Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

The Majestic Hotel/The Park Hotel/The Ambassador Hotel: R.I.P. — 1904-2019

majestic-hotel_portal_postcard

by Paula Bosse

The historic Ambassador Hotel at 1312 S. Ervay in the Cedars was destroyed by fire this morning — the building was 115 years old and was under renovation. Watching news footage of flames engulfing the South Dallas landmark is heart-wrenching.

Built in 1904 alongside City Park, the Majestic Apartment Hotel opened in early 1905. It was designed by popular local architect Earle Henri (E. H.) Silven (who, incidentally, was arrested on suspicion of setting fire to the then-historic Knepfly Building in 1906, a fire which resulted in two deaths, but a grand jury declined to prosecute because of insufficient evidence — I actually wrote about this fire in passing a few years ago in a completely unrelated post).

The Majestic was originally an “apartment hotel” which was more apartment house than hotel, intended for long-term residents. Financial backing of this endeavor was shaky, and the Majestic soon fell into receivership; after a change of owners, the newly renamed Park Hotel opened in 1907. Several years later, in 1933, it became the Ambassador Hotel. Over the 115-year life of the building, these various incarnations came with a dizzying number of owners and operators, and news of its impending renovation and rebirth was heard frequently over the past 20 or 30 years. Recent plans, though, seemed like they were actually going to finally happen. …And now, unfortunately, they won’t.

Below are several images of the hotel, beginning back when Dallasites were still using a horse and buggy to get around. (All images are larger when clicked.)

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Majestic Apartment House, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 1, 1905

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Majestic Hotel, 1905 Dallas directory (ad, detail)

majestic-hotel_come-to-dallas_degolyer_SMU_ca1905

Majestic Hotel, 1905 (via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

I’m not sure which iteration of the hotel is seen in this postcard, but here it is viewed from City Park, with the Confederate Monument in the foreground:

confederate-monument_city-park_majestic-hotel_cook-colln_degolyer_smu

(via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

The Park Hotel opened in September, 1907.

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Park Hotel, August 11, 1907

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Park Hotel, Oct. 1, 1907

One of my favorite views of the hotel is this one, from City Park, with the Hughes Candy factory at the left (the original photo is here):

park-hotel_hughes-brothers_flickr_coltera

park-hotel_postcard

In 1933 the hotel got a new stucco exterior and tile roof and was renamed the Ambassador.

ambassador_dallas-friendly-city-invites-you_1930s_degolyer-library_smu

(via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

Ambassador Apartment Hotel Dallas

For a while the hotel served as a retirement community — here is an odd, incredibly wordy ad, beckoning retirees with prospects of late-life romance, while also sharing (somewhat) accurate local history:

ambassador_013072_ad

Ambassador Retirement Hotel ad, Jan. 30, 1972

ambassador-hotel_historic-dallas_fall-1982_portal_photo

ca. 1982

This morning:

ambassador-on-fire_DFR_twitter_052919

Dallas Fire Rescue, via Twitter

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Sources & Notes

Top image from the Portal to Texas History.

Read a comprehensive history of the building in an article by Harvey J. Graff in Historic Dallas here and here.

Read the City of Dallas Designation Report from 1982 seeking Landmark Status here.

Read the 2018 application for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (with MANY pages of photos) here.

Coverage of today’s fire can be found on the NBC-DFW site here; a 2017 video walk-through of the Ambassador in happier, more optimistic times can also be found on the Channel 5 site, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Theaters at 1517 Elm: The Garden, The Jefferson, The Pantages, The Ritz, and The Mirror — 1912-1941

garden-theatre_ca-1912_ebayThe Garden Theatre, ca. 1912

by Paula Bosse

The photo above shows the Garden Theatre, located at 1517 Elm, on the north side of the street, between Akard and Stone Street. It was opened in the fall of 1912 by partners W. J. Brown and R. J. (Ray) Stinnett (who also operated the Cycle Park Theatre at Fair Park). The Garden was a vaudeville stop for touring companies.

1912_garden-theatre_variety_sept-1912Variety, Sept. 1912

It was one of many local theaters which simulcast World Series baseball games via telegraph updates, in the days before radio and TV (I wrote more about this fascinating subject here).

