Bonnie Parker’s Elementary School (Oak Leaves Round the Door)

Bonnie Parker's Elementary School

A close up of the front door, showing decorative metalwork of oak leaves and acorns. There are also entrances on either side of the building: one for boys and one for girls. The front door, which is fancier, must have been for teachers. There seems to have been a preoccupation, maybe a distinctively southern preoccupation, with who could go in which door. I wonder if, in practice, boys and girls and adults ever flouted the door divisions.

Note (May 2016): I should have known better than to over-think the door divisions. A poster on The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League site cleared it up in a jiffy.

Ruby Mae Lynn 2012-07-24 15:34 wrote:

“I went to Eagle Ford in 1947-1952. It just went through the 5th in 52. In 1947 I think it went through the 9th or 10th grade. Reason for the boys sign on one side on the girl on other is because of the restrooms. After recess boys went in on there side and girls on the other.”


Girl's Door 2
The girls’ entrance, boarded up.



La Réunion: “Les Serpents et les Insectes”

La Reunion Cemetery

Not one stone is left of La Réunion, a co-operative socialist venture formed by French, Swiss, and Belgian immigrants in the mid-1850’s, just west of the new settlement of Dallas. The central, living quarters of the colony’s tract of roughly two thousand acres overlooked the Trinity River facing Dallas, on land that proved difficult to farm. La Réunion is supposed to have enjoyed a beautiful view on “the worst agricultural land in Dallas County” (Hill). For whiteness, boniness, flakiness and infertility, Founder Victor Considerant’s limestone bluffs likely resembled human skulls, if they were anything like other Trinity bluffs. Yet it may not have been the land that defeated the colonists. They created some excellent kitchen gardens. Maybe it was the weather that got them: the unexpected extremes of heat, and the killing cold snaps coming after deceiving mildness. Hunting was more satisfactory: “Prairie chickens were so plentiful they often darkened the sun as they flew by in such great numbers” (Santerre). Grasshoppers flew by, too, but decided to stop. In 1856, La Réunion was visited by a plague of locusts that ate the corn and stripped even the ancient hardwood forest. It is perhaps characteristic of these well-educated settlers that they might be eaten out of their homes and yet find the experience scientifically interesting. In the La Réunion collection of the Dallas Public Library is a paper called “Observation of the migratory grasshopper or western locust” by J. Reverchon for Prof. G. Boll, Naturalist. [1877]”

Screen Shot of Page 136 of Un naufrage au Texas; observations et impressions recueillies pendant deux ans et demi au Texas et à travers les États-Unis d’Amérique ( A wreck in Texas ; observations and impressions gathered during two and a half years in Texas and across the United States of America). Un naufrage au Texas was written by Augustin Savardan and published in Paris in 1858. Even though it is the only first-hand account of La Réunion life ever published, it has never been translated into English. This digital copy may be freely accessed through The Library of Congress at

The colony’s doctor, Dr. Augustin Savardan, was one of the earliest of La Réunion settlers, and one of the earliest to leave. Once back in France he published Un naufrage au Texas; observations et impressions recueillies pendant deux ans et demi au Texas et à travers les États-Unis d’Amérique. The English title, A Wreck in Texas, has a nice little rhyme to it. Judging from what little I can translate, the book is a scathing rebuttal of Texas as a green and fertile land, where, as Victor Prosper Considerant reckoned in Au Texas, “the annual prairie fires are largely responsible for the scarcity of snakes, and the breezes account for the scarcity of insect pests.” Savardan found snakes and insect pests in such style and abundance that he devoted an entire chapter to them. It wasn’t even possible to bivouac without getting chiggers, although at first Savardan didn’t quite know what he was getting. The following, tentative translation of a little bit of Chapter Eight, “Les Serpents et les Insectes” suggests that the insects were a more serious plague than the snakes. In fact, Savardan has some nice, and even quite metaphorical things to say about Texas snakes, although he nevertheless killed as many of them as he could catch:

Snakes and Insects

    “In Texas, despite what Mr. Considerant says, there are many snakes, as well as a great variety of them.

    In our yard, under our shed, in our workshop, under our floor – the “crotale” or rattlesnake and the copperheads were very common the first year, and even now are not infrequently found there.

    In addition to these two venomous and dangerous beasts, one also finds (though more rarely), a snake I have not seen, but which I am told is called the cottonmouth because of the whiteness of the interior of its mouth, which contrasts with the somber color of its skin. 

    The few examples we have of the bites of these snakes lead us to believe that their venom is not very strong in northern Texas.

