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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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Sunday, September 16, 2018

The story of Francisco Lemos, who died 100 years ago today

Francisco Lemos, from "The Price of our Heritage,"
an account of the 42nd Division in World War I.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
One hundred years ago today, on September 15, 1918, Francisco Lemos died in France, giving his life for his country. He was only 30 years old.
Emmett Rodriguez (left) and
Francisco Lemos (right),
in France, 1918
Private Francisco Lemos was on scout duty with Company G, of the 168th Infantry, 42nd Division, in the Saint-Mihiel Sector, about 1,500 yards northeast of the Louisville Farm, when a German high explosive shell killed him instantly. The same shell injured another soldier from Kerrville, his friend Emmett Rodriguez, who survived the explosion.
Lemos, who was born in San Diego, Texas, on December 7, 1887, volunteered for service in Kerr County, where he worked for the Schreiner Cattle and Sheep Company in Mountain Home.
Registration Card of
Francisco Lemos
His registration card describes him as short, with a medium build, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He was a single and had no dependents. He'd never served in the military before volunteering. It is possible he did not know how to write his name, since his registration card is signed with "his mark," an "X."
He registered for the service on June 5, 1917.
I learned, from reading an old column by Father Henry Kemper, the priest of Kerrville's Notre Dame Church at that time, that Francisco Lemos had a nickname: "Pancho."
Lemos and other Texas Hill Country men left Kerrville on September 5, 1917, as part of Company D of the First Texas Infantry. They marched to the train depot, where Captain Charles J. Seeber called the roll. A soft rain fell on the assembled troops and their families as each man answered "here" and then boarded the train.
Registration Card of
Francisco Lemos
I have a photograph of Company D marching to the train station, turning from Main Street onto what is now called Sidney Baker Street.
Company D traveled from Kerrville to Camp Bowie, near Fort Worth, for training. I have a photograph of the company in my collection, along with a commemorative poster listing the troops and their officers.
106 names are on that roster; three of those names are also listed on the Kerr County War Memorial, a solemn structure on today's courthouse lawn; those three are among the 19 other Kerr County men who died in World War I.
The three men of Company D listed on the Kerr County War Memorial are Francisco Lemos, Sidney Baker, and Leonard Denton -- and those three are in the group pictured marching to the Kerrville depot.
Leonard Denton never left Camp Bowie; he died from influenza in April, 1918, and is buried in the Turtle Creek Cemetery.
Francisco Lemos and several other Kerr County men traveled to France on the steamer Finland, leaving Hoboken, New Jersey on July 26, 1918. Sidney Baker was also on the Finland.
Company D in Kerrville,
marching on Main Street
The Battle of Saint-Mihiel was fought from September 12th through 15th, and involved the American Expeditionary Force and 110,000 French troops under the command of General John J. Pershing. Pershing's plan, in part, was to break through German lines and capture the fortified city of Metz. According to Wikipedia, it was the "first and only offensive launched solely by the United States Army in World War I, and the attack caught the Germans in the process of retreating."
Like Francisco Lemos, both Sidney Baker and Earl Garrett also died in northeastern France. Sidney Baker died in the Argonne Forest on October 16, 1918; Earl Garrett, near Exermont, on October 4, 1918. Of those three, for whom streets in Kerrville were named, only Francisco Lemos is buried in Kerrville. His body rests at the Mountain View Cemetery, across Holdsworth Drive from Antler Stadium.
Company D at Camp Bowie, near Fort Worth
Francisco Lemos had been in France with his regiment for only a short time, and the Battle of Saint-Mihiel was his first engagement.
I've heard a story about the moments before the shell exploded, about how Lemos was singing as the scouting party proceeded along carefully, walking through a muddy field in the rain. I'd like to think the story is true, and that Lemos died singing quietly, singing a song of home.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who visited Francisco Lemos's grave this morning as a soft rain fell. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 15, 2018. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The skeleton of a library

Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville, February 1967
Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library under construction,  late February 1967.
505 Water Street, Kerrville.
Click on any image to enlarge.
I recently came across a series of photographs taken in late February, 1967, which surprised me.
They show the steel going up during the construction of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library on Water Street in downtown Kerrville.
Having spent so much time in the library as a child, seeing its circular frame taking shape in the photographs was interesting to me, as if I was looking at x-rays of the building.
Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville, February 1967
BHML, Feb. 1967
A crane is on the site, lifting beams and material. Men in coveralls, with their heads protected from the cold, assemble the building. The photographs are nicely framed, and the shape of the building against the sky is graceful.
The surprising thing to me was the date: the last week of February, 1967. I know the library had its grand opening celebration on August 26, 1967. How on Earth did they finish that elaborate building so quickly?
The library building, at 505 Water Street, built on a site overlooking the Guadalupe River, was a gift of Howard and Mary Butt, both Tivy graduates with family ties in Kerr County, and dedicated as a memorial to their families. It was designed by the architectural firm of Christian, Bright & Pennington of Corpus Christi, and construction was under the supervision of J. H. Daniel of San Antonio, with Lawrence Goodrich the foreman in charge of construction. The landscape architect was Durward Thompson.
Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville, February 1967
BHML, Feb. 1967
Construction work began in November, 1966. At the time of the photographs, the foundation had been completed.
Overall, the building had floor space of over 21,000 square feet on three floors, and closely resembles in appearance and design the library built for the University of Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1963. That library building was also a gift of Howard and Mary Butt, and is still in use on what is now the Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi as an administration building.
Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville, February 1967
BHML, Feb. 1967
Our library in Kerrville features a mural of Kerr County history by Merrill Doyle, and mosaic tile artwork by Salina Saur. Tiles by Mary Green decorated the amphitheater, featuring characters from books for children. The decoupage panels decorated the children's reading area were made by Christine Gerber. Dotted around the property were quotes from literature and phrases from poetry, selected by Mary Butt.
From beginning to completion, the planning and construction of the building took about 18 months.
Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville, August 1967
Dedication Ceremony,
BHML Aug. 26, 1967
At the dedication ceremony, Howard Butt thanked his wife Mary for her dedication to the project.
"If this building's beauty, character, and functional qualities are above the ordinary," he said, "I want to pay tribute to my wife who has dedicated at least a year and a half of her life to planning it."
Lady Bird Johnson, who attended the dedication ceremony, also praised Mary Holdsworth Butt's work on the library.
Moving books to Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville, Aug 1967
Children helping move books
to new library.
"Mrs. Butt," the First Lady said, "who has become conversant with every brick and stone and light plug since its inception tells me that it has room to grow immediately from its wonderful collection of 20,000 to 75,000 volumes. With great relish she told me of the day the school children carried loads of books from the old library into this one, and of last week how so many of the community leaders were handling the phone calls and last-minute chores to prepare for this day."
Still, on that cold week in February, 1967, only a few workmen were at the building site. Steel was pointing to the sky, but the second floor was not yet completed, nor was the roof or walls. I'm surprised they finished it in time, though I now have a better appreciation for the motivational skills of Mary Elizabeth Holdworth Butt.  The library opened on schedule, thanks, in part, to her hard work.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who started first grade at Starkey Elementary one week after the library was opened and was truly thankful it was so near the print shop.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 8, 2018.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The mystery of the Kerrville tax photos

Deering's Grocery, 1217 Water Street, Kerrville.
The mystery: when were all of these tax photos taken?
Click on any image to enlarge.
Several weeks ago I published a few photos from a packet of photos taken, I said, sometime in the 1930s. The photos were mainly of houses, and I knew they'd been taken for the City of Kerrville, as part of a property valuation survey.
The city government had someone go all over town taking photographs and filling out forms about each structure, hoping to be more equitable in establishing property values.
Of course, I wanted to know when the photographs were taken. My guess was too wide and based on a few of the automobiles I saw in the photographs.
Depot Bakery, 425 S Schreiner
However, during the Great Depression, most folks didn't have a new car. Even if I could tell the exact year model of an automobile in one of the photographs I'd have no way of knowing how many years after that car's introduction the photograph was taken.
There are many folks in town who can look at a photograph of an old car and give the exact make and year model. I am not one of those folks.
I did have some other clues, however, and they were not dependent upon the cars in the photos.
First, I have a few of the envelopes which contained the forms the city used in evaluating properties. These tabulated size of lot, square feet of structure, and type of neighborhood information. The forms were part of a system created by the J. B. Stoner Company.
Michon Market, 412 Quinlan.
This building is still standing.
A search of old Kerrville newspapers had several stories about a property valuation survey completed for the city by the J. B. Stoner Company; these stories were published in July, August and September of 1928. Citizens were asked to cooperate with the company as it went around town working on the survey, which was completed in August, 1928, after six weeks' work.
"The survey," according to the August 30, 1928 edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, "was made for the purpose of raising taxes in an equitable manner and in order to adjust the values in Kerrville and eliminate any cause for complaints of unfairness or discrimination."
The story also reports that the survey "includes a complete set of maps and an abstract of every piece of property in the city. Many of the tracts had never been before mapped. All of the data compiled has been charted and indexed and is on file in the office of the City Assessor at the Court House, open for inspection by any citizen."
Leyendecker Grocery,
429 S Schreiner
But there was a problem with this new information, at least as far as the photographs were concerned. First, there is no mention of photographs being taken. Maps and abstracts, yes, but no photographs. Taking that many photographs would have been a very big and expensive project.
Then there are the photographs themselves. If the survey was completed in the summer of 1928, the trees should be full of leaves. In the photos most of the trees are bare. The photos were not taken in the summer. I think they were taken in the late autumn or winter, and some of the clothing folks in the photos are wearing would suggest it was chilly outside.
Last week a friend brought by a few hundred more of these property tax photographs, and among the many photographs of houses were photographs of a few commercial buildings. Almost all of the commercial buildings were on Schreiner Street, near the old railroad depot, and most of them were of buildings I'd never seen before.
Remschel Lumber,
512 S Schreiner
It was in these photographs of commercial buildings I finally had a final clue about the date all of the photographs were taken, both those of homes and those of businesses.
In the window of several of the business buildings was a little poster showing an eagle facing to its right. In one claw was a gear sprocket; in the other a bolt of lightning. Above the eagle, in giant letters, was "NRA;" below the eagle, "we do our part."
This NRA had nothing to do with the second amendment: NRA stood for the National Recovery Administration, an early part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. It was put into operation by an executive order in the summer of 1933.
However, the late spring of 1935, the "mandatory codes" section of the NRA was found unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court, and the NRA was replaced by other New Deal programs.
Given the appearance of these posters in the windows of Kerrville businesses, my best guess is the photographs were taken between the summer of 1933 and the late spring of 1935, probably during the winter.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys studying old photographs of Kerr County and Kerrville. Please share what you have with him. He'll scan your photographs and give you back the originals. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 1, 2018.

