New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Kerr County history without words or photographs

Gentle Reader, since 1994 I’ve written you these weekly letters, most of them about the history of our community. Using photographs and paragraphs I’ve hoped to both entertain and inform you while telling the story of our special place in Texas. 
My sweet wife, Ms. Carolyn, is a school teacher, and she reminds me people learn in different ways – and tell stories in different ways.
That’s why I was intrigued when Kä Neunhoffer, a young composer with deep hill country roots, visited me at the print shop. Ms. Neunhoffer and Libbie Horton, a choreographer also with local roots, are presenting “Hill Shapes,” a live performance to “bring to life some of the historic stories of central Texas.”
Horton & Neunhoffer
The Neunhoffer family has been in Kerr County, well, almost forever. Ms. Neunhoffer is related, either by blood or marriage, to about a third of Kerr County. One of her grandfathers was Julius Neunhoffer, who was Kerr County judge when I was a boy. One of her great-great-grandfathers was Julius Real, was also a Kerr County judge, but who also served in the Texas senate. Real County is named for him. One of her great-great-great-grandmothers was Emily Schreiner Real, a sister of Charles Schreiner. You get the picture.
Ms. Neunhoffer, then, has much of our local history as part of her actual DNA. Growing up in such a family has undoubtedly provided her opportunities to hear stories about our community’s past, stories passed from one generation of her family to the next.
Neunhoffer and Horton write this about “Hill Shapes:”
“The Guadalupe can be a source of relief from the hot summer sun, a source of joy, and also a violent power of destruction that comes sweeping in the night. Like the people of the hill country, nature reflects the fickle changes of time and how something can be both beautiful and have its flaws. ‘Hill Shapes’ is a close-up picture of the hill country and a few of its historical events. Lean in and take a closer look at the unique landscapes, the chronicles of our town, and a dark betrayal.”
Described as a ‘modern chamber ballet,’ “Hill Shapes” will have two performances. On Friday, October 30, at 7:30 pm, at the Union Church, 101 Travis Street (near the intersection of Broadway and Water streets, on the edge of the Schreiner University campus). The other performance will be October 31, at 2:00 pm, at the River Star park, 4000 Riverside Drive. Tickets can be purchased online at
It’s fitting the first performance will be held at the Union Church; Ms. Neunhoffer’s uncle, Julius Neunhoffer, was instrumental in the preservation and restoration of the historic structure, working with the Kerr County Historical Commission. The restored church building has been the site of many interesting community events.
A community is stronger if it knows its story. These young Kerrville women are telling a part of that story in a new way, and I applaud them for it.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items and photographs from Kerr County’s history. If you have something you’d share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 16, 2020.

A big thanks to those of you who purchased one of my books this week!  I appreciate it. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Secret Life of Kerrville's "Trailhead Beer Garden" building

