Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Retail

The Aldredge Book Store — 1968

ABS_charlie-drum_dick-bosse_andy-hanson_degolyer-library_SMUCharlie Drum and Dick Bosse… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today my father, Dick Bosse, would have been 84 years old. A very nice person at the DeGolyer Library at SMU (who knew my father) sent me this photo a couple of days ago. It’s from the DeGolyer’s Andy Hanson collection (Hanson was a long-time photographer for the Dallas Times Herald). Taken in the original location of The Aldredge Book Store at 2800 McKinney Avenue, the photo shows bookseller Charles Sartor Drum at the left, and my father — the then-manager of the store — at the right. My father looks really young here! Dig that cool shirt — worn with a paisley belt buckle and western-cut slacks. Hey, man, it was 1968.

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Sources & Notes

Photo is from the Collection of Photographs by Andy Hanson, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University. (Thank you, friendly DeGolyerite — I now have a 50-year-old photograph of my father I’d never seen before!)

I’ve written several posts about The Aldredge Book Store, the store my father worked at fresh out of college and after eventually owned. The ABS-related Flashback Dallas posts can be found here.

More on the career of photographer Andy Hanson can be found here and here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The L. P. Sigler Jewelry Store, Peak & Elm

peak-and-elm_cook-collection_degolyer_SMUNorth Peak & Elm, southeast corner… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Dr. Lough Phillip Sigler (1884-1951) was an optometrist who moved to Dallas from Denton County in 1908; the following year he opened a jewelry and watch store inside an Old East Dallas pharmacy at 4301 Elm Street, at the northeast corner of Elm and North Peak, eventually expanding into the adjoining storefront. In 1930 he moved across the street into a brand new building at the southeast corner of Peak and Elm: 132 N. Peak, seen in the photo above.

This type of neighborhood retail strip of shops and cafes was a common site throughout the city, and there are several still standing, most of which I’ve seen in Old East Dallas and Oak Cliff. I love these strips, and, thankfully, the one seen in the photo still stands.

peak-and-elm_googleGoogle Street View, 2016

The jewelry company founded by Dr. Sigler had an amazingly long life: the store opened at Peak and Elm in about 1910 (at the northeast corner) and remained in business (at the southeast corner) until well into the 1970s. The business which currently stands at 132 N. Peak is a very charming Mexican restaurant called Peak & Elm Cocina y Bar (check it out!).

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Sources & Notes

Top image — “Peak & Elm Sts.” — is from a real photo postcard in the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on this photo can be found here.

If I had to guess the date of the image, I’d guess around 1930 when Sigler moved into the new location. The strip appears to have been built in 1929, with its first tenants showing up in the 1930 city directory. See it today on Google Street View, here.

Just as an interesting historical note, directly across Peak from Sigler’s jewelry store were car barns and machine shops for some of the city’s electric railway streetcars — they can be seen in a 1922 Sanborn map here. Those blocks are currently occupied by Dallas Area Rapid Transit facilities.

The 1922 map showing blocks occupied by Mr. Sigler’s store(s) is here (his first location at 4301-03 Elm is seen, but the building which housed his later store at 132 N. Peak is not seen as it would not be built for another seven or eight years). 

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

900 Block of Main, North Side — 1952

AR447-B1201Main Street, 1952… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This 1952 photo by Squire Haskins shows the north side of Main Street, taken at the intersection with Poydras, looking west to the old Dallas county jail and criminal courts building seen at the far left. The Sanger’s building stands just west of Lamar, and across Lamar is the 900 block of Main, with the legendary E. M. Kahn men’s clothing store (one of Dallas’ first important retail stores, founded in 1872), the Maurice Hotel (in the old North Texas Building, built in the 1890s), and the large Bogan’s grocery store at the northwest corner of Main and Poydras. The old jail and the Records Building (way in the distance) and the Sanger’s building are all that remain. See how this view looks today, here.

There is a flyer for “Porgy and Bess” on the lamppost in front of the Bogan market. “Porgy and Bess” opened the State Fair Summer Musicals series at the State Fair Auditorium (Music Hall) in June, 1952 (see an ad here).

