Weihnachtsmarkt opens this Friday at the Civic Center

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

You have to admit that in South Texas it’s sometimes hard to get in the Christmas spirit. Where is the snow and the one-horse open sleigh, ho, ho, ho? The Sophienburg Museum and Archives tries its best to create the Christmas atmosphere in the Civic Center during its fund-raising Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).

Every year for the last 25 years, the decorating committee would strive to decorate with something a little bit different and this year they hit the jackpot. Both of the halls will be decorated as usual, but look at the small ballroom stage! Donna and Cody Debner and Beverly and Clark Wigley came up with the idea for decorating the stage behind Sophie’s Café with something that they knew a great deal about. They would create a miniature Neuremburg Christkindlesmarkt.

The Debners and the Wigleys met in Germany in 1977 when both husbands were in the Air Force. The two couples traveled together in the early 2000s and Christmas markets were their favorite destination, particularly in Neuremburg. Christmas markets go way back in Germany and the Neuremburg Market started in 1628. All kinds of craftsmen brought their goods to the market to sell and over the years the market moved to various places. In 1933 it moved to the Main Market Square in the town.

During WWII there was no market held in Neuremburg. It was one of the most bombed- out areas in Germany, but after the war in 1948, the custom was revived and held in the destroyed Old Town among the ruins. Even today, each vendor creates a small area with a red and white striped awning over it. The red and white awnings are actually the colors of the flag of the city of Neuremburg.

The stage at the Civic Center will be adorned with large examples of German Folk Art called Schwibbögen. Perhaps you have seen these arches and didn’t know what they were. Here’s the explanation:

In the Erzgebirge Mountains (Ore Mountains), on the border with Czechoslovakia, is an area of silver and iron mines. A long-standing tradition of that area is construction of small arches to put in windows of the homes. These arches were made of iron and contained seven candles across the arch. The tradition of these objects in the windows was to welcome home the miners at Christmas. The light of the candles represented the only time that work stopped for the miners and so it was a happy time.

As the miners made their way through the snow, they were welcomed home by these candle-lit arches. During Christmas, large Schwibbögen are set up in churches and public buildings. They are decorated with many scenes such as the Nativity, family, hunters, houses and German scenery. For many years the Schwibbögen were hand carved of a very soft wood. Some of them are painted, but most are left to the natural beauty of the wood.

There will be two Schwibbögen five feet tall and nine feet wide on the stage with a traditional Christmas tree between the two. This tree will be decorated with candles (electric) and German straw ornaments. The Germans are not the only people who claim that they originated the Christmas tree, although Martin Luther is the person who has gotten the most credit. The story is that he looked at the night star-filled sky and decided to decorate his indoor tree with candles representing the stars. It seems that the only prerequisite for a Christmas tree is that it has to still be green in December. When the immigrants came to New Braunfels and were looking around for a green tree, preferably a fir tree, they found the cedar. What do we find now? An artificial tree, mostly green, but sometimes even pink. In the late 1800s Sears and Roebuck offered artificial Christmas trees sold by the number of limbs, 33 limbs for $.50 and 55 limbs for $1.00.

Are you familiar with the Weihnachtspyramiden (Christmas pyramid)? It is a reasonable facsimile of a Christmas tree made of finely carved wood with candles at the base that make the top spin. These were quite popular when trees were brought inside. They are beautiful works of art and most are very expensive.

The Schwibbögen on the stage will be left in their original wood and decorated with a wintry mountain scene in Germany. Quaint miniature houses will overlook a festively decorated Christmas market complete with red and white awnings. The arches were designed and drawn by Wilfred Schlather and constructed and decorated by the Wigleys and Debners. Schlather is a devoted volunteer at the Sophienburg besides writing a book about the Civil War in Comal County. It can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop.

The tables in Sophie’s Café in front of the stage allows one to sit and rest, eat German food, and then get up and shop again. The lantern centerpieces decorated by Donna Debner can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop.

