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Old 05-28-2008, 09:02 AM
Bo Bo won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Tenth Edition (Apr-May 2014). 

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Location: Ohio
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Mike78613 posted some great pictures of Hemisfair Park and the Tower of the Americas in the thread linked below.

San Antonio trip
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Old 06-25-2008, 05:56 PM
 
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I just found a few that I had taken a few years ago at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.



and one of the Olmos Pharmacy During Christmas (2 years ago)



and one of Incarnate Word University @ the corner of Hildebrand and 281 - Christmas same year



and this one is of that big hill on Wurzbach just before it turns into Ingram as you're passing that four way intersection where you can turn to go to Circuit City, Best Buy, Starbucks, etc..




Last edited by DigginHouseVibez; 07-27-2008 at 01:01 AM..
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Old 08-19-2008, 10:52 AM
 
Location: Arlington, Virginia
64 posts, read 398,391 times
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Default Memories of San Antonio

Memories of San Antonio
Part 1

I once read that San Antonio of the 1940s and 50s was best described as a “sleepy town.” Since I left Texas only a single time in that period, and didn’t travel all that much within the state either, I really had no way to compare my hometown with others to see if this description was truly accurate. To me the city seemed quite awake and alive, and it is with great fondness that I look back to that time and place. I left my family and my hometown in 1961 to go off to school and then into the Navy, and I’ve only been a visitor there ever since then.

In the past couple of years, I’ve written some stories describing places I’ve been, thanks mainly to my time in the Navy which gave me all kinds of travel opportunities I wouldn’t have had other­wise. But I haven’t written one word about the place I started out – this piece on San Antonio is an attempt to correct that shortcoming.

Any discussion of San Antonio is almost obliged to begin with the Alamo. That’s why it’s called the Alamo City. Those of us who live there take the Alamo for granted and almost tend to forget about it, even though it has a way of working itself into the names of businesses, and even into some of the city’s archi­tecture. And most of the world associates San Antonio with the Alamo, so we’ll start there.

In February and March, 1836, there were 189 defenders of the Alamo, a Spanish mission being used as a fort at the time, under the command of William Travis. The Texans were facing a 3,000-man Mexican army led by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. We won’t get bogged down in the historical background leading up to the confrontation, or its eventual outcome. But I will point out some sources you can check out if you want the full story. For now, I’ll just remind you that Travis was supported by such familiar names as Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.

Here are two views of the front of the building today – it will probably look familiar even to someone who’s never been in Texas, because it gets a lot of publicity,

http://www.doubleazone.com/Images_Story/alamo.jpg

http://www.lindsayfincher.com/gallery/d/9687-1/san_antonio_alamo_2.jpg

As far as I’m concerned, everything looks better as a post card, especially if it’s a linen one:

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~usgenweb/tx/bexar/postcards/alamo.jpg

On March 6,1836 the last defenders fell to the Mexican army who stormed the mission, and the Battle of the Alamo was over. ‘Remember the Alamo’ became the rallying cry for those who later succeeded in gaining the independence of Texas – just six weeks later at the Battle of San Jacinto a few hundred miles from San Antonio.

The carving of a monument called the Cenotaph was begun at the centennial celebration of the Battle of the Alamo in 1936, to honor those who died in defending the mission, and it was completed in 1939. Here’s an overall view of the monument:

http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/00/12/bc/6e/alamo-cenotaph.jpg

And a closer view of the west side of the Cenotaph:

http://www.texasescapes.com/SanAntonioTx/Images/CoppiniAlamoCenotaphSanAntonioTexas2001JT.jpg

And both the west and south sides:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3018/2482289118_e170941f0d.jpg?v=0

The official website of the Alamo has background for those of you who want more than just the few pictures I’ve shown:

http://www.thealamo.org/main.html

And for a more thorough discussion of the Cenotaph:

http://www.texasescapes.com/SanAntonioTx/The-Alamo-Cenotaph.htm

The Alamo and the Cenotaph are the two major elements in what’s called Alamo Plaza, but there are two other buildings right here that have a lot of meaning for me. You probably won’t care that much. However, since I’m the one writing this and you’re the one reading it, I’m going to go ahead and include these two places – if you don’t care, you can just skip over this part.