1912_garden-theatre_101612Oct. 16, 1912

As seen in the top photo, the Garden Theatre sat between the Pratt Paint & Paper Co. and the Roderick-Alderson Hardware Co.

garden-theatre_1913-directory_1517-elm1913 Dallas city directory

The photo at the top was found on eBay, with the seller-provided date of 1912. Zooming in, one can see a placard in front of the theater advertising the appearance of the Hendrix Belle Isle Musical Comedy Company (misspelled on the sign as “Henndrix”) — for many years this troupe toured with a production called “The School-Master”/”School Days,” the very production seen here on offer to audiences at the Garden. (Read a review of a 1912 Coffeyville, Kansas performance of the troupe’s bread-and-butter act here.)

garden-theatre_ebay_det

In April, 1913 Brown and Stinnett split, with Brown taking the Cycle Park action and Stinnett keeping the Garden (and a handful of other theaters).

On March 8, 1915 the theater changed its name and reopened as the Jefferson Theater. As the ad below stated, “This is the only theater in Dallas presenting popular players in repertoire […] Not moving pictures.”

1915_jeffersosn-theater-opens_dmn_030715March 7, 1915

I’m not sure where the “Jefferson” name came from, but….

jefferson-theater_061115June 11, 1915

There were a few back-and-forths as far as operators and leases of the Jefferson, but in 1923, Ray Stinnett “sold” (or probably more accurately sub-leased) the theater in order to concentrate on his other (bigger! better! brighter!) venture, the next-door Capitol Theater, but he reacquired it in 1925 and renamed it the Pantages. (This has caused confusion, with some thinking it had become the Pantages earlier — the confusion is understandable, as the Jefferson was affiliated with the Pantages vaudeville circuit between 1917 and 1920, and during that time the word “Pantages” appeared prominently on the theater’s marquee, but it was still the Jefferson. See a photo from May, 1925, showing the Jefferson from the Pacific side here, after it had become a Loew’s-affiliated theater.)

The Jefferson became the Pantages Theater on December 27, 1928 when Stinnett opened the newly remodeled venue which offered vaudeville stage acts as well as motion pictures. (All images are larger when clicked.)

pantages-opening_122725Dec. 27, 1925

That incarnation didn’t last too long. Goodbye, Pantages, hello, Ritz. The Ritz Theater opened on October 14, 1928, operated by the R & R (Robb & Rowley) chain but leased from Stinnett. The first film shown was “The Lights of New York,” the first all-talking feature-length movie.

1928_ritz_101028Oct. 10, 1928

1928_ritz_101328
Oct. 13, 1928

1928_ritz_101528Oct. 15, 1928

Below, a 1929 photo showing the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Elm Street, the heart of Theater Row: seen here are the Ritz, Capitol, Old Mill, and Palace theaters (the regal Queen was a few doors west of the Ritz, at the corner of Elm and Akard).

ritz_capitol_old-mill_palace_photo_sherrodphoto from “Historic Dallas Theatres” by D. Troy Sherrod

A postcard showing the Ritz (and neighbors) a couple of years later, in 1931:

ritz_capitol_old-mill_palace_postcard_cinematreasures

But the Ritz didn’t last all that long either — a little over three years.

1931_ritz-mirror_120831Dec. 8, 1931

In 1931 the theater was acquired by the Hughes-Franklin company (as in Howard Hughes, the super-rich Texan who had an obsession with Hollywood). The plan was to renovate the building and rename it the Mirror, “a duplicate, in so far as possible, of the famous Mirror Theater of Hollywood. A feature will be the extensive use of mirrors in the lobby and foyer” (Dallas Morning News, Nov. 29, 1931).

mirror_motion-picture-times_122931Motion Picture Times, Dec. 29, 1931

The Mirror Theater opened at 1517 Elm on Christmas Day, 1931.

