Cigarette Hill

On July 16, 2017 · 1 Comments

I focused attention on unusual street names awhile ago. That theme played itself out over time so I left it behind for the most part. However, every once in awhile, I came across something interesting enough to mention on Twelve Mile Circle. This time it appeared in Texas. What was it about Texas? Once I found a subdivision with streets named after South Park characters. This time I found something stuck in an even earlier period of time, probably the 1940’s or 1950’s. Cigarettes had a positive image back then. Sometimes advertisers even promoted alleged health benefits (e.g., "More Doctors Smoke Camels than Any Other Brand"). In that context, perhaps, a subdivision with streets named for cigarette brands might have seemed like a good idea.

Cigarette Hill



Cigarette Hill; Dallas, Texas

Imagine the possibilities. One could live on Pall Mall Avenue, Camel Court, or Kool Avenue. Lucky Street seemed to be a stand-in for Lucky Strike. Maybe Durham referenced Bull Durham tobacco. I also spotted a Fatima Avenue. I’d never heard of Fatima cigarettes although they used to be quite popular. Liggett & Myers launched the brand in 1913 to capitalize on the popularity of Turkish tobacco. Fatima faded as the century progressed. It disappeared completely by the 1980’s.

The neighborhood earned a name, Cigarette Hill.


Hard Times on Cigarette Hill



Cigarette Hill stuck in a time warp just like the vintage cigarette brands of its street names. Its residents lived in poverty with a median household income of less than $15,000 in 2014. It also became a highly segregated neighborhood with an overwhelmingly (88.6%) African American population.

Ripple Road also traversed Cigarette Hill. Perhaps it existed as a coincidence or perhaps not. Ripple was an old type of a particularly nasty, cheap fortified wine. The television character Fred Sanford (played by Redd Foxx) considered Ripple his favorite drink. It gained "a reputation as a drink for alcoholics and the destitute."

By 2008, the City of Dallas recognized that Cigarette Hill and the larger Lancaster Corridor needed help. The local NBC television station reported on the situation that led to a Community Revitalization Plan.

…the neighborhood in the middle of the City of Dallas seems like a piece of old rural Texas. Residents complain the neighborhood has been overlooked for decades with no sidewalks, no storm sewers, few streetlights, and overgrown roads to name just a few problems… The Cigarette Hill area is very close to other Southern Dallas neighborhoods that have proper lighting, wider streets and complete sidewalks.

Still, it held a lot of promise. Cigarette Hill had ready access to employment centers and a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) rail station. It also offered scenic views from its elevated position. Revitalization efforts still continue.


Cigarettes in Sterling Heights



Sterling Heights, Michigan

I found another cigarette subdivision in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Residents there could choose from Camel, Pall Mall, Parliament, Winston, Newport and Viceroy Drives. Ironically, it also included a Tarry drive (which by one definition meant "covered with tar"). I supposed a street surrounded by cigarettes would eventually become tarry as a result. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything else about this neighborhood beyond its themed street names. It seemed from Google Street View that the houses probably dated from the 1950’s or 1960’s based on their architecture.


Pall Mall


Pall Mall
Pall Mall Circa 1900. Reproduced by Leonard Bentley on Flickr (cc)

I found myself with a little extra room left in this article. Maybe I should take a look at one of those old-timey cigarette brands. What inspired the naming of Pall Mall I wondered?

The mystery solved itself pretty quickly. Pall Mall is a street in London, England (map). It connected St. James’s Street to Trafalgar Square, running past St. James’s Square. The 18th Century brought a lot of wealthy people to Pall Mall who lived in ornate mansions there. It also became known for art galleries and auctioneers. It didn’t take a lot of effort to see why a cigarette brand would emulate its name. Obviously it wanted to trade on the high-class status of London’s Pall Mall, a good bit removed from its later namesake on Cigarette Hill.

Reaching back farther, the street got its name from a lawn game. Pall mall — the game — grew in popularity during 16th Century. Later it evolved into croquet. The street ran along an area that once hosted a popular pall mall field. First came the game, then came the street, then came the cigarette brand, and finally the cigarette-themed neighborhoods.

