Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Local Personalities

Dallas Entertainment Awards — 1961

dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_cover_SMUAnd the winner is…

by Paula Bosse

Here’s an interesting piece of Dallas entertainment history: a program for the 1961 Dallas Entertainment Awards, held in the Century Room, the swanky nightclub in the Adolphus Hotel. The awards were nicknamed “the Billy award,” or “the Billys.” Dresscode: “semi-formal.” Here are a few highlights.

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BEST RADIO PERSONALITY

Nominees are: Nick Ramsey (KVIL), Ted Cassidy (“Profile of an Orchestra,” WFAA), Meg Healy (KIXL), Hugh Lampman (“Music ’til Dawn,” KRLD — the previous year’s winner), Irving Harrigan & Tom Murphy (“Murphy and Harrigan Show,” KLIF), Jim Lowe (WRR), and Chem Terry (KRLD). 

So – Ted Cassidy? Yes, that is the same Ted Cassidy who later played “Lurch” on TV in The Addams Family (he also played “Thing”). He worked for WFAA radio for a few years and is a trivia answer in JFK-related quizzes regarding Dallas media coverage of the assassination.

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BEST MALE VOCALIST

Nominees are: Mark Carroll, Marty Ross, Earl Humphreys (the previous year’s winner), Skip Fletcher, Charlie Applewhite, Ron Shipman, and Trini Lopez.

Skip Fletcher? Yes, a member of those Fletchers. When he wasn’t frying up corny dogs he did a little singing, and even released at least one 45.

fletcher-skip_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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R. J. O’DONNELL MEMORIAL AWARD FOR SHOWMAN OF THE YEAR

Nominees are: Tom Hughes, Paul Baker, Raiberto Comini, Lanham Deal, Norma Young, Pearl Chappell, and Lawrence Kelly. (The previous year’s winner was Charles R. Meeker Jr.) A few names there which should be familiar to aficionados of Dallas live theater.

hughes-tom_paul-baker_raiberto-comini_lanham-deal_norma-young_charles-meeker_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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Producers of the event were Breck Wall and Joe Peterson, creators of the naughty “Bottoms Up” revue, which is probably still running somewhere. Some biographical information on the pair (click for larger image):

wall-breck_joe-peterson_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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Master of Ceremonies was Tony Zoppi, who wrote a column about the local nightclub scene for The Dallas Morning News. Whenever I read his old columns, I think that he must have had the BEST job in town — writing about the Dallas nightlife scene when it was at its sophisticated and sometimes seedy Mad Men-era apex.

zoppi-tony_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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And — a bit of a change of pace — a little bio of real estate titan Leo Corrigan, who owned the Adolphus, where the show was being held — he was, unsurprisingly, receiving an “Appreciation Award.”

corrigan-leo_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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And a couple of drawings of Dallas entertainment notables: Pappy Dolson, owner of Pappy’s Showland and legendary agent of strippers, and Joe Reichman, the leader of the Century Room orchestra who was billed as “the Pagliacci of the piano.”

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reichman-joe_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU

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A few interesting ads include a little “howdy” from Jack Ruby (who was well known to several of the people mentioned above, some of whom testified to the Warren Commission about their relationships with him). 

ruby-jack_new-carousel_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU

An ad for Villa Fontana, a gay club, formerly known as Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit (The Bull on the Roof), then managed by Bob Strange. Gay clubs were illegal at the time, so you didn’t see a lot of ads for them. (I wrote an article for Central Track about some of the gay clubs in Dallas in the early ’70s — with photos — here.)

villa-fontana_gay-cllub_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU

And, the 24-hour greasy spoon known to generations of Dallasites, Oak Lawn’s Lucas B & B.

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Here’s the photo enlarged. Unless something earth-shattering has happened that I don’t know about, that great sign is still standing on Oak Lawn near Lemmon, long after the restaurant closed.

lucas-b-and-b_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_det

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See the rest of the 44-page program — lots more photos, lots more nominees — in a PDF from the DeGolyer Library at SMU, here.

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Sources & Notes

All images are from “Dallas Entertainment Awards — 1961,” from the Diane Wisdom Papers, Archives of Women of the Southwest, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries; more information and a link to the fully-scanned program is here.

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Bob Lilly, Chap Stick User — 1968

cowboys_bob-lilly_chapstick_1968-ad_2

by Paula Bosse

Must’ve been the Moistutane®.

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Sources & Notes

Ads found on eBay.

