Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Postcards

Armistice Day Centennial

wwi_cook-collection_degolyer-library_SMU

by Paula Bosse

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

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Sources & Notes

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

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Nighttime Bird’s-Eye Views of Dallas

skyline_legacies_spring-2012All lit up… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In my opinion, Dallas has always been most impressive at night. The view above is from the east. Among other familiar landmarks, we see skyline icons the Mercantile Building, the Sheraton Hotel, the Southland Life Building (at the time the city’s tallest building), and the rocket-topped Republic Bank Building (previously the city’s tallest building). I think that’s Live Oak St. on the left running in and out of downtown and Bryan on the right.

And, below, a view toward the east, with Jackson Street on the right, and dramatically-lit appearances by the Adolphus Hotel, the Magnolia Building, the Baker Hotel, and the Mercantile.

skyline_legacies_spring-2012_postcard

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Sources & Info

These postcard images were featured on the front and back covers of the Spring, 2012 issue of Legacies magazine (viewable on UNT’s Portal to Texas History site, here).

A similar photo (colorwise) to the second image above (but taken from a rotated angle) can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “Dallas Skyline At Night — ca. 1965” — this photo shows the skyline just a few short years later after the new Republic Tower II had appeared on the horizon and claimed the title as the city’s tallest building — the Southland Life Building’s reign was only about five years long..

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The State Fair of Texas Over the Decades

state-fair-of-tx_midway_kodachrome_1961_ebaySFOT midway, 1961… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The history of the State Fair of Texas is also the history of Dallas — if you live in Dallas, you know a lot about the fair, if only by osmosis. Here are a few images from the decades since the fair began in 1886.

Below, from 1889, a sedate advertisement for the Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition (from The Immigrant’s Guide to Texas, 1889). (All images are larger when clicked.)

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A great-looking poster from 1890, colorful and exciting:

sfot_poster_1890

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A midway in its infancy, in the aughts. (I wrote about the “The Chute” water ride, here.)

shoot-the-chute_postcard_ca-1906

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Here’s a group photo showing the food vendors at the 1910 fair. No corny dogs in 1910, but plenty of candy, peanuts, popcorn, ice cream, and, sure, why not, cigars and tobacco.

state-fair-concessionaires_1910_cook-colln_degolyervia George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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In the 1920s, Fair Park looked a lot smaller:

fair-park_mcafee_degolyer_SMU_ca-1920s
via George A. McAfee Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

Here’s a handy 1922 map of the grounds, from the fine folks at Caterpillar (don’t miss those tractors!) — you can see where the people in the photo above are walking.

state-fair-map_caterpillar_ad_1922

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If it’s 1936, it’s gotta be the Texas Centennial — and here’s an exhibit I’d never heard of: Jerusalem, The Holy City. This was one of many exhibits at the Texas Centennial previously seen at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, where it apparently had attracted more than one million visitors. In the weeks leading up to the Centennial’s opening, it was described thusly: “The Holy City will contain a collection of religious artworks and other material. The entrance will represent the Damascus gate of Jerusalem. No admission will be charged but donations will be asked visitors” (Dallas Morning News, May 17, 1936).

tx-centennial_jerusalem-the-holy-city_postcard

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The State Fair of Texas was not held during much of World War II, but it was back in 1946, with Tommy Dorsey, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Jackie Gleason.

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Sept., 1946

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Neiman-Marcus was at-the-ready in 1950 with suggestions on stylish footwear for ladies wanting to trudge around the Fair Park midway in heels.

For the Million-Dollar Midway — For taking in this famous “main drag” of the State Fair — get into our famous-maker midway heel shoes. Most everybody — after walking a block or two in them — says they’re worth a million! Have all the comfort of low heels, plus the high-heel’s way of making your ankles look prettier.

sfot-neiman-marcus_ad_101650October, 1950

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The 1960s were certainly colorful, and this is a great color photo from 1961 (currently available on eBay as a 35mm Kodachrome slide) — it’s the photo at the top of this post, but in order to cut down on unnecessary scrolling, I’ll slide it in again right here:

state-fair-of-tx_midway_kodachrome_1961_ebay

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The 1970s was a weird decade, and what better way to start off a weird decade than with 80-something-year-old oil tycoon (and eccentric Dallas resident) H. L. Hunt handing out cosmetics at a booth at the State Fair? Hunt — whom Frank X. Tolbert described as “probably the world’s only billionaire health freak” — manufactured a line of cosmetics and other products containing aloe vera, the wonder elixir. Imagine seeing the world’s richest man handing out plastic goodie-bags to awe-struck passersby. Like I said, weird.

