Monday, November 7, 2011

Many historic newspapers are now available online.

I've been like a kid in a candy store now that I've discovered a way to quickly search old Kerrville newspapers on the Internet.
Take, for instance, a question a kind reader asked me the other day: "Where did the cork trees come from beside Union State Bank?"
For those who don't know, the building housing Union State Bank was once Kerrville City Hall, and the cork trees date from when it was still the municipal offices. You can see the trees on Clay Street, beside the bank, and identify them by their bark, which is thick and seems to be seeping out of their trunks. Think of an oak tree with a skin problem.
A search of old newspapers yielded this result, from a column Forrest Salter wrote for the Kerrville Mountain Sun. In his "It Happened Here" column for March 26, 1980, Mr. Salter wrote "The cork trees at the City Hall came from Portugal and were planted by the late Sealy Cone who was City Manager at the time."  Another search shows that Mr. Cone was Kerrville city manager in the mid-1940s, which suggests the trees are around 65 years old. Mr. Cone had been active in Kerrville for many years, owning, for a time, the Cone Car Company, which was a local agency for automobiles. I have a photo of Jimmie Rodgers standing next to a new car, and the spare wheel cover clearly says "Cone Car Company."
Or I occasionally stumble across surprising items. Did you know there was a C. C. Butt Hardware and Feed store?   We're all familiar with the C. C. Butt Grocery company, which became (at least in other communities) the H-E-B Grocery store chain. But I hadn't heard of the hardware and feed store.
The January 26, 1928 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun reports, on its front page, that "C. H. Wolfmueller purchased the C. C. Butt Hardware and Feed Store, at 225 Earl Garrett Street, from Howard E. Butt."  Mr. Wolfmueller operated a feed store on Schreiner Street, and was going to consolidate his stock at the store with the one on Earl Garrett, and operate a single store on Earl Garrett.
"After the Wolfmueller Feed Store on Schreiner Street has been vacated, the entire building will be occupied by the Depot Bakery, practically doubling the size of the establishment.
"Mr. Butt disposed of his hardware and feed departments in order to devote all of his time to the operation of his Piggly-Wiggly grocery stores. He is now interested in stores at Kerrville, Del Rio, Brady, Gonzales, and Brownwood."
Once a kind reader called and said her mother remembered another Kerrville fire fighter, in addition to Charles Blackwell, who lost his life in the line of duty. Her mother, it seems, was a child living on Wheless Avenue at the time, and remembered a fire truck having a wreck on the way to a fire, and a fireman getting killed. While she was on the phone I entered "Wheless" and "fireman" into the search engine, and the grim story appeared on my computer screen.
On December 17, 1936, the Kerrville Mountain Sun reported "Fire Truck Mishap Fatal to Fireman."
William (Bill) Roberts, 37, was driving the fire truck in response to an alarm for a chimney fire at a house on Wheless Avenue; when making the turn from Hillcrest onto Wheless, the truck hit wet ground, skidded, and turned over. Roberts was pinned under the truck, but though injured, seemed fine when taken to the Secor Hospital. Later that evening a "fatal stomach condition developed."  Two other firemen were injured, Alvin Piper, 24, and Jim Sawyer, 22; neither of their injuries were serious.
While on the phone with the reader, I could confirm her mother's memory as being correct: there have been two Kerrville fire fighters killed in the line of duty.
All this can be found almost instantly. We live in an amazing age.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who loves reading old Kerrville newspapers and magazines. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 5, 2011.

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