19. January 2017 · Comments Off on The Present Home of the Luna City Volunteer Fire Department · Categories: Luna City Info Dump, Places in Luna
A View of the LCVFD Building, which will feature in Book 4 of the Luna City Chronicles

A View of the LCVFD Building, which will feature in Book 4 of the Luna City Chronicles

03. September 2016 · Comments Off on The Luna City Volunteer Fire Department · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

(The Luna City Volunteer Fire Department will figure in an upcoming volume of the Chronicles of Luna City … so a little background is in order.)

The Luna City Volunteer Fire Department is Luna City’s oldest and most venerable civic establishment, established in 1878, beating out the Masonic Lodge by a matter of eight months, and the Catholic parish of Saints Margaret and Anthony by a full year. Arthur Wells McAllister designed a building intended to serve as a fire house at the south-east corner of Town Square. The building, now a retail space for several antique and crafters, was the firehouse for thirty years. The distinctive twin double-door entrances meant to facilitate a pair of horse-drawn hose and pumper wagons are still evident in the façade.

Arthur Wells McAllister, being a forward-thinking city planner, naturally made accommodation for every civic service and improvement required by the last quarter of the 19th century. In the days when cooking, heating, and lighting a home depended on wood or coal fires, oil lamps or candles, domestic fires were an all-too-frequent occurrence, and an organized fire-fighting company of some kind was a civic necessity secondary only to a law-enforcement function. A busy man himself, Arthur Wells McAllister presented the task of organizing a fire company to another founding member of Luna City, Madison R. Bodie. Bodie, who had originally been a ranch foreman at Captain Herbert Kling Wyler’s Lazy W, had saved his wages and investment share into a business providing patent cattle feed, grain and hay to his former employer and other local ranchers. A native of San Antonio, Madison Bodie had been an active member of Milam Steam Fire Company #1, and thus had the ideal experience to take on organizing a new civic volunteer firefighting company.

Madison Bodie soon had recruited thirty fit and enthusiastic male volunteers, and attracted the generous support of town merchants. A pair of horse-drawn steam-powered pumps was purchased from the Waterous Engine Works Company, of St. Paul, Minnesota. For many years, community celebrations featured a race between Engine #1 and Engine #2 around the perimeter of Town Square. The two engines faced their first serious fire-fighting challenge in extinguishing a fire at the mansion of Morgan Sheffield – like Arthur McAllister and Madison Bodie, a man who had expected more of Luna City’s prospects than were eventually delivered. Morgan Sheffield, who settled on a small tract of land along the river, slightly to the south of Luna City, had found a natural sulphur hot-spring in the course of building his home. He had entertained hopes of a hotel and curative spa on the site. Work had just barely begun on a bathhouse and hotel, when a lightning strike on the roof of his house during a summer thunderstorm set fire to the roof.

The volunteers, alerted by one of the workmen, raced to the scene, and were successful in extinguishing the fire. In gratitude and as a token of his esteem, Morgan Sheffield had a silver speaking trumpet engraved with the date, the emblem of the company, and presented to Fire Company Chief Bodie. The silver engraved speaking trumpet was a prized symbol of authority, and after it ceased to be a practical tool for directing firefighters, it was displayed in a special glass case in the firehouse.

Eventually, the original firehouse building proved too small and ill-placed to accommodate Luna City’s first fully-motorized ladder and pumper fire trucks, which were purchased in 1920 and 1922. The fire department moved to its present location on West Elm Street, although the present-day fire house is the third building on that site. The first building on the site had to be extensively expanded with the acquisition of larger vehicles in subsequent decades. Embarrassingly, the second firehouse burned to the ground on the 4th of July, 1939, while all vehicles and volunteers were attending to a massive fire in a hay-barn on the Wyler Ranch. Many relics dating from the early years of the LCVFD were lost in that fire, including the silver speaking trumpet, and other artifacts and memorabilia.

The present Luna City VFD building accommodates a multi-purpose fire engine, a tender and a ladder truck, a brush truck for fighting grass and brushfires, a command truck and the ambulance, living quarters for full-time fire fighters, medics. and volunteers on regular shift, a classroom, storage area and wash-rack. There are six full-time paid professional firefighters; the remainder of the eighty-strong force are volunteers; either reserve, in training status or junior members. Junior members must be of high school age, and participate in regular training sessions. They assist with fundraising and educational outreach to the local community, and are considered full-fledged members of the LCVFD after their 18th birthday. Training sessions are held weekly; Wednesday evenings from 6-9 PM.

