Swimming in White Rock and Why It’s called White Rock

Can people swim in White Rock Lake?  If not have they ever been able to?  From MR

Round Rock is named after an actual Round Rock, is White Rock Lake named after an actual white rock?  AH

I put these two questions together because, well, they’re both about White Rock.  And the simple answer, kinda yes sorta no…but really here you go.

First you can’t technically swim in the lake, not since 1952, when a drought forced the City to go back to using the lake as a public water source.  Could you swim in the lake before then?  Well, the Bath House on the east side of the lake used to have a beach with real sand out front. That beach on the lake in the 1940’s used to attract 10,000 people a day during the weekends.  They’d catch a streetcar down the Gaston line to last stop there at the spillway, and be ferried across by boat.  So a lot of people used to swim in the lake, back when White Rock Lake was considered the out skirts of town and a recreation lake like Possum Kingdom Lake or Lake Tawakoni is nowadays.


The building of the Damn

Much like those lakes, White Rock is a manmade lake. As a result of drought concerns in 1910, a damn was built on a creek the following year, and the lake eventually filled up by the mid-decade.  The Lake, was built on land that was mainly farm land, notably the Cox Family Farm.  The area had been originally settled by the Beeham family in the 1840’s not long after John Neely Bryan founded Dallas. The Beehams were among the first settlers of Dallas, Beeham’s wife was actually the first woman to visit the Dallas settlement.  She recorded on her first visit to the general store in Dallas, it had two items, a spool of fabric 3 yards long, and a barrel of whiskey.

1840-fabric-folded                awt-bourbon-cask-640_s640x427

Some of This                                                                                 And some of this

When  Beeham settled in Dallas, he settled along an escarpment above a creek.  An escarpment comprised of white chalky rocks, so he called the creek that ran through the white rocks, “White Rock Creek.”  The Lake would eventually take it’s name from the creek that he named.  So White Rock Lake is actually named after a bunch of white rocks, not one.


White Rocks from White Rock Creek

So why can’t you swim in white rock anymore?  Because the lake was never really a well-designed manmade lake.  The lake was only used as a water source until 1929, when Lake Lewisville was built.  So really only 15-20 years, which is a really short time for a public water source.  Of course from 1910 to 1930 Dallas went from 42,000 residents to over 250,000 so simple little White Rock wasn’t gonna do as a public water source, but it was still a lively recreational attraction.

In the years following White Rock’s removal as the public water source, there was some debate as to what to do with the Lake and the property around it.  Most, including George Kessler, agreed that the land immediately surrounding the Lake needed to be park land, but some wanted a Coney Island style attractions, while others, including Mayor, J. Waddy “Hot Dog” Tate wanted more subdued park amenities.  In the epic battle between the Coney folks and the Hot Dog folks, (ha) Hot Dog won.

jwt                                                     hotdog

Mayor Hot Dog                                                                                            Also Mayor Hot Dog

Well it might be more a result that the mansions begun to spring up around white rock, the planation style Bella Nora was built in ’29, H.L. Hunt’s Mt. Vernon’s replica was built ’38 and E. L. DeGolyer’s Rancho Encinal (currently The Dallas Arboretum) was built in ’39.  All surrounded the lake and likely won’t have taken to a giant Ferris wheel or fun house next to their million dollar homes.

So from the early 30’s to the late 40’s, a combination of Dallas County  chain gangs, New Deal CCC workers and German POW’s, built much of the trails, roads, benches, bridges and buildings currently serving White Rock.

ccc_chow_hall2          ccc_camp_view-400   CCC workers and their barracks (watermelon-kid.com

The lake since then has had its ups and downs.  The lady of the lake stories, the motorboat races,  the years of the submarine races at the lake(teenagers necking), the years of the lake used as a cruising ground for gays, the marathons,  the 75 pound cat fish that were pulled from the lake, etc.

But with local East Dallas volunteer groups like For the Love of Lake, it’s become hugely successful as an urban natural amenity in a town that has few.

117-rray-cycling-wrl  Also an artist’s Inspiration  (dallasartrevue.com)

Why the Cowboys are called “America’s Team”

Why do the Dallas Cowboys call themselves America’s Team, kinda presumptuous for a mediocre team to do that isn’t it. –  KZ from Chicago

Well obviously you’re not a Cowboys fan.  But in short the answer is that throughout the 1960’s, 70’s 80’s and 90’s the Cowboys were both extremely successful AND extremely marketable.


