Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Shopping

Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, 1926-1942

baker-hotel-book-shop_1934Eula Wolcott: bookseller, librarian (Publishers Weekly, 1934)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, Dick Bosse, owner of the Aldredge Book Store. I always try to post something bookstore-related on his birthday. This year: Miss Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, located inside the Baker Hotel.

Eula Wolcott (1881-1962) was born in Waxahachie and had moved to Dallas by 1910. She appears to have had theatrical ambitions and studied voice and expression (she was billed as an “Experienced Concert Reader and Story Teller”). She opened a little book store and library in the early 1920s — the Booklovers Shop and Library was first on West Jefferson and later on Swiss Avenue. In 1926, she opened a similar shop inside the glamorous Baker Hotel, an enterprise she ran successfully until at least 1942 when another owner took over (she also apparently had a book shop inside the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells). In 1931 she opened the rather confusingly-named “Baker Hotel Book Shop and Rental Library” in Highland Park — in the new “Spanish Village” (the original name for Highland Park Village). Below is a very enthusiastic profile from Publishers Weekly (click to see a larger image).

baker-hotel-book-shop_publishers-weekly_032434_eula-wolcott_textPublishers Weekly, March 24, 1934

I wish the photo at the top had been better, because I’d love to get a good look at the decor. And Eula. I managed to find a photo of her.

wolcott-eula_ancestryEula Wolcott, via Ancestry.com

Here are a few ads:

booklovers_0420241924

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-24-1926Two shops, one owner — 1926

baker-hotel_book-shop_1009271927

baker-hotel-book-shop_19371937

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-25-19401940

She was active as a bookseller for many years and was also a familiar voice to radio listeners who tuned in to hear her book reviews on WFAA. 

One interesting piece of trivia about Eula’s hotel bookshop, shared with me by a former bookstore client of mine: the Baker Hotel Book Shop was the very first American bookstore that British author H. G. Wells ever visited. A lecture tour brought him to Dallas in 1940 — like many of the celebs of the day, he stayed at the Baker. I’m sure Eula was very happy to have Mr. Wells, a literary powerhouse, in her shop. Let’s hope he exhibited proper bookstore etiquette and purchased something!

baker-hotel_mural-room_dallas-directory_1942Baker Hotel, circa 1940

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Sources & Notes

Top photo and article from the trade magazine Publishers Weekly, March 24, 1934.

Read more Flashback Dallas articles on the Dallas bookstore scene here.

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy — ca. 1929

gaston-carroll-pharmacy_1929_joe-windrow_dallasFBCurb service at Gaston and Carroll…

by Paula Bosse

I received an email the other day from Melissa Maher asking about the building which houses the new shop she owns with her business partner, Chelsea Callahan-Haag: East Dallas Vintage, at 4418 Gaston Avenue. Next door, on the corner, is Ross Demers’ new restaurant, Cry Wolf (4422 Gaston). Surprisingly, I had two photos of the building from the 1920s!

The building is on the southwest corner of Gaston and N. Carroll in Old East Dallas and was built in 1925. The first mention I found was from a classified ad in The Dallas Morning News in February, 1902 — a “for sale” ad for the lot boasted that it had “city sewer” and that it was “fine, very fine for you and your friend to build two fine houses” (which is an unusual sales tactic). The price was $3,850 — if you believe the accuracy of inflation calculators, that would be the equivalent of about $125,000 in today’s money.

1902_gaston-carroll_dmn_081802Dallas Morning News, Aug. 18, 1902

In 1907 it was reported that attorney N. Lawrence Lindsley was building a house on the large lot, for the equivalent of about $250,000 (add that amount to the cost of the land…). Before 1911, the address was 668 Gaston Avenue — after 1911 the address became 4418 Gaston. Over the years, the house passed through several owners until the large, stately 3-story home had been broken up into apartments in the 1920s (see the house on a 1922 Sanborn map here). In 1925, the house went on the market.

A CORNER ON GASTON WITH A FUTURE
Southwest corner of Gaston and Carroll. Has three-story well-built house bringing $100 monthly rental or 8.5 per cent on price of $14,000. Lot 90x125x160. When Gaston is opened through to Pacific this will be one of the best corners in East Dallas for stores. Call H. K. Dunham, exclusive agent. […] Do not bother tenant. No trade. Seay-Cranfill Co. Realtors. (Feb. 8, 1925)

It was snapped up fast. A mere ten days later, a Texas charter notice appeared in newspapers for Gaston Avenue Investment Company, owners of the property. The 18-year-old house was promptly razed, and a building containing space for four shops opened in June. 

