Kidd Springs Country Club

Originally, Kidd Springs was a private estate, “owned by James Kidd in the 1870’s. It was a private park in 1895, when the Kidd Springs Fishing and Boating Club began construction of a small spring fed lake. The park became a part of the Dallas Parks and recreation system in 1947.” wikipedia.

I’ve seen pictures of the private club where they had boat races. There’s also a postcard with a huge slide when it was a city park. During the 50’s, the park had a frame building near the existing pool and picnic area on Canty for dances and social gatherings.

During the 1980’s there was such a spirit of community in the area. Many families from the area joined forces and errected a large playground with a castle theme — an all day project — built on the Cedar Hill side. Modern in it’s day to prevent deterrioration, it eventually had to be torn down because of chemicals used in the wood. Today, a new, modern, and multi use playground stands in it’s place.

Once upon a time, kids explored the creek area where natural spring water flows.

Below is an account of a Times Herald Reporter when the park was a private “country club” that drew people to the area. Lake Cliff Amusement Park was either new to the area, or would soon open.

Is Being Arranged in the Su-
burbs of Dallas.

Boating, Bathing and Fishing, With all
Modern Accessories, Will be Had at
the Famous Kidd Springs. A
Visit to the Grounds.

When the work planned by the recently organized Kidd Springs Fishing and Boating Club is completed, there will be one of the prettiest pleasure resorts in the state of Texas, or the southwest, almost within the city limits of Dallas.
This organization, which is arranged on the plan of a stock company, with each shareholder on pleasure bent, has bought nineteen acres of land, including the famous Kidd Springs, which have, for years, poured forth an inexhaustible supply of water, in the suburbs of Oak Cliff, and only a short ride or drive from Dallas.
The stock of the organization is divided into seventy-five shares at the value of $200 per share. To be a member, the person must hold one share, and no one man is allowed more than two shares. This is done in order to regulate the number of members.
Accompanied by a member of the club, a TIMES HERALD reporter paid a visit to the grounds a few days ago. Crossing the mighty Trinity on board an Oak Cliff car, and being whirled through that prosperous suburb with only a glimpse of the points of interest. the end of the line was gained. Turning to a right angle in a northward direction, a ten minute walk brought to view the famous springs, surrounded by a thick grove of pecan trees, interspersed with walnut, persimmon, plum and other trees. Here, a contractor with eighteen teams was at work, making the excavations and building the dam to form a lake. In this work, Nature has assisted greatly, a natural ravine, which, when properly dammed and some excavations made, will form a lake of remarkable size, being about 500 yards long, and about 200 yards wide, with an average depth of 25 feet. At the head of the lake will be a miniature island, which will be graced with a pagoda in the center, gainable by rustic bridges, and complete in other appointments.
Among the pecan trees above the lake will be built a club house, plans of which will hereafter be decided on. On the lake, a number of boats will placed and probably a steam launch for pleasure purposes. Bathing will be arranged for, the adults at a point seemingly designed for the purpose near the dam, and the younger element at the head of the lake, where the water deepens gradually.
The work of excavating and building the dam is rapidly nearing completion. The springs will furnish sufficient water the year around to keep the lake supplied, and an overflow is arranged at one part of the dam where the waste water can escape. It is intended that the arrangements will be complete by next summer, with the exception of the fishing feature, which will take a year or so to develop. As soon as the lake is finished, it will be supplied with all the choice finny tribes.
Every arrangement will look to the pleasure of the members, their families and friends. The rules in this regard will be just strict enough to accord every one equal rights.

– December 10, 1895, Dallas Daily Times Herald, p. 5, col. 1.
– o o o –

KLIF Radio

I don’t think there was a teenager in Dallas during the 50’s and 60’s that didn’t listen to KLIF. Only the wealthy had AC in the car, so kids cruised the streets to the top 40 rock and roll listening to KLIF with the windows down. KLIF was up there with the Texas Theater, Hampton Road Drive In (where the hospital is located across from Kiest Park), Kiest Park, Sivils (a unique drive-inn place for fast food where Ft. Worth Ave and Davis come together), Bronco Bowl, Lake Cliff Park and Hampton Road. Those are the place teens hung out in the summer time. If they were in a car or near a radio, they were listening to KLIF.

