Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Love Field

Love Field Aviation Camp, World War I

WWI_love-field_water-tower_ca-1918_degolyer-library_SMULove Field, with water tower, 1918

by Paula Bosse

On Memorial Day, a few photos of Love Field, which began as an aviation training camp during World War One. Read more on its history in an article by the City of Dallas Office of Historic Preservation, here.

WWI_love-field_marching-drills_ca-1918_degolyer-library_SMUvia DeGolyer Library, SMU

WWI_love-field_pilots_nov-1918_degolyer-library_SMUvia DeGolyer Library, SMU

WWI_love-field-aviation-camp_1918_LOCvia Library of Congress

WWI_love-field_flying-officers_1918_LOCvia Library of Congress


Sources & Notes

Top photo is from the collection “Love Field Air Corps Training Depot and Dallas Aviation School, Texas” at the DeGolyer Library, SMU; more information on this photo can be found here. The second and third photos are from this same collection and are linked directly below the images. (The entire collection can be viewed here.)

More on WWI-era Love Field can be found in the 2014 Flashback Dallas (Valentine’s Day) post “From Deep in the Heart of Texas, I Give You Love Field — 1919.”

If you would like to support my work, please consider following me on Patreon for as little as $5 a month — I post exclusive content there daily.



Copyright © 2023 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.


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!


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.”



Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Two Color Home Movies Featuring Downtown Dallas and Love Field — 1940s

love-field_dallas-aviation-school_perisccope_croppedDallas Aviation School, Love Field

by Paula Bosse

I’m a sucker for old home movies, and these two circa-1940s films are pretty cool — the first one has shots taken around Love Field and the second one has views of Main Street and Elm Street, full of traffic, pedestrians, and streetcars. Best of all, both are in color!

The Love Field film shows several of the businesses operating in Love Field, including the Dallas Aviation School, seen above in a screenshot from the film. Also seen is the building below, which appears to have housed offices for Delta Air Lines, Braniff Airways, and American Airlines. I’ve never seen this odd-looking building.


Also seen are these two signs:



Below is the two-minute silent video:


The second video contains a lot of non-Dallas things (imagine!), but the first minute and a half were shot moving east down Main and Elm streets. (The Elm Street footage is, for some reason, really sped up — if you want to be able to focus on anything, I suggest fiddling with the YouTube settings and slowing the playback speed to .25.)

Here are a few screenshots — first, looking east down Main, approaching Akard:


And here’s a view of Elm Street, also shot from just west of Akard:


And here’s a stretch of Elm you don’t see all that often in historical shots of downtown — Elm east of Harwood (the “camel” sign is for the Campbell House hotel on the southeast corner of Elm and Harwood):


The video is here, with the first minute and a half shot in Dallas (and, seriously, turn the playback speed down!):


Sources & Notes

All images are cropped screenshots from home movies from the Periscope Films archive — the Periscope page with more info on the Love Field film is here; the page with more info on the downtown Dallas film is here.

Thanks to Dallas author Rusty Williams for pointing me to the Periscope website! Check out Rusty’s history books here.



Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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

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.


The article reads:

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. 


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.


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.

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


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.


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


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)



Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved


Dobbs House: Love Field’s Airport Restaurant

love-field_dobbs-house-restaurant_ebayDallasites’ favorite airport restaurant… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Dobbs House was a national restaurant and catering company, found chiefly in airports (although they did have non-airport restaurants, and at one point they had bought out the Toddle House chain). When the “new” Love Field terminal opened in 1940 (see the heart-stoppingly beautiful Art Deco front entrance at night, here), it had what was probably a very nice, perfectly serviceable, 24-hour restaurant. It was rather unimaginatively called “Airport Restaurant,” and it seated about 75 in the coffee shop and 100 in the dining room. And its “modern  blue and yellow leatherette furniture” was probably delightful.


