toll-road-by-nathan-hunsinger

Your Basic Primer to Understanding the Trinity Toll Road

If you’re like the vast majority of Dallasites or metroplexians(???) you probably have a limited understanding of the Trinity toll road. It’s okay, it’s a complicated issue, and it’s hard not to get tired head reading about it, or turned off when you hear debates about it. Plus, you know, the Cowboys are on.

But it’s still an important issue and you don’t want to be the only person at the dinner party that doesn’t have at least an elementary understanding of it. So below is a very simple, short summary of the tollroad and the issues surrounding it.

What is it?

The Trinity toll road is a proposed 9 mile highway that would run along the Trinity River from southern Dallas to North Dallas.

Pages-from-TxDOT001Map of downtown freeways with the toll road

Why would we build it?

Proponents of the toll road say that building it will reduce traffic congestion in downtown and make it easier for people to get through, in, and out of downtown. Ultimately they view it as an economic driver for downtown and Dallas.

 trinityMore reasons.

What do the opponents say?

The opponent’s various arguments can be summed up in the following three ways.

  • Financial – It will cost a lot of money to build a highway in and along a river. More on this later.
  • Safety/Feasibility – Building a highway through a river could turn out to be very dangerous, potentially causing flooding throughout the City. Furthermore some question whether it’s even possible to build a highway there.
  • Urbanism/Philosophical – On the other side of downtown from the Trinity toll road, there is a lively discussion about tearing down a highway and replacing it with a boulevard. In short this line of thinking says that building a bunch of highways in a downtown is a 20th century mindset for economic growth based on the movement of goods and services. Instead 21st century downtown and urban growth will be based on how attractive downtowns are for people to live or work. And highways are generally not seen as attractive. Sorry I can see you getting tired head and clicking on that list of the oldest bars in Dallas. Let me continue.

Who decides whether or not to build it and haven’t we already voted on it.

The City of Dallas, through its citizens and it’s City Council members, ultimately should make the decision. Residents of Dallas have voted yes to the toll road twice, well kinda. The first time back in 1998, we voted yes for a parkway and parks along the Trinity. Once it became a highway, the issue was put before voters again in 2007 and received support, though opponents claimed divisive and dirty politics were played by the Pro-Toll Road folks.X00096_9

Angela Hunt and Tom Leppert debating the toll road in 2007.

If the voters approved the toll road years ago, why isn’t it built, and how come we’re still talking about it.

Money (remember I said I was going to come back to this). Back in ’98 voters approved over 200 million for the project. City staffers also diverted over 70 million from other projects and accounts to help pay for the highway without asking for council or voter permission, (a legal but if nothing else perhaps unethical move). That 300 million and likely even more that we don’t know about is long gone. The road is still nowhere close to being completed let alone started. Billions more will be needed, and where those billions come from is unclear at this point.

Trinity%20River%20Toll%20Road99Windmills don’t pay for themselves, well I guess they kinda do.

Should I be doing anything or what should I be doing if I view myself as a reasonable civic minded person?

Vote. Though there is not a direct ballot measure on the Toll Road, the upcoming city council elections next spring could be very important.

Why?

Because for years, city staff, particularly the city attorneys told the city council members they had to support the tollroad because of contracts the city had signed years ago to build the road. Recently the city attorney’s office changed their stance. So council could hold a vote and continue to fund the road. Or they could vote against it, killing the project and dedicating city staff and city funding to other projects.  Either way, it’s an important election…seriously.

What if I want to learn more about the toll road and the issues, where can I go?

If you buy me a drink I’d be more then happy to sit down and go over the issues.  But seriously, there is plenty of coverage out there if you want to go down an internet rabbit hole.  Just be aware all the info out there(including my own) comes with certain biases.

  • Jim Schutze over at the Dallas Observer knows more about the Trinity toll road then perhaps anyone.  He could not be more against the toll road if he tried, just be forewarned.
  • D Magazine and their blogs have pretty extensive coverage on the topic.  They were for but now are against it.
  • Lastly, the City’s daily, the Morning News  has been covering the issue for years.  Their take is well, interesting, especially after hiring on Observer ex Robert Wilonksy .  The only man who might challenge Schutze on his knowledge of the issue.
DSF6506

In Defense of the Fair’s Fried Food…And Why You other states shouldn’t be so quick cast the first stone.

Why must Texas continually fry up everything in some gross salute to obesity at the Fair? T.M.

It seems like every year around this time (when the State Fair of Texas announces the newest concoctions), transplants from Chicago ask this question. There are also the almost comically boilerplate articles in HuffPo, or in other places about the ridiculous things us Texans are doing with food. How we’re just hillbilly idiots frying up whatever we can get our hands on, thereby contributing to the obesity problem in America in our own trailer trash way.

texas-state-fair-300x257A small sample of the State Fair’s options

Well I’m here to defend my state and its deep fried inventions, and to also throw a little mud in the eyes of all you other states who think you’re better than us.

