dante was, at the time, the estranged husband of Hollywood icon Lana Turner. They had married in May, 1969; it was Lana’s seventh (and final) marriage. In news reports of the nuptials, Dante was reported to be the same age as his new bride, but he was actually almost 10 years younger. (In the Channel 8 video above he is 40.) Below are some photos of the happy couple before Lana began to realize what she’d gotten herself into.

dante-lana_just-married_1969_ebay    dante_lana_pinterest

lana_dante_pinterest    dante_turner_california_ua

Their marriage hit the skids within 6 months, with Turner accusing Dante of misappropriating $35,000 of her money and, later, disappearing with many of her jewels, worth $100,000; on Nov. 14, 1969, Dante (not Lana!) filed for divorce on grounds of “extreme mental cruelty.” Two days later, the ad below touting a “computer-developed” self-hypnosis recording by Dante appeared in a Dallas paper, complete with a suspect thumbs-up testimonial attributed to estranged and recently-bilked Lana Turner (also worth a raised eyebrow was the inclusion of the even more suspect “American Medical Hypnoidal Assoc.” office which resided in a Dallas post office box) (click to see larger image):

dante_ad_nov-1969
Nov. 16, 1969

Six months later, Dante was in Dallas, claiming to have been shot at by men sent by Frank Sinatra to warn him to stop seeing his daughter Nancy. (A similar “being shot at” scenario was reported by Dante in Los Angeles in June, 1969 — photo here — Sinatra was not implicated by Dante in that shooting, but Lana Turner wondered about it in her 1982 autobiography: “Shortly after our wedding he was shot at, or so he said, in an underground garage, by a gunman wearing an Australian bush hat. It got a lot of attention in the papers — maybe that was what he wanted.”) One might reasonably wonder whether Dante was lying about the shooting in Dallas, but there seems to have been a witness: a Mrs. Baird’s employee, David Davis (whose name was misspelled in wire reports). Here’s the Associated Press report of the incident:

dante-ron_ap-wire_abilene-TX-reporter-news_052170AP wire story, May 21, 1970 (click to read)

Other reports noted that “a spokesman for Miss Sinatra said she did not know [Dante]” or had even ever heard of him; a spokesman for Miss Turner said they had been separated for several months and “she doesn’t even know where he is.” (It should be noted that Frank Sinatra had had a very steamy affair with Lana Turner in the 1940s — a tidbit which just adds all sorts of weird tangents to this story.)

I never saw a follow-up, but whether the story was true or not, it was pretty ballsy to accuse Frank Sinatra (a man of known “connections”) of being behind something like this. Someone should crack open this cold case!

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“Groovy hypnotist,” Reno Gazette-Journal, Aug. 7, 1970

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Ronald Dante’s first appearance in Dallas was at the Adolphus Hotel’s tony Century Room in January, 1963, back when he was known simply as “Dante.” Tony Zoppi, who covered the city’s nightclub scene for The News, wrote, “The handsome showman entertained his Century Room crowd with one of the most amazing hypnotic acts in the business” (DMN, Jan. 3, 1963). Back then his act looked something like this:

dante_on-stage_ua

An interesting New Year’s Eve engagement at the Adolphus’ Rose Room was announced in The News in December, 1970 (same year as the shooting…): 

The Adolphus Hotel has lined up a star-studded evening for its New Year’s Eve celebration, including hypnotist Dr. Ronald Dante, reportedly to be accompanied by his wife, actress Lana Turner. (DMN, Dec. 17, 1970)

An appearance by Lana Turner seems … unlikely. Others rumored to be appearing on the star-studded bill? Actor Ralph Bellamy, comedian Tommy Smothers, and … singer Nancy Sinatra. Unsurprisingly, none of the special guests showed up.

