Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Non-Celebs

The Aldredge Book Store — 1968

ABS_charlie-drum_dick-bosse_andy-hanson_degolyer-library_SMUCharlie Drum and Dick Bosse… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today my father, Dick Bosse, would have been 84 years old. A very nice person at the DeGolyer Library at SMU (who knew my father) sent me this photo a couple of days ago. It’s from the DeGolyer’s Andy Hanson collection (Hanson was a long-time photographer for the Dallas Times Herald). Taken in the original location of The Aldredge Book Store at 2800 McKinney Avenue, the photo shows bookseller Charles Sartor Drum at the left, and my father — the then-manager of the store — at the right. My father looks really young here! Dig that cool shirt — worn with a paisley belt buckle and western-cut slacks. Hey, man, it was 1968.

***

Sources & Notes

Photo is from the Collection of Photographs by Andy Hanson, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University. (Thank you, friendly DeGolyerite — I now have a 50-year-old photograph of my father I’d never seen before!)

I’ve written several posts about The Aldredge Book Store, the store my father worked at fresh out of college and after eventually owned. The ABS-related Flashback Dallas posts can be found here.

More on the career of photographer Andy Hanson can be found here and here.

*

Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Jefferson Dagnal’s Saloon, Deep Ellum — 1906

fritts-and-dagnal_brent-burton
“Fritts & Dagnal,” Deep Ellum saloon… (photo: Brent Burton)

by Paula Bosse

Reader Brent Burton commented on one of my tweets on Twitter to say that he had an old photo showing his great-great-grandfather standing in a saloon he had owned in Dallas around the turn-of-the-century and wanted to know how he might access old Dallas directories in order to try to determine where the bar had been. I told him that online scans of city directories are available for free from the Dallas Public Library and the Portal to Texas History (more on this is in my post How to Access Historical Dallas City Directories Online”). I also offered to see what I could find out.

The photo is the one above (click it to see a larger image). All he knew was that it was taken in a bar owned by his great-great-grandfather Jefferson Davis Dagnall (whose last name is most often spelled “Dagnal” in various documents such as census records, directories, and his death certificate, so I will refer to him with this spelling) and that the photo was taken in the late 1800s or early 1900s. I figured it would be pretty easy to find the info because his name was so uncommon, but that was complicated by the fact that his name was spelled and misspelled many different ways — I think I came across five or six permutations. It took a long time to figure out where that photo was most likely taken — mainly by going through census records and looking at all the city directories — year by year — to pin down where he was working each year. And he got around — he lived at a new address almost every year, and changed jobs almost as frequently.

Jefferson Davis Dagnal was born in 1861, probably in Fort Bend, Texas. His father, a South Carolina native, appears to have died fighting in the Civil War; Jeff (…I call him Jeff…) was 3 years old when his father died. By 1880 he was a teenager, working on a Dallas-area farm. In 1883, Jeff was working as a blacksmith. According to city directories, he held the following jobs: store clerk, laborer, streetcar driver, house-mover, electrician, and bartender.

1905 was the year he seems to have settled into bartending, a job he held in various establishments in Deep Ellum for a decade, until his death in 1915. He appears to have owned (or co-owned) only one of these bars: Fritts & Dagnal. It seems the venture with partner E. G. Fritts was short-lived: its only listing is in the 1906 directory — by 1907 Jeff had moved on, tending bar elsewhere.

1906-directory_dagnal_saloon_fritts-and-dagnal_673-elm

The saloon was listed in the 1906 city directory as being at 673 Elm — that address was changed in 1911 and became 2603 ½ Elm. This was in Deep Ellum, at the northeast corner of Elm and Good (possibly on the second floor). Below is a 1905 Sanborn map showing the location (the full map is here).

673-elm_fritts-and-dagnal_sanborn_sheet-42_1905_det
1905 Sanborn map, detail

The lot that building stood on at Elm and what is now Good-Latimer is empty, but a current-ish look at the location, from Google Street View, can be seen here (I am attempting to post a view from 2015, before all the construction work was going on near the Elm and Good-Latimer intersection — but just move up or down Elm a bit on Google and you’ll see construction images take over).

Below, a couple of ads from around the time Jeff Dagnal and E. G. Fritts decided to start up their short-lived saloon at 673 Elm: the first ad shows that it was not unusual in 1905 for large livestock to be kept in Deep Ellum (where they might even have been “rustled”), and the second ad shows that both the upstairs and downstairs spaces of the building at 673 Elm were available to rent:

1905_673-elm_strayed_dmn_051305Dallas Morning News, May 13, 1905

1906_673-elm_for-rent_dmn_050606DMN, May 6, 1906

(According to the Inflation Calculator, those 1906 rents of $20 and $40 would be about $550 and $1,100 in today’s money.)

Jefferson Davis Dagnal died in Dallas on Feb. 25, 1915. His death certificate — with information provided by his daughter, Cora — listed his occupation as “blacksmith,” even though he had been a bartender (and, briefly, a saloon owner) for at least the last ten years of his life.

