DALLAS: THE PERSONAL AND IMPERSONAL DALLAS It’s really not much of a place for a city. Sitting near an erratic little river 200 miles from the sea, it rests too far east for the western cattle markets, too far west for the piney woods farmers. The site itself has no historical significance ; it was too far north to be of interest to the land speculators, the farmers, the patriots, the brigands and the conquering Latin generals who fought at Alamo mission. Most of the famous men of the Republic’s gloryAustin, Travis, Houston, Lamar, Fannindied before the city was born, and those who were living had no time for the grubby little hamlet struggling for existence on the virgin prairies somewhere to the north. Unencumbered by legacies of the past, by old world culture or even the violent, lusty tradition then growing in the American west, it fastened its civic credo to the word “progress” and explored that word for all its American meanings. And now glossy, impatient, it stands in earnest posturethe very model of a modern major city: Dallas. The route from the hamlet to the city has not been an easy one. When John Billingsley arrived in Dallas in 1844, he wrote, “We soon reached the place we had heard of so often, but the town, where was it? Two small log cabins this was the town of Dallas and two families of ten or twelve souls was its population.” The significant phrase was not that the town was small but that it had been “heard of so often.” The flag of civic promotion was raised in Dallas by its founder, John Neely Bryan, and his successors have never, since let the banner dip. They outbid Oak Cliff for the county seat \(offering they outbid a host of rivals for the railroad \(Dallas gave $200,000 in bonds, 142 acres of land, and used the railroad as a promotional path to the heady plateau of 1958. 1 Today, hurrying out of a vacant past toward a tomorrow of promise, the rootless city struggles to avoid caricature. The effort seldom succeeds, for Dallas lends itself to cliches and generalizations by magazine writers seeking the descriptive word, the neat turn of phrase to find meaning in all the movement. Of such slickness are legends manufactured, so Dallas comes to us now as “Big D,” home of the “wheeler-dealer” oil millionaire who can buy controlling stock in the New York Central and turn to his fellow wheeler-dealer and say, “what was the name of that railroad we bought?” Dallas winces at such stories anti wishes someone had reminded the writer that old Clint Murchison, rich but oh so clumsy, is not really typical, that the city does after all have Neiman-Marcus. \(This would not be the first time a cliche has been refuted And more. A social historian passes through the glittering new Love Field airport, hurries to town in a Cadillac dispatched by the chamber of commerce, speaks briefly and winningly to a luncheon, hurries back to the airport. Departing, he comments witheringly that the people of Dallas are faceless silhouettes devoted to the superficial, seeking, in their ostentation, refuge from meaninglessness. A civic formula that works well in business fails with a professor and leaves the wounded city with another cliche. Thus will Dallas make an admission: it feels more at home with businessmen. EFFICIENCY is an important L word here. In the daily flow of community life, efficiency appears as one of the driving, fundamental values. The city’s defiant political conservatism flows inevitably from this idea. What is efficient about the federal government? In a city spawning new insurance empires every month, a city where values flow from actuarial tables and corporate dividends, a city where education committees meet in the board rooms of banks, the waste of the federal government is appalling economic heresy. The feeling is not passive; it is genuine, pervasive through wide segments of the community: governmental waste is at core a moral issue, economic waste is a demonstrable evil, all that America has come to mean in Dallas is threatened by the demogogic idiocies of New Dealism and Modern Republicanism. If Dallas conservatives sometimes appear to choke on their indignation, it is the impassioned stuttering of the righteous. Journalistic heights in righteous indignation were attained by the anti-big business muckrakers of two generations ago. Today, in Dallas, these same heights are scaled by the Dallas Morning News in defence of business and the efficient, moral way of life it is believed to circumscribe. The News published, on Oct. 5, 1958, a special Sunday section enentitled “Unlimited Prosperity, A Dallas Report.” The 30 page section carried. stories probing the statistics of a city. The News’s headline writers, capsuling these stories, wrote: People Make City Big In Spirit of Enterprise; D allas County Future Said to be Bright; Dallas Businessmen Seek More