Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: SMU

When SMU Theology Students Were Sprayed with Insecticide at a University Park Lunch-Counter Sit-In — 1961

university-pharmacy-protest_WFAA_jan-1961_1Bright’s Drug Store, 6327 Hillcrest, University Park

by Paula Bosse

This week the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection at SMU posted another fantastic clip from their WFAA News archive on their YouTube channel. This one shows an incident I had heard about since I was a child. It shows a peaceful “sit-in” demonstration at the University Pharmacy at the southwest corner of Hillcrest and McFarlin, across from the SMU campus. The sit-in was organized by theology students at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology to protest the owner’s refusal to serve Black customers at his lunch counter. The student demonstration was conducted by a group of silent students — it was a peaceful protest without violence. Until, that is, the owner, pharmacist C. R. Bright, called in a fumigator to set off a cloud of insecticide inside the pharmacy in an extreme attempt to run off the protesters. The students did not leave until Bright closed the drug store. Many of the students then picketed in front of the business as anti-protester demonstrators showed up to heckle and jeer, some waving little Confederate flags handed out by Bright. My mother, who lived nearby at the time and had recently graduated from SMU (but was not a theology student) was there, and she says she can still feel the burn of that pesticide in her throat and says that no one present that day could believe a person would do what Bright did. (And she’s in it! She’s seen sitting at the counter, engulfed by a cloud of insecticide.)

Here is the silent clip from January 9, 1961 (the direct link on YouTube is here):


I took the photo below at an exhibit at the downtown Dallas Public Library in 2017. It shows the students outside the pharmacy as a crowd jeers at them.

university-drug-store_strike_DPL-exhibit_apr-2017via Dallas Public Library

In 1961, there were only 4 or 5 Black students attending SMU. Black students were allowed to attend only the theology and law schools — there were no Black undergraduates until 1962, when Paula Elaine Jones became the first African American full-time undergraduate student at SMU.

In 1961, African Americans were routinely refused service at white-owned establishments in Dallas (as they were in the rest of the Jim Crow South). The sit-in at the University Pharmacy was the result of a Black theology student being refused service at Bright’s lunch counter. There had been a small demonstration at the drug store a couple of nights before the one seen in the film above — it ended when Bright closed early. 

The sit-in that grabbed the headlines began around 10:00 on the morning of Monday, Jan. 9, 1961, when 60-75 SMU students, including Black theology students Earl Allen and Darnell Thomas, entered the drug store and sat silently at the counter and in booths. Allen and Darnell were refused service. In protest, the large group of students refused to leave. After about an hour, Bright was quoted by a WBAP news reporter as saying, “This is a good time to kill some cockroaches…” and called an exterminator service. When the exterminators arrived, they turned on fumigating machines inside the business, filling the place with clouds of kerosene-based insecticide which covered the students, the lunch counters, the dishes, the food, and the store’s merchandise. (Bright was a pharmacist, who was no doubt aware of potential physical harm this would cause.)

The students sat there, breathing through handkerchiefs and holding their ground, silent. A University Park policeman, Lt. John Ryan was there, but the police were not actively involved (although Ryan did have a handy gas mask). After half an hour, the students left when Bright closed the store. Bright re-opened an hour or two later (the lunch counter remained closed). Students silently picketed as hecklers jeered.

The SMU student newspaper — The SMU Campus — covered the sit-in. The article contained an unsurprising, unapologetic quote from the 75-year-old C. R. Bright: 

Bright steadfastly refuses to integrate his lunch counter. Says the drug store owner, “We are not serving them now and we’ll never serve them.” He continues to explain that it “is against my principle” and “I know it would wreck my business.” (The SMU Campus, Feb. 1, 1961)

Bright retired soon after and sold the business to an up-and-coming young whippersnapper named Harold Simmons, who went on to build a multi-multi-multi-million-dollar empire from that first business investment.

university-drug-store_smu-archivesvia DeGolyer Library, SMU

university-pharmacy_smu-rotunda_1965via 1965 SMU Rotunda













UPDATE, BURY THE LEDE DEPT: Thanks to comments by two readers, I have learned that Christopher R. Bright was the father of former Dallas Cowboys owner H. R. “Bum” Bright. Oh dear.


