Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Tag: Historic Dallas

Summer Rerun: “Melons On Ice”

wiley-grocery_1890s_haskins-coll_utaIce-cold watermelon beckons….

by Paula Bosse

It’s hot. An ice-cold slice of watermelon sounds great. The above photo is one of my all-time favorites, from the 2016 Flashback Dallas post “‘Melons On Ice’ — 1890s.” Enjoy the flashback Flashback!

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Sources & Notes

This photo is from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, here.

wiley-grocery_1890s_haskins-coll_uta_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The DALLASOUND — 1971

dallasound_1971_amazon
Staight outta Big D…

by Paula Bosse

The Boston Symphony Orchestra had Arthur Fiedler and its popular-music offshoot, The Boston Pops. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra had Anshel Brusilow and The Dallasound. 

Brusilow, a Philadelphia native, came to Dallas in 1970 as the resident conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The DSO was in financial straits at the time, so in a bid to increase the orchestra’s demographic reach, Brusilow borrowed Fiedler’s idea and formed his own “pops” orchestra, which played jazzy arrangements of pop songs and light classical music. He named this sideline project “The Dallasound.” It was very popular, but it didn’t improve the financial problems of the DSO, and Brusilow was gone after only 3 years. He then went on to accept a teaching a position at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas). After 9 years at UNT, he began teaching at SMU’s Meadow School of the Arts in 1983. Brusilow died in 2018 — he spent the last 48 years of his life in Dallas.

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Here are the liner notes for the Dallasound album (1971):

THE DALLAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

One of America’s oldest orchestras, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1900. Through the years, it has served its community and the entire North Texas area with the finest in music from the greatest composers the world has known. From a modest beginning — with 35 members giving a handful of concerts a season — the Dallas Symphony Orchestra currently has 85 members and performs more than 160 concerts each season. Its membership would comprise a “Who’s Who” of some of the finest artists in the world.

With its reputation for the classics well-established, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra now adds another brilliant facet to its already illustrious history — the DALLASOUND — a new sound and a new concept in music making. A big band sound incorporating the latest and most exciting modern-day pop sounds – special arrangements of tunes by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Jim Webb and many others.

Featured as special guest artists on the first recording on the DALLASOUND Label are three outstanding jazz musicians from the Dallas area — Paul Guerrero on drums, Jack Petersen on guitar and Al “Little Al” Wesar on Fender bass. Arrangements are by one of the most gifted arrangers in the business — Wilfred Holcombe of Trenton, New Jersey. Not just stock orchestral arrangements, but the swingingest, rockingest big band arrangements around! Settle back and listen to some of the most exciting music you will ever hear made by a symphony orchestra!

ANSHEL BRUSILOW

Like many of the world’s great violinist/conductors, Anshel Brusilow laid aside his Stradivarius several years ago and took baton in hand in earnest. His extensive performing and conducting experience with three of the world’s greatest conductors — Eugene Ormandy, George Szell and Pierre Monteux — placed him in good stead on the podium. He came to Dallas after two extremely busy years and more than 300 concerts with the Chamber Symphony of Philadelphia, including five recordings with RCA Victor.

With him he brought the DALLASOUND and a new era for Dallas’s symphony orchestra. Completely at home with the standard symphonic fare, he is equally proficient when ” swinging” with the DALLASOUND. Thousands of Dallasites have been converted to the new sound a symphony orchestra can make, a fact which substantiates Anshel Brusilow’s theory that the Dallas Symphony Orchestra belongs to all the people of a community and must therefore serve them in as many ways as it can. Thanks to Anshel Brusilow, the Dallas Symphony embarks on a new direction in music — the DALLASOUND!

The album’s musical offerings included arrangements of George Harrison’s “Something” and “My Sweet Lord,” The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun,” The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” and “Delilah,” and everyone’s favorite ubiquitous weird song from the late ’60s, “MacArthur Park.”

dallasound_back-cover_amazon_brusilowAnshel Brusilow

dallasound_back-cover_amazon_det

dallasound_back-cover_amazon_logo

dallasound_030771_adTitche’s ad, March, 1971

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Sources & Notes

Images from the front and back cover of the DALLASOUND album were found on Amazon, here.

