That Crabby Old Colonel Cribby Condemned the River Walk to Years of Lowlife Nightlife

Blue Book No. 4, "Go West Young Men," Digital Collage by Gayle Brennan Spencer. Early 1900s' postcard of some of San Antonio's blue ladies is combined with a period mini-postcard image of "Roll Call at Fort Sam Houston" and a page from "The Blue Book."  The page is headlined "Directory of Houses and Women - Class-A" and lists the names and addresses of some of San Antonio's welcoming women in 1911.  Visit www.postcardsfromsanantonio.com.

Blue Book No. 4, “Go West Young Men,” digital collage by Gayle Brennan Spencer. Early 1900s’ postcard of some of San Antonio’s blue ladies is combined with a period mini-postcard image of “Roll Call at Fort Sam Houston” and a page from “The Blue Book.” The page is headlined “Directory of Houses and Women – Class-A” and lists the names and addresses of some of San Antonio’s welcoming women in 1911. Visit http://postcardssanantonio.com.

I had always heard the banks of the San Antonio River Walk were declared off-limits after dark for members of the military in San Antonio for many years, but I had never seen proof:

The area known as the “River Walk” is “Off Limits” during the periods 2400 hours to 0600 hours daily. It begins at Lexington Street, near the Auditorium, and extends about three hundred yards west of St. Mary’s Street, near the Plaza Hotel.

Office of the Provost Marshal, Fort Sam Houston, December 20, 1945

Melissa Gohlke, blogging for the Special Collections at the UTSA Libraries this morning, posted a 1945 list enumerating San Antonio’s lewd spots, so declared by order of Colonel Cribby.

off-limits-list

Although designed to serve as a warning to soldiers, this list was almost as efficient a guide for “those seeking a good time while in San Antonio, Texas,” as the 1911-1912 guide, The Blue Book. Col. Cribby’s list not only identified which places around town were “off-limits,” but why – whether because of immorality, prostitution, danger of venereal disease or gambling.

Gohlke’s post pertained to “San Antonio’s queer community,” but the list aided those in search of bisexual entertainment as well:

All a GI or WAC need do is read the list, understand the codes, and head out for a night of same-sex recreation. Ironically, the military imperative to regulate deviance facilitated the very behaviors such regulations were designed to stamp out.

Some of the same neighborhoods identified in The Blue Book were still hot spots flourishing under the eyes of lax local law enforcement three decades later.

The Blue Book No. 1, "See Sallie after the Alamo," digital collage by Gayle Brennan Spencer. The back cover of the 1911-1912 edition of "The Blue Book" reads "For Information of the Red Light District Ask Me. Meet me at the Beauty Saloon."  This image is combined with advertisements, including Sallie Brewer's, from an inside page of the guide to San Antonio's "Sporting District," a red light and an early 1900s' postcard of The Alamo. Visit   http://www.postcardsfromsanantonio.com/blue_book.htm.

The Blue Book No. 1, “See Sallie after the Alamo,” digital collage by Gayle Brennan Spencer. The back cover of the 1911-1912 edition of “The Blue Book” reads “For Information of the Red Light District Ask Me. Meet me at the Beauty Saloon.” This image is combined with advertisements, including Sallie Brewer’s, from an inside page of the guide to San Antonio’s “Sporting District,” a red light and an early 1900s’ postcard of The Alamo. Visit http://postcardssanantonio.com.

But what about today? This is from the fact sheet for visitors of participants in Lackland Air Force Base’s Basic Training Program:

Off Limits Areas and Establishments

The San Antonio Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board has placed establishments off-limits to help maintain the health, morale, and welfare of Armed Forces personnel. Your Airman may not visit these  establishments and will know which ones they will not be able to service prior to town pass.

The River Walk has been family-friendly for decades, but now I am curious about what places in San Antonio are deemed too or lascivious or dangerous for today’s military. This list, not nearly as clear and complete a guide to local entertainment as the 1941 blacklist, is from a 2009 edition of the Lackland Talespinner:

The following locations are off-limits:

• Cracker Box Palace – 622 W. Hildebrand • Planet K – all locations in the following counties: Bexar, Atascosa, Wilson, Guadalupe, Comal, Kendall, Medina and Bandera • Voodoo Tattoo Parlor – 202 Aransas • Players Club (PC) of San Antonio – 8235 Vicar • Boys Town – Acuna, Mexico • Widows Web Bar and Night Club – Acuna, Mexico • The Up and Down Club – Acuna, Mexico

With no Blue Book or more detailed list available on base, what’s a newcomer in search of a little lascivious behavior to do?

It’s so simple nowadays. Just follow those huge “come-hither” billboards around north Loop 410 or grab a free issue of San Antonio Current for pages and pages of full-color “service” ads.

6 thoughts on “That Crabby Old Colonel Cribby Condemned the River Walk to Years of Lowlife Nightlife

  1. Sarah says:

    WOW thanks, great story!
    Grandpa Lawson’s prostitute patients were not on the list tho, wonder why? The brothel was upstairs in the triangular building at South Alamo & Presa, according to Mamma. Every time we drove by there Mamma repeated the story. Dr. Samuel Lawson and son James (Papa) Reveley’s office was in the Gibbs building, and the ladies would all come at the same time for their examinations, and he closed the office to his other patients on that day. The nurse always called Mamma so she could peek at them in the reception room, and Mamma told me they were the most beautifully dressed glamorous women she had ever seen. After Lawson died, a year or so later Mamma commented to the nurse it was a shame they didn’t get to peek at the women anymore. The nurse said “Why they still come, your husband takes care of them but I was told not to call you.” Mamma always stopped there and gritted her teeth, and I never did find out the end of that story.

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  2. Sarah – Are you talking about Al Rendon’s home/photography studio/gallery? There’s a photo on his webpage at http://www.alrendon.com/about-al-rendon/.

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    • Sarah – Received an email from Al Rendon: “I’m sure she is talking about my place. My Father who is 95 said when he first came to San Antonio in the mid-1930s he lived on Carmargo and that my place was a bar with a brothel upstairs.”

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  3. This is so, so cool! We’re pretty new to San Antonio and it’s great to read history pieces that aren’t so mission-focused. Thanks for posting!

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  4. Roger says:

    In the ’50’s the main “Madame” was one of my father’s customers at his Goliad Street Pharmacy. He filled the prescriptions for all her “girls,” and my Mom said she drove a big red Cadillac. One day when my Mom was pregnant, she was leaving Dad’s store and taking the bus home to Highland Park. The Madame offered my Mom a ride, and even though it was a hot July day, my Mom refused and took the bus—she didn’t want people to think she was a “working girl.”

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  5. Sonny Collins always claimed his house on Turner and Madison was the last brothel in King William, and, of course, the publisher of The Blue Book lived in what is now known as Villa Finale.

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