September 6-10, 2016: Prudence Visits Dallas
July 23, 2016: The Museums in Fort Worth
Return to the Index for 2016


August 18-21 & 26-28, 2016
A Visit with Guy in San Antonio
Prudence's Birthday in San Antonio


 

On this page, I want to deal with two separate trips that we made to San Antonio. The first was to visit with Guy on his trip down from Massachusetts, and the second was for Prudence's birthday five days later. Even though these were separate trips, it makes sense to deal with them together.

 

August 18-21: Visiting with Guy

We had been talking with our friend Guy, who has been up in Massachusetts this summer, about his coming down to San Antonio for a visit in late August. He finalized his plans, and I helped him get reservations to come to San Antonio on the 17th and head back to Massachusetts on the 20th. Fred was going to be at his Mom's on the 16th and 17th, so we couldn't head down to San Antonio until Thursday, August 18th. Guy's visit would coincide with a performance at the Majestic that Prudence had told us about months ago and for which she had gotten tickets. That would be on Saturday night, after Guy had departed to head back.

 

Getting to the Ruckman's House in San Antonio

You have probably seen an album page where we visit San Antonio, but in case you haven't, I want to show you the route to San Antonio from Dallas and where Prudence and Ron and Guy are located.

On the maps below, you can see the route to the Ruckmans' house. It is an easy matter to simply hop on I-35E from the Tollway in Dallas and take that highway all the way south through Austin to San Antonio. This 280-mile trip routinely takes about 4.5 hours. In San Antonio, we continue to follow I-35 into the city, eventually exiting onto San Pedro Avenue. We take that north about two miles, and either hang a left on Ashby and a right on Breeden or just a left on French to get to the Ruckmans' house on the northeast corner of Breeden and French.

In case you have not seen them, I have put below first an aerial view of the Ruckmans' house (it is the house on the corner and the garage/apartment building north of it where Guy lives) and a front view of the house (taken in 2010).

We were happy to see Guy Thursday afternoon, and spend all day Friday with him. Other than hang out around Ruckman Haus, we didn't do all that much- save for a trip to the San Antonio Botanical Garden and, of course, the Beatles Tribute Band performance at the Majestic on Saturday night. Karl and Nancy were in San Antonio as well, and so it was a nice visit.

 

The San Antonio Botanical Gardens

On Friday, Guy, Fred, Prudence and I made a trip over to the San Antonio Botanical Garden, stopping for lunch on the way at a little place on Broadway. It was a pretty day, and a nice one to be in the gardens (although it was quite warm).


Guy and Prudence at the Botanical Garden Entry

Prior to 1877, the eastern end of Mahncke Park was a limestone quarry that at one time became part of a reservoir system for San Antonio. When the city began using wells instead of surface water, the owner deeded the land to the city (1899). The idea of a Botanical Garden for San Antonio dates to the 1940s. A group of supporters developed and presented a master plan for a public botanical garden in the late 1960s, and the old quarry site was chosen.

In 1970, voters approved $265,000 in bonds for the Garden. This money, along with a grant awarded five years later by the Ewing Halsell Foundation, other contributions from organizations and individuals, and a significant grant from the Economic Development Administration helped pay for the project. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on July 21, 1976. The official opening of the San Antonio Botanical Garden was May 3, 1980.

One of the first things Guy did when he first moved to San Antonio was to get a membership at the Botanical Garden so he could come here frequently and walk. Apparently, he did this at least a couple of times a week all the time he was in San Antonio, until he was transferred to Green Bay, Wisconsin. When he returned a few years ago, he reinstituted his membership, and has kept it up since. If I lived nearer to the Dallas Arboretum, I'd probably go more frequently as well.


Fred and I have been to the Botanical Garden before, and we found out some time ago that our memberships to the Dallas Arboretum would get us free admission to the San Antonio gardens (as well as fifty other gardens around the country) on a reciprocal arrangement among botanical gardens and arboretums.

Getting to the gardens is just a fifteen-minute trip from Ruckman Haus, and I knew the way quite well. I didn't put a distance scale on the map at right, but the whole trip is a little less than three miles.

I think there are a number of reasons why Guy likes to come to the gardens so frequently. They, like the Dallas Arboretum, are not only a delight to the eyes, but provide rest for the soul as well. That rest is something Guy treasures, and something we should all get more of.


