Saturday, March 1, 2014

Early days at Kerrville's Schreiner Institute

The 1923 Schreiner Institute football team.
H. N. "Jack" Stevens is on the back row, wearing a band on his head.

My long-time friend Capt. Jack Stevens sent this to me recently, and I thought it was so full of good information, I asked if I could publish it here.  ~ Joe

An interview of H. N. "Jack" Stevens, 
an early Schreiner Institute student,
by his son, Jack M. Stevens 
“The letter I received from Dr. J. J. Delaney in the spring of 1923 probably did more to change my life than any other one thing,” so says H. N. “Jack” Stevens who lives in Hartshorn Estates off the Harper Road in Kerrville. Stevens, who was at home in Smithville, Texas, when the letter arrived, had been observed by Dr. Delaney playing football for Tivy High School and with a Kerrville town team made up primarily of ex-Tivy football players. The letter invited young Stevens to enter Schreiner Institute in its first year on a football scholarship. It also offered summer employment before school began at the Westminister Encampment adjacent to the campus.
Stevens recalls that while he had been thinking about Texas A. & M., he was so pleased with the opportunity offered by Dr. Delaney that he immediately wrote back “will accept if I can bring a good fullback too.” And that’s how Stevens and his close friend, C. M. “Dutch” Flory, left Smithville for Kerrville in the early summer of 1923 – nearly 57 years ago.
There were several other prospective Schreiner football players working at the Westminister Encampment that summer. Stevens remembers that he and his friend Dutch Flory shared a tent as living quarters. One of his jobs was to meet the train that arrived from San Antonio daily about noon. He used a Ford Model T roadster that had a flatbed built on the back. Fresh butter was brought by train from Comfort each day and had to be picked up at the Depot along with baggage for arriving Encampment visitors.
The only buildings in use when Schreiner opened in September were the President’s home, Dickey Hall and the Administration Building (now the Weir Building). None of the streets were paved and Stevens said he spent many an hour hauling gravel to put the roads in shape. Most of the football boys lived in a house in the Westminister Encampment while they awaited completion of the Barracks under construction near the Presidents house. When asked if the Barracks had a name, Stevens said all he could remember was calling it “The Barracks.” Each room had a coal burning stove for heat.
Stevens was one of two college freshmen enrolled as part of the 86 man student body. Everyone wore uniforms and were put into one of two companies: A and B. There was a military formation before each meal. The two companies formed in front of the Ad Building and marched into the basement where all meals were served. Classes were held on the first floor of the Building. Bugle calls from reveille to taps provided the proper summons for all activities. Uniforms were olive drab in color with “cavalry type” pants with leather puttees. Free time was at a premium. If you were an officer (Stevens was the first Captain of Company B) you had the privilege of leaving the campus on Wednesday afternoon from after classes until evening meal. Otherwise you were “off” from Saturday noon until 10PM and again on Sunday afternoon until evening meal. Everyone attended Church. One of the most popular places on campus was Dr. Delaney’s home because he had the only telephone available for the Cadets to call friends. There were no school sponsored social activities on Campus.
An old photo album shows 30 young men in football uniforms posed on the steps of the old Ad Building. With their coach, J. J. Oehler, they formed the first football team for Schreiner Institute. Stevens, who played quarterback, was the captain of this first team. Each player suited up in his own room since there was no gym or field house at the time. The practice field and the football field were the same – the parade ground where the Gus Schreiner Student Center is now located. There were no grandstands. Spectators either sat in their cars parked around the field or stood along the sidelines. There was no band and no cheerleaders or drill team as we know them today. The football pads worn by the players were skimpy by today's standards but injuries were few even though the pace of the game was extremely active and hard fought.
One of the high points of Stevens’ Schreiner career occurred before the School was opened officially. Dr. Delaney decided that on July 4th, 1923, an American flag should be raised on the flag pole newly installed on the roof of the Ad Building. The only problem was that the line used to raise the flag on the pole had become tangled and a knot prevented it from moving freely through the pulley at the top of the pole. So Dr. Delaney and young Stevens crawled onto the roof of the Ad Building and Stevens climbed to the top of the pole, untied the knot, and the American flag was hoisted at Schreiner for the very first time.
Stevens remained in Kerrville after leaving Schreiner. He retired from the furniture business in 1968. He said that driving through the modern campus at Schreiner unleashes a flood of pleasant memories. “Schreiner has come a long way since 1923,” Stevens stated, “and I am confident the future for Schreiner will be just as exciting.”
Post Script: H. N. “Jack” Stevens passed away in Kerrville December 5, 1983. He was 79 years old. This article originally appeared in 1980 in Schreiner's publication “The Scene.”

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