Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Weather

Winter Scene: The Belo Mansion & The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart — ca. 1902

cathedral_snow_flickr-coltera(click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A beautiful dusting of snow in one of the tonier areas of the city, captured by a postcard photographer in the early years of the 20th century — back when the snowy slush along Ross Avenue would have been caused by horses and the buggies they pulled behind them.

The date of this postcard is unknown, but at the end of 1902 (the same year the construction of the cathedral was completed) it snowed in Dallas — a “weather event” then (as now) so out of the ordinary that it resulted in these rapturous few paragraphs from the December 4, 1902 edition of The Dallas Morning News:

snow_dmn_120402DMN, Dec. 4, 1902


Postcard from Flickr, here.

The Belo Mansion was built in about 1890; more info here.

Construction of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (now the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe) was completed in 1902. Except for the bell tower, which, though part of the architect Nicholas J. Clayton’s original design, was not completed until 2005. More on this “sympathetic addition” from Architexas, here.

While most of the buildings and houses that once stood along ritzy Ross Avenue are long gone, both the Cathedral and the Belo Mansion still stand as Ross Avenue landmarks.

Below, the same view today (sans snow), via Google Street View (click for larger image). I really wish that iron fence were still there.



Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Dallas in Winter” by Guy Wiggins — ca. 1942

wiggins_dallas-in-winter_c1942_dma“Dallas in Winter” by Guy Carleton Wiggins (Dallas Museum of Art)

by Paula Bosse

A nostalgic look back at a snowy Dallas scene from the 1940s by Guy Wiggins (1893-1962), an artist most remembered for his snow scenes of New York City. Wiggins was apparently quite fond of Dallas and was a frequent visitor, beginning in the 1920s. He had countless gallery shows here over the years, and while in town he’d often present lectures and “master classes” to arts groups and women’s groups. According to articles in local newspapers, Wiggins painted views of the Dallas skyline several times, paintings which no doubt found their way into private collections and are probably still hanging on the walls of local art patrons. In 1952, his daughter and her family moved here, giving Wiggins yet another reason to visit.

The wonderful snow scene above is in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art; this is the DMA’s description of the painting:

A rare snowstorm in Dallas captured the eye of Guy Carleton Wiggins, who recorded this scene from the downtown vantage point of Live Oak and Pearl streets, showing the skyline’s distinctive historic landmark of the red statue of Pegasus on the Magnolia building.

Although born and raised in the East, where he was affiliated with the artists’ colony in Old Lyme, Connecticut, Wiggins traveled widely throughout the United States during his career. He became known for urban winter scenes such as this one.


The painting “Dallas in Winter” by Guy Carleton Wiggins is from the Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, Dallas Museum of Art; it was a bequest of Patsy Lacy Griffith. More information on the painting can be found on the DMA’s website, here.

(Patsy Lacy Griffith was the daughter of oil millionaire Rogers Lacy, who was this close to building the incredible Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel downtown. I wrote about it in a previous post, here.)

More on the career of Guy Wiggins, from Wikipedia, here, and from a 2011 New York Times profile of the Wiggins family of painters, here.

Because he visited so often and had many friends here (and because he apparently painted very quickly), Wiggins’ paintings were well represented in private collections in Dallas. (One of his earliest patrons was Miss Ela Hockaday, of the Hockaday School for Girls, who loaned one of her paintings for an exhibit at the Dallas Public Library in 1930.) Among works depicting views of the city were oil studies with the titles “Morning Over Dallas,” “The Akard Canyon,” “Dallas: Morning From Cliff Towers,” and “Dallas Nocturne,” all of which were probably still damp when first shown, as The Dallas Morning News reported that they had been painted “little more than a week ago” before they went on display at the Ed Spillars gallery on Fairmount at the end of December, 1948 (DMN, Dec. 22, 1948). I’d love to see these paintings.

Want “Dallas in Winter” hanging on your walls? Buy the poster from the DMA Shop here. Look at it longingly when it’s 157 degrees in August.

