Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Six-Letter Mystery

The Six Letters were "CALLCO"
Click to enlarge
A few weeks ago my son and I decided to see the changes made at the old Hasting's store after its transformation into Entertainmart (or Vintage Stock). As we entered the door, one of the folks working there said they'd found something painted on one of the interior walls of the building, and asked if I knew anything about it.
That building has been many things in my lifetime, and it started out as several separate buildings which were joined into the present-day conglomeration.
My earliest memory of the building is when it housed the H. E. Butt Grocery Company. In those days the grocery store faced Quinlan Street, and there were other businesses on that block, along with many other buildings, including a building torn down long ago which had once been the home of one of Captain Schreiner's daughters, Caroline Marie. During the 1970s, the grocery store was remodeled and expanded into the structure we recognize today, with its entrance facing Main Street. Later, when the grocery store moved to the 300 block of Main Street, the old building became a clothing store, and later still, Hastings Entertainment. This past autumn Vintage Stock opened a store there called Entertainmart.
Today all of those other buildings on that block are either gone, or have been consumed into the building housing Entertainmart -- except for the Voelkel's building on the corner of Clay and Water, which still stands as I remember it as a child, though in those days it was a dry cleaning business, Sweatt Cleaners.
On our recent visit, my son and I were guided through several doors and hallways until we arrived at a darkened part of the building, somewhere near its southernmost corner. There, high above us, was a remnant of an old sign. The sign suggested what is now an interior wall was once an exterior wall.
There, in fading black letters on a white wall, was a fragment of an old sign. It read "CALLCO," and was painted in tall, bold letters. Partition walls inside the building, which were added later, cut off any letters before or after these six, and so I guessed there was once more to the sign. I took a photo with my phone, and Joe and I retraced our confusing route back to the public areas of the store. I told the lady who'd shown us the sign I'd see what I could find.
I like a history mystery, and when I had a few minutes later that week I began to see what I could find.
I often use a website to read old newspapers, On a hunch, I put in Callcote and Water Street to see what the website might find.
It found nothing.
Years ago we had a printing customer at our shop named Hazelle Calcote, a local realtor who volunteered with the stock show and youth programs. My first search misspelled her last name, adding an extra "L."
The 500 block of Water Street, late 1960s
Click to enlarge
So I tried Callcott and Water Street, and found there was once a George H. Callcott auto parts store in that block, and that it faced Water Street. My next step was to see if I had a photograph of the auto parts store in my collection.
I started with a photo of the Voelkel building, the triangular building at the intersection of Water and Clay streets. That photo did not show enough of the Callcott building to show the sign.
Then I remembered an old newspaper photo showing a group of men building a sidewalk in front of the old A. C. Schreiner home on Water Street. If I was lucky, the old Callcott store would be in that photograph.
And it was -- centered in the frame right above the workmen. The letters we saw in the Entertainmart building were visible in the photograph, which was taken in the late 1960s, or early 1970s. And in the photograph, the sign looked worn and weathered, just as the remnant looks today.
I texted the photo to our friend at Entertainmart, having solved the mystery. I love it when a case is quickly solved.
Until next year, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 31, 2016.

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