A lot of people probably enjoyed a hot cup of coffee while seated on that modern leatherette. But in 1944, the Hull-Dobbs company waltzed in and took over the restaurant and catering business and agreed to pay the city what seems like a miniscule $500 a month (about $7,000 in today’s money). The administration building, which housed the restaurant, was undergoing remodeling at the time, and I guess the city was giving the company something of a break. In 1945, though, Hull-Dobbs began to pay 5% of their gross revenue to the city, rather than a flat monthly fee. (I’m guessing that 5% was quite a bit more than $500.)

Business was good. REAL good. It was almost too good, because almost every newspaper article which mentioned the restaurant (called Dobbs House, part of a national chain) noted how busy it was and how it was almost impossible for a person to find an empty seat. It was known for its good food (see a 1955 menu here), and one of the main reasons it was always crowded was because local people dined at the restaurant, taking up precious seats intended for hungry travelers. Dallasites loved to drive out to the airport for a nice meal, followed by a leisurely couple of hours watching airplanes take off and land.

But, basically, Love Field had become a major metropolitan airport, and its success — and the resulting increase in traffic and the overall crush of humanity — meant that everyone was running out of space.

The airport had outgrown its beautiful 1940 Art Deco terminal, and a new, equally heart-stoppingly beautiful terminal opened in 1958. Dobbs House moved into its more spacious quarters with a freshly signed ten-year contract. …And by now they were paying a whole lot more than $500 a month. According to a January, 1957 Dallas Morning News article, the restaurant offered a high bid of just over $15,000 a month to retain the restaurant concession at the airport.

The restaurant and catering business were not all that the Dobbs company was running. Not only did they have a “swanky” restaurant at the new terminal, they also had a non-swanky restaurant and a basement cafeteria. They also had, at various times, control of the following concessions: cigar, shoeshine, gift shop (including apparel, candy, and camera shops), and … parking (!). This was on top of their land-office business catering and restauranting. James Dobbs knew a thing or two about business — he didn’t get fantastically wealthy just selling 15-cent cups of coffee and black-bottom pie….

via Dallas Love Field Facebook page

In 1958, Dobbs House opened the exotic Luau Room, which served Polynesia cuisine. This was another Dobbs eatery that was very popular with Dallasites, and it lasted many, many years.

via eBay

The Luau Room was a sort of early “theme” chain from the Dobbs people, and it was a feature at several Dobbs House-served airports. The photo below might be the Dallas location. Might be Charlotte, or Orlando, or Houston.

via Tiki Central — check out the comments

Dobbs House  was a fixture of the Dallas airport/restaurant scene for a surprisingly long time. Dobbs House was still at Love Field in the 1980s — possibly into the ’90s. And when Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport opened, the Dobbs people slid right in. DFW was huge — and they had control of everything. (Alcohol sales alone must have been enormous!)

For D/FW’s first two decades, a single company operated all of the bars and restaurants that generate about $40 million in sales each year. Dobbs House had the food and beverage contract from 1974 until 1993, when Host Marriott Services took over the operations. (DMN, May 22, 1996)

Dobbs House was in business here for almost 50 years. That’s a pretty good run for a restaurant in Dallas. (And I hear their cornbread sticks were to die for.)


Sources & Notes

Top photo showing Dobbs House Restaurant at Love Field found on eBay several months ago.

Airport Restaurant menu (ca. 1940-1944) found on eBay, here.

The Dobbs House cornsticks recipe is contained in the 1960 book How America Eats by Clementine Paddleford — used copies are out there, but they are surprisingly expensive. But from what I hear, if you want that recipe, it’s probably worth it!

An interesting side note about James K. Dobbs, head of the company that bore his name: even though he was a resident of Memphis, he actually died in a Dallas hospital in September, 1960, having been sent here for asthma treatment, and having recently suffered his second heart attack. He was 66. His company had grown to include about 125 restaurants at the time of his death. He had also made huge sums of money in automobile dealerships.

Photos and clippings are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


American Airlines, Planes-a-Plenty — 1951

american-airlines_russell-lee_briscoe-1“Dallas Terminal” / ©Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

by Paula Bosse

A few photos of Love Field, hangars, and American Airlines airplanes, all taken in 1951 by Russell Lee for a story in Fortune magazine.






