Monday, December 5, 2011

Movers and Shakers, 1895

Kerr County Confederate Veterans, 1895

Since childhood I've been fascinated with old photos. I love pouring over old black and white images, sometimes with a jeweler's loop, to learn more about the people and times shown.  The older the photo, the more it interests me.  In my teens, my aunt Anna Belle, then the family historian, shared her own collection of photos with me and that is when I first saw this picture.

This is one of two photos in Anna Belle's collection that I considered "mystery photos."  When I asked what the photo was she said she wasn't sure but that both of her grandfathers were in the photo.  In all fairness to Anna Belle, the photo was taken 12 years before she was born and five years before her parents were married.  She most likely inherited the image from a grandparent, with no explanation.  When A.B. knew the history of a photo, she was really good about labeling the back of the image and identifying anyone she could.

The bottom of the photo says "Kerrville Camp UCV No. 699, at Barbecue Given October 26, 1895 at Kerrville" and names Albert Glock as the photographer.  I recognized my great grandfather in the photo, along with P.M. and Richard Steagall (PM was Anna Belle's grandfather and I had photos of both him and his brother, Richard handy for comparison.)  I assumed "UCV" was a lodge, like Woodmen of the World or Odd Fellows.

It wasn't until 2 years ago when I was looking for an obituary in the October 13, 1938 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun that I realized what this photo was.  Right above the obituary was this photo.  The Mountain Sun published the photo, identified it as a gathering of Kerr County Confederate Veterans with a few of the people in the photo identified.  The Sun offered an award to the person who could identify the most people in the photo.

In the October 30, 1938 the winner was announced. It was A.P. Brown, the son of Joshua Brown, founder of Kerrville. "Mr. Brown, with the aid if a reading glass, was able to identify 45 persons, including those named in last week's paper."  A.P. Brown was awarded a year's subscription to the Mountain Sun. Unfortunately, the names of the men and women in the photo that Mr. Brown supplied were given in no particular order. For the last two years I've been working on correctly identifying the people in this photo.

This photo shows more than a gathering of Confederate Veterans, it is also photographic record of many of the significant figures in Kerr County history and gives the viewer a good idea of what the citizenry of Kerr County was like in 1895.  Below is a run-down of the individuals I've been able to identify so far, and a brief history of each person.  It is my hope that by publishing this photo here with my findings, others will be able to add names to those unidentified and correct me if I have any of the names wrong.  (Also, if anyone would like a high resolution - 600 dpi - copy of this photo without my identification marks added, just shoot me an e-mail and I'll be happy to share.)

Among those pictured are:

Albert Glock, Photographer  (1838 - 1923)
Mr. Glock was born in Germany and came to Texas in 1852.  At a time when most German immigrants in Central Texas were either Union sympathizers or took a pacifist role, refusing to fight, Mr. Glock served in Company C of the 1st Texas Calvary, Green's Brigade, Trans Mississippi Army. I have not been able to find much out about Mr. Glock, other than he was a professional photographer who worked mostly in Kerrville and Fredericksburg in the late 1800s. I would love to know more about this man because I imagine his story to be a fascinating one.  He was admitted to the Texas Confederate Home in Austin on March 17, 1917 and is buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. 

T.M. Bradwell (1836 - 1920)
Thomas Marion Bradwell served in the 1st Gordon  Squadron, 2nd Calvary  (State Guards) and 1st (Ramsey's) Infantry, Georgia.   I have not been able to find out much about Mr. Bradwell, other than he lived on Water Street and was a farmer . He also gave several testimonies in the Mountain Sun between 1916 and 1920 about the benefits of Doan's Liver Pills and credited the medicine with curing severe back aches that kept him from sleeping at night.  His daughter, Daisy (pictured at right) was a 1901 Graduate of Tivy High School.  In 1902 she opened a school in the Turtle Creek Community and later taught high school at both Brenham and Goliad.   Mr. Bradwell is buried in the "Confederate Row" of Glen Rest Cemetery, Kerrville.

PM Steagall (1838 - 1911)
Pleasant M. Steagall served in the 23rd Infantry (Martin's Regiment), Tennessee.  P.M. and his wife Josephine came to Kerrville in 1886 from Rutherford County, TN.  They owned and operated the Steagall House Hotel near the intersection of Clay and Main Streets.  Josephine was the sister of W.V. Gregory, the original owner of the Pampell's building in Kerrville.  P.M. and Josephine are buried in Glen Rest Cemetery.  P.M's brother, Richard, must have been visiting Kerrville during the time of the veteran's reunion - he visited Kerrville often, but his home was always in Rockvale, Tennessee. Descendants of Richard still live on the Steagall homestead in Tennessee.

Hance Burney (1826-1915)
Hance McCain Burney came to Kerrville in 1852.  While I couldn't immediately find information on his service during the Civil War, he and members of his family were important figures in Kerr County history.  Mr. Burney was Kerrville's first Postmaster and served as Kerr County Judge.  He also served as president of the First National Bank of Center Point and was instrumental in establishing more than one sawmill in Kerr County.  His brother, W.D.C. Burney, was the first sherriff of Kerrville.  Hance's oldest son, Robert, served two terms as Texas senator and 22 years as district judge.  Hance Burney is buried in the Center Point Cemetery.

Note:  A.P. Brown said that another member of the Burney family, Dewitt Burney, is also in this photo but there is no indication of where he is in the photo.

