“Old San Antone”

Greetings and salutations,

A few weeks ago while searching my archives for some other photos, I passed by a series of photos I took during a fall trip to Texas in 2009. The occasion was to join my Traveling Partner towards the end of her weeklong attendance at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. She’s always been a good sport tagging along to participate in some things I enjoy doing, like JazzFest and photographing. It was only fair I reciprocate. After arriving in Houston and renting a car, I traveled to the downtown near the convention center and rendezvoused with my Traveling Partner, The Eldest, and The Youngest, all enjoying the Quilt Show.

The next day, I spent the day with my Traveling Partner at the Quilt Show seeing the beautiful and artistic quilts plus visiting the long rows of vendors of all things quilting and sewing. I was duly impressed and I met my obligation, however small. After the Quilt Show closed on Sunday and the others left for home, my Traveling Partner and I headed west for San Antonio and beyond.

This wasn’t my first trip to San Antonio. I’d spent one summer (fourteen weeks to be exact) of my youth at Fort Sam Houston training to be a medical lab technician for the U. S. Army. I arrived the first week of June and left the middle of September, the hottest, the most humid time of the year! I was assigned a bunk on the second floor of an old two-story barracks without any air conditioning. If we were lucky, the temp cooled down overnight and there was a breeze to move some air through the open windows. Fortunately, the classrooms were air conditioned as was the nearby movie theater, I saw every movie that summer, some twice!

My second trip to San Antonio was in the spring of 2004 for a week-long business conference. I went a day early so I could have a little tourist time before the beginning of the conference. The conference hotel was located right on the famous Riverwalk. In the intervening years since my first stay in San Antonio, the river had been cleaned up and the Riverwalk rid of the homeless and muggers. The Riverwalk had expanded and featured a boat ride, more hotels, restaurants, clubs and shops. I recall having to find a place to watch the Badger basketball team play in the NCAA tournament. I found a bar a few blocks from the bustling Riverwalk that just opened and convinced the bartender to find the game on the TV. He did, I had the place mostly to myself.

On this trip, we stayed near the Riverwalk taking in the sites, walking or taking a trolley to most of them. When one thinks of San Antonio, it’s hard not to “Remember the Alamo.” In modern times, the Alamo is a designated World Heritage site and part of the Alamo Plaza Historic District. The Alamo started out as a Spanish mission church build in the 1700’s. Over the years it was school for Native Americans, a hospital and then a military compound. It’s name comes from the Spanish word for the nearby grove of cottonwood trees, alamo. The famous Battle of the Alamo, took place in late February and early March 1836. Under the command of Lt. Colonel James Travis, Jim Bowie (he of the Bowie knife fame) and Davy Crockett, folk hero of Tennessee. They and all the defenders were killed in the battle with Santa Ana and Mexican forces. In the meantime, the constitution of the Texas Republic was written declaring their independence from Mexico. Texas became a U. S. state in 1845.

After the Battle for the Alamo, the fort/mission was abandoned and eventually local citizens raised the necessary funds to rebuild the chapel and a few outbuildings. It’s now a museum and tourist destination. We took one of the free walking tours of the compound and spent some time viewing the exhibits in the museum. 

Not far from the Riverwalk is the HemisFair Park. It was the official World’s Fair held in 1968 featuring exhibits and pavilions from the many nations that provided settlers for the San Antonio area. The fair’s theme structure, the Tower of the Americas, is the tallest building in the city at 750 feet. We took the elevator ride to the top to get a view of the city and surrounding area. I should note that San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the U. S., slightly smaller than Philadelphia and a little bigger than San Diego. The second photo shows some of the downtown area that surrounds the Riverwalk. 

From the Tower, we could see Fort Sam Houston, Brooke Army Medical Center is the tall building in the top center of the photo. During our stay, we drove over to Ft. Sam to have a look around. When I was there in the early 1970’s, it was an open base. After 9/11, barriers were added and all entering the post must go through security. As we drove up, a crew of Army MP’s approached the car, asked for our identification, and used mirrors to check underneath the car for bombs. When I told them I’d been stationed there years ago, they relaxed, gave us directions and wished us well. A lot had changed, the barracks I stayed in were gone, replaced with modern buildings, I hope with air conditioning. We stopped by the U. S. Army Medical Museum that shows the progress made in military medicine through the years. I focused in on the time I was in the Army, brought back a lot of memories. At the conclusion of our visit, my Traveling Partner took a photo of me standing beside the Ft. Sam sign.

After a few days enjoying the San Antonio sites, we drove towards the Texas Hill Country. Our route was not direct as our first stop was in Gruene, a suburb of New Braunfels, for a look-see at the infamous Gruene Hall. This dance hall and music venue is considered one of the oldest continual running dance halls in Texas. Many country and cross-over pop stars got their start by playing places like Gruene Hall. Scenes for movies have also been shot here. While there wasn’t any live music playing, we had a drink and watched patrons dance to the jukebox.

The next stop on our drive-about was at the man-made Canyon Lake. This lake backs up water from the Guadalupe River and is a water source for Austin and San Antonio. During our stop at the overlook, we noted the lake level was low.

This was another reminiscence stop for me. Six of us GIs from Ft. Sam spent the 4th of July weekend in 1970 at Canyon Lake. There was a recreation concession run by the military at one of the marinas. For a couple of bucks a day, we rented a small fishing boat with a motor and a few of us at a time would tool around the lake drinking beer and enjoying the sun. We swam in the cool water, ate what and when we wanted, relishing our respite from the Army. We slept on the beach or in the van we rented as transportation. I remember getting horrible sunburned on my lily white legs. Slowed me down for a few days. 

On our way to Fredericksburg, we stopped by another famous town, Luckenbach, population 3. It was made famous by two music events: the recording of the album “Viva Terlingua” by Jerry Jeff Walker and The Lost Gonzo Band at the Luckenbach Dancehall; and the release a few years later of the song “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” by Waylon Jennings with support from Willie Nelson. This ghost town sports a general store that serves as a souvenir shop that includes merchandise with the town’s motto “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach.” The dancehall opens every day at 4 PM for dancing to live music when available or a jukebox. Down by the South Grape Creek is an outdoor stage where music groups perform. If you listen closely, you might hear Waylon, Willie and the boys singing.

During our travels around Fredericksburg, we stopped along the country roads for a few photos of the charming Hill Country scenery.

Our last stop before heading back to Houston for our flight home was at the LBJ Ranch that is a part of the Lyndon Baines Johnson National Historic Park near Johnson City. At the entrance, we picked up a CD for an audio tour of the drive into the ranch. We spent a lot of time with the exhibits in the visitor center. We both remembered the Johnson administration that took over after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. We toured the house that was known as the “Texas White House.” President Johnson would often bring foreign visitors to his ranch, driving them around in his Lincoln convertible. He also has an Amphicar, a car that was road worthy and amphibious. He would surprise guests by driving toward and into a lake or the nearby Pedernales River, roaring with laughter at their fright. Near the house is the cemetery where LBJ is buried. The grounds between the house and the river were so peaceful, a good place for an eternal rest.

Thanks for riding along on my quick trip around San Antonio, Texas. If you are game and three minutes, click here to listen to one of my favorite songs about San Antonio by one of my favorite singers, Pasty Cline.

Until next week, happy virtual travels!

Tom

2 thoughts on ““Old San Antone”

  1. A great gallery of images from San Antonio! I have only been there once, but I look forward to returning again. You had an opportunity to visit nearby places that I didn’t get a chance to see. Some of them will surely be on my list. Thanks for sharing.

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