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Sunday, November 22, 2020

I knew I'd seen this before

Kerrville in the distance.  This view jogged a memory.
Click on any image to enlarge.
While I most definitely do NOT have a photographic memory, I do have a memory for photographs. I am good at remembering images, which is helpful since I collect old photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County, a collection now in the multiple thousands of photos.
This ability helps me identify local photographs for people, pointing out the streets or buildings in the photographs, and helping them know where (and often when) the photograph was taken.
Sometimes, though, I’ll see something on a walk and it will remind me of a photograph from from my collection.
Last Wednesday, while on a walk on a hill overlooking Kerrville, I stopped for a second, realizing I had seen this view before. But where?
From the hilltop, Kerrville was quiet, and though I could see a lot of moving cars, I could not hear them. It was windy, and the sound of the wind going through a hilltop live oak masked any traffic noises. It was peaceful looking at town from the top of that hill.
Gray fox -- watching
I wasn’t the only one up there. A gray fox I’d surprised moments earlier was keeping a sharp eye on me, hiding behind a prickly pear cactus. 
The sun was low in the sky, and the shadows were getting longer. I snapped a quick photo of the view (and of the hiding fox), and headed back down the hill, hoping to reach my truck before night fell.
Now where had I seen that particular view?
Downtown Kerrville was in the middle distance; in the far distance was the Veterans Administration Hospital; both framed beyond a tangle of ashe juniper trees. I knew the pioneer photographer Starr Bryden took a lot of landscape shots, so I looked through my scans of his photographs. The image was not there.
I looked in several other places, and even searched using keywords like hillside, view, and scenic. Nothing came up. I gave up the search and went on to other things, like actual work.
But my old brain kept working on the problem, without direction or permission.
'Eventide' by Ike Koenig, 1949
Click to enlarge

Then I remembered a photograph I took recently at Peterson Regional Medical Center. I’d noticed an
Ike Koenig painting there, and I snapped a photograph of it with my phone. I believe the title of the painting is “Eventide;” it was painted in 1949. I believe it was formerly on display at the old hospital downtown.
Koenig had taken a few artistic liberties with the scene. She made the far hills in the painting very pointed and tall; the town seems compressed together, to better fit within the canvas. It’s possible the painting was made from Mount Wesley, looking toward town.
You can easily identify some of the landmarks she added to the painting. On the left, a white rectangle shows the old Tivy High School; next is the V. A. Hospital; next, the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, and immediately its right, the old eight story Blue Bonnet Hotel; next you can see a little of the Weir Academic Building at Schreiner University. Finally, the old steel-arch Sidney Baker Street bridge can be seen, where it crosses the Guadalupe River at Louise Hays Park. She even has the ashe juniper trees and the limestone rocks of hilltops in the painting.
Mrs. Icie Hardy ‘Ike’ Koenig (1895-1994) was a very active local painter; I find her listed in a 1936 city directory, along with her husband Roy, who was a cook at the veterans’ hospital at the time. He passed away in 1947.
Mrs. Koenig helped organize the Kerrville Art Club, and she often taught art classes. I remember her; she lived at 317 St. Peter’s Street, on the corner of Jefferson and St. Peter’s. She belonged to First Baptist Church, and I knew her from there.
There are numerous mentions of Koenig in Kerrville newspapers, and almost all of them are about her art career. For a while she also owned a framing shop, where I think she sold art supplies, and gave lessons.
Ike Koenig lived a very long life, passing away in February, 1994.
Her impression of Kerrville from a hill northwest of downtown is peaceful, with all the activity far away. I saw the same thing last Wednesday, along with an observant gray fox.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who gets to go exploring most Wednesday afternoons. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 21, 2020.

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