Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Texas Centennial

A Texas Centennial Scrapbook — 1936

“Starring Texas”

by Paula Bosse

Here is an aerial view of Fair Park I’ve never seen. It shows Centennial buildings under construction, along with labels marking the locations of those not yet started. It’s always hard to place where some of these no-longer-standing buildings once stood, so this is very helpful. Click the picture to see a larger image, but to really zoom in on the photo, see it at the Portal to Texas History, here.


Below is another view — an illustrated map from a Centennial visitor’s pamphlet (the zoom-in-able image is also at the Portal to Texas History, here). It was an early illustration, as it shows the original design for the Hall of State with wings never built.


(all images larger when clicked)

These pictures came from a Texas Centennial scrapbook made by 10-year-old Doris Rae Levy for a contest in her class at Lily B. Clayton Elementary School in Fort Worth. The scrapbook is impressively packed with Texas History-related newspaper and magazine articles, pamphlets, and postcards. A couple of the things she included that I enjoyed seeing were photos of a giant Centennial “sombrero” and a photo of honorary Centennial Rangerette, Shirley Temple:

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Feb. 25, 1936

This photo shows four Fort Worth businessmen holding up a “200 gallon sombrero” which would soon be making an appearance at the Fat Stock Show.

And here’s Shirley Temple — who might have been the most famous star in Hollywood at the time — dressed in a snazzy cowboy outfit and an eye-catching pair of boots. She had been appointed honorary Chief of the Texas Centennial Exposition Rangerettes (a bevy of attractive Texas women who acted as goodwill ambassadors and made personal appearances all over the country promoting the Dallas exposition). Miss Temple’s honorary commission apparently came with a tie-in merchandising deal — see the official Shirley Temple with her official Shirley Temple doll below (the latter photo was not from Doris’ scrapbook).




I thought I would look up Doris Rae Levy, the little girl who compiled the impressive, packed-to-the-gills scrapbook, to see what I could find out about her. This sad news appeared less than two weeks before the Texas Centennial Exposition opened in Fair Park:

FWST, May 26, 1936


Sources & Notes

Doris Rae Levy’s “Texas Centennial Scrap Book” was provided by the Fort Worth Jewish Archives to UNT’s Portal to Texas History; it has been scanned and may be viewed in its entirety here.

The photo of Shirley Temple with the Centennial Rangerette doll was found on Pinterest, with the original image here. Color images of the doll can be seen here.


Copyright © 2019 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.)



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



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



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


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

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.



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).



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.

Sept., 1946


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


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:



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.


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


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.)



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.


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

by Paula Bosse

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

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

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

ad- tx-centennial_armstrong-linoleum_19361936 ad

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


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


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

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

state-fair-coliseum_dmn_050710_constructionDMN, May 7, 1910

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


state-fair-coliseum_dmn_030413DMN, March 4, 1913

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

Coliseum Building, State Fair Dallas, TX


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

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

A photo of the building from 2014:

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

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


Sources & Notes

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

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

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

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


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Happy 4th Anniversary, Flashback Dallas!


by Paula Bosse

This weekend marks the fourth anniversary of this blog. It’s hard to believe, but, completely coincidentally, this is my 1,000th post! That’s a lotta Dallas. (Some might argue that’s too MUCH Dallas….) There are now just over 9,000 Flashback Dallas followers across various social media platforms, and it’s always nice to know there are others out there who share my interest in Dallas history. Thank you to all who read, follow, share, and comment. It wouldn’t be as much fun if I were just typing for myself.

Thank you! And now, Year 5!



Sources & Notes

“Texas Centennial Exposition Stamp” from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on this image can be found here.


