Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Food

Pleasant Grove Eat Spots, including El Charo and the Vel-Mar — 1950s & 1960s

vel-mar_samuell-high-school_1959-yrbk_detVel-Mar, 8516 Lake June Rd., 1959

by Paula Bosse

Here are a whole bunch of ads for Pleasant Grove dining establishments, most with photos, thanks to the intrepid advertising staff of the yearbooks of H. Grady Spruce High School and W. W. Samuell High School. (Most ads are larger when clicked.)

You gotta start with Dairy Queen. I’m not sure how many DQs were in the Pleasant Grove area, but here are a couple.

Benson Dairy Queen, 1238 S. Buckner Blvd.





Wicker’s Dairy Queen, 7636 South Loop 12.



Gene’s Hitching Post, 223 Pleasant Grove Center. “Good barbecue is no accident.”



Piedmont Drive-In & Steak House, 6855 Scyene Rd.



Underwood’s Bar-B-Q, 7828 Lake June Rd. Odell Chism, manager.



A & W, 623 S. Buckner.



Apache Drive-In, 316 South St. Augustine. “Around the Bend to the Apache Den.” (The Spruce High School mascot was the Apache.)




El Charo, 263 Pleasant Grove Shopping Center. The owner of this Mexican restaurant in the first ad (from 1958) is Mona Parish, whose husband Carl “Jake” Parish had died the previous year. From 1959, the owner was Marion Martinez, whose son, Mariano, went on to great acclaim with his own restaurant where he invented the frozen margarita (based on his father’s margarita recipe). The younger Martinez almost certainly worked at this Pleasant Grove restaurant.





el-charo_plano-star-courier_nov-1962Plano Star-Courier, Nov. 1, 1962


I have to admit, I’d never heard of the Vel-Mar drive-in, located at 8516 Lake June Rd., but I understand it was something of a Pleasant Grove fixture during the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, and into the ’80s. According to a newspaper article which chronicled the history of the Vel-Mar and its then-recent sale by Robert Schweder to James and Sharon Harris (“Drive-In Shrine Alive and Well” by Steve Blow, Dallas Morning News, June 15, 1980), the small chain of root-beer-stand drive-ins was founded by three couples — including a Velma and a Marie (the third, Thelma, wasn’t lucky enough to get her name into the business name). Eventually, the Pleasant Grove location was the last remaining Vel-Mar.

Vel-Mar tidbits:

  • It always closed for the winter, from October to March.
  • Other than its root beer, it was known for its “Dixie Burger” which was a loose-meat sandwich.
  • It was a Pleasant Grove high school hangout, and it had special drinks for students of Spruce and Samuell: a blue and red drink was called “The Sprucette” (also “Spruce Juice”), and a blue drink was called “The Spartini” (for the Samuell Spartans). 






Sources & Notes

All ads from the yearbooks of H. Grady Spruce High School and W. W. Samuell High School (unless otherwise noted).

More on Pleasant Grove can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “Life in The Grove: Pleasant Grove — 1954-1956,” with material gleaned from Pleasant Grove High School yearbooks.



Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

‘Tis the Season For a Hot Dr Pepper

dr-pepper_hot_ad_1963_flickr“Serve piping hot…” (1963)

by Paula Bosse

I don’t think I’ve ever had hot Dr Pepper. I remember seeing commercials for it on television as a kid, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a social setting where it was offered. It always sounded like an odd thing to do with a soft drink. Years ago I was on a tour of the bottling plant in Dublin (…need I say “Dublin, Texas“?), and the guide said that this winter drink (which is always served with a slice of lemon) isn’t the same these days unless you drink Dr Pepper sweetened with real sugar — heated-up corn syrup apparently ruins the flavor. 

Here are a few nostalgic advertisements to prove to the whippersnappers that this used to be a thing. The first two ads I could find mentioning this seasonal delicacy (the brainchild of a marketing wiz who might well have worked here in Dallas, home of DP’s HQ) are these two, from January and February, 1959 (click to see larger images):

dr-pepper_hot_ad_1959_013059Jan. 30, 1959

dr-pepper_hot_ad_1959_020659Feb. 6, 1959

The “new idea” was definitely being marketed nationally by at least 1963. I don’t know how popular it was, but they even manufactured special cups to drink it from. And, “for those who want something special, try the Boomer” — hot Dr Pepper with a dash of rum.






