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2013-05-23

A visitor recalls Bandera centennial celebration

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Betty Stevenson dropped by for a visit earlier this month with some questions about Bandera's history. In the course of the conversation, Betty shared some historic tidbits of her own.

Betty was one of seven children born to William and Lois Kelly, who lived in Bandera in the 1950s. "My dad was a sign painter, and he would paint every sign a town needed and then we'd move on," said Betty.

She remembered him painting signs for the Cabaret, and also making what she called Texas novelties. "He'd go in to the Cabaret and peddle them to the people from San Antonio."

Betty remembered that her father painted a large billboard sign for Mansfield Park. He fell from the ladder and broke a couple of ribs, making things hard on the family. She associated that sign with another Bandera tragedy. "Four young soldiers from San Antonio didn't make the curve and ran into it, killing them all. I can still remember seeing the blood."

Kelly had his sign shop in a white frame house where the family lived, right across the street from the Methodist Church. "Then things got bad and we lived in a tent under a big oak tree down by the river," Betty recalls. "Well, one day chicken, the next day feathers!"

Betty remembers walking down the street to the Boyle's Store, now the 11th Street Mercantile, and going down the hill to the movies with her siblings. "One time we left my little sister asleep in there," she said. "We just forgot all about her."

Daddy had to hurry back to the theater to retrieve his lost child.

The Kelly's lived in Bandera during the height of the Drought of the 50s. When they lived along the river, "there was just a dry, dirt path and I'd get sand burrs in my feet on the way to school," Betty remembers. "I'd have to sit down and pick them out of my bare feet and try not to cry."

The family washed their clothes and themselves in the Medina. The children hauled water up a steep bank in 5-gallon buckets. "I think that's why I'm bowlegged," said Betty, "from carrying those heavy buckets up the hill."

Betty attended the two-story school that now stands on the Bandera Middle School campus.

One of her clearest memories from those school days is her participation in a celebration for Bandera's centennial held June 11-13, 1953.

The program was presented in the community auditorium, which is now part of the Kronkosky Library of Bandera County.

"Each of us held a letter and turned it around as we did our part," she said. Amazingly, she still recalled most of the presentation, which went "B is for beauty bright as the sun; A is to appreciate what God has done; N is for nature so lavish, our gift; D is for daring through ages so swift; E is for effort of hand and mind; R is for ranches, the best you can find..." Betty's remarkable memory failed for the final A in the skit.
However, after the spelling of Bandera, she remembered the children sang a song with the words "I live in Bandera, and I'm glad that I do, where the dreams of my future will always be true; the school room's a cradle of the freedoms we share, We know of none better, no not anywhere."

Betty Stevenson left the Courier office with her husband with plans to check out the library to see if any signs of the old auditorium evoked more memories.

"And we're going to see if we can find my old house," she added, with a final smile. "I hope the floods haven't washed that old oak tree away!"