Ah, the joys of Landa Park! Every other week readers of the Sunday edition of the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung will have the pleasure of reading about the 'Jewel in Our Midst', Historic Landa Park.
The column is enthusiastically contributed by Friends for the Preservation of Historic Landa Park (Friends), a 501C3. The organization had its start in 2007. Its meetings are held in Landa Haus in Landa Park with everyone welcome and offer excellent speakers on related topics to the group's mission that is to work with the Park's Board to preserve Historic Landa Park, the William and Dolores Schumann Arboretum, and to protect Comal Springs.
In some of the future columns there will be excerpts from 'Friends' newly released book, New Braunfels' Historic Landa Park, Its Springs and Its People, by Rosemarie Leissner Gregory and Arlene Krueger Seales. The book set is a documented historical narrative that begins with the formation of the Springs millions of years ago and is enhanced by many beautiful photos of the park and creative illustrations by Elizabeth and Channe Felton. For more information on the book, please visit the “Friends” website at www.friendsforlandapark.org.
It is appropriate that this column begin during the celebration of the 80th year of Landa Park becoming a community park of New Braunfels and so, the story unfolds:
Spooky, eerie, with vines and fallen trees everywhere, Landa's Park had become a real Halloween style, scary mess. No one was allowed in because it was enclosed by a huge fence twelve feet high and that made it even weirder. To make matters worse there was a horrific storm in 1935. How could this devastation happen to such a place that only a short time before was known as the 'Oasis of Texas'?
Landa's Park was developed by Harry Landa in 1897 (his father, Joseph, bought the property in 1859) and Harry loved and nurtured this amazing piece of New Braunfels by adding exotic plants, winding cedar bridges, even the Gazebo as it is today, and tourists. People came from Austin and San Antonio on a special train just to spend a day in the beautiful park. Then the inevitable happened: Harry's beloved mother died.
Helena Landa's will required that the estate be liquidated, including Landa's Park and the milling industry, ten years after her death. The portion that contained Landa's Park was sold to Jarratt Investment Company in 1925. Then came the Great Depression. Jarratt had to default in 1933 and the twelve foot barbed wire fence went up in 1935.
Without any access to the park, it became overgrown with vines and volunteer plants and trees and, of course, it was weed paradise. Enter the New Braunfels Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and a man named “Pete”Nowotny, who had started the local group. Pete was a natural leader and fired up his fellow Jaycees. The New Braunfels Herald, the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung, and the Chamber of Commerce became interested and then the whole town. A bond issue to purchase the park passed by a margin of three to one. It was official, Landa Park became truly the park of the citizens of New Braunfels. To prove it Mayor H.F. Fischer declared Friday, June 5, 1936 a general holiday for the city with Landa Park Clean-up the objective.
Volunteers from all over turned out to reclaim their park. The fence was torn down. Men came with rakes, hoes, axes, hammers and nails. The city donated the use of trucks to carry off the loads and loads and more loads of debris. Women baked cookies, made sandwiches, and brewed free flowing vats of coffee. Even nearby communities joined in. It was truly a festive atmosphere as ordinary citizens reclaimed their lost park. Through their hard work and cooperation the natural beauty of the park that held such happy memories for all of them, was returning to its former glory.
"Working together to reclaim Landa Park".
Photo Courtesy of San Antonio Light Collection of the Institute of Texan Culture
A FATHER'S DAY REMEMBRANCE
On Father's Day in this column dedicated to Historic Landa Park we are remembering a very devoted father, Joseph Landa. Landa Park, initially known as Landa's Park, was developed in 1897 by Harry Landa, the youngest of Joseph's three sons, on a portion of a site purchased by Joseph from William Hunter Meriwether in 1859.
Joseph was born in the small town of Kemp, near Breslau in northern Germany. He was well schooled and became proficient in five languages; German, English, Russian, Polish, and Hebrew. Not willing to comply with his parents' insistence that he become a rabbi, Joseph left home and made his way to New York. There he found others from his village who helped him get a job. Joseph worked hard and saved his money. Eventually he had enough funds to purchase a horse and a spring wagon that he loaded with goods,wares, and merchandise. By the early 1840's he left New York and made his way to Texas selling his goods along the way. He restocked when he got to a larger city and arrived in San Antonio in 1844. He sold his outfit, rented a store, and became a merchant.
In 1847, Joseph decided to visit New Braunfels, the German settlement thirty miles to the north that was founded two years before. He rode his mule over one Sunday morning and found a completely different atmosphere. This was a community just starting out as he too had just begun a new life in this new state of Texas. Also, these new settlers had German European roots as did he. The beautiful surroundings, especially the Comal River and the springs, intrigued him. Returning to San Antonio he loaded his belongings on four prairie schooners and moved to New Braunfels. He rented the store building on the corner of Castell and San Antonio Street that 100 years later became Jacob Schmidt Department Store and still later, the Phoenix Saloon.
By 1850 New Braunfels was the fourth largest community in the state with a population of 1,298. As a leading merchant Joseph prospered to such an extent that he made a yearly trip to New York to restock. On one of these trips he met Helena Friedlander of Albany, New York. They fell in love and married in 1851.
Joseph brought his bride to New Braunfels and they lived at the Millett's boarding house that was located where the Court House stands today. The Landas boarded with the Milletts for a few months until they purchased the adjoining property that overlooked the Main Plaza. The family lived there for over 75 years and grew to include seven children: Isadore, Fanny, Hannah, Rachael, Morris, Harry, and Sarah.
The Landa children were taught the necessity and importance of hard work, honesty, and responsible behavior early in their lives. Their religion was practiced faithfully within the home. They were shown by the example their father and mother gave to live by the Golden Rule. Joseph Landa's motto in and out of business was, ”Do Justice, be useful, love mercy, and serve God righteously”.
In 1955, three of the Landa grandchildren placed a granite marker in loving memory of Joseph and Helena Landa in Landa Park. The marker's location is near the Pioneer Monument and is shown on the Landa Park Map, found on page 162 of New Braunfels' Historic Landa Park, Its Springs and Its People.
