Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Dining and Drinking

Victor’s Lounge — 1913 Commerce

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Victor’s-sponsored bowling team

by Paula Bosse

My posting has been a bit erratic recently. My brother and I have been clearing out my late aunt’s home. It’s one of those inevitable tasks that no one wants to have to do, but as sad as it’s been, it’s also been comforting to see glimpses of my aunt’s life that I had only vaguely heard about — or had never heard about. Going through her photos, I see what a full life she had, how much she traveled, and that she had decades-old friendships.

One of the places she talked about with great fondness was, of all things, a bar: Victor’s Lounge, which was at 1913 Commerce Street, directly across from the Statler Hilton. The Dallas Morning News described it as “a favorite with the downtown office crowd.” My aunt worked for an insurance company in the Mercantile Building, and nearby Victor’s was the place where she and her co-workers gathered after work (and, I think, for lunch). She even participated in a ladies’ bowling league on a team sponsored by her favorite hang-out. The photo at the top shows the team of fun-looking women (my aunt Bettye Jo is on the far right). She still had the crisply-ironed shirt in her closet! 

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Victor’s was opened by Victor Ballas (who later opened the Purple Orchid a block away at 2016 Commerce). Born in New York, Ballas arrived in Dallas as a child, went to Forest Avenue High School, and had several businesses, one liltingly called “Ballas of Dallas.” My aunt said he always looked after his customers, especially the single women when they were being aggressively hit on by male patrons. Ballas died on Christmas Day, 1971 of a heart attack — he was only 53.

Victor’s opened as a cocktail bar in 1957 or 1958 with a regular piano player (for many years it was Tony Rizzo), but ads indicate that it became more of a restaurant than a bar in the 1960s.

victors_april-19591959

The Commerce Street location closed in 1971 — it was replaced at the end of that year by the Wild West Saloon, another cocktail bar (but one which included topless entertainment). 

I heard so much about Victor’s over the years from my aunt that when I recently stumbled across odd shots of the place in random film footage I was pretty excited

I wish we could have gotten a drink there together, Bettye Jo. And maybe hit the lanes at your favorite alley and bowled a few frames.

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victors 2 dmn film SMU

victors dmn film SMU

victors_1962-map_det1962 (click to see larger image)

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Sources & Notes

Top photo and photo of bowling shirt from the collection of Paula Bosse.

The three color images are screenshots from films in the G. William Jones Film Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University. The first is from the WFAA NewsFilm Collection, the second and third from a promotional film for The Dallas Morning News; all are from the 1960s.

Map is a detail from a 1962 map featured in the Flashback Dallas post “Map of Downtown Dallas, For the Curious Conventioneer — 1962.”

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Highland Park High School: Ads from the 1964 Yearbook

charcos_ad_5300-lemmon_HPHS-yrbk_1964_photoCharco’s on Lemmon — with “14 friendly electronic speakers”

by Paula Bosse

Here are a few ads from the 1964 Highlander, the yearbook of Highland Park High School — some of the ads feature HPHS students. (Click ads to see larger images.)

Above, Charco’s, 5300 Lemmon Avenue (James R. Inman, manager). The full ad is below. This was the third “Charco’s Circle-Thru” drive-in, following the first location at 6375 E. Mockingbird (at Abrams), which opened in 1957, and the second location at 10218 Garland Road.

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Danny’s Waffle Shop (Danny L. Edwards, owner), 171 Inwood Village. Featuring students Chris James and Suzy Corgan up on the roof.

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Sanborn’s Hi-Fi-Center (Charles Larsen, president), 5551 W. Lovers Lane. Featuring Peggy Merritt and Jan Hugenin.

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The Army-Navy Surplus and Salvage Store at 4538-40 McKinney Avenue (Julia Cooper, owner). Featuring students Liz Wilson, Gay Crowell, and Suzanne Shepard. 

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S & S Tea Room, 25 Highland Park Village (Dr. Raymond C. Libberton and Mildred A. Libberton, owners). Featuring waitress Lyn Ashmore with students Suzanne Presley, Bev Vaughan, and Susan Behrman. (Dr. Libberton was still a regular presence at the restaurant until his death in 1976 at the age of 104.)

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Midnight Coiffures, 5628 Lemmon and 4826 Gaston (Esther Groves, owner). “Dallas’ only midnight salon.” This is a great idea!

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Centex Construction Co., 4606 Greenville Avenue (Tom H. Lively, president).

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Dr Pepper, national headquarters located at Mockingbird and Greenville. Ad featuring teen bridge players Nancy Naber, Sue Fincher, Johnetta Alexander, and Melinda Anderson. “Frosty, Man, Frosty.”

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La Tunisia, 200 N. Exchange Park (Iqbal Singh Sekhon, general manager — he previously managed Safari in North Dallas at Preston and Royal).

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Sources & Notes

All images from the 1964 Highlander, yearbook of Highland Park High School.

Other Flashback Dallas posts which have dipped into the HPHS yearbooks can be found here.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Luby’s, In Dallas Since 1929

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Luby’s No. 2, Main Street, 1954 (photo detail)

by Paula Bosse

The liquidation of Luby’s restaurants was announced this week. There are a lot of people (Texans in particular) who are going to take this news hard.

I spotted the Luby’s seen in the picture above in a photo I found on eBay a few years ago (see the full photo here). I was surprised to learn that the first Luby’s in Dallas opened in 1929. (I think it was the first Luby’s in Texas — there might have been a tangentially-related “Luby’s”-branded restaurant in Muskogee, Oklahoma, but let’s just say that the Luby’s at 205 Browder Street in downtown Dallas was the first one in Texas. It was opened by Earl E. Luby on January 8, 1929.

