The Back Page


The spasmodic blog enriched with a classic blend
of new and used ingredients.

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POSTED 09.09.16

St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times — August 13, 2015

White pages on the way out? Not so fast.

For some people, the phone books that automatically show up on the doorstep or in the mailbox are relics of the past.

With the prevalence of smartphones and the Internet, using the white pages to look up someone’s phone number may seem obsolete, especially to digital-savvy generations.

Don’t expect the phone books to disappear quite yet, especially in small towns and rural areas. Some phone companies say they will continue to distribute them because their customers want them as a community resource.

As more people get rid of their landline telelphones and turn to mobile phones alone, the eventual demise of the white pages seems likely. Pictured at left is the September 1973 Southwestern Bell Telephone Directory for the San Antonio area (when we were still area code 512).

“The books are becoming less and less valuable as people cut the cord, because there are only landline telephone numbers in those books,” said Brent Christensen, president and CEO of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance. “You have more and more people who are finding the electronic version more valuable.”

Many people now rely solely on cellphones, whose numbers aren’t listed in white pages directories. Neither are unlisted numbers. However, in some smaller communities, people do still widely use the white pages.

Environmental groups have pushed for the opt-in laws because of the large amount of waste the phone books create. In 2006, an estimated 13,000 tons of phone books were distributed, almost 13 pounds per household, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Still, the state’s recycling rate for directories was just 11 percent.

There’s been a national movement as well. Whitepages, which operates the website, has pushed for opt-in laws and a few years ago started a Ban the Phone Book campaign.

“Quite often, when they were distributed, they would just go straight into the recycling bin,” said Alex Algard, CEO and founder of Whitepages. Algard said the distribution of phone books is tied to “legacy regulation,” but its own survey found that most people didn’t want them. Instead, they found creative uses for the books, including child booster seats or door stops.

“For all practical purposes, they have disappeared already,” he said. “They certainly have disappeared from consumers’ usage, from their habits and I think just from general collective market awareness.”

However, some telephone companies say they will continue to publish and distribute the white pages, at least for now. Rice-based Benton Communications will continue to deliver white pages directories, general manager Cheryl Scapanski said. The company believes it’s part of its duty, especially because not everyone has access to a computer or the Internet, Scapanski said.

There may come a point, probably within the next 10 years, when it’s not worth it to publish and distribute the directories.

That time has already come for Frontier Communications, which has had a waiver in Minnesota since 2012. Customers can contact the company if they want one and have it delivered for free, but only 1% to 2% of customers have done that, spokeswoman Andrea Fast said.

Fast said they don’t hear from many Minnesota customers who are upset about not receiving a directory. But in other states where Frontier still delivers directories, “customers were almost mad they get them,” she said. “They were almost more upset about getting them and wasting the resources,” Fast said.


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POSTED 07.18.16

Our Local Drive-In Theater

The Alamo Drive-In was located at 1428 Austin Highway, San Antonio, Texas 78209
The first drive-in movie theater in San Antonio opened on October 23, 1940. The “Drive-In Theatre,” its original name, was located a short distance outside the city limits on Fredericksburg Road.

Less than six years later, a second drive-in opened: the Alamo Drive-In Theater, located outside the city limits on the south side of Austin Highway, just west of Harry Wurzbach Drive.

San Antonio Express — April 3, 1946

The Alamo Drive-In Theater, built at a cost of $100,000 one mile north on Austin Hwy., will be formally opened Thursday at 7 p.m. Arthur Landsman, manager and co-owner, along with C.A. Richter and E.L. Pack, said the screen, employing a new plaster, provides more clearly defined pictures with realistic depth. Five hundred can be accommodated at the theater, he said.
The Alamo Drive-In featured a mural with a neon palm tree on the back of the screen tower building. It was opened before the advent of in-car speakers, and had a large, horn-type speaker below the screen. This set up made problems with neighbors, and also the people in the back ramps had a sound delay. A cowboy shot on the screen would fall dead off his horse before the people in back heard the shot! The screen was similar ro many Texas drive-ins built by Landsman Theatres in the 40s, including the Mission Drive-In in San Antonio. 

San Antonio Express — August 15, 1948

The Alamo Drive-In Theater on Austin Highway has installed In-car speakers. The grounds have been paved. This remodeling work has been carried on in the last two months while the theater remained in operation. The new manager of the Alamo Drive-In theater will be Richard Landsman. Mr. Landsman stated that he is sure that the modernization that has taken place will more than repay their patrons for any inconvenience incurred during this period.
(photo circa 1968)

During it’s heyday, it had a capacity for 650 cars and 120 seats for walk-in patrons. Drive-in theaters remained popular in San Antonio until their decline in the early 1970s. The Alamo Drive-In fell into disrepair around this time, and was subsequently demolished in the fall of 1972. Local news filmed the tearing down of the screen. The anchors were cut, cables were attached to the corners of the screen inside the theatre area, and it was pulled over, coming down in a huge cloud of dust. After it’s closing, the lot was vacant for a few years, then became a flea market during the 1980s. A Wal-Mart has since been built on its site.


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POSTED 07.01.16

The station first signed on the air on December 11, 1949 as WOAI-TV; it was the first television station in the San Antonio market. Channel 4 started out as an NBC-primary affiliate, and was co-owned with AM radio station WOAI.

WOAI-TV and WOAI radio are among the few broadcast stations located west of the Mississippi River that utilize a call sign that begins with a “W”; this designation was “grandfathered” when the Federal Communications Commission issued regulations requiring radio stations west of the Mississippi River to be assigned call letters starting with a “K,” and stations east of the Mississippi to calls beginning with a “W.” The station has been an NBC affiliate since its sign-on, along with WOAI-AM’s longtime affiliation with the NBC Red Network.

The station was forced to change its call sign after being sold apart from WOAI radio. In December 1974, coinciding with the stations 25th anniversary, WOAI-TV switched its call letters to KMOL-TV.  At that time, the AM station which retained the WOAI call letters, became one of the founding stations of its current owner, Clear Channel Communications.


San Antonio Express — December 11, 1974

Welcome KMOL-TV

San Antonio’s first television station celebrates its 25th anniversary Tuesday with a name change. WOAI-TV, Channel 4, became KMOL-TV. Vice president and general manager of the station Edward V. Cheviot, left, and Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Robert McDermott throw the switch turning on the lights for the new call letters.

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San Antonio Express-News — July 3, 2002

TV Station KMOL Set to Again be WOAI

KMOL, San Antonio’s first television station, will revert to its original call letters, WOAI, on or before Jan. 1, the NBC affiliate’s owners said Tuesday. After the change, subject to formal approval by the Federal Communications Commission, KMOL will be the city’s only TV station with call letters beginning with a “W.”

“We are headed back to the future,” said William Moll, president of television for San Antonio-based Clear Channel Worldwide, which owns both KMOL-TV, Channel 4, and radio station WOAI. He referred to the fact that KMOL, the city’s first TV station, initially began broadcasting on Dec. 11, 1949, as WOAI, sister to the already established WOAI-AM radio.

Southland Industries owned both properties back then. They were sold in 1965 to Crosley Corp., which later became AVCO. WOAI-TV changed to KMOL-TV in 1975. That happened after ownership was split. The radio portion was turned over to businessmen Lowry Mays and Red McCombs, founders of Clear Channel Worldwide.

TV and radio joined hands once again last October, however, when Clear Channel Worldwide acquired KMOL from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. “The name WOAI is also synonymous with news and information in San Antonio,” KMOL Vice President and General Manager Don Perry said Tuesday.


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POSTED 06.01.16

San Antonio Express-News — March 21, 1961

Ice Rink to Melt Away

Doors will slam for the list time this week at 606 W. Myrtle St. but the echoes from the closing of the San Pedro Park ice skating rink will be heard in San Antonio for many months. Parents of children who have become interested in the sport already are making their protests known, but to no avail. Their arguments that the children need the recreation and the discipline won’t stand up in the face of dollars and cents and red ink operation.
Electric refrigeration and television doomed the rink that opened its doors across from San Pedro Park in 1925. The skating rink is a part of an ice plant that once turned out as many as 150 tons of ice a day, week after week. Now the ice output is something like 40 tons per week, skating clientele has grown smaller and smaller and soon the plant and rink will be dismantled and the machinery scrapped. “It’s a darned shame,” said one mother. “My little girl already had set her sights on becoming a member of the Olympic team. Now she will have to quit skating altogether.”

Ink blotters were a popular form of advertising that were almost as common as business cards. This item is circa 1940.

“It’s too bad more people didn’t feel that way,” said H. A. Wykert, who has been engineer at the plant since 1927 and manager of the skating rink since 1942. “But it’s too late now. The lease has been signed and the doors will close March 27.” The ice business began to melt away when electric refrigeration came along but ice skating remained popular enough for the rink to stay in business until the impact of television was felt less than a decade ago. Then the proceeds began to fall off, the same as in baseball, football and other sports. “The most popular TV shows came on at night -- when we usually did our best business -- and we could see the difference immediately,” Wykert said. “We tried to attract school children in an afternoon skating period, but not too many were interested.”

Wykert looks back on some fond memories at Iceland, including that period during World War II when servicemen from colder regions of the nation caused the skating business to boom. “But,” he pointed out, “there was the metal shortage then and we couldn’t get skates. Something was always working against us.”

Will ice skating ever return to San Antonio? Wykert doesn’t know, and won’t guess. But he will say this: “Whoever considers building a rink will neet at least a quarter million dollars to get started.”

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Many years later...

San Antonio Express-News — June 17, 1976

Rink Opening Puts S.A. Back on Ice

One thing San Antonio does not have is ice skating on ponds in the winter. But now we’ve got the next best thing. San Antonio’s first ice skating rink in more than 15 years opened Wednesday. And its builders promised more rinks will be built.

The Quadrangle Ice Haus at 9200 Broadway consists of two rinks and has room for 100+ skaters, ac­cording to rink officials. Dement Southwest, builder of the rink, will build more ice rinks in all parts of the city, according to Red McCombs, a partner in the venture. Other partners are Jim Dement, Bill Poole and Sydney Sparks.

And if any of you died-in-the-cotton Southerners have never tried ice skating, it’s a kick. It’s easier than roller skating, according to our resident klutz, and you can learn the basics in about 30 minutes. $1.50 for youngsters 17 and under, and $2 for adults plus 75 cents for skate rental.


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POSTED 04.21.16

Were you lucky enough to have attended Hemisfair '68?

The Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel’s geometric facade along San Antonio’s River Walk is a visual reminder of how HemisFair ‘68 changed the Alamo City.

The World’s Fair was awarded to San Antonio, but the city was in desperate need of additional, modern hotel rooms. In had been almost 30 years since the last hotel was built downtown. When builder H.B. Zachary stepped forward to build a new hotel between the Riverwalk and Alamo Street, there was less than nine months to complete the job before the opening of Hemisfair 1968. Designed by Cerna & Garza Architects, the structure is notable for being a milestone in the use of new monolithic modular construction techniques. A tower would be built in the middle of the hotel and complete rooms would be stacked on top of each other.

Traditional construction methods would not allow the hotel to be completed in the short timeframe available before for the opening of the fair on April 6, 1968 so alternative methods were explored. H.B. Zachry Company utilized traditional construction to build the first 4 floors, slip form construction for the services/elevator core of the building and all guest rooms of the hotel were constructed as modular units in a location 8 miles from the construction site. Modular units were built complete with plumbing fixtures, lighting, art work, furnishings and even ash trays.

When the first room was scheduled to be lifted into place, builder H.B. Zachary and his wife rode on the balcony as a crane took it to it’s new home.

The builder had hoped to stack 10 complete rooms a day. By the end they had gotten so skilled at operating the special crane, they could lift up to 35 a day, enabling them to finish the building ahead of schedule. All rooms were placed in 46 days and the structure was completed in record time. The hotel opened 5 days early on April 1, 1968.

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21-Story Modular Hotel Raised the Roof for Texas World's Fair in 1968

Members of the Modular Building Institute (MBI) attended The American Institute of Architects (AIA) show in San Antonio (during 2007). Representing the modular building industry to architects that traveled from all over the United States to that locale presented a particularly interesting opportunity to champion the merits of the accelerated building process. Just one short block from the convention center stands a 21-story example of modular construction that has become a part of the historical landscape of San Antonio, as well as an early and ever-present example of the engineering feats modular construction can undertake.

The Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel is proudly pointed out to visitors as a ‘modular’ hotel with a history worthy of landing it on the famed Riverwalk boat tour for review and discussion. The hotel was highlighted in AIA’s guidebook to local architecture, prompting MBI to speak to the construction company that undertook this engineering feat in 1968. Zachry Construction Corporation (Zachry), also located in the heart of San Antonio and actual owner of the hotel, provided this original story written in 1968 about the project upon its construction. Interestingly, the piece is timeless in that the application could happen just as easily today.

The Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel is a milestone, not only for the City of San Antonio, but for the modular construction industry as well. Built by H.B. Zachry Company (now Zachry Construction Corporation) across the street from the site of HemisFair, the Texas World’s Exposition of 1968, the 500-room deluxe hotel was designed, completed and occupied in an unprecedented period of 202 working days.