King Boring and the Detroit Gems

On July 13, 2017 · Comments Off on King Boring and the Detroit Gems

The story of King Boring kept playing in my head. I imagined that longtime Twelve Mile Circle readers probably already knew I’d have to revisit it in more detail. Plenty of extra information revealed itself on the Intertubes and in genealogy resources. To quickly recap, King Boring and his partner once owned the Detroit Gems, a precursor of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Los Angeles Lakers


lakers game @ staples center
lakers game @ staples center. Photo by woolennium on Flickr (cc)

The Los Angeles Lakers currently play in the Staples Center (map), a venue they’ve occupied since 1999. This multi-purpose arena includes enough space for nearly twenty thousand fans when configured for basketball. Games frequently sell-out due to the success of the team. The Lakers have captured sixteen championships during their storied history. I could go on and on, however that would take us down a tangent.


Detroit Gems


Detroit Gems Stadium
Detroit Gems Home Court
via Google Street View, November 2016

The Lakers began in much more humble circumstances as the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League (NBL). The Gems played only a single season and performed horribly by all accounts. The team finished 4-40. They used the Ferndale High School gymnasium as their home court as the season began. Sparse attendance forced them to move to a smaller venue later in the season, to Holy Redeemer High School with a 1,000 person capacity. They didn’t have to worry about selling out even with tickets costing only $1.50.

The original Ferndale High School does not appear to exist anymore. A more contemporary structure bears that name now. However, Holy Redeemer survived the last several decades in Detroit (map) in a neighborhood now known as Mexicantown. The arena at Holy Redeemer provided an interesting contrast to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The precursor of the Lakers began with humble roots.

King Boring and his partner Maury Winston made a bad investment with the Gems. They sold the team for $15,000 after their initial and disastrous 1946 season. The new owner moved the team to Minneapolis where it became the Lakers, named for Minnesota, the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." A later owner moved them to Los Angeles.


The Years Before the Gems


Boring Residence
1020 N. Mildred Street, Dearborn, Michigan
via Google Street View, October 2016

King Boring (1903-1996) left a long paper trail in his wake, and I found a lot more about him on Ancestry.com. I mentioned the "King" nickname in the previous article. He began his life as Cleo Siple Boring, the son of Illinois farmers Willis Otto Boring and Linna B. Siple. Later, he legally changed his middle name to King (according to the Michigan Death Index) although people generally referred to him as King rather than Cleo. The Boring surname traced back at least to Ralph Bowring of Devon, England (1570-1609).

Forbes listed the value of the Los Angeles Lakers as $2.6 billion. Only the most wealthy individuals could afford to own an NBA team today. King Boring did not fit that description. He was just a regular middle-class guy. He worked as an accountant for the City of Dearborn when he formed the Gems and for most of his professional life. Six years earlier the 1940 Census recorded his salary as $2,300 (adjusted for inflation = $40,500). According to the Dearborn Directory, he lived in a modest home at 1020 N. Mildred Street (map) the year the Gems played.

His partner, Maury Winston, also came from a middle-class background. He owned Winston Jewelers located at 13502 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. Winston provided the team its name. He was a jeweler so the team became the Gems.


Boring Legacy


dearborn, mi
dearborn, mi. Photo by Heather Phillips on Flickr (cc)

Boring became a beloved figure in Dearborn both for his years of service to the city and for his passion to sports. I already mentioned the King Boring Park and Field named in his honor in the previous article. Back in his original hometown in Illinois he became a member of the Salem Community High School Hall of Fame. He also had a Testimonial Dinner in his honor at the Fairlane Club in Dearborn in 1978. The program from that dinner included much more biographical information about the anything-other-than-boring life of King Boring, including his later sports escapades. Clearly people liked and respected him.

If only he’d held onto that team.

Simply Boring

On July 9, 2017 · Comments Off on Simply Boring

Speaking of boring places, the phenomenon didn’t confine itself exclusively to Oregon. Sure, the largest Boring town existed just outside of Portland. However, because Boring was also a surname, it spread to other locations as one might expect. Residents tended to have the same sense of humor about living in Boring places everywhere. The same bad puns, the same entertainingly-named public institutions and businesses, the same frequently-photographed road signs formed a common bond. The repetition became, well, boring. Fortunately the stories found just below the surface offered better entertainment.

