Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Entertainment

“Howdy, Folks! Welcome to the 1959 State Fair of Texas”

big-tex_1959Big Tex and his people… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Big Tex and a crowd of serious-looking adults watch something in the distance at the 1959 State Fair of Texas.

The 2017 State Fair of Texas starts in one week!

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Source of photo: unknown!

See a whole passel of Flashback Dallas’ State Fair of Texas posts here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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La Reunion Tower

reunion-tower_skyline_091217Big D from inside the ball… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

On Tuesday night I gave a little talk on the history of the La Reunion colony as part of the Dallas Historical Society’s Pour Yourself Into History series. The event was held in the *very nice* Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck restaurant high atop Reunion Tower — right in the ball. I was a bit of a last-minute fill-in presenter, and I hesitated to accept the invitation because I always feel awkward talking in front of more than, say, two or three people, but I really, really wanted to go up to the top of Reunion Tower.

I hadn’t been to Reunion Tower since a family outing back around 1980 or so. Back then I was most fascinated by the fact that the restaurant slowly revolved to give diners a leisurely 360-degree view of the city (I always imagined it spinning out-of-control, pinning diners — and their meals — against the walls with centrifugal force, like a fine-dining version of the Spindletop ride at Six Flags, or The Rotor ride at the State Fair of Texas); but now, decades later, as an adult, the image of the spinning restaurant was eclipsed by the real star: the VIEW.

As you can imagine, the view is unbelievably spectacular — especially at night when Dallas is at its most glamorous. The ticket price is fairly steep to get up to the observation deck, and a meal and/or cocktails at the restaurant will set you back a goodly amount, but it is, without question, the most fabulous view of the city you’ll ever see. And you see all of it. When I started my talk about the history of the La Reunion colony of the 1850s (which was located about 5 miles due west of Reunion Tower, in West Dallas) the view was pretty much the one seen in the photo above; by the time I finished, we were, serendipitously, looking out over where the plucky colonists of “French Town” had toiled unsuccessfully 160 years ago. (Estimates on the boundary of La Reunion’s 2,000-acre land is the area now bounded by Westmoreland on the west, Hampton on the east, Davis on the south, and the Trinity River on the north — the southwest corner is marked here on Google Maps.)

It was a little noisy at the event Tuesday night, so if you were one of the very nice people who turned out, you might not have been able to hear anything I said! If you’d like to hear more about the history of La Reunion (and about Reunion Tower — and how, if a marketing agency had had its way, it might have been named “Esplanade” Tower), I enthusiastically recommend this very entertaining radio piece from Julia Barton (the La Reunion segment begins at about the 5:15 mark).

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I took photos, but they don’t do justice to the view. The really breathtaking vistas are at night, and, sadly, none of those photos came out. Seriously, if you’ve never been up Reunion Tower — or if you haven’t been since it was opened in 1978 — you should definitely go now. Better still, go at sunset and enjoy the best view in Dallas as you sip delicious cocktails.

The view stretches for miles. Here’s a cropped view of Dealey Plaza (click to see it really big).

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And, at sunset, the jail has never looked lovelier.

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Back down on terra firma, looking up and saying “goodbye” to the ball.

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Thank you, Dallas Historical Society, for inviting me to be part of your event! And thanks to everyone who came out … and up!

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Sources & Notes

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Photos by Paula Bosse. Click ’em to see ’em bigger.

For more information of the La Reunion colony, see other Flashback Dallas posts here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Square Dancing Craze in Big D — Late 1940s

calamity-jane_premiere_-sam-bass_majestic-theatre_july-1949Hoedown at the Majestic, 1949…

by Paula Bosse

The photo above appeared in a show-biz trade publication showing part of the festivities which swirled around the world premiere of the movie “Calamity Jane and Sam Bass” starring Yvonne DeCarlo and Howard Duff at the Majestic Theatre on June 8, 1949. Several of the film’s stars made personal appearances and were made honorary deputies by Sheriff Bill Decker, sworn in by Judge Lew Sterrett (yes, Lily Munster was an honorary Dallas deputy sheriff!). There was a parade, a live show performed by the actors on the Majestic’s stage before the movie, a block party, and square dancing in Elm Street, with music provided by the Big D Jamboree band.

In 1949, as unlikely as it seems, square dancing was a HUGE fad which swept the country (or at least the Southwest). The peak years of the retro craze were probably 1948 to 1950, and its impact was pretty big locally, not only on the dance floor, but also in the fashion pages. When you see every major Dallas department store — even Neiman’s — selling calico and gingham square dance fashions … well, it’s big.

