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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Kerrville's Tulahteka: Just a simple starter home

Tulahteka, a Schreiner home in Kerrville, Texas
Tulahteka, built in the early 1920s as a home for Louis and Mae Schreiner.  Photo from 2018.
Until recently it was a corporate headquarters.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Several kind readers have forwarded me the real estate listing for what was until recently the headquarters building of the LDBrinkman Corporation. The building is for sale, though quite out of the price range of this rural printer.
Tulahteka, a Schreiner home in Kerrville, Texas
Tulahteka, probably in the 1930s
Few people have had the opportunity to travel up the hill and see the building there, catching only glimpses of a large cream-colored building from a distance. It sits on a hill just south of the river, above Sidney Baker South, roughly across the street from the entrance to Rio Robles Mobile Home and RV Park, behind an imposing steel gate and curving driveway.
While having lunch with my son this week in downtown Kerrville, I looked up the hill toward the old building and realized I'd never told its story here. I'll try to remedy this today.
What most of us know as a corporate headquarters building started out life as a family's home. It was built for Louis and Mae Schreiner, with construction starting in 1920. It took about 2 years to build.
The house was designed by Atlee B. Ayres, of San Antonio, and constructed by McCreary & Schott of Kerrville.
Tulahteka, a Schreiner home in Kerrville, Texas
Tulahteka during construction
The house itself had a name: "Tulahteka," which means "on the outer edge of town," though sources conflict from what language that word comes from. It's supposedly an Indian phrase, though there were hundreds of languages and dialects spoken by tribes of Native Americans; it might be a word from the subcontinent of India. I doubt anyone knows.
It is a big building: around 10,000 square feet, with two floors and a basement. The 800 square foot basement was blasted out of the limestone hill. The lower floor included a 21 by 40 foot ballroom, and a 21 by 64 foot grand hall. The grand hall featured Italian marble flooring and a large carved fireplace.
Three people lived in the five-bedroom house when it was built: Mr. and Mrs. Schreiner, and their daughter, Mae Louise.
Tulahteka, a Schreiner home in Kerrville, Texas
Tulahteka stairway, 2018
Louis Schreiner was the third child of Charles and Magdalena Schreiner; while his inheritance from them included many assets, most people remember Louis Schreiner as the son who ran the Charles Schreiner Bank.
Tulahteka is a grand home, a mansion built in the "Georgian" style. It features a palatial porch with Corinthian columns, facing roughly east, toward the rising sun. The grounds included gardens and other buildings. It was built by craftsmen, and it appears no expense was spared.
I have often wondered why this house seemed so much more grand than other houses built for the Schreiner family. I jumped to the conclusion it was because Louis was the banker.
That may be true, at least in part. But there may be another reason: Louis Schreiner's wife, Mae, was also from a prominent family. Her parents were Henry and Louise Shiner, who donated 250 acres of land in Lavaca County to the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad for right of way and a depot. A town soon grew up around the new transportation facilities, and became what is now Shiner, Texas. I'm guessing most of the town lots were sold by the Shiner family.
Tulahteka, a Schreiner home in Kerrville, Texas
Tulahteka, 2018
Mae Shiner Schreiner passed away in 1932, just 12 years after Tulahteka was started. Louis Schreiner remarried in 1936. In 1940, Louis Schreiner sold Tulahteka to a Houston oilman, William Morgan.
According to an excellent news story by my friend Michael Bowlin, published in this newspaper in 1991, other owners of the house include John Sullivan, who owned the house from 1946 to 1949; Robert and Louise Hays (1949-54); Maxine and James Short (1954-58); V.P. and Ergeal Tippett (1958-62); Clyde McMahon, W. D. Caldwell, Herman Swan and Lowell Renfro (1962-66); G. E. Lehmann and Gordon Monroe (1966-67); and C. F. Biggerstaff (1967-78).
L. D. Brinkman purchased the property in 1978 and spent years restoring and renovating the property, using it as headquarters for his company, and housing his extensive collection of American Western art.
In August, 2018, Mrs. Brinkman was kind enough to let my son and me take photographs of the house and its interior. We were fortunate to see the interior while the artwork collection was still on the walls.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys exploring historic sites in Kerr County. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 18, 2019.