1915_dagnal_death_dmn_022615
DMN, Feb. 26, 1915

*

One interesting thing about Mr. Dagnal, was his relationship with his wife Alice, the mother of his second child, Clarence, who was born in 1893. Alice and Jeff appear to have hit a rough patch in their marriage pretty early on. In the 1900 census, they were living in different cities, and each claimed to be widowed. I don’t know if they ever officially divorced (or even if they officially married), but I suppose it was easier in that era to claim a spouse had died rather than admit the shame of divorce or abandonment. By 1903 both were living in Dallas — at the same address. But by 1904 they were living apart, and Alice was, again, claiming to be a widow — even though an alive-and-kicking Jeff was listed in the directory right under her name!

1904-directory_dagnal_alice-and-jeff1904 Dallas directory

I have come across this phenomenon so frequently that I now question every “widow” or “widowed” claim I come across. Information from the U. S. Census (where people give false ages and incorrect marital status ALL THE TIME) should be taken with a grain of salt!

***

Sources & Notes

Photo of Jefferson Dagnal’s saloon was shared with me by Dagnal’s great-great-grandson, Brent Burton and is used here with his permission. Jeff is probably in the photo — in 1906 he would have been 45 years old. Thank you for the great photo, Brent!

All images are larger when clicked.

*

Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Eccentric Medford Compound On the Old Eagle Ford Road: 1945-1950

medford_trinity-cafe_west-dallas_FB_dallas-historyYou need it, he’s got it… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, 409-413 Singleton Blvd. in West Dallas, not long after the name of the street had been changed from Eagle Ford Road. The name-change happened in 1942 because of “unfavorable incidents in the past which had been associated with Eagle Ford Road” (The Dallas Morning News, April 26, 1942) — “Singleton” was Vernon Singleton, a former Oak Cliff County Commissioner. Today, this area is part of the super-hipstery Trinity Groves neighborhood; the block seen in the photo is now mostly occupied by a parking lot and looks like this.

Back then, “Eagle Ford Road” would have conjured up all sorts of unsavory images of bad behavior and illegal activities, and, even now, one tends to think immediately of the area’s most notorious exports: Bonnie and Clyde. Immediately after World War II, the population of West Dallas (an area which would not become part of the City of Dallas until its annexation in December, 1952) was about 12,000, and its residents were generally poor and living in substandard housing with inadequate water and drainage and little in the way of sanitary facilities.

The “complex” above — which consisted of, basically, the Trinity Cafe, a grocery/drug/dry-goods store, and a residence — was perhaps a bit more colorful than most of the businesses that lined Eagle Road/Singleton Blvd. in post-war West Dallas. The property was owned by Richard Elbert Medford (1864-1950), who, as one of the signs says, was also known as “The Rev. R. E. Medford, Preacher” (although I’m not sure if he was an actual ordained minister or just a self-styled preacher). In 1944 or 1945 — after several years of selling mattresses — Medford took over the collection of rickety buildings seen in the photo above, and began to sell a wide-ranging collection of unrelated stuff and painted a lot of signs. He remained in business there until his death in 1950 at the age of 86 (the cause of death was “senile exhaustion” which I gather means “died of old age”).

The signage in the photo is … well … it’s fantastic. It’s verging on Outsider Art. Medford offered everything, including (but not limited to):

  • Real estate
  • Beer
  • Notary Public services (deeds, mortgages, birth certificates…)
  • Keys
  • Appliance repair
  • Lawn mowers
  • Oil
  • Fish bait (minnows, crawfish, worms, and “flys”)

He also offered religious advice (“Repent & Be Babtised By Emmersion For Your Sins You Will Be Saved”).

Mr. Medford’s personal life was not a happy one, and perhaps the unrelenting family dramas caused him to become more and more eccentric as the years went by. Many of his children found themselves caught up in the crime and violence West Dallas had become known for.

  • One teenage son was shot and wounded during an attempted robbery in 1930, two months before one of his daughters married at the age of 13.
  • Another son, who was 11 years old, was killed when he attempted to intervene in a fight between his sister and her husband and was fatally kicked in the abdomen by his brother-in-law.
  • Another son was a habitual criminal who committed an eye-popping range of crimes and was in and out of city, county, state, and federal correctional facilities throughout his life. (This son, Homer, was also married for a short time to the ex-wife of Clyde Barrow’s brother L. C. Barrow, but that marriage hit the skids when she shot Homer, sending him to the hospital with critical —  but not fatal — wounds.)
  • And in 1951, after Rev. Medford’s death, the son who had been shot in 1930 while attempting to break into a store in Irving, shot and killed his wife and young son before killing himself.

So, yeah, Rev. Medford’s life was a rough one, and there were definitely some dark days in hardscrabble West Dallas. I’d like to think his store, plastered with its kooky signs, offered him some respite from the incessant melodramas percolating all around him.

medford_trinity-cafe_west-dallas_1940sSingleton Blvd., late 1940s, not yet part of Dallas

*

The location of the Medford house/cafe/store, seen on a 1952 Mapsco (click for larger image).

medford_1952-mapsco1952 Mapsco

***

Sources & Notes

I came across the photo years ago on the Dallas History Facebook group. There was no source, but there appears to be a copy of this photograph in the Jim Doster Collection at the Dallas Pubic Library titled “Meford [sic] Trinity Cafe on Singleton Blvd.,” incorrectly dated as 1930 (call number PA97-7/147). I’m sure a higher resolution image of this would offer up quite a few amusing details and discoveries.