Sources & Notes

All screenshots are from WFAA news footage from the WFAA News Film Collection, G. William Jones Film & Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University; the clip has been posted to the SMU Jones Film channel on YouTube here.

Read coverage of the sit-in (as well as a critical editorial which called the protest “immoral”) in the Feb. 1, 1961 edition of The SMU Campus, the student newspaper — it can be accessed on the SMU Libraries website here, or it can be read in a PDF I’ve made, here

Read a lively account of the sit-in in a WBAP-Channel 5 news script here (via the Portal to Texas History).

For those with access to the Dallas Morning News archives, the incident is covered in an article by Jim Lehrer: “Protesting Students Sit In, Walk Picket Line at Store” (DMN, Jan. 10, 1961). 

Another great clip showing a historical lunch-counter protest in Dallas (the city’s first, I believe) in April of 1960 is also available on the SMU Jones Film YouTube channel — it can be viewed here. Here is a description of what’s happening in the footage: “Rev. Ashton Jones, a white minister from Los Angeles, and Rev. T. D. R. V. Thompson, Black pastor of the New Jerusalem Institutional Missionary Baptist Church, 2100 Second Avenue, together visit segregated lunch counters in downtown Dallas department stores; the peaceful sit-in protests take place at the counters of the Kress Department Store, the H. L. Green Department Store, and the Tea Room of Sanger Bros. department store. This was the first publicized demonstration against Dallas’ segregated eating establishments, and several members of the media — both white and African American — are covering the historic event (Silent).”

Lastly, in a related Flashback Dallas post, there was a previous University Pharmacy which was located, at separate times, on the northwest and southwest corners of Hillcrest and McFarlin — the owner of the very first University Pharmacy built the Couch Building, which can be seen in the background of the top photo of this post. That earlier post, “University Park’s “Couch Building” Goes Up In Flames (1929-2016),” can be found here. A pertinent 1965 photo from that post which shows Simmons’ University Pharmacy, the Couch Building, and the Toddle House (which was also the site of a 1961 sit-in by SMU students) can be seen here.



Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

SMU Campus, An Aerial View from the North — 1940s

smu-campus_from-the-north_squire-haskins_UTA_nd(Squire Haskins Collection, UTA Libraries)

by Paula Bosse

When you see aerial views of the SMU campus, they’re usually looking to the north, toward Dallas Hall. Which is one reason this photo by ace photographer Squire Haskins is interesting. It’s also noteworthy because it shows “Trailerville,” the trailer camp set up on the campus from 1946 to 1953 for married war-vet students, and it also shows the pre-fab men’s dormitories, which look like army barracks. Housing in post-WWII Dallas was was very, very tight, and people had to make do and were crammed into all sorts of spaces. (See a very large image of this photo on the UTA website here.)

For reference, Mockingbird Lane is running horizontally at the top (I was wondering if that might have been the Mrs. Baird’s bakery (built in 1953) at the top left, but it’s not far enough east), Bishop Blvd. is in the center, and Hillcrest Avenue is at the right. And there’s also a whole lot of empty land — a startling sight if you’ve seen the present-day bursting-at-the-seams campus.

Here are a few blurry close-ups. First, Trailerville (which I’ve been meaning to write about for years!) — just northeast of Ownby Stadium:


Men’s dorms in temporary buildings which were removed in 1952/53:


And something that isn’t the Mrs. Baird’s Bread factory (scroll down to see what it was):



Thanks to the comments below by reader “Not Bob,” it appears that the photo of the long building at the top left corner — on the site later occupied by Mrs. Baird’s Bread — was once an armory for the 112th Cavalry (Troop A) of the Texas National Guard. The building was originally built in 1921 as the headquarters of the Wharton Motor Company, a short-lived automobile and tractor manufacturer. It appears to have closed by 1922 and the company was bankrupt by 1924. The 112th Cavalry (with about 40 horses) moved in at the end of 1927 — they were forced to move out by the end of 1930 because of neighbor complaints (and a lawsuit) about the horses being in such close proximity to residences. By the time of the photo above, it was the Town and Country food business which rented freezer-locker space to the public. Mrs. Baird’s Bread decided to build on the site in 1949 (with the intention, presumably, to raze the existing building) — construction began in 1952 and the factory opened in 1953 (incidentally, the factory was designed by legendary Dallas architect George Dahl). (I should write about the Wharton building sometime — it has an interesting history.) 