Zachry set up a production line consisting of two rows of eight room-size forms that produced eight complete units daily. The working crews were composed, as an average, of more than 100 men who completed a designated task 496 times.

The casting process was started by coating the permanent, hinged, outer forms with a forming release agent. Reinforcing steel for floors was added, and in 30 minutes, six and a half cubic yards of lightweight ready-mix concrete was poured to form a five-inch thick floor. When the concrete had set, it was hard finished and was allowed to cure for several hours. After that, crews placed steel reinforcing for the walls and ceilings, installed plumbing, electrical conduits and positioned block-outs for doors and other openings. In 30 minutes, fifteen and a half cubic yards of light weight ready-mix concrete for walls and ceilings were poured and vibrated into place.


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POSTED 03.31.16

Rick’s dad, James “Jimmy” Milton Cavender III passed away this week in San Antonio. He was 86.
While we were in high school, he was King Antonio for 1974.

San Antonio Express  —  April 21, 1974

Cavender Sees Sunny Reign

If King Antonio LII has his way, his reign will be one of the sunniest and most spirited ever seen during Fiesta. In a ceremony in front of the Alamo, James M. Cavender III was crowned King Antonio LII. That ceremony marks the beginning of a full week of activities. There is much royal running around to be done including parades, public appearances, dances, balls, and the passing out of 19,000 King’s Coins.
The job of being King actually requires two helpers -- one for day and one for night. For his aides, King Antonio has chosen Stanton P. Bell as his day aide, and Billy Cavender, the King’s twin brother, for the nighttime activities. Cavender was electeded to fill the throne and the heavy royal garments of the king from the ranks of his fellow Texas Cavaliers. The Texas Cavaliers are a group of about 350 civic-minded men who plan, promote and stage the Fiesta River Parade each year -- in addition to supplying the King.

This year's King Antonio lives in a comfortably furnished home with his wife, Judy and three growing sons, Mark (17), Rick (16) and Stephen (10). Golf is spelled with a capital “G” at the Cavender home. Mark and Rick share their father’s avid interest and are both on the Alamo Heights High School golf team. Stephen also likes to try his hand with the clubs. King Antonio says he may break 90 on a good golf day. He also enjoys bird hunting around Sabinal and deer hunting near Eagle Pass. “I got an eight-point buck this year,” he says with a royal grin. Last year, the king was commander of the Texas Cavaliers; and has held various offices in the organization prior to that time. King Antonio has many social activities, and Mrs. Cavender, a petite brunette, is the lucky person who gets to help King Antonio into his heavy, but handsome, wardrobe.


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POSTED 03.11.16

1973 Oil Crisis Had Far-Reaching Implications
In an attempt to save energy, Daylight Saving Time started early in United States, on January 6, 1974 following the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973. President Nixon proposed the plan to have the United States in year-round Daylight Saving Time for two consecutive years, but it was later amended so that there was standard time between October 27, 1974, and February 23, 1975.

The move spawned significant criticism because it forced many children to commute to school before sunrise. The pre-existing daylight saving rules, calling for the clocks to be advanced one hour on the last Sunday in April, were restored in 1976.

To help reduce oil consumption (also in 1974), a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph was imposed through the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act.

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San Antonio Light  —  January 10, 1974

Transportation: School's Plight

Transportation is the biggest problem San Antonio area school districts area encountering due to school time changes brought about by the introduction of Daylight Saving Time. Administrators in the North East and Northside School Districts, both of which operate their own school bus systems, said rearranging bus schedules and work schedules of drivers have caused massive problems. All Northside schools are beginning classes 30 minutes later than normal. “It was just entirely too dark,” said Ed Cody, superintendent. “We have so many youngsters walking to school, it was pretty dangerous.” Cody said the district will probably revert to former schedules in the spring when the sun will rise earlier. Allan Cannon, superintendent of Alamo Heights School District, said no changes will be made in the high school hours, but that the junior school and all elementary schools will began classes at 9 a.m. Even though those schools will be starting earlier, Cannon said dismissal times will remain the same. Because high school students often have jobs after school and there are many athletic activities, their hours will remain the same.
Editor’s note: If you took the classroom phase of Driver’s Education during those dark, pre-school hours at AHHS in early 1974, you might remember that it was pitch black when we arrived at school at 6:30 am or so . . .


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POSTED 02.19.16

Tall Paul: Foersterisms Made Learning Math Fun

from AHHS Class of 71 website -- Republished from the original Key Press article at

Mr. Paul Foerster
Math Department: Algebra, Calculus, Trigonometry
Mu Alpha Theta Sponsor

Paul Foerster began teaching mathematics at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, Texas in 1961. After earning a BS in chemical engineering, he served four years as an engineering duty officer with the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Program. Tutoring high school students while on active duty, he found his true passion — seeing students get the “Aha!” reaction as they finally grasp new concepts. After completing his Navy service, he went back to college for a spring and a summer to get his teaching certification. His teaching has been interrupted only by a year’s leave of absence to earn a master’s degree in mathematics through an academic year institute awarded by the National Science Foundation.

As a teacher, Paul drew upon his engineering experience to write for his students problems in which functions are used as mathematical models of phenomena in the real world. These problems allowed students to experience the fact that variables really vary, taking on different values in different parts of the problem, an important concept in the preparation for calculus. He compiled these problems into text form so that he would not have to run off all those handouts each year. The materials have a credibility that can come only from being written while on the job, getting immediate feedback from students.

Although Paul is most comfortable in the classroom with his own students, he shares what he has learned via presentations each year at local, regional, and national meetings for high school teachers and students. He was his state’s recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching in 1983, the first year of the award.

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Express-News' reporter Jennifer Lloyd did a great feature upon Paul’s retirement in May of 2011. Learn more here.


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POSTED 01.19.16

A Cold January, 1973

January 8 – 12, 1973 was a very cold period in Central and South Texas. Austin had 116 hours of below freezing temperatures that week, and San Antonio picked up 0.8 inches of snow January 11th. A second snow event for that winter season of came on February 7 and 8, when Austin, Del Rio and San Antonio all had snow.

from Olmos '73

Christmas vacation was long and happy, and most of us found it difficult to return, but ready or not, we were back early on January 8.

School was slow in staring and about a week later as were were still gazing our our windows . . . WHAT THE HEY! . . . we could see them now, the advancing clouds from the north that meant snow!

The “snow” began to pelt the ground. We thought it was snow . . . at any rate, it was white, and before long we were rushing out to build “snow” men, throw “snow” balls, make “snow” ice cream, and all the other snowly thing we imagined people in the North would do.

And then somebody said the stuff we had been playing with was only sleet . . .

But later that night it really did snow, and those who laughed first just didn’t laugh at all, and those who laughed last laughed best and laughed once again as they heard on the radio at 6 a.m. the next morning there would be no school that day.

LEFT: Mr. and Mrs. Jones instruct their son, Sputnik, on building grasspeople.


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POSTED 12.29.15

The Alamo Cement Company was the first Portland cement plant west of the Mississippi and one of the first in the United States. The Texas State Capitol building, the Driskill Hotel in Austin and many other historic structures were built with Alamo cement. In 1908, having exhausted raw material at its original site near Brackenridge Park, the company relocated to the outskirts of town, now the Lincoln Heights area on the edge of Alamo Heights. The new headquarters was named Cementville and included a factory, quarry, laboratory and planned community with homes, schools and a clinic for employees.
The first site of Alamo Cement was repurposed for the Sunken Gardens, Sunken Gardens Theatre, Trinity University, Alamo Stadium and San Antonio Zoo.

Seventy years after Cementville was built, the city had grown around it until the area’s most affluent community was adjacent. In 1979, the company was sold and Cementville’s property was abandoned. It was redeveloped a decade later as a lifestyle center with shopping, dining and entertainment features, preserving the historic value of the unique site through adaptive reuse and reconstruction of the smoke stacks, rock crusher, clinker shed and power house buildings. Part of the property was developed as the Quarry Golf Club, a golf course that has been rated one of the best in the state.

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Living, Working in Cementville

The village of Cementville was a company town founded in 1908 for employees of the San Antonio Portland Cement Co. (later Alamo Cement). Longtime San Antonians will remember seeing the Alamo Cement smokestacks from U.S. 281 at Jones Maltsberger Road; the factory and its residential community occupied the area where The Quarry shopping and entertainment complex and the Lincoln Heights subdivision are now.

Like most single-company communities, Cementville was established outside the city limits, where land was cheap, but its then-remote location and lack of public transportation necessitated the building of on-site homes for workers. Supervisors at first lived in old farmhouses that had been built by previous owners of the property, enabling the company to keep the plant going at all hours.

For decades, the compound’s address was given as “Cementville, Texas.” At its peak, there were about 90 “cottages” to house employees and their families. Other amenities included a baseball diamond for the amateur Cementville Tigers and a Cementville Auditorium where guest speakers addressed such topics as “Why You Should Pay Your Poll Tax,” “Crime Does Not Pay” and “The Meaning of American Citizenship.” A uniformed, 35-piece Cementville Band played popular and classical selections in their community and occasionally in Alamo Plaza.

Company towns tend to fall into one of two categories, says Hardy Green in “Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills That Shaped the American Economy.” A few, like Milton Hershey’s chocolate-making Hersheyville, were planned as near-utopian communities, while others, says Green, were more like “Exploitationsville.” Whenever “one business exerts a Big Brother-like grip over the population,” its overwhelming influence may be a mixed blessing at best.

On the positive side, Cementville employees who worked hard and behaved would have work as long as they could do their jobs. During the Great Depression, hours were cut, but layoffs were rare. In some cases, three and even four generations of Cementville families would find jobs there.

By the middle of the 20th century, there was a Cementville clinic and eventually a four-room Bluebonnet School, an elementary school run by the Alamo Heights School District. Youths could take part in a Boy Scout troop and the YMCA, and an Olympic-size swimming pool was built in 1976.

While Cementville was a close-knit community, it wasn’t a particular prosperous one for most employees. St. Anthony’s Shrine, across the street from the cement plant, was the church of the Mission Servants of St. Anthony, founded in 1929 by the Rev. Peter Baque to help the poor people of San Antonio, particularly the Mexican American workers of Cementville, to whom he ministered until his death in 1938.

Baque, a Spanish priest from a wealthy family, was “so sympathetic to poor people it was hard to keep him in shoes and clothing, for he continually gave them away to needy persons,” an associate told the San Antonio Express, Jan. 31, 1959. There was no shortage of need among his chosen neighbors.

People who worked in Cementville may have had the basics of food and shelter, but most shopped at a company store and paid monthly rent for their company-owned cottages, two expenses that ate up most of their modest pay. There was electricity from the 1920s onward, but Cementville homes didn’t have indoor plumbing until after annexation by the city in 1956, when the community was hooked up to a sewage line.

Photographer D. Gorton snapped this image of The Texas Tornados on location with Cementville as a backdrop. It later became the cover photo for their 1990 album. LEFT TO RIGHT: Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez.

As the city and its public transportation expanded, and automobiles became more affordable, Cementville workers had more choices, and some chose to live off-campus. By the time the company was bought out in 1979 by a Swiss concern, the community had dwindled, and remaining families had to relocate. The cement plant moved farther north to Loop 1604 and Green Mountain Road, while the deserted streets of Cementville were blocked off with boulders until the property was redeveloped, starting in the late 1980s.


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POSTED 12.07.15

Beer-aided and Peer-abetted:
Water Tower Graffiti

Longtime Alamo Heights residents affectionately referred to the city’s first water tower as the Tin Man, a 131-foot-high structure built in 1928. The sobriquet came about because his top resembled the inverted tin funnel hat worn by the Tin Man in the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

Turns out an engineering problem ws the main reason the water tower was dismantled in February of 2013. As the Tin Man aged, he was deteriorating rapidly and safety became a prime concern. Additionally, the height difference meant the two taller (newer) towers could not be filled to capacity, said Patrick Sullivan, the director of public works for Alamo Heights.

“It’s like saying goodbye to a family member,” Mayor Louis Cooper (AHHS Class of 1977) said. “It’s been a part of our Alamo Heights family forever.”

The “AH Mules” tattoo that adorned the Tin Man at the end of his life was done professionally, inscribed with “Class of 1998”. That contrasts with earlier years (1970s and before) when it was a rite of spring for AHHS Seniors to climb the Tin Man in the dead of night and paint “Seniors” plus the year they graduated.

Research revealed this additional morsel about grafitti and Alamo Heights students: In 1949, water towers near Alamo Heights were vandalized with graffitti attributed to a group of pranksters who named themselves Lezion.

A newspaper account stated “Evidence of a San Antonio underground high school fraternity Wednesday brought a warning from the superintendent of Alamo Heights schools that members face expulsion . . . The name ‘Lezion’ has been splattered in paint on prominent landmarks in the Alamo Heights-Terrell Hills region, including the water towers on the Austin Hwy., Blue Bonnet Blvd., and the country club golf links . . . Their uniform is black jeans, black shirts and black Stetson hats. Some have the emblem on the shirts . . .”

Ah, to be young, dumb and fearless. When trouble was your best friend, and the world was your oyster.


