My kids have a store!

Monday, March 20, 2017

It doesn't look a day over 79

Kerrville History Photo
The Mystery Photo of Kerrville
Click to enlarge
As you know, I really enjoy a good mystery, especially one which involves an historic photograph of Kerrville or Kerr County.
This a kind reader brought by a nice panoramic image of Kerrville, taken from south of the river, looking northeast.
Like most of the panoramic images of Kerrville, this one was taken from one of the hills opposite Kerrville, and roughly in a line with Earl Garrett Street. The earliest shot from this vantage point I have in my collection is dated 1903; the latest was taken in the late 1970s.
I believe there is a special type of camera that took panoramic photos in those days; this was before our cell phones could take panoramic images easily and quickly. Two of the panoramic photos of Kerrville in my collection also have the name of the photography company in the lower right hand corner. I think they may have been taken and sold to members of the community; I've seen several exact matches to the late-1970s one I have on display behind my desk at work.
The panoramic photograph brought by this week, however, is different. It was taken decades before the one I have on display, but it contains a mystery.
In the center is a title "Kerrville, Texas," and underneath "Approx. 1930-1933." That date was added later.
It's definitely Kerrville, but the date doesn't seem right.
First off, the Sidney Baker Street bridge with the three arched steel supports is in the center of the photograph. I thought that bridge was built in the mid-1930s, so I started to look for clues which might narrow down a more exact date when the photograph was taken.
I know it's before 1941, because Antler Stadium is not shown in the photograph. And I know it's after 1938, because both the Rialto Theater on Water Street and the Schreiner Wool and Commission building is seen on McFarland Drive.
However, all of the other clues are not within that range: 1938-1941. The Saint Charles Hotel is missing from the photograph; it was torn down in 1936. Notre Dame Catholic Church is shown, when it was a stucco structure facing Main Street; it was built in 1935. Jimmie Rodgers house is visible, but it dates from 1929. First Baptist Church is shown in its old location, at the intersection of Washington and Jefferson streets; the current church building won't be built until 1953. There is no Louise Hays Park in the photo; that comes in 1950.
I wish I could find something that would narrow that range; 1938-1941 is a pretty big gap for me.
Otherwise, the photo is quite interesting. It shows the eight-story Blue Bonnet Hotel, at the intersection of Earl Garrett and Water Streets; the old Ice Plant at the river bluff at the end of Washington Street; the steel bridge I remember from my boyhood; the Kellogg Building is pictured; it was the community's hospital before Sid Peterson Memorial was built in 1949. Louis Schreiner's home, Tulahteka, is shown; it dates from 1921.
South of the river, that home is about the only thing shown. All else is plowed farmland, though it looks like the river has filled many of the fields with stones.
I've stitched together a copy of the photo using my computer, and I've enjoyed studying it closely. I'm thankful to the kind reader who brought it by the print shop.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. This column appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 18, 2017.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Blue Bonnet Hotel in downtown Kerrville