Happy Father's Day!
This marker in loving memory of Joseph and Helena Landa is placed in Landa Park by their grandchildren.
Photo credit: Kathy Gregory-Fiala
Friends for the Preservation of
Historic Landa Park
Merry Saegert, PhD
Have you ever seen the fireworks reflect off Landa Lake?
Another opportunity is provided by the Parks and Recreation Department. They invite everyone to join them at the HEB July 4th Spectacular for the largest Independence Day Celebration in New Braunfels. The event features live music beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the open air dance pavilion.
Bring a picnic and get well positioned to enjoy both the music and the 9:15 p.m. fireworks over Landa Lake. The display promises a double treat; sparkling colorful bursts in the night sky and dramatic reflections off the lake. Do not deny yourself this visual delight.
Fireworks and celebrations have been ongoing companions in Landa Park. One of the earliest was in 1909 when the New Braunfels Volunteer Fire Department held the Fourth of July celebration in the Park. The event began with a concert on the Main Plaza. At 10:30 a.m. there was a parade from the Plaza to Landa's Park. The Volunteer Fireman provided many activities including races, numerous contests, prize dancing, and excellent food. At 9:00 p.m. there was a glorious fireworks display. These displays were then, as they are now, a much anticipated event.
Perhaps the most unusual display occurred in 1926 at the July 4th celebration . The glittering show over Landa Lake began. Suddenly a spark flew into the box of fireworks. About 90 % of the display went up in a matter of seconds. It was managed so ably that the spectators thought it was an enormous flower pot filled with colorful flowers and part of a dramatic plan. Fortunately, the handlers had only minor injuries.
The centennial celebration of 1946 promised to be the greatest fireworks display ever seen in Landa Park. Ralph Rhodes, fireworks expert from Kansas City, Missouri managed the entire show with a crew of men. The extensive production was called “Sweet Land of Liberty”. Rhodes, known to paint fireworks displays as an artist does a painting, did not disappoint. It was a breathtaking display leaving all who saw it knowing they had witnessed something uniquely beautiful.
There were no July 4th fireworks during World War I but there was a daily noon siren that sounded throughout New Braunfels including Landa Park. This was not to tell the time but to remind everyone to pause and pray for our people in the service. After the war, the July 4th fireworks over Landa Lake resumed and the siren continued as a reminder of the blessings of our American Heritage and to pray for its preservation.
As we enjoy the glittering fireworks over Landa Lake to celebrate Independence Day on July 4th, let it be a reminder to give thanks for our many American Heritage blessings and for those who keep us safe.
Annual July 4th Fireworks on Landa Lake
Photo credit: Laura McKenzie New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung
NEW BRAUNFELS' CONTRIBUTION TO FAMOUS TREES OF TEXAS
Story submitted by Friends For the Preservation of Historic Landa Park
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth brought forth grass
...and the tree yielding fruit...and God saw that it was good”. And after creating man in his
own image, God “planted a garden...and out of the ground made the Lord God to grow
every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.
Trees have always been as basic to man's needs as the food he eats. Their benefits are so
much a part of his very existence that these blessings are often taken for granted. It is a
foolish man, indeed, who believes he is beyond the blessing of trees. They are the legacy
of the past, the boon for the present, and the promise for the future.”
The preceding paragraphs are in the Preface to the third edition of the book, Famous Trees of Texas written in 1984 and published by the Texas Forest Service, a part of the Texas A&M University System and edited by John A. Haislet.
The purpose of the book is to memorialize those trees that have been a witness to some of the exciting periods and events in Texas history. Also, recognized are trees that are certified by the American Forestry Association as the largest of their kind in the United States.
The first edition of Famous Trees of Texas was published in 1970. New Braunfels is included. by the recognition of the beautiful oak on the east side of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church at the north end of Castell Street. The tree, not surprisingly, is called 'Church Oak'.
There is a large concrete marker at the base of the tree placed by the Texas Historical Landmarks Association. The Association's secretary, Miss Adina de Zavala who was the daughter of the provisional vice-president of the Republic of Texas and who also began the movement of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to save the Alamo, spoke at the dedication in 1917.
The marker inscription states the following: “Folklore says that here at the dawn of Texas history, stood an Indian village in which one of the early missionaries lingered many days, that here a vision of the chief's daughter freed the first German in Texas. Tradition says that under this tree Mass was offered by the Abbe Em Domenech in 1849.”
What the marker did not reveal about the site where this exceptional oak is located is an interesting bit of history of the founding of New Braunfels. The site is part of a steep embankment overlooking the Comal Creek. Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, Commissoner General of the Adelsverein, chose the site for the best safeguard of the founding families of New Braunfels who arrived March 21, 1845. Prior to their arrival, the Prince had a three-sided stockade built for their protection. A cannon was fired morning and evening to further ward off a possible attack by Indians.
The Centennial Issue of Famous Trees of Texas by Gretchen Riley and Peter D. Smith, was published in 2015 by the Texas A&M Forest Service, formerly the Texas Forest Service and contained an exciting addition- the 314 year-old Founders' Oak in Landa Park.
The entry was researched and written by Jane Miller and submitted by Kelly Eby, Urban Forester of the City's Parks and Recreation Department.
By 2012 through the ravages of time only 55 of the original 87 Famous Trees of Texas remained. Founders' Oak is one of only five trees given the distinction to be named a Famous Tree of Texas since the initial 1969 listing.
Landa Park's beloved Founders' Oak was officially christened a Famous Tree of Texas at a gathering of hundreds who attended the Saturday morning, August 4, 2012 celebration that included Paul Johnson, Texas A&M Forest Service, presenting Mayor Gale Pospisil a certificate honoring Landa Park's Founders' Oak as a Famous Tree of Texas. There is much to reveal regarding this majestic tree, but the space needed requires another column.
