Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Disasters and Emergencies

Dallas Fire Fighter Magazine — 1960s

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by Paula Bosse

I saw these covers of Dallas Fire Fighter magazine on eBay and thought they looked really interesting. I can’t find anything about this publication other than a one-sentence glancing mention in a Dallas Morning News article on fire prevention in January, 1962 — so it had been around at least since the early ’60s. Here are four covers — one from 1963, two from 1965, and one from 1966.

dallas-fire-fighter_magazine_july-1963_ebay_love-fieldLove Field engine, July 1963

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Rescue of a toddler, April, 1965

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Aero-Unit inspection, No. 1 Station, October, 1966

The person listing these magazines on eBay included a few (very low-resolution!) photos of some of the pages inside. Below are a few interesting tidbits from the October, 1966 issue.

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The Fire House Rhythm Kings was a country band made up of Dallas firefighters, formed in 1956. They played well over 300 gigs a year (one article noted they sometimes performed at four venues in one DAY!), combining entertainment with education on fire prevention. The caption: “Fire House Rhythm Kings – left to right, Jack Mewbourne, Doug May, Les Wilson, Spurgeon Harris, Don Smith, ‘Big Ed’ Hunt, J. W. Hadaway, Don Spruell, and Leland Loggins. Members not present in the photo include Harvey Lanier, Troy England, W. T. Babb and Wendel Jenkins. Newest additions to the band include Larry Gotchel and Earl Rowe who have also joined since the photo was made.”

They also had a regular show on radio station KPCN (click to see larger image):

dallas-fire-fighter-magazine_oct-1966_ebay_fire-house-rhythm-kings
Dallas Fire Fighter, October, 1966

The department had recently acquired new equipment, including a heavy-duty rescue-salvage unit and an aero-unit (apologies for image quality!):

dallas-fire-fighter-magazine_oct-1966_ebay_heavy-duty-rescue-salvage-unit“New heavy duty rescue-salvage unit now in service at No. 3 Station”

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Aero-Unit

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And, lastly, an ad announcing a new section of Hillcrest Memorial Park created exclusively for fire-fighters and their families: “Firemen’s Rest.” This section of the cemetery featured a large marble statue by memorial sculptor Bernhard Zuckermann, which appears to be a copy of the bronze Firemen’s Monument dedicated in City Park in 1903 (the original bronze statue has been relocated to the Dallas Fire-Rescue Training Center on Dolphin Rd.). (See a transcription of the ad’s hard-to-read text here.)

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Below, the original monument topped with the bronze likeness of Dallas fireman John Clark (who died fighting a huge East Dallas fire in 1902) honors Dallas firefighters who have died in the line of duty; it was dedicated on Nov. 26, 1903.

firemans-monument_dmn_112703_photoDallas Morning News, Nov. 27, 1903

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Sources & Notes

Dallas Fire Fighter magazine (published by the Dallas Fire Fighters Association) found on eBay, here (now sold!).

An interesting article on the Fire House Rhythm Kings band can be found in the Dallas Morning News archives in the article “Firehouse Band Goes Like Blazes” by the always entertaining Kent Biffle (DMN, Dec. 13, 1965)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The JFK Assassination and Television Firsts — 1963

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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)


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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.)

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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.

 

“Dallas Is a Major Target Area!” — Know Where Your Nearest Fallout Shelter Is

passport-to-survival_nov-1958_art

by Paula Bosse

During the Cold War, the fear of nuclear attack was very real in the United States, reaching its peak of anxiety in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1958, the Dallas City-County Civil Defense Commission published a free informational pamphlet titled Passport to Survival, which contained evacuation maps for Dallas County, preparation tips, an emergency supply checklist, etc. Though the information contained in this publication could be applied to any disaster or emergency (nuclear-based or otherwise), it was printed a time when visions of Soviet atomic bombs were dancing in the heads of many concerned Americans. And this mild-mannered-looking pamphlet made sure you, Mr. and Mrs. Dallas County, knew that it was talking about a potential direct strike by nuclear missiles: “DALLAS IS A MAJOR TARGET AREA!” (See images from this pamphlet at the end of this post.)

