Talking Walls

Do you remember the Television show, If Walls Could Talk? I loved to watch them tell stories about homes past. This section is about anyone who lived or worked in these old buildings who want to share bits of history. If you have a story to add please let us know. We hope this section continues to build and reveal a bit more to remember and honor.

433 Water Street/ 415 Clay Street

First I want to thank Joe Herring. Joe has a vast following of people who want to know about the history of our area. I asked him for help in May of 2011 and he sent out a request for stories on his blog. That day Belinda responded and she has been watching the project ever since. For this and everything you do to share your knowledge with all of us, Thank you Joe!

Belinda Dowd Fleming
My Life History in a Nutshell

My childhood was very happy and I only have good memories of living in the apartments at 433 Water Street. I would walk down the street to the Rialto. My memory is of blue velvet seats...and later to the Arcadia after it was remodeled and their seats were red. I was in the earlier Arcadia once to hear a country band...Bob Wills? and in the lobby in a three sided windowed display was a stuffed two headed angora kid goat. I still remember that.

Also walking a few blocks to the public swimming pool where I can still smell the chlorine.

Grandfather M O Jones purchased the property at 433 Water St. in approximately 1940. I have misplaced the papers concerning this. I believe this property to have been built just after the turn of the century.

M O Jones had moved from Alabama to Kerrville in the late thirties. Kerrville was known as The Healthiest Climate in the United States. My grandfather was suffering from heart problems. He also purchased the house two doors down (Vann residence in between). He and my grandmother lived in this house. I don't remember him too well as he and my grandmother left Kerrville in about 1943. He died in 1945. However, he owned several pieces of property in Kerrville. In my young adulthood any time I saw Judge A. P. Allison he would mention that he did my grandfather's legal work. He knew him better than I did.

The apartments were known for years as the Morris Apartments. A Mr. Morris owned them who also ran or owned the St Charles Hotel. I can't remember from whom my grandfather purchased the property. Under the first 4 apartments near the street there was a large dirt cellar. One could enter it from Apt 3A or from outside from the back driveway. In the cellar were signs and mementos of St Charles Hotel. I still have the registration book from 1927.

In the early days, we heated several of the apartments with an oil furnace located in the cellar. The units had radiators in them that heated with steam.

My mother Queen Jones Dowd brought her family (Mother was recently divorced, Tom was 12, Pat was 9 and I was 3) to Kerrville from Kinzua PA in about 1941. M O Jones deeded the 433 Water St apartments to Queen and two of her sisters. Queen purchased her sister's share in the early 1950's.

At the time Queen moved to Kerrville there were 8 apartments. 5 on the upper part of the property. A house, a garage apartment plus a small lower efficiency nearer the river.

Later Queen Dowd sold the lower part of the property (house, garage apartment upstairs and downstairs efficiency to the Schillings (?) who had rented the house for several years. This house set on a high bluff above the Guadalupe River. I was in college when my mother sold this part. The Schillings sold all of their purchase at a later date to the Butt Holdsworth Library people. All of this property was torn down and became a garden parking area for the library.

Living in the apartments provided me with a built in large family. Some families lived there for years. Many young couples lived in the apartments after their marriage and before they bought a house. One couple who comes to mind is Jack and Ellen Peterson. Ellen was a niece to Admiral Nimitz. Jack was co owner of the American Creamery Company as I remember. The creamery sold little cups of ice cream (in addition to milk) and on the inside cardboard top was a photo of a movie star.

My favorite all time renters were Mr. and Mrs. O P Ramsey. They lived in apartment number two for at least 15 years. They later bought a house in Kerrville. Sadly they died in a car accident at Bruno's Curve coming home from San Antonio. Mrs. Ramsey (and I have no idea of her first name) was an invalid. They furnished their apartment in beautiful oriental carpets and antiques. I visited Mrs. Ramsay frequently as a young child. She would put a Caruso 78 rpm on her record player for me. Today I wonder how big of a pest I was.

At the time we moved there we lived in the last apartment we called number 4. Nearer the street were number 3A, 3, 2 and 1. After my sister Pat was killed in a car wreck (in Mississippi visiting our grandmother. Pat was 15), we moved into apartment number 3. My brother Tom at that time joined the Air Force.

