Wee St. Andrews was Disneyland for Cliffites

One of the most popular teen hangouts in the 1950s and ’60s was Wee St. Andrews Miniature Golf Course.

The top-40 hit songs resonated throughout the course, while at the same time an aura of quiet permeated the old place. Replica bridges, castles and doghouses were sprinkled about, and colored lights bedazzled the foliage and trees. A modern course — one of the then new-fangled Putt-Putt variety — might have been classier, but we all loved the aging old entertainment destination.

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Wee St. Andrews Miniature Golf Course rested on the acreage now anchoring the Grand Estates apartment complex, at the intersection of Tilden and North Beckley. In its heyday, it was one of the most enchanting places around. Players challenged each other fiercely, scaling all the ups and downs of the course and pushing hard to get those treasured holes-in-one — or the lowest score, which awarded the winner a “free admission” ticket.

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Jerome K. Dealey opened the mini-course in the 1930s, building it on what Dealey’s son, Dallas attorney Sam Dealey, describes as “a gigantic city block that was owned by my grandmother, Vergie Dealey” — where she also lived.

With the exception of Jerome Dealey’s World War II service period, when his sister managed the place in his absence (and brought in the SMU crowd), he continued running the business until the 1950s. After that, he leased the course to another operator.

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There were actually two courses at Wee St. Andrews. One featured green-carpeted fairways. The other offered “dyed sawdust over a clay base, which was the preferred medium,” Sam Dealey says. “Dad used large rollers filled with water to pack it down smooth.”
Like other mini-courses, clubs and balls were furnished free with admission. Small tables and chairs were nestled into the terrain, allowing patrons to enjoy the concession items offered for sale at the snack bar, or to just rest for a while.

The layout of the course wound over the acreage’s hilly terrain, and scaling all of the uneven topography could be considered at least a soft workout. With its heavily treed landscape along with the colored lights and gentle breezes, it was sort of like being in another world. At least, it seemed that way at the time. If sweethearts could manage to show up at night, when most of the kiddies weren’t there, it was a fairly romantic destination.

“To those of us that can remember,” says Mike Atwood (Kimball ’65), “it was more like a Disneyland, not unlike the real Disneyland is to our grandkids today, of lights and magic and quiet … peacefulness … and a time to enjoy being with your date.”

Julia Jones Laxson (Sunset ’65) remembers Wee St. Andrews as “the main place to play miniature golf in our neighborhood until Putt-Putt opened on Ft. Worth Avenue.” But Wee St. Andrews was better, she says, “because it was built on hills and was tree-shaded. The other courses were flat. I remember the colored lights and that last two-tiered hole with the windmill with the turning blades. What a rush!”

Julia’s husband, Tom Laxson (Adamson ’59), remembers “the concrete animals they had all over the hills and behind the holes — lots of giraffes and elephants — big enough for teenagers to climb on and sit.”

Jerome’s father, Samuel David Dealey Sr. (born in Liverpool in 1869), opened a local lumber business in Oak Cliff in 1888 before establishing Dealey Realty Company in 1908. While he served on the Dallas school board, his older brother, George Bannerman Dealey, was the publisher of the Dallas Morning News and functioned as a prominent civic leader. Dealey Plaza on the west edge of downtown Dallas, named for George, opened in 1933, with the bronze statue of the honoree added in 1949.

Samuel David Dealey Jr., third son of Samuel Sr. and Vergie Dealey (and brother of Wee St. Andrews’ owner, Jerome), was born in 1906. He graduated from Oak Cliff High School (now Adamson) and two years later entered the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1930. In 1942 Dealey was the first and only commander of the new submarine USS Harder, leading in six highly successful South Pacific patrols — but with a fatal last mission. His WWII service earned him two presidential unit citations, a Purple Heart, four Navy Crosses and the Medal of Honor.

In 1953 the U.S. Navy named a destroyer escort in Dealey’s honor, and in 1994, a neglected Dealey-honoring plaque was moved from Galveston to the Science Place in Fair Park. Sam Dealey Drive, in Kessler-Stevens, is also named for the Oak Cliff naval hero.

For the generations of Cliffites that putted away many seasons at Wee St. Andrews, myself included, few of us were aware of the rich heritage surrounding those rolling mounds of carpet and sawdust fairways, crazy obstacle configurations and lighted foliage. It was history in our midst, but we never knew.

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