Monday, April 4, 2011

Wandering around downtown Kerrville

This past Sunday evening I spent some time wandering around Kerrville's old downtown. It was the perfect time to visit; the streets were empty and I had the place to myself. The sun was low in the sky and lit the buildings in a way I don't remember seeing. Aside from the Kerrville Main Street manager and the owner of Pampell's, there were no people on the sidewalks, either. It gave me some quiet time to really look at the old town and explore some trails I hadn't traveled since I was a boy.
The problem with living in one place your whole life -- at least for the purposes of this column -- is you take things for granted. You no longer see or notice things. It's as if you travel through your memories or perceptions of a place and never stop and see the place.
This realization came to me years ago when the post office was still downtown. Part of my daily ritual was a visit to the post office to get the mail from my box, walking from the print shop, crossing to Pampell's, jaywalking in front of the Arcadia, sometimes cutting through Schreiner's, walking in front of the old Schreiner mansion, then up the steps to the post office. One day on this route I came across a freshly-cut stump in the sidewalk in front of the mansion.
Here's the thing: I hadn't realized there was a tree there. I had walked by it hundreds (perhaps thousands) of times and had not once stopped and looked up at the tree. I only noticed it when it was gone.
Kerrville's downtown has changed a lot since I was a boy. True, it's been a very long time since I was a boy. Let me prove how long ago it was:
I can remember when a train ran down North and Schreiner streets.
I can remember Louis Schreiner, Captain Charles Schreiner's son, working at the Charles Schreiner Bank. Mind you, Louis Schreiner was born in 1870, just a year after his father started the store.
I can remember my parents water-skiing in the little "lake" at Louise Hays Park. Lots of folks skied down there.
I can remember the Bluebonnet Hotel, the Rialto Theater, Pampell's when it was the place to get the best chocolate malts, and Winn's and Penney's all right downtown. I can remember the day they opened the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library; that was a big day.
There was a time when I was often the youngest person in the room, especially when I was involved in city government. Those days are long past.
So last Sunday evening it was good to spend some time wandering around downtown. I sat in several of the benches and just looked at buildings and things comparing them to what I assumed about the places. I learned some things that evening, and it was good to visit the places I thought I knew so well.
It's true the only constant is change. The heart of the town I've called home for almost 50 years has certainly changed. But come to think of it, I can't think of a time when it wasn't changing, when some building wasn't being pulled down to make way for a new building rising in the same spot.
Change doesn't bother me, and I hope it doesn't bother you. Sure, I miss some of the people and old places that are now gone, but for as long as I can wander around I'll still carry them in my scattered memory. I'm looking forward to some of the changes planned for downtown.
I'd encourage you to take the same tour I took some evening. There might be some parts of the old downtown you'd forgotten. It's still a happening place.
Until next week, all the best.
This column was originally published in the Kerrville Daily Times April 2, 2011.
For more information about Joe's book, please click here.

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