    Before my arrival in Réunion, a woman was bitten by one of the cottonmouth vipers. Mr. Roger recounts that after thoroughly cleaning the bite, he made the woman drunk with whiskey, and the next day she was cured.

    One of our dogs, in the presence of a hunter, was bitten on the lower lip by a rattlesnake. Its head and neck remained very swollen for a few days, but the swelling dissipated gradually, without cauterization of the bite (which we never could find) and with no treatment beyond a few drops of ammonia in water.

    During our voyage from Houston to Réunion, in 1855, one of our hunters was bitten on the hand by a large water snake, and the bite, just thoroughly sucked out and carefully washed, did not cause any further malady.

    None of these snakes exceeded two meters in length, and the biggest were no longer than the average arm.

    None attacked humans without provocation. They all fled at our approach; but this is the marked difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes: the former retreat slowly, majestically, as if they knew the power of their means of defense, while the latter, especially in hot weather, flee with a rapidity that makes chasing them very difficult. 

    The non-venomous snakes are numerous and varied.

    The most common is the “chicken snake,” literally couleuvre à poulets.

    This snake was, in Réunion, the familiar guest of our habitations, and above all of our chicken coops, where it distressed the superintendent of our farmyard. 

    I have killed two, which, climbing up an oak in the pursuit of bird and squirrel nests, entwined in such a way as to form a beautiful braid nearly two meters long and perfectly representative of the caduceus of Mercury.

    Finally, we could always find pretty little snakes, generally twisted among tree branches, where, as they were always completely green, a beautiful soft green, they were often confused with the foliage; and it was often noticed, when we put our hands on them, that they startled up no less fearful than feared.

    Two others also merit a mention: one marked longitudinally with green, red, and yellow stripes, and another with red, blue, and yellow stripes, side by side in alternating rings along its entire length.

All of these little snakes, so perfectly inoffensive, would have been as contented as our pretty Blue-Collar snakes in France to dwell in intimacy with man; but their fatal resemblance to venomous snakes caused us to kill them all without distinction. Thus it is, in this world, we hunt down honest ideas—truly worthy ones, perhaps—without examining them; but, under the pretext that they resemble villainous ideas concealing poisonous perfidies, we act with the zealotry of that cardinal legate who, at the siege of Béziers, ordained that everyone in the city should be put to death, ensuring that no heretics escaped, and leaving, to the grace of God, the good and the bad to be sorted out Hereafter, and divine justice dealt out accordingly.

    As for insects, none of us could understand to what M. Considerant owed the honor of finding them so rarely in Texas.

    We first became preoccupied with this during our voyage from Houston to Réunion. Scarcely had we begun to bivouac in the prairie before each of us, without exception, had his legs engulfed by irresistible itching caused by a considerable number of pustules. Some claimed that it was the price to pay for acclimatization, but when people with younger and sharper eyes looked more closely, they recognized that the pustules were caused by an infinitesimally tiny species of tick, similar to the ones called “rougets” (red mullets) in France, which penetrates the epidermis, probably in order to shelter its young family, and produces numerous pustules.

    I have never seen this insect; but during the three summers we spent in Texas I and everyone else have provided them with ample pasture, proving that this is not at all an effect of acclimatization, since the Americans are no more exempt than foreigners, and all legs that rub against the prairie grass are rapidly covered and soon after literally flayed by irresistible and persistent itching caused by these insects. This invasion did not take long to extend to the rest of the body and cause the same disorder. 

    In some of the settlers, the itching brought about a rash of boils that constituted a serious and very painful malady in which the ulcers, which were impossible not to scratch, were very difficult to cure. Every year, almost nobody managed to escape this scourge, and our friend M. Daly was, for three months, gravely ill enough to be forced to stay in bed almost the entire time. It is a sad fact that during this time, to his chagrin, he was not visited by his old friend, M. Victor Considerant, who, only when he was about to leave the colony and comments on this issue had been forwarded to him by M Cantagrel, did our executive officer recollect that he had at least some duty to fulfill in this circumstance and came to apologize for the long forgetfulness of him and his family.”

Dallas: The Making of a Modern City, by Patricia Evridge Hill

White Cliffs of Dallas: The story of La Reunion, The Old French Colony, by George Henry Santerre (1955)

Emile Remond

Emile Remond

The gravestone of La Réunion settler Emile Remond and his wife, Ceaserine Santerre.

Emile Remond had come to Dallas at sixteen, joining his half-brother at La Réunion the summer the grasshoppers ate everything in 1856. The colony was then only about eighteen months old. And it didn’t have much time left. As it turned out, Remond was one of a handful of settlers who never left the area for long, never went back to Europe after La Réunion folded. He remained in the neighborhood of the failed colony after the Civil War, in which he joined the side of the failed Confederacy, apparently as a flag-bearer.

