He is Robber
perience as Newsboy
Got Here in 1883
Albert J. Toole
in "Old Days."
BY W. S. ADAIR
"As a small boy,
I arrived in Dallas the day after the big compress fire at Pacific
avenue and Lamar street, that is to say, in October, 1883,"
said Albert J. Toole, of 5731[?] Gaston avenue. "The
compress was on the block now occupied by the wholesale department
of the Huey & Philps Hardware Company. The flames spread
to other buildings and destroyed, in addition to the compress,
a number of houses west of Ross avenue and South of Lamar street.
It was talked of as the biggest fire Dallas had had, up
to that time.
"While exploring the burned
district, I found out that the name of the man with the long
white whiskers who ran the saloon on the corner of Camp and Lamar
street, was Doc Chamberlain, and that the office of the Texas
Sifter, a once widely quoted humorous weekly newspaper,
was printed on the second floor of the saloon building, and that
the serious-looking little man with thin gray chin beard, seen
going into and coming out of the office, was Col. Alex Sweet,
"My brother, Robert P. Toole,
for many years editorial writer on the Houston Post, preceded
the rest of the family to Texas, and had been connected with
the Morning Herald for some time before we left our old home
at Knoxville, Tenn., and set out for Texas to join him. My
father, James M. Toole, secured a job as floor-walker in Sanger
Bros.' store and my brother John, found employment as pressman
on the Herald. On arriving in Dallas, we went to the home
of Brother Bob, at Market and Young streets. At the time,
some of the leading families lived in that quarter of town. In
fact, one of the show residences of all this part of the country
was the dwelling of Mr. Louchard, a Frenchman, at Young and Jefferson
streets. Concrete was the material used in the construction
of the house, and also in that of the wall that surrounded the
yard. The front yard was a garden of flowers in great variety.
But, the popular residence localities with the well-to-do
were on South Ervay street and on North Lamar and Cochran streets.
Lee's Grocery, one of the largest retail groceries in town,
flourished for many years on South Market street, near Young.
Round About Town.
"In 1883, there were few business
houses on Elm street east of Murphy, and few on Main street east
of Poydras, and there were vacant lots on both streets whereon
street fakers, patent medicine trumpeters and mountebanks of
every description held forth. The ground on which the Praetorian
Building stands was a sink, jagged with naked rocks. Later,
the sink was filled, and the lot was used for out-of-door performances
of various kinds and for tent revivals. There was a street
railway line on Main street from the courthouse to the H. &
T. C. Railroad crossing, a line on Ervay street as far as St.
Louis street, and a line on Ross avenue and San Jacinto street
to Shadyview Park, at Ross and Washington avenues. All
the reunions and picnics and many of the dances took place at
Shadyview. The fact that it took a street car about an
hour to run from the city to the park did not appear to prevent
anybody from visiting it. The street railway lines, which
were operated by mule-power, were owned by Col. W. J. Keller,
a leading business man of that day. His dwelling, at Ross
and Washington avenues, is now owned by Judge W. H. Clark.
"The postoffice was on Main
street in the middle of the Linz block, with a board sidewalk
in front of it, and if you listened, you could sometimes hear
the music of the creek that ran beneath. The city water
supply came from Browder Spring, in what is now the City Park.
The water company had a tower at Main and Harwood streets, which
was in the way when anyone in the business district wished to
look at the sky in that direction.
"There were several large
wagon yards which continued to flourish until late in the '80s.
The Fourth Ward school had the largest attendance of any
of the public or private schools. The building was of two
stories, at Young street and the Santa Fe Railroad crossing.
Miss Lelia Cowart was the principal when I attended. Two
of her star pupils were Hal Noble, now of the Texas Oil Company,
and Col. Duval Cabell of the United States Army.