But KLIF was unique to Oak Cliff. Rose-Mary Rumbley tells it best:

“Dallas had the first municipally owned radio station west of the Mississippi. That station of 100 watts began broadcasting in 1921 with the call letters, WRR. Later, the Federal Communications Commission announced that only stations east of the Mississippi would have call letters starting with a W. Those stations west of the river would have call letters starting with K. The early ones here kept the W — WFAA, WBAP, WRR.
The municipal station was started by a young electrical engineer, Henry Garrett, who worked for the fire department. His father was the beloved Episcopalian, Bishop Garrett. A park in east Dallas was named for this fine leader. His son, Henry, began to send out messages about fires to those trucks away from the fire stations. Later, between fire alarms, WRR played phonograph records for entertainment. Then news broadcasts were added. Eventually, news services got their own stations, and the municipal station was almost out of business. Times Herald (the nightly newspaper once upon a time) owner Edwin J. Kiest (namesake of Kiest Park who donated the land to the city) raised funds to sustain WRR.
On November 9, 1947, a young navy lieutenant, Gordon McLendon, acquired permission from the FCC to begin broadcasting from a 1,000 watt station atop Cliff Towers, Oak Cliff. The call letters were appropriately chosen, KLIF.
During the war, Lt. McLendon broadcast in the Pacific at least three times a week, becoming the favorite voice of the guys on ships. In his satirical program, he broadcast Japanese propaganda with his own ad libs thrown in as the character, Lowell Gram Kaltenheatter. That name was derived from the names of WWII war correspondents. As that character, he took swipes at anything, including the brass, and seamen loved him for it. His type of broadcast could not have been beamed to the mainland, but for the ships at sea, anything went.
Now that the war was over, McLendon, from his peaceful quarters at Cliff Towers, decided that his wartime character’s ad libs would be great for returning servicemen and anyone else listening to KLIF. Dallas loved him — the old Scotsman, Gordon McLendon, as he billed himself. He was first to come up with “The top 40.” He had flag pole sitters. There was a live blonde on a billboard shelf waving to passing motorists. He taught a parrot to say KLIF by putting him in a room and bombarding the poor bird with call letters. The parrot started giving out the letters to get out of the room.
My kids grew up in the 50’s and 60’s with two great characters at KLIF — Irving Harrigan (Ron Chapman) and Charlie Brown (Jack Woods). These guys, like their boss, Gordon, took swipes at everyone including the brass.”

After KLIF moved from Cliff Towers, it located to the triangular building where Commerce St., Jackson, and Central Expressway come together downtown. This was before the new Central that goes around downtown. With all those windows, they created many a traffic jam at the location as kids drove by just to honk at the DJ’s. I guess it was in the 70’s when their format changed to talk radio.

And anything else………

Wes Wise, mentioned among the pages, became a mayor of Dallas.

Thomas L. Marsalis, Father of Oak Cliff

I worked with children for many years in the schools and community. I saw little kids, thinking, “Who sits before us? What will they become in life? What influence will teachers, parents and others have on their future? What contribution to society will they make? What influence will they bring on others?”

Thomas L. Marsalis. His family moved to Corsicana, TX, from Mississippi when he was a boy. He becomes my favorite person as a developer of Oak Cliff.

At 19, “Tom,” as he was known to friends, was a stock boy in a wholesale grocery in Corsicana. He was only 20 years old in 1872 when he moved to Dallas and opened his own wholesale grocery operation. Within a few years, his grocery business was making $750,000, annually. Oak Cliff, as we know it, was not a city at that point because the City of Dallas had annexed Hord’s Ridge.

In 1881, Thomas Marsalis organized the first fire company in Dallas.