Photos ©Dolph Briscoe Center for American History; all photos are by Russell Lee from the collection of his photographs at the University of Texas at Austin. I am unable to post links because I can no  longer find them on the website (!).

This time pictures aren’t larger when clicked. All apologies to fans of the wonderful Russell Lee, for these less-than-crisp images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Love Field, The Super-Cool 1950s Era

love-field_1957Welcome to Dallas Love Field!

by Paula Bosse

Above, fantastic drawing, 1957.

Below, fantastic photo, 1957.


And, below, fantastic-er photo. 1959. Just too cool.



Sources & Notes

Top two images completely lifted from a blog post by architect Jacob Haynes, here.

Bottom image from … somewhere else, long forgotten.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

MLK in DFW — 1959

mlk-DFW-102259_calvin-littlejohn_briscoeDr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in DFW (photo © Calvin Littlejohn Estate)

by Paula Bosse

A couple of photos of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on a quick trip to Dallas and Fort Worth in late October, 1959, taken by the wonderful Fort Worth photographer Calvin Littlejohn. The above photo is from Oct. 22, 1959 and was, I believe, taken after his speech at the Majestic Theatre in Fort Worth. Below, a photo of Dr. King taken at Love Field.



Sources & Notes

Top photo by Calvin Littlejohn, from the Littlejohn Photographic Archive, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Mr. Littlejohn took several photos of Dr. King that visit, the locations of which are listed here — giving a good indication of the itinerary of the visit. I saw no mention or coverage of this visit in either The Dallas Morning News or The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Second photo from the TCU Press Facebook page.

A nice overview of Calvin Littlejohn’s career and a few of his photographs can be found here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Oak Downs: Dallas’ Brief Flirtation with Greyhound Racing

oak-downs_hurst_bwOak Downs greyhound track, ca. 1935 (photo courtesy Robert Hurst)

by Paula Bosse

Robert Hurst has shared three great photos with me: the one above, and the two below. They show Oak Downs, a greyhound racing track that he thought might have been in Oak Cliff. A dog track? In Dallas? That was news to me. Mr. Hurst came across the photos a few years ago when going through the belongings of his grandparents, Lt. Col. and Mrs. C. W. Newman. As far as he knew, they had no particular interest in dog racing, and he wasn’t sure why they would have been in possession of photos of a greyhound track. I was a little hesitant to delve into anything having to do with dog racing, but these wonderful photographs piqued my interest. (For the faint of heart, this post focuses almost exclusively on the somewhat vague and constantly changing laws on parimutuel betting in Texas, with very little on the troubling aspects of greyhound racing.)

oak-downs_grandstand_day_hurst_bwGrandstand, daytime (click for larger image) (courtesy Robert Hurst)

oak-downs_grandstand_night_hurst_bwGrandstand, nighttime (courtesy Robert Hurst)

The track was located not in Oak Cliff, but right across the street from Love Field — an area that was “north of the city” in the 1930s. It was to the west of the airfield, with the address listed, popularly, as Maple Avenue, but officially as Denton Drive (just north of Burbank Road).

aerial_oak-downs_smu-foscue_1930s1930s (Edwin J. Foscue Map Library, SMU)

aerial_oak-downs_google2014 (Google Maps)


The first mention I can find of greyhound racing in Dallas was in 1898 at events held at the Fair Park horse racing track — the “sport” then was “coursing.” I don’t want to go into it, but live hares and jackrabbits were used, and it didn’t end well for them. (Competitive coursing is, I believe, now illegal in Texas, but open-field coursing is considered hunting and is legal.)

The first professional greyhound racing track to take the “blood” out of “blood sport” by utilizing an electric rabbit lure, was in California in 1919. The first track in the Dallas area to use an electric rabbit seems to have been one that opened near Grand Prairie in 1928; the news stories made sure to mention that there would be no wagering going on because, unlike other states where dog racing had been going on for some time and was quite popular as a gambling sport, parimutuel betting was not legal in Texas. Racing at that early track doesn’t seem to have lasted very long — probably because the spectators were not allowed to wager on the contests. Another track opened just outside Fort Worth at Deer Creek in 1934 (right after Texas had legalized betting on horse races in 1933), but, again, it doesn’t seem to have lasted long.

