|Many Denton residents have fond memories of visiting Evers Hardware Store when it was still on the Square. Surprisingly, this venerable old business, which was a fixture on Denton’s Courthouse Square for over 100 years before closing in 2000, makes a brief appearance in Libra, Don DeLilo’s novel about Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination.|
In the novel, CIA agent/TWU instructor Win Everett meets another CIA agent on the Square to hatch a plan for an “attempted assassination” of President Kennedy. They get coffee at Schrader’s Pharmacy before strolling over to the hardware store (and, ultimately, driving across the Old Alton Bridge to an undisclosed location where they hammer out the details of their plot.) DeLilo describes Evers Hardware (which is not identified by name in the book) as “a place of lost and reproachful beauty, with displays of frontier tools and ancient weighing machines, where Win often came to walk the two aisles like a tourist in waist-high ruins, expanded and sad. He had to remind himself it was only hardware.” I would add that, for all its reproachful beauty, Evers Hardware was still a good place to buy a hammer.
I’m a fan of Lynn Ford. It’s hard not to since I walk past his carvings in the library every day. Lynn Ford was a craftsman, cabinetmaker, builder, teacher, and a brother to his siblings Authella Ford Hirsch and O’Neil Ford. I’ve read Authella Ford Hirsch’s autobiography which can be found in a collection of stories published by the Denton Senior Center in 1984 called, Strength to Climb. Here are some from the book below.
She is very good storyteller and describes how she and Lynn got their names. Their father, Leonidas Bertram Ford, had read a book and there was a character in it (an Indian girl) by the name of Authella Ford. He wanted to name his next child Authella, but Lynn was born first (in 1908) and got part of Authella’s name (she was born in 1909). Leonidas worked for the Frisco Railroad Company and was burned by steam while trying to pull someone out of a train wreck; he died four days later. Authella was seven, Lynn was nine, and O’Neil was almost twelve. O’Neil started working and was offered a job by the Frisco Company, but their mother, Lula Belle Ford, did not want them to work for the railroad so she moved to Denton. They bought a boarding house where they served meals to ten or twelve students. The kids took odd jobs: Neil had a cold drink stand; they picked blackberries for the State Experiment Farm; Authella drew paper dolls and sold them; Lynn and Authella made posters for college students and they were paid based on the grades the students made (Lynn’s work always got an A).
And I’m leaving out the best stories! Sorry, you’ll just have to check out the book and read it yourself.
In the meantime, we have been leafing through the Denton Bronco yearbooks because the Denton Public Library is in the process of having them digitized by UNT to be put onto the Portal to Texas History website. Today, I opened up the 1926 Denton Bronco and noticed the name underneath a line drawing of a bucking bronco on the very first page – Lynn Ford. I wondered if it was THE Lynn Ford, so I flipped through the rest of the book and sure enough, his name is under other drawings, and in the back, on page 96, is a photo of the Assistant Art Editor for the Bronco Staff, Lynn Ford. He was a senior and graduated from Denton High School in 1926. A photo of Authella as a freshman appears on page 52. I look at them think about just how busy this family was and then I go back and read parts of Authella’s stories again, this time see their faces.
Thursday, May 7th will be the 100th anniversary of the Lusitania tragedy. Those of you who are followers of this blog might recall that back in December I mentioned an upcoming book by Erik Larson about this ship and its final voyage. Well, Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania is here and the library has several copies available, not just books but audio and downloadable as well.
First, a few facts. Just after 2:00 the afternoon of Friday, May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was struck by a torpedo and sank in about 18 minutes. The torpedo was fired by U-20, a submarine commanded by Walther Schwieger. Numbers vary by one or two depending on the source, but, according to Larson, 1,959 passengers and crew were aboard the ship, of whom 1,195 lost their lives. The dead include 128 Americans. Most sources, including Larson, mention three German stowaways who were trapped in the “brig,” but do not include them in the total number of people aboard or the total who died.
Dead Wake is just about as good as I’d anticipated. Larson does his usual good job developing key characters, including Captain William Turner, Kapitanleutnant Walther Schwieger, and brothers Leslie and Cliff Morton. Among the passengers he focuses on are bookseller Charles Lauriat, architect and spiritualist Theodate Pope, and Margaret Mackworth. We are also introduced to many other, mostly wealthy, passengers. And Larson gives us insight into the private life of President Woodrow Wilson.
