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Monday, May 25, 2015

Remembering Glen

Receiving Glen's medals: Doris and Tommy Chenault, on right.
The young woman is Valna Sauer Cox, who was engaged to Glen.
I remember a young man named Robert Glen Chenault, a dark-haired boy with glasses, about fifteen years older than me, who went to our church and did some work for my parents, both at our print shop and at home.
Glen's parents, Tommy and Doris, were good friends of my parents; for a while, when I was a baby, we lived across the street from them, on Wheless Avenue. The Chenaults were a little bit older than my parents, and I’m sure the couple was a big help to my parents as they were new to Kerrville, and also new to parenting.
Tommy worked in the grocery business, coming to Kerrville with Evans Foods (as did my father), and later working for H-E-B, back when the H-E-B was on the corner of Water and Quinlan streets, back when it faced Quinlan. Tommy was a kind man that always had a smile. He passed away in the early 1980's.
Doris worked for Brehmer's Jewelers, which, in those days, was beside Pampell's. I remember Doris showing me some replicas of world famous gems -- like a replica of the Hope Diamond -- on a little felt pad there at the store, me gawking at the size of the fake stones. For a while they inspired me to be an amateur geologist, hoping to find a diamond in the dusty bluff behind the print shop, down by the river where the snakes lived. Doris died in 2005.
But Glen, memories about Glen -- that is what I'm writing about today.
Looking back, Glen was just a kid, though I didn't realize it at the time. He was a recent Tivy graduate. He played around with a ukulele. He once helped me kill a green "rattlesnake" in our backyard -- or, rather, dispatched a grass snake that I had injured in my childish terror of snakes. He let me win at checkers. He was the kind of teenager that little kids just naturally look up to, want to follow around. He was a good guy.
I also remember Glen, the young marine, heading to Vietnam, arriving in the field just days before the Tet Offensive, only 21 when he died fighting for his country. He had been in Vietnam 46 days when he was killed in the Quang Nam Province of what was then South Vietnam. He was killed on the very first day of the Tet Offensive.
My father was asked by Doris and Tommy to identify Glen's body when it arrived back home. He told me that task was one of the toughest things he'd ever done. Dad was about 10 years older than Glen, and they had spent many hours working together at the print shop.
Glen is buried by his father and mother at the Garden of Memories Cemetery, on the road to Fredericksburg.
This Memorial Day causes me to remember Glen especially, my boyhood hero, the brave young soldier that didn’t come back. Each time I visit the Cailloux Theater, I stop to look at the names carved in the stone wall at the center of the foyer, looking for a long time at young Glen’s name. Each of the names carved there represents a great loss, a missing part of our community.
It's hard sometimes to remember the soldiers listed there, killed in long-ago wars, were mostly very young men.
Each was once a talking, living, laughing person that left behind memories, and while I only have personal memories of one of the many soldiers named on that ivory-colored wall, each lived a story that ended too soon, a story that included family and friends now alone.
Monday we’ll stop to remember them, their young lives filled with promise, their bravery and sacrifice.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 23, 2015.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Then and Now: the very first H-E-B Grocery Store

Recently I gave a presentation at the Schreiner Mansion, where I paired historic photographs with snaps I'd taken that day with my phone.  I did this because I realized most people haven't studied area photographs as I have, and so it's sometimes confusing to know where an historic photo was taken.  So I took a copy of each historic photograph with me, and tried to find the exact spot where the old photograph was taken -- and then I took a photo with my cellphone.   Over the next few Wednesdays, I'll publish the results here.  Please feel free to share these with your friends.
Also -- I know the building pictured below did not house an "H-E-B" store; originally it was Florence Butt Grocery Company, and then it was named the C. C. Butt Grocery Company.  The name "H-E-B Grocery Company" didn't come until much later.
Click on any image to enlarge
The building which housed Florence Butt's little grocery store.
The Butt family lived above the store.
This photo was taken many years after the store
moved to a different location.
The site today, on Kerrville's Main Street,
between Earl Garrett and Washington Streets.
Florence Butt's store was about where the Hill Country Cafe is today.

