Friday, September 29, 2023 Sep 29, 2023
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PEOPLE The August Exodus

When tempers flare and business slows to a sweaty crawl, everybody who can gets the heck out of town. Here’s where they go.
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MORE THAN 20 YEARS AGO, BEfore all winos became known as “homeless persons,” my old friend, police Sgt. E.W. Williams, was helping me locate some folks for a Dallas Morning News story. When he was not shooting someone, testifying to a grand jury about his shooting or talking with Internal Affairs about his shooting, E.W. was a wealth of information. On the way, I was telling him that the paper could use none of the pictures taken the night before because each frame clearly showed him illegally using his flashlight or baton in choking a suspect. “That’s show business,” he replied.

Anyway, it was the middle of August and now we wandered underneath the Corinth Street viaduct where it was dark and only about 97 degrees in the middle of the day. Williams kicked at an old and seemingly abandoned maroon couch slip. He spat and said, “You know, this time of year, I believe even the bums leave Dallas for cooler weather.”

He was right. Everybody who can flee the August inferno does so in greater numbers each year, bringing the city to the brink of shutting down. Consider the plight of stockbrokers, for example.

“Customers aren’t just gone,” says broker Jimmy Aston. “Too often, they are in the vacationing mindset. They don’t really want to hear ’about the market, much less follow it.” Historically (since 1950) August and September have ranked among the worst market months both in terms of volume and average.

Residential real estate sales also fall off sharply in August because school is getting ready to start, and parents with kids make up a large percentage of buyers. By August they are well cocooned in that year’s school district. Commercial sales don’t close because lenders and lawyers alike have flown the furnace coop.

Speaking of lawyers, “No self-respecting trial lawyer or judge likes to find himself set for trial in August,” says frequent litigator John Collins. “Witnesses are hard to collect. Clerks and court reporters are often gone on vacation or their subs are not familiar with the local rules and procedures. Lots of ’visiting judges’ show up in August and the juries can get downright surly.”

And jurors aren’t the only Dallasites inclined to hostile August behavior. Dr. Burton C. Einspruch, a prominent Dallas psychiatrist who specializes in corporate counseling, says, “The heat seems to provoke people…They become irritable in that they are quick to notice incursions of other people into their domain.” This is shrinkese for, “Why do you think people shoot one another for failing to signal a lane change on LBJ? The heat, the kids, the long days, the TV reruns combine to make people nuts.”

The list goes on. Plastic surgeons complain that no one schedules elective surgery during August. Patients complain that doctors aren’t around to perform such operations.

Which brings us to the biggest reason so many Dallasites leave for other climes in August. “What you have here is a case of the tail chasing the tail,” says L & B Group president and real estate advisor Tom Lardner. “We convince ourselves that nothing can get done here in August and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Dallasites have been shunning the big heat of August since B.A.C.-before air conditioning. Just after World War II, affluent families began adjourning to either coast to escape the heat and return invigorated. Clint Murchison Sr. and Sid Richardson may have started the mass departure when they bought the Del Mar race track in California and gained extra fame for entertaining FBI dancing buddies J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Toison. (Not everyone knew that Clint and Sid always picked up the tabs of the director and his close personal assistant).

At the time of the track purchase, Murchison was married to Ginny Long (now Ginny Linthicum) and the namesake of Clint’s DC-3, The Flying Ginny. Ms. Linthicum, still very much alive, is considered by many the West Coast family matriarch and one reason that La Jolla has lost none of its glitter to closer remotes like Santa Fe.

EACH YEAR. MORE PEOPLE JOIN THE AUGUST exodus. This I understand. What I don’t get is why so many of these people hurry away, then proceed to consort with exactly the same folks they see at every other social fanetion the other 11 months of the year. The horsy set can be found near the Del Mar track, which has always been “in.” Saratoga, home of the Travers Stakes, was in but is now out. ( “I really don’t know why we ever went to that nasty place,” huffs one socialite.) Crested Butte, Colo., was never quite in with Dallas society. However, now it is forsaken for the greener ferns of Aspen. The artsy crowd has been absolutely swamping Santa Fe. And on the horizon is White Fish, Mont. Here’s a list of the Where and Who:

La Jolla: The Strausses (Ted, Bob, Helen and occasionally Rick and Diana), Lupe Murchison, Ginny Linthicum and her sister Jodie Biddell, Bob and Margaret Folsom, banker Gerald Ford, investor Clay Querbes and his wife Molly, Alfred and Nancy Ann Chandler (formerly married to the late Dr. Buck J. Wynne Jr.).