20. August 2016 · Comments Off on The Cattleman Hotel – Backgrounder · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

The Cattleman Hotel – Luna City
(From Texas Highways, 2005)

Among the dozen notable late 19th Century Beaux-Arts style buildings lining Luna City’s historic Town Square is the Cattleman Hotel. Four stories tall, with a mansard-style roof which adds still another story, the exterior is a flamboyant combination of mellow rose-pink Texas granite, with architectural trimmings of imported Carrera marble; window and door surrounds balustrades and pediments creating a notable contrast. The frieze, cornice and projecting modillions were also of Carrera marble, with primary highlights picked out in gold. A large half-circular bay formed the main ground-floor double-door entrance, sheltered with an ornate cast-iron and glass canopy, and extended through the upper floors to the cornice as a series of stacked bay windows with narrow balustrades.
The Cattleman Hotel originally was named the Grand Palazzo Vittoria Hotel; designed and constructed with no expense spared in 1885 by one of Luna City’s original minor investors, an Italian gentleman and entrepreneur of means, Signor Afredo Vittorio di Barreca. At this time, Luna City’s investors had expected the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway would pass through Luna City; Arthur Wells McAllister, the engineer and surveyor who had laid out the town and designed much of the still-extant public buildings, had designed a particularly ornate railway station (which would have been constructed about where the Luna City Police Department and Volunteer Fire department garages are located now). Arthur Wells McAllister also expected Luna City to become the county seat, and accordingly planned a fabulously ornate courthouse to occupy Town Square instead of the pleasant square of oak trees, lawns and flowerbeds which adorn the space today. Signor di Barreca, therefore, designed and outfitted his enterprise in the full confidence that his palatial hotel would become the cynosure of local social life and a refuge for weary travelers; thirty-five guest rooms, including three suites, a gentleman’s smoking room on the second floor, a lavish bar with backbar, etched mirror, glass shelves and fittings made from imported Circassian walnut, a dining room capable of seating a hundred diners at a time, and a ballroom with a stage at one end, suitable for concerts and theatrical performances.
Signor di Barreca, already middle-aged and prosperous through his previous hotel properties in Italy and in the eastern US, was married to a young woman barely half his age, Filomena Gismondi, who had ambitions as an opera singer. Although quite beautiful, vivacious and charming, and with a pleasing singing voice, young Signora Gismodi had neither the drive or luck to continue performing professionally on the opera stage, and it is assumed, gratefully accepted an offer of marriage. Signor di Barreca was, however, indulgent of his young wife, and it is said, had the ballroom and stage included in the design of his establishment so that she could continue giving recitals and concerts.
Alas – as has been related elsewhere, the grand ambitions of all those who invested in the vision of Luna City as a traveler’s mecca, and county seat – were undone by love. Signor di Barreca, like Arthur Wells McAllister, was not unduly cast down by this misfortune, but zestfully turned his energies into carrying on his own vision of his hotel as a destination and show-place for winter visitors to Texas, refugees from the snow-clad north. In this he was successful for some two decades. Shortly after the turn of the last century, he invested in a motor-coach, which made daily journeys between the nearest railroad station in Karnesville and his hotel, emblazed with the name of the Grand Palazzo Vittoria Hotel, bearing visitors to and fro, while advertising his hotel. The di Barrecas were cosmopolitan in their tastes and travels, returning frequently to visit Europe and England during those years, the height of the so-called Belle Époque.
Signor and Signora di Barreca were the parents of one child, a son named after his father, born in 1896. The senior Signor di Barreca passed away while visiting his homeland in 1908, and his widow promptly remarried. The younger Signor Alfredo returned to Texas, and for several years managed the Grand Palazzo in much the same manner as his father had, although with much less ferocious energy. Upon the outbreak of the First World War, he sold the hotel to the then-owner of the Bodie Feed mill, Alexander Bodie, who was then waxing prosperous, and returned posthaste to Italy, where he enlisted in the Italian Army and perished in fighting on the Italio-Austrian front several years later.
Alexander Bodie tasked one of his younger sons, Curtis, with the management of the Grand Palazzo Vittoria. Almost his first act upon taking over was to change the name to “The Cattleman Hotel”, although faint traces of the original name may still be seen, where they were emblazoned in gold letters on the façade over the third-story bay window. Under that name, the hotel continued to prosper through the first three decades of the twentieth century, although not quite on the same flamboyant scale as previously. A number of the rooms were refitted to accommodate in-suite private bathrooms, during this period, although such renovations were halted by the ravages of the Depression, which hit South Texas as hard as anywhere else. Wartime shortages and gas rationing had an effect as well, although there was a slight recovery seen in the late 1940s. Still, postwar prosperity and renewed travel opportunities could not repair twenty years of dwindling demand. Many of the smaller rooms on upper floors were emptied of furnishings and closed off permanently.
The second and third-floor rooms continued in sporadic use, as well as the hotel bar and the ballroom – often used for special receptions, meetings and community events, such as a visit by then vice-President Johnson in 1961. But what demand there was for rooms and special events fell precipitously with the development of Mills Farm ten years later. Mills Farm and VPI had the lock on providing entertainment and hospitality venues; with the added benefit of offering an old-fashioned classic Texas experience updated with every modern convenience. In a modern sense, the Cattleman Hotel was extraneous to needs, and in the centennial year of 1976, Curtis Bodie sold the place to a consortium of the Luna City municipality and the Luna City Historical Association for what amounted to a token payment. It was thought possible for a time to use part of the place as a museum, and indeed, the old main lobby is used to this day as a display space for various local historic relics. According to long-time Luna City Historical Association member, Leticia McAllister, there is no truth to the rumor that Mills Farm’s parent company, Venue Properties, International, attempted to purchase the historic building outright and move it to the present Mills Farm Property – although that rumor was widely circulated at the time, and helped engender a considerable degree of local distrust towards Mills Farm – a distrust that continues to this day. The plan was, as MS McAllister avers in a recent interview with our reporter, presented as using the old grand hotel as an adjunct hotel facility for Mills Farm/VPI, but the terms offered were so insulting, they were rejected after brief and acrimonious consultation.
The municipality and the historical association are able to maintain the ballroom and dining room as an event venue, although the electrical system is not normally equal to the demands which modern-day celebrations put on it. The Historical Association maintains an office in one of the upper floor rooms, and the city government does so with another two rooms. Many of the remaining rooms are used as overflow storage by the city, the Luna City Independent School District and the Historical Association. The three suites are maintained, ready for rent to interested parties, although of late, this mostly means ghost hunters.
Yes – the Cattleman Hotel is widely reputed to be haunted; there are the customary moving lights behind the windows of long-uninhabited rooms, and docents who volunteer at the lobby-area museum often insist that they hear the sounds of male voices, and bottles and glassware rattling in the old bar … a room which is customarily locked. Guests in the three still-used suites have often insisted they detect the odor of pipe tobacco and cigars in the hallway adjacent to the old smoking salon on the second floor – also a room long emptied and locked. There are said to be three main ghosts in the old hotel. None can actually be tied to real people with certainty through historical records – although not from the want of trying on the part of folklorists and ghost-hunters. The first is said to be that of a woman guest – well-bred and traveling alone (possibly to meet her lover?) who killed herself with poison in a guest room on the second floor sometime in the late 1880s. Her spirit is said to be the one who roams the second floor, seeming to search for someone. The top floor, which housed hotel staff in the days when the place had live-in staff, is haunted by the spirit of another woman; a maid or housekeeper who was murdered by a spurned boyfriend; she is reported to manifest by the sounds of an invisible broom, sweeping dust … which is seen moving in brief spurts along the floor. The third ghost is that of a reckless young cowboy, who was robbed of his takings at a not-so-friendly poker game in the livery stable which once stood behind the Cattleman Hotel. It is this ghost who is reportedly responsible for the voices and the noises in the old bar.
The Cattleman Hotel is located at the western side of Luna City’s historic Town Square. Tours of the building may be arranged by contacting the Historical Society, or the office of the Mayor. When not in his office in City Hall, the mayor may be found at his place of business, Abernathy Hardware.

