My kids have a store!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Over 65 Million Years Old

Fossils found recently by the author within the city limits of Kerrville
Time is hard for me to understand.
I can wrap my mind around some time periods. I understand how it feels to wait in line for ten minutes. I remember three decades ago when our children were born. I can understand how this community looked 100 years ago -- and I know a bit about the people who lived here then.
Longer time frames are hard, but still manageable. I know about the American Revolutionary War. I understand about Europe during the Renaissance. Egyptians building pyramids, got it.
Even with those historic landmarks, long periods of time are still difficult to comprehend.
Harder still are some of the artifacts found in our community. I know of two Clovis points found in Kerr County, which suggest people have passed through this area for around 10,000 years.
10,000 years is hard to understand, so I break it up into generations. For convenience, I assumed a generation every 20 years -- so 10,000 years is 500 generations. That trick helps a bit, but 10,000 years is such a very long time. And 500 generations -- unknowable.
Imagine, then, if there was something in Kerr County which suggests 10,000 years is really no time at all.
Imagine if these time travelers were abundant, free, and widespread in our community.
This last week, on the evening of the big storm, I was up on a hill inside the city limits of Kerrville exploring the distant past. I was hunting for fossils.
There are many places in the Texas Hill Country where it is harder to find a rock that is not a fossil than it is to find a fossil. I know of several spots where the fossils are so thick they carpet the ground.
A little studying tells me our area was once underwater -- beneath a shallow sea. The fossils I found were from small marine creatures.
Years ago William Matthews wrote "Texas Fossils: an amateur collector's handbook," and it's available online for free from the University of Texas. In it, I learned our area of Texas, the Edwards Plateau, just north of the Balcones Fault and south of the Llano Uplift, is rich in fossils.
Many of the fossils are of marine animals -- such as snails, urchins, bivalves, and even fish. But the area also has dinosaur fossils, including fossilized dinosaur footprints. (There are at least two sites in Kerr County with these ancient footprints.)
Kerr County lies in the Lower Cretaceous geologic area of Texas, with plenty of limestone and shale. Limestone is a sedimentary rock, made up of layers and layers of debris and muck, and often the remains of animals, which can become fossilized.
As children, we often collected fossils we called "Texas Hearts," which are an internal mold of a Texas Cretaceous pelecypod. We also found many "stone ears," which were the shells of gastropods and pelecypods, a type of clam or mussel.
As a child, my son was especially good at finding fossilized tylostoma, the corkscrew fossils that look like snail shells. He found them in all sizes. They're the internal mold of a gastropod.
Ms. Carolyn once found a fossilized plant, a small leaf imprint.  We've found what looks like fossilized coral.  There are many types of fossils in our area.
These fossils are tens of millions of years old; the Cretaceous geologic period stretched between 66 and 145 million years ago.
As the big rain storm gathered last Sunday evening, I was on a hillside in town. I found two small fossilized urchins. They looked like Phymosoma texanum specimens to me; they were about the size of a quarter. They weren't museum quality specimens, but you could still make out the lines of bumps radiating from the center like the petals of a flower.
As the rain began, I thought how the fossils of these two little creatures had been waiting on that hillside for tens of millions of years. It was an amount of time I could not understand, but I could hold something in my hand from that long ago.
If you go fossil hunting in our area, hillsides are often better than hilltops. There are plenty of fossils to find. Don't trespass to go fossil hunting; there are lots of sites open to the public where fossils are abundant.  Happy hunting!
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes to find fossils and artifacts in our community.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 21, 2017.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Kerr County collection