There are a few vintage commercial online. Here is one starring Dick Clark, featuring the snowman above.

(Am I the only one disturbed by seeing a pot of boiling Dr Pepper?)

There are a couple of others, in lesser image quality: watch them on YouTube here and here.

There you have it. Consider leaving a Boomer out for Santa. It’s chilly out there. Cheers!


Sources & Notes

Top ad (1963) is from Flickr, here.

The rest are from various places, but many were found here.

More Flashback Dallas Christmas posts can be found here.

More Dr Pepper-related posts can be found here.



Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Halloween Party? Don’t Forget the Dr Pepper! — 1947

dr-pepper_halloween_1947_flickr“‘Twill add zest to your buffet foods…”

by Paula Bosse

(While searching for a Halloween advertisement, I unexpectedly came across reports of a federal grand jury case brought against Dallas-based Dr Pepper for violating strict wartime sugar-rationing. Scroll down to read about the legal case.)

Happy Halloween! Might I propose an eye-catching party suggestion? The “Frosty-Pepper Pumpkin”! Hollow out a pumpkin, fill it with cracked ice, and load it up with bottles of Dr Pepper. Voilà!

The text of the ad, from the fall of 1947:


Smart, original; more decorative and eye appealing than a bowl of giant ‘mums. Fashion this “Frosty-Pepper” Pumpkin and serve as photo shows. Pre-chill bottles and bury deep in cracked ice. Dr. Pepper! So keen, so cold, so sparklingly alive! A smart lift for active people. ‘Twill add zest to your buffet foods … add laurels to your “rep” as a clever hostess. Keep plenty in your home refrigerator … for party hospitality … for good cheer and a quick lift, at 10, 2 and 4 o’clock, or anytime you’re hungry, thirsty or tired. 

NOTE: Dr Pepper availability in a few markets has been delayed by continuing shortages. These will be opened by new, franchised Dr. Pepper bottling plants as rapidly as supplies will permit.

Carry Dr Pepper home from the stores 
“sixes,” “twelves” and “twenty-fours.”
NEW TIME: Thursday Night, ABC Network
9:30 EST, 8:30 CST, 7:30 MST, 6:30 PST

Drink Dr. Pepper

DRINK A BITE TO EAT at 10, 2 and 4 o’clock


Sources & Notes

Ad found on Flickr, here.

“Darts for Dough”? I had to look that up. It was a radio game show involving quizzes and dart-throwing, created by Orval Anderson and Bert Mitchell at WFAA radio. It debuted in the summer of 1943 as a strictly local program, but it’s popularity was such that it moved to Hollywood in August, 1944 and — still run by the WFAA creators — it began to be broadcast “coast to coast” for several years, moving to television by 1950. It was originally developed in Dallas as a sponsorship vehicle for Dallas-based Dr Pepper and was frequently advertised as “Darts for Dough — The Dr Pepper Show.”

1947 was a big year for Dr Pepper — that was the year their beautiful (and sorely missed) plant opened at Mockingbird and Greenville.


1947 was also a noteworthy year for the company, because of a large federal grand jury indictment which charged several corporations and individuals — including Dr Pepper and some of its bottlers and employees — with sugar-rationing violations (these “irregularities” appear to have begun in the last months of World War II, when wartime food rationing was still serious business). Black-market sugar! A district representative of Dr Pepper was assessed a small fine, but charges of conspiring to violate sugar-rationing regulations which were brought against the DP parent-company were ultimately dismissed, a ruling which angered Federal Judge Alfred P. Murrah, who seems to have been extremely unhappy about the dismissals, as can be read in his blistering statement below.

AP story, via Waco News-Tribune, July 30, 1947

Two of the individuals charged in the case — New Mexico residents — received prison sentences in what was described as “the largest black market sugar operation on record,” involving over a million pounds of sugar.