28. July 2016 · Comments Off on The Luna City Players And the Koenig Opera House · Categories: Luna City Info Dump, Uncategorized

Theater with TowerThe Luna City Players are one of, if not the longest-established community theatrical groups in Karnes County, having roots in a small group of amateur performers known as “The Lunatics” who were famed for performing as a minstrel group in and around the local area in the late 1880s. The Lunatics also acted in farces and bawdy comedies, but around the turn of the last century turned to a more formal organization and more elevated materiel. In some years, they were able to mount three or four separate productions, with performances weekly, of classic and popular plays. With the popularity of motion pictures throughout the years since the 1920s, there was not so much demand for locally-sourced entertainments, yet the Luna City Players continued, with traditional theatrical presentations, and with short original presentations, tableaux, and skits to mark celebrations such as Founders’ Day, the 4th of July and at Christmas. In the last half dozen years, under the direction of Patricia Wyler Pryor, the Players have begun performing original material by a selection of local South Texas writers and playwrights.
The Players performance space and rehearsal facility is the historic Koenig Opera House on Town Square – an intimate 200-capacity hall, which once was Luna City’s movie theater, and remains the newest of the structures lining Town Square, dating as it does from 1922. Once merely a wide alley-way between The Cattleman Hotel and O’Byrne’s Fine Haberdashery (now housing the Ssts Margaret and Anthony Parish thrift shop) leading to a livery stable behind the Cattleman Hotel, the Opera House filled in that long, narrow space, adorning the façade on Town Square with colorful glazed tiles and a fabulously ornate marquee. The Koenig still hosts movie showings on a regular basis, showing mainly classic old black and white silent pictures, with live organ accompaniment. (Consult the Chamber of Commerce website for a current schedule.)

