Monday, September 14, 2015

The Changing Face of Downtown Kerrville in the 1970s

A parade through the downtown area in the late 1970s.
Shown is the Center Point Pirate Band, led by Sissy Lucas [Toney].
Another view of the same parade -- perhaps for
the Kerr County Fair.
Over the past few weeks I've been sharing passages from a paper written by Anna Belle Roland called "The Growing Pains of a Shingle Camp: the Story of a Town." The document is a handwritten history of our community, and I've enjoyed reading it. I'm thankful to Lanza Teague for sharing it with me, and for allowing me to share it here.
Over the past few years, our downtown has undergone many changes: renovation of the Schreiner Building, removal of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, and the building of a new Kerrville City Hall, for a few examples. But change has been constant in the heart of our community. Ms. Roland documents some of the changes there which took place in the 1970s.
She talks about how the hospital needed more parking space, and turned the old Peterson Garage and bus depot in to a parking lot, and noted other changes:
"The First National Bank decided to leave the downtown area, and constructed a large bank on the Junction highway at Five Points. This was opened in September, 1973." Today that building houses a branch of Wells-Fargo Bank.
I remember when the bank moved from one location to the other, with truck after truck passing the print shop, some of them topped by men with rifles and shotguns.
"As motels grew ever more popular," Ms. Roland writes, "the Blue Bonnet Hotel grew less profitable. It had been built before air conditioning, and to remodel and air condition it was not considered feasible. It was decided to raze the building much to the sorrow of many of the citizens. Shortly afterwards, the Charles Schreiner Bank built its drive-in bank on that site."
That motor bank was also torn down, and the site is now a parking lot at the end of Earl Garrett Street.
"The old Parsons Hall that had been the entertainment center of the nineteenth century had been replaced by the Rialto Theater in the late 1930s. As movie theaters lost audience to television, it was closed. In the early 1970s, the Rialto and an adjacent small building were razed to provide [the Charles Schreiner Bank] a parking lot."
Ms. Roland's husband, C. A. Roland, had an office in the 'adjacent small building' at one time; my family purchased one of our print shop buildings from the Rolands, and we purchased the parking lot made after the razing of the Rialto from what was left of the Charles Schreiner Bank after it was closed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in April, 1990.
"In 1977, the Charles Schreiner Bank started an expansion program. This [meant] the razing of a row of business buildings on the south side of Water Street, as well as the bank building itself, to make way for a new, larger bank building. This was opened in 1978."
That new, bigger bank building is itself now, for the most part, empty.
"Indeed," Ms. Roland writes, "the downtown area of the 1970s looks very different from the same area of the 1960s. Gone are landmarks like the Blue Bonnet Hotel, Peterson's Garage, the Rialto Theater, the Schreiner Bank building of 1919, the row of business building adjacent to it, and the Schreiner Feed Store, once the [Schreiner] windmill store. Where some of these stood are now parking lots."
The downtown area has changed a lot during my lifetime, and it hasn't stopped. It will continue to change for as long as there's a place called Kerrville, I suppose.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers a much different downtown area. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 12, 2015.

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