This year New Braunfels is recognized for the 28th consecutive year as Tree City, USA, a distinction awarded by the Texas Forestery Service and the National Arbor Day Foundation. Our William and Dolores Schumann Arboretum in Landa Park is one of the largest in the country. Founders' Oak in that arboretum in Landa Park is considered the “Giant of the Forest” at 64' tall .
Knowing our community's devotion to its trees, Friends for the Preservation of Historic Landa Park (Friends) invite the public to attend a gathering at Landa Haus, 360 Aquatic Circle, in Landa Park for a presentation by Mark Peterson ,formerly our area's Regional Urban Forester of the Texas Forest Service, on Monday, September 12 at 3 p.m.. Come at 2:30 p.m.for refreshments prior to hearing Mr. Peterson's presentation. New Braunfels' Historic Landa Park, Its Springs and Its People will be available for purchase before and after the presentation.
The first award presented at the Parks and Recreation Department's annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner is the Mark Peterson Award. This award is given to the organization that hosted the best Arbor Day program of the year. The award is given to honor Mark Peterson in recognition of his time as our area's Regional Urban Forester because he worked hand and hand with our local garden clubs and other organizations to beautify our parks and preserve our forests.
Mark is among those who have guided us to an awareness of the blessings and necessary nurturing of our trees. Join the Friends group in welcoming him and learning from him.
Celebrating a Community Icon
“Imagine a time when Karankawa, Huaco, and Tonkawa Indians roamed the site that became Landa Park. Imagine a time when the dominant sounds were the Comal Springs and forest animals.
This was the background when a tiny oak seedling, Quercus fusiformis, took root around 1700.”
The above paragraph was the beginning of the history of Founders' Oak printed on a memento given to the many who attended the celebration of Founders' Oak when it was recognized as a Famous Tree of Texas. Legend has it that the founders of New Braunfels held their first council meeting in 1845 beneath the big live oak. The celebratory event on August 4, 2012 also took place under the outstretched branches of the majestic 310-year-old Live Oak and was a reminder that there was a new celebrity in town, a true community icon-Founders' Oak, a Famous Tree of Texas.
The delightful morning began with everyone welcomed by Robert Eby playing the bag pipes. Herb Skoog, the Voice of New Braunfels; was the master of ceremonies introducing the morning's program and keeping things on track as he always does. The Boy Scouts of America Pack 382 presented the colors and the National Anthem was led by Blanca Mata.
Mayor Gale Pospisil gave the Welcoming Address and particularly thanked the GuadaComa Garden Club and the Friends for the Preservation of Historic Landa Park, crediting them with helping to maintain the area's beauty.
Paul Johnson of the Texas A&M Forest Service presented the Proclamation to the Mayor officially naming Founders' Oak a Famous Tree of Texas. During his presentation, Mr. Johnson praised New Braunfels for making a sincere commitment to trees in Landa Park. He said, “Every time we plant a tree, we are espousing a belief in the future.” Mayor Pospisil in turn, gave the certificate to Dolores Schumann and Bill Kolodzie, whose late wife Joyce, along with Dolores were co-chairmen of the Arboretum where Founders' Oak resides. Further recognition was given to Joyce Kolodzie by Park's Director Stacey Dicke, who provided a lavender ribbon for all attending in remembrance of Joyce.
Sharing memories that morning were: Heather Stockhorst Buchanan, who named the ancient oak in the park and came from her home in Dallas to honor it. Dolores Schumann, who , along with her husband William, have the Arboretum in Landa Park named for them, told the history of the old oak. Carroll Hoffmann who headed the Water Festival portion of the 1986 Sesquicentennial when Founders' Oak was named a “Living Memorial”, stated in his remembrances that he hoped he looked as good as Founders' Oak when he was 300 years old.
Musical entertainment was provided by representatives from the three cultures that were part of the history of Founders' Oak. Native American Mario Garza playing his flute, represented the Indigenous Cultures. Members of A Teatro de Artes de Juan Seguin performed graceful Spanish dances.The New Braunfels' Gemischter Chor Harmonic with its harmonious singing represented the German culture.
The Rev. Ardie Kendig, Worship and Prayer Minister of First Protestant Church, gave the final prayer that was the perfect closure for a meaningful morning of celebration of a beautiful gift of nature which man wisely nurtured.
Many have remembrances of the old oak in the park with its bent trunk. It was the perfect setting for a favorite family or group photograph. Engagement pictures and oh so many masquerade snapshots were taken there. Through the years under the huge oak , many major area happenings were staged such as the unveiling event of the German Pioneer Monument. Too, that curved trunk was ideal for climbing. Franciska Liebscher told the story of a sapling's bent trunk enabling Native Americans to give directions to those who followed.
While working with the arborist as the GuadaComa Garden Club co-chairmen for the arboretum , Dolores Schumann and Joyce Kolodzie, learned that the grand old oak was being injured by those enthusiastic climbers on its trunk. The ladies wisely shared this information with Parks Director David Whatley,and Mr. Whatley heeded what they said and had a fence around the oak. He also suggested that the memorial for the 1986 Sesquicentennial be a “living memorial”.
Those in charge of the Sesquicentennial Committee, Fred Willard, chairman, Roxolin Krueger, vice chairman, and Carroll Hoffmann , chairman of the Water Festival portion , along with the remainder of the committee , agreed to the suggestion. The 1986 Sesquicentennial would have a “living memorial” — the old oak in the park.
The plans went forward with money raised by Elliot Knox for the project. The Parks Department began a contest in the local schools to name the Living Memorial. As we all know, the name chosen from the many entries was Founders' Oak submitted by fifth grader, Heather Stockhorst.
Bill Schumann and David Whatley co-chaired the committee to complete the attractive design of new fencing and stonework that included a history which the then 284-year-old oak had witnessed during its long life. This history was compiled by local historian and longtime teacher, Barron Schlameus.
In 1997, the Guada Coma Garden Club and the Texas Agricultural Extension Service took on a challenging project, the Comal County Big Tree Contest. Bill Schumann and Mark Peterson, measured all trees in the contest. Not surprisingly they found the 'Giant of the Forest' in Landa Park. It was a Texas Live Oak, Founders' Oak, measuring 64 feet tall, trunk: 241”, crown: spread 105'.