*

Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Ray Hubbard Estate, Lakewood

ad-evervess_mrs-ray-hubbard_1948_detA country estate in the heart of Lakewood, 1948… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Lakewood has a lot of beautiful homes — large and small — but the (very large) Raymond E. Hubbard estate at the corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Brendenwood Drive is quite the show-stopper. Built in 1934, the two-and-a-half-acre property is about a mile from White Rock Lake and was known for years for its spectacular landscaping and gardens, much of which was the personal handiwork of owner Ray Hubbard (1893-1970). Hubbard amassed his wealth as an independent oilman during the boom years, but he was known in his later life for his lengthy tenure as president of the Dallas Park Board.

From a 1938 Dallas Morning News article:

Mr. Hubbard is that phenomenon known as a natural tiller of the soil. In the short space of two years he has taken a barren hill and transformed it into a blaze of beauty in the form of a rock garden he designed himself. In the symphony of color, he has even had the subtlety to plant a few onions because there is a blue-green cast to the leaves of the onion that is found in no other plant. Carnations, pansies and pinks mingle in profusion as well as a thousand other oddities you have never seen the likes of  before. (“Edens in Preview,” DMN, April 10, 1938)

In 1948, his wife, Janet Hubbard, was seen in an ad for Evervess Sparkling Water, with photos of both Mrs. Hubbard and a view of the impressive “backyard” of their Lakewood home. (Click ad to see larger image.)

ad-evervess_mrs-ray-hubbard_1948Saturday Evening Post, 1948

I came across this ad a few years ago but had no idea where the house was located or who Ray Hubbard was, other than the probable namesake of the lake which bears his name (the Rockwall-Forney reservoir was named Lake Ray Hubbard in January, 1967, in honor of Hubbard’s devotion to civic affairs and his decades-long service to Dallas parks). I was surprised to learn that this was the somewhat mysterious and foreboding-looking house I’d passed years ago, looking run-down and deserted, surrounded by overgrown shrubs and bushes. The 2012 Google Street View looked like this:

hubbard-house_google-street-view_oct-2012Google Street View, Oct. 2017

Back then the overgrown approach to the house looked like this, and was probably something of a thorn in the side of the Lakewood Boulevard residents.

Since Google Street View was so out-of-date, I decided to drive by the house today to see what it looked like in 2018. It’s beautiful!

hubbard-house_lakewood-blvd_031519_PBphoto: Paula Bosse

The reason for the transformation? The property was bought and restored by Hunter Hunt (grandson of one-time richest man in the world — and White Rock Lake resident — H. L. Hunt) and his wife, Stephanie Hunt. And they did a wonderful job! If I had some, I’d raise a toast to the couple with an ice-cold glass of Evervess Sparkling Water!

ray-hubbard-estate_google-earth_2017
Google Earth, 2017

*

hubbard_ray-e-hubbard_find-a-grave

Even though I now know who Ray Hubbard was, I’ll probably still find myself unintentionally (and, okay, sometimes intentionally) calling the lake named after him “Lake Ray Wylie Hubbard” (another former Dallas resident of note, but we’ll leave that for another time…).

***

Sources & Notes

Ad found on eBay. This image is from an item offered several years ago, but as luck would have it, another seller has it for sale right now, here. Perhaps if you’re friends with Hunter and Stephanie Hunt, this would make a nice stocking stuffer. (This Evervess advertisement seems to have been part of a 1948 ad campaign featuring society women, their homes, and their favorite sparkling water: another ad, featuring Mrs. Homer Lange and her Chicago home, can be seen here.)

Photo of Ray E. Hubbard is from Find-a-Grave; read a biographical sketch about Mr. Hubbard’s life on the site, here. Not included in this information was that during Hubbard’s 27 years heading the Park Board (1943-1970), the Dallas park system expanded from 4,400 acres to more than 15,000 acres, and the number of parks increased from 54 to 150.

Read about Stephanie and Hunter Hunt and their Hunt Institute at SMU, here.

If anyone knows the original architect of the Hubbard house, please let me know!

For more on Lakewood Boulevard, I really enjoyed the 1992 Lakewood Advocate article “Lakewood Boulevard’s First Resident Looks Back On the Area’s Development; Mrs. Barnett’s Late Husband, Marshall, Built the First House on Lakewood Boulevard in the 1920s,” here.

See a 1932 view of the 7100 block of Lakewood Blvd. (with White Rock Lake at the end of the street), here; this photo was taken two years before the construction of the Hubbards’ house, which would  be built three blocks to the west (Dines and Kraft photo from the Flashback Dallas post “‘Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas,'” here).

*

Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Lighting Menorahs — 1954

hanukkah_texas-jewish-post-122354

by Paula Bosse

Above, a photo of Gilla Silverman and her mother, Devora Halaban Silverman, wife of Rabbi Hillel Silverman, lighting menorahs during Hanukkah, 1954.

Happy Hanukkah!

***

Sources & Notes

Photo from the Dallas-Fort Worth Texas Jewish Post, Dec. 23, 1954. The entire 52-page issue of this special “Chanukah Issue” has been scanned and may be viewed at UNT’s Portal to Texas History site, here. (Click “zoom” to enlarge the pages, click arrows at right and left to move through the issue.)

Rabbi Hillel Silverman arrived in Dallas as the new rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel in 1954 and was a popular and influential member of Dallas’ Jewish community for the decade or so he served here. He may be best known beyond Dallas as “Jack Ruby’s rabbi.”

