Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Humor

Carhops as Sex Symbols — 1940

male-car-hops_AP_1940“At your service, ma’am” (click for larger image) AP Photo

by Paula Bosse

In 1940, Dallas was in a tizzy about the sudden fad of scantily-clad “girl carhops.” This scourge had made its way to Dallas from Houston (brought to Oak Cliff by the enterprising husband and wife team behind Sivils Drive-In), and in April of 1940, it was a newspaper story with, as it were … legs. For a good month or two, stories of sexy carhops were everywhere.

The girls started wearing uniforms with very short skirts — or midriff-baring costumes with cellophane hula skirts. Some of the women reported an increase in tips of $25 or more a week — a ton of money for the time.

The public’s reaction ranged from amusement to outrage. There were reports of community matrons who reported the “indecent” attire to the police department and demanded action. Other women were annoyed by the objectification of young womanhood. Lawmakers in Austin discussed whether the practice of waitresses exposing so much extra skin posed a health risk to consumers.

But it wasn’t until a woman from Oak Cliff piped up that something actually happened. She complained that she didn’t want to look at girls’ legs when she stopped in at her local drive-in — she wanted to look at men’s legs. Drive-in owners thought that was a GREAT idea, and the idea of the scantily-clad male carhop was born.

carhops_FWST_042840Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Apr. 28, 1940 

One might think that the woman behind this “equal ogling” campaign was sort of proto-feminist, until you get to the part where she said that the whole girl carhop thing was “wrong socially and economically and should not be tolerated” (DMN, Apr. 27, 1940) — not because of the skin flashed, but because men needed jobs, not girls. And that also raised hackles. Two married women who had been carhops wrote to the Dallas News to speak up for these girls and women who were “at least coming nearer to making a living wage than at any other time of their existence. […] The girl carhops are either supporting their family or sharing the expenses. […] Why all the storm about a leg? It is nothing more than you see at a movie and a vaudeville” (DMN, May 5, 1940).

The photo at the top ran in newspapers around the country with the headline: “Adonis and Apollo of Roadside Bring Trade to Daring Stand.”

First large roadside stand Friday to bow to the demand of Dallas women and feature husky young male carhops in shorts was the Log Lodge Tavern at Lemmon and Midway where four six-footers found jobs. Above, in blue shorts, white sweatshirt and cowboy boots, Joe Wilcox serves Pauline Taylor who smiles her approval of the idea. Bound for another car is James Smith, at right.

April, 1940 must have been a slow news month, because this story really got around (click to see a larger image).

sexy-carhops_corsicana-daily-sun_042740Corsicana Daily Sun, April 27, 1940

One intrepid reporter even tracked down a Texas Ranger (!) to ask his opinion, to which the Ranger replied, “…letting those roadside glamor boys wear boots is nothing more than a slam at the state. People think of booted Texans as men, not as fancy-panted carhops.” The whole article, below, is pretty amusing.

sexy-carhops_anniston-AL-star_042840Anniston (AL) Star, April 28, 1940

There were other male carhops around town, some not quite so hunky. This guy — game as he was — really needed to reconsider his outfit.

carhops_xenia-ohio-daily-gazette_050340Xenia (Ohio) Daily Gazette, May 3, 1940

But back to the female carhops and their siren-like hold over their male customers. This was, by far, the best story to hit the wires:

Waxahachie Daily Light,  July 16, 1940


Sources & Notes

Top image from the Associated Press, 1940. 

The Log Lodge Tavern was located at 7334 Lemmon Avenue, which was across from Love Field and adjacent to the Log Lodge Tourist Court. It was located approximately where the red circle is below, on a page from the 1952 Mapsco (click for larger image).


