San Antonio 'Tricentennial Minute' For February | Texas Public Radio

San Antonio 'Tricentennial Minute' For February

Mar 13, 2018

From the outlaws Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh  — better known Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid — to the the debut of the "Ice Man" George Gervin in a Spurs uniform, to the nuptials of a young Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mamie Doud, San Antonio’s history is as varied and colorful as the people who inhabit the Alamo City.

This is Texas Public Radio’s San Antonio Tricentennial Minute, a look back at 300 years of Alamo City culture, one day at a time, written and produced by David Martin Davies and narrated by contributor Yvette Benavides. February's San Antonio Tricentennial Minute is made possible by St. Mary's University.

For the month of February:

Feb. 1, 1946

 

Lackland Air Force Base is designated the Army Air Force Military Training Center. This made San Antonio the home for basic training for the Army Air Force. The center was created on July 4, 1942, when the War Department separated part of Kelly Field and made it an independent installation. The first class of cadets began training there in November of 1941 — weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After World War II, the base was considered for decommission instead it was given a new mission. On July 11, 1947, it was named Lackland for Brigadier General Frank D. Lackland.

Feb. 2, 1836

Colonel William Travis arrives in San Antonio with a small cavalry company takes command of the fortifications of the Alamo. Several weeks earlier it was frontiersman Jim Bowie’s decision to ignore General Sam Houston’s order to abandon the Alamo. Bowie didn’t want the canons to fall into the hands of the Mexican forces and he reasoned their defense could delay Santa Ana. Also on this day in 1836, Bowie wrote in a letter that he would “rather die in these ditches than give San Antonio up to the enemy.”

Feb. 5, 1892

An inspection of the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum — today known as the San Antonio State Hospital — focused on the facility’s artesian well. It produced 180,000 gallons of sulfur saturated water per day at the unusual temperature of 103 degrees. The water was unfit for drinking at the asylum but, two years later, McClellan Shacklett was able to use that resource. He built the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa. The mineral-rich water treatment attracted the era’s rich and famous. Hot Wells is now in ruins but plans remain to return it to its former glory.

Feb. 6, 1901

 

It was sometime in February that outlaws Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh were last seen in San Antonio. Better known "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sundance Kid," the pair was known to frequently associate at Madame Fannie Porter’s brothel in San Antonio. The brothel served as a hideout for Cassidy’s gang. Story has it that this is where Cassidy made his famous bicycle ride. Porter threw the "Wild Bunch" one last party the night before they left to rob a bank in Wagner, Montana. Soon after, the Pinkterton Agency began rounding up the outlaws, and Cassidy and Sundance left for South America.

Feb. 7, 1974

 

George Gervin plays his first game as a Spur. Gervin joined the American Basketball Association's Black and Sliver, under a cloud of cloak and dagger intrigue. The deal with the Virginia Squires involved brown paper bags of cash, secret negotiations and an attempted double cross. When the 21-year old "Ice Man" came to San Antonio, it was a gamble. That first night at the Arena, Gervin scored 12 points but the Utah Stars won. The Spurs won 13 of the next 18 games and headed to the playoffs. Gervin’s play transformed the Spurs — so much so, they joined the NBA and Gervin was headed to the hall of fame.

Feb. 8, 1830

 

Jose Antonio Diaz de Leon, the last Franciscan missionary in pre-republic Texas, reluctantly complied with the decree from the Mexican government that the old Spanish missions be secularized. That meant the missions across Texas were to be turned over to diocesan authorities. The growing number of Anglo settlers wanted to control the mission properties. Diaz de Leon argued that the mission Indians still needed protection, but after years of resistance he finally surrendered to the order. As he had expected, the mission lands were soon made available to colonists.

Feb. 9, 1931

 

Texas folklorist and writer J. Frank Dobie lectures at San Antonio’s Main Avenue Senior School. The topic: the history of the Texas Longhorn. Dobie called the longhorn the most important animal in Texas history. Dobie is considered one of the state’s most significant literary figures. In 1941, he would publish the book "The Longhorns," which was a critical success. Dobie’s writing was instrumental in saving of the longhorn from extinction.

Feb. 12, 1961

 

An attempt is made to desegregate the Majestic Theater. African American college students rebelled against the practice that required black patrons to use a separate entrance and sit in the balcony. The students stood in line to buy tickets to the film “The World of Suzie Wong” but were turned away.  They went back to the end of the line to try again. The action was peaceful with no arrests. For the next three months, there were more “stand-ins” until the Majestic abandoned “Jim Crow.” Other San Antonio theaters soon followed.

Feb. 13, 1913

Ignacio E. Lozano founds “La Prensa,” a Spanish language daily newspaper to address the needs of the growing number of Mexicans in exile in San Antonio. Mexico was engulfed in a bloody revolution and La Prensa became the link between the political refugees, their homeland, and their new city. In 1926, Lozano would establish another Spanish daily — this time in Los Angeles — La Opinion. The papers were platforms that exposed abuses against the Mexican community, discussed civil rights and promoted democratic ideals.

