The O's' We'll Go Walkin'.
There are a ton of songs about or inspired by Dallas, and they say a lot about who we are. So each week in this space, we'll take a closer week at one of these songs — and we'll try to determine what, exactly, they say about this great city of ours. Check out this feature's archives here.
When John Pedigo was writing the songs that would eventually become The O's' debut album, he knew he was on to something good — or something good enough, at least, to convince to buy a banjo and teach himself to play it. And, just Two months later, We Are The O's was recorded.
When it came to record the band's next album, though, it was obvious that both Pedigo and his bandmate Taylor Young — who before playing in The O's hadn't picked up a guitar in nearly 15 years — were much more capable players.
Hey, nearly two years of rigorous gigging will do that.
And it's on that second album, Between the Two, where we find our next song about Dallas, a song called “We'll Go Walking.”
Though the song makes no mention of Dallas in its title, it's clear from its start that the song is indeed about this city. The very opening line of the song begins, “We'll go walkin' to Tietze Park, pick up a bottle and stare at the stars.”
It's not just a throwaway line or a Dallas landmark chosen at random. At the time of the song's writing, Pedigo and Young lived on opposite sides of the East Dallas park, making it a sort of representation of the band coming together to make music. The symbolism of the park was a meaningful enough metaphor for the band that the twosome ended up shooting their album's cover on the grounds.
But there is so much more that this park can tell us about the city.
When Tietze Park's nine acres were originally acquired by the City of Dallas in 1924, that tract of land was located on the northeastern most fringe of town. Oh, and back then the land was known as Keith Park. It wasn't until 1934 that the park was re-named in honor of William R. Tietze.
Just a year earlier, Tietze had retired from his position as Superintendent of Parks for the city — a position he'd held since 1896. Tietze, a floriculturalist who studied in St. Louis under the Missouri Botanical Gardens founder Henry Shaw, was the first to serve this city in that position. Interestingly, although the city's first two parks, City Park and Fair Park, were purchased in 1876 and 1904 respectively, the Park Board wasn't created until a 1905 City Charter amendment.
During his tenure as the head park man in the city, Tietze was responsible for the following: creating a number of new city parks (today the City of Dallas now maintains over 400 parks on 21,000 acres of designated parkland); purchasing the tools and equipment to help maintain the parks (it has been written that the city only owned $15 worth of tools before he took the job); building Dallas' first greenhouses; and planting the first flowers in the city's parks.
The same year the Keith Park was renamed in Tietze's honor, the sandstone picnic pavilion built by the Works Progress Administration was also added. Over the years other commodities have been added, too, such as a community swimming pool, a lighted baseball field, the tennis and basketball courts, a soccer field, a picnic area, a playground and some recycling drop-off igloos. Meanwhile, the 75-plus fully mature live oak trees, cedars and kneeling bois d'arcs (better known crab apple trees) housed within the park are said to be at least 50 years older than the park itself.
These days, the park sits on Skillman Street. But when it was originally opened, a creek ran along where Skillman is located today, and, during the dry parts of the year, folks would traverse the dried creek bed by car. so, beginning in 1927 the “road” was named Lindbergh Boulevard to celebrate the pilot's famous Transatlantic flight. The name was a fitting one; a popular joke among Dallasites at the time was that the best way to traverse Lindbergh Boulevard was by air. When Lindbergh was accused of “un-American actions” during World War II, though, the road was officially named Skillman after Dallas banker W.F. Skillman, and the creek was eventually channelized and paved over.
Today, the park is one of Dallas' most popular, and is said to be the most used park per square foot throughout the city. There's good reason for that: Not long ago, SMU's SHIFT magazine gave Tietze Park the slightly racist distinction of being the “Best Park to Feel Multicultural.” But we suspect another reason might better explain the park's immense popularity. In 2004, the Dallas Observer named Tietze Park the “Best Place in Dallas to Break Up.”
We see the point there. How could anyone possibly get angry while sitting in such beautiful surroundings, with so many happy families running around?