Guy, Fred and I were here earlier this year; today we just came to stroll through the gardens, not following any particular route. Often, there is an exhibit of one kind or another, such as sculpture, but today there wasn't, so we just wandered through the various areas of the gardens.

We came in through the entry and showed our various memberships before walking up into the gardens. There are always some nice potted arrangements by the Sullivan Carriage House, and there is a ramp that goes from the Carriage house up along a wall where all kinds of succulents grow and into the gardens; here are a few pictures from that walk up the ramp:

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Today, we visited some areas of the garden we don't visit frequently, and perhaps it might be useful if I showed you a diagram of the gardens on which I can note some of these areas.


On the diagram at right, you can see the walkway up from the entry pavilion (carriage house); this brings us up into the area of what I would call a main plaza. From here, you can go any number of different ways. We chose to go through the Wisteria Arbor, past the main fountain (at Fountain Plaza) and then on into the Halsell Conservatory (through its south entrance).

Just before the arbor, there was a photo op for kids, but I decided to give it a try myself:

We went through the conservatory buildings, coming out via a shaded walkway and up onto the hill where there is an overlook on a high hill. We walked around the north side of the overlook hill, stopped at the amphitheatre for a bit, and then went over to the entry for Texas Native Trail to see a sculpture installation we'd seen advertised back at the Sullivan Carriage House (Entry Building). Then we worked our way back to the entry itself.

Fred and I have been here before when we took lots of pictures, but today was just for wandering around, and so the pictures were relatively few and very occasional. I will just include the best of them here on this page. We can begin with a couple taken as we walked over to Fountain Plaza:

We walked through the wisteria arbor and out onto Fountain Plaza- the centerpiece of which is a long water feature that begins with a fountain on its north end. It is always a great place for pictures.


I had Prudence take a picture of me, Fred and Guy beside the fountain that feeds the long watercourse in Fountain Plaza. The fountain was created in 1985 by Paul Guelich, and was donated to the Botanical Garden by the San Antonio Garden Center.

We took a number of other pictures here around Fountain Plaza:

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From Fountain Plaza, we walked past an area that was blocked off for the construction of a new Entry Plaza for the Botanical Garden, which is being extended to the south, and then the short distance to the first building in the group of buildings that make up the prize-winning Lucile Halsell Conservatory, which opened in February 1988. Argentinean-American Emilio Ambasz, the designer of the futuristic glass project, has a world-wide reputation. This conservatory was the first of his projects ever built and his revolutionary design has been emulated and copied at several other locations. The walkway from the plaza slopes downward and the conservatory is entered at its lowest level through an open-air circular enclosed garden that is below-grade, and provides an entrance into the first of the glass conservatory buildings.


Caladiums in the Open-Air Enclosed Garden

Prudence and Fred in the Open-Air Enclosed Garden

This project presents many new ideas on conservatory design. Most conservatories have all of their display areas connected by hallways or smaller rooms. By using the mild climate of San Antonio, designer Ambasz and local architect Jones Kell have the visitor enter an open-air courtyard; the various "greenhouses" are separate and only accessible via the courtyard. So the area can actually be viewed as five separate conservatories built around the courtyard. Not only does the climate help make this design work, but the arcades (overhead covered areas) also provide protection from the elements.

Just through the doors in the picture at right, you pass through a short passageway that has display windows on either side. Inside both these windows are parts of the Botanical Garden's orchid collection.

A unique design feature is the subterranean effect of the Conservatory. As visitors enter the front, they actually go underground through a tunnel. At the entrance, the project is cut into the original grade by three feet, with soil over the entryway. The Palm House is cut 20 feet into the earth, with the original exterior grade surface remaining unchanged.


Basically, all of the rooms are sunken in the ground and have a glass roof at least 18 feet above the floor level. The largest glasshouse, the Palm Pavilion, soars 65 feet at its highest point. The fern room is actually 23 feet below the surface. This design is successful in San Antonio because of the quality and quantity of sunlight. The sun is almost overhead in the summer and only dips 22 degrees above the horizon at its lowest point in the winter.

Another of the rooms is the Kleberg Desert Pavilion, and since Fred is interest in cactus and succulents, we always take a walk through this room. Here are some of the pictures we took in the underground rooms of the pavilions:

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Another unique feature is that only the glass roofs protrude above the earth’s surface. All mechanical rooms, offices, and backup areas are underground, allowing for the very clean, uncluttered look of the landscape. From the below-grade interior courtyard, you can look up and around you and see the other buildings in the conservatory. In the tall palm pavilion, the walkway exits to the outside at the top.