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Jan. 8, 1929

The second location (the one seen in the photo above) opened at 1006 Main Street (at Poydras) two years later, on May 19, 1931.

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May 19, 1931

Earl Luby was the first cousin of Harry M. Luby, the man who is generally considered to have opened the forerunner of what we now know as Luby’s. In September, 1911, Harry opened a cafeteria in Springfield, Missouri called New England Dairy Lunch — there were several other restaurants around the U.S. with the same name, so I’m not sure if he bought it as a franchise, but whatever the case, that cafeteria was the start of a tray-toting empire.

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Springfield News-Leader, Sept. 20 & 21, 1911

He opened other New England cafeterias in Missouri and, with cousin Earl, in Oklahoma. (There was one in Dallas in 1919, located at 1409 Elm, which appears to be connected to the Luby family.)

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Apr. 16, 1919

In 1929 Earl branched off, moved to Texas, opened his own cafeterias (mostly in Dallas), and made a fortune. (There were Luby’s cafeterias run by other members of the Luby family, most notably Harry’s son, Robert Luby, who was active in South Texas a few decades later. I don’t know whether these were two completely different business entities, but Earl was king of the very lucrative Dallas market.)

Here’s an ad from 1953 with Luby’s locations at that time (along with a Miss Inez shout-out). (Click to see a larger image.)

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And from the same ad, a photo of cousins Earl and Harry enjoying a convivial cup of coffee.

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June, 1953 ad (details)

And, below, a 1960 ad for the new Luby’s at the Preston Forest Shopping Center (that sign is fantastic!).

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Sept., 1960

It’s a shame to say goodbye to such a long-lived Dallas institution. RIP, Luby’s. And thanks, Earl (1897-1990).

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Sources & Notes

1954 photo of Main Street is a detail of a larger photo found in the Flashback Dallas post “Streetcar #728, Main Street — 1954.”

Luby’s website is here (hurry!).

More on the history of Luby’s (with some incorrect information and nary a mention of Earl!) can be found on Wikipedia and The Handbook of Texas.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Mother Hansen’s Home Cooking — 1913

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Mother Hansen’s, 1814 Main Street… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A popular restaurateur in early-20th-century Dallas was Ruth Hansen (1870-1947), known to most people as “Mother Hansen.” She maintained a restaurant in downtown Dallas from about 1910 until the early 1930s, moving between locations on S. Ervay and a couple of different addresses on Main Street. The cafe interior seen above was at 1814 Main Street, just west of St. Paul — the photo was taken in 1912 or 1913.

In a 1968 Dallas Morning News interview with Mr. and Mrs. D. L. Whittle, Mother Hansen’s eatery was still remembered. When the Whittles arrived in Dallas in 1912, their Western Automatic Music Co. was two doors from the restaurant — they were regular customers of Mrs. Hansen, and Mrs. (Elsie) Whittle “vividly” remembered the place:

“It was pretty expensive,” Mrs. Whittle said with a smile. “I remember that a T-bone steak dinner cost all of 25 cents.” (“Music Brought Whittle to the City” by Sam Acheson, DMN, Nov. 25, 1968)

(That 25 cents would be about $7.00 in today’s money.)

I love this era of cafes and restaurants — three others in downtown Dallas from this same era are:

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Notes & Sources

Postcard (with a 1913 postmark) found on eBay.

In addition to buying the Western Automatic Music Co. soon after his arrival in Dallas, D. L. Whittle was also a partner in the Crystal Theatre and, most famously, the founder of the Whittle Music Co.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Orphaned Factoids: Year-End Grab Bag, 2019

cyclone-twister_tornado_cigars_1928_ebay“Looks crooked but smokes straight…”

by Paula Bosse

As another year crawls to an end, it’s time to collect the odd bits and pieces that have  piled up over the past few months which struck me as interesting or funny or… whatever. I had nowhere else to put them, so they’re going here! (Most images are larger when clicked.)

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First up, the ad above for the “Cyclone Twister” 5-cent cigar, distributed by Dallas wholesaler Martin L. Richards in 1928. Note the shape of the cigar. “Looks crooked but smokes straight.” Probably looked a little strange when smoked. I guess it might help break the ice at parties. Found on eBay.

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Here’s a nice little crest for SMU I’ve never seen — I’m not sure how long this lasted. From the 1916 Rotunda yearbook.

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M. Benedikt & Co. was the “Headquarters for Hard-to-fit-men” — in other words, they specialized in “Right-Shape clothing for Odd-Shape Men.” Here are a couple of examples of what they might consider “odd-shape men” in an ad from 1899.

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This is an interesting selection of ads from a 1968 edition of the Yellow Pages: Dewey Groom’s Longhorn Ballroom, Louanns, El Zarape Ballroom, the It’ll Do Club, the Bamboo Room at the Tower Hotel Courts, the Chalet Club, and the Tamlo Show Lounge (a couple of these show up in the…um… informative story “The Meanest Bars in Dallas” (D Magazine, July, 1975).

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I’ve been working in the G. William Jones Film and Video Archives at SMU for the past few months, and this was something I came across while viewing a 1960 WFAA-Channel 8 News clip which made me really excited (it’s an awful screenshot, but, what the heck): while covering a car wreck at Corinth and Industrial, the Ch. 8 camera panned across the scene, and in the background, just left of center, was a very tall sign for the Longhorn Ranch, which I’d never seen before. Before it was the Longhorn Ranch it was Bob Wills’ Ranch House, and after it was the Longhorn Ranch it was the Longhorn Ballroom (more history of the legendary honky-tonk is in a Texas Monthly article here). So, anyway, it’s a fuzzy screenshot, but I think it’s cool. (The footage is from June, 1960 but the clip hasn’t yet been uploaded online.)

