Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Photographs

The Sunny Side Grocery — 1915

williamson-store_4207-w-clarendon_1915_ebay_rppc“Uncle John’s store”

by Paula Bosse

Above, the Sunny Side Grocery & Market, J. H. Williamson, prop. According to the notation on the back of this photo, the store — owned by John Williamson — was located at 4207 W. Clarendon (a few steps from Sunny Side Avenue in, I believe, Cockrell Hill (which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t realize was a separate city from Dallas — as Wikipedia says, it is a city “completely surrounded by the city of Dallas” — sorry, Cockrell Hill!).

williamson-store_4207-w-clarendon_1915_ebay_notation

Mr. Williamson appears to have owned another store — or this store, with an incorrect modern-day notation by a descendant. The other store (also called the Sunny Side Grocery…) was listed in the 1915 Dallas city directory (as well as in a 1915 ad in The Dallas Morning News) as being at 3600 Copeland (where S. Trunk and Copeland meet in South Dallas — as seen in the bottom right corner of this 1922 Sanborn map).

So the store seen in this photo was either in Cockrell Hill or South Dallas. I’m going with Cockrell Hill, which, again, is a CITY COMPLETELY SURROUNDED BY ANOTHER CITY

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on eBay.

williamson-store_4207-w-clarendon_1915_ebay_rppc_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Betty and Benny Fox, Sky-Dancing in Dallas — ca. 1935

fox-betty-benny_princeton-univ_ndBetty & Benny, without a care in the world… 

by Paula Bosse

I often just wander aimlessly around the internet, hoping I’ll find something Dallas-related that I haven’t seen before. Last night I found this unusual photo in the Western Americana Collection of Princeton University, described as “View of a Texas city, possibly Dallas.” Okay. It didn’t strike me immediately as a familiar view of Dallas, but you’ve got appearances by Dallas Art Glass Co., Texas Hosiery, and Texas Paper Co. So, yeah. Dallas! I definitely haven’t seen this before. (Scroll down for the specifics of the location.)

Once I determined this was, in fact, Dallas, I tried to figure out what was happening — who (and why?!) were those two people waving from a tiny platform on top of a tall pole? I first thought “flagpole-sitting,” the weird fad of the 1920s which makes me uncomfortably acrophobic just thinking about it. But it was two people on a pole. Standing. Waving. I just kept looking at it, wondering how they got up there. And how were they going to get down (without plummeting)? Why were they there? Were they a couple? Were there husband-and-wife pole-sitters/-standers/-dancers/-wavers? So many questions.

My first hint was in a December, 1931 story in The Dallas Morning News about a young woman who seemed to have some name-recognition named Betty Fox who was, at the time of the article, perched atop a pole in Greenville, Texas, attempting to test her endurance and remain there for 100 hours. As one does. (When in Greenville….) So I searched for newspaper articles about “Betty Fox.” She was, indeed, a star in the pole-sitting world, entertaining large crowds and making personal appearances all around the country. Then I noticed that there seemed to be more than one “Betty Fox” out there. Hmm. And I had noticed that there had been a pole-sitter named Ben Fox who was a fairly serious flagpole-sitting champ. That was kind of a weird coincidence. Or was it? And then I found the article “Sky Dancers Betty and Benny Fox,” which helpfully explained that Benny and Betty were daredevil aerial dancers. They were originally billed as brother and sister, but as the article says, “they were not related. And Betty was not always the same person, nor was she actually named Betty.”

They traveled from city to city performing for enthralled crowds on a tiny circular disc 24 inches in diameter (it later shrank to 18 inches in diameter). Their acrobatic “sky dance” (AKA “The Dance of Death”) apparently lasted for several hours. (There was an article I read from 1931 about “Betty” and a heretofore unknown other “sibling” named “Babe” Fox who defied a judge’s injunction to prohibit the two from engaging in a 100-hour marathon-dance stunt on a 35-inch platform 50 feet in the air in cold, wet, and windy Texarkana. Seems like a bad idea, but, apparently, they didn’t die. (…Or maybe they did and just got a new “Betty” and “Babe” and carried on to the next gig.)

