Teen stories from an old Oak Cliff corner

The southwest corner of Hampton and West Illinois was fertile ground for all sorts of teenage goings-on in the '60s and '70s. Oh, the stories!

An Oak Cliff parking lot doesn’t sound like a place where anything “historic” would have taken place. Those were my thoughts.

But not any longer.


The satellite Polar Bear ice cream shop [far right] was at the center of teenage life in ’60s and ’70s Oak Cliff. Photo courtesy of the 1964 Adamson High School yearbook, “The Oak”.

While attending a recent Kimball alumni association brunch, I discovered new information about a certain Oak Cliff parking lot. Although I must admit that I participated in some of the more innocent activities there, before I graduated from high school in 1965, most of what I learned at the meeting happened after I was no longer a teenager, which I guess takes me off the hook a bit.

In the early 1960s, the newly developed southwest corner of South Hampton Road and West Illinois Avenue became fertile ground for all sorts of teenage goings-on. Oh, the stories!

The main anchor of the corner’s strip center was Minyard grocery store, where scores of Oak Cliff teens worked over the years. And other teen employees manned the myriad small businesses like Hiegel’s One Hour Martinizing, Red Wing Shoes and, later, an El Fenix Cafeteria.

Also located in the center was Pizza Inn, only the second location in Oak Cliff. And Jack-in-the-Box, reportedly the first in Oak Cliff.

Before these two openings, many Cliffites had never heard of either.

Both eateries became instant Oak Cliff teen hangouts, with the drive through window at Jack’s always backed-up. Without the carhops required at the Dairy Marts and Dairy Queens of the day, drive-through service normally proved to be quicker — definitely the “new thang”.

At this corner, teens could munch pizza at Pizza Inn, have ice cream at the Polar Bear, go cruising up and down either Hampton or Westmoreland — or Kiest Park — then back to Jack’s for a Dr Pepper “nightcap”. Jack-in-the-Box stayed open late, also a new concept at the time.

Another reason the area attracted so many teens centered on the Hampton-Illinois library, close to the intersection. Always needing a place for some munchies after those rough nights of library research, Austin’s Barbecue catty-cornered Jack’s, and Griff’s Hamburgers and Naler’s Restaurant on the other corner allowed a fairly stellar choice of readily available eating options — complete with friends already hanging around. What else could a high schooler want?

Margaret Kemp (Kimball ’74) told me she met her first husband while in the drive-through line at Jack’s. And SueAnn Wall (also Kimball ’74) told me about Stevie Ray Vaughan (who lived only a few blocks away) playing music in the parking lot when he couldn’t find any other place to perform. Who knew?

According to Margaret and SueAnn, merchants didn’t complain about all the teen traffic and loitering. “They loved it,” Margaret says. “Everyone ate or purchased items at the different stores, so they liked us being there. It was good for business. No one complained.”

Margaret also shared her story of going trick-or-treating at the strip center with some girlfriends. According to her, they managed to acquire a few pieces of candy from the Minyard manager, along with two Brach’s Halloween candy displays, and ice cream cones at Polar Bear. (Wow! Those early-’70s teenagers really knew how to have a good time!)

For years, teens congregated in the parking lot and hung out, listening to music on car radios, sitting on car hoods, or wandering around the lot visiting with friends. Because the corner’s location was just west of the point where the Adamson, Sunset, and Kimball high school boundary lines came together, and because of all of its novelties (like Pizza Inn, Jack-in-the-Box, and the satellite Polar Bear ice cream store, too), the popular area hosted students from all three schools, and a few others. (Most of the South Oak Cliff teens stayed east of Beckley and south of Saner, and Carter was a bit further away, although those Carter Cowboys could drive.)

But all the enjoyment came to a halt when the teen activities started resembling those in “Rebel Without a Cause” more than those in TV’s “Happy Days”, and the Dallas Police began “discouraging” the congregating.

All these aforementioned teenagers are now, like me, a part of the aging baby boomers generation. There are no longer hordes of Oak Cliff teens hanging out at the once busy lot, although the Pizza Inn and the Jack-in-the-Box do remain … as do the memories.

Oh, to be young again, back in line at Jack’s! But this time around, I wouldn’t be there at midnight. It would be more like 5 p.m. For us boomers, 5 p.m. is the new midnight.


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  • kuron

    I am pretty sure that the first Jack in the Box in Oak Cliff was on Davis St near Tyler. There was a 7-11 on the same spot where the Jack in the Box was later built at Hampton & Illinois.

  • Grease Monkey

    Hi, when was that you were around the Polar Bear? I hung out in that parking lot and cruised Kiest Park.

  • Flint Smith

    Does any one remember the Gulf gas station connected to the Pizza Inn? My Dad owned that station. What a time I had, I was at the right place at the right time!

