Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Military

Soldier Fishing from a Viaduct — 1948

soldier-fishing-viaduct_feb-28-1948_DPLHope this isn’t dinner…

by Paula Bosse

A soldier in uniform, sitting on the concrete railing of a viaduct, casting into the Trinity. 

When I posted this in a Dallas history group several years ago and asked which viaduct is shown, there was no consensus — Houston Street was mentioned most often, but just about all of them got several votes!

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Sources & Notes

I can’t remember where I came across this photo (which is dated Feb. 28, 1948), but it is from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

World War I Cadets, Commerce Street — 1918

ww1_cadets_commerce-street_1918_natl-archives_fullStanding at attention in the 2100 block of Commerce

by Paula Bosse

Great photo by John J. Johnson showing high school cadets standing in formation in the 2100 block of Commerce Street — the view is to the west (the Adolphus Hotel can be seen all the way at the end of the street, on the right). Here are a couple of zoomed-in details (click to see larger images).

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The official Records of the U.S. War Department description of this photo:

ww1_cadets_commerce-street_1918_natl-archives_description

The buildings in the foreground are, amazingly, still standing — over a hundred years later (a rarity for downtown Dallas buildings). See the same view today on Google here.

The Ajax Rubber Co. building the cadets are standing in front of is the “Waters” building (2117 Commerce), which has been very nicely restored by the East Quarter people:

ww1_cadets_commerce-street_google-street-view_2020Google Street View, Feb. 2020

Below, a clipping from the 1917 Dallas directory, showing the businesses on Commerce between Pearl and Preston (now Cesar Chavez):

ww1_cadets_commerce-street_1917-dallas-directory

Two years after this photo was taken — in 1920 — the Magnolia gas station (better known as the KLIF building) was built on the spot the cadets were looking at. See that building in the post “Magnolia Gas Station No. 110 — 1920.”

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Sources & Notes

This photo, titled “Dallas High School Cadets,” was taken by Dallas photographer John J. Johnson (usually seen as Jno. J. Johnson) on June 11, 1918. It is from the American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs 1917-1918, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs 1860-1952, National Archives — more info on this photo can be found on the National Archives site here.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on World War I can be found here.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Awaiting the “Victory Fair” of 1946…

sfot_victory-fair_ebay_1946

by Paula Bosse

Many of us are missing the State Fair of Texas, canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time the fair was canceled was during World War II. Here is an ad from 1945, assuring everyone that the State Fair would be back in 1946.

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Dallas Texas Victory Fair in ’46

Since the day we turned the entire facilities of our grounds and buildings into a base for military operations, officials and management of the STATE FAIR OF TEXAS have been dreaming and planning for the time when more than a million people would again throng the nation’s greatest annual exposition. Now those long-made plans are becoming realities that will focus the eyes of North and South America on Texas in 1946!

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Sources & Notes

Ad found on eBay (originally published in the “Billboard Cavalcade of Fairs,” Dec. 1, 1945).

More Flashback Dallas posts on the State Fair of Texas can be found here.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Influenza Pandemic Arrives in Dallas — 1918

influenza-epidemic_love-field_1918_natl-archivesIn line at the Love Field “spraying station” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I write this as the U.S. is bracing for the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus which has just been declared a world-wide pandemic by the World Health Organization — this inescapable news item reminds me of a previous post I wrote about the local response to another major epidemic. In 2014, Dallas (of all unlikely places) was ground-zero in the U.S. for a feared Ebola outbreak — back then I wondered how Dallas had handled health crises in the past, specifically the spectre of the Spanish Influenza, which, like the coronavirus, swept around the globe. So I wrote “When the Spanish Influenza Hit Dallas — 1918,” and I have to say, it was pretty interesting. The flu first hit the regional military bases during World War One: Love Field, Camp Dick at Fair Park, and Camp Bowie in Fort Worth. It wasn’t long before people beyond the WWI camps were contracting the Spanish Flu, and then it just spread and spread and spread.

The photo above, from December, 1918, shows Love Field military personnel waiting in line to be “sprayed” — the caption reads:

Love Field, Dallas, Texas: Preventative Treatment against influenza.
The line at the spraying station.

influenza-epidemic_love-field_1918_natl-archives_INFO

Here’s the throat-sprayer waiting inside the tent:

spanish-influenza_love-field_otis-historical-archives_nmhm_110618Love Field, Nov. 6, 1918

spanish-influenza_dmn_100118_sprayingDallas Morning News, Oct. 1, 1918

I’m not sure how effective this spraying was, but the advice given to Dallasites in 1918 is still good today: wash your hands, keep your surroundings clean, and do not spit in streetcars!

