Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Postcards

Worth Street, A Century Ago

worth-street_461_rppc_1908_ebay“A hearty welcome awaits…” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above is a photograph of the new home of traveling salesman Everett F. Bray (1873-1915) and his wife Erminia Connor Bray (1874-1962); they had moved to Dallas in 1907 with their young children Everita and Melville. The picture-postcard is dated Aug. 28, 1908 and was sent to a friend with Erminia’s message:

Dearie, I hope it won’t be very long before I can have the pleasure of entertaining you in my Dallas home. […] A hearty welcome awaits you at 461 Worth St. Dallas any old time.

worth-street_461_rppc_1908_ebay_msg

The 1905 Sanborn map of this Old East Dallas neighborhood (which, more specifically, is in OED’s Peak’s Suburban Addition) can be found here (461 is an empty lot, near the upper right corner). After the city-wide address-change of 1911, the 400 block of Worth became the 4400 block. As is the case with many of the houses in this neighborhood, Erminia’s house still stands. …But with a whole lot more vegetation.

worth-street_google-street-view_20162016 Google Street View

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Worth Street — which stretches through Junius Heights, Munger Place, and Peak’s Suburban Addition — may be a bit funkier these days, but there are still many beautiful homes lining the street. Below are a couple of postcards from a century ago, well before the “funky” era.

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After I posted the top image on Instagram, a person (whose handle is @uneik_image_inc) made this interesting comment:

We have painted quite a few houses on Worth Street! Interesting fact: lots of these homes are built on Bois D’Arc tree stumps for foundation piers and a solid 85% are still standing and being lived in!

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Sources & Notes

All postcards are from eBay.

The Brays had moved from their Worth Street home by 1915 when 41-year-old Everett Bray was killed in an automobile accident. Erminia — known as “Minnie” — lived almost 50 years longer than her husband, dying in Duncanville in 1962 at the age of 88.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Beautiful Lake Cliff — ca. 1906

lake-cliff_cook-colln_degolyer_smu

by Paula Bosse

Enjoy these images of Lake Cliff, which, 100 years ago, was “the greatest amusement park in the Southwest.” The slogan “It’s in Dallas” should really have read “It’s in Oak Cliff” — and back then Oak Cliff had everything!

  • Mystic River
  • Shoot-the-Chutes (read this!)
  • Open-Air Circus
  • Roller Coaster
  • Casino
  • Natatorium
  • Carousel
  • Tennis Courts
  • Restaurant
  • Baseball Grounds
  • Skating Rink
  • Trolley Cars
  • Penny Vaudeville
  • Casino Band and Orchestra
  • Circle Swing (see it here)
  • Japanese Village
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Ferris Wheel

Whew.

Below, some wonderful postcards and photos. (Click to see larger images.)

lake-cliff_c1910_postcard_degolyervia DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

lake-cliff-bathing_1910s_postcard_degolyervia DeGolyer Library, SMU

swim_lake-cliff-pool_ca-1907_flickr_coltera

lake-cliff_flickr_coltera

lake-cliff_postcard

lake-cliff_shoot-the-chutes_1908

skating-rink_lake-cliff_cook-colln_degolyer_1via Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

lake-cliff_sunday-afternoon-concert_1906_portal

lake-cliff-park_rose-garden

lake-cliff-pavilion_oak-cliff-high-school-yrbk_1925Oak Cliff High School yearbook, 1925

lake-cliff_clogenson_1908_LOCPhoto by Clogenson, ca. 1908, via Library of Congress

lake-cliff_1906_portal_attractions-1

lake-cliff_1906_portal_attractions-2From 1906 promotional brochure, via Portal to Texas History

Jump forward to the 1940s — when it was more of a big pool, without all the flash and filigree:

swim_lake-cliff-pool_1947_flickr_coltera

Take a look at it now in this stunningly beautiful drone video by Matthew Armstrong:

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Sources & Notes

Top image is from a postcard in the George W. Cook Collection at SMU’s DeGolyer Library, here.

Most other uncredited images were found around the internet, several from Coltera’s Flickr stream.

