By Myra Lee Adams Goff
During World War II when my dad, Marcus Adams, was City Clerk, he was also appointed Landa Park Manager. This was quite a responsibility for one man, but it was war time and municipal funds were scarce and it wasn’t unusual to double up.
During the summer when thousands of soldiers were brought to Landa Park in buses from the San Antonio bases, his job as park manager would last until after midnight.I would go with him early in the morning and mostly hang out at the spring-fed pool. The pool was in the original course of the Comal Springs.
By this time in the early 1940s, Harry Landa’s Camp Placid on the banks of the spring-fed pool was torn down. It was replaced with an Austin stone bath house, men’s room on one side and women’s on the other, with the payment desk in the open center area. This is where the black wool bathing suits for men and women could be rented. Competing with pin-ups like Betty Grable in her bathing suit and high heels, these black wool get-ups were no match.
Out in the pool there was a spinning top that could be frightening. I was at the pool enough to know that people could drown and I knew that people did foolish things like diving into areas that said “no diving”. The wooden rafts (still there) saw many games of “King of the Raft”.
Were lifeguards always heroes at other pools? They sure were at the park. Lifeguards Tommy Ortiz and Raymond Pehl kept swimmers from drowning and did trick diving off the high diving board to boot. They were awesome!
Twice a week the pool was drained and then cleaned by dragging a big cedar tree attached to the back end of a tractor to loosen the green slime that had accumulated on the bottom and sides. The lifeguards and I were allowed to wade around looking for coins and other valuables. We couldn’t keep valuables. Rings and things would be put in the safe at the City Hall and if unclaimed in a year, “finders keepers”. On my silver heart bracelet, so popular in the 1940s, I have one insignificant looking heart that says “Forget me not.” I never forgot that I found that heart at the bottom of the Landa Park pool.
Right next to the dressing rooms where the Landa Haus is now located, was a drink stand and café, also made out of Austin stone.It’s still there. Connected to this structure was an open-air dance floor with a jukebox. I think I know those war songs so well because I heard them over and over. Sad war songs like “Wait for Me, Mary”, “Coming’ in on a Wing and a Prayer”, “The White Cliffs of Dover”. Then there were goofy songs like “Mares Eat Oats”, “Rum and Coca Cola”, “Beat Me, Daddy, 8 to the Bar”, and then the most popular of the Big Band sound,” Sentimental Journey”, and “Stardust”.
Dad ordered the supplies for the drink stand. So many goodies were sent to the soldiers that popular candy and drinks were scarce. For every one box of Hershey candy, the Park had to purchase five boxes of ribbon candy. The Hershey bars were doled out carefully and the ribbon candy was even hard to give away. There was one kind of off-brand orange soda that was plentiful. One day a man came running up to the drink stand wanting the orange drink in a hurry. It was provided and three more times he ran up demanding the soda. Then he returned to pay and the attendant said, “You must really like that orange soda” and his reply was,”No, my car engine was on fire”.
This has been a “Sentimental Journey” for me. How about you?