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Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas in Kerr County in 1904

Pampell's, as it appeared in 1904.
This store, fountain, factory and opera house stood
on the corner of Water Street and what is now Sidney Baker Street.
Click on any image to enlarge.

I dug through the archives of old Kerrville newspapers this week, looking for clues about how our community used to observe the Christmas season. The most complete picture comes from the December 24, 1904 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun.

118 years ago, in 1904, Christmas was on a Sunday, just like this year.

Even with the edition of the newspaper coming out on Christmas Eve, there were still lots of advertisements for Christmas gifts.  (Last minute Christmas shopping is not a new thing.)

“Nothing is more appropriate,” J. J. McElvy advertised, “than a nice piano or organ for a Christmas present.” He also promised “low prices and easy terms.”

Kerrville Hose Company No. 1
J. L. Pampell, who owned a candy factory next to his ‘opera house’ and soda fountain on Water Street, wanted readers to know his candies were made with quality ingredients. “If you see Pampell’s on the wrapper, it is pure.” In a separate ad, he offered fruit, nuts, and garnishments “for the Christmas feast.”

Mrs. Ellen O’Neal, a pioneer photographer here, offered portraits as Christmas presents. “Oh, what shall I give? It is so hard to decide. A good photo will be so appreciated by your friends. Why not have them made now of yourself and your children?” Her advertisement gives something I hadn’t seen before – the location of her photography studio – “at Huntington’s old gallery,” which meant it was at the corner of Water and what is now Sidney Baker Street, about where the City of Kerrville has its development services offices.

S. B. Huntington, who had previously owned the photography studio was also mentioned in this issue of the newspaper – he and “Uncle” N. B. Smith celebrated the holiday with their families after returning on the Thursday before Christmas, “from a six weeks’ hunt. They report fine luck.”

Several other hunting parties spent the weeks before Christmas out in the field. Ed Gerdes, B. A. Davey, and Bruno Schott hunted in Kimble County. Davey and Schott were prominent builders; they built such buildings as the old Tivy School (now the Kerrville Independent School District administrative offices), and the Weston Building (now the home of Francisco’s Restaurant). Mr. Gerdes owned a hotel, which once stood at the corner of Washington and Water streets, where the parking area of the Notre Dame Catholic Church is today.

Christmas 1904 at the Otto Below home.
Photo from the Neunhoffer collection.
Several merchants ran several paragraphs thanking customers for a prosperous year. These included the Schreiner Company; “The Famous” Store, owned by Oscar Rosenthal; Fawcett Furniture, owned by W. A. Fawcett. Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. Fawcett had their photograph included with their thank you message.

The big social event of the week would occur the day after Christmas. “The fifth anniversary ball and oyster supper, of Kerrville Hose Company No. 1, will take place at Pampell’s Opera House Monday night Dec. 26. Handsome invitations have been issued. The Mountain Sun Band will furnish an excellent program of music for the occasion. The annual entertainments of the fire boys are a great success, and an effort is being made to make the coming event the crowning of the season.”

Elsewhere, readers were told they could “get in” the event, even without an invitation.

And on yet another page, this notice could be found: “Notice is hereby given that all members of Kerrville Hose Company No. 1, attending the Firemen’s Ball…must appear in full uniform. L. A. Schreiner, Foreman.”

The following week, the newspaper reported the event was “the crowning social success of the holiday season,” and listed all of those who attended. It must have been crowded in that upstairs room at Pampell’s.

“A Quiet Christmas,” was also reported in the next week’s newspaper. “Christmas in Kerrville was marked by nothing of an unusual nature. There was probably not a home in the city where abundant good cheer did not abound. The people spent the day quietly at home, feasting in accordance with the usual custom.”

That’s my hope for this Christmas in Kerr County – a quiet holiday, filled with abundant good cheer.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes each of you a very Merry Christmas.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 24, 2022.

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