dante_dallas-new-years-eve_dec-1970
Dec. 20, 1970

A couple of weeks after the New Year’s Eve engagement, an ad appeared in the paper filled with SO MUCH odd stuff in it: after a “world tour” which had him playing at swanky venues in Rome, Paris, London, Athens, Japan, and Bangkok, the next stop by Dr. Dante (“Ph.D.”) was none other than the somewhat less exotic Ramada Inn in the somewhat less exotic Irving, Texas; he billed himself as the “favorite husband” of both Lana Turner and “Brigett” [sic] Bardot (to whom he had never been married); and his eyes and voice were said to have been insured for 10 million dollars. Etc. In general, statements made by Dr. Dante were more likely than not to be absolutely untrue … untrue but usually pretty entertaining.

dante_ramada-inn_jan-1971
Jan. 15, 1971

A year later, Lana Turner and Ron Dante were divorced — the judge ruled that Dante had defrauded Turner, dissolved the marriage, and “postponed indefinitely a ruling on community property.” That was soon followed by a string of weirdness including the bizarre case of Dante’s being charged with soliciting an undercover cop to kill a rival stage hypnotist (!), creating a “school” to teach aspiring cosmeticians to administer permanent makeup (via tattoos), suing Johnny Carson for one billion dollars (“billion” with a “b”), and running an extremely lucrative diploma mill. (And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.) There were convictions and there was prison time.

Ron Dante — who is probably 88 years old — is, I believe, still with us.  A short documentary about him, “Mr. Hypnotism,” was shown at SXSW in 2009 (watch it here). It’s entertaining, but he really deserves a much longer documentary — and I really hope someone is working on a book. (PLEASE let someone be working on a book!)

In a lengthy Dallas Morning News profile/exposé of Dante (“Dr. Dante’s Traveling Hypnotherapy Show,” Feb. 24, 1985), reporter Glenna Whitley wrote:

Whatever else Dante is, he is likable. Even the most outrageous statements seem strangely plausible when coming from his lips. That may be the secret to his success, says [District Attorney] Gary Kniep, who was alternately amused and exasperated during Dante’s attempted-murder trial.

“Yeah, I kind of like him,” Kniep says. “He’s got some sort of magnetism that gets people into his confidence.” (DMN, Feb. 24, 1985)

I can see that.

dante_wfaa_SMU_3

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This was Dante’s closing statement to Muncie, Indiana reporter Betty Harris after a 1970 interview absolutely LOADED with whoppers. Can’t say she wasn’t warned!

dante_muncie-IN-evening-press_102370_reporter-betty-harris
Muncie Evening Press, Oct. 23, 1970

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Sources & Notes

Screen captures at top and bottom are from the digitized WFAA Channel 8 News film footage from May 21, 1970; the video is from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection, held at the Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University. The direct link to the Ron Dante clip on YouTube is here. Follow the WFAA clips as they are added by SMU digitizers to YouTube here, and on Facebook here. (Thanks for your tireless dedication, Jeremy and Scott!)

Photos of Lana Turner and Ron Dante are from Pinterest and eBay.

The photo of Dante performing in a nightclub was found on a page about Lana Turner on the University of Alabama site, here.

See Wikipedia for more on Dr. Dante and Lana Turner.

I HIGHLY recommend listening to Jennifer Sharpe’s 6-minute 2007 NPR story on Dr. Dante (“Lana Turner’s Ex Maintains Dreams of Grandeur”), here (click the “play” button in the blue circle at the top of the page). The short film “Mr. Hypnotism” was made by her and Austin-based director Bradley Beesley — the full film is here, the trailer is here.

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Need Bonnie & Clyde and Smoot Schmid Memorabilia?

bonnie-and-clyde_ring_rr-auction_june-2017Nothing says “I love you”…

by Paula Bosse

Thank you, Robin McLauren, for making me aware of the upcoming “Gangsters, Outlaws, & Lawmen” auction presented by RR Auction (the sale is June 24, 2017, with the lots available to be previewed here and bidding to begin next week). Of particular interest to those of us in Dallas are the lots concerning Bonnie & Clyde and the lots concerning Dallas County Sheriff Smoot Schmid (known for, among other things, his involvement in the Bonnie & Clyde case) — these Dallas-specific lots can be viewed separately, here (there are three pages, see the page numbers at the bottom of the page).