For a rewarding gift to yourself, take some time to visit the majestic Founders' Oak, a Famous Tree of Texas in the William and Dolores Schumann Arboretum in Landa Park .
Feb. 12, 2017
William & Dolores Schumann Arboretum
Turning onto Landa Park Drive from Landa Street, the Wurstfest grounds in Landa Park are on the right with the Landmark Apartments on the left. After crossing the bridge over the Mill Race, on the left is a sign announcing Landa Park, William and Dolores Schumann Arboretum. To have a world class arboretum named for you is quite an honor. Here is the Schumann's story:
The dynamic husband and wife team of William L. ”Bill” and Dolores Zapalac Schumann arrived in New Braunfels when Bill accepted the position of Comal County Agriculture Extension agent in 1966.
Bill was born in Sugarland, Texas, the youngest of four brothers. At thirteen, he joined his brothers on the weekends working the cattle on his Uncle Paul and Aunt Lucille McLaughlin Schumann's nearby 4,000 acre ranch. The ranch has a special place in Texas history. It was there General Sam Houston purchased his beautiful white horse before going on to San Jacinto to win the war for Texas Independence in 1836.
With a schedule that included helping at the ranch daily after school, Bill continued working for his Uncle. During the summers he worked at the ranch full time. This continued until Bill entered Texas A&M in 1947. He met Dolores his sophomore year and they married when he graduated in 1950. Bill was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and became a veteran of the Korean War.
Sixteen years later the Schumanns arrived in New Braunfels. With the attractive couple were their active children, Diane, Lawrence, Glenda, and Ronald, keeping their devoted and conscientious mother, Dolores, very occupied. Shortly after making New Braunfels their home, the boys began working at the boathouse and miniature golf course in Landa Park. The park soon became a daily part of the Schumann family summer routine.
Almost immediately upon arrival Bill began assisting in preparation for the opening of Natural Bridge Caverns. By 1968 he served on the committee that organized the Comal County Livestock Show and Sale. Bill went on to develop the point system for 4H and FFA club members who exhibited. The system allowed sales worthy animals to receive an equitable amount of money per exhibitor's ribbon value. He then established the leadership camp for the 4-H club members and the 4-H exchange program for counties in Central Texas.
While Dolores was busy with the Guada Coma Garden Club and years later the New Braunfels Garden Club, Bill started the Men's Garden Club. He introduced the Afghan Pines to the area in addition to starting a new organization, the South Texas Christmas Tree Association.
Bill had a weekly gardening news column in the Herald-Zeitung and a weekly radio program. He produced along with Ron Friesenhahn, the call-in gardening program, “Gardening Around the House” that aired on KGNB radio. In 2003, KGNB AM 1420, honored Bill for 37 years of excellence in broadcasting, 1966-2003.
A “Garden for all Seasons” was co-authored by Bill with Dr. Doris Brown. Bill established the Antique Rose Conservatory at the New Braunfels Conservation Plaza fulfilling Dr. Brown's wish to preserve the antique roses found in New Braunfels and Comal County. Dolores' efforts were concentrated on the Landa Park Arboretum. Bill was her constant support enlisting the aid of the Texas A&M Forestry Specialist to identify the many species of trees.
In 1997 when the Guada Coma Garden Club and the Texas Agricultural Extension Service sponsored the Comal County Champion Big Tree Contest, Bill and Mark Peterson, Texas Forest Service Urban Forester, administered the Big Tree Contest in Comal County by measuring all trees entered in the contest.
As County Agent, Bill introduced drip irrigation to the county to conserve water in gardens and landscaping. For many years he served on the Water Development Committee for the Edwards Aquifer Authority. When tubing and rafting became a problem on the Guadalupe River, Bill presented a plan to the Comal County Commissioners Court that created Comal County Water Oriented Water District (WORD) in 1989.
Dolores was the chairman of the Arbor Day event held in Landa Park in 2004. It was noted that Arbor Day had been celebrated in New Braunfels' Landa Park for more than 70 years.
In 2006, Bill conducted a complete Urban Forest Management Plan for the Landa Park Arboretum and Prince Solms Park. The project serves as a wealth of information for everyone who works to sustain the trees.
Knowing the importance of the Comal Springs to Landa Park, to the community, and to the entire Guadalupe River Basin as well as the Texas Gulf Coast ecosystem, the Schumanns chaired the 2006 Water Symposium with the theme, “The Edwards Aquifer and You”.
In 2009, Dolores wrote and directed a documentary on Landa Park that was shown in the Brauntex Theater at the first International Film Festival.
By 2012, New Braunfels had been home to the Schumanns for 46 years. During that time the Schumanns gave continually to the community. In return the community and the state recognized them. In 2011 Bill was named a Living Legend of New Braunfels by New Braunfels Foundation Trust. In 1987 Bill received the President's Award from the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce for Community Service and the Silver Unicorn Award from the New Braunfels Independent School District. In 1991 Bill received the Melvin Jones Fellow Award by the International Lions Club Foundation.
In 1996 the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung saluted Dolores as an “Unsung Hero” for her devotion to the Arboretum. The following year Dolores was again recognized for the excellent publication, “Harry Landa Self Guiding Tree Trail and Growing Guides”. The national recognition came from the Arbor Day Foundation and was the prestigious 1997 Lawrence Enerson Award.
The Men’s Garden Club of New Braunfels on April 19, 2007 presented the Schumanns and Joyce Kolodzie each a Certificate of Recognition for the work the three did from 1981 to 2007 to establish the Arboretum in Landa Park. Guada-Coma, Comal, and Four Seasons garden clubs each planted a tree in the Arboretum in their honor. On that same date in the afternoon at a large gathering in the Landa Haus, Mayor Bruce Boyer thanked the Schumanns and the Guada-Coma Garden Club for their involvement and the resulting Arboretum in Landa Park. The Mayor further stated that the Schumanns’ devoted efforts to the city were the reason behind city officials naming the Arboretum The William and Dolores Schumann Arboretum. He concluded, “It’s people like you, that get involved, that make our city what it is today.”