Princeton University estimated the date of the photo to be around 1930. I think it might have been 1935. The two classified ads below in which Benny seeks Dallas promoters for their local event, were from the end of 1935. (The event was sponsored by a Dallas newspaper — it obviously wasn’t the DMN, because there was no story about the Foxes in their pages.) The newspaper photo below the ads shows the then-current version of Betty and Benny, and they look like the couple in the Princeton photo. 

fox-benny_dmn_112735Dallas Morning News, Nov. 27, 1935

fox-benny_dmn_120735DMN, Dec. 7, 1935

fox_atlanta-constitution_050335Atlanta Constitution, May 3, 1935

Yes, that caption says they performed for SIX HOURS.

I’m not sure how long “Betty and Benny” lasted, but they were back in Dallas in 1957 performing at a week-long carnival in Wynnewood Shopping Center. I bet there were more “Bettys” than “Perunas.”

Here’s some newsreel footage of one of the Betty and Benny incarnations doing their thing in Chicago. (Seriously, if you’ve got even a hint of a fear of heights, look away!!!)

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So where was that photo at the top taken? I’m estimating the camera was on the top of a building at, roughly, Griffin and Pacific, looking in a northerly direction. At the top right, the tall building farthest away is the First Methodist Episcopal Church (now First United Methodist) at Ross and Harwood. It’s hard to see any streets, but the two running diagonally are Camp and Patterson. A few addresses of businesses seen in the photo:

  • Dallas Art Glass Co.: 1408 Camp
  • Steger Transfer Co.: 1305 Camp
  • Texas Hosiery: 1200 Camp/1201 Patterson
  • Texas Paper Co.: 1200 Patterson, extending to Pacific

A 1921 Sanborn map is here. A detail from a 1952 Mapsco is below.

fox_mapsco_1952_camp-patterson-griffin1952 Mapsco (det)

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I’m not sure why Princeton has this photo in their collection, but I really enjoyed reading about Benny and his “Bettys.”

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Sources & Notes

Top photo — “View of a Texas city, possibly Dallas” — is from the Western Americana Collection, Princeton University Library Special Collections; more information on this photo can be found on the Princeton website here.

See several “action” photos of Benny and Betty from GettyImages here.

Read the very entertaining “Sky Dancers Betty and Benny Fox” by Alan E. Hunter, here.

Another story I wrote concerning an “endurance” stunt (which, like this one, also makes me feel a little panicky) is “Buried Alive at the Fair Park Midway — 1946.” 

fox-betty-benny_princeton-univ_nd_det

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy — ca. 1929

gaston-carroll-pharmacy_1929_joe-windrow_dallasFBCurb service at Gaston and Carroll…

by Paula Bosse

I received an email the other day from Melissa Maher asking about the building which houses the new shop she owns with her business partner, Chelsea Callahan-Haag: East Dallas Vintage, at 4418 Gaston Avenue. Next door, on the corner, is Ross Demers’ new restaurant, Cry Wolf (4422 Gaston). Surprisingly, I had two photos of the building from the 1920s!

The building is on the southwest corner of Gaston and N. Carroll in Old East Dallas and was built in 1925. The first mention I found was from a classified ad in The Dallas Morning News in February, 1902 — a “for sale” ad for the lot boasted that it had “city sewer” and that it was “fine, very fine for you and your friend to build two fine houses” (which is an unusual sales tactic). The price was $3,850 — if you believe the accuracy of inflation calculators, that would be the equivalent of about $125,000 in today’s money.

1902_gaston-carroll_dmn_081802Dallas Morning News, Aug. 18, 1902

In 1907 it was reported that attorney N. Lawrence Lindsley was building a house on the large lot, for the equivalent of about $250,000 (add that amount to the cost of the land…). Before 1911, the address was 668 Gaston Avenue — after 1911 the address became 4418 Gaston. Over the years, the house passed through several owners until the large, stately 3-story home had been broken up into apartments in the 1920s (see the house on a 1922 Sanborn map here). In 1925, the house went on the market.

A CORNER ON GASTON WITH A FUTURE
Southwest corner of Gaston and Carroll. Has three-story well-built house bringing $100 monthly rental or 8.5 per cent on price of $14,000. Lot 90x125x160. When Gaston is opened through to Pacific this will be one of the best corners in East Dallas for stores. Call H. K. Dunham, exclusive agent. […] Do not bother tenant. No trade. Seay-Cranfill Co. Realtors. (Feb. 8, 1925)

It was snapped up fast. A mere ten days later, a Texas charter notice appeared in newspapers for Gaston Avenue Investment Company, owners of the property. The 18-year-old house was promptly razed, and a building containing space for four shops opened in June. 

