Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A New Chapter at Pampell's

Pampells in Kerrville around 1905
Pampell's, at the corner of Water and today's Sidney Baker Street, in Kerrville.
Taken around 1905.
Click on any image to enlarge
When I last wrote about Pampell's, back in May of this year, I started with this sentence: "It's hard to walk by Pampell's these days and see it vacant."
A few days before I wrote that column, a group of us toured the building, from the dark basement to the top floor, wondering if it would be an appropriate site for a Kerr County Museum. The old building carried a lot of nostalgic memories for many of us, and those may have motivated the tour that day.
Visitors in front of Kerrville's Pampell's around 1905
Young visitors in front of Pampell's
around 1905
Then a few weeks later I learned that the POPO Family Restaurant intended to open there. It was good news: they have a good track record and a loyal customer base. Since then people have been busy in the old building, and Thursday's edition of this newspaper says they're open in the evenings this week, with a grand opening planned for August 28.
I'm thankful for the entrepreneurial spirit of the entire POPOs crew, not only for opening a new business in downtown Kerrville, but also for writing a new chapter in the long history of Pampell's, and of its home at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets.
That old building has been there a very long time, since at least the 1880s, when a hotel was built on the site by William and Julia Gregory. My friend Lanza Teague, who is related to the Gregorys, has a good photo of the Gregory Hotel, and William and Julia can be seen in front on the porch.  Click here to see the photo.
Around 1900 the property was sold to J. L. Pampell, who moved his 'Ice Cream Parlor and Confectionery' into the building. For a time Pampell continued to rent the upstairs rooms to guests, but he soon remodeled the upstairs into one big room, which was used for community events like school graduations and theatrical productions. In time he added a movie projector, and some of the first movies in Kerrville were shown upstairs at Pampell's. That big upstairs room saw concerts, 'operas,' and even square dances.
Pampells C C Soda Bottle Kerrville
Pampell's C C Soda bottle
In 1916 Pampell acquired the franchise for the Coca Cola agency for this section, which was a pioneering move at the time. Pampell also bottled their own 'soda pops' in a bottling factory at the rear of the building. By 1948 the bottling works could produce 1560 bottles of soda per hour.
Later Pampell added a Rexall pharmacy to his operations, and hired two pharmacists "on duty at all hours."
In addition, "Pampell's Home Made Candies" were a popular gift in this section of Texas.
A postcard showing the interior
of Pampell's, around 1910
The building went through a lot of remodeling projects. In the earliest images, it's a frame structure with wooden siding. In the late 1920s, the wooden siding has been covered with stucco. And then another remodeling: the exterior was covered with bricks, and inside the second story was converted to a mezzanine.
As I reported here earlier, I'm old enough to remember Milton Pampell, son of J. L. Pampell. And I have many happy memories of the soda fountain at Pampell's from when I was a boy, in the 1960s.
Kerrville's Water Street around 1928
Kerrville's Water Street around 1928
Pampell's was a drug store and soda fountain in my youth. Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hood ran the store then, followed later by Steve Ackman. When my children were young, Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller ran an antiques store in the building, but the soda fountain remained; during that time I became reacquainted with chocolate malted milkshakes.
Later Ken Wilson purchased the property and spent a fortune renovating and shoring up the structure. The building, I think, has had several owners since Wilson.
Now a new restaurant opens in the old place. I think POPOs will do great, and I look forward to stopping by soon.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoyed many a chocolate malted milkshake at Pampell's. Perhaps too many. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 12, 2017.







