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Elm Once in
Pair of Towns
At Same Time


Sam Dysterbach Tells of
When Street Only
Dirt Road.


Many Belt Lines

Growth of Small Store
Sketched by Early
Dallas Merchant.


     "It has been so short a time since Dallas was merely a raw, overgrown town, that comparatively young men can give first-hand information about its evolution into a city," said Sam Dysterbach.  "I attended a fair on the old fair grounds, on Worth street, just east of the C. C. Slaughter homestead, and I am sure that none of the great international expositions ever loomed larger to a visitor than that same fair did to me.  It made such an impression on me, that I still remember it very vividly.  At the same time, it must have been next door to a failure, for I have no recollection that it was repeated the next year, or at any time afterward, though, I did thrill at horse races and yell at ball games there in after years.  And later on, when the town got to booming, and the grounds were platted into town lots, father bought a lot on Hill avenue, traversing the park, and that was our home for a long time.
     "The old fair park was far in the country.  Out that way, one looked on pastures, open prairie, oak groves and an occasional corn field. The most outlying cluster of shacks, suggesting a stab at a village, was at the union depot, at Pacific and Central avenues.  That settlement was the original East Dallas.  Small business establishments gradually fell into place along Elm street on both sides of the railroad, but chiefly west, as if attracted by Dallas.  But, there were no business houses between Pearl or Harwood streets and Ervay, and but few east of Akard, then known as Sycamore street.

In Two Towns at Once.
     "With the exception of a short reach of bois d'arc pavement the city had put down experimentally on West Elm street, the streets were simply dirt roads.  I often saw from four to six mules pull themselves into all sorts of shapes trying to drag an empty wagon out of the black waxy bogs of East Dallas.  The highlight and rallying point, in East Dallas, in early days, was Carter's stockyards on Elm street.  J. A. Carter kept a cattle, mule and horse market, and incidentally, sold liquor.  It seems that people were thirstier in those days than they now are, and there is little doubt that many of those who assembled at Carter's were disposed to harmonize any little differences of opinion, that were sure to arise, not by argument or by a muster of the facts, but with their fists, pistols or knives.  The eastern line of Dallas ran lengthwise through Carter's saloon, and when East Dallas was erected into a municipality, the barkeeper was in East Dallas, and his customers, who faced him and viewed themselves in the mirror, were in Dallas.  In fact, the customer who rested his foot on the rail of the bar, as most of them actually did when drowsiness began to overtake them, was partly in Dallas and partly in East Dallas.  This was a puzzle that many of them tried to solve by taking more drinks.
     "The East Dallas station of the volunteer fire department was at Elm and Good streets.  The firemen stayed at home until they heard an alarm.  Then, with the rest of the population, they turned out.  At first, the station was without horses and had only a hose cart, which the firemen pulled by hand.  By the time they got the hose laid, the engine from the central station arrived, provided the roads were not too muddy.  Later on, the city built an engine house on Commerce street, a little east of the Houston & Texas Central railroad crossing, equipped the new station with an engine, and abandoned the old station.  Charles Kahn was fire chief in those days, and all of us little boys thought him a way-yonder bigger man than the Mayor.

Cable Railway on Elm.
     "I remember as if it were not farther back than yesterday when the first street car traversed Elm street.  The original projectors of a street railway line on that thoroughfare had a cable line in view, and they actually made the excavation for the cable, but, for some reason, now unknown to me, abandoned the undertaking and ended by changing to electric power.  The first boom which struck the town in the '80s, gave street railway building a great impetus, and a street railway was not considered complete unless it made a belt.  We had the South Dallas belt, the North Dallas belt, the Oak Cliff belt, and a belt which had no name, but which traversed McKinney avenue, Harwood, St. Louis, Akard and Lamar streets.
     "The boomers were working into town lots, the fields, pastures and raw prairie, in all directions, and the belt builders were trying to give the prospective residents of the new additions, street car service.  The Oak Cliff and the South Dallas, or Rapid Transit belts, were, at first, operated by dummy engines, which were clumsy, slow and prone to run off the track.  Once the dummy on the Rapid Transit, instead of making the turn from Austin street into Commerce, at the west end of The News Building, kept on going north on Lamar street, until it struck the end of the building occupied by a saloon and rudely dispensed a little liquor party therein.

Embarks in Business.
     "My father, D. Dysterbach, settled in Dallas about 1870, and had a grocery, market, feed store and woodyard on East Elm street, not far from which, we lived.  With my bare feet, I came into very intimate contact with the ground around about the place, and as far away as the schoolhouse, where I picked up the rudiments of an education.  By helping about the store in the evenings, on Saturdays, and at other odd times, I learned something about waiting on the trade, but my first regular job was with Edward Titche, when he embarked in business in Dallas thirty-eight years ago.  He occupied a space 16x75 feet on the south side of Elm street, between Pearl and Harwood streets.  I made the first sale and put the first dime in the cash drawer of the new store.  Trade came our way, and before long, I was admitted as a partner in the growing concern.  Other capital clamoring to get in, we incorporated under the name of Edward Titche.  Twelve or fifteen years later, Mr. Titche went into business in the Wilson Building and withdrew from the firm.  I bought his interest, and, with C. E. Kelogg and my brother, Sylvan, as partners, continued the business under the name of the Sam Dysterbach Company, occupying our present building at Elm and Pearl, which we own.  A few years later, Mr. Kelogg retired from the concern, Sylvan and I taking over his interest.

Crowds Move East.
     "The big department store opened by Titche and Goettinger at Ervay street, so far from ruining our business, as everybody freely predicted it would do, actually livened up the retail trade out that way, and set a pace that has never slackened to this day.  Not many years ago, Elm street, east of St. Paul, was deserted after nightfall. Now, it is a crowded promenade all the way from Akard street to, and beyond, the Houston & Texas Central Railroad.  And, when we open the new route via Pearl street across town, we look to see still more life in Old East Dallas.  We have, for some time, been trying to get Pearl street widened between Elm street and Pacific avenue.
     "The owners of the property involved are ready, whenever the city is, and we hope to reach a final hearing within the next few days. When we get this piece of street widened to eighty feet, and a little projection at Jackson street out of the way, the traveling public will have an eighty-foot route, via Pearl and Corinth streets, from the Oak Cliff viaduct to the Dixie Highway on the other side of town.  This will not only, to some extent, relieve the congestion of traffic on the downtown streets, but will enable travelers who wish to go through the city without stopping, to do so, without a vexatious delay at every crossing.

Turn Manufacturers.
     "Our once very small establishment, amounting to not much more than a hole in the wall, as they say, has not only developed into a big department store, in which, among others, we are daily serving the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our first customers, but it has necessitated our engaging in manufacture.
     "We first started a plant to make uniforms, which before long, proliferated into a cap factory, and a gown factory, and they are all working full-handed, supplying policemen, firemen, cadets and others, with uniforms and caps, and the doctors and nurses with caps and gowns.
     "We are getting orders from all over the Southwest. We have filled one big order from the Mexican Government for uniforms and caps for the army, and have the promise of another and larger order from the same source before the end of the year.  Our uniform factory is the only industry of its kind in the South.  We are meeting four big pay rolls every week, and thus, contribute our mite to the prosperity of the city.
     "Father was one of the first to subscribe for The Dallas News.  From the day it started, The News has come to our house, and I have always read and admired it.  I think it the greatest daily in the country."

- September 29, 1929, The Dallas Morning News,
Automobile & Aeronautics Section, p. 7.
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