Weihnachtsmarkt is organized by the staff at the Sophienburg with Linda Dietert as Executive Director. Hundreds of volunteers give of their time and hundreds contribute, but the Museum and Archives needs you to help their large mission of keeping history alive in New Braunfels.

Weihnachtsmarkt is the largest money-making event that the Sophienburg has. Other fundraisers are the Sophie’s Shop at Wurstfest and a brand new upcoming event on Februray 28, 2015. It is called “Braunfest” on the grounds of the Sophienburg. Watch for details of this new event.

Weihnachtsmark will open its doors at 10 a.m. this Friday and will run through Sunday. Even if it’s 90 degrees outside, you will immediately get that cold winter feeling.

Beverly Wigley, Donna Debner and Wilfred Schlather with one of the artistic creations that will decorate Weihnachtsmarkt.

Beverly Wigley, Donna Debner and Wilfred Schlather with one of the artistic creations that will decorate Weihnachtsmarkt.

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Henne Hardware survives 148 years downtown

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

I walked into Henne Hardware and the bell rang above the door alerting the clerk that someone had entered. I was immediately greeted by two cats named Clifford and Eugene, so named by owner of the store, Paul Martinka. These cats, or at least their names, will bring back memories to those of you who remember the Henne family. Clifford and Eugene were the last of that family to own the business and that was years ago. Perhaps Paul named the cats after the Hennes to remind him of the roots of that store. Cliffy and Gene certainly brought memories to me and it will to a lot of you that were hanging around in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

The roots of Henne Hardware, as were so many of the stores that have local roots, began in Germany. Johann Henne, his wife, Henrietta Deppen, and their five children boarded the ship Hercules with 152 other passengers from Germany and arrived in Galveston in August of 1845. From there they were taken by schooner to Indianola where they engaged wagons to move inland to New Braunfels. They were fortunate to have survived the first Texas winter that took so many lives on the coast, on the inland trek, and in New Braunfels.

Johann was a tinsmith and in 1846 he bought a lot on San Antonio St. for which he paid $120. He opened a tinsmith shop and had a thriving business. Electricity wasn’t in homes and streets until after the 1900s, two years after Harry Landa introduced electricity to NB. Until that time there was a big demand for tin oil lanterns inside and outside. Just imagine San Antonio St. without any electric lights or lights from the inside of buildings. Repairs on the Austin, San Antonio Stage Co. coach lamps were made at Hennes. Tin roofing was made a necessity in 1893 after a city ordinance was passed requiring tin roofing in the city.

In 1857 Johann died and when he did, his son, Louis Henne, took over the tinsmith business. He was only 17 years old at the time, but it became his responsibility to take over the business and support his mother and siblings. He was the only child of Johann and Henrietta that married. Louis then named the business Louis Henne Co., Tin and Sheet Iron Ware, Stoves, House Furnishing Goods and Mitchell Wagons.

With time, Louis Henne began other businesses such as a lumberyard on the corner of Castell and Coll Sts. and a plumbing business. In 1893, right next to where the tinsmith shop was located, Louis built a beautiful Victorian-style business building sitting right in the middle of the business district where it remains today. It was built by contractor Christian Herry. Herry came from Germany to New York after serving two years in the German army during the Franco-Prussian war. He had the reputation of being a master at building trusses of cathedrals, building them on the ground and raising them completed into place. He came to New Braunfels in 1881 and one of the first projects was the addition of frame wings to the limestone New Braunfels Academy.

The building still retains much of its original décor, inside and outside. The walls are brick, the flooring is oak and the ceiling is pressed tin. The inside of the store is ornate, as the Victorian architecture called for. Still on hand are some original display cases and nail bins. There are revolving cabinets for small articles. The shelves containing merchandise reach from floor to ceiling. Way up at the top, next to the ceiling, the original old shelves hold antique items and then under those shelves are newer items. The sliding ladders are still there in order to reach the top shelves. The ladders slide on steel runners. Near the cast-iron cookware section, you can look up and you can also see some wooden water pipes used in early New Braunfels. Now where else can you see that?