Not only were there lessons available everywhere, but there were clubs and weekly events all over town — every Wednesday in the summer of 1949, there was a big outdoor square dance held at the Fair Park Midway, with music courtesy of local celeb Jim Boyd.

I’m not sure when it stopped (…I’m assuming it has…), but for decades, a lot of us participated in square dancing as part of gym class in elementary school. This interesting throw-back take on physical fitness seems to have begun around 1950 or ’51. Not everyone was thrilled about this odd-but-charming grade-school rite of passage — some ultra-conservative communities complained, but the wholesome and old-timey dancing won out and became a standard part of Texas schools’ physical education curriculum.  Forget young people’s cotillions — most Texas children had their first experience dancing with a partner to the strain of a cowboy fiddle and a voice telling us to “allemande left” and “do-si-do.” And I’m sure we’re all better for it.

Here are a bunch of ads and things (click pictures to see larger images):

square-dance_la-reunion-place_squire-haskins_dallas-municipal-archivesSquare dance at La Reunion Place (Dallas Municipal Archives)

square-dance_jan-1946_highland-park
1946

square-dance_may-1947_a-harris
1947

square-dance_aug-1948_titches
1948

square-dance_jan-1948_sanger-bros1948

square-dance_oct-1948_neiman-marcus
1948

square-dance_april-1948_a-harris
1948

square-dance_oct-1948
1948

square-dance_dec-1950_e-m-kahn
1949

square-dance_june-1949_w-a-green
1949

square-dance_may-1949_fair-park-midway
1949

square-dance_nov-1949_a-harris
1949

square-dance_march-1949_whittles
1949

square-dance_oct-1949_a-harris
1949

dallas_ringandbrewer_1956
1956

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Sources & Notes

Premiere of “Calamity Jane and Sam Bass” was held at the Majestic Theatre on June 8, 1949, and it seems to have been a pretty big deal. There was newsreel footage filmed that night — wonder if it’s floating around anywhere?

square-dance_calamity-jane_majestic_june-1949

Photo of the square dance taken at La Reunion Place is by Squire Haskins and is from the Dallas Municipal Archives; is can be seen on UNT’s Portal to Texas History site, here.

Ads from Dallas-area newspapers.

Jim Boyd was a country-western singer who appeared in a few Hollywood films and was a Dallas disc jockey for many years. He also appeared around town often as a performer and personality. Dallas filmmaker Hugh V. Jamieson, Jr. and director Milton M. Agins made a short film called “Saturday Night Square Dance” (made in either 1949 or 1950); it features Boyd and his Men of the West band, plus square dance groups Silver Spur Square Set and Thompson Square Dance Club. I can find nothing on the two groups, but it seems likely that this film was made in Dallas. The quality of the film uploaded to YouTube is not very good, but, who knows — you might see your parents or grandparents in there if they were big square dancers! You can watch it here.

All images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The WFAA Studios, Designed by George Dahl, Rendered by Ed Bearden — 1961

wfaa_george-dahl_ed-bearden_postcard“Communications Center…”  (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, the WFAA studios, seen in a wonderful painting by Dallas artist Ed Bearden. The image is from a postcard touting the brand new ultra-modern building designed by one of Dallas’ top architects, the prolific George L. Dahl. The building still stands at Young and Record streets, next to the home of its then-sister-company, The Dallas Morning News (appropriately, the News building was also designed by Dahl … as was the soon-to-be HQ of The News, the old Dallas Public Library at Commerce and Harwood).

The super-cool mid-century “WFAA AM-FM-TV broadcasting plant” was completed in 1961. It opened to much fanfare in April of that year, with star-studded festivities featuring personal appearances by a host of ABC stars such as Connie Stevens, Johnny Crawford, and Nick Adams. If catching a glimpse of “Cricket” or the Rifleman’s son didn’t wow you, the public was also invited to tour the building and gawk at its state-of-the-art radio and television studios. This large 68,000-square-foot building allowed WFAA radio and WFAA-TV to be housed under the same roof. Before this, the AM and FM radio stations were broadcasting from studios atop the Santa Fe Building, and Channel 8 was broadcasting from their television studios on Harry Hines, at Wolf (studios which they sold to KERA at the end of 1959).

Aside from the innovative “folded-plate” concrete roof, one of the first things I noticed about this building was the staircase behind a “wall” of plate glass — I was instantly reminded of the staircase from the old Rogers Electric building (now Steinway Hall) on the Central Expressway service road at McCommas — all it needed was a gigantic ficus tree. (Unsurprisingly, that building — built in 1959 — was also designed by the very, very busy George Dahl.)

Cool building, cool architectural design, cool artistic rendering.

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Below is an early pre-construction rendering of the WFAA building, from 1959.

wfaa_bw_rendering_1959

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And a photo from the early 1970s.

