in Ding Dong
Photo Courtesy Hannelore Lyons, 3-2002
Name of This
Town Rings A Bell
Ding Dong, Texas
Just because Ding Dong is in Bell County doesn't mean those two facts
have anything to do with each other. If you think it does you're either
half-right or half-wrong, depending on your disposition.
Ding Dong was named for a Bell all right, but not Peter Hansborough
Bell, the third governor of Texas and the man for whom Bell
County is named. Nor is it named for the "Ding Dong Daddy of Dumas"
or the junk food of the same name. The Wicked Witch did not die there.
Ask not for whom the bell ding dongs . . .
According to historical accounts, the Bells in question were Zulis
Bell and his nephew Bert Bell. In the early 1930s the two Bells bought
and ran a country store on the Lampasas River about midway between
Killeen and Florence,
at a place then known as McBryde Crossing.
The Bells hired a talented sign painter by the name of C.C. Hoover
to paint the sign for their new store. But Hoover was no mere sign
painter. He had done some fine oil paintings and could draw as well
as letter. Fred Foster at Stokes-Blair Hardware Company in Florence
knew of Hoover's talent so when the young man showed up at Foster's
store to buy paint for the job, Foster advised him to put his creative
talents to use.
"Why don't you do something original with this sign," he suggested
to Hoover. "How about drawing two Bells with the name Zulis in one
and Bert in the other. Then print 'Ding Dong' on the sign." In this
manner manner, the deed was done. The little community around the
store took on the name of Ding Dong, and there you have it.
Just because Ding Dong has made a name for itself by, well, the way
it named itself doesn't mean it's easy to find. You don't even have
to blink to miss it. You can be looking for it and still miss it.
A couple of dozen people have a Ding Dong address. The 777 Estates
lists a Ding Dong address, but that subdivision is on the outskirts
of Ding Dong, not Ding Dong proper. If you pass the turn to Maxdale
-- FM 2670 -- you have gone too far.
Ding Dong first came to the attention of wider America via the syndicated
feature "Ripley's Believe It Or Not," which gave the town its 15 minutes
of fame. Travel writer Bill Bryson mentioned the town in his book,
Made In America. Another book, Passing Gas: And Other Towns Along
The American Highway by photographer Gary Gladstone, pays tribute
to Ding Dong with a photograph of carpet salesman and fire chief Harold
Rowe posed in front of his fire truck in Ding Dong.
Jim Bowmer of Temple,
who wrote the book The Unknown Bell County about local folklore and
legends, remembers that Hugh Farr, a fiddler for the Sons of the Pioneers,
told the audience of a Johnny Carson Tonight Show that he was raised
Texas but born in Ding Dong, in Bell
County. Noted conductor Walter Winchell, when asked whom he believed
to be the greatest natural violinist of the 20th Century, named Fritz
Kreisler for his left hand and "the right hand of that gentleman who
plays violin with the Sons of the Pioneers, I don't recall his name."
That would be Hugh Farr, from Ding Dong, Texas.
Late Dallas newspaper columnist Frank X. Tolbert stumbled across Ding
Dong in his wanderings around the state and thought it was a shame
the town did not have its own bell. What was a Ding Dong without a
bell? With Tolbert's urging, the town received a bell from the Santa
Fe Railroad in 1962. It weighed 250 pounds and was given to the unofficial
mayor of Ding Dong, Charlie Hold, by two Santa Fe vice presidents.
Hold took over the store from the Bells in 1950. Hold told Tolbert,
"That big red-mouthed bell you got our town has been kindly of a mixed
blessing. A lot of smart jacks stop off here and rings that bell at
all hours of the day and night. Gets mighty bothersome."
Ding Dong's last moment in the spotlight came in 1964, when members
of the Killeen Lions Club International tried, as a joke, to secure
Ding Dong as the site of the district convention. Mayor Hold was said
to be none too happy about it.
As Gladstone's book makes clear, Tennessee takes the prize for State
With the Weirdest Names. Texas is a close second, but it's hard to
compete with Sweetlips, Gizzard's Cove, Suck Egg, Bucksnort,
Only, Peeled, Chestnut, Nutbush, Defeated and Nameless.
They don't name 'em like that anymore, which may be a good thing.
But in becoming too sophisticated to call our homeland Ding Dong or
Suck Egg, we find our refinement may have come at the expense of a
peculiarly American sense of humor.
from Central Texas" Column
courtesy Stephen Danesi, 2005
Dong is a dispersed rural community and as the saying goes: "If you
find yourself in Ding Dong, you had to have been looking for it."
The Ding Dong cemetery is two miles south down FM 195.