Read about a 2009 return to the city by Rabbi Silverman in the Texas Jewish Post article by Dave Sorter, “A Golden Opportunity to Reunite” (Oct. 8, 2009), here.

The Texas Jewish Post article introducing Rabbi Silverman to its readership — “Dr. H. E. Silverman Appointed to Head Israel Pulpit” (July 8, 1954) — can found here.

An article focusing on the Ruby family and Dallas (Rabbi Silverman is interviewed) can be found in “Remembering JFK” by Steve North (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, via the Texas Jewish Post, Nov. 21, 2013), here.

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Sometimes I Run”: Dallas Noir — 1973

5-sometimes-I-run_stanley-maupin_hoseStanley Maupin at work…

by Paula Bosse

Several years ago, Robert Wilonsky wrote a Dallas Observer article about the short documentary “Sometimes I Run” — I watched it immediately afterward, and it’s stuck with me ever since. The 22-minute film, shot in 1973 by SMU film student Blaine Dunlap (who also made the fun 1970 Sunset High School film I wrote about earlier this year) shows Dallas Public Works Dept. street flusher Stanley Maupin at his job sweeping the downtown sidewalks late at night, accompanied by a soundtrack of jazz music and Maupin’s philosophical musings. It’s cool, gritty, seedy, nostalgic, and somehow life-affirming, all at the same time. Also, Dallas always looks best at night — the wet streets add a definite noir-ness to the overnight municipal goings-on which were happening when most Dallasites were home in bed. (See the bottom of this post for various sites on which you can watch the film in its entirety.)

It took the opening moments of this film to remind me that, yes, I DO remember (if vaguely) seeing that revolving beam of light shot from the “rocket” on top of the Republic Bank Building. You can see it at about :35. Also included in the film are Franklin’s, the Greyhound Bus station, the Capri movie theater, a late-night-diner, the Mayfair department store, the Municipal Building, Sanger-Harris, and much more. And while Maupin’s philosophical pronouncements might be a bit heavy-handed at times, I have to admit that I could listen to him talk for hours, if only to hear his accent, a Dallas-area trapping of the past that one doesn’t come across nearly often enough these days.

Here are a few screen captures.

2-franklins_sometimes-when-i-run

3-greyhound_stometimes-when-i-run

6-keep-dallas-clean_sometimes-when-i-run

7-diner_sometimes-when-i-run

8-diner-2_sometimes-when-i-run

9-mayfair_sometimes-when-i-run

10-city-hall_sometimes-when-i-run

11-repub-bank-bldg

***

Sources & Notes

The 44-year-old award-winning student film, “Sometimes I Run,” directed by Blaine Dunlap, can be seen in its entirety in several places online: on Vimeo (good sound and video), on YouTube (via South Carolina Arts Commission), and at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (from the collection of the Dallas Municipal Archives). Sound by Ron Judkins, music by Ken Watson.

More on filmmaker Blaine Dunlap can be found in “Spotlight on Dallas Filmmakers: Blaine Dunlap” by Laura Treat, here.

I have tried to find some history on Stanley Maupin, but I didn’t come up with much. He lived in Irving as a boy, but as a teenager, he attended North Dallas High School and, later, McMurry College in Abilene.

maupin-stanley_NDHS_1953
North Dallas High School yearbook, 1953

maupin-stanley_mcmurry-college_1956_freshman_portalMcMurry College yearbook, 1956

Born in 1935, he appears to have died in 1985, perhaps in a shocking way (which I have been unable to verify) — see comments from his grandchildren in the YouTube video here.

Some background on the film can be found in an article by Don Clinchy, here.

Read a 1986 interview with Blaine Dunlap (by Bo Emerson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct. 24, 1986) here.

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Historic Neon: The Super-Cool Sigel’s Sign

sigels-neon-sign_greenville-ave_072717One of Dallas’ favorite neon signs… (photo: Paula Bosse)

by Paula Bosse

I stopped by Sigel’s liquor store the other day (as one does…) and saw this legendary Sigel’s sign, recently installed in its new home in the parking lot of the Sigel’s store on Greenville Avenue, between Lovers Lane and Southwestern Boulevard, across from the Old Town Shopping Center. I love this neon sign. (See a very large image of it here.)

The sign’s design can be traced back to Dallas artist Marvin M. Sigel (whose great-uncle Harry Sigel founded the business in 1905) — this Fabulous Fifties design was created around 1953 specifically for the then-new store at 5636 Lemmon Avenue (at Inwood). When that store closed in 2009, the sign was refurbished and moved up to the company’s Addison location until that store fell victim to the company’s bankruptcy and was closed. Here’s a video of the fabulous sign when it was in Addison, with close-ups of its flashing neon and dancing bubbles:


*

Marvin Meyer Sigel was born in Poland in 1932 and settled in Dallas in 1937 with his immigrant parents, both of whom had been doctors in Poland (his mother a dentist, his father an M.D.), although only his father continued to practice medicine in the United States. He lived in the vibrant Jewish enclave of South Dallas and went to Forest Avenue High School where he seems to have been a popular kid, interested in art, drumming, and ROTC. Below, a photo from the 1949 yearbook with the caption “Marvin ‘Hot Drums’ Sigel plays with the Swing Band.”