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And here’s a view taken from the side of the building in 1963, looking toward Young Street.

wfaa_news-vehicles_belo-records_degolyer_smu_1963

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The early-’70s photo above was taken from this ad from the 1974-75 Texas Almanac. Ah, “Communications Center.” (I have to say, I’ve never heard of “WFAA-FM Stereo 98” nor their slogan “The Velvet Sound of Beautiful Music.” In fact, by the time this edition of the Almanac was published, WFAA-FM no longer existed — it had changed both its name — to KZEW — and its format — to rock.)

wfaa_texas-almanac_1974-75_portal

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Color postcard found on the entertaining blog Texas Pop Culture; see the post — which includes scans of the reverse side of the card — here.

Bearden’s signature is a bit hard to make out — the slightly distorted magnified signature can be seen here.

The more I see of Ed Bearden’s work, the more I like it. See his Dallas skyline from 1958 here; see his Dallas skyline from 1959 here.

Photo of the Channel 8 news vehicles is from the Belo Records collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photo is here.

More on architect George L. Dahl can be found at the Handbook of Texas, here, and at Wikipedia, here.

Read more about the history of FM radio in Dallas — including histories of WFAA-FM and KZEW — at the indispensable website of local broadcasting history — DFW Retroplex, here.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Meet Me in Dallas, On June the 23rd…”

jeannie-c-riley_flickrJeannie C. Riley

by Paula Bosse

Until last week, I don’t think I’d ever heard the 1969 song “The Back Side of Dallas,” sung by Jeannie C. Riley, who had had the blockbuster hit “Harper Valley PTA” the previous year. How have I never heard this? I was going to post it last week until I realized that it would be better to wait until today, because of this line from the song: “Meet me in Dallas on June the 23rd, his letter read.” And here we are, June 23rd.

The song, written by Jerry Foster and Bill Rice was released in October, 1969. It wasn’t the huge, crossover, multi-award-winning monster hit that “Harper Valley PTA” was, but it did earn Jeannie another Grammy nomination (she lost to Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” — if you’re going to lose, that’s a pretty great performance to lose to!).

Like “Harper Valley PTA,” it was one of several songs of the era which brought country music into the somewhat seedy realm of 1960s American culture. “The Back Side of Dallas” is about a small-town girl who finds herself a lonesome “working girl” in Dallas, chain-smoking king-size cigarettes, drinking in dingy bars, and popping pills. This ain’t no Kitty Wells song, y’all. (I’d love to hear Miranda Lambert — who also has an incredible country voice — cover this.)

back-side-of-dallas_jeannie-c-riley_label

Jeannie C. Riley — born in Anson, Texas in 1945 — was one of the first certifiable sex symbols in country music, always gorgeous, outfitted in miniskirts and go-go boots, with sky-high hair teased to a fare-thee-well. AND she had an absolutely fantastic voice. Below is video of a 24-year-old Jeannie C. Riley singing “Back Side of Dallas” on Del Reeves’ Country Carnival in 1969 (Del Reeves had some great songs in the ’60s, but his TV persona was a little too Dean Martin-wannabe for my taste … and … oh dear … that set!):

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I prefer the studio version, below. I’ve listened to this song dozens of times now, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet!

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And here’s Jeannie singing it in 2011, still sounding great! (Her thick Texas accent is the absolute best, and her laugh is fantastic.) She talks about the song a bit at the beginning with Jerry Foster, one of the writers of the song — the song itself starts at about the 3:10 mark.

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And, to round out this “June the 23rd” post, a few photos of Jeannie C. — surely one of the most photogenic faces and bad-ass vocalists in the history of country music. As my father used to say, “hot damn.”

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jeannie-c-riley_3

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Most, if not all, photos of JCR from Pinterest.

Record label image found here.

A biography of Jeannie C. Riley is here.

“Harper Valley PTA” — you know you want to hear it. This is a great live version she did on, I think, the Wilburn Brothers Show, with Harold Morrison on dobro.

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Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Country Music — Every Saturday Night on Channel 11

country-music_saturday-night_channel-11_ktvt_1969The warm-up for wrestling…

by Paula Bosse

I have a surprisingly deep knowledge of classic country music. And it can all be traced back to sitting with my father every Saturday night as he watched the jam-packed lineup of country music TV shows on KTVT-Channel 11.

Followed by wrestling.

Which I also have a surprisingly deep knowledge of. If only by osmosis.

Thank you, Channel 11, for providing this bonding time with my father, which I didn’t really appreciate as a child, but I do now.

(And, yes, I’m happy that my antiquarian bookseller father and Comparative Literature-degree-holding mother often took our family to the Sportatorium to see both country music package shows and wrestling matches. You can’t say our family wasn’t well-rounded.)