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the National Archives at College Park; more info is here.

Second photo, showing the inside of the “spraying station,” is from the Otis Historical Archives, National Museum of Health and Medicine; more info is here

For a more detailed post about how Dallas dealt with the Spanish Influenza, read the 2014 Flashback Dallas post “When the Spanish Influenza Hit Dallas — 1918.”

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Marching to Mess — 1918

ww1_fort-dick_fair-park_marching-to-mess_roller-coaster_1918_natl-archivesNot your typical boot camp setting… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, Camp Dick, an Air Service training camp which took over Fair Park during World War I. The War Department caption of this 1918 photo:

Camp Dick, Dallas, Texas: Men marching to mess after evening parade. Roof in foreground is the Officers’ house.

At the right is a roller coaster, a popular ride when the State Fair of Texas (rather than the U.S. military) is occupying the park.

Here’s a photo from 1911:

state-fair_street-scene_john-minor_1911_cook-colln_degolyer

When Preston Sturges trained at Camp Dick — well before he became a legendary Hollywood writer and director — he and his fellow cadets did not let that roller coaster go to waste. He wrote this in his autobiography, Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges:

Out on the parade ground, boys fell over from [the intense heat] all the time and had to be revived with cold water and a sponge. Nights we would climb up the shaky apex of the large roller coaster in the corner of the fairgrounds to try to find a breeze.

An unexpected perk of basic training.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the National Archives at College Park; more info is here.

State Fair photo is a real photo postcard, taken by John R. Minor, and is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info is here.

More Flashback Dallas posts on Camp Dick can be found here.

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Orphaned Factoids: Year-End Grab Bag, 2019

cyclone-twister_tornado_cigars_1928_ebay“Looks crooked but smokes straight…”

by Paula Bosse

As another year crawls to an end, it’s time to collect the odd bits and pieces that have  piled up over the past few months which struck me as interesting or funny or… whatever. I had nowhere else to put them, so they’re going here! (Most images are larger when clicked.)

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First up, the ad above for the “Cyclone Twister” 5-cent cigar, distributed by Dallas wholesaler Martin L. Richards in 1928. Note the shape of the cigar. “Looks crooked but smokes straight.” Probably looked a little strange when smoked. I guess it might help break the ice at parties. Found on eBay.

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Here’s a nice little crest for SMU I’ve never seen — I’m not sure how long this lasted. From the 1916 Rotunda yearbook.

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M. Benedikt & Co. was the “Headquarters for Hard-to-fit-men” — in other words, they specialized in “Right-Shape clothing for Odd-Shape Men.” Here are a couple of examples of what they might consider “odd-shape men” in an ad from 1899.

benedikt-clothiers_odd-shape-men_dallas-fire-dept-souvenir_1899_degolyer-lib_SMU

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This is an interesting selection of ads from a 1968 edition of the Yellow Pages: Dewey Groom’s Longhorn Ballroom, Louanns, El Zarape Ballroom, the It’ll Do Club, the Bamboo Room at the Tower Hotel Courts, the Chalet Club, and the Tamlo Show Lounge (a couple of these show up in the…um… informative story “The Meanest Bars in Dallas” (D Magazine, July, 1975).

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I’ve been working in the G. William Jones Film and Video Archives at SMU for the past few months, and this was something I came across while viewing a 1960 WFAA-Channel 8 News clip which made me really excited (it’s an awful screenshot, but, what the heck): while covering a car wreck at Corinth and Industrial, the Ch. 8 camera panned across the scene, and in the background, just left of center, was a very tall sign for the Longhorn Ranch, which I’d never seen before. Before it was the Longhorn Ranch it was Bob Wills’ Ranch House, and after it was the Longhorn Ranch it was the Longhorn Ballroom (more history of the legendary honky-tonk is in a Texas Monthly article here). So, anyway, it’s a fuzzy screenshot, but I think it’s cool. (The footage is from June, 1960 but the clip hasn’t yet been uploaded online.)

