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Sunday, August 9, 2020

Louise Hays Park in Kerrville -- Always Changing

Publicity shot, fundraising, Jaycee Park Improvement Day,
October 6, 1954, at the Sidney Baker Street bridge.
Click on any image below to enlarge

Susan Sander, who founded the Riverside Nature Center decades ago, moved north about a month ago to be closer to family – but before she left, she went through her collection of Kerr County historical photographs and gave me a mountain of images. I’ve been going through them, and there are a lot of pictures I’ve never seen before. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you here.

Boating area, Louise Hays Park, 1950s

One set of photographs from the 1950s shows Louise Hays Park at various stages of its early development. The park was originally built on April 26, 1950, in a single day. The land for the park was a gift from Robert and Louise Hays to our community.

Kerrville realized quickly what a wonderful asset the park could be – and the park has been improved again and again by many different groups since that first day, reimagined by successive dreamers.

For example, in 1952, R. R. “Railroad” Tarr came up with the idea to replace a 75-year-old wooden dam, originally built by Charles Schreiner, with a new concrete dam. The old wooden dam originally served the mill Schreiner owned on Water Street, which once stood near today’s One Schreiner Center, and by 1952 the old dam was in poor shape – it was dangerous.

Tarr collected about $8,000 in donations, and went to City Hall, only to be told the donations he’d collected should be used to repair the old dam. Tarr told them the money had been “pledged to a concrete dam – a new one.”

Children, 1950s, footbridge
Do you recognize anyone?

Willard E. Simpson designed the new concrete dam; Jasper Moore built it, at a cost of about $25,000. Jess Stahlings and Dick Furman sought donations, and the amount was raised in about two weeks.

The dam they built still stands in Louise Hays Park, and was dedicated on December 12, 1952.

The 1952 dam can be seen in a photograph showing a group of children standing on the footbridge below the dam. At first, I thought the event being photographed was a fishing rodeo of some kind, but few of the children had fishing gear; many of them had towels and appeared to carrying lunchboxes. I’m guessing (without proof) the children were participating in Kerrville’s “Summer Recreation Program,” which was extremely popular in the mid-1950s. Hopefully a reader will recognize one of the children (or themselves) in the photograph, and can help me confirm the ‘when’ and ‘why’ of the image. 

Jaycees 1954 Park Day results
The results of the 
1954 Jaycees Park Day

Only a few years later, the Kerrville Junior Chamber of Commerce (the “Jaycees”) came up with a plan to build a ‘lovely lagoon-like lake where the Jaycee Water Festival could be held. That festival included a water ski show many still remember, headed up by Cotton Eldridge and his wife, Ava.

In 1954 the Jaycees started collecting money to improve the park, and on October 6, 1954 they held Kerrville’s “Second Park Day.” Though a drenching downpour greeted the workers, they succeeded in opening up a new channel for “speed boat racers,” plus a man-made canal upriver, to be used to connect the two channels; built a public “swimming lagoon,” which stood 12 feet high and 120 feet long; they backfilled, graded and leveled an area 200 yards by 600 yards west of the Sidney Baker Bridge; and they planted dozens of trees.

Swimming lagoon
construction, 1954

I believe a few of the newly-found photographs Ms. Sander gave me are from that day, and though the improvements made then have, for the most part, been washed away or changed, it was a grand effort.

I guess these hot August days made me remember with fondness my own childhood and time spent at the Louise Hays Park. The park has gotten better over the decades, including the most recent improvements in the last few years. I’m happy seeing so many people enjoying the park, the river trail, and the water. It makes me wonder what might be next for the old park.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has spent his fair share of time swimming in the Guadalupe River just below the print shop. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 8, 2020.

