Willie Newbury Lewis writes, By 1910, Dallas had long since ceased to be the small town of my early childhood. The main streets, even in the residential districts, were paved with asphalt, all thoroughfares were electrically lighted, and the mule-drawn cars had been replaced by trolley cars. Having finished school, I had entered the state of “young ladyhood.”
I had been dating for several years under strict supervision as to where and with whom I went, and the hour by which I must return. The boys quickly learned whether a girl was a “nice girl,” and, if so, she was not troubled by having to fight off amorous advances. I have never confessed to my grandchildren that I was first kissed on the evening I told their grandfather I would marry him. They would only laugh and think that, for once, I was lying to them. Now, in my early nineties, I am not certain that such complete abstinence from any form of sexual stimulation is the best path to follow in the long run, but I have no substitute to suggest.
The next few years of my life were filled with very happy memories. The family went once to Colorado, and when I was nearly grown, we went to California. The most interesting trip, however, was to Mexico City one summer when my mother and I traveled with Mrs. Roberts of the Saint Cecilia Choral Club and her mother, Mrs. Bryant, who was my music teacher. I was seventeen at the time, blonde, and different enough in appearance to be attractive to the men below the border. I had one very serious beau, Rodriguez, who at the time of my visit was attending the National University of Mexico, probably as a graduate student. He came from a prominent landed family in the northern province of Coahuila and seemed to have relatives all over Mexico. One cousin was at the Mexican West Point, which at that time occupied the famous old Chapultepec Castle. Another attended the cavalry officers’ training school at Tlalpam, which is fairly close to Mexico City.
Rodriguez set out to show my mother and me the sights of Mexico City. On the day we visited the castle, the student band stood in readiness to play “My Old Kentucky Home” as we went through the gate into the courtyard. The young men at Tlalpam were mounted, so there were special equestrian exercises to see. All of this happened shortly before the end of Diaz’s dictatorship. I am certain that great poverty and abuse of the peasants prevailed, but to visitors the city was gay and untroubled. There were band concerts in every park each day, and late in the afternoon, all upperclass women, beautifully gowned and hatted, were driven in their private carriages through the main streets of town. At funerals for the less wealthy, the deceased and his family and friends rode to the cemetery in a flower-bedecked streetcar. It was like a fascinating pageant.
Later that fall Rodriguez made the trip from Saltillo to Texas to see me, bringing gifts from his mother and sister. He was a very nice-looking young man, blond and blue-eyed, and I liked him well enough. Since I did not greet his unexpected visit with much enthusiasm, however, I never saw him again.
During the early years of dating, most young people dated in groups. One of the places frequented was the new Majestic Theater, which offered the best vaudeville shown anywhere. Everyone in my crowd saw the show on the same night and made certain that their tickets were on the last, or next to last, row.
On Sunday afternoons a girl and her best friends were prepared to “receive.” First one group of two or three boys dropped in for a while and then moved on as various other groups made the rounds from one girl’s house to another. As a rule, the favorites managed to arrive late so as to spend supper and the remainder of the evening with the girls of their preference.
All the dances were program dances, arid a girl’s date for the evening marked off as many dances as he wanted far in advance. A week or so ahead of time, the popular girls’ programs were filled, and the first, second, or third extra dance positions on the card were promised to those who had failed to telephone, since every so often the orchestra would announce an extra. No hostess would have dreamed of giving a dance without inviting a sizable number of “stags,” as the boys without dates were called.