In 1884, Marsalis took on John S. Armstrong as his partner, and by 1887, their four stores were grossing over $20 million a year. In 1887, Marsalis and Armstrong began to diversify their operations and formed the Dallas Land and Loan Company. They bought 2,000 acres across the Trinity from Dallas, including what was once Hord’s Ridge (area now known as the Dallas Zoo and nearby properties along with most of the Lake Cliff area), and renamed the new township area Oak Cliff.

Marsalis and Armstrong had sectioned off the land into lots and selling them a little at a time. To drive the price of the lots up, Marsalis would hold out on some of the land. Armstrong disagreed, and the two men parted ways November 2, 1887. Armstrong took the grocery business in Dallas and Marsalis took the real estate in Oak Cliff. John Armstrong bought or took up some land from the partnership, too, in the Dallas area that is now known as Highland Park/Park Cities — Armstrong Parkway. After the break-up, Marsalis personally financed the $500,000 initial land purchase and cost of street improvements in Oak Cliff, and built a complete waterworks system and electric light plant for his growing development. Marsalis was first to pave a city street in Oak Cliff with bois d’arc blocks.

Marsalis set aside 150 acres for a landscaped park — which Dallas eventually named Marsalis Park and Zoo — and constructed an amusement park to include a skating rink, three story dance pavillion, and summer opera house at the highest point of the park (notice Opera St. just off Marsalis and I-35), all of which helped to promote Oak Cliff as a vacation resort. Marsalis dammed Cedar Creek — the creek that runs through the property — to create a two mile long “Park Lake” for these mineral baths and health spa that drew visitors here for vacations. There was an outdoor pavilion with a shingled roof that had a stage at one end, seats for the audience, and railings instead of walls creating an open-air building for summer use. Doing research, Zoo employees confirm it still exists on the property but is closed to the public.

Oak Cliff had a trolley for local travel, and later the Interurban came in from areas such as Lisbon (Veteran’s Hospital area), Lancaster and another line from Ft. Worth. The tourism in Oak Cliff drew a lot of people into the area, along with the natural beauty of Oak Cliff that sat high on a hill. I recently saw a photograph of the people who had come to purchase lots around the area of the Zoo when it was first plotted. By the time eager buyers arrived, the lots were sold.

In 1889, Marsalis constructed the Park Hotel — a huge, Victorian, 4-story structure at a cost of more than $100,000 on a portion of what is now the I-35/Beckley Ave. intersection. It was modeled after the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.

There was a financial panic in 1893 that brought financial ruin. Growth in Oak Cliff came to a virtual halt. People were not freely spending money for tourism to the “spa” of these natural springs and “life-saving mineral baths,” and in the end the park closed and so did the Park Hotel. Marsalis, dependent on profit from his investments, went bankrupt and was forced to sell off investments in all his business companies. An influential man, Thomas L. Marsalis made a positive difference in the lives of many in Dallas and built Oak Cliff into a city with a vision and many amenities. He became known as the Father of Oak Cliff.

Dallas annexed Oak Cliff after a vote in 1903. In March 1909, the Park Board officially purchased the 36.57 acres (some reports say 47.7 acres) known as Marsalis’ Park (the now Dallas Zoo), from the Dallas Trust and Savings bank for $15,000. In 1912, after the Oak Cliff Viaduct was built, some citizens began expressing a desire to have a major zoo. Because the State Fair was expanding, city officials moved the zoo from “City Park” (Fair Park area) to it’s new location which had been renamed Forest Park on June 30, 1909; making the landscaped area popular for picnics and outings.

If you visit the Zoo, today, when you cross that bridge into the zoo itself, look down in the creekbed and notice the springs of water coming through the rocks. The North Oak Cliff area was known for artesian water, we once had our own fresh water supply before the City of Dallas shut it down in the 1950’s or early 60’s.

In 1888, the Dallas Hams played baseball on a site near Colorado and I-35. It would later become Rebel Stadium for the minor league and then Barnett Field (minor league), a popular favorite into the 50’s.

