Saturday, August 19, 2017

Admiral Nimitz and the Nimitz Steamboat Hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas

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The home of Admiral Chester Nimitz's early childhood has always been my favorite in all of Texas. In 1855 the admiral's grandfather opened the Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas. Over the years it grew in fame  due to its comfort, convenience, and notable visitors. The hotel registry included that of President Rutherford B. Hayes as well as Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant among many others.

But perhaps the most famous "guest" of all, for whom the hotel would forever be remembered, arrived on the 24th of February in 1885...the day a tiny baby named Chester was born. I'm sure Grandpa Charles Henry Nimitz was quite proud of his grandson. His son, Chester's father, had died 6 months earlier.

Captain Charles Henry Nimitz was a man who was also proud of the sea. Renown as the "master of the Texas tall-tale," he was a German-American who had served with the German navy when he was young. After settling Fredericksburg with others from Germany in 1846, he served in the Texas Rangers before buying the hotel. Apparently his love of the sea was never far from his memory. He infused his past into the architecture of the hotel.   

It is this part of the hotel that always beguiled my heart since I was a little girl...the steamboat feature that Grandpa Captain Nimitz added after 1888. It became known as the Nimitz Steamboat Hotel. 

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Despite the success of the hotel, there was not money enough to consider college for young Chester. However all that changed when Chester met some graduates of West Point. Inspired, Chester applied for a Congressional appointment, but there were no more openings at West Point. However, there were openings at the Naval Academy. Although Chester had never heard of the Naval Academy, he applied and was accepted...at 15 years of age, before completing high school. Apparently Nimitz didn't complete high school until after he retired from the Navy as Fleet Admiral.

Henry Fonda fabulously portrayed Admiral Nimitz, the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, in the famous movie, Midway. ( I do seem to recall that "Fredericksburg" was mentioned. And yes...we watched this movie a few days later on Memorial Day weekend.)

The hotel is now part of what I think is the best museum in Texas-the Admiral Nimitz Museum. Themed around WWII, they have stunning displays that remain in my memory. (I probably have lots of SLR photos to scan from years ago when we visited while studying WWII in our homeschool. One day I will scan those photos and blog about that visit.)

Well...no, we did not get to visit the hotel *this* day. Nor did we get to walk anywhere in town that day. My mom was in haste to get home. We had already conquered the LBJ Ranch and the Wildseed Farm. A rainstorm was on its way. Rush hour awaited in San Antonio. (Honestly, when people rolled their eyes that we were moving to Northern Virginia, 8 years ago, I laughed and said the traffic wouldn't be any different. Actually it is worse in San Antonio than it is in NoVA.)

The above photo is actually from December 2008. It is far better than any of the photos I attempted to take while my mom drove zoom, zoom, zoom through Fredericksburg. At least we got to drive by a favorite spot. In fact, since moving to NoVA we've toured the Naval Academy. You can check that out here. At the time we didn't know that Nimitz had attended there. If we had, we've have looked for him. Guess we need another trip.

Resources:
 Museum- http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/your-visit/admiral-nimitz-museum/
The Nimitz Hotel-https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ccn01
Admiral Nimitz-http://www.militarymuseum.org/Nimitz.html
Captain Charles Henry Nimitz-https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fni04

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wildseed Farm

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After our visit to the LBJ Ranch we drove down the road to the Wildseed Farms...as per my daughter's request. This had always been one of her favorite places to visit when we lived in Texas. We all enjoy this lovely setting.

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They have a gift shop and nursery to buy plants. Oh how I wanted to shop for plants to bring home to Virginia. Alas...

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Then we walked through the fields of wildflowers. The actual purpose of the Wildseed Farm is to grow flowers to collect seeds to package and sell. Look at all the varieties you can purchase...that usually grow out in the fields throughout Texas every year.

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Afterwards we visited the gift shop...one of the best gift shops ever. I wanted everything bluebonnets, and more! I settled on some gorgeous bluebonnet place mats...as well as a package of bluebonnet seeds to take home. However they never made it back to Virginia. I think they never made it into my bag, even though my receipt shows I paid for them. (boo hoo)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Visting the Texas White House at the LBJ Ranch

 Indian Blanket...Firewheel...Gallardia...this flower represents not only my college but also that of former President LBJ. We both happened to attend the same college...not far away from his home...not far from mine.  Though most known for bluebonnets, Texas abounds in a variety of flowers (next post) that blossom in colorful array throughout spring into summer. I have never seen such color anywhere else in my travels. 

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Our first tourist stop in Texas was to some old stomping grounds that had been refreshed...the LBJ Ranch. I realize that Lydon Baines Johnson was not a popular president for many reasons. I did not like everything he did. However he was a huge part of my life in central Texas, as if he were a neighbor that I'd bump into again and again. And even though neighbors might not always agree, we should always remain friends and get along. As a teacher I will also keep teaching about him, ...or else we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Actually, there are  many happy things I want to focus on, because there are great things to be seen and to learn on this tour. And that is another point, to focus on good things...even while learning about the mistakes of the past. Actually I have always found it surprising that LBJ made the choices he did in life, given his background and upbringing. Yet, that proves that life is a choice...hopefully we can make better choices if we learn from the mistakes of the past and focus on goodness.

 I grew up coming to this place to visit. It was always a place to bring our guests to the lovely Hill Country, the slow pace, the calm and quiet. There is much to learn about Texas...and more on this tour. This post is mostly about Texas...but we will bump into my neighbor from my Texas years along the way.