A really good interview with Anshel Brusilow can be found in the “High Profile” article by Marty Primeau (Dallas Morning News, July 17, 1983).

dallasound_1971_amazon_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Autos, Autos Everywhere, and Not a Place to Park — 1971

cabell-fed-bldg_flickr_wayne-hsieh
Earle Cabell Federal Bldg. / Wayne Hsieh, Flickr

by Paula Bosse

The other day I was looking for some information on the 1971 opening of the new 16-story Federal Center at 1100 Commerce Street (the name was changed to the Earle Cabell Federal Building in late 1973 to honor the former Dallas mayor and U.S. congressman). I came across the Dallas Morning News article “Center Augments Parking Woes” by Earl Golz (DMN, Jan. 12, 1971) which had a couple of surprising tidbits. The new federal building — which was expected to be occupied by more than 5,000 workers — had a grand total of 59 underground parking spaces. …Fifty-nine. FIVE-NINE. Let that sink in. This was a brand-new building. It’s not like they squeezed those pitifully few parking spaces under an existing building. This was in the plans. That’s a lot of car-pooling.

Three years earlier, in 1968, One Main Place opened at 1201 Main — it was more than twice as big as the Federal Building. When it opened, it was noted that there were 800 underground spaces (with a planned-but-never-realized massive underground parking garage for 4,000 cars, to go along with the never-realized Two Main Place and Three Main Place complex). But, somehow, by 1971, One Main Place’s parking had decreased to a mere 400 spaces, all of which were completely filled daily. I have images of panicky office workers constantly circling blocks in search of a place to park. Stories were rampant that parking-lot attendants were reserving weekly and monthly spaces in pay lots for exorbitant under-the-table cash transactions. 

How did this happen? Who would design such large modern buildings with such woefully inadequate parking? Were “interested parties” strong-arming architects or city planners to skimp on the parking? Is there such a thing as a big “parking-lot lobby”? (What am I saying? I’m sure there is.) Ever wonder why Dallas kept tearing buildings down in the early ’70s and replacing them with pay parking lots? I’m sure there were many reasons, but I saw more than one newspaper mention that parking lots (not garages, mind you — just lots) could be more profitable than aging buildings. It’s always seemed odd to me that there were (are) so many surface parking lots downtown, rather than multi-story garages. Imagine how much more money parking lot operators would be making with garages. Not that multi-story garages are in any way more desirable, aesthetically, but why didn’t land developers build garages which could accommodate so many more paying customers than these puny little lots? Some lot operators insisted that it benefitted everyone to have these lots — insisting that the buildings which once stood on the land were old and ugly eyesores which needed to be torn down, and that these lots were basically just placeholders until a fat-cat developer forked over multi-millions to build something tall and beautiful on it.

Was the lack of underground spaces in these two new buildings intentional? This would have been a weird way to force people to use public transportation. It might even have been a bit of strain on public transportation — the Dallas Transit System was already losing the fight against car-culture and downtown workers who lived in suburbia.

In the early ’70s, Dallas and Fort Worth were both experiencing a severe lack of downtown parking. In 1970 there had been a major excavation to build underground parking below the Old Red Courthouse — it was probably helpful, but it was just a band-aid on a much bigger problem.

A few of the proposals to deal with these parking woes:

  • Dissuade people from bringing their cars downtown by significantly raising fees for parking lots and parking meters and to cut the time limit for parking (quickly approved by the City Council)
  • Build satellite lots outside the Central Business District where people could park and then bus into town (“Park and Ride” stations began, shakily, in 1973)
  • Imagine the use of “people-movers” in varying degrees of sci-fi futurism

As far as “people-movers,” there were several automated transportation systems on drawing boards around the country at the time, a couple of which were being developed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. There was the electrically powered monorail-like AirTrans — a joint project of Vought Aeronautics of Dallas and Varo Inc. of Garland — and there was the similar but less well-known Sky-Kar of Fort Worth. AirTrans was very successful and was first adopted by DFW Airport, but Sky-Kar seems to have fizzled out after the death of the company’s president in the early ’70s. 