The commenter (“Not Bob”) also linked to a similar view of the campus in 1955, post-Trailerville:

smu_from-the-north_1955_degolyer-library_SMU_cropped(DeGolyer Library, SMU)

By then, Central Expressway had been built and Mrs. Baird’s was cranking out that delicious aroma that filled the neighborhood for decades:



Sources & Notes

“Aerial view of the campus of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas” is by Squire Haskins, from the Squire Haskins Photography Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries; more information on this photo can be found here (click thumbnail photo to see larger image).

“1955 aerial view of campus from the north” — by William J. Davis — is from the collection of the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University; more information on this photo is here.



Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

SMU Cartoon Timeline — 1935

smu-timeline_1935-rotundaJust the highlights…

by Paula Bosse

Here’s a handy little chronology of the first 20 years of Southern Methodist University’s history, found on the endpapers of the 1935 SMU yearbook, the Rotunda

Click to explore (“glub”):






Sources & Notes

Images from the 1935 Rotunda, yearbook of Southern Methodist University.

For more on SMU’s first year, 1915-1916, see these Flashback Dallas posts:



Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas — From “Texas, The Big State” (1952)


by Paula Bosse

It’s always fun to see Dallas on film — and it’s even better when it’s a Technicolor film. Below are a few screenshots from “Texas — The Big State,” a 1952 travelogue produced by Santa Fe Railroad as a promotional film. It’s very enthusiastic. …Very. Dallas’ Norma-Desmond moment lasts only about three and a half minutes, but visits to downtown, Chance Vought, SMU, Fair Park, a Cotton Bowl game, and the State Fair of Texas manage to get crammed in, surrounded by a warm bath of dynamic adjectives.

Above, a scenic view of the triple underpass and the approach to downtown Dallas from the west. Nice foliage.

Below, a birds-eye view from the south (the same shot as the one by Eisenstaedt in the ’40s seen here, only a decade later — even the Falstaff Beer billboard is still there).


The well-dressed mean streets of Big D:


A woman walking on water at the Esplanade in Fair Park:


Rolloplane, cotton candy, etc., at the State Fair of Texas:


And, lastly, a fun fact I bet no one alive on this planet knows (or remembers): in 1952 Dallas was the second largest manufacturer of WASH DRESSES in the country. Probably the world. What a random piece of information for the Chamber of Commerce to have given to the Santa Fe people to include in a fluffy little film like this. Forget Neiman’s — we were number two in wash dresses! Number TWO!! (“Wash dresses”? Apparently they were house dresses made from washable fabrics. Like what Lucy Ricardo used to wear around the house when she didn’t have to don a hat and gloves to go pick up Ricky’s tux at the dry cleaners. Like the one seen in this “wash frocks” ad from 1950.) And here you go, two of the women who pushed us to runner-up wash-dress greatness:



The 24-minute film — which premiered in Austin on May 28, 1952 and was included for months afterward as a “featurette” on double bills across the country — can be seen in its entirety on the SMU Jones Film YouTube channel. The Dallas bit starts at 9:43, followed by the Fort Worth bit at 13:19. I understand there are other cities, too.


Sources & Notes

All images are screenshots from the 16mm film posted on YouTube by the G. William Jones Film Archive, Hamon Library, Southern Methodist University.

Special thanks to Erik Swanson for bringing this to my attention.


Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

1971 Yellow Pages Cover: SMU Gets the Karl Hoefle Treatment

hoefle_yellow-pages_1971_smuUniversity Park gets Hoefle-ized… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Karl Hoefle’s wonderfully detailed (and painstakingly rendered) Yellow Pages illustrations were pretty much loved by everyone who saw them. As a kid, I loved searching for the hidden jokes — the dinosaurs, the cowboys, the rocket ships. I’ll try to write something in-depth about Karl someday. But, in the meantime, here is one of his covers from 1971, showing the SMU campus, Hillcrest, Snider Plaza, that water tower on Northwest Highway, and, heck, even an observatory. And possibly an elephant (although it might just be an elephant-ish-looking mustang…). (Click the image!)


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Fred Caropresi’s Mid-Century-Modern Illustrations for SMU’s 1951 Yearbook

smu_1951-yrbk_people-places_caropresiLife on the SMU quad, 1951… (click to see larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I’m not sure why I happened across the artwork of Fred Caropresi (1921-1985), but I must have been looking for something in the 1951 SMU yearbook, The Rotunda — Caropresi’s work is all over it! Caropresi (or as he was known to fellow students, “Freddy”) had attended SMU in the 1940s, before and after World War II. His degree was in mechanical engineering, but after the war, he returned to study art as a grad student and eventually opened his own advertising firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Below are some examples of his work from the 1951 SMU annual — his drawings are reminiscent of the silkscreen process with their off-kilter, off-register areas of flat vibrant color. This type of 1950s “mid-century modern” commercial art is definitely one of my personal favorites. 

Here they are (click pictures to see larger images).

Peppy Mustangs:


The packed “Hi-Park SMU” streetcar (which ran along Hillcrest  — see a photo here):


Bulletin board — pipes and the Arden Club:


Post office (this is great — I’d love to see a photo of the real thing:


Relaxing with a drink and TV:


Cokes al fresco and another college boy smoking a pipe:


The drawings below — also from the 1951 Rotunda — show a completely different style. The first one (“Beauties”) is fantastic. (Click a thumbnail image to open a slideshow.)

Like I said, Caropresi’s work was ALL OVER the 1951 Rotunda!



New York native Frederick V. Caropresi (1921-1985) grew up in the Bronx with his parents (his father, a pharmacist, had immigrated from Italy), his grandmother, and his older brother Gregory. For some reason both Fred and Greg decided to attend SMU in Dallas. Fred originally studied mechanical engineering, receiving his degree in 1944. He returned to Dallas after his service in the navy during World War II, and took post-graduate art courses. He was busy around Dallas as a both a fine artist (his first one-man show was in 1952) and as a very busy commercial artist, working in local theater, industrial design, and advertising. He was an active president of the Dallas Print Society in the early 1950s, at the same time he was designing college yearbooks. He left Dallas in the 1950s and settled in a suburb of Pittsburgh where he established his own advertising agency. I hope he continued his own art, because I’m a fan.

caropresi_fred_smu-1942Fred Caropresi, 1942, SMU yearbook photo

He is represented in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art with this silkscreen/serigraph, a view of Reims Cathedral from about 1948.

Dallas Museum of Art

Fred Caropresi died in in 1985 in North Hills, Pennsylvania.

North Hills (PA) News Record, April 2, 1985

Thank you, Fred.



Sources & Notes

All artwork by Frederick V. Caropresi from the 1951 edition of SMU’s yearbook, The Rotunda, is from the Southern Methodist University Yearbooks collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, SMU; all editions are fully downloadable in PDFs, here.


The silkscreen print “Reims Cathedral” (23/30, signed “F. V. Caropresi”) is from the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art; a Dallas Art Association purchase, it was accessioned in 1948.

All images are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Event: “Remixing the News” Screening at SMU


by Paula Bosse

UPDATE: The screening was great! For those of you who might have missed this event — or who would like to see the films again — the one-hour program is airing on KERA-Channel 13’s “Frame of Mind” on Thurs. Nov. 16, 2017 at 10:30 p.m., with another airing at 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 20.


I’m really late announcing this event — WHICH TAKES PLACE TUESDAY, NOV. 14!! — but it sounds like something that people who are interested in Dallas history and/or video art would really enjoy: “Remixing the News,” presented by the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection at the Hamon Arts Library (SMU), in collaboration with KERA television and Dallas VideoFest.

So what is it?