Toward the turn of the century, Charles Mangold developed the Lake Cliff Amusment Park, and again, people were coming to Oak Cliff for entertainment.

Thomas L. Marsalis founded and served as president of the Oak Cliff Hotel Company, Dallas and Oak Cliff Railroad Company and the Dallas Land and Loan Company.

(The Park Hotel ultimately became the Oak Cliff College for Young Ladies in 1892, then the Eminence College for Young Ladies. When that folded, the structure became Hotel Cliff (I think this was around the time Lake Cliff Amusement Park was in Operation) around 1910 before it’s final name was changed to the Forest Inn in 1915 when Dallas moved the Zoo to the area and it was known as Forest Park Zoo before it became Marsalis Park Zoo. The hotel structure was razed in 1945.

Beckley Ave. was known as Hwy 77 and Zang Blvd. was Hwy 67 before the freeway was constructed.

Thomas Marsalis was married to Lizzie Crowdus. They had three children, one of whom became one of the founders of the American Stock Exchange. They lived in a two story grand home at Colorado and Marsalis. It no longer stands.

In 1890, Oak Cliff was an incorporated city with a population of nearly 3,000 people. On March 17, 1903, after a hotly contested vote and unhappy dialogue, the City of Oak Cliff was annexed by the City of Dallas. Even so, those who lived here continued to call the area Oak Cliff. As that generation married and moved further south, southwest and southeast, they continued to refer to the area as Oak Cliff. And so it goes today, six generations later.

Credits to the Handbook of Texas Online.
(This is a great resource for discovering Oak Cliff history.)

November 22, 1963

Reading about history is entirely different than living it while it happens around you. This is another day where anyone alive and old enough to remember, remembers where they were and the events of the day. But to be living in Dallas — Oak Cliff — the events seemed so surreal, unbelievable.

Living in Oak Cliff was quiet. The police actually patrolled the streets because that’s what the police did back then; there wasn’t much else to do. It just wasn’t usual to have a murder in the city each month, much less three in one weekend. Maybe it was because we were young, but we watched two real murders replayed on TV over and again, and told of the third. That was beyond anything most people had ever witnessed. That was the stuff of movies and fiction.

Harry and I were in school that day. I attended T. W. Browne and Harry was at Adamson. Once the school informed us of what had happened, the atmosphere was very quiet. Of course teachers and some students were upset, but there was no chaos. All normal activity ceased. At Browne, they piped the radio events over the P.A. system. Then we heard a police officer was shot and killed. Someone saw a suspicious acting man enter a theater and alerted the police. The police then descended on the Texas Theater — no stranger to most young people in Oak Cliff. Oswald had been walking loose on the streets we walked and he was now sitting in the theater we all knew. We were glued to the events unfolding over the P.A. We knew exactly where the police were as the events unfolded off the radio. At Adamson, sirens could be heard everywhere. Officer Tippitt had been shot about a block away on the next street. Adamson students were informed about the President being killed, but they weren’t getting the step by step events unfolding like we were hearing.

Oswald was captured inside the Texas Theater and taken to the city jail at Main and Harwood. LBJ was sworn in as President at Love Field and they left for Washington. Could it get any worse?

On Sunday morning, police were transporting Oswald to the county jail when Jack Ruby stepped out of the crowd and shot Oswald front and center. It all happened just as church was being dismissed. And that’s how we found out about another murder within our city in three days.

Officer J. D. Tippitt lived in my neighborhood. His son and my brother were friends. What a week.

Emotionally, the people were not near as friendly with strangers after that. As I mentioned before, Oak Cliff was like a small town in the shadows of Dallas. And like small towns, the crime eventually comes to them.

Politically, I think the crime increased the more Dallas neglected city services in the Oak Cliff area, and it was especially noticable in the older neighborhoods that were composed of elderly homeowners and renters. The more the city neglected its responsibilities and older homeowners moved out, the more the area decreased and crime increased.

