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Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Sad Story of Sidney Baker, who died 100 years ago this week

Sidney Baker, Kerrville, Texas, 1917
Sidney W. Baker, 1917, Kerrville.
Click on any image below to enlarge.

Sidney Baker, for whom one of the principal streets in Kerrville is named, died in France on October 15, 1918, 100 years ago this coming Monday. He was only 22.
Pvt. Sidney W. Baker was killed in France during World War I, and shortly after that war three Kerrville streets were named after three Kerr County men who died in battle during that conflict: Sidney Baker, Earl Garrett, and Francisco Lemos.
Elsewhere I have told the stories of Earl Garrett and Francisco Lemos, publishing both near the 100th anniversary of their deaths. This week I'll tell the story of Sidney Baker.
Sidney Baker was born to Benjamin F. Baker and Elizabeth Peterson Baker on September 4, 1896, in Gonzales County, Texas, one of 11 children. His father was a carpenter and farmer, and helped build the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad line into Kerrville. The family moved to Kerrville in the 1880s, moved away to Gonzales County, where Sidney Baker was born, and then returned to Kerrville in 1904.
Ira Baker (seated) and Sidney Baker (standing) Kerrville, Texas 1917
Sidney Baker and
his brother, Ira.
Sidney Baker's mother, Elizabeth Peterson Baker, had a little brother named Sidney Clay Peterson, whose nickname was "Cap." Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital was named for him by his sons, Hal and Charlie Peterson. Hal and Charlie were Sidney Baker's first cousins.
Like Francisco Lemos, Sidney Baker enlisted in Company D, First Texas Infantry, a unit of the Texas National Guard.
Company D had been recruited by Captain Charles J. Seeber, and in the spring and summer of 1917, the company drilled on the grounds of Westminster Encampment, just east of town. The grounds of the encampment are now part of the campus of Schreiner University. The company also drilled on the West Texas Fairgrounds site, which was across Town Creek south of the Five Points area, between Junction Highway and the river. For the most part, the drills were practiced without weapons or equipment, and many of the men did not have regulation uniforms.
Company D, Kerrville, Texas, September 1917
Company D on Kerrville's
Main Street, 1917
Company D departed Kerrville by train on September 5, 1917, heading to Camp Bowie, near Fort Worth.
It was a sad day for everyone, but especially young Sidney Baker. He was saying goodbye to his steady girlfriend, a young woman named Daphne Williams.
Bill Sloan, a former editor of this newspaper, shared some research on Sidney Baker with me years ago. That research was based on Baker family correspondence, and offered a unique look into Sidney Baker's life.
Elizabeth Wright Peterson Baker, Kerrville, Texas around 1935
Elizabeth Baker,
late in life
Sidney Baker joined the National Guard unit on the advice of his older brothers, Frank and Ira. Having worked as a helper for his father, and also as a seasonal worker on the Peterson Ranch, Sidney was attracted to the prospect of a steady income.
According to Sloan's research, Sidney Baker was a reluctant soldier. After basic training at Camp Bowie, he was promoted to PFC, "but a few weeks later, after getting into an altercation with another recruit, he was busted back to buck private, and he never received another promotion."
A planned visit to Kerrville to see Daphne Williams was canceled when an "old sergeant wouldn't let me off, so there was nothing I could do."
Again, according to Sloan's research, Sidney Baker sought a hardship release to help his mother, who was in financial difficulties. "Please do everything you can to get me out of this Army life," Baker wrote his mother, "and tell all the Kerrville boys to take a d----d fool's advice and stay out of the Army."
Then, in March 1918, when Baker was in New York awaiting transport to Europe, Daphne Williams broke off their relationship.
On March 25, 1918, Sidney Baker wrote his mother, before leaving for France.
Kerrville Texas memorial park, 1938
At dedication of Memorial Park,
Kerrville, 1938.  Mrs. Baker is
woman on front row, far right.
"I guess we are leaving tomorrow for France, but we sure had lots of trouble trying to get started. Daph sure has gone back on me, and I had just as soon the whole German army shoot at me as for to do that. You tell Daph what I said when you see her and ask her to keep writing to me and I will fix things when the war is over."
Baker left the States on the Finland, on July 26, 1918. The Finland was the same ship which carried Francisco Lemos to Europe.
The war in Europe was a long way from Kerrville.
When the war was over, on the very first Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, Elizabeth Baker, Sidney Baker's mother, was so very happy. Kerrville was celebrating the end of the war. On that same day wrote to Sidney "I write to let you know we have received the news that we have peace, and I was never as happy in my life. Oh, if I could just be with you to rejoice, but I have the pleasure of thinking you won't be killed now."
Sidney W. Baker, from "Price of our Heritage,"
page 363.
Two days later, on November 13, 1918, she received a telegram informing her that Sidney Baker had been killed during the bloody fighting near Hill 288 in the Argonne, felled by machine gun fire. When Kerrville was celebrating on November 11, Elizabeth Baker did not know her son was gone.
That Sidney Baker was a reluctant soldier does not mean he was not brave. He was very brave and saw some of the worst fighting any American soldier saw. Of the three Kerr County men who died in battle in World War I, he survived the longest, living until the last weeks of the war. But of the three, he was the youngest to die.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who cannot imagine the horrors of war. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 13, 2018.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Photos from Kerr County in 1968