The Main Post Office and Courthouse was where I took a test that was very important for me. It was built in 1937 under a Great Depression work program, and is in the Beaux Arts style of architecture that I like so much.

//pics4.city-data.com/cpicv/vfiles16272.jpg

Many out-of-work artists were employed in this project, as you’ll see when you examine some of the details. Here’s a detail of what’s above each of the three main entrances you saw in the picture of the whole facade:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/159/383455075_662febb290.jpg?v=0

And in the lobby (from the photo collection of sarider1, who has the best pictures of San Antonio I can find on the internet):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/2317364257/in/set-72157600328739199/

Here some more details from the interior, both of which include a heavy emphasis on the nickel:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/2318169400/in/set-72157600328739199/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/2317362569/in/set-72157600328739199/

The Medical Arts Building was completed in 1926. With its thirteen stories, it was the tallest building I had ever seen when I used to go there to see the dentist as a eight-year old child. I remember that the dentist’s office overlooked the Alamo. Here are a couple of exterior views:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1002/822962106_9c071cbd21.jpg?v=0

//pics4.city-data.com/cpicv/vfiles7705.jpg

But what I remember most vividly about this place was that the dentist did his drilling on me without using any novacaine whatso­ever. The building is now the Emily Morgan Hotel, but I would never stay there, because I would still feel the pain from the dentist’s drilling. And besides, my brother lets me stay at his house at no charge.

Strangely related to this, something I learned while preparing this story, is that some of the most interesting architectural features of the building are the terra cotta gargoyles depicting figures with various ailments, including toothaches and other medical themes. I never realized that, and I’m sure lots of other San Antonio natives don’t know it either.

For example, here’s a poor guy who isn’t feeling all that well today:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/822081319/in/set-72157600328739199/

Here’s another gargoyle, in which you can see dual mortars and pestels in a shield above the face of a nurse with her head wrapped, which was the practice in the Middle Ages:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1190/822956478_d9113e5649.jpg?v=0

An interior detail showing the cadeuceus (a staff wrapped with two serpents, which must be what old time doctors used to scare off diseases and afflictions):

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1359/822079269_7595a9b5f0.jpg?v=0

And some ornamentation at the front corner:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/822959886/in/set-72157600841384857/

And a dormer detail:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/822084027/in/set-72157600841384857/

Up by the flag all the way at the top – and check the photographer’s words right below the picture. He really knows what he is doing, and what he’s talking about:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/822084671/in/set-72157600841384857/

By the way, the namesake of the current hotel which occupies the building, Emily Morgan, is a legendary figure thought to have had a role in the Texans’ victory at San Jacinto shortly after the fall of the Alamo. That victory gave the Texans their independence from Mexico. It is also believed that she was the inspiration for the song The Yellow Rose of Texas.

And here’s an old post card that shows Alamo Plaza, including the Cenotaph, the Post Office/ Courthouse, and the Medical Arts Building. The Alamo is hidden by the trees, but is just below the Texas flag you see flying on the right side of the picture. My sister, who is a great painter of watercolors, made a painting of this post card and it’s hanging in my living room.

http://www.cardcow.com/images/alamo-plaza-post-office-san-antonio-us-state-town-views-texas-san-antonio-36202.jpg

Next up: the Riverwalk and Houston Street, which was our main drag back then in the 1940s and ‘50s, and still is today.
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Old 08-19-2008, 11:37 PM
 
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Quote:
The Medical Arts Building was completed in 1926. With its thirteen stories, it was the tallest building I had ever seen when I used to go there to see the dentist as a eight-year old child. I remember that the dentist’s office overlooked the Alamo. Here are a couple of exterior views:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1002/...1cbd21.jpg?v=0