Click picture for larger image.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Whither Water? — 1956

drought_caterpillar-ad_1962_det“Dallas — The City That Decided Not To Die of Thirst”

by Paula Bosse

Between 1950 and 1957, Texas suffered the worst drought on record. By 1957, 244 of Texas’ 254 counties had been declared disaster areas. In 1952, Lubbock recorded not even a trace of rain. Elmer Kelton captured the period perfectly in his classic novel, The Time It Never Rained. It might not have achieved the epic catastrophic proportions of the Dust Bowl days, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t devastating.

In Dallas, the lakes and reservoirs were hit hard. White Rock Lake dried up — one was able to walk across the parched lake bed without a drop of water in sight. Lake Dallas (now Lake Lewisville) fell to 11% of capacity. Dallas was desperate for water, and in 1956, it began “importing” water from Oklahoma. Red River water was appreciated, but it was considered by many far too salty to drink. In addition to the unpleasant taste, residents were concerned that there would be permanent damage to pipes and plumbing, and, to a lesser extent (since watering restrictions were being strictly enforced) to their lawns.

According to one report, salt content in the water supply had gone from the normal 39 parts per million gallons to over 800 parts (at the height of the problem, some news outlets reported it to be well over 2,000 parts per million). While the water was generally considered perfectly safe for the average person to drink, many looked for cleaner, more palatable drinking water.

drought_FWST_082356Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 23, 1956 (click for larger image)

Suddenly bottled water became a boom business. Spring water was being trucked to Dallas from Glen Rose and Arkansas. Water was being sold in bottles and cartons — from 20 cents per half-gallon cartons to $2.50 for five-gallon bottles ($1.50 of which was for a deposit on the glass bottle). WBAP-TV news even sent a cameraman out to a Cabell’s convenience store to capture some boys testing out the Glen Rose water (watch it here, without sound).


The other source of acceptable drinking water that summer was from city wells dotted around Dallas. Long dormant, the city opened the wells and offered free water to residents. From The Dallas Morning News:

If you don’t like that hard, salty water coming from your taps, you can get soft, unsalty water at four city wells beginning Sunday. City manager Elgin E. Crull Saturday said that the city has installed faucets at the four wells where people may take their buckets or bottles and obtain drinking water. No trucks will be permitted to fill up. (DMN, Aug. 19, 1956)

The four wells mentioned above — and two more opened within a few weeks — were located at the following locations:

  • 1325 Holcomb, near Lake June Road
  • Opera and 13th, near the Marsalis Zoo
  • 875 North Hampton, near Lauraette Street
  • 2825 Bethurum, in South Dallas, near the public housing project
  • Northwest Highway and Buckner
  • Matilda and Anita, on the grounds of Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, in East Dallas

These wells were hugely popular, with thousands of people showing up with jugs, jars, kettles, canteens, and bottles of every conceivable size. (More WBAP news footage of people filling up at these wells can be seen here, without sound; details below).



The popularity of the city wells led to private citizens having wells dug on their own property. Not only were bottled water suppliers making a killing during the summer of ’56, so were the owners of drilling businesses. From The Dallas Morning News:

As salty water from city mains reportedly discourages shrubbery and affronts the taste, drillers of shallow residential water wells ride the crest of a boom. […] Luckiest of the water-seekers are residents of the southern section of the city in the Fruitdale, Pleasant Grove and Home Gardens area, and in the neighborhoods that border Loop 12. That is where drillers are finding pay dirt — water-bearing gravel — at shallow depths. (DMN, Oct. 7, 1956)

It wasn’t just professional drillers who were busy — it wasn’t uncommon for the DIY-ers to be out in the backyard on weekends, digging away, hoping for their own personal source of fresh water. And there were probably even some dowsers out and about, water witching their little hearts out.

The drought ended the next year, and personal wells were a thing of the past, but that mania for bottled water really dug its heels in.

Texas developed the Water Planning Act of 1957, and in 1962, this new mandate and what had happened in Dallas during the drought was used as the basis for a Caterpillar ad which had a bit of a hyperbolic headline, “Dallas — The City That Decided Not To Die Of Thirst”:

drought_caterpillar-ad_19621962 ad (click for larger image)


Sources & Notes

Picture of the four boys tasting the Glen Rose water is taken from the WBAP-TV news story that aired on Aug. 12, 1956. The silent, edited footage was shown as the news anchor read the script, seen here. Film footage (linked above) and script from the Portal to Texas History.