1931_mirror_122531
Dec. 25, 1931

Theater Row, 1936:

theater-row_mirror_march-1936

More Elm Street:

mirror-capitol-rialto-palace-melba-majestic_theater_row_night_big

The Mirror chugged on for several years as a second-run house, apparently less and less profitable as the years passed. On August 4, 1941 the theater burned down in an early-morning fire. The property owner, Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews, decided against rebuilding.

mirror-fire_variety_081341Variety, Aug. 13, 1941

Here’s the same view as seen above, only now the space next to the Capitol is a nondescript one-story retail building. (The Telenews, a theater showing newsreels, opened in November, 1941.)

telenews_missing-mirror-post-fire_capitol_postcard

Below, a photo from around 1942, the first time in 30 years without a theater at 1517 Elm Street.

theater-row_by-george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUphoto via the DeGolyer Library, SMU

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of the Garden Theatre is from an old eBay listing.

More Flashback Dallas posts on Dallas theaters can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Ambush of Bonnie and Clyde — 85th Anniversary

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by Paula Bosse

Today is the 85th anniversary of the 1934 killing of Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, two of Dallas’ most notorious former residents. I’ve written several Bonnie and Clyde-related posts over the years, including the following:

As other Bonnie and Clyde posts are added, they can all be found here.

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Sources & Notes

Top image is the lurid front cover of a rare 1935 Mexican publication about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow titled “La Pistolera de Texas” — it is from the collection of the Dallas Historical Society and was featured on their Instagram feed (more info is here).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Aldredge Book Store — 2909 Maple Avenue

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The last location of The Aldredge Book Store, next to the Stoneleigh Hotel

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, Dick Bosse. For most of the life of The Aldredge Book Store, he either managed it or, later, owned it. The store’s first location was in an old Victorian house at 2800 McKinney Avenue, at Worthington (a photo showing the house with weirdly overgrown vegetation is here), the second location was at 2506 Cedar Springs, near Fairmount, and the final location was the one seen above, at 2909 Maple Avenue, right next door to the Stoneleigh Hotel. My brother, Erik, took the photo, sometime in the 1980s, I think. The Stoneleigh is the building partially seen at the right. The bookstore occupied the building’s lower floor, and the top floor was occupied by the engineering business of the owner, Ed Wilson.

We closed the store in the early 2000s, a few years after my father’s death. Erik and his friend Pete removed the letters spelling out the store’s name which were bolted to the brick exterior over the entrance. I came across them a few years ago and laid them out in my driveway (in a much jauntier arrangement than was seen on Maple).

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As far as I can gather, the two-story building was built about 1930 and was originally a duplex — a classified ad shows that the lower floor (where the bookstore was) was a 6-room apartment with 3 bedrooms and a tile bath. Sometime in the late ’30s, building owner Glen Shumaker opened up the Dallas Music Center, where students (children and adults) took music lessons; a sort of “music business school” was also offered as part of the curriculum. That business seems to have been around at least into the early 1950s.

dallas-music-center_0527471947 ad

dallas-music-center_0124481948 ad

It was later the home of several businesses, including sales offices and an advertising company, a farming trade magazine, a correspondence school, and the Dallas Diabetes Association. I’m not sure when the bookstore moved in — maybe 1979 or 1980.

Sadly, the building was demolished in the early-to-mid-2000s and is currently a driveway/parking area for the Stoneleigh Hotel. It still surprises me to not see the old building when I drive by.

dick-bosse_aldredge-book-store
Dick Bosse

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Sources & Notes

Photograph of The Aldredge Book Store by Erik Bosse; photo of the ABS letters by Paula Bosse.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on The Aldredge Book Store can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

From the Vault: A Walk Through Downtown — 2017

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So much fantastic architecture!

by Paula Bosse

I visited downtown several times last week, and it’s always nice to be reminded that some of my favorite old buildings in the Central Business District have somehow managed to survive the wrecking ball and/or over-zealous renovators (I’m not sure which is a worse fate). Two years ago I walked around and took some photos of buildings I really love: see them in the 2017 post “Downtown Dallas, Last Week.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas: Major Convention Center — 1963

dallas-major-convention-center_june-1963_ebayCity of dreams, city of motels… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Here’s an interesting shot of the downtown skyline: from an unidentified motel (possibly along Harry Hines?).

This cover of a 1963 Dallas Chamber of Commerce magazine carries the headline “Dallas: Major Convention Center” — that year Dallas was named the #3 convention center (Chicago and New York held the top two spots) in a survey conducted by the trade publication World Convention Dates based upon the number of conventions booked — Dallas had 405 conventions booked, as of July, 1963. The previous year Dallas was ranked #9, so that’s quite an improvement. The GOP was even considering the city as the site of their 1964 Republican National Convention (which, considering the events of November, 1963, is an odd thing to contemplate).