h-l-hunt_state-fair_1971

hunt_state-fair_pomona-progress-bulletin_CA_111471Pomona (CA) Progress-Bulletin, Nov. 14, 1971 (click to read)

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And, finally, the 1980s. A century after the State Fair of Texas began, the X-Men came to Big D to do whatever it is they do — and The Dallas Times Herald got a cool little advertising supplement out of it. (If this appeals to you, check out when Captain Marvel came to Dallas in 1944, here, and when Spider-Man came to Dallas in 1983, here.)

sfot_xmen_comic-book_1983

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Sources & Notes

Sources (if known) are noted.

All images are larger when clicked.

I wrote a similar State-Fair-of-Texas-through-the-ages post a few years ago: “So Sorry, Bill, But Albert Is Taking Me to the State Fair of Texas,” here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Is For Lovers

fair-park_lovers-lane_postcard

by Paula Bosse

The postcard above shows “Lovers’ Lane, Fair Grounds Park,” and contains the following message to the card’s recipient:

I will have you a fellow this summer & you all can visit this place.

Aw. That’s a true friend.

Below, another postcard from about the same time (around 1910), this one showing “Lovers’ Retreat, Near Dallas, Texas.”

lovers-retreat_postcard_ebay

This might be any old “romantic” place called “Lovers’ Retreat,” but at the time of this card’s publication, Lovers’ Retreat in Palo Pinto County, near Mineral Wells, was a well-known destination for Sunday drives, picnics, camping, church retreats, and family reunions. At 100 miles from Dallas, it would be stretching things to say this view is “near Dallas,” but postcards are sometimes not completely truthful.

And for postcards that just strip away any confusion about local flora and fauna, let’s just cut to the chase. “Please let me tell you in Dallas, Tex.”

lovers-two_cook-collection_degolyer_smu

“Oh! How I love it here in Dallas, Tex.”

lovers-four_cook-collection_degolyer_smu

Speaking of lovers’ lanes, I’m not sure where that one at Fair Park (in the top postcard) was, but there were several “lovers’ lanes” around the city. The thoroughfare we know today as Lovers Lane was apparently known for years as a secluded place popular with couples looking for places in which to “spoon.” In a Dallas Morning News article, writer Kenneth Foree reminisced about the days when “it was nothing but a narrow black dirt road winding between two rows of bois d’arc trees.” He commented that “at times you could find lovers under nearly ever tree in Lovers Lane. They would park there in buggies in the early days, later in cars.” In the same article, Margaret L. Pratt, head of the Dallas Public Library’s Texas history department, remembered that “when Southern Methodist University was young and virtually treeless, students would often walk to nearby Lovers Lane for a shady hand-in-hand stroll” (“Walk a Miracle Mile” by Helen Bullock, DMN, Sept. 10, 1961).

When the 1920s hit, “lovers lanes” around the country became hot topics of conversation. This was the “Jazz Age” and the era of the outrageous flappers — a time which an older, disapproving generation saw as scandalous and lacking in respect for propriety or morals. They felt that young women, in particular, were not acting at all “ladylike.” Suddenly the term “petting parties” was all over the newspapers. Young people (…and older people) were making out at parties, in movie theaters, and, especially, in cars parked at night along out-of-the-way country roads. Things were heading to hell in a handbasket.

petting-parties_dmn_022222DMN, 1922

When a Dallas deputy sheriff commented to the local newspapers in 1924 that these open-air necking sessions were out of control, the mayor, Louis Blaylock, said, “It’s getting so a man can not take his sweetheart out on the country road to court her or to propose to her…. Most of the folks celebrating their silver and golden anniversaries in Dallas can look back upon the time when the Lemmon avenue road and Mocking Bird Lane were the causes of all the trouble…. Things aren’t so much worse now than when I was a boy” (DMN, May 23, 1924). Mayor Blaylock — who was born in 1849 — was 74 years old at the time. The deputy sheriff was Not Amused (read his response, reprinted in the Sulphur Springs Daily News-Telegram, here). The mayor laughed off the deputy’s concerns, saying, “I believe that most of [this] talk is purely political and if my memory serves me right we experience this epidemic about every two years, just about election time,” (DMN, May 30, 1924).