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The arrival of Passport to Survival (“presented as a public service by your friendly Mobil dealer and Magnolia Petroleum Company”) was heralded by a newspaper ad in November, 1958 (its eye-catching “DISASTER CAN HIT DALLAS!” artwork is seen above). (The full ad — with an exhortative letter by Commission chairman John W. Mayo, addressed to the people of Dallas — can be seen here.) I’m not sure how much “survival” there would be in case of a nuclear attack, but, like a good Boy Scout, one should at least be prepared.

Backyard bomb shelters were necessary in Britain during World War II and saved countless lives during the almost nightly German air raids (I wrote about these shelters on another blog, here), but it was a new concept to post-war America. It wasn’t long, though, before bomb shelters became all the rage in the early ’50s as the Cold War heated up. If it’s becoming a common reference-point on the country’s funny-pages, it’s hit mainstream acceptance.

bomb-shelter_nancy-comic_072751“Nancy” by Ernie Bushmiller, July 27, 1951

I’m not sure how many people were building these shelters, but they were certainly talking about them. When Highland Park Village announced their new underground parking garage in 1953, owners Flippen-Prather made sure to note that the two subterranean parking levels (the lowest of which was 20 feet below street level) would not only accommodate 300 vehicles, but, if needed, it could serve as a bomb shelter for 3,500 very well-dressed Park Cities residents seeking refuge.

But what really caused the mania for nuclear fallout shelters to reach its zenith was the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April of 1961. In May, 1961, ground was broken for construction of the $180,000 Civil Defense Emergency Operating Center at Fair Park (the first such center in Texas), adjacent to the Health and Science Museum. The underground bunker was to serve as a government operating and communications center for Dallas County in the event of a nuclear attack or natural disaster. It would house about 30 people (which would include the mayor and other city officials) and would be stocked with provisions for 14 days. It had its own water supply, electric generators, radios, and telephones. It was built to withstand a 20-megaton nuclear blast three miles away (i.e. downtown, where, presumably, the mayor and other city officials would be working when the 20-megaton bomb lit up Big D). When not in use as a shelter, it was to be maintained by the Health and Science Museum staff, and operated as a center for survival training. For many years it was open to the public, seven days a week. (It’s worth noting that the Civil Defense headquarters in Dallas was also located in Fair Park, at the building housing radio station WRR.)

The man behind the everything-you-need-to-know-about-Civil-Defense website CivilDefenseMuseum.com did a really interesting video walk-through of the surprisingly large decommissioned (if that’s the correct word to use here) Fair Park shelter in 2013:

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1961 was THE year if you wanted to get into the bomb-shelter business. There was even a three-day “Fallout Survival Show” at Market Hall. You couldn’t open the pages of a magazine or newspaper without seeing ads for personal bomb shelters.

Some of the ads were kind of cozy:

fallout-shelter-ad_sept-1961Sept., 1961

Some were not:

scot_fallout-shelter-ad_sept-1961Sept., 1961

Again, not all that many people were actually building them, but everyone was certainly talking about them. But in just a few short months … no one cared anymore. The ads disappeared. A lot of people who had been trying to sell them went broke. Those who survived (as it were) repurposed their products as “storm shelters” — turns out tornadoes were more of a pressing threat to Dallasites than Russian A-bombs.

Public shelters, however, didn’t disappear. In September, 1962, the very first public fallout shelter in Dallas was officially designated: the Southland Life Insurance Building could accommodate a staggering 30,000 people in the event of disaster. (The plan for this shelter was actually announced in 1954, and the Southland Center opened in 1959, but the official designation was not made until 1962.)

In 1966, Dallas had more than 300 official shelters, able to house 971,000 people:

…323 buildings in the city have been approved as shelters. The owners and managers of 204 of them have entered into agreements with the federal government and with the city to permit their use in emergencies as public shelters…. Shelters in Dallas can house 971,000 persons. Many of the buildings are permanently stocked with water, food supplies and medical supplies sufficient to sustain about 300,000 people for approximately two weeks. (“Maps at Fire Stations To Pinpoint Shelters,” Dallas Morning News, March 9, 1966)

Some of the permanent provisions kept in these places were water, food, “fortified crackers,” hard candy, bandages, iodine, and Geiger counters.

