Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Farmers Market

Peak Season at the Farmers Market — 1951

farmers-market_1951_DPLCute tomatoes… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Some of my favorite summertime memories are wandering around the Farmers Market as a child with my family — back when it was still gritty and still had real farmers and real farm families selling produce actually grown nearby. I loved moving from shed to shed and marveling at everything: the endless baskets of fruits and vegetables, the weather-worn farmers, and a vibrant marketplace comprised of the most diverse crowds I can remember seeing in one place as a child.

This photo — showing Peggy Mayne of Grand Saline selling tomatoes out of the back of her family’s pickup — was taken in 1951, during a summer of fruit and vegetable plentitude. July inventories and sales were breaking records — right before the effects of what would turn into one of the longest and worst-ever droughts in Texas history began to be felt by farmers and consumers.

I miss you, Dallas Farmers Market of yesteryear.


Sources & Notes

Photo from the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library.

More Flashback Dallas posts on the Farmers Market area — which I realize more and more was one the city’s most interesting parts of town — can be found here.

More on the devastating 1950-1957 drought and its impact on everyday life in Dallas can be found in my previous post, “Whither Water? — 1956.”


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Tomatoes, Cokes, Dominoes: Cadiz Street — 1959

farmers-mkt-area_dominoes_portalThe farmers market area in 1959 (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, a photo showing the block of Cadiz Street between what was then the S. Pearl Expressway and S. Central Expressway (now Cesar Chavez). The view is southwesterly, with the (oddly placed) billboards facing toward Pearl.

I’m sure most people considered such a view urban blight in 1959 when this photo was taken, but (I know I sound like a broken record…), I will always prefer this seedy and run-down version of the farmers market area to the current, relentlessly sterilized, pre-fab, insta-city which took its place. By 1961 this little stretch of businesses had been leveled for a parking lot, which, frankly, was probably more of an eyesore than a ramshackle domino parlor with peeling paint.

Below, a photo taken in the same block, about a year earlier. It’s not quite as interesting to look at as the top photo, but it does show that this was a working neighborhood, where vegetable crates frequently spilled into the streets as part of the day’s activities.


*dot-curley-cafe_1958-directory1958 city directory

1957 directory

1960 directory

1960 directory

This part of Cadiz doesn’t exist anymore. Here’s the view from S. Pearl these days, looking east (these businesses would have been on the left).

Here’s a map from 1962, when the area was a thriving wholesale and retail produce district.



Sources & Notes

Both photos are from the  Dallas Farmers Market/Henry Forschmidt Collection, Dallas Municipal Archives, via the Portal to Texas History; the top one can be found here, the bottom one, here.

See other Flashback Dallas posts about the Dallas Farmers Market here — every time I see these great old photos I just shake my head and wish I’d been around to see this part of the city when it was at its grittiest.

Pictures and clippings larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


South Pearl, In the Shadow of Downtown — 1950s

farmers-mkt-area_repub-bank-bldg_1950s_portalSkyscraper vs. paper hat (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Great shot of the Farmers Market area, showing the 400 block of South Pearl. South Pearl intersects with Canton at the light, halfway up the photo. Just past the intersection on the left is the IOOF Oddfellows Temple. And the Republic National Bank Building — which, until 1959, was the tallest building in the city — looms at the top left. (I think this is the same view seen here a decade or so earlier.)

Below, a map of the area today, with an X marking the spot seen in this photo. This area — where all the wholesale produce markets used to be — is now, largely, condos. Call me crazy, but I will always prefer gritty street corners to sterile condos. …Always.

canton_s-pearl_bing(click for larger image)


Photo from the Dallas Farmers Market — Henry Forschmidt Collection 1938-1986, Dallas Municipal Archives; it can be viewed via the Portal to Texas History, here (with a not-entirely correct description).

Map from Bing.

Previous Flashback Dallas posts on the Farmers Market area can be found here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Runyonesque Pearl Street Market, Full of Colorful Characters and an Army of Rats

bob-taylors-cafe_ebayProduce seller, Pearl Street Market (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Last week I wrote about the produce market area in the neighborhood where the Farmers Market was eventually built, mainly because I had come across the above undated and unidentified photograph. I really wanted to know more about this photo, and the more I read about the area known in the ‘teens through the ’50s as the Pearl Street Market, the more I became fascinated by it.

I love this photo, but, sadly, I never found out who cafe-namesake Bob Taylor was, and I never discovered the identity of the man sitting on the sidewalk with his produce. BUT, I did realize that this produce seller was right across the street from one of the biggest wholesale produce sellers in Dallas, the Hines Produce Company. In fact, the photo below might show my mystery man’s view across the street. Both photos show the intersection of the 2000 block of Canton and the 400 block of South Pearl, the heart of the Pearl Street Market.

hines_canton-pearlHines Wholesale Produce Company, Canton & S. Pearl (click for larger image)

These two scenes look so wholesome — produce peddlers selling their fresh fruits and vegetables, quaint old cars and trucks parked along streets that are still vaguely familiar-looking, and the overall old-fashioned-ness of everything — all presented in nice, sharp, black-and-white photographs that always make me feel a little nostalgic, even though I wasn’t actually around back then and have nothing, really, to be nostalgic about.