The grand opening was broadcast live on WFAA radio on June 27, 1925, with music performed by Jack Gardner and his orchestra. Quite a do.

1925_gaston-carroll_dmn_062725DMN, June 27, 1925

The original businesses were:

4414: Piggly Wiggly grocery store (now a Domino’s Pizza)
4418: Long’s Helpy-Selfy (a “serve-yourself” no-frills grocery)
4420: Johnson’s Superior Market, Otto S. Johnson, prop. (um, another grocery)
4422: Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy, C. L. Watts, prop. (with a soda fountain)

The Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy was on the corner, and that’s what we see in the photos above and below, taken about 1929 when Bill Windrow had taken over as president, manager, and druggist. An 11-year-old relative, Rollen Joseph “Joe” Windrow, worked as a carhop. Above, we see Joe “hopping”; below, Bill and Joe, stand on the sidewalk in front of the pharmacy.

gaston-carroll-pharmacy_dallasFB_bill-and-joe-windrow_str

Joe lived nearby on Swiss Avenue and later went to Woodrow Wilson High School. He grew up to be a handsome young man.

windrow-joe_woodrow_football_1936Joe Windrow, Woodrow Wilson High School, 1936

windrow-joe_tx-a-and-m_1941Joe Windrow, Texas A&M, 1941

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Over the years, the space on the right (4414 Gaston) was most often a grocery store (Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, Tom Thumb), and the space on the corner was a pharmacy for at least 60 years (Gaston-Carroll, Marvin’s, Walgreens, Taylor’s, and Felty’s). The middle shops were a variety of businesses, with one of the spaces apparently being absorbed into another.

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The building received a nice makeover recently. The Google Street Views below show July 2018 (before), and March 2019 (after).

gaston-carroll_google-street-view_july-2018._march-2019Google Street View: 2018, 2019

Melissa Maher, one of the proprietors of East Dallas Vintage (now occupying 4418 Gaston) sent me the following photos (from the end of 2021, I believe), showing her space and the space next door (Cry Wolf, 4422, in the old pharmacy location on the corner). She was wondering if there had been a basement in the building. It seems unlikely, but if anyone has any info, I’m sures she’d love to know.

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_1photo: Melissa Maher

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_2photo: Melissa Maher

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_3photo: Melissa Maher

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_4photo: Melissa Maher

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_5photo: Melissa Maher

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Thanks for asking about this, Melissa! I had always meant to write something about the Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy and post these 1929 photos — and this was a great opportunity to use them. I hope to visit your shop sometime!

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Sources & Notes

The top two photos were found on a Dallas history Facebook group, but I’m not sure which one. They were posted in 2015, and I’m unable to find them now. I believe they were found by the original poster on Ancestry.com. Luckily, I had noted the names “Windrow,” “Joe,” and “Bill,” because I now know more about the Windrows than a non-Wiindrow needs to know — I can definitely verify that the circa-1920 photos are of the Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy. I’m still not sure of the relationship between Bill and Joe (there were a lot of Windrows…) — possibly uncle and nephew, or maybe cousins.

Thanks again to Melissa Maher for her photos. Go see her and Chelsea Callahan-Haag at East Dallas Vintage.

I couldn’t find any photos of the home of N. Lawrence Lindsley — I know they’re out there somewhere! I’d love to see one. If you know of any, please let me know!

Of related interest, the other half of that block in which this building is located was once home to a truly palatial home, built by Thomas Field. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here. See the house in the Flashback Dallas post “Junius Heights … Adjacent!”

Also, catty-corner from this building is the former Brink’s restaurant. Way back, though, it was once the site of another grand residence — a home which became the Spann Sanitarium about the same time that the little strip of shops was built (I keep meaning to write about this sanitarium…):

spann-sanitarium_postcard

gaston-carroll-pharmacy_1929_dallasFB_det_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Christmas at NorthPark — 1970s

xmas_northpark_trees_1971_instagramA familiar scene to Dallas shoppers

by Paula Bosse

NorthPark was the mall of my childhood — in fact, I don’t recall my family going to any other mall. I loved going there at Christmastime — to see the decorations, to watch a puppet show, to slide down those pillars, and, of course, to visit Santa. These photos from the Instagram feed of NorthPark Center are very nostalgic. 