Before banks were well established, mercantile stores provided those services. The office area at the back of the building with its large built-in safe is a reminder of this practice. Cash registers were not used. Still visible are the remnants of the money trolleys.

There is also an elevator going upstairs and downstairs into the basement. Many of the immediate downtown buildings have basements. I had heard that the basement at Hennes was a favorite spot for card-playing men. Going down a steep set of stairs into the basement, I can see how a secluded area, half the size of the building, would be an intriguing place to get together to socialize. Glass tiles from the sidewalk let in a small bit of light. In the basement is a well about 25 feet deep that fills with water according to the amount of rain. Paul Matinka pointed out it reflects the water table and when there was lots of rain, the well would fill up and even spill over. The well was dug before the building was built.

Over the years, Louis Henne acquired more property on the block where the store is located. His family’s two story home was built at the back of the property on Mill St. He also maintained a camp yard for customers who came into town on weekends by wagon. They would camp there and return home the next day. It was one of several such campgrounds complete with wagons and campfires and of course, lit by tin oil lanterns. The large barn-like building behind the store was the lumber storage.

Louis Henne was the only one of his seven brothers and sisters that married. He married Emilie vom Stein and they had five children. He was active in the formation of the Volunteer Firemen’s association. One of Louis’ sons, Adolf, succeeded his father as head of the store when Louis died in 1912. Adolph remodeled the store, adding the show windows and adding interior shelving and display cases. He carried on his father’s interest in fire prevention. When he died in 1945, the business went to his three sons: Clifford, Eugene, and Norman. Clifford and Eugene took over the store and they were the last Hennes to own the store. Clifford became the sole owner in 1962.Ten years later the business was sold to Donald Stott and James Goodbread and then to the Bob Schima family. The present owner bought the business in 1996 and the property in 2000.

Paul Martinka has managed to have merchandise that you can’t find anywhere else and even some that is no longer available. Look for well-made unusual toys for Christmas. There is a very large collection of cast- iron cookware and pottery from Marshall, Texas. Martinka has devoted his time to maintaining historic Henne Hardware.

Interior of Henne Hardware after the 1912 remodel with Louis Henne inset. Photo courtesy of Paul Martinka.

Interior of Henne Hardware after the 1912 remodel with Louis Henne inset. Photo courtesy of Paul Martinka.

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Startz Café receives Texas Treasure Business Award

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The Startz Café has the distinction of being one of the only small businesses in Comal County still in operation by the same family for over 50 years. They just received the Texas Treasure Business Award in 2014. They were nominated by Representative Doug Miller. This story is about how the Startz Café in Startzville came to be.

Looking at family trees can be both enlightening and mind-boggling, especially if it traces the Startz family. Their family tree reveals to me that if they had a family reunion of all the descendants, there wouldn’t be a hall big enough to hold them. The Texas story of the Startzs’ began with the arrival of Johann Startz and wife Margarethe Loeffler Startz on the first ship sent by the Adelsverein to Texas, the Johann Dethardt in 1844. Traveling with them were her three children, Katherine Loeffler, Christian Loeffler, and Louise Loeffler and the couple’s children together, Heinrich Startz, Friedricke Startz and Caroline Startz.

Johann Startz received a town lot in New Braunfels on Seguin St. but soon after arriving in New Braunfels settled in the area of Mission Hill and then moved to Smithson Valley. After Margarethe died, Johann married the widow Catherine Wenzel and they had one son together, Ludewig. It is thought that the family then moved to Buffalo Springs Settlement on the upper Guadalupe near the third river crossing.