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Speaking of WFAA footage in the Jones Film collection, there was some sort of story about comely young women in skimpy outfits handing out samples of some sort of food to passing pedestrians on Commerce Street (the one-minute clip is here). In addition to seeing sights associated with downtown streets in 1962 (including businesses such as Sigel’s and the Horseshoe Bar, as well as a large sign advertising the Theatre Lounge), I was really happy to see a few Braniff Airways posters in a window — I love those late-’50s/early-’60s Braniff travel posters! So here’s another screenshot and, below that, the Texas-kitsch poster I was so happy to see in color.

braniff-poser_oil-well_jones-film_SMU_041262

braniff-poser_oil-well_ebayBraniff Airways, Inc., Copyright 1926 2019

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I don’t have an image for it, but I was amused to learn that in 1969 the powers-that-be at the Texas Turnpike Authority nixed the suggestion that the Dallas North Tollway be renamed in honor of president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had recently died — the idea was turned down because 1) new signage would have been very expensive, and 2) officials were afraid that “irreverent motorists” would inevitably refer to the toll road as the “Ike Pike” (I know I would have!).

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Not Dallas, but there’s always time for a little love for Fort Worth: here’s a nice ad from 1955 for a 22-year-old Fort Worth DJ named Willie Nelson, back when he was gigging out on the Jacksboro Highway with his band the Dumplin’ Eaters.

nelson-wilie_FWST_090955Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sept. 9, 1955

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Apparently there was a time when ladies were uncomfortable patronizing an establishment in which m*n served them ice cream, so this ad from 1899 made sure to note that “lady clerks” were in attendance. (See the back side of the Willett & Haney Confectioners parlor a couple of years before this ad, when the “cool and cozy parlor” was located on Main Street — it’s at the far left in this circa-1895 photo detail from this post.) The parlor was owned by John B. Willett and John S. Haney, and in addition to ice cream and candy, their specialty was oysters, and I can only hope that there was some experimenting with new food combos involving mollusks, ice cream sodas, and crushed fruit.

willett-and-haney_ice-cream-parlor_dallas-fire-dept-souvenir_1899_degolyer-lib_SMU

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This is an odd little tidbit from The Dallas Morning News about a couple of cadets from Camp Dick (at Fair Park) and what happened to them when they attended a lecture on “social diseases.” (The jokes write themselves….) Who knew singing and whistling were so therapeutic”

camp-dick_dmn_081718DMN, Aug. 17, 1918

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The caption for this photo (which appeared in the article “Going Downtown to Shop” by Jackie McElhaney, from the Spring, 2009 issue of Legacies): “In 1946, Sanger’s introduced a portable drapery shop. Two seamstresses sewed draperies in this truck while parked in the customer’s driveway.” Now that’s service!

sangers_drapes_legacies_2009

sangers_logo_1947_forward-with-tx
“Forward with Texas,” 1947 ad detail

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Two more. This first was a real-photo postcard I found on eBay. It shows the Pink Elephant cafe on Hwy. 80 in Forney (not Dallas, but pretty close!). I love the idea of Forney having a place called the Pink Elephant — it was quite popular and was in business from at least the 1930s to the 1950s. The card below was postmarked in 1936.

pink-elephant-bbq_forney_ebay_mailed-1936

This photo of the interior is from the Spellman Museum of Forney Museum Facebook page.

pink-elephant-bbq_forney_FB_spellman-museum-forney-history

I wondered if the place was still around (sadly, it is not), and in looking for info about it found this interesting article from 1934 about outlaw Raymond Hamilton, the escaped killer who grew up in Dallas (…there’s the Dallas connection!) and was notorious for having been a member of Bonnie and Clyde’s “Barrow Gang.” (Click to read.)

pink-elephant-bbq_forney_austin-american_102234Austin American, Oct. 22, 1934

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And, lastly, a photo of a young woman which appeared in a German-language magazine, captioned simply “Eine Texas Schönheit (A Texas Beauty).” Is the hair wearing the hat, or is the hat wearing the hair?

texas-beauty_1902

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Previous installments of Flashback Dallas “Orphaned Factoids” can be found here.

Until next year!