The Team that was first called America’s Team (dallascowboys.com)

The term was coined in 1978 by NFL Films.  They were producing an end of the year highlight film, and were looking for a nickname for the Cowboys.  It was the late 1970’s and football was coming into its own as a sport.  Though pro football had been around for a number of years, the 70’s saw huge gains in popularity for the sport.  This was in part because football, more than any other professional sport; looks and plays great on TV.  And the Cowboys, in particular looked and played great on TV more than anyone else.


The 1978 “America’s Team” included your balding Uncle, Questlove’s cousin, and a porn star.

In 1978, the Cowboys had just finished their 12th consecutive winning season, a streak that would hit ultimately hit 20.  In those 20 years they made the playoffs 18 times, both are records.  They owned their conference, the NFC, playing in the NFC championship every other year for over thirty years.  In the 1970’s they played in as many Super Bowls as all the other teams in the NFC combined.

But they weren’t just successful in transformative years of the NFL, they were marketable.  They had that iconic Blue Star on their helmet, one of the most recognizable sports logos worldwide.

dallas-cowboys-helmet-logo-e1325797190394-250x192 People on tiny islands in the Pacific know what this is (dallascowboys.com)

They played in a stadium that unlike many in the NFL was also recognizable.  The not quite a doom, not quite an open air stadium that looked like it had a hole on the roof.  That hole by the way was put there so that , as linebacker D.D. Lewis said, so “  God can watch His favorite team play.”  Now that’s presumptuous.

Texas%20Stadium-dallas ob Why God had to put a hole in the roof to see is beyond me(dallascowboys.com)

As for the players, the teams of the late 60’s and 70’s included a Heisman Trophy winner (and future hall of fame) running back, and another Heisman Trophy winner at Quarterback who just so happened to be a Navy War Hero (also a hall of famer).  At Wide Receiver, they had a bona fided track star.  As in a Olympic Gold Medal winner, literally the world’s fastest man.  Bob Hayes, Or Bullet Bob Hayes was the  Usain Bolt of his generation who then also became Calvin Johnson, (not to be confused with Navin R. Johnson).  Of course they also had true blue western cowboys, Danny Dons, members of the Rodeo Hall of Fame, the author of whats considered the best novel ever about professional football, Tonight Show guest hostslotto winners, pro wrestlers, and other assorted characters.

As coach they also had one of the best known hat wearing man in the western world…Tom Landry


So by 1978, when NFL Films was trying to think of a nickname, they realized that no matter where they went to film the Cowboys on their road games, there were always Cowboy fans.  The Cowboys also played more national TV games than anyone else, including the Monday Night games and the Thanksgiving Day games. When foreigners were asked to name an American football team, the Cowboys were named most often and their Blue Starred helmets identified.  The Cowboys had become the most popular team in the NFL, so if football was quickly becoming America’s new past time, the Cowboys were becoming America’s Team.

0123_largeSports Illustrated, back when the cover was edited by 7 year olds

The name has stuck in part because of the wave of successful and the characters of the 1990s.  If the Cowboys had only been successful and charismatic in the 60’s, 70’s and into the 80’s, the name may have faded.  But in the 1990’s, football’s second boom time with the explosion of cable tv, espn, highlight shows, and fantasy football; the Cowboys were just as successful and just as marketable as they were in the earlier years.


Available on ebay for a small fortune

They’d play in three Super Bowls in the 90’s making the playoffs eight times, their quarterback, Troy Aikman would win more games in that decade than any other quarterback in history had and would date America’s sweetheart in the early 90’s Nancy Kerrigan.  They also had a fur coats wearing Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith the all time leading rusher NFL history, and their biggest free agent of the time was nicknamed, “PrimeTime”  for his antics.  He also had a rap song…it’s awesome. It inlcudes the lyrics…”Hey, my snakeskin shoes gonna change into gators- Hey, my library cards gonna change into credit cards”

deion1992skyboxprimetime Deion’s Poster c2_24343_0_PrimeTimeNFLStarringDeionSande Deion’s Game

And though the Cowboys have not had the success they had in the 60’s, 70’s 80’s or 90’s, they do still have this.