More on Lake Cliff can be found in this article by Rachel Stone from the Oak Cliff Advocate (be sure to click the link to see the full 1906 promotional brochure on “the Southwest’s greatest playground” (it’s “Clean, Cool, Delightful”)).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Urban Landscape with Biplane

magnolia-building_airplane_postcard_ebay
Scraping the sky… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

When the Magnolia Petroleum Building was built in 1924, it was Dallas’ tallest building. It was so tall, in fact, that it appears to be encroaching into biplane-airspace in this romanticized postcard. If you squint, it looks as if the Dallas citizenry is fleeing from an air-attack as a plane buzzes the Magnolia Building. …Perhaps a Texan King Kong is swatting at it from the other side.

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Sources & Notes

Postcard from eBay. The view is to the northeast, from Commerce and Akard, with the Adolphus Hotel partially visible on the far left and the old Oriental Hotel partially visible on the far right.

See a fantastic photo of these buildings from around the same time in the Flashback Dallas post “The Adolphus, The Oriental, The Magnolia.”

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Wilson Building and the *New* Wilson Building — 1911

wilson-bldg_titches_postcard
Elm and Ervay… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This beautiful postcard shows the original eight-story Wilson Building, built by J B. Wilson in 1902-1904, and its twelve-story companion, which was known as both the “New Wilson Building” and the “Titche-Goettinger Annex” when it was built in 1911. Remarkably, both buildings are still standing at Main-Ervay-Elm. (The view above is looking southwest, with Ervay at the left, and Elm at the right. See this view today on Google Street View here.)

The original building — surely one of Dallas’ most beautiful landmarks — was the home of the Titche-Goettinger department store (which occupied the first two floors and the basement) as well as an important downtown office building. Until seeing this postcard, I had no idea there was a porte-cochère facing Ervay (it can be seen above at the left, under the parasol-like canopy).

By 1910 Titche’s was so successful that it needed to expand, and it was decided that a new “skyscraper” would be built right next door — the department store would continue to occupy its space in the “old” Wilson Building but would also take over the new building (occupying all twelve floors!). According to The Dallas Morning News, the new building would be “the tallest structure in the South occupied exclusively by a mercantile establishment. There are only four store buildings in the United States higher than four stories” (DMN, Nov. 13, 1910).

Below are a couple of details from a “coming soon” ad from Titche-Goettinger in September, 1903, showing a drawing of the building (still under construction) from the Fort Worth architectural firm Sanguinet & Staats. (All images are larger when clicked.)

wilson-bldg_titches_092703_coming-soon_ad-det_1DMN, Sept. 27, 1903

wilson-bldg_titches_092703_coming-soon_ad-det_2DMN, Sept. 27, 1903

titche-goettinger_wilson-bldg_postcard_postmarked-1912

The two photos and article below ran in The Dallas Morning News on March 13, 1904 under the headline “Completion of the Great Eight-Story Wilson Building in Dallas.” The caption of the photo immediately below read “This view was taken from the postoffice, and is the first to show the entire Ervay street front.”

wilson-bldg_dmn_031304_newly-completed_clogenson

Although the quality of the image below isn’t great, it’s interesting to see this “grand marble stairway,” a feature which was removed in 1911 while the new “annex” was under construction, in order to give Titche’s even more room. The grand staircase was replaced by elevators. (The “rest rooms” referred to in the caption were more “lounge” than bathroom — a place where ladies could sit, relax, and even jot off a few letters as they recovered from their bout of intense shopping.)

wilson-bldg_dmn_031304_grand-stairway_clogenson

The accompanying article (click to read):

wilson-bldg_dmn_031304_completed_textDMN, March 13, 1904

Jump forward six years to the announcement of the “new” Wilson Building:

wilson-bldg_expansion_dmn_111310DMN, Nov. 13, 1910

Here it is under construction:

wilson-bldg_expansion_dmn_032811_clogensonDMN, March 28, 1911

They rushed to be ready to open in time to dazzle State Fair of Texas visitors — and they made it:

wilson-bldg_titche-annex_101411DMN, Oct. 14, 1911

And, below, the completed building, in a photo looking east on Elm (this photo shows one of the brand new street lights written about in the post “The Grand Elm Street Illumination — 1911”). (See this view today on Google Street View, here.)

wilson-bldg_expansion_dmn_121611_clogensonDMN, Dec. 16, 1911

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Sources & Notes

See photos of the original building under construction in the Flashback Dallas post “The Wilson Building Under Construction — 1902.”