There is everything from photos of B&C’s bullet-ridden car, photos of the two West Dallas outlaws lying on morgue slabs, Bonnie’s blood-stained glasses, Schmid’s gun, and even his Shriners fez. Here are a few of the items I found interesting.

The first one is pictured at the top: a 3-headed serpent “promise ring” Clyde made for Bonnie while in prison (information on the lot can be found here). It’s kind of cool. (Most images on this page are larger when clicked.)

Another lot (here) contains four photos: two show the crowds attending Bonnie Parker’s viewing at the McKamy-Campbell Funeral Home on Forest Avenue, taken by Dallas Times Herald photographer Denny Hayes, and two show the gravesites of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

bonnie-parker_mckamy-funeral-home_rr-auction_june-2017

bonnie-and-clyde_funeral-home_rr-auction_june-2017

bonnie-parker_grave-marker_rr-auction_june-2017

clyde-barrow_grave-marker_rr-auction_june-2017

Another lot (here) has 36 photos concerning Blanche Barrow, wife of Clyde’s brother Buck Barrow. Here she is marcelled and striking a pose.

blanche-barrow_rr-auction_june-2017

By far the best item is the bitter and angry letter of April, 1934 sent by Clyde Barrow to ex-Barrow Gang member Raymond Hamilton who was incarcerated in the Dallas County jail. Clyde dictated the letter to Bonnie, who must have had better penmanship (he signed it). A month later, Bonnie & Clyde were dead. The content of the 4-page letter is fantastic — read it here.

barrow_letter-to-raymond-hamilton-april-1934_rr-auction_june-2017

barrow_letter-to-raymond-hanilton_april-1934_signature_rr-auction_june-2017

There are several items that once belonged to Sheriff Richard A. “Smoot” Schmid, including this 14K gold diamond-studded badge presented to “Smoots” Schmid by his detectives in 1933.

smoot-schmid_badge_front_rr-auction_june-2017

smoot-schmid_badge_back_rr-auction_june-2017

And, his boots, with his “SS” initials on each.

smoot-schmid_boots_rr-auction_june-2017

And just because it’s odd, I have to admit I’m quite taken with this photo tucked into a lot containing several photographs which shows Schmid slapping cuffs on a robot.

smoot-schmid_robot_jail_rr-auction_june-2017

Bidding begins June 15!

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Sources & Notes

The RR Auction website is here.

More Flashback Dallas posts on Bonnie and Clyde are here.

Most photos are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Enemy Aliens” and the WWII Internment Camp at Seagoville

japanese_dallas_wwii_corbisDallasites rounded up the day after Pearl Harbor… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I think most of us know about the sad period in American history of Japanese internment camps when, following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States “interned” men, women, and children of Japanese descent (often including whole families, some of whom were born in America or were naturalized American citizens). I’ve always thought of these camps as being in the western part of the country. I had no idea until just a couple of days ago that there were three “enemy alien” internment camps in Texas — and one of them was in Dallas County.

For a full history of the camp in Seagoville — which is a mere 20 miles southeast of Dallas — there are several links at the bottom of this post. But, briefly, the “camp” was originally built as a federal women’s prison in 1938 on 800 acres of farmland. The United States entered World War II as a result of Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and, suddenly, authorities began scrambling to round up enemy aliens living in the U.S.: people born in countries we were now at war with — primarily those of Japanese, German, and Italian descent — were rounded up and questioned. Many were arrested, and some were interned in camps where they were basically kept prisoner for the duration of the war. Even though the bulk of the initial internees were, oddly enough, from Latin America (most of them Japanese, most sent from Peru), there were also several who, before the war, had been living in the United States for decades without any problems. (See a dizzying number of links at the bottom of this post for more on the Texas internment camps at Seagoville, Kenedy, and Crystal City.)

