Please leave my friend Phil out of the ongoing Battle over the Alamo

There we were, sitting beside each other. Phil and I. I’m talking about Phil Collins. But I just call him Phil now. Because I sat beside him for about one minute. As you can tell this is leading to one of celebrities’ worst curses: people who don’t know them writing about them.

2013 post on this blog following that year’s San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Awards

Okay. I admit it. Phil and I scarcely could be called friends. But someone needs to rise to his defense.

In Forget the Alamo, authors Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford lay bare major flaws of men many Texans have elevated to heroic heights for their roles at the Alamo. They also illuminate less-than-noble reasons Texians were revolting against Mexico, including the preservation of slavery. This has so angered some of Texas’ leaders that their rhetoric against the book has helped it skyrocket up the bestseller list.

Continue reading “Please leave my friend Phil out of the ongoing Battle over the Alamo”

Return to the Alamo: Please don’t gag the Daughters (Whose side am I on anyway?).

Kathleen Carter. Karen Thompson. You go, girls! Speak your mind.

According to Ken Herman in the Austin Statesman, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is attempting to force these leaders of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to bite their tongues:

…Patterson banned Daughters of the Republic of Texas officials from talking to reporters about the Alamo without his agency’s approval. “Information released without prior knowledge and express approval of the GLO may be grounds for immediate contract termination,” says his new rule.

Now those are fighting words.

Commissioner Patterson, you are new at your job. Yes, I know you have been Land Commissioner for a decade, but you are newly arrived at the Alamo. Yes, I know the Sons of the Republic of Texas deemed you a Knight of San Jacinto and you represented the county that includes the soaring monument on the battleground. But having that giant erection in your backyard must have gone to your head.

The Alamo is different. As San Antonians first and Texans second, we regard fighting about the Alamo as a sacred right. We have been fighting publicly about it since 1836, and no one in Austin can quash those afflicted with severe cases of Alamobsession.

Yes, running a dictatorship is easier than a democracy, but the Daughters themselves already tried that approach. Some of the very people Commissioner Patterson wants to silence attempted to gag dissension among their own siblings. Without success. Fortunately for Texas. If Daughters were not so persistently outspoken, the General Land Office would not be in charge of the Alamo today.

Aside from supporting their right to free speech, my agreement with the Daughters probably pretty much stops there. Although, I never thought the Daughters would call trump with the double-edged Native American card.

The Alamo Always Trumps
1936 Texas Centennial No 5, “The Alamo always Trumps,” digital collage by Gayle Brennan Spencer, Visit

Again, from Herman’s column in the Statesman:

…Daughters’ President General Karen R. Thompson said her organization “strongly” objects to the change. “The Alamo grounds are considered sacred, not only because 189 men died in battle on March 6, 1836, but because the remains of Native Americans are buried and entombed in the complex property,” she said in a statement.

The Daughters and the descendants of the original Native Americans whose labors contributed to the ancient mission’s walls are rarely on the same page. But adversity calls for uniting all underdogs.

And unite against what common enemy?, you might ask if you make it this far into this post.

“Hooch,” as Carter terms it. If you somehow missed this story affecting the lives of all Texans, catch up by reading Scott Huddleston’s “Hold the ‘Hooch’” in the San Antonio Express-News. The Land Commissioner has proposed alcohol could be served to those renting out Alamo Hall, not the Alamo itself, for special events.

Yes, the painful specter of prohibition raises its head once again. The leadership of the Daughters evidently thinks nothing stronger than apple cider should be raised in toasts anywhere near the Alamo.

Apple cider? What would Davey say?

While I’m willing to accept William Barrett Travis might have been a teetotaler, what about the rest of the guys?

Taking a lead of freedom of revision of history from the Texas State Board of Education and accepting Travis did indeed draw a line in the sand….  If Travis asked how many men wanted to be forced to convert to Catholicism, many men at the Alamo would have leapt to join him for the promise of freedom of religion.

If Travis asked who wants to continue to ride deep into the heart of Coahuila every time you want to conduct official business, not many at the Alamo would have stayed on the side of Mexico. That was a major inconvenience.

But, on the other hand, if Travis had drawn a line and said you can drink alcohol on the Mexican side but my side is dry? Travis might have found himself pretty lonely.

Free speech I’m all for preserving, so the Daughters get my backing on that issue. But keeping Alamo Hall, which was off the battle site, dry? Not worth fighting for.

This is not an “Alamoment.” Seems as though both the Daughters and the Commissioner should pick their battles more carefully. They should be forging a strong partnership, not tearing it asunder.

What would Davey say? Remaining in the revisionist vein of amateur historians, I think he gladly would raise a glass of something hard:

Salud, amor, pesetas y tiempo para disfrutarlos.

Tell ‘Long-Winded Jackanapes’ To Leave Bowie’s Street Alone

James Bowie: You know, if you live five more years, you might just be a great man.
William Travis: I think I will probably have to settle for what I am now.

From 2004 Film The Alamo 

The pair did not make it five more years.  Among the things preserving their greatness, however, are the knife bearing Bowie’s name, the lore surrounding Travis’ line in the sand, Travis Park and a pair of streets in downtown San Antonio.

As it evidently is deemed acceptable to intermingle reel and real history when it comes to The Alamo, I do not hesitate to allow a movie director to put words in James Bowie’s mouth to help defend the street that bears his name in downtown San Antonio.  A block or so of it is under siege by some corporate types Bowie might have called “long-winded jackanapes.”

According to the San Antonio Express-News, some believe the Tower of the Americas, O’Neil Ford’s prominent erection on the city’s skyline, is so difficult for visitors to spot they need to see a street sign bearing its name.  The street getting picked on is Bowie’s namesake.

If a body is too blind to find the Tower of the Americas, how in the world would that person ever be able to spot a street sign?   Maybe the sign also could have an aural aide for the visually impaired.  Perhaps it could be equipped with a recording of a Chart House theme song playing over and over during the hours it is open.

Street names are an important part of a city’s history and should not be changed arbitrarily to suit the marketing strategy of a business located there.  Few things confuse drivers more than streets that change names mid-intersection, and downtown already has way too many of these.  Dolorosa/Commerce, Presa/Jefferson and Broadway/Losoya cause drivers to assume they have made wrong turns and to unpredictably slam on brakes at green lights.

Bowie did not manage to live five more years, but his fame draws more visitors to San Antonio than a restaurant on top of the Tower ever will.  We might not know where all his ashes lie buried, but let him at least retain the honor of having his street, short as it is, remain intact.