Business; Consumption Up; Dallas Major Center in Petroleum Trade; Dallas Considered Heart of Mighty ‘Agribusiness’; Dallas Southwest Center of Storage, Distribution; Skyline Boosted With Insurance; Southwestern Industry Served by Dallas Finance Leadership; Big Hotel Slated in Exchange Park; Real Estate Board Plays Important Role in Growth; Insurance Firms Plan Expansions for Dallas; Dallas Large Center for Wholesaling; Dallas Holds Banker Title; Air Companies Thrive in Metropolitan Area; A Fine Line of Companies; Dallas Has the Hotel Rooms So It Brings In Conventions; Republic Firm Licensed for Business in Alaska; Baylor Hospital Joins in Progress of Dallas; Three Agents Handle Leases on Mart. And there was a story calling the Chamber of Commerce the world’s largest in. number of members. In making the effort to “sell” the business community in the pages of the Sunday paper, Dallas was only following patterns set by other hungry new cities. But the value judgments made by the News in selecting the “salable” items are instructive. The story on the new medical center did not stress medicine. The lead was built around the fact that “unlike some medical centersbuilt with fat gifts of a few millionaires Dallas owes its steady growth to medical maturity to the contributions of many citizens. Dallas people have shelled out nearly $10,000,000 in three separate hospital fund drives since 1956. The latest and bigest campaignSt. Paul’s drive for $4,000,000was a smashing victory at a time when most businessmen were fretting about a recession.”. Another story summed up the value of the Southwesterrn Medical Foundation: “For the cornmunity as a whole, it represents one of the most positive expressions possible of the free enterprise system. Such a center maximizes the possibilities of local self-government by meeting local needs with local resources in a fully creative sense. It is a powerful example of what can be done through local initiative, local leadership, and local basic central services which make a great city.” The story on the new civic auditorium , emphasized , the seatparking facilities \(“1,000 cars and an additional 3,000 autos can be parked on lots within a two-block to conventions, the story did not indicate for what purposes the auditorium could be used. There was a story on the labor movement under the head “Growth of Union Here Fails to Ruffle Industrial Peace.” Under a headline, “Dallas Paced by A. Harris,” the paper quoted a department store head as saying, “There is really no limit to where Dallas can go … we believe in the next ten years the volume of A. Harris and Company should triple.” Larry Goodwyn The A. Harris Co. had several ads in the special section. There was no story on NeimanMarcus. There were no NeimanMarcus ads. A feature story, “Chain Reaction, City Gains by Adding One Factory,” shows how a new factory, employing 150 persons, can spread growth and prosperity to “one thousand professional men and retail and service establishments. The only article devoted to a subject unrelated to business is entitled “Dallas Area Has Top Fishing.” THE CITY does not always speak in mercantile tones. The Margo Jones Theatre, among the earliest theatres to s t age Tennessee Williams plays, is a permanent part of the city’s life. The symphony and the opera, while not as widely publicized or patronized as the State Fair Musicals, are well received; and the Musicals themselves are a massive success. There are also the Dallas Arts Association, Little Theatre, Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts; The Dallas Historical Society, Dallas Woman’s Club, Dallas Woman’s Forum, the Dallas Council on World Affairs. But culture, as distinguished from the organized pursuit of culture, is not the dominant theme in the city’s life. Other civic undertakings seem more germane to the city’s decisions. A group of ministers, associating themselves in a “Moral and Civic League,” sends out questionnaires to all public office seekers in Dallas County. Not concerned about a candidate’s liberalism or conservatism, the group sets these criteria: Do you favor the sale of beer and liquor? Do you favor gambling in any form? Dallas County now encloses islands of prohibition. The incorporated areas of Highland Park and University Parkentirely surrounded by metropolitan Dallasare bone dry. Nestling hard by the townships’ borders are some of the brightest little bars in Dallas. On the eastern side of Lovers Lane, just inside the Dallas line, are the Blackout, Herb’s Magic Grill, the Town Pump, Pastory’s. The Tabu Room guards the western approaches to Highland Park, the Doll House the northern approach to University Park. Sedately inside this alcoholic rim are most of the fine old homes of Dallas, many built with oil money flowing from the East Texas boom of the early thirties and constructed