But what about the south side of the 900 block of Main Street? Thankfully, photographer Squire Haskins  not only took the photo above, he also turned to face the other side of the street and snapped companion photos. I posted two of his photos of the south side of Main in a previous post, here. Here’s one of those photos, with Poydras at the left and Lamar on the right:

main-poydras_squire-haskins_uta

A listing of the businesses from the 1953 city directory — there’s a little bit of everything (click to see larger image):

900-block-main_1953-directory

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Sources & Notes

Both photos by Squire Haskins, both from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington. More info on the top photo can be found here; more on the second photo, here.

More on the south side of Main Street can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “900 Block of Main Street, South Side — 1950s,” here.

All images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Main Street Looking East — 1920s

main-street_east_ca-1925_erik-swansonEast from the 1200 block of Main (photo courtesy Erik Swanson)

by Paula Bosse

This great photo (sent in by reader Erik Swanson) shows Main Street around 1925. The white building seen in the lower right is Hurst Bros., a men’s clothing shop, which was at the southeast corner of Main and Field (1300-1304 Main). It was a little confusing to me at first because it looks like there is a street behind it (to the south), which would have been Commerce, but then the Magnolia Building and the Adolphus would all be out of place. But what appears to be a street was just a wide alleyway/passage (seen on the 1921 Sanborn map here — Main east of Akard can be seen on the Sanborn map here).

The very tall building is the Magnolia, at Commerce and Akard (it opened in 1922 — Pegasus wasn’t added until 1934); to the right, across Akard, is the Adolphus Hotel and the Adolphus Annex. The tall building to the left of the Magnolia is the Southwestern Life Building (southeast corner Main and Akard, demolished in 1972, now a small open plaza area). The 4-story building at the southwest corner of Main and Akard is the Andrews Building. The white building in the center is Hurst Bros. (southeast corner Main and Field), and across Main can be seen the sign for the men’s clothing shop Benson-Semans.

Hurst Bros. was gone by 1929 when it became Hoover-Lehman, another clothing store, and Benson-Semans appears to have vacated that space around 1926, helping to date the photo between 1922 and 1926.

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The Hurst brothers, Melvin K. Hurst and Edgar S. Hurst (along with their father, Alfred K. Hurst) began their men’s clothing business around 1912 and moved into the building seen in this photo in 1915 (it was renovated by prominent Dallas architect H. A. Overbeck, whose still-standing courts building and jail was built at about the same time). The business was dissolved in 1929, and its stock, fixtures, and lease were acquired by a longtime employee who, with a partner, remodeled the store and reopened it as the Hoover-Lehman Co. (A present-day Google Street View of this southeast corner of Main and Field can be seen here.)

main-street_east_ca-1925_hurst-bros-det_erik-swansonDetail from top photo, ca. 1925 (click for larger image)

hurst-bros_dmn_112214_adAd from Nov., 1914

hurst-bros_1920sLate 1920s

hurst-bros_hoover-lehman_091329Sept., 1929

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Sources & Notes

Top photo sent in by Erik Swanson, used by permission. The photo may have been taken by his grandfather, F. V. Swanson, an optometrist (see the post “Thompson & Swanson: ‘The Oldest Exclusive Optical House in Dallas,” here). Thanks for the great photo, Erik!

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Thompson & Swanson: “The Oldest Exclusive Optical House In Dallas”

thompson-swanson_1914-ad_erik-swansonDon’t blink… (1914 ad, courtesy Erik Swanson)

by Paula Bosse

Dr. Alfred F. Thompson (1862-1942) and Dr. Frank V. Swanson (1885-1949) opened their “manufacturing opticians” practice, Thompson & Swanson, in 1911. In addition to examining and treating patients, they also ground lenses and manufactured their own glasses, something which I gather was somewhat unusual in 1911 for such a small practice.

They first set up shop on Elm Street, and their ads — generally eyeball-themed — were always attention-grabbers: not only did they stare at you from newspaper pages, they also seemed to follow you around the room.

thompson-swanson_1911-ad1911 ad

They soon moved to the Sumpter Building, in late 1912 (ad at top), directly across from the brand new Praetorian Building. By February of 1916 they’d hit the big-time and were actually in the Praetorian Building, Dallas’ tallest building and its most impressive address. Not only were they in the building, they were at street-level, which guaranteed that practically everyone who spent time downtown was familiar with Thompson & Swanson, if only because they passed the Praetorian Building. The ad below, featuring the building, is fantastic, in a weird-fraternal-order kind of way. (The ad at the top is also kind of weird — you can practically hear the spooky theremin.) (Click ads to see larger images.)

