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Living Cheap
During Lowest
Business Ebb


Workers in Dallas Saw
Hope in Lotteries
in Early '80s.


City Thought Dead

Simon Loeb Describes
How Progress Came
With News and Fair.



     "Nobody was buying Dallas property for speculative purposes when I took up residence here, in 1882," said Simon Loeb, 3415 Colonial avenue. "My brother, Ben Loeb, and I, were in business in Cincinnati. Ben came to Dallas to take a position with Sanger Bros. in 1875, and it was through his urging, that I came seven years later. He, by that time, had engaged in business on his own hook. He was doing well, but he contracted the mining fever and, closing out, went to Leadville, Colo., when the boom in that camp was at its height, in 1878, and never returned to Dallas to live. About the same time, several hundred Dallas men and boys, thinking the life had gone out of Dallas, left for Leadville, the Black Hills and other points in the mining regions, where, from this distance, the rainbow seemed to end.
     "Dallas, from what I could gather, within a short time after the railroads came in 1872 and 1873, had changed from a ramshackle ante-bellum village, to one of the wildest of the frontier railroad towns, but had suffered a collapse when the railroads moved on, and appearances abundantly confirmed this account. It was manifest, that while the boom was on, the people were so exclusively preoccupied with chasing the dollar, that they had taken no thought of making the town a more satisfactory place of residence. The buildings, mostly one-story structures, had evidently been run up in a hurry, with a lick and a promise, and were as badly in need of paint, as many of them were of occupants. The streets, which had never been brought [to grade], much less paved, sloped _____, and presented all sorts of [abnorm]alities. When it rained, they [became] mudholes, in which the wagons stuck, and when the sun shone, they sent up clouds of dust, which, settling on the population, made them look like millers.

Norton Building.
     "The town ended at Ervay street, and the business district extended on Elm street, as far east as Akard, and on Main, as far as Murphy. The street lights, feeble gas lamps, were confined to this quarter. The town boasted three street railway lines, but the mule cars were so slow, and ran with such irregularity, that persons wishing to be prompt in meeting their appointments, seldom trusted to them, but set out afoot. The high places in town were two grain elevators, one at Pacific and Austin streets, the other at Lamar and Jackson, and the standpipe of the water works, on the hill at Main and Harwood streets. The leading hotels were the Grand Windsor and the Lamar, now the St. George. The municipal building was a two-story frame building, in need of a coat or two of paint, at Main and Akard streets. The hall, and two or three small rooms on the second floor, afforded ample room for all the city offices, the City Council meetings, police headquarters, and the Corporation Court. The ground floor spaces were occupied by butchers and green-grocers.
     "But, the outstanding piece of architecture in the eastern quarter of town was the Norton Building, on the northeast corner of Elm and Akard streets, where the Queen Theater now is. It was a two-story structure, erected by Judge A. B. Norton. It was plainly and admittedly, the best building in town, but Judge Norton was a Republican, and nobody wanted to have anything to do with a building built or owned by a Republican. Some old dyed-in-the-wool Democrats said they would not even stand in the shade of such a building on a hot day. The upshot was that Judge Norton never derived any revenue from his enterprise and outlay of capital.