in the grand manner of an era that counted on cheap domestic labor. Colonial, Georgian, and Norman mansions sprawl on either side of Turtle Creek, a twisting, rippling stream that waters a ribbon of fresh greenery along its courseway. Tall trees line streets named Dickens, Thackeray, Rankin, Byron, Eton, Oxford, Princeton, and Harvard. The tastefully landscaped University Park city hall looks as though it had been lifted out of Colonial Williamsburg. The Southern Methodist University campus, red bricked and new, lends its academic authenticity to the portrait of suburban serenity. A picture of the Park Cities as a section of palatial homes, however, would be a false one. Most of the area’s homes are of moderate size, brick, well-kept and ten to twenty years old. In University Park particularly, a large number of retired persons living on investment income own small, neat cottages. Politically they oppose “soft money” moves calculated to bring on more inflation. The district is solidly conservative. Beyond the Airport to Preston Hollow and Walnut Hill are the sprawling ranch bungalows of Dallas’s growing “young executive” class. There are block after block of homes in the $30,000 to $50,000 range, their individuality expressed gently, within a common mold that renders them all substantially alike. They have carports and family rooms, lots of glass, and Danish modern furniture. The young men who are buying these homesinsurance men, executives, engineers at Chance-Vought, Dresser Indusries, Texas Instruments, Temco Aircraft, star salesmen in a hundred lesser enterprisesexude the same aspect of stable orderliness that characterizes the houses. They are polite, to one another, and their arguments, when they have them, are likely to be over facts, not ideas. In general, they do not “rock the boat,” either in neighborhood get togethers or in sessions at the office. They vote overwhelmingly conservative, sometimes even more so than the Park Cities, When conservative Wallace Savage ran for Congress against a more moderate opponent in the Democatic primary, Preston Hollow and Walnut Hill gave him heavy majorities. In the general election, when Savage, as the Democratic nominee, ran against Republican Bruce Alger, the same voters turned from Savage and gave decisive majorities to the even more conservative Alger. The residents of Preston Hollow are civic conscious, law abiding and efficient. They tend to equate progress with new building construction. They move with the confident air of young people who know they have a future in their town. Their entertainment is likely to be of the backyard barbeque variety. When they go out, it is generally to a country club or to one of the exclusive private clubs serving mixed drinks. The private club is enjoying a boom in Dallas as a citizenry becoming increasingly sophisticated tries to evade a state law’ passed in an agrarian era. The clubs too are stratified and tend to be exclusive within certain broad categories. The Petroleum Club downtown in the Baker Hotel is the time-tested and decorous, The Cipango Club near Turtle Creek opulent, and the ThirtyFive Twenty-Five Club, consciously subtle. The latter is located in a tall new luxury apartment building known simply by its address, 3525 Turtle Creek. Annual room rent runs into the thousands of dollars. Each guest’s car is washed daily as a special service of the management. The voting record in the exclusive suburbs is phenomenal. In 1956, one group of ten precincts, containing 18,000 persons of voting age, over 17,000 paid their poll taxes and 16,000 voted. In Democratic precincts in the same election, of 43,000 persons of voting age, 11,000 paid their poll taxes and slightly more than 5,000 voted. THE FIGURES underline one of the interesting aspects of Dallas County politicsthe tight conservative hold on local government is actually a minority control perpetuated without interruption through the years by a series of interrelated factors. Dallas is a banker’s town, a financial center founded on oil money and prospering in insurance. The Republic Bank is more than just an aluminum matchbox, it is the source of money supporting literally hundreds of enterprises. So, too, the First National, along with the Republic among the nation’s 25 largest banks, and the Mercantile Bank, Texas Bank and Trust, Southland Life Insurance, Southwestern Lifehuge organizations all. The executives and managers who guide these giants are well tutored in the various values of a dollar. Their approach to the community is a corporate, efficient, na nonsense sort of thing characterized locally as rugged individualism. In the business and professional clubs, in the Lions, Rotary, and Kiwanis, they talk of free enterprise and the danger of Washington bureaucracy. Their
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