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Architect Donald Barthelme’s Hidden Signature on the Hall of State

hall-of-state_barthelme_080917“B-A-R-T-H-E-L-M-argh!” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A large number of Texas architects had a hand in designing the Fair Park buildings built expressly for the Texas Centennial in 1936. One such architect was the young (still in his 20s!) Donald Barthelme (1907-1996) of Houston, the principal architect for the Centennial park’s crowning jewel, the Hall of State. Years ago — when the only Donald Barthelme I had ever heard of was the acclaimed writer (who was the son of the architect) — I read an amusing factoid about Barthelme’s amusing “signature” which adorns his beautiful building. It can be seen on the wing to the left of the Hall’s entrance — seen above. (I took the photo this week — the flags are at half-mast in honor of the recent death of former governor Mark White.)

Around the top of the building is a frieze containing names of notable Texans. I’m sure a committee of some sort came up with this list of names which were carved into what was then the most expensive public building in Texas. All I can say is that it’s a shame they couldn’t have come up with just one more name — someone whose last name began with the letter “E,” because Mr. Barthelme arranged the first eight names to spell out his last name (which ended one letter too soon, at “M” — for Milam). I think if I had been in Barthelme’s position I might have just thrown in another name. Maybe “Erath.” …For closure. Click the photo below to see Mr. B’s winking historic signature.



A couple of sentences on the Hall of State by David Dillon, former architecture critic for The Dallas Morning News, written for the paper in November, 1989:

Few Texans know who designed the Hall of State — it was Donald Barthelme of Houston, assisted by 10 other architects — yet 53 years after it opened it continues to stir us. It is a building of exceptional individual pieces held together by a powerful central idea — an exemplary period piece that reminds us what public design used to be, and what much contemporary civic architecture is not.




Sources & Notes

Photos of the Hall of State taken by me on Aug. 9, 2017.

Photos of Donald Barthelme, Sr. taken from the 1949 and 1950 yearbooks of the University of Houston where he was an Architecture professor for many years.

David Dillon quote from his article “An Old Friend Triumphs Anew: The Hall of State Redo Affirms the Power of Great Architecture” (DMN, Nov. 14, 1989), written after an extensive renovation to the building.

More on Barthelme at the Handbook of Texas History and on Wikipedia.

More on the exterior of the Hall of State from Steven Butler (with a list of the names carved into the frieze) here.

Click photos to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The G. B. Dealey Library and Reading Room at the Hall of State

hall-of-state_dealey-library_entrance_042517A quiet place to read or study… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I spent time this week walking around the G. B. Dealey Library and Reading Room at the Hall of State in Fair Park. It is part of the Dallas Historical Society, and it is a quiet, high-ceilinged, airy-but-cozy Western-themed oasis filled with lots of warm wood and featuring two large murals by legendary El Paso artist Tom Lea. If you haven’t seen it, I highly encourage you to go take a look.

What we now call the Hall of State was the architectural jewel in the crown of the Art Deco splendor created throughout Fair Park for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. The room now housing the Dealey Library was originally the West Texas Room — one of four geographically-specific rooms in the Hall of State. The two Tom Lea murals (one depicting a cowboy, the other, pioneers) are on opposite walls (walls finished with an adobe-like plaster, decorated with famous Texas brands, in relief). One wall is covered with cowhide. There are painted ceramic tiles set into both the walls and the floor (the ones on the floor decorated with images of cactus are great!). There is a wood sculpture of a cowboy, carved by Dallas artist Dorothy Austin, who was only 25 years old when the Centennial opened. And … well — like everything in the Hall of State — everywhere you look you see incredible attention to detail. Every fixture, grating, knob … everything is absolutely wonderful.

In 1989, after a two-and-a-half-year renovation, the West Texas Room became the home of the G. B. Dealey Library (named in honor of the former publisher of The Dallas Morning News). The project was headed by architect Downing Thomas who took great care in choosing the Arts and Crafts-style furniture (the chairs, tables, and bookcases were handmade by Thomas Moser in Portland, Maine, the chairs emblazoned with bronze Texas stars and upholstered in tanned leather), reading lamps with mica shades (made by Boyd Lighting of San Francisco), and a woven rug by Sally Vowell of Fort Worth (I don’t recall seeing a rug, but there’s a lot to take in and I might have missed it). I really love this room.

