Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   
To Dallas County Archives main page
To list of published Wm. Adair columns, 1920-1925, 1926-1933
To list of transcribed Wm. Adair columns

DALLAS ONCE LIKE
MOVIE TOWN

BY W. S. ADAIR

MAX MUNZESHEIMER

    "Sanger Bros.' and L. Wagner's stores are the only mercantile establishments still in business at their old stands that were here when I landed in Dallas in November, 1880, and Judge Robert B. Seay and Judge Charles F. Clint are the only lawyers still in the practice who were here at that time," said Max Munzesheimer, 3027 Routh street.  "Col. Robert E. Cowart, one of the most brilliant members of the Dallas bar forty-three years ago or thereafter, is still here, but has retired from the practice.  So far as I know, not one of the physicians of 1880 is actively connected with the profession today.  The Rt. Rev. Alexander C. Garrett, the venerated bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Dallas, is the only remaining minister of the Gospel, to my knowledge.  All overtaking time has dealt more leniently with the newspaper writers: Col. William Greene Sterrett and Maj. Charles L. Martin are still scribbling away as they were in 1880, and, in my judgment, doing better work all the time.  Is the average man limited to far less than forty years of business or professional activity?

First Impressions.
    "When I disembarked from the overdue train at the downtown Texas & Pacific depot, forty-three years ago, I beheld such a town as one sees in a Wild West show at the movies -- a collection of shacks and wigwams as background for rows of horses hitched along the sidewalks, and everybody looking impudently vigorous and well pleased with himself and his environment.  It was a place for anyone with young blood in his veins to locate and join in the push, just for the fun of growing up with the town and country.  It was not the promised land, but, what was better, the land of promise, which holds cut the pleasure of pursuit, which, after all, seems to be the only thing that gives a zest to life and keeps us going.

Gets Acquainted With the Town.
    "I went to work in the carpet department of Sanger Bros.' store, and made my acquaintance with the town from that viewpoint.  The big dry goods houses were Sanger Bros., Thompson Bros. and Fee Bros. on the north side of Elm street, opposite Sanger Bros.', and Henry Kahn & Bros. on Elm street, near Griffin.  Loeb & Friedlander ran a supply grocery; that is, they advanced supplies to ranchmen and farmers.  Their store was on the present site of Huey & Philp's wholesale hardware house.  Metzler & Oppenheimer's wholesale grocery was on the northeast corner of Lamar and Camp streets, afterward Doc Chamberlain's saloon stand for many years.  An old man, named Wolfe, I think, had a hide house at the place now occupied by N. Nigro & Co., and was succeeded by Harry Brady. Wallace & Wagner, Bond Bros., Robert Ogden and L. Wagner were the leading retail grocers.  E. M. Tillman and G. H. Schoellkopf were on the north side of Elm street, between Lamar and Griffin streets, though Griffin street was then College street.  Dennis & Wagner had a soap factory, not far from the Dallas Brewery site.

Pioneer Business Men.
    "Garlington & Underwood had a wholesale grocery on the northeast corner of Main and Lamar, and afterward moved to The News corner, Commerce and Lamar.  Charles Kahn's bakery was on the southwest corner of Main and Lamar.  An Englishman, a Mr. Kent, ran a bakery on the Linz corner.  Harry Bros., who afterward put down the first street paving in Dallas, had in 1880, a china store.  Dave Goslin also ran a china store, known as Goslin's China Hall.  Another baker, whom I was about to overlook, was Joseph Blakeney, father of Jo and Hugh Blakeney, whose place of business was up about the Union Depot.  Mr. Blakeney, who was possessed of remarkable energy, used to stimulate business by peddling cakes from a basket on the streets, which he proclaimed to be 'fine, very fine; one for a nickel, two for a dime.'  From this, he became to be known over town as Fine Very Fine, so that many newcomers who became well-acquainted with him, did not know his real name.  Silberstein & Hirsch had a livery and sales stable on the northwest corner of Commerce and Poydras streets.  Turner Hall was on part of the lot on which Padgitt Bros. afterward built.

Sam Jones Revival.
    "Col. John C. McCoy, who so lived that men still kindly remember him almost forty years after his death, had his residence on the Texas Drug Company's property.  Col. McCoy did not consider the whole block too much for yard and garden.  R. V. Tompkins' agricultural and implement house was where the Higginbotham-Bailey-Logan dry goods house now is.  His building was overhauled for the State Saengerfest, a rousing big thing, held here about 1882.  Later, in the same building, that amazing evangelist, Sam Jones, jarred the sinners of the community in a series of harangues charged with the thunders of Sinai.  The first steam laundry in the town was put in by G. D. Moffitt, near old Turner Hall.  The laundry passed into the hands of W. L. Logan, who built a plant near the Santa Fe trestle on Jackson street, adjoining the wagon yard and stables of S. P. Siler, the pioneer bus line man of the town.

