Dallas Almanac

Did you know?

With 14 million visitors annually. Dallas is the No. I destination in Texa.

Dallas has clear or partly sunny skies 250 days of the year.

The average daily temperature this time of year is 47 degree.

Dallas boasts more shopping centers per capita than any other U.S. city.

NorthPark Center was the first covered shopping mall in the U.S.



You need to know…

It’s winter. Your lawn has gone the way of all green things, turning a crusty, muted yellow. Thinking nature is simply taking its seasonal course, you pack up the sprinklers and the soaker hose. Then you notice that your neighbors are still watering. It’s true: Even though your lawn and garden are virtually irretrievable until spring, you need to keep your lawn-including the foundation-moist. Ask your neighbors: Dallas homeowners pay for the brutal summers year-round by continuing to water their lawns and gardens during winter months. “We have a very expansive soil,” says Tyson Woods, sales manager at Lambert Gardens. “When our soil dries or gets over-watered, there’s a lot of movement. That’s different from other parts of the country.

“It’s also advisable to water plants before a hard freeze,” he adds. “They’ll survive a lot better.”



Traditions:

For 15 years, the Dallas Theater Center has staged Charles Dickens’A Christmas Cam!-and every year, it’s a different production. Tickets are $ 14.50 to $35.50. From Nov. 27 through Dec. 27 at the Arts District Theater, 2701 Flora St., 214-522-8499.

For sheer spectacle, there’s no place like Highland Park at Christmastime, specifically Beverly Drive (which runs east-west, about a quarter-mile south of Mockingbird) and Armstrong Parkway near Preston Road. Carriage rides cover the neighborhood each night from 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 27 (except Dec. 25). Cost: $8.50 per person for a 20-minute ride from Highland Park Village. Private carriages for up to eight people cost $68. 214-521-7433.

Candlelight at Old City Park offers up Christmas (circa the late 1800s) with Christmas songs, storytelling, and an appearance by Mr and Mrs. Santa Claus. Dec. 5, 6. 12, 13 at Old City Park. 1717 Gano St., 214-421-5141.



Yesterday: The Belles of St. Mary’s

Where all the good girls wen! to school

Long before SMU was built on a hilltop in the Park Cities, the academic high ground in Dallas belonged to St. Mary’s Institute. The city’s elite sent their daughters to the imposing Victorian Gothic structure that towered over a remote 15-acre campus at the outer end of Ross Avenue near Henderson. From its opening in 1889 through the Roaring Twenties, the school’s enrollment list was right out of the Dallas Blue Book, boasting names like Prather, Lawther, Gaston, Munger, and Lemmon.

The brainchild of Episcopalian Bishop Alexander Garrett, who had learned stodgi-ness as a priest in the Church of England, St. Mary’s was a deadly serious undertaking designed, as noted in the admission guidelines, to “combine thorough scholarship with a refinement of character and a lofty moral and religious tone.” Each student was instructed to come armed with four bath towels, six face towels, four sheets and pillow slips, two blankets, two bureau scarves (white), and a hot water bottle. Elaborate clothing, extreme styles, and conspicuous colors were to be avoided at all times. The ’’recommended” school dress was a navy blue serge dress, a white cotton blouse, and black satin bloomers. Electric stoves, alcohol lamps, Victrolas, and radios were all considered contraband and subject to seizure. Parents could not send care packages, except fresh fruit. An allowance of $2.50 per week was recommended, and charge accounts at the downtown clothing stores were strictly forbidden. Any student exhibiting a “spirit of antagonism” would serve time in the drawing room, sitting alone under the all-seeing, reproachful glare of the Bishop’s portrait.

In spile of all this, the belles of St. Mary’s were not easily discouraged. “Sing ho! Sing ho! Our fervor never cools,” went the chorus of the school song. The school’s Halloween costume bait became one of the city’s most eagerly awaited annual events. On May Day, the young ladies arose at dawn, spread handkerchiefs on the grass, ran around the building three times, and then washed their faces in the dewy handkerchiefs, said to guarantee a lovely complexion for at least a semester.

The curriculum took into account the practicalities of the day. In addition to lyric meters and oblique triangles, the young women were instructed in the fine art of “cooking, sewing, interior decorating, and housewifery.” All that fun and frolic began to wind down as die campus started to deteriorate after the Bishop’s death in 1924. Six years later, the school was out of business.

-Tom Peeler

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