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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Early Public Schools in Kerrville

Tivy School, around 1910
Students at play, Tivy School, around 1910
Click on any image to enlarge

Years ago, my friend Lanza Teague, who shares my interest in local history, let me copy a manuscript written by her aunt Anna Belle Council Roland, entitled "The Growing Pains of a Shingle Camp: the Story of a Town." The handwritten document is full of interesting stories about our community's history.
Restored Tivy School, mid-1980s
Tivy School, restored
1984.  Compare with
image above
Since the question of whether to open public schools has been very much in the news lately, because of the pandemic, I thought it might be interesting to share some local school history gleaned from Ms. Roland's document.
Her earliest mention of a local school tells about the one started in 1857, a year after Kerr County was organized, and the small village of Kerrsville was named its county seat.
"In the fall or winter of 1857, William E. Pafford began teaching the children of [Kerrville] in the county courthouse. Those children whose parents were unable to pay were sent to school at the expense of the county. Pafford was paid $73.25 per indigent [student]."
Tivy School under restoration 1984
Tivy School being restored
That first courthouse, which served as Kerrville's first school, was tiny, made of logs, and stood on Jefferson Street opposite today's courthouse square, about where the Grimes Funeral Chapels stands today. The first commissioners court meeting issued the following order: ""that there be a contract made by the County Court for the building of a temporary Court House in Kerrville, to be built as follows: Of logs sixteen feet long, skelped down and to be eight feet high, the cracks to be boarded up, sawed rafters and good shingle roof with gable ends well done up, good batten door strongly hung and corners sawed down."
Other schools were mentioned which came after that first school.
Tivy School, around 1900
An early image of the
Tivy School
"For a time after the Civil War school was held at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker [about where the entrance to Peterson Plaza stands today]. It was later moved to John Ochse's store at the corner of Washington and Main [about where the old sanctuary of the Notre Dame Catholic Church stands today].
"In 1878 a rock school house was bought. It was known as the Masonic or Quinlan Building. The upper story was not occupied by the school. This building stood on the corner of Main and Sidney Baker [about where the new building for Broadway Bank is under construction today].
In 1883, “a two-room frame school building was constructed on Jefferson Street. Professor J. C. Lord and Miss Jennie Bayles were employed as teachers. Because the male students were organized into a military company and drilled, Lord called the school 'Guadalupe Institute.'"
That school building stood on ‘Block 9,’ facing Jefferson Street, on the eastern corner, placing it on the site of today’s Pint & Plow Brewing Company. The two-room school was enlarged with another room, and served as Kerrville’s schoolhouse from 1883 until 1891.
It wasn't until 1889 that the present school system had its beginnings.
"For over thirty years after the settlement of Kerrville, the school had no permanent home. Captain Joseph A. Tivy realized the need for a school, and expressed a wish to donate land for that purpose. Since it was necessary for the town to be incorporated to receive this gift, the town hastened to comply. Shortly afterwards, [Captain Tivy] made two deeds which he conveyed to the city: 16.23 acres out of tract 115 just east of tract 116, the original tract of the town in 1857. One of the deeds stipulated 'the land shall forever be used exclusively for a building or buildings in which to conduct the public free schools of the said town of Kerrville, Texas, and for the playgrounds and ornamental grounds in connection with the said building and other uses and purposes as commonly pertain and are germane to public institutions of learning.'
Tivy Class of 1912;
Earl Garrett is front row,
in center.
"Construction of the new school was begun in 1890, and the school opened in 1891 with an enrollment of 250.”
Today that ‘new school’ building is home of the Kerrville Independent School District’s administration offices. On March 1, 1891, the move to the new school was made; teachers and pupils assembled at the old school building at Jefferson and Clay streets and marched together to the new building at Tivy, Jefferson and Barnett streets.
Ms. Roland reports “In 1895, Tivy had its first graduating class of three students.” Those graduates were Bettie Rees (Vining), George Marshall, and Hallie Temple. Thousands of local scholars followed those first three.
It is my prayer this new school year is successful and safe -- for students, faculty, staff, and all those who help educate our young people in Kerrville.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native and a Tivy High School graduate. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 1, 2020

I have two books available -- each is full of historic photographs and stories about Kerr County.  For more information, click HERE.




