Q&A: Amateur historian Corrie Coleman

Coleman turns 14 in July, and already she has made big contributions to the neighborhood.
Corrie Coleman Photo by Benjamin Hager

Corrie Coleman turns 14 in July, and already she has made big contributions to the neighborhood. She volunteers at The Well Community, babysits for homeless families and is a junior zookeeper at the Dallas Zoo. Last year, she baked cookies to welcome the formerly homeless new residents of Cliff Manor. A native of Oak Cliff, Coleman has been homeschooled all her life, and when the school year starts, she will enter the TAG Magnet at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center as a freshman. As part of her application to the school, Coleman created a historical walking tour of the Bishop Arts District. Listen to the 17-minute tour at sites.google.com/site.bishopartsdistricttour.

How did you come up with the idea for a walking tour?
Since I’ve lived in Oak Cliff all my life, and I really like it, I thought it would be cool to do something about the history of it. I think my brother [11-year-old Ben] actually helped me think of doing an audio tour. I was just trying to think of something cool I could do about history. I wanted to write an essay, but I wanted it to be different from everyone else’s at TAG. So we just came up with that.

What did you learn doing this project that surprised you?
There were a lot of things here [in the past] that are here now. There was a bike shop. Where Shambala is now, there was a place that sold soap in the 1940s. I think it was a drug store, but they sold Japanese rose soap and stuff to disinfect against polio.

Mary Kay, the makeup, started right there where Vera Cruz is. It wasn’t actually called Mary Kay, but that was the beginning of it. And the streetcar came right through here. I thought that was cool.

What other interesting stories did you come across?
Bonnie and Clyde lived around here, and Clyde would go eat where the Bishop Street Market is now. The Artisans Collective was a movie theater for a while. It was called the Astor Theater. Hunky’s was a fruit stand for a while. Oh, this is funny: Where green pet is, it was a dance studio. Her name was Judy McCarthy, and she taught “dance for business girls” and “personality singing”.

How did you go about doing all the research for the tour?
I used The Dallas Morning News archives. I read over 50 articles. And I also got a tour from David Spence [of Good Space]. I also read this book, The Bishop Arts District: A Brief History by Robert Crockett. He grew up here.

And how did you figure out the technical side?
My dad showed my how to record it with a voice recorder. There’s also music and sound effects in the background. My dad showed me how to do all that, too. He has some kind of software that does it.

About how long did it take you to do this project?
It took about a month, working every day for two or three hours. I went around and talked to the shop owners about what they knew about their places. Some of them knew a little bit, but most of them didn’t know anything. And it was really cool because, once I finished the project, I came back and brought them the link.

What is it that you like so much about Oak Cliff?
Cool stories are just everywhere. I really like how it’s kind of like Mayberry, Andy Griffith. Everywhere you go, you see somebody you know. And everybody’s so nice. I think it makes people look at the world kind of differently.

How do you like to spend time in the Bishop Arts District?
I like to come to Hunky’s with my friends because it has a good atmosphere for talking and stuff.

Do you plan on doing any more of these historical walking tours?
I’d like to do something like this just in a different area. Jefferson has some cool stories with the Texas Theatre and all that.

 


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