//pics4.city-data.com/cpicv/vfiles7705.jpg

But what I remember most vividly about this place was that the dentist did his drilling on me without using any novacaine whatso*ever. The building is now the Emily Morgan Hotel, but I would never stay there, because I would still feel the pain from the dentist’s drilling. And besides, my brother lets me stay at his house at no charge.
Great pictures! I love looking at the detail on those old buildings. You can stroll around downtown and check each of them out. They all seem to have gargoyles of some sort and lots of interesting carvings. The Aztec theater has some nice detail inside, too. Did any one find pictures of it?

Oh, and you must have had the same dentist I had. I tell people that he didn't use anything when he filled cavities and they don't believe me! He just stuffed some cotton rolls between your cheek and your gum, stuck that metal suction nozzle in your mouth where it dug in behind your teeth and drilled away. Thanks for the corroboration! Oh yeah, remember the antiseptic 'smell' in that building? And the frosted glass doors? The terror rising inside you as you rode the elevator up to the dentist's office?
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Old 08-19-2008, 11:52 PM
 
Location: South Central Texas
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These people were responsible for a lot of the detail work on our landmark bldgs. Many gargoyles around town are their handy work. There's some great old photos in here too. Be sure and click on all the pages.


Pianta Work, Unidentified Locations

Last edited by SATX56; 08-20-2008 at 12:43 AM..
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:00 AM
 
904 posts, read 2,718,978 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by satx56 View Post
These people were responsible for a lot of the detail work on our landmark bldgs. Many gargoyles around town are their handy work. There's some great old photos in here too. Be sure and click on all the pages.


Pianta Work, Unidentified Locations
Thanks for the link! You really must check out all the pictures on the website to get a wonderful tour of San Antonio's beautiful architecture!
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Old 08-21-2008, 06:44 AM
 
Location: Arlington, Virginia
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Memories of San Antonio
Part 2

[Note to fellow San Antonio natives - I started writing this mainly for another forum to explain San Antonio to them. I say this just so you understand why some of this is worded the way it is.]

The San Antonio River has been there all along, even when I was still living there so long ago, and many years before that. And there was always a walkway along the river. But it got a lot better when it became the Riverwalk in connection with the HemisFair Exhibition in 1968, long after I had left town. We’ll get to the HemisFair later. The Riverwalk is now a major tourist attraction and it gets national exposure every time the Spurs play on ESPN. And lots of new hotels and stores have joined the little bit that was there before.

http://www.kent360.com/files/EconomicDevelopment/waterfront/SanAntonioRiverWalk.jpg

We used to go to Casa Rio, the restaurant with the bright umbrellas in the picture above, even before the current Riverwalk was a gleam in anyone’s eye. It was one of a few great places on the river during my youth. Casa Rio was certainly nice back then, but is even better now. Well, my favorite Mexican restaurant in San Antonio isn’t any­where near the river, and we won’t see it until a later episode. But Casa Rio is right up there on my list – a great combination of good food and wonderful scenery. And compared to what you pay for a Mexican meal in other parts of the country, it’s extremely reasonable. Here’s another view a little closer to the water:

http://actionsa.c21unitedgroup.com/files/1088459/Riverwalk SA.jpg

And here’s what the Riverwalk looks like around Hanukkah time (sometimes this link works, but sometimes it doesn't):

http://image55.webshots.com/55/6/15/46/2623615460029210395QihYQd_fs.jpg

Here’s a pretty good website with additional information and views of the Riverwalk:

http://www.texasexplorer.com/RiverWalk.htm

The main drag of San Antonio has always been Houston Street. Here’s what it looked like in my day, from a post card – nothing out of the ordinary – nothing that anybody else’s hometown didn’t have. But when I was young, I didn’t know that it was just like any other city’s downtown. I always thought Houston Street was the most exciting place in the whole world, since my world at that time was San Antonio. This post card shot is taken from Alamo Plaza, which we discussed in the previous episode:

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/houstonstreet4.jpg

And here’s Houston Street again, looking in the same direction as the last view, but from a position a few blocks down the street moving away from Alamo Plaza. You can see the Majestic Theater’s sign in this view:

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/houstonstreet1.jpg

The Majestic was my favorite theater, and the magnificent interior was its major attraction. It was built in 1929, relatively early in the evolution of movie theaters – long before they 'evolved' into the multi-screen crackerboxes that we have today. The theater was restored to its former glory in 1989 after sitting unused for 15 years, and here’s what we used to marvel at when we came to see movies here. The theater is now used only for live perform­ances, including concerts and musicals. As long as they continue using it for some­thing, and continue to maintain it after its magnificent restoration, I’m happy. When it was sitting idle in a deteriorated condition, I wasn’t.

http://www.battersbyornamental.com/majesticproscenium1.jpg

We always used to sit in the balcony, so I never realized until finding this picture how ornate the underside of the balcony was. I remember the arch over the screen, and all of the beautiful intricate work on the side walls very well. You can’t tell in the photo, but the ceiling also shows the evening sky, with stars and the moon shining brightly enough to be seen, but not too brightly to interfere with the show.

And here’s a detail of one of the small private boxes on the side walls:

http://static.flickr.com/35/73883310_7e59c55076.jpg

The Majestic’s entrance and lobby had lots of other features just as nice as what you see in the photos above, including an aquarium stocked with tropical fish. But very few of you would want to get bogged down in such detail. For the few of you who might, I’ll point out a fantastic website later.

When the three-dimensional movies were in vogue – and I don’t know why they aren’t any more – the Majestic was the best place to go. They handed out the special glasses with plastic frames, rather than those cheap cardboard frames you got at all the other theaters. I remember seeing The Charge at Feather River at the Majestic, and I can still see the Indians’ arrows heading towards us up in the balcony – well, at least I can see it in my mind’s eye.

Since the statute of limitations now gives me protection, I can go ahead and freely admit that once or twice at the Majestic, we actually kept our glasses with the plastic frames. We pretended to toss them back into the bin when leaving the theater, as we were supposed to, but we hung on and stuffed them into our shirts and took them home. They made great sunglasses.

And besides the fantastic movies we were able to see – often double features - the place was air conditioned. The only buildings with air conditioning back then were stores and theaters. It was wonderful to get a respite from the San Antonio heat, but leaving an air-conditioned building to step back out into that same heat made it feel even hotter than it did before we went in.

The Aztec Theater is almost as nice and is just a few blocks from the Majestic. The Aztec is on Commerce Street, a block over from Houston Street. The Aztec was built a few years before the Majestic, having been completed in 1926, and it too sat idle for many years, but was recently restored. Most of the renovation was completed in 2006, but there are some additional modifi­cations ongoing at the moment, and the theater will re-open in the winter of 2008.

The most memorable parts of the Aztec, for me at least, were the foyer and mezzanine, as best shown in these two old post cards. The decor was intended to look like what the Aztec Indians of Mexico would have built if they were in charge of building the theater.

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/Aztecfoyer.jpg

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/Aztecmezzanine.jpg

The Aztec’s ceiling also featured the moon and the stars, just like at the Majestic.

Here’s where we would buy our tickets:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/360014241/in/set-72157594483875835/

And two views of the lobby:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/360014526/in/set-72157594483875835/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/360014104/

And an outside cornice detail:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83379080@N00/360014402/in/set-72157594483875835/

And here’s a site that some of you might be interested in – it has all kinds of fascinating info on the restorations – by the company who handled the plaster portion of the overall work. It’s probably more information than most of you will want, so you certainly shouldn’t feel obliged to plow through material you don’t care about. Note that this company, Bat­ters­by Ornamental, has masterfully handled the plaster portions of both aforementioned thea­ters’ restorations, as well as similar work in many other treasured places throughout San Antonio, some of which we’ll talk about later.

http://www.battersbyornamental.com/links.htm

The Texas Theater was the third jewel in the crown of our downtown theaters – at least in my opinion. Depending on their experiences growing up in San Antonio, some people might think I’m unfairly leaving out other great downtown theaters.