To begin, you have to understand that although we did deep fry butter, we didn’t make it our state food. The State Fair of Texas (the Fair to locals) runs for three-four weeks once every fall and then it’s over. If you really liked eating the deep fried smores at the Fair in September and you’re looking for it in late December, you’re S-out of luck.

smores_bmp_728x520_q85Thank God they’re not available 24/7 365

 You have to wait nine months to have one again because they’re only available during the Fairs’ run. The Fair grew out the agrarian society of harvest festivals and fairs. Times when communities would come together to celebrate the harvest, when communities would throw feasts full of foods that weren’t normally available or were too extravagant for normal consumption. They were festivals filled with food that, as Cookie Monster recently found out about cookies, aren’t everyday foods. Little at the State Fair of Texas, including the most famous “Fletcher’s Corny Dog”, is available for sale everyday.

DSF6506The only proper way to eat a corny dog, which was first created at the Texas State Fair.  With mustard while saluting Big Tex at the State Fair.  Not alone on your couch watching TNT everynight.

But you know what is an everyday food…the Big Mac. As I pointed out to my transplanted friend from Illinois, McDonalds and Big Macs are an Illinois product. They are perhaps more unhealthy than fried butter because, if nothing else, you can eat one every day from today until the day you keel over several months from now as a result of eating Big Macs every day.

2009-09-31-mcd-bigmac2Just looking at one ages you several years.

Furthermore Illinois, specifically Chicago; you’re responsible for the Deep Dish Pizza. Something so unhealthy that it shouldn’t even be considered a sometimes food. I could literally go out and eat half a dozen corny dogs, and then eat two more corny dogs, and then eat another half one before I stopped after realizing I ate a box of corny dogs. And I would still have eaten less fat than there is in one personal deep dish pizza from Chicago’s famous Uno’s Pizza. That’s right; a box of corny dogs has less fat than one personal pan deep dish pizza.  That I might add, is available in your grocer’s freezer every day of the year including Christmas. I’m disappointed in you Illinois.

Eat through the pain!!!!

I’m disappointed in you too Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, pretty much the entire American South, plus Missouri, West Virginia, Alaska, Oklahoma, and Michigan.   You’re all fatter than Texas. I know we as a state have our own love handles (I’m looking at you San Antonio) but as a state you are all fatter, so please fling mud in someone else direction.

imagesCA8UJL6VCome on West Virginia, get some exercise

And how about you California. You wonderful bastion of moderate consumption, vegan eating and generally healthy food trends. You know, trends like the time the culinary leaders of your state decided that the breakfast taco wasn’t healthy enough, so you replaced the tortilla with an Eggo waffle and syrup.  Illinois may well be the birth place and home of McDonalds, but Mickey D’s has never done something as stupid as the Waffle Taco from California based Taco Bell.

waffle-tacoCalifornia Cool Cuisine???

Even our culinary artist at the State Fair looked at that and said “um, yea, no.” And California, before you go Googling chain restaurants in Texas, rest assured that no matter what you come up with for us, you have Taco Bell, Jack In the Box, In and Out, and of course Red Robin. Red Robin makes the Monster Meal that includes over 3,300 calories, that’s one and half times the Personal Deep Dish Pizza. And yes California, I know Red Robin wasn’t founded in your state, but it’s been there for 2/3 of life, so I’m blaming you for two thirds of the calories. The other third lies squarely at the feet of Washington State, which I’m blaming for the other 1/3, roughly 1,100 calories, or two and a half corny dogs.

imageOkay, now I see, this is heathly California Cool Cuisine

Let’s quickly knock off a few other states, like Minnesota, because, Spam. Come on guys.

Also, any Rocky Mountain state. Look, we here at the State Fair have fried butter, beer, smores, deep fried bacon, snickers, and any number of things. You know one thing that we haven’t fried, bull testicles. Or as you call them Rocky Mountain Oysters.  Even if we did, we wouldn’t have decided to name them after one of our state’s most prominent features. California’s bad, but at least they didn’t go, “here have these mountain lion testicles, they’re called San Fernando Valley goose eggs.”

To recap, the American South, the Rocky Mountain States, Illinois, Minnesota, West Virginia, California, who’s left? Ah New York. Let’s examine Swanson’s, particularly Swanson’s TV Dinners. If the leading culinary cause of American obesity is fast food restaurants, then coming in at number 2 might be TV dinners. Swanson’s headquartered in your state created TV Dinners and continues to be the largest producer of these waist line killing meals.

swanson-tv-dinnerIf you need a spoon to eat a TV Dinner, you’re in trouble.

Swanson’s makes the completely unhealthy Hungry Man TV Dinners. But they also the fake “I’m Healthy”, but really “I’m not healthy, particularly from an emotional and social point of view” Lean Cuisine TV dinners.

lean cuisineCouldn’t say it better

These frozen TV Dinners are available for every meal of the year. As Jim Gaffigan would say, you can have a Hungry Man Dinner for breakfast, a Lean Cuisine for lunch and be dead by dinner.

I’m running out of space, so let’s see, Arizona, three words, Heart Attack Grill. You know how I know my state is healthy than yours? This horrible restaurant was founded in your state, and when you tried to open one up in Dallas, it lasted three months.