Kerr teens at Ingram Dam, 1968.
Click on any image to enlarge.
I've noticed posts on social media about the Tivy High School class of 1968, which will be celebrating its 50 year reunion this year. I understand quite a few are hoping to attend the Tivy Homecoming celebrations in a few weeks, when the Tivy Antlers play Memorial on October 19th at Antler Stadium.
Going through my photo collection, I've found quite a few images from 1968. In honor of the 1968 Tivy graduates, I thought I'd publish a few here.
Tivy pep rally, downtown Kerrville, 1968
Tivy pep rally, downtown Kerrville, 1968
I have a few images of downtown pep rallies from 1968. It was a long tradition for pep rallies to be held at the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets on Friday afternoons before the football game that evening.
When I was a student at Tivy, the Tivy cheerleaders, the Tivy band, Golden Girls and Antlerettes would march to town from Antler Stadium, coming down Sidney Baker Street and turning left onto Water Street. This happened for every home game, but a much bigger parade was held for homecoming.
In 1968, however, it's likely the starting point was not the stadium, but the high school, which, in those days, was where the B. T. Wilson campus is today, on Tivy Street.
Once downtown, a large circle formed at the intersection of Earl Garrett and Water Streets, with the Antlerettes, Golden Girls and the Tivy Band all facing in toward the cheerleader, drum major, and twirlers in the middle. The fight song would be played, cheerleaders would lead the crowd in cheers, and the Tivy Alma Mater would close the event.
Regular home game downtown Tivy pep rallies ended in the 1980s.
I also found a 1968 photograph of a very popular spot for Kerr County youths, still popular even today: kids sliding down Ingram Dam. When I posted this photo on social media it brought back lots of memories, mainly of fun times and holes in jeans and bathing suits made from sliding down the dam.
Unloading furniture from train, 1968
Kerrville freight depot, 1968
In 1968 freight trains still came to Kerrville. (Passenger service ended years earlier.) I found two photos from 1968 featuring the old railroad: one of the freight office, and another of men unloading furniture for Crick's Furniture onto a truck. Crick's Furniture was on Broadway; I went to school with the children of the owners.
Grand opening of Gibson's, 1968
Grand opening of Gibson's, 1968
In 1968 Gibson's Discount Center opened, and I found a few photos from that event. In one, a woman is giving away necklaces to shoppers; in another, a crowd of shoppers stands around the jewelry case.
Up With People ensemble, behind library, 1968
Up With People performance,
Kerrville Municipal Auditorium, 1968
Up With People parade, downtown Kerrville, 1968
One big community event in 1968 was a performance by "Up With People;" apparently several local teenagers were also part of the cast. There was a parade, a performance behind the new Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, and a performance in the old municipal auditorium. I noticed how well-dressed the audience was for the performance.
Kerrville City Council members with electric car, 1968
Lastly, I think the 1968 Kerrville City Council was way ahead of newcomers like Tesla -- I found a wonderful image of several members of the council inspecting an electric car. I recognize John M. Mosty, Francis Swayze, and Marvin Hunter.
While I cannot find a news story to accompany the photograph, I hope to hear the full story from my friends Mosty and Swayze.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers Kerrville and Kerr County as it was in 1968. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 6, 2018.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Earl Garrett died 100 years ago today