thompson-swanson_1923-ad_erik-swanson1923 ad (courtesy Erik Swanson)

Thompson & Swanson’s business history:

thompson-and-swanson_erik-swanson(courtesy Erik Swanson)

Similar ad, but aimed at the Texas Centennial visitor. “Good glasses if you need them, good advice if you don’t.”

thompson-swanson_june-1936June, 1936

The successful partnership of Thompson and Swanson lasted into the early 1940s. After Dr. Thompson’s death in 1942, Dr. Swanson continued at the same address as “Swanson & Son,” a practice with his son, Dr. F. V. Swanson, Jr.

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Sources & Notes

The top ad, the ad with the Praetorian Building, and the “85 Years’ Experience in Optometry” ads were very kindly sent to me by Erik Swanson (grandson of Dr. Swanson); they are used with permission. I love old ads, especially ones that feature Dallas buildings. Regarding the location of his grandfather’s business in the Praetorian Building, Erik wrote: “Little did he know there would one day be a giant eyeball at the location where he had his optician shop.” Ha! Now when I see that giant eyeball I’ll think of Thompson & Swanson (and hear that spooky theremin).

I was doubly happy to exchange emails with Erik because I’ve been a fan of his Western Swing bands for many years. His current band is Shoot Low Sheriff (listen to them here), but I first became a fan when I heard his former band, Cowboys & Indians. Thanks for the ads, Erik!

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Neiman-Marcus Welcomes You to the Fair with Jeweled Mementos and Picasso Paintings — 1948

n-m_picasso_1948_fair_jewelryN-M’s 1948 “mementos of Texas…” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

For many who come to Dallas from all across the state to visit the State Fair of Texas, a trip downtown to see the legendary Neiman Marcus department store is a must-see item on the itinerary. This was perhaps more the case years ago when the store was still owned by members of the Marcus family who were eager boosters of the annual event and placed several ads each year which graciously welcomed State Fair visitors to the city. For many years Neiman’s offered “souvenirs” for the tourists, ranging from relatively inexpensive Texas-centric knick-knacks to very expensive Texas-centric knick-knacks.

The 1948 N-M offerings can be seen below in an ad that boasts “A 14K gold welcome to Dallas and the State Fair!” (Click the ad below to see a larger image — to see an image of the ad copy alone, click here.)

ad-neiman-marcus_state-fair_1948_full

Here are the trinkets which no doubt wowed them back home in the nicer neighborhoods of Houston and Midland. (I’ve included ball-park prices in today’s money– according to the whiz-bangy Inflation Calculator — in parentheses.)

  • Texas Seal containing circular knife and file: $55 (about $550 in today’s money)
  • Gold belt buckle, made to order: $325 ($3,300)
  • Hand-tooled belt: $5 ($50)
  • Scarf clip, horse with ruby eyes and ruby studded collar: $500 ($5,100)
  • Hand-carved scarf pin, gold steer head with ruby eyes: $500 ($5,100)
  • Pocket key chain with Texas charm: $45 ($450)
  • Texas chain and Texas seal cuff links: $80 ($800)

For the cheap monogrammed hats, giant sunglasses, and salt water taffy, you’d have to head to Fair Park.

Another attraction at Neiman’s during the 1948 State Fair of Texas was an art exhibit: the first showing in Texas of original works by Pablo Picasso. The exclusive show was specifically scheduled to coincide with the State Fair and was prominently displayed on the 4th Floor of the store, in the Decorative Galleries. Twelve canvases — some never before seen in the United States — were “secured directly from Picasso’s studio at Antibes in Southern France,” via Samuel M. Kootz, Picasso’s rep in the U.S. Think about that for a second: in 1948 Pablo Picasso was the world’s most famous living artist, and there was an exhibit of his recent works — some never before seen in the United States — in a department store. In Texas. That was, as they say, a pretty good “get” for the soon-to-be President of the company, Stanley Marcus.

The Picasso exhibit was an early example of Neiman-Marcus’ dedication to bringing international arts and culture to Dallas — an idea which later manifested itself in the store’s Fortnight celebrations (which also ran to coincide with the State Fair in order to maximize publicity, foot traffic, and sales).

