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Sunday, March 24, 2024

Louise Hays Park was built in a single day -- April 26, 1950

Just a few of the workers who built Louise Hays Park in a single day,
April 26, 1950.
Click on any imate to enlarge

As I walked on the Kerrville River Trail through Louise Hays Park recently, I remembered its fantastic origin story.

Louise Hays Park was built in a single day.

Here is that story:

“Some 600 men, using machines in a race against time,” the Dallas Morning News reported on April 23, 1950, “will attempt to turn thirty-five timbered acres into a finished playground park between dawn and dusk.

“An Army of men, manning more than 100 trucks, tractors, bulldozers and rollers, will rumble into the river-bank acreage at 7 a.m.

“Twelve hours later Louise Hays Park should be finished, even to its name cut into the native stone entrance archway.”

The date for work to begin (and be finished) was April 26, 1950, which happened to be the 94th anniversary of the founding of Kerr County.

On March 16, 1950, the Houston Post reported “Folks of this picturesque Texas Hill Country town are going to be as busy as honey bees on April 26.

“They are going to build a million-dollar park in one day.

“That’s right: a million-dollar park from sun-up to sun-down.”

Mrs. Louise Hays rides on
bulldozer that day
What they built that day was only a fraction of what the park is today; more acres have been added, most recently from a gift from the Lehmann and Monroe. Yet what they accomplished in that first day is truly amazing.

“By nightfall Wednesday,” the Dallas Morning News continued, “the area will boast a concrete square-dancing slab 100 by 150 feet, a picnic area of thirty concrete tables and benches, sixteen smaller picnic units, twenty barbecue pits, riverside benches, restrooms, a cold drink shop and a full-blown playground complete with swings, slides and merry-go-round.

“Electricity will have been connected and the lights will be burning. The plumbing will be installed and working. The paint might not be dry, but the job will be completed.”

The concrete dance floor
The volunteers made the ‘park in a day’ happen. The Houston Chronicle called the completed park the “Miracle on the Guadalupe,” in an April 27, 1950 story:

“A thousand men have made a gift grow into a lovely park in a day…. The gift was a tract of 35 acres along the river from Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Hays. Their only stipulation was that the city beautify and make it a public park and that it be named the Louise Hays Park in honor of the wife of the donor.”

One of the unsung heroes of the building of the park was Mrs. W. A. Salter, publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, who “from the day that Mr. and Mrs. Hays announced their gift, she has plugged hard day in and day out for the realization of the park project.” 

Louise Hays, with shovel
The Dallas Morning News story had this quote from Mrs. Salter: “We didn’t have enough money in town to build the kind of park we wanted, but we decided we could if we could get everybody to donate one day’s work – get everyone to give one day’s time.

“Money was still needed, an estimated $20,000, and plans were made for raising that.”

The money was raised, the labor was donated, and the park was built in a single day.

Louise Hays turns first
shovel of dirt
The building of Louise Hays Park was a true community effort, set in motion by the gift of 35 acres by Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Hays. I’m thankful for the family’s generosity to our community every time I visit the park. 

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thought a story about community spirit might be a useful reminder about what happens when we work together. This column originally appeared in the Kerr County Lead March 21, 2024

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1 comment:

  1. Robert S. Hays was my uncle. I learned about this park from a guy I was with in Viet Nam. His name was Allen Young. We were Corpsmen with Delta 1/4 3rd MarDiv in 1969. He was as professional and gutsy a guy as I ever know over there. Anyone reading this know what happened to him?


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