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POSTED 11.16.15


1975: Saturday Night Live, Season One

The first season of Saturday Night Live, the weekly late-night 90-minute American sketch comedy/variety show on NBC, aired during the 1975–1976 television season. Saturday Night Live premiered on October 11, 1975 and consisted of a total of 24 episodes, the last of which aired on July 31, 1976.

In 1974, NBC Tonight Show host Johnny Carson requested that the weekend broadcasts of “Best of Carson” (officially known as The Weekend Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson) come to an end (back then, The Tonight Show was a 90-minute program), so that Carson could take two weeknights off and NBC would thus air those repeats on those nights rather than feed them to affiliates for broadcast on either Saturdays or Sundays. Given Carson’s undisputed status as the king of late-night television, NBC heard his request as an ultimatum, fearing he might use the issue as grounds to defect to either ABC or CBS. To fill the gap, the network drew up some ideas and brought in Dick Ebersol – a protégé of legendary ABC Sports president Roone Arledge – to develop a 90-minute late-night variety show. Ebersol’s first order of business was hiring a young Canadian producer named Lorne Michaels to be the show-runner.

Television production in New York was already in decline in the mid-1970s (The Tonight Show had departed for Los Angeles two years prior), so NBC decided to base the show at their studios in Rockefeller Center to offset the overhead of maintaining those facilities. Michaels was given Studio 8H, a converted radio studio that prior to that point was most famous for having hosted Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra from 1937 to 1951, but was being used largely for network election coverage by the mid-1970s.

When the first show aired on October 11, 1975 with George Carlin as its host, it was called NBC’s Saturday Night because ABC featured a program at the same time titled Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. After ABC cancelled the Cosell program in 1976, the NBC program changed its name to Saturday Night Live on March 26, 1977 (and subsequently picked up Bill Murray from Cosell’s show in 1977, as well). Don Pardo introduced the cast on the first show as the “The not for ready, prime time players” instead of their actual name as “The Not Ready For Prime Time Players.”

The show was intended to have just six episodes. The original concept was for a comedy-variety show featuring young comedians, live musical performances, short films by Albert Brooks, and segments by Jim Henson featuring atypically adult and abstract characters from the Muppets world. Rather than have one permanent host, Michaels elected to have a different guest host each week (Albert Brooks was originally booked to be a permanent host, and claims it was his idea to have a different host each week). The first episode featured two musical guests (Billy Preston and Janis Ian), and the second episode, hosted by Paul Simon on October 18, was almost entirely a musical variety show with various acts. The Not Ready For Prime Time Players did not appear in the second episode at all, other than as the Bees with Simon telling the Muppets they were cancelled; and Chase in the opening, and the “Weekend Update” segment. Over the course of Season 1, sketch comedy would begin to dominate the show and SNL would more closely resemble its current format


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POSTED 10.21.15

Time & Temperature: Alamo Heights National Bank

Broadway Bank began in a small store front in Alamo Heights, Texas in 1941, by a military officer, Col. Charles E. Cheever, Sr., and his wife, Elizabeth Cheever. The primary purpose was to serve military families who were migrating to the Central Texas area. In the year 1959, it was the first San Antonio bank to establish a mortgage lending division, and it was the first to extend its banking hours to help working families.

In August of 1970, it was reported in the San Antonio Express newspaper that AH’s Northeast Nation Bank was going to get a new name and new look. It would soon to be known as the Alamo Heights National Bank. Col C. E. Cheever, chairman of the board, announced that Northeast Bank shareholders have approved the name change, as recommended by the directors, at a social meeting. The Comptroller of Currency in Washington, D.C. has authorized the proposed name change to Alamo Heights National Bank. “Ever since the bank moved to Alamo Heights from Loop 410, wo have received many recommendations that the bank should be called Alamo Heights National,” Col. Cheever slated. He added the name change would take place in the near future. Alamo Heights Mayor W. L. Clyborne expressed his enthusiasm concerning tho new name of the bank serving the Alamo Heights community. In addition to a new name, the bank will have a new look. Paul D. Aschbacher, president, announced a complete remodeling and redecorating program is being planned. When work was completed, a newspaper ad invited locals to come visit the updated financial institution...

This is it! Your beautiful new Alamo Heights National Bank completely remodeled inside and outside to create a new concept in banking pleasure and convenience. Everything is new and different . . . modern, yet traditional . . . tastefully decorated and furnished an entirely new look of elegance. Come let us show our new bank to you. We’re proud of it and look forward to seeing you, your family and friends. This is the place to be! And to celebrate our new look we’re giving away a FREE HAWAIIAN HOLIDAY FOR TWO! Register in our lobby for a free round trip to Honolulu via Braniff, with a week’s accommodations at the luxurious new Sheraton-Waikiki . . . and cash. (You need not be present for the drawing on October 15.) Visit your new Alamo Heights National Bank and register for our fabulous prize. You may be the winner! 5201 BROADWAY, MEMBER FDIC. Affiliated with Broadway National Bank 824-9411.

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San Antonio Express — May 19, 1972

Alamo Heights National Bank Hit —
Bomb Threat Used in Robbery

A lone bandit, threatening to detonate what he described as a remote-control bomb, Thursday took more than $10,000 from a drive-in teller at the Alamo Heights National Bank, 5201 Broadway. Described as tall, with a round acne-scarred face, the robber used a small box encircled with electrical tape and an accompanying note to stage the holdup shortly before 11:30 a.m., Alamo Heights Police Chief L. W. Hoyt said. Although the exact amount taken was not disclosed, Hoyt said the teller Bridget Perkins, placed between $10,000 and $11,000 in a carrier tube and returned it to the man, who was wearing a brown wig. Hoyt said the bandit drove a tan-colored .station wagon which was later found abandoned more than a mile away at Patterson Avenue and Westover Street. The vehicle was reportedly registered to a used car lot on San Pedro Avenue and had been loaned to a prospective customer Thursday morning on a trial basis, reported Alamo Heights Sgt. Roger Terry. A spokesman from the FBI here said a composite drawing of the bandit was being made.

Hoyt said the man drove into the motor banking area and placed the box, described as being the size of a transistor pocket radio, into the carrier tube along with the note and a bag into which he wanted the money placed. The note, according to the Alamo Heights chief, indicated there were three other men besides the bandit who were near the bank and had the ability to cause an explosion which would blow the bank up. The teller, a woman in her early 20s, told police the bandit held in his hand and displayed to her an item which appeared to be a waiide-talkie radio or a remote control device, Hoyt reported. The chief said there has not been any indication thus far that more than one man was involved in the robbery. Officers said they did not know whether the alleged bomb was actually an explosive device and reported that the box had been returned to the bandit as per his instructions in the note. A spokesmen for the FBI said the holdup was the first robbery of a drive-in bank facility in San Antonio and it was the third time in five years the Alamo Heights bank had been robbed.

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San Antonio Express — December 14, 1972

Heights Bank Suspect Nabbed

A 39-year-old man charged with the May 18 robbery of the Alamo Heights National Bank was arrested Wednesday in Banks, Ark. Lindsey Leo Mason, of Mexia, was arrested in the Arkansas city by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, according to James B. Adams of the local FBI office. Mason was indicted here Tuesday by a federal grand jury for the Alamo Heights robbery. He is also charged with the robberies of the Stonewall State Bank in Corpus Christi and a violation of the Hobbs Act against the First National Bank of Athens, Tex. on Sept. 8, 1971. The Hobbs Act is the provision which covers the extortion of money from bank officers or employees by threat of violence on the employee or members of his family.

A federal magistrate in El Dorado, Ark., ordered Mason held in Union County Jail in lieu of in bonds. The suspect was arrested while he was sitting in his car. He was unarmed at the time of his arrest, Adams said


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POSTED 09.28.15

Back when you could drive (but not walk) across the Olmos Dam

After disastrous floods in 1913 and 1921, the City of San Antonio implemented an improved (and desperately needed) water control program. Plans began to build a dam across the Olmos Flood Basin. It would be a concrete gravity structure with no emergency spillway section at the top. Flood releases were to be made through six outlet tunnels regulated by slide gates. The purpose of the entire structure was to store flood waters behind the dam and to release them gradually through the tunnels. It would stretch 1,941 feet and reach a maximum height of 58 feet above grade and about 85 feet above its rock foundation. In 1929, the newly-built Olmos Dam and roadway opened, connecting two wealthy, growing suburbs just north of San Antonio.

An Olmos Park subdivision called “Park Hill Estates” was the brainchild of developer H. C. Thorman. He saw its potential once the Olmos Dam improved access to the area. Thorman designed this new community with the automobile in mind.

The dam was an impressive bit of engineering and assembly. San Antonio-based engineer Samuel F. Crecelius designed the Olmos Dam and oversaw its construction. The structure itself featured by a vertical wall of concrete adorned with decorative arches on it’s downstream side. The crest of the dam was capped with a narrow, two-lane roadway that let vehicular traffic cruise between Olmos Park and Alamo Heights over scenic but boggy Olmos Flood Basin. Rock walls with alcoves were built on either side of the dam’s approach. Electric lanterns were placed at intervals along the road at the top of the dam, which was so au courant that it had no pedestrian walkway.

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San Antonio Express  — October 31, 1969

The City Council announced a law prohibiting persons from walking across the Olmos Dam roadway was passed at the request of the Alamo Heights Independent School District. Traffic Dir. Steward Fischer said the district asked for the change in order to obtain more state funds for busing of school children from portions of Olmos Park to Cambridge Elementary School in the Alamo Heights ISD. Texas Education Agency rules stipulate the state funds cannot be paid for busing of students who live within two miles walking distance of the school they attend. When the path (through the basin) can’t be used, some 50 Olmos Park students will live further than two “walking” miles, freeing the state funds for busing. Fisher noted that the city has had signs up at the dam road way entrances for more than two years which said pedestrians were not allowed, but no law had ever been passed.
San Antonio Express-News  — March 7, 1970

HOT LINE LOOKS AT: Olmos Dam Arrest Draws Complaint

Do you realize how the police discriminate against teenagers? I am 15 and live in Olmos Park. I go to high school and work in a grocery store as a package boy in Alamo Heights. When we have a spell of rainy weather and the Olmos basin is flooded, the only way to get to Alamo Heights from Olmos Park is to cross over the dam. (It’s miles out of the way to go all the way from Olmos Drive down Devine Road to Hildebrand, trudge up and down hills to Broadway, and then circle back up to Patterson!) This going across the dam is fine if you have a car. But if you’re fifteen years old, and loo young for a license, you Have to walk. AND IT’S AGAINST THE LAW TO WALK ACROSS THE OLMOS DAM! What’s a guy supposed to do when he has to gel to work or school on a rainy day?

Last week I defied the law and walked across the dam. Evidently someone spotted me and reported my crime, for THREE POLICE CARS came roaring down on me. I was arrested and told I have to appear in the Alamo Heights Corporation court, where I’m going to be fined $200. Where could I possibly get $200? I’ll probably wind up in jail for walking to work on the only possible route! What can I do?   POTENTIAL JAIL BIRD

HOT LINE: Wow! Let’s take one thing at a time. First of all, IT IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to walk on the Olmos Dam. The roadway is very narrow, and on the very few days when It really isn’t possible to walk through the Olmos Flood Basin, perhaps you might want to find a ride over to the Alamo Heights area. Now, about this police persecution: The Alamo Heights Police have no record of stopping anyone last week for walking across Olmos Dam. Nor is it conceivable that anyone would be fined $200 for so minor a transgression. What the Alamo Heights police did have a record of, is a report on Feb. 24, when two boys were spotted monkeying with one of the manhole covers on the Olmos Dam, according to Police Chief Leonard Hoyt. Says the chief: “The approach to the Olmos Dam at one end belongs to Alamo Heights, and at the other end it’s in Olmos Park. The City of San Antonio owns the dam itself. When any trouble is reported on the dam, all three police departments respond.” So, on Tuesday last week three police cars DID converge on the dam, said Chief Hoyt. “One of the boys got away,” he said, “but the other youngster was caught in the manhole.’” This boy didn’t get a court summons for being in the manhole (or for being on foot on the bridge, either!), he was ticketed for driving a car with only a motorcycle license. And the MAXIMUM fine for rhat offense IS $200 strangely enough! However, all three police departments (not to mention the fire department) take a dim view of boys who attempt to remove the manhole covers on the Olmos Dam and climb the 30 feet down the iron ladders to the electrical controls which work the dam’s slide gates. Does all this help to answer your question?

Editor’s note: Busted!

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ON THE ROADWAY: Long-time San Antonio weatherman Jim Dawson, resplendant in his plaid sportcoat, recalls the Flood of ’21 and the continuing importance of the Olmos Dam. This is from “Relections on Texas”, a series of 30-second historical vignettes produced by Channel 4 in the mid-’70s.

Olmos Dam remained virtually unchanged for almost 50 years and served an integral part of the flood protection program for the City. In 1974, an engineering study re-evaluated the potential flooding from the dam’s 33 square-mile drainage area. It indicated that the Olmos Dam did not have sufficient discharge capacity to prevent overtopping at PMF (Probable Maximum Flood) and the structure did not meet acceptable safety factors for events larger than a 100-year flood event.