On October 5, 2009 near the entrance to the park on Landa Park Dr., Mayor Boyer unveiled the handsome Landa Park sign announcing the William and Dolores Schumann Arboretum.
When the Arboretum was recognized in 1982 it was the sixth Arboretum in Texas. By 2012 there were 26 Arboretums in the state. The William and Dolores Schumann Arboretum in Landa Park, New Braunfels, Texas contained 87 species of trees and was the largest.
In Fond Memory of Dolores Zapalac Schumann (1929-2017)
This column is based on the book New Braunfels’ Historic Landa Park, Its Springs and its People by Rosemarie Leissner Gregory and Arlene Krueger Seales. For more information visit our Facebook page or www.friendsforlandapark.org
Bill & Dolores Schumann with the Landa Park sign announcing the Arboretum named in their honor.
Photo credit: Laura McKenzie
While writing the book on Historic Landa Park we received the following letter from
Tommy Ortiz that tells it all. He agreed to our sharing these memories with you.
February 9, 2011
Hello Rosemarie and Arlene,
As I recall, in the mid-nineteen forties the “Big War” was pretty much winding down. However, the military still had one more landing up their sleeve....the invasion of Landa Park! On any given Saturday an employee on watch at the bathhouse would suddenly turn and shout, “Here they come!” That meaning the surrounding military bases fleet of olive drab buses were pulling into the parking lot by the dozens and would soon be unloading servicemen for a weekend of R & R. They were a fun bunch of guys, here to relax and have a good time. They were polite and respectable, no rowdies. In fact during that time the Park only had one peace officer patrolling the entire area and he was seldom, if ever, needed. These servicemen enjoyed our huge spring-fed pool and the wonderful big band sound flowing from the jukebox by the drink stand. I remember one corporal always brought his drum sticks along and would keep the beat to the music by strumming on the tables, chairs, coke bottles, beer cans,...anything he could reach. Another fellow called “Frenchie” would grab any girl that caught his eye and dance with her.
The military, however, weren't the only people enjoying the park. There was plenty of room left for the hometown folks and visitors. On Saturday afternoon many local kids would go to the Brauntex Theater, but could hardly wait for the end of the second feature so they race out of the theater, hop on their bike, and head for the pool. Back then if you found a ride home you would leave your bicycle in the hedges beside the bathhouse and pick it up the next day—no problem.
The mid-forties are also when I started lifeguarding at the spring-fed pool. Requirements for being a lifeguard were a little more lax back then. If you could swim across the pool and back, you pretty much qualified. By 1946, I decided I needed to know a little more about water safety and enrolled in an American Red Cross “Junior” Lifesaving class taught by Betty (Balch) Tays. After passing the course, I felt ready for anything. Marcus Adams was Park Manager in the 1940's. He was a good, friendly man to work for, always in a good mood, and just let the young guards do their job. We had two lifeguards on duty during weekdays and three on weekends. And guarding the pool wasn't the only thing we did. There was a time I was asked to help find a man's false teeth after he has lost them jumping off the diving board. Numerous times I looked for wedding bands. Usually, if it belonged to the husband, the wife asked for my help. The husband would casually mention that it had slipped off of his finger somewhere out there. We dove in the lake in search of cameras, sunglasses, bracelets, etc. that someone had accidentally dropped overboard while boating. And there was the sad time we were asked to search the Guadalupe River at what is now Cypress Bend Park for three members of a local family that had drowned during a picnic outing.
And: There was the Miss Texas Pageants held in Landa Park in August 1950 & '51.
The Saturday night dances when you could swing and sway to the easy listening music of Lee Kohlenberg's Orchestra, or Wiggle and Wabble with Al Schnable.
There was a Park Manager who kept an old single-shot 22 rifle in his office and would occasionally take it out to the pool before it opened and fire away at a stray water snake that had found its way into the old swimming hole.
The lady who worked in the bathhouse ran out the door to stop a young girl from entering the pool because she thought the girl's two-piece bikini was too skimpy—it almost exposed her naval!
The man fancy-diving off the high board who lost his fancy trunks!
The long line of bathers stretching from the bathhouse to the Park Cafe waiting to check into the pool.
I met a World War II Flying Ace who came to the pool occasionally for a little fun in the sun. On October 14, 1947, he became the first man to break the sound barrier flying the Bell X-I. His name, Charles “Chuck” Yeager.
During the summer of 1966, we had 5 lifeguards watching the pool on weekdays and 6 on duty weekends. For the first time in the history of the pool, all guards were certified American Red Cross Water Safety Instructors, the highest rank in the Red Cross Water Safety program. The guards were: Don Simon, Charlie Wagenfuehr, Kermit Forshage, Larry Wenzel, John Weber, and me. Jack Kaufmann was Park Manager.
The Little League Baseball games across from the bathhouse, now site of the Aquatic Pool, and their parents in the old grandstands cheering them on.
I'm certain we could get a group together and reminisce for hours about the good times we had in Landa Park. Can't you just hear the chatter, “Remember when...”, “I'll never forget the time...”, and, “Oh that reminds me...”? Surely I'm not so self-absorbed as to believe just because I enjoyed the park so much not everyone in the universe thinks as I do. Perhaps there are those who just don't care to relive memories that, to them, weren't all that exciting in the first place. Skeptics might argue, “It couldn't have been that great.” Well, they could be right. It was better!
Rosemarie and Arlene, I wish you the best of luck with your book. On a subject like Landa Park, I'm sure it will be a success.
Ahh, the things we did last summer!