Stanley Marcus was an experienced buyer of art, and his relationship with Mr. Kootz was obviously warm — how else might one explain the inclusion of redrawn Picasso paintings (all of which appeared in the N-M show) in a store advertisement? Pretty ballsy. (Click ad below to see a larger image — the text alone can be seen larger here.)

picasso_n-m_1948

For those who might be interested, these are the first Picasso paintings ever publicly shown in Texas:

  • “Seated Woman” (1929)
  • “Sailor” (1943)
  • “Still Life with Mirror” (1943)
  • “Head” (1944)
  • “Still Life with Skull and Pitcher” (1945)
  • “Cock and Knife” (1947)
  • “Woman” (1947)
  • “Still Life with Coffee Pot” (1947)
  • “Owl and Arrow” (1947)
  • “Concierge’s Daughter with Doll” (1947)
  • “Blue Owl” (1947)
  • “The Glass” (1947)

Another art-world highlight in Dallas during the 1948 State Fair of Texas was the showing of Salvador Dali’s painting “Spain” at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in Fair Park (from the collection of Edward James, loaned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York). A Dallas Morning News headline — “Fair Interest to Divide Over Picasso and Dali” — seemed to imply that culturally-inclined Dallasites and/or fair-goers would have to choose one over the other in the battle of which famous Spanish artist-celebrity was most worthy of their attention: “Team Pablo” vs. “Team Salvador.” In regard to Dallas and its (somewhat late-blooming) openness to modern art, the first sentence of the article is interesting:

The simultaneous presence in Dallas during the period of the State Fair of Texas of original works by two of the world’s best-known living artists underscores heavily the swift progress toward cultural maturity in local thinking and planning. (Rual Askew, DMN, Oct. 3, 1948)

“Cultural maturity” and planning — both were in evidence in Dallas in the fall of 1948.

Thousands of Texans had their very first in-the-flesh glimpse of a Picasso canvas or a Dali painting in Dallas during the 1948 State Fair of Texas — either at a tony department store that sold $500 gold-and-ruby scarf pin “souvenirs,” or amongst the hot-dog-eating and roller-coaster-riding hoi polloi in Fair Park. That’s a pretty good reach for fine art.

It’s not all about the automobile shows!

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Sources & Notes

Ads from October, 1948.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Titche’s Discovers the Suburbs — 1961-1968

titches_dallas-stores_1969-directoryTitche’s has you covered… (click to see larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Edward Titche and Max Goettinger founded the Titche-Goettinger department store in Dallas in 1902, and in 1904 they moved into the new Wilson Building. In the late 1920s they built their own George Dahl-designed building at Main and St. Paul, which was greatly enlarged and expanded in 1955. The store was popular with downtown shoppers, and profits continued to rise. The next logical step was to open additional stores. It took a while (59 years), but in October, 1961 they opened three — three! — new suburban stores. How was that possible? Because Titche’s (or their then-parent company) purchased the Fort Worth department store chain The Fair of Texas, and several of its stores were re-christened as Titche’s stores (the others eventually became Monnig’s stores).

The ad above is from the 1969 Dallas city directory and shows that by 1969, there were seven Titche’s stores in the Dallas area. Titche’s bit the dust decades ago, and I have to admit that the only Titche’s store I actually remember ever being in was the one in NorthPark (and I might mostly be remembering Joske’s…). I had no idea about any of these other stores (other than the one at Main and St. Paul, which I wish I had been to!).

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The oldest store in the ad above was the one on Main at St. Paul, still standing, still looking good (but, sadly, with that fab logo gone forever).

titches_1969-directory_downtown

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The second store was located in North Dallas in the Preston Forest Shopping Center, at the southeast corner of Preston Road and Forest Lane. When this opened as Titches’ first suburban store, the paint must still have been wet. It was originally built as a Fair of Texas store, with its opening scheduled for August, 1961. It was opened in October, 1961 as a Titche’s store — remodeled from the original Amos Parrish Associates of New York design (seen here, in a rendering). (The Fair version was much more interesting!)