This “Happy Halloween!” post took a bit of an unexpected dark detour. Let’s cleanse our palate with something happier: another party idea with Dr Pepper and a hollowed-out pumpkin (found on eBay).


More Halloween posts from Flashback Dallas can be found here.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Film Footage: “The State Fair of Texas in the 1960s”

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_men-in-suits_ice-creamEveryone likes ice cream…. (G. William Jones Collection, SMU)

by Paula Bosse

Thanks to Twitter, I discovered this cool video of film clips of the State Fair of Texas, shot throughout the 1960s, courtesy of SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm Collection/G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, put together by Moving Image Curator Jeremy Spracklen. There are 15 or so clips, some in black and white, some in color, some silent, some with sound. This compilation runs about 24 minutes. Watch it. You’ll enjoy it — especially the montage of fair food at the end! (Make sure you watch in fullscreen.)


Here are a few screengrabs I took, to give you an idea of the content (images are much cleaner in the video!).

Getting ready for the fair.


Fair Park entrance.


Crowd, baby, binoculars.


Neuhoff hot dog stand.


The monorail (with a cameo by Big Tex).


I don’ t know who this guy is, but he’s in several shots and I love him! Here he is losing out to the woman who correctly guessed his weight.


Kids eating … Pink Things! “Made famous at Six Flags.”


Aqua Net and Moët. (I have to say, I’ve never seen champagne at the fair, but perhaps those are circles I don’t travel in.)


Everyone needs a corny dog fix.




Have a groovy time at this year’s State Fair of Texas!



Sources & Notes

Film clips from Southern Methodist University’s WFAA Newsfilm Collection/G. William Jones Film and Video Collection; the video has been edited by SMU’s Moving Image Curator, Jeremy Spracklen. The direct link to the video on Vimeo is here.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Happy Mother’s Day from Mrs. Baird’s Bread — 1949


by Paula Bosse

Sure hope Mom can handle all that gluten!

Happy Mother’s Day!


Sources & Notes

Newspaper ad from 1949. The “Freshie” ad campaign — featuring a Mrs.-Baird’s-Bread-obsessed kid — ran in Texas newspapers from about 1945 to 1953. More of the ads can be seen in the post “The ‘Freshie’ Ads for *-@!!@!* Delicious Mrs. Baird’s Bread — 1945-1953,” here.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The “Freshie” Ads for *-@!!@!* Delicious Mrs. Baird’s Bread — 1945-1953

Geez, Picasso, get a grip… “YUM!”

by Paula Bosse

There’s nothing like cartoon swearing. The reader is likely to translate those random symbols into words that are probably a lot filthier than was intended by the cartoonist. …Probably.

Here are a few examples of this, found, surprisingly, in cartoon ads for wholesome Mrs. Baird’s Bread. This ad campaign — which, as far as I can tell, lasted from 1945 to 1953 — consisted of a one-panel comic called “Freshie,” illustrated for most of its lifespan by Harry Walsh. There were close to a hundred of these panels produced. (That’s a lot of bread-based humor some poor advertising copywriter had to come up with.) They were often placed directly on the comics page, alongside Pogo, Li’l Abner, and Rex Morgan M.D. “Freshie” was the name of the child with the unwavering/disturbing obsession with Mrs. Baird’s Bread. (UPDATE: I now see that the “Freshie” cartoon ad concept was used all across the country, for various brands of bread. Oh, Freshie, your love for Mrs. Baird’s bread was just for show, wasn’t it?)

Not all of them had cursing — in fact I think it might be just these four. Still, it’s a little unexpected. What would Mrs. Baird think? (Click to see larger images.)

Dec. 28, 1945

June 7, 1948

Nov. 30, 1949


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Fletcher’s State Fair Drive-In — 1960-1963

fletchers-state-fair-drive-in_DHSFood-on-a-stick, open all nite (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The legendary Fletcher’s Corny Dog once had its own drive-in! You didn’t have to wait until the State Fair of Texas rolled around to get your favorite “food on a stick” fix — you just needed to head to 3610 Samuell Boulevard, across from the Tenison Golf Course.

