Monday, September 21, 2009

What Happened to the Rocket Car?



I drove through my old Fort Worth neighborhood today. I must admit, I was a bit envious. The area between downtown and the Cultural District is in the final stages of a dramatic redevelopment. Soon, a Movie Tavern, restaurants, and cool loft apartments will open, making the West 7th corridor once of the most vibrant parts of Fort Worth.
Yet, I feel an odd sense of loss.
For the twenty years I lived on the westside, this vital link between the city's two biggest attractions featured nothing more than a handful of used car lots and old fast food outlets. Included in that mix was one rather shabby outlet called Aardvark Used Cars and Rental. I honestly don't think in twenty years I ever saw anybody ever shopping at the Aardvark. Why would they? The Aardvark had less than 5 cars on the lot.
But the Aardvark did posses one very special vehicle. The Rocket Car.
The Rocket Car looked like some threadbare handyman's attempt to break the world speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. For twenty years, the Rocket Car sat in the lot of Aardvark. Alone. Abandoned.
Can I be the only one who wondered what ever happened to the Rocket Car?
If we made four bent billboard post into a piece of artwork at the new post office, couldn't we have done the same for the Rocket Car?
If I had a chance three years ago to sit down with Roger Staubach, the developer of this new neighborhood, I would have offered him one suggestion. "Believe me, you're going to want that Rocket Car"

(photos courtesy of FortWortholgy.com)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Anybody for a dip in White Rock Lake?

Recently, Fred Lockhart received a $300 ticket for 'wading' in White Rock Lake. Well, that's what was written on the ticket. Actually, he was floating in an inner tube and fishing.
Mr. Lockhart says if he is ticketed, then so should every kayaker and boater who must get a foot wet to push off from White Rock shore. That's a pretty good point.
Here's my question. Why can't we wade in White Rock Lake? Furthermore, why can't we swim in White Rock Lake?
I can already hear a chorus of 'Yuck'. But before you dismiss this as a ridiculous musing, consider a few points.
White Rock Lake was built as a reservoir for the city of Dallas in 1910. Until the late 1950s, the lake was a popular swimming hole. The first art deco building in the Southwest was constructed in 1930 complete with locker rooms, concession stands and a sandy beach to accommodate swimmers.

 That building still stands today as the Bath House Cultural Center off Buckner.


In 1958, the city suffered a drought and needed the lake again as a water supply. Swimming officially ended in September 2, 1958. After 1958, the city of Dallas focused more on building segregated neighborhood swimming pools rather than re-opening the beach.
During the next three decades, the lake slowly fell into disrepair until it became a teenage cruising spot. In the 90's, the city spent $12 million to clean up the lake, including a two year dredging project. Today, few would argue that it wasn't money well spent. White Rock Lake has become a true gem to this city. The neighborhoods surround the lake have seen their home values skyrocket, thus increasing the property tax revenues.
With this in mind, I recently took a trek out to the restored bathhouse. Since the dredging, one could argue that the lake is as clean as Lake Lewisville or Grapevine Lake. Could we once again have a beach in the middle of Dallas? Could White Rock Lake be resurrected as an urban oasis? Could it be as popular as Austin's Barton Springs?
These are questions I pondered as I looked out at the old swimming dock that still floats in the lake. As I contemplated dipping my toe in the water and making a civic statement, I saw a water snake swim by.
Never mind.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My biggest surprise since moving to Dallas

When I moved to Fort Worth in 1988, Cowtown was rather sleepy. I think the last napping panther had just been swept from the streets. I lived on the west side of town just off Camp Bowie Boulevard, which offered one dumpy grocery store and a Chili's. Fort Worth was boring. We used to lament that there were only 4 place to eat out in Fort Worth. If you wanted to some excitement, you had to make the long trek to Dallas.
About 1995, things started to change. Sundance Square started to take off. Movie theaters, bars, bookstores, restaurants and Bass Hall all opened downtown within a couple of years. All of sudden Fort Worth was a fun place to live. By the year 2009, even the shabby 7Th Street corridor was finally being redone after years of being home to used car lots and an abandoned McDonalds. Fort Worth was becoming an incredible great city. (They are even planning streetcars to connect downtown and the museums
So when I moved to Dallas, there was a bit of remorse that I was leaving when Fort Worth was at the top of it's game.
But hey, I was moving to Dallas. If you are bored in Dallas, it's your own fault.
Except if you live where I live. I think I may have moved to Yawn Town.
I live on the east side of White Rock Lake.
The White Rock Lake area is perhaps the most picturesque part of Dallas. But when people talk about the White Rock area, most are referring to the western side. Lakewood. Lower Greenville. The M Streets.
Have you ever been to the east side of the lake? Equally beautiful. Old growth trees. The Arboretum. Gigantic lots. Great neighborhoods. And a Chili's. That's about it.
Don't get me wrong, I love my home and the half acre lot it sits on in the passed over part of Dallas.
But can someone tell the Shannon Wynne and Phil Romano that the east side of White Rock Lake has tons of potential customers that would love to spend some money for a good time.
In the mean time, you can find me enjoying a drink at Chili's. With my Unicard.