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Same Civic Issues, 100 Years Later
By Tom Peeler |

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, the more they stay the same. A hundred years ago, the people of Dallas were grappling with the same kinds of issues we wrestle with today. We’ ve made progress in some areas, but in others-well, you be the judge.

Sex. In 1897, when Harry Hines was still in knee britches, Dallas ’ prostitutes were congregated in an officially recognized “reservation” located just north of present-day Woodall Rod-gers Freeway near the West End. City fathers felt it was best to confine such activity, rather than have it “menacing the decent neighborhoods.”

The area was cleaned up after the turn of the century when Dallas evangelist J.T. Up-church, publisher of The Purity Journal, printed the names of prominent Dallas citizens who owned buildings in the district.

Religion. In the 1890s, the Dallas Pastors Association was one of the most powerful political voices in the city. Local newspapers carried verbatim transcripts of even the most verbose Sunday sermons, Plans to hold the heavyweight championship prize fight between Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons here, an event comparable in stature to today’s Super Bowl, were squelched when the DPA condemned boxing as “the prolific mother of all crime.”

Politics. Dallas had single-member districts long before it had Judge Jerry Buchmeyer. In 1897, the burning political issue was a proposed charter amendment to abolish single-member districts, then called wards, in favor of a “more businesslike” city commission. Dallas historian Philip Lindsley lamented that these people, without a whit of experience in governing, “were suddenly placed in charge of a great municipal corporation, displaced in part every two years with like material, each succeeding council, in effect or in words, condemning its predecessor.”

Manners. Pauline Periwinkle, a newspaperwoman for The Dallas Morning News, was the Dear Abby of the Gay Nineties. She crusaded against unruly children and spitting on the sidewalks.

In 1897, as one of the earliest advocates of animal rights, she issued a tirade against the local murderers of Florida egrets who paraded around with plumes in their bonnets.

Education. “Wanted. High School Principal, Salary of S900 per annum. None but a gentleman of culture and practical experience will be admitted to the position.” The first principal lured by this ad in the Dallas Times in 1885 lasted two weeks. His successor complained that “being in the very heart of Dallas” made teaching virtually impossible and that “the greatest vigilance was in danger of proving ineffective.”

By the turn of the century, a proposal to institute a merit-pay system for teachers had been rejected and Dallas had become the first city in the state to use portable buildings to relieve overcrowded classrooms.

Discrimination. Also in 1897, Dr. Ellen Lawson Dabbs, president of the Texas Council of Women, shocked state politicians by calling for admission of females to all-male Texas A&M. To placate Dabbs and others with similar feelings, the Legislature founded the Texas Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls, now known as Texas Woman’s University, but women would not receive an unqualdified welcome at A&M for another 75 years.

Drugs. On May 29, 1894, the Dallas Pharmaceutical Association called an emergency meeting to discuss an alarming proposal by the City Council to require an individual to have a prescription by a physician to obtain morphine or cocaine at a drugstore. Druggist L. Myers Conner called the proposal “puritanical and striking at the very root of our traffic1’ and said the only effect of such an outrageous proposition would be to send customers to Fort Worth.

Violent Crime. In the spring of 1878, three armed bandits wearing masks, led by outlaw Sam Bass, hijacked the Houston and Texas Central train carrying Dallas-area passengers to Cor-sicana, Houston and points south. In the fall of 1996, three armed bandits wearing masks hijacked a bus carrying Dallas-area passengers on a gambling excursion to the Isle of Capri Casino in Bossier City. La.