But “wholesome” is not a word that would have been associated with the Pearl Street Market. In fact, this was a part of town your mother would probably strongly suggest you not visit. Here are a few of the illicit activities that went on here on a fairly regular basis:

  • Brawls in cafes, often involving weaponized broken beer bottles
  • Shootings
  • Stabbings
  • Pick-pocketing
  • Burglary
  • Robberies (of victims both asleep and awake)
  • Gambling
  • Muggings
  • Drug dealing
  • Arson
  • Hit-and-runs
  • Vehicular homicides
  • Regular homicides
  • Prostitution (I’m just guessing…)
  • Shop-lifting
  • Vagrancy
  • Selling another man’s melons and fleeing with the money
  • The occasional being “severed” by a train
  • Etc.

A typical police blotter story went something like this:

[Miss Esther Lee Bean] told physicians she was attacked by another woman who broke a beer bottle on her head and then used the jagged neck of the bottle as a weapon, cutting her several times on the right arm…. The affray occurred in a cafe in the 400 block of South Pearl. (Dallas Morning News, Dec. 17, 1938)

So … yes, very nostalgic.

Crime was a big problem, but what seems to have been even more upsetting to the people of Dallas was the general squalor of the place. Sanitary conditions were appalling. Rotting fruit and vegetables were thrown in the street, and live chickens were kept in cages, doing things that chickens do (which probably shouldn’t be done that close to things people might eat). And there were NO public toilets in the area — visiting farmers (who often bypassed the flea-bag hotels and slept in their trucks — or even on the sidewalks) routinely used the alleys as “comfort stations.” And then there were the rats. LOTS of rats. A staggering number of rats. Rats absolutely everywhere. Typhus? Not just a rumor. City sanitation crews would come by daily to hose the place down, but there was so much solid matter going down the drains that sewers were frequently clogged. It was, in a word, disgusting.

hotel_pearl_1959_portalA typical hotel near Pearl & Canton, a bit cleaner by the ’50s

For years this part of Dallas, just south of the central business district, had been a place where farmers (and produce brokers) had been selling their fruits, vegetables, poultry, eggs, pecans, and whatever else they could haul into town. It was all very informal, and for much of that time it was completely unregulated. This part of town had been the base of the “truck farmers” since at least 1912. Before that, the market was at Pearl and Main, and in the earliest days it was at Ervay and Elm.

In 1914 a city-sanctioned (and presumably regulated) municipal retail market where vendors would sell directly to consumers was proposed, but eventually consumers became irritated that the produce they bought at the municipal market was significantly more expensive than that which could be purchased from the “hucksters” who parked along Pearl Street and roamed residential neighborhoods. The Pearl Street vendors sold primarily to wholesale customers, but over time, they opened up their stalls to the public and did a bustling business with housewives. The wholesale market was hit pretty hard by the 1930s as the number of independent grocers — once the major buyers on Pearl Street — diminished as chain stores took over. Those housewives became more and more important as time went on.

farmers_dmn_071721DMN, July 17, 1921 (click to enlarge)

farmers_dmn_071721a(click for larger image)


farmers_dmn_071721bDMN, July 17, 1921

By the 1920s, the Pearl Street Market was well-established, and it was where one went to buy fresh (and “fresh”) fruits and vegetables. And according to this real estate ad, business was booming:

produce-mkt-dist_dmn_110423(DMN, Nov. 4, 1923)

In 1933, The Dallas Morning News printed a fantastic, full-page, Runyonesque article about the “Pearl Streeters,” written by Eddie Anderson, who interviewed the colorful characters of the area and described the buzzing street life. With tongue only partially in cheek, he wrote: “Chicago has its Water Street. In New York you will find it on Washington. And if you go abroad there is the famous Smithfield Market of London and the vaulted bazars of Constantinople. In Dallas, it is Pearl Street.” Below, a photo that accompanied the story (click for larger image).


Anderson’s story was certainly entertaining, but it mostly glossed over the area’s more unsavory aspects. By 1938, there were louder and louder demands to clean up the neighborhood. Housewives organized and protested the deplorable conditions of the area, echoing points covered in a scathing Morning News editorial in which it was described as “a hazard to the health of the city because of the number of persons who visit it and because 75 per cent of the vegetables and poultry consumed in Dallas pass through that market” (DMN, Aug. 17, 1938).

In the early 1940s, the city finally stepped in and built the fore-runner to the Farmers Market that we know today. By the 1950s, things in the squalor department had settled down a bit, and photos featuring pretty suburban housewives examining the produce and smiling children sampling fresh strawberries.