When the library opened in November, 1989, the first guest through the doors was Tom Lea who had been shocked to learn that his then-53-year-old murals were still in place. And they’re still there, 81 years after Lea created them. And you should go see them.

The library and reading room is open Tuesday-Sunday, same hours as the Hall of State. If you are interested in researching materials from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society, you are encouraged to contact the staff in advance of your visit and make an appointment; though the room is open to the public, research hours are limited. More about this and the hours of operation can be found here.


Below, one of the Tom Lea Murals can be (partially) seen above the cowhide wall-covering and above Dorothy Austin’s cowboy sculpture. (Click photo to see a larger image.) That light fixture is fantastic! (See the full Tom Lea mural here.)


Here’s the view from the back corner looking toward the entrance, over which can be seen Lea’s second mural.


In the photo at the very top, you can see the floor, which is studded with all sorts of cactus-themed tiles. Here are examples of four of them.


My absolute favorite of the cactus tiles is this one, in a very Japanese-like rendering.



That’s what the room looks like today. Here are a few photos of the West Texas Room under construction in 1936 (photos from the Dallas Historical Society’s Centennial Visual Collection). The first one shows Dorothy Austin standing below the Tom Lea mural, about where her cowboy statue would be placed. Those ceilings are pretty high.


And here’s the statue. (See Austin’s statue close up, here, in a 2014 photo by Carol M. Highsmith, from the Library of Congress.)


And here is a look into the room from the entrance, showing a construction crew at work.


Below are 28-year-old Tom Lea’s thoughts on being informed of his important commission, from the El Paso Herald Post, March 24, 1936.  (Click to see larger image.)


It seems strange that Lea was only in the preliminary-drawing stage of the murals’ creation in March — the Centennial was scheduled to open in June, less than three months away. (It’s worth noting that even though the Centennial — which ran for almost six months — opened in June, the Hall of State did not open to the public until September, three months behind schedule and the only Exposition building that did not meet its deadline. It was finally dedicated on September 5, 1936, the 100th anniversary of Sam Houston’s election as the first President of Texas.)

Below, a photo of Mr. Lea at the 1989 opening of the Dealey Library, with his 1936 mural behind him.

via Tom Lea Institute


To read more details on the 1989 opening of the G. B. Library and the renovation of the West Texas Room, please check out these articles from The Dallas Morning News archives:

  • “A Rare Blend — Art Deco, Western and Shaker Unite for a Modern Adaptation at the Hall of State” by Mariana Greene (DMN, Nov. 12, 1989)
  • “G. B. Dealey Library Dedicated at Fair Park — Center Will House Texas Documents” by Todd Coplivetz (DMN, Nov. 13, 1989)
  • “How the West was East at the Hall of State Redo”  by Alan Peppard (DMN, Nov. 14, 1989)
  • “An Old Friend Triumphs Anew: The Hall of State Redo Affirms the Power of Great Architecture” by David Dillon (DMN, Nov. 14, 1989)
  • “Reviving a Cultural Paean to Dallas — Fair Park Changes Designed to Restore Centennial’s Glory” by David Dillon (DMN, April 9, 1986) (this article concerns Fair Park as a whole)


Sources & Notes

Photos of the Dealey Library and Hall of State door (below) are by me.

Photos of the West Texas Room from 1936 are from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society. You can search through low-res thumbnails of some of the images from their very large collection here.

As mentioned above, if you plan a trip to the Dealey Library in order to inspect or research items from the DHS collection, these materials must be requested in advance and an appointment must be scheduled (info here).

More on Tom Lea (1907-2001) can be found at the Tom Lea Institute website, here (with specific information on the Hall of State murals here); a profusely illustrated blog post with an emphasis on his time as a WWII artist-correspondent can be found here.

Obituary for Dorothy Austin Webberley (1911-2001) can be found on the Dallas Morning News site, here; family obituary is here.

