Saturday, November 15, 2008
We drove in to downtown Dallas and was lucky to find outside parking for the truck. It was very, very windy out. And I thought Chicago was named the Windy City! We walked down to the Kennedy Memorial Plaza where the Cenotaph (empty tomb), designed by architect Philip Johnson, is placed. Towering beyond that is the Old Red Courthouse. This is like the little red engine that could. It was the original site for a log courthouse built after Dallas County was created in 1846. When Dallas became a permanent county seat in 1850, John Neely Bryan deeded the property to the city, and a larger log building was erected. In 1856 county offices occupied a two story brick building, rebuilt in 1860 after a fire that almost destroyed the city. The fourth courthouse, a two story granite structure erected in 1871, survived one fire in 1880, before it burned again in 1890.
The Old Red Courthouse, the 5th Seat of County Government, was begun in 1890, and completed in 1892. A clock tower with a 4,500 pound bell originally topped the building, but was removed in 1914. Two of the four clay figures perched on the roof are removed. A new courthouse was built in 1965. Some office remain in the 1880 structure.
Across from The Old Red Courthouse is the John Neely Bryan Cabin. John Neely Bryan was from Tennessee and founded a settlement in 1841, which is now known as Dallas. He built a one room cedar cabin similar to the one in the plaza, which is of the same time period.
On the next block is the infamous Texas Book Store Depository (now the Dallas County Administration Building). "In 1963, the building, originally constructed in 1901, was in use as a multi-floor warehouse for the storage of school textbooks and related materials and an order-fulfillment center by a private business of the same name. On November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year-old former Marine who was working as a holiday-rush temporary employee at the building, fired rifle shots from the sixth floor of the Depository into the Presidential motorcade of John F. Kennedy, killing the President, who was rushed to nearby Parkland Memorial Hospital.
The Texas School Book Depository Company moved out in 1970 and the building was purchased in 1977 by the government of Dallas County. After renovating the lower five floors of the building for use as county government offices, the Dallas County Administration Building was dedicated on March 29, 1981. On President's Day 1989 the sixth floor opened to the public (for an admission charge) as a museum of the assassination, known as The Sixth Floor Museum. On President's Day 2002 the seventh floor gallery opened."
(information directly from Wikipedia)
We toured the Sixth Floor museum, watching the videos, pouring over the pictures, reading the letters, looking at the clues. Although I was pretty young when President Kennedy was assassinated, I remember the impact of his death. It was hard not to be emotionally moved while viewing all the memories.
We stepped outside of the building and walked over to the grassy knoll to where the crowds were gathered when the motorcade drove by. There are two large white X's painted in the street where the motorcade passed indicating where the two shots hit the President's motorcade. It was very eerie to see this.
It was time to move on to happier things. We had heard about some large murals painted on the sides of buildings a few blocks away so we headed out. The wind had died down a little. We passed a local hot dog vendor and I convinced Jim that we should grab a little lunch. I wanted to take a picture of the hot dog stand with the little umbrella and the vendor putting the dog on the bun. I asked him, in advance, luckily, if he minded if I took his picture. He said, "No." Oookay. He then went on to explain that it was against his religion. Well, I'd understand that if he were Native American. Jim said it probably had more to do with immigration papers - he appeared Russian or Polish. Maybe we were wrong.
Anyway, we found the large murals, snapped some pictures, and had one more stop to make - the large bronze sculpture called "Cattle Drive" in Pioneer Plaza near the Dallas Convention Center. At this point my hip decided to "go out" so I started to limp. By the time we walked the five more blocks to the sculpture, I was almost in tears and walking at a snail's pace. But it was worth it. This is the world's largest sculpture of its kind with 3 cowboys and 50 cattle coming down a hill and crossing a small creek. The cattle are life size and in various poses.
We had dinner plans that evening, and I was taking pictures, so I told Jim to go back and get the truck and I would finish up with the pictures. No sooner had he left, and I was approached by a middle aged woman. She told me that her mother had just been hospitalized in Tyler, TX and that she needed to get to her. She only had $7 in gas money and could I spare her any money? She even asked the police for directions on how to get to the hotel. She "conveniently" didn't have her ID with her, but she was willing to go get it in the car. I actually didn't have any money on me but change, and I told her that. She replied that she would take my change. So I emptied my change purse into her hands. It was less than $5. I thought, "What the heck?" Maybe she really needed it. A few minutes later I turned to look for her and she was gone, baby, gone. I didn't mention to Jim what I had done.
Later that evening we met up with old friends and co-workers of Jim. I told the women about what had happened early in the day with me and the panhandler. It turns out that the SAME woman had asked one of the couples for money - WITH THE SAME STORY when they had been in downtown Dallas at a restaurant. We laughed so hard that we cried. The more I told her about my story, the more she agreed and said, "That's what SHE said!" Oh well, hard lesson learned I guess.