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The saying goes, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.”
In my case, I showed up on a whim and never left. Over the span of the 12 years I’ve been living in San Antonio, people from all corners of the world – Great Britain, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Puerto Rico, Poland, India, Russia, France, even my native Austria – have shared countless stories with me on what brought them here, and what kept them here.
Though vastly different in their backgrounds and reasons for making San Antonio their home, all storytellers shared one common trait: they all love this city.
In his third edition of San Antonio Uncovered, author Mark Louis Rybczyk unveils the lesser-known tales of movers and shakers, visionaries, pioneers, long-standing institutions, famous buildings, historic events, lucky coincidences, epic screw-ups, and orchestrated successes and failures that made San Antonio the city it is today.
The author will read passages from his book, answer audience questions, and sign copies at The Twig Book Shop this Saturday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m.
San Antonio Uncovered is a far cry from some guidebooks that barely scrape the surface, introducing visitors and newbies to only the standard tourist attractions – the Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, the River Walk. Rybczyk dug deep to unearth fascinating facts and figures that even homegrown San Antonians may not have known.
He has been digging deep for quite some time: his first edition was published in 1992, the second in 2000. This third edition, published by Trinity University Press, had its fair share of catching up to do given the city’s rapid growth. The previous edition was released before the completion of the Mission and Museum reaches, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, the Pearl, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and several Spurs Championship titles. These are staples of our city’s fabric and have been added to the list of things San Antonians are pretty darn proud of.
While the aforementioned may be new constructions and developments, they are built on a solid foundation of historic events made possible by influential people.
Did you know that the now-booming River Walk was once off-limits to all military personnel because it was a hotbed for criminal activity?
Or that the now ubiquitous Red McCombs and his business partner Angelo Drossos purchased the Dallas Chaparrals – the flailing ABA team that would eventually become the San Antonio Spurs – for half the original price, thanks to Drossos bluffing during sales negotiations?
How about the fact that San Antonio’s German and Polish communities were once so thoroughly established that they each published newspapers in their respective languages?
I had no idea, and I’d venture to say that many native San Antonians don’t either.
The book’s structure allows readers to easily navigate through different areas of interest. If you were to use the book as a guide for exploring historic sites, there’s a chance it would offer more fun trivia than most guided tours. What makes San Antonio Uncovered particularly entertaining is that each section was selected and titled to spark interest in the unfamiliar: “Five Events That Really Did Happen in San Antonio,” “Six San Antonio Projects That Never Became Reality,” and “Eight Incredible San Antonio Characters” are just a few intriguing leads you’ll want to follow.
The book may go back in time and explore history, but what fascinated me was how timely many of these unknown tidbits are.
Less than two months ago, Elise Urrutia reached out to the Rivard Report to publish the story of her great grandfather Dr. Aureliano Urrutia, one of the “Eight Incredible San Antonio Characters.” She shared the story of Miraflores, his once famous and now largely forgotten property speckled with art by Dionicio Rodríguez, who is featured in “Seven Stories about San Antonio Art and Artists.” Elise’s article caused a San Antonio couple to return a long-lost monument from Dr. Urrutia’s garden, which was discarded in a vacant field on the outskirts of town.
San Antonio was once home to a flourishing movie industry. Wings, the first movie to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture, was filmed on several military bases in town and premiered at the now defunct Texas Theatre. The Alamo, starring John Wayne, premiered at what is now The Woodlawn Theatre. E.T. star Henry Thomas is from San Antonio and attended East Central High School. The book highlights “Six Incredible Movie Palaces” and “Seven Suburban Theaters Readapted,” more evidence to San Antonio’s role in the motion picture industry. Just recently, San Antonio’s City Council set into motion a plan to reinvigorate the local film and television industry.
Playland Park, noted for having been home to not one but two of the “Nine Structures That Have Been Moved From Their Original Sites,” is now being redeveloped as the Alamo Colleges’ new headquarters. Another piece of the past found on site, a historic acequia, is not only being preserved, but also highlighted and woven into the campus’ new design scheme.
Historic events may be in the past, but their implications, effects, and consequences persisted over time and continue to affect us today. As our city undergoes exponential growth, Rybczyk’s accounts matter now more than ever.
If you’re new in town, this book is a no-brainer and will give you a leg up on local history, famous places, and notable characters. If you consider yourself a San Antonian through and through, go ahead, be a tourist in your own town – Rybczyk’s book is bound to uncover things you didn’t know about San Antonio.
To learn more about the event at The Twig Book Shop, click here.