If you’re into history, and Texas history in particular, you’re apt to enjoy a new three-part, multi-media project by Alan Peppard of the Dallas Morning News. In the stories, titled “Islands of the Oil Kings,” Peppard tells how two remote islands off the coast of South Texas became “unlikely centers of power and influence” nearly eight decades ago, thanks to a couple of multimillionaire oilmen from Dallas-Fort Worth. In 1937, Peppard recalls, President Franklin Roosevelt and his 165-foot yacht, the USS Potomac, visited the San Jose and Matagorda islands, which were owned by Sid Richardson of Fort Worth and Dallas’ Clint Murchison Sr., respectively.
That first presidential visit represented nothing less than a “cosmic shuffle,” effectively putting Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower en route to the White House, and fashioning Richardson and Murchison as “the first oilmen kingmakers,” Peppard writes. The DMN scribe also dug up some old, black-and-white home movies of FDR fishing and palling around with the Texans, then put together an online mini-documentary in three parts. Peppard says he spent a year working on the “Kings” project, traveling to the islands and dodging a “scary number of rattlesnakes, alligators, mosquitoes, and killer bees.” The first installment runs this Sunday, but it’s available online now. Part two will run Sunday Dec. 14, and part three the Sunday after that.Full Story
By now you’ve had a chance, obviously, to read all 40 of the greatest stories ever published in the pages of D Magazine. In honor of our 40th anniversary, we revealed them over the course of 39 weeks between February and November. Now it’s time for a little scoreboarding.
Four writers landed two bylines apiece on the list: David Bauer (“The Sexiest Woman in Dallas” and “Akin vs. Dahl”), John Bloom (“Ole Anthony and the God Thing” and “Misty Crest: On the Frontier of the New American Dream”), Mike Shropshire (“Clayton Williams: Texas Crude” and “How Willie Nelson Saved Carl’s Corner — Again”), and Zac Crain (“Charley Pride Turns 70 and — Galdurnit — He’s Still Got Something” and “Love and Loss in a Small Texas Town.”)
So one of those gents has got to be the greatest writer in the history of our humble publication, but we’re not here to debate that. We’re here to ask you to vote on the single-greatest story ever in D. The nominees are listed below. Write-ins accepted in the comments.Full Story
Editor’s note: Having been honored with a Marshall Memorial Fellowship, our Brad Pearson is off wandering around Europe, ostensibly to develop his leadership skills. Periodically he will check in, as he is doing today with the following post.
The accompanying photo is a sign for Sarajevo’s Frank Ferdinand Hostel. Dallas, it seems, does not have a monopoly on assassination-related marketing.Full Story
We like to poke fun at Dallas’ perennial striving to be “world class.” It’s a symptom of a kind of self-regarding, aspirational character that is not unique to Dallas, but which does manifest itself in this city in a particular way. Most newer, up-and-coming cities share a sense of wanting to prove their worth. But Dallas’ history has shaped this sensibility in its own way. Entrepreneurialism is the city’s birth right; social status is engrained as one of its highest civic values. But our scars, too, have contributed to the particular substance of our striving, self-conscious attempts to be regarded as great.
As we spent considerable ink exploring last year during the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the scars left by those terrible events affected Dallas in a particular way. Not every city could have been branded a “city of hate;” that was the result of the particular cultural and political soup that was simmering here at the time. But also, not every city would have internalized that reputation – and its shame and sense of remorse – with quite the same measure of wounded-ness. Those wounds have taken decades to get over, and they have also contributed to the desire and drive to make Dallas a great city.
In the days following the Ebola breakout, I couldn’t help but think about the assassination.Full Story
This week we’ve got the first (and only) double feature of our series celebrating the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine. Together they recount the scandalous lives of wealthy Fort Worth socialites Priscilla and T. Cullen Davis. One night in 1976, someone entered the mansion of the estranged couple and killed Priscilla’s 12-year-old daughter and live-in lover, as well as wounded two others, including Priscilla herself. Each of the surviving eyewitnesses said Cullen was the perpetrator.
The trial was just about to begin at the time Tom Stephenson’s March 1977 story was published. Ultimately, Cullen was acquitted of the murder of his stepdaughter, but that wasn’t the end of his legal troubles. An FBI sting operation resulted in incriminating tapes in which Cullen was heard arranging to have the presiding judge and witnesses in his murder trial killed. But his defense attorney again managed to argue that Cullen had been framed, and he got off.