One of Sky-Kar’s salesmen was Paul Groody (he can be seen being interviewed in one of the kars in a WFAA clip from October 1970 here, with additional kar-footage here). Groody (who, in this interview, is a couple of months from full Asimov muttonchops) gained some national notoriety as the funeral director who had been given the task of driving from Fort Worth to Dallas to pick up the body of Lee Harvey Oswald and “prepare” him for burial — because there were no pallbearers, he had to scrounge for volunteers among the reporters covering the interment. Because I may have no other opportunity to post this, below is the cute and compact Sky-Kar Transivator prototype from 1970. …Sky-Kar, we hardly knew ye.

sky-kar_wfaa_SMU_oct-1970WFAA Collection, Jones Collection, SMU

Below, Paul Groody, Sky-Kar rep (1970), and Paul Groody, funeral director for Lee Harvey Oswald’s burial (1963) (he is seen partially obscured, all the way at the back right, wearing glasses).

sky-kar_paul-groody_wfaa_SMU_oct-1970WFAA Collection, Jones Collection, SMU

oswald-funeral_FWST_1963
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Equal time: see the Vought/Varo AirTrans prototype running on its test track in Garland in December 1970 here, along with interviews from company reps here.

airtrans-prototype_garland_wfaa_SMU_dec-1970WFAA Collection, Jones Collection, SMU

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So, anyway. Forget the flying cars. I’m waiting for my monorail. And it’s probably still best to leave your automobile at home if you’re heading downtown.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo, “Earle Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse” (2019) by Wayne Hsieh — found on Flickr, here. (I have cropped it.)

Screenshots from Channel 8 news film posted on YouTube, from the WFAA Collection, G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

cabell-fed-bldg_flickr_wayne-hsieh_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Elm & Ervay — Early ’60s

elm-and-ervay_looking-north_squire-haskins_DPLAn impressive collection of architectural styles

by Paula Bosse

Three shots of N. Ervay. Above, looking north from Elm (Charade is playing at The Palace, dating this photo to late 1963 or early 1964).

A little closer in on the Mayflower Coffee Shop:

elm-and-ervay_looking-north_mayflower-coffee-shop_squire-haskins_1960_DPL

More Mayflower:

elm-ervay-live-oak_looking-north_mayflower-coffee-shop_squire-haskins_1960_DPL

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Sources & Notes

All photos from the Dallas Public Library Dallas History and Archives Division.

First photo is “[View of Downtown Dallas looking north on North Ervay Street]” by Squire Haskins — Call Number PA2000-3/1404. Second photo is “[View of Downtown Dallas looking north]” by Squire Haskins — Call Number PA2000-3/1401. Third photo is “[View of Downtown Dallas looking north on Ervay Street]” — Call Number PA2000-3/115.

elm-and-ervay_looking-north_squire-haskins_DPL_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Union Station Interiors — 1916

union-station_interior_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogersA beautiful place to wait…

by Paula Bosse

Above, a photo of the new “Union Depot,” completed in 1916 and, thankfully, still standing more than a century later. Below, a couple of details of the Lunch Room and the Women’s Waiting Room.

union-station_interior_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_lunch-rm

union-station_interior_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_womens-wtg-rm

The same view as the top photo, but from 1922:

union-station-interior_1922

Back to 1916, in what I gather is a sort of interior/exterior shot showing another place to pass the time. What better, quaint way to wait for a train and take in a great, slightly elevated view, than in a rocking chair.

union-station_rocking-chairs_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers

And a slight zoom-in:

union-station_rocking-chairs_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_det-1

Imagine those rocking chairs up there in those archways, between the columns.

union-station_dallas-city-of-the-hour_ca-1916_SMU

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Sources & Notes

The two photos from 1916 (by Frank Rogers) are from the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company Architectural records and photographs, 1914-1941, Architectural Terra Cotta, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin — more info on these photos is here and here

A couple of other images of the new Union Station can be seen in these Flashback Dallas posts:

union-station_interior_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

19th-Century Sign-Painting and Real-Estating

smithson-and-harris-signs_mcafee_degolyer_SMU_ca-1890Need signs and/or land?

by Paula Bosse

Above, a photo of Smithson & Harris, makers and painters of signs in the 1890s. The business — owned by Harry M. Smithson and W. H. Harris — was apparently at 209 S. Akard, which has been described as having been on the northeast corner of Akard and Commerce, later the site of the Magnolia Building. That address does not comport with 209 S. Akard as we know it today — that would be in the southwest block of S. Akard — south of Commerce and on the other side of the street. This is a sentence from Smithson’s obituary: 

Mr. Smithson operated a sign-painting and furniture repair shop in a one-story frame building where the Magnolia Building now stands at the northeast corner of Akard and Commerce. — Dallas Morning News, May 1, 1936

Another source repeats the same info. Below is an excerpt from the small booklet Dallas’ First Hundred Years, 1856-1956 by George H. Santerre. I’m guessing Santerre got his info from the very same obit (and perhaps embellished the importance of the two businesses pictured).