Sunday, August 6, 2017

Kerrville's West Texas Fair

Kerrville West Texas Fairgrounds
West Texas Fairgrounds, Kerrville, around 1905
Click on any image to enlarge
Starting in 1899, our community produced an event called the West Texas Fair every summer. It was a big deal, and continued for several decades.
The event was led by the movers and shakers in town and drew a big crowd each year. The officers for the 1905 fair were Charles Schreiner, president; H. Remschel, vice-president; Charles Real, secretary-treasurer. The association was organized and stock sold; stockholders held an annual meeting. While I think the event itself was not intended to be overly profitable, the community benefitted from the visitors it attracted.
Kerrville West Texas Fairgrounds grandstand
Grandstands, West Texas Fair
It was kind of a county fair, though I think Kerr County had greater ambitions for their event, hoping to include communities to our west in the festivities. There were horse races, parades, ball games, plus traditional county fair contests. Ribbons were awarded for everything from best garden produce to baking and canning.
Beyond those traditional offerings, at the 1905 fair, there was also an "Art Department," chaired by a local artist, James Spicer. "Those who have fine paintings and other works of art," a news article stated, "can safely trust them to his care for no one knows better than he the value of such things."
There was also an "Educational Department," where "schools of all Texas are cordially invited to enter the competition."
Later years included a Chautauqua, a kind of educational lecture series. Baseball games were scheduled between neighboring communities, which probably helped attendance from those communities.
In 1908, one of the planned "amusements" was a "grand speed contest between automobiles," which took place on the horse track. "This will be the first event of its kind ever seen in Kerr County and will be well worth seeing."  The first automobiles came to Kerrville that same year, so many of those attending the 1908 event had probably never seen an automobile before.
Exhibit Hall, West Texas Fair
J. E. Grinstead, a local newspaper publisher from the turn of the last century, described the West Texas Fair “whose home is in a delightful park adjoining the city limits, with the Guadalupe River upon one side and majestic oak-clad mountains on the other, is among the chief attractions of Kerrville, and is an enterprise which is the pride of the people of this entire section, and has and will continue to be a strong element in the development of our county and its resources. The exhibition of 1904 was a pronounced success from every viewpoint. And the importance of the work will increase as the country develops.”
Twenty years ago Warren Klein, a rancher in Mountain Home, sent me his memories of the West Texas Fair:
"The West Texas Fair was held each year around the 4th of July." This fair took place in grand buildings built especially for the fair. The site was on the river side of the intersection of Water Street and Junction Highway, called Five Points, about where [Wells Fargo] Bank is today.
"One thing I remember about the fair of 1915: a man had an airplane and he would take people up for a ride. The thing I remembered about the airplane was that it didn't have a self-starter. The propeller was at the back of the plane. In order to start it, a person had to turn the propeller by hand, but he wanted 'back up,' so he joined hands with 6 other men. One thing that still puzzles me today is where my brand new straw hat went when that plane started!"
Foot Ball Game, West Texas Fair, 1907
One postcard from the 1907 fair shows what looks to be a basketball game, played on the horse track in front of the grandstand. Basketball nets and backboards can be plainly seen, and a ball can be seen in the air.
The puzzling thing about the postcard? It has this headline: "Foot Ball Game at West Texas Fair, Kerrville, Texas 1907." While it's possible the game being played was football, it's also possible the printer made a mistake. Strike that -- it's obviously a game of football, played on a horse-track basketball court.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who stands in solidarity with the printer of that 1907 postcard. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 5, 2017.






Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kerrville's Water Street in the 1950s

