When a Little Red Wagon Is a Time Machine (Part 2)

When last we saw Anna Marie Tarter and Jimmie Neace (see Part 1), the year was 1932, and Jimmie, wearing a silk top hat, was sitting in a little red wagon as Anna Marie pulled him down Main Street. Suddenly Anna Marie gave her lead rope a quick tug, sending Jimmie and his silk top hat spilling from the red wagon onto the red bricks of Main Street at 7th Street.

Anna Marie, the Star-Telegram wrote, would repeat this prank a few times before the parade ended at the train depot.

After Jimmie climbed back into the wagon, the three-float parade resumed. Let us tag along and trace the second half of the parade route eighty-eight years ago:


7th Street to 9th Street

The 800 and 900 blocks of Main Street included some of Fort Worth’s biggest hotels. But the two blocks also included stores devoted to shoes, hats, and clothing. No doubt the latest fashions in the store windows caught the eyes of our teenage parade participants.

805-807, Worth Hotel (1894) was built by capitalist Winfield Scott. It was five stories high. Retailers such as Alphonse August occupied part of the ground floor. Today Ruth’s Steak House occupies that corner of the block.

809-815, Hotel Texas (1921), designed by Sanguinet and Staats. Scott had planned to build a hotel on this site, but he died in 1911. In fact, after a group of civic leaders began raising money to fulfill Scott’s plan, the hotel originally was to be named the “Winfield.” It is thirteen stories high. In 1932 radio station KFJZ was located in the hotel.

814, Wheat Building. In 1890 wholesale merchants Sidney Martin and Joseph H. Brown had built a new home for their dry goods partnership on Main Street at 8th. At six stories it was among Fort Worth’s first “skyscrapers.” In 1901 Joseph G. Wheat bought the building, renamed it for himself, and added a rooftop garden restaurant as a seventh story.

After passing the Texas Hotel and the Wheat Building, the parade of teenagers had passed through the shadows of Main Street’s “canyon” and rolled into sunshine. As this 1940 aerial photo shows, even eight years later lower Main meant lower buildings: Main Street from the Hotel Texas southward had no tall buildings to block the sun. (Photo from Fort Worth in Pictures, 1940.)
C courthouse
B Blackstone Hotel
A Aviation Building
FWN Fort Worth National Bank
HT Hotel Texas
W Wheat Building
WB Washer Bros.
MH Metropolitan Hotel
M Monnig’s wholesale building
WM&S Well Machinery & Supply
AH memorial to Al Hayne, hero of the Texas Spring Palace fire
FK Frank Kent (1940)
T&P Texas & Pacific passenger depot

900-906, Washer Brothers Building (1927). Before Marvin and Obadiah Leonard came Nat and Jacob Washer. In 1882 the Washer brothers had established Washer Brothers Clothiers, which evolved into one of the better department stores in town. (Photo from Fort Worth in Pictures, 1940.)

911-919, Metropolitan Hotel (1898). Yet another Winfield Scott hotel. In fact, in 1932 the east side of Main in the 700 and 800 blocks had three Winfield Scott hotels shoulder to shoulder: Worth, Texas, and Metropolitan. In the lobby of the Metropolitan in 1912 the bloody Boyce-Sneed feud had begun.

9th Street to 12th Street

At about 9th Street the parade entered lower Main, which once had been part of Hell’s Half Acre. In fact, even in 1932 lower Main was the sort of area where teenage girls such as Anna Marie Tarter might not want to venture unescorted. In contrast to upper Main, lower Main was an area of smaller buildings: small shops, small hotels, small theaters (Odeon, Capitol, State, New Liberty, Texas [formerly the Hippodrome], Ideal). And on lower Main a greater proportion of buildings was vacant in 1932.

These ads of 1925 include four theaters that were still operating on lower Main Street in 1932: Capitol, Odeon, Gayety, and Hippodrome (renamed “Texas” by 1932).