Why was Big D so popular? An advertorial in The Dallas Morning News listed a few reasons:

…clear, dry weather; cosmopolitan atmosphere; numerous modern and attractive hotels and motels – with more being built every day; a marketplace with wares from over the nation and world; fun things to do and see including cultural, sports and theatrical offerings; a world-wide shopping center; easy accessibility via gleaming highways, freeways and an airport which ranks 10th in the nation. (DMN, Oct. 6, 1963)

So… pretty much the same things you hear today (except our highways might not be quite so gleaming — but our (new) airport ranks a lot higher than #10). All these years later, Dallas remains near the top of the convention-attracting cities in the United States. (I have a feeling the motel seen in the photo above did not have such a rosy future….)

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Sources & Notes

Image shows the cover of the June, 1963 issue of Dallas, the magazine of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce; found in an old eBay listing. (If anyone has any old copies of this magazine they would like to divest themselves of — or loan out for a short time — please contact me at the email address in the About/Contact tab at the top of this page.)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

From the Vault: Research Challenge!

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Mission: track down this house’s location….

by Paula Bosse

Some people look at research as tedious, some people look at it as fun. I definitely think it’s fun. I really loved researching the image above, which I approached as a chance to solve a mystery more than anything else: I wondered if I could find out where the house once stood, the only clues being in the message on the postcard — and I did! Read the original post from 2015: “Tracking Down a Photo Location & Discovering a City Pioneer: D. M. Clower, The Man Who Brought the Telephone to Dallas.” Follow along as I chronicle how I figured it out and what Dallas-history resources I used along the way.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Star Lounge, 4311 Bryan

star-lounge_next-to-brannon-bldg_city-of-dallas-preservation-collectionThe 4300-block of Bryan Street… (City of Dallas photo)

by Paula Bosse

You know those photos that just really grab you? This is one of those for me. It shows the Star Lounge & Bar (that sign!), located at 4311 Bryan, just east of Peak in Old East Dallas. The Star Lounge was opened in 1962 by Mrs. Wanda Nolan; Clark K. Curtis closed it in 1978 or 1979: that’s a lot of beer and cocktails over the lips and through the gums.

The building was built in 1922 by J. S. Johnson (the building permit had the estimated cost of construction at $3,500). Before the arrival of the Star Lounge, previous occupants of the space had included a barber shop, a cleaners, and a floor-covering and linoleum-installation company. (In 1931, when ABC Cleaners was there, the back wall of the building was blown out when two sticks of dynamite were planted one night by racketeers who were attempting to control the dry cleaning industry in Dallas by threatening violence if small-business owners refused to raise prices as a bloc and funnel the extra cash — basically “protection money” — back to them. The bad guys were thwarted.)

Early classified ads for the Star Lounge were want-ads for waitresses; in 1965, want-ads for “waitresses” were replaced by ads for “amateur go-go girls and exotic dancers.” I’m not sure how long that lasted, but it’s interesting to note that both sides of the 4300 block of Bryan were, at one time, jammed with bars which had similarly-themed retro-cool names (but which probably were more seedy than cool): the Orbit Lounge, the Rocket Lounge, the Space Lounge, and the Apollo Lounge. I’ve never seen that before. By 1970 those space-age gin mills were joined by an adult theater/bookstore. So… lively place! I’m hoping there was a lot — or even some — neon strobage going on.

This photo was probably taken around 1974, the year that Strom Radio & Appliances seems to have left the neighborhood. Neighboring businesses seen in this photo are Golden Furniture & Appliances (which has signs for Zenith and RCA-Victor out front), Peak & Bryan Beauty Shop, and the D & B Cafe. The three-story building on the corner of Bryan and Peak is the Brannon Building. All those buildings still stand — see the (sadly) more sedate block these days on Google Street View, here.

star-lounge_google-street-view_june-2018Google Street View, June, 2018

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Sources & Notes

This photo is from a really great, somewhat random collection of 35mm slides from the City of Dallas Historic Preservation Program archives — most are from the 1970s and ’80s. Read about the recently rediscovered photos here, and browse through the entire fantastic collection on Flickr, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Rubber Stockpile: Forty-One Mountainous Piles of Tires — 1943