New development seemed to stop prior to 1967. The last residential neighborhoods developed were near what is now known as Executive Airport near the Oak Cliff Country Club and some new homes around Kimball. There might have been a few new homes built in the next 30 years, but most new development was in the suburbs of Duncanville, DeSoto, and beyond. It’s only been in recent years that new homes toward Joe Pool Lake, S. Hampton, and around Mountain View College were built. This was probably due to the federal court order on forced busing.

Young families began to discover Kessler and the neighborhoods around it in the early 1970’s. Gas was escalating — I think it was around 50 cents a gallon. Most people still worked downtown, a vibrant area of retail, entertainment, and office back then, with public transportation. People were moving back into the inner city to save money. They also found they could find large houses in the area for less than was offered farther south in DeSoto and Duncanville. During the next 25 years, I believe the people in Winnetka Heights, alone, paid to build a Home Depot closer to the area. There was no Lowe’s back then.

The assination of JFK was bad enough. Having Lee Harvey Oswald associated with Oak Cliff — even though he only rented for a very short time — put a negative reputation of crime on the area.

It was strong leadership and perseverance that sometimes took small steps along with a few giant steps to make North Oak Cliff what you see today, a place of incredible opportunties and beauty when people have a vision.

Urban Pioneers Revolt

Even with very deep roots in Oak Cliff for both Harry and myself, we looked at newer houses from Garland to Duncanville to raise a family. Some houses were pretty and some just not us — cookie cutter houses. Such a major decision, you want the house and the area to be right. We were drawn back to the trees, hills, cliffs, and scenic value of Oak Cliff.

side step: I think back, and for all the times we drove down Edgefield to my grandmother’s house, turned on 10th and came down Winnetka to 8th St., I must have been wearing blinders to not notice the many houses that needed to be fixed. As kids, we would play on her huge wrap around porch with it’s porch swing and rocking furniture, and I never once saw the house next door that Harry and I would one day own; due to the tall evergreen hedge blocking the view. The most I ever remember about this house was the back corner seen from Grandma’s back door.

Older people in the neighborhood were scared back then — intimidated by the crime of the late 60’s and 70’s (drugs were taking hold) — they may have seen something, but they wouldn’t get involved fearing retaliation. Many of their friends had been moved out and replaced with renters. When my grandmother found out this house was for sale and knew we were looking, well, it was just a match the minute we saw it. We were lucky. (Grandma was getting someone she knew as a neighbor and eventually two great-grandsons to watch grow, as well.) The owners of our house had always lived in the house until age forced them into a home, so, even though it needed to be updated it was livable. So many families that purchased homes in Winnetka Heights weren’t near as fortunate.

We were known as “Urban Pioneers.” Most of us lived with dust which seemed like forever, as most husbands had another job during the day and tried to fix the houses by night. On top of that, many men and women of the 70’s were also going to school at night, working on a degree. Taking on a fixer-upper was known as sweat equity. The houses may have seemed ridiculously low in cost to many by today’s standards, these houses soon became our “Money Pit.” (Great movie.)

Seems like it was August of 1975 — just six months after we moved here — that the City put a Planned Development (PD) Zoning Overlay on Winnetka Heights. Ruth Chenoweth and Mary Griffith had done so much work for City Planners trying to save what hadn’t already been destroyed. A moratorium was in place for any new construction, and type of construction as well. They, I assume it was Mary and Ruth, formed a neighborhood meeting so neighbors could get to know one another. New ones were invited, and each month — each year — it just grew until it was huge. The majority were new homeowners. We’d meet in an area of the Church of Christ on Edgefield each month, so it seemed. Eventually, there were officers, and most of the other residents found their niche doing something to help improve the community as a whole. As prices of homes increased in WH and were becoming short supply, the movement took hold in other nearby neighborhoods.

I don’t know when the Tour of Homes began in Winnetka Heights, but each year it drew more and more people from outside Oak Cliff into our neighborhood. Swiss Ave. already had a tour, and maybe curiosity brought them here. I’m sure some were fearful just putting a foot into Oak Cliff, but fear was removed as more and more people decided to buy into the idea as property values increased. House values seemed to double in no time, and so did taxes. Increased taxes, yet lack of city services and amenities. Our taxes were helping to build up North Dallas and beyond.