primrose-path-lovers-lane_may-1924(click to see larger image)

Despite the mayor’s pooh-poohing of the situation, petting-party outrage remained in the headlines throughout the ’20s … until the public’s attention turned to the next thing to be outraged about. Good for those scandalous pre-Code movies, though!

children-of-jazz_dmn_july-1923“Children of Jazz” at the Palace, 1923

Below is a clever promotion for a movie called “Girl Shy” in which Harold Lloyd played a character named Harold Meadows (“who knows all about women”). It is addressed to the “spooners” of Dallas and is not identified as being an ad for movie.

lovers-lane_dmn_052024May 20, 1924

lovers-lane_dmn_052324
“Girl Shy” at the Old Mill, May 23, 1924

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Sources & Notes

Top two postcards are currently for sale here and here.

The two postcards featuring amorous couples are from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on these postcards can be found here and here.

A photo of young frolickers frolicking at Lovers’ Retreat in Palo Pinto County can be found on the Portal to Texas History website here.

Read about petting parties in an article from NPR, here.

Speaking of amorous activities in automobiles, check out my previous Flashback Dallas post, “No Necking Along Country Roads Until Bonnie & Clyde Are Killed or Captured — 1934.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Downtown Dallas Through the Clouds — 1923

birds-eye_fairchild_dallas-a-z_degolyer_SMU_1923Big D from above… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This wonderful, dream-like, “through the clouds” photo shows a growing, booming (pre-Pegasus) downtown Dallas.

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Sources & Notes

Photo by the Fairchild Aerial Camera Corp., from the 1923 promotional brochure Dallas from A to Z (“Where Men Are Looking Forward”), published by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce (note the publication’s staple in the center of the photo). This brochure is in the collection of the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University and can be viewed in its entirety here (click the “download” button to view or save the brochure).

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The New Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. Building — 1928

swb-bldg_atlantic-terra-cotta-booklet_1929Brand new, at S. Akard and Wood streets… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, the beautiful new Southwestern Bell Telephone Company building, photographed not long after its opening at the end of 1928. Designed by noted Dallas architects Lang & Witchell (in association with Southwestern Bell’s chief architect I. R. Timlin) the building took up almost an entire block on the east side of South Akard, between Jackson and Wood streets. Construction began in April, 1927, and the building was finished and occupied in December, 1928. It served as a regional hub, containing not only business offices, but also cumbersome telephone equipment which necessitated very high ceilings on some of the floors. (There were also downtown and suburban telephone exchanges which handled local calls, as well as the Haskell exchange which was handling long-distance traffic.)

The photo above is interesting because it shows the building which this new “skyscraper” replaced. Designed by H. A. Overbeck the previous telephone HQ (seen below in about 1905) was built on the corner of Akard and Jackson in 1897.

southwestern-bell-bldg_come-to-dallas_degolyer_SMU_ca1905

The plan was to maintain the smaller building during the construction of the new building in order that operations would not be interrupted, then demolish it at a later date when expansion would take place. When construction of the new building was completed, the smaller building served primarily as the downtown exchange.

In 1929/1930, S. Akard was widened, which necessitated the condemnation or moving of several existing structures. Luckily, the new telephone building had been built far enough back from Akard to dodge any problems, but the smaller telephone building would have to be moved or demolished — it was moved: Southwestern Bell moved the 4-story, 4,200-ton building 18 feet eastward, at a cost of more than $75,000 (more than a million dollars in today’s money). The planning took six months, with elaborate schemes involving wooden cribbing, steel rods, jacks, rails, slackened power and telephone cables, and flexible joints for water mains. The actual move took 36 hours and was “so gradual that the workers inside [were] unaware of it” (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 18, 1929). There was no interruption of telephone service during this costly relocation. Quite a feat!

The building still stands — in amongst the humongous AT&T complex, but, sadly, one of the original features of the building is long gone: a large, ornate “bell” above the grand entrance (an entrance which is no longer quite so grand). Wonder what happened to it?