Below, the Seagoville camp.

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In December, 1941, authorities in every city in the country were swooping down on foreign nationals (or sometimes just people who looked foreign or spoke with an accent), hauling them in for questioning, often arresting them for nothing more than the fact that they had been born in another country. Dallas was certainly no exception. Unsurprisingly, immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dallas’ few Japanese residents were rounded up. All ten of them. The photo at the top shows five of the first detainees, at the Dallas jail.

Most of Dallas’ Japanese residents worked for the Japan Cotton Company, an important cotton broker which had occupied space in the Dallas Cotton Exchange building since the late 1920s. (For a bit of weird trivia, the father of famed gossip columnist Liz Smith was working as a cotton buyer for the company during the war, commuting to work from Fort Worth.) If they weren’t working for the Japan Cotton Company, they were probably members of two Japanese families with long ties to Dallas: the Muta and Sekiya families, owners of the respected Oriental Art Company since at least 1903.

In February, 1942, the Associated Press photo below appeared in several newspapers, along with the following caption: “This is a portion of the contraband radios, cameras, guns, that were seized during all-night raids on residences of enemy aliens in Dallas County, Texas, by federal and local officers. Scores of aliens also were taken into custody.”

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Lubbock Avalanche, Feb. 26, 1942 (click to read)

The first internees arrived in the Dallas area in April, 1942. The group was comprised of 250 women and children (“citizens of the Axis nations”) who had been arrested in Panama. They were interned in Seagoville, displacing the federal women prisoners who had previously been held there — they were transferred to a prison in West Virginia.

Jewish refugees sometimes found themselves tossed into enemy alien internment camps — simply because they had fled homelands which happened to be “Axis-controlled” countries with which the U.S. was at war (even though is seems highly unlikely that a German Jew would be an ardent Nazi sympathizer, gathering classified information to send the Führer’s way). Yes, Seagoville had detainees from all over the place. It was quite the melting pot. There was even a Bavarian princess in there. I wonder if a single person in that camp, held against his or her will for months and years, posed any actual threat to Allied forces.

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Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, May 28, 1943

Germans and Italians were able to “blend in” to American society, but Asian men and women had a harder time and were more often harassed. The person who seems to have most disliked and distrusted Japanese people was top Dallas police detective Will Fritz — in fact, The Dallas Morning News called Fritz “one of Dallas’ most enthusiastic Jap-haters” (DMN, Feb. 17, 1943). Let’s just say that Capt. Fritz wasn’t going to be sending the wartime Welcome Wagon to any prospective Dallas residents of Japanese descent.

One Dallasite who was pretty angry and unhappy with the situation was Masao Yamamoto, an executive with the Japan Cotton Company who had lived in Dallas since 1928. He and his wife and two young sons (one of whom was born in Dallas) were living what appears to have been a nice life in the M-Streets when they were “detained.” Ultimately, the Yamamoto family was deported and sent to Tokyo, six months after the photo at the top of this post was taken (Mr. Yamamoto is the third from the left in the top photo) — they were part of a sort of prisoner swap.

After his deportation, Mr. Yamamoto complained to the Japanese press about his treatment in Dallas, where he said he was arrested, relieved of his possession, and thrown in jail with “burglars, murderers, deserters and other criminals.” (Click to see larger image.)

yamamoto_santa-cruz-sentinel_021843UPI wire story, Feb. 16, 1943

Will Fritz just about had a seizure when he heard of Yamamoto’s complaints, insisting that he was not mistreated and that he was a dangerous enemy agent: “Any apology that may be due should go to the murderers and burglars instead of Yamamoto. […] He was deported for we have absolute proof he was an agent of the Imperial Japanese Government and that his cotton-buying story was just another Jap blind. I consider him one of the most dangerous of enemy agents” (DMN, Feb. 17, 1943). (This is from the article which described Fritz as “one of Dallas’ most enthusiastic Jap-haters.”)