02. April 2016 · Comments Off on The Natural History of the Age of Aquarius · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

The Age of Aquarius Campground and Goat Farm celebrates their 48th anniversary this year at mid-summer – a well-established institution after a rocky beginning during the Summer of Love. And rocky would be the correct term to describe the original property; five forlorn and overgrown acres in a gentle bend of the San Antonio River, a bare quarter-mile from the pleasant little town of Luna City. The property was in the distant past, a part of a generous tract granted by Spain to Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez or Gonzales. Over the last quarter of the 19th century, much of the tract was sold off to various new owners, including the family of Morgan P. Sheffield, a moderately well-to-do gentleman from Philadelphia. Morgan Sheffield was diagnosed with tuberculosis around 1895 and advised to move to a more temperate climate for his health.

While the climate of South Texas proved to be restorative to Mr. Sheffield’s health, the five acres of land was too rocky to farm in a traditional manner and too small to support more than a handful of cows. When the town of Luna City itself was planned, there was some thought given to establishing a hotel and spa on what was undoubtedly a pleasant situation on the banks of the San Antonio River on the outskirts of the proposed town. Attempts to dig a deep well on the site struck a thermal spring of naturally hot water, but that was the last of that run of good luck for a long time. The San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad bypassed Luna City, and Mr. Sheffield’s property. The hotel and spa were never built, the hot water well capped. During the 1930s, Mr. Sheffield’s heirs established a small motor court on the property, in the hopes of attracting vacationers; they built a row of small cottages, a combination bathhouse/lavatory built of concrete blocks, and paved areas for travel trailers, in the hopes of enticing travelers on Route 123 between San Antonio and the coast to come and stay for a night or two.

However, travelers and campers remained stubbornly un-enticed; the cottages disintegrated through disuse and lack of maintenance, and the acreage became severely overgrown. In 1967 the property passed into the ownership of Morgan P. Sheffield’s great-grand-niece, Judith “Judy” Stillwell, a native of Austin, mostly because no one else in the remaining family really wanted it. Judith Stillwell was then a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, and the despair of her upright and generally conventional middle-class family. 1968 was the so-called Summer of Love, and all things counter-culture swamped practically every college campus in the land – including Judy Stillwell and a circle of friends, which included her live-in boyfriend, Sefton Grant. They embraced practically every ‘ism’ going, with near-religious fervor; vegetarianism, pacifism, nudism, paganism, and small-c communism. At the beginning of summer vacation, Judy, Sefton and a group of about forty other devotees – most of them fellow students at UT – conceived a grand plan to establish a New Age commune, where they would all live in harmony with nature. Where to plant their ideal Age of Aquarius? Why of course, the parcel which Judy had inherited, sight unseen, would be perfect. Her family agreed, over considerable misgivings – although they did extract as a condition of their approval and initial monetary support – that she and Sefton marry.  Much to the astonishment of the Stillwells, Judy and Sefton acceded to that demand, and were married before a Justice of the Peace within days.

They set out from Austin on the first day of the summer break; a long convoy of rattle-trap student vehicles, loaded down with everything thought necessary to set up their commune. Although students and addled with more than the usual quantity of late Sixties nonsense, there was a substantial streak of practicality, and among some at least, a willingness to engage in hard work. Sefton Grant, the son of a livestock farmer from Noodle, in Jones County typified that element.

Sefton realized almost at once upon arriving at the site of the new commune – a substantial grove of oak and pecan trees, deeply tangled with wild mustang grape vines – that subsistence farming would purely be out of the question; it would be a project of years to rid the best soil of rocks and improve it with manure and compost. He suggested grazing goats, and raising chickens. This suggestion was discussed and ratified over the period of a week by the commune members, while they worked at setting up living quarters. To several trailers were added the first yurt, which eventually became the Grant family home, a series of tents, and a number of free-form shack/shed/hovels built from scrap lumber, cardboard, construction leftovers, and sheets of plywood. Early on, the members discovered a substantial source of raw materials for their projects at the Karnesville City Dump, some eight miles south of the commune site. The hot well was uncapped, and an old windmill repaired to pump hot water into the only remaining structure from the campground – the lavatory and bathhouse.

But before the end of the year – even before the end of summer – the commune itself began dissolving. Fully a dozen members felt obliged to return to UT and complete their studies there in the fall, although they continued to consider the Age of Aquarius their more or less permanent home and to return there at intervals, especially at the time of the midsummer solstice. Two male commune members had draft numbers come up, and being no longer students, had to report for military service. Three more, being not yet of legal age, were tracked down and retrieved by their outraged families. The others, all but Judy and Sefton, drifted away before the decade was out, having concluded with some degree of chagrin, that living off the land and in harmony with nature involved too much backbreaking physical labor in the South Texas summer heat. It was also much more uncomfortable then it had sounded in long and substance-addled discussions in the Student Union. Only Sefton and Judy remained constant, eventually raising two sons and a daughter and achieving some degree of eccentric comfort in their chosen lifestyle.

