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.

Directional Surname Frequency

On April 20, 2017 · 9 Comments

I spotted South Street in Manly, Iowa as I wrote Even More Manly Places. Ordinarily that wouldn’t generate much attention. For some reason I found it entertaining to see a South with an east and a west. One could go to East South or West South, although apparently nowhere southeast or southwest. Ditto for North Street, and a similar situation for East Street. Oddly, Manly didn’t seem to have a West Street. I’ve run into similar situations like this in plenty of other places and I always smile. I don’t know why I fixated on it more than usual this time.



I’m sure the street names all came from their geographic alignment throughout town. However, each of those could be surnames too, theoretically although not likely. I went completely down a tangent and started thinking about that possibility anyway, way too much.


Frequency

Fortunately the United States Census Bureau published a file that offered hours, well minutes, of entertainment. Doesn’t everybody love leafing through a table of Frequently Occurring Surnames from the 2010 Census? Then I checked the etymology of directional surnames. They all seemed to relate to ancestors who lived in a particular direction away from a larger town or region. People named West lived to the west. You get the picture.

Frequency variations definitely existed.

  • West seemed particularly popular. It ranked as the 125th most frequent surname in the U.S., with nearly two hundred thousand instances. Variations trailed from there. Westerman ranked 6,620, Westman ranked 11,257 and Western ranked 11,395.
  • Next in popularity, and much farther down the list came North. It ranked 1,766th, with about twenty thousand people. Northern ranked 8,981.
  • East followed in 2,843rd place with about twelve thousand people. However the variation Eastman actually scored higher, ranking 2,162. Easterly trailed with a rank of 12,593
  • South fell at the back of the pack at 3,231, and eleven thousand people. Southern ranked 4,587 and Southward ranked at 23,120. Southward presented a bit of an anomaly. Every other directional surname aligned almost exactly with people who identified as white. By contrast, about a third of the people named Southward identified as African-American.

Then I hoped to find a place for each direction, named for an actual person with that surname rather than its geographic position. I already discussed the wonderful North, South Carolina in North AND South so I set north aside. I didn’t find a South anywhere, although that didn’t surprise me given the frequency of the surname. That left West and East.


More West


Czech Stop, West, TX
Czech Stop, West, TX. Photo by Angie Six on Flickr (cc)

I created a little game around the West surname a few years ago. That reflected its overall popularity. This time I searched for an actual West and I found it in Texas. The name could be confusing. West, Texas (the city) was not the same at West Texas (the region). In fact West, along Interstate 35 between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Waco, probably fell a little bit to the east of the West Texas region by most interpretations. Everyone seemed to have a different definition of West Texas. That didn’t help.

According to the City of West,

The Katy Railroad was laid between Hillsboro and Waco in the fall of 1881. The path of the railroad cut through land owned by Thomas West. Czech immigrants came to the area purchasing the rich lands to farm and start a fresh life in the new world. They also opened businesses sharing their European culture. By the 1890’s the Czech businesses flourished in West.

That legacy of Czech immigration still existed in West. Businesses such as the Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery (map) combined both cultures and offered kolaches and barbecue. Kolaches, I learned, were a type of fruit pastry brought to the area by those immigrants. Residents also emphasized their cultural heritage each Labor Day with a Czech polka festival called Westfest.


Easton


Easton Neston east side 21 July 1985
Easton Neston east side on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

I couldn’t find a town of East, however I remembered a town on Maryland’s eastern shore called Easton. Unfortunately the name derived from its position east of St. Michaels. Oh well.

Other Eastons existed. Maybe that offered hope. I pulled a few threads on the history of Easton, Pennsylvania (map) and I found an intriguing if convoluted story. Thomas Penn, son of William Penn who founded Pennsylvania, married Juliana Fermor in 1751. The next year a growing town in Pennsylvania needed a name so Penn suggested Easton. Fermor grew up on an estate owned by her father, the 1st Earl of Pomfret, called Easton Neston in Northampton, England (map). The newly established town in Pennsylvania became Easton, in the newly established county of Northampton. That worked out nicely. Problem solved.

However it created another mystery in my mind. Easton Neston seemed to be a rather unusual name for an estate. Actually, it simply borrowed the name from a local church parish, which in turn borrowed the name from a town that existed there for more than a millennium. The town faded away over time although the parish remained, as did the estate. The only reference to its etymology seemed unreliable although I’ll still provide it: "Easton Neston in Northamptonshire gets its name from Old English Eadstanestun ‘settlement of Eadstan’, a personal name composed of the elements ead ‘prosperity’, ‘riches’ + stan ‘stone’."

It sounded good enough to me.

