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Category: Literary Dallas

Society Ladies and Their Great Big Hats

shakespeare-club_c1895The Dallas Shakespeare Club (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Had The Graduate been set near the beginning of the twentieth century rather than the middle of it, that famous scene out by the pool (er…near the horse trough) might have gone something like this:

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir?

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, sir, I am.

Mr. McGuire: …Millinery.

Benjamin: …Exactly how do you mean?

Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in millinery. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Benjamin: Yes, I will.

Mr. McGuire: Enough said. That’s a deal.


Photograph of the Dallas Shakespeare Club is from the Dallas Historical Society; it appears in the book Women and the Creation of Urban Life in Dallas, Texas, 1843-1920 by Elizabeth York Enstam (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1998). Enstam’s caption of this photograph identifies two women in the front row, on the right as Sallie Griffis Meyer (1863-1932), future president of the Dallas Art Association, and May Dickson Exall (1859-1936), president of the Dallas Shakespeare Club from 1886 until her death. Ms. Enstam has labeled this photo as “about 1895” — this appears to be incorrect. Other sources cite a year of a photo that sounds like this one, as being from 1911, taken on the steps of the Dallas Country Club. I think that this probably IS 1911, and it appears to have been taken on the steps of the first Dallas Golf and Country Club in Oak Lawn, a few months before the club moved into its current location in Highland Park. I’m going to make a wild guess and say that this photo might have been taken on April 27, 1911 when the club met at the Oak Lawn club to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare (their meeting had been delayed to take place on the day following Shakespeare’s birthday). Below is a photo of the old country club, from The Dallas Morning News (Feb. 20, 1912), printed when it was announced the old club’s very valuable land would be sold.

dcc_oak-lawn_dmn_022012(click for larger image)


Dialogue (all but one word) from the film version of The Graduate, screenplay by Buck Henry, based on the novel by Charles Webb. “Millinery adaptation” by Paula Bosse, based on the screenplay by Buck Henry which was based on the novel by Charles Webb.

Click photos for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Cokesbury Book Store — 1959


“For a summer of pleasure, grab a good book.”


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Ladies’ Reading Circle: An Influential Women’s Club Organized by Black Teachers in 1892

ladies-reading-circle_negro-leg-brewer_1935The Ladies (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

When one thinks of “ladies’ clubs” of the past, one probably tends to think of groups of largely well-to-do women in fashionable dresses, gloves, and smart hats who gathered for quaint meetings in one another’s homes to discuss vaguely literary or cultural topics, sip tea, chit-chat, and gossip. Often they would plan projects and events which would aid pet community or charitable causes. There were clubs of varying degrees of serious-mindedness, but, for the most part, club meetings were mostly an excuse for women to socialize. 100 years ago, these women rarely worked outside the home, and these groups offered an important social and cultural outlet for well-educated women of means. White women. Women of color were not part of that particular club world. They had to create clubs for themselves. And they did.

In 1892, eight African-American teachers in Dallas organized their own club, the Ladies’ Reading Circle, and while it, too, was an important social outlet for the women, the focus of the group tended to be more serious, with reading lists comprised primarily of political, historical, and critical texts.

The members of the Ladies’ Reading Circle (a group that lasted at least until the 1950s) were, for the most part, middle-class black women who set an agenda for the club of education, self-improvement, and social responsibility. Like most women’s clubs of the time, each meeting of the LRC was held in a different member’s home and usually ended with a “dainty” luncheon and light musical fare, courtesy of the Victrola or player piano; but what set the LRC apart from most of the other women’s clubs of the day was the choice of reading material — from books on world history and international politics, to texts on current affairs and social criticism. (Several surprising examples appear below.)

Not only did the women gather weekly to discuss current and cultural affairs, they also worked to improve their community by tackling important social issues and by inspiring and encouraging young women (and men) who looked to them as civic leaders. Noted black historian J. Mason Brewer dedicated his 1935 book Negro Legislators of Texas to the women of the Ladies’ Reading Circle. The photograph above is from Brewer’s book, as is the following dedication:


Included were the names of the members, several of whom had organized the club in 1892:


One of the LRC’s concerns was establishing a home which, like the white community’s YWCA, offered housing and career training for young women. The charming frame house the club bought for this purpose in 1938 (and which is described in the Jan. 10, 1952 News article “Ladies Reading Circle Seeks $7,500 for Expanding Home”) still stands at 2616 Hibernia in the State-Thomas area

lrc-home_2616-hibernia_google2616 Hibernia (Google Street view, 2014)