sigel-marvin_forest-avenue-high-school_drums_1949

His Forest Avenue High School senior photo, from 1949:

sigel-marvin_forest-avenue-high-school_1949

And his 1953 senior photo from the University of Texas:

sigel-marvin_university-of-tx_1953_senior

After studying art at both SMU (under Ed Bearden and DeForrest Judd) and the University of Texas and receiving his B.F.A. from UT in 1953, Sigel served a stint in the Eighth Army in Korea. Back in Dallas, he was remarkably active in the local art community — for decades — as both a fine artist and as an art instructor. He also worked for a while at Peter Wolf Associates, in advertising (on projects for companies like Braniff), and he even did a lot of the tedious paste-up work for Sigel’s ads (back when every picture of a bottle of wine or spirits had to be cut out individually and pasted into one of those huge ads!). But his passion was art, and at the same time he had those regular-paycheck gigs, he also managed to maintain a furious pace of painting new pieces to exhibit at a dizzying number of art shows. Below is an example of one of his watercolors, from 1957 (which was recently offered at auction by David Dike Fine Art). The title? “Cocktail Abstraction” — appropriate subject matter for a member of the Sigel family!

sigel-marvin_cocktail-abstraction_1957_david-dike-fine-art_jan-2016
“Cocktail Abstraction” by Marvin Sigel (1957)

When the Sigel’s Liquor store No. 7 opened at Lemmon & Inwood, it was suggested by family members that, hey, we have an artist in the family, let’s get Marvin to design a sign for us. According to Marvin, his cousin Sidney Sigel, who ran the company, probably just wanted a “rectangular sign with block letters,” but other family members wanted something newer and more exciting — something modern that would jump out of a sea of boring rectangular signs with block letters and draw attention. And it certainly did just that. If, as reports have it, that dazzling neon sign was designed in 1953, Marvin Sigel was only 21 years old!

When news broke 56 years later, in 2009, that the Lemmon & Inwood store was closing, there was a concerned uproar from the public about what would happen to the sign. Mr. Sigel was a bit taken aback by how much the people of Dallas had grown to love that sign and considered it a city landmark. Marvin Sigel, then 77 years old, said in a 2009 Dallas Morning News interview, “It was clever, but I figured it would be replaced by something more clever in a half-dozen years.”

The sign was built by the venerable Dallas firm of J. F. Zimmerman & Sons (est. 1901) who for generations had installed decorative neon elements all around town and had built innumerable lighted signs for companies big and small — their work could be seen on the Mercantile Building’s wonderful tower, on the exterior of the downtown Titche’s store on Main Street, and in the instantly recognizable signs for places as varied as the Cotton Bowl, Big Town, and, presumably, various other Sigel’s stores around the city.

The sign which was moved from Store No. 7 at Lemmon & Inwood to Addison had on its pole a small plaque (seen here) which said:

This Non-Conforming Sign designed by Marvin Sigel was built in the early 1950s. It was moved from Dallas, TX at Lemmon Ave. & Inwood. After being granted a variance it was refurbished to Code and installed here in June of 2009. Sign refurbished and installed by Starlite Sign of Denton, TX.

Interestingly, the plaque on the new location of the sign has a slightly different text:

sigels-sign-plaque_greenville-ave_072717

It appears that this is a different Sigel’s sign. In 1965, there were two Sigel’s stores on Lovers Lane: Store No. 8 was along the Miracle Mile on West Lovers Lane, near what is now the Dallas North Tollway, and Store No. 12 was on East Lovers Lane at Greenville (then near Louanns nightclub).

sigels-stores_1965-dallas-directory
1965 Dallas directory

In an April 22, 2009 Dallas Morning News article by Jeffrey Weiss (“The Story Behind That Sigel’s Sign”), is this quote from Mr. Sigel’s son, David S. Z. Sigel, about the original sign at Lemmon & Inwood, with mention of another similar sign: “He created the designs for this sign, as well as a similar but smaller sign which stood outside the Lovers Lane store (where Central Market now stands) for many years.” Here’s a map from a November, 1964 grand opening ad for the new store at 5744 E. Lovers Lane:

lovers-lane_new-store_110664
Detail from a grand opening ad, Nov. 6, 1964

So is the sign currently standing in the parking lot of the Sigel’s Fine Wines & Great Spirits at 5757 Greenville Avenue the sign which originally stood only a short four-tenths of a mile away? I hope so! And if it is, welcome back to the neighborhood, cool sign!

Whichever sign this is, it is one of the greatest neon designs Dallas has ever had, and I’m so happy it’s survived for over a half-century, through phenomenal city growth, physical displacement, and even company bankruptcy.

Thanks, Marvin, for designing this wonderful sign! And thanks, Starlite Sign of Denton, for the beautiful refurbishing!

***

Sources & Notes
*

Top photo and photo of blue plaque taken by me on July 27, 2017 at the Sigel’s store at 5757 Greenville Avenue.

YouTube video by Andrew F. Wood, shot in Addison in 2013.

Sources for other images as noted.

The Zimmerman & Sons nameplate can be seen on the original Lemmon & Inwood sign here (click to enlarge), posted on Flickr by Tim Anderson (a detail of his photo can be seen below) (there is another Zimmerman nameplate posted in the comments on that Flickr page); what appears to be a Zimmerman plate is on the side of the sign at the Greenville Avenue location facing the store’s entrance, not on the side seen in my photo at the top.

zimmerman-nameplate_sigels-sign_lemmon-inwood_flickr-det

Please check out the Dallas Morning News article in the DMN archives titled “Sigel’s Sign Designer Surprised by Its Fame — Project for Family’s Liquor Store Wasn’t a Hit with Boss, He Recalls” by Jeffrey Weiss (April 28, 2009) in which Marvin Sigel discusses his famous sign.