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Guarding wartime scrap rubber, near Love Field…

by Paula Bosse

You don’t see this everyday: a photo of a pile of tires so large it dwarfs the armed guards who stand in front of it. (For that matter, you don’t often see armed men guarding tires.) What’s going on here? All is explained in the accompanying Time magazine article from March, 1943, which appears to have been cut from the magazine and pasted onto an envelope.

rubber-stock-pile_dallas-1943

The article reads:

RUBBER STOCK PILE
Last week a bewildered Dallas motorist stopped to examine this 30-acre stock pile of old tires collected seven months ago by the Rubber Reserve Corp. The 41 mountainous piles, each towering 40 feet high, contained some 30,000 tons of rubber tires. The question puzzling Dallas citizens: why these tires are allowed to deteriorate instead of being converted into reclaimed rubber for tire recapping. The answer, by RRC officials: rubber reclaiming plants located in Ohio are working at capacity from stocks of old rubber collected in the East and Middle West, which are being used first to conserve freight car space. Once these stocks closer to the mills are exhausted, the rubber from Texas will be shipped. Then the 25 armed guards, who watch Dallas’s [illegible] day and night, can go home.

Ah, that mound of tires was the result of one of World War II’s many scrap drives. The national rubber drive ran from June 15, 1942 until July 10, 1942. The government requested that all Americans collect any old or unused rubber items in order to help with the supply of rubber in the U.S. (Japan controlled the bulk of rubber imports, and those imports had stopped when the United States entered the war). Rubber was needed for military purposes, but it was also necessary for essential domestic needs, mainly as tires needed to transport goods and people. Americans were told they needed to treat their automobile’s tires like gold: drive safely, drive slowly, and drive only when necessary — don’t wear your tires out, because you don’t know how long it’ll be until they’re manufactured again and/or how long it will be until large-scale production of synthetic rubber would become a reality. 

defense-needs-rubber_sarah-sundin

scrap-rubber-poster_sarah-sundinPosters via SarahSundin.com

When the rubber drive began, people were basically told that if they collected enough scrap rubber, the dire prospect of nation-wide gas rationing might be unnecessary (at the time only a few states in the northeast had been suffering through the rationing of gasoline) — the thinking was that if the government withheld gasoline that citizens would conserve rubber simply because they were unable to drive as much. Texans really like their cars and trucks, and we have long distances to drive, so it’s no surprise that throughout the rubber drive, Texas out-performed almost every state in per capita tonnage collected. In the first day of the drive, a Dallas gas station at Harwood and Young reported that 4,500 pounds of collected scrap rubber had been left throughout the day by Dallasites performing their patriotic duty. And that was just one day and one gas station! The government was paying a penny a pound, but many people refused payment.

What sorts of things were people dropping off at their neighborhood gas station (the government-directed drop-off points)? Other than used tires, everything you could imagine:

  • Automobile floor mats
  • Galoshes and raincoats
  • Bathing caps
  • Hot water bottles
  • Garden hoses
  • Girdles
  • Doorstops
  • Tennis and golf balls
  • Rings from jelly jars
  • Baby pants
  • Dolls
  • Toy mice
  • Slingshots
  • Soles of athletic shoes
  • Roadside debris
  • Mats found under office furniture and cuspidors

That stuff adds up fast.

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Below are several ads exhorting readers to do their bit for the war effort by collecting and donating scrap rubber during the national rubber drive. (All images are larger when clicked.)

conserve-rubber_ad_nebraska_061642Mobil ad detail, June 16, 1942

Scrap could be dropped off at any service station.

humble-ad_061742_detHumble Oil ad detail, June 17, 1942

If you needed home pick-up service, Sanger Bros. would send a truck.

rubber-drive_sangers_061642Sanger Bros. ad, June 16, 1942

As would Titche’s.

rubber-drive_titches-ad_062142Titche’s ad, June 21, 1942

Reminders to ferret out that rubber were added to many advertisements, as seen in this detail from a larger grocery store ad. (The drive was originally intended to run through June 30, but ended up being extended through July 10.)

