Monday, December 29, 2008

151 and Going Strong

“You must visit the historic district of New Braunfels (TX) while you’re here,” was the advice that we received from the staff of the Visitors’ Center. Since this focus of a visit fit our interests very closely, we picked up a map with an outlined route and were off.

We started at the Main Plaza with the bandstand at the center of a traffic circle. The bandstand was built in 1905.

At one point on the circle was the Comal County Courthouse. The bell tower of this beautiful Romanesque revival style building still announces the hour.

Heading down the main street off the circle, we found two representatives of our favorite components of a town's history. The first was the Brauntex Theater. Although it was not open at the time we were there, the marquee indicated that the theater was featuring the Three Redneck Tenors and "A Christmas Carol." (There's a comment here, but I'll leave that to the reader.)

The second building that caught our attention was topped with this identifying marker.

We then read the name on the building. This building housed Henne Hardware and Electric, built and operated by Louis Henne in 1893.

Walking under the stained glass entryway, I passed the sign: "Henne Hardware - Since 1857." In the main window was the number "150," indicating an extended celebration of its 150th anniversary.

I was thrilled to be walking down the aisles listening the creaking underfoot of the bowed floor. A beautiful sound. I was so caught up in the history of the store that I forgot one of my procedural courtesies. I had forgotten to ask the owner/manager if I could take photographs in the store. I was painfully reminded of this when the owner (perhaps a fourth or fifth generation Henne) asked if I was finding everything.

My story about my early career in a hardware store similar to this one was met with a nod. (The oversight had cost me.) "The oldest hardware store is somewhere in Indiana," was the owner's only comment.

I'm sure I missed hearing about some historical anecdotes or hearing the story about how the tin ceiling of the store was manufactured in the Henne Tin Shop next door, but I did manage to read about the "money trolley."

When the store opened, all transactions were completed in the office in the back of the store. The list of items purchased and the money for the purchase were put in this cup that unscrewed from its top and "a yank on the rope would catapult the cup and its contents to the bookkeeper in the main office." That person would record the sale and return a receipt and any change in the cup on the money trolley.

Right below the money trolley was an array of toys that I believe must have been quite old, but I did not feel like pressing my luck and asking about them.

I'm not sure the metal toys were for sale, but there they were, just sitting on the counter.

As I walked out the store, I couldn't help but wonder how many interesting stories I had missed hearing because of my oversight.

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