There have been many Big Days in our community.
October 6, 1887, was a Big Day — the first train arrived here on the new San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, bringing 502 visitors to Kerrville, which was about 200 more people than lived in Kerrville at the time.
On April 25, 1950, our community built Louise Hays Park in a single day.
On August 26, 1967, the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library opened with great fanfare.
There have been many Big Days in Kerrville’s history.
Another Big Day for our community was July 3, 1949 — 70 years ago this coming Wednesday. On that day, a gift was given to our community, when Hal and Charlie Peterson dedicated the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.
Kerrville really shouldn’t have had a hospital as nice as the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital. When it was opened on July 3, 1949, it was a really big deal. But it was a deal that, if you take a hard look at the numbers, probably was bigger than the community it served.
The population of Kerr County in 1950 was only 14,000; then, as now, about half of the county’s population lived in Kerrville.
To build a hospital in such a small, rural community wouldn’t seem to make
a lot of financial sense. Hospitals require a lot of capital — equipment changes all of the time, medicines are expensive, and the people you need to run a hospital are highly trained.
Yet two brothers, with help from others in the community, made it happen.
One, Hal “Boss” Peterson, was a gifted businessman. He left his parents’ ranch home at 15 to work in M.F. Weston’s Garage, on the corner of Sidney Baker and Water Streets in downtown Kerrville. By the time he was 18, he owned the garage.
Together with one of his brothers, Charlie, he built an empire known as the Peterson Interests, which included bus lines, real estate developments, businesses and ranch land, altogether 22 major enterprises worth millions of dollars.
Hal was the visionary, more the gambler of the two. He had more business ideas per day than most have in a year. Charlie was the more grounded, quieter of the two. His counsel helped keep Hal from many a business mistake.
So when Hal had the idea to build a hospital in Kerrville — a grand idea that seemed impossible — and Charlie supported the idea, they began to make it happen.
They “put the big pot in the little one” with the project. Hal Peterson only had one regret about the project, wishing they’d named it after both of their parents, calling it the Sid and Myrta Peterson Hospital.
While the community was grateful to the brothers when they announced their plans, there was also a lot of disagreement where the hospital should be built. Some favored sites on the edge of town, and other sites were discussed. Most of the discussion was ill-informed.
The story goes that Hal Peterson got tired of listening to all of the suggestions and bluntly decided to build the hospital on land the brothers owned, even if it was right in the middle of downtown Kerrville.
And so the hospital was built on the corner of Sidney Baker and Water streets, where it stayed until the new hospital, renamed the Peterson Regional Medical Center, opened in 2008.
Even though the 1949 hospital building is gone, along with the numerous additions and buildings that came to be part of its campus, the kindness and care are still here.
I’m thankful we have such a good hospital in our community.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who was born at Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital. Both of his children were born there, too.