The Blue Bonnet Hotel, in downtown Kerrville,
from a 1950s-era tourist postcard
My long-time friend Jan Cannon stopped by our family's print shop for a visit recently, and we shared our memories of Kerrville's Blue Bonnet Hotel. The Blue Bonnet was an eight-story hotel in downtown Kerrville, at the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets; a parking lot is there today.
There are fewer and fewer of us in Kerrville who remember the Blue Bonnet Hotel. During my childhood, the old hotel was around forty years old, and had obviously seen better days.
My earliest memories of the hotel are of joining Dad as he went to his weekly Kiwanis meetings -- and of those memories, the strongest is of the food served during those meetings. I thought the food was great, and going with Dad to his meeting was very special.
I also remember two ladies who lived, for a time, at the hotel: Miss Thurma Dean Miller, who was in charge of children's ministries at First Baptist Church, and Margaret Beirschwale, who wrote a history of Mason which my father printed. It was a great treat to go to the Blue Bonnet, ride the elevator, and visit them.
The March 31, 1927 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun sports this bold headline: "Blue Bonnet Opening Marks New Era in City's Growth."
Indeed, the late 1920s were a period of growth for Kerrville; a year earlier the Arcadia Theater opened, to much fanfare, in the middle of the 700 block of Water Street, and Kerr County had recently built a new courthouse -- the one still in use today.
"The new hostelry, a triumph of architectural design and mechanical construction, lends a distinct metropolitan atmosphere to the city. The facilities and service offered undoubtedly will attract increased numbers of tourists to Texas' greatest playground," the Mountain Sun reported.
"The present unit of the hotel contains 80 rooms, each equipped with private bath, telephone, fan and circulating ice water. All corner rooms have a shower as well as a tub bath. The guest rooms are of commodious size and papered in pleasing harmonious colors with wood work in natural oak. Furnishings and carpeting are of quality in keeping with the high character of the hotel. On each floor are two-room suites, a living room and a bed room with connecting door. Each room throughout the building has outside exposure.”
The Blue Bonnet Hotel Company had high hopes: it planned to build "six or seven" hotels in Texas, including a Blue Bonnet Hotel in San Antonio, at the corner of Pecan and St. Mary's streets. Other towns identified in the story were Laredo, Corpus Christi, Brownsville and Abilene. Of these, only the San Antonio hotel is listed as under construction.
When the hotel opened, it was only five stories tall; a short while later the building grew to eight stories, going from 80 rooms to 140.
Along its ground floor several shops rented space: a drug store, complete with soda fountain; a barber; a beauty parlor; a coffee shop, and a magazine stand. There was an "enclosed ballroom," and plans for a garden terrace overlooking the Guadalupe below.
How the company's plans were altered by the stock market crash a few years later, along with the Great Depression which followed, is probably a story in itself. I don't know how many hotels the company actually built.
The formerly grand hotel was torn down in the early 1970s and was replaced by a drive-through bank for Charles Schreiner Bank. That bank building has since been torn down, too.
I do remember Kerrville's Blue Bonnet Hotel, though, and I enjoyed hearing Ms. Cannon's memories of the place. It was a wonderful hotel.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has a few relics from the old Blue Bonnet Hotel in his collection of Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 11, 2017.

Monday, March 6, 2017

A young Charles Schreiner

Charles Schreiner, sometime in the 1880s.
This past February 22nd was the birthday of the man who has been called the Father of the Texas Hill Country, Charles Armand Schreiner; he was born 179 years ago. Passing by his residence this week, I thought about Schreiner and his family. It's hard to remember the old structure was once a family's home.  Theirs was a large family: Schreiner and his wife Lena had eight children.
Years ago I researched Schreiner's life, focusing on his early adult years here in Kerr County, and I'm happy to share that with you again. Here's the story, from my files:
There are few in our community's history who rose to such prominence, wealth, and power, and so you'd think finding (and reporting) the facts about Capt. Schreiner would be elementary.
But the veil of years, even for the most prominent member of a community, can be thick and coarse. There are so many things lost since even the short interval separating us and the early pioneers: those that lived during the time have passed; those who remember the ones who lived in those days are few. And though the research tools available today are the most powerful ever granted to us (we curious few), there are whole continents of information simply...missing.
The images we have of Charles Schreiner almost always show him as an older man. But what about the time when Schreiner was a young man?
In the past few weeks I've learned some new things about Captain Schreiner, from the period when he was a young man.
For instance, he was elected district clerk in 1865, some 4 years before opening his Kerrville store, showing he was already held in high esteem in our community before his commercial success. In fact, in 1868, a year before he opened his store here, he was elected treasurer of Kerr County, a post he held for thirty consecutive years.
It was during this time, as District Clerk, Schreiner began dropping the "s" from Kerrsville. His editing stuck, thankfully.
I learned where his first store stood, too, and it wasn't where I thought it was.
In an interview with J. E. Grinstead, Schreiner is quoted as saying, "Yes, it was a small beginning: just a little cypress shack that stood where my residence now stands."
That little store was only 16x18 feet, made of cypress, and stood in the middle of the block, facing Earl Garrett street (then called Mountain Street). I'd always assumed it stood on the corner of Water and Earl Garrett. I was wrong.
And what of Schreiner -- what did he look like?
"Captain Schreiner was not so large a man as his photographs make him appear," Gene Hollon wrote in 1944 for the Southwestern Historical Quarterly. "His height was only around five feet and eight inches, and his weight never reached more than 17 0 pounds."
Meaning he was about my height and my weight -- by modern standards short, but back in those days Schreiner was probably about average in height among his neighbors.
"In his prime he was trim and fleet of foot," Hollon wrote. "It was said he could outrun any man in town in a foot race, and he often proved it...he did participate in foot racing down Main Street, a stunt not exactly considered dignified for a middle-aged man today, but quite proper then."
Well, that was a surprise: Captain Schreiner was a sprinter.
Schreiner's 179th birthday was February 22nd. I wonder what type of cake he liked.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who prefers dark chocolate birthday cakes, if anyone asks. With vanilla ice cream, please.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 4, 2017.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Immigrants in Kerr County

