Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Downtown

The Majestic Theatre’s Centenary

majestic-theatre_tsha_1920sThe Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm Street

by Paula Bosse

The Majestic Theatre opened on Elm Street 100 years ago this week. We’re lucky to still have such a beautiful building, one which we came close to losing in the late ’60s/early ’70s when so many other “old” buildings were being demolished in downtown Dallas.

The Majestic opened at 1925 Elm on April 11, 1921. The promotional blitz was pretty intense: for months the local papers were full of every little tidbit about the building and the grand opening. A pilot was even hired to drop leaflets and float balloons over 25 North Texas towns in order to reach those farther afield who might be outside the Big City theater loop. 

There was a lot of bragging that the showplace theater cost over $2 million, a huge amount of money at the time. That would be about $30 million in today’s money, and there is no way that beautiful, beautiful theater and its luxurious decor could be built today for a mere $30 million.

Like I said, we’re lucky to have it. Happy 100th, Majestic!

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Here it is under construction in 1920:

majestic_under-constructioin_100120_cinema-treasuresvia Cinema Treasures

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Just read this (click to see a larger image):

majestic-theatre_dmn_040321_grand-openingDallas Morning News, April 3, 1921

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At night, just down from the Melba (originally the Hope):

majestic-theatre_night_cinema-treasuresvia Cinema Treasures

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And it still looks beautiful in the 21st century:

majestic-theatre_LOC_carol-highsmith_20142014, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress

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majestic-theatre_2009_wikipedia2009, via Wikipedia

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theater_majestic_052522_where-its-cool“Where it’s really cool” (1922)

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Sources & Notes

More about the history of the Majestic Theatre can be found at Cinema Treasures.

The official theater website is here — check out the upcoming shows!

majestic-theatre_tsha_1920s_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Bird’s-Eye View Down Main Street — 1954

dallas_birdseye_1954_color_ebayMain Street, 1954

by Paula Bosse

A nice color photo showing Main Street, looking west from about Field. For reference, Hotel Southland was in the 1200 block of Main, at Murphy, and Turner’s Clothiers, across the street, was at 1113 Main.

There’s a lot to look at (click to see a larger image). It’s always nice to see a viaduct (top right).

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on eBay.

dallas_birdseye_1954_color_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Thompson’s, 1520 Main — 1916

thompsons_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_XLOpen for business…

by Paula Bosse

Above, the newly constructed building at 1520-1522 Main Street, between Akard and Stone, home to Thompson’s, a national chain of restaurants owned by John R. Thompson of Chicago. It was built and opened in 1916.

thompsons_dmn_071615Dallas Morning News, July 16, 1915 (click for larger image)

The site had previously been the location of the Happy Hour Theater (which can be seen in this photo), the demolition of which was announced in January, 1916. 

1520-main_dmn_010416DMN, Jan. 4, 1916

And it was a beautiful building!

thompsons_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers

Thompson’s remained in this location until the 1930s. When Bond Clothes took over the space in 1938, news accounts rather ominously mentioned that the building would be completely remodeled, inside and out.

Workers are engaged in ripping out the front of the building. An all black glass front will be installed on most of the building and near the top of the second floor glass brick will be featured. Bronze trim will be used throughout. (DMN, Feb. 13, 1938).

All that beautiful glossy white terra cotta “ripped out”!

But things got worse. Much worse. It’s hard to believe, but this is the same building:

1520-main_selzer-assoc_facebook_crop_campisisPhoto from Selzer Associates Facebook page

In recent years, though, Selzer Associates Architects and Nedderman & Associates worked some absolutely stunning restoration magic. (Read the story of the restoration in Texas Architect magazine here, starting on p. 36.) I mean, look:

iron-cactus_google-street-view_feb-2020Google Street View, Feb. 2020

It’s beautiful again! Thank you, magic-workers!

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Sources & Notes

The circa-1916 photograph by Dallas photographer Frank Rogers is from the Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin — more info on this photo can be found here.

See an interior shot of a Thompson’s restaurant in a 1927 photo here.

Read more about the Thompson’s restaurant chain in the following articles:

thompsons_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Aerial View: Movie Row from the Rear

aerial_south-from-pacific_color

by Paula Bosse

This is a cool aerial shot of downtown, looking toward the south, with a nice look at the back side of the waning Movie Row, with the Pacific Avenue rear entrances of the Majestic and Capri theaters visible.  I’m not sure of the date, but the Melba Theater was renamed the Capri on Dec. 25, 1959 and was ultimately demolished in 1980 or 1981, and the Medical Arts Building (seen in the middle at the far right) was demolished in 1977. I’m guessing the ’70s, if only because of the vast expanse of parking lots.