The Jones Collection at SMU includes the WFAA Newsfilm archive which contains what must be thousands of hours of 16mm film footage from the 1960s and ’70s, originally shot to be used as part of Channel 8 News broadcasts (this includes tons of B-roll footage shot to supplement the stories, but not always used in newscasts). As you can imagine, this is an unusual treasure trove of local news, history, and pop culture. I’ve dipped in and showcased some of the offerings in previous posts about the State Fair of Texas, and on Dallas appearances by Jimi Hendrix, Tiny Tim, and Glen Campbell.

Jeremy Spracklen, head curator of the Jones Collection, describes how this interesting local news archive was “reappropriated, recontextualized, and deconstructed” to become something altogether different:

We went in a unique direction in this — we did an experiment where we gave 10 local filmmakers a hard-drive with several hundred hours’ worth of footage on it and had them create their own interpretation of it. So, it is part history and part new video art.

I love this sort of thing. Eleven short films were produced by ten Texas filmmakers (Spracklen himself contributed two). Here are the films which will be shown Tuesday night, November 14:

  • “2,000 Hours in Dallas” by Jeremy Spracklen
  • “The Story of Jane X” by Christian Vasquez
  • “Dallas Circle” by Justin Wilson
  • “Lawmen & Cowpokes” by Gordon K. Smith
  • “History Lessons” by Steve Baker
  • “Beyond 10” by Carmen Menza
  • “Glass” by Madison McMakin
  • “Poofs are New” by Blaine Dunlap
  • “Divided” by Michael Thomas & Dakota Ford
  • “The Night in the Last Branches” by Michael Alexander Morris
  • “Echoes of the Past” by Jeremy Spracklen

The FREE advance screening of this collection (which will air at a later time on KERA’s long-running “Frame of Mind” series) will be held at SMU in the Owen Art Center on Tuesday, Nov. 14 (which might be TODAY!) — it begins at 7:30 p.m. After the screening, Bart Weiss, artistic director of the Video Association of Dallas, will host a Q&A with several of the filmmakers in attendance.

ALSO, Jeremy Spracklen tells me that those who are interested are invited to tour his very chilly subterranean film-archive lair after the event. So much Texas film history lurks beneath the SMU campus!

This event sounds great. Be there!


“Remixing the News”

Presented by the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, in collaboration with KERA and VideoFest

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Time: 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

O’Donnell Hall, room 2130, Owen Arts Center (see map below)

FREE to the public


Resources & Notes

More on this event can be found on the SMU website here and on the Hamon Arts Library blog here; the Facebook event page is here.

The event is free, and parking on the SMU campus after 7:00 p.m. is also free. Parking at SMU scares me, but here is what Jeremy advises: “The closest parking is in the meters in front of the Meadows building (they are not active after 7:00), the ‘U’ lot just south of the building, and, if those are full, the Meadows Museum parking garage is open — it is just down Bishop Blvd. and about a 5-minute walk.”

His map is below, with the parking areas highlighted in red. (Click to see larger image.)


More on the WFAA Newsfilm archive can be found in a Flashback Dallas post “How the News Got Made.”

One of the filmmakers who has contributed a film to this event is Blaine Dunlap — I have posted links to two of his films, both of which I really enjoyed: Sunset High School on Film — 1970″ (which he made while he was a Sunset student) and “‘Sometimes I Run’: Dallas Noir — 1973” (about a philosophizing downtown street cleaner).

More on “Frame of Mind” here.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Looking South from the Hilltop — 1966

skyline_smu-law-school-yrbk_1966Downtown, as seen from the SMU campus… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Yeah, the photo is pretty dark, and the image quality leaves something to be desired, but I like this unusual view of a dreamlike downtown skyline, as seen from the SMU campus. Hillcrest Avenue — the SMU drag — can be seen in the upper center; the large building on the west side of Hillcrest is the University House Motel (still standing, but expanded and massively renovated as Hotel Lumen). Right next to the motel is the excessively quaint windmill of the Little Red Barn restaurant.

It all seems very calm.


