"Pretty Paper" - Willie Nelson's Christmas Tribute to a Fort Worth Man

    One of my favorite Christmas songs is Willie Nelson's Pretty Paper. It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned the inspiration for the song was a handicapped man from Fort Worth.

   Willie Nelson wrote the song after seeing a legless man outside Leonard's Department Store in downtown Fort Worthin the early 1960s. The man was a downtown fixture and could often be seen pulling himself down the sidewalks on his hands. He sold pencils outside the department store and during Christmas he also sold pretty paper and ribbons to wrap presents.

   The opening lines from the song was the man's sales pitch during the Christmas season.

 Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you

  The song was written in the early 60's and first became a hit for Roy Orbison. Willie later recorded it himself in 1964. 

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The Ruins of the Metroplex - Fort Worth's Tandy Center Subway

The Tandy Center Subway at it's final stop, before the driver walked to the other side of the car and  drove it back to the parking lot

The Subway leaving the tunnel and headed back to the parking lots

A 1960's Post Card of the original Leonard Subway (later the Tandy Center Subway)
One of the original cars is now on display in Downtown Fort Worth

   Recently, Downtown Fort Worth unveiled a modern streetcar display, a prelude to a future that someday might include a sleek and efficient way to travel to and from downtown. For a moment, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of nostalgia. Didn't we already have this?

   For nearly 40 years, Fort Worth was home to the world's only privately owned subway. Born in 1963, it was built to connect Leonard's Department Store with its parking lots on the outskirts of downtown. It was later used to serve the Tandy Center, a downtown mall and corporate headquarters for the Tandy Corporation (Now Radio Shack). It took its last passengers into downtown in 2002.   

   Last week, I set out to see if I could find any remains of the Tandy Center Subway and if I could find the entrance to the tunnel leading into downtown. 

This sign still sits at the end of one of the decaying parking lots.
Unfortunately, it's no longer visible from Forest Park Boulevard because of overgrowth.
There were once four stops before the final downtown destination. The Yellow Stop still stands today.

A mattress in the old Red Stop suggest that is being used for some other purpose.

A simple but important warning from days gone by. 

Leaving the yellow station, the remains of the power grid overhead.

The path of the Subway before it hit the downtown tunnel.

The modern confines of Radio Shack Headquarters today. Using Google Earth Time Line I was able to determine the tunnel entrance is buried near the foot of the building on the left. 
A tree grows on the path to the rail barn.

Remains of the tracks leading to the rail barn and service yard.

Learn more about the Tandy Center Subway by visiting the Leonard's Department Store Museum

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A Great Day Trip - A Train Ride to Small Town America (for only $4) Can You Guess Where I Went?

    I recently took a day trip via the train to one of the most charming towns in North Texas. A perfect excursion for antique shoppers, history buffs or just anyone who wants to spend a day in Mayberry USA. I bet you've heard of this town but didn't know about the train that stops in its downtown.  Peruse the photos and try to guess where in Texas I am.

This is one of the oldest train stations in the state. Stop in and get a historic walking guide to the city.

The original High School dates back to the 1920's

The High School Auditorium was built during the depression by the WPA

The spectacular lobby of the depression era auditorium

This home in the Historic District had a seven sided porch.

I love the native landscaping of this restored home.

A friendly neighbor who let me take his picture and told me the history of his 100 year old house.

The homes in the Historic District or just a few steps west of the rail station and downtown.

The view from across the street from the Train Station. I love the brick streets. Have you figured out what town this is?

The Filmore Pub in Downtown. A local favorite.

The original home of the Oddfellows Lodge, in the 1930s it was 'modernized' to look like a art deco structure. 

A new business opens up in the 100 year old town.

The George Building is 110 years old and houses a really cool Pizza Place with a Rooftop Lounge, a very hip surprise. 
Notice the new loft apartments that were recently built. This community's  downtown continues to thrive

Just east of Downtown is the Old Town District. One of the town's more prominent residents. 

The Carpenter House Bed and Breakfast in the Old Town District.

May I suggest lunch at Jorg's Cafe Vienna. The owner, Jorg, is from Austria and his food is both authentic and delicious.

Jorg met his American wife and moved with her back to her native Texas.  Quite a surprise to find a little piece of Austria  in this humble town. Where am I????

The Masonic Lodge is one of the oldest in Texas and still in use.

Have you figured out where I am? 

Scroll Down for the Answer

Did you guess


Didn't know that Plano had a downtown? You're probably not alone. Downtown Plano is over 100 years old and has buildings that date back to the days when it was a small farming community, north of Dallas. In 1960, Plano only had 3600 residents. By 1970, the number grew to 17,000. Today, it has over a quarter million people. 

And the $4.00 round trip train ride? The was the Dart's Red Line from Mockingbird Station to the Downtown Plano stop. 

To find Downtown Plano take the 15th Street exit (Exit 29) off US 75 and head east.

Click Here to find out more about Historic Downtown Plano

My Night at The Bridge


   If you drove by The Bridge, you might think it was a modern office complex or possibly loft apartments. You first guess probably wouldn't be that this modern building is a one of a kind, homeless assistance campus.