Here’s what it the Texas looked like on a post card:

http://www.sanantoniotheatres.com/texas_theatre_pic.jpg

The theater opened in 1926 and the following year hosted the premier of Wings, the winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture, which was shot in the San Antonio area. It was the only silent movie to win the Best Picture award. When there wasn’t a better movie playing at either the Majestic or the Aztec, we would come to the Texas.

The march of progress has unfortunately bulldozed right over the Texas, or at least over its interior. It was re-configured into a bank that lasted for an entire two years. But happily, much of the building’s facade remains today, looking as good or better than what it was in the theater’s heyday. Now the building is used by SBC, and they also maintain the facade.

A couple of views of the Houston Street facade:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/148/408515484_fa09df8daa.jpg?v=0

http://photos.igougo.com/images/p201541-San_Antonio_TX-Faade_of_the_Texas_Theater.jpg

And the facade of the side wall overlooking the San Antonio River, alongside the theater’s sign:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/162/408463770_3873d325cb.jpg?v=0

A more distant perspective of both the front and side, as photographed in 1982:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lastpictureshow/2524800324

And a close-up of the side wall overlooking the river:

http://www.panoramio.com/photos/original/1037004.jpg (broken link)

Next up: our major department store Joske’s, the Menger Hotel, Travis Park, La Villita, and the Buckhorn Saloon.

Last edited by DickZ; 08-21-2008 at 08:16 AM..
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Old 08-21-2008, 06:51 AM
 
Location: Arlington, Virginia
64 posts, read 398,391 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catriona View Post
...The Aztec theater has some nice detail inside, too. Did any one find pictures of it?

Oh, and you must have had the same dentist I had. I tell people that he didn't use anything when he filled cavities and they don't believe me! He just stuffed some cotton rolls between your cheek and your gum, stuck that metal suction nozzle in your mouth where it dug in behind your teeth and drilled away. Thanks for the corroboration! Oh yeah, remember the antiseptic 'smell' in that building? And the frosted glass doors? The terror rising inside you as you rode the elevator up to the dentist's office?
Thanks for great comments.

See Memories of San Antonio Part 2 for Aztec, and other downtown theaters.

Yes, I remember the frosted glass doors in the Medical Arts Building very well. I had meant to include that. And I think there was lots of frosted glass for the upper half of some walls between the corridors and the offices as well.

And I had forgotten about the antiseptic smell of the building until you pointed that out.
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Old 08-26-2008, 06:55 AM
 
Location: Arlington, Virginia
64 posts, read 398,391 times
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Memories of San Antonio
Part 3

New York City may have its Macy’s and Gimbel’s Department Stores, Philadelphia may have its Wanamaker’s, and Chicago may have its Marshall Fields. But we in San Antonio had our Joske’s, just a block from the Alamo. The store first opened in 1867, long before my family was around. In 1939, it was given this art deco facade which still lasts today, although unfortunately it doesn’t say Joske’s anymore:

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/photos/joskes.jpg

You may have noticed the spire of a church on the other side of the store in the view above. That’s Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, which refused to give up its ground when the store was enlarged, and the church sits with the store surrounding it on three sides. The church is still unofficially called Saint Joske’s, even though the store itself is now Dillard’s:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3019/2408009666_513d19a83f.jpg?v=0

We didn’t go there very often, but when we did, it was something very special. There were five floors, including a basement, and there were both escalators and elevators available to move people from one floor to another. I remember the escalators best, because seeing these monsters for the first time at age six, I was greatly concerned about getting trapped at the point where the moving stairway plates met the stationary floor at each end. I was always careful to take a huge step to avoid getting trapped here, and I never got stuck – not even once.