Below are a couple of other photos of the brand-new building, from a promotional booklet by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Co. The top photo had the following caption: “A most successful example of modern design in Atlantic Terra Cotta. The detail is carefully scaled and the design has the freshness of originality. Terra Cotta is light gray containing particles of mineral oxide and with an unglazed surface, a color and finish of particular character.”

swb-bldg_atlantic-terra-cotta-booklet_1929_entrance“The main entrance shows an unusual and effective combination of Terra Cotta and granite. The bell design gives an appropriate and original touch.” (Click pictures to see larger images.)

swb-bldg_atlantic-terra-cotta-booklet_1929_bell-det

swb-bldg_atlantic-terra-cotta-booklet_1929_court“The court of the Telephone Building for four stories is faced entirely with Atlantic Terra Cotta. A bell, guarded by a strongly modeled eagle, tops each pier.” I believe this is the Wood Street side — after many expansions and renovations, these details no longer remain. The bells and eagles are difficult to make out in this photo — here is a photo of the terra cotta company’s “shop model”:

swb-bldg_atlantic-terra-cotta-booklet_1929_bells-eagles-det

southwestern-bell-telephone-bldg_postcard

Above, a postcard showing the S. Akard entrance, with Wood Street on the right. The only things still immediately recognizable about Lang & Witchell’s beautiful building are the repeating circular elements, the “court” along Wood, and the granite facing that wraps around the exterior of the ground floor. So much of the decorative detail is gone. No more bells, no eagles, no flash, no filigree. I hope the building’s interior decor has fared a bit better.

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Added: In response to the comment below by elmwoodhobo, I thought I should add a tiny bit about a pertinent later razing, addition, and expansion.

In May, 1961 the old, 4-story telephone building, built in the 1890s at the corner of S. Akard and Jackson, was finally demolished to make way for a new 23-story addition to the SWB building. This addition was finished in 1963 (possibly 1964), substantially increasing the footprint of the Southwestern Bell headquarters. Square-footage was further increased by the concurrent construction of eight new stories built atop the 1928 Lang & Witchell building. Below are drawings showing the original 1959 rendering by the architectural firm of Thomas, Jameson and Merrill, as well as an updated vision from January, 1962, as construction was underway. A lot changed in the those couple of years. (Click to see larger images.)

swb-addition-expansion_architects-orig-drawing_19591959

swb-addition-expansion_architects-updated-drawing_ad_jan-1962_det1962

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Sources & Notes

Top photos are from a promotional booklet titled Atlantic Terra Cotta (Vol. X, No. 3, June, 1929), which features tons of cool photos of then-recent buildings constructed with that company’s product (including San Antonio’s stunning Smith-Young Tower — now the Tower Life Building — which I have to admit I’d never heard of). These photos were found on an eBay listing, and their quality is not the greatest, but I’ve never seen them, and this is just a small attempt to preserve them for posterity. 

Photo of the original Southwestern Bell Building is from a promotional booklet titled Come To Dallas (Dallas: Dorsey Printing Co., ca. 1905); more info on this booklet (held by the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University), is here.

A Google Street View here shows the building these days. It’s still standing — which is great — but its entrance has definitely lost most of its original grandeur.

More Flashback Dallas posts on Southwestern Bell doings:

  • “The Haskell Exchange — ca. 1910,” here
  • “Southwestern Bell Telephone Goings-On, Circa 1928,” here
  • “Work and Play In Telephone Land.” here
  • “Telephone Operators Sweating At the Switchboard — 1951,” here

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Sam Ventura’s Italian Village, Oak Lawn

italian-village_photo-holder_PEB

by Paula Bosse

In amongst photos and belongings of my mother’s aunt, I recently came across this wonderful graphic of Oak Lawn’s Italian Village (3211 Oak Lawn, at Hall). It was on the cover of one of those cardboard photo holders which contained photos of diners and club-goers captured by photographers wanting to capture celebrants’ special occasions — they would take your photo and you would later purchase prints, which would be tucked inside the souvenir folder. (I don’t recognize any of the people in the photo which was  inside — the photo is here.)

The Italian Village complex (which contained all its various tangential enterprises over he years) was an Oak Lawn fixture for over 45 years — it was apparently still around during my lifetime, but I have no memory of ever seeing it. But by the time I would have been aware of it, things had begun to get a little weird and its profile had definitely dipped. (More on that later.)

