Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer memories of downtown Kerrville

Downtown Kerrville as it appeared
when I was a boy.
Summer days in downtown Kerrville in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was a boy were filled with outdoor adventure and some occasional mischief.
When my parents bought the print shop in 1965, I was just 4. But as the 1960s came to an end, I was an elementary school kid, and summers were spent downtown as my parents worked.
In those days printing presses had whirring gears and exposed pulley belts, hazards for a children's fingers. My parents figured we were safer outside, and so our summer days were largely spent out of doors.
There were four of us kids associated with the print shop: my sister, Judy; the Ridgaway kids, Mark and Melinda; and me. (The Ridgaways' parents, Tommie and Charles, were for many years partners with my parents in the printing company.)
There was also one child who lived nearby, Kay Ann Saunders, who lived in the big A. C. Schreiner house between the print shop and the library. Later, in the early 1970s, when the Rollins family owned the "Gent Shop" near the Arcadia Theater, we also had Darrell and Lynn Rollins, the two oldest Rollins kids, in the neighborhood.
In the stories that follow, I will not reveal my fellow-conspirators by name. A lot of time has passed, but I'm not sure if we've all met the parental "statute of limitations" quite yet. If pressed, I'd have to say I don't remember who was with me during the incidents that follow.
A part of each day was spent at the library, which was built in 1967, so it was still very new. Books provided a lot of entertainment during the summer, believe it or not, in the days when we didn't have electronic gizmos or the Internet.
Another benefit: the library was air-conditioned. Like most other businesses then, the print shop was not. (In fact, I attended all 12 grades in Kerrville schools that lacked air-conditioning.)
I'd like to report I was always studious and spent a majority of my time at the library, but that is not the case.
Because we were specifically told not to go to the river behind the print shop, we of course spent a lot of time at the river. I remember spending quite a few days building a raft which we planned to use to explore Tranquility Island.
In those days no bridges connected the park or library to the island, which was covered with dense vegetation. It was not open like it is today. It was a jungle, at least to us, and I remember seeing snakes and rabbits during our explorations there.
We found many things along the river -- old Pampell's bottles, for instance -- but there were some interesting things to explore, too.
I remember one summer was spent trying to climb all of the buildings downtown, a feat which was easier than one might think. Many had convenient trees beside a wall which provided access; a few were so close together we could chimney up between them. Some roofs were close enough together you could hop between them.
There were a few buildings that escaped our efforts, though not for lack of trying. Those few we could not climb became the subjects of long discussions as we formulated routes and tactics to reach their roofs.
That summer we also climbed the metal archways over the old bridge on Sidney Baker, reasoning it was a downtown structure like the buildings we'd climbed.
We even found a way to make it to the top of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, though we only went up there a few times.
We explored underground, too, including the tunnels under the old Ice House on Water Street, and I have a vague memory of searching the basement of the Charles Schreiner home for tunnels. One drainage tunnel along the riverbank comes to mind, though to this day I have no idea why we chose to get flashlights and explore it. Today I wouldn't go into that tunnel for a large pile of money. I do remember an octagonal room in the tunnel which we boys thought was pretty neat.
Then, way too soon, and just as we were about to get in real trouble, summer ended. I have fond memories of those days downtown, and of the friends from those days.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native whose children did not accompany him to work during the summers, perhaps because he knew what they might get into while there. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 23, 2012.


  1. I see something curious in the photo.

    It's the building at the intersection of Sidney Baker and Water Streets. It's on the same side of the street as Herring's Printing Company and the old Rialto Theater.

    On the roof of the building there appears to be a roof on top of the roof (if that makes sense).

    What I mean is the building appears to be a building with an add-on building built completely around the original building.

    The one roof line does not even appear to be parallel and aligned with the other roof line.

    Is that an optical illusion, or do I need to get my eyes examined?

    1. I think you're right: an older building engulfed by additions and renovations.

  2. I enjoyed the personal nature of this piece. Thanks!


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