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1969 ad from an odd little local publication (which probably used to belong to my father) called Country and Western — The Sound That Goes Around the World, published in DFW by PegAnn Production.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

1710 Hall: The Rose Room/The Empire Room/The Ascot Room — 1942-1975

rose-ballroom_aug-1942_cook-collection_degolyer_smuThe Rose Ballroom, 1942 (click to see larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The photo above was taken at the Rose Ballroom at 1710 Hall Street (a few steps off Ross Avenue) in August, 1942. 1710 Hall was the home to a string of very popular black nightclubs: the Rose Ballroom (1942-1943), the Rose Room (1943-1951), the Empire Room (1951-1969) (not to be confused with the nightclub of the same name in the Statler Hilton), and the Ascot Room (1969-1975). There seems to have been some overlap of owners and/or managers and/or booking agents, but they all appear to have been very popular “joints” (as described by Freddie King’s daughter), where both big-name touring musicians as well as popular local acts played. Icons T-Bone Walker and Ray Charles were regulars (there are stories of Ray Charles sleeping on the Empire Room’s stage during the time he was living in Dallas in the ’50s). Everybody seems to have played there. Below, a quote from Wanda King, talking about her father, blues legend Freddie King — fro the book Texas Blues: The Rise of a Contemporary Sound by Alan Govenar (all clippings and photos are larger when clicked):

rose-room_freddie-king_wanda-king_texas-blues_govenar

Look at this line-up!

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Dallas Morning News, Jan. 24, 1946

In the days of segregation, when Dallas police threatened to shut the club down if the owner allowed white patrons to mix with black patrons, the club scheduled “white only” nights where Caucasian audiences could see their favorite non-Caucasian performers. (Before these special club nights, which seem to have started in 1945, a revue would be taken “on the road” — over to the Majestic Theatre on Elm Street — to perform live onstage.)

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DMN, June 24, 1942

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DMN, Sept. 29, 1945

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DMN, Sept. 8, 1946

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DMN, June 1, 1947

The photo up there at the top showed the audience. Here’s the stage (1946 photo of the E F Band by Marion Butts, from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Pubic Library):

rose-room_the-e-f-band_marion-butts_dpl_1946

And here’s what the stage looked like when the club became the Empire Room (onstage is Joe Johnson in a 1954 photo by R. C. Hickman, taken from a great article about Hickman in Texas Highways, here):

empire-room_joe-johnson_1954_r-c-hickman_tx-highways_020299

One thing that probably helped set the Rose Room/Empire Room apart from a lot of the other clubs in town at this time was the man who booked the shows — and who booked acts all over the area — John Henry Branch. The guy knew everyone. Here he is in an ad from 1947:

rose-room_1947-1948-negro-directory_dallas

Aside from booking acts and musicians for black clubs, he also booked acts for white clubs — including Jack Ruby’s Carousel and Vegas clubs. In fact, Branch chatted with Ruby at the Empire Room the night before Ruby shot Oswald — he had come in to check on a piano player Branch was booking for a gig at the Vegas Club in Oak Lawn. Branch supplied testimony to the Warren Report, and while it’s not all that riveting (because there wasn’t that much to tell), it’s still interesting to hear how Branch describes his own club and Ruby’s personality (“You can’t never tell about him — he’s a weird person.”) — you can read his testimony here.

I have to admit, I’d never heard of the Rose Room or the Empire Room before I saw the photo at the top of this post. I really missed out. So much fantastic music! And I missed it. It’s just another reminder that Dallas has an incredible music history.

rose-room_texas-blues_govenar-brakefieldfrom the Texas African American Photography Archive

hall-street_1963-dallas-directory
1700 block of Hall Street, 1963 city directory

What’s at 1710 Hall these days? A vacant lot — soon to be developed, no doubt. Ross Avenue ain’t what it used to be….

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Top photo from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info on this photo is here. Someone has written this on the photo: “Aug. 42, Dallas, Rose Room” — in August, 1942 the club was known as the Rose Ballroom; it changed its name to the Rose Room in early 1943.

Rose Room ad featuring John Henry Branch is from the 1947-48 Dallas Negro City Directory (with thanks to Pat Lawrence!).