So, in the early ’30s, Texas was not really a hot-bed of dog racing enthusiasts. What was popular was horse racing — the two most popular tracks in the area were the Fair Park track in Dallas, and Arlington Downs in Arlington. The state legislature had voted in 1933 to allow parimutuel betting on horse races, hoping to raise revenue in the dark days of the Depression. People might not have been able to afford a new pair of shoes, but they managed to scrounge up money to bet with. Gambling on horse races was big business. But betting on dog races? Was it legal, too? It sounds like the law was surprisingly vague. Dog racing was not expressly written into law as being illegal — but people just seemed to understand it to be illegal. Proponents of greyhound racing — the so-called “Sport of Queens” — were adamant that they would force the state to address the issue and clarify the law — they would sue if they had to. A track in San Antonio had taken its case to a State Court of Appeals (after having been shut down by local authorities), and the court ruled that parimutuel wagering at dog tracks in Texas was not illegal. A precedent had bet set, and a few dog racing tracks began to open around the state, their owners and operators feeling they were relatively safe from prosecution.

In early 1935, 31-year old Winfield Morten, a “wealthy sportsman” who owned several businesses and a lot of Dallas real estate, decided he’d open a greyhound track on his 40 acres of land along Maple Ave./Denton Dr., just west of Love Field. He received his state business charter in May, 1935 (just days after the San Antonio ruling), and he made plans to open his dog racing “plant” — Oak Downs — in June. As they said back then, “pari-mutuel betting would be fully in vogue.”

Many people did not want a dog racing track in Dallas (or anywhere in Texas, really). Owners of horse tracks (and the powerful people who were in bed with them) feared that they’d lose some of that sweet gambling moolah to the upstart “dogmen.” Outside the racing world, there was the fear/expectation that with dog tracks would come the inevitable gambling and sleazy criminal element. (Dog racing was generally seen as somehow more unsavory and déclassé than horse racing, which is odd, because the horse racing industry has never been known as a squeaky-clean one.) Also, apart from the gambling-related issues, many people were probably aware of (and disturbed by) persistent accusations of animal mistreatment. Interestingly, at this same time — during the first few months of 1935 — none other than Mickey Mouse was involved in a comic strip story arc that lasted several weeks in which he was hanging out at a dog track training his dog Pluto for a race. It wasn’t long before the comic strip (which was usually full of typical comic strip silliness and gentle humor) turned surprisingly dark, and Mickey found himself involved in a world of doping, gambling, extortion, and threatened violence (!). If Walt and Mickey were against the evils of dog racing, shouldn’t everybody be? I wonder if the strip was reflecting public opinion or shaping public opinion?

mickey_021935Poor Zowie! (Originally run Feb. 19, 1935)

mickey_020535Mickey’s in a tough spot (click to enlarge) (Feb. 5, 1935)

Not only was the prospect of a “seedy” dog track unpalatable for many in an image-conscious city gearing up for its upcoming Centennial-Exposition-moment in the national spotlight, but there were those who were still convinced that gambling on anything but horse races in Texas was illegal — despite what the appeals court had ruled in the San Antonio case. Several interested district attorneys from around the state petitioned the State Supreme Court for a definite ruling. In the meantime, Dallas D.A. Robert L. Hurt and Dallas County Sheriff Smoot Schmid (greatest name in law enforcement EVER) threatened to shut down the not-yet-opened Oak Downs if it allowed wagering. Battle lines were drawn, and both sides believed they were in the right.

Track manager Jack Thurman said the city’s threats didn’t scare him. He’d open as scheduled, with plans for a full season of 48 days of racing (every day but Sunday), sleek hounds, an electric rabbit, and full-tilt betting. The day before Oak Downs was scheduled to open, its operators wisely obtained an injunction against Hurt (and, basically, the Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Rangers), which prevented the track from being shut down — they would open without fear of incident, under full legal protection of a court order. Not a happy guy, Hurt said he would file a motion to dissolve the injunction … immediately!