William D'Estridge "Buck" Council (1846-1908)
"Buck" Council was my great grandfather.  He was born in Chatham County, North Carolina.  He served in the 35th Regiment, North Carolina.  He was injured in the shoulder at the Battle of Plymouth and had to leave service due to the injury. It was an injury that plagued him throughout his life.  After the Civil War he and his wife, Roxanna, relocated to Mississippi and eventually moved his family to Kerr County in 1890.  He purchased Sherman's Mill, between Ingram and Hunt, from the Sherman family and the family operated the mill until 1915.   Buck and Roxanna are buried at Glen Rest Cemetery in Kerrville.

 Note:  There are some WEIRD names in my family - mine included - and I sure would love to know where the name "D'Estridge" came from!!

P.A. Crenshaw
(1850 - 1935)
According to, Pleasant Anthony Crenshaw served in the Texas Mounted Rifles during the Civil War.  He and his two brothers, Dock and Carey, came to Texas in the 1860s.  After coming to Texas, P.A. joined up with Captain Ivery's Troop.  The troop had the task of tracking down Jayhawkers, Army deserters who were stealing from and killing settlers.  He eventually settled in Kerrville in 1869, on the banks of Bear Creek.  Another record in Footnote shows that P.A. Crenshaw served in the "Indian Wars" between 1874 and 1877.  PA Crenshaw is buried in Nichols Cemetery in Ingram.

Steve McElroy (1846 - 1938)
Stephen "Uncle Steve" McElroy was born in Weakley County, Tennessee and served for two years during the Civil War.  He arrived in Kerrville on Christmas day of 1866. He was a Texas Ranger who served with Capt. Neal Coldwell, a Chisholm Trail cattle driver, wagon freighter, and farmer - A true renaissance man! He helped to build a flour mill  on the Guadalupe near the Methodist Encampment area and helped build another mill on the Medina River.  He is buried in the Center Point cemetery.

George W. Colvin (left) (1842 - 1906) and
Richard H. Colvin (1840 - 1933)

Richard Howison Colvin and George Washington Colvin were born in Virginia.  They both served in Company. A. 4th Virginia Cavalry (a.k.a.the Prince William Company).  George served as a scout under J.E.B. Stewart and was briefly held as a prisoner of war in the Old Capital Prison in Washington, DC.  They arrived in Kerr County in the 1870s.  Richard purchased land in Blanco County in 1885 and then relocated to Cochise Co, Arizona in 1911, where he is buried.  George stayed in Kerr County and lived on what is now Sidney Baker Street.  Later, he and his wife, Mollie, operated a hotel in Ingram.  George is buried in Nichols Cemetery.

Frank Moore (1833 - 1909)
In the late 1850's Francis M. "Frank" Moore came from Weakley, Tennessee to Center Point.  Frank served in the 36th Regiment Texas Cavalry, Company B (Wood's Regiment). In 1874 he enlisted with the Texas Rangers for  "duty against raiding parties of Indians."

In 1877 Captain Moore returned to his ranch in Kerr County and in 1882 he was elected Kerr County Sheriff.  He was a charter member of Rising Star Masonic Lodge No.429 in Center Point, Cattlemen's Association and the Ex-Confederate Veterans. Frank Moore is buried in the Center Point Cemetery. He was a "confirmed batchelor" who never married or had children.

David Newton Wharton (1846 -1938)
"Uncle Dave" Wharton was born in McNary County, Tennessee. In 1857, at the age of 11, he came to Kerr County and lived on the same property for the next 81 years.  He lived near Camp Verde and grew up watching the camels coming and going from the fort.  He became a freighter for the Army during the Civil War and also  served as a Frontier Ranger.  After the war he farmed his ranch in Camp Verde.  In 1936 he was placed on the Centennial Honor Roll by the Ft. Worth Star Telegram as the last living person to have seen a camel at Camp Verde.  He was also the last Kerr County citizen to receive a pension for his service during the Civil War.  Dave Wharton is buried at Wharton Cemetery.

E.A. "Doc" Steel (1838 - 1912)
Elisha Asbury Steel was born in North Carolina.  His family moved to Wilson County, Texas when he was a boy. In 1861 Doc joined the Confederate Army and served in the Frontier, Texas Regiment. He was discharged from service In 1866 and moved to Kerr County.  Where he lived in the homes of Joshua Brown and Spence Goss.  He married Matilda Skinner in 1869 and settled four miles west of Center Point, later he moved to Town Creek north of Kerrville.  Doc was elected to the office of hide and animal inspector for Kerr County in 1880 and served in the position for close to 20 years. He is buried in the Center Point Cemetery.

His daughter, Lea Steele, was the oldest of his children, born in 1877. She married late in life, moved to Midland and had no children.  She died in 1956.

James Hudspeth (1842 - 1920)
James Ayers Hudspeth was born in Neshoba, Mississippi and at some point moved to Drew County, Arkansas.  In 1861 he joined in Company B of the 2nd Arkansas Regiment.  He was discharged from service in 1863 due to "hemorhage of the lungs." He married Ann Elizabeth Smith in 1864.  They moved to Lavaca County, Texas in 1865, to Bandera County in 1872  where he served as County Treasurer and then to Kerr County in 1895.  I have not been able to find much information about his life after moving to Kerr County.  He is buried in Glen Rest Cemetery.

Others in the photo:

There are four young women in the photo that have been identified, Georgia Jones, Mary Walker, Maggie Vann and Dallas Love.  I believe these women to be the daughters of "Water Wagon" Jones,  S.G. Walker, W.W. Vann, and Jim Love - men who are reported to be in the photo but I have yet to be able to identify or research.

Others who may be in the photo (according to AP Brown)  include Pres Taylor, Sam Wellborn, Doc Norwood, DC Robinson, Jim Pruitt, Jim Horn, Joe Hollomon, HH Marshall, Steve Wray, WC Peterson, WW Wells, Wylie Hyatt, Jones Glenn, SJ Jennings, John Clark, Pete Yost, Dewitt Burney, Tom Farmer, JM Webb, WW Howell, and George Baldwin. 