Detailed info on the architecture and design of the Hall of State can be found in a Dallas Historical Society PDF, here. The Wikipedia entry is here (someone please correct the erroneous info that the Dealey Library is in the “East” Texas room!), and the always informative Watermelon Kid site has information on the East Texas and West Texas rooms here.

A series of photos of Fair Park, taken in 2014 by Carol M. Highsmith, can be found at the Library of Congress website, here. Her photo of the Hall of State is below.


And, lastly,  a photo I took showing one of my favorite elements of a building packed with aesthetically pleasing details (seriously, everywhere you look): one of the doors of the main entrance to the Hall of State, designed by Houston architect Donald Barthelme, honoring Texas industry (ranching, timber, oil, agriculture, etc.). That sawmill blade gets me every time. And the aerial perspective of oil coming up through a derrick (middle right) is pretty cool, too. (Click to see a larger, more exciting image!)



Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“Dallas Midway, Night Illumination” — 1936

tx-centennial_midway_night_cook-coll_smuAll calm in Fair Park along the Centennial Midway (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, a nighttime shot of an almost empty Midway during the Texas Centennial. All this scene needs in order to boost the moody atmosphere is a little fog. Go a little further and add some zither music, Joseph Cotten, and Orson Welles running past the Texaco Building and you’d have a pretty cool setting for a Texas version of The Third Man.


Photo titled “Dallas Midway, Night Illumination, Centennial Exposition, State Fair of Texas” (taken by an unknown photographer on Oct. 16, 1936) is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Three Flags Over Texas at the Entrance to Fair Park — 1936

tx-centennial_flags_entrance_nyplMexico, France, and Texas welcome visitors… (click for larger images)

by Paula Bosse

Another State Fair of Texas is winding down. Here’s what the entrance to Fair Park looked like when the Texas Centennial opened in June, 1936. This Associated Press photo was accompanied by the following caption when it ran in newspapers:

Dallas, June 6 — Three of six flags which have flown over the Lone Star State, waved over the main entrance to the Texas Centennial celebration at its opening here today. Buildings throughout the grounds of the exposition are ultra modern in design.

This view — taken at about Parry and Exposition — hasn’t changed all that much. See it on Google Street View here.


Associated Press photo from the New York Public Library’s digital collections, here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Lady Godiva and the “Flesh Shows” of the Texas Centennial — 1936

tx-centennial_streets-of-paris_ticket_cook-coll_smuGeorge W. Cook Collection/SMU

by Paula Bosse

When one thinks of the Texas Centennial Exposition, the splashy 6-month extravaganza held at Fair Park to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Texas independence, one might not immediately think of the three things associated with the big show that were making headlines around the country (and were undoubtedly responsible for healthy ticket sales): according to Variety, the Centennial had “all the gambling, wining and girling the visitor wants” (June 10, 1936).

The Dallas exposition (and the coattail-riding Frontier Exposition, which was held at the same time in Fort Worth) was “wide open” in 1936: there was gambling, liquor, and nudity everywhere. The Texas Rangers cracked down on some of the gaming in the early days, but alcohol and girlie shows continued throughout the expo’s run.

As far as the nudity, it really was everywhere. It’s a little shocking to think that this sort of thing was so widely accepted in very conservative Dallas — 80 years ago! — but it was (despite some local pastors disdainfully referring to the big party as the Texas Sintennial). Many of the acts — and much of the personnel — had appeared in a version of the same revue in Chicago in 1933 and 1934. Some of the offerings for the Centennial visitor: peep shows a-plenty, the clad-only-in-body-paint “Diving Venus” named Mona Lleslie (not a typo), a naked “apple dancer” named Mlle. Corinne who twirled with a “basketball-sized ‘apple'” held in front of her frontal nether regions, and the somewhat obligatory nude chorus girls. There was also an “exhibit” in which nude women were on display as “artists’ models,” posing for crowds of what one can only assume were life-drawing aficionados who were encouraged to render the scene before them artistically (…had they planned ahead and brought a pencil and sketchpad); those who lacked artistic skill and/or temperament were welcome to just stand there and gawk. (Click photos and ads to see larger images.)



tx-centennial_apple-dancer_franklin-ind-evening-star_071136Franklin, Indiana Evening Star, July 11, 1936

Another attraction was Lady Godiva, who, naked, rode a horse through the Streets of Paris crowds. Her bare-breastedness even made it into ads appearing in the pages of staid Texas newspapers. (Click to see larger images.)