I love looking at Sanborn maps. See what was going on at Main-Ervay-Elm in 1899 (before any Wilson buildings), in 1905 (one year after the arrival of the first one), and in 1921 (ten years after the annex went up).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Butler Brothers Building, As Seen From the Praetorian

butler-brothers_looking-from-praetorian_postcard_ebayButler Brothers, in its natural habitat… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today, a wonderful postcard image showing the Butler Brothers building, built in 1910/1911 and still standing at South Ervay, between Young and Marilla, across the street from the present-day City Hall). It’s set in the middle of businesses, residences, and lots of greenery. The view is from the Praetorian Building at Main and Stone (which, at the time was the tallest building in Dallas, but which is no longer standing).

Here’s another view of mammoth Butler Brothers building, in a detail from a panoramic photo of the Dallas skyline in 1913 (see the full photo here):

1913-pano-4

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Sources & Notes

Colorized postcard found in an old eBay listing.

Source info on black-and-white panoramic photo detail is at the original post, “‘New Dallas Skyline’ — 1913,” here.

More on the construction of Butler Brothers can be found in this post (scroll down to #6).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Grand Elm Street Illumination — 1911

elm-street_illuminated_night_rppc_ebay

by Paula Bosse

As most of Dallas has now clawed its way back into the world of full electric power after last weekend’s surprise “weather event” (…although, as I write this another big storm is passing through the area), I thought this image might be a timely one. It’s from late 1911 and shows Elm Street with its brand new electric street lights, the installation of which prompted Dallas boosters to dub the street “The Great White Way.” The view is from Ervay, looking west.

1910-1911 was a time of remarkable growth in Dallas. Construction had been started or completed on three important downtown buildings (the Adolphus Hotel, the Southwestern Life Building, and the Butler Brothers building); the historic Oak Cliff viaduct was nearing completion; the dam at the city’s new White Rock reservoir was in operation; and — lo and behold! — ornamental electric street lights (with underground conduits) had been installed along Elm Street, from Market to Harwood.

The buzzword in municipal governments of large American cities at that time was “ornamental street lighting.” What was it? According to The Dallas Morning News:

“Ornamental street lighting” contemplates just what the term signifies. Instead of somewhat indiscriminate and often far from attractive methods of lighting the streets of a city, the adoption of a systematic plan by which, with the placing of uniform lights of pleasing design at regular intervals, a street is not only illuminated, but is ornamented as well. (DMN, Nov. 5, 1910)

The article went on to say that this type of street lighting was an essential element of a progressive and prosperous city (which Dallas most certainly was): not only did it help beautify the city, it also increased property values and helped to decrease crime. …And Dallas leaders really, really wanted it. They just didn’t want to pay for it. Somehow, an agreement was struck in which the cost of the materials, installation, and maintenance of these “ornamental street lights” would be paid for by Elm Street merchants and/or property owners; after one year, the City would take possession of the lights and assume responsibility for their upkeep. Seems like a novel way to fund a city project.

Dallas’ first “ornamental” lights and poles (which, because I like details like this, were painted a soothing olive green) were topped with “bishops’ crooks” (or “shepherd’s crooks”) fashioned in wrought iron, with the lamps suspended from the gooseneck bend. Just over 100 of the magnetite arc lights were installed along Elm, staggered on opposite sides of the street to maximize the illumination’s reach.

The electric lamps will be of a type entirely new in Texas and will give a steady white light that will be more pleasant than the flutter of the common arc light. […] One lamp of 2,000 candlepower will be placed on each pole. (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 14, 1911)

The project was delayed for several months for a variety of reasons (not least of which was the fact that the first shipload of iron poles was mysteriously “lost at sea” as it was en route from New York to Galveston…), but the festive grand unveiling was finally held on September 30, 1911, just in time for Dallas to show off another civic accomplishment to out-of-town visitors who would soon be streaming into town to attend the State Fair of Texas. Dallas’ “Great White Way” thrilled all who beheld it and blazed proudly every night from sunset to midnight. Business owners on Main and Commerce streets were envious of all that fresh, new, well-distributed light over on Elm, and it wasn’t long before those streets had also replaced their garish and old-fashioned, fluttering, stuttering arc lights with the brash new ornamental lights.