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Above, 1971. How to get to Santa: take a right at the fountain, walk and walk (…and walk) — things start picking up the closer you get to Neiman’s — hang a right at N-M, and there he is!

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Admiring a snowman, ca. 1970.

xmas_northpark_snowman_1970_instagram

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Also admiring a “tree” suspended over one of the iconic NP fountains, ca. 1970.

xmas_northpark_fountain_1968_instagram

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If you’ve been to NorthPark at Christmas you’ve seen the aerial display of Santa and his sleigh being whisked away by flying reindeer. This is NorthPark Center’s caption from Instagram: “Flying high over Neiman Marcus Fountain Court, the vintage Candy Santa and Pecan Reindeer installation has been a special part of NorthPark’s holiday tradition since 1965. The handcrafted display, consisting of real pecans, almonds, red and black licorice, marshmallows, sour cherries, raisins, and other candies, portrays Santa and his reindeer on their way to deliver presents to children all over the world.” Those pecan-studded reindeer really fascinated me as a kid. (The photo below is undated.)

xmas_northpark_santa-and-reindeer_instagram

1970:

xmas_northpark_girl-reindeer_pinterestvia NorthPark’s Pinterest page

1972:

xmas_northpark_santa_sleigh_1972_instagram

They’re still flying high, to the delight of 21st-century children:

xmas_northpark_santa-and-reindeer_color_present_instagram

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And, lastly, what every child saw before and after a holiday visit to NorthPark. When your car pulled into a parking spot you were filled with excited anticipation, and when you left, you were over-stimulated and exhausted. But happy.

xmas_northpark-parking-lot_ca-1974_instagram

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

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Sources & Notes

Unless otherwise noted, all photos from the Instragram feed of @NorthParkCenter

See many, many more Flashback Dallas Christmas posts from years gone by here.

xmas_northpark_trees_1971_instagram_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Casa View Hills/Casa View Village — 1955

casa-view-village-shopping-center_dallas-mag_april-1955Casa View Village shopping area, April 1955

by Paula Bosse

I wrote about the rather confusing history of the shopping center in Casa View at Gus Thomasson and Ferguson in the post “Shopping at Sears in Casa View” — so this is something of a companion, showing architectural drawings (mostly parking spaces, but, still…). The original shopping center was called, somewhat whimsically, Casa View Hills, which opened in 1953 (the drawing seen below). In 1955, the center was bought by new owners who changed the name to Casa View Village and immediately began the second phase of construction (seen above), which expanded the center across Gus Thomasson (…I think). 

casa-view-hills-shopping-center_dallas-mag_march-1955Built as Casa View Hills (1953), w/ new 2-story addition (1955)

Caption of the drawing immediately above:

INSURANCE COMPANY BUYS SHOPPING CENTER
The $2,500,000 Casa View Hills Shopping Center has been acquired by the Lone Star Life Insurance Company for its home office property and general headquarters. The center, located on Gus Thomasson and Ferguson Roads in the northeast section of Dallas, is virtually completed except for final finishing on the two-story office building which will house the insurance company. W. H. Smith, president of the company, said the property was purchased from Clark and Smith, General Contractors. [Alexander and Russell, architects.] (“Dallas” magazine, March, 1955)

casa-view-shopping-center_dmn_100453Oct. 4, 1953

The caption for the very top image, showing the planned expansion:

CONSTRUCTION OF NEW CENTER STARTS JUNE 1
Construction of Casa View Village, a new shopping center at the intersection of Gus Thomasson and Ferguson Roads east of White Rock Lake, is scheduled to begin June 1, it has been announced by Avery Mays, Dallas real estate developer. Valued at $1,500,000, the 9-acre tract includes a 100,000 square foot building area which will include a Tom Thumb Super Market, Skillerns Drug Store and other stores and offices. Harwood K. Smith and Joseph M. Mills are the architects; Phillips, Proctor and Bowers, the land planners; and H. W. Meador Company, the leasing agent. (“Dallas” magazine, April, 1955)

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Sources & Notes

Architectural drawings and quoted text from Dallas magazine, March, 1955 and April, 1955.

casa-view-village-shopping-center_dallas-mag_april-1955_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Snider Plaza & The Varsity Theater — 1920s

varsity-theater_1929_galloway_1600The Varsity Theater, Snider Plaza, 1929

by Paula Bosse

Snider Plaza, the University Park shopping center near the SMU campus, was formally opened on June 2, 1927 when its centerpiece fountain was switched on as a crowd of thousands watched. The buildings weren’t completed yet, but it was a sure sign to everyone that a large project was underway in an area of town which was not yet fully developed.