My mother lived in this apartment from 1948 until her death in 1978. This apartment had a large massive fireplace said to have been designed by Mrs. Capt Schreiner. Each rock was split and laid across from the other throughout the large fireplace. I never knew for sure where Mother got this information. She also told me that Mrs. Schreiner had a big hand in designing the property...and that the first three apartments had earlier held a bowling alley. The large cement slab out front was originally tennis courts. I know this is correct as there were wire nets there for years. My mother thought the property had been built for Schreiner Institute. I don't know for sure.

The large cement area provided us children with a great place to roller skate. There were large oak trees on the property to have a place to climb. Earlier there was a row of garages and store rooms that adjoined the Manny's property. (Later the library)

As a teenager, when we had an empty apartment, I would have a slumber party in it. A simpler time.

By the time my mother passed and left the property to me the 4 apartments she rented for income were occupied by older people who had lived there for a long length of time. Then suddenly, they all seemed to pass away themselves or moved to rest homes.

I sold the property in 1980.

After her first letter above, I had more questions for Belinda, some answers are below.

Mother did not work for Brehmer's Jewelers. I remember the Brehmers and they did have a little girl younger than me. Mother had a friend who worked there that I can not remember the name...imagine that. Mother worked only about 10 years in her life. But she did buy a lot of stuff from the Brehmers as she loved dishes and jewelry. And mother didn't own a car. One time she decided to buy one and get her license again...but the Driver's License man "made her nervous" so she failed the test. ha ha. She was pretty healthy as she walked everywhere...and in the olden days everything was pretty near us.

When I was 12 she went to work at Pampell's drug store behind the cash register. After a short time there she then worked at Louise Dress Shop for a year or so. And then she worked for Rowland's Insurance and then Bob Schmerbeck (sp) Insurance. She quit when I was 22.

Mrs. Breen the librarian lived in (apartment) number one for years. The library was in the Masonic Building at first...and then they moved it down the street where a Holy Roller Church had been. In fact Mrs. Breen was still living there when mother passed away but she soon had to go to the nursing home.

Number two in the later years was home to a prim and proper older lady named Mrs. Poole... and she was the manager of Schreiner's Lady's Wear. She looked even in those days like a character out of Sex and the City...the Vogue magazine department. I was very intimidated by her.

Old man J. L. Pampell lived across the street from us on Main St on the corner of Main and Quinlan. He walked to Pampell's each morning and I used to run out and ask him for a nickel.

Some of my friends are still alive and in Kerrville. I am 72. They are Judy Wunsch of Ingram, Carol Hemenover of Kerrville, Vivian Baldwin Rogers of Kerrville...and all from the class of 1957.

I will send you some more information and photos as I think of it. Thanks so much...the apartments look great. I am glad you are an artist. I am an artist as well. I love to sketch people and paint in acrylic.

--Belinda Dowd Fleming

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Vera Lee wanted us to know about the Ramsey's. Orin and Jeanette, who lived many years in the middle apartment, second one in from Water Street. They lived there until they were both killed in a car accident November 1954 and she wanted them remembered in our stories.

[Editor's Note: Belinda Fleming had this to add later about the Ramsey's]

As a little girl I was madly in love with Mr. Ramsey....and often asked Mother why she didn't marry him...She would grin and say "He is already married". He was a very nice person and smiled a lot. He waited on his wife hand and foot.

Mrs. Ramsey sat by the window in the sunlight most of the day in her bedroom. Their apt was furnished beautifully...full of Oriental rugs and antiques...and she did love to play me Caruso's record singing Pagliacci the Opera about the sad clown. We would both get teary eyed just listening to it.

Pictured at left, Girl scouts inside Apartment 3 (now the Funky Frog Suite C) - Queen Dowd in the dotted dress, Dell Ramsay standing right. The girls are first row seated: Betty Tucker, Cathy Ramsay, someone's little sister, Nancy Sanders (her father had a second hand store over on Main St near where Hastings is today) Belinda, Judy (Maxwel) Wunsch, and? Standing in front of Queen is?, kneeling on second row is Linda Wilson, Mary Duane Van Hoozer, Patricia Ridgeway and ?