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Sources & Notes

Another instance of muddled/incomplete notes on my end. This is a screenshot from… something. I don’t remember if the image seen here is a photo or is from moving footage shot over Dallas.

majestic from behind aerial screenshot_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Art Landry Is At The Palace — 1927

palace-theatre_u-s-coffee_frank-rogers_1927_DPLMarquees, schmarquees… (Dallas Public Library)

by Paula Bosse

Great photo of the Palace Theatre on Elm and Ervay in November or December of 1927 (“My Best Girl” starring Mary Pickford opened at the end of November and ran for a week or two into the middle of December). The movie seems like a bit of an afterthought, though — I mean… ART LANDRY IS IN TOWN, and his giant 78 disc replica promotional sign is crowding out others on the marquee. The touring jazz-band leader (who insisted he did NOT play jazz music — “I became a bandmaster when jazz was jax. In those days noise was the objective. […] The day of jazz is gone….” ) was nestled here in Big D for the holiday season and was apparently well-received. (See another photo of the Palace from about this same time here.)

palace_art-landry_111327Nov. 13, 1927

palace_pickford_my-bes-girl_112727Nov. 27, 1927

You know how when you get a new car you suddenly start seeing that same model everywhere? I’m like that with the U.S. Coffee & Tea Co. — seen right next door to the theater. (See it here, peeping around the Wilson Building in a squattier incarnation.)

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Sources & Notes

Photo titled “[Palace Theatre, Art Landry exclusive Victor Artist]” — by Frank Rogers — is from the Ted C. Steinberg Collection, Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library, call number PA2018-03-14 (the library has the date this photo was taken as Dec. 27, 1927, but “My Best Girl” was long-gone by then — it was probably taken on Nov. 27, the day after “My Best Girl” opened).

Quote from Art Landry about not being a jazz-band leader is from an interview with him in The Dallas Morning News (“Jazz Is Thing of the Past Says Palace’s New ‘Jazz Band’ Leader Who Specializes in Modern Music” — DMN, Nov. 12, 1927). I can’t find any other instances of early jazz music referred to as “jax” music. Can anyone point me to another reference?

palace-theatre_u-s-coffee_frank-rogers_1927_DPL_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Misc. Streetcars — ca. 1940s

municipal-bldg_streetcar-draughon_ebayStreetcar passing City Hall

by Paula Bosse

A bunch of photos of Dallas streetcars found currently (or recently) listed on eBay.

Above, Commerce and Harwood, looking toward the Municipal Building. Below, Commerce and Harwood, looking south toward First Presbyterian Church.

streetcar-harwood_draughon_ebay

“Main Street” car and “Highland Park-SMU” car, with Cokesbury Bookstore (at St. Paul) in the background:

streetcar_cokesbury_ebay

“Boundary-Union Station” car, heading west on Commerce, with the Baker Hotel in the background (back when it was still a two-way street). “Smash-Up” — the movie advertised on the side of the streetcar — was released in 1947.

streetcar_boundary-union-station_ebay

“Trinity Heights” car, heading west in the 1500 block of Elm:

streetcar_w-a-green_elm-st_ebay

 “Highland Park-SMU” car:

streetcar_hp_smu_ebay

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Sources and Notes

All photos from eBay seller “bksales” (current Dallas streetcar items available from this seller are here).

municipal-bldg_streetcar-draughon_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Nighttime Skyline — 1965

skyline_st-marks-yrbk_1965_dallas-power-and-lightAll. Lit. Up.

by Paula Bosse

Dallas is always at its most impressive at night, as seen in this view to the northwest, with Memorial Auditorium in the foreground.

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Sources & Notes

This photo, credited to Dallas Power & Light, appeared in the 1965 Marksmen, the yearbook of St. Mark’s School of Texas. It continued on another page, but I couldn’t fit the two parts together without an annoying gap. The second bit is below (click to see a larger image).

skyline_st-marks-yrbk_1965_dallas-power-and-light_b

See another cool photo from the same year in the Flashback Dallas post “Dallas Skyline at Night — ca. 1965.”

skyline_st-marks-yrbk_1965_dallas-power-and-light_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Christmas in Dallas” — LOOK Magazine, 1957

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_spread-1

by Paula Bosse

Here are photos from a 4-page spread in the Dec. 24, 1957 issue of LOOK magazine — “Christmas in Dallas,” by David Zingg with photos by Frank Bauman.