rubber-drive_safeway-ad_062642_detSafeway ad detail, June 26, 1942

This appeared in an ad from the men’s and boys’ clothing store Reynolds-Penland.

rubber-drive_reynolds-penland-ad_062642_detReynolds-Penland ad detail, June 26, 1942

As well as things were going in Big D, according to the government, things weren’t going well nationally, and the powers-that-be were more loudly threatening gas rationing for the entire country, including the states which were actually collecting the most, Texas and California.

rubber-drive_austin-statesman_062742
Austin Statesman, June 27, 1942

The deadline was extended until July 10, with hopes that people would knuckle down and collect much, much more. This Neiman’s ad asked the question “What’s rubber got to do with me?” and answered its own question with an emphatic “EVERTHING!” The ad ended with a barn-burner: “We must not be too late with too little. The stake is life and freedom, and civilization itself. When did Texas ever fail in its patriotic duty?”

rubber-drive_neiman-marcus_070342Neiman-Marcus ad, July 3, 1942

The drive ended with Texas and the western states collecting the most scrap rubber. At the very bottom were New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, all of which were already rationing gasoline. Ultimately, FDR considered the rubber drive to have been a failure, but, like the other scrap drives, it whipped up patriotism and resulted in a feeling of shared community as people worked together for the sake of the country — something which might have been more valuable than rubber.

Synthetic-rubber production slowly increased, but, even so, tire manufacturer B. F. Goodrich wanted everyone to continue to make sure their tires lasted as long as possible, because, after all, ” Hitler smiles when you waste miles.”

rubber-drive_b-f-goodrich-ad_071942_detB. F. Goodrich Tires ad detail, July 17, 1942

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So where exactly was that massive used-tire mountain range? According to The Dallas Morning News, it was in a large open field “at the intersection of the MKT Railroad switch and Cedar Springs, just west of the Coca-Cola plant” (DMN, July 13, 1942), between Inwood and W. Mockingbird, not far from Love Field. The map below (from 1949) shows the general location of the yard, marked with a black star.

tire-mountain_1949-ashburn-map_dallas-freeways-site_det1949 Ashburns’ map detail, via DFW Freeways site

Initially, the salvage yard was to be contained on a 13-acre plot of land, surrounded by an 8-foot board fence. There were to be several tall guardhouses, and the “precious pile of vital war material” would  be patrolled 24 hours a day by armed guards “to protect it from fire hazards, thieves, or saboteurs” (DMN, Aug. 6, 1942). The fear of a potentially huge and uncontrollable fire was the main concern — a special fire plug was installed on the property and a direct phone/alarm line to the central fire station was set up. By August, the size of the yard increased by 50% to accommodate the 30 or more freight carloads which were arriving daily with scrap rubber from all over Texas (except the Panhandle). This huge salvage yard was meant to hold the rubber-drive scrap until reclamation plants in Ohio could accommodate it.

Several months later, the Time article put the expanded size of the yard at 30 acres, containing 30,000 tons of rubber material. By January, 1944, it was estimated the mammoth tire graveyard contained a whopping one million tires. Rather anti-climactically, a local tire dealer was contracted by the Rubber Reserve Corporation to “pick out the repairable and recappable carcasses” (DMN, Jan. 23, 1944) which were estimated to number about 150,000 tires; they would then be dispersed to Texas dealers who would either sell  them to consumers or vulcanize them. Despite the frenzied rubber drive of 1942 and almost a year and a half of sitting forlornly in an open field guarded by men with guns, it looks like those tires never made their trip to Ohio.

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The land that these “tire mountains” occupied appears to have been leased from Carl C. Weichsel, member of a noted Dallas pioneer family. 23 acres of the land was sold to the Coca-Cola Company in 1937 — a $1,000,000 syrup plant and warehouses were built on ten of the acres, at Lemmon and W. Mockingbird. (Coca-Cola bought ten more acres in 1947 in order to expand.) A few weeks after the Coca-Cola land-purchase was announced, Dallas County granted the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway right of way across Cedar Springs, just south of Mockingbird, for a switch track to the Coca-Cola plant. 

In the mid 1940s, the Airlawn Industrial District sprang up in this area. The planning and development of Airlawn was spearheaded by none other than the Katy Railroad, beginning when Coca-Cola decided to move to the area. 