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by Donna Harris (July 6, 2011)

Hi Linda, I am Teak Elmore's asst. and I have also been Dale B. Elmore's bookkeeper for 23 years. Dale rented suite E at 433 Water Street beginning in May of 1990 at a rate of $425.00 per month. Because of health issues he moved out in 2010. Dale is a Real Estate Broker and conducted his business under the name of Warrior North Fork Investments out of that office. He and his wife Marsha own Camp Waldemar for Girls in Hunt, Texas. The office next door was occupied by Caryn Talirico with her business of A Tisket A Tasket gift baskets. I do not know how long she was at that office. I do not know of any particular occurrences that took place but I do know that plenty of conversations were held at the little table under the big tree. The many squirrels that played in that tree were oftentimes very comical. I am sad that the tree had to be cut down. Anyway I hope this helps with your history of the building and thank you for taking the time to do this. Donna Harris

Thank God today for blessings already headed your way!

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July 12 & 13, 2011 - Re: James Spicer

James Spicer is my grandfather. He was busy at the time acquiring ranch land and attending to his new career as a rancher. I cannot dispute his one time ownership of the property. Grandpa Spicer was a good friend of Julius Real (Captain Schreiner's brother in law) so this may have been a way for the Dieterts (more kinship) to have their store without the Captain being involved. In short Grandpa Spicer may well have had the building built even though he was busy building his new home and establishing the ranch at the same time. Enclosed are some photos as well as the obituaries of my Grandparents. (see the Spicer Family link on the home page) Note from them, the friendship and association with the Schreiner and Reals. This leads me to believe that Grandpa Spicer was somehow a "go between" the Schreiners and the Dieterts. From this, I conclude that the building was actually for the Dieterts. Frankly, his ownership of this property was a surprise to all of us. He was acquiring land around the ranch during this same time and starting with the original 320 acres in 1879 and eventually owning 10 times that, all acquired during this same time period. As for the $1116.65 note, (Volume X page 549 Kerr Courthouse Deeds September 12, 1905) it was probably T.F.W. and Edward buying E.E. Dieterts 1/3 interest which would have placed a value of 43,350 for the property and maybe the business. Interesting...

I recall Queen Dowd and was friends with daughter Pat who I recall died around 1950. Belinda was younger. Strangely enough, my older brother lived in one of the apartments when he first married knowing nothing about his grandfather once owning the property. My mother never mentioned it to any of us although she did point out an area where Grandma Spicer and the two older kids lived in town while the home at the ranch was built. I have copies of both Spicers' obituaries should you be interested. They are quite extensive, were front page at the time and make no mention of his ever having been a merchant, only an artist, rancher and Justice of the Peace. It appears to me that proper naming would include the Dieterts (and so we did!).

John M. Mosty

The two paintings above were made by James Spicer of Turtle Creek on his ranch. These paintings were done sometime before 1900 and may be the only two paintings left that he did in and of Kerr County. Most of his paintings were not saved and were allowed to literally disintegrate. John continues the tradition of art in his family with fine woodworking in marquetry and scroll art.

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Gus Du Menil

Gus Du Menil owned Hill Country Lumber since 1958 and had managed it before then. An article in Building Material Retailer, March 1986 recognized his as one of only four Lumberyards operated over 100 years in the state of Texas. His made it 104 years and he did not want to see it torn down. As we renovated the Depot next door in 2004 we got to know Gus. When he knew we did not want to tear it down he sold it to us in 2007. He and his daughter Debbie have helped us every way they could. They put together this history below.

Just as six flags have flown over the state of Texas, the "Old Lumber Yard", while operating as a lumber company, had six ownership "flags" wave from its signage. Established in 1888, the yard began its historical march through time as F.J. Beitel lumber company and opened its doors the same year the railroad came to Kerrville. Years later, Ally Beitel took ownership of the "old house" as it was called in early years, and he eventually sold out to Emile Saenger. He renamed the firm E.E. Saenger Lumber Yard. In 1947, some 59 years after opening its doors, the yard was sold once again; this time to Clyde Parker, who changed the name to Parker Schreiner Lumber Company. In 1958 Kenneth B. Moore purchased the company. He changed the name to Simms Moore Lumber Company. Finally in 1965, Gus Du Menil purchased the yard and changed its name for the last time as an operating lumber company to Hill Country Lumber & Hardware Company, Inc. In 1992, after 104 years, the "Old House" closed its doors as a lumber yard, thereby ending its historical journey as one of Kerrville's oldest businesses and one of the state's oldest continuously operating lumber yards.

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Chico worked at the lumberyard for many years as he and his wife raised their family in Kerrville. When we started working on the lumberyard he started coming every day to help, first clearing out what was left from the vendors at Peddlers Square and then hired to help us see the project through. Even his sons worked to help. We hope to post his story soon.