If you recognize a relative in this photo, would like me to e-mail a copy to you or have information to add to anything I've gathered above, please  contact me!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bike as Art

Nora gets a look at one of her "sisters," currently on display at KACC

SJ Derby, an extremely talented photographer and flower arranger, is one of the artists currently on display at the art center where I work (Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, aka KACC).  Her exhibit is titled Nature's Inspirations and features what SJ calls "constructions."  Among the constructions are the giant stalk of a century plant, painted red and adorned with colorful wire and fiber nests, painted metal bedsprings arranged into modern sculpture, and a red screen door decorated with fall leaves. 

A closeup of the palm frond accents
on the wheel of the art bike. Note the
identical fins on Nora's wheel.

SJ has incorporated everything from honeycomb and weathered wood to tomato cages and gourds into her works.  It's an engaging, fun exhibit!

When the exhibit was being installed into the gallery, one of the constructions caught my particular interest.  It was an old, rusted bicycle adorned with what looks like silver painted palm fronds and silver stars.

As I studied that old bicycle (because that's what bike nuts do: study bikes, no matter what condition they're in.) some familiar features caught my eye.  The lines of the frame, the fins at the back wheel, the bracket on the headtube, even the chain ring are identical to my cruiser bike, Nora.  They're both 1963 Sears Spacliners!  The art bike is a 24" frame and Nora is a 26", but they're definitely the same year and model of bike!  Of course, when I made the discovery I had to tell EVERYONE within talking distance!

That's all I have for this afternoon! 
May the world around you continue to inspire and surprise you!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Queen of the Mountain!!

"Marina," my modern comfort bike at the
downtown pavilion overlooking the river.
This morning I was celebrating that I had a day off with nowhere to go, except to a friend's house to feed her cat.  I mused about taking a longer than normal weekend bike ride when Larry laughed and said, "Why don't you combine the two and ride your bike up to feed the cat?"

My initial response was "Not bloody likely!"  The reason I responded this way is that the friend's house is across town and on top of a very big hill.  Most of the rides I've taken have been on quiet neighborhood streets.  The terrain is fairly flat and if I were to be completely honest with myself, even though I've been going on progressively longer rides, I haven't been challenging myself or going outside of my comfort zone.

As I dressed for the day I decided to rise to the challenge! I hopped on my bike and  immediately discovered a flat tire!!  A pretty little brass nail had punctured the back tire and tube.  In the past I probably would have let this discovery discourage me or give me an excuse to put it off for another day.  Instead I waited while Larry patched the tube and remounted the tire. (The husband comes to the rescue once again!) In less than an hour I was back on the bike and headed uphill! 

Here's the route I took:
Map of progress

The footpath, taken on the ride home.
What a God-Send!  See the rays from heaven?
It's actually a lot steeper than it looks.

The ride is about three and a half miles one way.  Most of the ride was pleasant and uneventful, even on the busy streets I traveled. For the most part, Kerrville drivers are courteous and thoughtful towards cyclists.

Some guy in a huge water truck drove past me on Barnett Street and whistled at me.  I don't think I've ever been whistled at in my life!  The random and unexpected event made me laugh.

In one of the neighborhoods I went through there was a chihuahua who thought he was the size of a timber wolf. He materialized out of nowhere, but I easily outran his short legs and razor-sharp teeth.

The biggest challenge was THE HILL.  There were two approaches, one on Leland Street that was a straight, vertical climb; and the other on Galbraith Street, a twisty, turny narrow road with blind spots.  Neither seemed like a good idea.

I went to the base of the hill on both streets, trying to figure the best approach up the rise, when I remembered a foot path a block from Galbraith Street that went from the end of Circle Street to the top of the hill on Galbraith.  I found the path and took it, thankful for a more gradual path up the hill.  It felt so good to reach the top of that hill!  I felt like I conquered Everest!

Pywacket the Cat, hiding under a chair.
Bad quality photo from my cellphone.
Anyway, I got to the friend's house, high on accomplishment, with a face as red as my tank top.

Pywacket the Cat was unimpressed.  The cat hates me at the moment because I had to give her some cat laxative a couple of days ago for hairballs. She currently hisses and hides every time I enter the house.  So I embraced the anticlimax, cleaned the catbox, fed "Lady P" and headed home.

Going home, back down the hill, was fun! Flying downhill gives me an exhilaration that reminds me childhood.  A fast, free ride down a hill that lifts the hair off the neck never fails to make my heart leap with joy.

Both the trip up the hill and the trip back home took 30 minutes.  The round-trip was a little under 7 miles, which is not the longest trip I've made so far, but it is my most challenging.  My average speed was seven miles an hour... slow and steady (and not very likely to win a race but better than I expected). 

My next goal is a Kerrville to Ingram trip.  It's going to take some time to build up to it, but after today I am feeling very encouraged.

Have a beautiful, amazing week!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tivy High School Seniors, 1935

Iris Chronis, the sister of Gene Lock (who was the original owner), gave me this wonderful photo today and I had to share. 

Tivy Seniors, 1935  (The same year the old Post Office building where I work was built)
You can click on the photo to view it at a larger size.  The handwriting on the back of this photo identifying everyone was really hard to read, so if I got someone wrong, please write me and let me know.

First Row: Marcia Jane Morris, Louis Fisher, Lucille Plumb, Ruben Zumwalt, Jean Leinweber, Cecil Londess, Moralee Jensen, Jimmie Yelvington, Laura Pelton, Frank Hatch.