Sadly, there was a lot of drive-in and tavern competition along Samuell back then (Keller’s was practically next door!), and the State Fair Drive-In seems to have lasted only a little over three years, from the spring of 1960 to the fall of 1963.

I’d love to see this around NOW! Come on, Fletcher’s family: bring this back!


fletchers_dmn_051560May , 1960

fletchers_dmn_062960June, 1960

Oct., 1963


Sources & Notes

Top photo from the Dallas Historical Society.

An article on Neil Fletcher’s new restaurant and a photo of the interior can be found in the archives of The Dallas Morning News: “State Fair Drive’In Fixtures Designed, Installed by Bab’s” (DMN, June 12, 1960).

After the Fletcher’s Drive-In closed, it was replaced by a Red Coleman liquor store, and was most recently a club, El Palmeras. Google Street View shows the shabby neighborhood these days, here.

3610-samuall_googleGoogle Maps

An entertaining interview with the late Neil Fletcher appeared in the Oct. 1982 issue of D Magazine, here.

A Travel Channel video focuses on the famed corny dog, here.

A previous Flashback Dallas post about that same stretch of Samuell Blvd. — “Red’s Turnpike Open-Air Dance: An East Pike/Samuell Blvd. Joint — 1946” — is here.

UPDATE: I’ve received many comments that Fletcher’s had several short-lived drive-thru restaurants which started popping up in the mid-’80s. More on the franchise plans can be read in the article “Fletcher and Firm Very Much Alive” by Donna Steph Hansard (DMN, Aug. 5, 1984).


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“The Pause That Refreshes at the Texas Centennial” — 1936

tx-centennial_coke-ad_pinterestBelly on up to the Coke cooler, pardner… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

What do Stetson-wearing Texans enjoy drinking more than sarsaparilla? Coca-Cola, of course!

This ad led me to discover that the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Dallas set up a working mini bottling plant in Fair Park during the Texas Centennial, costing a cool $60,000 and taking up 4,100 square feet of the Varied Industries Building. 100 bottles a minute were produced, destined for thirsty customers who bought the five-cent drinks there at the plant or at concession stands around the park. A photo accompanying a Dallas Morning News blurb about the mini bottling plant — which will be marked by a thirty-foot electric tower brought from the Century of Progress…” (DMN, Feb. 6, 1936), looked like the stunning Century of Progress photo seen here.



Top ad found on Pinterest; full ad found on eBay.

The “Varied Industries Building” apparently burned down in 1942 and was replaced in 1947 by the Automobile Building.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

School Lunches of Yesteryear

lunch-ladies_frontier-top-tier_dplMorning prep work: the calm before the storm (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, Dallas lunch ladies shelling what looks like black-eyed peas for an unidentified school’s midday meal. I can’t say I’ve ever imagined lunchroom employees ever doing something like this. In the 1920s and ’30s, schools used fresh foods when they could, but they were definitely using a lot of canned fruits and vegetables, too. All this effort — and all these women — for peas.

In a quick search for what school lunch menus were like in the late ’20s and early ’30s, here were a few delicacies that would never be found in a school cafeteria these days:

  • Roast veal
  • Sardine sandwiches
  • Creamed onions
  • “Italian hash”
  • Banana and peanut salad
  • Salmon loaf
  • Tongue salad
  • Stuffed dates
  • Prune whip/prune salad/prune pudding



Sources & Notes

Photo from the Texas/Dallas History & Archives Division, Dallas Public Library.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Sivils Drive-In, An Oak Cliff Institution: 1940-1967

sivils_tichnorOak Cliff’s landmark hangout (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

When J. D. Sivils (1907-1986) and his wife, Louise (1918-2006), brought their “Sivils” restaurant to Dallas in June 1940, their Houston drive-in of the same name had already been featured as a Life magazine cover story, garnering the kind of incredible national publicity that any business owner would have killed for! And all because of their carhops — “comely, uniformed lassies” whom Mrs. Sivils insisted on calling “curb girls” (which might have a slightly different connotation these days…). Life — never a magazine to overlook pretty young girls in sexy outfits — not only devoted a pictorial to the “curb girls,” they also put one of them (Josephine Powell of Houston) on the cover, wearing the Sivils’ uniform of (very, very short!) majorette’s outfit, plumed hat, and boots.

sivils_houston_life-mag_022640Feb. 26, 1940

louise-sivils_life-magazine_1940Louise Sivils and a prospective “curb girl” (Life)

Four months after the blitz of national attention the drive-in received from the Life story, Sivils came to Dallas. The drive-in was located in Oak Cliff at the intersection of West Davis and Fort Worth Avenue on “three acres of paved parking space.”


