Local businessman shares his love of the past through his writing
Did you know that Louise Hays Park hosted waterskiing stunt shows in the 1950s or that Kerrville’s first library was built by George and Geraldena Walther in 1908? Joe Herring Jr. does, and he’s happy to tell you all about it.
The only thing Herring loves more than a good story is sharing what he’s learned, and that’s exactly what the former Kerrville mayor has been doing for more than 25 years with his column in the Kerrville Daily Times and more recently with his blog and books. “I’ve always had an interest in local history because I’m of this place and I feel connected to this place, and so I wanted to know its story,” he says.
Herring and his sister, Judy Alexander, own Herring Printing Co., a business started by their parents in 1964. In the mid-’90s he started writing a weekly history column for the local newspaper. “I think it helps, especially newcomers to our area, to know that there’s a unique history to this part of Texas,” Herring says. “I think it’s a cool story, and so I’ve been happy telling that story.”
PICTURES OF THE PAST
Herring also loves old photographs and has a collection of 15,000-20,000 images of Kerrville and the surrounding area. “I have cabinets full of prints, negatives and slides,” Herring says. “The sources of these photographs are everything from family albums to tourist photographs.”
Because he’s known as the town’s historian, people often bring Herring artifacts they discover in attics or garages. “Almost every week I get a new photo or a new something,” he says.
His personal photo archive often proves to be a valuable resource when he’s presented with a mystery, like when he received a ledger from an unnamed business that he was eventually able to identify as the Henke Brothers Meat Market. “That one took a while,” he says. “I get a little obsessed with it. It’s like a puzzle.”
GIVING HISTORY A HOME
Kerr County doesn’t have a local history museum — something Herring and the other members of Heart of the Hills Heritage Center are working to change. The organization partnered with the city last year to eventually open a museum in the A.C. Schreiner House. “This was the house of Charles Schreiner’s oldest son,” Herring says. “The building was donated to the city, and it’s empty. It’s a beautiful site.”
The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the organization’s efforts to raise funds to set up exhibits and staff the museum, but Herring hopes the campaign will gain momentum again in 2021. “This town has a deep appreciation for its history,” he says.
Herring sees his writing as a way to keep the stories of Kerrville’s past alive and easily accessible while the museum remains a work in progress. “I think that’s important, because a community is stronger when it knows its story,” he says. “I’ve believed that for a long time.”