Second Row: Sammie Marshall, Jonnie Stoetzner, Gene Lock, Evelyn Guthrie, Rudolph Radeleff, Doris Frances White, Doyle Nichols, Elsie Gammenthaler, Raymond Mickle, Julie Jackson

Third Row: Evelyn Littlefield, Norman Forehand, Mable Bernhard, John Spencer, Nellie Nye, Herbert Brown, Seraphina Castillo, Huling Mosty.

Fourth Row: Teddy Rothrock, Lois Butt, George “Jiggs” Leigh, Ruth Butt, Robert Smith, Edna Wolfmueller, Paxton Bollinger, Eloise Zumwalt, Spence Rogers, Melba McKay

Fifth Row: Juanita Childs, Ora Russell, Clarice Green, Ruth Smith, Vernon Sandel, Elizabeth Richards, Mildred Cotton, Juanita Long, Leona Stephens, Eloise Rutlege

Sixth Row: L.T. Davis, Jr., Rose Linstead, Imgene Merritt, Cecil Rawson, Hazel Sublett, Elizabeth Fowler, Margaret Grona, Charlotte Seeker, Geraldine Davis, J.D. Rose

One of the funny things I noticed about this photo is how it was produced.  Individual photos were pasted onto a board and then hung on a chicken wire fence to be photographed. That's a lot of work!  All we have to do is slap a bunch of images together in a program and it's ready to go.  Mr. Wheelus, who took the photo, had to get everything JUST RIGHT on that board before he snapped the photo.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More Sparkly Creations

I spent some time in my studio on Monday and here are the highlights:

Pearl and Turquoise Chip Necklace with handblown glass vessel.
I didn't like the way the glass on the vessel looked with the materials in the necklace
so I etched the vessel, giving the glass a misty appearance.  I wore it to work today and got a lot of compliments, which made my day!  I am debating on whether to keep this or sell it in the gift shop.

Bright green and deep purple perfume bottle.  This bottle was made for my friend Marsha Mefferd, an extremely talented artist. The colors of the vessel and the dots on the stopper were inspired by her artwork.  It is the first
perfume bottle I've made that I've been happy with. It stands about 3 inches tall from the top of the stopper to the bottom of the bottle.  It's a late birthday gift for Marsha .... she hasn't seen it yet.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Passion in Purple!

This is the latest vessel to come out of my studio.  The weather has finally cooled enough that working over a 1200 degree torch with a 947 degree kiln running within two feet of the work station isn't too daunting.

I am recovering from a nasty bug, so I only made three vessels this weekend.  Two in purple and one in teal.  (The teal will be posted soon).  The purple vessel above is a donation to a silent auction for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. I hope it brings them lots of big bids!

After I turned off the torch, I emerged from the studio to find out that I have friends in areas of Texas that are currently being threatened by wildfires.  I reflected briefly on how fire can be both a creative and destructive force and then I commenced to worrying about loved ones.

The east Texas neighborhood where I lived before moving back home to Kerrville was evacuated yesterday and  I have good friends in the Bastrop area who were also evacuated.  It is so difficult knowing that people I care about are in harm's way and that there's nothing I can do other than offer a safe place for them to shelter and spend time on my knees in prayer.  I guess that's where faith comes in - somewhere, in all of this mess God is in control.

Please pray for Texas and the end to this miserable drought and the destructive fires that rage across the state.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Favorite Photo

Kerr County Court House, Unknown Date
 Recently, while I was looking for an old photo of Camp Waltonia for a friend (which I was unable to locate) I came across this photo.  This image is one of the digital scans I made from the old Historical Commission collection of 35 mm slides. It is one of my  favorite "old photos" of Kerrville.  I've been meaning to write about this photo for several weeks so when I came across it again, I decided to get busy!

According to Charles Graham who wrote a paper titled "Kerr County Courthouse" for the University of Texas, Kerr County has had four courthouses.  The first courthouse was a log cabin, built in 1856 for $100. It was located about where Grimes Funeral Chapels now stands. A second court house was built in 1876 and the third in 1886. The fourth (and current) courthouse was built in 1926.  (It's always years that end in six!) 

I believe this court house to be the 1886 court house with the jail to the far left in the photograph.  An 1898 Sanborn map shows these buildings on the same piece of property as the current courthouse.  Below is a part of a (very cool) composite of downtown Kerrville put together by Aaron Yates.  It combines a satellite image of present-day Kerrville with the 1898 Sanborn map.  Thanks to both Aaron Yates and Joe Herring, Jr. for allowing me to borrow this image from their collections.

The little blue drawn buildings on the Court House Square
depict the location of the 1886 court house and jail

Why do I like the old courthouse photo?  I like it because it gives a brief glimpse into life in Kerr County in the late 1800s.  It tells me that the Kerrville I know and love is very different from the Kerrville my great-grandparents knew.  It is gritty and unpolished.

While the grass on the courthouse lawn, surrounded by a wrought-iron fence, appears to be clipped, the landscaping is informal. There's a wooden bench visible on the court house lawn and lots of scrubby little trees. Could one of these scrubby trees be the stately cypress that stands proudly at the southeast corner of the courthouse square today?

A caliche road passes the front of the building, littered with "horse debris." The roadside is overgrown and scraggly-looking with weeds.  There's also a hitch for "horse parking" and a gravel sidewalk.  The sturdy rock building is topped with ornamental wrought iron and finials.

If you really study the photo you notice some other things.  There is a man walking on the lawn and just behind him, immediately to the left of the courthouse, is a small wooden structure that looks like it may be an outhouse.  Also on the left of the building are two utility poles, short by today's standards, with glass insulators. 