The elevators were still run by operators in those days, and the operator would announce the departments on each floor as he approached that floor. I guess with technology being what it was in those days, the elevator operator was quite necessary because the floor of the elevator cab rarely wound up even with the floor of the store, and he always had to make some fine-tuning adjustments to get the two floors flush with each other.

Credit cards were still a thing of the future at that time, but there were these primitive things called charga-plates that were the forerunners of credit cards. I remember that Mother had a charga-plate from Joske’s, and also one from Sears which was a mile or so from Joske’s. Here’s what the Joske’s charga-plate looked like:

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/joskeschargaplate.jpg

While I was still in the process of writing this, I learned that Dillard’s is shutting down their Rivercenter store – the site where Joske’s used to be. Tentative plans seem to include either retail or residential, so I guess they’re still trying to work out a solution. I’ll try to stay on top of the situation as it evolves. This building is a treasure to those who grew up in San Antonio.

Sandwiched between the Alamo and Joske’s is the Menger Hotel, which is most famous for accommodating Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders just before they left for Cuba to make their acclaimed charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. The Rough Riders trained in San Antonio for their role in the war.

Here’s what the Menger looks like from the outside:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a4/Menger_Hotel_San_Antonio_Texas_14_Nov_2005.JPG/800px-Menger_Hotel_San_Antonio_Texas_14_Nov_2005.JPG

And its very nice lobby:

http://www.cs.uta.fi/research/hci/gaze/photos/etra04/Menger-inside.jpg

Here, from the hotel’s own website, is a ‘movie’ showing the lobby:

http://mengerhotel.com/page/ntm6/Lobby_View_CircleView.html

Travis Park was once part of the Alamo grounds, back in the days when the Alamo was still a Spanish mission. The park is just two blocks from the Alamo. The park features a statue of a typical soldier of the Civil War:

http://www.sanantonio.gov/sapar/images/traviswideshot.jpg

La Villita is on the bank of the San Antonio River, and is a one-block art community of restored old buildings featuring unusual crafts. I remember this as being the first place I ever saw glass-blowing when I went there on a school field trip, and was amazed at watching that. There don’t seem to be any more glass blowers there in La Villita proper these days, but there is one a few blocks away.

Here are some scenes – note that the houses date from the 18th century.

http://www.travel-watch.com/images/LaVillita3-AlRendon.jpg

Here’s a restaurant in La Villita, the Guadalajara Grill:

http://www.guadalajaragrill.us/villita-street.jpg

And a watercolor of that same Guadalajara Grill:

http://lavillita.com/images/wc/GuadalajaraGrill.jpg

La Villita has its own website for anyone who would like additional information on its unique stores and crafts:

http://www.lavillita.com/

San Antonio has been noted for its Buckhorn Saloon since 1881, but it’s moved a few times. It started out on Houston Street, and moved to the Lone Star Brewery in 1956, and returned to Houston Street in 1998. It’s full of horns and trophy mounts of various horned animals, and even some animals without horns. In its new location, it has been expanded to include a very interest­ing museum, including the Hall of Texas History Wax Museum. The bar, made of walnut and carved cherry, is said to date from 1890, and it’s beautifully preserved.

The place made its reputation based on its Hall of Horns:

http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n214/bevin80/Saloon.jpg

http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a273/ilive2rite/PictureHOUSE2214.jpg

Here’s the official website of the Buckhorn, if you’d care to get any more information:

http://www.buckhornmuseum.com/

And I didn’t even know about the new Texas Ranger Museum which opened in 2007, next door to the Buckhorn:

http://www.rangermuseum.com/

Next up: Municipal Auditorium, the Telephone Building, San Antonio Zoo, Sunken Gardens, Playland Park, and Kiddieland Park.