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Gene de Jean Lifts a Curse on Dallas — 1970

gene-de-jean_WFAA_090470Curse lifted — all in a day’s work…

by Paula Bosse

On Sept. 4, 1970, at the corner of Commerce and Ervay, a “white-magic warlock” named Gene de Jean conducted a ceremony to lift a heinous curse placed on Dallas in 1963 by a somewhat vague “malevolent black-magic coven” — this curse, which, uncoincidentally, preceded the JFK assassination, had apparently hung over the city for 7 long years. Fortunately, the media had been alerted, and we have film footage of the historic occasion in which a mysterious warlock lifted a nasty curse which no one in Dallas knew had been cast in the first place.

Do-gooding warlock Gene de Jean arrived in a “velvetized Cadillac” (a Cadillac COVERED IN BLACK VELVET!) with a be-robed bell-ringing acolyte, and, with Neiman-Marcus in the background, he uttered a few incantations and proclaimed the curse lifted. He also “blessed” a few random people in the crowd for good measure before walking back to the waiting velvetized warlock-mobile, his job done. In his wake there was much rejoicing and/or confused looks exchanged on Commerce Street. Thank you Mr. de Jean!

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In something of a kill-joy article, the Associated Press revealed that “Gene de Jean” was a warlock stage-name. In non-warlock life he was Gene McIntosh, mild-mannered Houston psychologist. When pressed by the reporter, Gene said that it was “pure coincidence” that the Texas Association of Magicians was wrapping up its 25th annual convention 2 blocks away at the Statler Hilton (which can be seen in the background of the footage). So, yes, Gene McIntosh and Lee Thompson (the bell-ringing “acolyte”) were well-known Houston magicians/illusionists in town for a magicians’ convention. And — why not? — a friendly curse-lifting.

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Here’s the footage — at the 12:19 mark — captured by a WFAA-Channel 8 News cameraman for posterity.

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And a few screenshots of the warlock in action.

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gene-de-jean_dallas_090470-shutterstock_ferd-kaufmanAssociated Press photo by Ferd Kaufman

gene-de-jean_WFAA_090470_velvetized-caddySeriously — how do you cover a car with velvet?

Voilà! Curse lifted!

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Doing a little research, I have to say, when I came across the photo below, I felt a twinge of betrayal. Or at least disappointment. It shows Gene de Jean on the streets of Milwaukee (Milwaukee?!!) in June, 1970. The guy in the sunglasses is also seen with him in Dallas. The caption of this photo: “A self-described warlock (male witch) in black flowing cape bestowed a blessing right here in Old Milwaukee Tuesday. Gene De Jean blessed the city and a number of passersby at N. 3rd St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. He was in town for a magician’s convention.” Was it all just a schtick, Gene? And I thought we had something special.

gene-de- jean_milwaukee_june-1970via Wisconsin Historical Society

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Sources & Notes

Video and screenshots are from the WFAA NewsFilm Collection, G. William Jones Film Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University; the footage is from Sept. 4, 1970 and can be found on YouTube here (clip begins as the 12:19 mark).

When I posted a version of this on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, David B. commented with a couple of informative links about Gene McIntosh (who died in 2006): this overview of his career as a magician, and this tale of a stunt he performed while driving from Houston to Dallas in 1959, blindfolded the whole way. RIP, Gene.

gene-de-jean_WFAA_090470 sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Linda Coffee, The Dallas Attorney Who Took Roe v. Wade to the U.S. Supreme Court

coffee-linda_WFAA_SMU_june-1970Linda Coffee, 27 years old, on her way to the Supreme Court to make history

by Paula Bosse

The most important woman in the abortion rights fight is someone you’ve never heard of: LINDA COFFEE, the Dallas attorney who took the local case of Roe v. Wade from Dallas all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in a successful battle to have the ban on abortion in Texas declared unconstitutional. She began the case when she was only 26 years old and less than two years out of UT Law School.

Coffee was the driving force of this landmark legal case from the very beginning but preferred to leave the limelight to her co-counsel, Sarah Weddington, who joined the team a short time after the case was underway. (Weddington, an Austin lawyer, was *also* only in her 20s!)

The image above is a screenshot of a 1970 television interview with Coffee in news footage from the WFAA archive, a treasure trove of historical film clips housed at SMU as part of the Hamon Arts Library’s G. William Jones Film & Video Collection (the WFAA archive is viewable on YouTube here, with additions being made all the time).

