Monday, June 12, 2017

Solving the Mysteries of Kerr County Photographs

1938 Tivy Bugle Corps taken on Antler Field, on Tivy Street
Tivy Bugle Corps, 1938, on Antler Field,
back when the football field was parallel to Tivy Street.
Note building in the background behind bleachers.
It's one of my small obsessions, trying to figure out where something once stood, or trying to confirm where an old Kerrville photograph was taken.
Take, for example, the old Tivy football field. I've mentioned it plenty of times. The current Antler Stadium was opened in 1941, just a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but Tivy had been playing football for decades before that stadium was built. I'd been told the old football field was near Tivy and Barnett Streets, but it was hard to figure out exactly where.
That football field hosted more than just football. For a string of summers it was also the site of a big July Fourth rodeo. It was a community gathering place, and it's now gone.
I had reported, years ago, the old football field was behind the school in an area bounded by College, 2nd, Gilmer, and North Streets. I thought this, I suppose, because a football field size area was there, and we'd practiced marching on that field when I was in the Tivy Band.
Wrong: the football field, I was told, was actually in the area bounded by Tivy, 3rd, College and Barnett. I was in the wrong block. Still, I couldn't figure out how they'd fit a football field in that crowded area; the old Tivy Elementary School took up most of that block.
Thumbing through the 1938 Tivy Antler yearbook today I realized how that football field fit into that block: its length ran parallel to Tivy Street, with bleachers also parallel to Tivy Street. I finally understood how the athletic field fit into the block because of a photograph showing the Tivy drum and bugle corps standing in formation on the field, with the bleachers behind them. The key, though, was a building behind the bleachers; that building is still there, at 805 Tivy Street.
The building shown has had many uses. When I was a child, I believe it was a kindergarten building; today it's the KISD Student and Family Services building. It has a distinct roofline that really stands out.
Home of Gene and Millie Butt, Kerrville
Taken in the home of Gene and Millie Butt,
on Earl Garrett Street.  The clue was the fireplace.
And, as a different example, I was looking through some of the images shared with our community by a kind person in Minnesota who found a collection of slides at an estate sale. A series of photographs showed students at someone's house, and in one of the images a woman is seated near a fireplace.
I had this feeling I'd seen that fireplace before. It was made of rough cut granite and had a very singular look.
It happened that I had a printing delivery to make to the H. E. Butt Family Foundation offices on Earl Garrett Street this week. In the first building I entered, I asked if I could take a photograph of the fireplace, which is quite lovely. The kind person there reminded me there was another fireplace in the next building, and I should take a photograph there, too.
When I got back to the print shop, I compared the two photographs with the photos from 60 years ago.
It turned out the fireplace in the 1956-57 photographs was in the second building, which was a home built for Gene and Millie Butt. (The similar house next door was built for Florence Butt, who founded what is now H-E-B Grocery Company.)
I have a hunch the woman in the photograph is Millie Butt, who was a beloved fifth-grade teacher here in Kerrville for decades. She was the daughter-in-law of Florence Butt, and sister-in-law to Howard Butt. (I'm hopeful someone can confirm this hunch, or point me in the right direction.)
For the most part, this obsession is harmless. Hopefully it will help piece together the story of our community.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who often focuses on things which should probably be ignored. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 10, 2017.

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