Above: “Boy Playwright Shows Talent,” San Antonio Express, July 6, 1913, UNT Libraries, The Portal to Texas History
Seeking the feel of an era when trying to write historic fiction requires time-consuming research, but distracting detours are so seductive and somewhat justified as snippets gleaned slip into the pages you type.
Take Oliver Perry Wilson Bailey (1897-1978), tagged with an ambitious-sounding name. The 1910 Census, when he was but a lad of 12, recorded him as a professional rabbit-raiser living on South Alamo Street, now part of Hemisfair, in San Antonio. By 1913, he was an accomplished screen writer. Yes, the son of a reporter of the San Antonio Express already had sold screenplays to three different companies.
Continue reading “Diving down rabbit holes: Fledgling 19-teens’ silent film industry proved distracting”
*With apologies to William Sydney Porter (O. Henry) for lifting his sentence from “Retrospects and Prospects” and turning his porcupine into an ostrich to suit the Author’s own selfish purposes.
Few people pause to read acknowledgments at the end of a book, so the Author is plucking them out of An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and Yes, She Shot Him Dead and plopping them right here, front and center. The Author wants you to understand her lengthy journey and who helped her along the way.
Continue reading “If peculiarities were plumes, San Antonio would be a rare ostrich*”
David McLemore has a great post on Hot Wells.
On adventurous evenings, we used to head south to the bar there, named The Flame Room because of the fire that had destroyed much of the former resort. The woman behind the bar would come “entertain” you by making a tacky, spindly-legged bird marionette dance. Ahead of fashion trends, the muscular carnival workers who wintered on the grounds sported intimidating tattoos.
We played shuffleboard*, sat on the circular sofettes, tried to inconspicuously observe the unusual clientele and drank longnecks until forced to make the dreaded trek to the facilities. While the men’s room was under a huge propeller conveniently adjacent to the bar, the ladies’ room required a journey down a long hallway past opening after opening of the dark ruins of private bathing rooms that certainly seemed haunted. The sulphur smell from the pool was almost overwhelming. We always went in pairs, too frightened to try to reach the lone dangling lightbulb at the end of the hall alone. One night, Annie and I had almost reached our destination when, “Boo!” That’s all the haggard woman screamed when she jumped out from one of the doorways, but we screamed as though she were a chupacabra.
Another night we came out to find out someone had carelessly crunched the bumper of their pickup through the front grille of our Volvo. Thinking of the muscular tattooed arms inside that far outnumbered ours, we elected not to go back into The Flame Room and demand to know who hit our car.
The connection of Otto Koehler to Hot Wells David mentions is one of several reasons my novel about the brewer’s murder is called An Ostrich Plume Hat. An in-depth history of Hot Wells can be found on the Edwards Aquifer website, from which I plucked this card.
Although I would be much too chicken to cross it, I wish a swinging bridge like the original one linking Hot Wells to Mission San Jose could be installed as part of the San Antonio River Improvements Project.
*Help! It’s not called shuffleboard. Long raised table-alley that you apply sawdust to and push these sort of pucks down to knock other pucks off the table….?
Note Added on September 17: Also visit David’s article on Nowcast, a slide show and Charlotte-Anne Lucas’ video. And more Hot Wells photos.