The windows on the building are set up to open at both the top and the bottom, to allow the summer breezes to cool the building.  The door is open, giving us a small peek at the interior of the courthouse. You can just make out dark wainscoting on the walls and a stairway to the left of the door. 

Nobody cleaned the street or tidied up the building before taking this photo.  It showed the building - just as it was - on that particular day in history. Not even the lone man in the photo is posing for the photo. 

The County was only about 30-40 years old at the time of the photo and it shows a Kerrville that offered few frills or luxuries to its residents. I often wonder what it would be like to travel in time to see Kerrville in its early days. I get a few clues from photos like these.  I also wonder what the early settlers, like Joshua Brown, would think of their town if they could see what it looks like today.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Connecting to Roots Through Cycling

Aunt Anna Belle's Bike with a kitten on the saddle, around 1917-20
Jefferson Street, Kerrville (The house across the street is where the Presbyterian Church now stands.)
 With the morning commute to and from work figured out and getting easier each day, I am now biking to work more than I am driving. The morning rides are lovely and something I look forward to each day. The hotter evening rides are more tolerable, too. I actually pined for Nora (my bike) the morning I overslept and had to drive to the office.

I avoid the busier streets and travel residential streets on my bike commutes for two reasons: 1.  It keeps me out of the way of the morning drivers who are in a hurry and 2. I observe life in Kerrville from a different perspective.  There are things you miss when you drive by in a car:  A lady in a big, floppy hat tending her garden; a couple enjoying coffee and a cool morning on the front porch; cats lounging under a shade tree, an exotic looking crane soaking it's feet in Quinlan Creek; ravens chasing a redtailed hawk across the sky; neighbors visiting over a fence; the progress of a house remodeling; etc.  An added bonus is the slower pace gives me a chance to study the older houses along the route (I love looking at old buildings and wondering about their history).

Most of my route takes me down Jefferson Street, past where my grandparents' home once stood.  The beautiful, rambling house was demolished (or moved off site) in the early 80s and replaced by a squatty, pebble-covered office building. Many of the trees that used to dapple the house with cooling shade still remain on the property.  Whenever I pass this spot on Jefferson Street, I pay mental homage to my family and am grateful my ancestors settled in Kerr County and that my mom brought us back here when we were kids.  (I really do love this part of the world.)

Lately I've been revisiting old family albums. I go through them from time to time as part of my genealogy and local history work. Even though I've been through the old images a thousand times, I notice something new or discover an unexpected relevance each time I look at them. The latest batch of photos that grabbed my attention are pictures of my relatives with bikes at 829 Jefferson Street, Kerrville, Texas (the former site of my grandparents' home).

Unknown boy, Lucile McCoy, Ruth McCoy and Anna Belle Council
(Notice the bikes and the camera!)
Unknown Boy and Anna Belle with Bikes
Anna Belle and cat with bike

My mom and grandfather the day my mom got her first bike - a bright blue Schwinn
Taken about 1946.  She looks so happy and proud of her new bike!
I spent most of my youth in mid-western towns in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois.  My dad was in advertising and my experience is that men in that profession move around the country like the military.  My elementary and jr. high school years were spent in towns where I had no sense of belonging or roots. (Being raised by southern parents with southern manners and values also makes you a bit of an oddity in the northern states.) Relatives were people who lived far away and showered us with love when we'd visit on summer breaks and the occasional Christmas.

I am not saying I had an unhappy childhood or that I was lacking anything important developmentally. My nomadic childhood gave me some wonderful experiences (and friends) and gave me a unique appreciation for this town and things that others may take for granted.

After my mom brought us back to the Texas Hill Country during my high school years I began to realize a sense of belonging and personal history that I never had before.  It started when I discovered some of the kids in my classes were children of people my mom went to school with!  That might not be a big deal to many people, but it was a huge deal for me.

The latest thing to give me that sense of being connected to Kerrville was finding these photos.  I am riding my bike on a street where relatives as far back as 1917 have ridden their bikes! I recently learned that my Aunt Debbie also rode her bike on this same street in Kerrville during the '60s and '70s when she'd come down from San Antonio for a visit. Pretty cool!

Those are my musings on this June morning. I am feeling happy and blessed these days and know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. 

As an aside: I am enjoying this lifestlye change so much that I am considering trips to the grocery store on my bike!

Have a beautiful week!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bicycle Fever

Nora in the galleries after our first trip to work
Commuting to work by bike is a lot easier than I thought it would be. My first commute on Friday was a breeze. The morning trip into work lifted my spirits and left me with a sense of empowerment. I met one other cyclist on the way, who seemed surprised to see me. (Kerrville is not known as a cycling town.) The ride home was hot (100+ degree heat) but I made it home in less than 15 minutes and even made it up the hill on East Main without having to get off and walk (although I could have walked it faster).

Day two gave me another beautiful morning commute. The ride home, however, was another story. Saturday was crazy-busy at work. One of the biggest shows of the year, as well as the other three exhibits in the gallery, had its opening reception and it was an exhausting, high-energy day. After the day was over, I changed from my fancy reception clothes into shorts and a tank top and rose to the challenge. The weather was blazing hot! 106 degrees!!

I decided to go around the hill on Main Street and made a tactical error that put me on course to face an even bigger hill. Crap!! I pedaled hard to gain momentum before the hill and made it halfway up before I had to get off and walk Nora to the top. Honestly, I thought I was going to die from heat stroke!! Luckily, I had some chilled water in my basket, rested for about a minute and gulped it down before hopping back on the saddle and coasting downhill the rest of the way home. (Fortunately, what goes up, must come down!) I collapsed in a heap of sweat and quivering muscles when I got home.