Click photos and clippings to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Praetorian Building and Its 19th-Century Neighbors

empire-imperial-praetorian_1907_cook-collection_SMUIn the shadow of the Praetorian —  Main Street, 1907

by Paula Bosse

The photo above — from the George W. Cook Collection treasure trove at SMU’s DeGolyer Library — shows the Praetorian Building under construction. It appeared on a real-photo postcard which shows a postmark of July 25, 1907. What I found most interesting about this photo are the two buildings standing in its shadow, just west of Stone Street (now Stone Place). Here’s a close-up (click to see a larger image):

empire-imperial-praetorian_1907_cook-collection_SMU_det

I knew that the building with “Imperial Bar” on the side is still standing (the Sol Irlandes restaurant at 1525 Main has occupied it for several years), but I wondered about the one with the “Empire” sign. It took a bit of digging, but I’m happy to report that it was a very early movie theater. I had determined that the address of the building with the Empire sign was 353 Main Street (in what is today the 1500 block of Main) and found this article from 1907 about officials closing down “moving picture shows” which had not complied with fire precautions in the storing and projection of highly flammable celluloid film — one of these movie houses was at 353 Main (clippings and photos are larger when clicked):

fire-code-violations_moving-pictures_dmn_062507
Dallas Morning News, June 25, 1907

Below is a clipping from the Dallas city directory issued in 1907 — the first year a special “Moving Pictures” category was included in the directory.

1907-directory_harris-empire
1907 Dallas directory

These “picture shows” were listed not by theater name (if they had one), but by owner or manager. (This was the era of nickelodeons, which were not so much “theaters” as “viewing rooms” — a great article from 1909 about the sudden surge in popularity of the nickelodeon — what they were and what they were like — can be read here.) The theater at 353 Main was owned by Charles B. Harris (usually referred to as C. B. Harris, who had previously worked as a wholesaler for the Edison Phonograph Co. a couple of doors down the block). When the picture above was taken, the Empire was showing movies at 353 Main, men were playing pool for 45¢ an hour at the New Brunswick Billiard Hall next door at 355 Main, and Bartholomew Lynch was running the Imperial Bar on the corner, at 357 Main.

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DMN, April 13, 1907

Construction of the Praetorian Building — Dallas’ first skyscraper (14 stories!) — had begun in September, 1906. Here’s what it looked like in March, 1907:

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DMN, March 17, 1907

In January, 1909, C. B. Harris decided to expand up and into the space next door. The Empire Theater stopped showing movies, and in March, 1909, it became a venue for live stage productions.

empire_dmn_032109_opening
DMN, March 21, 1909

Here are a few photos showing the Empire and the finished Praetorian Building, around 1908. The first one may be one of the few to show the short-lived Colonial Theater (352 Main), a vaudeville house, across the street.

empire-imperial-praetorian_flickr_colteravia Flickr

A view similar to the top photo, with the Praetorian completed (apologies for the poor resolution!).

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Below, a detail of a larger photo, also from around 1908.

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And below, a detail from a larger photo, with spectators watching a parade in August, 1909, showing the Empire with its new construction.

empire_parade-day_1909_degolyer_SMU_close-up

In December, 1909, Harris changed the name of the theater to the Orpheum — it became a vaudeville house.

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DMN, Dec. 14, 1909

You can see the Orpheum Theater sign in this detail of a larger photo (click thumbnail on page to see full image). (Note that the Happy Hour Theater has taken over the Colonial’s space.)

orpheum_happy-hour_praetorian_uta_det

By 1914, the building’s address was 1521 Main (or, more specifically, 1521-23 Main), and ownership of the theater (which was now featuring “tabloid musical comedy”) had changed hands (to the Dalton brothers, who owned the Old Mill Theater). In October, 1914, the Daltons sold the theater. It was extensively remodeled and became the Feature Theater, a motion picture house (once again!).

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DMN, Oct. 18, 1914

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DMN, Nov. 15, 1914

The Feature hung on through the Great War, but finally sputtered out in 1919. In 1920, Woolworth’s expanded into the space (they were already located on Elm Street, and the expansion afforded them entrances on both Elm and Main — and, I think, Stone. Woolworth’s had already been occupying the old Imperial Bar building on the corner when they took over the old Empire space (1525 Main). That was a big Woolworth’s store.

feature-theater_dmn_122420_woolworths
DMN, Dec. 24, 1920

woolworth_dmn_030421_grand-openingDMN, March 4, 1921

Here’s what our old pal, The Praetorian, and NKOTB, Woolworth’s, looked like around 1930.

praetorian_ca-1930_dallas-rediscovered-cushman-and-wakefield-inc

Here’s Woolworth’s closer up — you can see how the two buildings (the old Empire and the old Imperial Bar) have been joined together a little oddly.

praetorian_ca-1930_dallas-rediscovered_cushman-and-wakefield-inc

Here’s a grainy street-level view from the 1940s (sorry, tried to blow up a thumbnail).

praetorian_william-langley_1940s_DPL
via Dallas Public Library

Fast-forward to 1953: the Shaw Jewelry Company moved into the old Empire Theater space at 1521 Main.