They acquired beehives, goats, chickens – Judy being much more inclined than Sefton to consider them as pets – and the manure from the latter slowly improved the patch where they established a thriving truck garden. Judy, who dabbled in various arcane household skills, including weaving, herbal medicines, fortune-telling, and macramé-knotting, worked out recipes for hand-made soaps, and goat-milk cheeses, and established a tiny but thriving business selling them at local markets, along with honey and fresh vegetables in season. In time, they were able to pay to have an electric line run out to the campground, on the grounds that people paying to camp there expected it, although their own home establishment depended on solar panels, a wind-mill and kerosene lanterns.

And every mid-summer, the long-dispersed commune members return; middle-aged and prosperous, to fill up the campground and reminisce about that long-ago summer with Judy and Sefton, recalling youthful dreams and illusions, to light a bonfire in the grove and dance sky-clad to the Stones, the Doors and Janis.

The Grants’ three children – all now well-grown, also prosperous and utterly conventional – do not come to visit during that week. There are things which once seen, cannot be unseen.

 

 

21. March 2016 · Comments Off on The Great Bank Robbery of 1922 · Categories: Luna City Info Dump, Places in Luna

There are three official historical markers in Town Square, much cherished by local citizens. The most noted is the one marking the site where Old Charley Mills was nearly lynched by infuriated citizens, which action was forestalled by the timely intervention of somewhat less-infuriated but more clear-thinking individuals, who included Doc Wyler’s father, Albert Wyler and his younger brother Thomas Wyler, the Reverend Calvin Rowbottom, then senior minister of the Luna City First Methodist Church, and a handful of others whose irreproachable  respectability was of such a degree that they were able with reason and persuasion, to turn their fellow citizens aside from such an irrevocable action. The second official historical marker is set into the wall of the building now housing Luna Café and Coffee and marks the site of the last officially noted personal gunfight on the streets of Luna City in 1919; this being a duel between Don Antonio Gonzales and Eusebio Garcia Maldonado. The only casualties were the radiator of Don Antonio’s Model-A sedan, a city street-light and a mule hitched to a wagon parked farther down the square, and felled by a wild shot from Eusebio’s revolver.

The third historical marker is set into the red brick and neo-classical style exterior wall of the what was once the Luna City Savings & Loan, but now houses city offices and the Chamber of Commerce. The Savings & Loan was a casualty of the Depression, closing its doors in 1933; since then, most Lunaites must do their bank business in Karnesville – but in the evanescently prosperous decade of the 1920s, it was a temple of the local economy. It even looked rather like a temple, a smaller mirror of the Luna City consolidated public school across Town Square – but in January, 1922, that magnificent neo-classical façade concealed a weakness: the bank’s massive safe was an older model, and vulnerable to a form of safe-cracking which was the forte of the quartet of bank- and railroad-robbing Newton brothers, of Uvalde, Texas. The mastermind of the gang, brother Willis Newton had procured a list of banks with old safes from a corrupt insurance official, and methodically worked their way through it. None of their bank heists were particularly notable for the size of the haul but they regularly cleaned out everything of value from a targeted bank, including small change and the contents of safe deposit boxes, striking early – usually in the middle of the night – and often, and making a clean getaway as well. In other words, the Newton boys and their safe-cracking expert, Brentwood “Brent” Glasscock, practiced bank robbery assembly-line fashion. Regular and successful looting of small-town banks amounted to more in the aggregate over a long period than an occasional spectacular and more dangerous raid against a bigger target.

But Luna City proved to be more than a match for the Newton boys, through a couple of fortunate circumstances. The first was that the local telephone exchange had just that very week been relocated to new premises, and the second – that Albert Wyler and a number of fellow ranch owners and cattlemen from across Karnes County were having a post-New-Years get-together at the Cattleman Hotel, a get-together involving much marathon yarn-telling and a certain amount of well-disguised alcohol consumption.

Although Karnes County was by tradition and practice not completely ‘dry’, at this time the United States labored under the burden of the Volstead Act, which likely only inconvenienced casual social drinkers … including Albert Wyler and his friends, some of whom – like Albert himself – had also been volunteer Rough Riders with Teddy Roosevelt’s cavalry company twenty-five years before. Luna City was, after all, the home town of Charles Everett Mills, bootlegger extraordinaire. Sometime around two in the morning, Albert Wyler excused himself from the gathering in the Cattleman Hotel’s second floor small salon and smoking room, pleading a call of nature and retiring to the room which he had taken for the night, for convenience, rather than returning in the early morning hours to the Wyler main house, which was a mere two miles from the Cattleman. Little did he expect the good fortune that would come from this circumstance. Even as Albert Wyler made his excuses to his fellows, receiving a certain amount of ribald teasing in response, Willis Newton was silently shimmying up the side of the building which had formerly housed the telephone exchange, and cutting what he assumed was the main line, thus rendering the whole of Luna City unable to communicate to the outside world … or even from telephone to telephone within city limits.