The two pictures of people availing themselves of water from the city’s wells are taken from the WBAP-TV news story that aired on  Aug. 19, 1956. The silent footage ran as the anchor read the script seen here and here. Film footage (linked above) and script from the Portal to Texas History.

1962 Caterpillar ad from eBay.

More on affect of the drought on Dallas can be found in these Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “Sparked by Salt: Business Booming For Bottled Water” (DMN, Aug. 5, 1956)
  • “Citizens Stock Up On Saltless Water” by Sue Connally (DMN, Aug. 20, 1956)
  • “Thirsty City Witnesses Revival of Well Drilling” by William K. Stuckey (DMN, Oct. 7, 1956)
  • “Resourceful Citizens Tap City Water Well” (DMN, Oct. 16, 1956)
  • “Continuing Drouth Produces Top Local News Story in ’56” by Patsy Jo Faught (DMN, Dec. 30, 1956)

Read about how the drought affected Texas water management here; read about the Texas Water Rights Commission here.

Read “The City of Dallas Water Utilities Drought Management Update” in a PDF, here.

Finally, I encourage everyone to grab a tall glass of ice water and settle down to read Elmer Kelton’s classic Texas novel, The Time It Never Rained. Or if you’re pressed for time, read Mike Cox’s article about the book in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Telephone Operators Sweating at the Switchboard — 1951


by Paula Bosse

The summer of 1951 in Texas was brutally hot. One heat-related incident that August made national headlines: more than 1,500 Southwestern Bell telephone operators (and supportive coworkers) who were working in unairconditioned conditions (!!) at the Haskell Exchange on Bryan and at the Akard Street headquarters downtown staged what news reports called a “wildcat walkout” and refused to continue working in the sweltering buildings. Management’s attempt to cool things down with electric fans blowing over buckets of ice had not worked. Operators returned the next day, having made their point, hopefully to the imminent installation of air-conditioned switchboard rooms.

The caption for the photo above:

Dallas, Tex. Aug. 10 [1951] — BEATING THE HEAT — Both ice and fans are brought into play by telephone operators at an exchange here today as the city continued to swelter under 100-degree or over temperatures. The thermometer reached a high of 102-degrees to run the consecutive days of 100-degree readings to ten. It is the longest period of such reading since 1925 when a record 11 straight days was set. High mark for the present heat wave was 107 on August 6.

Three days later, the sweat hit the fan, and the women walked out.

St. Joseph [MO] News Press, Aug. 14, 1951 (click to read)

Let’s hope your work conditions are a bit better this summer!


Sources & Notes

Wire service photograph from the Southern Labor Archives of the Georgia State University Library Special Collections.

See ads from 1911 and 1925 encouraging women to become telephone operators in the Flashback Dallas post “Work and Play in Telephone Land,” here.

Click photo for larger image.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Back When the Kessler Couldn’t Catch a Break — 1957


by Paula Bosse

One of the casualties of the famous tornado that hit Dallas and Oak Cliff in 1957 was the Kessler Theater. In 1957, the Kessler — then only 15 years old — had hit hard times and was being used to house an evangelical church. It was rebuilt after the tornado, but soon after it was hit by a three-alarm fire. Conclusion? Do not disturb the entertainment gods — that place was meant to be a theater!


From the post-tornado reports in The Dallas Morning News:

At the West Davis and Clinton business district, an evangelical church in a converted theater building at the intersection was caved in, leaving little more than two walls standing. The church’s cross from atop its more than 50-foot tower was crumpled in the gutter. (DMN, April 3, 1957)

And in a survey of the clean-up:

At Davis and Clinton, where the old Kessler Theater was being used as a revival center before the tornado, workmen were busy wrecking the building, completing what the tornado had started. […] J. T. Hooten, foreman for Winston A. Caldwell, explained that the damaged sections of the theater which might give way under a slight strain and cause further damage had to be torn out. His crew carefully but hurriedly dismantled the old Davis Street landmark. Hooten said the owner may rebuild the theater as a 1-story office building. (DMN, April 10, 1957)

Here is a detail of an aerial photo by photographer Squire Haskins, showing the damaged Kessler in the center (see the full, very large photo here):



Sources & Notes

Top photo from an incredibly detailed website devoted to the 1957 Dallas tornado, the home page of which can be seen here.