Kerrville 1950s Water Street
A look up Water Street in the 1950s,
taken from the roof of the Blue Bonnet Hotel
Click on any image to enlarge
What if you could time travel back to the mid-1950s and look up and down Water Street?
Thankfully, you won't have to fire up your flux-capacitor-equipped DeLorean to do this; an unknown photographer took two photos that show Water Street from above.
These two photos were taken from the tallest structures on Water Street at the time: the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital and the Blue Bonnet Hotel. Both are now gone.
The Blue Bonnet Hotel
(The above photo was taken
from its roof.)
The Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital stood at the eastern corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets, opposite Water Street from Pampell's. The Blue Bonnet Hotel stood at the southern corner of Water and Earl Garrett streets, opposite Water Street from Francisco's Restaurant. Both sites are now parking lots.
The photo taken from the top of the eight-story Blue Bonnet Hotel shows, in the 700 block of Water Street, Schreiner Company, Lehmann's, J. C. Penney, and the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.
The Schreiner Company building is mostly unchanged in appearance from then until today. It's interesting to look at the roof of the old building, because the story of its additions and remodeling is still visible. It has undergone many changes since it was first built.
The building that housed Lehmann's started as Schreiner's wool warehouse, and once had a rail spur connecting it to the rails that ran along North Street and Schreiner Street. When I was a boy, this building housed Winn's, a variety store.
The old J. C. Penney building was built in the mid-1920s on what had once been a part of the grounds of the St. Charles Hotel. I remember shopping for school clothes there when I was a student at Starkey Elementary, many moons ago.
Then, of course, the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital. I notice it still has the Humble Oil gas station on the ground floor, that one wing is only five stories, while the other is six. I believe a roof-top garden was envisioned for the lower wing, but I cannot see any evidence of such in the photograph, aside from what looks like railings around the edge of the lower roof. The hospital was built in 1949, so this image shows it not long after it was constructed.
Beyond Sidney Baker Street, the Peterson Garage is shown, along with the other commercial buildings along the block. I was surprised to see a Texaco station at the corner of Clay and Water Streets.
Various other buildings can be seen in the distance. The sign for H-E-B is seen, when that store faced Quinlan Street; I can see the steeple of Calvary Baptist Church, there on Jefferson Street. City Hall is visible, with the fire station next door; and in the distance the larger Schreiner Wool Warehouse on McFarland Street.
Town looks busy in the photograph, which was taken in the afternoon in the autumn or winter; there are no leaves on the trees.
Water Street Kerrville 1950s
Kerrville's Water Street in the 1950s,
taken from the roof of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital
The photograph taken from the roof of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, looking toward the Blue Bonnet Hotel, looks to be taken in the same season, but in the morning. In it one can see the line of offices along the 700 block of Water Street, including the sign for Central Drugs and the Charles Schreiner Bank. Across the street, in the 800 block, is the Blue Bonnet Hotel, the Vogue, and Reiter's Automotive. In the far distance you can see the outline of the Veteran's Administration Hospital building.
Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital
(The above photo was taken
from its roof.)
The Charles Schreiner Bank portion of the image has two interesting things to mention: the old clock, which was a long-time part of downtown Kerrville, and a guy leaning on a parking meter. In almost every image I have of this corner, people are hanging out, usually in conversation. This must have been a spot where socializing was expected. While this building was sheathed in an space-age aluminum facade when I was a kid, the building underneath was unchanged. I remember walking up the creaking steps to the second floor on an errand for my father. It looked like an old movie set in there. The windows were open, but the facade blocked the view (and most of the breeze).
That building is gone, as are most in the photograph. The site of the Blue Bonnet Hotel and the Schreiner Bank are now parking lots.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wouldn't mind time travel as long as he could get back home in time for supper. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times on July 29, 2017.






Sunday, July 23, 2017

Kerr County as seen in Postcards

Kerrville, approaching on State Highway 16, from south of the Guadalupe River
Kerrville, approaching on State Highway 16, from south of the Guadalupe River
Click on any image to enlarge

