Monday, May 22, 2023

A Plate of History

 My hometown is Denison, Tx. Now, to be clear, I wasn't born there (I was born in Garland, Tx and lived in both Dallas and Tyler Tx before we moved to Denison), but since we moved there when I was three, all of my formative memories come from Denison. It's a lot like how Walt Disney claimed Marceline, Mo as his home town even though he was born in Chicago. 

Just like Marceline, Denison was a railroad town. It was literally built to accomodate the employees of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy) Railroad as the line pushed west. In fact, "Denison" was George Denison, Katy vice president. 

Denison was a pretty typical "wild west" town. Doc Holliday had offices there in 1875. At one time there were far more saloons and " establishments of negotiated relationships" than any other businesses in town. 

1972 was Denison's Centennial, and there was a months long celebration. I remember men were encouraged to grow beards (the longer the better) and there were all manor of fairs and parades. There were also these plates:

Now, these aren't exactly fine china, but they are china. Let's look at what they chose to highlight.

1. Eisenhower born there. Ironically, although this is true, he alwas considered his home town to be in Kansas since he moved when he was young. There seems to be a lot of that.

2. M.K.T. Railroad first from North to Texas. Yep, that's why the town was formed to begin with!

3. First ice cream soda. Apparently so! In 1875 Joseph A. Euper came up with the soda water and ice cream and fruit flavoring to try to compete with local saloons. It didn't really work, and he closed his shop in 1906 and moved to California to sell real estate. Still, his place in history was established!

4. Marx Brothers first comedy act. Well, their first completely intended comedy act, anyway. The story goes that while in Nacogdoches, Tx a mule got loose during the Four Nightingales (their pre-Marx Brothers name) act, and the crowd emptied the theater to chase it. The boys started insulting the crowd with their witty sarcasm and quickly found that folks that didn't want to hear their singing were delighted to laugh at their barbs. They immediately ditched the singing and name and went to comedy. Their next engagement in Denison was a huge success. 

5. First free public school in Texas. Yep. Sorry, I can't think of anything really interesting to say about that one.

6. First refrigerated shipment of bee*. Ok, I really hoped this was beer (the printing on the plate is smudged), but it's actually beef, which makes a lot more sense in Texas. Train car refrigeration was pioneered in Denison, which allowed folks up north to have a tasty steak much easier (and cheaper) than previously. 

There were, of course, many more Denison firsts, but china plates are a limiting media (or is it medium?). I keep this one in my china cabinet to remind me of my childhood in a great city with a great history.

Until next time, keep searching for treasure!


  1. 6. First refrigerated shipment of bee*. Ok, I really hoped this was beer (the printing on the plate is smudged), but it's actually beef, which makes a lot more sense in Texas.

    Stu, I thinks it's "bees." First refrigerated shipment of bees. ;oP

    Fun facts - especially regarding the Marx Brothers....AND the first ice cream soda.

    It's fun to find a treasure that represents "home." BTW, us Chicagoans claim Walt Disney as ours!

    Thanks, Stu!

    1. I guess it could be beets. We actually had pickled beets last night. My wife loves them, but I'm not a fan. She got mine.
      Chicago can claim Walt every bit as much as Denison can claim Ike!


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