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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Trinity River

Is It Time to Change the Name of the Trinity River Back to the Arkikosa River?

| 1 day ago

The Trinity River carries no shortage of baggage. Look no further than the current election cycle. Sure, the hated Trinity River toll road is dead and gone, but the runoff between State Rep. Eric Johnson and council member Scott Griggs is still being framed in some circles as a showdown between deep-pocketed backers of the toll road and an anti-boondoggle crusader.

As we have written over and over, the Trinity’s history is defined by failed efforts to tame a force of nature generations of Dallasites have spent little time appreciating or understanding. Perhaps we went wrong even earlier than that. Perhaps our Trinity problems go all the way back to the name.

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History

Oak Cliff Eyes the Mayor’s Seat. In 1990, Some Wanted Out of Dallas.

| 3 weeks ago

In 1990, Oak Cliff tried to split from Dallas. After decades of City Hall mismanagement and neglect, some residents felt the Cliff would be better on its own. Writing in the Dallas Morning News amid the furor over de-annexation, journalist Bill Minutaglio compared the proposal to the breakup of the Soviet Union. In his estimation, Oak Cliff secessionists wanted to turn their neighborhood into a “Lithuania-on-the-Trinity.” Cold War humor aside, the statement contains a larger truth.

Oak Cliff has been called a lot of things. It was once “the Southwest’s greatest playground.” Later, it was the city’s “red headed step child” or “Dallas’ own Jerusalem.” Then there was that reference to a Baltic republic. What runs through those comparisons is that something was just a little different here. It was a neighborhood a bit out of step with the rest of the city. Maybe Oak Cliff just hasn’t quite been Dallas enough for Dallas. This view has, historically, permeated City Hall. For decades city leaders have been all too comfortable disregarding the black and brown residents who have long called Oak Cliff home. The hardening lines between the north and south of this city have left folks below Interstate 30 wanting reflective representation on the City Council and improved access to city services.

Later this year, they may have one of their own in the middle seat of the council’s horseshoe.

As this May’s election draws closer, some candidates in the race to succeed Mayor Mike Rawlings have deep ties to Oak Cliff. Scott Griggs has represented North Oak Cliff on the City Council since 2011. Albert Black grew up in South Dallas and built a successful business in Oak Cliff years later. Jason Villalba is an Oak Cliff native, but now lives in North Dallas. This isn’t the first time, either. Former Mayor Laura Miller called North Oak Cliff home before she moved to Preston Hollow.

Historically, Oak Cliff residents have been uncomfortable with their second-class status in the city. Change has been halting, incremental, and incomplete.

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History

Will Bonnie Parker Finally Get to Rest In Peace Next to Her Lover Clyde?

| 3 weeks ago

Like most people growing up in the last decades of the 20th century, I can’t remember the first time I heard of Bonnie and Clyde. They were always just there, like Pecos Bill, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, or Paul Bunyan. They existed in the imagination as a blend of history and fiction, part of a larger-than-life cast of folk heroes that helped explain some aspect of the American character.

My interest only deepened when I saw Arthur Penn’s seminal 1967 film and fell for songs like Serge Gainsbourg’s beautiful elegy to the lover-outlaws. Moving to Dallas made their story a little more tangible. In time, I sought out the porch of the Barrow filling station, some of the banks they held up, the storefront cafe where Bonnie once worked, and the streets of West Dallas that still looks very much like they did when it was rife with two-bit criminals and known as the “Devil’s Back Porch.”

But it wasn’t until late last year when I stumbled upon an obscure YouTube interview of Clyde Barrow’s nephew, Buddy, that I began to think about another, little-known side of the Bonnie and Clyde story. In that interview, Buddy speaks about some of the grief his family endured during the decades after Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down outside of Gibsland, La. He also speaks the families’ desire to bring some closure to the past by moving the body of Bonnie Parker to a burial plot next to Clyde. The Barrows have kept it empty and waiting for her since 1934.

Listening to Buddy, I realized that he and his family had their own story to tell.

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History

The Ongoing Quest to Reunite Bonnie and Clyde

| 3 weeks ago

Rhea Leen Linder and Buddy Barrow’s attorney called the offices of the Crown Hill Memorial Park cemetery in northwest Dallas last summer with a seemingly simple question: how could his clients dig up their dead relative? Rhea Leen’s aunt had been dead for 85 years. Her body had already been unearthed once, when it was moved to Crown Hill from a small cemetery near Fish Trap Lake in 1945. This sort of request was unusual but not unheard of. DeWayne Hughes, whose family has run Crown Hill since the mid-1960s, walked the attorney through all the signatures and permits they would need to gather. Toward the end of the conversation, Hughes asked whom they wished to disinter.

