Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: JFK

Dealey Plaza and The Triple Underpass Under Construction — 1935

dealey-plaza_triple-underpass-construction_1935_fitzgeraldCleared for construction (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Dealey Plaza and the triple underpass were envisioned as an impressive “Gateway to Dallas” — for visitors arriving from the west, this attractive and welcoming sight would be their first impression of the city. Construction was completed in 1936 as the city was preparing for its mammoth Texas Centennial celebration. Little did anyone know back when these photos were taken in 1935 that “Dealey Plaza” and “Triple Underpass” would one day be place names known around the world and that the not-at-all remarkable Southern Rock Island Plow Co. building seen in both of these photos would become a must-see site for almost every out-of-town visitor to the city.

triple-underpass-under-construction_1935_m-c-toyerTriple Underpass and pedestrian tunnel under construction


Sources & Notes

The top photo, showing the cleared land that will become Dealey Plaza is from The Hayes Collection, Dallas Public Library Texas/Dallas History and Archive Division; I found it in the book Dallas Then and Now by Ken Fitzgerald (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 2001).

Bottom photo showing the “triple underpass and south pedestrian tunnel under construction” was posted by M. C. Toyer in a very interesting Phorum discussion on this area (with a lot of great photos), here.

Below are related Flashback Dallas posts:

  • More on Dealey Plaza can be found here.
  • More on the Triple Underpass can be found here.
  • More on the John F. Kennedy assassination can be found here.

Click photos for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The First JFK Assassination Reenactment — 1963

jfk_secret-service-reenactment_dth_112763Secret Service film crew, 11-27-63 (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

There is yet another JFK assassination-related film being shot in and around Dealey Plaza, causing all sorts of traffic woes, but spotlighting some great period cars, trucks, and fashions. The first reenactment? It took place on November 27, 1963 as part of the Secret Service investigation. A newspaper account suggested that Jack Ruby may have been watching from his jail cell, mere steps away. The photos below, showing some of that filming, were taken by a Dallas Times Herald staff photographer. (All photos from the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza/UNT’s Portal to Texas History.)




Another photo — this one of somber onlookers — taken the same day. Ruby’s home-away-from-home — the jailhouse — is in the background at the left.



Photos from the incredible Dallas Times Herald collection of Kennedy assassination photographs from the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, viewable online via UNT’s invaluable Portal to Texas History; the reenactment photos are here (the first photo is here).

The reenactment received only a few paragraphs in The Dallas Morning News the next day: “Crime Re-enacted by Secret Service” by Carl Freund (DMN, Nov. 28, 1963).

Currently filming in Dallas: the television adaptation of Stephen King’s novel “11-22-63.” Read the updates on the filming from Robert Wilonsky of The Dallas Morning News, here.

UPDATE: Watch the footage shot this day in my post “The Official Government Reenactment of the Kennedy Assassination — Nov. 27, 1963,” here.

All photos are much larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Dealey Plaza, From Above — 1960s

dealey-plaza-aerial_c1966_baylorPhoto by David Lifton (Baylor University)

by Paula Bosse

Photo showing a mid-to-late-’60s Dealey Plaza and downtown Dallas, with the block just east of the Old Red Courthouse cleared for the eventual construction of the John F. Kennedy Memorial.

And today

dealey-plaza_google-earthGoogle Earth


Photo is by David Lifton, from the collection of Penn Jones, W. R. Poage Legislative Library, Baylor University, Waco, TX; it is accessible here. Lifton is an assassinationologist best known for his 1981 book Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Southern Rock Island Plow Company

southern-rock-island-plow_city-directory_1908-det_smFrom plow company to Dallas’ most famous building (click to enlarge)

by Paula Bosse

Behold, the Southern Rock Island Plow Company building. Looks familiar? Perhaps “Texas School Book Depository” is an easier hook to hang your hat on. When Dallas seemed to be farm implement-central, there were numerous plow companies in business here. This is the second Southern Rock Island Plow Co. building — the first one (built in the same location around 1898) burned down when it was struck by lighting. The building that still stands was built in 1903, and it is, without question, the most famous building in Dallas.And it’s probably not that far behind the Alamo.




Sources & Notes

Ad from the 1908 city directory.

Photo from the Building, Plumbing, Gas & Electrical Laws of the City of Dallas (1914).

More on the history of the Dallas branch of the Southern Rock Island Plow Co. can be found here.

For more about what’s going on with the building these days, see the Dallas Morning News article “Dallas County May Move Offices Out of Historic School Book Depository” by Matthew Watkins, here.