  • Gayla Brooks

    Thank you, Lon. You are VERY kind. So is Harold. (My grandmother always said: “Paint makes you what you ain’t.” –in my case, oh, so true. “Paint” is my best friend!!)

  • Gayla Brooks

    My favorite combo, for sure…except for lemon custard. Triple yum!!!

  • Lon Oakley

    I concur with the comment on the beauty then and NOW of Gayla. Some of us don’t seem to age 🙂

  • Lon Oakley

    Who could not resist a scoop of lime and a scoop of orange sherbet at Polar Bear Great memories

  • Pingback: Oak Cliff history: The corner of Marsalis and Jefferson » Oak Cliff()

  • Gayla Brooks Kokel

    Again, Thanks for posting!

  • Gayla Brooks Kokel

    Thanks for posting, Shirley. I’m always happy to learn new stories about the OC. Great info!

  • Gayla Brooks Kokel

    Nita, I just today saw your post. What KHS group is this? If I can help you, I’ll answer.

  • Shirley Hawthorne

    Also, the Polar Bear was called “The Bear”

  • Shirley Hawthorne

    H & I sure brings back good memories.  Officer Peace (his real name) was the officer who patrolled that area an everyone loved him.  As time went on, they decided we shouldn’t hang out there anymore and it was banned. . I’m guessing in the early 70’s, I don’t remember.  During the day, on Sunday, we would cruise Kiest Park.  I met my first husband at Griff’s on Hampton where everyone would stop and hang out, too.  Memories.

  • Nita_black

    Please let me know when the Kimball group meets. Nita_black@yahoo.com
    @yahoo:disqus 

  • dijkman

    did anyone know the Dijkman sisters from kimball high in the 70’s?

  • Gayla Brooks Kokel

    Steve Watson (above) emailed me and stated that Hampton-Illinois (in its day) was the “Times Square of Oak Cliff”. Makes sense, to me! I think he’s right.

  • Margaret Kemp Stanley

    Well folks, the Jack in the box has been rebuilt after catching on fire and looks great! So go have a Taco!

  • Steve Watson

    I also have pleasant memories of the H.I. area. It was the “Times Square” of Oak Cliff during the 60’s and 70’s. Jack, PB, and Austin’s – Not “Tavern on the green” but pretty darn close. I notice that Ms. Kokel posted a few comments. Hello! you were my social studies teacher @ Kimball back in the early 70’s.

    Steve Watson – Kimball class of “73”

  • Ronnie Tucker

    How could one ever forget Hampton Illinois I grew up ,and was born in Oak Cliff Ill always rember playing football for Sunset High school . After our games with Kimball members from both teams would meet at either the Jack-In The Box or Polor Bear .It didnt make a difference who won as long as we could laugh and yell at each other during the game.Another land mark was Kiest Park on Sunday I will always have Kiest Park in my heart I lived for Sundays at the park anybody who was anyone from Oak Cliff was there sometimes it got a little roudy But that was Oak Cliff Things change but memories stay the same.Ronnie Tucker Sunset Class of 1971

  • Harold S. Woolard

    Well, this does bring back great memories, when we where finsihed with 2 a days in football we always met there at Austin Bar-B Que, I remember even after playing football at Stockard we would get our parents would take us out to Austin’s with our dates. The Polar Bear, Bill Melton was correct on the Lemon Custard double dip. And remember Naler’s Fried Chicken was on the Northwest corner, and only one block down was Griffs Hamburgers that went for .15 each back in ’67. By the way Gayla Brooks was the most beautiful girl her senior year, and I thought she was one of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen, she was and still looks great. I’d never guess she is 63 unless I knew better, she was two grades ahead of me and I’m 61 but I look at it. Another cool place was on Edgewood and Calendon Ave. Aunt Stelle’s Snow Cones! The pink lady has never been a better snow cone!

  • roger booth

    Hey if you want to treat your tastebuds to good old– Remember When—“GREASY BURGER” there still are some Griff’s burgers left one on Irving blvd going west off loop 12 (Walton Walker) That reminds me of the one that was on Hampton,also one on Buckner In “The Grove” one in Mesquite and one in Richardson I wish ours was still there,instesd of the Mcdonalds!!!,also i heard that there is a Crystal that has opened somewhere in the DFW area recently, White Castle is what they are called back east in “Yankee land”. that also would be a great “remember when moment” to get a bag of “biscuit burgers” *our Crystal was actually on Westmoreland on the west side near the railroad tracks across from Plastics Manufacturing (that made “Texas Ware” plastic dishes) Yeah a story about the drive in’s & The Walk in’s– The Hampton, the Jefferson,The Chalk Hill,The Twin (down by the junkyards off Davis and Jefferson)-The Astro, The Vogue, The Wynnewood,The Heights,The Stevens,The Rex,The Texas, would be kool or a story on the Bronco Bowl,ECT ECT,— Keep diggin-great Stories !! Roger Booth – Sunset class of 1970