Unbeknown to Willis Newton, he had gone to the wrong building to sever the telephone wire, and during his brief absence from the gathering of cattlemen, Albert Wyler stepped out on the second-floor gallery for a breath of fresh air. Before rejoining his fellows, he looked down into the shadowed square, faintly illuminated by the streetlights of the time, and noticed a large Studebaker automobile, with headlamps dimmed, idling in the street before the Savings and Loan. Albert noted this initially with mild curiosity and then with growing concern. Automobiles were not uncommon in Luna City at that date; however, ownership of one was sufficiently rare so as to render each easily recognizable to a knowledgeable resident of the area. And Albert did not recognize the Studebaker at all. In those few moments, the conviction was formed in his mind – as he so related later – that there was nothing good going on, what with a strange automobile, it’s engine running in the street in front of the Luna City Savings and Loan. Indeed, this was the customary stratagem of the Newton gang – small town, dead of night in the middle of winter, fast and powerful automobile for a quick getaway. So firm was Albert’s instant conviction of this, that he hurried back to the gathering, exclaiming,

“Fellows, grab your irons – I think there’s a gang about to rob the bank!”

At that very instant, and as if to add emphasis to Albert’s words, Brent Glasscock blew the door of the massive safe – using a combination of nitroglycerine forced into the slight gap between the safe door and the safe itself, and setting it off with dynamite caps. The explosion was massive; not only did it open the safe, it also blew out the front door, every glass window at the front of the bank, and rattled windows all along the square. It also wakened every resident – and there were more of them in that day than this – who lived over a shop on Town Square, including Charles Abernathy, of Abernathy Hardware. (The father of Hiram Abernathy, grandfather of Martin and great-grandfather of Jess.)

Charles also looked down from the second floor window of the building which housed his enterprise and his family, and being closer to the Savings and Loan, had an even better view – or he would have, if he were not so near-sighted as to require eye glasses. But he could see the Studebaker, and the blurred forms of the robbers, even as three of the gang dashed back into the bank to grab what they could from the blown safe. Charles Abernathy caught up his father’s lever-action Winchester shotgun which had ever been the Abernathy’s first choice when it came to protecting their home, business and high-value stock, and blasted away.

Two of the Newton gang stood fast, with their own weapons and blasted back, not with any particular effect but to waken everyone who had not been wakened by the explosion in the Savings & Loan. Albert Wyler and his friends were also doubling through Town Square from the front of the Cattleman Hotel, howling and whooping like banshees, and firing their own sidearms. That there were no human casualties in this encounter is doubtless due to several factors. The Newton boys, unlike a number of other robbery gangs of that and an earlier era, had a demonstrated reluctance to add murder charges to that of robbery, in the event that they were ever captured and brought to trial. They were scrupulous in that respect, preferring to menace, scoop and skedaddle – hence their preference for minimizing risk by robbing banks when no one was likely to be around. That they were not casualties themselves was due to Charles Abernathy’s near-sightedness, and the amount of alcohol consumed by Albert Wyler’s companions.

Realizing that the element of surprise was lost, and that elements of the local citizenry were aroused, and perfectly willing to make a fight of it, the Newton gang prudently cut their losses and ran for safety, having only had time to empty out a small portion of the safe’s contents. They fled with the Studebaker’s engine roaring – waking up at last that portion of Luna City which had managed to so far to sleep through the explosion and the subsequent exchange of gunfire. Law enforcement was alerted in a timely fashion, but fortune smiled belatedly on the Newton gang, and they were able to shake off pursuit. It is a matter of record that they were somewhat shaken by their hairsbreadth escape in Luna City; their next recorded robbery of any substance took place in Toronto, Canada, the following year – nearly as far away from Luna City as you could get, without departing from the North American continent entirely.

There are still some obvious small chips and divots in the lower outside walls of the old building which housed the Savings and Loans, which are still pointed out to visitors – supposed to have been caused by one of Charles Abernathy’s missed shots, on a chilly January early morning in 1922.

 

 

03. February 2016 · Comments Off on Spring Community Calendar · Categories: Luna City Info Dump, Luna-ites

 

Spring 2016 Newsletter-1

Spring 2016 Newsletter-2

23. January 2016 · Comments Off on Some Graphic Elements for the Next Luna City Chronicle · Categories: Luna City Info Dump
Pryors Meats&BBQ

For Pryor’s – which provides game processing services during hunting season, and weekend BBQ year round

Mills Farm - Logo with Lettering

The wholly corporate-owned event and entertainment venue.