For more on the various incarnations of the building (which, by the way, is officially called the County Administration Building and which now houses county offices as well as the Sixth Floor Museum), see my previous post, “The Sexton Foods Building and the Former Life of the School Book Depository,” here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Old Red Goes Hollywood (sort of…) — 1964

buchanan_trial-oswald_1964Old Red’s star turn in The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

An interesting (if a bit fuzzy) screenshot of the Old Red Courthouse from one of Larry Buchanan’s Dallas-made films, “The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald” (1964), about what might have happened had LHO lived to face trial. As with most of Buchanan’s extremely low-budget films, it drags and has clunky acting (…I have to admit that I didn’t watch the whole thing), but it’s interesting to fast-forward through to see the bits shot out on the streets of downtown. I really like this view of the courthouse. It seems familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.


Yes, you can watch the whole film on YouTube — free! Mosey on over here. The movie’s tagline: “Not a Newsreel … A Full-Length Motion Picture Filmed Secretly in Dallas.” Uh-huh. And as far as the movie having been “suppressed” (as is mentioned at the  beginning of the film) … well, let’s just say Larry worked in advertising for many years and knew a thing or two about marketing.

For other posts I’ve written about Larry Buchanan (I kind of feel I know him now — he would have been a lot of fun to shoot a movie with!), click here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

JFK Aftermath: Chaos at the City Desk — 1963

JFK_DTH_newsroom2_portalIt was all-hands-on-deck for a shocked and solemn Times Herald staff, 11/22/63.

by Paula Bosse

Photos of Dallas Times Herald reporters in the newsroom on November 22, 1963, scrambling for information after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the biggest news story of their careers — the biggest news story in the history of Dallas.




Photos (by an unidentified DTH staff photographer) are from the Sixth Floor Museum’s Dallas Times Herald Collection, accessible through the Portal to Texas History. Other photos of no doubt shocked reporters in the DTH newsroom who were probably running completely on instinct and adrenaline that day are here (click thumbnails for larger images).

Identification of DTH reporters and other staff pictured above is welcomed.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

JFK’s “Last Hour In Dallas” — 1963


by Paula Bosse

How is a city supposed to respond when it is suddenly plunged into the international spotlight? Does it grieve and try to forget, or does it grieve and capitalize? Dallas has had over 50 years to deal with/come to terms with the assassination of President Kennedy, but sometimes it seems as if the City of Dallas is still shell-shocked and isn’t quite sure how to acknowledge it on an official level. Let’s face it, Dallas is known to the rest of the world for one thing: the Kennedy assassination (and perhaps the TV show, and maybe the Cowboys). Yes, we have the justly-renowned Sixth Floor Museum, but it took 26 years to open it!

The cottage industry that sprang up in the wake of the Kennedy assassination has been big business for decades, some of it generated by people who live in Dallas, but most of it by people who have probably never even been to Texas. Since 1963, the “assassination literature” (…and, yes, it’s called that) has mushroomed, with local contributions coming from Dallasites whose brush with the President before, during, or after the events of November 22, 1963 have probably been pored over by numerous people either trying to understand why what happened happened or by people searching for hidden conspiracy clues to explain what really happened.

One local resident who added to the assassination literature was John E. Miller who took photos of the arrival of President and Mrs. Kennedy at Love Field and then apparently hot-footed it over to Parkland when the news of the shooting broke. These photos were issued as postcards in 1964 in a packet of 12. (Click pictures for larger images.)

JFK_envelope_frontAbove, the front of the envelope containing the cards; on the back: “A Real Picture Treat For Years To Come.”

JFK_card_01From the back of the card: “No. 1, Arrival of President’s Escort Plane at Love Field, Dallas, Texas.”

JFK_card_02“No. 2, Presidential and Escort Planes at Dallas’ Love Field landed shortly after this picture was taken.”

JFK_card_03“No. 3, President John F. Kennedy and party leaving airplane at Love Field. (Mrs. Kennedy — pink hat.)”

(UPDATE: The two little girls in the photos above and below are most likely Carolyn Jacquess, in blue, and Debby Massie, in red. Their little group arrived at the airport before the president’s plane arrived, walked through the terminal and out onto the tarmac, right to where the plane taxied up to the small crowd of about 100 people. Just like that. There was no special invitation, and, other than the chain-link fence, no real security.)

JFK_card_04“No. 4, President John F. Kennedy and Party in foreground at Dallas’ Love Field.”

JFK_card_05“No. 5, Vice-President Johnson, Governor Connally, Mrs. Kennedy (pink hat), other members of party at Dallas Love Field.”

JFK_card_06“No. 6, Vice-President Johnson, Governor Connally, Presidential Party and Newspaper Men, Love Field, Dallas.”

JFK_card_07“No. 7, Forming of Presidential Parade, Love Field, Dallas.”

JFK_card_08“No. 8, After Assassination, TV Unit arrives at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.”

