The Real History of Ross Ave.
Speaking of Ross Avenue, a Web site has been created to save the street -- at least, its original name. The site, which comes complete with a petition, warns people that renaming Dallas’s proud Ross Avenue for the late Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers Union will “dishonor part of Dallas' history and the Ross brothers.”
But the site offers little in the way of history of the Ross Brothers. This is an unfortunate oversight. The Ross brothers were two of the most interesting and important figures in Dallas history. Why? Jump to find out.
Leviticus and Menthol Ross were direct descendants of our nation’s beloved flag-maker, Betsy Ross. Their grandson, Steve Ross, parlayed a New Jersey funeral home into the world’s biggest media and entertainment conglomerate -- Time Warner.
In 1903 the Ross brothers came to Dallas from France, where the family had been living as expatriates. They were trained as pharmacists. It was here, in a shabby shed at the back of the large Ross Family Estate on Poultry Row that the Ross brothers invented their famous cough drops.
In the 1920s the Ross Brothers waged a long and bitter court battle with the infamous Goss Brothers Gang, from whom they had bought their land. The Rosses claimed the Goss Brothers had duped them into believing Poultry Row was the city’s most fashionable avenue. Menthol Ross introduced as evidence fanciful brochures that the Goss Brothers had sent him in Paris, depicting Poultry Row as the equal of the The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The Rosses told the court of their mother’s long battle with depression after discovering that Poultry Row was, as she put it, “a fetid Slough of Despond.”
But in the true spirit of the time, the Rosses made the most of their situation. It was in an attempt to find a cure for their mother’s melancholy that they invented their now famous drops, the “secret ingredient” of which, a mixture of mint oil and thalium, was named “menthol” after one of the brothers. Their famous slogan, seen on sides of barns across the rural South, was “Ross Brothers Cough Drops, now with menthol!” It caught on, and the Rosses became wealthy beyond their most fantastic dreams.
The Rosses lost their case in court against the Goss brothers but vowed they would one day nonetheless avenge themselves. Leviticus Ross told The Dallas Post Facto, a daily newspaper of the time, “We will clean this city of Gosses and in the process turn Poultry Row into the splendid avenue of our sainted mother’s dreams, God rest her soul.”
Their dream came true. In 1924 the city renamed Poultry Row “Ross Avenue,” and the entire Goss family was driven from the city by a mob of ax-wielding inebriates.
In a speech to the mob reported in The Dallas Post Facto, Leviticus Ross said, “May the sun never set again on a Goss on Ross Avenue.”
In the 1950s, a local wag established a used car lot on Ross Avenue, which, for reasons never made clear, he called, “Goss on Ross.” It no longer exists.
In 1974 Steve Ross attended the semi-centennial of the naming of Ross Avenue. During an emotional speech before the Dallas Improvement League, Ross vowed to “make a movie that will tell the entire wonderful saga of Ross Avenue.
“I’m gonna call it Moon Over Ross Avenue,” Ross boldly vowed. But when the film finally was released in 1997 it was called Moon Over Broadway and bore only scant relation to the street in Dallas that had served as its inspiration.
The entire Ross family now lives again in France. Thais Ross, an actress, is a frequent companion of Paris Hilton, the celebrity. The descendants of the eccentric Goss Brothers are devout and law-abiding Baptists who now own the entire small city of Terrell, Texas. (All facts from Texas Almanac.) --Jim Schutze
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