In 1895 Dallas’ merchants obtained their large store signs from Smithson & Harris, whose one-story frame establishment […] facing on Akard was located on the northeast corner of Commerce and Akard streets, the present site of Dallas’ Magnolia Building. The real estate offices of Palmer & McKay, through which many of Dallas’ real estate transfers were handled, adjoined the sign-painters location.

As far as that last little nod to Palmer & McKay (John R. Palmer and James C. McKay), I could find their real estate partnership in only one Dallas directory — 1891, when their office was located at 296 Main. I have no 1890 directory to check, but Palmer left a previous place of employment in 1889. “Palmer & McKay” had disappeared from Dallas directories by 1892, so my guess is that the photo is from about 1890.

As far as the address being 209 S. Akard — Dallas has renumbered and renamed so many streets over the years that it’s hard to keep track of everything. 

Dallas’ most prosperous and well-known sign-maker of this period was P. S. Borich. His shop was at 209 Sycamore (the street was later renamed N. Akard). But around 1890, “209 Sycamore” became, weirdly, 108 South Akard — right where the Magnolia Building was built. Borich was at 209 Sycamore/108 S. Akard until about 1900, when most of the individuals mentioned above had moved on to other professions. (You can see the confusing address numbering in the 1885 and 1892 Sanborn maps.)

borich_1889-dallas-directory1889 Dallas directory

So I’m not sure what’s going on in this photo of a building with the address “209.” 19th-century sublet?

(Incidentally, the Borich company eventually morphed into Texlite, the company that made Pegasus, the city’s symbol who lives atop, yes, the Magnolia Building. I wrote about Borich and Texlite in the post “Texlite, Borich, Pegasus.”

“Smithson & Harris” and “Palmer & McKay” were both very short-lived partnerships, lasting only a year or two. Wherever these businesses were located, it’s a cool photo.

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Sources & Notes

Photo from the George A. McAfee photographs collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University — more information is here (note: there is incorrect info in the description).

I first saw the (cropped) photo in the 1931 Rotunda, the yearbook of SMU, from the collection at the DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University, here.

smithson-and-harris-signs_mcafee_degolyer_SMU_ca. 1890_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, 1926-1942

baker-hotel-book-shop_1934Eula Wolcott: bookseller, librarian (Publishers Weekly, 1934)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, Dick Bosse, owner of the Aldredge Book Store. I always try to post something bookstore-related on his birthday. This year: Miss Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, located inside the Baker Hotel.

Eula Wolcott (1881-1962) was born in Waxahachie and had moved to Dallas by 1910. She appears to have had theatrical ambitions and studied voice and expression (she was billed as an “Experienced Concert Reader and Story Teller”). She opened a little book store and library in the early 1920s — the Booklovers Shop and Library was first on West Jefferson and later on Swiss Avenue. In 1926, she opened a similar shop inside the glamorous Baker Hotel, an enterprise she ran successfully until at least 1942 when another owner took over (she also apparently had a book shop inside the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells). In 1931 she opened the rather confusingly-named “Baker Hotel Book Shop and Rental Library” in Highland Park — in the new “Spanish Village” (the original name for Highland Park Village). Below is a very enthusiastic profile from Publishers Weekly (click to see a larger image).

baker-hotel-book-shop_publishers-weekly_032434_eula-wolcott_textPublishers Weekly, March 24, 1934

I wish the photo at the top had been better, because I’d love to get a good look at the decor. And Eula. I managed to find a photo of her.

wolcott-eula_ancestryEula Wolcott, via Ancestry.com

Here are a few ads:

booklovers_0420241924

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-24-1926Two shops, one owner — 1926

baker-hotel_book-shop_1009271927

baker-hotel-book-shop_19371937

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-25-19401940

She was active as a bookseller for many years and was also a familiar voice to radio listeners who tuned in to hear her book reviews on WFAA. 

