LARGENT PARKS Recalls Early Swiss Ave.

We lived on Swiss Avenue until about 1924. By that time, the city had grown out all around us, Munger Place was filling up fast, and dad had bought twenty two acres of land which is now bounded by Junius, Paulus, and the Lakewood Country Club grounds. He bought this sometime before 1924 and did not build on it until 1924. In the meanwhile, it was a small farm, and it was my privilege to—after I learned to drive a car—to go out and pick up the eggs and milk. Getting to that area then was quite a chore. Swiss Avenue did not extend out much beyond Skillman. Gaston Avenue had not been extended. Junius was the street that we had to use to get out to our farm. Sometimes we cut across country on a very primitive road that extended from Swiss right on out about where La Vista is now, and cut across there; but when the weather was the least bit wet, that road was impassable. Right at the top of the hill, where Swiss and La Vista meet now, was a big open field that was frequently used by the early barnstorming aviators. Many, many times it was possible to get an airplane ride there for a few dollars.

Swiss Avenue Homes

Swiss Avenue Homes

As I remember, Gaston Avenue was not extended out to White Rock Lake until about 1924, and then the Lakewood shopping area began to build up where it now exists on the corner of Gaston and Abrams. The streetcar line had been extended at that time to come out Tremont Street to,where some arches marked the beginning of a development that had not been taken care of in a long time. Later the streetcar line was extended on out to go right by our house there and come down past where the Lakewood Library now is and end up right where the old library used to be. And, as I remember, it was extended at one time across Gaston and up the way for a few blocks, but that was soon terminated and the line was gradually cut back until it no longer existed.

In 1924 dad built the house on the corner of Worth and Paulus, which is now the YMCA for East Dallas. It was a large house in a great big open field, at that time, with very few other houses anywhere near it. After a short time, he put streets through there and developed the area now known as Parks Estates. One of the short streets there was named Largent Avenue, after my mother’s family. And Brookside Drive was another street with Tremont extended down into it.
The country club grounds then came up Junius to Paulus and over to Gaston. But later the club sold off part of the land where Wyaft’s and other stores now stand, and reduced the size of their golf course; tore down the old clubhouse and built a new one with an entrance on Gaston Avenue. But to me, the Lakewood Country Club will always face on Junius Street.

I went to SMU for several years after we moved out on Worth Street. To get there you drove out Abrams Road, which was then a real country road with some narrow bridges, till we came to Mockingbird Lane, and then took that country road in to get to SMU. It was way out in the country and there were very few houses around: some developments beginning, but really a great territory of a lot of fields.

Skillman Avenue, as we now know it, extending from Live Oak on out past Mockingbird Lane, was really nothing more than a creek bed at that time. After Lindbergh made his flight across the Atlantic in 1927, that section of real country road was called Lindbergh Boulevard, and really, that was quite appropriate because about the only way it could be navigated was by air. After a few years, the creek was buried under concrete, and the street became a very good street, much as it is today. The name of it was changed to Skillman when Lindbergh came under some cloud of disgrace during World War II. But for many, many years, this was Lindbergh Boulevard and served a growing area that was just out from Belmont and Vickery areas—some of the oldest residential sections of Dallas.

In 1930 Laura Mayo and I were married. The Mayo family home was on Bryan Street in the area where the telephone company has those tall buildings now. Later, the family moved out on Moser Avenue and lived there until both parents died.

So you can see that our lives have been spent almost entirely in this East Dallas area—at least, we have lived there all our lives, so far. Laura had gone to St. Mary’s Academy for awhile, because it was so close to her home on Moser Avenue; and then later on, she was one of the first to be enrolled in the new North Dallas High School, and she graduated there.

After our marriage, we lived for about a year at the Wales Apartments on Live Oak Street; I believe the address is 4515—the building is still there and still in use. In the meanwhile, we built a home in Parks Estates on a lot that my father had given us, and that house is still there, and I still think it’s a very lovely home. We later built the house next door to it and watched other houses being built in that area until it was just about completely built up. When we built our home, the latest development to make life tolerable in Texas was the attic fan; and we had an attic fan, but it was many years before we had anything like central air conditioning. It’s hard to realize now that we lived in the Texas climate for so many years without the benefit of even an attic fan. Before that, we used all kinds of electric fans to keep us cool, but mostly we depended upon some stirring breeze to cool us off at the end of a hot day.

By the time we were married and settled in our new home on Tremont Street, the Lakewood Theater had been built, and air conditioning came to the theaters first of all. It was well worth the two bits apiece it cost us to spend two-three hours in the theater just to keep cool on—on some of the very hot summer evenings. Harrell’s drugstore had been started at the corner of Gaston and La Vista by that time and immediately became the neighborhood social center. Other buildings had been built in that area until the Lakewood section became quite a shopping district, well-served by streetcar lines and by Gaston Avenue which was the through-highway to Texarkana and other points east.

The flying field on top of the hill at Swiss and La Vista was long gone, and the roads were all paved, and this part of the country was getting to be quite civilized all the way out to White Rock Lake. I remember when Forest Hills was first laid out and people began to build houses there. Laura and I thought that was the silliest thing in the world that people would even think of going that far out to build a home when they could be so much closer to town.

Courtesy Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas.

Photo: Swiss Ave. looking West, 1950. Note, photo is Swiss Ave, but not 4321 Swiss Ave.   Other Dallas history can be found here.