I find myself craving chili and rice, specifically the chili and rice served by Shanghai Jimmy, who ran a hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Live Oak Street downtown in the 1950s and ’60s. It was an era when men were men and reporters were unashamed of making up the news if they couldn’t find any, if a fellow named Jack Proctor is to be believed. Which, based on Blackie Sherrod’s October 1975 D Magazine article (one of our 40 greatest stories ever), he almost certainly is not.
Sherrod writes with great affection for Proctor, his fellow newspaperman, press box regular, and chili-and-rice aficionado. Proctor invented his own vocabulary — a tattoo was a “too-tat,” a jail was a “gowhoose” — and sometimes interviews. Sherrod writes of the time in the 1930s that Proctor wanted to visit a girlfriend down in San Antonio and so he convinced his editor he’d landed an exclusive with Clyde Barrow. Trouble is, at the time Proctor was supposedly meeting with Barrow, the notorious criminal was positively identified having shot a highway patrolman (a “highway petroleum” in Proctor’s parlance). And so the reporter was asked to move on to some other newsroom to find employment, which he did.
In his newly published memoir, His Ownself, Dan Jenkins of Sports Illustrated fame tells the same story about Proctor, only with markedly different details. In recounting his time toiling for newspapers in Fort Worth and Dallas in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Jenkins writes:
Jack Proctor was a throwback to the old Dallas newspaper wars of the ’30s, when there were four dailies in town. Jack worked for the Dispatch and went up against crime reporters from the Morning News, Times Herald, and Journal. He still wore loud checkered sports coats and snap-brim hats that would do honor to Front Page Farrell…
He once wrote a story about an enjoyable dinner with Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker at the Stockyards Hotel in Fort Worth, one of their hideouts. A suite is named for them there today. Jack wrote a heartwarming piece about the celebrated bank robbers.
The trouble was, the editor of the Dispatch found out that Jack’s dinner with Clyde and Bonnie had taken place at the same time that the couple was killing a Fort Worth motorcycle policeman on Fort Worth’s Jacksboro Highway.
So who knows which lie we should believe? Probably both of them. What we know for sure is that the Double No. 9 quart-size carton was the thing to order at Shanghai Jimmy’s place. It was, according to Jenkins, “a scoop of rice, pat of margarine, scoop of his secret chili, another scoop of rice, another pat of margarine, a final big scoop of chili,” plus shredded cheese, chopped onions, and celery could be put on top. David Ritz endorsed the same order in his D story about the “Mad Men” of early 1960s Dallas advertising, noting that it was Elvis Presley ‘s favorite as well.
Jenkins writes of an eating contest Sherrod and Proctor organized in 1962, pitting a fellow from the Times Herald against a guy from the Cleburne Times-Review. Whoever could eat the most Double No. 9s would win, but after each of the contestants gave up while attempting their fifth cartons, they looked over at Bud Shrake of the Morning News and saw he’d easily finished his fifth carton already and was having a beer and cigarette to polish off the meal.
The newspaper business may be more accurate, unbiased, and professional these days, but it sure seems like it’s not as much fun.
(N.b. This forum claims to have Shanghai Jimmy’s chili recipe.)