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Monday, July 22, 2013

This time of year, though long ago

Sometimes I like to see what was happening in our neck of the woods years ago by studying a newspaper from about the same day and month as today. For example, what was happening in Kerr County during mid-July many summers ago?
Often, studying these old papers seems to confirm the cyclical theory of history: the idea that the stories don't really change, just the players. At other times it seems like the linear theory of history prevails, where each new year is really new.
Let's take a look at an old Kerrville newspaper from a long-ago mid-July, and you can decide which theory wins.
On July 10, 1941, the Salter family published a 10-page issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun. What was happening here 72 years ago?
The biggest headline read "12,500 Spectators Crowd Tivy Field for Annual Hill Country Championship Rodeo, Horseshow," and reported on the seventh annual rodeo produced by the Kerrville Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).
I have photographs of the rodeo and parade from that era, and it was a big deal. The rodeo in 1941 was a two-day event, so attendance averaged over 6,000 folks each night.
It says the event took place at "Tivy Field," and you'd assume it was at what we call Antler Stadium today, but that would be wrong: Antler Stadium didn't open until the autumn of '41. In talking with several Tivy alums from that era, I think "Tivy Field" was in the block bounded by Tivy, Barnett, Third, and College Streets, behind what was called Tivy Elementary when I was a student. (I had always assumed the field was behind the school, adjacent to the Auld Center, but I was told this was not so.)
If so, I cannot image how they got 6,000 people a night in that little corner of town. The news story says 400 spectators were refused admission "as every available space was taken," including standing room only. "It was the first time the crowd has been beyond the capacity of the big field," the story reported.
Perhaps that large crowd was one of the inspirations for the construction of the stadium we enjoy today.
"Spiced with the scent of sage brush and the smoke from the campfire, Jim Weatherby rekindled the spirit of the native West with folklore stories and historical narration over the public address system as a prelude to each evening's performance. Sharing the announcer's duties was Joe Burkett, who kept the spectators well informed and the show running with dispatch." Weatherby would serve our area as a district judge; Burkett represented our district in the Texas House.
The other front-page stories of note included a piece about The Vogue building being remodeled; the story of "500 Jewish Youths expected for Conclave July 12," at a youth camp to be held at "Westminster Presbyterian Encampment;" a conference at the Methodist Kerrville Assembly for "Children's Workers;" and a report that building permits had reached $69,185 in the city for the first six months of 1941.
The ladies of the Episcopal Guild were undertaking an interesting fundraising effort, taken straight from the parable about not burying one's money: each was given a dollar and asked to make it grow before their next meeting in the autumn. Accordingly, the ladies started on various economic endeavors. One raised chickens, another painted flower pots, another sold eggs, and one sold cookies and peppermint ice cream. It seems quaint, but they must have been successful; I think the funds were used in the construction of the original portion of the present-day church building.
Over at the Arcadia Theater a Western was playing, which was appropriate, given the fact that rodeo was in town: Charles Starrett starred in the "Pinto Kid." And there was a picture starring James Cagney and Betty Davis also showing there, "The Bride came C. O. D." Over at the Rialto, which stood next door to our print shop, Barbara Stanwyck's "The Lady Eve" was showing, as well as a Marlene Dietrich film, "The Flame of New Orleans."
One small item on the front page also caught my attention: a report on the progress of fundraising by the Tivy Ex-Student's Association for the "improvement of Tivy Mountain." As of the end of June, the group had raised almost $750. As you know, Tivy Mountain has been caught in a sort of limbo for the past few decades.
So, Gentle Reader: is history a cycle, or is it a straight line?
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who ponders the riddles often found in old newspapers. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 20, 2013.
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1 comment:

  1. I can remember the rodeo loading chutes beyond the goal posts at the north end of Antler Stadium. When an extra point was kicked, someone had to retrieve the ball from the pens. Seems that they were removed in the mid 50's.

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