Trailhead Beer Garden Kerrville
The newly renovated "Trailhead Beer Garden," on the 
Schreiner University campus.
Click on any image to enlarge.
It’s no secret I love a good history mystery.
My friends Jeremy and Maia Walther, working together with Schreiner University, have created an interesting campus and community amenity at one terminus of the city government’s recently expanded “River Trail” system.
The project is called the Trailhead Beer Garden, and it’s housed in an old building on the periphery of the Schreiner University campus.
While the pandemic has prevented the grand opening of the beer garden, it will eventually serve not only Schreiner students and staff, but also the rest of our community. There will be more on tap than just beer: a full menu of beverages will be available; a stage for performances has been built; and a food truck will anchor at the location. I’m sure it will become a spot for gathering community together, a place for laughter, discussion, and a story or two.
Barbara Dullnig Building Kerrville Texas
The postcard found on eBay.
Here’s the mystery, though: what is the history of that old building?
I remember seeing it for many years, of course, most recently with a worn sign saying “Dan Swensen Faculty Club.” Looking through the windows several years ago, it was obvious the building had seen better days.
When the Walthers became involved, my son and I stopped by to see the inside of the old building. By then the rafters were exposed, showing wobbly old-time framing supporting both a wooden shingle roof and a metal roof placed on top of the old shingles. The building had a steep hip roof stretched beyond a pyramid into a rectangle, with a short ridge line at its crest. The wrap-around porch was uneven, and floor boards had seen decades of uneven repair.  It needed lots of work, which it received.
I was pretty sure the building had once been part of the Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, which was founded in 1906 and continued operations until 1950, when the Presbyterians purchased Mo-Ranch, making it their camp operation. 
I believe Westminster was the first summer camp in Kerr County, and it attracted visitors from all over the southwest. It offered a place of spiritual and physical rest, with access to the Guadalupe River. By 1935 “over 100 buildings and cottages accommodated an annual series of summer conferences,” according to the Texas State Historical Association’s website.
During construction, 2019
Old maps showed a network of streets in the encampment, with names like Zeus, Medina, and Atlas streets. The 1930 Sanborn map of the encampment area shows the Trailhead building near the dining hall, with a band stand between the two. I was disappointed when I noticed the building was not labeled like several of the others. It seemed like I’d reached a dead end.
I may not be speedy, but I am persistent. One day I noticed a postcard for sale on eBay which seemed to show the old building. “The Barbara Dullnig Building, Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, Kerrville, Texas.”
I shared the image with Jeremy Walther, and he agreed. The Dullnig Building was the building now housing the Trailhead Beer Garden.
Now that I had a name, the rest was comparatively easy.
Barbara Weber Dullnig was active in Presbyterian mission work, being elected president of the Foreign Missionary Union of the Presbyterian Churches of the Texas Synod in 1906. She was born in San Antonio in 1874, and died there in 1947 at the age of 72. She was the daughter of immigrants; her father was born in Germany; her mother, France.
According to the “Pioneer Women of the Presbyterian Church, United States,” the Barbara Dullnig Building at Westminster was constructed in 1920. If that’s accurate, the building is 100 years old.
“The Dullnig Building,” that book reports, “is a lasting testimony of the love and appreciation which the women of Texas bear for their former Synodical President. She had had splendid training for the office as a Bible teacher in her home church, then when Western Texas Union was organized she was made the first treasurer, serving for two years, then became president of the Union… Over and over again she toured the State, visiting all of the Presbyterials, strengthening and encouraging weak organizations and getting that personal touch which enabled her to direct the growing work of this tremendous Synodical in a most efficient manner. How she made these long journeys over the State in the early years is past explanation, but they were made by train, buggy or ambulance, and often afoot for many miles, making connections at all hours of the day and night.”
Another local religious group can trace their early days to the same building. In the spring of 1950, Trinity Baptist Church met in the building when the weather was too “inclement” for the Baptists to worship in the open-air Robbins-Lewis Memorial Auditorium just across the street from the Dullnig Building.
I found one news article, from the May 4, 1950 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun interesting: members of Trinity Baptist’s “Women’s Missionary Union” met in the Barbara Dullnig Building to discuss the Baptist’s missionary efforts. This was not unlike the efforts of the building’s namesake, a few decades earlier.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers various WMU programs and services at First Baptist Church here in Kerrville when he was a boy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 11, 2020.

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Sunday, October 4, 2020

The photographs of 19 Kerr County heroes

Third Battalion, HQ Co, Kerr County, December 1, 1940
Click on any image to enlarge.

A long-time friend loaned me two interesting scrapbooks kept by her mother-in-law, with pages of information spanning several decades. In the books she kept a running journal of events in her family, in our community, and even in the world beyond Kerr County.

There were newspaper clippings of young brides and weddings, some projects of our local Lions Club, a series of centennial news stories published in the 1960s about the American Civil War, plus much more. The scrapbooks are comprehensive and fun to read through – and it was obvious they took a lot of work to compile.

A few of the pages were especially poignant. These were pages of newspaper clippings from the early to mid-1940s – the war years.

On the grounds of the Kerr County courthouse stands a memorial to those local men who’ve given their life in the service of their country. It was unveiled on May 23, 1992 after years of planning and discussion, and additional panels were dedicated later, on July 4, 2015. 

Starting with World War I and continuing through the recent (and ongoing) conflicts in the Middle East, the handsome memorial is a quiet tribute to those who paid such a dear price for our many freedoms.

I often stop by the memorial when I have business in the courthouse and read through the names. The war with the most names is World War II, of course. There are 48 names listed there for that war (though one, Dempsey Ballard, was placed there by mistake; he spoke at the dedication in 1992.)

The scrapbooks loaned to me have a valuable gift to our community safely recorded in their pages: the newspaper photos of 19 of the World War II servicemen listed on the war memorial. It’s one thing to solemnly read the names carved in stone, and to honor them in that way, but it is quite another to see their faces.

They were all so young.

