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y OU’RE TAKING YOUR mama out to dinner at this nice restaurant you’ve been telling her about. You arrive at the place where the restaurant was, and there’s nothing there but a pile of dirt with a yellow bulldozer on top. Or you’re on a date with a woman you’re trying to impress, and you’re bragging about this “in” club that you’ve discovered, where the trendy people do the latest dances, and when you get there the club has turned into a pizzeria and clowns are handing out balloons. Or you and your wife and kids _’are out for a Sunday afternoon of clean family fun, and you decide to drive over to the miniature golf course where you had such a good time last Sunday, and the miniature golf course isn’t there: Two office towers, a shopping mall, a hotel, a condo complex, a self-serve gas station and an automatic car wash are there. It happens all the time. My brotherin-law, for instance. He lives in Florida. He has never been to Dallas, and he wants to come visit. What he wants to see is the national headquarters of Dr. Pepper. I was looking forward to showing it to him. Dr. Pepper’s low; rise Art Deco building on Mockingbird Lane is the friendliest-looking national headquarters in Dallas. It looks like the kind of place where real people might work. The tall clock with the 10, 2 and 4 in red \(10, 2, and 4 were the hours ‘ when people were supposed to drink Dr. you think of Dr. Pepper as a wise old friend who really cares about the little guy. But that noble structure has been sold to real estate developers who plan a hotel and a retail complex. The developers have said that maybe they’ll incorporate the ‘old building into their new complex, and maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll tear it down. Dallas flag-wavers and tub-thumpers especially real estate developers Bryan Woolley is a writer for the Dallas Times Herald. This article is reprinted with permission from the Times Herald ‘s Sunday magazine of March of 1986, where it appeared in slightly different form. don’t talk much about the things that disappear here. That’s because sudden changes in our habitats make people nervous. If you get up in the morning, look out the window and see a different landscape every day, you eventually get hives. If you climb into your car to go to work, and every morning the road detours in a different direction, and those orange plastic cones are all over the place and dump trucks full of rocks are surrounding you and crawling along at 10 mph, you develop tics. And when you get downtown and the wrecking ball is at work on another favorite landmark and there are seven new skyscrapers you haven’t noticed before, your stomach does a little flip. Get enough things disappearing or transmogrifying at once, and people get disoriented and dizzy, and the ground feels like Jell-O under our feet. Change is an awfully iffy thing, you know. When something disappears, the thing that takes its place can be bad at least as often as it’s good, and people know that. So boosters don’t talk about change. They talk about progress. Progress is good, they say. When progress is going on, they say, the thing that replaces the thing that disappeared is going to be better than the thing that’s gone. It’s going to be terrific. Always. The Mesquite Championship Rodeo, for instance. For 28 years, it was the place you took people like my brotherin-law who wanted a sample of the real Texas. The Mesquite Rodeo arena was the authentic thing a bunch of wooden bleachers with a wire fence to keep the bulls and broncs off the spectators. It was dusty and hot and smelled of manure and sweat, as the genuine West smells, and you could look up and see the big old moon hanging out there in the sky and imagine yourself in Pecos. But that arena is gone, and the ground it stood on has been sold to developers who say they’re going to build \(that’s When the 1986 Mesquite Rodeo season began, it was in a sissy new $6 million arena with a roof. Its owner, Neal Gay, refers to it as “Texas Stadium East” because he has skyboxes for rent at $10,000 a year. They’re reached by private elevators and come equipped with color-coordinated decor, air condi tioning, wet bars, telephones, closedcircuit TV so the rich people can watch the rodeo as if they were at home, and electrically controlled windows to shut out the dust and the odors of the animals and the cowboys and the whooping and hollering of the common spectators below. The rough-and-tumble egalitarianism of a Texas rodeo has been transformed into just another showcase for Dallas nouveau riche excess. Is that progress? Similar transformations and even worse have been happening all over town. Bob White’s Barbecue House, for instance. It had stood on Gaston Avenue since 1947, purveying fine food to a hungry and grateful public. When Mackie Atkinson bought the business from White 11 years ago, he didn’t change the name or the honest vinyl interior and he kept the carhops on duty under the big metal awning outside, because Bob White’s was a gourmet shrine and a favorite neighborhood hangout, and Atkinson knew better than to tinker with a wonderful thing. But some developer decided that Bob White’s block on Gaston is a perfect spot center. So at the stroke of midnight last New Year’s Eve, when Atkinson’s lease expired, it was curtains for Bob White’s. “I wonder about progress sometimes,” waitress Linda Jackson said, speaking for multitudes. Sol’s Turf Bar had the kind of ambiance that no architect could design and no decorator could coordinate. Its vinyl tables and chairs and booths were ugly and ragged and their upholstery was patched with duct tape. The carpet was so old its color was impossible to determine, but that was all right because the joint was so dark you couldn’t see it anyway. The ceiling tiles were waterringed, the air conditioner didn’t work, and Frank Border’s murals of halfnaked, vaguely Polynesian women had been darkened by the smoke of the pizza oven and a billion cigarettes. There was no more interesting lunch hour available downtown than a Sol’s pizza with everything but anchovies, a couple of beers, and a chat with Lucille Mathews, the kind-hearted waitress who had worked there for 21 years, and then, on the way back to the office, a stop into the Commerce Street Newstand next door for a browse through its untidy racks of 2,000 paperbacks and magazines, racing forms, tip sheets, comic books, maps, newspapers from a couple of dozen American cities, more than 85 brands of cigarettes and cigars, and porn in two languages, sealed in plastic. But Sol’s and the newsstand lost their Disappearing Dallas By Bryan Woolley 14 MAY 29, 1987