"One of the early day sensations
and horrors was the burning of the grain elevator on South Lamar
street, about 1883. Two men employed at the plant, finding
escape cut off on the second floor, ascended to the second, and
still finding no way out, took to the shaft and just before the
flames reached them, threw their hats out to indicate to the
spectators where they were. Dave Rainwater was manager
of the elevator.
"In 1884, father and brother
John died of typhoid fever. Small as I was, I was obliged
to quit school and go to work. I began as a newsboy, selling
the Evening Times, of which the late Col. W. G. Sterrett was
owner and editor. I sold the Times in the afternoon and
evening, and the Morning Herald in the forenoon. The Herald
was owned by Pfouts, Elliott & Hall. In the course
of a few months, the Times made me a carrier, giving me the Elm
street route. I worked this route until the Times and the
Herald were combined. In the meantime, C. D. Pratt had
become business manager of the Times, with E. G. Myers as his
assistant. It was customary in those days for newspapers
to furnish their carriers with New Year's addresses. The
address was in the form of an uplift poem, printed on a card,
which the carrier sold to his patrons for whatever they were
disposed to give him. On Jan. 1, 1884, George Myers spread
himself on a card for the Times carriers. I think it was
his ambition to outdo the Herald. I don't know who wrote
the poem, but it must have been a taking one. Every subscriber
on my route bought a card, paying me all the way from 25¢
to $2. Dr. Hay, who ran a drug store on Elm street, near
the old Union Depot, who was my good friend, and, in fact, my
spiritual advisor, was the subscriber who gave me the $2.
Reassures His Mother.
"When I went home that night
with $89 in my various pockets and emptied them on the table,
my mother, who had for several days been confined to her bed
with illness, rose, and making her way to me by holding on to
the backs of chairs, asked me, with the most anxious look on
her face, how I had come by so much money. It was not until
I had reassured her by a detailed account that it dawned on me
that it was the fear that I had committed a robbery that had
given her the strength to leave her bed. I gave mother
$65 of the windfall and reserved $24, with which I bought a printing
outfit from John Triller, who conducted a gun store on the north
side of Elm street, at the head of Poydras. The plant was
equipped merely for printing cards, dodgers and tags. A.
A. Jackson, now president of the State Fair, was the first man
to give me an order for tags, which he used in the shipping department
of his produce establishment. My second order was from
B. E. Houghton, also a produce merchant, on East Elm street.
I got $2 per 1,000 for printing tags, and thought I was
on the road to wealth. Later, I invested in more material,
enlarged my office and reached for additional business.
Painter Rides a Tank.
- September 26, 1926,
The Dallas Morning News,
"I did well in the printing
business, but thought I saw something better when W. G. Scarff
offered me a position in the wholesale paper establishment of
Scarff & O'Connor, adjoining the Padgitt Company's plant,
on the south side of Commerce street. The Padgitts had
just completed their building, a three-story structure, and had
raised a steel water tank above it in order to reduce their insurance
risk. The tank had been filled with water, and one morning,
when a painter named Brewer was giving it the finishing touches,
it fell. Brewer, on a rope ladder, was near the top of
the tank when he felt it slowly moving in his direction. As
it continued to incline more and more, he had the presence of
mind to climb to the top and, as it descended, he went over the
top and took a seat on what had become the upper side. The
heavy tank, with its load of water, crashed through the roof
of our building, through the second story floor, and came to
a stop on the cement floor of the basement. It was not
until Brewer had searched in vain for a scratch or bruise, that
he became convinced he was not done for. Unless something
has happened to him recently, Brewer is still living in or near
Dallas, for I meet him at long intervals and have kept up my
acquaintance with him.
"I read a copy of the first
edition of The Dallas News, and I have not missed many copies
since. W. W. Porter told me when I was a small boy, that
if I would read a good newspaper every day, I could, in a few
years, more than make up my lack of elementary schooling. That
made me a reader of The News.
I have regularly attended the State
Fair of Texas. I regard The News and the State Fair as
the two great institutions of the Southwest."
Sec. 4, p. 9.
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