Which should make America’s Team forever

Why People Treat El Fenix Downtown like Mecca for Mexican Food?

Why do some people treat the El Fenix in downtown Dallas like it’s Mecca of Mexican food?  I mean it’s okay but I’ve had far better Mexican throughout Dallas? – JE

The El Fenix downtown, the “original one” has to do with the notion of Tex-Mex cuisine and being out in front of trends, being a trend setter not a follower. Let me explain.

el-fenixThe “Original” Downtown One, though not actually the original(thedallassocials.com)

See first of all, you’re not talking about “Mexican food.”  Places like El Fenix, and the majority of establishment like it serve Tex-Mex and not traditional Mexican food.  Burritos, fajitas, and nachos are not traditional Mexican food, but are more Tex-Mex.  For Tex-Mex, you take traditional Mexican food and blend traditional southern style comfort food.  So you get an enchilada filled with spiced meat and topped with chili and cheese.

Mexican Food-Tamales                                                  TexMex-enchiladas with rice and beans

tamales-1-wordpress-edit  (Clementina llanes) flick dave hansley (el Fenix)

Or perhaps, a Matt’s Rancho Mexican’s cowboy style chicken fried steak (pan-fried of course) with chili, onions, and cheese on top.

cowboy style

Pure Delicious (Matt’s Rancho)

I’d like to stop a moment and point out that, Matt’s Cowboy Style Chicken Fried Steak was Julia Child’s first chicken fried steak she ever tried.  Which is kinda like saying Dean Martin had his first beer at a bar in your home city.  Think about it, really.


Julia with Matt Martinez (founder of Matt’s) in Dallas drinking wine and eating chicken fried steak with chilli on top, naturally. (dallasnews.com)

But on to El Fenix.  Miguel Martinez, the founder of El Fenix, claimed to invent Tex-Mex, or at least El Fenix claims he claims he did.  Back in 1918 when he started El Fenix in the area of Dallas known as Little Mexico, he started out making American food, but quickly changed to making a combination of American and Mexican food, or Tex-Mex.

el fenix org The actual original downtown location (elfenix.com)

Much like Italian food before it got popular, Miguel’s restaurant and other Tex-Mex places were local neighborhood joints in immigrant communities where they mixed their traditional food with that of their new homeland.  El Fenix, though one of the more popular early Tex-Mex restaurants was not singularity brilliant, and many claim that El Chico’s is actually a bigger influence on Dallas’s Tex-Mex today.  So why is El Fenix considered the bee’s knees of Tex-Mex for certain crowds?  Well two things happened post WWII that helped it along.

First, Little Mexico got bulldozed to make way for a highway and rich white people development.  Most of thoses living in little Mexico got booted including many restaurants.  El Fenix on the other hand got to stay.  Well kinda, it moved literally across the street.  There’s a park on top of a freeway that seats on top of the original El Fenix across from the current “original downtown location.”

Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Kyle Warren park (not pictured The Real Original El Fenix downtown Location)  (Facebook user CityArchRiver)


So before, when people headed down to Little Mexico for Tex-Mex, they had several choices, among them El Fenix.  After the bulldozing, you had….El Fenix.  So like heading to Chinatown for Chinese, you have a favorite place or two, but there’s plenty options, unless they bulldozed Chinatown and left you only one Chinese restaurant.

Of course the second thing that happened was the explosion of Tex-Mex, both high class and low class.  Taco Bell did to the taco what McDonald’s did for the hamburger.  The Mansion and its Chicken Tortilla Soup happened, the Mariano’s frozen margarita (the first in the world) happened, and soon places like Mi Cocina, or Cantina Laredo, or Mia’s made white table clothed Tex-Mex dining chic.  So part of saying you like the El Fenix downtown is that you want to identify yourself as a trend setter and not trend follower.


Pretty, Expensive and Trend following Tex-Mex (Mi Cocina)

So people clamor about El Fenix in part is because it’s generational, your parents, and your parents parents, and your parents parents parents have been to El Fenix or claim to have after the others got torn down.  But ultimately it’s because you want people to know that you and possibly your family have eaten Tex-Mex long before some drunk Clevelandite transplant stumbled into Mia’s three years ago and discovered their brisket tacos, or the 4,000th Taco Bell restaurant opened serving this….


I assume the Locos means you have to be crazy or drunk to eat this