San Antonio Express — May 6, 1977

Agreement Reached for Joint Engineering Study

An agreement has been authorized with the San Antonio River Authority and the cities of Alamo Heights and Olmos Park for a joint engineering study associated with strengthening Olmos Dam. The project will eliminate the existing roadway which crosses the top of the dam. The study will focus on the best way of providing access across Olmos Flood Basin, and where a new road will go.

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As a result, modifications began in 1978 to replace 1,500 feet of the non-overflow section with an uncontrolled spillway and to add post-tensioned anchors to the non-overflow sections. By 1981, the dam had a new look: only a glimpse remains of the dam’s stylish original profile -- over the spillway, a few symbolic arches were preserved.

The roadway was rerouted around the south side of the dam, and the narrow road across the top was closed  . . . now, no driving -- or walking -- across the dam was permitted


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POSTED 09.08.15

Remembering Joe Alston

Captain Gus entertained South Texas children for decades. The Captain’s real name was Joe Alston and he made his home in Pipe Creek (Bandera County) with his wife, Regina, who fought in the French Underground forces during World War II. Joe served in the U.S. Army and saw a lot of combat in Europe, especially in Italy, where he fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino.

As was the case at most small television affiliates in those days, Joe Alston was the jack-of-all-trades at KENS-TV; he was the station announcer, did all of the voice-overs and live commercials, as well as hosting a kiddy show called “The Captain Gus Show”.

Over the years, Joe Alston also hosted horror shows on Channel 5, donning a cape as part of his costume for “Shock Theater.” The show’s title changed to “Five Star Shock” and then “Project Terror”, and Joe’s hosting duties ranged from live on-camera skits to off-screen voiceover intros.

Joe Alston appeared in bit parts in a few movies, including “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, the classic film noir “T-Men”, and “West Point of the Air” (about the early pilot-training program at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, filmed on location). The Internet Movie Database doesn’t appear to include Alston’s film credits.

Pioneer broadcaster Joe Alston passed away in September, 1989

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Captain Gus navigated South Texas airwaves for decades

Ahoy, mateys! Let’s do the do and the whole McClue!

If you remember these words, you probably grew up in South Texas between the early 1950s and the late 1970s, while Captain Gus helmed one of the longest-running shows produced in this market.

The formula for the “The Captain Gus Show” was similar to kiddy shows on TV all over the country: a jovial host in costume introducing old cartoons for two audiences the ones the camera showed cheering in the studio and the ones watching at home.

To go with the collection of “Popeye” cartoons, “Gus” was a nautical chap with an unruly orange wig stuffed under a yachting cap. The captain’s patter was salted with seagoing references, kept as clean as a fresh ocean breeze, and his set was built around a ship-shape prop, the Good Ship Amigus.

Between cartoons and commercials, Gus would do Art Linkletter-style interviews with children in his live audience usually numbering around 50. Drawings from a Wishing Well awarded viewers prizes from toy stores.

Under the wig and handlebar moustache was Joe Alston, a World War II veteran who had been chief announcer at KTRH-AM radio in Houston before joining KENS as an announcer in 1953. As Captain Gus, Alston had an impressive run, from 1953 through 1979. Simultaneously, he was the announcer for locally produced commercials and did a brief stint (1959-1960) as the anonymous host of a late-night horror movie, variously called “Shock!” and “5-Star Shock” on KENS. As horror hosts go, he wasn’t particularly scary-looking, but neither would he be confused with his daytime persona as Captain Gus.

Project Terror concluded its run in 1971. For those who remember, the opening would show an image of an atom that would animate and make a grating alarm sound. Then Joe Alston’s voice-over would add, “Project Terror . . . Where the scientific and the terrifying emerge”.

Alston also worked for two Kerrville radio stations, KERV and KPFM. “The Captain Gus Show” eventually shrunk from five days a week to a Saturday-morning broadcast by the time it was canceled in 1979. Alston remained on Kerrville radio until his death at age 71.

Those of you who sailed with the Captain in his heyday will remember what he said to cheer up mateys who were feeling a little puny. Ready? All together, now: Ba-Ding Bing!


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POSTED 08.17.15

The San Antonio Wings played in the World Football League during the 1975 season.

At the close of the inaugural 1974 WFL season, the Florida Blazers were broke and unwanted. When it was announced that the WFL would continue in 1975, none of the invitations to perspective ownership groups included San Antonio. Local banker Norman Bevan felt he could make the WFL happen here. In a complicated deal consummated in March, Bevan secured the franchise rights to the Florida Blazers, retained some of the player’s contracts and gained league approval to transfer the franchise to San Antonio.

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San Antonio Express — May 14, 1975

WFL Club Gets Name

Since this is Armed Forces Week, a timely message was delivered by the local WFL team Tuesday. The football club announced that its official nickname is now the Wings. The team is named in honor of San Antonio’s “50-year history as the center of military aviation.” While keeping with the military theme, the Wings’ colors were officially announced as Cloud Silver and Sky Blue.

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The city was excited about their new team, but that excitement didn’t translate into ticket sales at the stadium. Norman Bevan continued to work with the Chamber of Commerce and local agencies to better promote the franchise in hopes of improving attendance. Despite great play on the field, there was no money coming in from a television deal and the Wings stood to lose about $50,000 a week unless the crowds improved. Bevan, his investors, and the fans remained cautiously optimistic that things would get better.
However, the Wings continued to be plagued by lower than expected attendance, and were in need of a $450,000 transfusion of money to complete the season. New players signed to the team were making $200-$250 a game, and many other players were asked to take as much as a 25% pay cut. The Wings had averaged only 12,000 a game and had lost a reported $350,000 through eleven weeks of the season. The WFL seemed to be in dire straights, and the Wings seemed to be falling from the very skies that only weeks ago seemed limitless.

Within a month, during a conference call to league headquarters in NYC, the Wings owner advocated keeping the struggling WFL alive -- but he was outnumbered and out of time. Six of the ten franchises voted to cease operations.

On October 22, 1975, the World Football League went out of business midway through its second season, mainly due to chronic financial problems. Pro football returned to San Antonio and Alamo Stadium nine years later with the arrival of the San Antonio Gunslingers of the United States Football League.

EXPECT GAME-DAY DELAYS: North Expressway construction skirts the edge of Alamo Stadium in 1975.


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POSTED 07.27.15

Broadway Theatre, 4940 Broadway, Alamo Heights, TX 78209

The Broadway Theater opened in 1939, and was one of many theaters designed for the Interstate Circuit during that period by the Dallas firm of Pettigrew & Worley. An attractive theater built in the Art Deco style, it featured a large lobby, a satellite snack bar on the mezzanine, and a good sized balcony. Total seating was 800+.

This was a sub-run theater in San Antonio until 1956, when Interstate Theaters Inc. renovated the house and made it the reserved-seat 70mm venue for San Antonio. The Broadway had Todd A-O projectors installed for the first run of “Around The World In 80 Days” -- 70mm projection that ran 30 frames per second as opposed to the normal 24 frames per second. One of the original projectors was kept to run cartoons and 35mm coming attractions before the great 70mm show.

The Broadway ran some of the biggest movies through the 1970s including “The Exorcist” and “Jaws”. There would be lines around the theatre for people to buy tickets for these blockbusters.

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San Antonio Express-News — February 16, 1974

"The Exorcist" Opens in San Antonio

About 1,000 San Antonians felt possessed by the desire to stand in a line for two hours to see a movie on Friday. The movie was, of course, “The Exorcist”. The film about a young, girt possessed by a demon opened at noon Friday at the Broadway Theater in Alamo Heights.

But compared to openings of the film in other cities, it had to be considered a disappointment. No one who saw the first screening got sick. No one fainted. No one ran out of the theater screaming. “It was great,” said Barbara Wickliffe, one of the patrons who saw the first screening. “It wasn’t at all repulsive. It took the book, and did it the only way it could be done .” Another viewer, Ginger Guillory, said she was “exhausted” after seeing the movie. “It really does take a lot out of you , “she said. One priest and nun were observed waiting to see the film.

Lynn Krueger, Broadway Theater manager, said “This is great. I haven’t seen an audience this excited since ‘Candy’, one of the first X-rated films to play in San Antonio,” Krueger explained. She said the theater had been “plagued by some problems. A series of fuses began burning out and a repairman had to be called. No one suggested supernatural influence. Some persons, eager to see the movie -- but just as eager to avoid the long waiting line -- tried to sneak in a balcony emergency exit. They were stopped.” Krueger noted.


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POSTED 07.06.15

Our Bicentennial: The American Freedom Train
February 11 – 14, 1976 -- on the grounds of the Lone Star Brewery

In the early 1970s, Ross Rowland Jr., a young, successful New York commodities broker and occasional steam locomotive engineer, had the idea to celebrate the Bicentennial of the American Revolution with a traveling exhibition of unique and representative artifacts from the 200 year history of the nation.

America had paused for an exuberant celebration of the nation’s 100th birthday, the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. Incredibly, as its 200th birthday approached, it appeared the Centennial would have no Bicentennial counterpart. The Bicentennial, in the wake of Vietnam and the midst of Watergate, was about to pass with little note taken or any event to celebrate.


Ross Rowland and several of his friends and associates from past steam-powered excursion trains worked against the trend. They knew that the steam locomotive was a proven “people magnet,” and they recalled the phenomenal success of the exhibit cars in recent years. The result of their efforts was eleventh-hour corporate sponsorship of a second Freedom Train. By the time the five corporate sponsors signed on, there was barely time to build the train or to find or restore suitable steam locomotion. It almost didn’t happen. Its legacy is a lesson in never quitting when things don’t look promising but you know you have a worthwhile dream.
The triumph of the steam-powered American Freedom Train was, indeed, the only nationwide celebration of the Bicentennial. It was pulled by steam locomotives in the age of the diesel, and would improve on the three display cars of its predecessor, the 1947 Freedom Train. It featured twelve display cars, ten that visitors would go aboard and pass through and two to hold large objects that would be viewed from the ground through huge “showcase” windows.

The display cars were filled with over 500 precious treasures of Americana. Included in these diverse artifacts were George Washington’s copy of the Constitution, the original Louisiana Purchase, Judy Garland’s dress from The Wizard of Oz, Joe Frazier’s boxing trunks, Martin Luther King’s pulpit and robes, and even a rock from the moon.

Over a 21-month period from April 1, 1975 to December 31, 1976 more than 7 million Americans visited the train during its tour of all 48 contiguous states. Tens of millions more stood trackside to see it go by. It was by far the greatest event on rails since the end of the steam era, and the uniquely magnificent vehicle that brought America’s Bicentennial celebration to the people.


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POSTED 06.15.15

from Olmos '73

Orange you glad she did?

When students came back to school (or in our case, started at AHHS) on August 21, 1972, one of the first things that greeted everyone was the bright orange doors and bench, freshly painted, at the south end of the main hall. The new look was an attempt by Mrs. Mary Thompson, librarian, to “brighten the atmosphere of the library and give it a friendlier look.”

Other friendly additions for Fall ’72 included music via an AM-FM radio which provided a soothing atmosphere for students as they worked, as well as colorful posters and mobiles donated by the art department. Also new were some 500 hardback and 600 paperback volumes. Additional facilities -- available to both students and faculty -- included private study carrels for individual projects, a copy machine, tape recorder, film strips, record player and a typewriter.

Approximately 14,000 volumes ranging in subject from the Abominable Snowman to Zoroastrianism, plus complete collections of 125 periodicals and four daily newspapers, offered students the very best in reference materials. But with all of the great facilities our library had to offer, Mrs. Thompson insisted that “the nicest things in the library are the students”.

Thanks to the illustrious Mrs. Thompson’s idea of injecting a burst of radiance into the main hall, scores of doors throughout the school became equally as vibrant.

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I uncovered a bit of background on this colorful issue, courtesy of Mary Thompson’s daughter from

In mild protest
by Pat Thompson Hrdlicka

Shortly after I graduated, the gap was widening between the ‘war-mongers’ and ‘peace-niks’. The Alamo Heights School Board and administration drew their lines in favor of sports, sports, sports. As a result, curriculum and library services (my Mom’s domain) were suffering from a lack of funding. I can remember late night ‘confabs’ she would have with Zuschlag, Ranson, Loving, etc (all liberal arts, literally and figuratively) at their quandary that education and technology were being made secondary.

So, in a mild protest, my Mom painted the library doors a VIBRANT ORANGE and put a bench in the hall, painted the same color. It was Peter Maxx era, so this was a big hit with the students, and she drew them into the library in record numbers! But the administration did not like it -- looking down from the front main hall, you couldn’t miss it -- and they gave her some flack.

Well, along comes Miss Gilmer and she recruited a group of students (which included my sister) and had her door painted, too!! Only, in her sweet and mild manner, she chose LAVENDER!! A ‘soft’ protest, but a protest nonetheless!


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POSTED 05.26.15

San Antonio Express — January 12, 1971

Group Will Ride 747

A group of San Antonio travel agents and community leaders will be given an orientation flight Tuesday on Braniff International’s new $24 million 747 super jet. The jumbo jet’s first visit to San Antonio is a prelude to Braniff’s inauguration Jan. 15 of non-stop service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Honolulu. Roy Barnes, Braniff district sales manager said there are no plans at present for regular 747 service here. The huge aircraft is scheduled to land at San Antonio International Airport at 5:45 p.m. and will leave at 7 p.m. for a one-hour flight around the area. Barnes said the plane will not be open for inspection by the general public.

