The neighborhood landmark tour makes its final stop
The bus is pulling out of the depot for the final leg of the Oak Cliff Icon Tour, so settle back, everyone, and get comfortable.
Our first stop is Clarendon and South Hampton, at the former Skillern’s Drug Store, for what is now (and for many years has been) Midway Auto Supply. Longtime Cliffites and current residents easily recognize this particular franchise’s original hallmark: the little car atop the corner entrance. According to the family, the owner placed the child’s pedal car there many years ago — and there it has remained for decades, greeting customers and drivers-by alike. It’s nice that some things never change.
Next, we move to the spot that used to anchor what was probably the most all-inclusive entertainment destination in Oak Cliff’s history: the Bronco Bowl!
Opened in 1962, the “bowl” occupied the acreage now anchoring the Home Depot on Fort Worth Avenue — arguably, a one-of-a-kind place. Bronco Bowl offered patrons archery, pinball, pool, slot cars, batting cages, air hockey, food, a “club,” dancing in “The Pit” and, oh, yeah, I almost forgot, … bowling! The cavernous pin area featured 36 lanes on either side for a grand total of 72. Certainly impressive.
The bowl’s rear section was overhauled several times, changing from a dance-floor-and-stage space to a theater — one that later became the Sunday morning home of the then-swelling-in-membership Beverly Hills Baptist Church. After the church moved on, ownership again promoted the concert hall for strings of top-name musicians. Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars was one. Once chosen by many high schools for senior all-night parties and the like, the center eventually began to show its wear and attract too many less-than-stellar clients. Efforts were made to overhaul the place around 2000, but, for the owners, things didn’t work out and it was leveled in the fall 2003 — gone, but not forgotten.
Before moving on, a few other icons need to be mentioned.
The Kip’s Big Boy figure at “our” Kips, at 2600 S. Zang. Can anyone guess how many “Silver Goblet” hot fudge sundaes were consumed there over the years by Oak Cliff high schoolers and others? And, oh, yes, don’t forget the “Big Boy” hamburgers! My mouth is watering.
The Baskin-Robbins at Kiest and Hampton was the only one on “our side of the river,” and a popular spot for those ever-lovin’ ice cream cakes. The Penguin drive-ins on both West Davis and Lancaster quenched our root beer appetites, while the Hampton drive-in theater attracted the most dating couples and families. And then there was Sivils Drive-in Restaurant — an “experience” for sure.
The Dallas VA Hospital on South Lancaster has been around since 1940, while Oak Farms Dairy on the south end of the Houston Street Viaduct has been cranking out dairy products for decades.
Remember when A. Harris & Co. decided to move to the suburbs? The owners chose an Oak Cliff location, just off I-35 E and Kiest, the first major retailer to open a store outside of the downtown corridor. More recently, DISD transformed the property into its Nolan Estes Educational Plaza.
W. E. Greiner and Boude Storey middle schools are certainly icons, especially Storey with its Romanesque Revival architecture, designed by the noted Mark Lemmon. Regarding Greiner, the sad news is that the beautiful old 1936 structure is gone. The good news? Students at the now arts-magnet middle school have a beautiful new building in which to create.
Before we leave the neighborhood, we need to recognize what are probably the newest Oak Cliff icons: the Dallas Zoo’s giraffe and the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
The “giraffe” figure is highly recognizable to drivers-by and local residents alike. Designed with its tongue extended upward (to boast the title of “the tallest statue in Texas”) the bronze and Plexiglas figure dominates this section of the I-35 E landscape. The lion may be the king of the jungle, but the Dallas giraffe is the ruler of the Dallas Zoo!
Spectacular in every respect is the 2012-opened, Calatrava-designed bridge. It’s magnificent — especially at night. If you haven’t taken time to transverse this cabled beauty, make it a point. Soon.
The Sears store on Jefferson, Methodist Hospital, Oak Cliff Bank & Trust, Goff’s Chaco-burgers in Wynnewood, the Heights and Cedar Crest shopping centers, Red Bryan’s Smokehouse. The list could go on. But the bus is pulling into the depot.
Thanks for tagging along on the Oak Cliff Icon Tours. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the ride. I know I have.