Manly Places

On April 6, 2017 · 7 Comments

Where does the highest ratio of men live? An unknown visitor to Twelve Mile Circle posed that question in a recent search query. I didn’t learn why s/he wanted to know because I didn’t have a means to contact said person to ask. Nonetheless it seemed like an interesting query and I’d never considered it before. Maybe I should take a closer look.

I only examined the United States because I could find the data easily, and I’m too lazy to look for more. Perhaps I’ll search more broadly some other day. For now however, let’s stick to the U.S. where women outnumbered men by about 5.2 million during the 2010 Census. There were 0.97 men to every woman for a bunch of different reasons. For instance, men did stupid things and managed to kill themselves accidentally at greater rates than women. Sometimes I wonder how I survived my teen years, as an example. They also lived fewer years on average, just as a matter of physiology.

The national ratio shouldn’t surprise anyone. However, a few places actually had more men than women, sometimes a lot more. I found a number of sources that I could consult including the Overflow Data website (with 2014 Census estimates). The results took me to some unexpected places.


Prison Counties


Eden Fall Fest
Eden Fall Fest. Photo by mirsasha on Flickr (cc)

The top counties, the ones with the highest ratio of men, seemed rather counterintuitive to me. Why, for example did Concho County, Texas have 2.32 times more men than women? It didn’t seem any more or less of a testosterone magnet than other counties nearby. Then I noticed a comment on the Overflow Data website I mentioned earlier. Concho didn’t have a lot of residents so an anomaly could skew the ratio without a lot of effort.

That’s where the Eden Detention Center — named for the largest town in Concho — came into consideration (map). It housed 1,400 men in a low security prison facility run by the Corrections Corporation of America on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Half of the men counted in the Concho County census were serving time behind bars, incarcerated. Take those guys out of consideration and the ratio of men to women in Concho practically converged. Also, was I the only person who thought that Eden might be a terribly misleading name for a prison?

The same situation existed in Crowley County, Colorado, with 2.31 men for every woman. Crowley held the title for the highest ratio of men during the 2010 Census although it fell to second place with the 2014 estimate. It also contained a Corrections Corporation of America facility, this one housing medium security prisoners through a contract with the state of Colorado. The Crowley County Correctional Facility made room for about 1,800 prisoners.

Greensville County had the highest ratio of men to women in my home state of Virginia, at 1.58. Once again, a prison bore responsibility. The Greensville Correctional Center was run by the Virginia Department of Corrections. This maximum security prison also housed the state’s Death Row.


Alaska


Fishing Boats in the Harbor
Fishing Boats in the Harbor. Photo by J. Stephen Conn on Flickr (cc)

Alaska seemed the obvious choice to me, where more men would live than women. It didn’t disappoint either. The Aleutians East Borough and Aleutians West Census Area came in right behind Concho and Crowley. Aleutians East registered 2.24 men to women and Aleutians West hit 2.01. The economy of the Aleutians depended on fishing in some of the most rugged waters of the world, the Bering Sea. One of its biggest towns, Sand Point, had a thousand residents and a harbor that held 150 boats (map). That implied a lot of manly men heading out to sea every day.

The Aleutians attracted burly characters like those on Deadliest Catch; adventurous men attracted to the mystique of the Last Frontier. One woman described the situation vividly, saying "I once spent the better part of a year working in a fishing village in the Aleutian Islands, and the men of the Alaskan bush country were as surly as werewolves." Long ago it became cliché to describe Alaska’s overabundance of men with a simple aphorism: The odds are good but the goods are odd.

A funny thing began to happen in recent years, however. The ratio started to normalize. Sure, Alaska still contained a higher ratio of men to women than any other state in the nation although the imbalance fell to 1.08 in the latest Census. A crazy ratio still existed in the Aleutian Islands although the next borough on the list barely cracked the Top 50. The State of Alaska examined the situation and issued a report. It noted that an even split existed in Sitka, and men barely outnumbered women in Skagway, Haines, Anchorage and Juneau. Those were major population centers. This foreshadowed continuing convergence of the ratio.


Boomtown Counties


Oil Rig
Oil Rig. Photo by Lindsey G on Flickr (cc)

I thought boomtowns might score high too, and they did, although not as high as I expected. I figured Williams County, North Dakota might serve as a solid proxy. That’s the location of Williston (map), at the epicenter of oil extraction in the Bakken formation. The population of Williams County increased by more than 50% between the 2010 Census and the 2015 estimate. Those dirty, difficult oilfield jobs attracted lots of men. They came for high wages under dangerous situations and brutal winters. It also created an oddly skewed economy where the median annual income for men hit $50 thousand and where women made only half as much.

Even so, there were "only" 1.19 men to women. That surprised me.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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