It's hard to pick up a newspaper these days and not find a story about immigrants and the politics surrounding immigration. While most agree the laws on the books should be enforced -- that illegal immigration is, in fact, illegal -- not as much coverage has been afforded to those who've immigrated to this country legally.
In the war-torn parts of the world today, there are countless families who want and need to flee the danger and strife all around them. Coming to the United States is a dream for many of these families, and thousands spend years attempting to obtain the necessary documents to come here legally.
But that is not new.
Many of the early settlers of New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, and Boerne were immigrants from Germany, and many of them were escaping the conflicts plaguing Europe at the time.
And many of the early settlers of Kerr County were also German immigrants, but we had settlers from many other parts of the world, too. And those immigrants helped make our community the place it is today.
Let's consider some of the prominent immigrants who settled in Kerr County.
Captain Joseph Tivy was an immigrant; he was born in Canada. Although he spent all of his adult life in the United States, serving in both the California and Texas legislatures, his time in Kerrville is remembered because of his interest in public education. In the late 1880s, when Tivy was the first mayor of the City of Kerrville, he donated the land for a public school, along with other parcels to be sold to help pay for a school building. That original school was named in his honor, and today Kerrville's high school is named for him.
Policarpo Rodriguez was an immigrant, born in Zaragoza, Coahuila, Mexico in 1829. He moved to San Antonio with his family when he was just twelve. His was a life of adventure and faith. He served for many years as a scout, and helped establish the route from San Antonio to El Paso. Later in life he became a Methodist minister, and even built a chapel (which still stands) on Privilege Creek, just across the Kerr County line, in Bandera County.
Captain Charles Schreiner was also an immigrant; he was born in Alsace, grew up speaking French, and moved to Texas as a boy with his parents. Both of his parents died when he was a teenager, and Schreiner joined the Texas Rangers for a while. Later he and his brother-in-law Caspar Real started a small stock farm on Turtle Creek. Later still, after serving in the Confederate Army, Schreiner started a store in downtown Kerrville, while also serving as Kerr county clerk and county treasurer. He was a shrewd businessman, and he shared his success with our community in many ways, including founding what is now Schreiner University.
Christian Dietert and his wife Rosalie were some of the first settlers in Kerrville; both were immigrants from Germany. Christian was a millwright, and he built a mill to harness the power of the Guadalupe River, near where today's One Schreiner Center now stands. Rosalie introduced many firsts in Kerrville, too, including having the first Christmas tree. Although Christian was the appointed postmaster for Kerrville, it was actually Rosalie who did the job; she was the acting postmaster for decades.
A young man from Syria immigrated to Kerr County in 1856; his name was Hadji Ali, though here he was called Hi Jolly. (Born Philip Tedro, he changed his name to Hadji Ali after converting to Islam and going to Mecca to perform the Hajj.) He came to Kerr County along with two others from the Mideast, men called Mico and Greek George. They were all camel experts, and they traveled here with camels as part of the experiment in camel transport at Camp Verde. Hadji Ali lived until 1902 and is buried in Arizona, where a monument was erected in his honor.
Ben Davey, a native of Yorkshire, England, arrived in Kerrville in 1871. He built many of the old stone buildings in the downtown area, including the Masonic Building, now home to Sheftall's Jewelers; the Weston Building, now home to Francisco's Restaurant; and the original Tivy School, now home to the administrative offices of the Kerrville Independent School District.
There are many, many more I could mention. Like James Spicer, who came here from England, who was an accomplished artist. Or Howard Lacey, another Englishman, who was a world-renowned botanist and naturalist. Or Chester Nimitz, the grandson of immigrants, who played such an important role in the Pacific War.
Immigrants have been an important part of our community since before Kerr County was formed, and they continue to make our home a better place.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who would not be a very good immigrant.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 25, 2017.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Surprises found in an old book