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Oft times we begin with a tour of LBJ's Boyhood Home and his grandparent's settlement in nearby Johnson City. My mom suggested that but my kids have been there, and learned lots...of the good and the bad. The last I visited was in the days when I had an SLR camera, no scanner, and no idea how to convert photos to html code to post on the blog...so the pictures never made it over here. But now I know! So stay tuned for those stories because some of those photos include meeting Lady Bird Johnson and her daughter Lynda Robb. They were perfectly Texas friendly and warm and gracious...which is how I hope this post to remain...full of Texas hospitality. That will be the theme.

Shortly after our last visit, Lady Bird passed away. While she lived, we toured the ranch via bus tour...because she still lived in the Texas White House. Now that she had passed, the family wanted to turn the home over to the museum to prepare for open tours. So now...we were free to drive on the property and walk the land that was once covered by Secret Service agents.  Actually I thought I had taken a picture of the infamous Secret Service shack which looked like a charming telephone booth, located across the river. So just imagine that...because that is how the tour always began...to my great exuberance as a little girl. Somehow I was always, at that age, able to separate the bad from the good. Let me share.

The first stop was always this one room school house where LBJ attended school. This time we got to walk up the hill into the school house.

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Charm exuded the quaint room, where LBJ studied in 1912.

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LBJ first learned from his mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, a college grad who taught her children not only how to read but also public speaking skills. In fact, in the Boyhood Home in Johnson City is a picture that she used to teach the importance of not becoming vain. She taught many worthy life lessons like that, from what I gleaned over the years of many house tours. Not sure why LBJ departed from that in later years. Again, life is a choice.  

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I'd love to have taught in this room.

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I love how this picture turned out, for strictly sentimental reasons. I am a teacher, having received my certification from Southwest Texas State University. LBJ was a teacher, having received his certification at Southwest Texas State Teachers College, from 1927-1930. (I've lost track of how many times the college has changed names.) Here is a display where he is addressing this same college where he and I both attended. (I began my collegiate career at Trinity University, where it got too expensive, so I transferred to a popular teacher's college in the Texas Hill Country, which just so happens to be the same college LBJ attended. It began as Southwest Texas State Normal College in 1918.-normal schools trained teachers)  I like how all of this history fell onto one piece of glass.

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As we walked to LBJ's birthplace, a short distance from the school, we heard this colorful bird chirping. Don't see these often in Texas.

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I love so many things about LBJ's birthplace. So quintessential old-fashioned Texan.

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Why? Because it is a dog-trot cabin! This was clever architecture for the 19th and early 20th centuries. Texans built this way to remain cool. I don't think it works for winter. However, freezing days in Texas are more rare than the prodigious heat of the summers.

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Surprise! Did you expect the inside of the house to look this nice in the frontier of 1908 Texas? Even now the land is surrounded by vast mileage of countryside. The nearest populations are 60 miles to Austin and 69 miles to San Antonio.

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I love this bell behind the kitchen, because of the story. Due to the vast acreage of property, Mrs. Johnson rang it to call her family for dinner. I keep telling my family I could use one of these, because I go nuts trying to round up my family. However I don't think the HOA would take to kindly to my actually using one though.

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I bet you had no idea Texas could look like this!

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Across from the birthplace, near the Pedernales River is the cemetery, more easily shown in the photos below. Here is the church the family attended.

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Here is the best view of the Pedernales River that I can give to you. Across the river is Ranch Road 1 (so numbered for the president) which is a short and quiet road along the river. There are two picnic areas. At one end of the ranch road is the more full and busy picnic area with playground equipment. At the other end of the ranch road are a couple of quiet, secluded picnic tables near the river. The secluded ones are more my speed...and where we enjoyed a picnic lunch before the tour.

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Finally! On our way to the ranch which is just up the road a bit! Cattle were in our way. LBJ's grandfather, Sam Ealy Johnson, was a cowboy with his brother...all the way from owning cattle to driving cattle to Kansas and Montana in the 19th century. You can see his settlement near LBJ's Boyhood Home in nearby Johnson City, 

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We hadn't seen a scissor-tailed flycatcher since moving to Virginia!

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And then we arrived at the hangar. How about an airport in your backyard?

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The hangar is now a museum and gift shop.

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Presenting...the inside of the Air Force "One-Half" which actually flew LBJ both when he was vice-president and president. (Now admit it...whoever your favorite president is, you'd probably like to ride with him on a plane like this. Rare is the soul who wouldn't. Probably not me...because I don't like to fly. ;)

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However, I could not resist the photo op...

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Should have worn my 1960's dress. (hmmm, don't have one...yet!)

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The most fun thing I found inside the hanger was the juke box...

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...which played his favorite easy-listening music.

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We used to finish our bus tours, on hot summer days, to the soothing strains of LBJ's favorite song: Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head by BJ Thomas.

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He also had regional selections for all the guests to enjoy!

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This is the Texas White House!

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We got to tour the inside...but no photos allowed.

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As I recall, this was near the pool and LBJ wrote this...

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Many pavers like this were behind the house. This batch was my favorite!

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Quintessential Texas hospitality is all about BBQs...and LBJ hosted several along the banks of the Pedernales River!

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A chuck wagon for the BBQs. What a great idea! I think I need one of these for my backyard BBQs! (What would Virginia think?)

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Hope you enjoyed my little tour of quintessential Texas!

Resources:
Gallardia, College Flower- http://pride-traditions.ua.txstate.edu/campus-traditions/school-colors.html

LBJ College Years- http://guides.library.txstate.edu/univhistory/LBJ
Sam Ealy Johnson-https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fjo25
Air Force "One-Half"- http://www.statesman.com/news/local/piece-flying-history-lands-lbj-ranch/bMQUw4mkfFxsB95qLiqA8N/