Oak Downs opened on June 18, 1935 to a large crowd of curious spectators, most of whom had never seen a dog race. The betting windows were open, but there was little betting. There were problems with the electricity in the stadium on opening day — the electric-powered rabbit that the greyhounds chased was not running on full power, and it moved so slowly that it was caught in two separate races by the probably confused dogs. (The second night there was too much juice, and the rabbit shot away from the pack so quickly that the dogs lost sight of it and just stopped running altogether. Hard to have a race if the dogs don’t actually run.) But the crowd seemed happy, and they weren’t overly concerned by the glitches happening there at the track or by the political and legal wranglings that were swirling downtown.

The crowds and the betting increased over the next few days, hinting at a rosy future for the track’s operators. But the races and the attendant wagering continued for only eleven days. The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to interfere with the wishes of State law enforcement — and State law enforcement wanted Oak Downs to cease with the gambling. So there was no more parimutuel betting at Oak Downs. After trying to struggle by without the sexy allure of betting — left with nothing but exhibition races and weird novelty events involving dog-riding monkeys — Oak Downs was forced to close its season prematurely on June 29.

Bye-bye, abbreviated inaugural season. No more betting on Doctor Snow, or Dixie Lad, or Rowdy Gloom, or Miss Cutlet, or Pampa Flash, or Billie Hobo, or Blond Hazard, or Mellow Man. Oh, Mellow Man, we hardly knew ye.

In February, 1936, Morten applied to the Texas Racing Commission for permission to race horses at his track, but the idea was quickly shot down by the Dallas City Council. The very profitable horse track at Fair Park was out of commission for 1936 as it was being used as part of the Centennial Exposition. Privately owned at the time, the track was leased to the Centennial Corporation, and the City Council — the members of which were no doubt on very friendly terms with the Fair Park track owner — felt it would be “unfair” to allow a competitor to horn in on the massive profits to be had. So … no dice (…as it were).

By September of 1936, Morten changed Oak Downs’ name to Sportsman’s Park and brought in new operators (including a former Texas Ranger). Oak Downs had joined other dog tracks in a new round of legal action which was slowly working its way through the courts. Without any ruling yet from the Supreme Court, they ignored an injunction that had been filed against them and defiantly opened up their betting windows again. Four of the men were fined and jailed briefly for contempt of court. But after months of mixed messages and conflicting rulings from various judges around the state, confused and fed-up lawmen were unsure of the actual legality of dog track betting, and, grudgingly, they allowed the wagering at Oak Downs to continue as they, too, awaited a high court decision.

As reported in Texas newspapers, on Oct. 28, 1936 the Texas Supreme Court finally ruled on the matter of whether or not dog racing could be wagered on legally in the state of Texas:

We do not find any provision in the penal code defining gaming which can be construed to include dog racing or betting on dog racing. It is not a game prohibited by law. […] This court is fully conscious of the pernicious and unwholesome effects upon society of betting on dog races and keeping premises for dog racing where betting is allowed, but the proper agency for the suppression of those wrongs is the Legislature, and until it sees proper to further legislate in the matter, the courts are without power to suppress these evils by injunction.

In other words, the Texas House and Senate were going to have to take up the issue if they really wanted to do away with legalized betting on dog races (which they did), because it was their fault that they hadn’t been specific enough when they wrote their original law.

So betting was back “in vogue” once again. And now with absolutely no threat of arrest. The remainder of the 1936 season continued without problems, and when the 1937 season opened in April, it was “the first greyhound meet in Dallas free of danger of being interfered with by law enforcement agencies” (DMN, April 22, 1937), but … as there were bills to outlaw betting on dog racing AND horse racing percolating through the current Texas legislature, it was thought that the 1937 season might also be the last season of racing in Texas.