Italian Village began its life in 1934 when Sam Ventura (1907-1997) bought a popular drive-in restaurant in Oak Lawn from a man named Levi F. “Speck” Harper. In Ventura’s obituary in The Dallas Morning News, his wife said: “He bought it from a man named Speck Harper who told him, ‘Give me $250 and my hat, and you’ll never see me again.’ Sam had to go and borrow the money.” (DMN, June 1, 1997) ($250 in today’s money would be about $4,700.)

speck-harper_july-1934July, 1934

Not only did $250 start Ventura on a very successful career as a restaurateur, it also assured him ownership of what would quickly become a primo piece of real estate. (Ventura dabbled in real estate and, in 1937, along with fellow restaurant man Sam Lobello, he purchased land at Preston Road and Northwest Highway which would one day become Preston Center.) (It might be worth noting here that Sam Ventura was not affiliated with the very popular Sammy’s restaurants, run by Dallas’ Messina family.)

italian-village_matchbook_front_ebay        italian-village_matchbook_back_ebay
Matchbook, via eBay

Italian Village — a restaurant which operated for many years as a private club in order to sell liquor — was originally co-owned by brothers-in-law Sam Ventura and Nick DeGeorge (DeGeorge was later married to Ventura’s sister Lucille). By the time the ad below appeared in 1939, the place had been newly remodeled and was on its ninth (!) expansion. There were lots of new “rooms”: the Can-Can Room, the Plaid Room, the Hunter’s Room, the Gazelle Room, and the Marionette Room, the latter of which featured entertainment in the form of a marionette show with puppets made in likenesses of the owners. (All images are larger when clicked.)

1939_italian-village_feb-1939Feb., 1939

In June, 1940, Italy entered the War in Europe as a member of the Axis forces. As a result, Ventura and DeGeorge immediately asserted their patriotism and their American-ness (both were born in the United States to Italian immigrants) by changing the name of their restaurant: arrivederci, Italian Village, hello, Oak Lawn Village. The owners placed an ad in Dallas newspapers explaining their decision (see ad below) — this made news across the country, garnering both positive national publicity as well as fervent local support.

italian-village_ad_june-1940
June, 1940

Not only did the restaurant’s name change in 1940, so did its ownership. Nick DeGeorge and his wife (the sister of Sam Ventura) embarked on a very lengthy, very bitter divorce (newspapers reported that Nick and Lucille were each on their fourth marriages). The result of this marital split spilled over and also caused a business split: Ventura became the sole owner of Italian Oak Lawn Village, and DeGeorge left to start his own (very successful) restaurant career (DeGeorge’s, Town & Country, etc.). Sam announced that he was “sole owner” in a September, 1940 ad. (I hope Nick at least got custody of his mini-me marionette….)

1940_oak-lawn-village-ad_sept-1950Sept., 1940

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Oak Lawn Village matchbook cover, via Flickr

In June, 1941 yet another remodeling/expansion was announced, with architectural design by longtime friend of Ventura and DeGeorge, Charles Dilbeck, and murals by Russ Ellis. In addition to the Gazelle Room (“for comfort”) and the Hunter’s Room (“for private parties”), there was now the San Juan Capistrano Room (“follow the swallows”), the 42nd & Broadway Room (“for luxury”), the South American Room (“for romance”), the Dude Ranch Room (“where the west begins”), the Rain Room (“for private parties”), the Banquet Room (“seating capacity 150 guests”), and an outdoor Italian Garden Terrace (“beneath the stars”).

1941_oak-lawn-village_dmn_june-41June, 1941

That $20,000 remodel (which would have been equivalent to about $350,000 in today’s money) went up in smoke — literally — in April, 1944, when the restaurant was “virtually destroyed” by fire. Ventura said he would rebuild when war-time government regulations would permit him to do so. At the end of the year he announced that he would build a new restaurant, of shell stone and marble construction, lit in front by decorative tower lights. The new place was built and in full swing — and back with its original name — in the summer of 1945.

1945_italian-village_aug-1945Aug., 1945

An ad for Dallas’ S. H. Lynch & Co.’s Seeburg Scientific Sound Distribution system appeared in the Aug. 10, 1946 issue of Billboard magazine, showing photos of Sam Ventura, the exterior of the new building, and an interior shot showing a Seeburg jukebox. (See full ad here.)

1946_italian-village_billboard_081046_ad-det-1Sam D. Ventura, 1946 (ad detail, Billboard magazine)

1946_italian-village_billboard_081046_ad-det-2

1946_italian-village_billboard_081046_ad-det-3Italian Village exterior and interior, 1946 (ad detail, Billboard magazine)

In January, 1951 another remodeling (to the tune of $75,000!) introduced the 300-seat Flamingo Room, which meant the entire Italian Village now had a seating capacity of more than 700 (Ventura had said that the original post-Speck’s restaurant seated only 40 or 50 people). The “modernistic styling” was the work of architect J. N. McCammon.