Check out these related articles from The Dallas Morning News:

  • “Skimpiest Costumes Bring Biggest Wages” (DMN, April 24, 1940)
  • “Women To Fight Girl Carhops; Slogan: Let Us See Men’s Legs” (DMN, April 26, 1940)
  • “Adonis and Apollo of Roadside Bring Trade to Daring Stand” (DMN, April 27, 1940)
  • “Word For Carhops Grass Skirts And All” (letter to the editor) (DMN, May 5, 1940)
  • “Went Crazy Over Car Hops, Wife Says of Fugitive” (DMN, July 16, 1940)

UPDATE: This has been a weirdly popular post — it’s gotten a few thousand hits and even resulted in a short radio interview on Dallas’ public radio station, KERA. I don’t really add anything new to this story, but if you’d like to listen to the interview conducted by Justin Martin, it is here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Neiman’s Will Welcome You With Open Arms When Your Gusher Finally Comes In

neiman-marcus_cartoon_1956New Yorker cartoon by Mischa Richter, 1956

by Paula Bosse

I came across this cartoon in — of all things — a historical journal, without a source. Google informs me that this was a cartoon by Mischa Richter, and that it appeared in the Oct. 27, 1956 issue of the New Yorker, one month before the release of the heavily-promoted epic movie “Giant.” You know Jett Rink was no stranger to N-M after his gusher came in.


Cartoon from the TSHA journal Texas Historian, Nov. 1978, used as an illustration in the article “Neiman-Marcus: A Dream of Elegance” by Margaret Lucas.

Details on the New Yorker cartoon by Mischa Richter (and the possibility that the original artwork may be available for purchase from Condé Nast, if you are so inclined) can be found here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Texas Dashboard Organizer

tx-dashboard_diffee_new-yorker_2006 New Yorker cartoon by DIFFEE, 2006

by Paula Bosse

Not really retro and not specifically Dallas-related, but … close enough.


Cartoon by Matthew Diffee (a Texan, who grew up in the Dallas area); appeared in the Nov. 13, 2006 issue of The New Yorker. Suitable for framing? Why, yes, it is. Condé Nast would love to set you up with one of your own, here.

And, WOW, check out Diffee’s homage to Big Tex — it’s GREAT! — and it’s here! Click through all four parts! #WWBTD

His “Twelve Best Toons” selection is pretty good, too, here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Elm Street Cave — 1967

elm-st-cracks_flickr_red-oak-kid_smThe Elm St. Cave – tourist attraction… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In the wee hours of the morning of  Jan. 11, 1967, a giant hole opened up on the south side of Elm Street — 200 yards long, 20 feet wide, and 15 feet deep — running roughly the entire length of the block between Griffin and Field. It was assumed that there was some connection between the cave-in and the adjacent construction of One Main Place. During the ensuing investigation into a cause, the consultations with geologists, the lawsuits, the repairs, the back-filling, etc., this very busy stretch of Elm was closed for an incredible seven months (!). Most of that time it was a gaping hole.

The hole was a major headache to city leaders and to downtown developers (…and to motorists), but it became an ongoing joke to everybody else. The “Elm Street Cave” and “Elm Street Cavern” were referenced everywhere for most of 1967. San Francisco had “The Summer of Love” that year, Dallas had “The Elm Street Cave-In.” It was the butt of endless jokes in local, out-of-town, and even out-of-state newspapers. A band sprang up calling themselves The Elm Street Cave-Ins.

cave-ins-band_dmn_062867June 28, 1967

A group of local lawyers known as The Skid Row Bar Association proclaimed to the press that it was “the last remaining scenic wonder in Dallas.” Curious tourists were drawn to the hole like camera-laden moths to a flame. “Talk about your ‘Deep Elm’!” became a punchline much bandied about by people who didn’t understand that something like that is moderately amusing once or twice, but that it tends to lose its sharpness after it’s repeated ten or fifteen times. And, bizarrely, it even found its way into an oddly defensive Sears ad (click to see a larger image).

ad_sears_dmn_070667-det_sm1967 Sears ad, detail

The hole was eventually filled in, and, in August — after months of jokes and inconvenience — the street was finally re-opened. Life returned to a pre-cave-in normalcy. The reason for the collapse was determined to be shifting rock formations below street level. One report said that workmen had “uncovered a huge crevice in the limestone beneath the street measuring 30 feet deep. They filled the crevice with concrete and tied together the broken sections of rock.” I’m not sure how comfortable I’d feel about a giant building sitting on shifting shale-covered limestone,* but apparently everything’s been fine ever since, and everyone — the engineers, the geologists, the One Main Place developers and tenants — lived happily ever after.


