Oak Cliff history: Fun facts we didn’t have room to print

While writing and researching this monthly Oak Cliff history column over the past four years, I invariably end up with too much text. Not a good thing. I almost always have to pare down the word count and, unfortunately, some of the material ends up on what could be called the journalistic version of the “cutting room floor.” It’s painful, but what must be must be.

Here, however, are a few samples of the some of the juicy tidbits that had to be deleted.

The February 2010 column on Oak Cliff golf could have included the fact that after it opened, Stevens Park Golf Course expanded by gobbling-up a smaller, adjoining course: the El Tivioli course. Originally named the Dal-Cliff Golf Course, then the Cliffdale Golf Course, these fairways were constructed in the early 1920s on the old Julien Reverchon botanical garden property, purchased by Reverchon’s father, Maximillian, from the disbanded La Reunion Colony’s conservator.

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Dallas National Golf Club
Dallas National Golf Club

In the same column, I also noted that the Dallas National Golf Club (on almost no one’s radar screen, as it’s hidden behind Mountain View College and heavily protected) is quite prestigious. What I didn’t have room to share was that, according to those who know, it is reported to check all the boxes on any golfers’ “superlative list.” One of the top courses in the country and No. 1 in Texas, course designer Tom Fazio states, “If Dallas National were the only course I ever designed, I feel I would have had a great career.” Described by just about everyone as being the re-creation of a Texas Hill Country or East Coast facility, all those who review courses say that it’s a place where golfers need to bring their “A” game.

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Another item I wasn’t able to include is that Dallas National is where pros such as Lee Trevino practice and play, and also where President Bush plays golf. Condie Rice has joined him there, along with other movers, shakers and high profile folks. Yep, right here in the O.C.! Who knew?

Belita Moreno
Belita Moreno

I wrote about the Moreno family in May 2011. A story I didn’t tell was that when I served on the faculty at my alma mater, Kimball High School, fellow teacher Aurora Moreno laughingly told me one day that her daughter, now Hollywood actress Belita Moreno, would not speak Spanish with her parents. “She only wanted to speak English … English only,” Aurora said. And, evidently, Belita also made sure to drop the Latino-style pronunciations. If you notice on the TV show “George Lopez,” the character George (who was raised by single parent Benny, played by Belita) speaks English, with a Latino accent. But Benny doesn’t. And now you know why.

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Bonny and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde headlined my August 2011 Eagle Ford column, which noted that they are, of course, famous for robbing banks (although they mostly hit up small town stores and the like), but didn’t have room for the fact that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow actually robbed only one bank in Dallas County: the bank in Lancaster, just a few miles over the Oak Cliff line. Also, readers researching the couple’s activities back in the Eagle Ford/Oak Cliff neighborhoods may become confused with the street names mentioned. When Dallas annexed Eagle Ford in 1948, some of the street names had to be changed because the City of Dallas already had used them elsewhere. Several street names in Winnetka Heights and other nearby neighborhoods were simply attached to existing Eagle Ford streets that were more-or-less extensions of these Oak Cliff streets, and the old names disappeared.

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Howard Hughes, interesting as he was, didn’t make it into the April 2011 story on Red Bird Airport. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hughes did indeed hanger several executive jets at Red Bird Airport, fueled and ready to fly, and under 24-hour armed guards. Posting a comment to the original online column, Jerry Felts, who worked at the airport when he was a teenager and was sometimes responsible for refueling these planes, said he would drive the refueling apparatus and tank to the hanger and then hand the hose (through a slightly opened door) to someone inside. Felts commented about how, had the fire marshal known at the time, there would have been major trouble. Contrary to some urban legends, one of Hughes’ planes at Red Bird (now Executive Airport) wasn’t the Spruce Goose, which only took flight once and never left California.

The former Red Bird Airport, now Dallas Executive Airport.
The former Red Bird Airport, now Dallas Executive Airport.

My first Cliffites in Hollywood column that ran in May 2013 talks about Spanky McFarland, but stopped short at saying that upon his retirement, Spanky McFarland returned to the Dallas area and lived in Keller. After his death in a Grapevine hospital, McFarland was honored by the State of Texas by being interred, along with other famous and historically significant Texans, in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. His mother, Virginia Phillips McFarland, graduated from Oak Cliff High School in 1922 and lived in Duncanville at the time of her July 30, 1993, death at Charlton Methodist — only 30 days after losing her son. Spanky’s sister, Amanda McFarland Hall, a former city councilwoman and popular Realtor in Cedar Hill, passed away in 2009. She, along with the rest of the McFarlands, lived their lives in and around Oak Cliff before they left for Hollywood in 1931 and after their return in 1944.

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As you can see, my cutting room floor stays full!

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  • Gayla Brooks

    Thanks for posting, Nancy. I appreciate the feedback from readers! Gayla

  • Gayla Brooks

    Karen: Are you sure about Mr. Durrett? He was teaching at Sunset in at least 1935, the year after Bonnie & Clyde were killed. Let me know. I am interested in this story. Email me at: gbrooks@advocatemag.com.

  • Caren Crow Barnes

    Wish I did. Another interesting tid bit. Mr. Durrett, The Kimball Principal, was in my Daddy’s high school class–he attended the funeral, also!

  • Gayla Brooks

    Wow! Another great Bonnie & Clyde story. Do you have a photo of either your dad, especially in his delivery uniform? Contact me at: gbrooks@advocatemag.com or gayla@oakcliff.org.

  • Gayla Brooks

    Now THAT”S a story!!!! Wow! I would put that up against any senior day in the history of senior days! I don’t suppose you have any photos?

  • Caren Crow Barnes

    My father attended Oak Cliff High School–on his Senior Day, the entire Senior class went to Clyde Barrow’s funeral.

  • Nancy Giacomo Lemon

    thank you for the info..very interesting

  • Charles “Benny” Kirtley

    Thanks Gayla for another great article on Oak Cliff. The Red Bird area was my stomping grounds for many years as when I first married I lived in a house with a fellow Kimball classmate’s grandmother “granny” Rowe, grandmother to Allen Rowe. Her house was at the end of the northern end of Red Bird airport. Hard to believe as Ledbetter was, in my estimation, on the southern edge of civilazation, (out in the country), and I hunted those cedar breaks on that north end of Red Bird airport. Oh how that area has changed! Thanks again for the memories.

  • Martha McSweeney

    My Dad was a milkman for Metzgers dairy and was assigned to fill in for the guy who delivered milk to Clyde Barrow’s brothers home in Eagle Ford/West Dallas. He was instructed to knock, enter the back door, put the milk in the ice box without looking anywhere but straight ahead and leave promptly. I don’t remember if that was before, during or after Clyde became (in)famous.

  • Vicki Porter

    Love your column. Always so interesting. Your tidbits from the cutting room floor are even better!

  • Gayla Brooks

    First of all, I thank you (as always) for the compliments. Second: You have no idea how much I have to “delete!” Such pain!!

  • Virginia

    More, more, Gayla! These are interesting snippets.