As many of you know, I collect items from Kerrville and Kerr County's history. The collection is housed at our printing company on Water Street, and I hope to donate the collection to a local history museum someday.
l new items came into the collection over the past few weeks, and I'd like to tell you about them.
There are a few of you who might remember Henke's butcher shop in the 800 block of Water Street. It was gone before I came along, but I've heard many stories about the shop. Many remember the barbecue sandwiches they sold there, with tables set up behind the shop.
The cash register from Henke's Meat Market
A long-time friend arranged for me to pick up the old cash register that Henke's used. It's a giant brass National Cash Register machine. As I was cleaning it I found two items: a red penny ration coin, from World War II, made of what looks to be red rubber; and an old Ford key. Both items were lodged in the back of the machine, behind the cash drawer, and in the springs and posts in the back of the machine.
As for the Ford key, I can just imagine one of the Henkes asking the rest of the crew in the butcher shop "has anyone seen the key to the delivery van?" I cannot guess how long it's been lost in the workings of the machine, but I'm happy it's now found. If only we could find the old Ford to which it once belonged.
A model of the Charles Schreiner Mansion
Another item came into the shop, and I'll admit I'm not sure from whence it came. I received word a model of the Charles Schreiner mansion was available at a local resale shop, and I dropped everything, went over there, and bought it. It's about 18" high, and about 24" wide, and is made of fired clay. It's signed by Ruth McNay, and I'm glad to have it here. I remember Ms. McNay; we printed many items for her. I've teased I'm planning on putting a teeny-tiny little museum inside the teeny-tiny little mansion.
My friends Jon and Sandy Wolfmueller, of Wolfmueller's Books, gave me several things over the past few weeks, including the minutes of the "City Council of Parents and Teachers of Kerrville, Texas," which I think meant the Parent Teachers Associations of the elementary, middle and high schools in Kerrville. The minutes are from the 1930s, and feature many recognizable names from that era.
Those minutes also clear up a mystery. During the 1930s, Kate Franklin, a teacher in the middle school, together with her students organized a Kerr County Museum. For a time the items they collected were on display at the Arcadia Theater, back when that theater was still quite new.
The rumor had been that after being displayed at the Arcadia, many of the items were discarded. However, one of the entries in the minutes tells what happened to the items after they left the Arcadia, and I hope other entries in those minutes will help explain where the missing items might be today.
A few months ago a kind reader brought in a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings from a divisive time in our community, when the schools here were finally desegregated. It's been interesting reading those clippings, learning what was being said on both sides of the issue at the time. Like many communities, it took Kerrville a long time to get to the right answer: public schools were for all children, regardless of race.
The variety of the items coming into the collection is amazing, ranging from old newspapers, a fine sample of stained glass, and quite a few historic photographs of our area I'd never seen before.
I'm grateful to everyone who's brought items in. I hope together we can find a good home for them.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes learning about local history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 14, 2017.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A New Year

Once again, Gentle Reader, we begin a new year together.
This column began in November, 1995. Together we've seen a lot of Januarys on these pages.
I reviewed some of my columns published on the first weekend of a new year -- and the theme was often the same.
First, I am thankful for the opportunity to visit with you on this page each week. I know it's a privilege, and I'm appreciative of your support, patience, and encouragement for these many years. It is true: I like writing these letters to you each week.
And I'm thankful for the opportunity given me by the many publishers and editors for whom I've written. I'm certain I often exasperate them, but they've been kind and tolerant.
Secondly, in the first column of many of those years I express a concern over the 52 weeks ahead. It often feels like a big stack of blank paper waiting for me, and I've often expressed concern about filling those 52 weeks with something that might interest you.
I expressed this in 1999: " It is that time of year in a columnist's life when a long, blank 52 slotted slate rests ahead, needing to be filled up with words, words approaching style and correctness, and the first column of the year is always a toughy."
That concern still exists today.
In 2001, I shared this: "writing a weekly column is a lot like carrying a canary with you into the mine, and hoping it will sing. In the last year, I’ll admit, the bird sometimes sang flat. Other times, though, she sang true and sweet. As all miners and columnists know, it’s most important that the bird sing. When the bird stops singing, well, that’s when the problems start. For miners, it means the air’s not fit to breathe; for columnists it can mean lots of things, none of them very encouraging."
Likewise, in 2009, I tried to explain it like this: " At the first of the year the contracted-for series of columns looks like a very tall mountain. On the morning I write the first column of the year I feel like my climbing shoes are worn, my rope is frayed, and my supplies are low."
In many of those years, the first column outlined a plan of attack. One year, 2001, I offered a "Chautauqua," telling the story of our community's history, which was a series that ran for several months. The first in the series suggested "the story of Kerr County begins with the land. People have come to live here for thousands of years, and most of them have had one common motivation – the land itself."
In 2010, I offered a history class, to be taught in a series of columns. It began:
"Now class, please take your seats.
"It’s a new year, and I’m glad you’ve signed up for our course in local history. You will find, over the next few months, the story of our area is very remarkable.
"And you’ll find our area was the home to some very interesting characters. Some were scoundrels, some were heroes. One or two have names you might recognize. Some did great, showy things you can’t miss; others did small, quiet things that changed our community."
So what's in store for 2017?
Over the last few weeks, I've been working on a plan for this coming year. I hope you'll find it useful. One of my editors years ago told me my job was to "inform and entertain," a task that isn't as easy as it might seem. That's part of the 2017 plan.
So, then. See you here next week, and we'll get started.
Until then, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who daydreams way too much. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 7, 2017.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Six-Letter Mystery

The Six Letters were "CALLCO"
Click to enlarge
A few weeks ago my son and I decided to see the changes made at the old Hasting's store after its transformation into Entertainmart (or Vintage Stock). As we entered the door, one of the folks working there said they'd found something painted on one of the interior walls of the building, and asked if I knew anything about it.
That building has been many things in my lifetime, and it started out as several separate buildings which were joined into the present-day conglomeration.
My earliest memory of the building is when it housed the H. E. Butt Grocery Company. In those days the grocery store faced Quinlan Street, and there were other businesses on that block, along with many other buildings, including a building torn down long ago which had once been the home of one of Captain Schreiner's daughters, Caroline Marie. During the 1970s, the grocery store was remodeled and expanded into the structure we recognize today, with its entrance facing Main Street. Later, when the grocery store moved to the 300 block of Main Street, the old building became a clothing store, and later still, Hastings Entertainment. This past autumn Vintage Stock opened a store there called Entertainmart.
Today all of those other buildings on that block are either gone, or have been consumed into the building housing Entertainmart -- except for the Voelkel's building on the corner of Clay and Water, which still stands as I remember it as a child, though in those days it was a dry cleaning business, Sweatt Cleaners.
On our recent visit, my son and I were guided through several doors and hallways until we arrived at a darkened part of the building, somewhere near its southernmost corner. There, high above us, was a remnant of an old sign. The sign suggested what is now an interior wall was once an exterior wall.
There, in fading black letters on a white wall, was a fragment of an old sign. It read "CALLCO," and was painted in tall, bold letters. Partition walls inside the building, which were added later, cut off any letters before or after these six, and so I guessed there was once more to the sign. I took a photo with my phone, and Joe and I retraced our confusing route back to the public areas of the store. I told the lady who'd shown us the sign I'd see what I could find.
I like a history mystery, and when I had a few minutes later that week I began to see what I could find.
I often use a website to read old newspapers, On a hunch, I put in Callcote and Water Street to see what the website might find.
It found nothing.
Years ago we had a printing customer at our shop named Hazelle Calcote, a local realtor who volunteered with the stock show and youth programs. My first search misspelled her last name, adding an extra "L."
The 500 block of Water Street, late 1960s
Click to enlarge
So I tried Callcott and Water Street, and found there was once a George H. Callcott auto parts store in that block, and that it faced Water Street. My next step was to see if I had a photograph of the auto parts store in my collection.
I started with a photo of the Voelkel building, the triangular building at the intersection of Water and Clay streets. That photo did not show enough of the Callcott building to show the sign.
Then I remembered an old newspaper photo showing a group of men building a sidewalk in front of the old A. C. Schreiner home on Water Street. If I was lucky, the old Callcott store would be in that photograph.
And it was -- centered in the frame right above the workmen. The letters we saw in the Entertainmart building were visible in the photograph, which was taken in the late 1960s, or early 1970s. And in the photograph, the sign looked worn and weathered, just as the remnant looks today.
I texted the photo to our friend at Entertainmart, having solved the mystery. I love it when a case is quickly solved.
Until next year, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 31, 2016.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday Link Pack (and a photo of Pampell's)

Pampell's soda fountain and drug store, July 4, 1952
Click to enlarge photo
I've been interested in computers as long as I can remember, and recent developments in artificial intelligence are amazing.  This is a long article, but the discussion about recent advances in Google Translate are worth the effort.  (I definitely do NOT understand everything in the article.)

Ms. Carolyn and I need to rent this for our next party.  Stayin' alive.

Speaking of artificial intelligence, here are some AI experiments from Google. Bird sounds, and drawing.  I for one want to be kind to our future neural network overlords, so I can be on their good side when they take over the planet.

Ok, it's the end of the year, and I've been reading long essays. This one about time is good. Not completely sure I understand all of it.

If you've heard of, you know the site attempts to debunk false stories on the Internet. Suppose those annual Christmas letters we all receive from distant friends and families were subjected to the Snopes treatment?

Which word to use use for an evening meal?  Dinner or Supper? This map shows regional word use, and you can plug in words of your own choosing.  Neat.

My creative bride is having a sale on items in her crafting store. Proud of her. Sale ends tonight, December 31st.  Use the coupon code stamps to save 15% on orders of $25 or more.  For more information, check out her blog.



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