Monday, August 5, 2013

The Rockefeller-Kerrville Myth

There are some myths floating around in the stream of our community's history, and occasionally it's fun to research their source and test them to see, in the words of one of my favorite television shows, whether they're confirmed, plausible, or busted.
One oft-repeated myth is about a Rockefeller Foundation report that cites Kerrville as the healthiest place to live in America. I've seen this repeated over the years in various news reports, and I wondered if it was true.
Using the amazing search powers of the Inter-webs, I put in this query: find all newspaper stories that include both the words "Rockefeller Foundation" and "Kerrville."
One of the items that popped up was a front-page story in the Kerrville Times from March 22, 1957, in the column of Tanner Laine, who wrote "Hill Country Lanes." The subject of his column was George Sealy Cone.
Mr. Cone, you might recall, was once city manager of Kerrville. His term of service can be recalled in a living reminder: the cork trees on Clay Street, next to the old Kerrville City Hall (now the Union State Bank) were planted by Mr. Cone. In an earlier career he sold automobiles. In my collection I have a photograph of Jimmie Rodgers, the father of country music, posing in front of a new automobile. On the tire cover you can clearly read the words "Cone Car Company Co. Kerrville."
Tanner Laine wrote "George Sealy Cone of Kerrville has accidentally become a one-man chamber of commerce with article by him appearing in this month's issue of a widely-read, nationally-circulated magazine 'Journal of Lifetime Living.'"
The magazine apparently was geared to readers interested in retirement living. Cone, in his article, quoted a passage from a book entitled "Where to Retire on a Small Income," which was written by Norman D. Ford, then "vice-president of the Globetrotters Club." Cone cited the entry on Kerrville: "...the pleasant resort of Kerrville, Texas, where splendid retirement can be had on a low income. If I weren't afraid to stick my neck out, I'd say that here is the best all-around retirement in the entire nation."
The quote which concerns our quest today is this: "And that's not all. Here's another very favorable quotation from Grinstead's Graphic Magazine of May 1923: 'The Rockefeller Foundation recently completed a survey of America to determine the most healthful section in the country. The location with the most equable year-round climate. The decision reached was that a radius of one hundred miles around Kerrville, Texas was the ideal climate.'"
Grinstead's Graphic was published locally by J. E. Grinstead. Grinstead was a colorful character: he was the publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun (and is the person who gave the newspaper its name); he served as mayor of Kerrville; he represented Kerr County in the legislature; and he had a very dramatic term of service on Kerrville's school board, which, at its end, necessitated the sale of his newspaper. He then published the magazine and wrote pulp Westerns.
He was also an eager "booster" of Kerrville and Kerr County, and is credited with coining the phrases "The Texas Hill Country," and the "Heart of the Hills," though these myths need to be examined, as well.
If Grinstead is the source, and the date is prior to May, 1923, perhaps there is something, somewhere, online to confirm the "Rockefeller Foundation" study.
I do find numerous references to the study -- but all in Kerrville newspapers, and most without reference to Grinstead's Graphic, and all after 1923. So far, I have found no references outside of Kerrville to this study.
Does that mean it was a fiction, made up by a man known to be a long-time fan of our community? Not necessarily. But I still haven't found enough evidence to confirm the old myth.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who hopes to solve this mystery soon. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times on August 3, 2013.
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  1. Very interesting article, Joe. Thank you.

  2. "and he had a very dramatic term of service on Kerrville's school board, which, at its end, necessitated the sale of his newspaper. "

    I'm curious. Why did he have to sell the newspaper?


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