Johann’s oldest son, Heinrich, moved to an area known as Hillview, near where our story of the Startz Café takes place. Heinrich married Louise Artzt and where they lived would later be known as Startzville. It was 17 miles northwest of New Braunfels near Tom Creek. Startz Hill, originally called Hillview, was changed to Startz Hill to honor Heinrich Startz. With its height of 1,400 feet, it is the highest point in Comal County. Later land owner, Carl D. Allen, donated the hill to Comal County and it is now named Allen Park. It was considered the first county park in Texas. From its summit, one gets a view of Smithsons Valley and a stunning view of Twin Sisters Mountains 32 miles away. Author Laurie Jasinski in “Hill Country Backroads” reveals details of an ancient sea bed which can be viewed at the park providing travelers with interesting fossils and water-formed rocks. The Sanders family found many geodes, some round and some split open revealing their crystalline centers.

This land in the hill country (Bergland in German) is what my grandmother called “the mountains”. Her description of the mountains was any place above the Balcones Escarpment. She had lots of friends in the mountains and it was a long time before I associated this area with mountains. It wasn’t what I learned in school as mountains.

Now let’s get to the Startz Café. Just down the road from Allen Park (Startz Hill) at the intersection of Cranes Mill and Sattler Road, Bruno and Viola Elbel had a cedar yard and a store in 1939. The Elbels built a house with a small grocery store inside where they sold mostly to the cedar choppers in the area. Cedar chopping was a big business. This home burned down in 1942 and so they built a rock home in its place. This was the building that Curt and Alice Schlameus Startz leased from the Elbels in 1944 and bought in 1946. Curt Startz was the son of Heinrich and Louise Startz.

In addition to the home there was an ice house which still stands, and two gasoline pumps later removed. Ice was in demand even before tourists arrived. Because Startzville was not on the Guadalupe River like other settlements, they had to rely on well water with a windmill. Also standing is a hand pump for kerosene.

Curt and Alice Startz were the sole owners of the store. Alice ran the store after Curt’s death in 1959. The Startz’s son, James Sr. and his wife Lorine, were the next generation to run the store. It was James Startz, Sr. who added the café next to the house.

The area was first called Startzville by Dr. E.J. Duffin who did a painting in 1950 of the front of the store calling it Startzville after the original members of the Startz family. By that time they had lived in the area more than 100 years. His humorous comments painted on the side of the building were: Startzville – Paradise Valley of Comal County; Population, same; Elevation, unchanged; Temperature, delightful; ice, groceries, beer. According to local author and historian, Alton Rahe, Dr. Duffin was possibly a good friend of the Startzs and owned 310 acres of land adjoining the Startz property.

With the building of Canyon Lake and Dam, nearby Cranes Mill and Hancock were submerged. Possibly the only advantage of not being on the Guadalupe River, Startzville remained and the area’s population increased as it became a tourist spot.

After the death of James Sr. and Lorine Startz, their two children assumed ownership of the business. They are James Startz Jr. and Sandra Startz Duncan. A fourth generation member of the Startz family is presently running the thriving café. She is Monica Startz Wetz, daughter of James Startz Jr.

Sandra Startz Duncan has some interesting memories of her grandmother, Alice Startz. Sandra and her brother James spent lots of time with her at the café. Like a few other early business women that I have heard of in Comal County, Alice had her opinions and didn’t mind sharing them. She was strict about a “no shoes, no shirt, no service” policy. Once she went out with a shotgun during the night when some teenage males were confiscating beer and soda and were putting them in the bed of their truck. She held them at gunpoint and used the pay-phone to call the law.

Sandra remembers activities like domino games and cards with lots of beer. She said her grandmother, although she had a “raw” sense of humor, was well liked.

Café hours are: 6am-2pm Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday; 10am-2pm Tuesday; 6am-8pm Thursday and 6am-9pm on Friday. Some of the old time family favorites include such items as Oma Startz’s (Alice) original chili and enchilada recipes, and Mamo’s (Lorine) pies like she made them.

It’s still a family operation with family members helping out. They “stayed put” and “bloomed where they were planted” in Startzville, Comal County, Texas.

Alice and Curt Startz in front of the Startz Store.

Alice and Curt Startz in front of the Startz Store.