June, 1936

There were two areas along the Midway where crowds could find these saucy attraction: Streets of Paris (which Time magazine described as appealing to “lovers of the nude”) and Streets of All Nations (“for lovers of the semi-nude”). Lady Godiva was part of the Streets of Paris, and she rode, Godiva-esque, nightly. The gimmick (beyond the gimmick of a naked woman riding a horse in Fair Park) was that she was supposed to  be a Dallas debutante who rode masked in order to conceal her identity. The text below is from the ad above.

MASKED…but unclothed in all her Glory…Riding a milk-white steed. […] Miss Debutante was introduced to Dallas society in 1930. She was later starred in Ziegfeld’s Follies, in “False Dreams, Farewell,” “Furnished Rooms,” and other Broadway successes. She appeared in motion pictures, being starred in “Gold Diggers of 1935,” “Redheads on Parade” (yes, she is a redhead) and other picture successes.


And, of course, none of that was true (including the fact that this “Lady Godiva” rode a white horse — apparently one could not always be found), but I’m sure it got local pulses racing. My guess is that there were several Ladies Godiva (none of whom were members of Dallas society). One woman was actually named as the Centennial’s exhibitionist horsewoman. I haven’t been able to find mention of a “Paulette Renet” anywhere other than the caption of this photo, but here she is:


Madera (California) Tribune, Aug. 29, 1936

Another photo featuring what appears to be the same woman, with this caption: “No white horse for Lady Godiva, at the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. A feature of the ‘Streets of Paris,’ a midway show, Godiva rode a ‘paint pony,’ first week because no white one was available.”

Altoona (Pennsylvania) Tribune, June 23, 1936

I think this is still the same woman, but on a rare white steed:


The Godiva who appeared in the March of Times newsreel “Battle of a Centennial” appears to be a different woman. (Watch a 45-second snippet of the newsreel which features both a glimpse of Lady Godiva and a head-shaking son of Sam Houston wondering what the deal is with the younger generation — here.)


Imagine seeing performers and attractions like this along the Fair Park midway today!


godiva_dmn_070536-detJuly, 1936 (ad detail)

June, 1936 (ad detail)

What was the Centennial Club? It was an exclusive, invitation-only private club located within the very large George Dahl-designed building which housed the Streets of Paris (and which was shaped like the famed S. S. Normandie ocean liner). It had three levels (“decks”) and housed a lounge, dining rooms, a main clubroom, and a “dance pavilion” — all air conditioned. From various decks, well-heeled patrons could look down at the action going on below: the milling throngs of the hoi polloi, the Streets of Paris shows, and the Midway.

June, 1936




Can’t miss the ridiculously large land-locked ocean liner in the center of the photo below. Mais oui!



The articles below on “gals, likker, and gambling” are GREAT. They are from the show biz trade publication Variety, which really latched onto the rampant nudity on view at the Texas Centennial. Remember: 80 years ago! (The abbreviation of “S. A.” in the headline of the second article stands for “sex appeal.”) (As always, click to see larger images.)

Variety, June 10, 1936

Variety, June 24, 1936

Variety, July 1, 1936


Sources & Notes

Top photo shows an admission ticket to the Streets of Paris, from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information is here. Another interesting item from this collection is a brochure (here) which describes Streets of Paris as “the smartest, most sophisticated night club in America. Here you will find the gay night life of Paris in a setting of exotic splendor.”

Photo of “Mlle. Corrine” also from the Cook Collection at SMU; more info on that photo here.