Flies and Mosquitoes.
     "The water mains did not extend much beyond the business district. The people, for the most part, were still using well water or cistern water, or going to the river with buckets. Ice was scarce, and had not come into general consumption. Often, the supply ran out, and there was not a pound of it to be found in town, even for a sick person. Door and window screens were unknown, with the result that mosquitoes and flies flourished. Some people stretched mosquito bars over their beds, but a mosquito of any enterprise could always find or make a breach in them. Flies streamed through the doors and windows of dining rooms and restaurants like bees into and out of the hives in the clover season.
     "It took the average person about a month to fill to saturation with malaria. But, a course of sixty to 120 grains of quinine would straighten him out, and give him another thirty days' lease on life. The fact that most of us have never had a touch of malaria since we began to sleep in screened rooms, would seem to establish the theory that mosquitoes carry, and faithfully deliver, the malarial poison.
     "I think the only wholesale dry goods establishment in town, in 1882, was that of Sanger Brothers, though there were several wholesale groceries, among them, Schneider & Davis, T. L. Marsalis and Garlington & Underwood. Boren & Stewart came later. Major R. V. Tompkins and Bowser & Lemmon were the leading implement and farm machinery agents. The saddle and harness houses, Padgitt Brothers, G. H. Schoellkopf, and several others, were the biggest establishments of any kind here. Sanger Brothers, Fee Brothers and Thompson Brothers were the most important retail clothing and dry goods concerns.
     "The banks were the City National, the Exchange National, and Adams & Leonards. Dry goods dealers were Levi Craft, Main and Jefferson, and Israelsky, Elm and Austin, and Goldsmith Brothers and Jack Friedlander. The farmers brought their cotton to town on wagons and met the buyers on Elm street, west of Poydras. I think there was no fixed price from day to day; producers had the alternative of taking what was offered, or hauling the staple back home, and this they seldom did.
     "In those days, there was no money here. Five to ten thousand dollars was big capital for a merchant, and fifty thousand was enough to run a bank on. And, the banks were putting out no money, except on gilt-edged security. "Collateral" was a formidable word, with which a man expected to be knocked down when he went to beg a loan. Work was slack, and salaries and wages at the verge of starvation. Employers got along with as little help as possible, and while they expected one employe to do the work of three, they generously gave him ample time in which to do it; they kept him busy anywhere from fourteen to eighteen hours a day. The stores opened at 6:30 or 7 o'clock in the morning, and kept open as late at night, as they suspected there was a man abroad with a nickel in his pocket.

Living Was Cheap.
     "But, living was cheap. A man could get a good suit of clothes for $10, a pair of shoes for $2.50, and a hat for $2, get table board from $2.50 to $3 a week, and a room for $1 a week. The standard price of a meal at the ordinary restaurants was 25¢. The gambling houses were wide open, and the Louisiana lottery was in full blast.
     "To the overworked and underpaid toilers, these institutions appeared as the shadow of a great rock appears to the traveler in the desert. Though the probabilities were against them, it was possible for them, any night, after they finally got off, to go by the gambling hall, and within a short time, put themselves on easy street. And, it was worth any man's dollar to buy a lottery ticket a month before the drawing, and dream all the month about what he could, and would, do with the $15,000 dollars it was possible for him to win. So, the cloud was not without the usual decoration.
     "So far as I know, all the physicians who were in the practice in 1882, are dead, not more than two of the lawyers are living, and not more than one man who was at the head of a mercantile establishment is still here. I have in mind, Leon Kahn. But, I can think of two or three barbers still living, who were shaving and cutting hair in 1882; of four of five men who were employes in, or were owners of, gambling houses; and at least twenty of the old barkeepers are still in the flesh.
     "The first theater Dallas had was the Field Opera House, on Main street, in the middle of The News block. The building, still standing, viewed from the front, looks much as it did in 1882. But, it had been closed as a playhouse, and the shows were given in Craddock's Opera House, on the second floor of the building, on the northwest corner of Main and Austin streets, John Moninger, manager. Every winter, Moninger presented a series of the finest plays in the world by great actors. We seldom had fewer than six or eight of Shakespeare's plays during the season.

Newspapers Were Small.
     "The morning newspaper, in 1882, was the Herald. Eight pages during the week, and twelve pages on Sunday, were ample to carry the news of the world and the advertisements. The afternoon field was snappily filled by the Times, the late W. G. Sterrett, editor and owner. The editors and reporters wrote with pencils, instead of typewriters, and, no doubt, would have laughed at the idea of a writing machine, just as the printers would have thought a man insane, who spoke of a typesetting machine. Dallas continued to exist in the humdrum way I have attempted to indicate, for several years. The settled air of energy spent, seemed to be on all things.
     "Then, we began to notice a change. New faces appeared on the streets; 'for rent' signs came down; house painters found work, and the sound of the saw and the hammer was once more heard.
     "The next thing we knew, The Dallas News had started. That was in 1885. A year later, the State Fair began, and on a scale that made it necessary to run it in two sections. By that time, everybody in Texas knew that Dallas had taken on a new growth. The buds and sprouts were plainly to be seen, the hum of insects, notes of the birds, and the bleat of the lambs, came to the ear, and every one felt the balmy breezes. It would take some one better qualified than I am, to tell what has happened here since that time. Down to 1885, any person who was making good wages or a fair salary, could have bought, and easily paid for, out of his savings, lots almost anywhere in Dallas."

- October 14, 1928, The Dallas Morning News,
Automobile Section, p. 12, col. 1.
- o o o -

[Simon Michael Loeb died in Dallas, on
January 22, 1936, at age 79]