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Rubber Stockpile: Forty-One Mountainous Piles of Tires — 1943

rubber-stock-pile_dallas-1943_ebay-det
Guarding wartime scrap rubber, near Love Field…

by Paula Bosse

You don’t see this everyday: a photo of a pile of tires so large it dwarfs the armed guards who stand in front of it. (For that matter, you don’t often see armed men guarding tires.) What’s going on here? All is explained in the accompanying Time magazine article from March, 1943, which appears to have been cut from the magazine and pasted onto an envelope.

rubber-stock-pile_dallas-1943

The article reads:

RUBBER STOCK PILE
Last week a bewildered Dallas motorist stopped to examine this 30-acre stock pile of old tires collected seven months ago by the Rubber Reserve Corp. The 41 mountainous piles, each towering 40 feet high, contained some 30,000 tons of rubber tires. The question puzzling Dallas citizens: why these tires are allowed to deteriorate instead of being converted into reclaimed rubber for tire recapping. The answer, by RRC officials: rubber reclaiming plants located in Ohio are working at capacity from stocks of old rubber collected in the East and Middle West, which are being used first to conserve freight car space. Once these stocks closer to the mills are exhausted, the rubber from Texas will be shipped. Then the 25 armed guards, who watch Dallas’s [illegible] day and night, can go home.

Ah, that mound of tires was the result of one of World War II’s many scrap drives. The national rubber drive ran from June 15, 1942 until July 10, 1942. The government requested that all Americans collect any old or unused rubber items in order to help with the supply of rubber in the U.S. (Japan controlled the bulk of rubber imports, and those imports had stopped when the United States entered the war). Rubber was needed for military purposes, but it was also necessary for essential domestic needs, mainly as tires needed to transport goods and people. Americans were told they needed to treat their automobile’s tires like gold: drive safely, drive slowly, and drive only when necessary — don’t wear your tires out, because you don’t know how long it’ll be until they’re manufactured again and/or how long it will be until large-scale production of synthetic rubber would become a reality. 

defense-needs-rubber_sarah-sundin

scrap-rubber-poster_sarah-sundinPosters via SarahSundin.com

When the rubber drive began, people were basically told that if they collected enough scrap rubber, the dire prospect of nation-wide gas rationing might be unnecessary (at the time only a few states in the northeast had been suffering through the rationing of gasoline) — the thinking was that if the government withheld gasoline that citizens would conserve rubber simply because they were unable to drive as much. Texans really like their cars and trucks, and we have long distances to drive, so it’s no surprise that throughout the rubber drive, Texas out-performed almost every state in per capita tonnage collected. In the first day of the drive, a Dallas gas station at Harwood and Young reported that 4,500 pounds of collected scrap rubber had been left throughout the day by Dallasites performing their patriotic duty. And that was just one day and one gas station! The government was paying a penny a pound, but many people refused payment.

What sorts of things were people dropping off at their neighborhood gas station (the government-directed drop-off points)? Other than used tires, everything you could imagine:

  • Automobile floor mats
  • Galoshes and raincoats
  • Bathing caps
  • Hot water bottles
  • Garden hoses
  • Girdles
  • Doorstops
  • Tennis and golf balls
  • Rings from jelly jars
  • Baby pants
  • Dolls
  • Toy mice
  • Slingshots
  • Soles of athletic shoes
  • Roadside debris
  • Mats found under office furniture and cuspidors

That stuff adds up fast.

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Below are several ads exhorting readers to do their bit for the war effort by collecting and donating scrap rubber during the national rubber drive. (All images are larger when clicked.)

conserve-rubber_ad_nebraska_061642Mobil ad detail, June 16, 1942

Scrap could be dropped off at any service station.

humble-ad_061742_detHumble Oil ad detail, June 17, 1942

If you needed home pick-up service, Sanger Bros. would send a truck.

rubber-drive_sangers_061642Sanger Bros. ad, June 16, 1942

As would Titche’s.

rubber-drive_titches-ad_062142Titche’s ad, June 21, 1942

Reminders to ferret out that rubber were added to many advertisements, as seen in this detail from a larger grocery store ad. (The drive was originally intended to run through June 30, but ended up being extended through July 10.)

rubber-drive_safeway-ad_062642_detSafeway ad detail, June 26, 1942

This appeared in an ad from the men’s and boys’ clothing store Reynolds-Penland.

rubber-drive_reynolds-penland-ad_062642_detReynolds-Penland ad detail, June 26, 1942

As well as things were going in Big D, according to the government, things weren’t going well nationally, and the powers-that-be were more loudly threatening gas rationing for the entire country, including the states which were actually collecting the most, Texas and California.

rubber-drive_austin-statesman_062742
Austin Statesman, June 27, 1942

The deadline was extended until July 10, with hopes that people would knuckle down and collect much, much more. This Neiman’s ad asked the question “What’s rubber got to do with me?” and answered its own question with an emphatic “EVERTHING!” The ad ended with a barn-burner: “We must not be too late with too little. The stake is life and freedom, and civilization itself. When did Texas ever fail in its patriotic duty?”

rubber-drive_neiman-marcus_070342Neiman-Marcus ad, July 3, 1942

The drive ended with Texas and the western states collecting the most scrap rubber. At the very bottom were New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, all of which were already rationing gasoline. Ultimately, FDR considered the rubber drive to have been a failure, but, like the other scrap drives, it whipped up patriotism and resulted in a feeling of shared community as people worked together for the sake of the country — something which might have been more valuable than rubber.