Service record of Emile Remond (here listed as “Reimond”) in the Confederate Army. Cards like this one were created by the US Record and Pension Office in the early Twentieth Century, using original muster rolls and other documentation of military service. Source: Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Administration.


It’s possible that what kept Remond here was his interest in geology. He was a pioneering student of the possible uses of Dallas minerals for industry and profit. The very soil that La Réunion foundered on featured in Remond’s sales pitches about the commercial value of West Dallas resources. When Remond calculated the value of Dallas clay he was thinking about bricks, mainly, “fireproof” bricks made with naturally occurring aluminum. But he was also a booster for Dallas-made sewer pipe to perfect the growing city–and cement. A skilled brick-maker in an era when bricks were still fired by artisans in small batches, Remond may have underestimated the appeal of cement, which required no artistry, and could be quarried by low-paid workers.

A year before his death in 1906, he was interviewed by a writer (uncredited) for The Dallas Morning News, in an article headlined with the zinger “Dallas County Clay”:

“’The Dallas shale formation,’ [Remond] said, ‘is of a cretaceous lignitic semi-carbonaceous combination, containing oil, but not oil yielding, fine grained argillaceous, surface calcareous. Below this it is free of lime, is a sedimentary silt deposit of impermeable schist, unctuous, soapy, heavily laminated, of great density, fine grained, impalpable and soft when fresh. The surface is fossiliferous and metamorphosed, rich in metal (aluminum), a silvery clay, the sonorousness of which is due to the metal.’”1

It would be strange if French-born Remond actually spoke like this. The unctuousness of sedimentary schist and the “sonorousness” of “silvery clay” complete what has to be the most exact and sensual description of Dallas dirt ever to appear in news writing, even in Dallas. With this unreal-sounding quote, Remond seems cheated out of his own realness. The clay is more alive and human than he is, and is sonorous besides.

Morning News articles around the time of Remond’s death suggest that he had become a personage in a small, local way, and worthy of praise, even of mythologizing, as a poor man of vision, a populist hero who had seen the potential of West Dallas dirt even while “[p]ractical [Dallas] business men refused to believe him and declined to entertain his proposition to furnish positive proof if they would provide financial backing.” Cement would create 2,500 jobs, supporting 7,000 people, The Dallas Morning News reckoned.

In fact, twenty five years after West Dallas was saved by the cement industries made possible by Remond’s mineral studies, the place was still unincorporated, and distinguished from Dallas proper across the Trinity by mud, and no city services, and bad jobs at the cement plants, and a powerful strain of lawlessness. In this slum, Bonnie met Clyde.

Which wasn’t Emile Remond’s fault. He thought that West Dallas soil was unappreciated. Maybe he hoped to make some money off of its profitable qualities. Whatever his vision of the future was, it couldn’t have been Cement City, and the RSR lead smelter within 50 feet of public housing, and the biggest lead Superfund cleanup site in the United States. That would have been a vision of Hell, for which Emile Remond lacked the pessimism.


1(July 18, 1905) “Dallas County Clay: Discoveries Made by Prof. E. Remond After Investigations of Many Years”, The Dallas Morning News, 15. Retrieved from The Historical Dallas Morning News.

2(October 1, 1907) “Results of Remond’s Faith in West Dallas’ Mineral Wealth: Story of the Long and Persistent Efforts Made by Old French Colony Settler to Arouse Active Interest of Men of Money in the Mineral Wealth of the Country Just to the West of the City—Disappointment in the End, but Campaign Conducted by the Faithful One Results in the Establishment of Manufacturing Plants Affording Support to Thousands of People, The Dallas Morning News, 22. Retrieved from The Historical Dallas Morning News.




Under the Bridge

Under the Bridge

Below me, the Trinity River (unless that was a little creek; I’m still not exactly sure) passed through the deep shade of an ancient and unstable looking railroad bridge. The water was misted with chill and reflecting back the last rays of the sun. In this mood, not a powerful one, when the water is just silver sky, and all innocence, it does make the US Army Corps of Engineers look unreasonably pig-headed about strict flood control requirements. It lazed under several weather-beaten bridges, until it finally ended up underneath my bridge, on which VIP’s (I guess), or workers, or party planners, or security guards were walking, looking small: some promenading like people who are going to be entertained, and some, like workers, hurrying on business on the bridge, whose delicate lines against the darkening sky would end up in the camera . . . not quite as sharp and cool as they had been in life.

