What do parades, floods, and snowfalls have in common, at least in Kerr County?
Photographs. Beautiful, historic photographs, the kind I like to collect.
When any one of those events takes place it’s almost certain someone will be there with a camera to record what they saw. This has been true in our community for as long as cameras have been readily available here. Nowadays the photographers will likely be taking photographs with their cell phone, but the earliest parade photographs I have in my collection were taken along Water Street in 1896, and was probably taken using a camera using glass negatives.
Parade photographs interest me not only for their subjects — the people and floats in the parades — but also for the backgrounds behind the subjects. The 1896 images of the Saengerfest parade, for example, show views of downtown Kerrville for which there is no other source.
It’s likely one of the most photographed events in the history of downtown Kerrville was the 1956 Kerr County Centennial parade. Over a three-day period, on April 26-28, 1956, our community celebrated its 100th birthday in style, with a rodeo, parade, pageant, and dances. There were beard-growing contests, merchant window display contests, and dozens of other activities.
I have a good set of photographs of the 1956 parade, or at least I thought I did, until Jeannie Berger shared some photographs her father, Gene Stover, took of the parade.
According to Ms. Berger, “These were taken in the 400 block of Main in 1956 by my dad. The white building across the street was an office building, where my mother worked as a bookkeeper for an oil operator, E. A. Graham; the address was 402 Main. To the right was the Kerrville Air Reserve Center. In the left of some of the photos, there is a utility pole, and to the right of the pole you can just make out the sign for Fred’s Bakery. I remember the yummy éclairs and cream puffs most of all.”
What was special about Mr. Stover’s photographs?
They are in color!
All of the other photographs I have of the 1956 parade were black and white images. While these black and white photographs are wonderful and sharp, Mr. Stover’s color photographs tell so much more of the story.
Consider a float being pulled by the Rose Shop delivery van. In black and white, it’s a lovely image showing a young woman on a float surrounded by hundreds of flowers. In the color photograph, the flowers are shown as soft pink, and the young woman is holding a bouquet of red roses. The black and white photograph is impressive, but the color photograph shows how much work and expense was lavished on the float.
The float from Schreiner’s is another example. In the black and white photo, we see a fellow fooling around with the crowd, showing a little leg (or, rather, the long underwear beneath his pants leg). Mr. Stover’s color photograph shows a colorful float, and a very detailed covered wagon and ox team. The hours of work that went into producing that float are more evident in the color photograph.
The float for the Kerrville Jaycee Rodeo features three young women on a float decorated with Saguaro cacti, and a giant horseshoe. The black and white photograph only shows one young woman; the colvor shows three — and adds the bright gold color of the horseshoe and the bright colors of the ladies’ costumes.
So much effort went into these floats — most were self-driving, with a vehicle enclosed beneath the decorated float.
The Kerr County Centennial float, in the color photograph, shows the care taken with the participants’ costumes. The black and white photo shows some great details, but the color photograph really completes the story.
Lastly, take a look at the Ranchman’s Wool & Mohair float, featuring “Miss Wool.” In the black and white photograph, you can see an elaborate float and a young woman waving to the crowd. The color photograph shows how elaborate — and colorful! — that float really was.
I’m thankful to Jeannie Berger for her kindness in sharing these photographs with me, and for sharing them with all of us.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical photographs. If you have an old photograph you’d let him copy, he’d be very happy to scan it and give the original back to you.