I have two books available, both filled with historic photographs of Kerr County.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Book Review: The Essential J. Frank Dobie

The Essential J. Frank Dobie, edited by Steven L Davis.
Wolfmueller's Books is hosting a book signing Thursday October 17 from 4 - 6 pm,
at 229 Earl Garrett Street, in downtown Kerrville.
This past week I enjoyed reading stories from Texas and the southwest, stories about vaqueros, coyotes, lost mines, wolves, and ranchers. Ben Lilly, Charles Goodnight and others told their stories, not as characters from a history book, but as themselves. I heard singing and rested by a campfire while reading the firsthand reports of frontier life. These true tales are much more than history.
The man who collected these stories was J. Frank Dobie. The book I’ve been reading is “The Essential J. Frank Dobie,” edited by Steven L. Davis, published recently by the Texas A&M University Press.
Dobie had connections to Kerrville; his sister who co-owned a bookstore here, and he often spent time writing during his stays at her Methodist Encampment home in Kerrville. The late Forrest Salter, the kind publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun decades ago, was a student of Dobie's at the University in Austin. Lots of people in Kerrville knew Dobie. He was like a cousin who came to see us in Kerrville, a cousin we liked.
J. Frank Dobie was one of the first Texas writers to gain national attention; before Dobie, the words "Texas" and "writer" were seldom used together. Not only was Dobie a successful professional writer, he demonstrated one could make life in the southwest a literary subject.
Fred Gipson, who also has connections to Kerrville, and is the author of "Old Yeller," "Hound Dog Man," and other books set in Texas, said he never realized it was possible to live in Texas and be a writer until Dobie set the example. Other Texas writers have been influenced by Dobie, whether they admit it or not, including some of his harshest critics.
For the reader, Dobie presents a problem. To get a true sense of Dobie as a writer, the reader would have to track down and winnow from the mountain of pieces Dobie published during his long career. He wrote for newspapers and magazines, he wrote books, he had a syndicated column, he gave lectures, he was a college professor, and he was the longtime secretary-editor of the Texas Folklore Society. Just finding the best place to start is daunting.
Steven L. Davis
Fortunately, a new book, "The Essential J. Frank Dobie," edited by Steven L. Davis, provides a helpful trailhead. Davis, the literary curator of the Witliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos, is also the author of a biography of Dobie. Davis is a knowledgeable and reliable guide.
"My hope," Davis writes in his introduction, "is that these stories will interest and delight you as much as they have me. I also hope that the quality of writings collected here will help all of us arrive at a more balanced judgment of Dobie's literary merit -- which in the end is far greater than he's previously been given credit for."
Davis certainly achieves his ambition in this edited collection of Dobie stories. The stories here present Dobie at his best, and cast a magic spell on the reader, carrying one to a time long gone, to gather around campfires with storytellers. The stories presented in this curated book are fun to read, a mixture of adventures, histories, essays and biographies -- and are a great introduction to the spirit and talents of Dobie.
J. Frank Dobie died in 1964, only a few days after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. Returning home, he simply went to his room to take a nap, slipping away in his sleep. He and his wife, Bertha, are buried in Austin at the Texas State Cemetery.
"The Essential J. Frank Dobie," edited by Steven J. Davis, is a great introduction to Dobie's writing and I heartily recommend it to you.
On Thursday, October 17, from 4-6 pm, Wolfmueller's Books at 229 Earl Garrett in downtown Kerrville is hosting a book signing for Mr. Davis. Copies of his book are available for reservation now at Wolfmueller's.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native. This review originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 17, 2019.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Passenger rail service between Kerrville and San Antonio, 1923

Passenger rail service between Kerrville and San Antonio, 1923.
This rail car was self-propelled, like a bus.  The bridge still stands downstream from Comfort.
Click any image to enlarge.