  Some might argue that "homeless assistance campus" is a fancy word for shelter. I would argue that you probably don't know much about the Bridge. Built in 1988, The Bridge is a non-profit facility run by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. A combined effort of numerous charities and government agencies, The Bridge's goal is to end chronic homelessness in Dallas by 2014. I now believe it's a doable goal.

   The Bridge is a warm, clean and safe place where the homeless can wash clothes, take a shower, get a meal, get mail, get counseling for drug or alcohol addiction, visit a clinic, get help from a mental health professional, search for a job, store their possessions or visit with the Veterans Administration, the Social Security office, or Legal Aid. A homeless assistance campus. Guest (as they are referred to by The Bridge staff) are treated with respect and compassion.

   Yesterday, I spent the night at The Bridge. I was a guest on the men's transitional housing floor.

A cubicle on the transitional floor at The Bridge

    My small cubicle included a cot, a locker and a chair. Despite it's spartan setting, the transitional housing floor is warm, safe and clean. Three precious commodities for men and women who were living on the street a few months ago. To move up to this floor is a privilege and the guests who live their must also work at The Bridge to pay the rent.

   I've come to know quite a few of those who live there, as we are training together for a 5K run this Saturday. If you met my new friends, especially when they are in their top notch donated running gear, you'd think they were just another runner enjoying the city park. I know them as Freddie, Steve, Melvin, Kenneth, Sonja and Raymond. I know where they've come from.
   I know how hard they've worked to get where they are now. And I'm confident they will take that last step across The Bridge. Their goal is to join the 89% of those who have moved from The Bridge into permanent housing and are still there 2 years later.

   I believe it is a doable goal.

Join us Saturday for our 5K Run or 2 Mile Walk to Help the Homeless

Find out more about The Bridge

The Ruins of the Metroplex - Part 1

A Detroit Mansion from the Gilded Age slowly decays

   I've always been fascinated by a website called The Ruins of Detroit. The city, which was once so beautiful, it was dubbed the "Paris of the West" began to lose both industry and population in the 1960's. Over the course of the next 50 years, over one million people moved either to the suburbs or out of the region entirely.  Entire neighborhoods have been abandoned, some even reverted to prairie. Skyscrapers, hotels, churches sit empty and deteriorate all over the city

   I've wondered about similar fate here in the metroplex. The decay of old Dallas is well documented. But what about other areas. We build newer and newer suburbs in far reaching cities like Allen and McKinney. What happened to the first wave of suburbia? 

   Though not nearly as extensive or devastating as Detroit, there are pockets of abandonment, so called modern day ruins. Buildings that haven't necessarily outlived their usefulness, they just happen to be built in a part of town that is no longer in fashion. 
A Downtown Detroit Movie Palace falls apart.

The Once Proud Michigan Central Terminal sits abandoned. Imagine if a new form of transportation was invented and DFW Airport was abandoned

The Ruins of the Metroplex - Garland Shopping Center

UPDATE:  Since this post was written, the shopping center has been torn down and a Wal Mart is being built in it' place. Below is the original post. 

   I first noticed this beautiful mid-century sign at the intersection of Garland Road and Miller on my way to old Downtown Garland. It's vast parking lot offer clues that it once served a bustling suburb that was romanced by the automobile.

    The only sign of life left is this lonely mailbox which sits in the middle of the development. A few weeks ago during the premier episode of the new show LONE STAR, I noticed the sign in the background. This empty mid century shopping plaza was being used as the set for a couple of grifters. A odd second life, for a once modern complex. (Ironically, the TV series was cancelled after 2 episodes)

    Side note: Though the shopping center is left to decay, the neighborhood of mid century ranch homes are in surprisingly excellent condition. 

Remnants of tile flooring from a row a buildings
I found the remains of a gas station. Here is where the pumps once sat. 

The Ruins of Detroit
Map to Garland Shopping Center

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A Little Taste of Hawaii, Right here in the Metroplex

   The people of Hawaii love Spam. And when I say "love", I really mean "love". For some reason, Hawaiians see Spam as a delicacy.

   So it was no surprise to me when I walked into the L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in Plano to find Spam prominently on the menu. SpamBurger, Spam & Eggs, Spam Musubi and Spam Saimin.

   Now do yo believe me, Hawaiians love Spam.

   What really surprises me is that a Hawaiian institution like  L&L is located here, and that it took me so long to find it. Imagine if you lived in Hawaii for 10 years and then all of a sudden you discover there is a Whataburger located in Honolulu.

   If Spam isn't your thing, don't worry. They stay plenty kine onolicious Hawaian kau kau. (translation: There are plenty of other delicious Hawaiian dishes)
   I would recommend the Kailua pork or the Pork Lau Lau. Both are served with the traditional Hawaiian plate lunch accouterments: A scoop of sticky rice and macaroni salad. The menu does allow for substituting an extra scoop of rice rather than the mac salad.

   For the unadventurous there are a variety of other options from Shrimp, Mahi Mahi, Barbeque Chicken and Burgers. I suggest you stick with the regular size plates, the Aloha size is way too much food.

  I do suggest you skip the standard soft drink and try one of the many Hawaiian Sun punches and nectars. Imported directly from Hawaii, these are very hard to find on the mainland. Passion Fruit / Guava Nectar is one of my favorites. 

  L&L is located in far north Plano just south of Highway 121 and the Ikea store. And if you travel to New York, apparently there's one there also.