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Speaking of WFAA footage in the Jones Film collection, there was some sort of story about comely young women in skimpy outfits handing out samples of some sort of food to passing pedestrians on Commerce Street (the one-minute clip is here). In addition to seeing sights associated with downtown streets in 1962 (including businesses such as Sigel’s and the Horseshoe Bar, as well as a large sign advertising the Theatre Lounge), I was really happy to see a few Braniff Airways posters in a window — I love those late-’50s/early-’60s Braniff travel posters! So here’s another screenshot and, below that, the Texas-kitsch poster I was so happy to see in color.

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braniff-poser_oil-well_ebayBraniff Airways, Inc., Copyright 1926 2019

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I don’t have an image for it, but I was amused to learn that in 1969 the powers-that-be at the Texas Turnpike Authority nixed the suggestion that the Dallas North Tollway be renamed in honor of president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had recently died — the idea was turned down because 1) new signage would have been very expensive, and 2) officials were afraid that “irreverent motorists” would inevitably refer to the toll road as the “Ike Pike” (I know I would have!).

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Not Dallas, but there’s always time for a little love for Fort Worth: here’s a nice ad from 1955 for a 22-year-old Fort Worth DJ named Willie Nelson, back when he was gigging out on the Jacksboro Highway with his band the Dumplin’ Eaters.

nelson-wilie_FWST_090955Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sept. 9, 1955

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Apparently there was a time when ladies were uncomfortable patronizing an establishment in which m*n served them ice cream, so this ad from 1899 made sure to note that “lady clerks” were in attendance. (See the back side of the Willett & Haney Confectioners parlor a couple of years before this ad, when the “cool and cozy parlor” was located on Main Street — it’s at the far left in this circa-1895 photo detail from this post.) The parlor was owned by John B. Willett and John S. Haney, and in addition to ice cream and candy, their specialty was oysters, and I can only hope that there was some experimenting with new food combos involving mollusks, ice cream sodas, and crushed fruit.

willett-and-haney_ice-cream-parlor_dallas-fire-dept-souvenir_1899_degolyer-lib_SMU

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This is an odd little tidbit from The Dallas Morning News about a couple of cadets from Camp Dick (at Fair Park) and what happened to them when they attended a lecture on “social diseases.” (The jokes write themselves….) Who knew singing and whistling were so therapeutic”

camp-dick_dmn_081718DMN, Aug. 17, 1918

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The caption for this photo (which appeared in the article “Going Downtown to Shop” by Jackie McElhaney, from the Spring, 2009 issue of Legacies): “In 1946, Sanger’s introduced a portable drapery shop. Two seamstresses sewed draperies in this truck while parked in the customer’s driveway.” Now that’s service!

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“Forward with Texas,” 1947 ad detail

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Two more. This first was a real-photo postcard I found on eBay. It shows the Pink Elephant cafe on Hwy. 80 in Forney (not Dallas, but pretty close!). I love the idea of Forney having a place called the Pink Elephant — it was quite popular and was in business from at least the 1930s to the 1950s. The card below was postmarked in 1936.

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This photo of the interior is from the Spellman Museum of Forney Museum Facebook page.

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I wondered if the place was still around (sadly, it is not), and in looking for info about it found this interesting article from 1934 about outlaw Raymond Hamilton, the escaped killer who grew up in Dallas (…there’s the Dallas connection!) and was notorious for having been a member of Bonnie and Clyde’s “Barrow Gang.” (Click to read.)

pink-elephant-bbq_forney_austin-american_102234Austin American, Oct. 22, 1934

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And, lastly, a photo of a young woman which appeared in a German-language magazine, captioned simply “Eine Texas Schönheit (A Texas Beauty).” Is the hair wearing the hat, or is the hat wearing the hair?

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Previous installments of Flashback Dallas “Orphaned Factoids” can be found here.

Until next year!

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Star Lounge, 4311 Bryan

star-lounge_next-to-brannon-bldg_city-of-dallas-preservation-collectionThe 4300-block of Bryan Street… (City of Dallas photo)

by Paula Bosse

You know those photos that just really grab you? This is one of those for me. It shows the Star Lounge & Bar (that sign!), located at 4311 Bryan, just east of Peak in Old East Dallas. The Star Lounge was opened in 1962 by Mrs. Wanda Nolan; Clark K. Curtis closed it in 1978 or 1979: that’s a lot of beer and cocktails over the lips and through the gums.

The building was built in 1922 by J. S. Johnson (the building permit had the estimated cost of construction at $3,500). Before the arrival of the Star Lounge, previous occupants of the space had included a barber shop, a cleaners, and a floor-covering and linoleum-installation company. (In 1931, when ABC Cleaners was there, the back wall of the building was blown out when two sticks of dynamite were planted one night by racketeers who were attempting to control the dry cleaning industry in Dallas by threatening violence if small-business owners refused to raise prices as a bloc and funnel the extra cash — basically “protection money” — back to them. The bad guys were thwarted.)

Early classified ads for the Star Lounge were want-ads for waitresses; in 1965, want-ads for “waitresses” were replaced by ads for “amateur go-go girls and exotic dancers.” I’m not sure how long that lasted, but it’s interesting to note that both sides of the 4300 block of Bryan were, at one time, jammed with bars which had similarly-themed retro-cool names (but which probably were more seedy than cool): the Orbit Lounge, the Rocket Lounge, the Space Lounge, and the Apollo Lounge. I’ve never seen that before. By 1970 those space-age gin mills were joined by an adult theater/bookstore. So… lively place! I’m hoping there was a lot — or even some — neon strobage going on.

