Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Photograph stirs up controversy -- still

There's some new evidence in an old controversy about a photo taken of Kerrville long ago.  This is a long post, but the evidence I recently found is at the end.  I'd sure like to hear your opinion.
* * *
Months ago, when this blog was new, I posted this:
Click on any image to enlarge
Two former Kerrville mayors can't agree  on this photograph of Kerrville. 
From where do you think it was taken?
John M. Mosty was Kerrville's youngest mayor in history -- until I took office in 1992, at the age of 30. So we're a lot alike.  Like me, he's a Kerrville native, and we both have a keen interest in Kerr County history.  And we both have more than a "passing interest" in Kerrville politics.
John's dad took this photo of Kerrville after a snowfall.  I'm not sure of the date.
But John and I politely disagree about this photograph -- in fact, we're almost exactly 180 degrees apart.  I think it was taken from one side of the Guadalupe River valley; he thinks it was taken from the other side.  We've had discussions about this photo for several years now.
What do you think?  If you have a guess from what part of town this photo was taken, please leave a comment.
Also, if you could share this photo with your Facebook friends (there's a button right below this story), we could get more "eyes" looking at the photo, and perhaps we can settle this controversy!   Please comment below, or on Facebook.   Thanks!
* * *
Later, I wrote a column about the controversy:
There’s one idea to keep in mind when you study history, and, though it sounds silly, it really makes a difference. When you’re reading about some pioneer, or some historic figure, you must remember that the person about which you’re studying had no idea he lived a long time ago.
He or she was like us: life is lived in the present. To Joshua Brown, the day he and his band of shingle makers made their first camp here was just a day. It was “now” to him, not a date in the mid-1840s.
I say this because we often put our own assumptions onto historical figures, eras. For example, at the turn of the last century it took over a day to travel from Kerrville to Junction. The road was good, but steep in some places. In other places you crossed streams and riverbeds. We would consider it a very difficult journey. There would be a lot of work involved: getting the horses ready, checking the wagon, loading any freight, loading provisions for the trip, making sure you had equipment for any unexpected contingencies. If a wheel broke, you might spend a few nights out in the open. If your journey had taken place just after the Civil War, and a band of Indians chose to make your passage “difficult,” you might find yourself in a quite frightening situation.
Those who lived here in that time had no idea travel by automobile from Kerrville to Junction would someday take less than an hour.
In their world, that journey took about a day, with stops along the way. It wasn’t a huge deal. A day’s travel was just what it took. They didn’t think “I wish this only took an hour.”
We color our understanding of history when we look at the experience of those who lived here before us through the goggles of our own experience.
We might get nostalgic about the horses, or the buggy, or the fact that the hills between here and Junction would have not been crowded, that the night sky would have been brighter, that the game along the road would have been, by today’s standards, quite fantastic. (Lots of bears, for example.)
Likewise some of the beliefs those people had in those days were not like our beliefs today. Today we believe man can fly, even so far as to the moon. We know prejudice is wrong. We know we can pick up a small device, push a few buttons, and instantly talk with someone on the other side of the planet. We know we can hop in the car and in a few minutes find ourselves at one of hundreds of tables around town enjoying a hot meal – and we have choices about our cuisine (Italian, Tex-Mex, Southern, etc.).
In the middle of the 19th century, none of these things were known as they are known today.
There are some art historians who can identify the period in which a painting was created by merely looking at the brushstrokes. That means, to my argument here, I suppose, our times dictate very much about us, even small minute things most of us would overlook, like a brushstroke.
This past week I studied for a very long time (almost to the point of obsession, to be frank) a photograph my friend John M. Mosty brought by. The photograph is of Kerrville, taken from a hillside, after a snow. I suppose what I was trying to do, as I looked at it over and over again, using my computer to magnify and sharpen its minute details, was determine from what point the photograph was taken. Knowing from which hill Mosty’s father took the photo would tell me what was pictured in it.
Despite my effort I’m still not sure about the subject of the photo; there are two competing theories, and both are plausible.
Then I realized it wasn’t important to know exactly from which hill the photo was taken. When Mr. Mosty’s father took the photo, he couldn’t have known that the valley before him would someday have this building built here or that built there. He wouldn’t have known about the roads that would someday be built, roads that circle the sleeping town like a crown.
The moment that photo was taken, on some unknown hill around here, I’m pretty sure the thoughts were more “the snow is lovely on the quiet town,” and “my goodness, it’s cold.”
Until next week, all the best.
* * *
And I posted an update to my blog post:

Yesterday I posted a photo about which former mayor John M. Mosty and I disagree.  Several of you looked at the photo and suggested it was taken from above Remschel Street in Kerrville, facing south, looking over the Guadalupe River to the hills beyond.

The original photograph, taken by John M. Mosty's father, Mark
about which John and Joe Herring Jr. have a friendly
disagreement.  From which hillside do you
think this photo was taken?
So today, following several of your suggestions, I climbed the Remschel hill and took the following picture.  For those who do not know, Remschel is the little street connecting Clay to Stadium; it's near Tivy Stadium, parallel to Sidney Baker street.

Taken July 26, 2010.  Notice the hills in the distance.
Do you think the view is a match?
Let me know.  Feel free to share this photo with anyone you'd care to, including your friends on Facebook.  (There's a button just below this story to do just that!)
* * *
Now I've found some new evidence.  Here's an email I sent John M. Mosty:

Remember that photo your father took of Kerrville in the snow?  

I saw a photo at the Water Street Antique company and I took what is probably an illegal snapshot of the portion of the photo showing the 700 block of Water street before the Sidney Baker Bridge was built.  They have a date of 1930 on the photo, but I don't know for sure.  My spy photo is attached.

Take a look at the St Charles Hotel in the photo, right across the street from Pampell's.    For convenience I am attaching detail from your father's photo.

It sure looks like (at least to me) the unidentified building in your father's photo, also across from what might be Pampell's.

It might be worth your time to visit the Water Street Antique store.  The photo is in the back, right in front of the stairs going up to the old mezzanine.

Your long-time friend,

Here are the images I sent Mr. Mosty:
Aerial view, 700 Block of Water, 1930

Detail from Mark Mosty's photograph.
 Given all that's been discussed about this mystery photo, I'm curious about what you think.  Do you think this old photo was taken from the hill near the football stadium, looking south toward town?  Or do you think, like my long-time friend John M. Mosty the photograph is taken from south of the river looking north?
Please enter your comments below.  Thanks!


  1. I was scheduled to take my Great-Great Grandfather to the eye doctor at 11:00 this morning.

    However, he was so obsessed with comparing these photos, that I couldn't get him away from the computer.

    Why did I ever teach Grandpa how to use a computer and the internet.

    There are four generations living in this one house, and Grandpa is always hogging the computer.

    He has not yet made his decision about the photos.

  2. Last photo detail is old Doyle School? Note in original (first photo) to the right, the stockyards and warehouses along the railroad? Church in center is original Barnett Chapel? I think we can all agree, it snowed...

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. J M, your comment made me smile. I think we can definitely agree it snowed! :-)

  5. Now I'm really confused.

    Joe, please restate your belief because I no longer understand whether you are continuing with your first belief, or have changed to Mr. Mosty's belief.

  6. My conclusions have bounced back and forth, somewhat similar to a ping pong ball inside a bingo machine.

    However, after seeing the Remschel Street photo and the greatly magnified photos (legal and illegal), I have reached my final conclusion.

    I believe Mr. Mosty's photo was taken from somewhere near what is now Remschel Street.

    I'm tired, this has worn me out. I'm going to take a nap.

    P.S. On an unrelated note, the Texas Rangers' pitchers truly frustrate me.


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