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Dr. Wilhelm Remer, early medical doctor with the Adelsverein

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Have you heard of Dr. Wilhelm Remer? He was an early medical doctor with the Adelsverein for the protection of German immigrants in Texas and he was a friend of Hermann Seele. Here is the story of how they met and their lifetime friendship.

First a little reminder of Seele’s arrival in Texas. Twenty one year old Hermann Seele came to Texas in 1843. He didn’t originally join with the Adelsverein, but after two years in the coastal area, he joined the second group of immigrants who eventually arrived in New Braunfels in May of 1845, two months after the very first group crossed the Guadalupe. While at Indian Point a group of Texan teamsters from Victoria arrived to accompany this second group and take freight belonging to the Adelsverein to the new settlement, fifteen miles north of Seguin.

In April 1845 when the group left Indian Point, the whole coastal area was flooded as a result of too much rain, leaving behind mud in the trails. Even on the first day they traveled only 12 miles. It took four weeks to get as far as Seguin. Mud is very hard on oxen pulling wagons full of goods. To give the oxen rest, they were unyoked and turned out to pasture. A roof type tent of sailcloth was set up to prepare a fire to cook cornbread, bacon, and coffee.

In the evening while sitting around the fire, a tall, strongly built young man with brown hair and beard approached the men around the fire and in German asked, “Guten Abend, meine Herren. Kann ich bei Ihnen bleiben?” (Hello, gentlemen, can I join you?) Although Seele and the others were surprised by the stranger’s arrival, they were very pleased to hear him speak in their native German. The wagoners were American and spoke no German.

The men welcomed this stranger and thus began a lifetime friendship between Hermann Seele and Dr. Wilhelm Remer. From this point on, Seele and Remer were together on their trek inland.

Dr. Remer said that he had arrived in Texas from Breslau, Germany and first practiced medicine in Memphis. From there he went to New Orleans and in April headed back to Texas intending to join the colony. Immediately Remer and Seele began talking about the colonization project and the Adelsverein.

After a terrific thunderstorm, from the north, the group moved on and soon Seele and Remer were witnesses to a barbaric orgy in which a group of Tonkawa Indians had fried and boiled a Waco warrior. Ritual cannibalism was part of their way of life. The Tonkawa squaws felt that if they ate the flesh of the warrior that they admired, that they would pass his good qualities on to their children. For the whole story, see the Sophienburg.com Archives column for August 29, 2008.

As they made their way to the Guadalupe, they were detained because it was impossible to cross the flooding river. All the freight and personal belongings were unloaded. In the distance across the river they could see shimmering white tents of the settlers. On a hill that would later become known to them as the Sophienburg, a black and yellow flag of Germany had been placed there by Prince Carl. At the same time, some of the early settlers had strung up a flag of the Republic of Texas on the area where the Plaza would be. There has been much speculation about the significance of this action.

Waiting on the north side of the Guadalupe until the water had receded, Seele and Remer were finally carried across the river in a canoe hewn from the trunk of a cypress tree by the Smith brothers of Seguin who were cutting cypress shingles. They crossed approximately where the Faust Street Bridge would later be constructed.

They walked into the beginnings of the town and visited with some Germans that they had known in the old country. Remer remained in town and Seele went to pick up meat from the Society’s butcher, H. Burkhart.

According to historian and author Everett Fey, surprisingly Dr. Remer did not receive a town lot. According to others who were First Founders, he should have received a lot since he was a First Founder. Records show that he was listed as an Adelsverein doctor but was not on their payroll. This has caused much speculation especially since he presented a petition to the Colonial Council asking to be treated more fairly. The Council took no action on his request.

During the arrival of thousands of new immigrants in 1845 and 1846, Remer was sent by the Adelsverein to the coastal area to care of the sick immigrants. Dr. Remer eventually set up his medical practice in New Braunfels and married Franciska Kuehn in 1850.