titches_1969-directory_preston-forest

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One week later (!), the next two stores opened on the same day: in the Wynnewood Shopping Village in Oak Cliff, and in the Lochwood Shopping Village on Garland Road in far East Dallas. These two stores had been Fair stores and had opened at the same time in August, 1960. The two drawings below look pretty much the same as the rendering of the pre-remodeled Preston Forest store (all designed by Amos Parrish Assoc.). (An interesting tidbit about the Lochwood location: when this store was built by The Fair of Texas — a department store with Fort Worth roots going back to the 1880s or 1890s — it was the first Fair store in Dallas. In honor of this hands-across-the-prairie moment of business expansion, a truckload of Fort Worth dirt was brought over and “mixed symbolically” with Dallas dirt at the 1959 Lochwood groundbreaking.)

titches_1969-directory_lochwood

titches_1969-directory_wynnewood

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The Arlington store was also a former Fair store; it opened as Titche’s in July, 1963.

titches_1969-directory_arlington

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The NorthPark store — which occupied a quarter of a million square feet — was one of the first five stores to open in the brand new mall, in July 1965. NorthPark Center is known for its wonderfully sleek, clean, no-nonsense modern architecture (as seen below), but an early proposed Titche’s rendering from 1962 (seen here) looks a little fussy.

titches_1969-directory_northpark

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And, lastly, in this 1960s wave of expansion, a second downtown Dallas location was opened in the new One Main Place in December, 1968 in the form of “Miss Titche,” a concept-store created to appeal to “career girls” who worked downtown and enjoyed shopping during their lunch hours. It was located on the “plaza level” which sounds like it might have been part of the then-new underground tunnel system of shops. If newspaper ads are anything to go on, it looks like Miss Titche managed to hang on until at least 1975.

titches_1969-directory_one-main-place

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Titche’s continued opening new stores into the 1970s, but in August, 1978, it was announced that Titches’ parent company, Allied Stores Corp., was changing the names of all Dallas-area Titche’s stores to “Joske’s.” The nine Titche’s stores operating until the changeover were the flagship store downtown, Preston Forest, Lochwood Village (which became The Treehouse in 1974), Wynnewood, Arlington, NorthPark, Town East, Irving, and Red Bird.

And, just like that, after 72 years, the name of one of Dallas’ oldest department stores vanished.

titches_logo_1963

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Sources & Notes

Ad and details from the 1969 Polk’s Greater Dallas City Directory.

More on Titche-Goettinger can be found at the Department Store Museum, here.

Images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Square Dancing Craze in Big D — Late 1940s

calamity-jane_premiere_-sam-bass_majestic-theatre_july-1949Hoedown at the Majestic, 1949…

by Paula Bosse

The photo above appeared in a show-biz trade publication showing part of the festivities which swirled around the world premiere of the movie “Calamity Jane and Sam Bass” starring Yvonne DeCarlo and Howard Duff at the Majestic Theatre on June 8, 1949. Several of the film’s stars made personal appearances and were made honorary deputies by Sheriff Bill Decker, sworn in by Judge Lew Sterrett (yes, Lily Munster was an honorary Dallas deputy sheriff!). There was a parade, a live show performed by the actors on the Majestic’s stage before the movie, a block party, and square dancing in Elm Street, with music provided by the Big D Jamboree band.

In 1949, as unlikely as it seems, square dancing was a HUGE fad which swept the country (or at least the Southwest). The peak years of the retro craze were probably 1948 to 1950, and its impact was pretty big locally, not only on the dance floor, but also in the fashion pages. When you see every major Dallas department store — even Neiman’s — selling calico and gingham square dance fashions … well, it’s big.

Not only were there lessons available everywhere, but there were clubs and weekly events all over town — every Wednesday in the summer of 1949, there was a big outdoor square dance held at the Fair Park Midway, with music courtesy of local celeb Jim Boyd.

I’m not sure when it stopped (…I’m assuming it has…), but for decades, a lot of us participated in square dancing as part of gym class in elementary school. This interesting throw-back take on physical fitness seems to have begun around 1950 or ’51. Not everyone was thrilled about this odd-but-charming grade-school rite of passage — some ultra-conservative communities complained, but the wholesome and old-timey dancing won out and became a standard part of Texas schools’ physical education curriculum.  Forget young people’s cotillions — most Texas children had their first experience dancing with a partner to the strain of a cowboy fiddle and a voice telling us to “allemande left” and “do-si-do.” And I’m sure we’re all better for it.