Synthetic-rubber production slowly increased, but, even so, tire manufacturer B. F. Goodrich wanted everyone to continue to make sure their tires lasted as long as possible, because, after all, ” Hitler smiles when you waste miles.”

rubber-drive_b-f-goodrich-ad_071942_detB. F. Goodrich Tires ad detail, July 17, 1942

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So where exactly was that massive used-tire mountain range? According to The Dallas Morning News, it was in a large open field “at the intersection of the MKT Railroad switch and Cedar Springs, just west of the Coca-Cola plant” (DMN, July 13, 1942), between Inwood and W. Mockingbird, not far from Love Field. The map below (from 1949) shows the general location of the yard, marked with a black star.

tire-mountain_1949-ashburn-map_dallas-freeways-site_det1949 Ashburns’ map detail, via DFW Freeways site

Initially, the salvage yard was to be contained on a 13-acre plot of land, surrounded by an 8-foot board fence. There were to be several tall guardhouses, and the “precious pile of vital war material” would  be patrolled 24 hours a day by armed guards “to protect it from fire hazards, thieves, or saboteurs” (DMN, Aug. 6, 1942). The fear of a potentially huge and uncontrollable fire was the main concern — a special fire plug was installed on the property and a direct phone/alarm line to the central fire station was set up. By August, the size of the yard increased by 50% to accommodate the 30 or more freight carloads which were arriving daily with scrap rubber from all over Texas (except the Panhandle). This huge salvage yard was meant to hold the rubber-drive scrap until reclamation plants in Ohio could accommodate it.

Several months later, the Time article put the expanded size of the yard at 30 acres, containing 30,000 tons of rubber material. By January, 1944, it was estimated the mammoth tire graveyard contained a whopping one million tires. Rather anti-climactically, a local tire dealer was contracted by the Rubber Reserve Corporation to “pick out the repairable and recappable carcasses” (DMN, Jan. 23, 1944) which were estimated to number about 150,000 tires; they would then be dispersed to Texas dealers who would either sell  them to consumers or vulcanize them. Despite the frenzied rubber drive of 1942 and almost a year and a half of sitting forlornly in an open field guarded by men with guns, it looks like those tires never made their trip to Ohio.

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The land that these “tire mountains” occupied appears to have been leased from Carl C. Weichsel, member of a noted Dallas pioneer family. 23 acres of the land was sold to the Coca-Cola Company in 1937 — a $1,000,000 syrup plant and warehouses were built on ten of the acres, at Lemmon and W. Mockingbird. (Coca-Cola bought ten more acres in 1947 in order to expand.) A few weeks after the Coca-Cola land-purchase was announced, Dallas County granted the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway right of way across Cedar Springs, just south of Mockingbird, for a switch track to the Coca-Cola plant. 

In the mid 1940s, the Airlawn Industrial District sprang up in this area. The planning and development of Airlawn was spearheaded by none other than the Katy Railroad, beginning when Coca-Cola decided to move to the area. 

The […] plans were drawn up by the Katy’s industrial research and development department with the aid of experts versed in the problems of present day industry. […] The Katy maintains a Diesel switch engine on duty twenty-four hours a day to handle the switching operations in the Airlawn area. One section gang is assigned to this area to maintain the miles of track that interweave the industrial buildings. (DMN, Oct. 9, 1949)

The MKT was working to attract businesses along their lines: they needed the businesses, and the businesses needed them. Win-win! (It’s interesting to note that another major manufacturer that the Katy worked with on securing a location was another soft drink company: the Dr Pepper plant on Mockingbird, near Central.)

Below is a map from 1952 which shows the railroad spurs which were used by the Airlawn businesses. I’m not sure why I find this so interesting, but I do! (Are these tracks still in use?)

airlawn-industrial-district_mapsco-19521952 Dallas Mapsco

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Sources & Notes

First and second image are from an old eBay listing; it appears that someone pasted a Time magazine article (March 15, 1943) to an envelope; the postmark and cancellation shows that it was mailed from Dallas on March 16, 1943, even though there does not appear to be an address on the front or back of the envelope.