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“When Christmas comes to Dallas, the city of oil, boom and shiny limousines becomes a glowing land of magic. Even without snow, the Christmas spirit of Dickens, Bethlehem and Santa Claus seems to take on the 10-gallon dimensions of Texas. Here is a scintillating sampler of Christmas in the modern Southwest.  

 “In the early days of Texas, the arrival of Christmas was often greeted by a fusillade of pistol shots. In some areas, wizened mesquite bushes served as Christmas trees. Guns have since been silenced and trees are easy to get, but the exuberant Texas spirit remains. As always, a booming sense of cheer and joy seems to sweep across the Western plains to brighten Christmas in Dallas.”

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xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_spread-2

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Caption for the photo below: “Santa greets city from skyscraper roof, under gleaming tower.”

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_santa

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“Glittering headdress of store manikin typifies richness of Christmas in Dallas.”

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_headdress

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“Double-exposure contrasts member of Dallas County sheriff’s posse with beacon and lighted-window cross of the Republic National Bank Building.”

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_window-reflection

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“Photographer Frank Bauman captures himself and a window full of toys in a mirror’s golden frame.”

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_toys

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“At Neiman-Marcus, a stuffed tiger carries a fabulous burden of a million dollars in gems.”

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_tiger_neimans

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“Children’s faces pressed against a toy-filled window express the age-old anticipation of Christmas morning.”

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_children_window

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“Busy car lights of Christmas shoppers swirl a colorful pattern around Dallas’s oldest Christmas tree, in Highland Park.” (Sadly, our beloved Pecan Tree is no more.)

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_pecan-tree

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“A fairy makes Christmas come true as she throws candy to children at Oak Cliff Shopping Center.”

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_oak-cliff-shopping-ctr

Merry Christmas, y’all!

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Sources & Notes

All images from LOOK magazine, Dec. 24, 1957, from the collection of the author. Photos by Frank Bauman.

More Christmas posts from Flashback Dallas can be found here.

xmas-in-dallas_look-mag_dec-24-1957_santa_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Hoppy Holidays from Hop-a-Bus — 1984

xmas_hop-a-bus_DART-archives_1984_portalSeason’s Greetings from Dallas Transit System and friend…

by Paula Bosse

Aww, the Bunny Bus — surely Dallas Transit System’s most whimsical creation. 

The earliest days of the DTS Hop-a-Bus saw a fleet of five, 19-passenger (non-whimsical) mini-buses which shuttled people back and forth across downtown. You could “hop on” and “hop off” for short trips, for a nominal fare (a dime), traveling along Main Street between Houston and Pearl, Monday-Friday, during working hours.

The service was very popular and quickly outgrew the mini-buses — in March, 1976 they went full-size, but ridership of these two large buses was disappointly slow to grow, mainly because people couldn’t tell the difference between the Hop-a-Bus and every other downtown bus. So, in October, 1978, someone, in his or her infinite wisdom, decided to paint the two special buses pink and add a bunny face and aluminum bunny ears (I seem to remember a tail, but I think I’ve added that in my own imagination). Voilà! Instantly recognizable!

At first, a lot of people hated them (describing them as “grotesque”), but pretty soon, downtown denizens fell for their charming appeal, and ridership increased substantially (seriously, you could see those things coming from blocks away!). Tourists loved them: they provided great photo opportunities, and they made getting around an unfamiliar city very easy — when lost, just jump on a pink bus and you’ll probably get to where you need to go.

Photos of the two pink “bunny buses” appeared in newspapers around the country. They even moonlighted at nights and on the weekends when DTS rented them out during off-duty hours — most notably to the pink-loving Mary Kay corporation and to the bunny-loving Dallas Playboy Club (which used the buses to ferry patrons from the Central Expressway club to Dallas Cowboys games).

The iconic (yes, “iconic”!) buses amused and delighted Dallasites until November, 1986. The bunny-bus fleet had increased to five 1966 GMC buses (at one point there had been as many as seven), and even though the fare had increased to 25 cents, they were still very, very popular with the public. But the pink buses were discontinued at the end of 1986 and sold. And, let’s face it, the streets of downtown Dallas have never been quite the same. Imagine if they were still around (and they SHOULD be!) — Instagram would be overrun with millions of bunny bus photos.

