There is something special about downtown parks. The tiny bits of public green carved out of the pavement become precious jewels cast about the vast three dimensional expanse of office buildings. The few trees struggling for their share of light and water become alien creatures of wonder – flecks of forest, transplanted.
When I first moved to Dallas in the early 1980’s and was working down in the Kirby Building there was Thanksgiving Square – a carefully created triangle of grass and water in the heart of the business district. One of my favorite things was to eat lunch in the square on a sunny spring day… there was a greasy take out Chinese place in the underground – Mr. Kim’s Eggroll. This was a branch of the better known, almost infamous, Texaco Lunch Box out on Ross avenue. I won’t say the food was good… but it has good memories.
My own favorite immigrant is Mr. Kim, a South Korean. He came to Dallas in the late 70’s, legally, I should point out, worked hard at a convenience store, saved most of what he earned and established an eggroll joint across the street from the courthouse. In those days I patronized him with some frequency.
But Mr. Kim wasn’t sure he couldn’t do better elsewhere. A short time later he opened the inimitable Texaco Lunch Box on Ross Avenue. The Lunch Box sells gasoline and marvelous egg rolls, whichever or both. From the start it prospered, owing partly to Mr. Kim’s ebullient, somewhat wacky, personality, partly to a quality product. Mr Kim always had a cheery smile and a few quips for his customers. To my children he commonly would hand out an extra fortune cookie, sometimes even a can of Coke.
One place wasn’t enough, so Mr Kim opened more, staffing them all, as far as I am aware, with fellow Korean immigrants. A devout Presbyterian who plasters Christian slogans on his wall, Mr. Kim also set up bible study classes for Koreans. Many were the times I’d go by the Lunch Box and ask for him, only to be told, “He’s teaching bible class.”
One of Mr. Kim’s outlets is downtown, more or less underneath Thanksgiving Square. That is where I now catch him when he isn’t teaching the bible or helping some Korean family.
I was glad to find that article – I hadn’t thought about Kim’s Eggroll for a long time and was glad to find out my memories (I remember the eccentric man and the religious tracts taped to the wall… as well as the taste of the greasy rolls and sweet sauce) were real and not some remnant of a fever dream.
Kim’s Eggroll and the Texaco Lunch Box are long gone. In addition to some legal adventures, Mr. Kim seems to have been involved in the local restaurants Wok & Roll, which I have eaten at too.
In the decades since, Thanksgiving Square is getting long in the tooth, but the city has carved out some more parks – more ambitious and more contemporary. There is the big trinity of Main Street Garden Park, Belo Garden Park, and of course, the crown jewel, Klyde Warren. There are also a handful of smaller place, some of them really nice, like Lubben Plaza… (I’m going to have to go downtown and shoot some pocket parks… aren’t I).
And there are more in the works.
One of the biggest proposed projects is Pacific Plaza Park. This would join together a number of small parks and desolate parking lots into one of the largest remaining open areas in the City’s Center. It’s been delayed and delayed and I hope they get going and get the thing built while I’m still alive.
One concern, though. Right in the middle of the proposed park, is an old, forgotten park that used to have a fountain with an old, forgotten sculpture. If you live in Dallas, you’ve driven by it a million times, and even though it’s pretty darn big you’ve never seen it. I, however, ride a bicycle, and I notice things like this.
It’s called Astral Flower, by Jose Luis Sanchez. It was placed in the Pacific Plaza “Vest Pocket Park” in 1968 by Junior League Garden Club. The tiny park was developed by the Greater Dallas Board of Realtors along with the City Parks & Recreational Department.
I hope they preserve this little bit of history. In Dallas, history is as scarce as green space downtown.