*Mar 01 - 00:00*05_Flatbed_WEBCome on man, with Arizona’s heat this guy literally won’t live seven more minutes

Vermont or New England – um…Ben & Jerry’s. We fried chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow and served for three weeks. You fried chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker, stuck it in ice cream, and shipped it worldwide to millions lonely housewives.

smores-detailCreative favors?  Yes.  Hippie?  Yes. Healthy, Wait a minute

Ohio – you have Wendy’s and the Baconator. Which sounds like a super villain who’s bent on world domination by clogging the worlds’ collective arteries. Also you’re home to the only President to get stuck in a bathtub because of his weight.

Pennsylvania, okay, I don’t have time to figure out if the Philly Cheesesteak is healthier than a corny dog, so let’s call it a draw.

Wisconsin, your state is way too in love with cheese to be considered healthy.

green-bay-packers-cheeseheadUnhealthy for a number of reasons.

In the end, the point of this essay is to point out, that yes, for several weeks in September people in Texas at the State Fair concoct dishes that are frequently unhealthy. But before you go writing your articles or issuing grand statements about the stupidity of it, ask yourself, is my state responsible for the Waffle Taco, or the Baconator? Do we love cheese a little too much? Is my state taking it a little too far with a official state dessert that’s a ten  layer cake? Should I make fun of a state when 50% of the people in my state are obese?

No, No you shouldn’t.

Editor’s Note: If this article failed to mention your state just Google “unhealthy food” and your state’s name.

How Dallas’s West End died…

Why did the West End Die?  – Wendy

I begin with the obligatory statement that the West End is not completely dead. There’s still some life there but definitely not what it was twenty years ago when Van Halen played a free concert that Bruce Willis MC’ed at Planet Hollywood (how 1989 is that sentence).

 van halenThere’s even a DVD of the show for you super Van Halen fans out there

Anyways the reason why the West End is almost completely dead is pretty simple once you understand a few simple aspects of urban life in American Cities.  But first a little history on the West End, don’t worry it’s not boring there are prostitutes, saddles and pillows involved.

e88725a45a73032005026ac88729d495This is the most PC version of a picture that involves two of the three topics from the previous sentence.

Most histories of the West End begin in the early 20th century when the West End was a center for warehousing and manufacturing along the railroad. For the most part this makes sense; most of the buildings that are still standing there were built around that time. There was a cracker factory (boring and unappetizing), a saddle factory (intriguing), and a pillow factory (kinda depressing when you realize your pillows are made in a factory).

crackerFrankly, that’s an awful lot of smoke to be coming from a “cracker” factory

Unfortunately this view of its history ignores West End before 1913 or so, which is even more interesting than a pillow or cracker factory.  Back then the area was known as “Frog’s Town.” Not because of a large population of Frenchmen, but because the area was prone to flooding and hence it had a very large population of frogs.  You know what else it had a large population of?

imagesCAXBCA1E

That’s right  19th century prostitutes. Frog’s Town was one of a few so called red lights districts in Dallas.  Keep in mind that prostitution was legal in Dallas all the way up to 1913. When the state literally had to intervene and force Dallas enforce the state law(Austin always was so prude). If this comes as a little bit of a surprise keep in mind Dallas as a long history of providing outlets for carnal delights, and that Dallas was still very much of a frontiers town back then. One with 100,000 residents albeit, but one of those residents was Doc Holiday of the OK Corral fame, who ran a crooked dentist office and a straight card game.

doc

He’ll be your Huckleberry

Anyways fast forward some 60 years to the 1970’s and West End’s “revival as an entertainment district.” Downtown Dallas post WWII had expected a building boom. And because it was pretty much reigned in on all side by freeways, that building boom went vertical. The majority of Dallas’s skyscrapers were built at the expensive of many of the older mid-rise buildings or historical buildings which were torn down. By the 70’s many of those older historical structure were gone. Preservationist, fresh off victories along Swiss Ave and in Old East Dallas began pushing efforts to save the historic buildings in the West End.

imagesSaving these buildings

At the same time as the Preservationist efforts were taking hold, many civic leaders in Dallas were becoming aware of another problem. Retail, dining, entertainment and other so called built cultural amenities were fleeing downtown. This was in part because the new skyscrapers were replacing the venues for entertainment. But also because during the 60’s and 70’s Baby Boomers were fleeing urban areas and central cities.

runningThere’s a new mediocore subdivision in Plano?!?!?  Last one there gets shunned by the PTA and HOA leaders

That was the era of suburban shopping malls and chain restaurants. Many civic leaders in Dallas wanted to chase those fleeing suburbanites, compete with the suburban shopping mall and regain those tax dollars. A strategy that most urban planners nationwide and local civic leaders today find utterly foolish, but more on that later.

So as a result of the Preservationist efforts to stay the West End historical structures, and civic leader’s efforts to lure suburbanites back to downtown, the West End began to develop as a shopping, dining and entertainment district in the late 70’s. By the mid 80’s it had really taken off. The first and Original Spaghetti Warehouse had moved in along with other restaurants. Shops were popping up, the West End Marketplace (a mall) had openned and Club Stark had made quite the name for itself in nightlife circles.

imagesCAJ0GPERClub Stark in it’s hey day.