Here are a bunch of ads and things (click pictures to see larger images):

square-dance_la-reunion-place_squire-haskins_dallas-municipal-archivesSquare dance at La Reunion Place (Dallas Municipal Archives)

square-dance_jan-1946_highland-park
1946

square-dance_may-1947_a-harris
1947

square-dance_aug-1948_titches
1948

square-dance_jan-1948_sanger-bros1948

square-dance_oct-1948_neiman-marcus
1948

square-dance_april-1948_a-harris
1948

square-dance_oct-1948
1948

square-dance_dec-1950_e-m-kahn
1949

square-dance_june-1949_w-a-green
1949

square-dance_may-1949_fair-park-midway
1949

square-dance_nov-1949_a-harris
1949

square-dance_march-1949_whittles
1949

square-dance_oct-1949_a-harris
1949

square-dancing_promenaders_smu_1951-yrbk1951

Above, a photo of the Promenaders, a group of SMU students whose purpose is described in the 1951 yearbook as being “to promote the appreciation of square and folk dancing on this campus.” (Think you recognize any of those faces? See who’s in the photo here.)

dallas_ringandbrewer_1956
1956

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Sources & Notes

Premiere of “Calamity Jane and Sam Bass” was held at the Majestic Theatre on June 8, 1949, and it seems to have been a pretty big deal. There was newsreel footage filmed that night — wonder if it’s floating around anywhere?

square-dance_calamity-jane_majestic_june-1949

Photo of the square dance taken at La Reunion Place is by Squire Haskins and is from the Dallas Municipal Archives; is can be seen on UNT’s Portal to Texas History site, here.

Photo of the SMU Promenaders square- and folk-dancing group is from the 1951 Rotunda, the yearbook of Southern Methodist University.

Jim Boyd was a country-western singer who appeared in a few Hollywood films and was a Dallas disc jockey for many years. He also appeared around town often as a performer and personality. Dallas filmmaker Hugh V. Jamieson, Jr. and director Milton M. Agins made a short film called “Saturday Night Square Dance” (made in either 1949 or 1950); it features Boyd and his Men of the West band, plus square dance groups Silver Spur Square Set and Thompson Square Dance Club. I can find nothing on the two groups, but it seems likely that this film was made in Dallas. The quality of the film uploaded to YouTube is not very good, but, who knows — you might see your parents or grandparents in there if they were big square dancers! You can watch it here.

All images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Historic Neon: The Super-Cool Sigel’s Sign

sigels-neon-sign_greenville-ave_072717One of Dallas’ favorite neon signs… (photo: Paula Bosse)

by Paula Bosse

I stopped by Sigel’s liquor store the other day (as one does…) and saw this legendary Sigel’s sign, recently installed in its new home in the parking lot of the Sigel’s store on Greenville Avenue, between Lovers Lane and Southwestern Boulevard, across from the Old Town Shopping Center. I love this neon sign. (See a very large image of it here.)

The sign’s design can be traced back to Dallas artist Marvin M. Sigel (whose great-uncle Harry Sigel founded the business in 1905) — this Fabulous Fifties design was created around 1953 specifically for the then-new store at 5636 Lemmon Avenue (at Inwood). When that store closed in 2009, the sign was refurbished and moved up to the company’s Addison location until that store fell victim to the company’s bankruptcy and was closed. Here’s a video of the fabulous sign when it was in Addison, with close-ups of its flashing neon and dancing bubbles:


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Marvin Meyer Sigel was born in Poland in 1932 and settled in Dallas in 1937 with his immigrant parents, both of whom had been doctors in Poland (his mother a dentist, his father an M.D.), although only his father continued to practice medicine in the United States. He lived in the vibrant Jewish enclave of South Dallas and went to Forest Avenue High School where he seems to have been a popular kid, interested in art, drumming, and ROTC. Below, a photo from the 1949 yearbook with the caption “Marvin ‘Hot Drums’ Sigel plays with the Swing Band.”

sigel-marvin_forest-avenue-high-school_drums_1949

His Forest Avenue High School senior photo, from 1949:

sigel-marvin_forest-avenue-high-school_1949

And his 1953 senior photo from the University of Texas:

sigel-marvin_university-of-tx_1953_senior

After studying art at both SMU (under Ed Bearden and DeForrest Judd) and the University of Texas and receiving his B.F.A. from UT in 1953, Sigel served a stint in the Eighth Army in Korea. Back in Dallas, he was remarkably active in the local art community — for decades — as both a fine artist and as an art instructor. He also worked for a while at Peter Wolf Associates, in advertising (on projects for companies like Braniff), and he even did a lot of the tedious paste-up work for Sigel’s ads (back when every picture of a bottle of wine or spirits had to be cut out individually and pasted into one of those huge ads!). But his passion was art, and at the same time he had those regular-paycheck gigs, he also managed to maintain a furious pace of painting new pieces to exhibit at a dizzying number of art shows. Below is an example of one of his watercolors, from 1957 (which was recently offered at auction by David Dike Fine Art). The title? “Cocktail Abstraction” — appropriate subject matter for a member of the Sigel family!