This photo was probably taken around 1974, the year that Strom Radio & Appliances seems to have left the neighborhood. Neighboring businesses seen in this photo are Golden Furniture & Appliances (which has signs for Zenith and RCA-Victor out front), Peak & Bryan Beauty Shop, and the D & B Cafe. The three-story building on the corner of Bryan and Peak is the Brannon Building. All those buildings still stand — see the (sadly) more sedate block these days on Google Street View, here.

star-lounge_google-street-view_june-2018Google Street View, June, 2018

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Sources & Notes

This photo is from a really great, somewhat random collection of 35mm slides from the City of Dallas Historic Preservation Program archives — most are from the 1970s and ’80s. Read about the recently rediscovered photos here, and browse through the entire fantastic collection on Flickr, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Zodiac Room

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by Paula Bosse

The tastefully swanky Zodiac Room opened at the downtown Neiman-Marcus store on April 27, 1953. (Interestingly, there was an earlier — and presumably unrelated — Zodiac Room, in the Jefferson Hotel, from at least 1950 to 1952.)

The Zodiac, a fashionable restaurant and tearoom featuring select foods, will open Monday on the sixth floor of Neiman-Marcus Company’s downtown store. Designed by Eleanor LeMaire of New York, the restaurant’s décor will suggest the roof of the world with signs of the Zodiac represented in both the main dining area and the terrace. (The Dallas Morning News, April 26, 1953)

Stanley Marcus wanted a restaurant in the store in which customers could take a break from shopping by having lunch or afternoon tea on-site, without having to leave the premises. Customers could continue to “shop” while dining as models walked around modeling fashions from the store’s inventory.

“[W]e installed a large restaurant, the Zodiac Room, to attract more people to the downtown area and as a service to those customers from out of town who were spending the day in the store.” (Stanley Marcus, in his book Minding the Store)

Below are a few ads from the Zodiac’s first week (click to see larger images).

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April 26, 1953

COME AND SEE DALLAS’ NEW AND DISTINCTIVE RESTAURANT — THE ZODIAC.

Just completed on our new sixth floor, the Zodiac Restaurant is another step in our downtown expansion program to bring to Dallas the most luxurious and elegant store in America.

The star studded atmosphere of the Zodiac will give you an out of this world feeling. The walls are a wonderful cerulean blue, the carpet’s deep enough for snowshoes and an Italian tile pool sprouts water lilies for the occasion. Informal modeling every day at luncheon.

Plan to have lunch with us this week and bring your guests. We think you’ll be enchanted with the atmosphere as well as the excellent cuisine. Luncheon 11:00 to 2:30, tea 2:30 to 5:00, dinner Thursday night 5:00 to 8:00. NEIMAN-MARCUS

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April 27, 1953

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April 28, 1953 (N-M ad, detail)

You could even get a Zodiac-inspired hair-do, the Zodiac Cut: “Sophisticated, spherical — without a hint of a part.”

zodiac-cut_nm-ad_042953April 29, 1953

Other than the fact that this elegant dining space was part of the world-famous Neiman-Marcus department store, its main draw was its food. According to Stanley Marcus, in his book Minding the Store, the Zodiac struggled for the first year or two and didn’t find its footing until he hired the now-legendary Helen Corbitt as the restaurant’s director. He wrote the following in a guest column in The Dallas Morning News in 1979:

“A landmark in the culinary history of Dallas was the arrival of Helen Corbitt, who made a monumental contribution to improvement of food and service standards in the community. The Neiman-Marcus Zodiac Room became famous under her direction.” (Stanley Marcus, DMN, April 12, 1979)

Below is an example of the fare favored by the Ladies Who Lunch (and the occasional Men Who Lunch), seen in a menu from 1956. (The most expensive item on the menu was the Roast Prime Rib of Beef, which came with a Baked Idaho Potato, a salad from the “Salad Wagon,” and a choice of coffee, milk, or “exquisite tea” — the price was $2.25, which in today’s money was a shockingly affordable $21.00.)

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A dessert menu (a bit hard to read, I’m afraid) is below:

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There was also a children’s menu, which was so charmingly designed by Neiman’s gift-wrap designer, Alma Shon, that I don’t blame a customer for having spirited away a copy of the menu as a holiday-time souvenir of what was no doubt a very special occasion (the date penciled at the top is Dec. 23, 1966). (More information about Ms. Shon is in the “Sources & Notes” section at the bottom of this post.) Below, the front and back of the children’s menu, illustrated with the signs of the zodiac:

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Inside, meal options for well-appointed kiddies and a “Zodiac game” to keep them occupied.

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A few years later, this Stanley Marcus-penned letter appeared as a 1976 N-M ad — it was a personal reply to a nine-year-old Zodiac patron who had apparently written to Neiman’s inquiring about the children’s menu, which she was distressed to see had disappeared on her last visit:

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May 17, 1976

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Lastly, a memory of the downtown Zodiac, from the Department Store Museum website:

The downtown Dallas store was in its entirety a magic store. Every step and turn off the escalators to the top floor was amazing. The Zodiac room with its floor-to-ceiling diaphanous curtains that filtered the bright Texas sky made for a dreamlike atmosphere along with the slender long-legged models in evening gowns and furs and the Andre Previn-inspired piano player. The popovers with strawberry and cinnamon butter weren’t bad either. Thank you, Dallas and Neiman-Marcus, for such a rich time in my life.

And it’s still going strong.

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Sources & Notes

Top image and other (non-children’s) menu images from eBay.