“Bonnie Parker,” the lawyer said.

The phone went quiet.

Bonnie Parker—half of the infamous outlaw duo Bonnie and Clyde—is without a doubt the most famous resident of Crown Hill. Her gravestone is a shrine for pilgrims who, more than eight decades later, are still entranced by the story of the two young lovers from West Dallas whose crime spree became a tabloid sensation during the Great Depression and eventually transformed Bonnie and Clyde into American folk heroes. Today the pair is regarded as something like a 20th-century Romeo and Juliet, and their story has inspired films, popular songs, and books. On any given day, you will find fresh flowers, mementos, and letters left at Bonnie Parker’s grave—as well as at the grave of Clyde Barrow, who is buried at Western Heights Cemetery, on Fort Worth Avenue, in West Dallas.

And it was that fact—that Bonnie lies in northwest Dallas while Clyde rests near the West Dallas neighborhood where the couple met—that prompted Rhea Leen, Bonnie’s 85-year-old niece, and Buddy, Clyde’s 71-year-old nephew, to contact Crown Hill. They want to reunite the lovers by moving Bonnie’s body and burying it next to Clyde’s.

It was, after all, Bonnie’s dying wish to lie next to her lover forever. But Bonnie’s mother wouldn’t hear of it. “He had her in life,” Emma said at the time. “He can’t have her in death.”

Emma’s reaction is understandable. Bonnie and Clyde’s gang allegedly killed nine police officers and several civilians during the couple’s brief life of crime. The murders devastated their families. In subsequent decades, each member of the family had to endure some measure of the shame, ignominy, and indignation that came with being a Barrow or a Parker. They were attacked, harassed, and imprisoned. They fled their homes. They hid from neighbors, police, and the media. They tried to forget all about Bonnie and Clyde.

So why do the families now want to dig up Bonnie? The spectacle would only thrust them back into the spotlight. Rhea Leen and Buddy can explain. Many of the details in this story—about their motivations and their familial legacy—have never before been published.

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History

Lost Dallas Author Uncovers Treasure Trove of Vintage 1970s and 1980s Dallas Photos

| 1 month ago

You may remember the name Mark Doty from back when we did our Lost Dallas issue. Doty is the Chief Planner of the City of Dallas Historic Preservation Section and the author of the book Lost Dallas, which was a major resource in our research into the city’s forgotten past. This week, over on the website of the City of Dallas Historic Preservation Program, Doty’s colleague Jennifer Anderson shares a batch of slides Doty recently discovered in the city’s archives.

The images are from the 1970s and early 1980s, and they capture downtown Dallas in a pivotal moment of transition. There are pictures of city hall, Reunion Tower, and the Coamerica Bank Tower under construction. There are also images of lost buildings, like the Baker Hotel, Honest Joe’s Pawn Shop in Deep Ellum, and a shotgun house in Little Mexico.

Anderson adds some context to each of the shots. Check them all out here.

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History

Tales From the Dallas History Archive: From EBJ to Juanita Craft, These Women Shaped Dallas

| 1 month ago

Ed. note: Tales From the Dallas History Archives is an ongoing series in which we employ a Dallas Public library archivist to dig through public collections for forgotten photographs. The photos come from the Dallas History and Archives Division. To learn about how you can do your own digging, see the note at the bottom of this post.

Women have shaped Dallas’ history since its beginnings, and by understanding their influences on the city, we can better understand its past while envisioning its future. You can feel the impact of Dallas’ trailblazing women inside these photos. Let’s dive in.

This photograph titled Anita Martinez boarding plane with other members of a Dallas Chamber of Commerce delegation is one of many images related to Anita Martinez (1925-), who was the first female Mexican-American to be elected to the Dallas City Council in 1969.

Anita Martinez boarding a plane with other members of a Dallas Chamber of Commerce delegation, no date, Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce Collection.

She has continued to serve the people of Dallas in subsequent decades through various roles. The Anita Martinez Collection contains photographs, speeches, newspaper clipping files, and correspondence related to her career and pursuits in politics and community activism.

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Sports & Leisure

A New HBO Doc Raises the Specter of Racism in Roller Rinks

| 2 months ago
Photograph by Steven Visneau

If you haven’t yet watched the HBO documentary United Skates, you should. But be prepared: it’s no Roll Bounce. I mean, it’s got all the good feels that come from combining James Brown, modified skate wheels attached to Chuck Taylors, and choreographed nutcracker splits on a hardwood floor. But things get dark.