Ding Dong TX
I just came across the Ding Dong Texas article. Technically the
new store/cafe nor 777 Estates are located in Ding Dong. I grew
up in 777 in the 70's-80's . I could tell you things I know passed
on from the older families in the area.
The Ding Dong area started at the river and went north maybe a couple
hundred yards and approximately 100 yards east and west (on the
original road that ran through there.) There used to be highway
signs marking it until the 4 lane expansion.
A lot of people in the area now like to say they are from Ding Dong
even though they are just neighbors. - James Lipe, February 05,
Jered Morgan and his search for the Ding Dong Store
Sadly, the old store is no longer there. It was located on the east
side of the Hwy. and on the level ground JUST before the drop off
down to the river. I passed by there 2 days ago and saw red flags
/ markers on some stakes that may have been the old plumbing for
the building. I remember seeing the store in the 50’s, when I was
a little guy. Hwy. 195 was FM 440 then – just a little 2 lane road.
Mano’s restaurant in Florence
has a picture of it on the wall. - Lanny Booth, Florence,
May 21, 2015
Ding Dong Community
I was surprised to see the relatively small volume of information
regarding Ding Dong. I still have my fire department hat from the
late 1980's. The fire department was the defining feature of the
community in the 80's and 90's. We moved from the area in 2000.
We had several dozen active and well trained members. Our annual
budget was in six figures, (from a bingo operation and invested
funds) and we had an impressive capability to fight brush, house,
and vehicle fires as well as first responder EMT/ paramedics with
a crash truck and ambulance.
The store pretty much decayed back into the ground. It was in a
wide spot on the east side of 195 just a few hundred feet before
the river (north side). There is a reference to the intersection
of 2657 that incorrectly names this as the way to Marksdale, It's
Thanks for the memories and the history lesson. - Dave Timpe, Cooper
ME., July 24, 2012
Ding Dong Signage or Lasers in Ding Dong
Dear TE, I live in the Temple/Belton/Killeen
area and am fairly near to Ding Dong. I decided to go out there
to take some photos, but I could not find the country store or at
least the sign contributed by Stephen Danesi. I drove on 1-95 South
from Killeen and found *A* country
store at this intersection with 777. The volunteer fire department
was behind the store which appeared to be closed. I asked someone
who worked at a mechanic's shop there about Ding Dong, and he replied
"You're in it." When I asked about the country store they said there
was one about 6 miles south over the Lampasas River or 8 miles north
to Killeen. They didn't know
about the Ding Dong country store I was looking for or if the one
in their same lot was the one I was searching for. I asked if there
was any signs that said Ding Dong on the highway or anywhere in
town and they said there used to be one by the Lampasas River but
people keep stealing them, and the only other evidence of the town
being named Ding Dong was the fact it was printed on the fire trucks
(however the trucks were out of sight).
If anyone has any current information on how to get to the country
store that has a sign proclaiming Ding Dong, I'd really appreciate
it. Or a physical address if possible. By the way, anyone traveling
out there beware, when I passed the Maxdale / 777 exit before I
went over the Lampasas River there was a State Trooper shooting
laser! Killeen PD and the State troopers that patrol Killeen
don't even have Laser, yet apparently it's in Ding Dong, so slow
down on 195 South! - Jered Morgan, Temple/Belton/Killeen Area, September
I lived in Temple
for a long time and worked for a company that hauled gravel off
the Lampasas River at Ding Dong..I was told the name came from the
fact that the Bell brothers lived there.. That's my story and I'm
sticking to it. - John Raven, Johnson City, Texas, March 24, 2003
Ding Dong Photos
I have some pictures from the Trading Post in Ding Dong. Feel free
and copy the pictures. - Hannelore Lyons, April 20, 2002
Ding Dong Information
Regarding the request for more information about Ding Dong, here's
what Mulshoe and More relates (page 57):
C. C. “Cohn” Hoover, a farmer with artistic talent, gave this Bell
County settlement its name in 1923 when he painted a sign for
the newly-built general store operated by cousins Bert Bell and
Z. O. Bell. They accepted Hoover’s offer to paint the sign “for
free” if allowed to design it himself.
The sign pictured
two large bells emblazoned with the initials of the cousins, and
Hoover surprised them by supplying a name for their store, lettering
“Ding Dong” between the two bells. The tiny community gave Ding
Dong a ringing endorsement by readily adopting the store’s name.
Its population rose above 200 in the 1990s when Ding Dong gained
several businesses, the 777 Estates residential subdivision, and
protection by a volunteer fire department. - Bill Bradfield, author
of Mulshoe & More, February 04, 2002
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