The four images of the Zodiac Room children’s menu are the reason I decided to do this post. My whimsy-threshold is pretty low, but I love the utterly charming drawings which grace the front and back covers. I saw them posted on the Instagram account @reflectionofaman (a cool account — here, for the desktop site — which features the photographs of Stanley Marcus, curated by his granddaughter, photographer Allison V. Smith); it had been shared there by Babs Bern (@mullett7665.manor). The menu’s artist — Alma Shon — was identified by her daughter Kate Heyhoe (@StarkRavingCat) in the comments. According to a 1953 Dallas Morning News profile, Shon was born in California in the early 1920s to Korean refugees who had fled Korea in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. She grew up in Los Angeles but made her way to Dallas by at least 1948; she began working for Neiman Marcus in 1948 or 1949. She was in charge of Neiman’s giftwrap design, but also designed other merchandising elements — she was with the store for several decades. More on Ms. Shon (including a photo of her from the ’50s) can be found in a post by her daughter Kate, here.

Color postcard of the Zodiac Room was found on Flickr, here. I used this same card in a previous Flashback Dallas post, “Luncheon at The Zodiac Room, Darling.”

Image of the  blue matchbox at the bottom is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries; more info is here.

More on Helen Corbitt can be found in articles in Texas Monthly and in Legacies; a couple of her recipes — including her famous Poppy-Seed Dressing — can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Stoneleigh Pharmacy / Stoneleigh P

stoneleigh-pharmacy_fountain_ebay_2The pharmacy’s soda fountain… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I’m pretty sure I was in the old Stoneleigh Pharmacy before it became the Stoneleigh P, but if so, I have no memory of it other than sitting at the fountain. I might have had a grilled cheese sandwich and a milkshake. I’ve definitely been in the “P” post-1980 — in fact, my father’s bookstore used to be across the street from it, and it was definitely a mainstay for great hamburgers.

Despite the location being so familiar, I didn’t know about the history of the old Stoneleigh Pharmacy, so when I came across the (slightly blurry) photo above and the one immediately below, I thought I should look into what was happening at 2926 Maple Avenue before the arrival of the Stoneleigh P.

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The Stoneleigh Pharmacy was the anchor of a small strip of shops which were built in 1923 at Maple and Wolf, directly across from the brand-new Stoneleigh Court, which, though now a hotel, began life as a very fashionable apartment-hotel (an apartment house with hotel amenities). There were concerns about a shopping strip in what was then a residential area, and the city tried to stop the construction. (Most images are larger when clicked.)

maple-and-wolf_dmn_022523_constructionDallas Morning News, Feb. 25, 1923

But the city lost and the building was completed.

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DMN, July 8, 1923

I looked everywhere to find a period photo, and this is the best I could do — it appeared in a special section of The Dallas Morning News which coincided with the opening week of the Stoneleigh Court.

stoneleigh-drug-store_stoneleigh-court-adv-supp_101423_croppedDMN, Oct. 14, 1923

Here’s a drawing:

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DMN, Oct. 14, 1923

The interior of what was originally called the Stoneleigh Drug Store, at 2926 Maple Avenue:

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DMN, Oct. 14, 1923

And a description of what sounds like a showplace of a drugstore, including Circassian-walnut fixtures inlaid with ebony:

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DMN, Oct. 14, 1923

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Its neighbors, in 1927:

stoneleigh-pharmacy_1927-directoryMaple Ave., 1927 Dallas directory

The drug store was owned by a company presided over by Royal A. Ferris, Jr., whose banker father had, until 1913, owned what many considered to be the most beautiful house in Dallas — Ivy Hall (which was situated at Maple and Wolf, diagonally across from the pharmacy, and which would become the site of the Maple Terrace Apartments in 1924).

The drug store changed hands several times, until 1931 when pharmacist Henry C. Burroughs acquired it — and he was there for the long-haul, owning it until 1970. (H. C. Burroughs is also notable for having served on the very first Dallas City Council, having been elected in 1931 when the city of Dallas adopted the city council-city manager form of government.)

burroughs-h-c_1950sHenry C. Burroughs, 1950s

stoneleigh-pharmacy_fountain_matchbook_ebay_a        stoneleigh-pharmacy_fountain_matchbook_ebay_b

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In 1973, the pharmacy stopped being a pharmacy when it was purchased by a group of investors including Tom Garrison, who renovated the old drugstore into a neighborhood bar/pub, while still retaining a drugstore “theme” and naming the new endeavor the Stoneleigh P. It was an immediate hit with the intellectual/artistic crowd, attracting denizens of the (then-funky) McKinney Avenue and Oak Lawn neighborhoods, Stoneleigh Hotel guests, Maple Terrace residents, and staffers from nearby KERA.

1973_stoneleigh-p_texas-monthly_july-1973Texas Monthly, July, 1973

It was “happening” but not obnoxious — although the Lou Lattimore ad below — featuring a “glitter jeans” “knockoutfit” (yes, “knockoutfit”) which “can make you outsparkle the gang at the Stoneleigh P” — might have one thinking otherwise. (It was the ’70s, man.)

stoneleigh-p_lou-lattimore-ad_jan-1974
Lou Lattimore ad, January, 1974

Everything seemed to be going along swimmingly when, in the early hours of January 26, 1980 a huge fire engulfed the group of buildings on the southeast corner of Maple and Wolf — according to newspaper reports, at least 15 “major pieces of equipment” and 75 firefighters responded to the multi-alarm fire. The 57-year-old building burned to the ground. Watch the WBAP-Ch. 5 News report here (with additional footage here).

A few screenshots from the above-linked news report:

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Garrison rebuilt, and the new Stoneleigh P opened in the summer of 1981. It still stands and is something of a Dallas institution. It’s now an unbelievable 46 years old. Here’s how it celebrated its 18th anniversary:

stoneleigh-p_ad_1991
1991 ad

I’m certainly glad it’s still around. I’ve got some great memories of the Stoneleigh P (except, maybe, for that one New Year’s Eve in the ’80s…).

stoneleigh-p_aug-2015_bosse-photo

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Sources & Notes

Top two photos found on eBay. They appear to have been taken by the Liquid Carbonic Corporation, manufacturers of soda fountains — read all about the company here.