Monday, May 18, 2015

One Hundred Years Old in the Heart of Kerrville

Click to enlarge
It's birthday time for the building that was once Kerrville's railroad depot, which turned 100 years old this week.
The depot building, which was the end of the line for the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, still stands and is now one of my favorite restaurants: "Rails, A Cafe at the Depot."
The depot building housing the restaurant was almost vanished years ago, so it's a small miracle it made it to its centennial.
There was a period when so many of our old buildings were torn down (in the name of progress) that I wondered if anything old would survive. In the span of a few short years landmarks such as the Bluebonnet Hotel, the First United Methodist Church, the Kellogg Building, the old bus station and the old wool warehouses downtown all vanished; many beautiful old homes along Sidney Baker Street also disappeared. So I am glad the depot survived.
The depot was in danger of being demolished in the 1980s, but Mike Walker and Kathleen Walker saved it, if I remember correctly, running a hamburger restaurant there, and I believe there was another restaurant in the building before Rails opened several years ago.
Mark and Linda Stone renovated the building to its present greatness. Melissa Southern and John Hagerla have operated their restaurant at the depot since then.
The building was not the first train depot for Kerrville; the first burned down in 1913, and the present building was built in 1915.
The arrival of the trains here was quite a big deal.
According to the Texas Transportation Museum website, “at 11:45 AM on October 6, 1887, the first train arrived in Kerrville. On board the six Pullmans were 502 passengers, 200 from San Antonio, 131 from Boerne, 141 from Comfort and 30 from Center Point. Altogether this was 200 more people than actually lived in Kerrville. It was a banner day for the town, with parades and speeches.
“At the center of it all was Captain Charles Schreiner, whose visionary plans for the community were being realized in front of his eyes. He had been a significant part of the effort to raise the $180,000.00 demanded by the railroad, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass, before it began work just over a year earlier, August 26, 1886. With the 71 mile line complete, Kerrville's future growth and expansion were assured.”
Of the 1915 depot, the Kerrville Mountain Sun reported “the structure is to be of brick, and will be modern throughout. When completed it will be one of the handsomest passenger depots in a small town in the state.”
I think it's still a handsome building.
I'm old enough to remember trains as they slowly made their way through the east end of town. I remember their low rumbling and the clacking of their wheels as they passed gaps in the rails; especially along the tracks next to the playing field beside First Baptist Church, beside the intersection of Washington and North streets.
Many of us children (who should have been inside the church instead of playing baseball outside it) would run alongside the train as it passed, begging the engineer to blow its whistle.
On those evenings when we were actually sitting inside the church we’d listen for the train. In those days, before air-conditioning was considered such a necessity, the big blue stained glass windows of the church would often be left open. In addition to the occasional bird (or bat) that flew into the sanctuary, the rumbling of the train was always a welcome distraction.
From our pews we children would silently urge the engineer to blow the train’s whistle, and when he did, the preacher would pause, look out the south windows, and wait before continuing with his evening sermon.
Even this brief respite was welcome.
Congratulations to Mark and Linda Stone on the centennial of their building, and to Melissa Southern and John Hagerla who have made the depot such a charming place.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who should have paid much better attention to the many sermons he should have heard.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 16, 2015.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Then and Now: two Kerr County Courthouses

Recently I gave a presentation at the Schreiner Mansion, where I paired historic photographs with snaps I'd taken that day with my phone.  I did this because I realized most people haven't studied area photographs as I have, and so it's sometimes confusing to know where an historic photo was taken.  So I took a copy of each historic photograph with me, and tried to find the exact spot where the old photograph was taken -- and then I took a photo with my cellphone.   Over the next few Wednesdays, I'll publish the results here.  Please feel free to share these with your friends.