Below are a few photos and a video of our decades-gone transit pal, the cute, friendly Bunny Bus. RIP.

hop-a-bus_birnbaum_ad-valorem-infinitum_SMU_screenshotvia Ad Valorem Infinitum (screenshot)

hop-a-bus_curbside-classic-dot-comvia CurbsideClassic.com

hop-a-bus

hop-a-bus_pinterestvia Pinterest

hop-a-bus_clarion-ledger_jackson-miss_020284Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MI, Feb. 2, 1984

hop-a-bus_bring-back-the-bunny_FB-pagevia “Bring Back the Bunny” Facebook page

hop-a-bus_BW

Here’s a great history of the Hop-a-Bus in an article widely syndicated around the country in 1979 — it was written by Claudia Goad, spokesperson for the DTS (click for larger image).

hop-a-bus_wire-story_apr-1979_photo

hop-a-bus_wire-story_apr-1979_storyby DTS’ Claudia Goad, wire story, April 1979

And, finally, a look at a 1976 Channel 8 story on the month-old Hop-a-Bus, before it was transformed into a bunny (from the WFAA News archives at SMU).


via Jones Film Collection, SMU

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Sources & Notes

Top image is from the Dallas Transit System (DTS) 1985 calendar — the entire calendar can be found at the Portal to Texas History, here, from the DART Historical Archive.

There is a “Bring Back the Bunny” Facebook page, here.

xmas_hop-a-bus_DART-archives_1984_portal_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Victor’s Lounge — 1913 Commerce

victors-bowling-team_bosse-photo
Victor’s-sponsored bowling team

by Paula Bosse

My posting has been a bit erratic recently. My brother and I have been clearing out my late aunt’s home. It’s one of those inevitable tasks that no one wants to have to do, but as sad as it’s been, it’s also been comforting to see glimpses of my aunt’s life that I had only vaguely heard about — or had never heard about. Going through her photos, I see what a full life she had, how much she traveled, and that she had decades-old friendships.

One of the places she talked about with great fondness was, of all things, a bar: Victor’s Lounge, which was at 1913 Commerce Street, directly across from the Statler Hilton. The Dallas Morning News described it as “a favorite with the downtown office crowd.” My aunt worked for an insurance company in the Mercantile Building, and nearby Victor’s was the place where she and her co-workers gathered after work (and, I think, for lunch). She even participated in a ladies’ bowling league on a team sponsored by her favorite hang-out. The photo at the top shows the team of fun-looking women (my aunt Bettye Jo is on the far right). She still had the crisply-ironed shirt in her closet! 

victors-bowling-shirt_bosse-photo

Victor’s was opened by Victor Ballas (who later opened the Purple Orchid a block away at 2016 Commerce). Born in New York, Ballas arrived in Dallas as a child, went to Forest Avenue High School, and had several businesses, one liltingly called “Ballas of Dallas.” My aunt said he always looked after his customers, especially the single women when they were being aggressively hit on by male patrons. Ballas died on Christmas Day, 1971 of a heart attack — he was only 53.

Victor’s opened as a cocktail bar in 1957 or 1958 with a regular piano player (for many years it was Tony Rizzo), but ads indicate that it became more of a restaurant than a bar in the 1960s.

victors_april-19591959

The Commerce Street location closed in 1971 — it was replaced at the end of that year by the Wild West Saloon, another cocktail bar (but one which included topless entertainment). 

I heard so much about Victor’s over the years from my aunt that when I recently stumbled across odd shots of the place in random film footage I was pretty excited

I wish we could have gotten a drink there together, Bettye Jo. And maybe hit the lanes at your favorite alley and bowled a few frames.

victors_sfot-parade_1960s_jones-film-collection_SMU

victors 2 dmn film SMU

victors dmn film SMU

victors_1962-map_det1962 (click to see larger image)

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Sources & Notes

Top photo and photo of bowling shirt from the collection of Paula Bosse.

The three color images are screenshots from films in the G. William Jones Film Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University. The first is from the WFAA NewsFilm Collection, the second and third from a promotional film for The Dallas Morning News; all are from the 1960s.

Map is a detail from a 1962 map featured in the Flashback Dallas post “Map of Downtown Dallas, For the Curious Conventioneer — 1962.”

victors-bowling-team_bosse-photo_sm

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Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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