The story of the multimillionaire who once famously hosted a screening of Deep Throat in a Winnebago at the Colonial golf tournament then took an odd turn.Full Story
It’s fitting that we’re posting this story during the annual run of the State Fair of Texas, since it concerns the later years of George Dahl, the architect who deserves much of the credit for the acclaimed Art Deco buildings at Fair Park. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t focus on the legacy of Dahl’s work but instead the unhappy family saga that consumed much of the final decade-plus of his life.
The facts, as presented in David Bauer’s article in the April 1979 issue of D Magazine (one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published), are that Dahl’s daughter Gloria and her husband, Ted Akin, filed for guardianship of the then-83-year-old Dahl in April 1978. They said they’d done it because of their concerns about Dahl’s failing mental competency in business matters. Dahl believed they were motivated by greed, looking to take control of the millions of dollars in the trust that had been established in the name of his late wife, Lillie, of which Dahl himself was the sole trustee. They also were seeking to prevent him from marrying Joan Renfro, a much-younger woman whom they suspected of being only after Dahl’s money.Full Story
A streetcar system blanketing the city. Crowded downtown streets. A Trinity River Project without a toll road. Frog town. The cafes of Deep Ellum in the era of Blind Lemon Jefferson. Mayors who were Swiss abolitionists and former socialist utopians. Dallas was WAY hipper a hundred years or so ago. So that’s my suggestion for any and all conversation about where this city should head: let’s just try to make it more like it was.
What sparked this random, useless thought? Well, there’s more depressing news today about failed plans here, here, and here. But then I saw this post about Lake Cliff Park in Oak Cliff, which, in the brochure that dates to 1906, looks a lot cooler than anything that’s in Dallas today (seriously, it had the world’s largest roller skating rink). So let’s start there: bring back Lake Cliff Park as Dallas’ Coney Island. Anyway. Blah. Of course there was also the rampant racism, oligarchical governance, and all that other fun stuff. But, from an urban planning and land use perspective, this city had it figured out (oh, except for, you know, not paving the streets of or extending sanitation to West Dallas or Little Mexico — but come on, I’m trying to be nostalgic here). So what’s the biggest difference between yesterday’s Dallas and today? You know it: highways. Had to get that in there. Gratuitous. I know. Okay, I’m going back to trying to write about this.Full Story
To take you behind the curtain a bit, we just put the finishing touches on the September installment of the magazine, which — to give you the smallest glimmer of a preview — is a special 40th anniversary issue. So we’ve taken our foot off the pedal a little bit, and for that I apologize. Anyway, as an olive branch shaped like someone who didn’t know how to keep the black bars of a YouTube compilation, here is a 15-minute collection of the best fights on Dallas involving J.R. Ewing. I love you.Full Story
Friends, I must report that my editor and I nearly came to blows this week over the contents of today’s column, which I am officially filing under protest. I badly wished to give his proboscis a good wringing after he required that I supplant the golden prose I had spun for both your entertainment and edification with a tepid pool of my second-best work.
Granted, my second-best work is more satisfying to the mind and the soul than 99.9 percent of the pabulum churned out by other so-called “professional” scribes. That does not change the fact that I must live with the knowledge I have done you a disservice, dear readers. You’ll learn nothing of my extensive knowledge of weaponry or hand-to-hand combat, and all because some yellow-bellied stuffed-shirt down at the D Magazine offices is afraid the company might be charged with inciting a riot or threatening the lives of public officials if we’d run my original, superior text.
Oh, hang it all. Let’s get this nonsense disposed with.Full Story
I am of two minds about the forthcoming holiday. On the one hand, it was that lousy crook Abe Lincoln — father of the federal income tax, a progressive income tax — who instituted the Day of Thanks Giving as a late November national mandate instead of letting each state handle its own business like the Good Lord and the Founders intended. Maybe Texans don’t like being limited to a single Thanksgiving each year. Maybe we’d rather not do it in the fall. Maybe we’d prefer it on some Sunday morning in May when we might celebrate with a light brunch. The federal jackboots force turkey and gravy and stuffing and cranberry sauce down our gullets and call it freedom? No sir. Not on my watch. Not until I’ve at least been given the option of a mimosa with a small plate of cantaloupe on the side.