  • Linda Hunt Shumate

    What a blast from my past! I graduated from Kimball in ’74 and remember “H-I” soo well! My brother graduated from Kimball in ’67, now there are the stories I heard growing up with him. What is really special is the fights that would break out in that parking lot between Sunset, Kimball, and Adamson guys! The most special night was when my thin and scrawny brother decided to help out a friend who was 3 times his size. My brother ended up with a broken leg when his friend landed on it… BOYS! Those were the DAYS! WOW!

  • SueAnn Wall Kosydar

    Karen That is to Funny I remember going there after the game and the salt and sugar containers that is to funny. The look on peoples faces was the best! Sweet Pizza hahahaha! Then over to the Polar Bear for a double dip ice cream. There was a lot of good times on and around the 4 corner of the two streets. all good memories!

  • Karen Gray Johnson

    Oh and yes I forgot the lemon custard was my favorite, every Sunday my parents would take us to Polar Bear for double dips! Can’t find a lemon custard like that since, I have looked and looked, anyone found any even close, let me know!

  • Karen Gray Johnson

    That was the first place I got to drive my Pinto, got my license and went straight there to show off. I had already worked at the Pizza Inn during the summer, where some of you that went there after games might remember the jokes we use to pull with putting sugar in the salt shakers and salt in the sugar container, way before the packages of sugar were put out. After I got my car I worked at the Minyard’s along with my brother Brad Johnson. He and his buddies use to hang out there and of course I ruined my brother’s fun because all he could do was watch out for me when I was there, he did not like his “little sister” hanging out in his domain. It has so many memories!

  • Pecos 45

    The Jack in the Box is still there.
    Austin’s BBQ was the best breakfast place in Oak Cliff. (They made terrible barbecue)
    It was spelled “Naylor’s” and they served chicken drumsticks that you would dip in honey.

  • Great job Gayla. You always write the best articles!

    According to my Mom, who still lives in Oak Cliff, the JIB caught on fire and then was torn down rather than repaired. Hopefully they will rebuild it. We’ll see.

  • Winn Henslee

    I remember those places well. Have other memories of the Krystal hamburger that opened up at Westmoreland and Illinois where you could go in and buy a bag of 20(slider burgers)and they’d be gone by the time you got home.

  • Trisha Sherman

    Ahh…the drag strip at the end of Westmoreland wasn’t just for guys – I’ve thought of that so often – how much innocent fun it was. Warm summer nights, tons of hot looking cars, not thinking twice about who you rode with – it really was an innocent time of life and so glad I lived it. Thanks for all the wonderful Oak Cliff memories!

  • roger booth

    I bet the jack in the box got tore down to build a new one, the one at clarendon and westmoreland got tore down too so they could build a new one a couple years back, *great story about “H-I” HAMPTON/ILLINOIS,being the teen hangout but a major item was left out, one of the other big items most every satruday night was the auto street races (the cops didnt like it at all) at “The End of Westmoreland” the road ended at Red bird lane back then,-it didnt get extended to camp wisdom till later on, after red bird mall was built, so the usual thing was go see or race your car a while, then go back to “H-I” and get a burger and shake hang out for a while, till everyone went back to “The end of Westmoreland” for more races


  • roger booth

    i bet they tore it down to build a new one there, the one close to my house at clarendon and westmoreland was torn down too and a new one was built in the same spot, a couple years ago, Also Gayla Brooks Kokel’s story about hampton/illinois being the teen hangout was fun to read, but she left out a big item back in those days all the car guys and most everyone else went to “the end of Westmreland” (the road stopped at red bird lane the road wasnt extended to camp wisdom till red bird mall was built) for the car street races which was a major happening every saturday night THE POLICE WOULD COME AND MAKE EVERYONE LEAVE AND BUT IN ABOUT A HALF HOUR EVERYONE WOULD BE BACK OUT THERE AGAIN ALL LEAVING FROM HAMPTON/ILLINOIS AFTER A SHAKE BREAK!

  • Stan Aten

    The Jack in the Box at that intersection was knocked down about 1 week ago.

  • Gordon McGuffin

    Sounds like a lot of fun. Of course in those days I was working my butt off for Gulf Canada in Calgary and looking forward to Curling and snow so I could go Skiing in the mountains. The apre Curling, apre Skiing were memorable events.

  • Jane Walling Little

    Great article, Gayla! And how wonderful to see names of people we knew when (i.e., Billy Emerson and Denise Landell, and whatever happened to Steve Phillips?)

