Monday, August 16, 2010

Harry Dietert and his famous Harrymobile.

Harry Dietert
Harry Dietert is an important part of our local history, and I'd like to share his story with you. I received a biographical sketch of Mr. Dietert in the mail, from which I'll tell the story. Before we begin, though, let me paint the picture. The scene is Kerrville, in the teens and early 20s. Captain Schreiner is still alive; J. E. Grinstead will represent Kerr County in the State Legislature, and still find time to publish his newspaper; a small grocery store is started by Mrs. Florence Thornton Butt in a shabby building on Main Street. It is into this scene that young Harry Dietert comes onto the scene; Harry is quite remarkable: he's a mechanical genius.
Born a century ago near Lime Creek (also known as Dietert Creek), the boyhood home of Harry Dietert still stands. Harry was the middle of five children born to Henry and Paula Schulze Dietert. Harry's younger sister, Ms. Flora Dietert Gaines, lived for many years in Kerrville near the old family home.
Harry "was a hard working person," according to Flora. "He gave a lot and expected a lot." 
According to a sheet I received in the mail, Flora recalls many early signs of Harry's capacity for hard work: an irrigation system set up at the river's edge to irrigate his vegetable garden, helping his father build a storage shed, working hard to make enough money to go to school.

Harry Dietert's first
Once, Harry tired of school, and seriously thought about dropping out to go to work at a filling station, where he could be near his first love, automobiles. But a kind teacher took an interest in him, Miss Hattie Garrett, and he graduated from Tivy in 1914.
During this time, Harry designed and built an automobile, named the Harrymobile. Using a motorcycle engine, young Harry had not only transportation for himself, but also could "give girls a ride."
I have an old photograph of an early version of the Harrymobile, with a very dapper (and proud) Harry Dietert at the wheel, showing his creation to the photographer in the middle of a muddy Water Street in Old Town Kerrville.
The near-dropout went on to get his Master's, writing his thesis on foundry sand testing, and writing such articles as "Applied Photomicrography of Foundry Sand." His interest and expertise led to the creation of his own company, the Harry W. Dietert Company, devoted to foundry sand testing equipment, and led to Mr. Dietert holding patents on 98 technical and engineering items. Harry's work was directly related to the automobile industry, and many of his contributions are still in use today.
He married Alma Davidson of Corsicana on June 15, 1925, and they resided in Detroit for many years.
In 1954, Mr. and Mrs. Dietert returned to Kerrville, where the couple made lasting contributions to the community, founding the Dietert Claim, a proactive center devoted to senior citizen's issues, and spear-heading the building of the Dietert Chapel-Auditorium on the Schreiner College campus.
While Harry and Alma Dietert had no children, we are all heirs of their generosity and spirit. 
Carolyn and I drove the Harrymobile in
Kerr County's Sesquicentennial Parade, April 2006.
It wasn't hard to drive, but it was very hard to stop.
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1 comment:

  1. Fun article Joe. I lived two doors down from the Harrymobile until 1960 on Virginia Drive! My dad built a smaller go-cart version of Harry's car for my brother & I.


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