Boring, Maryland


This church is BORING
This church is BORING. Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr (cc)

What Maryland’s Boring lacked in population it gained in recognition through the U.S. Postal Service (map). Boring, Maryland 21020 didn’t have the same cachet as Beverly Hills 90210, although it still existed as a physical place. Other than that, the hamlet consisted primarily of a few homes along the intersection of Old Hanover and Pleasant Grove Roads. The Boring Post Office along with a Boring Fire Hall and a Boring Methodist Church also offered popular photo opportunities to outsiders passing through.

The Washington Post featured a Boring article back in 1984.

The origin of its name is somewhat less boring than the name itself. The town originally was called Fairview, but according to folks hereabouts, when the post office was established in 1880, postal authorities ordered the town renamed, apparently to avoid confusion with all the other Fairviews in the United States. "So it was named by the townspeople after the first postmaster here, David J. Boring, in 1880," explained Cullison, himself a postmaster of Boring from 1950 to 1976.

It served as yet another example of a town changing its name because of the railroads, a common condition in the late 19th Century. We’ve seen that happen many times on Twelve Mile Circle although the results were not usually so Boring.


Boring, Tennessee



Boring, Tennessee

I found very little information about Boring, Tennessee. It registered a level of boring so extreme that nobody bothered to publicize it. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. I’m sure people who lived there liked it just fine. It didn’t even make the list of Top 10 most boring places in Tennessee. That honor went to Forest Hills near Nashville. I don’t know why. Maybe Boring’s placement at the end of a runway at Tri-Cities Airport made the difference. Jet traffic wouldn’t be boring; more annoying than anything, really.

The author of Tennessee Place-names pretty much phoned it in when explaining Boring.

Boring Sullivan County. The only individual with the Boring surname who could be placed in this locality was Elizabeth Boring, in 1870. She was 46 years of age at the time. Possibly she, or her family, gave this place its name.

Way to go out on a limb.


King Boring Park and Field


dearborn, mi
dearborn, mi. Photo by Heather Phillips on Flickr (cc)

Honestly I didn’t expect to find anything on King Boring Park. I spotted the name and fell in love with it. What could be better than King Boring? Truly, the King of Boring (let’s pause and savor that for a moment).

A Yelp page, yes a Yelp page of all things, offered an explanation. The great-grandson of King Boring — King Boring was an actual person — provided a fairly complete biography. I assumed a level of accuracy. Who would make up something about an obscure ball field (map) in Dearborn, Michigan? It could be fake. Who knows? Let’s assume it’s real and move along.

Apparently Mr. Boring earned the nickname King as a child after he beat-up a bully. Later he legally changed his actual name to King Boring. He owned a basketball team called the Detroit Gems and later sold it. The new owners moved the team to Minneapolis and changed the name to the Lakers. That team eventually became the Los Angeles Lakers. Right, those Lakers. Boring also coached a Single-A baseball team in Dearborn and participated in lots of other local sports-related stuff. He died in 1996.

I found some corroborating evidence. The Gems played only a single season, posting a 4-40 record before King Boring and his partner sold the team in 1947. Oof! He later lamented that he should have retained a percentage instead of selling it outright.


Boring Homestead, South Australia


Wog Palace Road
Boring Homestead
via Google Maps

Why should the United States get all the boring places? I turned to the Gazetteer of Australian Place Names and found the Boring Homestead in South Australia (map). It sat about 550 kilometres (340 miles) due north of Adelaide. I wouldn’t expect to find any additional information about a single homestead, and I didn’t. However, I noticed the name of the road — a dirt track really — that led to the structure. Google called it Wog Palace Road, which seemed really odd. It seemed even stranger when I checked its etymology. I found an enlightening entry in Global English Slang: Methodologies and Perspectives.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s in Australia wog came to be used to describe migrants of southern European origin, especially those from Italy or Greece. Later, the usage expanded to include migrants of Middle Eastern origin…a wog mansion or wog palace is a large and vulgar house, often using southern European architectural features such as elaborate columns.

The word wog didn’t mean anything to me. However, and apparently, it could be considered offensive in Australia and perhaps even more so in the UK. For that, I apologize in advance, especially to 12MC’s Australian and UK audience. I didn’t mean to be insensitive. A wog palace would be like a McMansion in the United States with an added twist of racial spite thrown in for good measure.

I took an actual screen print of the homestead and street name which I’ve reproduced above. That’s because I expected it will be changed or removed someday. I wondered if that was really its name or if a vandal placed it there as digital graffiti, expecting nobody to find it.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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