Take care, Tommy
When we were in dance class at the age of 5 or 6 our Mothers probably out of convenience started taking us places as a group. Myra Lee Adams Goff referred to this group called the EDB's in her “Around the Sophienburg” column. Originally there were 6 of us. They were the three of us, Arlene, Rosemarie, and Myra Lee plus Martha Jo Baetge (Goertz), Betty Ann Timmerman (Davis), and Mitzi Nuhn (Dreher). In the 5th or 6th grade we added two more who were in the grade below us. They were Eleanor “Ellie” Luckett (Schneider) and Kathleen “Kathy” Karbach (Kinney). At that time we began calling ourselves the EDB's. We'll explain that in a future column.
Always an outstanding yearly event to which we as EDB's looked forward was Mitzi's birthday celebration on April 11. The party was always held at her Uncle Rochette Coreth's ranch on Mission Hill. To better locate the ranch for you, HEB on the corner of Highway 46 and Loop 337 is on a small portion of the former Coreth ranch.
Rochette was married to Melinda Staats who was a sister to Irene Staats Nuhn, Mitzi's mother. How lucky for all of us.
Soon after our arrival at the Coreth ranch for the party and before cake, sandwiches and ice cream we were loaded on a wagon for a hayride through the ranch accompanied by wonderful stories told by Uncle Rochette and along the way we all joined in a group sing-along. Always this journey included a stop at the cave on the ranch for some exploration. We're told that Hylmar Karbach, Kenneth Ikels, Norman Krause, and other scouts in their troop made explorations of the cave as well. When we got a bit older the final stop of the hayride was at the “tower house”, the older house on the ranch. There was a porch that ran on 3 sides of the L-shaped dwelling which provided magnificent views. Even as youngsters we knew this was something special. At this point Mitzi's Uncle Rochette always reminded us- after a broad sweep of his arm toward town-that we were the lucky ones because few people had the good fortune to grow-up in a community like ours. How very true!
Years later Mitzi's family lived in that wonderful house for a while and there was the opportunity to go up to the to tower for an even more remarkable vantage point. It was magnificent!
And what about Rochette Coreth? Not surprisingly he was a respected leader in the community and particularly active in agriculture. When Paul Jahn managed to get the Edwards Underground Water District (E.U.W.D.) in motion Rochette was the first he included. Rochette served on the E.U.W.D. Board as did Craig Hollmig for the longest duration; 11 years each.
Rochette was the son of Franz Coreth who purchased the ranch in 1883 from Hermann Conring and the grandson of Count Ernst Coreth originally from the Tyrolean area of Austria. Franz's older sister, consequently; Rochette's aunt, was Agnes the countess of Coreth who married John Meusebach, the Adelsverein's 2nd Commissioner General. It was Meusebach who made the incredible peace treaty with the Comanches that opened 3,800,000 acres to be settled. His wise and heroic actions saved the German immigration and countless lives.
Lina (Windwehen) and Agnes (Altgelt) were Rochette's sisters. Lina's daughters were Mabel (Faust) and Florence (Eikel). Among Lina's grandchildren were Kay Lynn Faust (Specht), Jerry Faust and Carol Faust (Patton). The Drs Joel and Merry Saegert purchased Lina's home on Bridge Street, restored it, and received a Texas Historical Marker for the home.
Agnes's daughter, Minetta Altgelt Goyne, became a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her published writings included “A Life among the Texas Flora”. She had a delightful book signing at the Lindheimer home on Comal Avenue hosted by the Conservation Society following its publication in 1991.
Rochette's son was Franz Ernst. We called him Bummie. He was not as interested in ranching as his father. Bummie enjoyed the theater and music. He and his wife Mary Joyce produced and performed locally and elsewhere. Among the local productions was “The Sound of Music”sponsored by the Lions Club in Landa Park. It was spectacular and was held over we don't know how many times. Close your eyes and imagine that beautiful setting with those beautiful voices raised in harmony singing “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music”. All participants were local talent. Among them were Marcia Borchers (McGlothlin), Jeannine Schumann (Biggers), Steve Krueger, Martha Borne, Herb Skoog, and Susan Schenck. Other members of that outstanding cast were Rodney Reagan, Stephanie Stahl, Karen Choate, Patricia Schenck, Nelson, Shirley and Nancy Nagle. Of course, Mary Joyce performed the lead roll created by Julie Andrews in the movie. Every performance was a night to remember.
There is so much interesting history that is attached to the Coreth family as well as the Hermann Conring family and those others who have an affiliation with the site. Mission Hill Park is an exciting addition to our area parks. As we enjoyed those days on the Coreth ranch on Mission Hill our hope is that others too may when in Mission Park exclaim “What a View”!
It is said that one good thing leads to another. This has been proven once again with the formation of the New Braunfels Garden Club. Here is the story:
Martha Borne, the wife of the minister of First Protestant Church, the Rev. Herman Borne, was an exceptional gardener. The Borne's home was provided by the church. It was located on Coll Street a short distance behind the church that was and remains on the corner of Seguin Avenue and Coll St. The enlargement of the church in the 1990's required the house be removed Prior to that while Mrs Borne was in-residence she created an exquisite garden behind and to the side of the house. It was in that garden on a beautiful spring day in 1933 that she invited some ladies of the community to meet with the purpose being the formation of a garden club. This was the beginning of the New Braunfels Garden Club.
Mrs.Borne invited not only ladies from her church but others as well. Those initial founding members were Mrs.Max Altgelt, Mrs.Martin Dean, Mrs.John Faust, Mrs. Walter Fischer, Mrs. J.M. Garner, Mrs. James Street, and Mrs. Carl Wille. Shortly added to the membership roster were Mrs. M.A. Cook, Mrs J.R. Fuchs, Mrs. L.G. Lehmann, Mrs. Alfred Liebscher, Mrs. Richard Ludwig, Mrs.U.E. Shellhase and Mrs Robert Wagenfuehr.
Mrs, Borne became the first president and served from 1933 to 1936. She was followed by Mrs. John Fuchs who served from 1936 to 1938. There have been 46 presidents since the formation of the club and many hundreds of members throughout the years.