Yes – appropriate logos for the businesses which play a large to middling part of life in Luna City …

 

 

 

 

 

And Abernathy Hardware, which was updated in about 1930, and why mess with success?

And Abernathy Hardware, which was updated in about 1930, and why mess with success?

For the coffee shop on Town Square that is the usual morning gathering place.

For the coffee shop on Town Square that is the usual morning gathering place.

13. January 2016 · Comments Off on Higher Ed · Categories: Luna City Info Dump
LCISD - Elementary School

LCISD – Elementary School

Many are the educational fads which have swept school districts across our fair land in the last half-century – New Math, Whole-word reading and other such ilk beloved of the advanced establishments purporting to teach our teachers. Fortunately, when it comes to the Luna City Independent School District, very few of those ill-considered pedagogic fads have come to roost permanently, or at least their roost was not long enough to damage without possibility of repair the intellectual development of those children trusted to the local educational establishment.

And for those parents sufficiently unhappy with the LCISD, there was always the outlet of a grimly old-fashioned Catholic grade school, St. Scholastica’s in Karnesville, where the children wore the traditional school uniforms – including white shirts and school-patterned-plaid neckties for the boys – and the handful of teaching nuns wielded stout rulers with the expertise of Babe Ruth in his prime.

But on the whole, the parents of Luna City and environs are content with the elementary and high schools in Luna City – after all, most of them attended and graduated from them in their day, often having been taught by the same teachers. Indeed, Miss Letty McAllister’s tenure as kindergarten and first-grade teacher began in 1947 and ended – under half-hearted protest from all concerned – in 1990, so it was entirely possible to have had a young student’s grandmother or grandfather face the formidable Miss Letty on the first day of school in the high-ceilinged classroom arrayed with the small-sized desks which had been bought in 1920 … desks which were still equipped with little round holes in the top right corner to accommodate bottles of ink … a classroom in which the faint odor of chalk lingered like an exotic perfume. Miss Letty missed her classroom in her years of official retirement. (The desks were eventually sold in the antique market for an eye-poppingly gratifying sum early in the 2000s, and replaced with high-quality small-sized wooden tables and chairs.)

But retirement did not end Miss Letty’s teaching career; dear me, no.

Among the educational heresies which were dropped from the high school curriculum around the time that the new high school building was constructed were mandatory home economics classes; that is, cooking and sewing. Most parents – and indeed most students – had the vague sense that educational time given over to that was wasted time. Girls – and boys too – who wanted to learn to cook and sew had already acquired those skills from their parents or by other means of instruction by the time they hit high school. And those (admittedly few) students who were passionately interested in haute cuisine and needlework had already gone far, far beyond learning to make meatloaf and construct a drawstring denim gym-bag. Pointless to waste five hours a week for a semester on those projects … but the home economics kitchen classroom with the adjoining room which could be set up as a dining area still remain in active use.

Geronimo “Jerry” Gonzales (a second cousin of Jaimie) while in his tenure as Luna City Superintendent of Schools (which lasted about half as long as Miss Letty’s as a teacher) suggested sometime around the mid-1990s that some kind of life-skills class ought to be instituted in the curriculum for junior or perhaps sophomore-year students. Jerry, as one of the bookish and intellectual Gonzaleses, was singularly unencumbered by conventional pedagogic idiocies: the class was instituted in the following academic year and has been continued ever since.

Jerry’s Gonzales’ mind-blowing stroke of genius with regard to the life-skills class was to have a wide-ranging curriculum of practical skills taught by volunteer experts in the Luna City community, who might do a single classroom hour – or as long as two weeks worth. Jess Abernathy, for instance; teaches financial management. How to set up a household budget, manage a checking account, fill out a simple tax return. Jaimie Gonzales does a down and dirty auto maintenance course; checking oil and fluids, how to safely change a flat tire. Roman Gonzalez, the construction foreman teaches simple household repairs and residential trouble-shooting. This comes in handy especially when graduates strike out on their own following graduation, and find their own apartment in Karnesville, or Beeville, or the big city, San Antonio. Even Doc Wyler contributes; a single hour-long class on how to interview for a job.

But Miss Letty’s emergency First Aid class is a stand-out, and in more ways than one. Oh, yes, Miss Letty covers the usual First Aid classics; broken limbs, snake, spider and animal bites, splints and tourniquets, bandages and all that. Then there is the emergency child-birth portion of Miss Letty’s class, for which she brings in some particularly graphic visual aids. (Film in the early years, of late on a DVD.) Graphic … as in no portion of the delivery process veiled from the delicate sensibilities of the susceptible. That at least one student will either faint or throw up is a constant to be relied upon; Miss Letty incorporates the treatment of those conditions into the lesson plan. Most students depart from Miss Letty’s classes firmly and silently swearing a vow of chastity.