But the group was organized primarily as a “reading circle,” and the minutes of three randomly chosen meetings show the sort of topics they were interested in exploring. The following three articles are from the post-WWI-era, and all appeared in The Dallas Express, a newspaper for the city’s black community.

lrc_dallas-express_040320April 3, 1920

lrc_dallas-express_041020April 10, 1920

lrc_dallas-express_102023October 20, 1923

My favorite juxtaposition of content on the pages of The Dallas Express was the article below which reported on a white politician’s promise that he would fight to keep “illiterate Negro women” from voting — just a column or two away was one of those eye-popping summaries of the latest meeting of the Ladies’ Reading Circle. My guess is that the black educators who comprised the Ladies’ Reading Circle were probably far more knowledgeable about world events than he was.

negro-womans-suffrage_dallas-express_052220May 22, 1920

In reading the limited amount of information I could find on the LRC, I repeatedly came across the name of one of the earliest members, Callie Hicks (she is in the 1935 photo at the top, seated, second from the right). She was a dedicated teacher as well as a respected civic leader who worked for several causes and was an executive of the Dallas branch of the NAACP. A Dallas News article about Miss Hicks appeared in Feb., 1950 when she was named “Woman of the Year” by one of the largest African American women’s organizations in Dallas County (“Honor Caps 40 Years of Helpful Teaching,” DMN, Feb. 10, 1950). Miss Hicks died in May, 1965.


It’s a shame that the Ladies’ Reading Circle is not better known in Dallas today. I have to admit that I had never heard of the group until I stumbled across that 1935 club photo. Their tireless work to improve the intellectual lives of themselves and others no doubt influenced the generations that followed.


Sources & Notes

Top photograph, dedication, and member list, from Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants; A History of the Negro in Texas Politics from Reconstruction to Disenfranchisement by J. Mason Brewer (Dallas: Mathis Publishing Co., 1935).

Minutes from the Ladies’ Reading Circle meetings all printed in The Dallas Express.

Relevant material on the LRC and other historic African-American women’s clubs can be read in Women and the Creation of Urban Life, Dallas, Texas, 1843-1920 by Elizabeth York Enstam (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1998), here.

The Handbook of Texas entry for one of the founding members of the Ladies’ Reading Circle, Julia Caldwell Frazier, can be found here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

My Father, Dick Bosse — Dallas Bookman


by Paula Bosse

Dick Bosse was my father. When he died in 2000, he had managed (and later owned) The Aldredge Book Store for almost 45 years. He started working for founder Sawnie R. Aldredge, Jr. fresh off a half-hearted attempt at grad school. I’m sure he had no idea when he started working there (at $1.00 an hour) just how important a role the store would play in his life. My parents met at the store when my mother began working there, and they married a couple of years later. My brother and I spent countless hours there and practically grew up in the store. The Aldredge Book Store was a second home to my family, and looking back on all the time I spent there, all the books I read when I was bored, all the literati of the city I met who eventually popped in and sat around talking with my father over a cup of coffee or a beer, all the store cats I loved who became minor celebrities themselves — when I look back on all that, I realize how lucky my brother and I were to have had such interesting parents who brought us up in such an interesting place.

My father had a reputation as a stellar bookman but was known as much for his wit and humor as he was for his deep and wide-ranging knowledge of books, both rare and “chicken-fried.” He was one of the state’s top Texana experts, and his mailing list contained just about every major Texas author. The Aldredge Book Store was one of the oldest antiquarian bookstores in the Southwest, but my father was a remarkably unstuffy, unassuming, and down-to-earth bookseller.

I’ve been working off-and-on at collecting pithy catalog blurbs my father wrote over the years. The bulk of his sale catalogs were straight listings of antiquarian and out-of-print books, but he became fairly well-known in the Texas book trade for descriptions like these which he would insert throughout for his own amusement. I’ve left out the full bibliographical descriptions, but here are a few of my favorites. I realize some of these are a little esoteric, but this has been a fun project, and it’s nice to remember how funny my father was (bad puns and all). (I only wish I had been able to catalog like this when I worked as a rare books cataloger for an auction house!)

Adams, Ramon F. THE RAMPAGING HERD. The shit-kickers’ John Ciardi.

Brown, John Henry. LIFE & TIMES OF HENRY SMITH, The First American Governor of Texas. A rather nice copy, not one of the bugshit-encrusted remainders.