Last edited by DickZ; 08-26-2008 at 07:40 AM.. Reason: Eliminate links that function inconsistently
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Old 08-28-2008, 07:16 AM
 
Location: Arlington, Virginia
64 posts, read 398,391 times
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Memories of San Antonio
Part 4

The Municipal Auditorium was built in 1926 as a memorial to veterans of the Great War. Here’s what it looks like in a post card from my younger days:

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/photos/municipalauditorium.jpg

I remember it best as the venue where I saw my first circus – in 1949 or thereabouts. We always went to the Shriners’ circus in those days, and we would come home wearing child-size red fezzes and carrying a nice glossy program that described all the circus acts. I would read that program for weeks afterward, and would look at all the exciting pictures of the trapeze artists and tight-rope walkers. Those were the only circuses I ever really marveled at, although they were probably less impressive than today’s Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey extra­vaganzas. There is a magic of childhood that is lost as we mature, which is a shame. I’ve taken my children to the circus, and my grandchildren, but the experience just doesn’t come close to matching what I remember as a child.

I also gave my first and last piano recital on the same evening in one of the small halls flanking the central main section of the Auditorium. And Elvis Presley’s first San Antonio concert on January 15, 1956 was here. The last time I was inside the Auditorium was for my high school graduation, which was in 1961. I’ve been back to see the outside since then, but that’s all.

The interior was totally gutted by a fire in 1979, and the building sat idle for a while, much to my chagrin. I was elated when I heard it was reno­vated and modernized, re-opening in 1985. Despite its mod­ernization on the inside, it still has that grandeur of days gone by on the outside.

And whenever we would go to the Municipal Auditorium, I would always go over and check out the beautiful Telephone Building nearby. I was totally amazed at the intricate figures down at eye level, although they went all the way up to the top, as well. I never realized that the Medical Arts Building had all the ornamentation that I pointed out in the first episode of this story until I did the research necessary for writing this story. But I was fully aware of the Telephone Building’s decorations, and I never missed a chance to go over and admire them. First, here’s the building from a distance, in the form of a post card – notice the adornments even if you can’t see their details:

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~usgenweb/tx/bexar/postcards/telbld.jpg

Here’s the only picture I can find on the internet showing some of those details:

http://www.artco.org/anim/museums.jpg

When I was young, San Antonio Zoo was always ranked as one of the top zoos in the country, and special note was always made of the fact that very few animals were kept in cages, but rather in natural habitats. It’s still a fantastic zoo, but I think lots of other zoos have now achieved natural habitats also. The zoo officially began in 1914, thanks to land donated by Colonel George Brackenridge. It is built in a former rock quarry, so there are lots of natural habitat sites. Here is an example showing bears, but almost all of the animals are in sites like this:

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/photos/bearpit.jpg

For many years, Monkey Island was the favorite spot in the whole zoo for all the children, because there was a collection of at least 100 monkeys running around all over the place, and there’s just no limit on the fun that 100 monkeys can have for themselves, or what they can provide to delight onlookers. Here’s what it looked like:

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/monkeyisland.jpg

Sadly, I learned on my most recent visit to San Antonio Zoo (in 2008) that Monkey Island is no more. In fact, the zoo planners were so thorough in re-doing it, we couldn’t even tell where it used to be.

Here’s the zoo’s website if you want to know more about it:

http://www.sazoo-aq.org/

Integral with the zoo is the surrounding Brackenridge Park, and a fixture in the park is the Brackenridge Eagle, a miniature railroad that has delighted children for many years, including myself.

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/photos/brackenridgeeagle.jpg

Next door is what we always called the Sunken Gardens, but which was also known as the Japanese Tea Garden. However, during World War II it was called the Chinese Sunken Garden. It kept that name until reverting back to the Japanese Tea Garden in 1984.

The Garden was first established in 1914, along with the beginnings of the neighboring zoo that we just finished talking about. The Garden was built to include walkways, stone arch bridges, an island, and a Japanese pagoda. The gardens were given a thorough grooming early in 2008, and are really looking fantastic these days.