Second photo from D. Troy Sherrod’s Historic Dallas Theatres (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2014); photo from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Aerial photograph by Squire Haskins from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. Collection, UTA Libraries, Special Collections; more information is here (click the thumbnail to see a larger image).

Website of the recently (and beautifully) restored Kessler is here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“Rainy Day” and “Rainy Day” on a Rainy Day



by Paula Bosse

Two works by local artists closely connected with (if not actually IN) the influential Dallas Nine group of painters and printmakers. Both works are titled “Rainy Day.”

The top print is a lithograph by Charles T. Bowling (1891-1985) and is undated. (From the Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.)

The second print, also a lithograph, is by Everett F. Spruce (1908-2002), dated 1944. (From the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art, a gift of A. H. Belo Corporation and The Dallas Morning News, via the Central University Libraries of SMU.)

Stay dry!

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Alexandre Hogue’s “Calligraphic Tornado” — 1970

by Paula Bosse

Since the season is upon is, it seems like a good time to post Alexandre Hogue’s wonderful “Calligraphic Tornado” (1970), quite a departure from his more widely known Depression-era landscape paintings. I love this.


Image and text from Nature’s Forms/Nature’s Forces: The Art of Alexandre Hogue by Lea Rosson DeLong (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984), p. 168. (This is a great monograph on the Dallas Nine artist, but it appears to be becoming difficult to find at affordable prices. There are a couple that should be scooped up quickly, here. It was issued only in softcover.)

A previous post from me on Hogue (one of my favorite artists) — with another uncharacteristic example of his work — is here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Tornado as Learning Tool — 1957

by Paula Bosse

On April 2, 1957, the famous Dallas tornado (tornadoes, actually) ripped across the city. At the time, it was the most photographed tornado in history, and the photographs and film footage taken that day were immensely important in the study of how tornadoes form and behave. The above photo is from a landmark study by the United States Weather Bureau (link to the full report is below).

Above, a photo by Bill Winfrey of the Dallas Morning News, taken from the roof of the News building, looking toward Oak Cliff.

I just stumbled across the odd little film above, produced by the National Assn. of Broadcasters in the late ’50s. If you skip to about the 4:30 mark, you can see a WFAA Channel 8 reporter/cameraman running to his news vehicle, followed by a minute or so of the clearest film footage of the Dallas tornado I can find online.

Since the tornado has been written about for years and years and years, there’s nothing I can add, really, except to mark another anniversary. ALTHOUGH, the following paragraph (from the official U.S. Weather Bureau report) has been sorely under-reported: the affect of tornadoes on the behavior of rubber duckies.

As you can see, that report was thorough! The U.S. Weather Bureau Report that was issued about the Dallas tornado was incredibly important in leading to what we know about tornadoes today. This paragraph introduced their report:


Top photo and clipped text from “The Tornadoes at Dallas, Tex., April 2, 1957 — Research Paper No. 41” (Washington: U.S. Govt. Printing Office, U.S. Department of Commerce, Weather Bureau, 1960). You can access the entire official report — containing numerous photographs, charts, interviews with Dallasites who witnessed the tornado(es), and results of the Bureau’s research — here. It’s very interesting.

The second photo is from the great Dallas Morning News photo blog, here.

The National Association of Broadcasters’ self-aggrandizing pseudo-PSA film, “A Guest in the House,” can be found here.

And, finally, everything you ever needed to know about the 1957 tornado is here.

Click photos for larger images.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Downtown Snowfall — January 10, 1962

Downtown Dallas TexasPhoto by Ferd Kaufman/AP (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

It snowed today in Dallas! It’s pretty, but not as pretty as this 1962 night-time view of Commerce and Akard (looking west). Even the approaching slush looks sophisticated in glamorous black-and-white.

(See a fantastic color photo from 1957 showing the northwest corner of the Adolphus block with that incredible Walgreen neon sign in full view, taken from the front of the Baker Hotel, here.)


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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