After my third commute, I think I finally have the right route home figured out. The morning ride was as beautiful as ever: Cool morning breezes, waving hello to people I see along the way, and considerate Kerrville motorists. On the way home I found a route south of the hill that gives me a gradual climb around the Main Street incline that only takes me a block out of the way. I was home in about 10 minutes. Eventually my legs will be strong enough to conquer the hill, but right now I'd rather take it easy.

All in all, I am very proud of myself for what I've accomplished in a fairly short time. In the process I've become a cycle enthusiast (I did not need another hobby, but am embracing this new interest all the same). I am already planning my next bike restoration and frequently read bicycle blogs and classic bike listings on Craigslist and Ebay.

My husband, who also loved biking when he was younger and commuted by bike regularly when he lived in Japan, has caught the fever and we found him a beautiful 1972 Raleigh Sport that only needs a new saddle and tires before its ready to ride.
Nora and Ivy (my next project) welcome Norman Clegg to the herd.
When I asked my husband what he was going to name his bike, he said: "I don't name machines." So I am referring to this proper English bike as Norman Clegg (with Larry's blessing - he humors me). This beautiful, dignified bike demands both a first and last name with British roots. After we brought the bike home, I spent a long time studying the amazing artistry that was put into building Norman's steel lugged frame.

For those who are wondering, my bike names are character names from a British comedy that my husband and I both enjoy (bikes like Larry's are often part of the story line on the show).  The show is "Last of the Summer Wine" and it was the longest-running sitcom in history.  The show ran from 1973-2010 and is a refreshing, upbeat alternative to what the media in the US considers "entertainment."

Clegg, Compo and Blamire from
Last of the Summer Wine

Tires and tubes have been ordered for Norman Clegg and Larry and I are hoping to enjoy a ride together soon.

One of the things I enjoy most about this new interest in biking is that it has given Larry and I more together time. In the past, I'd get home after work and do something by myself while he worked out in either the woodworking or metal shop until dinner time. Now when I come home from work, we visit in the shop a bit, discuss bikes or I change into my scruffy clothes and we work together on a project. It has been a lot of fun.

Until next time.....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nora is Ready to Go!!

Nora in all her renewed splendor!

Well, the bearings have been repacked, there's new tires, handlebars, chain and wheels, and there's a new coat of paint!  This week Larry and I finished work on my beautiful bicycle! 

I hopped on for my first ride the other night and was amazed at how much easier she was to pedal and how comfortable the ride is with the new handlebars (those big, swooping handles keep me in an upright position).  I still need to replace the seat and plan to eventually replace the whitewalls with cream-colored Schwalbe tires,  but for now what I have on the bike will work.

I rode a couple of miles the other night (and could have gone a lot farther) after work so I think I am ready to tackle the morning commute!  Depending on weather and how well I budget my time in the morning, I may be biking to work tomorrow!!

I had so much fun working on this bike!  Working on old bikes is a hobby my husband and I are both becoming enthusiastic about and we're spending more (fun) time together as a result.  I am now eyeing a 1950s frame a friend recently gave me and considering converting it into a three speed commuter bike. 

More updates soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Nora Gets a Makeover!

May is National Bicycle Month. It's funny that I returned to my love of bicycles during a month dedicated to promoting cycling!  Who even knew there was such a month!!

has been a little over two weeks since I bought my bicycle.  I had no idea what I was getting into or the journey this bike would take me on (aside from the little rides around the neighborhood).

Here is a photo of my bike day she came home with me:

My bicycle, Nora, the day I purchased her.
Yes, I named my bike Nora..... long story.
She was a bit rough looking. There was what appeared to be minor rust on the fenders and wheels, the paint job was clumsy and the tires looked to be original (and by some miracle still held air!).  Her frame was sound, solid American steel and the shape and profile were exactly what I was looking for. The man who sold the bike said she was a 1954 Sears bike.

After a week of riding Nora around the neighborhood I decided to shine up the chrome on her fenders and wheels.  The wheel I polished came out pretty good, but the fenders were a nightmare.  What I thought was a weird patina dulling the chrome turned out to be chrome-colored spray paint.  As I polished the fenders they turned from dull metallic to a rusty, pitted mess! 

That's when I decided to give Nora a makeover, including a new paint job, fenders, wheels, etc.  While taking stock of needed replacements, I got curious about a few features I noticed on the frame, like the little fins at the back, the funky shape of the luggage rack and the strange bracket beneath the handle bars.

So I went online and did some research and disovered that my bike is actually a 1963 Sears Spaceliner.  Here is what she looked like in her glory days, very space-agey:

1963 Sears Spaceliner.  I think the light kit inspired the design of
the Starship Enterprise.
So the makeover has begun!  A friend of mine heard I was restoring an old bike and she sent over her old mid-50s Montgomery Ward frame as a parts bike.  I liked the luggage rack on that bike better than the funky Spaceliner rack, so I switched them out. This weekend I sanded all the frame pieces, luggage rack and chain guard.  After the sanding was finished the parts were painted a shiny black.  (Black is a very forgiving color if you goof up.) 
Nora, all sanded and ready for painting.
Fins on the frame!

My husband inspected the bearings on the bottom bracket and headset.  He said they needed to be repacked, so he took care of that detail and I can't believe what a difference a bit of grease has made!  Very smooth!!  I had no idea how stiff the headset was until I tried it out after the bearings got the new grease!

Bracket for headlight assembly.
I've ordered most of my parts from online sources, but recently discovered a local bicycle shop that I'd like to support.  When I went over there to buy a chain breaker and a few other little items I asked about a specialty tire I'd like to buy and either they're not willing to order something that's not on the show floor or he didn't think I was a serious enough customer to be helpful.  We'll see how that relationship turns out. 

