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Volunteers important in New Braunfels heritage

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

What’s going on at the Sophienburg Museum and Archives? By far the most important news is the Sophienburg Board choosing Tara Kohlenburg as its Executive Director. Tara grew up here in New Braunfels. When asked why she accepted the position of Sophienburg Executive Director, here is what she wrote to me:

Home by Tara Kohlenburg

Home. The place where one resides or is naturally located. I consider home to be that special place where the sounds and sights and smells come together, stirring images of good times and safe places. The Sophienburg feels like home.

The streets of this neighborhood, Academy, Coll, Magazine and Jahn, bring back fond memories. When I was little, we lived on Academy and then on Magazine just down the street from the Museum. My Oma lived in a gingerbread house on Jahn just above the ice plant. In the summer my sister and I stayed with her while my mother worked. We would use the wash house as our very own “play house,” that is until I got into the bluing, the kind used to brighten your wash. Needless to say, I wore the discovery of the beautiful blue liquid on my hands for a week, try as I did to try to wash it off. Oma wasn’t one to spank, but the German under her breath let me know just how much trouble I was in.

Each week of the summer, my sister and I were allowed to walk the two blocks to the Emmie Seele Faust Library to trade in our books for new adventures. We, and probably many other kids, would walk the rock retaining wall of the Museum to the rock stairs, cross over, and continue past the grape vine to the library. Even now, when the bell above the front door announces an arrival to the refurbished library building, I can still visualize the shelves of books and me making a bee line to the children’s section for my next pick.

Falling pecans; the smell of burning leaves; thick slices of homemade bread smeared with mustang grape jam; buttermilk cookies; and the twelve o’clock whistle signaling my Opa (a fireman) would be home for lunch in 5 minutes. These are just some of the memories of my childhood, the kind that come out of nowhere when you open a box of photos. Home.

I love being back at The Sophienburg Museum & Archives where we are the “Guardians of History, Keepers of the Treasures, and Stewards of the Stories.” The stories of how and why New Braunfels is so darn inviting to people… It’s in our history. Our people. Our Families. Our culture. Our rituals. Home.

Come be “At Home” in the museum with us. Volunteer your time and talents. It certainly doesn’t feel like work. Dorothy had it right. “There’s no place like HOME.”

Thanks Tara for sharing these vivid memories. It’s obvious that Tara is a strong advocate of volunteerism. She picked the right job because volunteers are absolutely necessary for a not-for-profit organization like the Sophienburg.

So, what else is going on at the hill? A big group of volunteers are busy organizing the Sophienburg’s number one fund raising event, Weihnachtsmarkt that will happen towards the middle of November (Nov. 18th through 20th). There are several hundred volunteers involved in planning and running this big Christmas Market at the Convention Center.

Another big important money-maker is the Sophie’s Shop booth at Wurstfest. Run by Nancy Classen, the booth is entirely manned (womanned) by volunteers. When you buy the beautiful German Christmas ornaments or the wooden figurines, you will be helping your museum preserve the history of the town and county.

Wurstfest begins two weeks before Weihnachtsmarkt (Nov. 4th) and lasts for 10 days. Alton Rahe, in his book Wurstfest. The First Fifty Years, wrote the interesting story of who, what, where, when, why and how Wurstfest started and has continued for over 50 years. Darvin Dietert compiled all of the marvelous photos. Talk about a volunteer driven event that achieved world-wide acclaim.

Local veterinarian E. A. Grist is given credit for having the idea of a celebration about sausage and the sausage makers. Dr. Grist had also been the local meat inspector since 1955. Members of the original steering committee including Grist, Kermit Krause, Charlie Schwamkrug, Harley Schulz, Alphonse Oberkampf, Joe Chapman and Tom Purdum, felt that the local sausage makers should be honored for what they do. Boy, did they hit that nail on the head. Herb Skoog with his expertise on advertising became their spokesperson deluxe.

That was in 1961. There were 19 sausage makers. In Alton’s book the list was compiled and 16 commercial sausage-makers identified. They were Erhardt Artzt of Artzt Meat Market, William “Butcher” Brodt of Brodt’s Slaughter House, Fritz Soechting of Fritz’s Meat Market, Goswin Kraft of Kraft Slaughter House, Kermit Krause of Krause’s Café, Reno Kriewald of Kriewald Meat, Gilbert Neuse and Norman Hanz of Neuse’s Grocery, Joe Chapman of New Braunfels Smokehouse, Norbert Haecker of Norbert’s Market & Grocery, Frank Rahe of Rahe Packing Co., Charlie Schwamkrug of Schwamkrug’s Garden, Arthur Soechting of Soechting Country Market, Alois Hildebrandt of Textile Café, Ben Warnecke of Warnecke Catering, and George Preiss of Weyel’s IGA Foodliner. This is a list of known commercial sausage makers but by no means does it represent all those individuals who made sausage in Comal County at home.

Dr. Grist presented the idea of a sausage celebration to the New Braunfels City Commission and it was immediately approved. The City of New Braunfels, the New Braunfels Board of City Development and the Chamber of Commerce agreed to sponsor it. A unique band was organized to visit surrounding towns to get the word out. With advertisement on television, clubs, newspapers and advertising guru Herb Skoog, the word about a sausage week got around. When Tom Purdum wrote a Chamber release that hit the associated press wire service it was used throughout the country and even in some foreign countries.

The first Sausage Week was from December 11th through the 16th of December. The first five days were to be full of activities in Landa Park. The big sausage festival day on the 16th, although planned for Landa Park, had to be moved to the National Guard Armory due to bad weather. No beer could be sold at the government owned Armory, so beer was given away.

Music became a part of the celebration from the beginning and still is. The Amtliche Stadt Wurst Kapelle (Official City Sausage Band made up of Jo Faust, Alphonse Oberkampf, Gilbert Zipp, Johnny Schnabel, Hilar Voges and Harry Schmidt, played and the local German singing clubs of Harmonie, Echo, Frohsinn and Maennerchor performed under the direction of Otto Seidel. Five orchestras also performed: Al Schnabel Orchestra, Rainbow Orchestra, Cloverleaf Orchestra, Cookie and his Hi-Fi’s and Rusty Ruppel’s Rebels.

This first sausage celebration drew an estimated crowd of 2,000 (although it was big at the time, it’s a pittance of today’s crowd.)

We’ve come a long way in this article from the Sophienburg Museum and Archives to Weihnachtsmarkt at the Convention Center, and then looked at the first year of Wurstfest that was to include polka-ing at Landa Park but resulted in marching to the National Guard Armory to honor sausage. All these places and activities have something in common. Yes, “Spass Muss Sein” (fun must be) in New Braunfels. We love our town and that’s why we volunteer and tell the world about it.

1961 Sophienburg collection photo of Dr. Ed Grist posing in the Schwamkrug’s Garden sausage display.

1961 Sophienburg collection photo of Dr. Ed Grist posing in the Schwamkrug’s Garden sausage display.