  • Larry Click

    Great work as usual Gayla. How about a Sivil’s Story

  • denise landell klos

    Once again, a great job, Gayla. I’ll add another memory to the Polar Bear stories. The “carpool buddies” went to Polar Bear everyday after school to get a “Poley Coke” (a wonderful fountain coke that cost 5 cents. On Fridays, we stopped at “Poley” for an ice cream…usually a hot fudge sundae as I recall. I guess we worked off the calories in those days.
    Denise

  • David Forsyth

    I remember Polar Bear being the place to go after playing 7 innings of baseball at Kiest Park in 100-degree + heat. However, the H_I parking lot had not achieved hangout status by the time I graduated in ’65. However, I do remember Griff’s up the street, where I could get about 6 burgers and a coke for close to a buck. How could I do 6 burgers and weigh 150?! If I did that today, I would weigh 450. Of course, there wasn’t much food value in a Griff’s burger — mostly just bread (where’s the beef?).

  • Billy Emerson

    What memories Polar Bear created for me (Kimball’64). Steve Phillips and I worked at Polar Bear during the summers of ’61 and ’62. There was NO BETTER WAY to meet chicks, as every goodlookin’ Oak Cliff girl, sooner or later, came in to Polar Bear. It wasn’t a hang-out place as of yet, as that took place down the street at the Dairy Queen, and Kiest Park, but any mention of Hampton Illinois must include the number one memory-maker of all time, the Hampton Road Drive-In. Sounds like a good subject for Gayla’s next article. Just sayin’

  • Charles “Benny” Kirtley

    Well, in my opinion the best thing about “H-I” was Austin’s Bar-B-Q. “Tender as ol’ Austin”s Heart” I believe was the caption on the Markee. I remember when it was called the Bull Pen and they had car-hops and served beer. The late J.D. Tippit, the Dallas policeman that was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, used to moon-light there in the late hours of the day. Many of us that “tied one on” came to Austins and hung out till we could at least read the menu. J.D. was forever offering a helping hand to us.

    Also where the JIB and Polar Bear Ice Cream was, was a small airport on that corner!! In reality the Southern portion of Oak Cliff was “in the country” so to speak. In the late ’40s America was recovering from the effects of WWII and a lot of the housing in that area was yet to be constructed. I had a couple of horses that were kept on the premice where the Hampton Road Drive-In was. It seems from the crossroads of H-I going south, there was little housing and Kiest Park was for the most part beginning to be surrounded by post-war housing! You wouldn’t know it by looking at that intersection today!!!

  • Nancy Harris Carson

    Thought I was the only one that would die for a double dip custard cone from Polar Bear!!! WHY was that so good??

  • BOBBY GRIFFIN

    We use to park next to the Polar Bear..get out and sit on the car hoods and talk to the girls that drive by…not unlike it was in Kiest park. Mary Griff’s was a little North and west of Hampton down from Naylor’s Chicken.

  • LON OAKLEY Jr.

    Great timing on the article Gayla. Adamson class of ’65 observed or 45th Reunion this past weekend and talks went well into the night about J in the B (Jack in the Box) both at H&I and Illinois and RL Thornton Frwy/Goof’s n Wynnewood, Austin’s, etc. (of course all our evenings there were very innocent…wonder why someone like me always ended up as the designated driver!) Thanks for another superb article…we all look forward to remembering back when things were a little simpler in life! Crazy Lon Class of Big A ’65

  • Mary

    Wasn’t there a Griff’s up there before the Jack-in-the Box and the Pizza Inn just north of the Polar Bear? 15¢ hamburgers and a chocolate ice cream are fond high school memories for us “older” boomers.

  • Kim Ellis

    I have so many wonderful memories of this corner of the world. When I was little, Thursday nights were El Fenix, Minyards for groceries, then Polar Bear. When I was older, cruising Hampton, with stops at JITB, was the thing to do on Friday nights. After football games, it was always Pizza Inn. Good times! Thanks for the memories.

  • Bill Melton

    Great story Gayla and I do agree with the,
    “Oh, for a Polar Bear ice cream lemon custard cone double-dip!”

    Regards, Bill

  • Gayla Brooks Kokel

    After submitting the column, I learned that the Hampton-Illiois parking lot was nicknamed “H-I”–which makes sense. And, I learned from reading Lon Oakley, Jr.’s book, OAK CLIFF BOYS, about all the “H-I” escapades of some of the Adamson students. It seems the “H-I” stories from all those in the ’60s-’70s generation may be endless, from those days when Oak Cliff high school students populated this “legendary” parking lot and kept thinks hoppin’ for sure. Oh, for a Polar Bear ice cream lemon custard cone–double-dip!