1951_italian-village_flamingo-room_jan-1951Jan., 1951

italian-village_postcard_flamingo-room_ebay

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Front and back of 1955 menu, via eBay

Further changes came to 3211 Oak Lawn in the fall of 1954 with the arrival of the Village Club, which featured live entertainment (including a rotating piano) and shared a kitchen with Italian Village. It was also a “private locker club” with personal liquor lockers available to members to keep their bottles in at a time when it was not legal for restaurants in Dallas to sell liquor-by-the-drink — “set-ups” were sold and the demon alcohol was poured from the member’s stash (or, more likely, from the communal stash).

In 1961 there was yet another remodel, which enlarged the club — now called Club Village — and shrank the restaurant. The swanky new club was designed by Charles Dilbeck and had a sort of Olde English theme (and, for some reason, featured a waterfall, a glass cage behind the bar containing live monkeys, and two live flamingos named Lancelot and Guenevere).

1965_club-village_oct-1965Oct., 1965

Around this time the (apparently short-lived) Francisca Restaurant appeared.

francisca-restaurant_menu_1961_ebayvia eBay

club-village_francisca_new-years-eve_dec-1961New Year’s Eve, Dec., 1961

1961 also marked the club’s debut on national television, appearing in scenes of the hit show Route 66, which were filmed in November. Below is a screen-capture from the episode “A Long Piece of Mischief,” with the waterfall in the background. (The entire episode, shot around the Mesquite Rodeo, can be watched on YouTube here — the two Club Village scenes begin at the 26:42 and 38:15 marks.)

1961_club-village_route-66Route 66 (screen capture) — Nov., 1961

In late 1966, Dallas filmmaker Larry Buchanan shot his cult classic Mars Needs Women in various locations all over town. I’m pretty sure one of the very first scenes was shot inside the club, after yet another remodel. (Incidentally, see what the lively neon-ified corner of Oak Lawn and Lemmon, a couple of blocks away, looked like in Buchanan’s film, here.)

1966_club-village_mars-needs-women
Mars Needs Women (screen capture) — 1966

In August, 1964 a new club opened: Gringos (sometimes spelled Gringo’s). This public club, featuring mostly rock bands, was the brainchild of Sam Ventura, Jr. (who said in an interview that he had rather brazenly sprung the whole thing as a big surprise on his father, who had been out of town on a lengthy vacation — luckily, the club was a hit and Sam, Sr. was pleased). Club Village continued as a private club, but from newspaper accounts it seems that the new discotheque displaced the Italian Village and/or Francisca restaurant completely. So now on one side you had the long-running “sophisticated” private club, and on the other side, the “new concept in continuous entertainment,” with its Mexican-themed decor and Watusi-dancing waitresses (“Las Mata-Dollies…”), which catered to a younger set. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram described Gringos thusly:

Newest “port of call” for Dallas revelers on the bistro beat is the just-opened and lavishly-done Gringos Club on Oak Lawn Ave. near the Melrose Hotel and in the location formerly occupied by the Italian Village Restaurant and Village Club. Open to the public, this night time Camelot with Mexican decor features, among other flings, Jesse (brother of Trini) Lopez and his handful of musical consorts on the bandstand and a covey of revealing young handmaidens called “Las Matta-Dollies” [sic], sort of Spanish-type Playboy Bunnies who are worthy of your scrutiny. (Chris Hobson, FWST, Aug. 27, 1964)

1964_gringos_aug-1964Aug., 1964

In May, 1967, Sam Ventura, Jr. (“Sammy,” who had taken over the family business when Sam, Sr. retired in 1966) declared that Gringos was dead: “There will be absolutely no rock-and-roll in this room anymore. It’s dead. Our whole concept [now] is for sophistication, for adult entertainment” (DMN, May 24, 1967). So adios, Gringos, hello an even bigger Club Village. (In 1968 a club described as a “new” Gringos  opened a block away, at 3118 Oak Lawn — it’s unclear whether this was affiliated in any way with the Ventura family.)