The […] plans were drawn up by the Katy’s industrial research and development department with the aid of experts versed in the problems of present day industry. […] The Katy maintains a Diesel switch engine on duty twenty-four hours a day to handle the switching operations in the Airlawn area. One section gang is assigned to this area to maintain the miles of track that interweave the industrial buildings. (DMN, Oct. 9, 1949)

The MKT was working to attract businesses along their lines: they needed the businesses, and the businesses needed them. Win-win! (It’s interesting to note that another major manufacturer that the Katy worked with on securing a location was another soft drink company: the Dr Pepper plant on Mockingbird, near Central.)

Below is a map from 1952 which shows the railroad spurs which were used by the Airlawn businesses. I’m not sure why I find this so interesting, but I do! (Are these tracks still in use?)

airlawn-industrial-district_mapsco-19521952 Dallas Mapsco

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Sources & Notes

First and second image are from an old eBay listing; it appears that someone pasted a Time magazine article (March 15, 1943) to an envelope; the postmark and cancellation shows that it was mailed from Dallas on March 16, 1943, even though there does not appear to be an address on the front or back of the envelope.

A really interesting article on the various WWII scrap drives — “Getting In the Scrap: The Salvage Drives of World War II” by Hugh Rockoff, of the Economics Dept. of Rutgers University — is well worth a read, here. From his abstract: “While the impact of the drives on the economy was limited, the impact of the drives on civilian morale, may well have been substantial.”

Another very informative article on the national rubber drive of 1942 can be found in the post “Make It Do — Tire Rationing in World War II” by Sarah Sundin, here.

See a variety of patriotic posters encouraging Americans to participate in WW2 scrap drives here.

Pertinent Dallas Morning News articles about this rubber salvage yard:

  • “Work Begun on Rubber Storage Plant” (DMN, July 13, 1942)
  • “Close Guard Is Kept On Rubber” (DMN, Aug. 6, 1942 — includes a photo of the yard, similar to the one that appeared in Time magazine)
  • “150,000 Usable Tires Believed Salvageable From Waste Pile” (DMN, Jan. 23, 1944)

rubber-stock-pile_dallas-1943_ebay-det_sm

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

 

The Zodiac Room

zodiac-room_ebay_menu_cover

by Paula Bosse

The tastefully swanky Zodiac Room opened at the downtown Neiman-Marcus store on April 27, 1953. (Interestingly, there was an earlier — and presumably unrelated — Zodiac Room, in the Jefferson Hotel, from at least 1950 to 1952.)

The Zodiac, a fashionable restaurant and tearoom featuring select foods, will open Monday on the sixth floor of Neiman-Marcus Company’s downtown store. Designed by Eleanor LeMaire of New York, the restaurant’s décor will suggest the roof of the world with signs of the Zodiac represented in both the main dining area and the terrace. (The Dallas Morning News, April 26, 1953)

Stanley Marcus wanted a restaurant in the store in which customers could take a break from shopping by having lunch or afternoon tea on-site, without having to leave the premises. Customers could continue to “shop” while dining as models walked around modeling fashions from the store’s inventory.

“[W]e installed a large restaurant, the Zodiac Room, to attract more people to the downtown area and as a service to those customers from out of town who were spending the day in the store.” (Stanley Marcus, in his book Minding the Store)

Below are a few ads from the Zodiac’s first week (click to see larger images).

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April 26, 1953

COME AND SEE DALLAS’ NEW AND DISTINCTIVE RESTAURANT — THE ZODIAC.

Just completed on our new sixth floor, the Zodiac Restaurant is another step in our downtown expansion program to bring to Dallas the most luxurious and elegant store in America.

The star studded atmosphere of the Zodiac will give you an out of this world feeling. The walls are a wonderful cerulean blue, the carpet’s deep enough for snowshoes and an Italian tile pool sprouts water lilies for the occasion. Informal modeling every day at luncheon.