Click on any image to enlarge 
Two separate Kerr County Courthouses, taken in the mid-1890s.
This photograph was found by Lanza Teague.
The smaller building (behind man) is the 2nd Kerr County Courthouse, built in 1876;
the larger is the 3rd Kerr County Courthouse, built in 1886.
The stones from each were used in many projects in Kerrville, including
the stone fence in front of Schreiner University.
The site today.  The two old courthouses were closer to Main Street
than is the current courthouse.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Trying to remember the past

Replica of Native American artifact
photograph by Rudi Winzinger
I remember my mother’s maternal grandmother quite well because we spent a lot of time together. I remember meeting my mother’s paternal grandfather once when I was very young. Although I met my father’s maternal grandmother, I do not remember it, because she died when I was so young. Of my eight great-grandparents, I have extensive memories of only one, ever met just three, and never knew the remaining five.
I write this because I suspect my experience is not unique. I imagine most people do not have many memories of their great-grandparents, folks in their families which precede them by only three generations.
It is the same with our local history: our community has few 'memories' of its founders, because of the work of a few local historians, and almost none of the people who came before them.
Most people think the history of our community starts with Joshua Brown, who settled here in the mid-1840s. He was a shingle maker. His first settlement here, with 12 other hardy souls from Gonzales, ended quickly.
That was because there were others in the neighborhood, who were not shingle makers, and who considered this land their own. They were Comanches.
Often, I've shared this passage from Jefferson Morgenthaler’s book “The German Settlement of the Texas Hill Country:
“The Comanches approached, riding in formation. In the center was a white flag; on the right wing were warriors divided into sections, each section headed by a chief; on the left were the native women and children, mounted on Indian ponies."
A witness reported:
‘The entire spectacle presented a rich and colorful picture because the garb of the Comanches on festive occasions is indeed beautiful and in good taste. The neck and ears are decorated with pearls and shells and the arms with heavy brass rings. The long hair of the men is braided into long plaits which, when interlaced with buffalo hair, reach from head to foot and are decorated with many silver ornaments. For shoes they wear the so-called moccasins made from deer skins which, like the leggings – a kind of leg dress made of cloth or leather – are richly decorated with pearls. In addition they wrap a piece of red or blue cloth around their shoulders in a most charming manner which reminds one of the Roman toga. Their skin is painted in a most distinctive manner with a variety of colors, mostly red. Their principal weapons are the bow and arrow; however, most of them also used the long-barreled American rifle. Added to this equipment is a long spear decorated with feathers, the point of which is as effective as the best Toledo blade. The shield is made of buffalo hide.”
And yet this first-hand account of an encounter with a group of Comanche by a party of Germans led by John O. Meusebach near the San Saba River may present an inaccurate picture of the tribes that were here when people like us first settled the region.
Another writer, Victor J. Smith, writing in Marvin Hunter’s “Frontier Times,” paints an image that might be more accurate:
“In most of our thinking relating to the Indians of Texas, we hold almost as many popular fallacies, as did the Spanish conquistadors, who pushed north across the deserts of Mexico in search of mythical cities where precious metals abounded. It is almost as great an error if we think of the Indian as a dashing warrior, mounted upon a speed pony, well supplied with firearms and ammunition, moving his tribal group at will in the search of pleasing pastures and plentiful game; well clothed, fed and physically perfect, as a result from his life in the open; little labor; life a joyous picnic of hunting and fishing; Giants here, and pygmies there; and finally believing himself elaborately cared for in the future world by a Great Spirit in a Happy Hunting Ground. Such an idea of primitive life in Texas is far from the truth.
“The horse was not in general use until well after 1650, a mere drop in the measure of time since he came to the New World. Weapons were primitive and required much of his time for manufacture, repair, and replacement. Dangers from all sides assailed him: enemies among other tribes; danger in the chase; passage from the fangs and claws of wild animals; disease; discomfort from rain and cold; the lack of adequate shelter; and most frequent of all, the constant threat of hunger and starvation.
And these were the relatively modern tribes. Others lived here well before them; this part of Texas is littered with artifacts, some dating as old as 13,000 years.
The history of our area is a long one, and we often approach it with a lot of misconceptions. It wasn't like the movies. Life here was hard, brutal, and likely very short.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys walks in the woods with his sweet Ms.Carolyn.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 9, 2015.



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