Sunday, July 26, 2020

Answers to the Kerr County Pioneer Vocabulary Test

Horse breaking, Kerr County, over a hundred years ago.
Click on any image to enlarge
Zelma Hardy
Last week, for fun, I gave a little vocabulary test of words used in Kerr County by its earliest pioneers. Everyday language changes all of the time, but it was interesting to me to learn how much it’s changed since Kerr County was formed in 1856.
The list of words came from a master’s thesis written by Zelma Hardy in 1950. Mrs. Hardy was a life-long educator, teaching in many schools, including Tivy High School, and later at what is now Schreiner University. A former student told me this week that Hardy was a good teacher – firm, but fair.
Hardy also was a political pioneer in the city of Kerrville: she was the first woman to serve as mayor of the city.
Here is last week’s vocabulary test, with the definitions provided:

1. Antigodlin (diagonal, or diagonally): (as in) “He took an antigodlin route because he was in a hurry.” (To cross a street diagonally from opposite corners.)
2. Battercake (a pancake): “The smell of battercakes made his mouth water.”
3. Blinky (sour): “His nose told him the milk was blinky.”
4. Button Willow (a sycamore tree): “They argued whether the tree was a button willow or an alamo.” (Alamo was also a common name for sycamore trees in Kerr County.)
5. Clumb (past tense of climb): “I clumb the hill yesterday.”
6. Counterpin (fancy daytime cover for a bed): “Grandma gave a counterpin to each of her grandchildren.” (Also, counterpane.)
7. Hant (ghost): “The full moon and the fog filled his imagination with dancing hants.”
8. Light a shuck (to leave an area very quickly): “The very thought of hants made him light a shuck.”
9. Near horse (the horse on the left side): “Hitch the near horse to the singletree first.” (A singletree is the bar to which a horse is hitched.)
10. Pallet (a bed of quilts made on the floor): “At grandma’s, pallets covered the parlor whenever the cousins came to visit.”
11. Plunder (household goods): “Before they could paint the cabinets and closets, they piled the plunder on the porch.”
12. Racket Store (five and dime store, or variety store): “Desperate to find a gift, he raced to the racket store.”
13. Resit (recipe): “Grandma gave me this resit, and I’ll copy it for you.”
14. Rinch (rinse): “This pail could use a rinch.”
15. Shivaree (a noisy burlesque serenade after a wedding): “The happy noise from the shivaree could be heard all over town.”
16. Snake doctor (a dragonfly): “The snake doctor hovered near the pond.”
17. Sook (a call to a cow or calf): “You could hear him sook from the house to the meadow.”
18. Surly (a bull): “Stay away from that surly unless you want to get hurt.”
19. Waddie (a cowboy or cowhand): “Can’t you tell by my clothes I’m a real waddie?”
20. Worm fence (a rail fence that zigzags): “Turn left at the worm fence past the tank.”

Of course, there are many Kerr County words in the thesis I did not include in the vocabulary test above – her thesis is 157 pages long, and packed with information.
Ms. Hardy’s thesis is a delight to read, and I’m sorry I never knew her. She takes a serious survey of everyday vocabulary in our county, and notes the regions from which the words and phrases originated. There are hundreds of words listed in the document, some of which are still in use, and many which would be impolite and insensitive to use today.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thanks Linda Stone for sharing this thesis with all of us. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 25, 2020.

I have two books available -- each is full of historic photographs and stories about Kerr County.  For more information, click HERE.





Sunday, July 19, 2020

Take the Quiz: What did that Kerr County pioneer say?