Waterfall in the Fern House
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The fern house has a water feature, and the sound it makes adds a big element of interest. You can see what I mean by watching the movie at left.

Here are some more pictures that we took of the greenhouses themselves- inside and outside:

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Coming out of the Palm and Cycad House, we took the stairs (see picture at left) up to the walkway over past The Overlook- the highest point in the Botanical Gardens. We continued strolling around the walk below the overlook, heading over to the Texas Native Trail entrance. This work brought us by the amphitheatre. The huge Adirondack chairs that used to be back near the Rose Garden have been moved here, and for kids (and adults) there is a huge chessboard down below.

Look at the picture below, left to right, and you can follow us along this walk to the Amphitheatre:


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Just before reaching the entrance to the Texas Native Trail, we passed an outdoor art installation. It was called "Scattering Screen", and you can read about it here. It was really neat; here are two pictures of it:

From here, we decided to head back to the entrance, and we made our usual stop in the rose garden. After that, we headed on back to Ruckman Haus.

 

The Beatles Tribute Band at the Majestic Theatre

One of the reasons that we've come down to San Antonio this week is because Prudence got us all tickets to The Beatles Tribute at the Majestic Theatre downtown. The Majestic Theatre is San Antonio's oldest and largest atmospheric theatre. The theatre seats 2,311 people and was designed by architect John Eberson, for Karl Hoblitzelle's Interstate Theatres in 1929. In 1975, the theatre was listed on the National Register of Historical Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993. The theatre was home to the San Antonio Symphony from 1989 to 2014. For many years, it remained the largest theatre in Texas and the second largest movie theatre in the United States. It was also the first theatre in the state to be totally air-conditioned.


The theatre features a huge cast-iron canopy covering the sidewalk, a vertical sign 76-feet tall topped with "a strutting peacock ... walking as a huge ball rotated under his feet," and a cave-like single-story lobby that included copper lanterns, ceiling murals, and an aquarium filled with tropical fish. Inside the theatre's auditorium were stuffed birds perched on balconies or frozen mid-flight via ceiling wire, replicas of well-known Greek, Roman, and Renaissance sculptures, and specially treated cypress trees brought from Spain and placed on upper-level niches.

Here's a movie Fred made with his phone of the interior of the Majestic:


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The Baroque tendency to decorate with mask-like faces is exemplified by carvings alongside the stage and under the mezzanine balcony, and in direct translation of atmospheric theater design, the Majestic's blue ceiling "cloud scape" disguises the interior dome as an evening sky in conjunction with a cloud projector and small bulbs simulating stars. The bulbs are actually positioned according to consultations with experts at the National Geographic Society, who instructed the designer as to the positioning of the real stars on the night of the theater's opening.


The land on which the office building-theatre complex now stands was leased to Karl Hoblitzelle from J. M. Nix, who had purchased it in 1920 from the Enterprise Company of Dallas. The land came with the curious deed restriction that, until April 5, 1928, "'neither aforesaid land nor any building or improvement or any part thereon shall be used or occupied for theatrical, motion picture, or amusement purposes at any time...'"

The Majestic Theatre opened on June 14, 1929, and in many ways symbolized a progressiveness with which San Antonio wished to identify. The city actually deemed the month of the opening "Prosperity Month," celebrating the recent era of development Texas was experiencing. In size, the Greater Majestic was second in the nation only to Atlanta, Georgia's Fox Theatre, and it was the first theatre in Texas to be fully air-conditioned, something that alone was a major attraction in the 1920s South. Advertisements heralded "an acre of cool, comfortable seats", and "snow" topped the letters of the theatre's name above the marquee, prompting society women to wear fur coats to the June opening.

The 4,000-seat theatre was filled to capacity for opening day entertainment, which consisted of the musical film, Follies of 1929 and live performances by Mexican Troubador Don Galvan, "The Banjo Boy," the "Seven Nelsons" acrobatic troupe, Eddie Sauer and his "Syncopaters," and the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers, who himself received 18 curtain calls. Each week, the program offered included a new film and a new lineup of star performers. In 1930, the Great Depression caused the Majestic to close for several weeks, until it was able to reopen "because Americans were turning to movies for escape." The Majestic provided that escape with a schedule of films and live entertainment through the 1940s and 50s. Since then, fewer and fewer movies have been shown there, and more and more live performances have occupied the Majestic's stage.