In October, 1923, the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad introduced a new service for passengers traveling between San Antonio and Kerrville, a small self-propelled passenger vehicle called the '500' motor railroad car. J. E. Grinstead, who published "Grinstead's Graphic," featured the new service in his November 1923 issue, complete with numerous photographs of the little car traveling the route.
This motorized car ran on the railroad tracks and was about the size of a small school bus. It was operated by a 'competent railway engineer,' and featured 'modern air-braking aparatus.' By counting the benches through the windows of the car, I'm guessing it could carry around 24 passengers.
The '500' car at the Kerrville depot
"The latest effort of the Aransas Pass," Grinstead wrote, "to aid in the development of the Hill Country, and provide for the comfort and convenience of the people is the installation of a railway motor service between Kerrville and San Antonio. The first of these motor cars was put in service in October, as an experiment. That is, it was not known at the time whether the modern motor car could negotiate the stiff mountain grades, and make the time. A two hour and fifty minute schedule was planned. The '500,' a motor car of the most modern type was tried out on the run. It was found that it could make the schedule without difficulty, and during its first month has never failed to make the run on time. This gives a double daily passenger service between Kerrville and San Antonio. The motor car leaves Kerrville at 6:50 in the morning, while the steam train leaves San Antonio at 8:37. In the afternoon the steam train leaves Kerrville at two o'clock, and the motor car leaves San Antonio at four."
Crossing Cibolo Creek
Even at nearly three hours this connection between San Antonio and Kerrville was a big improvement, certainly over transportation by wagon or horseback, but likely better even than travel by automobile in the early 1920s. In those days most of the roads were not paved, threaded their way through hills on a meandering path, and went through the middle of each town on the route. (The '500' likely made stops at each station, too, between the two points, which added to the time required.)
This 'motor car' service lasted less than a year, and was discontinued August 15, 1924.
Can you spot the '500?'
I'm old enough to remember when trains came to Kerrville, but not passenger trains. Competition for passengers came from the Kerrville Bus Company and private automobiles, and slowly the number of passengers taking the train diminished. By 1940 there was only one train a day between San Antonio and Kerrville, "with a few [passenger] cars at the rear of the daily freight train," according to the Texas Transportation Museum website. Regularly scheduled passenger service ended in 1947.
My own memories of the train are from the late 1960s. I remember its low rumbling, even at a distance, and the clacking of its wheels as they passed gaps in the rails; the rail line was next to the playing field beside First Baptist Church, running along North Street. As children, many of us (who should have been inside the church instead of playing baseball outside it) would run alongside the train as it passed, begging the engineer to blow the whistle.
At 'Spanish Pass'
On those evenings when we were actually sitting inside the church we’d listen for the train. In those days, before air-conditioning was considered such a necessity, the big blue stained glass windows of the church would often be left open. In addition to the occasional bird (or bat) that flew into the sanctuary, the rumbling of the train was always a welcome distraction. Again from our pews we children would silently urge the engineer to blow the train’s whistle, and when he did, the preacher would pause, look out the southwest windows, and wait.
The very last train to Kerrville, carrying gravel, ran on May 15, 1970, about 83 years after the first train arrived here, carrying over 500 passengers, in 1887. Here and there one can still find evidence of the rail line that once ran inside the city limits of Kerrville.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who would have benefited from more time spent in church and less time playing baseball beside the railroad tracks. This column originally appeared in Kerrville Daily Times October 12, 2019.

I have two books available, both filled with historic photographs of Kerr County.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Mystery Kerrville photo: What's missing in this aerial photograph?

Aerial photograph of Kerrville Texas 1960s
What's missing in this photo?
Photo by Francis "Fuzzy" Swayze, probably in the 1960s.
Click on any image to enlarge.
A photograph loaned to me this week by the Lehmann family was intriguing for what it did not show. There was something missing in the image, something I assumed would be there.
Looking at the photograph reminded me how memory can fool you, and, if possible, it’s best to rely on the written or photographic record. My memory of a place did not correspond to the evidence in the photograph.
The Lehmanns let me copy a batch of photographs of Louise Hays Park; most were taken on April 26, 1950, when the park was built in a single day. (The images the Lehmanns shared with me are different from the ones shown here last week, which were collected by the Hays family.)
Among the photos was one taken later, possibly in the 1960s, by Francis "Fuzzy" Swayze, my friend who recently turned 100. It's an aerial photo showing what is now Tranquility Island and most of the original part of Louise Hays Park, from upstream on the Guadalupe River, looking downstream.
When I first looked at the image I thought I recognized the river and the streets, but one landmark was missing: the Francisco Lemos Street Bridge.
Detail, 1934 map of Kerrville, Texas
Detail, 1934 Map of Kerrville
Had you asked, I would have told you with great certainty Francisco Lemos Street crossed the river when I was a boy. A map of Kerrville from 1934 shows a crossing, labeled “to Thompson Sanatorium” extending from Francisco Lemos Street, which in those days was connected to Guadalupe Street by a street named Pecan Street. The crossing to Thompson Sanatorium looks like a spur from Pecan, and the map shows a small bridge.
Given the bridge’s existence in 1934, I assumed the crossing had been open since that time. I was wrong.
The 1960s photograph shows a concrete span over the Guadalupe, the ruins of which I remember seeing just downstream from the old low-water Francisco Lemos crossing. (Those ruins and the former low-water Lemos Street Bridge were replaced the current bridge in late 2009.)
What the 1960s photo does not show is a connection between the concrete span and the end of Francisco Lemos Street. At the end of the pavement a pair of dirt tracks head down toward the river bank, but these dissolve into what appears to be a game trail, and then, unexpectedly, just end, shy of the concrete span.
Aerial photograph of Kerrville Texas 1960s
A different view, with labels.
A separate photograph in the packet has hand-lettered labels showing street names and a circle around Tranquility Island; from this photo the concrete span across the Guadalupe looks accessible from the south side of the river, connecting to Thompson Drive by a dirt road.
The bridge on Francisco Lemos Street, connecting to Thompson Drive, which I thought had been there when I was born, was simply not there. I learned from old newspapers the low-water bridge was not completed until 1971, a full decade after I arrived on the scene.
I have a feeling the photographs were taken to help plan for the expansion of Louise Hays Park, and to suggest improvements there. However, they may have been taken to help build the case for the state to construct the Francisco Lemos Street bridge, as Spur 98.
Regardless, they show a portion of town which has changed a lot in the last few decades, with the taming of Tranquility Island and the recent construction of the River Trail. The area, which was a nearly impassable wilderness, is now visited by hundreds of folks every day.
I’m grateful to the Lehmanns for their generosity in sharing these photographs with me, and I’m happy I get to share them with you here.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers exploring a very wild Tranquility Island as a kid. Watch out for that snake! This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 5, 2019.