On July 12, 1972, WOAI chartered a Continental 747 for their sweepstakes contest featuring a trip to Hawaii. An observer remembers sitting on Wetmore Road, right smack dab in the extended centerline of San Antonio International Airport’s Runway 12R when the jumbo jet lifted off right over the spot they had staked out. He added it was “low and loud”, and cited “the pilot used just about all 8,500 feet of runway”.

SAT is not a “hub” airport, but is a very strongly positioned regional airport providing services to a huge area. It has two main runways, one at 8,502 feet in length and the other at 7,505 feet. Both are 150 feet wide and are suitable for all but the very biggest aircraft, like the Boeing 747, which requires a longer strip to land and take off fully loaded.

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Rod Rodriguez (from added this account of another massive flying visitor to our airport.

Copyright 2014 by Rod Rodriguez & – All Rights Reservered


On a crisp cool (December 14) morning in 1978 the Concorde SST paid a promotional visit to San Antonio.  It was big news in the Alamo City.

Here’s how one writer described the visit: “An estimated crowd of 5,000 people crowded the San Antonio International Airport’s terminal building, observation deck, parking lots and nearby roads to get a glimpse of Braniff 5188, in actuality the British Airways Concorde, as it landed in San Antonio.  The visit was sponsored by Braniff to highlight subsonic Concorde service between Dallas-Ft. Worth and Washington Dulles beginning on January 12, 1979.”

Although the trip was organized by Braniff Airlines, you’d never know it by looking at the airplane.  As I remember it, one side was painted with the British Airways logo while the other side was painted with Air France “markings.”

Even though this was the Concorde’s first visit to the Alamo City, it would not be the last.  In 1991 Queen Elizabeth II visited San Antonio as part of a whirlwind visit to Texas but she landed in her Concorde across town at Kelly Field, not San Antonio International.

Speaking of Kelly...In an interesting coincidence, on the very same day that the Concorde was at SAT, another rare bird was visiting the Alamo City.  The space shuttle atop a 747 landed at Kelly Field for an overnight stop on its way back to Cape Canaveral.  What are the odds?!


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POSTED 05.04.15

Jim's Restaurants is a chain run by San Antonio-based Frontier Enterprises. Jim’s, best known for its breakfast and charbroiled Frontier Burgers, was started in 1947 when founder G. Jim Hasslocher built his first burger stand. The burger stand grew and became a drive-in burger concept with carhops, which eventually led to full-service restaurants in several locations.

The family-owned restaurant company owns and operates 20 Jim’s Restaurants in San Antonio and Austin and two Magic Time Machine restaurants, one in San Antonio and one in Dallas.

Frontier also operated the Tower of the Americas’ restaurant at HemisFair Park in Downtown San Antonio for more than three decades. In 2005, the City of San Antonio closed the Tower facility for remodeling and awarded the operating contract to another vendor.

Mr. Jim at his headquarters, May 1986.

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Frontier Enterprises has provided delicious food and exceptional service to hungry Texas families for more than 65 years. It continues to grow and thrive by focusing on quality and staying relevant as the industry evolves. The San Antonio-based company operates two successful restaurant brands – Jim’s Restaurants and Magic Time Machine.

Founder and Chairman G. “Jim” Hasslocher is one of the country’s most prominent restaurateurs, having served as president of the San Antonio Restaurant Association, the Texas Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Associ­ation. “Working in the restaurant industry is hard work, but very satisfying work,” Hasslocher tells Food & Drink. “It’s a great opportunity because you can start from the bottom and go to the top.”

In 1947, Hasslocher started a bicycle rental business in San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park. In the summertime, he sold slices of ice-cold watermelon next to his bike stand, where he met his wife and lifelong business partner, Veva Ball. Together, the couple opened the Frontier Drive-In, which is famous for its burgers, onion rings, milkshakes and carhops. In 1963, the partners opened Jim’s Coffee Shop, which was the predecessor to Jim’s Restaurants.

Classic Americana
Jim’s Restaurants is the quintessential Southern diner. It’s a 24-hour, family oriented venue that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner options at any time of day or night. The restaurant has a broad menu selection ranging from traditional American staples, such as burgers and fries, pancakes and bacon, chicken tenders and apple pie, to Southern favorites like Texas-style omelets, chicken-fried steak and pecan pie. It’s diverse enough to appeal to even the finickiest of eaters, according to Pres­ident Jimmy Hasslocher, Jim Hass­locher’s son.

Jim's #1 -- first in the coffee shop chain, opened in May of 1963 at the corner of Broadway and Loop 410.

While other restaurants raised their prices to survive the challenging economy, Frontier Enterprises has made a conscious effort to keep its prices low. “People are much more conscious of receiving value for their expenditures,” Division Manager Jeff Morrow says. “We want to make sure that we don’t disappoint them. We put a major focus on the overall experience, making sure the food is excellent, the service is excellent and that the restaurants are as clean as they possibly can be so that customers walk away with a sense of value.”

Magical Adventure
In 1974, Frontier Enterprises opened its first Magic Time Machine in San Antonio; a second opened in the Dallas area five years later. Magic Time Machine’s whimsical theme and quality food earned the company the International Food Manufacturers Association’s coveted Golden Plate Award as “Foodservice Operator of the Year.” It has received numerous accolades from industry publications throughout the years such as “Best Special Occasion Restaurant” and “Best Children’s Restaurant.”

Division Manager Gary Johnson, who runs the Magic Time Machine restaurants, offers two words to describe the restaurant’s one-of-a-kind theme: funky nostalgia. “Our servers perform a double function,” Johnson proclaims. “They are entertainers, but they have to be competent servers also. We employ nothing but type-A personalities who can get an order correct and deliver it in a timely fashion.”

Loyal Employees
Longevity is a common theme at both Jim’s Restaurants and Magic Time Machine, which have been around since the 1940s and the 1970s, respectively. “Because we’re a family owned and operated company, we’re able to make adjustments very quickly on anything new that we see going on in the industry,” Jimmy Hasslocher says.

One of Frontier’s main distinguishing factors, according to Johnson, is the longevity of its staff, which is a remarkable feat in the restaurant business. “We have cooks and servers that have been with the company for 25 to 30 years,” Johnson explains.

“I think the reason people stay for so long is because of the quality of the ownership of the company. The Hasslocher family is faithful to their employees. They bring them in as part of the family. That’s really a testament to the success of the organization.”

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San Antonio Express — July 17, 2014

Hasslocher breathes new life into AH's La Fonda

The word is out: La Fonda Alamo Heights is back, including the signature sign and famous margaritas, albeit in a new location.

It wasn’t long after La Fonda Sunset Ridge, which opened in 2000 at 6402 N. New Braunfels in the Sunset Ridge Shopping Center and closed March 31 this year, that Jimmy Hasslocher and his team began focusing on moving it to another location.

“If we hadn’t been able to buy the La Fonda name, the restaurant was going to be called ‘Bill and Juan’s,’” Hasslocher quipped. “It was important for us to secure the name.” “Juan” is Juan Romero, the La Fonda barman known for his margaritas.

Many of the menu items at the old restaurant, including Rick’s Special, a queso dish that includes picadillo and guacamole topped with pico de gallo, are on the menu as well as some new ones.

La Fonda Alamo Heights occupies the former Raffles Restaurant & Bar, at 8633 Crownhill Blvd. The property sits on 6.5 acres of land along Loop 410 that Hasslocher Enterprises purchased in 2012.

The original La Fonda sign was removed from the Sunset Ridge site, repaired and then put up by a crane at the Crownhill location.


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POSTED 04.13.15

Recognizing the 39th anniversary of the President's auspicious visit,
because sometimes magic happens all by itself.

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San Antonio Express-News Archives

President Gerald Ford, in town for a visit, was given a tour of the Alamo at a reception held for him by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. While there, according to the Express on April 10, 1976, he noticed “a plate of tamales, took one and began to eat it, shuck and all.”

Then-Mayor Lila Cockrell, who was at the brief tour of the Alamo, said most people gulped when they saw Ford eating one of the tamales with the husk. “I think he just picked up the plate because if someone had given him the plate, the tamales would not have had the shucks,” Cockrell said. “The president didn’t know any better. It was obvious he didn’t get a briefing on the eating of tamales.”

A vigilant DRT member stopped him “before it was too late.” He took it in good humor and “laughed as his hostess removed the corn wrapper and returned his tamale. He then proceeded to finish off the Mexican delicacy.” We laugh, but really, would a guy from Nebraska have known anything about tamales? At least he didn’t go “diva” and storm off.

Ford, who traveled to San Antonio as the guest of the San Antonio Bicentennial Committee, gave a speech outside the Alamo to more than 18,000 people, and signed the guest book after viewing a Davy Crockett exhibit and a model of the original Alamo. Afterward, he met with Republican supporters at the Palacio del Rio hotel and the Convention Center.

The April ‘76, visit was just weeks before the May 1 Republican primary in which Ford was battling Ronald Reagan for the presidential nomination. With Dallas as his next stop, President Ford left aboard Air Force One from Kelly A.F.B. later that afternoon. “You don’t remember all the details, but you remember the incident,” said Cockrell, now the president of the San Antonio Parks Foundation. “That was the thing that got reported. What people forget is that President Ford was a big, lovable, kind of ordinary guy. Whatever he did was so human.”


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POSTED 03.23.15

"Two miles of expressway is having a harder time moving through the
Alamo City than Santa Ana did."
                                                                                                    HERBERT MOLLOY MASON, JR.
                                                                                                    "THE SECOND BATTLE FOR SAN ANTONIO"
                                                                                                    TEXAS MONTHLY, APRIL 1973

More than half a century ago, a feverish battle began to decide the route of the North Expressway, the part of U.S. 281 north of downtown that’s now called McAllister Freeway. The feud lasted from 1960 to 1974, and mostly pitted businessmen against environmentalists arguing over whether the road could slice through parklands. The skirmishes spawned two referendums, several lawsuits, a three-year halt in construction and a new federal law.

In 1969, after years of protests and legal wrangling by the San Antonio Conservation Society, work began on the undisputed southern and northern thirds of the freeway while the debate over the routing of the center section continued, roughly between Mulberry Street (south of Alamo Stadium) and Tuxedo Drive (at the southwest edge of Cementville).


Excerpted from “The History of the San Antonio Gun Club”
During the early 1970s, as plans for the middle leg of this freeway were being mapped out, it became apparent that its route would take it in front of the San Antonio Gun Club in Olmos Park. City and highway officials were soon telling the club its days were numbered and the premises would be taken by imminent domain. However, the club was not going to give up without a fight! So, after numerous phone calls to civic leaders failed to garner a response, a group of club members led by Club President Bill Southwell, Tom Frost Sr., Leo Dubinski and Porter Loring arrived at City Hall unannounced. President Southwell convinced city and highway officials to come out to the club and view a “live fire” demonstration to prove the safety zone between the club and proposed freeway. And, in an act that could only be titled true Texas Bravado, president Southwell walked out into the proposed freeway path and faced the club. He then signaled a group of shooters to fire volley after volley of shells at him from the shooting stations. Of course, as an experienced shooter he knew the distance was too great to pose a threat. However, what better way to demonstrate to city and highway officials that the club was more than a safe distance away from the motorists traveling on the freeway. Thanks to Bill Southwell and a small but dedicated group of club members, the freeway came and the San Antonio Gun Club stayed.

When the road was finally opened more than two decades after construction began, it was named one of the three “most attractive urban freeways” by the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officers and has facilitated the increasing development of north-central San Antonio.

The newspaper article below announced that a small, 1.5 mile segment would be opened along it’s northernmost alignment, published just two days after we graduated in 1976.

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San Antonio Express — May 28, 1976

Expressway Section Will Open Today

A short stretch of the North Expressway will be open to motorists Friday — almost 17 years after the controversial highway project was conceived. Barricades are expected to come down about noon, after some last-minute details are finished, a spokesman for the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation said the section to be opened runs almost a mile and a half from Jones-Maltzberger Road north to Airport Boulevard. Another half-mile section. running south to Tuxedo Drive, is complete but will not be open to traffic until late 1977 when the center leg of the expressway. opens. The finished 2.1-mile section, built by HB Zachry Construction Co., cost $10 million, considerably more than the original cost estimates for the entire 7.7-mile expressway. Work on the section started in November 1970, but was interrupted for three years by a federal appeals court stay order. The southern leg of the expressway, from Pearl Parkway to Mulberry Avenue, is scheduled for traffic in mid-June.

The history of the North Expressway goes back to June 1959. when the City of San Antonio and Chamber of Commerce asked the State Highway Commission to study feasibility of a freeway from downtown to the airport. In January 1961, voters approved a bond issue for the expressway. A similar bond issue had been narrowly defeated the summer before. Within weeks of approval, of the bond issue, the first of several law suits was filed. Legal challenges in state and federal courts held up design and construction for years. On two different occasions the issue was taken before the U. S. Supreme Court. The way for construction was opened when the state won the right to return federal money set aside for the expressway and build the highway with state and local funds only.


