Sunday, January 21, 2018

Rare photographs of Kerrville covered in snow

Kerrville in snow 1923
Kerrville after a snowfall February 5, 1923.
The building in the middle left is the Kerr County Courthouse.
Click on any image to enlarge.
This week's icy roads and brief snow flurries reminded me of some photographs in my collection of Kerr County and Kerrville photographs.
It hasn't been that long ago when taking a photograph meant exposing a piece of film to focused light, and then waiting weeks or months to see how the photograph came out.
Charles Schreiner mansion in snow
Schreiner Mansion
Youngsters might not believe this, but it was possible for months to pass before you saw a photograph you'd taken. Film came on a roll, and you didn't send the film to be processed until all of the frames on that roll had been exposed. Then you took that roll of film to a store where it would be processed. In Kerrville, when I was a boy in the 1960s, that meant your roll of film was shipped off to a processor in another city, and processing the film could take a week, or even longer.
Snowballs in the courtyard of the St Charles Hotel Kerrville
St Charles Courtyard
Decades later a crop of one-hour-photo shops opened up, often little huts in the middle of a shopping mall parking lot. I remember our local H-E-B had a photo processing department in the store. (It was across the aisle from the VHS movie rental department, but that's a different story.)
Local drugstores and even Wal-Mart now operate film processing departments.
Rumor has it an early H-E-B store in Kerrville offered film processing, back when Florence Butt was still active in the management of the company. According to the story, the processing was either done by Eugene Butt, her son, or local pioneer photographer Starr Bryden.
Whether or not that story is true does not change this fact: taking photographs was not easy, took time, and was expensive at the turn of the last century. That meant people didn't take as many photographs as they do now.
Kerrville hospital after a snowfall
Kerrville Hospital
(Kellogg Building)
All that's required now is to point your phone at a subject and push a button, instantly seeing the result. I took a photo this week, posted it to Facebook seconds after it was taken, and hundreds of people all over our community saw it in a just few minutes, some even before I got back inside the warm print shop building.
Photography is easy now, but back then one had to have a reason to take photographs.
There were the usual family reasons to take a photograph: a new baby, a new car, and birthday celebrations.
Kerrville wagon yard 700 block of Water Street around 1910
Wagon Yard, 700 block of Water
There were community reasons to take a photograph, too: parades, mainly, but also trains or new buildings.
And then there were meteorological reasons to take a photograph. Floods usually accounted for a few frames being exposed to light. Snow, which is rare here, was another reason to take a photograph.
I had hoped to take some snow photographs last Tuesday. Most of the images I took were not that good, and didn't show a lot of snow. I tried to take images of the snow blowing down Water Street, but they were not very impressive.
Florence Butt family snowball fight in front of first HEB store
Leland Richeson and members
of the Butt family in front of
first H-E-B
Photographs from our community's past show some really nice snowfalls. There are the usual shots of snowball fights, and of children posing beside their snowmen.
There are a few nice shots of local buildings, too, sporting a dusting of snow.
We may not have had sufficient snowfall this week to add to this historic gallery, but at least we can look back at the efforts of our forebears.
Tivy School at Kerrville after a snowfall
Tivy School in the snow
Imagine them, crunching through the snow, closing one eye, and peering through a foggy viewfinder with the other, and releasing a mechanical shutter. That cold photographer, at that very moment, had no idea how the resulting photograph would look. They had no idea whether the image was overexposed, out of focus, or if their finger was over the lens.
Kerrville snowfall 1897
Kerrville snowfall 1897
They also had no idea folks like you and I would be looking at the photographs they took that cold day in Kerrville, hundreds of us all looking at the photograph at the same time.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historic photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County. If you have old photos of our community, please let him scan them for the collection. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 20, 2018.

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