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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Time Machine: Kerrville in 1968

Tivy High School Cheerleaders Kerrville 1968
Tivy Cheerleaders, 1968, taken on the front steps of the old Tivy High School on Tivy Street.
Left to right: Budsy Mosty, Linda Lehmann, Kathy Reader, Julie Nelson,
Judy Jones, Karen Reader, Heather Sutherland, and Lisa Masters.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
This week I traveled fifty years back in time as I scanned a packet of Kerr County negatives taken in 1968.
Tivy Boosters Kerrville 1968
Tivy Boosters
Scanning negatives on my computer is especially fun. Since the image is reversed, where the light parts of the image are dark and the dark parts of the image are clear, it's often hard to figure out what the subject of the photograph is until it's scanned. My computer turns the negatives into positives, translating the highlights and shadows back as you'd expect them to be.
I remember many of the folks in the photographs, though I was about six years old when most of the photos were taken. I'm hoping you'll remember a few of them, too.
Cricket swarm in Kerrville Texas 1968
Most of the photos were taken in the summer of 1968. They range from photos of high school students, to a photo of a very lucky parachutist.
A group of civic leaders are seen buying memberships in the Tivy Booster Club. Coy LeMeilleur is seen selling memberships to Kerrville mayor Francis Swayze and Mrs. W. C. Talbert, while Winkie Murray is selling to D. R. Voelkel, then Kerrville's city manager, and H. H. Weid. The group was showing off bumper stickers that proudly proclaimed "I'm a Tivy Booster."
Four Tivy Golden Girls Kerrville Texas 1968
Golden Girls, 1968
There were several shots of that summer's plague: a swarm of crickets. There are photos of firemen and helpers using fire hoses to wash crickets down the storm drains of Earl Garrett and Water Streets, and of Jake Bierschwale, maintenance director for the Kerrville Independent School District, standing beside a particularly thick group of crickets. When I was a boy I remember the late-summer invasions of the crickets. I will never forget the smell.
Photos of pretty girls were also popular. Separate photos of Tivy cheerleaders and Golden Girls were in the packet.
David McCutchen and Irene Arreola Kerrville Texas 1968
McCutchen and Arreola,
at M-System Grocery
Four of the 18 Golden Girls were shown with the "new sign" at Tivy High School in August, 1968: in the back, Susan Nelson and Maribless Lehmann; in the front, Kay Bennett and Tricia Gwynn.
The Tivy cheerleading squad was also pictured, standing on the steps of the old high school on Tivy Street. From left to right, they are Budsy Mosty, Linda Lehmann, Kathy Reader, Julie Nelson, Judy Jones, Karen Reader, Heather Sutherland, and Lisa Masters.
Another photo shows two people very dear to me and my family: the late David McCutchen handing prize money to Irene Arreola, who won $100 at the "M" System grocery store.
Leo Herrera parachutist Kerrville Texas 1968
Leo Herrera parachutist Kerrville Texas 1968
Leo Herrera
As for the very lucky parachutist, it took awhile to figure out what the photos meant.
There are a series of photographs of a man and his parachute near the intersection of Sidney Baker and Main Street, one of the busiest intersections in town. In the photos you can see the high-power lines along the street. What on Earth was happening for a man to parachute into traffic among so many cars?
Leo Herrera parachutist Kerrville Texas 1968
The man's name was Leo Herrera, and he's wearing a t-shirt that reads "...State Sport Parachute Club, Inc." In one of the photos, he's bundling up his parachute, standing on the curb of Sidney Baker Street.
Leo Herrera parachutist Kerrville Texas 1968The Kerrville Daily Times reported in this way: "Leo Herrera smiles with relief as he gathers up his parachute after landing in the middle of Sidney Baker a few feet south of Main following his second parachute drop at Louise Hays Park. Malfunction on the part of his parachute caused it not to open properly and Herrera had to open his reserve chute to make a landing, narrowly missing some power lines above the street. Although he landed on asphalt, he sustained no injuries."
Mr. Herrera was one of several parachutists who were scheduled to land in Louis Hays Park as part of the July 4th, 1968, celebrations.  His was a close call.
Over the next few months I hope to take you on other time travels back to Kerr County in 1968.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has fond memories of Kerr County as it was in the late 1960s. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 25, 2018.



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