Mountain Street (now called Earl Garrett Street), 1890s.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Forgive me, but I’ve been thinking a lot about time travel, especially over the past few weeks. I suppose this focus was nurtured by my work on a show of historic Kerr County photographs from my collection, currently on display at the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, which demonstrate the changes in downtown Kerrville from the 1880s through the 1950s.
If one was able to travel back in time, one would find things both familiar and foreign at the same time. Walking in downtown Kerrville in the 1880s, the streets would follow their familiar paths, though they’d be unpaved and decorated by the passing livestock. It’s likely only one or two buildings would be familiar. It would be easy to get lost in a place we think we know well.
This week I realized another part of life here in the 1880s would also be very confusing. Linda Stone, a long-time friend with whom I serve on the museum board, sent over a document I’d never seen before: “A Vocabulary Study of Kerr County, Texas.” The 157-page document is a master’s thesis written by the late Zelma Hardy in 1950.
Zelma Hardy
Zelma Boyd Hardy was an important character in Kerrville’s history. Many remember her as an English teacher at Tivy High School; she was a life-long educator.
However, she was also a pioneer: Zelma Hardy was the first woman to serve as mayor of Kerrville, from 1973 to 1974. (Only one other woman has been mayor of Kerrville in the city’s 131-year history: Bonnie White.)
Downtown Kerrville,
around 1900
Ms. Hardy, in her thesis, studied the pioneer vocabulary of Kerr County by asking several ‘old-timers’ about the words their families used for various common things. Her ‘informants’ were Gus Schreiner, a son of Charles Schreiner; Mrs. D. Knox, who lived on a ranch in northwest Kerr County; Mack Henderson, who came to Kerr County from Tennessee; John Leinweber, who was born about where Wolfmueller’s Books stands today; Felix Real, whose family spoke German at home; Warren Rees, a descendant of the founder of Kerrville, Joshua Brown; Mrs. Alfred Ellebracht, whose family ranched in the Sunset Community of Kerr County; and one teenager, Fayrene Dietert, whose ancestors first moved to Kerr County in 1857.
Mrs. Hardy asked each to answer a series of questions about words used at their homes when they were young. The questions ranged from the word they used for “Time when the sun comes up” to “a very heavy rain that doesn’t last long.”
In reading the document I realized this new thing which would confuse a time traveler: language.
While passerby on 1880s Kerrville streets would, for the most part, speak English, some of the words they used would be very confusing.
For fun, I thought I’d give you a little vocabulary test. Answers provided next week; try not to use a dictionary or the Internet for answers! For the following, provide a simple definition of the key word.

1. Antigodlin: (as in) “He took an antigodlin route because he was in a hurry.”
2. Battercake: “The smell of battercakes made his mouth water.”
3. Blinky: “His nose told him the milk was blinky.”
4. Button Willow: “They argued whether the tree was a button willow or an alamo.”
5. Clumb: “Yesterday’s clumb left him very tired.”
6. Counterpin: “Grandma gave a counterpin to each of her grandchildren.”
7. Hant: “The full moon and the fog filled his imagination with dancing hants.”
8. Light a shuck: “The very thought of hants made him light a shuck.”
9. Near horse: “Hitch the near horse to the singletree first.”
10. Pallet: “At grandma’s, pallets covered the parlor whenever the cousins came to visit.”
11. Plunder: “Before they could paint the cabinets and closets, they piled the plunder on the porch.”
12. Racket Store: “Desperate to find a gift, he raced to the racket store.”
13. Resit: “Grandma gave me this resit, and I’ll copy it for you.”
14. Rinch: “This pail could use a rinch.”
15. Shivaree: “The happy noise from the shivaree could be heard all over town.”
16. Snake doctor: “The snake doctor hovered near the pond.”
17. Sook: “You could hear him sook from the house to the meadow.”
18. Surly: “Stay away from that surly unless you want to get hurt.”
19. Waddie: “Can’t you tell by my clothes I’m a real waddie?”
20. Worm fence: “Turn left at the worm fence past the tank.”

Ms. Hardy’s thesis is a delight to read, and I’m sorry I never knew her. She takes a serious survey of everyday vocabulary here, and notes the regions from which the words and phrases originated. There are hundreds of words listed in the document, some of which are still in use, and many which would be impolite and insensitive to use today.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who would not like to time travel, but wouldn’t mind reading the journal of your adventures from your time-traveling journeys. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 18, 2020.

I have two books available -- each is full of historic photographs and stories about Kerr County.  For more information, click HERE.