Carter, Jimmy. KEEPING THE FAITH. Signed by the author, a former president.

Clary, Annie Vaughan. THE PIONEER LIFE. In HERD, but curiously not in SIXGUNS despite feuds, Texas Rangers, and Daddy popping caps on some badasses.

Clay, John. MY LIFE ON THE RANGE. Nice copy of the consensus bovine biggie.

Cravens, John Park. WITH FINGERS CROSSED: The Truth As Told In Texas. Apparently humor.

Devlin, John C. & Grace Naismith. THE WORLD OF ROGER TORY PETERSON, An Authorized Biography. Peterson, a student of blue bird mores, was known to Brandeis ornithologists as the goy of Jay sex.

Dobie, J. Frank. AS THE MOVING FINGER WRIT. Inscribed to “Mr. Moore,” in which 60-word inscription Dobie alludes (a frequent trick to prove he was not your run-of-the-mill shit-kicker) to Maugham and Schiller.

Eickemeyer, Rudolf. LETTERS FROM THE SOUTH WEST. Puny yankee sopping up the sun in El Paso & Santa Fe.

ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA. The twelfth edition (the eleventh edition with the supplements). Best encyclopedia in English executed prior to the American greaseballization.

Faulk, John Henry. FEAR ON TRIAL. HUAC to Hee-Haw.

Fuermann, George. RELUCTANT EMPIRE. Fine copy in dust jacket, signed by author and illustrator and marred only by one of those hideous goddam lick-in bookplates.

Gent, Peter. TEXAS CELEBRITY TURKEY TROT. Too much Peter; not enough Gent.

Hardin, John Wesley. THE LIFE OF JOHN WESLEY HARDIN. Mischievous preacher’s kid.

Hargrove, Lottie H. TEXAS HISTORY IN RHYME. Aarghh!

Hudson, Alfred Edward A’Courte. SELECTED BLOOD STUDIES ON SWINE. “Satisfying your antiquarian porcine hematological requisites since 1947.”

Koehler, Otto A. KU-WINDA (To Hunt). African safari by the Texas Beer Baron; well-illustrated, including some comely bare-breasted Somaliettes holding a “Join The Swing To Pearl” banner.

Long, Mary Cole Farrow. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, From Beaufort, South Carolina, To Galveston Island Republic of Texas — A Biography of Judge James Pope Cole (1814-1866). Probably unknown to Heinlein.

McDonald, William. DALLAS REDISCOVERED: A Photographic Chronicle of Urban Expansion, 1870-1925. The reissue was in wraps and had a “perfect binding,” one of the more notable oxymorons of our time.

Pellowe, William C. S. (ed.). MICHIGAN METHODIST POETS. Enthusiasts of The Muse will be relieved to know that Michigan sprinklers are as fully gifted as their Texas colleagues.

Riley, B. F. HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS OF TEXAS. Covers blemished, apparently sprinkled by a surly Methodist.

Rozelle, Robet V. (ed.). THE WENDY AND EMERY REVES COLLECTION. The greatest Dallas art coup since SMU acquired the wet-paint Spanish Masters collection of Al Meadows.

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. A THOUSAND DAYS, John F. Kennedy in the White House. Most notable fawning since Bambi’s birth.

Slaughter, Bob. FOSSIL REMAINS OF MYTHICAL CREATURES. Profusely illustrated with photos and drawings by the author, apostate bar-fly now a distinguished scientist and sculptor. A grab-ass classic.

White, Owen P. MY TEXAS ‘TIS OF THEE. A nice enough copy except that a cretin at something called “Mary’s Book Nook” was a compulsive rubber-stamper.



Above, my father, on the right, at the first location of the Aldredge Book Store on McKinney Avenue. The accompanying article by Luise Putcamp, Jr. is here.



Above is one of my favorite photos of my father, taken in a small used bookstore I had on Lower Greenville Avenue. A newspaper editor thought it would be “cute” to have a photo of father-daughter booksellers. The photographer suggested I hold the newer, cutting-edge art book while my father held the older, obscure British arts journal. Of course, my father would have been more interested in the Allen Jones book, and I would have been more interested in The Yellow Book (a set of which my father gave to me for Christmas one year — and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received).

Today would have been my father’s 80th birthday. 80! I think of him all the time, and I miss him terribly. He was a wonderful guy, and — aside from the modest income — I think he would have said that a lifetime career as a bookseller was a pretty sweet deal.