By 1951 there were over 150 members in the club. That summer three garden clubs began. They were: Guada Coma, Landa, and Laurel Hills. Guada Coma remains. Comal Garden Club started in 1969 and Four Seasons in 1981.
Each of the garden clubs over the years has many accomplishments. Let's reflect on those of New Braunfels Garden Club. Perhaps the earliest large project of the New Braunfels Garden Club was helping with the restoration of Landa Park in 1936. New Braunfels had passed the bond issue to purchase the park. For over a year prior to the purchase the park was enclosed by a 12' fence. During that time a storm occurred. There was an enormous amount of work to accomplish. New Braunfels Mayor H.F. Fischer declared June 5, 1936 'Landa Park Clean-up Day'. It was a huge community project. Martha Borne and Patty Fuchs of the New Braunfels Garden Club headed the clean-up committee in charge of flower beds and in Harry Landa's park there were many flower beds. All the club members were part of the committee assisting in the over-all project. Once again the citizens of New Braunfels proved what their hard work and cooperation could accomplish. The natural beauty of the park that held such happy memories for each of them was brought back by dedicated efforts.
Among the New Braunfels Garden Club's many other projects throughout the past 84 years were beautification by tree plantings and landscaping in Landa Park. These same beautification efforts continued at highway entrances, the library, the hospitals, Sophienburg, Eden Home, the Main Plaza, Lindheimer Plaza, Conservation Plaza, the National Guard Armory, and the Faust Street Bridge.A large donation was made toward the restoration of the Plaza Bandstand.
During World War II the club assisted the Comal County American Red Cross by making kit bags, honoring war wives and mothers, and visiting the sick and wounded in San Antonio. Also the club assisted with war bond sales.The members were praised for the victory gardens they planted and the produce shared with the community. At the war's end in 1946 the club planted a live oak in Landa Park. A marker set on a stone pillar states the tree is planted to honor the men and women of Comal County who served our country in World War II.
The club gave financial assistance to the restoration of the Lindheimer home.Club member Franziska Liebscher helped plant and maintain the gardens. In addition the club committed to the 'forever care' of the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Ferdinand Lindheimer in the Comal Cemetery and hold true to the commitment.
The restoration of the miniature golf course in Landa Park also was a recipient of their support as was Fischer Park. Landa Park has a new irrigation system made possible by the club. In addition they were major financial donors for the book , “New Braunfels' Historic Landa Park, Its Springs and Its People”.
Among the ongoing accomplishments of this group was sponsoring and spearheading “Water Symposium '06” with the theme “The Edwards Aquifer and You”. Club member Dolores Schumann and her husband, Bill were chairmen of the event with planning and participation from the club membership, other garden clubs, master gardeners, other groups, organizations and individuals. There were over 200 in attendance to hear presentations by a representative from the Edwards Aquifer Authority, GBRA, and NBU with State Representative Carter Casteel Mistress of Ceremonies.
As a group works together there is also the special delight of celebration. Jeannette Felger and Marie Offerman the beloved nieces of Edna Nowotny Voigt, joined their aunt as members of the garden club. when they returned to make their home in New Braunfels. Their timing was perfect. Both are accomplished hostesses and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the New Braunfels Garden Club was quickly approaching. Martha Borne lived on California Street above Landa Park. Her garden provided the perfect setting for the celebration and Marie and Jeanette were the perfect chairman for the event. The excellent turn-out was a beautiful honor. Members from the other garden clubs and organizations, the mayor and city council members plus more dignitaries from the community and the state and other friends locally and from San Antonio and Austin attended. It was a joyous celebration and a fun time for everyone recognizing 50 fruitful years of a fine local organization.
Marie and Jeanette continued hostessing a commemorative anniversary event every 5 years. The 75th year celebration was held at Marie's church, New Braunfels Presbyterian near Landa Park. This gathering too was spectacular. The huge hall was filled to overflowing with the many who wished to share this special time with members of an organization that continues to give so faithfully.
Another Marie Offerman project is her excellent garden club cookbook in its third printing with superb recipes and beautiful Texas wildflowers painted by honorary member Florence Brownfield. Sales from the cookbook, dues and donations make these projects possible.
More fun in the sun with this garden club group happened with Comal County Fair entries designed by Mary Ann Rhodes. “Lady Bugs Love the Garden Club” float won first place in 2007. In 2011 the entry “Butterflies Love the Garden Club” won 2nd place. Mary Ann's grandchildren were “glittery butterflies and a couple of handsome bumblebees” according to the garden club yearbook and those who had the fun of seeing them.
The club's schedule includes meeting monthly from September through May with an informative speaker at the podium. December there's the Christmas celebration luncheon at McAdoos. The Installation Luncheon is held in May at a private home or Conservation Plaza. April is the spring outing month that always proves to be an interesting and fun sojourn. The membership is limited to 50.
There was recognition for the club in 1998 on the club's 65th anniversary when the group was honored at the Arbor Day observance by the Texas Forest Service and City Parks and Recreation Department. A red oak tree honoring the club was planted in Landa Park. The club was again recognized by the Parks and Recreation Department with the Seele Legacy award in 2015 and notes member Peggy Hoffman for the accomplishments at Lindheimer Plaza.
Member Dolores Schumann and her husband Bill were honored as dedicated gardeners by the club in 1999 with a Montezuma Cypress planted in their honor in Landa Park. In October of 2012 Bill and Joyce Kolodzie received the Service Award from the club in recognition of their dedication and service to the preservation of Landa Park. A reception followed at Landa Haus.
Through the years club members have received individual awards from the Parks and Recreation Dept. Merry Saegert and Verna Mae Dean both received the Parks Dept Heritage Award that is given to honor those who work to preserve, to protect, and promote the local heritage. Merry received the award in 2011 and Verna Mae in 2013. Club Member Rosemarie Gregory received the Parks Department City of a Prince Volunteer Service Award in 2013. Club member Jane Miller received the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation award in 2012 for research on Founders Oak for Famous Tree of Texas designation and again in 2015 for information acquired for Fischer Park. In 2014 Jane received the Seele Legacy Award. The awards are presented yearly at a lovely event given by the Parks and Recreation Department.