Napa Valley: investor Craig Hall and wife Kathryn.

Carmel: Ellen Terry, Susan Key.

Santa Barbara: Harold and Annette Simmons.

Santa Fe: investor and arts patron Vince Carrozza, Rosewood Corp. executive Steve Sands, Mark Shepherd (retired chairman of Texas Instruments), Plato Karayanis (general director of the Dallas Opera), Bruce Calder, businesswoman Mary Lide Kehoe, society columnist Alan Peppard and his wife Jennifer, furniture executive Jay Smith and wife Elizabeth (an oil heiress), Lupe Murchison, store minder emeritus Stanley Marcus.

Aspen: real estate developer Daryl Snadon, Jim and Betty Vandeveer, Jacque Wynne, Richard Rogers (son of Mary Kay Ash), Dr. Leonard Riggs and his wife Peggy, Frank Crossen, Darlene and Baron Cass, Steve and Terry Casey, Bob Utley (chairman and CEO of First Southwest Holdings) and his wife Ann.

Colorado Springs: A handful of Dallasites like Alinda and Jim Wikert join Margaret Hunt Hill at the Garden of the Gods or just book several weeks at the Broadmoor.

The Hamptons (where one might be seen lunching near the tennis area at the Meadow Club): Dr. Joanne Stroud and John Marion and his new wife, the storied Fort Worth socialite Anne Windfohr Marion, an oil and ranching heiress. (The Marions stay at their big house in the Hamptons in July and their big house in Santa Fe in August).

Nantucket: This Democrat hangout used to include lots of Austin characters like former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, entertaining their Dallas counterparts Kay and Alan Gold and former Motel 6 CEO Joe McCarthy and his wife Gloria. In the same locale, though running with a different pack, are Jeff and Nancy Marcus, investor Doug Wheat and wife Laura. Here too are the Horchow clan, including Roger, wife Carolyn, daughter Regen and her sister and brother-in law Lizzie and Dan Routman (coincidentally, the Horchows’ next door neighbor there is Chanel President and COO Arie L. Kopelman). Also, here are Rand and Karen (formerly Rainwater) Watkins, Plack and Cissy Carr, George and Christine Spencer and a gaggle of the Fort Worth Schutts (Pat and Jack} family that includes (off-Schutts) Jim and Martha Williams and former Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Dunleavy (via a marriage to Emily Schutts). They’re joined by Tom and Linda Taylor. Each August Taylor, whose company handles the billionaire Bass family’s money, moves most of his outfit to Nantucket-as in lock, stock and Quotron machines. A handful of Taylor traders and analysts report to work every day in front of their Bloomberg terminals just like in Fort Worth, except that they have traded the choking prairie heat for the chilly winds that gust off Nantucket Bay.

As might be expected, only the Dallas City Council marches contrary to the August trend. “Once again, the city proves it’s a little out of touch with the rest of the Dallas population by taking the wrong month off,” councilman Bob Stimson says with a laugh. “We don’t meet in July. Instead we choose to begin our budget process in August, when the entire city is actually vacated.” Stimson, normally a thoughtful fellow, will take leave of one meeting (and apparently his senses) during the month to journey south to Disney World.

As for my old padnuh Sgt. E.W. Williams, most of us thought he would be gunned down in a Dallas street someday, We were wrong. One night in DeSoto, when E.W. was returning home especially late and happy, his wife allegedly mistook him for a burglar and shot him dead in the hallway. That was in 1979, in the very last week of July, just before people start to either pack up and leave or go crazy from the heat.

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