Here is a photo of what the lights looked like in December, 1911 (the photo shows the new 12-story Wilson Building annex):

wilson-bldg_expansion_dmn_121611_clogenson

Below are examples of what these street lights looked like a few years after they had been introduced in 1911 (the first two are details of photos from a post found here, and the third one is a detail of a photo taken in front of the Queen Theatre at Elm and Akard in 1914).

street-light_det-2

street-light_det-1

elm-st-ornamental-street-light_elm-akard_queen-theatre_ca-1914

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Read the progress report on the installation of the new lighting system (all images are larger when clicked):

elm-street_illuminated_dmn_091411_detailsDMN, Sept. 14, 1911

Excited anticipation of the soon-to-be “Great White Way” was building:

elm-street_illuminated_dmn_092711DMN, Sept. 27, 1911

Sanger Bros. was one of the many businesses celebrating the arrival of the ornamental lighting. On the day the lights were to debut in downtown Dallas, the department store ran an ad which invited Dallasites to dine in their “lofty” seventh-floor cafe and, afterwards, stroll along the well-lit thoroughfare and soak up the brand new illumination:

elm-street_illuminated_093011_sangers-ad_detSept. 30, 1911, the night the lights were turned on

Below is the News’ report of the inaugural switch-flipping. (Missing from the article was the fact that someone had been stabbed that night as crowds jostled each other in the streets and along the sidewalks, climaxing with the perp being chased for several blocks before being apprehended; all of this had happened under the glow of the expensive, new, very-bright, law-enforcement-aiding artificial light — that new lighting system was already paying off!)


elm-street_illuminated_dmn_100111
DMN, Oct. 1, 1911

elm-street_illuminated_night_rppc_ebay_sm

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Souces & Notes

Postcard showing “Grand Elm Street Illumination, Compliments of the Camera Shop” is from an old eBay listing. (There is also a copy in the George W. Cook Collection at SMU’s DeGolyer Library, here — you can zoom in a bit more for details, even though, ironically, it’s still pretty difficult to make much out in the shadows. A line from the postcard message reads, “This is a photo of Elm Street at night — pretty swell I think.”)

Businesses seen on the right side of the photo are the Texas Seed & Floral Co. and the Lontos Cafe, which were located near the northwest corner of Elm and Ervay (years later, this was the appoximate site of the Palace Theatre); the Wilson Building (then the Titche-Goettinger department store) is either wholly out of frame at the extreme left, or is only partially visible.

In 1911 — before the ornamental lights were installed — Dallas had something like 1,000 electric (and a few gas) street lights in operation around the city; the arrival of the brighter and more aesthetically appealing Brave New Luminescence of Elm Street’s “Great White Way” spelled the inevitable phasing-out of the old-fashioned arc lights.

Read about how Dallas responded to the 1912 lighting of the Oak Cliff viaduct, the world’s longest concrete bridge, at the bottom of this post.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Majestic Hotel/The Park Hotel/The Ambassador Hotel: R.I.P. — 1904-2019

majestic-hotel_portal_postcard

by Paula Bosse

The historic Ambassador Hotel at 1312 S. Ervay in the Cedars was destroyed by fire this morning — the building was 115 years old and was under renovation. Watching news footage of flames engulfing the South Dallas landmark is heart-wrenching.

Built in 1904 alongside City Park, the Majestic Apartment Hotel opened in early 1905. It was designed by popular local architect Earle Henri (E. H.) Silven (who, incidentally, was arrested on suspicion of setting fire to the then-historic Knepfly Building in 1906, a fire which resulted in two deaths, but a grand jury declined to prosecute because of insufficient evidence — I actually wrote about this fire in passing a few years ago in a completely unrelated post).

The Majestic was originally an “apartment hotel” which was more apartment house than hotel, intended for long-term residents. Financial backing of this endeavor was shaky, and the Majestic soon fell into receivership; after a change of owners, the newly renamed Park Hotel opened in 1907. Several years later, in 1933, it became the Ambassador Hotel. Over the 115-year life of the building, these various incarnations came with a dizzying number of owners and operators, and news of its impending renovation and rebirth was heard frequently over the past 20 or 30 years. Recent plans, though, seemed like they were actually going to finally happen. …And now, unfortunately, they won’t.

Below are several images of the hotel, beginning back when Dallasites were still using a horse and buggy to get around. (All images are larger when clicked.)

majestic-apartment-hotel_dmn_010105

Majestic Apartment House, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 1, 1905

majestic-hotel_1905-directory

Majestic Hotel, 1905 Dallas directory (ad, detail)

majestic-hotel_come-to-dallas_degolyer_SMU_ca1905

Majestic Hotel, 1905 (via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

I’m not sure which iteration of the hotel is seen in this postcard, but here it is viewed from City Park, with the Confederate Monument in the foreground:

confederate-monument_city-park_majestic-hotel_cook-colln_degolyer_smu

(via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

The Park Hotel opened in September, 1907.

