Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas in Kerrville when I was a boy

Carolers on horseback, Kerr County Courthouse square,
possibly in the late 1960s.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
I write this to you each week on Thursday evenings. Tonight, I am alone in a suddenly-quiet print shop, after everyone has left for the day. There are only two of us left in the building: our print shop cat, Safety Officer, and me.
Outside it is snowing. Big snowflakes are drifting by the windows of the shop, falling sloppily on Water Street. Night is falling.
Kerrville street 
The scene made me remember Christmases past, and how the holiday was different when I was growing up here. I think the holiday was much more relaxed when I was a child, and the season started much later than it does now.
I looked through my collection of Kerrville photos for images of the holiday season here, and I found images of the old downtown Kerrville Christmas decorations, of holiday parades, of Santa, of folks on horseback.
The old municipal Christmas decorations looked like they were created by Dr. Suess -- curled arms covered in silver tinsel, decorated with snow-covered bells. When they were new, the bells had warm yellow lights inside, and the tinsel had colored Christmas lights along each strand. I remember as the decorations got older, the working bulbs grew fewer in number, and the decorations were mainly for daytime. I'm sure they were difficult to install and more difficult to store and maintain.
Lutheran children's
Christmas Pageant
I found a photo of a children's Christmas pageant from what looks like the early 1960s. It was taken at Holy Cross Lutheran. The children are dressed up as angels, shepherds, barnyard animals, along with a young Mary and Joseph. I don't recognize the children; I think they're a little older than I. That part of Christmas hasn't changed a great deal. Children will still act out the story of the birth of Jesus much as they did fifty years ago.
Santa at Notre Dame School
One photo brought back another memory. A group on horseback are gathered in front of a giant Christmas tree. The photo was taken at the Kerr County courthouse, and while I don't remember the event in the photo, I do remember that tree being decorated each Christmas. It stood for many years on the corner of the inner courthouse lawn closest to the intersection of Main and Earl Garrett streets. There was another matching tree on the corner closest to Main and Sidney Baker streets. I remember climbing both of them with downtown friends, our hands covered with resin. Both trees are gone now. I learned later, as an adult, while researching history for this column, that both trees were planted as memorials for the young men from Kerr County who died in World War I. Ice and wind and time took the trees away.
Looking closely at the photo of the folks on horseback in front of the giant Christmas tree, I see some are holding sheets of paper. I imagine they're singing Christmas carols. Most are bundled up. A street light glows from among the branches.
Christmas at the Booterie
A Christmas display from the Booterie's windows made me smile. That building looks very different today. It's no longer a shoe store; it's a restaurant called Francisco's in one of the town's oldest buldings. Today there's only one door on the corner, and it's about where that mannequin is modeling. How different it looks in the photo. And those shoes look very practical.
Santa in 1974 parade
I found some color photographs from a Christmas parade in 1974, sent to me by the younger sister of some of my classmates. Mr. and Mrs. Claus look happy. There are a group of kids on a float showing Christmas celebrations from around the world. The silver tinsel tree reminds me of the one our family had when I was a boy.
Christmas parade, 1974
Our tree had a special spotlight which we aimed at our tree. The spotlight had a wheel with lenses of different colors, and an electric motor slowly turned the wheel. The effect, I suppose, was to make the tree appear in those different colors. None of the colors on the wheel were found in nature, and the foil tree looked very Space Age to me. I thought it was so modern looking when I was a child.
Well, it looks as if the snow has slowed down. It is dark outside. Time for this old man to head home.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has seldom seen snow in Kerrville, though he's midway through his sixth decade here. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times on a bright and sunny and snow-free December 9, 2017.

There are still a few copies of Joe's second book available.  Click HERE for more information.

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