Walking among the dead seeking hints about our past

Let us endeavor to live our lives that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Words of Mark Twain engraved on the memorial for Bertie Lee Hall (1926-1999), member of the Texas House of Representatives, storyteller and writer

Getting to the cemetery first is not a race you normally want to win, but, when General Edward Burleson (1798-1851) died, leaders of the Republic of Texas realized they were caught flat-footed as to where to honor their heroes. Burleson had served with Ben Milam in San Antonio; fought at San Jacinto; and served as Vice President of the young republic. House member Andrew Jackson Hamilton (1815-1875) offered his own property in East Austin, with the state assuming responsibility for the burial ground in 1854.

Other prominent figures from the early days of the Republic of Texas gradually were reinterred in places of honor in the Texas State Cemetery. The remains of Stephen F. Austin (1793-1836) were moved from Peach Point to a commanding spot by Governor Oscar Colquitt in 1910. The statue of him was made by San Antonio sculptor Pompeo Coppini (1870-1957), creator of the currently controversial Cenotaph in Alamo Plaza.

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Colorful remnants of SouthPop linger on South Lamar

The work of the artist dubbed “Daddy-O” is so steeped in Texas culture and iconography – the old and the new, rural and urban, classy and cheesy – that “40 Years of Blood, Sweat and Beers” seems to encompass everything in the whole damn state…. (it) exudes Texas-osity, the way one oozes beery sweat after a three-night bender in Terlingua.

Robert Faires’ description of a 2009 “retrospectacle” of the work of Bob “Daddy-O” Wade at the former South Austin Museum of Popular Culture on South Lamar, Austin Chronicle

It’s hard to miss the parking lot when driving down South Lamar, and the museum sign beckoned us to explore. But, alas, the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, founded in 2004, no longer calls 1516 South Lamar home. Hemmed in from expansion by its neighbor Planet K, in 2019 SouthPop packed up, moved the contents of its interior collection and reopened behind Threadgill’s Old No. 1 on North Lamar as the Austin Museum of Popular Culture.

But, an even bigger alas. The pandemic raised its ugly head and tolled the bell on Threadgill’s, an iconic Austin institution for almost 40 years. So the Austin Museum of Popular Culture is now homeless.

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The lush landscape frostbitten, art commands centerstage at Umlauf Sculpture Garden

charles umlauf poetess

Above, Charles Umlauf’s 1956 “Poetess” represents a tribute to his wife, Angeline Umlauf (1915-2012), as his muse.

Charles Umlauf, Neal Douglass, 1951, Austin History Center via The Portal to Texas History

Born in rural Michigan, Karl (Charles) Julius Umlauf (1911-1994) was the sixth of eight children of a family of impoverished European immigrants. The family moved to Chicago when Umlauf was eight years old, and it was in elementary school there that a teacher spotted and began nurturing his artistic talents. The teacher helped him earn summer scholarships at the Art Institute of Chicago. Upon graduation from high school, he was able to study at both the Art Institute and the Chicago School of Sculpture.

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