1907_park-hotel_dmn_081107

Park Hotel, August 11, 1907

1907_park-hotel_dmn_100107

Park Hotel, Oct. 1, 1907

One of my favorite views of the hotel is this one, from City Park, with the Hughes Candy factory at the left (the original photo is here):

park-hotel_hughes-brothers_flickr_coltera

park-hotel_postcard

In 1933 the hotel got a new stucco exterior and tile roof and was renamed the Ambassador.

ambassador_dallas-friendly-city-invites-you_1930s_degolyer-library_smu

(via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

Ambassador Apartment Hotel Dallas

For a while the hotel served as a retirement community — here is an odd, incredibly wordy ad, beckoning retirees with prospects of late-life romance, while also sharing (somewhat) accurate local history:

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Ambassador Retirement Hotel ad, Jan. 30, 1972

ambassador-hotel_historic-dallas_fall-1982_portal_photo

ca. 1982

This morning:

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Dallas Fire Rescue, via Twitter

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Sources & Notes

Top image from the Portal to Texas History.

Read a comprehensive history of the building in an article by Harvey J. Graff in Historic Dallas here and here.

Read the City of Dallas Designation Report from 1982 seeking Landmark Status here.

Read the 2018 application for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (with MANY pages of photos) here.

Coverage of today’s fire can be found on the NBC-DFW site here; a 2017 video walk-through of the Ambassador in happier, more optimistic times can also be found on the Channel 5 site, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Theaters at 1517 Elm: The Garden, The Jefferson, The Pantages, The Ritz, and The Mirror — 1912-1941

garden-theatre_ca-1912_ebayThe Garden Theatre, ca. 1912

by Paula Bosse

The photo above shows the Garden Theatre, located at 1517 Elm, on the north side of the street, between Akard and Stone Street. It was opened in the fall of 1912 by partners W. J. Brown and R. J. (Ray) Stinnett (who also operated the Cycle Park Theatre at Fair Park). The Garden was a vaudeville stop for touring companies.

1912_garden-theatre_variety_sept-1912Variety, Sept. 1912

It was one of many local theaters which simulcast World Series baseball games via telegraph updates, in the days before radio and TV (I wrote more about this fascinating subject here).

1912_garden-theatre_101612Oct. 16, 1912

As seen in the top photo, the Garden Theatre sat between the Pratt Paint & Paper Co. and the Roderick-Alderson Hardware Co.

garden-theatre_1913-directory_1517-elm1913 Dallas city directory

The photo at the top was found on eBay, with the seller-provided date of 1912. Zooming in, one can see a placard in front of the theater advertising the appearance of the Hendrix Belle Isle Musical Comedy Company (misspelled on the sign as “Henndrix”) — for many years this troupe toured with a production called “The School-Master”/”School Days,” the very production seen here on offer to audiences at the Garden. (Read a review of a 1912 Coffeyville, Kansas performance of the troupe’s bread-and-butter act here.)

garden-theatre_ebay_det

In April, 1913 Brown and Stinnett split, with Brown taking the Cycle Park action and Stinnett keeping the Garden (and a handful of other theaters).

On March 8, 1915 the theater changed its name and reopened as the Jefferson Theater. As the ad below stated, “This is the only theater in Dallas presenting popular players in repertoire […] Not moving pictures.”

1915_jeffersosn-theater-opens_dmn_030715March 7, 1915

I’m not sure where the “Jefferson” name came from, but….

jefferson-theater_061115June 11, 1915

There were a few back-and-forths as far as operators and leases of the Jefferson, but in 1923, Ray Stinnett “sold” (or probably more accurately sub-leased) the theater in order to concentrate on his other (bigger! better! brighter!) venture, the next-door Capitol Theater, but he reacquired it in 1925 and renamed it the Pantages. (This has caused confusion, with some thinking it had become the Pantages earlier — the confusion is understandable, as the Jefferson was affiliated with the Pantages vaudeville circuit between 1917 and 1920, and during that time the word “Pantages” appeared prominently on the theater’s marquee, but it was still the Jefferson. See a photo from May, 1925, showing the Jefferson from the Pacific side here, after it had become a Loew’s-affiliated theater.)