Lt. Victor Earl Garrett, of Kerrville
100 years ago today, on October 4, 1918, Victor Earl Garrett died near Exermont, France. He was only 24.
Garrett was a 2nd Lieutenant, a member of the 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, U. S. Army, and died during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
For many people, Earl Garrett is just the name of a street in downtown Kerrville. But he was a brave young man who volunteered to fight for his country, a member of a prominent local family, a family who mourned his death for the rest of their lives.
I've written elsewhere about Sidney Baker and Francisco Lemos, the other two heroes of World War I who are memorialized with a street name in Kerrville. Like Garrett, both Lemos and Baker died in battle.
Lt. Garrett was killed in action while leading an attack of five men on 30 entrenched German soldiers; his four fellows survived the attack, and managed to take 20 German prisoners.
For his heroism that day, and for an incident the previous July, Garrett was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
On July 19, 1918, during the fighting near Soissons, Garrett supervised the care of his wounded men with disregard for his own safety. And on his last day, despite having an injured foot, he refused to be sent back to safety, and led the attack on the German soldiers.
He was a student at the University of Texas at Austin when war was declared, and, according to the Daily Texan of November 19, 1919, "he was among the first students to leave school in the spring of 1917 for the training camp at Leon Springs." Garrett's name was among the 88 names read at the University on November 14, 1919, when the campus honored its war dead.
The Kerrville community remembered him fondly. Pastor W. P. Dickey wrote this memorial:
"It is given to some to impress others by some striking gift or to fall through some great weakness or misfortune but rarely does one make a profound impression simply by what he is; that, I think, was the supreme distinction of Earl Garrett.
"Quiet, gentle and unassuming as a child, a youth and as a man, yet he was in all crowned with the spontaneous love and respect of all who knew him. In his Christian life he was modest and unpretentious, yet so sincere and constant as to command the admiring comment of fellow students and soldiers.
"Loving the life of a student and a dreamer, the call of duty and loyalty to the highest ideals of a citizen and Christian proved him a man of the clearest convictions and of a courage which did not falter at any danger of hardship nor hesitate to give life itself, that truth might live."
Several months ago Bob Schmerbeck, who is related to Earl Garrett, loaned me a notebook of letters Garrett's family gathered after his death. The packet included letters to Earl Garrett, letters from him, and letters from others about him, including from those who were with him when he died.
One month before he died, Earl Garrett wrote his mother, Laura Gill Garrett, a touching letter.

"My dearest Mother, it will probably be only a note, but I wanted to write you tonight. It may be some time before I can write you again and I do not want to neglect this opportunity.
"Mother, it is a long cry from here to home, but never so close as tonight. And never have I been so conscious of what you have done for me or felt so unworthy of your efforts. I could not write a sad letter even if I wanted to; my temperamental make up would not let me. But I do want you to know before anything might happen that I at least appreciate my mother and my father.
"I am habitually optimistic -- of the incurable type, less a considerable portion of confidence in my ability. But the great possibility cannot be ignored.
"With love to all, your son, Earl."

That was the person for whom a street was named in Kerrville. Victor Earl Garrett was a young man, a dreamer, who felt called to duty, who was brave to the end.  He is buried in France, at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial.  Sidney Baker is also buried there.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who finds some columns harder to write than others.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Story of the First Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair

An aerial view of the Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair, Schreiner College campus, Kerrville, 1972.
Click on any image to enlarge.
With the newly re-instituted Texas Arts & Crafts Fair happening in Ingram this weekend at the Hill Country Arts Foundation, I thought a brief history of the fair might be timely. Here’s what I found in my files:
An early Texas State
Arts and Crafts Fair
Years ago the late Rod Kennedy gave me a remarkable document: a program from the first Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair (of which the first Kerrville Folk Festival was a part).
It is remarkable for many reasons: its words, pictures and design evoke a spirit that thrived in this place in the summer of 1972. From the welcoming letters printed in the front of the book from Governor Preston Smith, Schreiner Junior College and Preparatory School President Sam Junkin, and the first Executive Director of the Arts & Crafts Fair, Phil Davis (of the Texas Tourist Development Agency), all the way to the list of exhibitors (including my dad and an old platen printing press) – you can tell that Kerrville was on the ball, making a difference for itself in the state. It’s refreshing to read the program, filled with its optimism and state public-relations department text.
Another view
That first fair ran for 6 days, starting on a Tuesday and running through Saturday, on the campus of Schreiner Institute. Admission was $1.00 for adults and 50 cents for children. Parking was free. Rod Kennedy produced the first Kerrville Folk Festival June 1, 2, and 3 (Thursday through Saturday) at the Kerrville Municipal Auditorium, with a $2.50 per person admission. Other things were going on during the same time: Schreiner Institute offered a production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and the Hill Country Arts Foundation had a Neil Simon comedy, “Come Blow Your Horn.”
Kenneth Threadgill at
the first Kerrville
Folk Festival
The program is filled with ads for the expected restaurants and hotels – but also packed with ads for real estate. I wonder how many families came to the fair, bought property here, and made Kerrville their home.
I was 10 years old during that first fair and festival, but I remember it clearly. During the day I helped Mom and Dad at the tent where our old iron letterpress was on display (and running, printing maps of the fair), helping man the front desk in the tent. We were the first tent inside the entrance, and we printed a ton of maps right there. I sure wish I had one of those old maps.
I also remember it was blazing hot. Lady Bird Johnson attended one of those early fairs. I gave her a map.
Phil Davis wanted to have music at the fair, so he contacted Rod Kennedy, then a music producer and radio station owner in Austin.
Darrell Royal, Ladybird Johnson
and Lyndon Johnson at
the first KFF performance
I remember attending the first Kerrville Folk Festival, at the Kerrville Municipal Auditorium, listening to performers like Peter Yarrow, Allen Damron, Kenneth Threadgill and Carolyn Hester. I’m afraid I didn’t make it through the entire show, falling fast asleep after a hard day at the fair. Ladybird and Lyndon Johnson attended the folk festival that evening, too, along with Darrell Royal.
A lot of folks worked hard to get the fair to Kerrville, including Gene Lehman, who I hope to visit with soon and get the “rest of the story” about how the Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair chose Kerrville as its home.
I’m thankful to the folks at the Hill Country Arts Foundation for giving new life to the fair.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers how hot it was during that first fair. Moving it to October is a good idea. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 29, 2018.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A difficult task