The day the drive-in opened, a photo of the not-yet-legendary Sivils appeared in The Dallas Morning News (see “Sivils to Open Dallas Place Thursday,” DMN, June 27, 1940). Other than this, there is surprisingly little in the pages of The News about this drive-in’s opening — surprising because it became such a huge part of the lives of Oak Cliff’s teens in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. It’s one of those places that seems to have reached almost mythic proportions on the nostalgia scale.

Sivils didn’t quietly sneak into town, though. Take a look at this very large, very expensive newspaper ad, which ran the day before West Dallas’ soon-to-be favorite hang-out opened. (Click for larger image.)

sivils_dmn_062640_lgJune 26, 1940


Nationally Famous for Food and LIFE

Texas’ largest drive-in
Opens tomorrow

(Thursday 3:00 PM)

You’ve heard about “Sivils”! You’ve read about “Sivils” in LIFE Magazine and you’ve seen a beautiful “Sivils Girl” on the cover of LIFE Magazine! But now Dallas has a “Sivils” all its own! Come out tomorrow. See Texas’ largest drive-in. Enjoy “Sivils” famous food and ice cold beer or soft drinks. “Sivils” special ice vault assures the coldest drinks in town!

75 Beautiful “LIFE Cover Girls” to Serve You

All Kinds of Ice Cold Beer and Soft Drinks
Juicy Jumbo Hamburgers

Fried Chicken
Tenderloin Trout Sandwiches
K.C. Steaks
Pit Barbecue
All Kinds of Salads and Cold Plates
Delicious Sandwiches
Complete Fountain Service

Sivils – “Where All Dallas Meets”
At intersection West Davis and Fort Worth Ave.
Three Acres of Paved Parking Space


100-150 “curb girls” were employed by Sivils at any given time in those early days, and it was open 24 hours a day. The place was hopping. Sounds fantastic. Wish I’d seen it.

sivils_matchbook_coltera-flickrvia Flickr


Below, a scanned menu (click to see larger images):



sivils-menu_1940s_ebay_avia eBay


Sources & Notes

Top postcard from the Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection on Flickr, here.

Read the 4-page Life article (and see several photos of the Houston “curb girls”) here (use the magnifying glass icon at the top left to increase the size of the page).

Interesting quote from that article:“They work in 7½-hour shifts, six days a week, for which they get no pay but average $5 a day in tips.” Doesn’t sound legal…. (The Inflation Calculator tells us that $5 in 1940 money is equivalent to just over $83 in today’s money.)

Sivils closed in 1967, possibly because Mr. and Mrs. Sivils wanted to retire, but it seems more likely that Oak Cliff’s being a dry area of Dallas since the 1950s was killing its business. Check out the News article “Big Head Expected as Oak Cliff Beer Issue Foams” by Kent Biffle (DMN, Aug. 17, 1966) which appeared just months before another election in which the “drys” outvoted the “wets.” (More on Oak Cliff’s crazy wet-dry issues, here.)

J. D. Sivils was interviewed in a short documentary about Dallas carhops, filmed in the early 1970s. In it, he talks about the early days of Sivils and — best of all — there is film footage galore of the drive-in from his collection. Watch it in my previous post — “‘Carhops’ — A Short Documentary, ca. 1974” — here. (Below a screenshot of Sivils from the film.)


Read the article “Carhops, Curb Service, and the Pig Sandwich” by Michael Karl Witzel (Texas Highways, Oct. 2006) in a PDF, here (increase size of article with controls at top of page).

Another Flashback Dallas post on drive-in culture — “Carhops as Sex Symbols — 1940” — is here.


Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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