The grand opening was broadcast live on WFAA radio on June 27, 1925, with music performed by Jack Gardner and his orchestra. Quite a do.

1925_gaston-carroll_dmn_062725DMN, June 27, 1925

The original businesses were:

4414: Piggly Wiggly grocery store (now a Domino’s Pizza)
4418: Long’s Helpy-Selfy (a “serve-yourself” no-frills grocery)
4420: Johnson’s Superior Market, Otto S. Johnson, prop. (um, another grocery)
4422: Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy, C. L. Watts, prop. (with a soda fountain)

The Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy was on the corner, and that’s what we see in the photos above and below, taken about 1929 when Bill Windrow had taken over as president, manager, and druggist. An 11-year-old relative, Rollen Joseph “Joe” Windrow, worked as a carhop. Above, we see Joe “hopping”; below, Bill and Joe, stand on the sidewalk in front of the pharmacy.

gaston-carroll-pharmacy_dallasFB_bill-and-joe-windrow_str

Joe lived nearby on Swiss Avenue and later went to Woodrow Wilson High School. He grew up to be a handsome young man.

windrow-joe_woodrow_football_1936Joe Windrow, Woodrow Wilson High School, 1936

windrow-joe_tx-a-and-m_1941Joe Windrow, Texas A&M, 1941

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Over the years, the space on the right (4414 Gaston) was most often a grocery store (Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, Tom Thumb), and the space on the corner was a pharmacy for at least 60 years (Gaston-Carroll, Marvin’s, Walgreens, Taylor’s, and Felty’s). The middle shops were a variety of businesses, with one of the spaces apparently being absorbed into another.

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The building received a nice makeover recently. The Google Street Views below show July 2018 (before), and March 2019 (after).

gaston-carroll_google-street-view_july-2018._march-2019Google Street View: 2018, 2019

Melissa Maher, one of the proprietors of East Dallas Vintage (now occupying 4418 Gaston) sent me the following photos (from the end of 2021, I believe), showing her space and the space next door (Cry Wolf, 4422, in the old pharmacy location on the corner). She was wondering if there had been a basement in the building. It seems unlikely, but if anyone has any info, I’m sures she’d love to know.

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_1photo: Melissa Maher

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_2photo: Melissa Maher

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_3photo: Melissa Maher

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_4photo: Melissa Maher

2021_gaston-carroll_melissa-maher_5photo: Melissa Maher

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Thanks for asking about this, Melissa! I had always meant to write something about the Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy and post these 1929 photos — and this was a great opportunity to use them. I hope to visit your shop sometime!

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Sources & Notes

The top two photos were found on a Dallas history Facebook group, but I’m not sure which one. They were posted in 2015, and I’m unable to find them now. I believe they were found by the original poster on Ancestry.com. Luckily, I had noted the names “Windrow,” “Joe,” and “Bill,” because I now know more about the Windrows than a non-Wiindrow needs to know — I can definitely verify that the circa-1920 photos are of the Gaston-Carroll Pharmacy. I’m still not sure of the relationship between Bill and Joe (there were a lot of Windrows…) — possibly uncle and nephew, or maybe cousins.

Thanks again to Melissa Maher for her photos. Go see her and Chelsea Callahan-Haag at East Dallas Vintage.

I couldn’t find any photos of the home of N. Lawrence Lindsley — I know they’re out there somewhere! I’d love to see one. If you know of any, please let me know!

Of related interest, the other half of that block in which this building is located was once home to a truly palatial home, built by Thomas Field. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here. See the house in the Flashback Dallas post “Junius Heights … Adjacent!”

Also, catty-corner from this building is the former Brink’s restaurant. Way back, though, it was once the site of another grand residence — a home which became the Spann Sanitarium about the same time that the little strip of shops was built (I keep meaning to write about this sanitarium…):

spann-sanitarium_postcard

gaston-carroll-pharmacy_1929_dallasFB_det_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Stereoview Souvenirs of the Texas Centennial — 1936

tx-centennial_cavalcade-race-track_1936_ebayA view of Fair Park not often seen

by Paula Bosse

If you collect stereoview photos and/or Texas Centennial memorabilia, hie yourself over to eBay for some (pricey) goodies (see the link at the bottom of the page). Here are a few stereoview “monoviews.”