This rare, recently unearthed Channel 8 interview from June, 1970 has Coffee discussing the ramifications of her first win in the long legal journey which would ultimately end in victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. It is almost certainly her first TV interview. (Read the notes of the YouTube clip for the full description.)

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My mother was involved in all sorts of women’s political groups in Dallas in the 1970s (and beyond). Meetings of various progressive political organizations and committees were often held at the First Unitarian Church on Preston Road in University Park (yes, University Park was an unlikely hotbed of activism!), and my mother knew Linda Coffee through these women’s groups. I had heard Linda’s name over the years but didn’t really know much about her until I came across this short Channel 8 interview. I’ve been working in these archives for SMU and wasn’t able to identify this unidentified woman but felt sure my mother would know who she was. I was talking to my mother on the phone trying to describe her: “I’m not sure who she is. She appears to be a lawyer, but she just looks too young and too… disheveled to be a lawyer. A little scroungy.” “Oh!” my mother said instantly, “Linda Coffee.” And she was right! She hadn’t even seen the footage.

I immediately loved Linda from my introduction to her in this footage. She’s earnest, confident, smart, pixie-ish, and she looks a little like a “real-person” version of Linda Ronstadt. I wonder if she ever imagined she would be responsible for one of the most famous legal cases of the 20th century?

I decided to look into her background in Dallas, and I was pretty surprised to see that she grew up one street over from where I grew up (she lived in the 5700  block of Anita) and went to my East Dallas alma mater, Woodrow Wilson High School (she and musician Steve Miller were there at the same time, Class of 1961 — she was in the band, he was on the football team — wonder if they ever met?).

linda_1961_band-detLinda Coffee, Woodrow band, 1961

miller-steve_WWHS_1961_srSteve Miller, senior photo, 1961

While we’re at it, here a few more photos of Linda Coffee in high school.

coffee_1959_high-school_WWHS-1959-yrbk_p92_sophLinda Coffee, Woodrow sophomore, 1959

coffee_1960_high-school_WWHS-1960-yrbk_p85_jrLinda Coffee, Woodrow junior, 1960

coffee_1960_high-school_latin-club_WWHS-1960-yrbk_jrLinda (dark robe) with the Latin club, attending “Ben Hur” screening downtown, 1960

coffee_1961_high-school_science-club_WWHS-1961-yrbk_srLinda and other officers of the Woodrow Science Club, 1961

coffee_1961_high-school_new-zealand_WWHS-1961-yrbk_p268-det_srLinda pointing to New Zealand, 1961

coffee_1961_high-school_sr-photo-bio_WWHS-1961-yrbk_p57_srLinda Coffee, Woodrow Wilson High School, senior photo, 1961

She apparently excelled at everything and had a wide range of interests.

After graduating from Woodrow, she went to RIce University where she majored in German, then went on to law school at the University of Texas where she passed the Texas bar exam with the second highest score in the class. After becoming a lawyer, she was a law clerk in Dallas for District Judge Sarah T. Hughes (she and another female clerk were profiled in a 1968 Dallas Morning News article which carried the unfortunate headline, “The Law Clerks Are Girls”). It wasn’t long after this that she began working on a case to challenge the constitutionality of a vague Texas law which banned abortions. In January, 1973, Linda Coffee and co-counsel Sarah Weddington won their case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Linda had just turned 30.

linda-coffee_getty-images
Linda Coffee, 1972, via Getty Images

weddington-sarah_1972Sarah Weddington, 1972, via Glamour magazine

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I would highly recommend (and I mean HIGHLY RECOMMEND) the Vanity Fair profile of Linda Coffee written by Joshua Prager titled “Roe v. Wade’s Secret Heroine Tells Her Story.” Reading this when I knew virtually nothing about Linda made me want to know more about her and made me want to share her story with as many people as possible. How is it that this lawyer who has had such a massively important impact on modern life (especially women’s lives) isn’t a household name? Prager’s article tells you why. Joshua Prager has expanded this article to a full book concerning the Roe case which will be published in a couple of weeks: The Family Roe, An American Story. With the current news of the newly implemented controversial legislation by the State of Texas, this book could not possibly be more timely.

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Thank you, Linda. Thank you, Sarah.

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UPDATE, Dec. 16, 2021: Watch the interview with Linda Coffee by The Dallas Morning News, conducted on Dec. 9, 2021 at Linda’s home in Mineola. Read the companion DMN article here (article may require a subscription to view).