Dr. Tandy was our councilman at the time. He tried his best at monthly meetings to get code problems addressed along with other concerns. He would have a representative from every city department at those meetings, so it seemed. When it came to a vote at the horseshoe for this part of the city, Dr. Tandy was always outnumbered. But the natives were restless and tired. Promises, promises, promises …. too little, too late, and never enough to make a difference.

I really don’t know what provoked the showdown, but Dr. Tandy was our fearless leader at that time. An anesthetist by trade, he hardly put Dallas to sleep or allowed Oak Cliff to be out of the loop. The giant was awake on the table. The movement grew, and grew some more until some meetings drew an easy 2,000 Oak Cliff residents from all over the area. They were of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. If Dallas wasn’t going to meet our needs and put our tax dollars back in the community, then we could do it for ourselves. We were Oak Cliff, far and wide and always known as Oak Cliff. Dallas officials knew Oak Cliff as this small area of North Oak Cliff that was the original township T. L. Marsalis had developed. Oak Cliff people knew Oak Cliff that stretched beyond the Trinity to the city limits bounded mainly by Singleton Blvd on the north and near I-45 going south with a population of near 300,000 residents and 33 square miles. Take away Oak Cliff’s land and people, and Dallas was no longer a major city. The secession people were even going to take back the original boundaries of the Trinity River before it was rerouted after the flood of 1908 — ever heard of La Reunion? Reunion, the Hyatt Regency, and even parts of the I-35 Corridor would soon be Oak Cliff! Don’t you know those millionaires were on the phone? City Hall did some calculatin’ and found there was money in them there hills! I would have loved to see Oak Cliff a city unto itself, again. We couldn’t have done any worse, and probably much better. In my opinion, it was Dallas that had neglected Oak Cliff and realtors that sure weren’t steering prospects our way. “Oak Cliff” was just a bad mental picture for most people, in general, around the metroplex. Dallas was collecting millions of federal dollars for low income areas of Oak Cliff and spending the money elsewhere or doing nothing. Dallas was forced to return the money to Washington — our tax dollars.

We knew that run down housing was a breeding ground for crime. We made our point, and many a vacant, run-down, apartment building was torn down. The redlining with the banks and other financial institutions was removed, and distribution of city funds and services were done differently at City Hall. My grandmother didn’t think she would ever see the change we all desired for so long. Although she lived long enough for the Historic Designation placed on Winnetka Heights, and knew and watched many of the houses being restored, Grandma died before she could see the development and change that has taken place in Oak Cliff the last 20 years. I’m so glad my mother was able to witness the changes. I’m more than happy I will finally witness the dreams and promises of what could be for this area and that my grandchildren will have it much better if they decide to stay in Oak Cliff. Most of all, due to all the hard work of countless men and women — many who still live in the area — they have lived to see Oak Cliff become a desirable place to live and want to be. It was a lot of hard work, much of it done without the city’s help or money.

To ensure no one city council rep ever had that much power again, it seems Dallas was under another federal court order — always something — to dismantle the 10-4-1 representation on the city council in place of 14-1. Officials gerrymandered and chopped up Oak Cliff to achieve their goal. It hasn’t always been the greatest, but it’s had it’s benefits when it comes to representation for southern Dallas.

(P.S. Change only comes through education. If a business is hesitant to move here, it’s education that changes many minds. It’s $$$$ and buying power. When TV stations continually put down Oak Cliff and show the very bad or they dwell on the crime in Oak Cliff as if Ft. Worth doesn’t have such problems , it’s education that changes minds. Their concept of Oak Cliff doesn’t include what we see and it’s up to us to help them get educated, or refuse to watch their program or spend our money. The Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce was always a great source of info and brochures to present a different image of Oak Cliff than what most people gathered just from watching the news.)