On the other hand: pumpkin pie. It’s what the Creator himself eats for dessert.
Now to the business at hand.Full Story
I am truly humbled — (Ed.: You mean “honored” (I damn well know what I mean — JNB)) — to see the response elicited by my first foray into the dispensing of well-earned opinions, advisories, and judgments onto the World Wide Web. Most of you magnificently performed your duty of piling missives into the inbox at [email protected], and I shall endeavor to address your queries with all the timeliness of a bow-legged bobcat returning to its native soil during the first moon after the spring equinox to suffer the slow death it deserves for being such an abomination before God.
Some of you, I’m sorry to say, didn’t take my invitation seriously enough. “Boxers or briefs?” What sort of community icon, such that I am, would dare degrade himself by answering such impertinence? And what man in full possession of his faculties wears anything other than boxer-briefs these days?
Onward to more significant inquiries.Full Story
The Texas Observer has a piece about the recent unveiling of a memorial in Gainesville — in Cooke County, on Interstate 35, just south of the Red River — to the deaths of 42 men killed by the town for alleged treasonous activities in the midst of the Civil War. What duty does the city have to recognize this horrific act of mob violence?
The Medal of Honor program helped Gainesville get nominated—and then win—Rand McNally’s 2012 competition for “Most Patriotic Small Town in America,” a designation the town’s mayor, Jim Goldsworthy, loves to mention.
Around the time the town won the Rand McNally award, the Morton Museum of Cooke County leased a billboard to advertise a 150th anniversary: “October’s Reign of Terror, Commemorating the Great Hanging of 1862.” Within days, the city’s mayor pro tem, Ray Nichols, had voiced his disapproval. “Gainesville was voted most patriotic city in America this year, and we are very excited about it and our Medal of Honor Host City program. I think those are important. That other thing? I don’t think that’s important to anybody,” Nichols told the Austin American-Statesman at the time.
Though no explicit demands were made, the Cooke County Heritage Society pulled its sponsorship of the anniversary event, according to former Heritage Society President Steve Gordon, for fear that city officials’ anger might mean funding cuts to the town’s history museum. Gordon, an Oklahoma native and engineer who retired to Gainesville, was livid. “This story’s got to come up,” he says. “A lot of these people’s [families] weren’t even here in 1862. Why are they so upset?”
“These are good people,” McCaslin says. “They want their town to look good. You want to live in a town you’re proud of. That’s not a bad thing. Where does the Great Hanging fit into that? The town killed 42 people. It’s kind of a clunker.”
Greetings, friends, enemies, frenemies, trolls and troublemakers, hoodlums and saints, the blessed and the damned alike.
My name is John Neely Bryan. You may remember me from such things as having operated a ferry across the Trinity River ages before any of those new-fangled bridges were built, for being a log-cabin enthusiast, and also for having founded what is now the ninth-largest city in the United States of America. So, yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.
Though I have long since passed into the ether, I’ve kept a watchful eye on my beloved Dallas. The good folks at D Magazine, in their estimable wisdom, therefore knew I was best qualified to helm this new effort on their web log. In this space today and in the weeks to come, I shall address all manner of your questions and concerns. Need personal advice? Curious about some aspect of life in this city? Want a dispute adjudicated? Too lazy to Google something? [email protected] and ye shall receive. (Space and my patience permitting.)Full Story
Two buildings downtown that have sat vacant for decades are set for major redevelopments. Yesterday, the Dallas Business Journal broke news that the historic Dallas High School has finally found a developer, and what’s encouraging is that it’s South Side on Lamar developer Jack Mathews. Mathews has a strong track record with regards to turning around historic properties. Dallas High School has sat on preservation lists for years, and with its odd lot – adjacent to I-345 and Dart – it was clear it would take a creative developer (plus a rebounding downtown residential market) to make the property work. Mathews hasn’t said what he’ll do with the building, but it’s reasonable to expect some mix of residential and commercial.