In 1855 a gruesome crime took place in New Braunfels. One of the original founders of NB, Christoph Moeschen, was murdered during the night by his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. Dr. Remer was the doctor called upon to examine the victim and pronounce him dead. According to Hermann Seele, the doctor asked the coroner, “What am I supposed to do now?” to which the coroner replied, “You are to state if the man is dead”. He pronounced that the man was indeed dead and the coroner called for an autopsy right there. After the autopsy, Remer said, “The old man has been murdered. Put the people under arrest.” Seele felt that Remer’s remarks were strange. In the end, mother, daughter, and son-in-law were arrested, tried, and sentenced to nine years in prison. The mother died in prison, the daughter paroled in 1860 and the son-in-law paroled in 1862. For the whole story see Sophienburg.com, Feb 7, 2012.

Not much more is known about Dr. Remer except that he died in 1870. Seele in his writings shows a great deal of respect for the medical profession. Although we don’t have much personal information about Dr. Remer, we can conclude that Seele and he continued a friendship that began in their early days in Texas and lasted throughout their lives.

Dr. Wilhelm Remer confronts a group- of immigrants on their way to New Braunfels.

Dr. Wilhelm Remer confronts a group- of immigrants on their way to New Braunfels. On the right is Hermann Seele. Artist: Patricia S. Arnold.

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Devil’s Backbone leads you to Fischer’s Store

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Ranch Road 32 West is worth a drive into a scenic part of Comal County. From New Braunfels, drive out FM 306, right on Purgatory Road, then left at RR 32 over a section called Devil’s Backbone. Probably named for the spine of the devil, it winds and winds and you are sure to get car-sick if you are prone to such an affliction.

At the intersection of RR32 and FM484 you come to a settlement called Fischer. Just to tell you how long this settlement has been there, the area (Hermann Fischer Ranch) received the Texas Department of Agriculture Family Land Heritage 150 year designation in 2004, which is given for continuous agricultural operation in the same family beginning at 100 years.

Hermann Fischer and his wife Anna were the first to settle in the valley on 160 acres where they built the first log cabin in the area. They came to Texas in 1846. Otto Fischer bought land next to Hermann’s, and both brothers were in the cattle business. Otto married Adolfina Schlameus. Other Germans that settled in the area were– Schlameus, Spangenberg, Linnartz, Luehlfing, Sachtleben, Pantermuehl, Kaderli, Haas, Schubert, Wersterfer, Krause and Wiechman. With this many families in the valley, Hermann decided to build a store in 1866 at one end of his log cabin. The store became the center of the community. With a large assortment of merchandise, Hermann soon expanded the store to three buildings selling groceries, farm machinery and household goods.

When the settlement received a post office named Fischer’s Store in 1876, it became well known over Texas. Then the name changed to Fischer Store and then in 1950 to Fischer.

A dance hall, bowling alley, school, blacksmith shop, cotton gin, gristmill, rodeo grounds, grist mill and last, but certainly not least, a cemetery was added.

Not far from the settlement on Ranch Road 32 is a large cemetery that has the earmarks of a caring group of people. This cemetery already is an HISTORIC TEXAS CEMETERY. Many Fischers are buried in that cemetery. Of the almost 500 graves there are other prominent family names.

In 1886 Otto Fischer gave 30 acres of his land to the Fischer’s Store Community for the purpose of building a school for their children. It was on the highest point of this land that the cemetery informally got started. It was appropriately called Fischer’s School Graveyard at Fischer’s Store. The Fischer Cemetery Association was later organized in 1976.

The first burial was the infant son of Monroe and Nettie Smith, nearby landowners and also the cemetery caretaker. Besides family members interred, there are also 21 graves of people whose remains were moved from the area that would become covered by Canyon Lake. Throughout the years, four graves were also moved from the Pantermuehl Ranch and single graves from Dripping Springs, Pleasant Valley, Schlameus Ranch and Suche Ranch.

So what happened to the rest of the 30 acres that was to be used for education? A school was built on this property and still stands. It is now the Fischer Community Center. All the one-room county school houses were consolidated under the Comal County Rural School which led to the current Comal Independent School District. Under this consolidation, the district claimed ownership of the land given by Otto Fischer. In 1976 the CISD transferred 3.851 acres of the original 30 acres to the Fischer Cemetery Association. The association divided the land into 1170 burial plots.