Also, check out these related (online) DMN articles:

  • “Sigel’s Beverages, A 111-Year-Old Dallas Chain, Filed for Bankruptcy; Wants to Close 5 Stores” by Maria Halkias (Oct. 21, 2016), here
  • “Sigel’s Iconic Neon Sign Returning to Dallas After Years Wasting Away in Addison” by Robert Wilonsky (March 27, 2017), here

If anyone can verify that this sign is, in fact, the sign from Store No. 12 (Lovers & Greenville), please let me know!

UPDATE: Marvin Sigel died on Feb. 23, 2019 at the age of 87 (his obituary is on the Dallas Morning News website, here). After I wrote this post, Marvin’s son, David, contacted me to let me know his father had seen this and was delighted to know that people still appreciated his work. This was one of the most popular posts of the year. People absolutely still love your sign, Marvin! RIP.

sigels-sign_rain_bosse_121520photo: Paula Bosse, 2020

sigels-sign_night_bosse_121520photo: Paula Bosse, 2020

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Cowtown Extra: Fort Worth Zookeeper Ham Hittson and His Forest Park Friends

FW-zoo_hamilton-hittson_fawn_062937_UTAZookeeper Hittson and tiny friend… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today, Fort Worth. I was looking for photos of the old Forest Park in Oak Cliff (which was renamed Marsalis Park in 1925) and came across photos of the Forest Park Zoo. A search on the internet showed me that there was also a Forest Park Zoo in Fort Worth. I’ve never actually been a big fan of zoos, but I saw the photo above and was won over by its sheer cuteness. So let’s just take a little trip westward and enjoy some photos of cute animals, most of which feature zookeeper Henry Hamilton (“Ham”) Hittson.

Ham Hittson (1912-1966) began working as a zookeeper at the Forest Park zoo in the early 1930s — if his obituary is correct, he became the zoo’s director in 1933 — at the age of only 21! During World War II he served for two years in the Coast Guard, assigned to work with sentry and attack dogs and with patrol horses. After the war he returned to the zoo (he was the director of the zoo for 21 years) and eventually became the director of the Fort Worth Park Department. His 1966 obituary (he was only 54 when he died) noted that he was instrumental in forming the Fort Worth Zoological Association. And, well, these photos are very sweet.

(All photos are from the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Click pictures to see larger images; click the link below each photo for more information.)

*

The photo at the top is my favorite — it shows Hittson with a tiny fawn born the previous day. The photo above and the one below were taken on June 29, 1937.

FW-zoo_hamilton-hittson_fawn_062937-b_UTAMore info here

Below, Hittson with a new baby lion cub named Will (June 29, 1939).

FW-zoo_hamilton-hittson_lion-cub_062939_UTAMore info here

Actor Jimmy Stewart stopped by the zoo on May 22, 1953 to check out the zoo’s new rhinoceros, Marilyn Monroe. F. Kirk Johnson, zoological board president, is at the left and Hittson, then park department director, is at the right.

FW-zoo_jimmy-stewart_052253_UTAMore info here

Back to Ham’s zookeeper days: in the photo below (taken on August 2, 1940), he’s standing with one of the zoo’s top attractions, an elephant named Queen Tut. He’s bidding her farewell as he is about to leave for New York where he will pick up a baby elephant to be her companion. (Hittson and the zoo’s veterinarian brought the one-year old elephant back with them in a trailer — they must have attracted a lot of stunned looks along the highway as they drove back from New York.)

FW-zoo_hamilton-hittson_elephant_080240_UTAMore info here

The arrival of this new elephant was big news — there were almost daily updates in the pages of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In order to buy the elephant, the zoo had had to take out a loan from the bank, and in what was both a speedy way to pay off the debt and a clever way to garner publicity, there followed a successful drive to raise money to pay off the “mortgage” — countless school children happily did their parts by contributing pennies, nickels, and dimes in the fundraising effort and then flocked to the zoo to see the newest member of the zoo family and welcome her to Fort Worth.

And here’s Queen Tut with her new little pal, Penny, on September 10, 1940.

FW-zoo_queen-tut-and-penny_091040_UTAMore info here

Awww.

***

Sources & Notes

There are tons of photos of the Forest Park Zoo in the UTA Libraries Special Collections, here (20 pages’ worth!).

Click photos to see larger images.

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Roth’s, Fort Worth Avenue

roths_cook-collection_smuSign me up, Mr. Roth… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

When I see a building like this, I always hope I can find a photo of it somewhere, but all I’ve been able to come up with is this energetic rendering from a 1940s matchbook cover. Roth’s (which was advertised variously as Roth’s Cafe, Roth’s Restaurant, and Roth’s Drive-In) was in Oak Cliff, on Fort Worth Avenue. It opened in about 1940 or ’41 and operated a surprisingly long time — until about 1967. When Roth’s opened, its address was 2701 Fort Worth Avenue, but around 1952 or ’53 the address became 2601. (I think the numbering might have changed rather than the business moving to a new location a block down the street.)