Stoneleigh Pharmacy label (with red letters) is from Jim Wheat’s Dallas County Texas Archives site. (J. T. Covington was associated with the pharmacy from about 1925 to 1927.)

Videotape screenshots are from the WBAP-Ch. 5 News report on the 1980 fire; footage is from the KXAS-NBC 5 News Collection, UNT Libraries Special Collections, Portal to Texas History.

Photo showing the interior of the Stoneleigh P was taken in 2015 by Paula Bosse.

An entertaining interview with Stoneleigh P owner Tom Garrison can be found in the 2017 D Magazine article “History of Dallas Food: Tom Garrison’s Stoneleigh P” by Nancy Nichols, here.

Stoneleigh P website is here.

stoneleigh-p-fire_sign_012680_ch-5-news_portal

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Life on Hall Street — 1947

adolphus-bar-b-q_dallas-negro-directory_1947-48_dining-roomInterior of Adolphus Isaac’s Bar-B-Q Palace… (click/tap for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Here are a few post-war ads for businesses in the 2200 and 2300 blocks of N. Hall, between Thomas and State, in the heart of “North Dallas,” a once-thriving business and entertainment district which catered to Dallas’ black community, until construction of Central Expressway sliced it in half a year or two after these ads appeared. These two blocks are completely unrecognizable today (a Google Street View looking north on Hall from Thomas can be seen here), and evidence that this area was once a lively African American neighborhood teeming with small businesses, cafes, and clubs exists almost entirely in old photos and ads like these.

Below, the LA CONGA CAFE, 2209½ Hall, S. H. Wilson, proprietor. “Where we serve you the best of foods. The home of Good Foods. Ice cold beer.” (All pictures are larger when clicked/tapped.)


la-conga_dallas-negro-directory_1947-48

THE ADOLPHUS BAR-B-Q PALACE, 2314 Hall, Adolphus Isaac (whose name in the ad appears to be misspelled), proprietor. “Always a friendly welcome. Steaks, fried chicken, fish, bar-b-q, frog legs [!], delicacies.”

adolphus-bar-b-q_dallas-negro-directory_1947-48

VASSELL’S JEWELRY STORE, 2317 Hall, Robert Vassell, proprietor. “Diamonds — watches — jewelry. Repairing reasonable, engraving a specialty.” This ad shows the “watch training school” Vassell operated in which WWII GI’s learned watch-repair.

vassells-watch-training-school_negro-directory_1947

NEGRO UNION COUNCIL, 2319 Hall. A group of black unionists shared space at 2319 Hall: the Negro Unions Council, the Musicians Protective Union Local 168 (whose former president was Theodore Scott seen in both photos below), Federated Labor (AF of L), Hotel & Restaurant Employees Intl. Local No. 825. (Ned L. Boyd, pictured below, was a pharmacist who owned Boyd’s Pharmacy a couple of doors down at 2311 Hall.)

negro-union-council_negro-directory_1947

American Federation of Musicians officials (and their hats) standing in front of 2319 Hall.

negro-union-council_musicians_negro-directory_1947

Below, the 1947 Dallas street directory, showing the businesses in the 2200 and 2300 blocks of N. Hall.

vassell_hall-st_1947-directory1947 Dallas directory (click to see larger image)

Below, a detail of a 1952 Mapsco page, with Hall Street in blue, Central Expressway (which hadn’t yet been built when the ads above appeared in 1947) in yellow, and the 2200 and 2300 blocks of Hall circled in red.

state-thomas_mapsco_1952
1952 Mapsco

As an aside, Roseland Homes seen in the map detail above, was a low-income public housing project for black residents, which opened in June, 1942. It covered a 35-acre tract, with 650 units and was the first of many such housing projects for low-income black, white, and Hispanic families which opened that year, and it continues to this day.

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Sources & Notes

Ad from the Dallas, Texas Negro City Directory, 1947-1948, with thanks to Pat Lawrence.

Read more about Hall Street — just a few blocks south, near Ross — in the Flashback Dallas post “1710 Hall: The Rose Room/The Empire Room/The Ascot Room — 1942-1975,” here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Sam Ventura’s Italian Village, Oak Lawn

italian-village_photo-holder_PEB

by Paula Bosse

In amongst photos and belongings of my mother’s aunt, I recently came across this wonderful graphic of Oak Lawn’s Italian Village (3211 Oak Lawn, at Hall). It was on the cover of one of those cardboard photo holders which contained photos of diners and club-goers captured by photographers wanting to memorialize celebrants’ special occasions — they would take your photo and you would later purchase prints, which would be tucked inside the souvenir folder. (I don’t recognize any of the people in the photo which was  inside — the photo is here.)

The Italian Village complex (which contained all its various tangential enterprises over he years) was an Oak Lawn fixture for over 45 years — it was apparently still around during my lifetime, but I have no memory of ever seeing it. But by the time I would have been aware of it, things had begun to get a little weird and its profile had definitely dipped. (More on that later.)