But even in the midst of all this paranoid nastiness, there were occasional heartwarming moments. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Oriental Art Company — the 40-year-old business owned by Hideo Muta (who came to Dallas in 1900) — was ordered closed. In a show of support, 200 of his friends, neighbors, and customers signed a petition vouching for his staunch American patriotism (which is plainly evident in his 1951 obituary in which he is described as a “patriot”). In the ad below, the 73-year-old Muta acknowledged the support of his Dallas friends and announced the reopening of his business in an ad taken out on Dec. 15, 1941: “Thank You — Dallas friends have been wonderful to us … their expressions of friendship and confidence have made us very happy. The United States Government has licensed us to continue business. Oriental Art Co., 1312 Elm.”

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Dec. 15, 1941

Mr. Muta was spared the “enemy alien” internment camp, but, along with other Asian men and women residing in the United States, he was barred from becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen because of the “Oriental Exclusion Act.” The inability of Mr. Muta to become a U.S. citizen did not dampen his enthusiasm for American democracy: he paid his poll tax every year, even though he was not allowed to vote, and he was a proud member of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce for over 25 years.

The Seagoville Enemy Alien Detention Station was closed in May, 1945, and the site was returned to the Bureau of Prisons.

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Sources & Notes

Photos of the Seagoville camp are from the Institute of Texan Cultures (UTSA).

Articles of interest from The Dallas Morning News:

  • “Six Japanese Taken in Custody By Local Police” (DMN, Dec. 8, 1941)
  • “Dallas Japs Questioned” (DMN, Dec. 9, 1941)
  • “Six Suspected Germans Held in Dallas Roundup of Aliens; Total of Jap Prisoners Rises to 10” (DMN, Dec. 9, 1941)
  • “Enemy Aliens In Dallas, 776; Arrested, 30: But All Suspects Are Closely Watched By G-Men and Police” (DMN, Dec. 19, 1941)
  • “FBI Rounds Up 50 Enemy Aliens, Seizes Arms, Cameras, Radios” (with photos of Dallas residents of Japanese, German, and Italian descent as well as seized “contraband”) (DMN, Feb. 25, 1942)
  • “Women Aliens Are Interned At Seagoville; 250, Including Their Children, Arrive Here From Panama” (DMN, April 11, 1942)
  • “Chilly Welcome Given 15 Japs From Coast; O.K. to Come to Dallas, Were Told; Still More On Way, Inform Police (DMN, April 23, 1942)
  • “Japs Leave Dallas” and “Tokyo-Bound Jap Lad Takes Candy Six-Gun as Souvenir” (about the deportation of the Yamamoto family, with photo) (DMN, June 6, 1942)
  • “Fritz Sheds No Tears For Mr. Yamamoto” (DMN, Feb. 17, 1943)
  • “Japanese Woman Revisits Seagoville” by Roy Hamric (profile of Masayo Ogawa) (DMN, Sept. 8, 1970)
  • “American Gulag: When Seagoville Housed the Aliens” by Kent Biffle (DMN, July 23, 1978)

More articles on the Seagoville internment camp:

  • One of the best articles I’ve read on the camp was an interview with two men (Erich Schneider and Alfred Plaschke) who, as American-born children of German parents, were interned at Seagoville and were later deported to Nazi Germany (in a prisoner exchange) where they experienced the terrifying bombing of Dresden. Both families returned to the United States after the war. The article by Mark Smith — “German-Americans Recall Horror of Deportation — Hundreds of Detainees Sent to Nazi Germany in POW Trade” — appeared in the Houston Chronicle on Nov. 11, 1990, and can be read here.
  • “Seagoville Enemy Alien Detention Station” (Texas Historical Commission), here
  • “World War II Internment Camps” (Handbook of Texas), here
  • “Seagoville, South America, and War — A Historic Intersection” by Kathy Lovas (Legacies, Fall, 2000), here
  • “Seagoville Detention Facility” (Densho Encyclopedia), here (and for more on the Japanese-American experience overall, see the main page, here)
  • “The Japanese Texans” by John L. Davis (Institute of Texan Cultures), here (opens a PDF)

Thanks to friend Julia Barton for posting about (and suddenly making me aware of) the Seagoville camp.