Larson carefully sets the scene. We see how luxuriously furnished the Lusitania was. Even the third-class accommodations were nice, and Larson points out that the meals provided to the third-class passengers were better than most of them were used to. We are given insight into the tedium, or tension, and discomfort aboard a World War One submarine. We learn about the British navy’s secret Room 40. And, of course, there is the suspense and stories of the characters struggling to survive the disaster.
One of Larson’s trademarks is the interesting facts and connections he relates. An example from this book is the coincidence involving Wilson’s close friend and adviser Edward House. He was in England for an audience with the king on the day of the sinking, and during the conversation, George V wondered “Suppose they should sink the Lusitania with American passengers aboard?” (p. 227) I thought there were also a few missteps in connecting characters to other famous people. On page 173, Larson states that British admiral Jackie Fisher was “a dead ringer for a future actor named Laszlo Lowenstien, better known by the stage name Peter Lorre.” I did learn a thing or two through this comparison, but nothing relevant to the narrative or characters.
The library also has available a book entitled Lusitania: an Epic Tragedy by Diana Preston (Diana Preston has released a new book, also in the library’s collection, entitled A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I that Forever Changed the Nature of Warfare, which examines the use of submarines, gas attacks, and aerial bombing.) Preston’s book also contains good storytelling, but there is more informational text and analysis than in Larson’s book. She provides much less coverage of the final voyage itself. There is much more on the history of submarines and steamships. There is background on the British officials involved. There is more about the competition among firms that carried passengers across the Atlantic (Preston shows this competition was often ridiculous – in 1912, the Hamburg-Amerika line launched the longest ocean-liner of the time, the Imperator. “Cunard promptly announced that its new ship, the Aquitainia, would, at 901 feet, be a foot longer than the Imperator. Hamburg-Amerika responded that it had made a mistake; if the figurehead of a huge bronze eagle…was included, the ship’s length would be 917 feet.” p. 63)
Preston devotes much more text to the aftermath of the sinking, including the investigations, hearings, and both U. S. and German reaction. She also examines the charges of conspiracy and cover-ups.
The library is a great resource, and those of you wanting to learn more about the First World War during these 100th anniversary years will find a lot to satisfy your curiosity, and perhaps also leave you with more questions. Well, don’t worry – the library can help with that, too.
Fred, South Branch Library
Some of you youngsters or new Denton residents may not be aware that The University of North Texas was “On The Square”, to paraphrase the name of their current storefront on Elm, long before the past few years. And, if you happen to walk along the northwest corner at the intersection of Elm and Oak you might notice an historical plaque on the Thomas Ethan Allen store stating that the very first classes for the “Normal College” were held in the second story of a hardware store at that location. Have you ever wondered what that building looked like? One great resource for doing historic research in Texas are the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, which can be accessed from our genealogy page. Searching Denton in that database, there is a two page map for February 1891. Classes commenced September 16, 1890 and it is a bit of an historical gem that the map actually states that the school existed there. Observe the following segment(click on image for larger view):
Right above the word “Oak” you will see “Normal College 2nd (temporary)”. We were contacted by UNT recently to see if we had a picture of that building on or about 1890. To our knowledge none exist, but the earliest we have found is a still from a silent film entitled “Denton 1913: City of Education”. Yes, there was a film about Denton that early and it can be viewed at the Emily Fowler Library. Here is a still from that movie showing the building on that corner with “Taylor Hardware Company” along the top:
In the history of UNT entitled “Down the Corridor of Years” (La Forte, Himmel) there is printed a picture from 1930 of the same building stating that it was the location of the first classes:
While working on this request with UNT, it was discovered that there had been a fire on that location some years before 1890 and prior a Sanborn Map states this. Thus, if in fact this is the same building as claimed in the UNT book, it must have been virtually new. Here is a picture of the west side of the square looking north along Elm St. ca. 1888:
As you can see, right beyond the still existing Scripture Building at the far end of the block there appears to be an empty lot across Oak St. So, unless the building housing the first Normal School classes subsequently burned or was torn down and another replaced it, the Taylor Hardware building is the one. If you look back at the Sanborn map, the footprint of that building and of Taylor are likely exactly the same.