Photo from the 1966 Southern Methodist University Law School yearbook.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“How the News Got Made” — SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm Collection Spotlighted at the Dallas VideoFest

wfaa-newsfilm_thumbnails_hamon_cul_smu(G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, SMU)

by Paula Bosse

The Dallas VideoFest is in full swing this weekend, and one of the events on the schedule is How the News Got Made: A Rare Look at SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm and a Conversation with the People who Created It.” This screening and panel discussion will include WFAA news clips and B-roll footage on 16mm film from the 1960s and ’70s, selected from the large WFAA Newsfilm Collection (part of the moving image holdings of the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University).

A few months ago I saw a screening at SMU of some of these clips — which had been selected by the collection’s curator, Jeremy Spracklen, who has also, I believe, compiled the clips for the VideoFest presentation — and I really enjoyed it. Being able to watch 45- or 50-year-old news clips — of subjects both newsworthy and not-so-newsworthy — is an interesting way to study moments in the history of Dallas. It’s certainly more immediate and “flavorful” than reading old black and white newspaper clippings. I mean … you can listen to people actually talking. (With actual ACCENTS!) And see them move! SMU is in the process of identifying people and places seen in these clips and may soon request crowdsourced assistance from the public. It’s a large undertaking, further complicated by the fact that much of the footage was received by SMU randomly spliced together, some of it raw footage without sound. The hope is to identify subjects and subject matter in order to assist researchers, historians, and documentarians.

At present, almost two decades’ worth of these film reels are slowly being digitized; when the transfers are complete, they are uploaded to SMU’s Central University Libraries site and are free to be viewed by the public. Check what’s up now, here, and watch a few yourself.

There is a great Dallas Observer article by Jamie Laughlin on this collection. You must make sure to scroll down and watch the clip of fresh-faced Channel 8 newsboy Bill O’Reilly (yes, that Bill O’Reilly) interview the only slightly younger-looking future superstar ventriloquist (…two words I’ve never typed one right after the other before…) Jeff Dunham, who, at 14, seems really excited to be talking about his craft on TV.

And, if only a sliver of what I saw of the hilariously bizarre and wonderfully entertaining footage from about 1969 of mini-skirt-and-sideburn-hating Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Sadler — who was reported to have grabbed and choked a political critic in a dispute over Spanish galleon treasure recovered off the Texas coast (…yes, that’s what I said…) —  is shown at the VideoFest, it will be WELL worth your time!


Sources & Notes

The top image is a collection of thumbnail images of WFAA digital files which have been uploaded to the Central University Libraries’ site, here.

Read about this WFAA Newsfilm Collection in the Hamon Arts Library digital collection here.

For more information on the collection, contact filmarchive@smu.edu.

The Dallas VideoFest program, “How the News Got Made: A Rare Look at SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm and a Conversation with the People who Created It,” takes place this weekend, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, 5:15-6:45 PM at the Angelika Film Center. More information on the event and the panel participants is here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Digital Collections of SMU’s Central University Libraries: The Gold Standard

umphrey-lee-snack-bar_rotunda_1956My father in the Umphrey Lee snack bar? (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This past week I was invited by SMU’s Cindy Boeke (whose full title is Digital Collections Developer, Norwick Center for Digital Services, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University) to tour several of the CUL special collections libraries, which include the DeGolyer Library, the Hamon Arts Library (which includes the Bywaters Special Collections and the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection), the Edwin J. Foscue Map Library, and the SMU Archives. I had a behind-the-scenes look at the journey an item takes on its way to being digitized, beginning with the acquisition of the collection itself, the cataloging of the collection, and the research, annotation, and imaging of each item. Another important part of the process is the often mundane but necessary grant-writing which must be done to obtain funding to do much of the above. These collections at SMU are huge, but a remarkably efficient group of SMU library staff and students tackle the herculean task of getting everything cataloged and up online, accessible to everyone. At the end of February, 2016, over 51,000 items have been published online. And there is a vast, exciting amount still to come!