The Jefferson became the Pantages Theater on December 27, 1928 when Stinnett opened the newly remodeled venue which offered vaudeville stage acts as well as motion pictures. (All images are larger when clicked.)

pantages-opening_122725Dec. 27, 1925

That incarnation didn’t last too long. Goodbye, Pantages, hello, Ritz. The Ritz Theater opened on October 14, 1928, operated by the R & R (Robb & Rowley) chain but leased from Stinnett. The first film shown was “The Lights of New York,” the first all-talking feature-length movie.

1928_ritz_101028Oct. 10, 1928

1928_ritz_101328
Oct. 13, 1928

1928_ritz_101528Oct. 15, 1928

Below, a 1929 photo showing the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Elm Street, the heart of Theater Row: seen here are the Ritz, Capitol, Old Mill, and Palace theaters (the regal Queen was a few doors west of the Ritz, at the corner of Elm and Akard).

ritz_capitol_old-mill_palace_photo_sherrodphoto from “Historic Dallas Theatres” by D. Troy Sherrod

A postcard showing the Ritz (and neighbors) a couple of years later, in 1931:

ritz_capitol_old-mill_palace_postcard_cinematreasures

But the Ritz didn’t last all that long either — a little over three years.

1931_ritz-mirror_120831Dec. 8, 1931

In 1931 the theater was acquired by the Hughes-Franklin company (as in Howard Hughes, the super-rich Texan who had an obsession with Hollywood). The plan was to renovate the building and rename it the Mirror, “a duplicate, in so far as possible, of the famous Mirror Theater of Hollywood. A feature will be the extensive use of mirrors in the lobby and foyer” (Dallas Morning News, Nov. 29, 1931).

mirror_motion-picture-times_122931Motion Picture Times, Dec. 29, 1931

The Mirror Theater opened at 1517 Elm on Christmas Day, 1931.

1931_mirror_122531
Dec. 25, 1931

Theater Row, 1936:

theater-row_mirror_march-1936

More Elm Street:

mirror-capitol-rialto-palace-melba-majestic_theater_row_night_big

The Mirror chugged on for several years as a second-run house, apparently less and less profitable as the years passed. On August 4, 1941 the theater burned down in an early-morning fire. The property owner, Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews, decided against rebuilding.

mirror-fire_variety_081341Variety, Aug. 13, 1941

Here’s the same view as seen above, only now the space next to the Capitol is a nondescript one-story retail building. (The Telenews, a theater showing newsreels, opened in November, 1941.)

telenews_missing-mirror-post-fire_capitol_postcard

Below, a photo from around 1942, the first time in 30 years without a theater at 1517 Elm Street.

theater-row_by-george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUphoto via the DeGolyer Library, SMU

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of the Garden Theatre is from an old eBay listing.

More Flashback Dallas posts on Dallas theaters can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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

rubber-stock-pile_dallas-1943_ebay-det
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.

rubber-stock-pile_dallas-1943

The article reads:

RUBBER STOCK PILE
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. 

defense-needs-rubber_sarah-sundin

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.

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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.

rubber-drive_austin-statesman_062742
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

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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.

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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

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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)

rubber-stock-pile_dallas-1943_ebay-det_sm

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

 

Rugged Highland Park

highland-park_charles-arnold_postcard_postmarked-1909

by Paula Bosse

Two views of Turtle Creek, wending through Highland Park. The view above is from a postcard mailed to East Hampton, Long Island in 1909 (“Haven’t seen this but it must be true. Pretty good for Texas…”); the view below is from about 1915, the year Highland Park was incorporated (the photo appears to show the same three children seen in my earlier post, “Wading in Turtle Creek, 100 Years Ago”). (Both images of the bluff-lined creek are larger when clicked.)

dallas-educational-center_turtle-creek_ca-1916

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Sources & Notes

Top image is from a C. Weichsel postcard titled “Woodland Scene. Highland Park. Dallas, Tex.” (photo possibly by Charles A. Arnold). Another image of this postcard can be seen on the cover of the Fall, 2015 issue of Legacies (here); the story it illustrates is “Attempts to Annex the Park Cities,” here.

The black-and-white photo (captioned “Highland Park”) is from a booklet on Dallas education, published around 1916.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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