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Street Gas Lamp
Brought Cheering
From Third Ward

______

Early-Day Illumination
and Dallas' First Ele-
vator Recalled.

By W. S. ADAIR

     "It seems hardly longer than yesterday when Jake Raught, alderman from the Third Ward, got us a street gas lamp at Live Oak and Olive streets, and we were all throwing up our hats for him," said Tom Trotman, assistant treasurer of the Southland Life Insurance Company.  "I used to watch the lamp-lighter come along in the evening, with his ladder, plant it at each lamp post, climb up, turn on the gas, and touch his torch to it; and many times, I saw him come along at daybreak and turn the gas off -- a most monotonous proceeding, evening or morning.  I was carrier on the old morning Herald in those days, and that explains what I was doing abroad, so early in the morning.
     "The old home of the Trotman family was Huntsville, Ala.  My father, T. B. Trotman, came to Texas in 1874, and went on the road in North Texas for P. J. Williss & Brother, wholesale shoes, Galveston, and made Dallas his headquarters, and later on, moved his family to Texas.  He found Dallas in the midst of the wild boom it enjoyed as the terminus of two railroads, and did all the business he could take care of.  He often told me what the town looked like in those days, when the streets were actually blocked with wagons, horsemen and pedestrians, in spite of the efforts of the traffic officers to keep things moving, and what the life of the traveling man was when he had to get over most of his territory in a buggy, and was glad to find any sort of a hotel.

Pioneer Merchants.
     "The first merchants in Dallas were obliged, in order to meet the condition, to do a sort of combination wholesale and retail business, for purchasers who came in wagons 100 or more miles, did not come to buy in measly retail batches.  The lumber yards would sell you the raw material for a chicken coop, or for a town; the whisky man, a drink or a barrel, and the grocer, a stick of candy or a carload of bacon and flour.  It was not until several years later, that the wholesaler and retailer emerged clearly defined, set on sticking to one thing.  It began to look as if the town were a go when the John Deere Plow Company, the Rock Island Plow Company, Parlin & Orendorff, the Texas Moline, the B. F. Avery Companies, and other farm implement and machinery manufacturers, opened branch houses in Dallas, and, when the Blankenship & Blake Wholesale Dry Goods Company and other jobbing concerns came.  Dallas already had the grocery and whisky trade of an extensive region, and was pushing out the boundaries of it right along, into territory, as yet, without railroads.
     "In answer to the requirements of the situation, the Katy built in from Greenville, the Texas Trunk was started, and the Texas & Mexican Central, now the Cleburne branch of the Santa Fe, was constructed to Cleburne, and the Dallas & Wichita was extended from Denton to Wichita Falls.  All this time, the Texas & Pacific was steadily pushing construction west, to a connection with the Southern Pacific, with a view of opening a transcontinental line through El Paso.  North Texas, with Dallas as the trade center of it, was undoubtedly rapidly developing, but the jobbers were seriously hampered by the fact that the freight rates were such, that the jobbers of St. Louis, New Orleans and Kansas City could compete with them right up to, and even within, the corporate limits of the city.

Day of Traveling Man.
     "It was the day of the drummer, or traveling salesman, as he was later called.  He was in evidence everywhere, putting up with all the hardships of buggy travel, poor hotel accommodations or none, and making for the best town in reach for the comforts of the Sunday rest.  He took possession of the hotels of Dallas and Fort Worth, where he was treated as a pet.  It was known that he had come to spend his money, and everybody had a smile for him, for his tribe had all the good points and weak ones that characterize ordinary humanity. Some drummers could not keep away from the gambling halls, others liked a fine drink or two; a few went to the variety shows, some liked a knock-down-and-drag-out time, a rough house.  There were those who liked to go to Sunday school and church, and among them, there were those versatile fellows who were at home in any of these carousals, diversions, and devotions; all which they knew they could find to their hand in Dallas and Fort Worth.  The drummer was the party who introduced the branded smile into this part of the country.  He seemed to have an idea that people liked to deal with a man who could smile, and did not forget, that if you smile, the world will smile with you, which is so true, that it works even when the grin is forced and artificial, with no answering reality back of it.  But, the drummer has passed along with so many other bunches of good fellows we all once rejoiced to know.

When Dallas Began.
     "I carried the East Dallas route for the morning Herald till the Morning News came in 1885, and took over the Herald, and put me out of business.  While thus employed, I came to know, in a second-hand way, if not always more intimately, what was going on about town.  I knew where men went to play faro, to play dominoes and drink beer, where the dope on the races was posted for the public, where one could procure a ticket in the Louisiana lottery and thus stimulate his hope, where everybody went to see a prize fight or a wrestling match Saturday nights, and a chicken fight Sundays; and, that Camp street, and what we called the First Ward, were excellent localities to keep away from.
     "Dallas lacked everything of being a sleepy, dull town, even before things began to pick up what time The Morning News came.  Within a year after that, all sorts of improvements were projected or were under way.  New additions were platted in all directions, and old street railway lines were extended to them, or new ones built.  The Oak Cliff road and the Rapid Transit had dummy steam engines in place of the old reliable mules, while the line out McKinney avenue to Fairland marked a still farther advance by employing electricity, which people did not think much of.  But, in the working out, electricity proved much more satisfactory than steam, for the electric cars did go, while the dummy engines had a way of possuming dead, and of continuing on overland when they reached the end of the tracks. Once, the engine on the Rapid Transit, which was on Austin street, kept on going when it reached the end of the track at Commerce street, and crashed into the back door of the saloon on the southeast corner of Main at Austin streets.
     "In the midst of the general expansion, East Dallas set up as a separate municipality, and the Cockrell Building, just completed, was equipped with an elevator lift, or hoist -- people had some difficulty in getting together on a name for it.  Anyway, it was the first mechanical contrivance for getting upstairs installed in the growing city.

Notes on the River.
     "A project was early set on foot to navigate the Trinity River as a means of circumventing the jobbers of competing cities for the wholesale trade of Dallas territory.  Col. W. C. Wolfe dreamed out the scheme and S. W. S. Duncan exerted himself to realize the vision. When the steamer Harvey, the first boat to come up the river, arrived, the Mayor proclaimed a holiday, and the whole country was at the landing to welcome the boat.  The next big thing, in connection with the river, was the flood of 1908, when the river, backed up to Cadiz and Akard streets on the south, and, to McKinney avenue and Orange street on the north, washed away the Texas and Pacific bridge and the stock in a lumber yard at the west end of the bridge on Commerce street, taking it, along with the logs and treetops from above, as so much crude drift.
     "My education began in the Catholic school, next door to St. Patrick's Church, on the northeast corner of Bryan and Ervay streets.  My companions were our neighbor boys, Sam and Bob Eagon, sons of Dr. S. E. Eagon.  The public school system was not very well organized at the time, and besides, was not popular with what may be called the better class of Southern people, who still felt their superiority.  The objection was, as I understand it, that instead of keeping a boy on a lesson until he got it, as the old private schools were supposed to do, and grading pupils by their attainments and capacity, the public schools hurried them along and grouped them wholly by the number of years they had been in school, which was thought to be too mechanical and democratic -- going in for equality with a vengeance."

- May 10, 1931, The Dallas Morning News,
Sec. V, p. 10, col. 1-2.
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