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Update, Dec. 17, 2021: Watch another newly unearthed WFAA-Channel 8 clip of Linda Coffee being interviewed during the initial Supreme Court appearance of Roe v. Wade in December, 1971 (begins at the 13:44 mark):


coffee-linda_supreme-court_WFAA_SMU_dec-1971

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Sources & Notes

Top image is a screenshot of a June, 1970 interview of Linda Coffee conducted by Channel 8 reporter Phil Reynolds; this interview can be seen on YouTube here (from the WFAA archive, G. William Jones Film & Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University). Bottom image is from a WFAA clip from December, 1971 here.

All high school-era photos of Linda Coffee are from various editions of The Crusader, the yearbook of Woodrow Wilson High School.

coffee-linda_WFAA_SMU_june-1970_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dusty Hill, 1949-2021

zz-top_dusty-hill_woodrow-wilson_1965-yrbkDusty Hill on bass, Richard Harris on drums, 1965

by Paula Bosse

Dusty Hill, the legendary bassist of the legendary ZZ Top, died today. Born Joe Michael Hill in Dallas, Dusty lived in East Dallas and attended Woodrow Wilson High School. He dropped out before graduating and pursued a career as a musician, a decision which seems to have worked out pretty well for him. 

Above is a photo from the 1965 Woodrow yearbook when Dusty would have been 15 years old. The caption reads “The disappointment of the Bryan Adams loss was lessened by the lively music of Richard Harris and Dusty Hill.”

At the time of these photos, Dusty and Richard were playing around town in a band called The Dead Beats, a trio which also included Dusty’s older brother, Rocky Hill, who is seen below in a photo from the same yearbook, with the caption “At the homecoming dance, Rocky Hill and his date prove their skill at a modern dance called ‘The Dog.” Dusty, Rocky, and Richard would go on to form the band American Blues.

rocky-hill_woodrow-wilson_1965-yrbkRocky Hill, 1965

Dusty played cello in the Woodrow orchestra, so I went looking through the yearbook to see if I could find him. I think I might have — could this be him in an awkwardly cropped photo?

zz-top_dusty-hill_woodrow-wilson_1965-yrbk-celloYoung man with cello, 1965

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RIP, Dusty. Thanks for the great music.

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UPDATE: Thanks to reader Steve Roe who sent me an Oct. 29, 1964 clipping of “Dallas After Dark” (the Tony Zoppi column in The Dallas Morning News devoted to the city’s nightclub scene) which mentioned all three of the Woodrow boys seen above in photos which were taken at the time they were playing around town with their band The Dead Beats:

There’s a swinging new group in town billed as The Dead Beats, and they’ll be appearing through Sunday at the Jungle Dream on North Henderson. Rocky Hill plays lead guitar and Dusty Hill is the bassist. Little Richard Harris is a torrid drummer. The trio recently returned from Nashville and appeared at Louanns. The youngsters say they are America’s answer to The Beatles. How about that?  (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 29, 1964)

How about that?! Talented and apparently aggressively confident teenagers! (Jungle Dream was located at 1823 N. Henderson, just north of Ross — a couple of doors from the old Louie’s — managed by Pat Carpenter.) 

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Sources & Notes

Photos from the 1965 edition of The Crusader, the yearbook of Woodrow Wilson High School.

Obit from The Dallas Morning News is here.

Obit from Rolling Stone is here.

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Texas Rasslin’ at the Sportatorium — 1959

sportatorium_wrestling_mclemore_radio-annual-television-yrbk_1959Heroes and villains, hillbillies and rasslers… (1959)

by Paula Bosse

Ed McLemore and the Sportatorium. It’s hard to imagine one without the other. McLemore owned the Sportatorium (at Cadiz and Industrial) and was a successful promoter of both professional wrestling and up-and-coming hillbilly and rock ‘n’ roll musicians. The wrestlers and the musicians all performed centerstage in the Sportatorium ring (on different nights, but I’m sure McLemore must have at least day-dreamed about having some sort of offbeat tag-team bout featuring all of his clients in the ring at the same time). The Sportatorium was very, very popular, with crowds showing up for both wrestling matches and the legendary Big D Jamboree music shows, as well as boxing matches and a variety of other events.

This 1959 ad mentions a few of the musicians McLemore managed at the time, the biggest of whom was Sonny James (read about Sonny James’ years in Dallas in the Flashback Dallas post “Sonny James: The ‘Shindig Heartbreaker'”). Also listed were Johnny Carroll, the Belew Twins, Rozena Eads, Eddy McDuff, and Bill Dane.