sigel-marvin_cocktail-abstraction_1957_david-dike-fine-art_jan-2016
“Cocktail Abstraction” by Marvin Sigel (1957)

When the Sigel’s Liquor store No. 7 opened at Lemmon & Inwood, it was suggested by family members that, hey, we have an artist in the family, let’s get Marvin to design a sign for us. According to Marvin, his cousin Sidney Sigel, who ran the company, probably just wanted a “rectangular sign with block letters,” but other family members wanted something newer and more exciting — something modern that would jump out of a sea of boring rectangular signs with block letters and draw attention. And it certainly did just that. If, as reports have it, that dazzling neon sign was designed in 1953, Marvin Sigel was only 21 years old!

When news broke 56 years later, in 2009, that the Lemmon & Inwood store was closing, there was a concerned uproar from the public about what would happen to the sign. Mr. Sigel was a bit taken aback by how much the people of Dallas had grown to love that sign and considered it a city landmark. Marvin Sigel, then 77 years old, said in a 2009 Dallas Morning News interview, “It was clever, but I figured it would be replaced by something more clever in a half-dozen years.”

The sign was built by the venerable Dallas firm of J. F. Zimmerman & Sons (est. 1901) who for generations had installed decorative neon elements all around town and had built innumerable lighted signs for companies big and small — their work could be seen on the Mercantile Building’s wonderful tower, on the exterior of the downtown Titche’s store on Main Street, and in the instantly recognizable signs for places as varied as the Cotton Bowl, Big Town, and, presumably, various other Sigel’s stores around the city.

The sign which was moved from Store No. 7 at Lemmon & Inwood to Addison had on its pole a small plaque (seen here) which said:

This Non-Conforming Sign designed by Marvin Sigel was built in the early 1950s. It was moved from Dallas, TX at Lemmon Ave. & Inwood. After being granted a variance it was refurbished to Code and installed here in June of 2009. Sign refurbished and installed by Starlite Sign of Denton, TX.

Interestingly, the plaque on the new location of the sign has a slightly different text:

sigels-sign-plaque_greenville-ave_072717

It appears that this is a different Sigel’s sign. In 1965, there were two Sigel’s stores on Lovers Lane: Store No. 8 was along the Miracle Mile on West Lovers Lane, near what is now the Dallas North Tollway, and Store No. 12 was on East Lovers Lane at Greenville (then near Louanns nightclub).

sigels-stores_1965-dallas-directory
1965 Dallas directory

In an April 22, 2009 Dallas Morning News article by Jeffrey Weiss (“The Story Behind That Sigel’s Sign”), is this quote from Mr. Sigel’s son, David S. Z. Sigel, about the original sign at Lemmon & Inwood, with mention of another similar sign: “He created the designs for this sign, as well as a similar but smaller sign which stood outside the Lovers Lane store (where Central Market now stands) for many years.” Here’s a map from a November, 1964 grand opening ad for the new store at 5744 E. Lovers Lane:

lovers-lane_new-store_110664
Detail from a grand opening ad, Nov. 6, 1964

So is the sign currently standing in the parking lot of the Sigel’s Fine Wines & Great Spirits at 5757 Greenville Avenue the sign which originally stood only a short four-tenths of a mile away? I hope so! And if it is, welcome back to the neighborhood, cool sign!

Whichever sign this is, it is one of the greatest neon designs Dallas has ever had, and I’m so happy it’s survived for over a half-century, through phenomenal city growth, physical displacement, and even company bankruptcy.

Thanks, Marvin, for designing this wonderful sign! And thanks, Starlite Sign of Denton, for the beautiful refurbishing!

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Sources & Notes
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Top photo and photo of blue plaque taken by me on July 27, 2017 at the Sigel’s store at 5757 Greenville Avenue.

