By Richie Whitt
The unofficial mayor of the neighborhood is 81 going on 21.
She bounds into La Madeleine on Midway with enough energy to describe three houses and drop four names — all before introductions.
If we played a Dallas game of “Six Degrees of Separation,” Ida Jane Bailey would win.
“Oh, I really don’t know that many people,” Bailey says. “But I do have the right connections to a lot of people.
“And, I do know all the dogs.”
For 40 years, Bailey has been the sweet sentinel of Old Preston Hollow. From her kitchen-window view on Manning Lane and multiple, daily dog walks up Manchester Drive, she has kept up with the Joneses and kept track of the Joneses.
“I’m not a nosy neighbor, not into gossip,” she says. “I just love this little neighborhood. I love doing anything I can to help.”
Bailey is the untitled president of the voluntary Midway Protective League, which acts in lieu of a formal homeowners’ association.
She’s the organizer that connects residents’ problems with solutions. And, yes, she’s the kindly code enforcement officer that will, in her own genteel manner, deter littering.
“She’s the mayor,” says Melissa Plaskoff, who met Bailey the day her family moved into the neighborhood in 2012. “She’s at the center of everything that happens here. She’s the main reason it’s been so good for so long.”
Ida Jane’s celebrity encounters
A recently retired Texas Rangers’ star lives here, just around the corner from one of the men who founded Lone Star Park. When he lived here, golfer Jordan Spieth often walked to get a haircut at Great Clips. And one day last summer, the dog of Mavericks’ guard J.J. Barea got loose and briefly interrupted a softball game at the local park with a comic gallop across the field.
But mostly, it’s a community Bailey helps hold together like family.
Bailey and her Midway Protective League fought off the proposed intrusion of big-box megastores. She organizes and attends bridge parties as well as the monthly Ladies’ Wine Group. She welcomes diversity, watches for neighbors’ package deliveries, has keys to most of the houses on her street, and readily provides support, from emotional to tangible.
Bailey was born in Dublin, Georgia, but followed her husband, Doug, to newspaper jobs in Miami, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and, eventually, to the Dallas Times Herald. The couple will celebrate a 60th anniversary in June. They have two children practicing law in Dallas and two grandchildren.
“I was excited to be here,” Bailey remembers. “As much as I loved Philadelphia, I never again want to scrape ice off my windshield.”
The hunt for a home was simple. Friends suggested living close to Dallas North Tollway so Doug could have an easy commute downtown. They chose a 2,600-square-foot “rambler” on Manning. The Baileys bought it for $105,000. Today, it’s estimated on Trulia.com for $987,000.
When she was younger, Bailey took a personality test to identify her strengths and determine her career. As a result, she traded teaching for selling homes. She attained her license and joined the agency of Terry, Abio & Adleta. Throughout the years, she has retained the distinctive southern charm and unique drawl that turns “school” into “skewwwwwwwwl.”
What made her so successful? “To sell Dallas, you have to know Dallas,” she says. “That was easy, because I immediately fell in love.”
‘Dallas welcomes you’
Though there are no legally defined borders, the community to the north of Northwest Highway and east of Midway Road is five minutes from Love Field, seven minutes to the Galleria Dallas, eight minutes from downtown and 22 minutes to DFW International Airport.
Labeling Bailey’s neighborhood is more difficult. Is it annexed by Preston Hollow? Is it Old Preston Hollow? Poor Preston Hollow? Midway Hollow?
“We might have an identity crisis as far as our name,” Plaskoff says. “But our neighborhood is run by Ida Jane.”
Neighbors take pride in the area’s “park appeal,” characterized by no street curbs and houses set back from the street so residents can walk out their front doors to a view of greenery rather than asphalt.
When Plaskoff’s son needed an emergency replacement actor for his school project, Bailey arrived within an hour in full costume. And when the power went out in a nearby home on a cold winter day?
“We all got together and bought the family some space heaters,” Bailey says. “It’s what we do. We look out for each other, and it’s infectious.”
You can catch Bailey on any day, walking her bichon frise, Louie, morning, noon and night.
“We’re not a development or a subdivision or the glamorous ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ” she says. “We’re just an honest-to-God neighborhood with great karma.”
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