A city related honor bestowed on club member Dolores Schumann and her husband Bill delighted not only member s of New Braunfels Garden Club and her other garden club Guada Coma but the whole community when the arboretum in Landa Park was named the William and Dolores Schumann Arboretum.
Their 75th year as a club the members determined a Historic Marker for Landa Park was long overdue. Merry Saegert, PhD was chairman with Stephanie Berquist on the committee. Their hard work made it a reality. The dedication of the Texas Historical marker in Landa Park was June 18, 2011. Also the club determined that Landa Park was in need of attention and with help of the other garden clubs, Master Gardners, and all interested the “Friends for the Preservation of Historic Landa Park” (Friends) was formed. And that begins another story.
January 21, 2018
Friends for the Preservation
of Historic Landa Park
Rosemarie L. Gregory
Arlene K. Seales
Although Elizabeth Elliot was born in Connecticut, her life's work turned out to be in Texas. Elliot was actually trained as a nurse, but according to her daughter Roberta,”That was only to get away from home”. Her real love was theater, which she was introduced to in high school.
Love brought Ms Elliot to Texas. Her husband Bob retired from the navy, entered school at Southwest Texas State Teachers' College. and got a job in New Braunfels. Her nursing credentials helped put her husband through school and care for two children, Roberta and 18 months later, Lynne, born with a condition called aphasia.
Despite her demanding schedule, Elliot found time to attend acting and theater workshops at Trinity University and Southwest Texas State Teachers College. When the Peninsula Playhouse arrived in town, she was a very active participant from the first and when the college agreed to produce two plays, she and Grace Foster wrote a musical, One Big Happy Family. The play opened September 1, 1966 sponsored by the local Optimist Club.
The other production, Romeo and Juliet, was set in Texas in the 1830's. Juliet became the daughter of the Veramendi family of Bexar County and Monclova Mexico. Romeo was the son of a frontier clan. A year later , in 1967, the New Braunfels Lions Club sponsored The Sound of Music and two more talented local buffs, Franz and Mary Joyce Coreth, planned, staged, and starred in the production. Franz had studied drama at Yale and Mary Joyce had studied locally. The two met while acting in summer stock and kept right on acting after they married. Mary Joyce directed the play, which was a huge success and held over for extra performances.
With plays performed only in the summer, after five years, the structure became a victim of vandalism and rot. The city had to decide whether to rebuild or tear down the venue. A valiant effort by local citizens was made to save the Playhouse, but ultimately the stage came down.
Elliot was angry. She decided to turn her anger into lobbying for a structure to replace the Playhouse and the formation of a new group, The Community Actors Theater. Finally her efforts paid off and an old exhibition hall on the Fairgrounds was made available for performances. Stage properties were stored in members garages. The group was able to perform one play in 1969, Calamity Jane. Elliot never ceased her efforts to acquire a real stage with space for storage.
In 1971, Elliot was approached by the Wurstfest Association. They asked the group to perform an old-fashioned melodrama. In return they would make available a building in Landa Park with the lease divided three ways: Wurstfest, the Chamber of Commerce, and the theater group. The building was only rented for a few months a year, but the Circle Arts Theater was born.
On May 11, 1972, the first season of Circle Arts Theater opened with O Men! O Women! And today they are going into their 43rd season. This success was due to the efforts of Elizabeth Elliot. She directed, she acted, she arranged printing and promotion, and she got the community excited about theater' She was so successful that the Circle Arts Theater was able to pay for a whole year's lease on the building by 1978. Plays are now produced year round. Elliot started The Fantasy Theater (now called Circle Arts Kids) for children ages 7-14 to educate youngsters about the theater. She wrote a column for the paper. She authored plays.
In 1990, Elizabeth Elliot was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the New Braunfels Committee for the arts and she was named Woman of the Year in the Arts by the San Antonio Express News.
Elizabeth Elliot died in 2008. She was an active and able force right up until her death. Fortunately, her daughter Roberta took her place. Roberta (Rob) grew up with the theater. She spent many hours as a child at the theater with her mother and learned firsthand all the phases and aspects of producing a play. She painted sets, worked lighting from a homemade lighting board; she did everything that a child could do and then some.
At age 10 Roberta told her mother she no longer needed a babysitter for her younger handicapped sister. She knew all the special requirements of her handicapped sister and could do it better than any sitter. Mom Elliot thought so, too. Roberta was 14 years old when her mother started Circle Arts Theater. All through high school, she worked with Circle Arts, sometimes skipping school when something pressing needed to be done at the theater. From 10 years of age, she was her own director.
In 1977, Roberta graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio with majors in Comparative Religion and Drama. She worked in the dean's office, worked on the Trinity stage, and all the time continued working for Circle Arts. Her expertise, she felt. was behind the scenes, not acting on the stage.
The year after she graduated, Roberta took a job with PRAN, an audiovisual concern in New Braunfels, where she learned how to do bookkeeping. This skill she brought to Circle Arts. She also took over working with Fantasy Factory children, which she loved because she felt she had a special message for them: Rely on yourself; you can do a lot more than you think. To continue her special brand of education. she started The Inner Circle for ages 14-18. Roberta took The Inner Circle on the road to schools in the area to bring theater to everyone.
While directing, painting sets, managing lighting, and helping with anything her mother needed, Roberta wrote scripts and plays, Windows are only Solid Air and Orphans on the Guadalupe among them. But Roberta Elliot still did not act.
One day Elizabeth Elliot was hard pressed for someone to act in Godspell and thought Roberta would be perfect. She finally convinced her daughter to take the part and that was all it took for Roberta to add acting to her theater talents. When Elizabeth died, Roberta was able to step into her place and the New Braunfels community is very, very grateful.
This column is based on the book New Braunfels’ Historic Landa Park, Its Springs and Its People by Rosemarie Leissner Gregory and Arlene K. Seales. For more information visit www.friendsforlandapark.org or Facebook.