Leaving the cemetery, turn right on RR32 which leads you into the Fischer settlement. Located in the old Fischer Store is the Fischer Store Museum. There is so much history in that museum and so many genuine old things that tell the history of the Fischer community. One relict of interest to me was the old telephone booth that was located inside the store. It is beautifully constructed of wood. Inside the booth was a phone and at one time there were 16 parties on this one line. I even remember when there were two party lines in the city of New Braunfels. But 16?

The old cotton gin ledgers are there and their liquor license #84. The shelving and tables are all authentic to the store. Another interesting relic was a large cabbage slicer. Guess what that was used for. Right. It was used to make sauerkraut. Many people that live in the country still make sauerkraut.

Just down the road from the museum is the old dance hall. Private dances and receptions are still held and a public dance once a year. Next to the dance hall is the bowling alley where, to this day, nine pin bowling takes place.

Did you know that Fischer Store had a polo team? In the museum are homemade mallets made of a type of bamboo and wood. The open grass field measuring 300 feet long and 160 yards wide is still there across from the dance hall. The game was played with four players. One game lasted six chukkers or periods of 7 ½ minutes each. Cecil Smith who died in 1999 is given credit for starting the polo team at Fischer Store. Smith bought horses from the ranchers and trained them to be polo ponies. Polo ponies cannot be used as ranch horses once they are trained to be polo ponies. These trained ponies were temperamental and had a mind of their own. Part of the sport was the pony trying to throw off the rider.

The Comal County Fair will be this next week, Sept 24 to 28. There won’t be a polo game, but there once was. Back in 1932, the fair was reeling from the Depression, trying to stay afloat. They asked for local talent and the Fischer Store polo team challenged the New Braunfels team. The Fischer Store team was made up of Bill Fischer, Raymond Fischer, J.W. Bode, Bubie Vollmering, Reagan Calhoun and —Pape. The New Braunfels team was E.A. Maier, Hilmar Staats, Clifford Startz, Tommie Specht, Dickie Tausch, Roy Meredith, R.R. Coreth, Jackie Bergfeld, and Herbert Marion.

Between chukkers, a burlesque polo team from New Braunfels put on a comedy act. That team was made up of Ernst Stein, Charles Scruggs, Paul Jahn, Pete Nuhn, Coach Rode, “Red” Babel, Barney Koepp, Dr. Rennie Wright and Jack Eiband. What a sight that must have been!

Even without a polo game, see you at the Fair!

Charlene Fischer shows a homemade cabbage slicer in the Fischer Store Museum.

Charlene Fischer shows a homemade cabbage slicer in the Fischer Store Museum.

Polo Team

Fischer Polo Team

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Felipe Delgado’s West End Park

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Felipe Delgado had a dream. It was during WWII when he was in the U.S. Army Air Corps stationed in India. He dreamed of home in New Braunfels and of creating a place of entertainment for the Hispanic people. He and his wife Elisa fulfilled that dream by building the West End Hall and West End Baseball Park.

Elisa Saenz (Delgado) was born in Seguin after her parents had come from Mexico in 1926 to find work. At age 7, Elisa and her family moved to Dittlinger or as it was called, “La Calera” meaning “the limestone”. That’s what it was, a community for employees at the Dittlinger limekiln. It was one of the businesses owned by Hippolyt Dittlinger. In 1931, he formed the Servtex Material Company.

A community grew up around the lime and rock-crushing company. Houses were provided for the workers and a building that housed both a church and a school, called the Rosa Mystica School. The teachers of the school were brought in from Our Lady of the Lake Convent. Elisa did not finish school because she, like many other children at Dittlinger, took off to be migrant workers with their families, traveling on the back of big trucks to other states to pick fruit. Those who became migrant workers were gone about three months every year during the school year.