During World War II, Mustang Village — a large housing development originally built for wartime workers (and, later, for returning veterans) — sprang up across Fort Worth Avenue from the restaurant. It was intended to be temporary housing only, but because Dallas suffered such a severe post-war housing shortage, Mustang Village (as well as its sister Oak Cliff “villages” La Reunion and Texan Courts) ended up being occupied into the ’50s. Suddenly there were a lot more people in that part of town, living, working, and, presumably, visiting restaurants.

As the 1960s dawned, Mustang Village was just a memory, and Roth’s new across-the-street neighbor was the enormous, brand new, headline-grabbing Bronco Bowl, which opened to much fanfare in September, 1961. I don’t know whether such close proximity to that huge self-contained entertainment complex hurt or helped Roth’s business, but it certainly must have increased traffic along Fort Worth Avenue.

Roth’s continued operations until it closed in 1967, perhaps not so coincidentally the same year that Oak Cliff’s beloved Sivils closed. Ernest Roth, like J. D. Sivils, most likely threw in the towel when a series of “wet” vs. “dry” votes in Oak Cliff continued to go against frustrated restaurant owners who insisted that their inability to sell beer and wine not only damaged their own businesses but also adversely affected the Oak Cliff economy. The last straw for Sivils and Roth may have been the unsuccessful petition drive in 1966/1967 to force a “beer election” — read about it here in a Morning News article from Aug. 17, 1966).

As far as that super-cool building seen at the top — I don’t know how long it remained standing, but when Roth’s closed, a mobile home dealer set up shop at 2601 Fort Worth Avenue, and mobile homes need a lot of parking space….

The building on the matchbook cover above is, unfortunately, long gone (as is the much-missed Bronco Bowl); the area today is occupied by asphalt, bland strip malls, and soulless corporate “architecture” (see what 2701 Fort Worth Avenue looks like today, here).

*

The man behind Roth’s was Ernest W. Roth, a Hungarian immigrant who had worked for many years as maître-d’ at the Adolphus Hotel’s tony Century Room. He decided to go out on his own, and around 1940 he and his business partner Joseph Weintraub (who was also his brother-in-law) opened the Oak Cliff restaurant which boasted two dining rooms (with a seating capacity of 350, suitable for parties and banquets), fine steaks, and a live band and dancing on the weekends. Ernest’s wife Martha and their son Milton were also part of the family business. When the restaurant opened, there wasn’t much more out there on the “Fort Worth cut-off,” but the place must have been doing something right, because Roth’s lasted for at least 27 years — an eternity in the restaurant business. It seems to have remained a popular Oak Cliff dining destination until it closed around 1967.

*

The real story, though, is the Roth family, especially Ernest’s mother, Johanna Roth, and even more especially, his older sister, Bertha Weintraub.

Johanna Rose Roth was born in 1863 in Budapest, where her father served as a member of the King’s Guard for Emperor Franz Josef. She and her husband and young children came to the United States about 1906 and, by 1913, eventually made their way to San Antonio. In the ’40s and ’50s she traveled by airplane back and forth between San Antonio and Dallas, visiting her five children and their families — she was known to the airlines as one of their most frequent customers (and one of their oldest). She died in Dallas in 1956 at the age of 92.

Johanna’s daughter Bertha Roth Weintraub had a very interesting life. She, too was born in Hungary — in 1890. After her husband Joe’s death in the mid ’40s, a regular at her brother’s restaurant, Abe Weinstein — big-time entertainment promoter and burlesque club empresario — offered Bertha a job as cashier at the Colony Club, his “classy” burlesque nightclub located across from the Adolphus. She accepted and, amazingly, worked there for 28 years, retiring only when the club closed in 1972 — when she was 82 years old! It sounds like she led a full life, which took her from Budapest to New York to San Francisco to San Antonio to Austin and to Dallas; she bluffed her way into a job as a dress designer, ran a boarding house in a house once owned by former Texas governor James Hogg, hobnobbed with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Liberace, was a friend of Candy Barr, and, as a child, was consoled by the queen of Hungary. She died in Dallas in 1997, a week and a half before her 107th birthday. (The story Larry Powell wrote about her in The Dallas Morning News — “Aunt Bertha’s Book Filled With 97 Years of Memories” (DMN, Nov. 17, 1987) — is very entertaining and well worth tracking down in the News archives.)

weintraub-bertha-roth_texas-jewish-post_021590
Bertha Roth Weintraub

I feel certain that the extended Roth family found themselves entertained by quite a few unexpected stories around holiday dinner tables!

***

Sources & Notes

Matchbook cover (top image) is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info is here.

Photo of Bertha Weintraub is from The Texas Jewish Post (Feb. 15, 1990), via the Portal to Texas History, here.

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Mimi Payne Aldredge McKnight

ABS_mimi_bookcaseMimi, with books… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Mimi Aldredge McKnight (née Mildred Payne) died this week. She was an important person in the story of my family — she and her then-husband, Sawnie Aldredge, Jr. owned The Aldredge Book Store on McKinney Avenue, where my parents met and worked for many years and which, for my brother and me, became pretty much a second home. When Sawnie died, Mimi continued to run the store and kept my father, Dick Bosse, on as manager. My father ended up owning the store, and when he died, he had worked at The Aldredge Book Store for almost 45 years. Even when Mimi’s involvement with the store was minimal, she still kept in touch, and she and my father were always on very friendly terms.

