A few years back I was looking for a birthday card for my friend Jo Ann Farris Goodell’s 90th birthday, when I came across a Hallmark card featuring all the characters from “The Wizard of Oz.” The caption read, “It’s not where you go, but the people you meet along the way.” How true! What wonderful people and witnesses to Uvalde’s past I have met over the years. Some are still with us, but many have passed on. I treasure their friendship and what I learned from them.
Jo Stevenson Noble, a lifetime Uvalde resident who died at age 100 in 2019, once said to me, “Allene, you need to get some younger friends.” I’ve always been drawn to those older than me for they lived in an era before my time and have so much to offer regarding the happenings in Uvalde in the early twentieth century.
Some of my most memorable conversations were with Belia Ruiz Romo who was an assistant archivist to Virginia Davis at the library. Born and raised in Uvalde, Belia attended West Main until she had to quit school and help raise her siblings and even sew their clothes so they could attend school. She wanted so much to finish school and finally did so by attending GED classes at SWTJC. In the meantime, Belia said she read the entire encyclopedia as she wanted to know everything. She passed that love of learning on to her two children who both achieved Master’s degrees. Belia, a direct descendant of John Leakey, loved history and genealogy and was a great resource in the archives. She died in 2016.
Former Uvalde resident Alan Carmichael, pharmacist and owner of the Rexall Drug Company for 44 years, passed away on December 8, 2022. Another of Uvalde’s witnesses to history is gone. Alan and I became friends back in 2017 when he asked me to write the story about his Rexall drugstore. What an honor and privilege it is to have known this man.
Alan started a coffee klatch in his drugstore where local businessmen met every morning for coffee. In recent years many of the same men met in the back room of the Chamber of Commerce on East Main. I brazenly crashed their get together one morning just to talk and gather information on the Cargile Cave. Alan Carmichael, Jack Molloy, and John Harrell were among those in attendance. What stories these men could tell!
Ben Harp, who died in 2020 at age 95, was another one who had endless stories to tell on our visits. A WWII veteran, he had vivid memories of the 32 years he worked at the Coca Cola plant in Uvalde on South Getty. Ben’s sister Shirley Harp Stoner, who passed away in 2021, was a treasure trove of Uvalde history, having in her possession letters written home by her uncle Jake McNair who died in France during WWI.
I only had one visit with Jimmy Henry of Sabinal, who died in 2018, but he was another rich source of history, having attended first through seventh grades at the historic Trio School just northwest of Sabinal off Hwy. 127. To my surprise, on our visit, he brought out textbooks from the old school.
One of my greatest sources of both Uvalde and Knippa histories is my brother Bob Saunders who is now 88. He attended Knippa and Uvalde schools and remembers every family, their children’s names, where they lived, and what kind of car they drove, down to the color and the year. I can mention any topic and he can expound on it. It’s amazing! Cousin Bobby Kramer of Uvalde is a virtual encyclopedia of Knippa history. Just ask him the score and names of team members of any Knippa football game prior to his graduation in 1956, and he can tell you.
There are those living today whom I know and revere for their historical knowledge, but I sometimes wonder, “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?” Virginia Davis is one such person. What will the archives be without her? My friend Jane Knapik, former Leader-News columnist and Uvalde educator, who now continues her historical interests in Marble Falls, is another. And, of course, there is Charley Robinson. His knowledge of Uvalde sports history is astounding.
There have been countless others along the way who have shared their memories of growing up in Uvalde. Over the holidays it was an honor to hear from Belle Fenley Edwards, daughter of Uvalde’s legendary historian Florence Fenley. A 1950 graduate of Uvalde High School and an avid historian, Belle is currently listed among Nebraska authors.
To all I’ve talked to along the way, “Thanks for the memories!”
Allene Mandry was born in Uvalde where she attended elementary school before moving to San Antonio. A retired teacher, she spends her time doing genealogy research. Mandry and her husband, Arthur, live on a ranch near Camp Verde.