All photos and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

November 22, 1963: Will Fritz and the JFK Investigation

jfk_dpd_post-assassination_ebayThe men of the Homicide & Robbery Bureau at work (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

After the unthinkable had happened on the streets of Dallas — the assassination of a U.S. president — the Homicide and Robbery Bureau of the Dallas Police Department, led by Will Fritz, Captain of Detectives, sprang into action and quickly apprehended Lee Harvey Oswald as a suspect in the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. The FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and the whole of the Dallas Police Department worked together, but Fritz was the face of the investigation.

Will Fritz (1895-1984) was born in Dublin, Texas and grew up in New Mexico. He joined the Dallas Police Department in 1921 and remained on the force for 49 years, retiring in 1970 at the age of 74. He was considered one of the top police interrogators in the state and was a dedicated lawman — so dedicated he lived just steps away from police headquarters in the White Plaza Hotel (originally the Hilton Hotel, now the Indigo).

The success rate of Fritz’s detectives was impressive:

The record of Fritz and the Police Department’s Homicide and Robbery Bureau — which he has led since its formation — is a nationally enviable one. Over the past quarter century, he and his aides have solved roughly 98 per cent of the 54 to 98 homicides committed each year. (Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1959)

Fritz served for almost half a century with the DPD, involved in all sorts of colorful cases, but he’ll always be most remembered for the events surrounding the JFK assassination. The photo above shows his detectives at work in the Homicide office in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination; the photo below shows him exiting the Texas School Book Depository with DPD detective Elmer Boyd (carrying rifle).

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Above photo and clippings from the Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 24, 1963

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Sources & Notes

Top photo showing a Dallas police officer standing outside the Homicide and Robbery Bureau is from a 2015 eBay listing. The reverse of the photo is stamped “Paris Match/Marie Claire.”

Photo showing Fritz walking down the steps of the Texas School Book Depository, taken on November 22, 1963 by Dallas Times Herald staff photographer William Allen. It is from the Sixth Floor Museum’s Dallas Times Herald Collection, which is hosted online by the University of North Texas Libraries, via the Portal to Texas History, here (with additional information here).

More about Capt. Will Fritz from the Handbook of Texas History, here.

A really interesting profile of Fritz can be found in the 1959 Dallas Morning News article “Captain Fritz: Stays With the Case” by Don Freeman (DMN, March 1, 1959).

Other Flashback Dallas posts related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy can be found here.

Click on photos and clippings to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Dallas Police Department — 1914

dallas-police-dept_opening-of-city-hall_101714_cook-colln_degolyer_smuOn the steps of the Municipal Building (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

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“Officers & Members of Dallas Police Dept. Assembled on Steps of New City Hall, Opening Day, Oct. 17th 1914,” photo by Frank Rogers, from the George Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information here. I have edited the image.

All images very large when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Mrs. Hartgraves’ Cafe, and Bonnie & Clyde Earning Paychecks on Swiss Avenue

swiss-circle-front_070516The Swiss Circle building, 2016 (click for larger image) / Photo: Paula Bosse

by Paula Bosse

Bonne and Clyde were famous for being from West Dallas, but each actually spent a good amount of time in East Dallas. Working. Earning an honest living. Bonnie worked as a waitress, and Clyde worked in a mirror and glass company. Both worked in establishments on Swiss Avenue, though probably at different times. They hadn’t met yet, but it’s interesting to know they worked at businesses only a few blocks apart: Hartgraves Cafe was at 3308 Swiss, and United Mirror and Glass was at 2614 Swiss. Both buildings are still standing.