Italian Village began its life in 1934 when Sam Ventura (1907-1997) bought a popular drive-in restaurant in Oak Lawn from a man named Levi F. “Speck” Harper. In Ventura’s obituary in The Dallas Morning News, his wife said: “He bought it from a man named Speck Harper who told him, ‘Give me $250 and my hat, and you’ll never see me again.’ Sam had to go and borrow the money.” (DMN, June 1, 1997) ($250 in today’s money would be about $4,700.)

speck-harper_july-1934July, 1934

Not only did $250 start Ventura on a very successful career as a restaurateur, it also assured him ownership of what would quickly become a primo piece of real estate. (Ventura dabbled in real estate and, in 1937, along with fellow restaurant man Sam Lobello, he purchased land at Preston Road and Northwest Highway which would one day become Preston Center.) (It might be worth noting here that Sam Ventura was not affiliated with the very popular Sammy’s restaurants, run by Dallas’ Messina family.)

italian-village_matchbook_front_ebay        italian-village_matchbook_back_ebay
Matchbook, via eBay

Italian Village — a restaurant which operated for many years as a private club in order to sell liquor — was originally co-owned by brothers-in-law Sam Ventura and Nick DeGeorge (DeGeorge was later married to Ventura’s sister Lucille). By the time the ad below appeared in 1939, the place had been newly remodeled and was on its ninth (!) expansion. There were lots of new “rooms”: the Can-Can Room, the Plaid Room, the Hunter’s Room, the Gazelle Room, and the Marionette Room, the latter of which featured entertainment in the form of a marionette show with puppets made in likenesses of the owners. (All images are larger when clicked.)

1939_italian-village_feb-1939Feb., 1939

In June, 1940, Italy entered the War in Europe as a member of the Axis forces. As a result, Ventura and DeGeorge immediately asserted their patriotism and their American-ness (both were born in the United States to Italian immigrants) by changing the name of their restaurant: arrivederci, Italian Village, hello, Oak Lawn Village. The owners placed an ad in Dallas newspapers explaining their decision (see ad below) — this made news across the country, garnering both positive national publicity as well as fervent local support.

italian-village_ad_june-1940
June, 1940

Not only did the restaurant’s name change in 1940, so did its ownership. Nick DeGeorge and his wife (the sister of Sam Ventura) embarked on a very lengthy, very bitter divorce (newspapers reported that Nick and Lucille were each on their fourth marriages). The result of this marital split spilled over and also caused a business split: Ventura became the sole owner of Italian Oak Lawn Village, and DeGeorge left to start his own (very successful) restaurant career (DeGeorge’s, Town & Country, etc.). Sam announced that he was “sole owner” in a September, 1940 ad. (I hope Nick at least got custody of his mini-me marionette….)

1940_oak-lawn-village-ad_sept-1950Sept., 1940

oak-lawn-village_matchbook_flickr-coltera
Oak Lawn Village matchbook cover, via Flickr

In June, 1941 yet another remodeling/expansion was announced, with architectural design by longtime friend of Ventura and DeGeorge, Charles Dilbeck, and murals by Russ Ellis. In addition to the Gazelle Room (“for comfort”) and the Hunter’s Room (“for private parties”), there was now the San Juan Capistrano Room (“follow the swallows”), the 42nd & Broadway Room (“for luxury”), the South American Room (“for romance”), the Dude Ranch Room (“where the west begins”), the Rain Room (“for private parties”), the Banquet Room (“seating capacity 150 guests”), and an outdoor Italian Garden Terrace (“beneath the stars”).

1941_oak-lawn-village_dmn_june-41June, 1941

That $20,000 remodel (which would have been equivalent to about $350,000 in today’s money) went up in smoke — literally — in April, 1944, when the restaurant was “virtually destroyed” by fire. Ventura said he would rebuild when war-time government regulations would permit him to do so. At the end of the year he announced that he would build a new restaurant, of shell stone and marble construction, lit in front by decorative tower lights. The new place was built and in full swing — and back with its original name — in the summer of 1945.

1945_italian-village_aug-1945Aug., 1945

An ad for Dallas’ S. H. Lynch & Co.’s Seeburg Scientific Sound Distribution system appeared in the Aug. 10, 1946 issue of Billboard magazine, showing photos of Sam Ventura, the exterior of the new building, and an interior shot showing a Seeburg jukebox. (See full ad here.)

1946_italian-village_billboard_081046_ad-det-1Sam D. Ventura, 1946 (ad detail, Billboard magazine)

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1946_italian-village_billboard_081046_ad-det-3Italian Village exterior and interior, 1946 (ad detail, Billboard magazine)

In January, 1951 another remodeling (to the tune of $75,000!) introduced the 300-seat Flamingo Room, which meant the entire Italian Village now had a seating capacity of more than 700 (Ventura had said that the original post-Speck’s restaurant seated only 40 or 50 people). The “modernistic styling” was the work of architect J. N. McCammon.

1951_italian-village_flamingo-room_jan-1951Jan., 1951

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Front and back of 1955 menu, via eBay

Further changes came to 3211 Oak Lawn in the fall of 1954 with the arrival of the Village Club, which featured live entertainment (including a rotating piano) and shared a kitchen with Italian Village. It was also a “private locker club” with personal liquor lockers available to members to keep their bottles in at a time when it was not legal for restaurants in Dallas to sell liquor-by-the-drink — “set-ups” were sold and the demon alcohol was poured from the member’s stash (or, more likely, from the communal stash).

In 1961 there was yet another remodel, which enlarged the club — now called Club Village — and shrank the restaurant. The swanky new club was designed by Charles Dilbeck and had a sort of Olde English theme (and, for some reason, featured a waterfall, a glass cage behind the bar containing live monkeys, and two live flamingos named Lancelot and Guenevere).

1965_club-village_oct-1965Oct., 1965

Around this time the (apparently short-lived) Francisca Restaurant appeared.

francisca-restaurant_menu_1961_ebayvia eBay

club-village_francisca_new-years-eve_dec-1961New Year’s Eve, Dec., 1961

1961 also marked the club’s debut on national television, appearing in scenes of the hit show Route 66, which were filmed in November. Below is a screen-capture from the episode “A Long Piece of Mischief,” with the waterfall in the background. (The entire episode, shot around the Mesquite Rodeo, can be watched on YouTube here — the two Club Village scenes begin at the 26:42 and 38:15 marks.)

