Visiting East Dallas History

The Bonnie Barge, low and dry — all photos courtesy of

By Bruce Felps

With the gracious assist of Richard Parker and all the folks who make an online reality, we take a little trip in the WayBack machine to East Dallas of yore.

The photo of an all-but evaporated White Rock Lake and the beached Bonnie Barge seemed somehow appropriate given the stretch of heat and no rain we endure just now.

The online synopsis reads:

Six years of severe drought conditions beginning in 1951 caused concerns and serious problems in Dallas. By the end of 1952 the water shortage was critical; Lake Dallas for instance held only 11 percent of its capacity. Streams only trickled or dried up completely. In 1956, the final year of the drought, the Bonnie Barge cruise boat was high and dry as conditions completely dried up White Rock Lake.

The annual droughts became so bad that the city rationed drinking water. I remember as a 9-year-old standing in line at a dispensing location near Norbuck Park with my mother to fill the single gallon jug they allowed us per day. My folks and I actually walked to the very center of White Rock Lake in the summer of ’56. I was shocked not only by the dry, broken dirt under our feet, but by how shallow the lake would have been even if it were full.

See? We don’t have so bad just now.

Enjoy the rest of the past-blast photos.

Many thanks to, which allowed East Dallas Times to republish the photos, and a grateful tip of the hat to Jeanette Crumpler, who pointed out the website.


  1. When I came to Dallas in Jan. 1948 it was a terrible icy, snowy winter. I nearly slid into Turtle Creek at Blackburn once time while I was driving. Then we had some hot, hot summers including those in the 50s. We started drinking bottled water in 1953 because the water was so bad. Remember the big bottles in a kind of springy holder thing? But it sure tasted good. I had grown up in Wichita Falls and was fairly used to bad winters, terribly hot summers and bad, bad water from Lake Kickapoo. I fell in love with Dallas history the same as I had for Wichita Falls history. Thanks, Bruce, for putting this on. Great photos and good memories.

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