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DMN, March 10, 1953

Meanwhile, next door, the old Imperial Bar space had become Texas State Optical. Sadly, someone thought it would be a good idea to wrap the original brick building (which has been estimated as having been built around 1895) in, I don’t know … aluminum siding? Here are before-and-after photos of that corner (Imperial Bar) building. It looked pretty good before TSO took over. (The detail below is from a Squire Haskins photo, via UTA — full photo is here — click thumbnail on UTA page to see a larger image). (I love the delivery boys’ bicycles parked at the curb outside the Western Union office.)

main-and-stone_praetorian_haskins_UTA_det

And here’s the same corner after “improvements” (this is another detail from another of Squire Haskins’ fab photos from the UTA collection — see the full photo here — click on thumbnail), circa 1950s.

tso_praetorian_squire-haskins_UTA_1950s

Oh dear. There should be a law….

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DMN, Oct. 2, 1955 (ad detail)

Speaking of “oh dear,” a few short years after this, the Praetorian Building expanded and was … argh … “re-clad.” Here’s a shot of it, mid-cladding, about 1961 (Squire Haskins photo info from UTA here).

praetorian_recladding_ca-1961

I believe it was … yellow.

In 1968, the Saint Jude Catholic Chapel moved into 1521 Main — the old Empire Theater space. The front was adorned with a vivid mosaic by Gyorgy Kepes (I wrote about the mosaic here).

gyorgy-kepes_mosaic_st-jude-chapel_website_videovia St. Jude Chapel website

The chapel is still there.

TSO — and later Pearle Vision — lasted at 1525 Main for years. In 2001, renovation and restoration efforts to develop Stone Place began. 1525 Main was restored as closely as possible to its original design and became home to a succession of restaurants (it has been occupied by Sol Irlandes for several years). ArchiTexas did a GREAT job with the building’s restoration!! (Read a Feb. 21, 2001 Dallas Morning News article about this project — and about the historic 1525 building — in a PDF here.)

sol-irlandes_panoramio

So. Back to the top photo. There’s good news and bad news. Empire Theater building: still there. Imperial Bar building: still there. But the Praetorian Building — the most historically important of the three? The fabulous “skyscraper” was demolished in 2013 and replaced by a giant eyeball. Here’s a 2012 Dallas Morning News photo of it in mid death spiral, being slowly dismantled.

praetorian-pre-demo_dmn-photo_2012

See what this view looks like in the most recently updated Google Street View, here.

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Interested in seeing the development of this block, as chronicled in Sanborn maps? Of particular interest is the northwest corner of Main and Stone — before 1911 the addresses of these two building were 353-355 Main and 357 Main; after 1911 the addresses changed to 1521-23 Main and 1525 Main. It appears that both buildings were built between 1892 and 1899.

  • 1885 — not a lot in this block yet — but there is a well
  • 1888 — a building has appeared one lot off Stone
  • 1892 — that building from 1888 is now nothing but “ruins” — likely the result of a fire
  • 1899 — the buildings we’ve been looking at in this post have appeared
  • 1905 — C. B. Harris’ Empire would occupy 353 Main by 1907 — possibly by 1906 (in 1905, Harris was working three doors down, at 347 Main, as an agent for the Edison Phonograph Co.)
  • 1921 — This map indicates that the 1521-23 building is two stories. Pictures going back to 1909 (see a couple above) seem to show three stories, but pictures of the building as part of Woolworth’s appear to show two floors (for comparison, the building on the corner at 1525 was two stories). So … what looks like a third floor on 1521-23 Main might be … architectural trompe l’oeil? Either that, or there was demolition and construction and demolition of the two-story building currently occupied by the St. Jude Chapel. This is confusing. Whatever the case, the renovation/restoration of these two buildings in 2001 shows them to look pretty much as they did in the top 1907 photo — once again, that original roofline is present. Below, the 1907 photo is on the left, a 2012 photo is on the right.

praetorian_main-stone_1906-1912

And here the buildings are today, minus the dearly departed Praetorian (RIP).

st-jude-chapel_website_present-day

Pretty cool.

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Top photo from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info is here. (I have edited the image slightly — and rather poorly — please see link for original image.)

The photo and detail showing Woolworth’s, circa 1930, is from William L. McDonald’s book Dallas Rediscovered; photo credit cites Cushman & Wakefield, Inc.

Sources of all other images noted, if known.

For an entertaining history of the construction of the Praetorian Building (which had MANY detractors and doubters), read the Dallas Morning News article (Oct. 27, 1948) by Kenneth Foree, here.

More on the Praetorian Building on Wikipedia, here.