For me, the online digitized database of SMU’s Central University Libraries is the absolute best for researching historical Dallas images. (I should note that Dallas history is only part of the wide-ranging collection of photographs, manuscripts, films, etc., concerning everything from Western Americana to the Mexican Revolution to trains and railroad history to artists’ sketchbooks, etc.) I’m most interested in Dallas photographs, and SMU really has no equal in what they provide online: large, high-resolution images without watermarks, accessible to anyone with a computer, tablet, or phone. It is an unbelievable treasure trove of historical images, and I’ve been lost in it for hours at a time.

I know this might come dangerously close to appearing to be some sort of paid promotion, but it’s not. We are very lucky here in Dallas to have these SMU collections available to us. I wish ALL institutions with historical holdings would also throw open the doors to their archives’ vaults and share their collections online freely. (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention UNT’s wonderful Portal to Texas History site here, which, along with SMU, does just that.) We are living in a digital age, and to be unable to access some of Dallas’ other deep and varied collections of our own city’s history is incredibly frustrating, as I think it must also be for the institutions themselves — digitization of large collections takes time and money, both of which are often in short supply. SMU’s online presence is what all other libraries and institutions should model themselves after. Thank you, Norwick Center for Digital Services, for truly bringing SMU into the Digital Age.


On a more personal note, even though I use the online digital catalog of SMU’s collections all the time for this blog, it can also be a great source to use to explore your family’s history if family members have attended SMU. My mother and my father both attended SMU, and thanks to the digitization of EVERY SINGLE ROTUNDA YEARBOOK (!), I was able to find photos of my parents I’d never seen before.

The photo at the top of this post shows the then-new Umphrey Lee Student Center snack bar and appeared in the 1956 Rotunda yearbook. I was browsing through the “Campus Memories” photos from the SMU Archives, and when I saw this photo, I immediately recognized the back of my father’s head! A KA fraternity brother of his doesn’t think it’s my father in  this picture, but my mother, my brother, and I all think that that the student in the white shirt in the foreground with his back to the camera is almost certainly my father, who was a grad student in 1956. If it weren’t for the Campus Memories collection (which is FANTASTIC, by the way), I’d never have seen this photograph. And because the Rotunda database is searchable by names (see below for link), I was able to find a photo of my still-teenaged father in some sort of large, uniformed squadron (“Squadron A”) in 1953 — a zoomed-in detail of the photo is below:


And I’m not sure I would have seen this photo of my mother taken a few years later, looking incredibly cute and perky as an officer of the honorary Comparative Literature fraternity, Beta Kappa Gamma. (My  mother is on the back row, between the two tall men.)

beta-kappa-gamma_rotunda_19561956 (mustachioed professor Lon Tinkle is in middle row, far right)

Or this photo a few years after that when she was the president of the group. She always laughs when she recalls how one of the rituals that came with the office was pouring tea from the group’s silver tea service.

mew_rotunda_19591959 (with sponsor Dr. Gusta Nance at right)

Again, thank you, SMU!

prb-mew-rotundaDick Bosse, Margaret Werry


Main search page for SMU’s Central University Libraries is here. Pack a lunch. You might be here a while.

Norwick Center for Digital Services info is here.

Top photo is titled “Students in Umphrey Lee Student Center Snack Bar” — it was taken in 1955 and appeared in the 1956 Rotunda, SMU’s yearbook; it is from the SMU Archives, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University, and it is accessible here. (I’ve cropped it a bit at the top and bottom.)

All other photos are from various editions of the Rotunda yearbook, all of which are online.

Every single edition of the Rotunda — from the very first yearbook for the inaugural 1915-1916 class — has been scanned in is entirety and is available online. This incredible resource is here. It takes a little while to figure how to navigate through the yearbooks — instructions are here. It can be very slow to load — but it’s worth the wait.

More from the SMU Archives (including the archived campus newspaper) is here.

Lastly, I would like to thank Cindy Boeke of the Norwick Center for inviting me to visit the Central University Libraries. I’d also like to thank Anne Peterson of the DeGolyer Library, Jolene de Verges, Sam Ratcliffe, and Ellen Buie Niewyk of the Hamon Arts Library, the SMU archivist Joan Gosnell, and all of the other CUL staff members and students I met on my visit to the SMU campus. Keep up the great work!

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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