Notes on a photo: Stories behind the pictures of 2013

Every year, Advocate photographers capture thousands of neighborhood-related scenarios. We publish the images in this magazine or here on our website, and most inevitably land on the cutting-room floor. This month, we dug through piles of pics, mining them for interest-piquing peripheral details about the subjects, places and events depicted.

13.09.06-OC-Football-J_opt
James Coreas

Sept. 6, 2013
The Oak Cliff Super Bowl

Man down

“Right there, his elbow was completely out of the socket,” says Adamson High School football coach Josh Ragsdale.

Senior Keith Jackson was taken to the hospital by ambulance during the “Oak Cliff Super Bowl,” the game between Sunset and Adamson, two high schools a couple of miles apart.

“For a long time, this was the biggest high school football rivalry in Texas,” Ragsdale says.

The matchup fizzled out when Sunset moved up to division 5A in the ’70s, he says. The schools tried to restart the tradition in the ’80s, but vandalism and fights put a stop to that.

So when coaches from both teams began considering a rematch a few years ago, they were cautious. The two teams scrimmaged in 2010 and 2011 with much lecturing and all the players and coaches on the same sideline.

“We wanted to see how the kids would react to each other,” Ragsdale says, and there were no problems.

So the schools decided to revive the Adamson vs. Sunset game in 2012, and Go Oak Cliff produced a community pep rally for them.

The game draws the largest attendance by far of any football game Adamson plays, Ragsdale says.

The Adamson football team recently won a contest, and they get to play one of their home games at AT&T Stadium next fall. He hasn’t received a schedule of dates yet, but Ragsdale says he wants to play Sunset there.

Adamson beat Sunset 40-6, and Keith Jackson is fine. He dislocated his elbow Sept. 6 and was back on the field against Seagoville on Sept. 27.

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Danny Fulgencio

May 7, 2013
Norma’s breakfast window

Family breakfast

“That’s my sugar mama,” Lovie Roberson says of the woman in the green shirt.

“I love her. That’s my family. I call her husband ‘sweet daddy.’ ”

In the photo, Roberson (known in the Norma’s family as “Lovie Doll,” her real first and middle names) and “sugar mama” Ione Gamber await orders at the breakfast window at Norma’s, where they’ve spent countless mornings since Roberson started working there six years ago.

The photo was taken as part of a cover story about restaurant regulars, and Norma’s has a lot of those.

Gamber started at Norma’s in 1990, and only one other employee — head cook Roy Barron (called “Halloween” because “he scares everyone,” Lovie Doll says) — has a longer tenure at the West Davis diner.

Norma’s many regulars are part of the extended family as well, Gamber says. There are customers who come more than once a day, and there are “quite a few” who arrive at 6 a.m. for breakfast every day, she says.

“You really get to think a lot of your people,” she says. “You become real close to them, you do.”

Gamber, 78, grew up on a farm in South Dakota, one of seven children, and then married a farmer about 10 years her senior. They raised two sons. She worked as a bookkeeper “in a town of 11 or 12 people,” for 17 and a half years, she says.

She became a city girl 23 years ago when her husband, Royal, retired from farming. They moved to Oak Cliff, King’s Highway, to be near their son and his family. Royal Gamber had heart valve surgery in November, so Ione has taken some time off from Norma’s for her next profession, “nurse,” she says.

When she arrives around 10 a.m. for a visit one Monday recently, employees and customers greet her with hugs and laughter. Someone pours her a cup of coffee. Lovie Doll surprises her with two cake donuts — picking up donuts for the crew normally is Ione’s job.

“It’s just been a great place to work,” Ione says. “It’s just like family.”

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James Coreas

Aug. 7, 2013
Elvis night at El Ranchito

Must love Elvis

Elvis night at El Ranchito started about 10 years ago when manager Juan Sanchez put on an Elvis impersonator contest to entertain diners and mark the anniversary of The King’s death.

Now the Jefferson Boulevard restaurant celebrates Elvis eight weeks out of the year.

“If we only did one night, people wouldn’t be able to get in,” Sanchez says. “Every single night, it’s sold out.”

Elvis tribute artist Larry Stilwell is one of several Elvises who perform at El Ranchito every August and January. In the picture from last August, he is smooching Bue Harris of Hampton Hills.

Harris, 73, goes to every Elvis night at El Ranchito and any other Elvis event around town. At her birthday party last March, there were four Elvis impersonators — three as friends, and one, Kraig Parker, who put on the show.

Harris grew up near the Louisiana border, and she claims she “knew Elvis Presley real well,” having met him at the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcast in Shreveport.

Here is the schedule for this month’s Elvis events at El Ranchito:

Jan. 8: Elvis impersonator Johnny Rockit and Fever the Band

Jan. 15: Elvis contest

Jan. 22: Elvis impersonator James Wages

Jan. 29: Elvis contest

David Leeson

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September 2013
214 W. Neely

A backyard of infamy

If you’d like to take a picture on the same spot where Marina Oswald photographed her husband in 1963, the woman who lives downstairs will want $5.

In 1990, Ron Nelson of Oak Cliff bought the “Neely house,” a duplex where the Oswalds lived upstairs for about six months. Nelson was running a business called JFK the Tour, and the city was moving to condemn the building, which was “literally falling down,” he says.

“I thought it’d be a real shame if they tore it down.”

Nelson says he happened to have the cash at the time, so he bought it and sank $60,000 into renovations.

In the 1963 photo, Oswald is standing in the tiny backyard of the apartment holding a rifle and two communist newspapers. It became evidence in the Warren Commission Report and is a favorite target of conspiracy theorists who claim the photo was doctored. Call it a very early version of Photoshop.

In 1993, Nelson hired a contractor to rebuild the back stairs that led to the Oswalds’ apartment and make the building look as close to ’63 as possible, including rebuilding the front balcony. He also built a fence in the backyard to resemble the shed in the Oswald photo.

Nelson, a retired architect who lives in Kessler Park, sold the building a few years after he bought it, and he says he broke even on the deal.

“I didn’t like being a landlord,” he says.

The Neely house is adjacent to two vacant lots. Across the street, a 12-unit mid-century apartment building is being renovated, so most of the block is empty of tenants. Even though it’s on a side street near Zang and Davis, not many cars pass through, and the ones who stop, they’re probably looking for the Oswald spot.

Nelson pulls his white minivan right up to the front of the house and says he doesn’t mind paying the $5 if we’d like to take a picture in back. The downstairs lady comes out and waves. We’re just looking from the side yard, which apparently is free, and there it is, the picket fence, the staircase. For a moment, it is easy to imagine Marina Oswald with her camera and cocky little Lee with his smirk. Those images and one man’s preservation are the reason this building is still standing.

Five dollars is better spent on coffee, but Neely isn’t bad for a cheap thrill.


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