I knew Mimi mostly when I was a child, and my memories of her are happy ones. I remember her laugh and her voice most of all. She always seemed like a lovely, friendly woman, and my parents were both very fond of her.

The photo below is how I remember her — talking animatedly on the phone (she and my mother, Margaret, were champion telephone talkers, and I remember them both working at that desk, and talking and talking and talking on that phone).

mimi_phone_texas-parade_feb-1961

I ran into Mimi a few times as an adult. We’d usually just exchange quick pleasantries and ask how various family members were — but I always hoped I’d have the chance to sit down and have a long conversation with her someday. Sadly, that didn’t happen, but I’m so happy that my brother, Erik, and I have reconnected with her children, Amy and Trip Aldredge, and that we’re all friends. The four of us share nostalgic childhood memories of each other’s parents and of that old creaking house on McKinney — a house so crammed with books that the medical section had to be shelved in the bathroom. I can’t imagine a better childhood that one spent growing up in a bookstore.

Goodbye, Mimi — I’m so glad you were a part of my family’s life.

**

In one of those wonderful unexpected discoveries I’ve made while looking for something completely unrelated, I stumbled across this photo of little Mildred Payne as a baby and was happier about it than I might have expected. (Click photo to see a larger image.)

1929_mimi_dmn_061429
1929

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized Mimi had been a real-life, honest-to-god debutante (probably the only debutante I’ve ever met) and that her mother was a member of Dallas’ famed Volk retail family. She grew up in a very nice house, built by her father, Robert I. Payne, in the Perry Heights area of Oak Lawn. If you’re famiiar with Oak Lawn, you’ve probably seen the plantation-like house at 4524 Rawlins (at Hawthorne), designed by architect Ralph Bryan in 1936. (See the house today on Google Street View, here.)

Sawnie Aldredge, Jr. (son of a Dallas mayor) opened The Aldredge Book Store in 1947 at 2800 McKinney Avenue (at Worthington) in an old house built in the 1880s or 1890s (this was several years before Sawnie and Mimi married). The picture below is from around 1960. This was before my time, but I seem to remember it looking less overgrown and less … shabby! It was much larger than it appears in this photo. Below the photo, the store’s early logo. (I’m not sure when the house was torn down — maybe in the ’80s? The lot was vacant for quite some time, as I reall. The block is painfully unrecognizable today. Today it looks like this.)

aldredge-book-store_texas-parade_feb-19611960-ish

ABS_logo_1947

A few years ago, when my brother and I were closing the store, I came across a guestbook from the first year of business and was happy to see that on Dec. 15, 1947, a 19-year-old Mimi Payne visited the store with her mother, Mrs. R. I. Payne. Little did she know that seven years later she’d be married to the proprietor of the store and — for a while — living in that house, battling for personal space amongst all those damn books!

aldredge-book-store-guestbook_1215471947

sawnie_mimi_desk_1961Sawnie and Mimi, 1961

The photo below is one I really love — it was taken in 1958 at the Sale Street Fair, an annual antique street market which ran at the same time as the Neiman-Marcus Fortnight (in 1958 Neiman’s was celebrating Britain). This shows Mimi manning the bookstore booth. My mother told me that she and Mimi (and probably everyone else there) passed the time sitting on the curb, sipping cocktails supplied by friendly neighborhood antique dealers. Sounds great!

ABS_mimi_sale-street-fair_1958Sale Street Fair, Mimi and a browsing London bobby, 1958

ABS_sale-street-fair_1958
Oct., 1958

In 1975, another chapter of Mimi’s life opened when she married esteemed SMU law professor Joe McKnight, to whom she had been married for 40 years at the time of his death in 2015. One interesting highlight was that Joe and Mimi — through their friendship with international bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, etc.) — were featured as characters in his Sunday Philosophy Club/Isabel Dalhousie series. He talked about putting them in one of his novels in a 2006 interview:

Isabel’s mother was American, and she has a cousin of her mother in Dallas, [who is based on] a real person… I was a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University and I’ve got very good friends there, a wonderful couple called Joe and Mimi McKnight, who I’ve made the cousin of Isabel in this book. I have Joe and Mimi coming to Edinburgh, and Mimi plays a large part in the story. So, I’m writing a real person into the story, which is great fun.

A woman who spent a number of years in the early part of her life selling books certainly deserved to be transformed into an entertaining character in a bestselling book in the later part of her life!

***

Sources & Notes

Photos and clippings from the Aldredge Book Store archives and the Aldredge family, unless otherwise noted.

A couple of the photos above come from a profile of The Aldredge Book Store in a magazine called Texas Parade (Feb. 1961): “100,000 Books … Old and New” by Joe Swan. See the full article and photos in a PDF, here

aldredge-book-store_texas-parade_feb-1961_spread_sm

Mimi McKnight died April 3, 2017; her obituary is here.

D Magazine wrote about Joe and Mimi McKnight and their connection to Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith in the June 2007 article “Muse, Thy Name is McKnight,” here. The photo below (by Elizabeth Lavin) is from that article.

mcknights_joe-and-mimi_d-mag_june-2007
2007 (D Magazine)

Other Flashback Dallas posts concerning The Aldredge Book Store can be found here.

*

mimi_wedding_announcement_101054_det
1954

Most photos larger when clicked.

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

%d bloggers like this: