My kids have a store!

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Tour of Downtown Kerrville before 1920

I've been looking for something in my files, which means I've been finding all sorts of other interesting things other than the thing that started the whole search.
For instance, I found a letter postmarked November 1995 which a description of Kerrville before 1920. It was sent to me by Anna Bell Council Roland.
It's a walking tour of downtown Kerrville, and it's fascinating.
Start with our "guide," Ms. Roland, at Pampell's:
Pampells is "perhaps the most interesting building in town from an historical viewpoint. It was built for a hotel by my great uncle, Bill Gregory, in the 1880s. He sold it to Mr. Pampell who put in a confectionery on the first floor with an ice cream parlor at the back for the ladies, an opera house and dance floor upstairs, and in the basement he bottled soda water and made candy. His candy consisted of taffy and boxed chocolates. Access to the upstairs was by way of an outside staircase on teh Sidney Baker side. Here was where we had our first moving picture show. You bought your ticket on the sidewalk and then climbed the stairs. The seats were wooden folding chairs. Just when the heroine in the movie lay on the tracks with the train approaching, some youngster would become so excited and wiggly that the chair would slip out from under him with a terrible crash and many were the screams. Pampell's was originally a frame building, but in 1926 it was remodeled and bricked.
"A few doors down from Pampell's was the Favorite Saloon. The building still stands (cut limestone)." It's the building the Rectors now own, which houses their Hill Country Living Store at 709 Water Street. "The saloon belonged to Ernest Schwethelm. About where the Arcadia is now there was an open area, an entrance to the camp yard between the buildings and the river. Here the freighters who came in with the covered wagons full of wool and mohair camped. It was convenient to the barber shops, all of which had bathtubs for their convenience, it was also convenient to the two large saloons located downtown. Here they stayed until their wool and mohair were weighed and credited to the proper rancher. Then their wagons were loaded with supplies according to the ranchers' lists. These supplies were charged to their credit from the wool and mohair; hence, Schreiner became a banker.
The walk continues past a fire station "with a bell on top which rang out to call the volunteer firemen. Their equipment consisted of a fire hose mounted on wheels which they pulled manually to the fire.
Next was a blacksmith shop. "I believe it belonged to Jake Lawson."
Then Ruff's Cafe and then Schreiner's flour mill.
Heading back to Pampell's, our guide crosses the street: "Here was the St. Charles Hotel, the largest hotel in town and very popular with the summer visitors." This hotel was on the site of the former Sid Peterson Hospital, which was torn down years ago, and is now the Peterson Plaza. "There was a large lawn that extended to the west wall of the wool house."
That wool house was torn down in the 1980s to make way for the surgical annex of the old hospital, but it was "a rock structure," and "the largest primary wool market in the world (circa 1916)."
Next came the Schreiner Store and Bank. "The bank was at the west end of the store. In 1919 they built the bank on the corner of Water and Earl Garrett streets. The entire store was remodeled about 1926."
Across the street, where Francisco's Restaurant is today stood "the Weston Saloon, the largest and most prosperous of the saloons, and likely the busiest. Ladies turned their heads and children were told not to look in that direction, but I can still remember the sour odor."
At that, let's pause in our tour -- to continue again next week.
Until then, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys finding things in his files, even if it wasn't what he was looking for. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 24, 2016.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday Link Pack

The Cascade Pool, downtown Kerrville, circa mid-1950s

Remember lining up dominoes and then knocking over the first one and the rest of the line followed?  This video shows an amazing set up of 15,000 dominoes, which took 8 days to build.  Too much time on her hands, I'm guessing.  But it's pretty cool to watch.

I wonder if this high-tech bedside alarm system wakes you up as gently as the company claims?  There is a video explaining the thing a little bit down the page.

Kerrville peeps: here's the information on the event that has many downtown streets closed today.  It's a cool event, and this page includes maps and times for your convenience.

A new technique allows archeologists to read an ancient Biblical scroll that time has fused shut.  Pretty cool.

This article about using design techniques to improve your life intrigued me.  It's about a class at Stanford, and I found this video with more information.  Stanford also posted this webinar on the subject.

Finally, the story of the creation of a type font.  Yep, I'm a font geek.  His story is below the font samples, so scroll down a bit.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Gifts of Howard Butt Jr.

I was saddened this week to learn of the passing of Howard Butt Jr., a kind and intelligent man who dedicated his life to promoting Christian thought and action, especially among laypersons.
Five years ago I wrote a column about Laity Lodge, which was a special project of Howard Butt Jr. and his mother, Mary Holdsworth Butt. It would be impossible to count the number of lives touched by Laity Lodge, and I think it was among the most important achievements in Mr. Butt's long and successful life.
Here's that column from my files:
In the summer of 1961, a group of people met for a retreat on the banks of the Frio River in a newly-constructed hall. The featured speaker was Elton Trueblood, a Quaker philosopher, who emphasized "the ministry of common life." Joining him in leading that weekend's retreat was Keith Miller, an oil company executive from Oklahoma.
It was the first retreat ever held at Laity Lodge, near Leakey, the facility owned and operated by the H. E. Butt Foundation, which has its offices here in Kerrville. Laity Lodge is celebrating fifty years this summer.
As most of you know, the H. E. Butt Grocery Company started here in Kerrville, back in 1905. The family of Charles C. Butt came to Kerrville around that time because he suffered from tuberculosis; in those days our dry climate was thought to be beneficial to tuberculosis. Charles' wife Florence opened a grocery store on Main Street here in 1905, and it continues to this day. Let's just say the grocery enterprise has been successful.
The H. E. Butt Foundation was chartered in 1933, by Charles' and Florence's youngest son Howard and his wife, Mary Holdsworth Butt. Howard was a Tivy graduate, as was Mary. I have photos of them as Tivy students in my collection.
The 1900 acre property on the Frio River was purchased by the foundation in 1954, "to provide a place where boys and girls, men and women could further their knowledge of God and His creation while enjoying the freedom of camp life that had so appealed to [Howard Butt] during his youth. Mary Holdsworth Butt joined her husband in this dream," according to the foundation's website. In fact, "Mrs. Butt’s diary records their hope to provide a camping experience for 'maybe 100 boys and girls at one time.'" Let's just say that goal has been exceeded.
Their eldest son, Howard Butt, Jr., a gifted Christian speaker, encouraged the development of Laity Lodge, and it became a family project. "My mother worked tirelessly," Howard Butt Jr. wrote recently, "and we spent long hours planning the design of the retreat center, the design of the buildings, the building locations, the interior design, and even the location of the parking lot. She felt compelled to build the camps; building Laity Lodge in particular gave her great satisfaction, and she was pleased when the buildings were ready for the first retreat."
Keith Miller served as the first director of Laity Lodge, from 1962 to 1965. He was followed by Bill Cody, who served until 1979. My long-time friend Dr. Howard Hovde served from 1981 until 1999; Eddie Sears, another long-time friend, served during the same time as Associate Director. In 1997 Don Murdock took the executive director's post, and in 1999 the title of director was held by Dr. David Williamson. The current director, Steven Purcell, was hired in 2006, and the current Director of Operations, the talented Tim Blanks, was hired in 2003.
This special place in a stark canyon overlooking the crystal Frio River has been an active part of a greater spiritual community for fifty very good years. Laity Lodge has its beginnings here in Kerrville, starting when a woman of faith prayerfully opened a little grocery store and taught her children (and they their children) the importance of hard work and spiritual values. Those lessons continue to this day at Laity Lodge.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes his former editor Mark J. Armstrong the best of luck as he starts a new chapter in his life. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 17, 2016.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday Link Pack

Dedication of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library,
Kerrville, 1967.
Wow.  Here are some beautiful nature photos. Isn't that jellyfish something?

If you think Airstream trailers are cool, check out their latest model.

A thoughtful article about Howard Butt Jr., who died last Sunday.

Not sure why I think this little cabin is so cool.  Truth is, it would get awfully hot inside if it was built around here.  Still, I can imagine my kids playing in such a hut when they were younger.

Can't help but be proud of my wife's blog. She's so creative.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Last Chalupa

Earlier this week, during the height of the butterfly migration, I found myself driving west on Jefferson, behind Kerrville's main H-E-B grocery store. The butterflies were thick there and looked like leaves blowing in the wind. Like many of you, I wish they'd fly about 15 feet farther from the ground, where they'd be above my vehicle and out of traffic.
As I neared Rodriguez Street, I had a strong memory from years ago. I'm not sure what triggered the memory. Please indulge me as I share it here with you.
There are many of us who remember a small restaurant on the corner of Jefferson and Rodriguez: Torres Foods, which was more popularly known as the Tortilla Factory. It was owned by Louis Romero, and was begun by his grandmother Delphina Torres.
I have fond memories of the crew that ran the front counter. There was Felix, who passed away some years ago. He often told me I ate so many chalupas I was going to turn into a chalupa. There was also a young woman named Mela, who had such a great laugh. And another young woman named Gris who was very shy. (I'm afraid I've misspelled their names.) I still occasionally see the young women around town.
I would often see Louis Romero behind the screen, and there were a number of cooks and others I never met, who worked behind the scenes. Louis was often at a steam table of some type, assembling food orders. It was a busy place.
The restaurant closed in 2004, when the land was sold to H-E-B, and the old landmark was torn down. A grocery store employee parking lot was built on the spot, 228 Jefferson Street.
My memories of the place go back to my high school days. On long band trips a group of us brought food to share; each had a different item to bring. It was my responsibility to bring tamales from Torres Foods. Bringing those certainly improved my popularity on those bus trips -- at least until the tamales were gone.
Later, when Ms. Carolyn and I had kids, we'd often take them there after soccer games, where we'd load up on tamales and chalupas. In fact, the kids expected it. For a long time soccer meant a meal at Torres Foods afterwards, win or lose.
Many summer evenings I'd suggest we go by and grab a bag of tamales and head to Louise Hays, so the kids could chase lightning bugs on Tranquility Island.
Whenever we had foreign visitors, we always took them there so they could enjoy an authentic tamale. I still remember the polite but very concerned expression a girl from Scotland wore as she peeled away the corn husk and observed the steaming tamale beneath. She was brave and ate the tamale, and said it was good, but we all noticed she only ate one.
The memory which flooded back this week as I drove along Jefferson Street happened a day soon after Easter, long ago.
That year I had rashly given up too much for Lent: I would drink nothing but water during that season. That meant no soft drinks. That meant no wine. I was miserable.
Why would a Baptist give up anything for Lent, you might ask? I asked myself the same question that year, and often. I've never been that rash again during the Lenten season.
I must have complained often about my decision, and complained all over town. Obviously I was not observing Lent in a quiet, private manner, as I should have done. I pouted and complained.
Evidently I also complained to Felix, Mela and Gris. They must have suffered my whining for weeks during that season.
So, after Easter and on the first day it was possible to enjoy a chalupa and a Coke at Torres Foods, I bee-lined it down there. I placed my order, and asked for change for the Coke machine, which the young women handed to me.
I marched over to the machine to find a hand-written sign: "Out of Order."
The machine was broken. There would be no Coke for me. Mela asked if I'd like some water, instead. I was crestfallen.
Then they all laughed. The machine was not broken, after all. They had placed the sign there just to tease me.
That's what I remembered as I drove down Jefferson Street this week. The laughter. And the smell of good food cooking just behind the partition. And how good that chalupa tasted with a cold Coca-Cola.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who received a gift from Louis Romero after the restaurant closed, a t-shirt which reads "I ate the last Chalupa at the Tortilla Factory."



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