Most clippings and images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Remember the Alamo! — In Plano, Behind the Target

alamo-plano_dmn_051284-photoNever forget… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today is Texas Independence Day. This time last year after posting a photo of the Alamo somewhere, I was informed that there was, in fact, an Alamo replica right here in DFW. I knew about the one(s) in Fair Park, but Plano? Yep, near 75 and Parker Road, at the corner of Lexington and Premier, just west of the highway. See a southward-looking aerial view on Google here; below is the same view, from Bing.

alamo-plano_birdseye-bingBing Maps

Here it is at street level:

alamo-plano_bingBing Streetside

So, um, why is that there?

Not being up on my Plano history, and never having been aware of this, it took me a long time to find anything about it. Which is pretty surprising, because you’d think there would be all SORTS of articles about a very large replica of one of the most famous structures in the world (yes, I’m going to say “in the world”), standing right here in the Metroplex. And it’s been standing here for at least 35 years! I managed to find a couple of ads and an article about the building — it had started out as an arcade called the Alamo Fun Center and later became part of a car dealership — but I could  never find out who built it or why. I thought I’d come back to it in a year — so I could post it on Texas Independence Day — and see if I could find more, looking with fresh eyes. So I tackled it again today, and, glory be, I’ve just discovered that Rick Saigling wrote a piece for Plano Magazine last November titled “Remember the Alamo Fun Center” which answered all of my questions (and had photos of the building when it was new).

The Plano Alamo was built in 1982 by brothers-in-law Nathan White and Gene Cason and other investors as a “fun center” to house a Texas-themed arcade featuring video games, miniature golf, etc. While popular with Plano kids, the Alamo Fun Center was not a successful venture, and it shut its ornately carved doors after only a relatively short time in business. There you have it. Thank you, Rick. I now have closure.

The earliest (only?) mention I found of the “Fun Center” was the ad below, which appeared in The Wylie News a short time before its grand opening in the summer of 1982. The ad seems to indicate that the name of this “western theme park” is Lone Star Recreation Park and Alamo Fun Center (click to see a larger image).

alamo-fun-center_wylie-news_072982
The Wylie News, July 29, 1982

A few months after the Alamo Fun Center opened, Larry Lange Cadillac moved to its new location on the adjacent property. I’m not sure exactly when it closed, but the Plano Alamo was taken by the advancing forces of Larry Lange Cadillac in 1983 or 1984. For whatever reason, the building remained (what Texan is going to demolish the Alamo?) and was incorporated into the Larry Lange business plan.

alamo-plano_dmn_062683-larry-lange-ad-det
Dallas Morning News, June 26, 1983

In May, 1984, the ad below announced the grand opening of the Larry Lange Adventure Center — the Alamo had been emptied of its batting cages and pizza ovens and had been transformed into an “Indoor Van Showroom Which is ‘As Large as Texas’!” (That doesn’t seem to have lasted very long.)

alamo-plano_dmn_051284-ad
DMN, May 12, 1984

Two years later, in 1986 — the year of the Texas Sesquicentennial — The Plano Star Courier checked in with the then-current occupants of the hometown Alamo, Premier Auto Leasing, to see what it was like working in the Alamo. In Plano. An employee made the impossible-to-believe statement that very few people ever actually commented on the fact that they were leasing their vehicle from a company that occupied a building shaped like the Alamo.

alamo-plano_plano-star-courier_072286
Plano Star Courier, July 22, 1986

In 1999, Diane Jennings of The Dallas Morning News wrote a story on “mock Alamos” around the state. She checked in on the Plano location, then owned by Crest Cadillac, and found it was being used as a warehouse. The general manager, Michael Coston, was not a fan of the building.

Not every Texan is thrilled to have an Alamo in their back yard or back lot. Michael Coston, general manager of Crest Cadillac in Plano, is pained by the sight of the Alamo replica on the back lot of his dealership.

The building was erected in the early ’70s [sic] as a penny arcade, he said. When it closed, the property was bought by the dealership [sic], which uses it for storage.

“It’s not the best-looking reproduction,” he said. “If I had it to do over again, I’d tear it down.”

As a native Texan and history buff, he worries that the inaccurate construction may “deface the fame of the how-many-ever we say gave their lives there.” He is particularly irritated by the parapet, the rounded hump over the door, which most people associate with the Alamo facade, but which was actually added by the U.S. Army decades after the battle. (DMN, Feb. 28, 1999)

Today Crest Cadillac appears to have forsaken Plano for Frisco, but the property is still in the Crest auto family — it’s now occupied by Crest Volvo. But what of The Alamo? It’s now the home of Crest Collision, a body shop.

So there you  have it, the story of Plano’s Alamo.