In a D Magazine in a 1984 story about the district the author even said that the West End was well on its way to becoming something the downtown really needed…”a place to visit in the heart of the city that offers a wide selection of food and drink.”

That above statement from D mag hints at something most people growing up in Dallas knew about the West End. The West End was a nice place…to…visit. It was a nice place to visit…means it was for tourists.

201919_304

Come to the West End for longhorns and cowboy hats.

Let me explain. If you go back and read, or at least thumb through the D mag article, you’ll notice that the author spends a lot of time talking about all the restaurants, some of the shopping, and she even mentions the pains to which businesses moving into the office space went through to project a different vibe then traditional downtown Dallas. The one thing she doesn’t mention until the very end is that no one actually lives in the West End. The West End was conceived to be a standalone entertainment district.

westend

The West End trying to be like Time Square in New York

Standalone entertainment districts in urban areas usually aren’t that successful.. Think of the most popular areas of Dallas right now for dining, shopping and “entertainment”. Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts, Greenville Ave, Uptown, Knox/Henderson, the Cedars; they all have residential communities in and around them. The West End didn’t and hence it lacked a certain urban excitement or bohemian feel that attracts people.

Segways1Any area that allows you to rent a seg-way to see it, is not an exciting urban area

The West End also tried to compete with suburban entertainment districts, which generally speaking were more favorable for suburbanites then the West End.

In the end, the West End, devoid of residents, an urban vibe, and struggling to compete with suburban malls; was left to the realm of the tourists. Which would make sense why Bruce Willis opened a Planet Hollywood with a concert headlined by Van Halen.

willis1

Bruce Willis, in early 90′s jeans seen at Planet Hollywood’s groundbreaking

But Dallas, despite a robust convention crowd, has never had the tourists economy to support all those restaurants, let alone a movie theater and an entire mall.   The West End tried mightily, see: free Van Halen concerts, the Hoop-It-Up tournaments; but slowly it began to die off. The Stark Club, though a truly unique and wondrous place, failed to create much of a clustering effect of similar nightclubs or businesses. Those around the time likened it being one Ziggy Stardust amongst a thousand J.R. Ewings. The restaurants started to flee in the late 90’s. Planet Hollywood closed in 2001 as did the movie theater. And the mall finally closed its doors in 2006, with it’s most notable tenant, the antiques shop, moving to….a suburban mall, Grapevine Mills.

There’s hope of course, as I write this news has come out that the owners of the old West End Marketplace, where the mall was, are trying to rebrand the building, and court residential condos or apartment developers to convert the space.

25 Signs you grew up in Dallas in the 90′s

The following is based on questions I get about what it was like to grow up in Dallas.

1.  The Texas Giant - You remember how big of a deal it was when the Texas Giant opened. Like seriously, it was a really really big deal.

texas-giant-use

2.  Cowboys and 49er’s - You had one friend that hated the Cowboys and loved the 49er’s. Despite how awesome the Cowboys were in the 90’s, you had one friend that just had to be different and like the 49er’s.

cowboys-49er-maxfield

Suck it 49er’s…and Keith from 9th grade for liking them

3.  The Toadies Rumor – There was that rumor at your school about the Toadies Song “Possum Kingdom” being about the lead singer sister’s death or something to that effect.

toadies

The Toadies were way more than one song from Guitar Hero

4.  Kenny “the Shark” Gant – You remember Kenny “The Shark” Gant from the Cowboys and his dances before kick offs.

KENNYGANTSHARKIt just goes to show that if you dance before kickoff and you’ll be more remembered than the starters.

5.  Penny Whistle Park – Looking back, a shed that housed a dozen carny-style amusement park-ish rides probably wasn’t that cool. But to the eight year old version of myself, it was an absolutely amazing place to have a birthday party.

penny whistle parkThat’s not a mistake, it’s just that no photo does Penny Whistle Park justice.

6.  The Black Hole at Wet ‘n’ Wild – First of all, it’s Wet’ n’ Wild, not six flags hurricane harbor splash world or whatever it is nowadays. And second, as soon as you went down the black hole at Wet ‘N’ Wild for the first time, you told everyone at school.

wet-n-wild-arlingtonUpon further review, building an entirely black water slide that soaked up the Texas sun, becoming blistering hot, might not have been the best idea.  But I’m not listening.

7.  Tatu and the Dallas Sidekicks – I can’t name a single other player on the Sidekicks, nor a single team that they played. But I know how big of a deal it was to go to a Sidekicks game and see him take his shirt off after a goal.

DSC03023No one is looking at you #15, stop waving.  Everyone is staring at Tatu’s early 90′s aura.

8Scotty’s on Park Lane – You spent days at Scotty’s on Park Lane. Before it was turned into Top Golf, that place was Scotty’s. And you probably spent countless afternoons playing miniature golf there, or in the batting cages.

scottys-golf-park-74231035If you know about Scotty’s then you know how awesome it was.  If not just trust us.