One interesting piece of trivia about Eula’s hotel bookshop, shared with me by a former bookstore client of mine: the Baker Hotel Book Shop was the very first American bookstore that British author H. G. Wells ever visited. A lecture tour brought him to Dallas in 1940 — like many of the celebs of the day, he stayed at the Baker. I’m sure Eula was very happy to have Mr. Wells, a literary powerhouse, in her shop. Let’s hope he exhibited proper bookstore etiquette and purchased something!

baker-hotel_mural-room_dallas-directory_1942Baker Hotel, circa 1940

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Sources & Notes

Top photo and article from the trade magazine Publishers Weekly, March 24, 1934.

Read more Flashback Dallas articles on the Dallas bookstore scene here.

baker-hotel-book-shop_1934_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Sunny Side Grocery — 1915

williamson-store_4207-w-clarendon_1915_ebay_rppc“Uncle John’s store”

by Paula Bosse

Above, the Sunny Side Grocery & Market, J. H. Williamson, prop. According to the notation on the back of this photo, the store — owned by John Williamson — was located at 4207 W. Clarendon (a few steps from Sunny Side Avenue in, I believe, Cockrell Hill (which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t realize was a separate city from Dallas — as Wikipedia says, it is a city “completely surrounded by the city of Dallas” — sorry, Cockrell Hill!).

williamson-store_4207-w-clarendon_1915_ebay_notation

Mr. Williamson appears to have owned another store — or this store, with an incorrect modern-day notation by a descendant. The other store (also called the Sunny Side Grocery…) was listed in the 1915 Dallas city directory (as well as in a 1915 ad in The Dallas Morning News) as being at 3600 Copeland (where S. Trunk and Copeland meet in South Dallas — as seen in the bottom right corner of this 1922 Sanborn map).

So the store seen in this photo was either in Cockrell Hill or South Dallas. I’m going with Cockrell Hill, which, again, is a CITY COMPLETELY SURROUNDED BY ANOTHER CITY

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on eBay.

williamson-store_4207-w-clarendon_1915_ebay_rppc_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Response to “Leak” from the Dallas Attorney Who Took Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court

coffee-linda_dmn-headline_050422Dallas Morning News headline, May 4, 2022/photo: Tom Fox

by Paula Bosse

Great work by BeLynn Hollers of The Dallas Morning News for getting comments from Linda Coffee — the Dallas attorney who took her case, Roe v. Wade, to the U.S. Supreme Court (along with her co-counsel, Sarah Weddington) — on the leaked Supreme Court draft decision which appears to signal the overturning of her landmark court case. The story, “Roe v. Wade Lawyer Linda Coffee Laments Potential Supreme Court Ruling to Overturn Dallas Case” (Dallas Morning News, May 4, 2022) can be found here (paywall). Below is the video interview with Coffee, posted on YouTube, here.

The previous DMN interview of Linda Coffee by BeLynn Hollers — “Dallas Lawyer Linda Coffee Launched Landmark Roe vs. Wade Abortion Rights Case with a $15 Filing Fee” (Dallas Morning News, Dec. 16, 2021) — can be found here (paywall). The video interview from that article is posted on YouTube here.

And, from 1970, what may be Linda Coffee’s first-ever television interview about the Dallas case (which was just beginning its long trek to the Supreme Court) has recently been found in the WFAA Newsfilm Collection at SMU (G. William Jones Film & Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University). She was, incredibly, only 27 years old. It is posted on YouTube here. (Read the YouTube notes for background info on this interview.)

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I wrote about Linda Coffee’s Dallas days in the Flashback Dallas post “Linda Coffee, The Dallas Attorney Who Took Roe v. Wade to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

And, again, thank you, Linda.

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Betty and Benny Fox, Sky-Dancing in Dallas — ca. 1935

fox-betty-benny_princeton-univ_ndBetty & Benny, without a care in the world… 

by Paula Bosse

I often just wander aimlessly around the internet, hoping I’ll find something Dallas-related that I haven’t seen before. Last night I found this unusual photo in the Western Americana Collection of Princeton University, described as “View of a Texas city, possibly Dallas.” Okay. It didn’t strike me immediately as a familiar view of Dallas, but you’ve got appearances by Dallas Art Glass Co., Texas Hosiery, and Texas Paper Co. So, yeah. Dallas! I definitely haven’t seen this before. (Scroll down for the specifics of the location.)

Once I determined this was, in fact, Dallas, I tried to figure out what was happening — who (and why?!) were those two people waving from a tiny platform on top of a tall pole? I first thought “flagpole-sitting,” the weird fad of the 1920s which makes me uncomfortably acrophobic just thinking about it. But it was two people on a pole. Standing. Waving. I just kept looking at it, wondering how they got up there. And how were they going to get down (without plummeting)? Why were they there? Were they a couple? Were there husband-and-wife pole-sitters/-standers/-dancers/-wavers? So many questions.