Nary a rat to be seen.


A street map of the Canton & Pearl area in about 1920, back when Canton Street was still part of an uninterrupted grid. (Note that many of the street names have changed over the years.)



Sources & Notes

Top photo (with Bob Taylor’s Cafe in the background) is from the author’s collection.

Photos of the Hines Produce Co. and the Prestwood (?) Hotel are from the Dallas Municipal Archives’ Dallas Farmers Market / Henry Forschmidt Collection, via the Portal to Texas History. You can browse this great collection here.

Map detail is from the very large “1919 Map and Guide of Dallas & Suburbs” (C. Weichsel Co.), via the Portal to Texas History, here.

The following DMN articles on the Pearl Street Market/Farmers Market are worth a read:

  • “Pearl Street Market in Morning, Dallas’ Most Picturesque and Busiest Place in City” (July 19, 1925)
  • “$1,500 Dope Cache Found Under Pile of Pineapples” (July 15, 1936), a story about a heroin bust with a headline that seems right out of The Weekly World News
  • “Let’s Keep Our Pantry Clean,” editorial by Harry C. Withers (DMN, Aug. 17, 1938)
  • “Dallas: The Old Public Market” by Tom Milligan (Aug. 15, 1966)

And even though I linked to it above, it’s so good and such a fun read that I’m going to mention it again: I highly recommend Eddie Anderson’s “Pearl Street Market As It Sees Itself” (May 14, 1933), here. Edward Anderson was an interesting guy: read about him at the Handbook of Texas here; read about his novels and see photos, here. All these years I’ve had his novel Thieves Like Us on my bookshelf, but I had never gotten around to reading it. Now I have a reason to!

I’ve gathered a pretty entertaining collection of crime reports from the Pearl & Canton neighborhood into one handy document, which can be read in all its seedy glory, here. SERIOUSLY. THIS IS FANTASTIC STUFF!

Most pictures larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Canton Street: Poultry, Pecans, and Future Luxury Lofts

2200-canton_farmers-mkt_portalThe 2100 block of Canton — there’s a lot going on here (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

While reading about the “produce market district” (aka the wholesale fruit and vegetable businesses in the Farmers Market area), I came across the above unlabeled photograph. At first glance I thought the building at the top right was the Adam Hats building/Ford assembly plant, but the neighborhood didn’t look right. But on seeing the two Olive & Myers signs (a manufacturer I have to admit I’d never heard of), this seems to be a view of Canton Street, looking east from Cesar Chavez. The only thing that remains today is that cool building, which now contains pricey lofts and is known simply as “2220 Canton.” Below, the same view today.


The Olive & Myers Manufacturing Company was founded in Dallas in 1899 by two Iowa transplants and became a very successful furniture wholesaler and manufacturer. The company was housed in a large complex of buildings grouped near the Farmers Market; the six-story building seen above was built around 1925. Even though it was quite attractive back then, the building’s current incarnation as super-swanky luxury digs (with a heated rooftop pool) would certainly put those poultry sellers of yore to shame.

The sidewalk chicken coops may be gone, and the neighborhood no doubt smells a lot better, but, I have to say … a seedy and unsavory 1940s-era Canton Street looks a whole lot more lively and interesting than the scrubbed and fumigated 21st-century version.


olive-and-myers_come-to-dallas_degolyer_SMU_ca1905ca. 1905

ca. 1910


olive-myers_centennial-ad_june-19361936 Texas Centennial ad – click to see very large detail of buildings


Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the Dallas Municipal Archives, via the Portal to Texas History. It was included in a large scrapbook — I looked at every single page, which was a bit of a slog, but persistence paid off, and I was rewarded with this incredible photo which was ALL THE WAY AT THE END — p. 166 of 169! The scrapbook page is here. (The Erie Downs Cafe is listed in the 1942 and 1945 city directories as being at 2117 Canton.)

Color image from Google Street View, 2014.

Olive-Myers logo from a 1937 ad.

The circa-1905 photo is from a publication I neglected to note, but which I know is in the collection of the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

The blurry circa-1910 photo is from a publication called “History of an Opportunity: Facts About Dallas and Texas,” accessible in a PDF here; DeGolyer Library, SMU.

The letterhead dated “10-6-14” is from the Spring, 2013 issue of Legacies, via the Portal to Texas History.

For a follow-up post of sorts, I wrote about the darker side of the market area — full of crime and vermin — in the post “The Runyonesque Pearl Street Market, Full of Colorful Characters and an Army of Rats,” here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Shoveling Apples at the Farmers Market — 1958

An apple a day… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Cleaning the streets around the Farmers Market.

All in a day’s work for the City of Dallas Public Works Department.


Photo taken July 23, 1958. From the Dallas Farmers Market – Henry Forschmidt Collection 1938-1986, Dallas Municipal Archives, via the Portal to Texas History; more info on this photo is here.

Click picture for larger image.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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