One of the hundreds of photos I sorted through this week.
Gentle Reader, this week my hobby of writing columns was not easy.
I love old photographs, and I’ve collected thousands of historical photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of people. I truly enjoy seeing images of our community’s past — especially images I know no one alive today has ever seen, images few would recognize.
But sometimes, like this week, I get a box of photographs that are hard to go through. This week I felt as if I was walking through someone’s house without permission, stopping to look through closets, checking the desk drawers.
The box was a jumble of family photographs, not arranged in any sequence. There was not a lid on the box, and it was so full some of the photographs might have spilled out before coming to me.
The photos showed several generations of a local family, a collection of images taken at birthday parties, on vacations, at family gatherings. They were fragments of a timeline, like a cluttered mosaic made with a few random tiles.
Today it’s common for people to portray themselves on social media in edited, curated photographs that have little to do with reality. Those photos are posed, run through a filter, and posted for the world to see. The blemishes have been erased and the rough edges sanded away.
Not so with the photographs I sorted through this week: these were unguarded. They were not posed. They were not filtered.
The photographs I looked through this week were not, for the most part, portraits. They were snapshots meant only to harken back to family events. They were not artistic, and most were not taken with good cameras. Many were out of focus. In most of the images at least one person has their eyes closed. The light was wrong. They were, in short, typical family photographs.
Still none of this was a big problem for me. I’ve done this kind of thing a long time. I’ve seen inside a lot of closets and desk drawers, and I’ve seen thousands and thousands of candid photographs. I’ve read personal letters and diaries. I know a secret or two.
One of the problems for me with this particular box of photographs was this: I knew a lot of the folks in the photographs. I knew many of their stories. I remembered visiting with them when they were alive. I had memories of time spent with them.
One person in the photographs did me a big favor years ago, giving me a chance I probably didn’t deserve. His kind gesture changed my life.
Within a few seconds of going through the jumble I knew exactly who had collected and saved these old photographs. I remembered the last time I’d seen her, just a few weeks before she died, in one of the crowded aisles at H-E-B.
Now, through an accidental encounter, I was going through her family photos, photos she kept, photos her mother had kept. More than a hundred years of photographs.
Unlike when she had them, though, they were now thrown in a beat up box. They were like a song played in several keys at once, and it was difficult to sort the differences one from the other.
The part that made me sad was how carefully she had labeled the photos so her family would know who was in each photo. The labels she wrote were not for us, Gentle Reader.
Among the hundreds of photographs are a few which have some local historical significance. I put those aside. The rest I boxed up, carefully sealing them, labeling the box, and placing it among the many other similar boxes I have stored in our family’s print shop.
It remains my hope these photos from many families will be used to illustrate the story of our community, perhaps in a museum. It remains a good story, even when parts are hard for me to work through.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers the first historical Kerrville photograph he contact-printed in the print shop darkroom; the negative was a glass plate. It was of a young girl and her doll, sitting in the grass of her family’s yard on Jefferson Street, taken around 1905. The site is now a parking lot. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 22, 2018.

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