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POSTED 03.02.15 — October, 2008

Veteran actor Bill Swinny is back on stage, showing students how it's done

It’s been a while since Bill Swinny played a character onstage — 25 years, by his count. “There aren’t many parts for an old fart,” he says, cutting loose his infectious laugh and noting that he is, after all, “going to be 80-damn-9 in August.”

Aside from some appearances with the Extended Run Players, a group of older actors who specialize in readers’ theater, his only role in the theater has been in the audience. That changed with a phone call from Stacey Connelly, director of theater at Trinity University. Connelly was directing a production of “You Can’t Take It With You” on campus and thought Swinny would be perfect for the pivotal role of eccentric Grandpa Vanderhof.

He said “yes” immediately — “I was flattered that they would even ask me. I didn’t think they knew I was alive” — but not without a little trepidation, given that it’s a sizable part with a fair amount of dialogue.

Connelly, who knew Swinny mostly socially and knew he had been a professional actor for much of his life, was confident that he could manage the part. Typically, the role would have gone to a student, as the others in the show have. Given that few Trinity students who come out to auditions are older than 22, Connelly wanted to move beyond that talent pool to cast Grandpa. It’s worked out well, she says. And she’s delighted to finally get a chance to see Swinny in action.

“There is something so direct and honest about him onstage, and it’s because of his training and because of his natural gifts,” she says. “And Bill is a model when it comes to voice and diction on stage and how to deliver lines because he’s had such excellent training. Bill sounds like he has a megaphone in his head; he has such excellent projection and diction. We’ve been working on that (with the students) so that we’re all in the same ballpark. He’s given us the standards.”

Swinny got some of his training at Trinity, where he earned degrees in drama and education. The rest came at the legendary Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York, where he studied from 1951 to ‘53. After Swinny graduated from the program, he knocked around in summer stock until a woman prompted his homecoming. Frances Richter, a theater professor with whom he had studied at Trinity, went north to visit him. After she left, he says, “I was on my way to work, and I just thought, ‘You idiot; you should go home and marry that girl.’ That was in May. In December we were married, and we’ve been married for 57 years,” he says.

For about 30 years of their marriage, he taught drama at Alamo Heights High School, where his students included future “Robocop” star Peter Weller. “My policy was, if you’ve got the guts to audition, you’re in the production.”

He didn’t restrict his theatrical activities to directing teenagers. He also frequently appeared on local stages, including the lead role in Trinity’s world premiere of playwright Kevin O’Morrison’s “The Realist,” playing a man who was a few years younger than he is now. “This was 25 years ago, when I could still jump and skip,” he says.

Jumping and skipping aren’t quite do-able for him these days, though he definitely holds his own — that cane he carries onstage in “You Can’t Take It With You” is a prop. Coming back to the stage after all those years has been fun, but also a little nerve-wracking, Swinny says. The one thing that has been a complete joy, he says, is working with the students.

His perspective has been a valuable commodity, Connelly says, since the show is set during the Depression, an era he lived through. He has told the cast stories about his family leaving their church rather than joining the Ku Klux Klan and about losing his father to tuberculosis when he was 14. He also told them about his first job, working for a store called Pay and Take It, where he started each day by killing and dressing 20 chickens. He earned 75 cents a day, with the exception of the day he took on another boy’s duties, too — he earned a princely $1.50 for that.

He has also explained to the students what a privy — also known as an outhouse — was and how it worked. “They’re smart as hell, but they don’t know anything,” he says.

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Swinnys Recognized at Globe Awards

Bill Swinny and his wife, Frances, have a long list of accomplishments. As long-time theater educators and arts advocates, they were recognized for their work with the Jasmina Wellinghoff Award for contributions to the city’s theater community. The Swinny’s were honored on the stage of Charline McCombs Empire Theatre at the Alamo Theatre Arts Council’s 2010 Globe Awards.

Swinny is a noted actor who, after years in New York, came back to San Antonio to marry Frances Richter in 1954. He settled in at Alamo Heights High School, where he taught drama for about 30 years while continuing to appear on stages in the area. Frances Swinny taught at Trinity University for 42 years, focusing largely on speech and oral interpretation.

Sam Carter Gilliam presented the Jasmina Wellinghoff Award, recognizing contributions to the city’s theater scene, to Bill and Frances Swinny. Sam Gilliam, an actress, teacher and designer who knows them well. She acted alongside him in a number of shows, and studied extensively with Frances.

Gilliam noted that she had been hugely influenced by Frances, a “legendary” teacher of speech and diction at Trinity University; she said she and her fellow students were “gaga” over Frances, and gave the audience a tiny taste of what the professor’s classes were like.

“Frances was my adviser when I was an undergrad in the early ‘70s at Trinity University,” Gilliam said. “And I took every class she offered because I just idolized her. She transformed my work as an actor because of, specifically, her voice and diction classes - she transformed the way I approach a script.”

Gilliam also appeared onstage with Bill, and recalled how, during a performance of “The Realist,” the power went out on campus at the start of one performance, when Bill was alone onstage. “For 10 minutes, Bill Swinny improvised, in the dark, in character,” Gilliam recalled. “The audience loved him.”

The audience Sunday night seemed pretty smitten by both Swinnys, who each spoke graciously and with great wit. Bill won the very first Globe award 20 years ago, and remembered nearly plowing down a row of people in his zeal to accept it.

After he spoke, Frances offered a “ditto” to his thank yous and declarations of affection for the theater community. The Swinnys, Gilliam said, have served as “consistent role models for what it is to be not only artists themselves, but educators and advocates and supporters of the arts. They have made a lifetime contribution to this community.”

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Alamo Heights Advocate — November, 2010

Living Legends of the Alamo Heights Stage

When Frances and Bill Swinny married in December 1954, they set up housekeeping in a Broadway duplex. “There was not much built beyond Tuxedo,” recalled Bill, a native of Sinton, Texas. “People used to hunt deer out that way! Oh, how I love the trees and beautiful Alamo Heights.”

During the ensuing 56 years, they purchased five Alamo Heights homes, raised a family, and became the “first family” of theatre. Both have had a significant impact through their teaching on many Alamo Heights families. In October 2010 they received an award from the Alamo Theatre Arts Council for life-long contributions to the theatre community, just 20 years after Bill had received the first Best Featured actor in a musical from that nascent group, for his performance in “My Fair Lady.”

For 30 years, Bill taught speech, English and drama at the High School and was beloved by legions of students. Frances began teaching at Trinity University in 1948 when it was at the “old Woodlawn campus” (Trinity moved to its current site in 1951). She earned a masters in Speech Pathology and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin, teaching poetry, performance and oral interpretation at Trinity. She won the first Zachary T. Scott Award for Outstanding Teaching and Guidance Counseling, as well as the Minnie Stevens Piper Professional Award.

“Bill was my student when we met,” laughed Frances. “Students were older, returning from the war. But then he went to New York to study and act.” Frances, the “baby” of her family and the only child born in California, stayed in San Antonio, where both her parents and siblings were born and remained.

“New York was fantastic,” Bill reminisced. “I studied two years at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, with Sanford Meisner. He was an inspired teacher, and oh, a huge ego! Steve McQueen, Joanne Woodward and Sydney Pollack were there – and Martha Graham taught dance! I did summer stock in Pennsylvania, which was where Frances and I got reacquainted – I courted her that summer – it was wonderful.”

So with $500 he’d saved in tips – and without a job – Bill boarded a train to San Antonio. He interviewed with then-Superintendent Ed Robbins for a job as the high school drama coach and was hired. The boy married the girl, and as they say, lived happily ever after. And they became Charter members of the Alamo Heights Neighborhood Association!

Their exuberant style, infectious laughter, easy camaraderie and obvious love for each other, their professional achievements and this community, is a delight to behold. “I wanted to break down barriers through plays at the high school,” Bill smiled. “I went there with an attitude of ‘World, here I am – take it all!’ – and they did! I loved teaching all the kids.”


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POSTED 02.09.15

We've Got A Lot of Living to Do

Originally titled Let’s Go Steady, Bye Bye Birdie was a satire on American society, set in 1958. The story was inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley and his draft notice into the Army in 1957.

The original 1960 Broadway production lasted for 607 performances, and was a Tony Award-winning success. The show also became a popular choice for high school and college theater productions.

Bye Bye Birdie was first adapted for film in 1963, with Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde reprising their stage roles for the movie version. Ed Sullivan made a guest appearance as himself. The film is credited with making Ann-Margret a superstar during the mid-1960s.

For our 1976 rendition, students gave three stellar performances, directed by Mr. William Swinny. Here’s a teaser from the newspaper, a week before the show’s opening.

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San Antonio Express — May 9, 1976

Rock around the clock... That folk hero of the 1950s — Conrad Birdie — will make a return visit to Broadway when Alamo Heights High School presents its senior play “Bye Bye Birdie”, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, May 13, 14 and 15, in the school auditorium, 6900 Broadway. Curtain time is 8:15 p.m.

The first senior play to be presented by the school since 1967 is the
story of a rock and roll singer who is being inducted into the army.

Starring in the title role will be Philip Duke; with Brian Mantz as his manager, Albert; and
Debbie Rosales as Albert’s long suffering girlfriend, Rosie.

All proceeds from the opening night will benefit the PTO scholarship fund. Tickets for the opening night performance are $5 and may be purchased from 8-8:30 a.m. and during the noon hour at the high school, or from Mrs. Roy Campbell, 822-0342. Tickets for Friday and Saturday performances are $4.50 and may be purchased during the same hours at the high school or at the door.


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POSTED 01.21.15

San Antonio Express — April 1, 1976

Oxford Scores Net Upset

Brad Oxford of Alamo Heights stopped defending regional champion Steve Hernandez of Churchill, 7-6, 1-6, 6-1, to win the 31-AAAA boys’ singles tennis title at McFarlin Tennis Center Wednesday. Mac Irvin and Ronnie Sherouse of Heights won the boys’ doubles.

Yearbook photo: post-school practice with Mac and Brad.

Varsity Boy’s Singles — Finals: Brad Oxford, Alamo Heights, def. Steve Hernandez, Churchill, 7-6, 1-6,- 6-1
Varsity Boy’s Doubles — Finals: Mac Irvin & Ronnie Sherouse, Alamo Heights, def. Darrell Kove & Homer Munoz, Churchill, 6-1, 6-2.

Varsity Girl’s Singles — Finals: Susan Youngblood, Lee, def. Susan Goldberg, Alamo Heights, 6-3, 6-1
Varsity Girls’ Doubles — Finals: Denise Hall & Jonel Bendele, Lee, def Laura Brusenhan & Heidi Harnisch, Alamo Heights, 7-5, 7-5.

Team Scoring — Boys: Alamo Heights 11, Churchill 8, Lee 6, Holmes 2, Marshall 1, Jefferson 1. Edison 1.
Team Scoring — Girls: Lee 12, Alamo Heights 9, Churchill 3, Holmes 2, Marshall 1, Jefferson 1, Edison 1.
Note — Both finalists in each event qualify for regional tournament in Corpus Christ, April 30, 1976.


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POSTED 12.29.14

San Antonio Express — March 20, 1975

Mules Among Voracious Pancake Eaters

Despite the heroic eating efforts of a big football player from Alamo Heights High School, the latest pancake gulping contest was won Wednesday by a hungry group from MacArthur. Sixty athletes from Alamo Heights, MacArthur and Roosevelt loosened their belts and quickly devoured 2,636 pancakes at the International House of Pancakes near IH410 and Nacogdoches Road.

The pancake-eating event was the second held at the location in little more than a month—and this time the results were even more astonishing than the last. The voracious young pancake gulpers put away the 2,636 pancakes in less than 40 minutes, according to pancake house manager Gil Koenig. That topped the 2,340 hot tcakes eaten by 70 boys from Lee and Churchill on Feb. 13. The Churchill group won that match but it took them more than an hour to do the job.

The purpose of both pancake eating match-ups was to see which group of athletes could gain the most weight at the end. Wednesday’s contest saw the 20 lads from MacArthur gain 109.25 pounds for an average weight gain of 5.5 pounds per man. Those figures barely edged a voracious effort of 108 pounds gained by the 20-man team from Alamo Heights. The hungry Mules’ average weight gain was 5.4 pounds. The winning MacArthur pancake crew, however, was not the talk of the contest. That gluttonous honor went to one Eddie Lee, a 202-pound football player, who reportedly ate more than 50 pancakes and gained a whopping 20 pounds after the pancake stuffing fete. Showing his puffed belly to all with the grin of one who was just about to sit down to a big Sunday dinner, Lee had everyone claiming, “I just don’t believe it!” as he tipped the scales at 222 pounds following the outrageous eating effort. Top eater for the champion MacArthur squad was Daryl Saunders who showed a gain of almost 12 pounds.

Tim Marcum, sponsor of the MacArthur chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes,, said, “We worked hard for this. It was our greatest moment—a great team effort.” Each player donated $1 to enter the flapjack event and the money will be given to charity, Koenig said.