My first hint was in a December, 1931 story in The Dallas Morning News about a young woman who seemed to have some name-recognition named Betty Fox who was, at the time of the article, perched atop a pole in Greenville, Texas, attempting to test her endurance and remain there for 100 hours. As one does. (When in Greenville….) So I searched for newspaper articles about “Betty Fox.” She was, indeed, a star in the pole-sitting world, entertaining large crowds and making personal appearances all around the country. Then I noticed that there seemed to be more than one “Betty Fox” out there. Hmm. And I had noticed that there had been a pole-sitter named Ben Fox who was a fairly serious flagpole-sitting champ. That was kind of a weird coincidence. Or was it? And then I found the article “Sky Dancers Betty and Benny Fox,” which helpfully explained that Benny and Betty were daredevil aerial dancers. They were originally billed as brother and sister, but as the article says, “they were not related. And Betty was not always the same person, nor was she actually named Betty.”

They traveled from city to city performing for enthralled crowds on a tiny circular disc 24 inches in diameter (it later shrank to 18 inches in diameter). Their acrobatic “sky dance” (AKA “The Dance of Death”) apparently lasted for several hours. (There was an article I read from 1931 about “Betty” and a heretofore unknown other “sibling” named “Babe” Fox who defied a judge’s injunction to prohibit the two from engaging in a 100-hour marathon-dance stunt on a 35-inch platform 50 feet in the air in cold, wet, and windy Texarkana. Seems like a bad idea, but, apparently, they didn’t die. (…Or maybe they did and just got a new “Betty” and “Babe” and carried on to the next gig.)

Princeton University estimated the date of the photo to be around 1930. I think it might have been 1935. The two classified ads below in which Benny seeks Dallas promoters for their local event, were from the end of 1935. (The event was sponsored by a Dallas newspaper — it obviously wasn’t the DMN, because there was no story about the Foxes in their pages.) The newspaper photo below the ads shows the then-current version of Betty and Benny, and they look like the couple in the Princeton photo. 

fox-benny_dmn_112735Dallas Morning News, Nov. 27, 1935

fox-benny_dmn_120735DMN, Dec. 7, 1935

fox_atlanta-constitution_050335Atlanta Constitution, May 3, 1935

Yes, that caption says they performed for SIX HOURS.

I’m not sure how long “Betty and Benny” lasted, but they were back in Dallas in 1957 performing at a week-long carnival in Wynnewood Shopping Center. I bet there were more “Bettys” than “Perunas.”

Here’s some newsreel footage of one of the Betty and Benny incarnations doing their thing in Chicago. (Seriously, if you’ve got even a hint of a fear of heights, look away!!!)

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So where was that photo at the top taken? I’m estimating the camera was on the top of a building at, roughly, Griffin and Pacific, looking in a northerly direction. At the top right, the tall building farthest away is the First Methodist Episcopal Church (now First United Methodist) at Ross and Harwood. It’s hard to see any streets, but the two running diagonally are Camp and Patterson. A few addresses of businesses seen in the photo:

  • Dallas Art Glass Co.: 1408 Camp
  • Steger Transfer Co.: 1305 Camp
  • Texas Hosiery: 1200 Camp/1201 Patterson
  • Texas Paper Co.: 1200 Patterson, extending to Pacific

A 1921 Sanborn map is here. A detail from a 1952 Mapsco is below.

fox_mapsco_1952_camp-patterson-griffin1952 Mapsco (det)

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I’m not sure why Princeton has this photo in their collection, but I really enjoyed reading about Benny and his “Bettys.”

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Sources & Notes

Top photo — “View of a Texas city, possibly Dallas” — is from the Western Americana Collection, Princeton University Library Special Collections; more information on this photo can be found on the Princeton website here.

See several “action” photos of Benny and Betty from GettyImages here.

Read the very entertaining “Sky Dancers Betty and Benny Fox” by Alan E. Hunter, here.

Another story I wrote concerning an “endurance” stunt (which, like this one, also makes me feel a little panicky) is “Buried Alive at the Fair Park Midway — 1946.” 

fox-betty-benny_princeton-univ_nd_det

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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