Then again, we may not need the local shop.  My husband went out in the garage the other night and welded together a bicycle stand so that we can elevate Nora to eye level when we need to work on her.

Today he built a truing stand for mounting tires and adjusting spokes.  Have I mentioned how amazing my husband is?  That man knows lots of stuff and can build and fix ANYTHING!!

Nora's Fork!
No wrinkles on these stockings!
The frame looks awesome in its new paint, but I am going to save those photos for the grand unveiling.  The rest of the parts we're waiting on will arrive in the next day or two.  So, until then, I will leave you with a teaser - a closeup of the newly painted fork.  I love the quirky design element on this part of the bike.  I am thinking about highlighting  the edges with a white enamel.... but am holding off on artsy accents until I see the bike put  back together with all her new components.

While this was an unexpected project and I am itching to get back on the bike and ride, there's a lot of enjoyment in the makeover.  I'm getting a lot of satisfaction in uncovering the hidden beauty in this wonderful old bike.



Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Remembered Love: The Bicycle

I work in an art center that depends a great deal on the help of volunteers.  The average age of my volunteers is 80 and I am in awe of these folks, not just because they give joyfully of their time.  A lot of these men and women are still very active and in great shape.

Recently, a 94 year old volunteer offered to unplug a lamp I was moving out of the gift shop.  The lamp was plugged in under a table and as I was objecting/worrying about this gentleman getting down on the floor to reach the plug (and not being able to get back up), he quickly squatted down on all fours, stretched under the table and unplugged the lamp.  Then he sprang back to his feet!! My jaw dropped!

At 43 my joints are stiff, I'm carrying around several pounds of excess weight and there is no way I could get up from the floor as quickly as a volunteer who is more than twice my age.  A lot of my volunteers, from age 70 and up, move with a lot more grace and agility than I do and realizing this has convicted me.  If I want to be spry and active when I get to be their age I have to get serious about my health and lifestyle. 

So I've been considering ways to get back into shape.  With the exception of my high school years when I got into doing "Jazzercise" two times a day (Yes, I said Jazzercise. Feel free to snicker. The 80s were an age of great cheese.) and starved myself into a size 6, I've never been one to exercise for the sake of excercising. Going to a gym or an excercise class has never held great appeal to me.... so what kind of excercise would keep me engaged and interested long enough to get me back in shape?

One morning as I got into my car to drive to work and it hit me:  Why am I firing up all this metal and burning expensive gas to drive 1.18 miles to work?  If I walked, it would take me about 20 minutes to get to work and if I biked the distance, I'd be there in about 10 minutes (maybe less).  The roads between home and work are fairly flat and there's only one busy road I'd have to cross.

I haven't been on a bicycle in more than 20 years. Would I even be able to ride a bike now?

When I was a kid, I spent several hours each day on a bicycle.  I got my first bike when I was about 6: A baby blue Schwinn Bantam. 
1970s Schwinn Bantam
I rode that bike all over the neighborhood: To school, around the block, to the park, etc.  When I was on my bike I was my own person: All that existed was me, my bike and the wind in my hair. I was in complete control of my destiny when I was on my bike. Riding that bike was the closest thing to flying. Oh the adventures I had while on my Schwinn!

Eventually, I outgrew the Bantam, it was converted to a boy's bike and passed down to my brothers. That bike was a part of the family for what seemed like forever and I am surprised I couldn't find a photo of my old friend anywhere.  My next bike was a 1950s 3 speed Schwinn Free Spirit (I wish I still had this bike, it was a sweet looking bike) and then in the summer of 1976, at the age of 9, I got my first "grown up" bike.  It was a bright orange 10-speed Schwinn Varsity.

The bike was too tall for me - I couldn't touch the ground when I was on the seat - but that didn't keep me from leaping on the seat from the pedals and soaring along on the pavement.  I was constantly getting my bell bottoms caught in the chain of the bike, causing my wooden-soled Dr. Scholls to go flying and toppling me over, but I loved that bike. I dreamt of one day, with my "grown up" bike going on a biking and camping trip with my dad. Dad had this really cool 12-speed travel bike with all sorts of neat accessories.  He would pack up his bike and ride off and on long "camping" trips.  I thought those trips sounded like a lot of fun.  What's better than enjoying the great outdoors while cruising on your bicycle?
Lanza on her "grown up" bike with a look of determination!
The next bike I had was the travel bike my dad left behind when he moved out. I admired that bike when my dad had it for all of it's cool accessories and ability to handle rugged terrain. That bike was also too big for me when I started riding it, but I was never one to shy away from a bicicular challenge. I literally rode the tires off that bike. One day, as I was riding, bolts started flying off and the thing crumbled into a heap of tangled metal and teenager.

I eventually comandeered my mom's fancy Japanese racing bike.  I took that bike on roads all over the Texas Hill Country when I was a teenager.  On weekends my favorite ride was Highway 27 between Ingram and Mountain Home. My 43 year old self marvels that I ever was able to accomplish such a thing!  Back then, I had youth, an exceptional physique created by Jazzercise and cycling, and a cute guy working at the Mohair Warehouse along the route to motivate me.  After I left for college I gradually gave up my bike rides for other endeavors.
Lanza and her dad's travel bike.
A 12 year old conquers a bike purchased for a 6'4" man!

Through all of those years of riding bikes, even after getting a driver's license and purchasing a car, bike riding never lost its magic.  I always had that light-hearted sense of flying when I was on a bike.  So when I started thinking seriously about getting some exercise and saving gallons of gas, it seemed natural to revisit my old love of cycling.