It was announced in December, 1926 that a 30-acre tract at the northwest corner of Hillcrest and Daniel had been purchased by Wichita Falls businessman Charles W. Snider (he had recently funded Snider Hall, the women’s dormitory at SMU) and University Park mayor J. Fred Smith from Miss Fannie B. Daniel, whose family had owned the land since 1851. The purchase price was $82,500 (which would be the equivalent of about $1.25 million in today’s money) (…let that sink in for a moment…). Snider Plaza, along with SMU, was both the heart of University Park and an impetus for real estate development around it.

Here’s an ad from October, 1927 from the University Park Development Co. (click to see larger images) — lots were going for $1,890 ($30.000 today):

university-park-develpment-co_ad_100927_a

university-park-develpment-co_ad_100927_bOct., 1929 — Hurry!

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Below are a couple of VERY early photos of Snider Plaza.

First off, the fountain. It was illuminated at night with rotating colored lights. The view is to the northwest.

snider-plaza-fountain_1927_galloway_dpl_1200

And that was about it. A fountain, paved streets and sidewalks, and lots of streetlights. In the photo below you can see the fountain in the distance. And the office of Ralph Porter, the man who was the driving force behind Snider Plaza (see his photo in the ad above). There is still a Ralph Porter Co. real estate business — and, appropriately, it’s still located in Snider Plaza.

snider-plaza_galloway_dpl_1200

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The Varsity Theater wasn’t built until 1929, even though a movie theater was always in the plans. I’m not sure what happened, but in 1928 it was announced that a new theater was going to be built as part of a 7-story building. The theater and retail shops were to occupy the first floor, offices would occupy the second floor, and furnished apartments would fill the top five floors (there would also be a parking garage in the basement). That’s all so weird to imagine. First off, apartments?! Secondly, that would have been the tallest building in the Park Cities! Buildings weren’t that tall in most of “suburban” Dallas in the 1920s. Also, the architecture is pretty bland, and very unlike the rest of the shopping area.

snider-plaza_varsity-apartments_1928Architect’s conception, 1928

The stripped-down plans ended up doing away with the basement and everything but the ground floor for the theater and retail shops. And I’m so glad! I love the photo at the top, from 1929. What a beautiful, beautiful building! The architect of the building was Wyatt C. Hedrick of Fort Worth. The buildings of Snider Plaza were meant to be of uniform design. Like this. (If only they all still looked like that!) (Another photo I posted recently showing that uniform style is here.)

The Varsity opened on Oct. 3, 1929 with “In Old Arizona” (the first talkie to be filmed outdoors). It became the Fine Arts in January, 1957. A reader, Malcom Thomson — who was a very youthful theater manager during the early days of the FIne Arts (I think he was an SMU student at the time) — sent me the great photo below from February, 1960.

fine-arts-theater_snider-plaza_malcolm-thomson_feb-3-1960Feb. 3, 1960 (courtesy Malcolm Thomson)

At some point — it’s so incredibly hard to believe that it seems like an urban legend — the Fine Arts Theater became an “adult” theater. Yes, Virginia, X-rated movies were screened regularly in the Park Cities. Oh dear.

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The theater is long-gone, as is almost all of Snider Plaza’s original “look.” But it’s still a cool, quirky place, and it’s always interesting to explore (never quite as interesting as M. E. Moses was to me as a child, but so few places are). And as long as Kuby’s is still around to fulfill my Reuben and warm-potato-salad needs, I’m pretty happy.