Sunday, July 12, 2020

Join me for some local time travel -- free admission

How has downtown Kerrville changed since 1880?
Click on any image below to enlarge.
If you could travel back in time, would you?
Such a journey would be dangerous for so many reasons. (We’ve all seen the movies.) Worse, there would be no guarantee you could make it back to our time, to your family and friends.
A closer look will
solve a riddle.
Fortunately, the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, on the corner of Earl Garrett and Main streets in downtown Kerrville, has a way for you to time-travel without the risk.
A few months ago they asked if I would curate a show about downtown Kerrville and how it’s changed over time. The result is a museum-quality display of historic downtown Kerrville photographs and items which will allow you to time travel from the 1880s through the mid-1950s, seeing the people and streets of Kerrville during those eras, to see how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same.
I’m very thankful for the crew at the KACC – for their kind invitation, of course, but also for their hard work as they installed the show in the little Derby Gallery right at the front of the center.
As you walk through the display, with over 30 historic photographs, some images will seem very familiar, but some images will be completely foreign. Some of the buildings in the photographs were gone before any of us arrived on the scene. Almost all of the people, too. Even the street names have changed since those earliest photographs.
Meet her?
The show’s title, “Before You Got Here,” was a playful way to say downtown Kerrville is constantly changing – and has been changing since its earliest days.
If you stop by the exhibit, there are a few things I hope you’ll take time to really study.
On the far wall you’ll find two panoramic shots of downtown Kerrville, taken from a hill just southwest of downtown, across the Guadalupe River. Nestled between them is a small photograph taken from the same spot.
The panoramas, 1940 on top,
the little 1903,
and the 1970s on bottom
The small photograph was taken in 1903. Downtown Kerrville was tiny. Of the buildings captured on film that day, only a few remain; several others have undergone such extensive renovations they’re hard to recognize. See if you can find the Weston Building, which today is the home of Francisco’s Restaurant, in that little photograph. Mark that spot in your mind, because that will be a helpful reference as you explore the two panoramic photos.
The panoramic image hanging above the little photograph dates from around 1940; the clue is the football stadium, which appears to be under construction in the upper part of the photograph. Find the Francisco’s Restaurant building in the photo, and from there you can navigate your way around the rest of downtown. Many people who have seen this photograph think, at first, that the tall building in the photograph is the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, but it’s not. SPMH was built in 1949; the tall building in the photograph is the Blue Bonnet Hotel, an eight-story beauty which once stood in the middle of the downtown area.
Some artifacts.
The smaller panoramic photograph displayed below is from the mid-1970s. I know, it’s really too recent to be included in this show, but I thought it might help viewers interpret the older photographs presented above. (And this time, you’d be right: the tall building in that photograph is the old Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.)
The oldest photograph on display was lent to the show by my longtime friend, Lanza Teague. This photo, from around 1880, shows the Gregory House Hotel, which was operated by some of her ancestors, William and Julia Gregory. Parts of that old building formed the basis of what later became Pampell’s, today the home of the Humble Fork Restaurant, at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets.
For me the photograph with the most unanswered questions is that of a cowboy pedestrian diagonally crossing the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets. He is wearing a western hat and has on a vest, decorated with a shiny watch chain. He looks like an old-west movie character, puffing on a cigar as he strides toward the camera. Then you notice he’s carrying a roll of printed materials in his right hand, possibly newspapers. And then you notice his boots. They look impeccably clean, even as he crosses the dusty, unpaved street; they’re just not the condition of footwear you’d expect to find on a trail hand. I have no idea who he is.
The Kerr Arts & Cultural Center is at 228 Earl Garrett Street in downtown Kerrville. Admission is free. The center is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am – 4 pm.
There are also two shows of art by local artists currently on display in the larger galleries – for a welcome rest after your time travels.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who would not like to time travel. However, if you make such a trip, he’d certainly like to hear about your journey. Be sure to take a lot of photographs.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 11, 2020.

I have two books available -- each is full of historic photographs and stories about Kerr County.  For more information, click HERE.





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