I've been thinking it over for some time and decided to go low-tech.  An old, sturdy single-speed bicycle would give me a better work out for the 1.18 mile journey to work, would be easy to maintain and is a small investment should this idea turn out to be a bad one.  Besides, the history geek in me loves the look of classic bicycles.  Last night I purchased (for a lot less than a brand-new bike) this beauty:

The bike is a 1950s model made by Sears.  The lines of the bike remind me a lot of the Bantam that I had when I was little (the basket is identical) and I fell in love with it at first sight.  It needs a lot of cosmetic work, but the bike itself is sound.

Immediately after unloading it at home, I hopped on for a ride.  It's true what they say: You never forget how to ride a bike.  After a few initial wobbles I was on my way!  I took this bike around the block and as I progressed with each pedal, there it was:  The sense of flying!
I'm not going to lie, I was winded from a spin around the block and my legs felt like Jello, but the joy of riding is still there!  I was back on the bike this morning and took a slightly longer route than I did yesterday.  It will take me some time to get to the point where I can ride to work, but I have no doubt that I will be riding like a pro (and not winded so quickly) in the very near future!

So Kerrville commuters beware:  There's a new cyclist in town!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Practice, practice, practice!!

A local organization approached me about making a piece of jewelry for their silent auction fundraiser later this month.  I was flattered and honored to be asked to make a contribution.  This is the first time since I started working in glass that someone actually requested my work!

This piece was a struggle and it took me a lot longer than it should have to make it.  First, I had these really cool green pearls and turquoise-like stones I wanted to use but every glass I tried didn't seem to be a good match.  I finally settled on an Italian pale green glass that I had bought to make cabinet knobs (I have a ton of the stuff).

The next problem was shock.....  glass shock.  I've been away from the torch too long and lost my rhythm so when I'd go to shaping handles, the lower part of the vessel would crack from thermal shock.  (Working with glass is a balancing act - you have to keep the heat uniform throughout your work, especially on bigger pieces.  When a section of glass cools too quickly you end up with a nasty crack through your beautiful work.)  After several attempts and a lot of wasted glass I finally had a complete, stress-free vessel.

The final problem is something I've been working to solve since I decided to make my own glass stoppers instead of using corks.  The little glass stoppers have been falling out too easily.  I've tried etching the part of the stopper that goes into the vessel, and that worked a little bit, but it was not a great solution.  On the last vessel I made I put rubber cement around the stopper where it comes in contact with the vessel because a lot of glass artists had suggested that solution.  This is not an attractive solution and the cement will eventually wear off so I wasn't happy with that solution, either.

Last night I got to playing on the torch and made a really long stopper, one that reaches almost to the bottom of the vessel.  When the vessel and stopper came out of the kiln I realized I had solved my problem.... with simple gravity.  The weight of the longer stopper is enough to keep it from falling out of the vessel!  I should have figured that out before!!

Lessons learned: 
  1. Don't sweat the small stuff.  You can drive yourself crazy looking for minutia, like the EXACT color match and you're probably the only person who notices the slight imperfections.
  2. If you really want to be good at what you do: Practice, practice, practice.  It doesn't matter how may vessels (or balloon animals) you make over a life time, you loose ground when you spend a substantial amout of time away from the torch.  Skills do get rusty!
  3. Have fun and play with your art!  If it becomes a chore or a quest for perfection it ceases to be fun.  Besides, when you take time to goof off and try something new and different, you might accidentally stumble onto the solution to a problem that's really been bugging you!
God bless,

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Lesson Comes Home to Roost!

I've been doing a lot of "deep, spiritual reading."  You know, the kind of stuff that challenges you to look at life and yourself differently.  The book I am currently reading includes this parable by Coelho:

Once upon a time there was an inn called The Silver Star. The innkeeper was unable to make both ends meet even though he did his very best to draw customers by making the inn comfortable, the service cordial and the prices reasonable. So in despair he consulted a Sage.

After listening to his tale of woe the Sage said, “It is very simple. You must change the name of your inn.”
 “Impossible!” said the innkeeper. “It has been The Silver Star for generations and is well known all over the country.”
 “No,” said the Sage firmly, “You must now call it The Five Bells and have a row of six bells hanging at the entrance.”

“Six bells? But that’s absurd. What good would that do?”

“Give it a try and see,” said the Sage with a smile.

Well, the innkeeper gave it a try. And this is what he saw. Every traveler who passed by the inn walked in to point out the mistake, each one believing that no one else had noticed it. Once inside, they were impressed by the cordiality of the service and stayed on to refresh themselves, thereby providing the innkeeper with the fortune that he had been seeking in vain for so long.

The parable really hit home for me.  One of the gripes I've had about my job is that I seem to have an abundance of well-meaning volunteers and visitors who seem to enjoy pointing out mistakes made around the center - real and imagined.  I know these folks are not being malicious and think they're a help to me, but I haven't always been gracious in receiving the criticism.

Today, I had a volunteer who went through every copy of a particular publication in our gift shop to make sure they had all been corrected. (She had pointed out a mistake when the publication was unveiled last month.)  Sure enough, she found a handful of copies that hadn't been fixed....  and I didn't handle the situation as well as I should have.  Now, an hour after the volunteer has left, I am not too proud of myself. I have been reminded of the parable I had read earlier in the week.

As the parable above illustrates, people LOVE to point out the mistakes of others.  It's human nature.  I should be seeing the "mistake finders" in my life as blessings in disguise instead of letting my hard-headed ego see them as a pain in the rear end. These folks keep me humble and in their own way are helping me to do better in my job.

Who knows?  At some point I may even find a way to use these experiences to the advantage of the center, just as the inn keeper in the fable did!

My vow to myself from here on out is to be patient and loving with the mistake finders, and to show appreciation when they take the time to help me out.