A really interesting article on the various WWII scrap drives — “Getting In the Scrap: The Salvage Drives of World War II” by Hugh Rockoff, of the Economics Dept. of Rutgers University — is well worth a read, here. From his abstract: “While the impact of the drives on the economy was limited, the impact of the drives on civilian morale, may well have been substantial.”

Another very informative article on the national rubber drive of 1942 can be found in the post “Make It Do — Tire Rationing in World War II” by Sarah Sundin, here.

See a variety of patriotic posters encouraging Americans to participate in WW2 scrap drives here.

Pertinent Dallas Morning News articles about this rubber salvage yard:

  • “Work Begun on Rubber Storage Plant” (DMN, July 13, 1942)
  • “Close Guard Is Kept On Rubber” (DMN, Aug. 6, 1942 — includes a photo of the yard, similar to the one that appeared in Time magazine)
  • “150,000 Usable Tires Believed Salvageable From Waste Pile” (DMN, Jan. 23, 1944)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

 

Armistice Day Centennial

wwi_cook-collection_degolyer-library_SMU

by Paula Bosse

Today we observe the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, with sincere hopes we never again see a war with such devastating loss of life. Read how Dallas celebrated news of the armistice in the Flashback Dallas post “Armistice! — 1918,” here. More posts on Dallas and WWI can be found here.

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Sources & Notes

“Liberty and the Flag go well together in Dallas, Tex.” postcard is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on this item may be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Preston Sturges: Camp Dick’s Most Famous Former Cadet? — 1918

preston-sturges_camp-dick_dallas_1918
Preston Sturges playing dress-up, Camp Dick, Dallas, 1918

by Paula Bosse

While researching my Veteran’s Day post on Camp Dick cadets, I came across a 1941 Dallas Morning News article about Hollywood screenwriter and director Preston Sturges, whose latest movie The Lady Eve was about to open at the Palace. The article mentioned that Sturges had been stationed at Camp Dick, the WWI aviation boot camp for the U.S. Signal Corps, located in the old racetrack at Fair Park. Preston Sturges — a master of the screwball comedy — is one of my favorite writer-directors (in addition to The Lady Eve, everyone should watch Sullivan’s Travels), so I was interested to find out more about his time in Dallas. I didn’t think I’d find anything but a passing mention of it anywhere, but, surprisingly, it turns out Sturges himself wrote about his Camp Dick days — in a book I actually own and had started but had never finished!

Sturges was sent to Dallas in March, 1918. He was 19 years old. Born in Chicago, he had spent much of his childhood in France, tagging along with his eccentric four-times married bohemian mother who seems to have known every intellectual and artiste of the day (not only was she a close friend of dancer Isadora Duncan and Marcel Duchamp, she had also been romantically involved with Aleister Crowley — you can’t get much more bohemian than that!).

Sturges’ account of his time at Camp Dick (which appeared in Chapter 28 of the posthumously-published Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges) is amusing, describing such things as the heat (“the midday temperature of a Texas summer wasn’t really intended for human beings”), the latrines, and the food. He also remembered the nightmare of the Spanish Influenza pandemic, which was particularly deadly in the close quarters of military camps. (You can read the entirety of Sturges’ memories of his days at Camp Dick here.)

The heat was a real problem for the cadets. One of my favorite images conjured by Sturges’ chapter on the camp is this one:

Out on the parade ground, boys fell over from [the intense heat] all the time and had to be revived with cold water and a sponge. Nights we would climb up the shaky apex of the large roller coaster in the corner of the fairgrounds to try to find a breeze.

One of his memories stumped me a bit, though. He wrote the following about the buildings that stood around Fair Park:

In Dallas, we were sent to a place called Camp Dick, then known as a concentration camp. In a later war, such a facility was called a boot camp. Camp Dick was actually the Dallas fairgrounds with a fence thrown around them. Most of the buildings on the fairgrounds were huge reproductions of the products for sale within them in the prewar days when the fair was open. There was a building in the shape of a gigantic Mazola bottle; another like a huge Gulden’s mustard pot; an enormous Log Cabin Syrup edifice; a massive chili bowl; buildings representing almost anything edible or potable that one could think of….