As one might expect, many of the city’s fallout shelters were in downtown buildings, their exteriors adorned with official Civil Defense signage. My favorite? Neiman-Marcus, of course, seen below in 1965, decorated for the Austrian Fortnight.

civil-defense_NM-austrian-fortnight_1965_degolyer_SMU_cropNeiman-Marcus, the most elegant bomb shelter in town…

If I were able to choose where to huddle during a nuclear attack, I think I’d choose Neiman’s. I’m sure Mr. Stanley made sure his basement was comfortable, tasteful, and well-appointed. …And one would have to expect he wouldn’t have had his guests living off hard candy and fortified crackers.

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Below are images from the 1958 publication Passport to Survival (thanks to Jeff Hanning for his original scans, which precipitated this post) — all images are larger when clicked.

passport-to-survival_1958_covers

“Introduction” / “The Dallas Plan in Brief” (more information of CONELRAD is in this YouTube video):

civil-defense_passport-to-survival_intro

“Evacuation Routes.” (This plan did not sit well with the citizens of Grand Prairie as they were not included in the evacuation plans of either Dallas County or Tarrant County — this seems to have been a particularly odd oversight, seeing as Grand Prairie was a military aviation hub — home to Hensley Field and Chance Vought — and a likely target if DFW were attacked. As an editorial in the Grand Prairie Daily News-Texan stated somewhat bitterly: “Dallas seems to have it all sewed up.”) (Also interesting in these evacuation plans was that the county was divided into four divisions, the boundaries of which corresponded to school districts: District I covered the Dallas Independent School District, Division III covered the Highland Park Independent School District, District IV covered the “Negro Unit,” and District II covered every other school district in Dallas County not covered in the other divisions.)


civil-defense_passport-to-survival_evacuation-routes-map


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“Reception & Care Counties For Dallas Area Traffic Dispersal Routes” (the person who owned this pamphlet was planning to hightail it to Bonham):


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“Emergency Procedures”:

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“Emergency Supply Kit” (do NOT forget the can opener!) / “Taking Cover”:


civil-defense_passport-to-survival_preparation

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Sources & Notes

Thanks again to Jeff Hanning for sending me scans of his Passport to Survival, Dallas County pamphlet.

The photo of Neiman-Marcus is from the DeGolyer Library at SMU. The above image is a really bad photo I took as a reference photo for a project I was working on at SMU last year. The actual photograph in the DeGolyer collection is, of course, much better! Apologies to the DeGolyer Library! I would link to the photo in SMU’s online database, but a scan of that particular photo is not available.

As mentioned above, if you’re interested in Civil Defense in Dallas, the CivilDefenseMuseum.com site is where you need to be. There’s TONS of stuff there. In addition to the great video walk-though of the old Fair Park shelter, there are also several pages of photos here (click through all the pages by following the links at the bottom of each page).

More on the history of United States Civil Defense, here.

And two stories from the Lakewood Advocate on Dallas’ Civil Defense shelters and preparedness can be found here and here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Prelude to the Great Flood of 1908

commerce-st-bridge_1908_cook-degolyerApril 20, 1908… (click for larger image) / SMU

by Paula Bosse

The greatest flood Dallas has ever known — the disastrous flood of 1908 (read about it here) — happened in the spring of 1908. The Trinity River reached its highest crest of more than 52 feet on May 26. The photo above was taken on April 20 — five weeks before that.

On April 20, 1908 — the day this photo was taken — The Dallas Morning News reported that after three weeks of rain the Trinity had finally crested at “nearly 39 feet.” This flooding was the worst in 20 years and the third worst on record.

In a mere five weeks, though, every record regarding the Trinity River and flooding in Dallas would be broken. Those people who had ventured out to survey the river from the Commerce Street Bridge that April day had no idea what was in store for them in just 35 days.

Let’s zoom in on this photo and look at some of the details of the crowd and the bridge (all images are larger when clicked).

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Above: are refreshments being sold?

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“NOTICE: $25.00 FINE FOR DRIVING FASTER THAN A WALK ACROSS THIS BRIDGE.”