The ad appears to be urging people to head to the Sportatorium because it’s got way more going on than boring old television!

“TEXAS RASSLIN”

Have you noticed the swing is to “Texas Rasslin”

No Murders!! No Guns!! No Quizzes!!

We do have heroes and villains in terrific fast action!

New Lighting — New Angles — New Dimensions — First Runs & Reruns

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mclemore_radio-annual-and-television-yrbk_1959_bio1959

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Sources & Notes

Ad and bio of Ed McLemore from the 1959 Radio Annual Television Yearbook.

Check out some vintage wrestling footage from the Sportatorium in 1960 here.

Check out vintage footage of the Big D Jamboree here.

More on the Sportatorium can be found in various Flashback Dallas posts here.

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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.)

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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

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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.

Squire Haskins — The Right Picture For Every Purpose (1949)

haskins-squire_dallas-mag_feb-1949_det
Have flashbulbs, will travel…

by Paula Bosse

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading this blog, you’ve absolutely seen photos by Lewis Benjamin “Squire” Haskins Jr. (1913-1985), one of Dallas’ busiest photographers, known for his aerial photography (taking photos as he piloted the plane!). Seeing this ad from 1949 made me happy — especially because it featured a photo of the man himself, and, even better, a photo of him holding a “this means business” camera (click to see a larger image).

haskins-squire_dallas-mag_feb-19491949

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THE RIGHT PICTURE FOR EVERY PURPOSE

Your story, convincingly told with expert photography … anywhere … under all conditions … in your office, showroom, plant, in the field or in the air.

One of the finest collections of Modern Dallas’ Skyline is available.

For the best in News or Commercial Photography call Squire Haskins, 24-hour service

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If you’re looking for a way to completely lose days of your life — pleasantly — you need to check out the unbelievable trove of Haskins’ photos at the Squire Haskins Photography Inc. Collection held by the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Take a deep breath… and click here.

There’s also a short bio of Haskins and more info on the collection here.

I’ll leave you with a self-portrait, from the UTA collection:

haskins-squire_self-portrait_n.d._UTA

Thank you, Squire for all that you captured.

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Sources & Notes

Ad is from Dallas magazine, a publication of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, February, 1949.

Self-portrait of Squire Haskins is from the Squire Haskins Photography Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries; more info on this photo can be found here.

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Ross Graves’ Cafe: 1800 Jackson — 1947

graves-cafe_marion-butts_dpl_1947_cashierGraves Cafe… (photo by Marion Butts/Dallas Public Library)

by Paula Bosse

Ross Graves (1903-1973) seems to have been something of a successful bon vivant who dipped his toe into a variety of businesses catering to Dallas’ African-American community: he was the proprietor of, variously (and often simultaneously), a night club, a liquor store, a gas station, a barber shop, and, most successfully, a restaurant, which was in business for almost 20 years (sometimes referred to as Ross Cafe or Graves Place). Below is a photo from 1947 showing the Ross Graves Cafe at 1800 Jackson Street (at Prather) in downtown Dallas (we see the south side of Jackson, with the view to the west).

graves-cafe_1800-jackson_negro-directory_1947

This photo accompanied an ad with the following text:

graves-cafe_negro-directory_1947-48-text

He opened the cafe around 1937 and kept it going until 1955 when he “retired” (he also dipped his toe into hosting dice games at the cafe and was busted in 1954 on gaming charges — he was given a 2-year probated sentence the next year). (Also, the building was part of a large donation to the city in 1955 — more about that below.)

The photo at the top shows, I’m guessing, Mr. Graves standing at the cafe’s cash register with an employee in 1947. He’s also seen in the photo below.

graves-cafe_marion-butts_dpl_1947(photo by Marion Butts/Dallas Public Library)

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I was originally intrigued by the photo of the exterior of the cafe — I couldn’t picture where it had been. But in trying to find out more about the building, I learned about the life of Ross Graves and came across some interesting little tidbits which paint a a picture of a fun-loving man with an active social life, lots of friends, and a healthy bank account. Below are a few clippings from the Pittsburgh Courier, a newspaper published in Pennsylvania which served as something of a national newspaper for Black America, with political, sports, and entertainment news from around the country. There was always news from Dallas in it — in fact, they had a local office here (3306 Roseland). There was even a Dallas-based society/gossip columnist named Mrs. O. J. Cansler (whose column had the rather unfortunate name of “Kolumn Komments”). She was quite frothy and wrote with the breathless excitement one expects in a society columnist. (I highly encourage anyone with a subscription to Newspapers.com to check out her “kolumn” — it’s a breath of fresh air to read about Dallas’ Black community presented in such a lively and fun manner (or in ANY manner, really — you weren’t going to find any of what she was writing about in the Dallas Morning News or the Dallas Times Herald). Especially interesting are mentions of long-forgotten clubs and nightspots where bands and performers from Dallas’ vibrant musical scene played. Here are a few appearances of Ross (and his wife, Ruby) from the pages of the Pittsburgh Courier.