My last memory of Camp Dick is of standing retreat against the hot sunset, the cadets at attention against the silhouetted background of the massively enlarged Sanka coffee pot, Bromo Quinine bottle and Coca-Cola bottle buildings, and in front of us Lieutenant Pennypacker, more or less at ease on the back of the fiery steed presented to him by the grateful citizens of Dallas.

I’ve never heard of any Fair Park buildings shaped like these things. (There was that giant cash register at the Texas Centennial….) Perhaps Mr. Sturges misremembered? Or indulged in a little fanciful poetic license? Or maybe these buildings DID exist? (And if they did, I’d love some corroboration, ’cause that would be cool.)

Sturges was at Camp Dick only a few months. From there he was sent to  the School of Military Aeronautics in Austin and then to Park Field in Millington, Tennessee. He was in the middle of flight training there when, anti-climactically, the war ended. After several years of working in a family business, he became a successful Broadway playwright and was soon whisked off to Hollywood, where, in 1940, he won the first Oscar ever awarded for screenwriting (The Great McGinty). He was considered then — and is considered now — to be one of Hollywood’s greatest comedic screenwriters.

If you’d like to read Preston Sturges’ memories of training at Camp Dick, mosey on over here. Among other tidbits, you’ll read the amusing story behind the be-goggled photo of Cadet Sturges at the top of this post.

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Sources & Notes

The romanticized photo at the top (the one Sturges wrote about in the book) was taken at Camp Dick in 1918. The quoted passage is also from the book, Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges, His Life In His Own Words, adapted and edited by Sandy Sturges (New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1991). I highly recommend getting this book if you’re a fan of classic Hollywood. You can browse through it on Google Books, here, and purchase it here.

More on Sturges at Wikipedia, here.

Dive deeper: another photo of Sturges taken in Dallas in 1918 appeared in The Dallas Morning News on March 27, 1941 titled “At Camp Dick” — it shows a smiling Sturges sitting in a “dummy pilot seat.” If the photo was taken at Camp Dick, the unnamed photographer must have taken “action shots” as well as portraits of the camp’s cadets which Sturges wrote about in his autobiography. (Sturges writes in his amusing story that none of the cadets had ever been near a plane at that point, but they all wanted to be seen as dashing goggle-and-scarf-wearing flying aces.)

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Children and Cadets: Junior Red Cross Parade — 1918

wwi_jr-red-cross-parade_022218_camp-dick-soldiers_waruntold-siteCadets from Camp Dick march down Elm… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today is Veteran’s Day, a national day of observance which originally began as Armistice Day in 1919 to mark the end of hostilities in World War I. I was thinking of posting something non-WWI-related, but I stumbled across this wonderful photo showing a WWI-era parade down Elm Street and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it. The parade was comprised almost entirely of children who had contributed to the war effort through the Junior Red Cross. The parade was described as “the first parade of children war workers ever held in Dallas.” The number of children (said to represent every school in Dallas) was estimated at up to 8,000 marchers, from kindergarteners to high school seniors.

The parade — which took place on February 22, 1918 — also featured 1,000 or so men based at Camp John Dick, the Air Service training camp at Fair Park. Seeing this parade must have been quite a novelty for Dallasites, as cadets had begun to arrive at Camp Dick only 16 days previously (airmen had been stationed at Love Field a little longer, but only by a couple of months).

Below, I’ve taken the photo from the top and broken it into two halves and then magnified them. The parade was heading west on Elm Street and can be seen here passing Cullum & Boren (1509-1511 Elm), a downtown sporting goods mainstay just a few doors east of Akard. (See a similar view of Elm Street from later that year — in September — from a Dallas Times Herald photo, here.)

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And the children.

wwi_jr-red-cross-parade_dmn_022318Dallas Morning News, Feb. 23, 1918

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DMN, Feb. 22, 1918

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wwi_jr-red-cross-parade_dmn_022318
DMN, Feb. 23, 1918, photo and article

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Sources & Notes

Top photo titled “Cadets From Camp Dick in Red Cross Parade, Feb. 22nd, Dallas, Texas” found on the site War Untold, The Collection of Andrew Pouncey, here (click “continue reading” at  bottom of post).

More on the Camp John Dick Aviation Concentration Camp from The Atlantic in the article “What America Looked Like: Bayonet Practice During WWI” (with a great photo), here.

Other Flashback Dallas WWI-related posts here:

Armistice Day Wikipedia page is here.

All pictures and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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