Going to Ohio Skate as a kid in a white suburb of Toledo, I was oblivious to the history of racism that has pervaded roller rinks pretty much since they were first introduced to the American public in Rhode Island, shortly after the end of the Civil War, in 1866. Nor was I aware that, despite their history of nearly a century of overt segregation, they had become a cultural touchstone for African-American communities across the country, complete with coded inclusive language (“Adult Night”) to counteract the coded exclusive language (“No Saggy Pants” as well as the more obscure “No Small Wheels”).

What brought on the waterworks was the surprisingly emotional impact that the wave of recent closures is having on the people who have relied on them for generations for safe and low-cost exercise, entertainment, after school recreation, and socializing. Not to mention the loss of a one-of-a-kind art form.

The documentary blames the trend less on changing millennial interests and more on the rising value of land that these low revenue, high square footage businesses sit on (not unlike boxing gyms). It made me curious about the state of affairs in Dallas, so I took a look back at Alice Laussade’s feature from a couple of years ago about the best roller rinks in town. I was heartened to find that of the eight she included, only one–Mid-Cities Skateland–has closed. And that another one that we didn’t include, Southern Skates Roller Rink, which happens to be owned by the city, still offers an Adult Skate on Thursday nights.

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History

How a Dallas Businessman Assembled the World’s First Professional Bridge Team

| 2 months ago

Before they changed the game of bridge, before they captured the United States’ first world championship in more than 15 years, before the million-dollar computer and celebrity hangers-on and discipline imparted by a former Air Force colonel named Moose, the Dallas Aces needed to fire their boss.

Ira Corn was a unique presence, a 300-pound multimillionaire with a proclivity for throwing his financial weight around. “He was large, so he had to live large,” says his daughter, Laura. There were conventional luxuries: fine art, rich food, cigars the size of Lincoln Logs, a penthouse apartment in Manhattan. But he reserved his most grandiose spending for his passions. He loved American history, so he purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence for $404,000, the highest price ever paid for a printed document at the time. He loved to read, so he subscribed to dozens of periodicals and finished a new book each night.

Most of all, in 1968, he loved bridge. So he decided to bankroll a professional team—even though one had never existed before. He had designs on toppling Italy’s famous Blue Team, the game’s great juggernaut, winners of 12 of the last 13 world championships. Not only that, he intended to defeat them himself.

“He thought if he got five good players, he could play with them and win anything,” says Mike Lawrence, one of the team’s original members. “That was the furthest from the truth imaginable.”

Which is what led Bobby Wolff, the team’s first recruit and Ira’s handpicked partner, to pull his benefactor aside on a Tuesday in late August. They were in Minneapolis for one of the most important events of the year, the Spingold national bridge championship. Five days in, their team was treading water, eking out victories over opponents they should have dismembered. It had been that way ever since the Aces were formed that February, a collection of world-class talent lugging along an amateur. Finally, after one close call too many, “the time had come for truth,” Wolff says now.

Wolff broke the news in a hotel hallway, as Ira puffed a typically giant cigar: The Aces will never become what you want them to be—what they can be—if you keep playing. Ira said nothing. Wolff half-expected Ira to dissolve the team, and perhaps that wouldn’t be the worst thing. Ira had the best of intentions but he was dragging his creation down. And then, as Wolff began to plot out his next endeavors, Ira spoke.

“Well, you better win,” he grumbled. They lost the next day.

One year later, they routed the field. By then the Dallas Aces were in the throes of one of the most audacious experiments the game had seen, an unprecedented and mostly unduplicated attempt to build a better bridge team. When they dissolved after 15 years, the Aces had collected four world titles and numerous domestic championships. Two of their stars formed one of the most decorated partnerships in history. Along the way, they prototyped strategies that are now ubiquitous in modern sports culture.

The story of the world’s first full-time professional bridge team is one of Dallas succeeding where the rest of America failed. It all owes itself to a large man who chased an appropriately huge dream.

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History

Tales From the Dallas History Archives: A Dive Through the Work of a Dallas Express Editor

| 3 months ago

The history of Dallas is incomplete without the images, stories, and original artifacts that document the lives of African Americans in Dallas. In these final days of Black History Month, take note of an important figure in African-American life in Dallas: the late Lee Marion Butts, Sr., who lived from 1924 to 2002. Butts was a commercial photographer and editor of the Dallas Express newspaper, who recorded events and community life in Dallas during a career that spanned the last half of the twentieth century.