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POSTED 12.08.14

1951 Grand Opening: Sunset Ridge Shopping Center

Sunset Ridge Shopping Center was San Antonio’s first multi-tenant open-air center. It opened in 1951, and is a classic example of mid-century, post-war “Late Moderne” architecture.

The Sunset Ridge apartment complex was one of the first large residential developments built in San Antonio after World War II to house returning veterans and their families. The apartments are located on about 30 acres behind the shopping center on N. New Braunfels Ave. Both the shopping plaza and the adjacent apartments were developed  by E J Burke & Sons, along with architect Bartlett Cocke.

E J Burke’s work centered largely in the southside of San Antonio although he went “northside” to build the 324-unit Sunset Ridge Apartments and the Sunset Ridge Shopping Center. In the years immediately following the war, his company specialized in the building of small homes and apartment units for returning veterans, as well as shopping centers to serve the homes that he built.

Bartlett Cocke was the architect of the downtown Joske’s building and worked as architect for St. Mary’s Hall, the Witte Museum, the Frost Bank building, Baptist Memorial Hospital, as well as North Star Mall. Joint ventures with architect O’Neil Ford produced the master plan and all buildings for the campus of Trinity University and buildings for the University of Texas at San Antonio Health Science Center during the 1970s.

Original tenants included: Wylie’s Drug Store, Maurice’s Beauty Salon, Alderman’s Barber Shop, Leonard’s Home Furnishings, De De Knott Smart Shop, Winn 5-10¢ Store, Juvenile Fashions, Chism’s Shoes, Sunset Ridge Shoe Repair, Blue Bonnet Jewelry Store, McLaughlin’s Hardware, The Village Bakers, Hom-ond Food Stores, Lone Star Ice House, Roy Schweers Gulf Service, Sunset Cocktail Lounge and B&L Liquor Store..

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San Antonio Light — June 24, 1951

Sunset Ridge Stores on
N. New Braunfels Ave. Celebrate
Grand Opening This Week

E. J. Burke and Sons present a huge community shopping center to serve north side area, designed by architect Bartlett Cocke, and built by Hill Combs. The new Sunset Ridge stores, on N. New Braunfels Ave. adjoining E. J. Burke’s Sunset Ridge apartments, will open for business officially Friday, June 29th. Sixteen of the locations are occupied and W S, Halcomb, in charge of leases, announced that he is negotiating for tenants in the remaining five unrented stores. A big celebration, welcoming the public into the well-designed and spacious project, is planned for Friday night with all tenants as hosts.


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POSTED 11.17.14 — October 9, 2014

Elvis played San Antonio 40 years ago

According to the Oct. 8, 1974, edition of the San Antonio News, he flew into town shortly after midnight in “an all-black Hugh Hefner ‘Playboy’ DC-9. He was wearing a long black coat with white fur trim.” He was greeted by a few fans before his manager, Col. Tom Parker, “took Elvis away in a black limousine to an unknown hotel destination.”

According to the Light’s story from that day, Parker had flown in “hours earlier” to make arrangements for the “estimated 30-member group’s arrival.”

A fan told the Light reporter, “If he looks that good when he travels, just think what he will look like on stage.” He didn’t disappoint. As shown in the concert photos in the above slideshow, he hadn’t reached the infamous overweight stage of his life, and looked trim in his white-sequined jumpsuit — emblazoned with peacocks — and white shoes.

Elvis, reported the Light the next day, “crammed a rambling, composite of old and new songs into the one-hour show…. Song after song was interrupted by shrill screams from every corner of the arena. And when Presley gyrated to the music, it was uproarious bedlam.”

The Express only published photos, but the News, of course, had to go for the outrageous. Their story revolved around a woman who was bitten in a fight over a scarf Elvis threw into the crowd. Taken to the hospital, she was given a tetanus shot “from a physician who thought it was humorous.” The woman said “…(her attacker) could be identified by a bald spot on her head which was inflicted by [her).” Hmmm…hair pulling, perhaps?

And yes, when the concert was over, reported the Light, the emcee indeed “proclaimed only seconds after Presley left the stage: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.’”


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POSTED 10.27.14

San Antonio Express — September 6, 1975

Mules Edge Unicorns

Senior Rod Hinson exploded for two touchdowns Friday night as the ALAMO HEIGHTS MULES turned an impressive third quarter into an 18-15 win over the New Braunfels Unicorns at Alamo Heights Stadium.

The Mules led 6-0 at halftime before Hinson, who rushed for 158 yards, gave them just enough edge to hold off a final quarter rally by the Unicorns. New Braunfels, down 18-0, struck for two touchdowns in the final seven minutes but fell short of their comeback when Bobby Goudge fell on his second onside kick for the Mules with 19 seconds left in the game. Bubba Garcia, New Braunfels’ dynamic wide receiver, issued the Unicorns a call for new hope when he stepped 73 yards down the sideline with a punt return with seven minutes left in the contest. Terry Tausch’s PAT trimmed the Mule lead to 18-7 but it seemed safe until reserve quarterback Mike Bonham hit Garcia with a 39 yard pass with 36 seconds to play. The reception, Garcia’s fourth of the game for 108 yards, moved the Unicorns to the Mule six. Two plays plays later David Scott zipped into the end zone with 19 seconds left on the clock. His PAT run made it 18-15. But Goudge, who had barely protected an onside kick try after the punt return score, had no trouble scooping up Shelby Ball’s bouncing kick and falling on it at the Heights 43.

Heights threatened to break the game open early in the third period when the Mules marched 77 yards with the second half kickoff. Hinson, who set up the score with a 58-yard run, scored from the seven and the Mules came right back and drove 33 yards on their second possession. Hinson tallied from six yards out. The only thing separating the two drives was a New Braunfels fumble by Ball on the first play. Scott Becker recovered for the Mules at the Unicorn 33.

New Braunfels had the ball for only nine plays and 2:35 of the third period yet the Unicorns lost two fumbles. Hinson almost had what would have been the first of three touchdowns in the second period but fumbled just before he went into the end zone on a three-yard jab. Fortunately wide receiver John Austin outscrambled four Unicorns for the ball and six points in the end zone with 10:48 left in the second period. A 54-yard bomb from quarterback Mike Wasson to Stan Shaw set up the score. A personal foul for a late hit moved the ball three yards closer to the three and the Mules scored on the next play. Linebacker Perry Edmonson preceeded the tally with a clutch defensive play when he stopped Scott for no gain on fourth and one at the Mule 36 with an open field tackle.

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Later that month, Hinson was named San Antonio High School Offensive Player of the Week (09-17-75). Rod lead the city in rushing his senior year -- and was named to the 1975 Express-News All-City football team.


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POSTED 10.06.14

Beanburger Origins Disputed, Not The Taste

The San Antonio tradition of the “beanburger” supposedly began at Sills Snack Shack (“Triple S”) in 1953. The building was owned by Frank Sills, Sr.; Felix Stehling (who later started the Taco Cabana chain) is often credited for working at the Triple S and putting out the first beanburger.

The original restaurant was an Alamo Heights mainstay from the 1950s until the mid-1980s. Frank Jr. later opened in Adkins, TX. He and two of his nephews, Bill and Brian Sills, brought back the original recipes and later re-opened the concept as a truck, but are no longer in operation.

I consider our classmate Jenny Embs to be the authority here. We’ll post her opinion of this recipe’s accuracy when it arrives.

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Texas Monthly Magazine, Recipe Swap — November 2006

Beanburger Texas-Style

Sills Snack Shack was where the Beanburger originated. It was in the 400 block of Austin Hwy, in Alamo Heights, a suburb of San Antonio, TX. It was a great lunch place for myself and other 1960’s high school students. It had 7 or 8 tables and a 5 cent Williams batting machine.
I worked there for about a month one summer.

Best with crisp tater-tots. The beanburger had no mayo, no mustard, no lettuce, no pickle, no grilled onion, no cheddar cheese, no jalapeno.

Start with a large hamburger bun, toasted on the grill -- and a quality beef patty, cooked medium.
• Patty is ready when it’s been turned over and done on both sides
• Place 1 large spoon original Rosarita refried canned beans on top of patty
• Turn again to heat and grill the beans
• Place chopped onions on one bun
• Place original Cheez-Whiz on the onions
• Turn patty one last time and place bean side up on the onions & Cheeze-Whiz
• Top the beans with slightly crushed original-size Fritos (we used Facs corn chips, now defunct)


Editor’s note: Yum!


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POSTED 09.15.14

San Antonio Express — April 24, 1977

Fiesta Oyster Bake

San Antonians took advantage of a sunny afternoon Saturday to visit special Fiesta events by the thousands. One is the Fiesta Oyster Bake, at St. Mary’s University. The Oyster Bake again proved its popularity, especially with St. Mary’s students. Although shrimp and oysters were the featured dishes, corn on the cob, shish kebob and pizza proved the most popular foods. Some Oyster Bake participants enjoyed smashing cascarones, confetti-filled eggs, on friends’ heads.

Fred Pfeiffer (’74) and our own Dwight Chumbley lend a hand at
St. Mary’s University.


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POSTED 08.25.14

Wanda Tassos was an educator at Alamo Heights High School, and taught many students to type (a skill they probably thought they’d never need). She was well-respected and quite a wondeful character.

Damon Tassos was a professional athlete, restauranteur, then a coach at Alamo Heights Junior School. He is member of the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame, and a five-year NFL veteran.

They were married for more than a half-century, and were personalities in the San Antonio area.
In the story below, they entertained their friends (from Thundersley, England) who visited Texas in the spring of 1973

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San Antonio Express-News — May 13, 1973

Correspondents Compare Notes

A friendship that lasted through high school penpal days and 39 years is the reason that Mr. and Mrs. Harry Humphreys from just outside London are guests in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Damon G. Tassos and their daughter, Cynthia.

When Wanda Tassos was a high school girl in Springfield, Mo., she began corresponding with Harry Humphreys, who lived in a resort town in northern Wales named Llandudno. The two accepted each other’s name without too much enthusiasm, as each would have preferred to write to a young person of the same sex. During World War II, their mothers took up the correspondence, and Wanda’s mother visited Harry’s mother after hostilities ceased. Eventually, Wanda went to England, and took along the two daughters she and Mr. Tassos had by then, Christine and Cynthia. It wasn’t until HemisFair, however, that Harry Humphreys met Damon Tassos.

With all the correspondence flying back and forth across the Atlantic, the two men had never exchanged a line. When Harry arrived at International Airport in 1968, he was greeted by Wanda, who was standing by a “large man in a wheel chair. All of a sudden, I realized that the reason Damon had never written was because he was an invalid. I knew he had ‘been a professional football player with the Green Bay Packers, and thought he must have been injured. Imagine my surprise when he got up from the chair to shake my hand, and I realized he had been playing a practical joke on me.”

Harry Humphreys bided his time until the Tassos came to visit him in 1970. The Britisher had asked a policeman to stop his car once the visiting Americans were inside, and ask Damon Tassos to step outside for questioning. Said Mr. Humphreys, “The bobby was a good policeman, but a poor actor; He started laughing in just a few minutes, and Damon knew it was just a joke.” A professional boxing referee, Harry especially wanted to take Damon to a boxing match in the oldest sporting club in the world, the National Sporting Club, in Cafe Royal. As a member, Harry describes the club as “the place where the aristocracy attend the boxing matches. The Duke of Edinburgh is a regular patron, and Oscar Wilde used to go there. Only men are allowed -- except the one Women’s Night each year -- and they are not admitted unless they arc wearing tuxedoes.”

Humphreys continued, “We would have dinner first, and then watch the boxing. A very strict rule is that no shouting is permitted once the contest is on. Applause is allowed between rounds, but the men box in complete silence except for an occasional murmur. All the members have their own seats, so in addition to getting Mr. Tassos through the doors of this exclusive club, it was necessary to find him a place to sit. The spot he occupied was with two doctors at ringside. Fortunately, he was not called on to attend any of the fighters,” laughed Mr. Humphreys, “but knowing Damon, I’m sure he would have managed.”

The couple from England will see as much of the Texas countryside as is possible in the three weeks of their visit.


Recently, the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, has been in the news. It hopes to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations toward research. Seems like an opportune time to offer this feature on Coach Tassos.

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San Antonio Light — April 24, 1977

Dinner of Champions Event to Honor Damon Tassos

There have been numerous attempts to honor the outstanding young athletes in San Antonio, but Tuesday’s Dinner of Champions at La Villita Assembly Hall, staged for the benefit of the Alamo Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, promises to be a hit. For one thing, the sports field will be blanketed, with football, basketball, baseball, tennis, shooting, boxing, wrestling and golf represented. There will be high school, college and professional athletes honored. They’ll even have a football official and a newspaper editor, and CBS sportscaster Jack Whitaker will be the master of ceremonies. And the honoree of this year’s banquet is a former talented athlete who was hit by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Damon Tassos. The local MS chapter couldn’t have honored a more deserving athlete. Damon never was an All-American, although he was co-captain of the 1944 Texas Aggies. He wasn’t an All-Pro, although he played five tough years of pro ball as a starter for the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. But Damon Tassos has turned in an All-American battle against ALS, the disease that struck down baseball’s Lou Gehrig and boxing’s Ezzard Charles.