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A couple of quirky tidbits about the very early years:

  • SMU students were responsible in large part for operating the theater, because, of course, it offered them the opportunity to “obtain practical experience in show business.”
  • Also, the streets of the plaza were cleaned by “an automatic street-washing machine.” I’m not sure what that would have entailed, but I would guess that SMU students were glad to be let off the street-cleaning life-experience hook on that one.

And, on a personal note, several decades later, my father owned the very short-lived Plaza Book Store, which was located in the retail space just to the right of the theater (where, just a few short years earlier, he had worked as an usher — i.e. “obtained practical experience in show business” — while attending SMU).

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Sources & Notes

The two photos of Snider Plaza from 1927 and the top photo of the Varsity Theater from 1929 were found in the absolutely fantastic book The Park Cities: A Photohistory by Diane Galloway. The first two are from the collection of the Dallas Public Library. Ms. Galloway’s credit for the photo of the theater reads, “Photo by Frank Rogers/Courtesy of Jerrry Washam/Ralph Porter Company.” I believe all three photos are by Frank Rogers.

1960 photo of the Fine Arts Theater is used courtesy of Malcolm J. Thomson (thanks, Malcolm!).

varsity-theater_1929_galloway_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Eiffel Tower on Main Street — 1966

n-m_french-fortnight_1966_eiffel-tower_colt-collection_degolyer-library_SMUAlvin Colt Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

by Paula Bosse

In 1966, the Neiman-Marcus Fortnight honored France and all-things-French. And that included constructing an Eiffel Tower to grace the building’s exterior and an Arc de Triomphe built inside to welcome shoppers and gawkers. Bonjour, y’all!

n-m_french-fortnight_1966_arc-de-triomphe_colt-collection_degolyer-library_SMUAlvin Colt Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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Sources & Notes

Both photos are from the fabulous Alvin Colt Design Drawings and Photographs for Neiman Marcus Fortnights collection, held by the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University; more info on the Eiffel Tower photo here; more info on the Arc de Triomphe photo here. Read about designer Alvin Colt and his legendary contributions to the Neiman-Marcus fortnights here

More photos from the 1966 French Fortnight from the Alvin Colt Collection can be found here.

Browse the larger Colt Collection — which contains photos, sketches, and ads from other Fortnights — at the DeGolyer Library/SMU site here.

Read about the first N-M Fortnight celebration honoring France in 1957 in these Flashback Dallas posts:

n-m_french-fortnight_1966_eiffel-tower_colt-collection_degolyer-library_SMU_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Snider Plaza Safeway: Hillcrest & Lovers — 1930s

snider-plaza_safeway_ebay_1Safeway, Hillcrest & Lovers Lane

by Paula Bosse

The Snider Plaza shopping area opened in University Park in June, 1927, and an early grocery tenant was Killingsworth Self-Serving Food Store, which opened in 1930 or ’31. In 1934 the small Killingsworth chain of 12 Dallas stores was purchased by the Safeway/Piggly Wiggly company, and in March, 1935 the remodeled store was opened as a Safeway — it was newer, bigger, better, and more crammed-full of Stokely’s canned foods than any grocery store University Park had ever known. But in August, 1941 — before shoppers had gotten too complacent — it moved around the corner into another Snider Plaza location (3412 Westminster) — this one even newer! Even bigger! Even better! (And only half a mile from another Safeway which was just a hop, skip, and a jump away at 6207 Hillcrest.) (You can’t have too many Safeways.)

I haven’t seen many photos of the original architecture of Snider Plaza shops, so the photo above is pretty cool. (I really like that “Snider Plaza” was stamped on the curb.) I’m going only by the little map below, which appeared in ads when the bigger 1941 store opened, but I assume that the store seen in the photo above was at the corner of Hillcrest and Lovers Lane. 

snider-plaza_safeway_ad_082941_det_mapAug. 1941, Safeway ad detail

And now I have a sudden craving for canned hominy….

snider-plaza_safeway_ebay_2

snider-plaza_safeway_ebay_3

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Sources & Notes

Photos found on eBay in 2020.

UPDATE: As mentioned in the comments below, Dallas historian Teresa Musgrove Judd ended up as the winning eBay bidder of these photographs and plans to donate them to the Dallas Public Library.

snider-plaza_safeway_ebay_1_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Book Scene — 1940s

cokesbury_legaciesBrowsing at Cokesbury’s

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, and as a little tribute to his profession, I usually try to post something bookstore-related on his birthday.