In June, 1968, the never-ending improvements, remodelings, and reconfigurings of 3211 Oak Lawn continued with Sammy’s announcement of a new (public) restaurant, the Wood ‘N Rail. This steakhouse featured a revolving “ice bar” (the old revolving piano bar, repurposed), which contained a display of raw meat — from this, customers would choose whichever cut of beef called to them, and before the meat was escorted into the kitchen, the patron would sear his or her initials into it with a “red-hot branding iron.” The restaurant’s slogan was “Personalized Beef.” The unstoppable Club Village continued as a private club and restaurant in the adjoining complex.

1968_wood-n-rail_oct-1968Oct., 1968

1971 began with a fire. The (once) unstoppable Club Village was destroyed. The adjacent Wood ‘N Rail emerged unscathed. So, yes, more remodeling! By 1972, 3211 Oak Lawn boasted three (three!) restaurants at one address: the continuing Wood ‘N Rail (steakhouse), Fisherman’s Cove (seafood), and — hey! — the return of Italian Village. As the ads said: “3 RESTAURANTS UNDER ONE ROOF!”

1972_fishermans-cove_march-1972March, 1972

1972_three-restaurants_may-1972May, 1972

Also big news in 1971: it finally became legal to order liquor and mixed drinks in bars and restaurants — the whole “private club-membership” thing in order to get around liquor laws was mostly a thing of the past (unless you lived in a dry area of the city…).

Then, in 1974, things really changed. After a “profound religious conversion,” Sammy Ventura stopped all sales of alcohol and told the TABC he didn’t need or want that ol’ liquor license. This made news around the country.

1974_kings-village_panama-city-FL-news-herald_081274UPI wire story, Panama City [FL] News Herald, Aug, 1974

Unsurprisingly, business plummeted. Two of the three restaurants closed. Italian Village continued to limp along, even weathering the introduction of the King’s Village, “Dallas’ first Christian dinner theater.”

1976_kings-village_june-1976June, 1976

This change in direction of the the 40-plus-year-old family business caused a huge rift between Sammy and his father. Sam, Sr. put his foot down, and The King’s Village (“the nation’s first non-liquor, Christian nightclub”) closed in June, 1977.

1977_kings-village_pampa-daily-news_062177
AP wire story, Pampa Daily News, June 21, 1977

Oak Lawn’s decades-old Italian Village was no more (although Sammy appears to have opened his own Italian Village restaurant in Richardson’s Spanish Village for a while). The last mention I found of Italian Village was in Feb., 1979:

After 45 years, the Italian Village restaurant has changed to another venture, the Crazy Crab. Sam Ventura opened the Italian Village in 1934 and the last event before the changeover was a surprise birthday party honoring Sam. (DMN, Feb. 23, 1979)

It’s a shame Italian Village’s last incarnation was a mere shadow of its former go-go glory, but it’s almost unbelievable that a restaurant in Dallas was in business for 45 years. Sam Ventura’s $250 gamble in 1934 paid off very, very well.

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Sources & Notes

Top image is the front cover of a cardstock photo-holder (with linked photo by the Gilbert Studios, 4121 Gaston); collection of Paula Bosse.

All clippings and images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Wilson Building, Main and Ervay

wilson-bldg_dallas-illust-hist_payneLooking northwesterly… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Another photo of the always impressive Wilson Building, this one showing the U. S. Coffee & Tea Co. (at the northwest corner of Elm and Ervay) in the background.

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Sources & Notes

Photo from Dallas, An Illustrated History by Darwin Payne (Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publications, 1982; Sponsored by Dallas Historic Preservation League); original photo source is the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division of the Dallas Public Library.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

McKinney Avenue Postcard Views

mckinney-avenue_postcard_ebayMcKinney Ave., large houses, streetcar tracks… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Just a quick post of two picture postcards of McKinney Avenue (the images drained of their added color give a more realistic idea of the original photographs). These views are unrecognizable in today’s Uptown.

mckinney-avenue_postcard_ebay_bw

maple-mckinney_streetcar_ebay

maple-mckinney_streetcar_ebay+bw

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Sources & Notes

Both postcards found on eBay.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

State Fair Coliseum / Centennial Administration Building / Women’s Museum / Women’s Building

tx-centennial_armstrong-linoleum-ad_1936_detAdministration Building interior, 1936… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Thursday night I attended a very entertaining Dallas Historical Society presentation at the Hall of State in Fair Park: “An Evening With Jim Parsons: Lost Fair Park,” in which the author of Fair Park Deco and DFW Deco talked about many of the buildings constructed for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936 which are no longer with us.

