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When the world was changing, but Camp Warnecke wasn’t

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

NEW BRAUNFELS – Let’s take a trip to Camp Warnecke. Most of you know where it was, but if you don’t, think of the Schlitterbahn Waterparks property between the San Antonio Street Bridge and the Garden Street Bridge.

Imagine the time being around 1944 during World War II when the world was changing, but Camp Warnecke wasn’t.

Otto and Martha Warnecke bought Camp Warnecke in 1918.

We check in through the bathhouse at a bar made of wood from an old bowling alley. My reflection shows in the mirror behind the bar on which school Principal Curt Schmidt painted a landscape. Now exiting toward the river, we go down concrete stairs to individual dressing stalls. Hot and spider-ridden, we can’t stay there long.

Clad in our bathing suits, we continue going down toward the river. Let’s hurry to reserve one of the 10 round concrete platforms for sunbathing, the brainchild of owner Otto Warnecke.

We see the traditional picnic tables under beautiful shade trees along the banks and an inner tube concession run by the Warnecke’s son-in-law, Othmar Baetge.

Because it’s war-time, it is impossible to buy tubes, so Baetge patches them over and over again. Incidentally, he will charge more if the tube is damaged on return. There’s also a canoe concession next to the tubes run by Raymond Popp.

Let’s go to the Camp Warnecke rapids. At some point, the river had been dammed up, leaving an open space forming the famous rapids. Pipes had been bored in the limestone rock and wooden boards put behind them, forcing the water to go through the opening. An old waterwheel that washed down in one of the earlier floods makes a picturesque background. Right here in the rapids is where serious tubing began. We hook tubes together in trains, dive in to catch ledges, and avoid the whirlpools.

But there is more to Camp Warnecke than swimming. The big screened-in structure attached to the bathhouse is a popular dance floor with Nickelodeon music. Sentimental strains of wartime music like “Dream” and “The White Cliffs of Dover” float through the air.

Attached to the bathhouse on the left of the entrance is a restaurant. Martha “Oma” Warnecke buys textile mill checkered material at 5 cents a yard and makes tablecloths and napkins for the tables. Fresh flowers are on every table. A sprinkler system installed on the roof of the entire building makes the whole building about 10 degrees cooler than it is outside.

The restaurant is very popular with townspeople as well as tourists. Oma makes special things like butter roses, homemade yeast rolls, peach cobbler and serves Mrs. Hoffman’s chocolate cake. Mrs. Hoffman has a baking business in her home on Comal Street and the cake is a favorite of New Braunfels children.

Oma works very hard in the restaurant but loves the details. She raises goats, sheep and ducks across the street. In the winter, she makes jelly and sews sheets, pillowcases and curtains. She even plucks feathers to make feather pillows.

There are 80 cottages for rent, a few stone, but mostly wooden. One-room, screened structures predominate, but some are larger with as many as 30 beds. The charge per person for staying in the cabins is 50 cents if you furnish your own towels and sheets and 75 cents if the camp furnishes them.

The Warnecke’s daughter, Anona, takes care of reservations and by August, all reservations are filled for the next year. Othmar and Anona Baetge’s daughter, Martha Jo, Oma’s namesake, spends lots of time at Camp Warnecke. The Warnecke’s other daughter, Mamie, and husband Max Winkler, live out of town but their children Max, Charles, and Marlena spend many summers with their grandparents.

Now look forward to 2011. Martha Warnecke sold the camp in 1946 and it has undergone many changes since that time. With a blink of an eye, Camp Warnecke is gone!

For related information, visit http://www.sophienburg.com and read April 28, 2009 – The Other Place and Aug 23, 2006 – Camp Warnecke.

Camp Warnecke, New Braunfels, Texas. Source: Sophienburg Archives

Camp Warnecke, New Braunfels, Texas. Source: Sophienburg Archives