Sources & Notes

Associated Press photo of the lovely Judy Thedford and her fashionably large hair posing rather incongruously beside a car bumper appeared in newspapers across the country on Feb. 12, 1967. This scan is from the Red Oak Kid’s Flickr page, here.

The weird “Let’s quit apologizing! Dallas is worth seeing!” ad comes from a larger Sears advertisement that appeared in July, 1967.

Related Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “Strip of Elm Collapses; Experts Remain Baffled” by Carolyn Barta (DMN, Jan. 12, 1967)
  • “Cracks on Elm Street Not Funny to City Hall” by Kent Biffle (DMN, Feb. 12, 1967)

*For people who (unlike myself) know something about geology, an article written in 1965 about the special problems regarding the One Main Place excavation and construction (“How to Support Skyscrapers” by Martin Casey — DMN, Nov. 28, 1965) might be interesting. There is much mention of Austin Chalk Limestone and Eagle Ford Shale which made the One Main Place project quite troublesome to engineers. 

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“Go Away! Can’t You See I’m Listening to WFAA?” — 1947


by Paula Bosse



Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

“Jim Nasium” Can Teach You a Thing Or Two About Baseball Heckling — 1908

baseball-hecklers_dmn_050308Cartoon by “Jim Nasium” — 1908 (click for larger image, you sap-head)

by Paula Bosse

If you were a die-hard baseball fan in 1908, you were no doubt familiar with many of the jeers featured in the cartoon above by one Mr. “Jim Nasium,” a sportswriter and cartoonist who was given almost half a page of primo newsprint each Sunday in many newspapers around the country. Feel free to incorporate some of these exhortations into your next enthusiastic visit to the ballpark. ANY ballpark. Those kids can take it….


Below, a few images of the Dallas baseball scene from around the time that Mr. Nasium’s column on “roasting appeared in the pages of The Dallas Morning News. (As always, click for large images.)

The Dallas Giants, 1908

Above, the 1908 Dallas Giants team. Bottom row–Slattery, Fletcher, Kerns, Tullos, Maloney. Middle row–Maag, Hole, Moore, Whittaker, Cooper, Loudell. Top row–Burnett, Peters, Hay, Storch, Miller.



Here’s where they played that week, Gaston Park. Mayor Hay threw out the first ball. Below, where the cat-calls would come from. “What’re you tryin’ to bunt for, you sap-head!”

baseball_gaston-park_grandstand_dmn_050508DMN, May 5, 1908


baseball-ad_dmn_050608DMN, May 6, 1908


The cartoons of “Jim Nasium” appeared in The Dallas Morning News alongside his weekly column, “Conversations With an Old Sport,” a humorous syndicated series by Edgar F. Wolfe, who would later go on to edit Sporting Life. Here is an excerpt from that week’s column about the bad sportsmanlike conduct of jeering spectators in grandstands, complete with wonderful slang you’ve probably never encountered before (click to read):

jim-nasium_dmn_050308-excerptDMN, May 3, 1908

This full “Conversations With an Old Sport” column can be read in a PDF here. (You’re going to have to click that “plus” symbol at the top many, many times in order to magnify the text enough to read it!)

Photo of the Dallas Giants from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University; it can be accessed here. It appeared in the pages of The Dallas Morning News on May 6, 1908, crediting photo to Clogenson.

A few more (grainy) photos of Gaston Park — site of the first Texas-OU game held in Dallas in 1912 — can be seen in another Flashback Dallas post, here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Captain Marvel Fights the Mole Men in Dallas! — 1944


by Paula Bosse

In 1944 Captain Marvel came to Dallas. He had brushes with the SMU marching band, Love Field, Mayor Woodall Rodgers, Fair Park, the Cotton Bowl, a sunken Adolphus, Ted Dealey, and a bunch of “expert lariat throwers.” And he saved us from the Mole Men (and their “mole-kids”). People, you have NO idea…. A few of the highlights below (click for larger images). (To go directly to the entire scanned comic book, click here.)










Holy Moley! That was close! Thank you, Captain Marvel! SHAZAM!


To read the entire adventure “Deep in the Heart of Dallas” — in fact, to read the entire comic book (which also includes a trip to Greenpoint, Brooklyn…), check out the whole thing here. Enjoy! (And sorry about the spoilers!)