The other historic property long considered in-danger is the 508 Park, the four story art deco (or, “Zig Zag Moderne,” if you want to nit-pick architectural styles) that was famously the place where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson made half of his recordings.Full Story
As I’m sure many of you know, the drive along Interstate 35 between Dallas and Austin isn’t particularly scenic. It suffers from a serious dearth of character, which is why many a motorist in now long-past days looked forward to passing the small town of Carl’s Corner, with its truck stop unmistakably adorned by 10-foot-tall frogs.
The man behind the truck stop and the town was Carl Cornelius, who was memorably profiled by Mike Shropshire in the November 2006 issue of D Magazine. It’s one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published.Full Story
I doubt there are many — if any — of our regular FrontBurner readers who aren’t familiar with what occurred in West, Texas, in April 2013. The fire and subsequent explosion of West Fertilizer Co. left physical and emotional scars on the tiny community that most of us know only as a highway rest stop at which we pick up kolaches while driving between Dallas and Austin.
For our own Zac Crain, what happened there was far more personal because West is his hometown. In writing about the aftermath of the tragedy in the July 2013 issue of D Magazine — one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published — Zac painted a portrait of a town that refused to dwell on its losses. I asked Zac for his take on what’s happened since his article was published:Full Story
While I understand that the tragedy is going to play heavily into our local tourism, there are a couple of details here that really stood out to me. For instance, coupling a giant image of the President’s head with the Dallas Conventions & Visitors Bureau-derived slogan.Full Story
There are values that Americans have and different political parties have different values, but the thing that we all have in common is a concern for people less fortunate and a sense of fairness. What all three [Roosevelts] did, and particularly the two Presidents, was perceive that there was huge income disparity and that the rich were essentially controlling the mechanics of government, and that that was anti-democratic. It wasn’t what the Constitution and it wasn’t what the Declaration was about, and they were trying to find a level playing field in which the ordinary working guy could be on the same footing as the rich and the powerful. Now, that’s never going to happen in the long run, but they did their best in their day and time to make sure that that was at least more level. Eleanor was right there, fighting with them.Full Story
I’ve never really understood Dallas’ bid for a maritime museum. We’re a land locked city on an unnavigable river whose mid-19th century forays into aquatic transportation were abandoned with the arrival of the railroad. And yet, the idea of dedicating a museum to the maritime has been floating around for some time, most recently popping up in one of the fancy schmancy architectural plans that reimagined how to connect downtown to Dallas scant waterfront.
Well now it looks like dreams of the maritime museum are receding further to the horizon. The gambit centered on the acquisition of the USS Dallas submarine, which was supposed to be decommissioned this year, but now won’t be available until at least 2016. Without the centerpiece display, members of the museum’s board, which includes some prominent politicos, have turned their eyes to acquiring the former presidential yacht. But why stop there? Since Dallas is bent on honoring histories that have nothing to do with its own history (c.f. the bronze bulls), why not try to build our own space center, open a museum of Appalachian culture, or buy enough pieces of the Berlin Wall to reassemble a mile or so it somewhere downtown? Actually, I may like that last idea.Full Story
Have you heard anyone refer to the Stoneleigh Hotel on Maple Avenue as Le Méridien Dallas? I haven’t, thankfully. Just like when the Melrose Hotel on Oak Lawn was rechristened with a corporate name — in that case, the Warwick — local tradition has remained important enough that ownership had to maintain the historic moniker.
I understand why these hotel operators feel the need to place established brands on their acquisitions. They want to reassure out-of-town visitors who’ve stayed at their other properties, but who are unfamiliar with Dallas, that they will receive the same quality of experience they’ve had in other cities. It’s the same reason that McDonald’s continues to do big business — familiarity counts for a lot with consumers. Why risk eating at a mom-and-pop burger joint that may not be any good when McDonald’s is right down the street and you know precisely what you’re going to get, as mediocre as it might be?
So there’s financial sense in enticing guests to book a room at Le Méridien Dallas, The Stoneleigh (the property’s mouthful of an official name). But I don’t have to like it, and neither should you. It dilutes and degrades the sense of place that the hotel built over the decades — even after its major renovation in the mid-Aughts — to paint it as just another link in a chain. Good for business, bad for the soul.
I feel this loss even more painfully after re-reading A.C. Greene’s November 1977 story about the prevalence of recently separated and divorced men living at the Stoneleigh. It’s one of the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine.Full Story