Heart o' The Hills Inn
A poet once suggested it would be a gift to see ourselves as others see us, though I would likely want to leave that gift unopened, locked in a closet, underneath a tarp or two.
Schreiner's Mill in downtown Kerrville
Schreiner's Mill
Since its earliest days our county has worked to transform how others see it, whether from the exaggerated language of various newspapermen or the efforts of chambers of commerce, service clubs, and even sermons from local pulpits. Like every other community, we want to look good!
One method used to make Kerr County look good is quite clever because it presents a picturesque view of our county and asks others to endorse that view as they share it with others. I enjoy collecting samples of this method, and they do make our community look better.
Postcards showing life here tend to illustrate the good things about our part of the world: the river, examples of local industry, various civic monuments, grand views of hills and sky.
Starr Bryden shot of Texas Highway 16 near Medina
Bryden's of SH 16
Kerrville Cascade Pool
Cascade Pool
The earliest postcards in my collection are printed in black and white, or in a sepia color. Some were printed in Germany, which must have caused a controversy, because others are marked "Not Printed in Germany." Those were printed at the turn of the last century, and they were printed right here in Kerrville. As a printer this made me chuckle, because all of the local printers I know still want everything to be printed here in town.
Inn of the Hills
Postcards showing lodging facilities are quite common in my Kerr County collection of postcards, though even these can tell a story. I have several postcards showing the St. Charles Hotel, which once stood on the corner of Sidney Baker Street and Water Street, opposite Water Street from Pampell's. Until recently the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital stood there; today the site is a parking lot.
Kerrville from Tivy Mountain
Kerrville from Tivy Mountain
The postcards showing the St. Charles are interesting because they document the changes made to the building over time. Built in 1883, the hotel was originally a two-story frame structure. Frame additions were made over time, and then around World War I a third story was added, and the exterior was covered in stucco and made to look more modern. The building was gone by 1936, having stood for around 53 years.
Postcards showing the building range from black and white images to colorized images; some are photorealistic and some are almost abstract, as if they represent the idea of the hotel rather than how the structure actually appeared.
Water Street in Kerrville
Water Street
a poster of this scene is available
by clicking HERE
The Blue Bonnet Hotel in Kerrville
The Blue Bonnet Hotel
Pioneer photographer Starr Bryden also published postcards of the area. While he did offer shots of local landmarks like the post office and various churches, he also published many scenic images of the hill country. Many of his shots were made at great effort, taken from the very top of hills or from the edge of cliffs. Knowing that Bryden had some physical limitations after a fight with tuberculosis, and also remembering the technology with which he worked, these photographs are amazing.
Kerr County Courthouse in 1907
Kerr County's 3rd Courthouse
Early postcards also show local industry. I have several postcards showing wool wagons, where three wagons were hitched together and pulled by a team of oxen or mules. This was the most efficient way to get wool to market from the outlying ranches of our county (and counties nearby); Kerrville was the marketplace for these fibers and also was the railhead for transporting the clips to national markets. I cannot imagine the difficulties the drivers of these wagons faced, traveling over unpaved roads, carrying a ton (or tons) of freight, trying to control the movements of many animals.
West Texas Fair 1907 in Kerrville
West Texas Fair 1907
Many of the local postcards in my collection were never mailed. I suppose they were bought as keepsakes.
Others, though, have short messages to a loved one; with limited space they read like tweets on Twitter. Most of them say a variation of "this place is lovely and I wish you were here, too."
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical Kerrville and Kerr county items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 22, 2017.