A few weeks ago historian Rusty Williams (check out his books) sent me a great article from 1947 by publisher and bon vivant Bennett Cerf who wrote giddily about the Dallas book scene (and about Dallas in general). It’s a little over-the-top, enthusiasm-wise (Cerf was a master publicist and promoter), but he writes with genuine affection about notable bookstores and book people, including Cokesbury and its legendary manager Bliss Albright, McMurray’s Book Store and its legendary owner Elizabeth Ann McMurray, and big-time book collectors Everette Lee DeGolyer and Stanley Marcus. The article was published in the April 26, 1947 issue of Saturday Review, and it can be read here.

Cokesbury was described as being the largest bookstore in the world at one time. After a sizable expansion, it covered six floors and had 18,000 square feet of room for books. The building, designed by Mark Lemmon, was at 1910 Main Street, at St. Paul, with entrances on both Main and Commerce. (And those rounded bookcases are cool.)

cokesbury_int

cokesbury_ext_postcard_ebay

cokesbury_1966

cokesbury_bliss-albright_1953_detManager J. F. “Bliss” Albright, 1953

The other bookstore mentioned in the article is McMurray’s, a bookstore which is generally written about with impassioned reverence and awe — it may well be Dallas’ most highly regarded bookstore ever. Wish I could have seen it. Where Cokesbury was a massively large bookstore carrying a wide variety of new books, McMurray’s was definitely more of a “curated” small shop, which, from what I gather, served almost as much of a place for literary elites to gather for informal salons as it did as a retail bookstore. If you were a writer of any heft visiting Dallas, you made the pilgrimage to Commerce Street to check out McMurray’s.

mcmurray-elizabeth-ann_1951Owner Elizabeth Ann McMurray, 1951

mcmurrays_dobie_et-al_1949Texas literary titans J. Frank Dobie & Tom Lea (in hats), McMurray’s, 1949

mcmurrays_logo

Read about the history of both Cokesbury and McMurray’s (and other Dallas bookstores) (except, oddly, the Aldredge Book Store, the store my father was associated with for decades!) in the article “The Personal Touch: Bookselling in Dallas, 1920-1955” by David Farmer, which appeared in the Fall 1993 issue of Legacies. There are some great photos.

Another informative article (with even more great photos!) is “Cokesbury Book Store: The Premiere Book Store in the Southwest” by Jane Lenz Elder, which appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Legacies.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the Jane Lenz Elder Legacies article.

The Cokesbury postcards were found randomly on the internet.

The photos are from David Farmer’s book Stanley Marcus: A Life with Books (TCU Press).

Thanks again to Rusty Williams for sharing the Bennett Cerf article. Rusty’s newest book, Deadly Dallas: A History of Unfortunate Incidents and Grisly Fatalities, will be published in June, 2021.

More on Dallas bookstores can be found in a bunch of Flashback Dallas posts here.

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“A Man’s Shop With a Texas Man’s Viewpoint” — 1945

irby-thompson_western-wear_tx-country-day-school-yrbk-1945

by Paula Bosse

Back when men wore Western pearl-snap shirts embroidered with cardinals, leaves, and acorns — and, if this ad is anything to go by, they wore them proudly and unironically.

Frankly, I’d like to see a return to this style.

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“Wherever Texas men gather to relax and play
you’ll see fine sports clothes by Irby-Thompson.”

Western Suit: $115 (equivalent in today’s money to about $1,660)
Sport Coat: $45 (today, $650)
Slacks: $20 (today, $290)
Tie & Handkerchief: $5 (today, $73)

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Sources & Notes

Ad found in the pages of the 1945 Texas Country Day School yearbook. 

Irby-Thompson (housed in the Mercantile Building), was opened in 1944 by Collis P. Irby and J. S. Thompson; in 1948 Irby and his former store manager, Count Mayes, bought out Thompson and became Irby-Mayes.

Related: see the Flashback Dallas post “Irby-Mayes Ad With a Cameo by the Merc — 1948.”

irby-thompson_western-wear_tx-country-day-school-yrbk-1945_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Oak Cliff’s Star Theatre — 1945-1959

star-theatre_troy-sherrod-hist-dallas-theatres_DPLShow Hill, with the Star Theatre at right

by Paula Bosse

This is one of those photographs I could stare at all day long. It shows a shopping area in East Oak Cliff at the intersection of E. Eighth Street and N. Moore Street — this part of Oak Cliff was originally settled as a freedman’s town, and this photo shows an area between the Tenth Street Historic District and The Bottoms (or The Bottom) neighborhood (see a great map, here).