An old book which held surprises other than its writing
I'm re-reading a book I read many years ago, back when our kids were still in elementary school, John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley." I suppose I wanted to read a rambling travel book. Twice.
My copy of the book is old and beat up, from the second printing, with stains on the cover and pages which have yellowed in the 55 years since it was made. It is inscribed inside as a party gift from some hostess to some dinner guest at some feast held in an eastern state in 1962.
I'm pretty sure I bought it at a Friends of the Library book sale in the 1980s, in the basement of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, back when those sales were conducted among air ducts, junk, and a hodge-podge of rickety shelving. We often went there to buy books for ourselves and for our children, and many of the books we have on our shelves at home today were bought second-hand at their sales. In those days I was apt to pick up books by authors I recognized, and I'm sure I'd never heard of this book before, but I knew the name Steinbeck. It was an accidental discovery, and I may have paid the princely sum of one dollar for my copy.
Now that several decades have passed since I purchased the book and read it the first time I'm noticing things I could not have noticed before.
First off I noticed the simple joys of reading a real book, one made of paper and ink and binder's board and cloth. Even though I am a printer most of what I read these days is read on a screen of some type. Though I get a physical copy of the Kerrville Daily Times at work, I've usually read it on my iPad before leaving home, read at an hour when most of you are still sound asleep. I have subscriptions to a national newspaper and several magazines, but they all come to me wirelessly on that same device. I no longer receive printed copies of most of the magazines to which I subscribe, mainly because it's convenient and reliable to receive them electronically, but also because I tend to leave unread magazines in towering piles of clutter. Even old printers like me can enjoy these advantages.
This particular copy of "Travels with Charley" was printed on fine paper with a slight finish and cotton content. I believe I can feel the imprint of the letters on the page, suggesting it was printed on a letterpress of some kind, with lead type. It has a cloth cover that's rough in places from wear; the cloth is a light cream color and shows every stain. It's not a museum-quality edition, by any means. It's an ordinary book printed using techniques common in 1962, though those techniques are no longer used.
I can tell there's some acid in the paper, too. Most of the pages have age spots, and the edges are slowly turning brown. That acid will continue to work on the paper until it's brittle; if given enough time, the acid will eat it away until nothing is left but dust.
At least two readers made marks in the book as they read it. One of them was me, though a much younger me. I recognized the notations from the code of checks and brackets I used in those days, but haven't used for at least ten years, and cannot use as I read on my electronic tablet. Those marks I made many years ago, like the printing process used to make my copy, are obsolete.
Unlike others in my family, my memories of what I've read are hazy at best. Ms. Carolyn can recall with great clarity books she's read; I cannot. Looking at the marks I made in the book years ago is like looking over the shoulder of my much younger self, to see what interested him and to compare the judgments he made on the paragraphs he read with my reading of them today.
Those judgments are different. I'm more critical of writers today than I was then, less likely to be in awe of even Nobel prize-winning authors. I was more easily impressed twenty years ago, but I've read a lot more books since then.
Here's an idea, Gentle Reader: re-read a book you read decades ago. Read it in printed form. If you run across notes you made, see how much you've changed. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has more books than he's actually read. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 18, 2017.



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