Tassos had been long retired from active sports when doctors analyzed his ailment as ALS, but he hadn’t abandoned sports. Damon had taken a job as coach at Alamo Heights Junior High because he loved working with kids. And he knew how to motivate them. Damon didn’t let muscle deterioration affect his mind or his outlook on life. Research into multiple sclerosis continues to bring about new ways of combating all types of the dread disease, and as long as there’s hope, Tassos continues to be an example of how mind over matter can help in facing a crippling disease. Many sports stars will attend the dinner, and no matter what your favorite sport is, there will be coaches and athletes you’ll enjoy meeting and talking to during the hospitality hour prior to the dinner. But the most important thing is that you’ll be contributing to research to curb a deadly disease.


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POSTED 08.04.14

Also Mad About The Mule

Blitz is a full service architecture and interior design firm, specializing in commercial and residential design. Blitz loves a fun mascot and they played off the mule motif for one of their San Francisco-based clients, MuleSoft. Blue or pink mule heads for restroom IDs. Nice! Think of how great these would have been on the bathroom doors at the MuleStall!
Learn more here.

Here’s something that’s perfectly appropriate for AHHS alumni of any year. The PEACE LOVE MULE vinyl window decal! Gorilla Decals of Portland Oregon, offers this clever 7” x 5” design, in three colors.
Learn more here.



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POSTED 07.14.14

1948: New High School Planned to Meet the Needs of a Growing Population


The present athletic stadium's site was originally built in 1938 by the Work Projects Administration.
In years prior, games were played at Howard Field on the present Cambridge Elementary campus.

In 1937, a 21-acre tract of land at Broadway and E. Castano was purchased; the new Alamo Heights High School would be erected on that land. Soon, the football stadium and tennis courts would be the first items completed on the grounds.

Plans for the new high school were started before 1941 and preliminary drawings of the school began in 1942 -- but they had to be laid aside for most of the decade. However, World War II was responsible for a very real transition for Alamo Heights from a rural district to a suburban district, accompanied by the baby boom and opening of numerous subdivisions within district boundaries. In fact, the district almost doubled during that time. On April 4, 1948, the bond issue passed by a vote of 3 to 1. Many meetings and inspection trips to other schools followed. Teachers submitted plans for their rooms and the required facilities. A comprehensive study of the educational needs of the growing community was undertaken and submitted.

Construction of the gymnasium began in January of 1949; work on the school started in June. The homemaking cottage was started in the fall of that year. The school building was completed and opened for public use in September of 1950


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POSTED 06.23.14

On the heels of yet another basketball championship, let’s turn back the clock to our high school years...

San Antonio’s chance to join the big leagues arrived in the late summer of 1973, near the beginning of our sophomore year at Alamo Heights High School. The Dallas Chaparral’s attendance totals for the previous season were the worst in the American Basketball Association, and a majority of it’s owners wanted out. A small group of San Antonio investors was aware of the situation in Dallas, and took action.

With Angelo Drossos, B.J. “Red” McCombs, and John Schaefer leading the way, a group of 36 San Antonio citizens were assembled and convinced that this would be the Alamo City’s chance to get a professional sports team. These investors worked out a unique arrangement with the Dallas owners. It was a “lend-lease” type of formula. The San Antonio group would operate the team here for three years, with an option to buy following that three-year period. If no sale occurred after three years, the team would revert back to Dallas.

After the deal was signed, the team was originally renamed the San Antonio Gunslingers. However, before they even played a game at the Hemisfair Arena, the name was changed to Spurs, and the team’s primary colors were switched to the now familiar black, silver and white motif. San Antonio’s new ownership decided to go ahead finalize the franchise’s purchase after only one year with the team because of the strong support from the fans.

By the time we graduated from AHHS in 1976, the ABA was done — and the Spurs were about to become a member of the National Basketball Association

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San Antonio Express-News — June 17, 1976
from, posted October 21, 2011

Spurs join NBA despite daunting odds

Angelo Drossos went to the NBA summer meetings in 1976 with what appeared to be an impossible task.

The Spurs majority owner was the leader of the ABA negotiating team. The NBA had already voted to keep the “other league” out of their association, but the threat of an antitrust lawsuit made them at least listen to Drossos’ pitch for a possible merger. And amazingly after three days of intense negotiations, Drossos pulled off the impossible as the Spurs were one of four ABA teams accepted into the NBA. Instead of calling it a merger, the NBA announced it as an expansion. Drossos and all of Spurs Nation weren’t picky. They were all just glad the team had been accepted, giving San Antonio its first major-league franchise.

Before heading to the meetings, Drossos admitted in confidence to former Express-News sports editor Barry Robinson that he has definitive plans for the Spurs and the ABA. “This is it, one way or the other,” Drossos said. “If they (the NBA) turn us down, it’s over. There is no way the ABA can continue. Basketball in San Antonio will be dead.”  

NBA teams wanted the ABA teams to pay $4.5 million to join the league – a figure that Drossos and the other ABA owners deemed was too high. After the first two days, Drossos thought he was losing and was ready to return to San Antonio and press his action in court. “But I got a call in the middle of the night. I went up stairs in my stocking feet and Mike Burke, owner of the Knicks, said, ‘Welcome to the NBA,‘ ” Drossos told the Express-News.

“When we first started two months ago, you could sense the suspicious, antagonistic feelings the NBA owners had towards us,” Drossos said. “A cool air prevailed that wasn’t healthy towards a merger.  “But the thawing of that feeling came from eating and drinking together for three days. At the end of that time, we became friends; they knew us and felt they had the relationship they wanted.”

In order to raise the money, Drossos sold more shares in his team and pushed the number of Spurs investors from 35 to 63.  San Antonio mayor Lila Cockrell called the owners of all 18 teams in an effort to promote the Spurs as a merger candidate. The vote to approve the ABA teams was 17-1, with only Seattle voting against it.

Drossos, a one-time dance instructor at an Arthur Murray studio, led a group of businessmen who rented the Dallas Chaparrals and brought the team to San Antonio in the summer of 1973. The team gradually gained success in San Antonio during its first three years, convincing Drossos and the other Spurs owners that joining the NBA made economic sense. San Antonio has never been the same since then.

THE UPSHOT: The Spurs have been the most successful ABA franchise since joining the NBA, qualifying for the playoffs in 35 of their 38 seasons and winning five NBA titles. They are the only former ABA team to ever win an NBA title


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POSTED 06.02.14

Among Texas high schools, the most popular
mascots are Eagles, Bulldogs and Tigers.

I recently encountered this site: “A Tribute To Schools Lucky Enough To Have The Nickname
and/or Mascot of Mules, or a Variation Thereof", found at

I learned that in addition to the U.S. Army, there are only 4 colleges
and 17 high schools (nationwide) who brand themselves as the
“Mules” or similar.

The mule was chosen as the Alamo Heights mascot as a tribute to AHHS footbal coach Earl “Mule” Frazier, who was originally recruited to run track for Texas A&M University, but he refused to wear shoes. The coach called him “mule-headed” for being so stubborn and subsequently, Frazier moved on to Baylor University.

After graduating from Baylor, the All-American athlete returned to Alamo Heights as a teacher and coach. In 1926, the football team was undefeated as Frazier led them to their first District championship and gave Alamo Heights its mascot, the Mule. In 1928, Frazier was named by a prominent sportswriter as one of the state’s greatest football coaches.

Wikipedia offered “it has been claimed that mules are more patient, sure-footed, hardy and long-lived than horses, and they are considered less obstinate, faster, and more intelligent than donkeys”.

Today, the Mule represents the outstanding spirit and support of the Alamo Heights community, faculty, staff, and students - past, present, and future.


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POSTED 05.21.14

Perhaps some of you remember a feature that was included in the Express-News Sunday
Magazine each week, spotlighting a local high school and the student leaders that year.

This entry is from the tail end of our Junior year, and features many familiar names.

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San Antonio Express — March 9, 1975
from the Express-News Sunday Magazine

High School Highlights

ALAMO HEIGHTS HIGH SCHOOL boasts an established reputation of excellence in achievement. Reflected by its wide curriculum offerings in the academic, fine arts, extra curricular and vocational departments are the many honors won by its students in local, state, and national competion. This school year witnessed many individual awards won by members of its student body. Kay Anderson, Karen Goetting, Steve Brannan, Patti Gilhousen, Martin Phillips, Susan Lodge, Chris Brown and Michelle Cooper were named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. Mike Bronson was awarded three silver medals in the photo division by the International Scholastic Press Conference. Junior Doris Zarate won first place in the UIL Twirling Competition. Steve Brannan and Lisa Pawel were named Youth in Medicine and Science respectively by the Rotary Clubs of San Antonio. Bob Kingman served as Governor of District V of the Key Club International. Lynn Opitz was declared the winner in the Kiwanis-sponsored Bike-a Thon which benefitted the Heart Association. Sharon Morris won first place in the Distributive Education Clubs area contest in Job Interview, Mickey Berkowitz placed first in Sales Demonstration and Gary Dullye also won a first place in Outstanding Service Station Trainee competition. In the Area Health Occupations Students meet Danny Spear walked away with a first place award for his project on Xeroradiography of the Breast with Lisa Ransopher winning first place in Job Application, Ginger Wilson fourth place in X-ray Skills, Sylvia Luna third in Notebook, Martha Spivey fourth in Project and Cindy Jones, fifth in Veterianary Skills at the same meet.

The focus of the extra-curricular activities at Alamo Heights High School is the Student Council, led by President Lee Lahourcade. The 1974-75 school year was ushered in by the highly successful Leadership Conference attended by over 100 active club members and conducted by a nationally known speaker. The council has also sponsored several charitable drives, Mini-mester, and serves as the official student body voice to the school administration and the school board. The council also has the responsibility of chartering clubs and over 45 clubs are active on campus. Club activities are numerous and have included the following: the Service Club has been visiting local nursing homes; the Advisory President’s Council conducted the annual United Way and Christmas Clearing Bureau drives; the Spurs and the Chaps, pep organizations, have promoted school spirit by holding pep rallies and attending athletic events; the varsity cheerleaders won five superior ribbons arid a spirit stick during their cheerleading camp held at SMU; Los Amigos, a Spanish club, recently sold 7,000 carnations on Valentine’s Day to help underwrite their annual tour of Mexico. Alamo Heights is also the home of the Super Scoopers, an organization of young men who aid the Battle of Flowers Association during their parade. This group, whose members have been designated as the “Beyond the Call of Duty’’ club by the Beautify San Antonio Association is led by Danny Perry.

SPORTS: Sports activities play an integral part in the lives of Alamo Heights students, with girls and boys teams in almost every major sport available. Fullback Arthur Gutierrez was named an All-City Varsity Linebacker. The tennis team placed second in the Texas High School State Tournament while Leigh Fischer, Brad Oxford and Scott Walker were named All State Tournament Team members. The girls’ basketball team were co-District champions with Diane Hierholzer and Renee Zuehl named to the All- City second team and Kathy Brecka awarded an honorable mention. The boys’ swimming team recently tied for first place in the TISCA meet with outstanding performances by Loren Crow, Bob Kingman, David Gillespie, George Stieren, and Stephen Diehl. In the girls’ team. Ann Worrel and Pam Kirk broke the school record in their division. Gary Payne was the over all medalist in the Junior Golf Association of South Texas tournament with Sidney DuBose as runner-up. The varsity golf team was also designated as winners of first place in that tournament.
MUSIC: A thirty-one year streak of receiving First Division rating in the UIL Marching and Inspection contest was extended to thirty-two by the Mule Band. Debbie Almstead, Mike Bronson, Mike Carroll, Joe Ephross, Martha Spivey and Scott Mitchell were named to the All-District Band and Mike Bronson was named first chair trumpet with the Region XII orchestra.
DRAMA: The speech and drama department played host to 24 schools participating in their 15th annual Alamo Heights Invitational Tourney. A Spring play presentation is currently planned by the Drama department.

In 1909, a one-room, frame school house was built on Abiso Avenue in Alamo Heights. This was to be the start of what in 1923 emerged as the Alamo Heights Independent School District. The 9.4 square mile area encompassed the municipalities of Terrell Hills, Olmos Park, Alamo Heights and a portion of northeast San Antonio. The entire twelve grades were then located on the Cambridge Oval complex until 1959 when the present senior high school was erected on Broadway. The senior school now houses approximately 1 600 students in grades 9-12. While providing instruction primarily for the average student, the school also provides enrichment courses for the student with learning disabilities as well as major works courses for the academically gifted. Although 70 per cent of its graduates are college bound, the school also provides every student with the opportunity to participate in several vocational courses such as Health Occupations, Distributive Education, Industrial Cooperative Training and Office Education. Alamo Heights is also the home of student responsibility. The Instructional Leadership Team, composed of members of the faculty, student body, and administration, serves as an advisory body to the Principal in matters concerning curriculum. There are five student representiaves, one from each grade and one from the Student Council.


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While Facebook works to keep us connected,
this web site will serve as an archive for our brief yet
impressionable time at Alamo Heights High School.

It's also intended to celebrate our coming-of-age during
the economic, political and social turbulence of the 1970s.

Please feel free to suggest features or submit items to share.

Jeff K.


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