It is a matter of quiet community pride that the incidents of teenage pregnancy in Luna City is refreshingly below the national average – as are also STD infection rates.

 

23. December 2015 · Comments Off on A Very Luna Christmas · Categories: Luna City Info Dump
After dark on Town Square, the Saturday before Christmas

After dark on Town Square, the Saturday before Christmas

There are towns all across South Texas who go more all-out for Christmas than Luna City; illuminations, parades, evening street parties, complete with snow-making machinery and live music, craft markets set up in the central town square, pageants and posadas, with Joseph and Mary on a donkey walking through town looking for shelter… Luna City does a little of that. Usually the parade of Santa arriving is on the last Saturday before Christmas Day, although what with the development of inexpensive mini-light strings, nets and icicle lights, the city management has taken a lead in illuminating the trees in Town Square, beginning the first weekend in December. Volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce, fraternal organizations and the Scout troop assist in running and securing dozens of extension cords from the electrical main in the storeroom underneath the bandstand, and wrapping the tree trunks and branches with strings of white mini-lights. There are lights ornamenting the dome roof, columns and railings of the bandstand as well. Most of the businesses lining the Square also put up lights, along with decorated trees and wreaths.

Martin Abernathy emerges from his apartment over the hardware store last thing at 10 PM (when the evening news ends) with the bandstand storeroom keys and turns off the lights. Keeping the square lit up throughout every night in December would place a considerable burden on the city budget. Besides; the Abernathys, the Steins, and a handful of other Lunaites live upstairs from their businesses, and who wants all that light pouring into your bedroom windows at night? It’s the courteous thing to do. So, the lights go off at 10 PM; peaceful moonlight and the lights from the four old-fashioned street lamps fall undisturbed on the sleeping town. Still, almost everyone enjoys the seasonal lighting which transforms Town Square into a fairytale land of sparkling trees. The oldest residents even grudgingly acknowledge that modern technology has wrought some improvement to the Christmastime appearance of the square… back in their day, it was just a string or two of colored lights around the ground-floor store windows and they were grateful for it!

On that Saturday before Christmas, organizations such as the ladies’ auxiliaries of various churches set up booth between the trees. They are selling handicrafts, raffling a quilt or two, or homemade baked goods. A couple of food trucks from Karnesville and as far as San Antonio set up on the side opposite from the Café, and Andy Pryor’s family brings their enormous portable BBQ in time for a lunch crowd. The Grants are always there, with their free-range eggs, honey and goat-milk soaps. In the last couple of years, they have taken to bringing some of their younger goats, as a sort of impromptu petting zoo. By noon, all vehicle traffic is stopped from going into the square. One of the fraternal organizations has a very elaborate miniature train made from 55-gallon drums, powered by the engine out of an old industrial mower. A couple of drums and some bits of creatively cut galvanized roofing made the locomotive. The cars are made from single drums, with a generous oval cut from one side, and then the other mounted on a set of wheels. The train goes trundling around the square, usually with a full load of excited toddlers and small children.

As darkness falls, the activity increases. The kids from the Luna High School chorus perform, standing in the steps of the bandstand; they perform a brief program of traditional carols for about half an hour, followed by elements of the Mighty Moth Marching band – not marching, and usually playing the same set of carols. No one minds very much. People walk around the square, admiring the lights and visiting with friends. A number of the businesses remain open into the early evening, offering hospitality; plates of Christmas cookies and stollen, slices of fruitcake, and hot drinks to all. The Abernathys have hot chocolate, and the Steins began offering mulled wine a few years ago which proved enormously popular. Hot spiced apple cider is also very popular. The café, as always, has hot coffee.

At about eight in the evening, Santa Claus arrives; sometimes on the back of the Luna City Volunteer Fire Department’s old hook and ladder truck – which was replaced decades ago and relegated to the historical society’s car barn. The VFD members have usually set up a throne for Santa under the domed roof of the bandstand, and for the next hour and a half, children line up (the smaller ones holding on to their parents’ hands) to tell Santa what they want for Christmas. Santa – white-bearded and clad in a long red robe rather like the traditional Germanic Santa – curiously sounds like Doc Wyler. For most – especially the children – this is the height of the season, only matched by unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. And when the last child has confided their Christmas wishes, and taken away, yawning and confidently expecting those wishes to be granted within days, Lunaites gradually disperse to their homes. The Café closes, the Steins and the Abernathys close and lock their doors, although when the square is finally deserted, Martin goes across the Square with the bandstand storeroom key to turn off the lights.

And that is a very merry Luna Christmas.