Bruce Flowers grew up watching professional wrestling on television every Saturday night — scrutinizing each punch, drop kick and body slam.
His favorite wrestlers? None other than the famous Von Erichs — Dallas’ own golden boys who dominated the wrestling landscape and rose to celebrity status during the 1980s.
“I used to practice the Iron Claw as often as possible on anyone who’d let me,” Flowers says of his youthful nights spent watching the live action filmed at the Sportatorium.
The old ramshackle building on Industrial Boulevard was the center of the Von Erich wrestling universe, beaming out shows each weekend for eager fans. Years later, Flowers and his wife, Aimee, says it’s “cool” that their Swiss Avenue home has a bit of Von Erich lore — it’s the former home of Doris Adkisson, the family matriarch who lived in the home from 2000 to 2006.
Her husband, Jack Adkisson, better known as Fritz Von Erich in the ring, began the wrestling dynasty. That legacy would be carried on by sons Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris.
Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling became so popular that the shows were staged at Texas Stadium, the Cotton Bowl and Reunion Arena. The Flowers family enjoyed the unique cachet of owning not only an historic home, but one with a link to one of the area’s best-known families.
“We moved in about two years ago and had it remodeled,” says Bruce Flowers, a Dallas attorney. “We love the history. For me, it’s the most beautiful street in Dallas. When you look at the houses, every one is interesting.”
The two-story, 3,600-square-foot Victorian home was built sometime between 1915 and 1919 (there are discrepancies on the date) and was designed by architect C.P. Sites. It will be featured May 9-10 as part of the 36th Annual Swiss Avenue Historic District Mother’s Day Home and Garden Tour.
For Bruce and Aimee Flowers, the home is a dream come true. Both say they love the area and dreamed of moving into a home in the Swiss Avenue Historic District. Married 14 years, with two girls attending Dallas Christian Academy, they lived in an apartment during the home’s renovation.
“This was my job for a year,” Aimee Flowers says of the remodel. “I took the kids to school, and I came here.”
All hardwood floors in the home were redone, and all walls and ceilings re-plastered. The foyer features a crystal chandelier that is believed to have been in Adkisson’s mother’s family. Much of the home was repainted, including the dining room, which had been bright pink. Extensive renovations also were made to the home’s large kitchen, upstairs bedrooms, master bath, and a room attached to the master bedroom that was once a sleeping porch and, now enclosed in windows, will one day be Bruce’s office.
“It’s been an adventure,” Bruce says. This is our first remodel. We’ve learned a lot. The thing about these older homes is they have a lot more character.”
That character includes not only features like an original leaded glass window in the dining room and an original Rookwood fireplace in the living room, but also traces of Dallas history.
As many Dallas residents may remember, life was not all triumph and glory for the Adkisson family and their in-ring Von Erich personas. In 1957, while living in Niagara Falls, N.Y., their first son, Jackie Jr., touched an exposed wire outside their trailer home, knocking him unconscious. He fell into a puddle of melting snow and drowned when he was 6 years old.
In the 1980s and ’90s, life was a contrast of extreme highs and lows for the Adkissons. While their business and celebrity boomed, it was coupled with tragic losses.
In 1983, David Von Erich died in his hotel room while on a wrestling tour in Japan. The cause of death was not clear, and theories included an overdose of prescription drugs and a heart attack as a result of a stomach disorder.
In 1987, Mike Von Erich, 23, committed suicide by taking an overdose of prescription drugs. His body was found in a sleeping bag near Lake Lewisville.
Family tragedy continued into the ’90s. The Adkissons’ youngest son, Chris, committed suicide at the age of 21 with a gunshot to the head on the family’s Lake Dallas ranch. Chronic asthma, which stunted his growth and made his bones brittle, had cut short his dream of being a professional wrestler.
In 1993, Kerry Von Erich, facing drug charges and possible jail time, had seen his burgeoning WWF career end because of drug abuse and missed matches. A chiseled physical specimen, Kerry also shot himself on his family’s ranch in Denton County.
Of the six original Adkisson boys, Kevin Von Erich was the only one left. In 1997, Doris and Jack Adkisson divorced, and she moved into the home on Swiss Avenue a few years later.
In the late 1990s, Kevin Von Erich sold the last of his family’s library of wrestling tapes to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) owner Vince McMahon and moved his family to Hawaii. Doris went with them — away from their memories in Dallas.
When the Flowers family first bought the home, they found several photo collages and high school yearbooks in the garage; all were eventually retrieved by family members.
However, one special piece remains in the side courtyard of the house — a small slab of concrete from the early 1970s with each family member’s handprint and name etched in the stone. It was moved to the home from the family’s Denton County ranch.
Aimee Flowers says the stone needed a permanent location at the home to honor Doris and the rest of the Von Erich family.
“This last summer, I had it set in the ground so it could stay with the house,” she says. “She made herself a part of the house … she’s important.”
Swiss Avenue Historic District 36th Annual Mother’s Day Home and Garden Tour
When/ Saturday, May 9, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, May 10, noon–6 p.m.
Featured homes/ 5002, 5032, 4918, 5907 Swiss Avenue; 6318 Bryan Parkway; 5316 Live Oak; and 6220 Worth Street
Tickets/ $15 in advance and $20 at the door, children 12 and under free; purchase advance tickets at Whole Foods (all locations), Talulah Belle (Lakewood Shopping Center); and Needless Necessities (North Henderson)
Other events/ Music and entertainment in Savage Park throughout the weekend, a parade down Swiss Avenue Saturday at noon, and a Mother’s Day champagne brunch Sunday from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. provided by Penne Pomodoro. The brunch costs $20 per person; reservations are encouraged at 214.748.5566, ext. 20 or firstname.lastname@example.org. New to the festivities this year is an expanded art fair featuring a collection of Dallas artisans showcasing fine art, photography, jewelry, textiles, ceramics, and exquisite wood and stone carvings.
For more information/ sahd.org
Click to sign up for the Advocate’s weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.