JFK_card_09“No. 9, Blood Bank Unit at Parkland Hospital on fatal day. Dallas, Texas.”

JFK_card_10“No. 10, Hearse carrying President John F. Kennedy’s body and Mrs. Kennedy from Parkland Hospital back to airplane at Love Field, Dallas.”

JFK_card_11“No. 11, Presidential plane awaiting President Kennedy’s body, Vice-President Johnson and Mrs. Kennedy, for return to Washington, D.C. (Note Presidential seal.)”

JFK_card_12“No. 12, Texas School Book Depository building from which authorities believe fatal shots were fired. (Note second window down on right corner of building.)”


Photos and captions © John E. Miller 1964, 3500 W. Davis, Dallas, Texas 75211. (Mr. Miller was a Dallas businessman who sold motor homes and trailers in Oak Cliff between 1945 and 1976. A photo of Mr. Miller is here).

Many thanks to “amyfromdallas” for scanning and contributing the images in this post. Thanks, Amy!

For other Flashback Dallas JFK-related posts, see here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Texas Theatre — 1932

texas-theater_1932The “Texas”

by Paula Bosse

West Jefferson Blvd, 1932. All that’s missing from this photo is Edward G. Robinson and an arsenal of tommy-guns. This is the only theater in the world whose marquee showing the 1963 double feature of “Cry of Battle”/”War Is Hell” has become a part of history (the Texas Theatre, is of course, where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured on the afternoon of November 22,  1963). When the movie theater opened in 1931 — in the time of Prohibition and running boards —  it was a much more elegant-looking picture palace. Had he not been in the Big House at the time, John Dillinger might have seen this very same Gable and Harlow movie at the Biograph (or what I call “Chicago’s Texas Theatre”). He probably wouldn’t have been sitting through something called “Kiddie Frolics,” featuring Oak Cliff’s own Virginia Self, a teenage dancer … frolicking.


After several changes in ownership and a few awkward renovations, the Texas Theatre seems to be back on track these days. The history page of their website is here (with interesting factoids such as: it opened on San Jacinto Day, it was the first theater in Dallas with air-conditioning, and it was briefly owned by Howard Hughes).

For photos of the theater’s interior, published in 1932 in the trade journal Motion Picture Herald, see my post “The Texas Theatre and Its Venetian-Inspired Decor,” here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Sexton Foods Building and the Former Life of the School Book Depository

sexton_croppedLook familiar? (click for larger images)

by Paula Bosse

Look familiar? The building above would later become the Texas School Book Depository. But prior to that, the building housed Sexton Foods, a Chicago-based wholesale grocer which occupied the building for twenty years (1941-1961). The building was known commonly in town as “the Sexton building,” even after it was leased to the Texas School Book Depository in 1963, which explains why some people — citizens and police officers alike — were still referring to it by that name on the day of the Kennedy assassination (and this has apparently caused confusion amongst those wading deep into the “assassination literature”). The photo above is cropped from an ad I came across in The Dude Wrangler, a dude ranch quarterly (!), published in Bandera. The ad (which is reproduced in full down the page a bit) is from 1953, but the photo of the building appears to have been taken earlier.

The leasing of the building by D. Harold Byrd to the John Sexton Wholesale Grocery Company of Chicago (initially for only five years) was announced in The Dallas Morning News on Nov. 28, 1940 (“Wholesale Grocery Leases Building at Houston and Elm”). The Sexton Co. was scheduled to move in on Dec. 8 “following a general remodeling which will include installation of elevators, rearranging of partitions and painting.” They remained in the building until 1961.



In 1953 (before anyone from Hertz was planning on putting a billboard up there), the Ford people erected a giant neon sign on top of the building to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Ford Motor Company. In fact, it was so big that it had half a mile of neon tubing in it and was touted as being the largest animated neon sign in the Southwest. Now there’s a sign that probably caused a few car accidents!



Before the Sexton company moved in, the building housed the Perfection-Aire air-conditioning  company. Newspaper articles announced the renovation of the building for the A/C people — the company went into receivership a couple of years later.



Before that, it was the site of the Southern Rock Island Plow Co., which was the original owner of the property (1894) and which built the building in 1903 after the first building was destroyed in a fire after it was hit by lightning on May 4, 1901.

rock-island-plow_DMN-c1910circa 1910

Above, the Southern Rock Island Plow Co. Building which still stands, famous as the “Texas School Book Depository”; below, the building originally built by the plow company which was destroyed by fire  in May, 1901.

southern-rock-island-plow_1901_pre-current-bldg_1901-directory1901, Dallas city directory


Sources & Notes

Sexton Co. ad from a 1953 issue of The Dude Wrangler ; the top image is a detail from that ad.