Did you know I have two books available, both filled with historic photographs of Kerr County?  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Kerrville's Louise Hays Park: Built in One Day

Louise Hays Park site Kerrville Texas 1950
Site of Louise Hays Park, Kerrville, 1950, before construction.
Images courtesy Hays family and the City of Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950Louise Hays Park built in a day Kerrville Texas 1950I received a nice letter last week from the daughter-in-law of Louise Hays, telling me about some photographs of the building of the Louise Hays Park in a single day. The letter told how the images had been copied and given to the City of Kerrville, and the folks at the city were kind enough to share them with me; now I can share them here with you.
Included with the photos were newspaper clippings about the park’s big day.
“Some 600 men, using machines in a race against time,” the Dallas Morning News reported on April 23, 1950, “will attempt to turn thirty-five timbered acres into a finished playground park between dawn and dusk.
“An Army of men, manning more than 100 trucks, tractors, bulldozers and rollers, will rumble into the river-bank acreage at 7 a.m.
“Twelve hours later Louise Hays Park should be finished, even to its name cut into the native stone entrance archway.”
The date for work to begin (and be finished) was April 26, 1950, which happened to be the 94th anniversary of the founding of Kerr County.
On March 16, 1950, the Houston Post reported “Folks of this picturesque Texas Hill Country town are going to be as busy as honey bees on April 26.
“They are going to build a million dollar park in one day.
“That’s right: a million dollar park from sun-up to sun-down.”
What they built that day was only a fraction of what the park is today; more acres have been added, most recently from a gift from the Lehmann and Monroe. Yet what they accomplished in that first day is truly amazing.
“By nightfall Wednesday,” the Dallas Morning News continued, “the area will boast a concrete square dancing slab 100 by 150 feet, a picnic area of thirty concrete tables and benches, sixteen smaller picnic units, twenty barbecue pits, riverside benches, restrooms, a cold drink shop and a full-blown playground complete with swings, slides and merry-go-round.
“Electricity will have been connected and the lights will be burning. The plumbing will be installed and working. The paint might not be dry, but the job will be completed.”
The volunteers made the ‘park in a day’ happen. The Houston Chronicle called the completed park the “Miracle on the Guadalupe,” in an April 27, 1950 story:
“A thousand men have made a gift grow into a lovely park in a day…. The gift was a tract of 35 acres along the river from Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Hays. Their only stipulation was that the city beautify and make it a public park and that it be named the Louise Hays Park in honor of the wife of the donor.”
One of the unsung heroes of the building of the park was Mrs. W. A. Salter, publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, who “from the day that Mr. and Mrs. Hays announced their gift, she has plugged hard day in and day out for the realization of the park project.”
The Dallas Morning News story had this quote from Mrs. Salter: “We didn’t have enough money in town to build the kind of park we wanted, but we decided we could if we could get everybody to donate one day’s work – get every an to give one day’s time.
“Money was still needed, an estimated $20,000, and plans were made for raising that.”
The building of Louise Hays Park was a true community effort, set in motion by the gift of 35 acres by Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Hays. I’m thankful for the family’s continued generosity in sharing these photographs with all of us.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thought a story about community spirit might be a useful reminder about what happens when we work together.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 28, 2019.

Did you know I have two books available, both filled with historic photographs of Kerr County?  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.



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