We are here to see one of those live performances- "1964 the Tribute". This Beatles' tribute band was formed in 1984. It has performed more than 2,900 shows and released its own albums and videos. Rolling Stone magazine has called 1964 "the best Beatles tribute ever." It also was featured in a PBS special of the same name.


The band has toured worldwide, appearing in or at concert halls, fairs, festivals, colleges, corporate events and conventions; it has received numerous accolades, and been featured on scores of local television and radio programs throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and South America.

Asked about their plans to continue performing, Tom Work, who portrays George Harrison, quoted former bandmate Gary Grimes (who played Paul McCartney until his death in 2010) who said, "Until they stop coming".

We enjoyed the performance immensely; the band did two, 45 minute sets and a couple of encores. The original Beatles only did two 30-minute sets when they were touring. I enjoyed almost all the songs, but the only problem I had was one I have had at the Majestic before: the sound system is usually set way too loud and as a result the music, at least to my ears, is sometimes distorted. In fact, for the second half, I left my seat and went down to the open lobby at the back of the main floor- about thirty feet further back than the last row of actual seats. From there, the band sounded much better.

We were very appreciative that Prudence treated us to this great performance- and to a great dinner across the street at The Palm before the performance started.

 

August 26-28: Prudence's Birthday

We didn't stay in San Antonio on into Prudence's birthday; Fred would have been away from his house for too long, and without things getting watered, a lot of stuff would have died. Guy returned to Massachusetts on the 21st, so Prudence thought that we would not be back down for her birthday. Ron asked us to come back down, and we did, but we kept it a secret from Prudence, show she was surprised when we showed up again on the 25th.

 

At Ruckman Haus

We spent another few enjoyable days with Prudence for her birthday on the 26th and for Saturday, the 27th. When we arrived, we found that the Sun Room was full of the flowers that people had sent to Prudence. Here is a picture of Prudence and her birthday flowers.

While everyone was in the Sun Room, I thought I would try to get a good picture of Nancy and Karl, but I could have got the lighting better. On Friday night, the seven of us, as well as Jax, walked about four blocks from the house to a new Italian Restaurant on San Pedro, and had a very nice meal out on their patio. I took a couple of good pictures during our dinner:

 

The Farmers' Market at the Pearl Brewery

On Saturday morning, Ron, Prudence, Fred, Jax and I headed over to the Pearl Brewery at the north end of the Riverwalk to the farmers' market. All the shops are open, and it is an excellent place to get some breakfast, walk around and people-watch.


Looking East at the Farmers' Market

We found a parking space in one of the garages here at the Brewery and walked through the Food Court to the main street through the middle of the market. On market days, vendors set up the booths that you see- selling a little of everything.


Looking West at the Farmers' Market

Here you can see the actual brewery, which has not been used as one for many years. The whole area has been renovated into shops, apartments, condos and such; it is a popular area, being right on the Riverwalk.


The Pearl Brewery

In this view, looking west, you can again see the brewery, but on both side are also new buildings built or remodeled during the area's renovation. The yoga area was to the left in this picture.


One of the Many Booths at the Farmers' Market

I just thought that the name on this farmer's booth was interesting (and not just a little suggestive).

After walking around for a bit, Ron wanted to get something to eat, so Fred, Prudence and Jax found a place to sit outside the shop that Ron went into.


On a small open lawn between the street and three buildings of the complex, there were thirty or forty folks doing yoga, so I walked around the lawn, making a movie and taking some pictures. Here is the movie:


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At right are some of the pictures I took of the yoga participants. A little repetitive, but interesting.

It's always interesting to walk around the farmers' market, although today there were fewer stands where you could get breakfast tacos and stuff like that. I almost bought some honey, but couldn't find any with a comb.


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When we were walking around the east side of the market, we were serenaded by a couple of performing groups, and I made a movie of one of them. It is at left. We also passed by a wine shop, and Fred thought the saying on the window was funny:

Both of our visits down to San Antonio this month were really enjoyable, and we very much liked seeing Guy again.

 

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.


September 6-10, 2016: Prudence Visits Dallas
July 23, 2016: The Museums in Fort Worth
Return to the Index for 2016