Above, part of the Fair Park racetrack, with the reviewing stand for the “Cavalcade of Texas” pageant at the right. If you look closely on the horizon — at the right, above the Cavalcade stands, you’ll see two towers. Are those the two water towers over in Lakewood at Abrams and Goliad (which I wrote about here)?

tx-centennial_cavalcade-race-track_1936_ebay_det

Here are a few more. The first one with kids and dogs at the Hall of State:

tx-centennial_stereoview-S131_ebay_hall-of-state

Pegasuses (“pegasi”?) at the Esplanade:

tx-centennial_stereoview-S132_ebay_esplanade-court_2

Strolling by the lagoon (and past one of my favorite crazy Centennial design features — those amazing flying-saucer lights!):

tx-centennial_stereoview-S136_ebay_esplanade-court_lagoon

I love the camera on the marquee (and those dresses!) at the Hollywood exhibit:

tx-centennial_stereoview-S141_ebay_hollywood

One of my favorite Fair Park artworks — the lady in the niche, at the Administration Building (Women’s Musuem):


tx-centennial_stereoview-S130_ebay_administration-bldg

I did not know there was an outdoor ice rink at the Centennial — ice skating performances at the “Black Forest” cafe:

tx-centennial_stereoview_ebay_black-forest_ice-skating

Can’t go wrong with another monumental woman in a niche:

tx-centennial_stereoview-S128_ebay_reflecting-basin

A sculpture of a slumbering fairy at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts:

tx-centennial_stereoview-S148_ebay_fairy-statue

And, jumping ahead a year, a souvenir from the Pan-American Exposition in 1937: the Music Hall dressed up as the “Casino.”

pan-american-exposition_stereoview_1937_casino_music-hall

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Sources & Notes

All images are from eBay, and almost all are currently for sale. See these and more here.

There are a bunch of Flashback Dallas posts on the Texas Centennial — they can be found here.

tx-centennial_cavalcade-race-track_1936_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Main Street, West Toward the Clock Tower

main-street-west-from-st-george-hotel_ebayEnjoy it while you can…

by Paula Bosse

A nice view of Main Street, looking west toward the probably pretty new courthouse (built in 1892). Streetcars, the St. George Hotel, the North Texas Building, the Trust Building. Much the same shot is seen in this photo from 1954 (more buildings, less sky).

I hope citizens back then weren’t getting too attached to that beautiful clock tower, because it would go bye-bye in April, 1919 after it had been determined that it might be on the verge of collapse. 

From The Dallas Morning News, Jan. 22, 1919:

COURTHOUSE TOWER IS ORDERED REMOVED

Believing the courthouse tower to be a nuisance to the safety of persons in the building, the Commissioners Court yesterday ordered H. A. Overbeck, architect, to prepare specifications for its removal. The tower will be leveled off even with the balcony.

Mr. Overbeck recently made an inspection of the tower, reporting that while there is no immediate danger, it is altogether advisable that the tower be demolished, as a strong windstorm might cause it to collapse. The walls have numerous cracks in them, the sandstone is disintegrating in places, and some of the iron supports are rusted and deteriorating, he said.

The work of removing the tower will begin as soon as Mr. Overbeck can complete the necessary plans.

It wasn’t even 30 years old. The tower came down a few months later at a cost to the county of $10,000 (the equivalent today of about $153,000). 

From The Dallas Morning News, April 20, 1919:

COST $10,000 TO REMOVE COURTHOUSE TOWER

The work of razing the courthouse tower was completed this week, and workmen yesterday began tearing down the scaffold and improvised elevator shaft which had been erected to facilitate the removal of the large quantity of stone and steel contained in the old tower.

It is estimated that there were close to 75 tons of material in the tower. It cost the county $10,000 to have it removed.

75 tons!

But, oh dear — it looked bad without the tower. Real bad. …I mean REAL bad.

old-red-courthouse_no-clock-tower_postcard_ebayYikes

But, thankfully, the Dallas County Courthouse got a brand new clock tower in 2007, and Old Red looks beautiful again!