1961_club-village_route-66Route 66 (screen capture) — Nov., 1961

In late 1966, Dallas filmmaker Larry Buchanan shot his cult classic Mars Needs Women in various locations all over town. I’m pretty sure one of the very first scenes was shot inside the club, after yet another remodel. (Incidentally, see what the lively neon-ified corner of Oak Lawn and Lemmon, a couple of blocks away, looked like in Buchanan’s film, here.)

1966_club-village_mars-needs-women
Mars Needs Women (screen capture) — 1966

In August, 1964 a new club opened: Gringos (sometimes spelled Gringo’s). This public club, featuring mostly rock bands, was the brainchild of Sam Ventura, Jr. (who said in an interview that he had rather brazenly sprung the whole thing as a big surprise on his father, who had been out of town on a lengthy vacation — luckily, the club was a hit and Sam, Sr. was pleased). Club Village continued as a private club, but from newspaper accounts it seems that the new discotheque displaced the Italian Village and/or Francisca restaurant completely. So now on one side you had the long-running “sophisticated” private club, and on the other side, the “new concept in continuous entertainment,” with its Mexican-themed decor and Watusi-dancing waitresses (“Las Mata-Dollies…”), which catered to a younger set. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram described Gringos thusly:

Newest “port of call” for Dallas revelers on the bistro beat is the just-opened and lavishly-done Gringos Club on Oak Lawn Ave. near the Melrose Hotel and in the location formerly occupied by the Italian Village Restaurant and Village Club. Open to the public, this night time Camelot with Mexican decor features, among other flings, Jesse (brother of Trini) Lopez and his handful of musical consorts on the bandstand and a covey of revealing young handmaidens called “Las Matta-Dollies” [sic], sort of Spanish-type Playboy Bunnies who are worthy of your scrutiny. (Chris Hobson, FWST, Aug. 27, 1964)

1964_gringos_aug-1964Aug., 1964

In May, 1967, Sam Ventura, Jr. (“Sammy,” who had taken over the family business when Sam, Sr. retired in 1966) declared that Gringos was dead: “There will be absolutely no rock-and-roll in this room anymore. It’s dead. Our whole concept [now] is for sophistication, for adult entertainment” (DMN, May 24, 1967). So adios, Gringos, hello an even bigger Club Village. (In 1968 a club described as a “new” Gringos  opened a block away, at 3118 Oak Lawn — it’s unclear whether this was affiliated in any way with the Ventura family.)

In June, 1968, the never-ending improvements, remodelings, and reconfigurings of 3211 Oak Lawn continued with Sammy’s announcement of a new (public) restaurant, the Wood ‘N Rail. This steakhouse featured a revolving “ice bar” (the old revolving piano bar, repurposed), which contained a display of raw meat — from this, customers would choose whichever cut of beef called to them, and before the meat was escorted into the kitchen, the patron would sear his or her initials into it with a “red-hot branding iron.” The restaurant’s slogan was “Personalized Beef.” The unstoppable Club Village continued as a private club and restaurant in the adjoining complex.

1968_wood-n-rail_oct-1968Oct., 1968

1971 began with a fire. The (once) unstoppable Club Village was destroyed. The adjacent Wood ‘N Rail emerged unscathed. So, yes, more remodeling! By 1972, 3211 Oak Lawn boasted three (three!) restaurants at one address: the continuing Wood ‘N Rail (steakhouse), Fisherman’s Cove (seafood), and — hey! — the return of Italian Village. As the ads said: “3 RESTAURANTS UNDER ONE ROOF!”

1972_fishermans-cove_march-1972March, 1972

1972_three-restaurants_may-1972May, 1972

Also big news in 1971: it finally became legal to order liquor and mixed drinks in bars and restaurants — the whole “private club-membership” thing in order to get around liquor laws was mostly a thing of the past (unless you lived in a dry area of the city…).

Then, in 1974, things really changed. After a “profound religious conversion,” Sammy Ventura stopped all sales of alcohol and told the TABC he didn’t need or want that ol’ liquor license. This made news around the country.

1974_kings-village_panama-city-FL-news-herald_081274UPI wire story, Panama City [FL] News Herald, Aug, 1974

Unsurprisingly, business plummeted. Two of the three restaurants closed. Italian Village continued to limp along, even weathering the introduction of the King’s Village, “Dallas’ first Christian dinner theater.”

1976_kings-village_june-1976June, 1976

This change in direction of the the 40-plus-year-old family business caused a huge rift between Sammy and his father. Sam, Sr. put his foot down, and The King’s Village (“the nation’s first non-liquor, Christian nightclub”) closed in June, 1977.

1977_kings-village_pampa-daily-news_062177
AP wire story, Pampa Daily News, June 21, 1977

Oak Lawn’s decades-old Italian Village was no more (although Sammy appears to have opened his own Italian Village restaurant in Richardson’s Spanish Village for a while). The last mention I found of Italian Village was in Feb., 1979:

After 45 years, the Italian Village restaurant has changed to another venture, the Crazy Crab. Sam Ventura opened the Italian Village in 1934 and the last event before the changeover was a surprise birthday party honoring Sam. (DMN, Feb. 23, 1979)

It’s a shame Italian Village’s last incarnation was a mere shadow of its former go-go glory, but it’s almost unbelievable that a restaurant in Dallas was in business for 45 years. Sam Ventura’s $250 gamble in 1934 paid off very, very well.

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Sources & Notes

Top image is the front cover of a cardstock photo-holder (with linked photo by the Gilbert Studios, 4121 Gaston); collection of Paula Bosse.

All clippings and images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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