Here are two post card views:

http://www.edwardsaquifer.net/images/card21.jpg

http://www.edwardsaquifer.net/images/card22.jpg

Back in the days before Disneyland, Disneyworld, and all the other modern theme parks, we in San Antonio had Playland Park. It was best known for its roller coaster – ominously called The Rocket, which began thrilling us all in 1947. Here’s what it looked like:

http://www.coasterphotos.com/Playland/images/Rocket3a.jpg

My first experience with The Rocket came when I was on my very first date of my entire life, and we went to Playland. I guess I was walking in a fog and allowed myself to be talked into riding the roller coaster. Well, The Rocket at Playland was about the biggest roller coaster I could imagine because the only one I had ever ridden before was the Little Dipper a few blocks down Broadway at Kiddieland Park. Kiddieland was designed for children up to about seven years in age, and we’ll take a quick peek at that park in a minute.

It all seemed very tame as Linda and I slowly made our initial ascent in the third car, and I began wondering what was supposed to be so thrilling. When we reached the top I found out in a hurry! I looked dowward in the direction of the track but I couldn’t see any track! I gripped the restraining bar with all the strength I had, and my face must have gone white as I figured my life was about to end in a mass of splintered wood and twisted rails. I sneaked a peek at Linda who was apparently a veteran of many rides on this very roller coaster, as she thought nothing of the ordeal and was even laughing. She was probably laughing more at the enjoyment of the ride than at my reaction to it, I suppose, but I wasn’t really sure. How embarrassing a situation to find oneself in during a first date! I held on to the bar for dear life throughout the entire ride, which I hoped would get less frightening as it proceeded, but it didn’t. I’m pretty sure my knees were still shaking for at least a half hour after we got off.

The park closed down in 1980, and The Rocket just sat there doing nothing. Eventually, Knoebels Amuse­ment Park & Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania bought the wooden roller coaster and moved it from San Antonio to Elysburg. It’s been operating since 1985 in Pennsylvania, and it’s now called The Phoenix. It’s one of the more popular roller coasters in the whole country, according to the aficionados of coasters, who apparently make quite a science of these rides. Here’s what it looks like in Pennsylvania, in the snow which it didn’t see much of in San Antonio:

http://www.aceeasternpa.org/rides/pictures/phoenix_3958.jpg

Here are some more photos of The Rocket – click on each thumbnail to see a larger view:

http://www.coasterphotos.com/Playland/rocket.htm

We used to go watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, which were set off at Playland Park. We would park somewhere near the Butter Krust Bakery on Broadway and watch fantastic fireworks that were actually much better than those of today, if I remember correctly. Unless I’m totally mistaken on this, the fire­works back then didn’t just go up in the air and launch streamers of color like they do now. They would make designs in the sky like Ameri­can flags with stars and stripes, or animals, or lots of other actual pictures. I don’t know why they don’t do that anymore.

All kids who grew up in San Antonio remember Kiddieland Park, right down Broadway just a few blocks from Playland. It had a small Ferris wheel, as well as a merry-go-round:

http://www.ruby-june.com/gallery2/d/634-1/DSCF1078.JPG

But one of its more popular rides was another roller coaster, The Little Dipper, which was no match for its big brother The Rocket down the street at Playland:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1195/764021797_b0d9b352f2.jpg?v=0

And what with this being Texas and all, we were expected to get an early leg up on horse­back riding, and Kiddieland helped us do that:

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/horsesatkiddieland.jpg

And even though NASCAR didn’t exist yet (as far as I know), we still had to be trained at Kiddieland in anticipation of its eventual popu­larity:

http://www.geocities.com/mike_zimmy/racecarsatkiddieland.jpg


Next up: San Pedro Park, some of our favorite restaurants, and the Central Library of my day - the one on Market Street downtown.
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