Feb. 14, 1916

Fort Sam Houston’s 2nd Lt. of the 19th Infantry Regiment Dwight D. Eisenhower proposes to Mamie Doud. The two met while Mamie was visiting San Antonio with her parents from Denver. For an engagement ring, Ike gave Mamie a miniature of his West Point class ring, amethyst set in gold.  He was 25 and she was 19. They married less than five months later. The couple settled into the lieutenant’s living quarters at Fort Sam Houston. In 1953, they moved into the White House.

Feb. 15, 1915

The San Antonio City Council proposes a crackdown on troublesome “jitneys.” A jitney was slang for a nickel which was the fare for the proliferating Ford Model T’s, which were roaming the streets. Some jitneys were freelance bus services that were little more than freight trucks. The jitneys were fast and cheap, but also a threat to public safety and competition to the streetcars. In March of that year, the city passed an ordinance requiring drivers to have a license, insurance and a security bond.

Feb. 16, 1861

The Civil War almost begins in San Antonio with a confrontation at the Alamo. The local pro-secession militia called the Committee for Public Safety surrounded the U.S. Army Garrison at the Alamo. They ordered that General David E. Twiggs surrender. Had Twiggs refused and decided to defend the Alamo, this would have been the first blood shed of the Civil War. Instead, he complied and two months later the war erupted at Fort Sumter.

Feb. 19, 1877

The iron horse arrives in San Antonio. The first passenger train pulls into the Alamo City with a massive celebration and torchlight parade. The arrival of the “The Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio” line was critical for the city’s future. San Antonio was the largest city in the nation without a rail connection. To get rail to the city, in January of 1876 Bexar voters OK'd $300,000 in bonds to bring in the “Sunset Line.” And by 1900, San Antonio would grow to be the largest city in Texas.

Feb. 20, 1917

The body of General Frederick Funston lies in state at the Alamo. The controversial hero of the Philippine-American War was the commanding general of the Army’s Southern Department and oversaw the massive military force along the southern border. The 51-year old Funston died the day before. His last moments were spent relaxing in the lobby of the St. Anthony Hotel, listening to an orchestra play the "Blue Danube" waltz. He commented, “How beautiful it all is,” and then collapsed from a heart attack. Major General John “Black Jack” Pershing, who was Funston’s subordinate, was immediately appointed commander of the Southern Army.

Feb. 21, 1885

The bloody train escape. Charles Yeager and James Pitts were given life sentences for robbing post offices. Marshal Hal Gosling was escorting the pair on the train to San Antonio. Pitt’s family was also on the train, including his grandmother, who slipped them pistols during a tearful hug. Near New Braunfels, gunfire erupted. Marshal Gosling and a deputy were killed. The conductor opened fire and killed the grandmother. Chained together, the outlaws jumped from the train. Pitts died from gunshot wounds. Yeager was arrested by a posse and sent to prison.

Feb. 22, 1861

The Knights of the Golden Circle hold its state convention in San Antonio. The KGC was a mid-19th century secret society with the goal of creating a new nation — a golden circle of slave holding territories, including the southern U.S. states and Mexico. The San Antonio KGC Castle was made up of many of the city’s most prominent citizens. On this day, the group was active in verbally attacking the pro-union San Antonio newspaper “Alamo Express” and leading an overt voter intimidation campaign for the next day’s statewide referendum on secession.

Feb. 23, 1861

Texas went to the polls and voted for or against secession. The results for the state as a whole were three to one in favor of secession, while the vote in San Antonio was 827 to 709, rejecting secession. This was despite bully tactics of the Knights of the Golden Circle to silence newspapers, coerce office holders and intimidate voters.

Feb. 26, 1868

The clock tower at the Ursuline Convent is erected. The Ursuline Sisters — the Daughters of St. Angela — came to San Antonio and founded their Catholic girls academy in 1851. The school was established on the banks of the San Antonio River at Augusta Street. In 1965, the Ursulines left the facility and moved to north San Antonio. The Riverwalk campus was abandoned until it was rescued by the Conservation Society. In 1971, the grounds became home to the Southwest Craft Center, which is now the Southwest School of Art.

Feb. 27, 1992

San Antonio is host to the Drug Summit. President George H.W. Bush invited the heads of six Latin American nations to the Alamo City to discuss the growing problem of illegal narcotics. Bush used the backdrop of the McNay Museum to discuss the war on drugs. Bush called for international cooperation to reduce the flow of drugs by strengthening the economies and democracies of the Americas. However, the self-congratulatory tone of the event was challenged by reporters at a wrap-up press conference. Bush failed to achieve an agreement with the goal of reducing  cocaine use and production by the year 2000.

Feb. 28, 1936

 

As San Antonians dealt with the hardships of the Great Depression, chicken thieving became a growing concern. Local law enforcement took the matter of poultry plucking very seriously. On this day the Bexar County Sheriff's Department pursued felony charges against three men and a woman who were caught committing fowl play. The 43 recovered chickens were housed in the courthouse jail. The owners were contacted and asked to come in to i.d. the jailbirds. The eggs that were produced in the meantime were donated to charity.

Vince Kong can be reached at vince@tpr.org or on Twitter @teamvincek