Why was this only a temporary location for the Normal School? The group of local buisnessmen and supporters of the new school known as “The Syndicate” had purchased property west of town but had yet to complete the first official college building. Thus, they needed a temporary home for the first school year, 1890-1891.
Thanks for reading and thanks to Jill King and the UNT Archives for information regarding the lot prior to 1890.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had just finished writing my blog post about End of the World scenarios and how your local library will still be open and available to provide you with the information to survive what may gone down, be it the Zombie Apocalypse, insurrection, comet impact, or any other various and sundry End Times de Jour, when my computer froze and I lost all of my work.
Hmmmm. I need to read this again.
And, maybe this one?
Mostly, though, what I really want to tell you is that your local library will more than likely be open for business if and when the balloon goes up. And we will be glad to assist you in researching ways to dispatch zombies, set up a perimeter, use a shortwave radio, run a trotline, make homemade soap, etc. Check out one of these books from our collection and you could be one of the lucky few to ride out the storm relatively unscathed.
Caveat: A complete breakdown of society, or an outbreak of epic proportions, is no reason not to stop by your friendly local library; we’re here to help.
William James Smith
Almost 50 years ago, in 1966, the City of Denton hired the firm of Marvin, Springer and Associates of Dallas to address concerns about the Square and we have the published results here. Entitled “A Planning Study for Improvement of the Denton Downtown Area”, one of report’s findings is, “if the development around the Courthouse Square is to remain an important retail center in Denton, it will be necessary to provide substantially improved facilities for the pedestrian”. Sound familiar? Its interesting from a lay person’s point of view to see how these problems were identified and addressed in that point in time by those urban planners. To put this study in historical context, this was during the time when the City was working with famed architect O’Neil Ford of Ford, Powell and Carson to complete the Municipal Complex in the park with a new city hall, civic center, library expansion, etc. Denton was trying present itself as a modern city (much like they did in the 1920’s with the construction of the 1927 City Hall, now City Hall West) and was probably concerned with how the Square was faring at the same time. Here is a map of the then-existing pedestrian facilities/sidewalks (click on image for larger version):
Along with accompanying photos of some concerns back in the 1960’s:
One concept they recommended was the conversion of the Square to a “plaza arrangement” where there would be more pedestrian-friendly intersections, trees, fountains, etc. Here is an example of an intersection:
As you can see, this is actually very close to what we have now, minus some of the trees. Next we have a partial scan of the whole Courthouse complex plan:
In the list of recommended “basic principles and guides” for improvement of downtown, the following nugget is found:
“3. The Downtown Area should become an increasingly important place for meetings, business activities and even for art shows, business shows and other cultural activities.”
The study covers alot more than what we’re presenting here, obviously, but its interesting to see some of the same objectives and concerns raised two generations ago. In many ways and for many reasons it looks as though we’ve gotten there.
So, the day this blog entry goes up is April 1st or also known as April Fools’ Day. I don’t believe I have ever attempted a prank on that date. I say that despite having a great sense of humor and having pulled some mischievous pranks in my youth. I’m thinking right now of a Mardi gras prank involving a supervisor when I worked in Fort Worth that I will not repeat in public until I look up the statutes of limitations on certain things. But, that was not on April 1st. Joss Whedon once wrote on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode that vampires and other undead stay home on Halloween as they consider it too pedestrian. That sums up my feelings about pranks on April Fools’ Day.
However, if you are going to do some prank on this day or the next, check out some of the links in this article and take some tips from this jokester to make sure everyone comes home safe and sound.
Know your Audience
Don’t make it typical
Don’t be obvious. Think about some movies that really surprised you. I can think of one really good example that I can sum up in two words. Keyser Soze.
That film showed a deft hand at taking what the audience thought it knew at the end and turning it upside down. Show the same originality if you decide to do anything on April Fools’ Day.
At the end, everyone should be laughing
My all time favorite April Fools’ prank I saw was on the show MASH.
The prank was great on many levels including the end when everyone was laughing together. A true jokester wants himself, his audience, and the recipient of the prank to be laughing at the end. Otherwise, what’s the point?
That’s all I have, stay safe, but have fun. And remember to check the statutes of limitations first.
Jess Edward Turner
South Branch Library