9.  Fair Day: Day off from school + free ticket to the State Fair + corny dogs and ice cream sandwiches + the pirate ship ride = best day ever.

Texas_State_Fair_at_night

F.Y.I.  Whenever you decide to go to the  Fair nowadays, always always check when Fair Day is for schools.  Don’t go on those days.

10.  The West End was cool – There was that arcade in the big building’s basement, like a three floor arcade. Plus the free fudge. Also a Planet Hollywood and some other stuff. Either way, as a kid it was a cool place.

wem-081709-0+(12)Whatever happened to that Giant Cowboy boot wearing Dinosaur?

11.  Mavericks games were free- You went Dallas Mavericks games basically for free.  Winning tickets to a Mavericks game in the 90’s was essentially the same as winning a pizza party for your class in grade school. Except the Three J’s weren’t at your pizza party.

three j'sBy “Crown” they meant, not last place.

12.  1994 World Cup – You remember the 1994 World Cup and that mascot dog thing. You may not have gone to the games, but you remember all the hoopla surrounding the games played at the Cotton Bowl.

world cup 94 mascotHis name was Striker, really I looked it up.

 13.  Your Favorite Texas Rangers were Rusty Greer, Nolan Ryan, “Pudge” and Steve Booooooo-shell, in some order.

41g-xY9LfeLPretty sure this baseball card is in a box at my parent’s house.

14.  The black tar heroin in Plano – You got lectured about drugs after all those kids in Plano died of black tar heroin.  Either at school or from your parents. The kids in Plano freaked out a lot of adults.

cheeseToday’s kids use “cheese” not harder drugs like the 90′s kids.

15.  Crystal Pizza – It was like Chucky Cheese on steroids, and way awesomer. A true birthday party Mecca.

crystalspizzaIt had a “Cartoon Theater”

16.  The Coca Cola Starplex – It’s not the Gexa Energy, Livenation.com Shirmoff Vodka Musical Arts Performance Center, it’s the Coca-Cola Starplex.

mXxqMDg5ArjOEx1AshrT3TAWish I could find a better picture, but this is a ticket stub from a Hootie and the Blowfish show at the Coca-Cola Starplex.  Can’t get much more 90′s then that.

17.  Dazed and Confused or Varsity Blues – These movies had some real similarities to your high school life. Sure, one of them was set in the 70’s and the other in a small town, but other than that, they weren’t that far off.

polls_varsity_blues_3835_124721_answer_1_xlargeI don’t want your life.

18.  Deep Ellum was cool and hardcore, or so you heard– Unless you were a teenager when 1990 rolled around and were old enough to claim you went to the Nirvana Trees’ show; you, like me were probably a little too young to really experience the Deep Ellum that your older cousin talked about. But still if you were lucky enough to see a show at Trees, or even to perform in Deep Ellum during the 90’s it was a badge of honor.

1e-002-ss-07-kpask_lgI knew that place was cool before I even knew what cool meant.

19.  The 972 area code role-out - You remember when they introduced the 972 area code. Before DFW had like twelve area codes, Dallas had one: 214. And when you called your friends you didn’t need ten numbers.

 TangoTattoo

What would people get tattoo’s of if 972 was never introduced?

20.  Hoop-it-up – If you played basketball, you remember hoop-it-up. It was the pinnacle of quasi-non-organized basketball no matter what your age.

m_81Q2hD0g6SroblikhCLIQAnyone else remember the rumor that the Mavericks found Mike Izzuilno playing at Hoop-It-Up.

21.  White Rock Lake was a scary place – Before it was turned around, and became a haven for blue toothed bikers, slow runners and rowing teams; White Rock Lake was a bad place full of trash, dead bodies, and questionable men in cars cruising around.

117-rray-cycling-wrlSide Note:  If you think Oak Cliff is scary or dangerous today, twenty years ago you would have shat yourself.

22.  Town East, Redbird, and Valley View Malls – They were still decent malls, or well, they were still actually malls that were open.

TownEastMall030513Town East now advertises that they have a McDonald’s, never a good sign for a mall when it’s pimping Mickey D’s.

23.  The Dallas Times Herald -  I was too young to really read the paper when the Times Herald was around, but I do remember my father buying copies of its last edition.

1b-ashx1Biggest rule of Dallas media: no matter what’s going on, even if you’re going out of business…The Cowboys are more important.

24.  1310 the Ticket - Your dad listened to 1310 The Ticket while driving you around. I didn’t become a P1 until I was like 25 or 26, but my father like most fathers in Dallas was a day one P1.

Ktck11Do you like your gig?

25.  Mr. Peppermint and his musical son.  Mr. Peppermint was part of your childhood. So as a teenager your mind was blown when you found out that his kid was one of the Butthole Surfer guys.

mr_peppermint-630x329Side note, apparently Jerry Haynes, the guy who played Mr. peppermint, like to curse like a sailor when he was off camera and around adult guest stars just to get a reaction out of them

Old East Dallas/ East Dallas – What They Both Mean

I keep hearing people say “Old East Dallas” and East Dallas. Are they interchangeable? Is there a difference? Is Old East Dallas just the old part of East Dallas, or are they using it as an adjective, like saying, “old man Stevens is a ornery fella”? – RM

No they are not interchangeable, they have two different meanings. In fact depending on who you’re talking to, even the term East Dallas can have different meaning. But first East Dallas v Old East Dallas.

east dallas orginial

Know what it means before you wear the shirts guys.