Photo of Lady Godiva on a white horse (with the words “Dallas Centennial” near the bottom … um, bottom of the image … is also from the Cook Collection at SMU, here.

The photo showing the night-time crowd outside the Streets of Paris Normandie is from the Ryerson & Burnham Archives, Art Institute of Chicago; more info here.

The aerial photograph showing the S. S. Normandie is from Willis Cecil Winters’ book Fair Park (Arcadia Publishing, 2010); photo from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society.

All other sources noted, if known.

See quick shots of the Streets of Paris and the Streets of All Nations in the locally-made short film “Texas Centennial Highlights,” here (Streets of Paris is at about the 7:00 mark and the more risqué bits showing the parasol chorus girls followed by Mlle. Corinne and her apple dance (I mean, it’s not really shocking, but … it still kind of is…) at the 8:45 mark. (Incidentally, there appears to be a new book on Corinne and her husband — Two Lives, Many Dances — written by their daughter.)

A very entertaining history of the State Fair of Texas and the Texas Centennial Exposition can be found in the article “State Fair!” by Tom Peeler (D Magazine, October, 1982), here.

A Flashback Dallas post on the feuding Dallas and Fort Worth Centennial celebrations can be found here.

More Flashback Dallas posts on the Texas Centennial can be found here.

Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Fair Park Bond Issue — 1934

centennial-bond-issue_front-cover_cook-collection_degolyer_SMU_sm“Forward 1936…”  (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

by Paula Bosse

With all the heated discussion currently going on about what the city is going to do with Fair Park, I thought this little pamphlet from 1934 seemed timely. Published by the “Centennial Fair Park Bond Committee” (comprised of all the Dallas movers and shakers one would expect), the get-out-the-vote brochure was issued to explain the $3,000,000 (about $54,000,000 in today’s money, adjusted for inflation) bond issue, the approval of which was essential in order to clinch the honor of hosting the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. The entire pamphlet — part of the George W. Cook Collection in the DeGolyer Library — may be read on SMU’s website, here.


A couple of excerpts:





The issue passed, overwhelmingly, by a 5-1 margin. It’s interesting to note that the voting restrictions on this referendum were … pretty restrictive. Not only was payment of a poll tax required to vote (…one had to pay for the “privilege” of voting…), but one also had to be a property owner — and that property owner was not allowed to vote until a “rendition” was signed downtown in the tax assessor’s office. Many property owners who had signed the necessary paperwork were still unable to vote as they had not paid (or could not afford) the poll tax. It’s pretty obvious here that a substantial number of lower income residents (i.e. non-property owners or property owners unable to afford the poll tax) — including many who lived in the area immediately surrounding Fair Park — were legally prohibited from casting a vote.

6,550 ballots were cast (5462-1088), which represented “little more than one-third of the 18,000 supposed qualified to decide this important issue” (Dallas  Morning News, Nov. 1, 1934). It was declared to be “the largest majority ever cast for a bond issue in [the] history of Dallas” (DMN, Oct. 31, 1934).

The passage of the October, 1934 bond issue assured that Dallas would host the Texas Centennial Exposition, a statewide celebration which proved to be a huge success and was a tremendous economic boon to the city.


Sources & Notes

The pamphlet “Texas and Dallas … Forward 1936: Why We Should Vote For Centennial Fair Park Bonds, Tuesday, October 30, 1934” is part of the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; the entire pamphlet is contained in a PDF which may be read and/or downloaded here.

More on this vote can be found in these two Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “OK on Bonds For Huge Fair Up to Voters” (DMN, Oct. 30, 1934) — published on voting day, this article includes the particulars of the voting restrictions
  • “Five-to-One Majority Scored As City Favors Centennial Bonds to Assure Huge Fair” (DMN, Oct. 31, 1934) — the results

Payment of a poll tax was still required to vote in Texas elections until 1966, when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled such taxes were unconstitutional. More about that from the Dallas Public Library, here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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