When these buildings were built in 1945 by I. B. Clark, it was an exclusively African-American part of Dallas. The anchor of this strip (which occupied what was described as both the 300 block of N. Moore and the 1400 block of E. Eighth) was the Star Theatre, which was, according to Mr. Clark, the only movie house for black customers in Oak Cliff.

star-theatre_boxoffice_042845
Boxoffice, April 28, 1945

star-theatre_oak-cliff_negro-directory-1947-48_adDallas Negro Directory, 1947-48

I. B. Clark was a white businessman who lived on a ranch in Cedar Hill; he had owned the Southern Fireworks Company before the war and had frequently battled with Dallas lawmakers about the constitutionality of banning the selling and shooting of fireworks within the city limits.

In the undated photo above, businesses in the retail strip are the Top-O-Hill Food Mart, the Ebony Cafe (Pit Bar-B-Q), the Easy-Wash laundromat, the second location of the Cochran Street Record Shop, the Star Theatre, and hotel apartments.

This hub of businesses was popular with neighborhood residents, who referred to this area as “Show Hill” (for the picture show). I stumbled across a really wonderful 2018 oral history of Margaret Benson, who, in 1944, moved with her family to Dallas and attended N. W. Harllee Elementary School and both Lincoln High School and Madison High School. She describes these shops and says that whenever black entertainers such as Dinah Washington or Sister Rosetta Tharpe came to town, they frequently stayed in the apartments above these businesses, as hotel accommodations for African Americans were few and far between. (I loved the entire recording of Mrs. Benson reminiscing about living for most of her life in this area of Oak Cliff — the part where she specifically talks about “Show Hill” is at the 8:25 mark in the recording at the link above.)

According to Dallas movie theater historian Troy Sherrod, the Star closed in 1959. Over time the area eventually declined and the remaining businesses closed. The strip, which was looking pretty down-at-its-heels in the 1990s, was demolished around 2000. The photo below shows the once-vibrant strip in its later days. (Three more photos, from 1999, can be found here — the addition of more apartments (the “Ebony Hotel Annex”) can be seen in the third one.)

star-theatre_mark-doty_lost-dallas
via Lost Dallas by Mark Doty

Here is what “Show Hill” vacant lot looks like today on Google Street View:

star-theatre_google-street-view-nov-2019Google Street View, 2019

star-theatre_bing-mapsBing Maps

star-theatre_cinematreasures_advia Cinema Treasures

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Sources & Notes

Top photo showing the Star Theatre is from the excellent book by D. Troy Sherrod, Historic Dallas Theatres (Arcadia Publishing, 2014); the photo is from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Second photo showing the dilapidated buildings is from another excellent book, Lost Dallas by Mark Doty (Arcadia Publishing, 2012).

The ad for the Star Theatre appeared in the Dallas, Texas Negro City Directory, 1947-1948 (many thanks to Pat Lawrence). The address for the theater was listed in various places as both 300 N. Moore and as 1401 E. Eighth.

If you have access to the archives of the Dallas Morning News, I encourage you to read “Inner-City Secret — The Bottoms Residents Say They Are Forgotten” by Bill Minutaglio (DMN, Aug. 28, 1994).

Also worth a read is Texas Tribune article “Dallas Neighborhood Established by Freed Slaves Fights to Keep Its History Alive” by Miguel Perez of KERA News.

More on the Tenth Street Historic District can be found on the City of Dallas website here.

Check out photos of a pop-up market on Show Hill in 2014 here.

Also, of related interest is the Flashback Dallas post “Movie Houses Serving Black Dallas — 1919-1922.”

Thank you to reader Jerry Richburg for contacting me with a question about this old strip shopping area — he remembered attending church services in one of the buildings and asked if I knew more about what had been there and if I might have a photo. Thanks, Jerry! You led me down the path to discovering a little pocket of Dallas history I was completely unaware of!

star-theatre_troy-sherrod-hist-dallas-theatres_DPL_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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