Old East Dallas refers to a particular neighborhood in Dallas. It’s a triangle-ish shaped neighborhood bordered by I-30, Central Expressway and Munger Ave.   A hundred and thirty years ago, before the freeways, it was its own separate town complete with an 18 mph speed limit for horses.   The town, incorporated in 1882, had begun to develop in the 1870’s after the railroads arrived at a junction roughly where Baylor Hospital is today.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Notice this Mosaic at the Hall of State, says the railroads came to East Dallas, not Dallas.

The settlers had initially wanted to name it after its leading citizen Colonel Gaston. However they eventually settled on the name “East Dallas.” The Old East Dallas neighborhood sits where the much of the original town site for East Dallas was. The reasons why East Dallas is no longer a town and now part of Dallas, goes back to Dallas’ hunger for growth and a shady state senator.

kimbrough

This guy.

East Dallas grew rapidly, and by the late 1880’s had 6,000 residents. The City of Dallas, had been trying to annex the new and quickly growing East Dallas throughout the 1880’s. Dallas’ goal was to annex East Dallas before the 1890 census in the hopes of combining the populations and becoming the largest town in Texas. But again and again, East Dallas rejected and voted down the annexation effects. That is until Dallas went over the head of the East Dallas citizens. In 1889, state senator R. S. Kimbrough revoked East Dallas’ charter with the state and allowed Dallas to proceed with an annexation scheduled for January 1st, 1890. As part of the agreement, Dallas promised to take over the debt, public holdings, property and streets of East Dallas. So on December 31st, 1889, the day before East Dallas was to be annexed, they dedicated the land for numerous streets and passed bond measures to fund their construction. Dallas was forced to take on the debt and ultimately build the roads. Hence the reasons why Old East Dallas is bisected by nice, fairly wide (for the time) streets like Live Oak, Ross, or Gaston.

 imagesCAAL4F01East Dallas seen here sticking to the Man (i.e. Dallas.)

As far as the term “East Dallas,” depending on whom you ask, East Dallas can mean a wide variety of places. If you’re talking to a man in his 80’s and who begins any discussion with “When I was a kid, the streetcar down Gaston cost a nickel!”, then he’s probably going to have a pretty strong opinion about which neighborhoods are actually in East Dallas. Same goes for the hipster transplant that has lived off Ross for 5 years. They may claim that you can only call the old 1,400 acre town site of East Dallas…East Dallas.

 

southernp

The East Dallas railline station of the “old school East Dallasite”

EastDallasPeepTour

The backyard chicken tour of the “new school East Dallasite”

And they might be right. But the vast majority of the almost 7 million people living in DFW, and most of those with a vague familiarity with the area have a different understanding, It’s best summed up by the following conversation I swear I had with a half dozen kids when I started college.

Them: So, where’d you grow up?

Me: Dallas.

Them: Oh, me too, I’m from Plano what about you?

Me: Um…Dallas…Dallas.

Them: Oh, cool, where abouts?

Me: East Dallas?

Them: Like Lakewood, the Arboretum, White Rock Lake?

Me: Um, yeah, there abouts.

To many people living out in Frisco or somewhere out in the North Texas hinterland, that is what East Dallas is. White Rock, Lakewood, the Arboretum.

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East Dallas right?

To them, East Dallas is some general area, vaguely identified by those markers, located north of I-30, east of Central, and including everything all the way out to Garland and Mesquite. Of course that thought usually pisses off the old timers who correctly point out that White Rock was built 20 year after “East Dallas” was incorporated into Dallas, and several miles away from the Old East Dallas city limits. Who’s right? The answer is probably somewhere in between. And it’s probably somewhat of a generational opinion. My great grandparents most assuredly did not call the White Rock Lake area East Dallas. They called that area of unincorporated Dallas County; the Big Thicket (best hunting in the county). But my great grandchildren, if they live in Dallas, will most likely say East Dallas includes White Rock Lake. Of course they may also call Tyler a suburb of Dallas by then.

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Future population of Dallas discussing whether or not to put a “Hoover-Expressway” along the Trinity River bottoms.

 

 

Could Dallas Host the Olympics?

With Dallas (North Texas) hosting the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the NBA All-Star Game, College Football’s National Championship, is there any possibility that we will host the Olympics? CF

dallas olympics

Yes there is, but only if the people of Dallas get behind the idea. See Dallas’s people are our best assets. You know the Final Four agreed to come to Dallas before AT&T Stadium was even built. We couldn’t take them on a tour of the stadium and show them all the bells and whistles, we had to sell them on the idea of the stadium and what a Final Four in North Texas would be. It’s only one of many examples (more have been provided my popular request here) of why and how the people of this great community have turned a simple stretch of prairie into the home of 7 million people. That’s more than the metro areas of Athens, Berlin, Johannesburg, Barcelona, Munich, and Rome. So if we want the Olympics, we just need to muster our collective to landing them.

