Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Captain L.P. Betty, Master Woodcarver, by Lanza Teague

By Lanza M. Teague
Guest Blogger

The Captain L.P. Betty Home
2211 Memorial Blvd, Kerrville,
about 1940
This weekend I met Winfield Betty, a 1955 graduate of Tivy High School who now lives in San Antonio.  He was born and raised in Kerrville and shared these wonderful photos of his father, his family home at 2211 Memorial Blvd., his father’s amazing carvings and Arts & Crafts style furniture.   The story of his father, Captain L.P. Betty was too good to keep to myself, so Joe has let me borrow his blog to share the tale.

Captain L.P. Betty was a native of Tennessee who retired to Kerrville after 25 years of service in the Army (He served from 1899-1924).  He came to Kerrville to work for the Legion Hospital (Now the Kerrville Veterans Administration Hospital), where he met and married a pretty dietitian named Betty Anna.   As the Betty family grew, Capt. Betty, whose hobby was woodcarving, began to create intricate toys for his two children.  The toys became more and more detailed with time.
Most of the carvings were working replicas of “things used in the early days.”  The Captain used the carvings to show his children how things used to work and how much had changed from the days when he was a child.  Among his creations were a miniature molasses mill, a spinning wheel, thresher, covered wagon, shingle maker and a river boat.
Capt. Betty in his home-based museum filled with his woodcarvings, furniture and varied collections.  The mural on the back wall was painted by Mrs. Betty as a backdrop to the carved replica of one of the first steam engines to cross the US.
 From an undated story from the Kerrville Daily Times by Madeline Ward: 

”Hand operated machines and out-moded vehicles are articles which Betty frequently chooses as subjects for his wood art.   He does all his work with only a pocket knife, never using a model or a drawing to design his work.  He remembers in detail a river boat, a steam ship or one of the first trains looked and was built.

“With just such a mental picture, he begins work fashioning each separate part for these items from a piece of wood.  More remarkable still is that he has never had to remake or start a piece over because it didn’t fit or was the wrong size.”

He also fashioned tables and cabinets to display his carvings. As time passed, Capt. Betty had such a collection of carvings and hand-made furniture that a room had to be added to their house to display his art. He also displayed collections of rocks, shells and arrowheads in the room and opened it to the public as a museum.

Capt. Betty became well known around town for the exquisite furniture he made.  Winfield told me one of his favorite stories about his father involved Jimmie Rodgers (the “Father of Country Music” and a former Kerrville resident).  Rodgers approached Mr. Betty about having some furniture made for his home in Kerrville.  The Captain, a fierce teetotaler, physically threw the musician out of his house when he was asked to make a custom liquor cabinet.
A carved steam engine, tracks, model steam ship and display table
made by Captain L. P. Betty 
Captain Betty died in 1965, leaving behind carvings and furniture that his family still treasures to this day.  The home where his children grew up and where he operated a museum to display his carvings and collections still stands near the Schreiner College campus but is no longer in the Betty family.

3 comments:

  1. Captain Betty was a friend of my parents. I can remember as a child seeing the museum and the furniture and toys and especially the train. I remember he made a porch swing that had a movable back, the swing could change directions. He had a great laugh. We still have a coffee table that he crafted. Thanks for the article

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  2. Capt Betty was indeed a master craftsman. I recall visiting there and playing with Winfield and his sister Helen. Capt and Mrs. Betty were gracious hosts and I was always in awe of his carvings and collections. Capt Betty was a veteran of the Spanish American War and had some really great stories about his time in the army and in the Philippines. I also recall his 16 cylinder Cadillac that he had to put on blocks during the war because he could barely make it to downtown and back on his ration quota. Note the arrowheads on the wall just to across the highway from his home at the present site of Whelan Plumbing Great memories!

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  3. My wife and I just returned to Indiana after attending my 45th HS reunion in San Antonio. We stayed at the Meeker homestead in Kerrville for the 2 weeks we were in Texas and made many side-trip excursions in the hill country during that time. I remember so vividly my cousin Dick Meeker and I would stop in an visit with the Captain and he would offer up a story that would entertain us for hours. The Captain was a memorable part of my youth and will always be fondly remembered....thanks for keeping the Kerr County history alive!!

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