Elisa looks back to those days at Dittlinger with fond memories. There were lots of children to play with. Her father would often make barbeque, skinning a pig with every bit of the pig used for something. Elisa also remembers how hard her mother worked washing her father’s lime-covered clothes outside in a big pot over a fire. Every day the clothes had to be washed twice to remove the lime.

Felipe Delgado and Elisa Saenz met at a baseball game being played at Carl Schurz School here in New Braunfels. As a young man, Felipe joined the U.S. Army Air Corps where he became a radio and Morse Code operator. Elisa joined him when he was on furlough in 1944 and they were married. When Felipe got out of the service, the couple remained in New Braunfels. Here they would fulfill Felipe’s dream.

Elisa had a talent that provided her with a good job. She could sew. She worked at Cater Frock, sewing top-quality children’s clothes. That business was located in the present Recreation Center in Landa Park. When that business closed, Elisa kept on sewing for other people. She sewed the ornate Mexican Folk Dresses for the Ballet Folklorico that her granddaughter was in.

After WWII, Felipe came home to New Braunfels determined to build an entertainment center for the Hispanic people in the West End. He felt that there was a need for such a business. He worked at various jobs, finally ending up with a Civil Service job. But he devoted his spare time to working on the West End Park.

The property in the West End Subdivision #2 was owned by Charles and Laura Wallace and the Delgados bought the large piece of land, about four acres, in 1947. The City gave permission for parts of Katy and Michigan Sts. to be closed to traffic because Felipe needed that property to complete his plans for his West End Park.

First, a large concrete slab was poured by the light of lanterns because there was no electricity. The park eventually contained not only the large hall, but a ballpark, a large field for outdoor activities and carnivals, and a cantina. The park became popular very quickly with its dances and special events like weddings, anniversaries, birthday celebrations, Diez y Seis celebrations, boxing matches, and the Quinceanera celebrations for girls. At times the hall with its concrete floor became a skating rink. There was a rink outside as well. Elisa cooked hamburgers inside a small area next to the stage in the hall and in the cantina.

The baseball field with its grandstand encouraged the love of baseball and many games were played with other New Braunfels teams. The West End team was called the Cardinals and later the Lions. Many teams from Mexico played on that field as well.

A tragedy almost closed the hall in 1962 when the hall burned down on New Year’s Eve. All the band instruments burned. The Delgados had two daughters, Estella and Rosalinda, and that year Estella was to celebrate her 15th birthday with a Quinceanera. The hall was rebuilt by May and the celebration went on as planned.

The Quinceanera is a Hispanic tradition celebrating the 15th birthday of a young girl’s coming of age. It recognizes her journey from childhood to maturity. The custom highlights God, family, friends, music, food and dance. Naturally when Estella’s Quinceanera was finally held, it was in the new West End Hall. It is a very formal affair with elaborate dresses, tiaras and flowers. Fourteen girlfriends are chosen by the honoree. They are dressed alike and become part of the ceremony. It begins with a religious ceremony followed by a reception and then a dance. The honoree dances the first dance with her father.

Another very important celebration at West End Hall and all over Texas, for that matter, was the Diez y Seis de Septiembre. This event celebrates Mexico’s Independence from Spain in 1810. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla launched the Mexican War of Independence from Spain on September 16th. Hidalgo set out to spread the word, carrying a staff affixed with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It became a symbol of the Mexican liberation movement. The struggle against Spain had to do with the rights of the “Creoles”, those who were born in the new world with Spanish ancestry, but not given the same privileges as those born in Spain. After the war, those Spanish born Europeans were expelled from Mexico. Locally this celebration includes a queen and her court for the evening.

The Delgados leased the complex in the 1970s and the hall was torn down and sold in the 1980s. West End Park and Baseball Field fist the old saying, “Gone but not forgotten.”

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West End Park with the hall and cantina. Inset is Elisa and Felipe Delgado, 1944 wedding photo.

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Elisa, Felipe, Linda and Estella Delgado

Felipe Delgado

Felipe Delgado

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