There’s a certain drive in the people of Dallas, a certain civic boosterism that has us to where we are today. Columnist A.C. Green once wrote that Dallas has been “led since birth by a citizenry that believed a golden destiny was assigned the place where they lived, taking its ambitions seriously whether anyone else did or not.” That belief as lead us to build airports the size of Long Island, the largest Fine Arts district in the world, to develop and perfect our own cuisine (Tex-Mex) and even make scientific breakthroughs (integrated circuit). We, as a town and a region, succeed where others fail because we don’t rely on scenic beauty, natural resources or strategic location for our success. We rely on ourselves. When it comes to the Olympics, it’s just a matter of deciding to pursue them. Of deciding to marshal the best assets of this city for the purposes of hosting the greatest spectacle of all of sports.

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Openning Ceremony directed by Wes Anderson, starring the Wilson brothers and featuring Willie Nelson

Should we want Olympics? Why the hell not? Anyone who was out and about in North Texas for the Final Four could feel something special in the air. A certain energy that only happens when some of the best athletes in the country live out their hopes and dreams in front of 100,000 of the most dedicated and enthusiastic fans. Now take that energy, bottle it up for 4 years, and then multiply it 50 fold. The Final Four is the pinnacle of one sport for one country that occurs once a year. The Olympics are the pinnacle of several dozen sports for several hundred countries that happens only once every four years. If you thought the fun./Springsteen show was amazing (and many did) the Olympics would replicate three different shows of the same quality each night for two straight weeks. All of us should want to host the Olympics. We should want to witness the pageantry of the games, the grace of the athletics, and the spectacle of the ceremonies. We have civic mottos telling us to “Think Big,” and aspirations to be a world class city. Well, there is no bigger event than the Olympics, no bigger world class stage. We should want to host the Olympics, simply put, because they are the Olympics.

2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony

Be proud.

Now I know some of you may be jumping up and down or breezing through everything above in search of an economic viability argument for hosting the games. Fine go here for a thousand words on the topic. But those who don’t have the time, here’s the back of the envelope math.

It’s not this complicated

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More like this

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Dallas will end up spending less on venues than other cities. We can leverage some of the costs for ancillary (but important) regional goals, and ultimately benefit from a huge amount of increase spending from tourists that will help offset the operational costs of the Olympics. In practical examples, we’ve already built AT&T stadium, the Olympics Village can help revitalize South Dallas, and the lack of tourists in Dallas over the period when the Olympics happen means a large influx of spending that can help to pay drivers, ushers, or cops that we pay to help run the Olympics (many of whom would be local).

Plenty of these signs during the Olympics

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The answer to whether there is a possibility that Dallas could host the Olympics is that Dallas and North Texas has the potential to host the Olympics. Once we realize that potential then the possibility of the Olympics turns into a reality.

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Closing Ceremonies by Robert Rodriguez

 

Tracking down the Oldest Bar in Dallas

What’s the oldest bar in Dallas?  AH

To begin with, booze and bars have always been big in Dallas.  The very first store in Dallas in the 1840’s sold nothing but fabric for clothes and whiskey.  Early Dallas was a frontier town with saloons like Dick Flanginan’s (featuring boxing every Tuesday) all along north Main Street and dance halls to the southwest.  Dallas even had its own opium’s den in downtown, The Black Elephant run by Charlie Chunn.  An account of Dallas in the 1890’s said that it had, “a nice lemonade stand, an ice cream parlor, and three hundred saloons.”

One of these

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Three hundred of these

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But the oldest bar, well got to admit it, this isn’t the easiest question to answer.  And in fact I don’t have a simple “this is the oldest bar in Dallas” answer below.  There are questions as to what constitutes a bar. Is a fancy restaurant that serves food and booze a bar?  How about a place with live music and booze?  Furthermore, when do you mark the beginning of a bar’s existence?  If either ownership or the operators change, is it still the same?  What if it moves but keeps the same concept, employees and ownership?  I don’t have the answers to those questions, rather I have several contenders below which you yourself and make the determination about the oldest bar in Dallas.

Ships

Let’s begin with an example of how complicated defining a bar and it’s beginning is .  Consider The Loon on McKinney.  The Loon itself has been around for almost thirty years in the same place, under the same ownership, with the same concept, which is quite old for Dallas nightlife.

 

The-Loon

The Loon

But before it was known as the Loon, it was operated under different ownership and known as Joe Miller’s.  Before that it was operated as the Villager Club a cool jazz club in the 1960’s.  Further complicating the matter is the fact that The Loon itself will soon be moving (if it hasn’t already) to make way for some CVS or bank or parking lot.  The march of progress is a common reason for older bars in Dallas not being around.  Anyways, when The Loon reopens at a different location, which date does one consider its beginning?  The current 2014 date, the 1985 date when Joe Miller’s widow sold the place, or even further back to its 60’s roots as a jazz club.  Convoluted right?  Okay let’s try a less complicated example.