The aging clippings were pasted on several pages, and many of them have turned dark, like leaves in autumn. Despite the age of the clippings you can still see the young men’s warm smiles and their sharp military uniforms. Some of the portraits capture serious expressions, but many show relaxed soldiers at peace in front of the camera.

Here are the names of the soldiers for whom I found photographs in the scrapbooks: Jimmy Beddingfield; Willis Carlisle; Pete Castillo; Dale Crider; L. T. Davis, Jr.; Charles Foster; Paul Grona; John Harris; John Heard; Kenneth Lowrance; Howard Marlar; Cyrus Miller; Charles Nichols; Emmett Rhoden; Eugene Ridgaway; Charles Rose; Frank Sheffield, Jr.; Alfredo Villareal; and Ben Zumwalt.

Perhaps the best tribute to these fallen World War II soldiers came from the man whose name was accidently placed on the memorial. Dempsey Ballard spoke at the May, 1992 unveiling ceremony. He knew many of the men listed on the memorial.

It was fortunate his name was on the memorial, he said, because “these heroes have a messenger to tell their story.”

I was there the day Ballard spoke. When he spoke, the audience was very quiet, and seemed to lean in closer to hear what he had to say. He told how these men loved their country, how they loved the Texas hill country. He was their messenger.

And now we can see some of their faces.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is certainly enjoying this cooler weather. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 3, 2020.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Tivy High School Football in 1920 -- 100 years ago

Kerrville Tivy High School football 1920
Tivy High School football team -- 1920
Click on any image to enlarge

I enjoyed reading through “KDT Varsity” special section in Thursday’s edition of this newspaper, and I know many folks are happy to see high school football start up again.

Mike Keith’s photo of the 2020 Tivy Antler football team, trainers, and coaching staff was particularly impressive. What a fine-looking group of young men and women – guided by a dedicated group of coaches and educators.

One thing that impressed me by the photograph was the sheer number of folks involved, each playing a part to make the football season successful.

It reminded me of photographs I have of another Tivy football team – from 100 years ago: The 1920 Tivy football squad.

The 1920 Tivy High School football team

In 1920, public schools were on Tivy Street between 3rd and North streets, the site today of B. T. Wilson 6th Grade Campus and the Kerrville Independent School District offices. Across Barnett Street was also part of the 1920s schools; today some of those buildings house the Alamo Colleges campus.

(Although there is a school campus on the site today named for a local African-American educator, B. T. Wilson, in 1920 Kerrville schools were segregated, and remained so until the mid-1960s.)

Looking at the photographs of the 1920 Tivy football team, there are lots of things that have changed in the last 100 years.

First off, there are very few folks in the 1920 photograph – just 15 young men. They are wearing an assortment of uniforms. Protective padding is minimal, if present at all, and not all of the players have helmets. The uniforms look torn and ragged, and none of the players is sporting a player number on their sweaters.

In the shot where the players are in position on the line, you can see the homemade goalpost behind the players. Beyond that, a line of scraggly oak trees. Two folks can be seen leaning against the goalpost, and the shadow of the photographer can be seen.

Tivy High School, 1918

The Tivy High School building in 1920 was quite different from today’s large Tivy campus, three stories plus what looks like rooms in the attic. Much of that cut-stone building was still in use until the early 1980s as the Hal Peterson Junior High School. When I was a student there in the mid-1970s, portions of the building were closed off to students. You could feel the floors shake slightly when someone walked across a room.

In 1920, enrollment at Tivy High School was 151 students; 20 of those were seniors that year. From elementary to high school, there were 420 students enrolled, which was a record for the school district. Six teachers, including the district’s superintendent, R. A. Franklin, taught in the high school that year.

While I’ve found news stories about the 1920 Tivy team, the information is very limited. I know they played 10 games, though 2 of those games were against Junction. (Junction won the first one; Tivy, the second.) They also played St. Mary’s Academy of San Antonio, the West Texas Military Academy of San Antonio, and Llano. I do not know the other teams they played that year.

The games were played in the afternoon – there were no stadium lights to illuminate the football field.

The news story about the Llano game was published on November 5, 1920, and tells the last names of a few of the players: Flach, Wilson, Remschel, Horn, and two players named Rees, ‘G.’ and Casper. It appears Remschel was the quarterback. The story tells about unfair calls by a referee, and called them “prejudiced and poorly informed.”