In May, 1937, Governor James V. Allred addressed the Texas Congress, urging them to repeal the current law allowing parimutuel gambling on horse racing (with the knowledge that this would almost certainly also apply to the outlawing of dog racing, as that bill had just passed the House and was headed to the Senate). Here are a couple of passages from his speech, a transcription of which appeared in newspapers throughout the state on May 28, 1937:

I do not know how to state in words a stronger case for repeal of the race track gambling law than I have already given to this Legislature from time to time. I have quoted Washington, Franklin, Blackstone, Shakespeare, Brisbane, McIntyre and the Holy Bible. I have pointed out the living evidence of undesirables, of doping, of thuggery, of embezzlement, of bank failures, of suicides, and narcotic rings. Each month of the life of this law sees addition to the numbers of these human tragedies….

And, finally, a mention of the evils of racing with regard to the animals themselves:

There is no record of a horse ever being doped except to run a race. All the races ever run are not worth the agony and cruelty dealt even one of these poor, helpless beasts! I appeal to all who love good horses, I appeal to all who believe in preventing cruelty to animals to join with me in demanding that this law be repealed.

Allred’s lengthy and impassioned speech — which addressed every argument the pro-gambling forces were wont to … trot out … must have touched a few nerves (with both the public and the politicians), because in June, both bills passed with huge margins. (The bill outlawing the betting on dog racing passed in the Senate 22-1 and in the House 109-12. With passage of the new law, betting on dog races could now incur a fine of up to $500 and a jail term of up to ninety days; the penalty of “keeping a place of betting on dogs” was two to four years in the state penitentiary.)

So no more parimutuel betting in Texas. No more dog racing. No more horse racing.

And that was that for the state’s dog tracks. What was next for Oak Downs … er, Sportsman’s Park? Three words: “midget auto racing” (i.e. the racing of very small cars, not the racing of cars operated by very small drivers).

Besides the regular auto races, two added events give promise of furnishing fans with a few thrills as well as a laugh or two. Fast cowponies will be featured in a half-mile sprint with a race for roosters rounding out the show. Winner of the cowpony race will receive $15, while the winning rooster will be rewarded with $5. Entries are open to any and all owners of ponies or roosters. (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 27, 1937)

Somehow I don’t think five-buck-purse rooster races figured into Mr. Morten’s big dreams back at the beginning of 1935.





Top three photos of Oak Downs greyhound racing track used by kind permission of Robert Hurst. He came across them several years ago in the belongings of his grandparents, Lt. Col. Campbell Wallace (C. W. “Bub”) Newman and Martha Price Newman. Col. Newman was a cavalry officer who served in WWI, WWII, and Korea; between WWI and WWII, he worked in Dallas as a contractor and was employed for a time at Oak Downs where he worked in track operations. (That’s why he had these photos!) [And by no means do I mean to imply that this career military man was involved in any sort of shady goings-on. In fact, from what I can tell, Oak Downs seems to have been run by a fairly “clean” group of people. The perception/reputation of dog racing at the time wasn’t great, but nothing I’ve read about this track suggests that anything unscrupulous was going at the track, behind the scenes, or amongst the personnel who worked there.] He was also an avid polo player and was a good friend (and polo teammate) of Winfield Morten who owned the track. Many thanks, Mr. Hurst, for the use of these wonderful photos!

Black and white aerial view of the Love Field/Bachman Lake area was taken by Lloyd M. Long in the 1930s; photo is from the Edwin J. Foscue Map Library, Southern Methodist University. The unlabeled photo (a detail of which is used above) can be accessed here; a labeled version of this photo (with some streets and buildings identified) can be accessed here.

I highly encourage people to see out the transcript of Governor James V. Allred’s FANTASTIC impassioned speech before members of the Texas House and Senate, which appeared in newspapers around Texas on or around May 28, 1937. As far as politics is concerned, I’m the most cynical person in the world, but this is an incredible speech.

More on the history of parimutuel gambling in Texas from Wikipedia, here.

An explanation of just what parimutuel betting is, is here.

Parimutuel racing was legalized again in Texas in 1987. The current state of racing in Texas can be read about in the Dallas Morning News article “A Last Hurrah for Texas Horse Racing” (May 3, 2014) by Gary Jacobson, here.