One of Jim’s asides was that there are very, very few color photos of the Centennial buildings and murals taken in 1936. If you’ve seen a Centennial view in color, it’s probably a colorized postcard. Kodachrome film was introduced in 1935 and was, sadly, not in wide use by visitors to Fair Park in 1936 (or by the Centennial organization).

When he said that, though, I remembered an ad I had come across that I thought was pretty cool, simply because it shows the interior of one of the Centennial buildings when it was brand new (…well, it was sort of new — more on that below). The ad is for Armstrong Linoleum and it features a color photo showing one of their custom linoleum floors installed in the Centennial Administration Building, an interior I’d never seen. And it’s in color! (Check out the furniture and the recessed lighting!) Here’s the full ad, which appeared in national magazines in 1936 (click for larger image).

ad- tx-centennial_armstrong-linoleum_19361936 ad

And — hallelujah — I found another photo of the interior — also from the helpful Armstrong people (I don’t know if they had the concession to outfit all the Centennial buildings, but, if so, I’d love to see all of their designs). Unfortunately this one is not in color, but it shows a fantastic Texas-centric custom design, laid down in fabulous linoleum.

tx-centennial_armstrong-linoleum_admin-bldg_texas-floor

Imagine that floor in Cadet Blue, White, Orange, and Dark Gray. This is from a trade publication called Armstrong’s Floors and Walls for Homes and Public Buildings, published around 1950 (and fully scanned here). A cropped version of the photo of the top is also included here (that floor, by the way, is in White, Dark Gray, and Cadet Blue), with handy swatches (which, reproduced below, lose some accuracy in color).

tx-centennial_armstrong-linoleum_admin-bldg_colors

The Centennial Administration Building — which housed the hundreds of office workers and executives behind the running of the Texas Centennial Exposition — was actually the very first Centennial building completed (at the end of December, 1935). Most of the Centennial buildings were newly built in 1936, but the Administration Building was actually an old building given a new stucco façade and completely remodeled — it even acquired a second floor inside the huge structure. This building was originally known as the State Fair Coliseum, built in 1910, designed by architect C. D. Hill (who designed many buildings in Dallas, including the still-standing Municipal Building downtown (built in 1914) and the Melrose Hotel (1924).

state-fair-coliseum_dmn_062009_drawingDallas Morning News, June 20, 1909

state-fair-coliseum_dmn_050710_constructionDMN, May 7, 1910

It was BIG. It had a seating capacity of 7,500.

state-fair-coliseum_flickr_coltera

state-fair-coliseum_dmn_030413DMN, March 4, 1913

This was the first building you’d see as you entered Fair Park, as it was right inside the front entrance on Parry Avenue (after you entered, the building would be on your left).

Coliseum Building, State Fair Dallas, TX

park-board-bk_fair-park-coliseum_1914

It was the city’s first official municipal auditorium, and it hosted everything from livestock shows, conventions, large civic gatherings, and the occasional opera.

Fast-forward a few decades: in 2000 the building became the home of the Women’s Museum. The museum closed in 2011 and is now called the Women’s Building and is used for special events.

A photo of the building from 2014:

womens-museum_fair-park_2014_carol-highsmith_library-of-congressphoto: Carol Highsmith, Library of Congress

See a Wikimedia photo of this building in 2016 here — click it again (and again) to see it really big, and linger on the mural by Carlo Ciampaglia and the sculpture by Raoul Josset. See interior photos of the space in 2009 during its time as the Women’s Museum here and here. I’m not sure if the exposed brick and steel are from the original 1910 building, but I certainly hope so! And, lastly, exterior photos from 2009 showing the side of the building here, and here

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Sources & Notes

This building can be seen on this aerial Google view, here. It is currently the Women’s Building, and it is available for special events — more about this building from the Friends of Fair Park, here.

Black-and-white postcard showing the interior of the Coliseum is from Flickr.

Black-and-white photo “Coliseum and Art Building” is from Report for the Year 1914-1915 of the Park Board of the City of Dallas, With a Sketch of the Park System (Dallas: Park Board, 1915), which can be accessed as part of the Dallas Municipal Archives via the Portal to Texas History, here.

And since this whole post was spurred by Jim Parsons’ talk the other night, here’s a link to the book he and David Bush wrote: Fair Park Deco: Art & Architecture of the Texas Centennial Exposition.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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