YouTube video by Andrew F. Wood, shot in Addison in 2013.

Sources for other images as noted.

The Zimmerman & Sons nameplate can be seen on the original Lemmon & Inwood sign here (click to enlarge), posted on Flickr by Tim Anderson (a detail of his photo can be seen below) (there is another Zimmerman nameplate posted in the comments on that Flickr page); what appears to be a Zimmerman plate is on the side of the sign at the Greenville Avenue location facing the store’s entrance, not on the side seen in my photo at the top.

zimmerman-nameplate_sigels-sign_lemmon-inwood_flickr-det

Please check out the Dallas Morning News article in the DMN archives titled “Sigel’s Sign Designer Surprised by Its Fame — Project for Family’s Liquor Store Wasn’t a Hit with Boss, He Recalls” by Jeffrey Weiss (April 28, 2009) in which Marvin Sigel discusses his famous sign.

Also, check out these related (online) DMN articles:

  • “Sigel’s Beverages, A 111-Year-Old Dallas Chain, Filed for Bankruptcy; Wants to Close 5 Stores” by Maria Halkias (Oct. 21, 2016), here
  • “Sigel’s Iconic Neon Sign Returning to Dallas After Years Wasting Away in Addison” by Robert Wilonsky (March 27, 2017), here

If anyone can verify that this sign is, in fact, the sign from Store No. 12 (Lovers & Greenville), please let me know!

Most images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Neiman-Marcus Corporate Flag, Designed by Emilio Pucci — 1966

neiman-marcus-corporate-flag_emilio-pucci_1966_dallas-public-library“Emilio Pucci was our Betsy Ross…”

by Paula Bosse

While looking through the Neiman Marcus Collection at the downtown Dallas Public Library, I stumbled across this perhaps long-forgotten part of Neiman-Marcus history: the “corporate flag” designed by Italian fashion legend Emilio Pucci. The image was featured on a Neiman’s postcard; the text on the back of the card reads:

Flying high over the fashion land of Neiman-Marcus: our new corporate flag, the Lone-Star-and-Stripes. Emilio Pucci was our Betsy Ross.

Betsy Ross and Emilio Pucci mentioned in the same breath! An 18th-century American seamstress who became a patriotic icon, and an Italian fashion designer whose vividly colorful, boldly patterned designs came to symbolize the youth and energy of the 1960s… talk about your strange bedfellows!

The only thing I could find about this unusually colorful flag was a brief mention in a Dallas Morning News fashion article about Neiman’s 28th Neiman-Marcus Exposition Award in early February of 1966. Gay Simpson wrote in The News that the luncheon centerpieces “carried the colors of the new Neiman-Marcus house flag. The flag, designed by Emilio Pucci, Italian couturier, has the colors of a Texas sunset dramatized with the Lone Star and stripes” (DMN, Feb. 9, 1966).

Stanley Marcus wrote in his 1974 memoir Minding the Store that his business relationship with Pucci (“the most copied designer of our time, aside from Chanel”) began in Italy in 1948 when Marcus met with the struggling young designer and placed an order for several of his scarves. Though Neiman-Marcus had not yet expanded beyond their single department store in Dallas, the store’s reputation and influence were certainly known in fashionable circles around the world, and this N-M “stamp of approval” must have been immensely important to Pucci, whose name was not yet known. This friendship and business relationship blossomed into a mutually beneficial and very profitable partnership, and it seems perfectly reasonable that Pucci would design a flag for his friend and early supporter, Stanley Marcus. (Read more of Marcus’ thoughts on Pucci here.)

There you have it. Who knew?

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As a postscript, any Dallas blog worth its salt cannot let a mention of Emilio Pucci go by without noting his main connection to the city: Pucci will forever be remembered as the man who brought outrageously colorful and super groovy mod designs to the stewardess uniforms of Dallas-based Braniff International Airways (designs so retinally exciting that they make that little Neiman’s flag look a little dowdy in comparison!).

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Sources & Notes

The image of the corporate flag is from a Neiman’s postcard, which can be found in the extensive (!) Neiman Marcus Collection of the Dallas Public Library (the back of the card can be seen here); it is used with permission. Thanks to the incredibly helpful staff of the Dallas History & Archives division of the downtown Dallas Public Library. (Much thanks, particularly, to Digital Archivist Misty Maberry!)

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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