I don’t know what made me take pictures of the piers. I wonder sometimes if I just love concrete. Plus, the shadows were deeper underneath the bridge than elsewhere, and I wanted dramatic light. Through the piers, I saw the city, bright under the sun. I hadn’t expected this parting shot to show just how the light had been at the end of that day, most beautiful of all.

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

I was running with my tripod, and my impressions of the bridge photo taking session are mostly of different kinds of light. The workmen’s lot was bare dirt. There were some inexplicable mounds of concrete, and a train track on one side. Behind the lot, the sun was setting over downtown, glinting off every surface, reflecting and re-reflecting off the glass city. The farther the sun dropped, the more golden the shining light. The shadows cast by the buildings were deep, however, and cold; the last stray bits of winter collected there, and every blade of grass was cold.

At the edge of the parking lot, a mound that could have passed for a low hill rose steeply and precisely. I didn’t recognize it as a levee. You can live in Dallas for years and never realize that it was built around a powerful river that floods and needs to be held back. The hill/levee was choked with brambles and clinging thorns: a mournful lot of these. Up the hill I went, ignoring the thorns, slipping on the scree, until I could look over the edge, across and down a field that was unnaturally green, past a strange platform surrounded by a fence with ‘KEEP OUT’ on it. I had a good vantage point. I could see lots of police cars. And a few helicopters. And the odd bird, strikingly silent and agile in the company of helicopters, and nearly blending in to the sky.

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Dallas celebrated a weekend of Bridge-o-Rama when the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge opened March 3. This very expensive, ethereal white bridge (well, ethereal and white when the sun is in its proper place in the sky) was designed by Santiago Calatrava, and has been variously described, by various posters to Unfair Park, as a vanity project; “a bridge to nowhere” (“nowhere” being La Bajada, a Latino neighborhood in west Dallas); “a bridge to somewhere”; “the stupid fake suspension bridge”; “an amazing addition to the skyline”; a kind of Eiffel Tower; “a world-class bridge”; and “a giant dildo”. Sorting this out is not very important to me, luckily.

I took bridge pictures on the evening before the public celebrations. There was a VIP banquet that night, with people parking on a workmen’s lot close to the piers on the bridge’s northern, glitzy end. I’d first tried to shoot from the southern end, but that part was closed off completely. One of the policemen stationed on Singleton Avenue assured me, though, with a rank southern partisanism that came pretty close to poetry, that if I could have taken pictures from the southwest side, those would have been the very most beautiful pictures that I could have taken, as the view from the southwest was the very best view, and the southwest part of the bridge was the best part of it. But in the meantime, this was forbidden, so I got over to the north side, near some bail bond establishments. A security guard let me through, only after hesitating and working over the matter. If you’re taking pictures of things that people approve of, your camera can sometimes be your pass, I think. Anyhow, he said, “You can only park here if you have an invitation. But I might not see you park here if you just go in and take your pictures and get out”.

La Réunion Cemetery

Walter J King 1 Edit

You couldn’t tell that La Réunion Cemetery was beautiful until you were inside it, looking out. It was chained shut. I climbed over the fence door, where an extra metal bar allowed more footholds and there were no sharp link ends on top. My daughter was small enough to take the dog’s route, pushing herself on her back through a hole under the chain link, and keeping up an anxious patter about fire ants–not unreasonably—and about whether the Chihuahua was rabid. It had left the cemetery and was barking at her from a safe distance: that dog, approaching and retreating in a dance without dignity, and my daughter scooting backwards into the cemetery, also without dignity, deeply interested two boys who were hanging over the back of their fence. They watched for a long time, very quietly. Perhaps they hoped the dog would bite her. It would be something interesting.


When Ingrid got in she went leaping around in the grass, which was enticingly green and tufty. She apologized once for leaping on a grave, but it was probably under a tuft of grass. The cemetery looked made for such spring lambs. It would never be so pretty at any other time of year. There were big clumps of white flags, always the first irises to bloom and the ones that fade the quickest. No matter if the soil gets as hard as bones by July, and if acres burn down, and the drought proves prayer proof, the white irises come back every spring in old cemeteries all over Texas. It was mid-March now, and the flowers, always sort of wet and fragile at their best, were in every stage from birth to death, from new blooming, to mushy and curling back, to dried brown and gone.

Sunset Iris Edit

There was a single wine cup wildflower, claret-colored and exquisite. And when the sun started down over the apartments, leaving a pale, streaky sunset sky, the mesquite and the oak tree became dark against it, with their limbs struck up bouncing by the breeze that suddenly came up. You could picture, if you tried, a vast landscape as perfectly made as the little time capsule of undeveloped Nineteenth Century in which you stood.

Irises 2