More on the history of the building as it pertains to the Rock Island Plow Co. is here.

More on the Sexton Foods Co. is here.

More info, specifically on the Texas School Book Depository, is here.

Official site of the current occupant, the Sixth Floor Museum, is here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Nardis of Dallas: The Fashion Connection Between “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and the Kennedy Assassination

by Paula Bosse

I started watching reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show on Channel 11 when I was a kid. I still love the show, and I’ve seen every episode countless times. Which is kind of an odd jumping-off point for a post on a Dallas clothing manufacturer, but there you are. The company was Nardis of Dallas, a successful manufacturer of women’s apparel, owned by the Russian-born Bernard “Ben” Gold who arrived here in 1938 from New York City where he had operated a taxi company for many years.

Gold moved to Dallas at the request of his brother who, along with a man named Joe Sidran (“Sidran” spelled backwards is “Nardis”) was an owner in a near-bankrupt dress company. Ben Gold became a part-owner (and later the sole owner) and quickly turned the business around. When he brought in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, other Dallas garment manufacturers were shocked (Time magazine used the word “horrified”). He also shook things up by employing African-American workers, the first such company in town to do so. The company eventually grew to become the largest clothing manufacturer in Dallas, with clients around the country and around the world. Nardis was one of the first Dallas clothing companies to have an apparel collection made in a foreign country: his upscale “House of Gold” boutique line specialized in silk, beaded, and sequined dresses and gowns, hand-made in Hong Kong.

Nardis of Dallas was originally located at 409 Browder, with factories at 211 North Austin the 400 block of S. Poydras (at Wood Street), and finally at 1300 Corinth (at Gould St.) where they built their 75,000-square-foot “million-dollar plant” in 1964 (a quick check of Google Maps shows the building still there, but it appears to be vacant). Below are two photos of their S. Poydras location.


Above, Wood Street at the left (Andrew’s Cafe is listed at 1008 Wood St. in the 1960 Dallas directory); below, Nardis garment workers.


So how does this all connect to The Dick Van Dyke Show? If you’re a fan of the show and a faithful reader of closing credits like I am, you’ve probably seen the “Fashions by Nardis of Dallas” credit at the end of some episodes, right under the Botany 500 credit. And, like me, you might have wondered, “How did THAT happen?” How does an apparel-maker from Dallas network itself into a primo gig supplying fashions to a top Hollywood television show? I have no idea how the initial contact was made, but I DO know that Dick Van Dyke Show star Rose Marie and Nardis owner Ben Gold became very good friends while she was appearing in a production of Bye, Bye Birdie at the Dallas Summer Musicals in 1965. She mentions Gold several times in her autobiography.

Excerpt from Hold the Roses by Rose Marie

She spent much of her off-stage time in Dallas with Gold and his wife, and, in fact, when Gold was fatally injured in a traffic accident that summer, Rose Marie (then recently widowed herself) stayed with his wife Tina for several days at Tina’s request.

So, no big Dick Van Dyke Show story, but, as is no doubt known to the hyper-vigilant members of the JFK assassination community, Nardis of Dallas DOES have an interesting connection to that. In 1941 Abraham Zapruder, who had worked in the garment industry in New York, moved to Dallas and began working for Ben Gold as a Nardis pattern-cutter. His name even appears in a couple of classified ads in The Dallas Morning News.

June, 1945

Jan., 1948

While at Nardis — before he left to start his own clothing company — Zapruder worked with a woman named Jeanne LeGon (later Jeanne De Mohrenschildt) who, with her husband George (suspected by some of being a CIA operative), was friends with Lee Harvey Oswald in the early ’60s. Yep. That’s an interesting, head-spinning coincidence.

And I owe all this trivial Nardis-related knowledge to wondering for years about a single card seen in the closing credits of the unquestionably stylish and fashion-forward Dick Van Dyke Show.



Sources & Notes

Fashion photographs from MyVintageVogue.com (1952, 1955, and 1956, respectively). Other Nardis fashion photos from My Vintage Vogue can be found here. (If you’re interested in vintage fashion, fashion photography, and vintage advertising, this is a great website.)

Photos of the Nardis plant at S. Poydras and Wood are by Squire Haskins, from the Squire Haskins Photography Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections — more info on the exterior shot is here; more on the interior shot here.

Passage about Gold from Rose Marie’s autobiography, Hold the Roses (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002), p. 192.

Dick Van Dyke Show closing credits card from a 1965 episode.

Nardis of Dallas logo from a clothing tag, found on eBay.

Additional background information on Gold from Time magazine, June 12, 1950.

See another Flashback Dallas post on Nardis — “Nardis Sign-Painters: ‘Everything in Sportswear’ — 1948” — here.

1954 ad, detail

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

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