Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Postcards

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:

ambassador_013072_ad

Ambassador Retirement Hotel ad, Jan. 30, 1972

ambassador-hotel_historic-dallas_fall-1982_portal_photo

ca. 1982

This morning:

ambassador-on-fire_DFR_twitter_052919

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.

 

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.)

state-fair_imm-gd_1889

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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.

state-fair_sept-1946_ad-cow
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.

 

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