Some panels are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Keep Oak Cliff Kinky — 1923


by Paula Bosse

I’m not sure what more I can offer, except to say that in today’s money — with inflation taken into account — that little bondage device for a child’s thumb would run you a cool 40 bucks.

I picture Mrs. J. C. Thompson assembling the inventory herself, at the kitchen table in her little frame house on Melba Street in Oak Cliff, the Victrola playing in the other room, having a chirpy one-sided conversation with the imaginary “Dr. Thompson.” I wonder if she sold any?

To quote the Messrs. Python: “Guaranteed to break the ice at parties!”


Ad from The Dallas Morning News, Nov. 18, 1923. I’m not sure there was a follow-up.

Whither Mrs. J. C. Thompson, West Dallas entrepreneur?


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Texas Fire Extinguisher Co. and Hitler — 1942

tx-fire-extinguisher-coTexas Fire Extinguisher Co., across from Fair Park… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

For a place that sells fire extinguishers and tractor equipment, this is a wonderfully comforting image. Hardly even looks like Dallas. The Texas Fire Extinguisher Company — operated for several decades by the Hancock family — was located at the corner of Parry and Second Avenue, across from Fair Park. While checking to see the exact address of this business (which, by the way, was 929 Second Ave.), I came across a 1942 article mentioning it and Hitler.

According to a Dallas Morning News blurblet, the Hancock company owner had placed a want-ad for a painter and paperhanger and received an odd response on a postcard:

“Gentlemen: I wish to apply for the job as a paperhanger. Am hunting bears at present, but am about out of ammunition. Anyway, I am a better paperhanger than I am a bear hunter. –Adolph Hitler, Berlin, Germany. (P.S. Please rush answer as this job is playing out and may have to move soon.)”

Humor doesn’t always translate successfully across the generations. But, hey, that was weird.


Sources & Notes

Postcard (cropped) from the Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection on Flickr, here.

Quote from Dallas Morning News article “Reply to Want Ad Indicates Hitler Wants a New Job” (DMN, Nov. 6, 1942).

Click postcard for larger image.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Chas. Ott: One-Stop Shopping for Bicycles and Dynamite

ad-charles-ott-dynamite_smu-19161916 ad

by Paula Bosse

Aside from maybe an ad for a popular off-campus soda shop or one of those bland, dutiful business card ads for an insurance company, I’m not sure that there’s necessarily a specific type of advertisement I expect to see in the pages of a college yearbook. But if I were quizzed on types of ads I wouldn’t expect to see in the pages of a college yearbook, it would probably include an ad for dynamite and ammo. But in 1916, SMU’s inaugural yearbook committee was proudly testing the limits of advertising propriety!

Charles Ott was kind of a big deal in the world of, first, gunsmithing, and second, locksmithing. Born in Germany, he came to Dallas in 1873 and opened a gun shop on Elm Street in 1876. According to The Encyclopedia of Texas, at the time of his death (c. 1921?), he was “the oldest gunsmith in the State of Texas.” That’s an impressive accomplishment. As seen from the ad above, a successful businessman not only knows his craft, but he knows how to diversify. (A nice bio of Mr. Ott can be found here.) Below, a photo of the interior of his shop, sometime in the early 20th century:



If you’re in business selling ammunition and gunpowder and fireworks and dynamite, you probably need to secure them in a place safe from the reach of the fires that seemed to hit Dallas constantly in the 19th century. ‘Cause if you don’t, you run the risk of something like this happening (north side of Elm, between Griffin and Akard):

ott-fire_dmn_052696Dallas Morning News, May 26, 1896

My favorite part of the story, though, was this on-the-spot artist’s depiction of the “conflagration.” You can practically feel the smoke burning your eyes.



Sources & Notes

Top ad from, yes, the 1915-16 SMU Rotunda.

Bio of Charles Ott linked above from Davis & Grobe’s Encyclopedia of Texas (Dallas: Texas Development Bureau, 1922). If you sped-read past it above, you can find it here.

Excerpt and drawing of the explosive Elm St. fire from The Dallas Morning News, May 26, 1896.

Photo of the interior of the Ott store from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Libraries, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photo is here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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