Liquor, prizefighting, bowling and penthouse living is this family’s history

Karen Hinson was a folk singer in the ’60s and ’70s. PHOTO COURTESY OF LAUREN MUNCY

One of the many wonderful and interesting folks I’ve met while writing this column is Lauren Oznick Muncy, the only surviving member of a unique family whose Oak Cliff roots run deep.

Muncy’s great-grandfather, Edward “Big Ruck” Rucker Hinson Sr. ran a saloon on Record Street in downtown Dallas before Prohibition. During Prohibition he continued in the same endeavor, secretly partnering with an Oak Cliff funeral home owner who smuggled the booze for him, conveniently transported inside coffins purchased by the home. Then, after Prohibition, he reestablished the family’s retail liquor business when he partnered with his brother, Arthur L. “Buck” Hinson, opening Buck & Ruck Liquor Store on Industrial Boulevard (now Riverfront), a move that eventually turned into a small but well-known Dallas chain.

Hinson Sr. and his wife, Grace, weren’t all business, however. They helped develop and participate in the Oak Cliff Bowling League. Grace and her stylish fellow lady bowlers traveled to tournaments all over the country, and, from Lauren Muncy’s photos, it’s easy to see that those 1940s Oak Cliff ladies always kept themselves lookin’ good, even sporting perfectly manicured nails — an amazing feat considering they continually had heavy bowling balls shooting off their fingers. Their son, E. R. “Ruck” Hinson Jr., and his wife, Dorothy Woener Hinson, also bowled in the league.

A 1942 Sunset graduate, Hinson Jr. spent WWII as a naval aviation instructor but returned to Dallas and managed prizefighters who fought in north Oak Cliff and West Dallas. He found solid success and rising financial gain, until a minister pitched a tent on the venue property and continually preached to the fans about the evils of boxing.

Grace Hinson, second from left, poses with her 1940s bowling team. PHOTO COURTESY OF LAUREN MUNCY

In 1945 Hinson Jr. joined the family liquor business where he tackled the job of expanding the company. His first move involved building an entirely new store behind the original structure. When construction was complete, Hinson bulldozed the original building overnight and opened the new storefront the next day, allowing no business interruption during the construction process. He also designed the family’s future stores and designed two Kessler Park homes, where his family lived over the years.

Then, in the early 1960s, Hinson Jr. partnered with two of his high school friends, brothers J.W. and H.H. Cunningham, to open J’s Cafeteria in the Jeff-Davis Shopping Center on West Davis. The team opened several additional J’s around Dallas, although Furr’s bought out the chain by the end of the decade.

For 15 years, Hinson Jr. and his wife occupied the penthouse at the Wedgwood high-rise overlooking Stevens Park Golf Course — a 5,000-square-foot space that enchanted the Hinsons, who considered it the best view of downtown Dallas anywhere. Muncy has many happy memories of spending time there, but she also enjoyed another perk of having grandparents who lived in such a place.

“I was in my 20s,” Muncy says, “and, yes, my grandparents knew I was going to have ‘a few people over for a drink’ when they were out of town. I just don’t think they knew ‘a few people’ usually turned out to be a bunch more than that, or that I had an event of some kind every single time they were gone.”

“Everyone loved going to a party at the penthouse,” Muncy adds, “whether it was me throwing it or my grandmother, who threw the annual Calypso Christmas Party there.”

Muncy’s mother, Karen, also attended Sunset and was a talented singer, concentrating on the popular folk music craze of the mid- and early-’60s. She sang at the Rubaiyat, Mother Blues, Oak Cliff Country Club and the first two Kerrville Folk Festivals, among others. And she enjoyed being a friend and contemporary of Michael Martin Murphy, B.W. Stevenson, Ray Wylie Hubbard and the late John Vandiver — just a few of the Cliffites who went on to achieve musical fame.

“I remember my mom showing me where she used to live on Greenbriar Lane,” Muncy remembers, “and how she would sneak out of her house to go listen to live music with all her musician friends.”

Today Muncy and her husband live on Evergreen Hills, in one of the two Kessler Park homes owned by her great-grandparents, and she runs her Jiffy Properties management business from a cozy, sun-filled office atop Bolsa restaurant in the heart of her family’s old Oak Cliff stomping grounds, which seems to suit her just fine.