Passing of Two Ancient Crafts.
    "In 1880, the postfoffice was on the south side of Main street, adjoining the present Linz Building on the east.  Next door, J. D. A. Harris kept a book store.  After him, on the east, came W. S. Bryant's pawnshop.  The ground floor of the southwest corner of Main and Murphy was occupied by the Glen Lea Saloon and the second floor was a gambling hall.  The fashionable tailor the town was Zimmermann, on Main street, in the Sanger block.  In those days, men who made any pretensions to style had their clothes hand-made by tailors.  Manufacturers had not yet discovered that men, physically, as well as morally and mentally, fall into very serviceable broad classes, and that patterns or measurements of clothes may be devised in advance for each class, in which every individual of that class may find a fit.  This made it possible to turn out men's suits by machinery, and resulted in crippling the business of the old-time tailor.  Just as a classification of feet, and the manufacture of shoes by machinery, about the same time, put the worthy craft of old-time shoemakers on their uppers.

Acrobatic Loafers.
    "In 1880, Connor & Walker ran a drug store on the southwest corner of Main and Austin streets. Hickox & House, on the north side of Main street, just east of Lamar; Eisenlohr on the southwest corner of Main and Field; W. H. Patterson on Lamar street, between Main and Elm, and George Atkins on the north side of Elm, second door west of Lamar.  Mr. Atkins manufactured Rattlesnake Oil, recommended as a cure for any and all ills of the flesh.  Billie Patterson put out Peachstone Liniment, also a cure-all.  The Ananias Club met in Patterson's drug store.  Mr. Atkins was, himself, the entertainer in his store.  The loafers of the town divided their time between these two apothecary shops.  Ice was scarce and high, but Mr. Atkins, nevertheless, kept for his friends, a barrel of ice water, or what looked like ice water.  The water was very muddy in those days, but Mr. Atkins cleared with chemicals what he put in his barrel, and on the surface of it, he placed an immense square block of glass, hollow within, so as to make it float.  It was funny to see a thirsty man clear his throat and take out a cup of water, only to find he was dealing with only the mirage of an iceberg.  One cold night about Christmas time, a dozen or more of us [local] loafers barred all approaches to Mr. Atkins' red-hot stove.  This remarkable pharmacist opened the stove door, produced from his pocket, a giant firecracker, about the size of a quart milk bottle, and remarking, "Boys, we'll all go down together," tossed it into the furnace.  Such acrobatic feats as we performed would have amazed even the Ringling Brothers.  If the infernal machine ever exploded, I was so far away, that I neither heard the detonation, nor saw the flying debris.

Fire and Blood.
    "In the early days, Dallas had no drainage, and many localities were flooded whenever it rained hard.  One night in 1882, something like a small cloudburst flooded the negro houses in the low grounds in the vicinity of Ervay and Jackson streets.  Shouts of distress from those caught in the houses attracted groups of persons to the water's edge, and moved some to go to the rescue, me among them.  The first burst of the storm that had caused the inundation, was succeeded by a slanting rain that stung like birdshot.  In this, we swam over the fence tops to the houses where we found women and children standing on chairs, tables, beds ­­ anything to keep above water.  The firemen arriving, took things in hand and soon got everybody to solid ground."
     I still carry on my hands, the scars of burns I received in a fire in 1882.  I boarded with Mrs. Frank, who occupied an apartment house built by Maj. C. M. Wheat, on the north side of Ross avenue, just east of Lamar.  The house caught fire, and I found Mrs. Frank wringing her hands and almost beside herself.  Her grand baby, she said, was upstairs.  I undertook to rescue the baby.  Failing to find it in the room she indicated, I looked elsewhere and was caught myself.  The staircase collapsed just as I reached it, and I fell to the first floor.
     In permitting me to enter the house, Mrs. Frank was not aware that some one else had already rescued the baby.  I was laid up more than a month with the burns I received.

Mysterious Double Tragedy.
    "Shortly after I came to Dallas, one of the strangest tragedies that has ever occurred here, took place in a second-floor room on the north side of Elm street, a door or two west of Lamar street.  Bowie Strange, bookkeeper in one of the implement and machinery houses, and William H. Beale, superintendent of the mail order department of Sanger Bros.' store, had been neighbors, schoolmates and boy chums in Virginia.  They came to Dallas together, and here continued inseparable friends.  They always met a few minutes after business hours, and one was never seen abroad without the other, and together they occupied the room referred to.  They were last seen early in the night together, pleasantly chatting, on the southwest corner of Main and Lamar streets.  An hour later, two pistol shots were heard in their room.  The officer who entered the room found the men dead, lying on opposite sides of a table, each with a pistol in his hand.  What had come between them, is a secret they took with them; at least, it was never made public.

Decorates Many Hotels and Theaters.
    "My, how I do run on with these half-faded memories!  While I was connected with the carpet department of Sanger Bros.' store or Charles Eckford's store, I decorated Craddock's Opera House, and afterward the billiard hall, into which the opera house was converted when Bennett's Opera House (the Dallas Opera House) was opened, and then the latter play house.  I also put the decoratings in the Windsor Hotel, the St. George and the McLeod in Dallas, the Ferguson House at Tyler, the Huckins at Texarkana, the Capitol at Marshall, the Lamar & Peterson House at Paris, the Harris House at Terrell, the Lampasas House at Lampasas, the McGraw House at Bonham, and many more.  After that, I left Dallas and worked at Kansas City and Memphis, Tenn.  Returning to Dallas in 1889, I went in business on my own hook."

- October 7, 1923, The Dallas Morning News,
Magazine Section, p. 2.
- o o o -