Plan to have lunch with us this week and bring your guests. We think you’ll be enchanted with the atmosphere as well as the excellent cuisine. Luncheon 11:00 to 2:30, tea 2:30 to 5:00, dinner Thursday night 5:00 to 8:00. NEIMAN-MARCUS

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April 27, 1953

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April 28, 1953 (N-M ad, detail)

You could even get a Zodiac-inspired hair-do, the Zodiac Cut: “Sophisticated, spherical — without a hint of a part.”

zodiac-cut_nm-ad_042953April 29, 1953

Other than the fact that this elegant dining space was part of the world-famous Neiman-Marcus department store, its main draw was its food. According to Stanley Marcus, in his book Minding the Store, the Zodiac struggled for the first year or two and didn’t find its footing until he hired the now-legendary Helen Corbitt as the restaurant’s director. He wrote the following in a guest column in The Dallas Morning News in 1979:

“A landmark in the culinary history of Dallas was the arrival of Helen Corbitt, who made a monumental contribution to improvement of food and service standards in the community. The Neiman-Marcus Zodiac Room became famous under her direction.” (Stanley Marcus, DMN, April 12, 1979)

Below is an example of the fare favored by the Ladies Who Lunch (and the occasional Men Who Lunch), seen in a menu from 1956. (The most expensive item on the menu was the Roast Prime Rib of Beef, which came with a Baked Idaho Potato, a salad from the “Salad Wagon,” and a choice of coffee, milk, or “exquisite tea” — the price was $2.25, which in today’s money was a shockingly affordable $21.00.)

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A dessert menu (a bit hard to read, I’m afraid) is below:

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There was also a children’s menu, which was so charmingly designed by Neiman’s gift-wrap designer, Alma Shon, that I don’t blame a customer for having spirited away a copy of the menu as a holiday-time souvenir of what was no doubt a very special occasion (the date penciled at the top is Dec. 23, 1966). (More information about Ms. Shon is in the “Sources & Notes” section at the bottom of this post.) Below, the front and back of the children’s menu, illustrated with the signs of the zodiac:

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Inside, meal options for well-appointed kiddies and a “Zodiac game” to keep them occupied.

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A few years later, this Stanley Marcus-penned letter appeared as a 1976 N-M ad — it was a personal reply to a nine-year-old Zodiac patron who had apparently written to Neiman’s inquiring about the children’s menu, which she was distressed to see had disappeared on her last visit:

zodiac-room_051776_ad-det_childrens-menu
May 17, 1976

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Lastly, a memory of the downtown Zodiac, from the Department Store Museum website:

The downtown Dallas store was in its entirety a magic store. Every step and turn off the escalators to the top floor was amazing. The Zodiac room with its floor-to-ceiling diaphanous curtains that filtered the bright Texas sky made for a dreamlike atmosphere along with the slender long-legged models in evening gowns and furs and the Andre Previn-inspired piano player. The popovers with strawberry and cinnamon butter weren’t bad either. Thank you, Dallas and Neiman-Marcus, for such a rich time in my life.

And it’s still going strong.

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Sources & Notes

Top image and other (non-children’s) menu images from eBay.

The four images of the Zodiac Room children’s menu are the reason I decided to do this post. My whimsy-threshold is pretty low, but I love the utterly charming drawings which grace the front and back covers. I saw them posted on the Instagram account @reflectionofaman (a cool account — here, for the desktop site — which features the photographs of Stanley Marcus, curated by his granddaughter, photographer Allison V. Smith); it had been shared there by Babs Bern (@mullett7665.manor). The menu’s artist — Alma Shon — was identified by her daughter Kate Heyhoe (@StarkRavingCat) in the comments. According to a 1953 Dallas Morning News profile, Shon was born in California in the early 1920s to Korean refugees who had fled Korea in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. She grew up in Los Angeles but made her way to Dallas by at least 1948; she began working for Neiman Marcus in 1948 or 1949. She was in charge of Neiman’s giftwrap design, but also designed other merchandising elements — she was with the store for several decades. More on Ms. Shon (including a photo of her from the ’50s) can be found in a post by her daughter Kate, here.

Color postcard of the Zodiac Room was found on Flickr, here. I used this same card in a previous Flashback Dallas post, “Luncheon at The Zodiac Room, Darling.”

Image of the  blue matchbox at the bottom is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries; more info is here.

More on Helen Corbitt can be found in articles in Texas Monthly and in Legacies; a couple of her recipes — including her famous Poppy-Seed Dressing — can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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