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Sources & Notes

Images from eBay.

main-street-west-from-st-george-hotel_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Municipal Building, Bird’s-Eye View

municipal-bldg_hilton-hotel_ebayDallas’ beautiful City Hall

by Paula Bosse

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever have the time or energy to write a proper historical post again. I’m still dealing with a lengthy illness of a family member, a situation which has all but taken over my life. Someday I’ll get back to researching and writing. But for now, here’s a really cool photo I came across on eBay a year ago — I’ve never seen this view of the Municipal Building. Or the Hilton. I like this photo so much I’m posting it even though it has a dreaded watermark.

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on eBay. 

To flesh this out a bit, check out these related Flashback Dallas posts:

municipal-bldg_hilton-hotel_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Simms Super Service Station, Cedar Springs & Maple — 1930

simms-super-service-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_ca-1930Let us vulcanize your tires!

by Paula Bosse

If you call yourself a “Super Service Station,” you’d better be pretty super. And the one in the photo above is pretty super. It opened in 1930 at the intersection of Cedar Springs and Maple (on the northernmost tip of the land now occupied by the Crescent). 

Construction of the station and attached retail spaces was announced in 1929 by the Dallas-based Simms Oil Company (headquartered in the Magnolia Building, with a refinery on Eagle Ford Road in West Dallas) — it was reported that the impressive building would cost about $40,000 (about $615,000 in today’s money). It would be the 34th Simms service station in the city but it would be the first SUPER service station. Its grand opening at the end of April, 1930 was a big event, broadcast over KRLD radio, with singers, music, and flowers for the ladies. No business was conducted during the grand opening — it was strictly an open house, offering prospective customers the opportunity to walk among the gas pumps and admire what the company called “the last word in service station art.”

simms_cedar-springs-maple_grand-opening_043030_detDetail from grand opening ad, April, 1930

The filling station will be equipped with ten electrically operated gasoline pumps. Every kind of automobile repairs and battery and tire vulcanizing service will be offered. (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 20, 1929)

The building is of terra cotta in modernistic design with the well-known Simms color scheme of blue, white and red used. […] On top of the structure is a beacon bearing the Simms triangle. It will revolve with flood lights playing on it all the while. (DMN, April 27, 1930)

I never think of businesses of that period being open 24 hours a day, but this one was. Super!

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Here are a few zoomed-in close-ups of the top photo, which shows the Cedar Springs side of the building. (Click pictures to see larger images.)

At the left of this detail you can see a glimpse of Maple Avenue, which, at the time, was still lined with large, expensive homes.

simms_det_to-maple

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In the shadows, a man who no doubt has prodigious vulcanizing skills.

simms_det_emp

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In addition to housing a gas station, the building had 6 retail spaces — 3 on Maple and 3 on Cedar Springs. One of the businesses seen here places the date of this photo at 1930, when The Radio Shop was located at 2304 Cedar Springs (the next year it appears to have moved around to the Maple side of the building). Next to it is the Fishburn Oriental Cleaners at 2308 Cedar Springs. (The official address of the Simms station was 2623 Maple, but it was usually just listed as being at the southeast corner of Maple and Cedar Springs — after Simms, the building’s address was 2312 Cedar Springs.)

simms_det_truck_oriental-cleaners_radio-shop

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Here’s a close-up of the company truck and an easy-to-remember number when you needed to call for help with a broken-down vehicle.

simms_det_simms-truck

And here it is in an ad. That motorcycle is cool. For some reason I really want that sidecar to be filled with sloshing gasoline.

simms_ad_082630_detAd detail, Aug. 26, 1930

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And here’s the revolving rooftop beacon. (What looks like a spray of water is just damage to the surface of the photograph.) (…But a fountain on top of a gas station would be pretty amazing.)

simms_det_tower-cu

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You know you’ve got a cool building if you can include an instantly recognizable line drawing of it in your ads.

simms_cedar-springs-maple_060330_detAd detail, June 3, 1930

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I think the company might have disappeared before the 1930s ended. Because this is the only “old” “modern” map I’ve got, here’s where the Simms gas station had been located, courtesy of a 1952 Mapsco.