The Hartgraves Cafe (the name of which is always misspelled in historical accounts as Hargrave’s Cafe — even by Bonnie and Clyde enthusiasts) was in a curved building at the corner of Swiss and College (it is now at the corner of Swiss and Hall). 50-something-year-old Mrs. Alcie Hartgraves (her first name usually appeared in directories as “Elsie,” sometimes as “Alice”) opened the restaurant a few months after her husband, Ben, had died in 1923. It lasted until late 1930 or early 1931. (All clippings and photos are larger when clicked.)

1928-directory_hartgraves1928 Dallas directory

1929-directorySwiss Avenue between College Avenue and Floride, 1928 directory

According to Bonnie and Clyde histories, Bonnie worked there as a teenaged waitress with an absent husband, from 1928 to early 1929. According to one woman who worked at the Yates Laundry, just across from the cafe’s back door, Bonnie was a very nice person. Here, in a 1972 oral history, Rose Myers — who worked at the Yates Laundry for 25 years — remembers Bonnie from those days at Mrs. Hartgraves’ cafe:

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From the book Reminiscences

The laundry is long gone, but here’s what the back side of the building Bonnie worked in looks like today.

swiss-circle_back_070516Photo: Paula Bosse

And here’s a Coca-Cola ghost sign, painted on the end of the building that faces Hall.

swiss-circle_coke-ghost-sign_070516Photo: Paula Bosse

The Bonnie Parker connection is about the only reason people know about this odd little building in Old East Dallas. From looking through Dallas street directories, it appears that this building was built in 1915 or 1916 as a retail strip which, until Mrs. Hartgraves left, usually contained three or four businesses. The question is: why was it shaped like that? Many people think it was a streetcar stop, the cars using the circle as a place to turn around, but old maps showing streetcar routes from this period don’t show cars going down this part of Swiss. Below, a detail from a 1919 map, with Swiss and College streets in red. Streetcar tracks on Swiss turn left at Texas and then right on Live Oak, completely bypassing the circle area. (Another handy map of old streetcar routes laid over a present-day Google map can be found here.)

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1919 map detail, via UNT

There’s a great view of the area in the 1921 Sanborn map here (with a different angle here). It may just be that the building was built to take advantage of/conform to the odd jog that Swiss Avenue takes in front of it. Here’s an aerial view from the recent past.

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Bing Maps

Our own teensy and unspectacular Royal Crescent! (You know what they say — “Everything’s bigger in Bath….”)

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But what about Clyde? Clyde worked at a mirror and glass company four-tenths of a mile west. Here’s an ad from 1928 (the same year Bonnie was working at Hartgraves).

united-mirror-glass_1928-diectory-ad_texashideout
via Bonnie & Clyde’s Hideout

Charles “Chili” Blatney worked with Clyde at United Glass and Mirror. In the Dallas Morning News article “He Helps Dallas to See Itself” by David Hawkins (DMN, March 17, 1970), Hawkins wrote: “Blatney remembers him as the friend he was: The little guy who always wore a hat and who would jerk it off and beat the floor with it in merriment when a good joke was told. […] ‘I guess I was surprised to see him turn real bad,’ [said Blatney].”

The building still stands, almost unrecognizable.

So, yeah, East Dallas was the stomping grounds of Bonnie and Clyde, back when they were living paycheck-to-paycheck and before they had begun their short-lived life of crime.

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Sources & Notes

Photos of the Swiss Circle building taken by me when I stumbled across it yesterday. I knew what it was when I saw it, but I didn’t really know much about it, other than the Bonnie connection. The building is currently vacant, currently for lease, and currently a weird shade of green. It’s a great space and a cool building. The back side is FANTASTIC!

The surname of the property owner (or property manager) is rather unbelievably … Dunaway.

The passage quoting Rose Myers, who worked at the Yates Laundry, is from the book Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas.

A discussion of this building can be found on the Phorum discussion board, here.

Other Flashback Dallas  posts on Bonnie and Clyde can be found here.

Click everything. See bigger images!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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