Sunday, July 16, 2017

Kerrville's Ave-Cot Water Thrill Show

A postcard featuring the Ave-Cot Water Thrill Show, late 1950s.
A poster of this image is available by clicking HERE
Click on any image to enlarge
My son and I swam in the river at Louise Hays Park this past Tuesday evening, between the bridge and the dam, where the water is deep. The river temperature was perfect, not too warm or cold. The evening sun was still quite warm, and the cypress trees along the bank cast long shadows across the water. It was a great time to swim, and that is a great place to swim.
Kerrville Louise Hays Park water skier
Skier and boats, after the turn by dam
at Louise Hays Park
After work, in the early evening, that part of the river is not too crowded. There were a lot of kids near the dam, as always. A few adults were in the water, too, including a pair of gentlemen who were testing beverage holders of their own design, made of pieces of styrofoam swimming noodles, held together with zip ties. The two prototypes I saw looked to be performing well.
A pair of teenagers were paddle boarding near us with mixed success. All was going well until the young man attempted to hop from his paddle board to the one his girlfriend was using. Both ended up in the water.
Flag Bearers, Ave-Cot Water Thrill Show
The park itself was busier than it has been in past years: the river trail brings out a lot of folks. We saw people walking dogs, riding bicycles, and in one case, a woman riding a bicycle with a dog in a bag. Both the dog and the woman seemed happy.
That part of the park and that part of the river were tranquil that evening.  Restful.
There was a time, though, when that little stretch of river was quite busy, and a crowd lined the river bank, filling up stone bleachers below the Sidney Baker Street bridge.
Though the lake made by the dam in Louise Hays Park is deep, it's also very narrow. Looking at it today, it's hard to believe this spot was once the venue for a daring water ski show.
Ski boats racing downriver, Louise Hays Park
Ski boats racing downriver,
Louise Hays Park
The Ave-Cot Water Thrill Show was produced by Cotton Eldridge and his wife, Ava, in the late 1950s. During the 1959 July Fourth celebration, hosted by the Kerrville Jaycees, the "Water Thrill Show" was performed nightly, with an advertised price of "50 cents per car," though an afternoon matinee show was free to the public.
"A crowd of about 200 people came away from a preview performance of the Ave-Cot Water Thrill Show impressed by the variety and daring of the acts," one newspaper reported.
"Cotton's jumping boats, which he takes over the ramp and jumps into a circle of fire as a grand finale, are believed to be unique in the water show field.
"Star of the show, besides Eldridge himself, is Jimmy Simmonds, who does most of the fancy jumps, works in the clown acts, and drives one of the jumping boats.
Water Ski Grandstand Louise Hays Park Kerrville
The old stone grandstand, near the
Sidney Baker Street Bridge
"The show opens with some flashy turns by the tow boats, with Eldridge driving one, and Herman Gadecke driving the other.
"Then come the flag bearers on skis. They are Mrs. Fred Bernhard, April Clover, Mrs. Clifton Mackey, and Mary Dyer. Sue Dale Simmonds and Mrs. Alton Fairchild will take turns with the flag bearers.
"Creed Blevins wowed the first nighters with a high dive off of the bridge. This will be a regular part of the show.
"Freddie Bernhard, who takes part in several acts, did a spectacular demonstration of slalom skiing, shoe skiing, and barefoot skiing. He is considered one of the outstanding slalom skiers (one ski) in the nation.
Ski boat churning the water, Louise Hays Park
Ski boat churning the water,
Louise Hays Park
"Bernhard, Simmonds, Blevins and Clifton Mackey dressed up as farmers for the clown act.
Back Swan by Sarah Johnston
and Jimmy Simmonds
"Bobby Solomon and Johnny Page, elementary school youngsters, put on an slalom skiing demonstration to show that skiing can be done at an early age.
"Taking part in the ballerina number were Irene Fischer, Mrs. Mackey, Mrs. Eldridge, and Mrs. Richard Pachall.
"One of the more daring stunts was a back swan from the shoulders of Simmonds by Sarah Jane Johnston done while he was skiing."
As I swam in the quiet water with my son this past week, I tried to picture boats and skiers and ramps and hoops of fire in that tiny spot. The turn by the dam would be very tight, even for one skier. Some of the photos show four skiers behind one boat.
I tried to imagine the noise of boat motors, the smell of exhaust, the choppy wake of speedboats, the sight of skiers skimming the water.
Kerrville's Louise Hays Park, late 1950s
Louise Hays Park, late 1950s, with Water Ski shack by river,
and the Blue Bonnet Hotel across river.
A poster of this image is available by clicking HERE
I do remember riding in my parent's boat at that same spot; I was very little. My Mom skied slalom as my Dad drove the boat. (They were not part of the Ave-Cot show. They were just a couple of twenty-somethings who liked to ski. The Louise Hays Park was convenient to the print shop.)
I remember the dam getting closer and closer as Dad drove fast toward it. I remember Mom skiing behind the boat. I'm sure I closed my eyes as we made that turn just before the dam.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who last went water skiing with his father and his son, years ago. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 15, 2017.







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