This undated photo looks north on Main Street from between 9th and 10th streets. It was taken no later than 1927. The Odeon Theater, 1004 Main, is on the left. (Photo from Tarrant County College NE, Heritage Room.)
S Schulte Building. A. Schulte Cigars was a chain of three hundred stores.
WB Washer Brothers
W Wheat Building
FWN Fort Worth National Bank
HT Hotel Texas

This postcard, taken in the 1940s, looks north on Main Street from about 10th Street. The nearest tall buildings are Farmers and Mechanics/Fort Worth National Bank on the left and the Hotel Texas on the right. Just forward of the Hotel Texas, the block-square Metropolitan Hotel had become the Milner Hotel. No streetcar tracks are in this view; service had ended in 1939. The postcard also shows a business that had not been legal when the parade had rolled down Main Street in 1932: a liquor store.
FWN Fort Worth National Bank
S Sinclair Building
BB Burk Burnett Building
B Blackstone Hotel
A Aviation Building
HT Hotel Texas
MH Metropolitan Hotel

Because of the convention center, today the longest view north on Main Street is from 9th street.

1104, Moore Building. This building, designed by L. B. Weinman, had briefly been the home of radio station KFJZ when chiropractor Henry C. Allison owned the station.

1107, New Liberty Theater. In 1955 Reverend Henry F. Cooper Sr. would found the New Liberty Mission in this building. In 1958 Cooper would establish New Liberty Mission Rehabilitation Center for men who abused alcohol. The center was located a half-mile from Lake Worth’s Greer Island. The rehabilitation center was known informally as the “Goat Farm” because its residents raised goats. The late Fort Worth police sergeant Dale Hinz believed that Foots Fowler, a resident at the rehabilitation center, was Goatman.

1112 1/2, Crowdus Building housed a small hotel.

1208-1216, Meacham’s Department Store, founded by Mayor Henry Clay Meacham. The store later would move to a larger building on Houston Street. (In 1926 First Baptist Church pastor J. Frank Norris had been criticizing Mayor Meacham when Dexter Elliott Chipps, a friend of Meacham, confronted Norris in the preacher’s office. Chipps told Norris to stop criticizing Meacham. Norris drew a pistol from a drawer and shot Chipps dead. Chipps was unarmed. At trial Norris would claim that Chipps threatened to kill him. Norris was acquitted.) Meacham’s daughter Minnie would marry Amon Carter in 1947.

1215, I. N. Mehl, clothier. Numismatist Max Mehl and his family came to Fort Worth from Lithuania in 1893 and began selling shoes and clothes.

12th Street to 15th Street

More small hotels, small shops, and small theaters, a gospel mission, and an Army recruiting station.

As for the parade of teenagers, “At Thirteenth Street,” the Star-Telegram wrote, “Anna Marie stopped long enough to join her schoolmates in a rousing ‘Rah, Rah, Rah’ for Polytechnic.”

1407, yet another Renfro’s drugstore—the fifth that the parade passed along one mile of Main Street.

Renfro’s had been in Fort Worth since at least 1905.

15th Street to Lancaster Avenue

1616, Terminal Hotel, the fifth hotel on Main Street built or planned by Winfield Scott. The Terminal Hotel in 1919 had played a small role in the hornswoggling of another J. Frank—Norfleet.

1618B, another Northern Texas Traction Company office and a bus terminal.

1619-1621, Monnig’s dry goods wholesale building (1925), designed by Sanguinet and Staats. Today the building is Water Gardens Place. From 9th Street south to Lancaster, this is the only building on the Main Street parade route that was standing in 1932 and is standing today. The convention center and Water Gardens took most of the others.

1631, Brown Building. In 1886 Joseph H. Brown built this grand stone building for his wholesale grocery business. By the time Anna Marie pulled Jimmie past the building in 1932, it housed Well Machinery & Supply Company. This building was demolished in 1958 to make way for Interstate 30. The rooftop Monnig’s sign can be partially seen on the left. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

The one-mile parade from the courthouse to the train station lasted twenty-five minutes. That means that Anna Marie and her little red wagon averaged about two miles an hour.

The Star-Telegram wrote that a Poly High assistant coach had reserved a “drugstore chair” for “marathon puller” Anna Marie (there were three drugstores within a block of the train station).

“At the end of the trip,” the Star-Telegram wrote of the teenagers, “everybody in the group congratulated everybody else, then crowded around for an impromptu soda fountain party.”

Andy Hardy himself could have done no better.

The Great Wagon Draggin’ of 1932 was not the first time that Main Street was used to settle a bet:

The Election of 1908: Roll Out the Barrow

Main Street north and south of downtown:

The “Other” Main Streets: From Pep Boys to Doughboys (Part 1)

Tour another major downtown street:

Cowtown Yoostabes, Houston Street Edition: From Steaks to Swastikas

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