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The editorial cartoon below appeared on the front page of The Fort Worth Telegram next to a story with the headline “Dallasites Flee Flooded Homes; River is Rising.”

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FWT, April 20, 1908

In May, this photo (by Henry Clogenson) showing “Highest Water in the History of Dallas” appeared in The Dallas Morning News:

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DMN, May 26, 1908

Another photo by Clogenson:

trinity-river_flood_1908_LOC-lg

For comparison, here’s the bridge at a calmer time:

commerce-street-bridge_legacies_fall-1995

Flood memorabilia? Check out the book and stationery department at Sanger Bros.

flood_postcard-sales_dmn_060408_sangers-ad-detJune, 1908

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Sources & Notes

Top photo titled “Commerce St. Bridge, Trinity River, Dallas, Tex., April 20, 1908” from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; the photo and more information can be accessed here.

The wide-angle photo of the Commerce Street Bridge, taken by Henry Clogenson, is from the Library of Congress, here.

“Calmer” photo of the Commerce Street Bridge is from the Fall, 1995 issue of Legacies, from the article “Bridges Over the Trinity” by Mary Ellen Holt.

Read the Dallas Morning News article “Trinity Flood Crest Has Reached Dallas … Great Damage is Reported” (DMN, April 20, 1908) here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Forest Avenue-Area Flooding, South Dallas — 1935

flooding_forest-avenue_lloyd-long_052035_ebayBeyond the levees… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Sometimes the Trinity River is a puny little trickle, sometimes it’s a raging torrent. Here are aerial photos taken from around Forest Avenue (now MLK Blvd.) by Lloyd M. Long, showing the major flooding of May, 1935.

Here is the lead sentence from The Dallas Morning News, May 21, 1935 (the day after these photos were taken):

With sections of South Dallas inundated for the first time since the record 1908 flood, numerous bridges and highways and thousands of acres of lowlands hidden by its swirling, muddy currents, the roaring Trinity slowly was receding Monday night at Dallas after reaching a crest of 42.10 feet at 11 a.m. (DMN, May 21, 1935)

flooding-levee-district-from-forest-ave_lloyd-long_052035_ebay

There was great rejoicing that that the new-ish levees had held the waters and prevented the wide-scale flooding seen in 1922. But once you got to the Forest Avenue bridge (which ran below the Corinth St. viaduct and the Santa Fe railroad trestle), things got real bad real fast. In the photo above, the levee protection ends exactly at the railroad trestle — the Forest Avenue bridge is mostly underwater. The river above the trestle: a beautiful feat of engineering; below: water, water everywhere.

Below the Forest Ave. bridge where the levee protection ended, flood conditions were far worse than those created by the 1922 inundation. (DMN, May 21, 1935)

Again, sometimes the Trinity is just a trickle….

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Sources & Notes

Both photos (by Lloyd M. Long) are from 2017 eBay auctions: the top photo here, and the bottom photo here.

More on Dallas flooding can be found in these Flashback Dallas posts:

  • “The Nellie Maurine: When a Pleasure Boat Became a Rescue Craft During the Great Trinity River Flood of 1908,” here
  • “One of the Victims of the Great Trinity Flood: The T & P Railroad Trestle — 1908,” here
  • “The Trinity River at the City’s Doorstep,” here
  • “Cole Park Storm Water Detention Vault,” here

Maybe it’s just me, but I was really taken with that little L-shaped building in the top photo which was, briefly, its own island. What was it? It was part of the Guiberson Oil Well Specialty Corporation, founded in 1919 at 1000 Forest Avenue — the building seen in the photo was built in 1926. It’s still standing (here) and appears to be part of Faubion & Associates, a manufacturer of retail display cases and store fixtures.

Click photos to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

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.

seagoville_wwii_wisconsin-jewish-chron_milwaukee_052843
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 Facebook 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.

 

The 1957 Tornado, Seen From Old East Dallas

tornado_live-oak_040257_rusty-williams_dplThe view from Liberty & Live Oak… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Great shot of the historic Dallas tornado (which killed 10, injured at least 200, and left about 500 people homeless) as it was plowing through Oak Cliff and West Dallas on April 2, 1957, seen from the 2800 block of Live Oak.