cedar-springs-maple_1952-mapscoMapsco, 1952

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Here are a couple of later photos of the building, post-Simms. The first one is from a grainy Shook Tires ad from 1938. The color postcard is from the 1960s when it was the C. S. Hamilton Chrysler dealership. The beacon is still there but, surely, it was no longer beaconing (unlike the Republic Bank “rocket” seen in the background, which was beaconing big-time). (See below in the comments for a 1940s photo of the building.)

shook-tires_ad_2312-cedar-springs_051338Shook Tires, 1938

hamilton-car-dealership_cedar-springs-at-maple_ca-1962_ebayC. S. Hamilton Chrysler, ca. 1962

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Sources & Notes

Photo — titled “Simms Oil Station (Dallas, Tex.): exterior view of front entrance, corner perspective” — is from the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company Architectural records and photographs, 1914-1941, Architectural Terra Cotta, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin; more info can be found here

simms-super-service-station_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_ca-1930_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Downtown Dallas in Color — 1940s & 1950s

kodachrome_commerce-lamar_trolleydodger_twitterColorful Commerce St. (via trolleydodger.com)

by Paula Bosse

After seeing so many pictures of historic downtown Dallas in black and white, it’s pretty thrilling to see color photos — even better, super-saturated Kodachrome slides. Here are a few.

Above, a photo taken on July 31, 1950: a view of Commerce Street, taken from Lamar looking east. I LOVE this photo! Sadly, I really don’t love what this same block looks like today: brace yourselves — click here! (For reference, Padgitt Bros. was at 1018 Commerce.) 

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Below, a photo from 1954: the 300 block of N. Ervay, taken from Bryan looking southeast toward Pacific. The Republic Bank Building (at the left) is still there, but those buildings on the right? Gone, gone, gone. That space is now taken up with Thanksgiving Square. I may be in the minority, but I would rather have those buildings back. That crazy-looking building housing businesses such as Arcadia Liquor (309 N. Ervay)? I have been all-but-obsessed with that weird building for years. Personally, I prefer its bizarro architecture to that of Philip Johnson. See what this block looks like now, here.

kodachrome_bryan-n-ervay_1954_shorpyvia Shorpy.com

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Below, from 1950: Main Street, looking east toward St. Paul (and Titche’s). This is fantastic! The view now is here

kodachrome_main_1950_noah-jeppsonvia Noah Jeppson, Flickr

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Another great photo from the collection of Noah Jeppson (seriously, check out his Flickr stream here!), this is one I’ve posted before — everyone posts this because it’s such an amazing photo, from 1945 (!): Elm Street, looking east from the 1400 block. See it today, here

elm-street-color_1940s_jeppson-flickrvia Noah Jeppson

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And lastly, despite the watermark, a cool September, 1940 view of the gas station/service station which once held down the Preston Road entrance to Highland Park Village: looking northwesterly toward Mockingbird. The view today is here

kodachrome_highland-park-village_gas-stations_sept-1940_color-slide_ebay_watermarkvia eBay

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If you’ve got color photos/slides from this era, I’d love to see them!

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Sources & Notes

Links to all sources can be found beneath the photos.

Special shout-out to Michael T. Jackson (@memj83) for tagging me on Twitter to a post by @Kodakforever — a heart-stoppingly great collection of Kodachrome photos where I first saw a few of the photos posted above.

kodachrome_commerce-lamar_trolleydodger_twitter_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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.

soldier-fishing-viaduct_feb-28-1948_DPL_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Snider Plaza & The Varsity Theater — 1920s

varsity-theater_1929_galloway_1600The Varsity Theater, Snider Plaza, 1929

by Paula Bosse

Snider Plaza, the University Park shopping center near the SMU campus, was formally opened on June 2, 1927 when its centerpiece fountain was switched on as a crowd of thousands watched. The buildings weren’t completed yet, but it was a sure sign to everyone that a large project was underway in an area of town which was not yet fully developed.

It was announced in December, 1926 that a 30-acre tract at the northwest corner of Hillcrest and Daniel had been purchased by Wichita Falls businessman Charles W. Snider (he had recently funded Snider Hall, the women’s dormitory at SMU) and University Park mayor J. Fred Smith from Miss Fannie B. Daniel, whose family had owned the land since 1851. The purchase price was $82,500 (which would be the equivalent of about $1.25 million in today’s money) (…let that sink in for a moment…). Snider Plaza, along with SMU, was both the heart of University Park and an impetus for real estate development around it.