I’m quite honestly shocked to learn that greyhound racing is legal in the state of Texas. There seems to be really only one active track with live racing in the state (in South Texas), and the only up side to this appalling fact is that attendance has been in steep decline for years.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


JFK’s “Last Hour In Dallas” — 1963


by Paula Bosse

How is a city supposed to respond when it is suddenly plunged into the international spotlight? Does it grieve and try to forget, or does it grieve and capitalize? Dallas has had over 50 years to deal with/come to terms with the assassination of President Kennedy, but sometimes it seems as if the City of Dallas is still shell-shocked and isn’t quite sure how to acknowledge it on an official level. Let’s face it, Dallas is known to the rest of the world for one thing: the Kennedy assassination (and perhaps the TV show, and maybe the Cowboys). Yes, we have the justly-renowned Sixth Floor Museum, but it took 26 years to open it!

The cottage industry that sprang up in the wake of the Kennedy assassination has been big business for decades, some of it generated by people who live in Dallas, but most of it by people who have probably never even been to Texas. Since 1963, the “assassination literature” (…and, yes, it’s called that) has mushroomed, with local contributions coming from Dallasites whose brush with the President before, during, or after the events of November 22, 1963 have probably been pored over by numerous people either trying to understand why what happened happened or by people searching for hidden conspiracy clues to explain what really happened.

One local resident who added to the assassination literature was John E. Miller who took photos of the arrival of President and Mrs. Kennedy at Love Field and then apparently hot-footed it over to Parkland when the news of the shooting broke. These photos were issued as postcards in 1964 in a packet of 12. (Click pictures for larger images.)

JFK_envelope_frontAbove, the front of the envelope containing the cards; on the back: “A Real Picture Treat For Years To Come.”

JFK_card_01From the back of the card: “No. 1, Arrival of President’s Escort Plane at Love Field, Dallas, Texas.”

JFK_card_02“No. 2, Presidential and Escort Planes at Dallas’ Love Field landed shortly after this picture was taken.”

JFK_card_03“No. 3, President John F. Kennedy and party leaving airplane at Love Field. (Mrs. Kennedy — pink hat.)”

(UPDATE: The two little girls in the photos above and below are most likely Carolyn Jacquess, in blue, and Debby Massie, in red. Their little group arrived at the airport before the president’s plane arrived, walked through the terminal and out onto the tarmac, right to where the plane taxied up to the small crowd of about 100 people. Just like that. There was no special invitation, and, other than the chain-link fence, no real security.)

JFK_card_04“No. 4, President John F. Kennedy and Party in foreground at Dallas’ Love Field.”

JFK_card_05“No. 5, Vice-President Johnson, Governor Connally, Mrs. Kennedy (pink hat), other members of party at Dallas Love Field.”

JFK_card_06“No. 6, Vice-President Johnson, Governor Connally, Presidential Party and Newspaper Men, Love Field, Dallas.”

JFK_card_07“No. 7, Forming of Presidential Parade, Love Field, Dallas.”

JFK_card_08“No. 8, After Assassination, TV Unit arrives at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.”

JFK_card_09“No. 9, Blood Bank Unit at Parkland Hospital on fatal day. Dallas, Texas.”

JFK_card_10“No. 10, Hearse carrying President John F. Kennedy’s body and Mrs. Kennedy from Parkland Hospital back to airplane at Love Field, Dallas.”

JFK_card_11“No. 11, Presidential plane awaiting President Kennedy’s body, Vice-President Johnson and Mrs. Kennedy, for return to Washington, D.C. (Note Presidential seal.)”

JFK_card_12“No. 12, Texas School Book Depository building from which authorities believe fatal shots were fired. (Note second window down on right corner of building.)”


Photos and captions © John E. Miller 1964, 3500 W. Davis, Dallas, Texas 75211. (Mr. Miller was a Dallas businessman who sold motor homes and trailers in Oak Cliff between 1945 and 1976. A photo of Mr. Miller is here).

Many thanks to “amyfromdallas” for scanning and contributing the images in this post. Thanks, Amy!

For other Flashback Dallas JFK-related posts, see here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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