Ship’s Lounge on Lowest Greenville.  Ship’s started  slinging beer and wine 61 years ago, and hasn’t changed much since then.  It’s in the same location, with the same concept, with stable ownership, and in some cases bar stools from when it opened.

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Ship’s the same since ’53.

Putting a beginning date on Ship’s is easy, but going back before ’53 it gets complicated again.

Club Schmitz is just as old as Ship’s Lounge, perhaps even older.  Schmitz on Old Denton Drive in northwest Dallas has been serving beer in the same spot since 1946 when German brothers started a bar in an old farmhouse.

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Present day Club Schmitz

But that farmhouse burned down and the German brothers had to rebuild Club Schmitz in 1953.  They rebuilt in the same location but managed to contuinely operate their bar as the brothers sold beer out of coolers to patrons who leisurely drank beneath the trees in the shade.  The same family still owns Club Schmitz and hardly a thing has changed in the past 60 years.

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Yesteryear Club Schmitz.  As you can tell not much as changed

If you’re a not inclined to give Club Schmitz those years before there “new” building was built, then you might consider The Longhorn Ballroom on Industrial.  The Longhorn was built in 1950 by eccentric millionaire O.L. Nelms for his friend Bob Wills.  Bob Wills and his band the Texas Playboys played a lot of early shows at the Longhorn, which is more of a dance hall/honky tonk/punk rock showcase/professional wrestling venue, then a traditional ballroom dancing…ballroom.  Greats like Elvis, James Brown, Otis Reading and The Sex Pistols have all played the Longhorn.   The Pistols show produced this famous quote from Noel Monk’s book, 12 Days on the Road: The Sex Pistols and America. “Sid Vicious’s face is smeared with blood. Not all of it his. The Sex Pistols have hit Texas, and Texas has hit back.”

Also this famous picture.

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The Longhorn Ballroom has been though more than a dozen owners and operates in the past 6 decades. Hell, Jack Ruby even ran it for a while.  And to consider it operating continuously since 1950 is a stretch.

Going further back before 1950 or 1946 and finding pre-war places that are in old buildings with owners and operates that have ties to the originals, and have managed to stay up and running while also staying true their alcohol propitiating ancestors is even more difficult.  The older dance halls and music venues like Lu Ann’s or The Aragon Ballroom are long gone.  The bars and saloons have been bulldozed over like the Loon or Dick Flanigan’s (The Wilson Building circa 1904 now sits where Flangian’s used to be).  And trying to find pre-prohibition places is incredibly tough, because you have to find places that survived by not selling booze while still serving booze but still not “serving” booze.

Beer? What beer?  Oh you mean root beer, yes this is all root beer.

rootbeer

 

One place that has stood the test of time is the Adolphus Hotel in Downtown Dallas.  The Adolphus Hotel opened up in 1912 and the restaurant/bar followed in 1916. Originally named the Bambooland Room it was one of the classiest restaurants in town.

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Not what you pictured when you thought of “oldest Bar in Dallas”

The restaurant, now known has the French Room has remained classy, while the bar, now known as “Walt Garrison’s Rodeo Bar” has been developed as cowboy chic for tourists.  The place has had its up and downs, there have been revamps, re-launches including sponsoring an on premises Ice-capades style show for 15 years, so it could be easy to question whether the Adolphus ‘s restaurant and bar are the oldest in Dallas.  However if you can afford having a glass of wine in the French Room, you can make a claim that people have been sitting there drinking wine in the same place, in much the same fashion, for almost 100 years.  And as far as Prohibition goes, well, Nochi Thompson from Boardwalk Empire will tell you  that as the classiest hotel and restaurant in Dallas, you had to have a way of getting your guests booze.  After all, the Adolphus was built by the heir to the Anheuser-Busch beer brewing empire, Adolphus Busch pictured below.

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The man responible for Busch Light

One last contender I’ll throw out there comes from a social organization.  Dallas has had a lot of social organizations throughout our history, including Masonic lodges, VFW’s, Kiwanis clubs, Knights of Columbus, The Bonehead Luncheon Club, debutante clubs like the Idlewild and even country clubs. As for the oldest bar, I’m going to single out one, the Sons of Hermann.

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Outside of Sons

The Sons of Hermann is a fraternal organization of mainly German-Americans who founded a lodge in Dallas in 1890.  Two decades later in 1911, the four Dallas area lodges pooled their resources together and built a joint Hall for brotherhood, camaraderie, and because their country invented Oktoberfest, for drinking beer.  The building itself hasn’t changed much the past 103 years; it’s still a place for people to gather together to eat, drink, and be merry.  What has changed is how the Sons’ have operated it.  Years ago you had to be a member or a member’s guest to enjoy Sons,  today anybody can walk on in and have a beer at the bar.

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Welcome ya’ll

So there’s that little kink, but other than that the place has remained pretty much the same.  As for the Prohibition problem, well, it wasn’t illegal to brew beer for your own “personal” use.  So if a few Sons (what the members are called) brewed a few gallons every month and brought it down to the beer hall they built to “share” with their friends and their friend’s friends, so be it.