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1939_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_111139_kolumn-komments_o-j-cansler
Pittsburgh Courier, Nov. 13, 1939

Graves was 36 years old at the time.

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1942_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_080842_toppin-the-town_columnPittsburgh Courier, Aug. 8, 1942

The Regal Ballroom (listed as the Regal Nite Club in city directories) was at 3216 Thomas, at Hall. It didn’t last very long, but while it did, it was, apparently, “swellegant”! Here’s a mention of it as the location of a swing band contest in 1940 (won by Don Percell):

graves_regal-club_pittsburgh-courier_060840Pittsburgh Courier, June 8, 1940

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1942_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_101742_kolumn-komments_mrs-o-j-canslerPittsburgh Courier, Oct. 17, 1942

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Graves’ second wife, Ruby Graves, was known for her “smart toggery.”

1944_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_101444_ruby-gravesPittsburgh Courier, Oct. 14, 1944

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Ross and Ruby were quite the hosts:

1945_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_040745_kolumn-komments_mrs-o-j-canslerPittsburgh Courier, Apr. 7, 1945

I love this. This is the sort of thing you would never have read in the Morning News or the Times Herald. I want to know more about Claudia’s — “that night spot just out of the city limits that has everybody talking.”

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graves-cafe_ad_pittsburgh-courier-051245Pittsburgh Courier, May 12, 1945

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1946_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_062246_kolumn-komments_mrs-o-j-cansler
Pittsburgh Courier, June 22, 1946

Just popping up to NYC in their new Fleetwood to take in a boxing match. As one does.

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Ross and Ruby eventually ended up living in a house on “swellegant” South Boulevard (2500 South Blvd.). At least one of their daughters was an Idlewild debutante, who made her debut in 1967 (read about the world of Black debutantes in 1937 Dallas here). Milam County native Ross Graves died on Dec. 4, 1973 at the age of 70. He had lived in Dallas for 50 years. And I bet he had a good time.

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The location of Ross Graves’ Cafe was at 1800 Jackson Street, between Ervay and St. Paul, in a weird stretch of Jackson where two blocks were connected without a  break, in a row of buildings without an intersecting street. (The buildings are long gone, but the location can be seen on Google Maps here.) An interesting detail about these two blocks — the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Jackson Street — is that this property was owned by Dr. John W. Anderson, a prominent Black physician. After his death, his widow, Pearl C. Anderson, deeded the land to the Dallas Community Chest, the proceeds of which would be used to help needy Dallasites. (The donation was conservatively estimated at $200,000 at the time — about $2 million in today’s money). She donated the property in 1955, the same year Graves retired.

graves-cafe_dallas-directory-1947Jackson Street, 1947 Dallas city directory

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Sources & Notes

Photos of the interior of Ross Graves’ Cafe are from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Public Library. Call Number for the top photo is PA2005-4/380.1; Call Number for the second is PA2005-4/380.2 (both are incorrectly identified as being in Deep Ellum).

The photo of the exterior of the cafe is from the Dallas, Texas Negro City Directory, 1947-1948 (many thanks to Pat Lawrence).

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Wes Wise, Dallas Texans, WFAA — 1961

wfaa_sports_sponsor-mag_101661_detA future mayor interviewing future Kansas City Chiefs 

by Paula Bosse

The photo above shows future Dallas mayor Wes Wise in 1961 (when he was sports director for WFAA-Channel 8) interviewing players of the Dallas Texans. Wes Wise served as Mayor of Dallas for three terms, from 1971 to 1976. The (second iteration of the) Dallas Texans played in the AFL from 1960 to 1962 until owner Lamar Hunt relocated them to Kansas City where they became the Kansas City Chiefs. (Read about the first, sad, Dallas Texans in the post “The 1952 Dallas Texans: Definitely NOT America’s Team.”)

Below is the full ad. (Click for larger image.)

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Sources & Notes

Ad from Sponsor, “the weekly magazine Radio/TV advertisers use” (Oct. 16, 1961).

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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