Portrait of Marion Butts taken at Bishop College., circa 1948. PA2005-4/6.1, from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Public Library

The Dallas Express was a weekly African-American newspaper founded by W.E. King. It was published from 1893 to 1970, and provided coverage not often found in the Dallas Times Herald or Dallas Morning News of the time.

The Marion Butts Photograph Collection is part of the Dallas Public Library’s Dallas History & Archives Division.  The collection includes a number of historic photographs, some of which are available to view in the library’s online catalog.  For those interested in reading issues of the Dallas Express, the Archives Division has the newspaper on microfilm with dates ranging from 1919 to 1928, 1934 to 1963, and 1965 to 1970.

Butts’ body of work documents not only segregation and civil rights, but also business, civic, religious, educational, and social life, as well as visits by famous leaders and celebrity entertainers.

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History

Dallas City Council Inches A Little Closer Toward Demolition of Confederate War Memorial

| 3 months ago

Two years and two task forces later, the city of Dallas has edged a little closer to removing a 65-foot Confederate War Memorial that sits next to the convention center in Founders Park downtown. At a briefing today, the Dallas City Council signaled to the city manager that they would like an item placed on their next meeting agenda that would allow them to vote to dissemble, remove, and store the monument.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen. What the council will technically be voting on is a referendum that says the Confederate War Monument is a non-contributing feature of the Founders Park historic overlay, and so it should be removed. If it passes, that will send the item to the Landmark Commission, which must vote within 65 days on whether it agrees that the 124-year-old monument is a non-contributing hunk of junk in an otherwise historic park. If the commission rejects the council’s motion, the city will automatically appeal the decision to the city plan commission. That body will have another 65 days to vote on the item. If they also reject the council’s push for removal, the city will sue, and the whole thing will end up in court.

Then again, if the Landmark Commission backs the council there will likely be suits seeking to keep the monument—just as before. In other words, this thing isn’t done yet.

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History

The Man Who Will Live Forever at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

| 4 months ago

Last summer I received an email from a woman named Harriet Gross that began: “We don’t know each other, but I’ve been freelancing in Dallas for a long, long time and in the distant past did some feature stories for D and for the late-lamented DMN Sunday magazine.”

A check of our archive brought me a story Harriet had written for D in 1992, the year I graduated from college and basically took to loitering at D’s office, hoping for work (I’d interned the previous year and knew most of the staff). And that DMN Sunday magazine? The first story of any real length that I wrote for money was published in 1993 in that magazine by the great Bill Minutaglio, who was then its editor. Harriet and I had a few connections, it seemed. I was surprised our paths had never crossed and was happy they finally had, because she had a great story idea.

Her 91-year-old friend Max Glauben, she told me, was going to subject himself to some high-tech wizardry that would make it possible for people to interact with his image and voice in perpetuity, asking him questions about how he survived the Holocaust. This 3-D holographic version of Glauben will be an installation, if you can call it that, at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, which will open later this year. Glauben’s story is fascinating. Shepherding it into print, especially with Harriet’s long connection to the magazine, was a real honor.

We posted it online today

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History

Curators Share Highlights From the First 1,000 Hours of Digitizing Old WFAA Footage

| 4 months ago

The news is said to be our first crack at writing history, but generations without the internet could hardly make use of it while working on subsequent drafts. Enter Jeremy Spracklen and Scott Martin, who, over the last year and a half, have been turning a large, cold warehouse filled with old local news reels into usable, digital footage, providing us glimpses of the goods along the way.

The archivists, who work at the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection at SMU, started with the collection’s WFAA stash. It contained a wealth of big-haired, mustache-y video footage from the 1960s and 1970s. Their days are filled with loading up the 16mm films in a machine that would’ve cost about $1 million new in the 1990s, watching hours of old news clips while tweaking coloration and condensing blank air.

The best stuff gets put on Twitter and YouTube, some of it eventually bouncing around the internet and ending up on blogs like FrontBurner. Spracklen recalls how an unbelievably 1970s interview with English rock band Uriah Heep spiked traffic in Eastern Europe.

Whereas past Jones curators have focused solely on SMU’s old movie footage, Spracklen, who has worked in theatre and film but is educated in history, took an immediate interest in the news reels. Most of it hasn’t been viewed since it aired some 40 or 50 or more years ago. “This is one of a kind,” he says. “There’s no other collection. No other copies of this stuff exists.”

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