One thing is certainly missing from every news story about the 1920 Tivy football team. Never once, in any of the stories, was the team called the ‘Antlers.’ I’m not sure when the team adopted that mascot – but it seems it was after 1920.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has enjoyed watching many a Tivy football game. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 26, 2020.

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my Kerr County history and photograph books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A new sign for the Arcadia Theater

The Arcadia Theater, downtown Kerrville, 1948 --
a $100,000 renovation project.
This week ‘Arcadia Live,’ the group renovating the Arcadia Theater in downtown Kerrville, watched as crewmembers of the JK Bernhard Construction Company fitted a new “blade” to the front of the old theater. (I learned this year the illuminated sign in front of a theater is called a “blade.” I had no idea.)
I posted a snapshot of the new sign on my personal Facebook page, and immediately the comments began to stream in, most of them positive.
Several of the negative comments said, in so many words, that the commenter preferred “the original” sign. 
The Arcadia Theater's original blade

I get it – I also have trouble with change, and am prone to more bouts of nostalgia than the average bear – but the old Arcadia sign recently renovated and moved to the rear of the building is not actually the ‘original’ sign which graced the Arcadia. The sign most of us remember was installed in 1948, when the Arcadia underwent extensive remodeling, including a complete replacement of the original 1926 façade and ‘blade.’
The November 18, 1948 edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, in a front-page story, reported “Arcadia Theatre to hold formal opening tonight.”
The story told of the many improvements made that year, at a reported cost of $100,000:
“The Arcadia Theatre, after having been closed seven months for remodeling, will open this evening at six o’clock, when the people of the Hill Country will be permitted to see one of the finest and most modern places of entertainment to be found. The Hall Industries, of which Henry Hall of Beeville is president, have made every possible effort to provide the utmost in comfort and convenience in this new home of motion picture entertainment for their patrons.”
The projection screen was enlarged, from 12x16 feet to 15x20; the number of seats was increased from 900 to 1,050; new projection equipment was installed; a new sound system ‘made by RCA’ was installed; the entire building was fireproofed; new carpet was installed; new steel seating was installed, ‘upholstered with mohair and leatherette.’
The Arcadia Theater's new blade, 2020

One of the 1948 improvements – which people of a certain age will certainly remember – was the ‘Cry Room,’ which could seat 16 people, and intended for use by families with small children. It was “sound proofed and air-conditioned, and has two regular rows of theater seats as well as two divans. The individual volume control will be a delight to the occupants of that room, who are probably used to listening with children crying.”
(I’ll admit this: When I was a child, I thought the Cry Room was for people who became overly emotional during the sad portions of a movie; a space where they could cry without being ridiculed for their tears. I have no memory of anyone ever using the Cry Room, though I’m sure it found use for reasons other than tearful small children.)
The new ‘blade’ installed this week is an attempt to bring back a representation of the original 1926 Arcadia ‘blade.’ It is not an exact duplicate, for several reasons.
First, there are not clear images – taken in color – of that original Arcadia sign. Or at least I have not seen them.
Click to enlarge and compare signs
Second, reading the description of that original 1926 sign makes it sound a bit like a fire hazard prone to mechanical failure. 
Here’s what I’ve written elsewhere about that sign: “The first sign was about 15 feet high and extended six feet above the building, with 16” letters. The lighting flashed on and off at intervals, but was not neon; the coloring of the letters was done by placing ‘glass color hoods’ over the lamps, and red and green and amber were the predominate colors. There was a twinkling torch and a ‘flowing’ border driven by an electric motor.”
Like that original 1926 sign, the new sign is smaller than the 1948 sign (which was restored and placed at the rear of the Arcadia building, overlooking a deck with a view of the Guadalupe River below.) The 1948 sign was described as a “modernistic green, towers 42 feet [above the sidewalk], and is of green discs, with alternating red and green neon lights. The sodium vapor light at the top of the staff is an iridescent blue, and can be seen for four miles.”
The Arcadia Live group is renovating the old theater as a performance space for music and other entertainments; the space will also be available for private events. Like you, I look forward to seeing all the changes which have been carefully made over the last months.
I’m very thankful the Arcadia Theater is getting a new chance to be a place where people gather – especially after the building being vacant and dark for so long.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who was a frequent customer of the Arcadia Theater, starting in the late 1960s. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 19, 2020. 

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is free, but not cheap to send. To show your support, forward it to someone who’d like it, or buy one of my Kerr County history and photograph books.  Thanks so much. (And thanks to all of you who bought books this week!)



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