Aside from the tornado, this is an interesting view looking toward downtown, the Medical Arts Building, and the Republic Bank Building (that rocket must have been Dallas’ tallest lightning rod at the time!). The building containing the strip of businesses at the right still stands (I love these buildings — there are a lot of them in the older parts of town) — a present-day view can be seen on Google, here. What stood out to me was a Burger House — I didn’t know of any other than the one on Hillcrest, but this one stood at 2811 Live Oak from 1950 or ’51 until about 1976.

Below, the businesses in the 2800  block of Live Oak — between Texas and Liberty — from the 1956 city directory (click for larger image):

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Sources & Notes

Top photo from the book Historic Photos of Dallas in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s by Rusty Williams (Nashville: Turner Publishing Company, 2010); from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Film footage of the tornado can be found in several videos on YouTube, here.

One of the newspaper reports on the tornado which captures the terror felt by those in the twister’s path and is well worth reading in the Dallas Morning News archives is “‘Roar of Thousand Trains’ Precedes the Killer Funnel” by James Ewell (DMN, April 3, 1957). Of particular interest is the story of T. M. Davisson who hid with a customer in a large empty steel tank on his property.

A previous Flashback Dallas post — “Tornado As Learning Tool — 1957” — is here.

Photo and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 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.

 

The John E. Mitchell Company’s WWII Munitions Work (Part 3)

mitchell-war-book_ebay
The Mitchell War Book

by Paula Bosse

My previous two posts have been on the John E. Mitchell Company’s period as a full-time contract manufacturer of munitions and materiel for the Navy and Army. I had planned for my third Mitchell post to be about the building itself, but I just happened across this book — The Mitchell War Book — and I thought I would go ahead and slip this in now. I’ll write about the building next.

The book appears to be similar to a high school yearbook, with tons of photographs of Mitchell personnel at work on the factory floor and hanging out with their fellow war-workers in lighter off-duty moments. I’ve never seen this book (though I’d love to!), but it appears to be packed with pages and pages of photos.

Hundreds (if not thousands) of Dallasites worked in this factory while the Mitchell Company owned it — who knows? A relative of yours might be in here if he or she worked in it during the war. Below are photographs from a current eBay listing (click photos for larger images):

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The posters above are interesting. When I posted a card the other day describing what this was all about (see it here), I didn’t fully understand. The company made these posters as reminders to the workers who they were working for: their fellow employees who were serving overseas.

war-bk_4

Above, the book’s endpapers show the various items the Mitchell Company was manufacturing for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army.

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A few “autographs” of the John E. Mitchell Company’s wartime workers. Anyone you recognize?

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Sources & Notes

As mentioned above, these photographs are from a current eBay listing, here.

Seems this book is pretty hard to find. I see only one other copy for sale — at about the same price — from a bookseller in Austin, here.

If you’re unwilling to fork over a fistful of cash but still want to look through the book, then hie yourself to the downtown Dallas Public Library to browse through the 127 pages of their only (non-circulating) copy; bibliographic details on the book from the DPL site, here (or if you don’t have a DPL account, here).

The two previous Flashback Dallas posts on the John E. Mitchell Company’s time as a munitions factory can be found here and here.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The John E. Mitchell Company’s WWII Munitions Work (Part 2)

mitchell_17

by Paula Bosse

This is the second part of a post containing a series of postcards issued by the John E. Mitchell Company, which, before World War II was primarily a manufacturer of cotton and agricultural implements. It was located at 3800 Commerce in Exposition Park, a few blocks from Fair Park. During the war, the company ceased producing agricultural machinery and began producing munitions and materiel for the Navy and Army. (Part 1 can be found here.) The cards in a landscape format are larger when clicked.

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The card at the top shows the back of the (still-standing) building, behind which ran railroad tracks of the Missouri-Pacific railway. The card’s text:

ANOTHER CRACK AT THE ENEMY

The steel shavings shown in this picture cascading into a gondola car from the rear of the Mitchell plant represent the scrapped turnings from our lathes and automatics. This steel won’t be wasted; and although it wasn’t quite fortunate enough to find its way into a weapon for winning the war on this trip, maybe it will have better luck next time, for it’s now on its way back to a remelting plant.

