We spent 2016 like we spend every year in Oak Cliff: Collecting the stories and photos that paint the picture of what makes this neighborhood great. But our readers only get to see a fraction of what we do. We are limited by how much we can put in print — which is yet another reason to follow us online at oakcliff.advocatemag.com to see enriched magazine content and daily community news blog posts. Here, we’ll share the very best that you didn’t get to see in our pages, along with updates about the people and issues we covered. Before you fully start 2017, look back at the wild, whimsical and often tense year that was 2016.
When we became the news
While we always strive to tell the story without putting ourselves into it, that became impossible in June when our photographer made news across the world for being in the right place at the wrong time. Photo Editor Danny Fulgencio found himself in the thick of the Republican-Democratic divide when he covered President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign visit to Dallas. Fulgencio climbed up onto a bench to get a better vantage point of the raucous crowd. Without warning, he felt a sharp crack to his head as blood trickled into his eyes. A rock, thrown by an unknown person in the crowd, would make him a viral sensation over the next 24 hours. While he was patched up on scene and got right back to shooting, news media feasted on several social media posts that depicted our bloodied photographer. His Facebook exploded with interview requests. At an otherwise uneventful rally, this was the gory drama that most media led their coverage with, inspiring many inaccurate, and often hilarious, headlines. But conservative pundit Pat Dollard’s site took the cake by proclaiming, “Typical Anti-Trump Protester Bashes Gay Journalist In The Head With Rock.” We assume they confused the Lakewood/East Dallas Advocate with the gay men’s magazine of a similar name, while also assuming Fulgencio’s sexuality, causing still unknown damage to his love life (he’s straight and single, ladies).
Shots heard ‘round the world
Life in Dallas stood still on July 7, the day a mass shooter targeted police officers at a Black Lives Matter rally Downtown. This did not happen in our neighborhood, but every person in the city was touched by the violence as we prayed for the safety of our men and women in blue. In all, 14 officers were shot during the violent night, and five lost their lives. Here in our neighborhood, the loss was felt especially hard because three of those killed, Michael Krol, 40; Lorne Ahrens, 48; Patrick Zamarippa, 32 were from the Dallas Police Department’s Southwest Division, which serves Oak Cliff. Slain DART Officer Brent Thompson, 43, was also a regular at Norma’s Café. Pictured here, the police force that accompanied the funeral procession of Police Sgt. Michael Smith.
The man in the light-colored suit
One of the most famous images tied to the Kennedy assassination won the Pulitzer Prize for photography in 1964.
Bob Jackson (pictured above, left), who worked for the Dallas Times Herald, captured the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby in the garage of the former Dallas police headquarters.
Former Dallas Police Department detective Jim Leavelle (right) is the man in the light-colored suit in that photo, handcuffed to Oswald.
Those two, Jackson and Leavelle, met up at the Texas Theatre this past September as part of a panel discussion with Pulitzer winners.
Leavelle, who is in his 90s, rightfully has been called a “living legend.” Reached by phone for this story, he was busy packing bags for an anniversary trip to Pearl Harbor — he was a young seaman stationed there when Pearl Harbor was attacked Dec. 7, 1941.
Twenty-two years later, he touched history again.
The suit was light tan, and it’s now on loan to the Sixth Floor Museum. Leavelle told the Dallas Morning News in 2015 that a friend gave him the suit used, and it originally came from Neiman Marcus. There was a place in the West End that would make suits for policemen for $45, at a discount of $4, Leavelle says. But that was still “awfully expensive” on a public servant’s budget, he says.
The meeting of Jackson and Leavelle at theater where Oswald was captured was nifty, but it’s not unusual for them, Leavelle says. Because of their historical connection, they often are brought together for panels and events.
“We see each other about four times a year,” Leavelle says.
Game of gnomes
The Coombs Creek Trail keeps getting better. The city extended it all the way to Hampton Road last year. And there are plans to take it through the west side of Stevens Park Golf Course to Fort Worth Avenue.
Besides that, the trail is home to magical creatures.
Along the trail adjacent to Kessler Parkway, there is evidence of them: Rounded little doors to tiny homes inside the trees. The doors began appearing about two years ago, and one warns, “Do not disturb.” Even so, small children lean down to knock on them almost every day, says Cooper Koch, who lives across the street from one.
We asked everyone we could think of — artists, neighbors, preservationists, Oak Cliff natives, a city councilman’s wife and others — but we couldn’t find anyone who knows the source of the doors. Neighbor Joe Whitney says he made those climbing man sculptures for the tennis-court fences, but he doesn’t know who makes the doors either.
The only explanation therefore, is that they were built by tiny humanoid creatures who actually live inside the trees. Gnomes, perhaps.
More recently, a carved gnome statuette appeared sitting in a miniature iron throne ala “Game of Thrones.” It’s unclear whether that is the work of the same artist who created the doors.
Koch says he has “a hunch” who the artist is.
“But I don’t really want to know,” he says. “I like the magic of it.”
… and other delights
The cover of Herb Alpert’s 1965 album “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” served as the inspiration for the cover of the July 2016 Advocate.
Spinster Records owner David Grover allowed us to cover him with the contents of about 15 cans of shaving cream, with the assistance of Sunset High teacher Jay Norris. He gamely mimicked model Dolores Erickson’s seductive gaze, holding a single pink rose, just like the album cover.
When a stack of fresh magazines with Grover’s cover was delivered to Spinster, the employees working that day had no idea about the photo shoot.
“We were like, ‘What is that? It’s our boss covered in whipped cream,’ ” says Aileen Herrera.
She and coworker Kate Siamro delighted in taking a series of reaction selfies with the cover.
Grover says there was not much negative reaction.
“A couple of my older guy friends were like, ‘Please burn this image out of my head,’ ” he says. “For the most part everyone really dug it. It was a little cheeky, but it was really fun.”