Kiestwood Village neon sign: Raymond Crawford

Kiestwood Village neon sign: Raymond Crawford

One of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League’s many member-neighborhoods is a tree-studded, gently rolling enclave named Kiestwood Estates. Although the general area didn’t begin development until the late 1950s, Kiestwood holds a rich history.

At that time, Kiest Boulevard beyond Hampton Road stretched as a relatively desolate byway with little surrounding development. But the opening of the Kiestwood Village strip center on the southwest corner of the intersection offered area residents the Kiestwood Cleaners, Priest Music Store (later Music Hall), a barbershop, a beauty salon, a dance studio and Old South Steak House. In later years, Puckett Photography had a studio there.

The center’s anchor business sat at the far eastern end of the center: Rollins Food Store. Granted, the fairly small store was the only grocer operating in what was then far southwest Dallas, but a major part of the store’s success was manager Charlie Kirtley. Moms (and dads) enjoyed Charlie’s friendly demeanor and great slant on customer service. (My brother, who was probably about 10 years old at the time, even baked Charlie a birthday cake one year.)

The Humble (former name for Exxon) station on the corner was owned and operated by Joe Jones, who became the first Texas Lottery winner. Although he had moved his business to the northwest corner of Camp Wisdom and Duncanville roads by that time, his place in Texas Lottery history stands. I remember the Jones Humble station with full service; along with the routine oil changes and lube jobs, they would even wash your car! By hand!

On the other side of the Jones service station sat a 7-Eleven, facing Hampton Road. And, to the south of the 7-Eleven, the small, one-story, flat-roofed, brick building operated first as a dentist office that shared the opposite end with a real estate business. Later the longtime home of the J. Harris Creech Insurance Agency, the building appears vacant today.

Priest Music Store (later Music Hall) as depicted in the 1960 edition of the Kimball High School yearbook, “Excalibur”

Priest Music Store (later Music Hall) as depicted in the 1960 edition of the Kimball High School yearbook, “Excalibur”

Being the area’s only game in town at that time, the strip center was definitely “high-traffic.”

Upward from the center, homebuilders snatched up lots and began constructing hundreds of single-family homes, many with fireplaces and (the new trend at the time) en suite baths. With their pier-and-beam foundations and brick exteriors, the homes provided shelter and comfort for the throngs of boomer families swelling the ranks of suburban neighborhoods in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The homes constructed closer to South Hampton Road were somewhat smaller than the larger houses nestled close to Ravinia or Cedarhurst on the western boundary. The children attended the newly constructed Daniel Webster Elementary School; high school students went to Kimball, which opened in 1958.

It was a “sea of kids.”

During those days, quite a few high-profile and entrepreneurial folks called Kiestwood home — most prominent among them, Dr. W. T. White, the Dallas ISD superintendent at that time. Living at 2831 Whitewood — he was also the previous principal at Sunset High School, where many of the Kiestwood moms and dads had attended — just about everyone in the neighborhood knew him. But, there was a big perk for having Dr. White in the neighborhood.

On snowy mornings back then (before texting and emails), students and parents rose early and glued their ears to the radio, listening for the “school closing” announcements. But not so in Kiestwood. According to Raymond Crawford, the Kiestwood Historical Neighborhood Association president, who also lived in Kiestwood when he was in high school, “All the neighborhood kids would wait to see if Dr. White’s car remained in his garage. If the car stayed put, that meant no school. We were always the first to know!”

Whitewood Drive also had other notable residents, one being the aunt of longtime “Texas Country Reporter” executive producer Jason Anderson, who often visited his aunt (Lalia Paxton) at 2536. Dr. Norwood Yamimi, a well-known Las Cruces, N.M., chiropractor who is currently a Qigong facilitator/workshop leader and recent author, lived across the street at 2535. At 2512, the Berry family’s youngest son, Pat, is now the owner of Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse in both Dallas and in Austin.

On Bonnywood Lane, Mary Margaret Roberson (2830) worked for decades to enhance both Oak Cliff and Dallas, involving herself in fine arts, civic, community and historical activities, among them Goals for Dallas. Serving as a well-respected master flower judge, she has a tree planted in her honor on the Texas State Capitol grounds. The residence of Homer DeFord, founder of DeFord’s Lumber in Duncanville, was at 2823.

Twice named Miss Oak Cliff (’96 and ’98) and twice second runner-up for Miss Texas, Leigh Ann Gettman-Allen had her first home at 2526 W. Kiest Blvd. Gettman-Allen was first runner-up in the 1999 Miss Virginia Pageant and reigned as America’s Homecoming Queen in 1993. Still highly involved in the Miss America organization, she led the President’s Initiative on Race session in 1998 and is now an adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist University.

Although technically a separate subdivision, Southwood (adjacent to Kiestwood) is included in the neighborhood association. Among the many Southwood notables are actress Belita Moreno and her family, who lived on Gibbs Williams Road, and the late Ken Holmes Jr., a Kennedy assassination and Bonnie and Clyde expert who lived on Crow Creek Drive.

Some Sunday afternoon, you oughta take a drive south on Hampton Road to cruise around Kiestwood and enjoy the largest group of mid-century ranch architecture in the city. Kiestwood is a secret around Dallas. But maybe not for long.