Instead of rushing out to get a Mirabeau B. Lamar tattoo to show my Texan-ness in these waning hours of Texas Independence Day, I’ve decided instead to post a few photos of the real Alamo, which, strangely enough, was also a neighbor to a car dealership, the Clifton George Ford Motor Co. Remember the Model-T!

alamo_clifton-george-ford_san-antoniovia Texas Transportation Museum

alamo_clilfton-george-ford_e-o-goldbeck_ransom-center_ca-1918via Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas

alamo_herpel-gillespie-ford
via Texas Transportation Museum

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Second-from-last photo by an unidentified photographer, circa 1918, from the  E. O. (Eugene Omar) Goldbeck Photography Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin; more information and a larger image may be found here.

Rick Saigling’s Plano Magazine article “Remember the Alamo Fun Center” (November 21, 2016) is here. It includes several photos of the Alamo Fun Center in 1982/83 and interviews with a former owner and employee. See a (large!) close-up of the unexpectedly ornate stone façade of the Plano Alamo here. (If you’re interested in Plano history, Rick’s also written a nice nostalgic piece, “I Remember When Plano Was a Sleepy Town,” here.)

Photos and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Jimi Hendrix, Glen Campbell, Tiny Tim — In Dallas (…Separately), 1969

jimi_wfaa_hamon_smu-1The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Love Field, 4/20/69 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

My Tiny Tim post from a few days ago has been surprisingly popular — who knew Tiny Tim was still so admired! I tracked down the original source of one of the clips I’d used — which I had stumbled across on YouTube — and found that the clip comes from a longer video of footage from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection, housed at the Hamon Arts Library at SMU. Jeremy Spracklen — the Moving Image Curator — compiled the short video (see below) and posted it a couple of months ago on the Hamon Library blog. The Tiny Tim footage is great, but there’s also Glen Campbell (in a very short discussion on the importance of Tommy Smothers to his career), and… oh my god, footage of Jimi Hendrix, standing on the tarmac of Love Field with bandmates Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding on April 20, 1969, giving a great, relaxed interview to a very lucky Channel 8 reporter.

**

Jimi Hendrix appeared at least 4 times in Dallas:

  • Feb. 16, 1968: Fair Park Music Hall
  • Aug. 3, 1968: Moody Coliseum, SMU
  • April 20, 1969: Memorial Auditorium (where he was headed after the Ch. 8 interview)
  • June 5, 1970: Memorial Auditorium

hendrix_dmn_012168_marge
Dallas Morning News, Jan.. 21, 1968

hendrix_dmn_022568
DMN, Feb. 25, 1968 (click to see larger image)

hendrix_dmn_072868
DMN, July 28, 1968

Two surprising errors (grammatical and factual) appear in a Neiman-Marcus tie-in ad (of sorts) which states that Jimi would be at Memorial Auditorium, rather than Moody Coliseum. Despite the error, it’s cool that Neiman’s was expanding its cultural horizons to include someone like Jimi Hendrix in one of its ads (which was featuring teen fashions, but still). N-M has always had its finger on the pulse of current fashions — and Jimi Hendrix was certainly fashionable.

hendrix_dmn_073168_n-m-ad_det
DMN, July 31, 1968 (ad detail)

hendrix_dmn_042069
DMN, April 20, 1969

jimi_wfaa_hamon_smu-2

 jimi_wfaa_hamon_smu-3
Jimi & Noel Redding, WFAA-Ch. 8, April 20, 1969 (screenshots)

hendrix-poster_june-5-1970_memorial-auditorium
June 5, 1970 — poster via

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Glen Campbell was in town for several days in June, 1969. He arrived at Love Field on June 15 and was met by a “high-spirited throng” of teenage admirers. He was here to promote the release of the movie True Grit (in which he appeared with John Wayne), as well as to perform at Memorial Auditorium on June 19, 1969.

glen-campbell_dmn_061769
DMN, June 17, 1969 (click to see larger image)

glen-campbell_dmn_061969
DMN, June 19, 1969

glen_wfaa_hamon_smu-1
WFAA-Ch. 8 interview, June 16, 1969 (screenshot)

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And Tiny Tim was in Dallas on June 17, 1969 to appear at a book-signing at the downtown Sanger-Harris department store.

tiny-tim_dmn_061769_book-signing
DMN, June 17, 1969

tiny-ch-8_1
WFAA-Ch. 8 interview (screenshot)

***

Video is from the WFAA Newsfilm  Collection, held at the Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University. (I have captured the color images from that video.) The video appeared in a post on the Hamon Library blog (its homepage is here); that post can be found here. Any requests to license these clips (or any of the other thousands at SMU!) should be directed to curator Jeremy Spracklen.

All photos and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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