Sources & Notes

When my father died in April, 2000, several appreciations of him appeared in print. If you would like to read the appreciations by his friends A. C. Greene (a very sweet tribute) and Lee Milazzo (my personal favorite — very funny), as well as the nice official obituary, they are all transcribed here

My brother, Erik Bosse, wrote a wonderful piece about our father for a catalog we issued after his death. The warm and amusing essay — as well as some of the crazy business cards my father took great joy in printing up — can be found here

Sketch at the top was done by Nancy C. Dewell (1969). Slightly larger than a business card, it arrived in the mail one day with a short note that read: “I don’t know your name. I think you are Mr. Aldredge. I would be pleased if you would accept my drawing of you in the bookshop. Sincerely, Nancy C. Dewell.” I can’t imagine a better likeness. I really, really love this.

Photo of me and my father from the Dallas Observer.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

George Dahl’s Sleek Downtown Library — 1955


by Paula Bosse

This little 31-page booklet was issued to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Dallas Public Library. The library was built on the site of the old (beautiful!) Carnegie Library and was vacated when the current library (the J. Erik Jonssen Central Library) opened on Young St. in 1982. Unbelievably, the building has remained empty for over 30 years.

This is the only downtown building I have very distinct memories of from childhood. My mother took us to the library often, and I LOVED that place. I loved the building, the space, the books, the adventure of being downtown — I loved everything but that creepy sculpture of the kid standing in the hands that hung on the outside of the building!

This great library was designed by the legendary (and prolific!) Dallas architect, George Dahl. He moved easily from the streamlined grandeur of the Art Deco buildings of Fair Park to the sleek mid-century-modern-cool of this wonderful downtown library.

I know there are fans of this sculpture (“Youth in the Hands of God” by Marshall Fredericks), but I’m afraid I am not one of them. I loved art as a child (in fact, I can remember checking out framed art reproductions from this very library), but, as I said, even as a kid, I strongly disliked that creepy sculpture. The kid was fine, it was those giant disembodied hands. When the library moved to its current location in 1982, this sculpture was left behind to languish for years inside the empty building. It was eventually sold, and the boy and the hands are now resting comfortably in retirement, somewhere in Michigan.

3DPL_lobbybertoiaThere was a huge controversy about the Harry Bertoia sculptural screen seen above, hanging over the circulation desk. (I LOVED this piece as a kid!) The mayor — R. L. Thornton — HATED it, and the brouhaha-loving newspapers launched themselves into the fray by running apoplectic editorials which, of course, only fanned the flames of outrage. After the “scandal” died down, the art was eventually given the okay to stay, but not before a lot of people made a lot of noise about how the city of Dallas had wasted the $8,500 it had spent on the commission. Unlike the discarded hands sculpture, the screen was moved to the new library, where it remains today.


5DPL_familylivingThis is how I remember the library. Lots of space, cool furniture, and flooded with light.





10DPL_checkingoutI LOVE this photo!



14DPL_schiwetzcropA detail of the front cover artwork, by Texas artist E. M. “Buck” Schiwetz. I love the driver in the cowboy hat (he must have been awfully small or that car must have been awfully big to accommodate that hat). The energetic frisson of downtown Dallas in the Mad Men era is dampened a bit by those damn hands on the building that seemed to follow you everywhere you went!


Sources & Notes

All images from the booklet Five Years Forward: The Dallas Public Library, 1955-1960, compiled and written by Lillian Moore Bradshaw and Marvin Stone. Drawings by E. M. (Buck) Schiwetz. Photographs by C. D. Bayne. (Dallas: Carl Hertzog for Friends of the Dallas Public Library, 1961). (Photos from the archives of the Dallas Public Library.)

More on the history and construction of the Old Dallas Central Library (as well as tidbits about the ridiculous controversy regarding the commissioned art) is here.

Even MORE on the artwork scandals (the hands, the hands, the HANDS!) as well as photos of the beautiful Carnegie Library that was razed to build the 1955 library can be found here.

And just because it’s weird, here’s a postcard showing an early, possibly even creepier depiction of the “hands” sculpture (if those are the “hands of God”…). I guess they wanted to get a postcard out before the sculpture was finished and installed.


I’ve posted one further image from this booklet — a drawing of the 1961 Dallas skyline by E. M. “Buck” Schiwetz  — here.

UPDATE — Dec., 2017: The Dallas Morning News has moved its operations to the long-vacant library, insuring this wonderful building’s continued existence for many more years! More here.

Click pictures for larger images (some are MUCH larger — click twice!).


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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