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mitchell_11

RECORD BREAKERS

This card will introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Lewis J. Smith, the John E. Mitchell Company’s star tapping machine operators, shown here tapping base closing plugs for parafrag bombs.

It wasn’t so long ago that the Smiths’ sons, Dudley and Raleigh Smith, held the company production record on this machine. Then Dudley joined the Army and Raleigh joined the Navy. Mr. and Mrs. Smith decided the record should be kept in the family. So far it has.

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mitchell_12

This is one of the most interesting cards in this collection. After the war, the Mitchell Company began to manufacture a wide variety of things, including heaters and air conditioners for cars. This problem of graveyard shift workers being unable to sleep during the summer months because of the oppressive heat must have been a big problem during the war, when factories such as this had to be running 24 hours a day. This was a brilliant solution.

COOL SLEEPING FOR THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT

The graveyard shift is always a problem in Texas war plants during the summer. With the mercury hovering around 100° for days on end, it is almost impossible for the men and women on the midnight shift to get enough sleep during the daytime to stay on the job at night.

When the John E Mitchell Company faced this problem last summer our President had an idea which solved it completely and thoroughly. When Pearl Harbor slapped us in the face, the Mitchell line was in the process of being expanded to include residential heating units. Production naturally stopped at once, leaving us with several dozen units on hand, complete with fan wheels and electric motors.

It was a simple matter to revamp them into forced draft drip-type air coolers, as we see Jake Reilly, Ray Gradick, Bill Beseda, and Horace Johnson doing in this picture. Result: Efficient home air coolers of two-room capacity. Cost: $60.00 per unit. Market value: $100.00. Price per unit to Mitchell employees: $40.00.

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mitchell_13

AND IT COMES OUT HERE

When the Navy told us that their rocket program called for three separate coats of lacquer on one of the parts, Joe Cauthen and his crew immediately went to work designing and building a special machine that would do the job automatically.

The machine picks up the parts automatically from the girl who gages them, gives them three separate coats of lacquer, and dumps them out into a box at the other end. In this picture, Joe Cauthen, Johnny Bell and Jake Reilly wait eagerly for their brain child to give out with the next one.

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mitchell_14

MAUDE AND CLAUDE

The good old U. S. Army and Navy custom of bestowing affectionate names upon planes, guns, ships, etc., seems to have been carried over to the production front here at the John E. Mitchell Co.

In this picture we see Claude Blacketer in action with his fork truck named Maude, which he handles much more efficiently than anyone else ever handled its mulish namesake. By handling 24 boxes at once, containing 96 airborne wing assault rockets, Claude loads a freight car in less than 2 hours.

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Here is a close-up view of one of the Mitchell Company’s battery of multi-spindle automatic lathes. These machines, which cost about $25,000 apiece, perform the first operations on many of the company’s war items. They operate 24 hours a day under the expert care of men like George Alexander, shown here peeking through at an operation on rocket nozzles.

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PRESSURE BOY

Here’s one of the many presses with which the Mitchell factory is equipped, each operatable with a series of interchangeable blanking, stamping, forming, and drawing dies. This particular press has a capacity of 300 tons and forms the end frame for a Mitchell cotton machine in one lick.

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FIRST IN NORTH TEXAS

The Mitchell Company’s flag-pole carries the first Army-Navy E in the north Texas area to display three white stars. This indicates four E awards (the original and three renewals), each for six months’ continued production excellence.

The treasury flag beneath it still stands for Dallas’ number one war bond record – steady month-in, month-out bond purchases by Mitchell employees averaging over 13% of the total gross payroll. This record does not include corporate purchases by the Company.

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Sources & Notes

Postcards found on eBay. Many of these are currently for sale, here.

Part 1, containing more of these postcards, is here.

Coming next: a look at the building built by the Mitchell Company in 1928, which is still standing in Expo Park, now repurposed as residential loft space.

mitchell-building_google
Google Maps (click for larger image)

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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