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    DING DONG, TEXAS

    Bell County, North Central Texas
    On the Lampasas River
    FM 195
    8 miles S of Killeen via FM 195
    20 miles W of Salado via FM 2484
    58 miles N of Austin

    Population: 22 (1990)

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    Ding Dong Texas Trading Post
    Trading Post in Ding Dong
    Photo Courtesy Hannelore Lyons, 3-2002

    Name of This Town Rings A Bell
    Ding Dong, Texas

    by Clay Coppedge

    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.


    D
    ing 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 in Llano, 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, Dull, 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.

    © Clay Coppedge
    From "Letters from Central Texas" Column
    Photo courtesy Stephen Danesi, 2005
    Ding 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.

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    Ding Dong, Texas Forum

  • Subject: 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 Maxdale.

    Thanks for the memories and the history lesson. - Dave Timpe, Cooper ME., July 24, 2012

  • Ding Dong, TX
    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 30, 2007

  • Subject: Ding Dong
    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

  • Subject: 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
  • Subject: 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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