Here’s an ad from October, 1927 from the University Park Development Co. (click to see larger images) — lots were going for $1,890 ($30.000 today):

university-park-develpment-co_ad_100927_a

university-park-develpment-co_ad_100927_bOct., 1929 — Hurry!

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Below are a couple of VERY early photos of Snider Plaza.

First off, the fountain. It was illuminated at night with rotating colored lights. The view is to the northwest.

snider-plaza-fountain_1927_galloway_dpl_1200

And that was about it. A fountain, paved streets and sidewalks, and lots of streetlights. In the photo below you can see the fountain in the distance. And the office of Ralph Porter, the man who was the driving force behind Snider Plaza (see his photo in the ad above). There is still a Ralph Porter Co. real estate business — and, appropriately, it’s still located in Snider Plaza.

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The Varsity Theater wasn’t built until 1929, even though a movie theater was always in the plans. I’m not sure what happened, but in 1928 it was announced that a new theater was going to be built as part of a 7-story building. The theater and retail shops were to occupy the first floor, offices would occupy the second floor, and furnished apartments would fill the top five floors (there would also be a parking garage in the basement). That’s all so weird to imagine. First off, apartments?! Secondly, that would have been the tallest building in the Park Cities! Buildings weren’t that tall in most of “suburban” Dallas in the 1920s. Also, the architecture is pretty bland, and very unlike the rest of the shopping area.

snider-plaza_varsity-apartments_1928Architect’s conception, 1928

The stripped-down plans ended up doing away with the basement and everything but the ground floor for the theater and retail shops. And I’m so glad! I love the photo at the top, from 1929. What a beautiful, beautiful building! The architect of the building was Wyatt C. Hedrick of Fort Worth. The buildings of Snider Plaza were meant to be of uniform design. Like this. (If only they all still looked like that!) (Another photo I posted recently showing that uniform style is here.)

The Varsity opened on Oct. 3, 1929 with “In Old Arizona” (the first talkie to be filmed outdoors). It became the Fine Arts in January, 1957. A reader, Malcom Thomson — who was a very youthful theater manager during the early days of the FIne Arts (I think he was an SMU student at the time) — sent me the great photo below from February, 1960.

fine-arts-theater_snider-plaza_malcolm-thomson_feb-3-1960Feb. 3, 1960 (courtesy Malcolm Thomson)

At some point — it’s so incredibly hard to believe that it seems like an urban legend — the Fine Arts Theater became an “adult” theater. Yes, Virginia, X-rated movies were screened regularly in the Park Cities. Oh dear.

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The theater is long-gone, as is almost all of Snider Plaza’s original “look.” But it’s still a cool, quirky place, and it’s always interesting to explore (never quite as interesting as M. E. Moses was to me as a child, but so few places are). And as long as Kuby’s is still around to fulfill my Reuben and warm-potato-salad needs, I’m pretty happy.

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A couple of quirky tidbits about the very early years:

  • SMU students were responsible in large part for operating the theater, because, of course, it offered them the opportunity to “obtain practical experience in show business.”
  • Also, the streets of the plaza were cleaned by “an automatic street-washing machine.” I’m not sure what that would have entailed, but I would guess that SMU students were glad to be let off the street-cleaning life-experience hook on that one.

And, on a personal note, several decades later, my father owned the very short-lived Plaza Book Store, which was located in the retail space just to the right of the theater (where, just a few short years earlier, he had worked as an usher — i.e. “obtained practical experience in show business” — while attending SMU).

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Sources & Notes

The two photos of Snider Plaza from 1927 and the top photo of the Varsity Theater from 1929 were found in the absolutely fantastic book The Park Cities: A Photohistory by Diane Galloway. The first two are from the collection of the Dallas Public Library. Ms. Galloway’s credit for the photo of the theater reads, “Photo by Frank Rogers/Courtesy of Jerrry Washam/Ralph Porter Company.” I believe all three photos are by Frank Rogers.

1960 photo of the Fine Arts Theater is used courtesy of Malcolm J. Thomson (thanks, Malcolm!).

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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